managing someone my fiance had a conflict with, following up on a promised salary review, and more

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

1. I’m applying for a job where I’d be managing someone my fiance had a conflict with

I recently applied for a position with a fabulous company that my fiance also works for. It is with a very large hospitality group. Unfortunately, several months ago my fiance had a problem with a coworker and he was moved to a different area of the resort. This morning, HR called me to set up an interview and the position would be directly overseeing the coworker who he had the problem with, and I would be interviewing with his previous manager.

I have never met his manager so she wouldn’t have any idea who I was, but I’m not sure how to handle this situation. I would absolutely love this position as it is a direct fit with my skills and my career path, but I don’t want my relationship to influence any decision regarding my ability to do the job, and I don’t want them to feel I intentionally hid information from them.

You need to tell them. Otherwise you risk ending up in a situation where (a) your new manager feels that you were deliberately deceptive with her and (b) your ability to manage one of your employees is compromised. And yes, telling them might mean that they conclude that you’re not the right fit for the job — but it’s better to have them conclude that now, before you’ve been hired, than afterwards (because if it happens afterwards, there could be worse consequences, from a permanently soured relationship with your manager and staff to being let go).

Say something like this: “I want to be transparent about the fact that my fiance, Apollo Warbucks, used to work for you and, of course, still works for the company. He spoke really highly of you.” You could say this at the interview itself, but you might even think about emailing it beforehand (along with “I want to make sure that doesn’t pose any issues for the company”) because if it IS prohibitive, you could save yourself some time by finding out now. (On the other hand, some people would tell you to go to the interview and impress them before you mention it.)

2. Should you note on your resume that you were laid off from a job?

I recently read your article on how to combat resume rejection. I noted you discussed stating whether a position was purposely short however does this hold true for layoffs?

I look like a job hopper because my first two positions resulted in layoffs and both under the two-year mark. Then my third job I left voluntarily for a better opportunity. I’ve been quite fortunate, but as my company prepares to sell, I’m looking once again and I am often asked why I only worked at these jobs for a short time. When asked I’m able to explain, but should one list “laid off” anywhere on their resume?

No. Your resume shouldn’t include the reasons you left jobs (“resigned for better position,” “moved,” “fired,” etc.). It should include your positions and employers, dates you worked there, and what you achieved at each. The reasons for moving on are something you can discuss in an interview or — when it makes sense — a cover letter.

3. My offer letter promised to review my salary in six months, but it didn’t happen

I accepted a job offer six months ago. When I tried to negotiate the salary, I was told that it would be reviewed In six months. I needed the job so I accepted it, even though it was $20k less than my last job.I had been looking for 18 months and there was a possibility of advancement.

Fast forward to my six-month salary review with very satisfactory results — but no mention of a salary increase. They did, however, offer me a promotion, conditional on passing an industry course. I was torn between mentioning the increase and accepting the opportunity. I finally mentioned the lack of increase a few days later, saying that it been stated in my offer letter. They seemed very surprised that this had been put in writing. I was given no real response and it’s now been a week. Did I make a career limiting move? I did not want to seem like a pushover, so that was why I said something. Also, there seems to be a possibility of being acquired, which, in my mind, makes this future promotion uncertain. Should I have kept my mouth shut?

Absolutely you should have mentioned it — as part of your review, in fact, rather than a few days later. You had an agreement to discuss your salary in six months and so you should discuss it — bringing it up yourself if your manager doesn’t. In fact, it would have been ideal to come prepared to show why you’d earned an increase now, or even have sent that information to your manager ahead of your review with a note saying something like, “When I started, we agreed in my offer letter to review my salary in six months. I believe I’ve earned a raise of $X because of A, B, and C.”

Was it a career limiting move? Only if your manager is incredibly unethical and disingenuous. If she’s a normal person, no.

That said, keep in mind that an agreement to review your salary is not at all the same as an agreement to increase your salary.

4. Can my employer ask why I need time off?

I am a full-time employee in Florida. When requesting time off, can an employer ask why I am taking the time off? Are they entitled to know why? If not, what is the law that supports this?

Yes, they are allowed to ask, and they’re allowed to require that you share the reason (as long as they don’t make requirements that would require you to disclose details about a disability and thus violate the Americans with Disabilities Act).

The “law that supports” their right to ask is the absence of any law to the contrary. As I wrote earlier this week, with labor laws you generally shouldn’t be searching for a law that specifically allows an employer to engage in a particular behavior, but rather for a law that prohibits it. If something isn’t specifically prohibited, it’s generally allowed.

5. Interviewer sent me a blank email

I had a phone interview two weeks ago, followed up yesterday, and got an email back from the interviewer saying that he enjoyed our conversation but decided to pursue other candidates. I had read your article on how to graciously reply to a rejection, so I sent a similar email asking for feedback as I am new to the workforce and this was an entry-level position.

I got a response about 15 minutes later, but the email was blank and the email was forwarded back to me. I’m going to assume the manager did not want to give me feedback? How do I ask him if this was done on purpose or if he really sent me back feedback? I don’t want to be a pest, but I have sent back empty emails by accident before.

Sadly, you have to just let it go. While it’s possible that he did indeed write out an email to you with feedback in it and somehow accidentally deleted that content right before sending, it’s more likely that he never wrote out feedback and just accidentally clicked a couple of keys that sent a blank message to you. Assuming that the latter is the case, if you follow up to say “I have a blank email from you,” you risk looking a little too needy/pushy. The blank email thing happens. If he wants to send feedback, he will, but meanwhile, I’d let it go.

6. How candid to be when a company seems sketchy

Recently, I was presented with an employer-initiated opportunity that sounded pretty great, but a few alarm bells started ringing. First, within 15 minutes of my reply to their email, I had an instant message interview with their CEO, then immediately following, an instant message then voice chat interview with their CTO. I realize some places move faster than others, but wow.

I did a little research on the company and the top two results are their webpage (normal) and a Rip Off report (not so normal) for non-payment to staff. The report was posted in March 2013 and hasn’t been updated to say paid. In addition, I can’t find anything else about them on any review site at all. How candid should I be in saying “your company and process makes me feel icky” without burning a professional bridge?

It depends on whether you wan to talk to them about it and hear their response or whether you just want to pull out of their hiring process. If the latter, you just say, “I’ve decided to explore other positions so would like to withdraw from consideration from this one. Best of luck in filling it.”

But if you’re open to hearing more, then you could say, “I saw some employees online posting that they hadn’t been paid earlier this year. I know not everything online is always correct, and I wondered what you could tell me about that.”

7. Happy ending

I relocated to a new city a little over a year ago for a job that was not ideal. In fact, it turned out to be a nightmare, but at the time I felt that I had to accept the position because I had been underemployed for months and needed the income. After 3 months in the position, I realized that it wasn’t going to be a good long-term fit for me, and I started looking elsewhere. For about 9 months I was looking for a new job, and I was intensively looking for at least 6 months. I set aside time every day to apply to jobs, write cover letters, and read AAM. The work environment was terrible — I was working for a start up, dealing with angry customers all day, immature cliquey co-workers, spineless bosses, and regularly encountered verbal abuse from my boss and sexual harassment (verbal) from my male coworkers. In addition, the work I was doing was draining, exhausting and repetitive, and I dreaded going to work every morning. But I knew I couldn’t quit before I found something else.

After several months of sending out resumes with no response, I started working with a placing agency for creative talent (my degree is in graphic design). A few months into that process, I was connected with a great company, interviewed, and got the job! I am now in the first week of my new position, and while it’s not a perfect job (no job is), I am doing work that I enjoy, I feel inspired by my work, and my new boss is incredible! The position is with a stable, growing company, and it was a 20% pay increase! The people I work with are friendly and normal, and I think the majority of the headaches I encounter will just be normal work stresses (deadlines and commute).

I wanted to put this out there because I know how hard it can be to find a job — especially a job that you like, in your field, with decent pay — but it is possible! I hope my update can inspire some of your readers to stay motivated, because better things are out there!

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing that story here.

The thing about long and frustrating job searches is that they tend to stay frustrating right up until the moment that everything changes and you get an offer you’re excited about. It’s good for people to remember that if they keep doing the right things, eventually they should see results. (And meanwhile, to make sure that they’re doing the right things, they should read this.)

{ 64 comments… read them below }

  1. Jake

    I recently got in an argument over something touched on in #3.

    It has to do with the “what law allows this” mentality. My buddy said something very similar and my counter argument was, “what law allows you to breath? What law allows you to walk? What law allows you to drink alcohol?”

    If you had to have a law allowing every business practice conceivable, then we’d all break the law every day because there is no way anybody could think of everything a business does.

    1. fposte

      I actually read the “is there a law” question the opposite way from you and Alison. I read it as the OP wanting to know if there was a law that said her manager *couldn’t* ask, presumably so that she could mention it to her manager. I didn’t see it as asking for the law that allows her manager to ask–though often enough that is the question.

      1. Anonymous

        Yes, I was coming to say the same thing. I think AAM misinterpreted the question from the OP:

        “Are they entitled to know why? If not, what is the law that supports this?” means, “what is the law that supports me not disclosing why I need time off?”

        AAM’s answer, “The “law that supports” their right to ask is the absence of any law to the contrary.” would be appropriate if the question was instead “Are they entitled to know why? If so, what is the law that support this?”. This wasn’t though what the OP asked.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hmmm. It says: “Are they entitled to know why? If not, what is the law that supports this?” To me, that’s asking what law prevents the employer from being entitled to demand a reason. But I could be wrong.

    2. jmkenrick

      We actually do sort of have this law – the 10th Amendment, which asserts that all powers not given to the federal government, are given to the states or the people. That’s a gross-oversimplification, I’m sure, but the way I was taught Gov’t in high school always held that it was included to prevent exactly the kind of mentality you’re describing (ie: the government can’t suddenly claim the power to “allow” you to put on socks unless we all get together and decide that they have that power.)

      “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

  2. Sourire

    #4 – Yep, what Alison said. I have to say I’m curious though – exactly what is your employer asking that is causing you to actually write in about it? Is your employer not accepting general things like “vacation”, “family obligations”, etc and asking for really specific details? It’s still not prohibited for them to ask as far as I know, but it’s really weird and invasive in my opinion when employers want you to get really specific*. Same goes for the employer someone mentioned in comments earlier this week that wanted specific symptoms when employees called in sick.

    *I can see asking if the time off is necessary versus flexible if it was a busy time or year or something like that, but even that doesn’t require specifics.

    1. Laura

      +1000 My next imaginary child will be named Apollo Warbucks. I think he’d be great friends with Quinoa (of My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter fame).

    1. OP #7

      Thanks! I hope that something will come through for you very soon! :) Keep at it and keep reading AAM – really helps to get perspective!

  3. Mike C.

    With regards to managers asking why someone is taking time off, I have an answer for you:

    IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS

    I really get tired of paternalistic managers. You don’t own someone just because they work for you.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s my favourite response. Past “medical issues” or “family stuff”, they’re not getting any information out of me.

      1. Colette

        I can understand being terse if your manager will penalize you (e.g. tell you that you can’t have the time off because it’s not a “valid” reason), but if they’re asking out of curiosity or concern and you answer really tersely every time, that doesn’t do good things to that relationship.

        For example, “family camping trip”, “mom’s in town” or “hanging out with the kids” don’t give a lot more detail than “family stuff”, but they’re less abrupt.

        I guess my impression from your comment is that you think that if you give any information, it will be used against you and, while that may be true in some organizations, it’s not true everywhere.

        1. Anonymous

          My boss asks people how they’re using their time off all the time – she’s curious and it doesn’t affect our getting time off.

          I feel bad for people in work situations where that information might affect their time off. And I also feel bad for people in work situations where someone trying to be friendly ( like my boss) seems to offend them.

          1. Cat

            Obviously nobody wants to feel forced into sharing personal medical info., but I do think it’s a big danger sign re your workplace culture if you feel like you can’t casually share your vacation plans with your boss, or that inquiries into your vacation plans are loaded ones. (Though, of course, plenty of people are stuck in unhealthy ones for various reasons.)

            1. anon o

              I agree, I work in a small office and when people ask me for time off I feel rude not asking what they’re doing. I try to sort of split the difference between being rude and prying by saying something like, “Anything fun planned?” But not everything is nefarious.

              And I say this with a boss that is constantly butting into my life. He’s currently trying to talk me into changing destinations for my holiday. But I just tell him to butt out and he persists and I just ignore him. Every once in a while I’ll ask if he’s not going to give me the time off unless I switch and he backs off. He’s just a nosy guy who likes to butt into people’s lives. (Don’t even get him started on the subject of how I should marry my boyfriend.) But if that was my biggest complaint about him I’d be good. (It’s not.)

              1. Lynn Whitehat

                My last manager would approve the time and then ask what it was for. That way it feels less abrupt, but avoids the appearance that he’ll only approve it if it’s a “good enough” reason. Sometimes people don’t want to share the details with their boss, for all kinds of reasons. Maybe it’s a boring trip to the in-laws that is necessary for family-politics reasons that would take a half-hour to explain. Maybe they’re having a tummy tuck and feel weird about explaining that. Maybe it’s a religious thing and they really don’t like to get into religion at work. There are all kinds of reasons people don’t want to share other than their boss is a tool about it.

                1. Anonymous

                  “Maybe it’s a boring trip to the in-laws that is necessary for family-politics reasons that would take a half-hour to explain. ”

                  If you get into that situation, try saying this: “I’m going on a trip with my in-laws.” Takes 15 seconds.

                2. Anonymous

                  “Maybe they’re having a tummy tuck and feel weird about explaining that. ”

                  Try this: “I’m having minor surgery – nothing serious.” Takes 15 seconds.

                3. Anonymous

                  “Maybe it’s a religious thing and they really don’t like to get into religion at work.”

                  Try this: “Just some personal stuff.” Takes 15 seconds.

        2. Anonymous

          Past managers have either not given me the time off because they didn’t think the reason was good enough, or had no discretion whatsoever and my life became workplace gossip. These are retail/hospitality places… surprise, surprise.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Ugh, that sucks. Jerks.

            My boss usually tells us why she’s taking off; she doesn’t require us to. I usually do; however, if I merely said “I’d like to take some PTO next week,” she probably wouldn’t ask why. As long as my work is done and I’m not needed, it’s fine; my company encourages us to use our time. It’s nice to be treated like an adult. :)

            1. Anon

              I usually tell my boss what’s going on (podiatrist appt. is the most recent one, for example) because we’re friendly, and she’s not going to spread it around. That said, my partner and I started couples therapy a few months ago, and I didn’t feel like getting into it, so I just said that it wasn’t anything serious but that I needed a couple of hours out of the office every Tuesday. She OK’d it. A month or two later I wanted to start individual therapy (in addition), and I needed another couple of hours on Fridays. She OK’d that too, and so far, it’s been OK. Even before this, I would catch up on work after hours or on the weekend, so she has said many times that she’s not worried about me making up time. So that’s probably a factor, too.

    2. Anonymous

      “paternalistic managers” – yes, this is a really accurate term for people that expect you treat your job as a favor and gift, and are hurt when you ask for a raise since ‘so many good things are in the works’ and ‘we’re in this journey together’. I encounter this more with owners of a business than managers tho.

      1. Mike C.

        Holy crap, reading your comment was like a mental flashback to some pretty bad times.

        We’re not “in this journey together” until I’m part owner of the business.

      2. Meghan

        Oh man is this ever my boss (the business owner). “You’re really the one holding the place together” doesn’t help pay my rent.

        1. Ruffingit

          Yeah, whenever bosses say shit like that, I just want to reply with “Really? Seems to me the one holding the whole place together should be getting paid well to do so.” They never seem to think so though.

  4. Del

    #1 – I think it’s interesting to note what Alison *doesn’t* suggest here — that you directly bring up the issue of the conflict. And I think that’s a very correct stance to take. How serious the conflict was, and how strongly it has stayed in the minds of management, is something that you’re not necessarily aware of. If it was a big enough deal to severely impact how you’re seen dealing with this employee, just mentioning your fiance will be enough to bring that up; if it hasn’t stood out in the manager’s mind that strongly (ie, if he sees it as something that cropped up and was resolved, end of story) then there’s no reason to pointedly remind him.

    Regardless of the conflict, mentioning that your fiance works for the resort is probably a good idea, just because it would be odd *not* to bring it up.

    #5 – When emailing from my phone, I’ll occasionally accidentally send an email that’s blank or only partially written — but I know when it happens, so I can immediately send a “sorry!” followup and send the message. I doubt he’d have opened an email, intended to give you feedback, and then accidentally not and just given up on it there.

    #6 – You’re always entitled to ask when a job has something like that hanging over it. When I interviewed for an internal job change in a department that had been partially moved overseas, you bet your sweet bippy I asked what the outlook for the position staying in the US was — and by asking, I got some early insight into the department’s internal structure.

    Best case scenario, the company isn’t sketchy and you’ll get detail that’ll settle your mind. Worst case scenario the company is sketchy as heck, and your question will probably turn up which it was. Not paying employees is a really big deal and you’ll want to see a REALLY good answer from them. Watch out for answers that are really under-detailed or shift all responsibility to another party (eg “Oh these were all settled, we’re just having some trouble with ROR” or “Those employees are just really disgruntled, it’s all lies.”)

    For the record, I’m betting on “sketchy as heck.”

    #7 – Congratulations! It’s always good to hear about the happy endings.

    1. OP #6

      Thanks Alison, for your feedback.

      I had reached out to a mailing list in the industry and asked if anyone had experience with this company and I got a reply that the company tends to go after projects that they don’t have enough talent to cover for, and then try to hire super fast to cover the projects. Not the best environment for someone trying to get their first job in the industry.

      In the end, I just told them I didn’t think the pace would be a good fit for me and passed. I’m not too worried about it, I won’t go hungry without the job. The cons outweighed the pros in this situation, so I went with my gut. I do have a phone interview in about an hour with a different, much closer company, so hopefully that will go well. It’s a company I’ve wanted to work for for YEARS, so no pressure or anything :)

  5. Colette

    #1 – Something for you to ask yourself – would you be able to deal with this coworker as if there was no history with your fiance? Would your fiance understand that you can’t take her side?

    If the answer to either of those 2 questions is no, this isn’t the job for you.

  6. Nancie

    #3, I’m a little confused. In your first paragraph you say they promised to review your salary at the six-month mark. Then you say that it’s an increase that was promised to you.

    If they only promised to review your salary — they would probably say that’s just what they’ve done with the six-month review, and no wonder your boss (or whoever “they” are) is surprised when you say you were promised an increase.

    Make sure you’re clear what was promised to you. If it was an increase, go ahead and pursue it. But if it was only a review, some gracious back-pedalling may be in order.

  7. RB

    #1 As a manager who has hired people who were not upfront about their relationships with current staff, I can tell you it has never worked out. While you may be a stellar person, OP, my experience has been that if someone is hiding that from me they have gone on to have other integrity issues after hiring them.

    Alison is right on the money about souring the relationship with your manager if they find out after the fact. Because of my experience, and possibly theirs, it’s hard to overcome that initial, important omission.

    Have I hired people who were related or married to one of my staff? Yes, but they had much to offer and they did not work in the same department. Most importantly, they were honest about it from the beginning.

    Good luck, OP!

  8. Julie

    Regarding #3: I used to wait for my manager to bring up things like this (raise discussion, timing of annual review, etc.), but I’ve learned that if it’s important to me, I should bring it up. I was too subservient (not exactly the right word, but I can’t think of a better one) to employers, thinking that I shouldn’t “make waves.” Now I realize that managers are very busy, and they may forget that they (or someone else) promised to have a conversation with me about something – like a salary review. I’ve learned that we’re not at the mercy of employers (and they’re not mind readers), and we should ask for what we want. It seems obvious now, but it didn’t before.

  9. Anonymous

    #1. What can we glean about the alleged conflict the fact that the employee was moved and not fired?

    1. fposte

      I’d say not much from just that. Conflict doesn’t necessarily indicate wrongdoing on anybody’s part, and moves don’t have to be completely involuntary.

    2. Anony Mouse

      And FTR, it doesn’t even mean that the fiance was in the wrong. I was offered a transfer after a manager in my group sexually harassed me at a job years back. They gave me a bunch of cash and and said they would move me to a different location. I was outraged, and left, but not everyone has the flexibility I did to just up and go to another job.

  10. Elizabeth West

    #1–fiance conflict

    If they do hire the OP, she will need to be as neutral as possible; as far as she is concerned, her relationship does not even exist at work. If everyone involved is handling it well now, it might be possible that they will. So she needs to be thinking about how she would handle it, because they may ask her that in the interview.

    And Apollo Warbucks is the best pseudonym EVER.

        1. Anonymous

          Given the lack of details I’m assuming the fiance was at fault and perhaps the employee in question got the shaft. Was/is the fiance a manager too?

          1. OP #1

            No my fiance isn’t a manager. The problem was a simple personality conflict making the environment there uncomfortable for both people and the people working around them. Neither one got the proverbial “shaft” and it was handled correctly by HR. They chose to move him as there was a spot open for his exact position in another area.

    1. Ruffingit

      And time consuming. I’m a really fast typist, but it’s been my experience that many people are not so trying to do an interview with IM could take much longer than it needs to.

  11. Anonymous

    #1. If I really wanted that job I would not let this conflict deter me. Co-workers come and go; fiances, for that matter, come and go. However, bills and taxes are forever.

  12. Kat

    The thing about long and frustrating job searches is that they tend to stay frustrating right up until the moment that everything changes.

    So agree. I had my absolute worst day since becoming unemployed and that evening I received a job offer. As long as you as a job Hunter are following the suggestions on this site and going to interviews well prepared, eventually the right company will take notice.

      1. AnonAnony

        I just had an anniversary with my sweetie, and it got me thinking about how different my perspective could have been back when I was dating if I’d known the other side of it. Of course, that’s the rub – we can’t know – and so it ends up being like one of those optimistic aphorisms “what would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” or other annoying treacle.

        All I can say is that I wish I would have chilled out a little more and been a bit sillier, because that would have been a lot more fun.

  13. JenTheNiceHRGirl

    #6) I work at a company that has a fairly common name and there are other companies in various industries that have some variation of our name (yes, it is a bad name choice but not my call). Recently I had a candidate do some internet research, which is always a good idea, and she came across one of those rip off reports about a company that had a name similar to ours. She assumed it was us and when I met with her she totally blindsided me with her “findings” like she was some sort of reporter and ended with “what do you have to say about that?”. I took a moment before I responded because I was totally caught off guard and I said well, for starters we are not in any way affiliated with XYZ company so I cannot comment on their business practices. I could tell she was a little embarrassed (and disappointed). I think that she thought that she caught us in some sort of scandal. So I guess my point is, definitely do a ton of research on a potential employer, but be weary of some of these “rip off reports”. You don’t know who made the report (disgruntled ex-employee, a shady competitor) for one thing. If you are interviewing with a company and you don’t see any red flags, yet you find some info online that makes you nervous, try checking around to see if you know of anyone who works for the company, and do more research to see if the same info is posted on various other sites. Then when you do approach the interviewer about the topic, make sure that you do it in an appropriate manner. Then once you have all of the facts, you can decide for yourself if you feel comfortable moving forward in the process. If you have a bad feeling about the situation, it is usually best to just keep looking.

  14. Kou

    “(as long as they don’t make requirements that would require you to disclose details about a disability and thus violate the Americans with Disabilities Act)”

    So where’s the line for that, when it’s a medical issue? You’d have to be dealing with a condition covered by the ADA, I’d assume, and then it’d have to be leave related to that. But they could still require you to say “medical leave” so long as you didn’t have to give a diagnosis or something that specific, right?

  15. VictoriaHR

    #5 – I’m confused as to which email was forwarded back to the OP. Was it the interviewer’s original email that said he had decided not to hire the OP? If so, it’s possible that he re-forwarded it as a final “this is my last word on the matter, the subject is closed” type of thing.

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