my boss’s wife makes me do her schoolwork, how to make more money, and more

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

1. How to praise a coworker to her manager

I have been working closely with a colleague at my university who has been doing a stellar job. I really appreciate the work she has done – both in speed and quality! I would like to email her supervisor to let him know how much I appreciate her efforts. Are there guidelines I should follow before sending an email (for example, should I let her know first?). How should I structure the email? I want to be sure I don’t make any faux-paus when sending the email but I do want to be sure she’s recognized for all of her hard work!

No special protocol needed, and no need to tell her ahead of time (although you might forward it to her after you’ve sent it). In the email just be straightforward, and be as specific as you can. For instance: “I’ve been thinking lately about how much I appreciate working with Jane and figured I should tell you how great she is. She’s always happy to help with X, even when it’s at the last minute, and her ability to edit my writing to make it more concise without losing substance or voice has left me incredibly impressed. She’s a pleasure to work with.”

Also, people should do more of this.

2. My boss showed us a photo of himself using cocaine

My boss showed some of the staff a picture on his cell phone of himself using cocaine at a party. Multiple staff members have now heard about the incident and it has had a bit of a butterfly effect on staff morale. I am wondering if there are any implications of us not reporting the behavior? Are we legally compliant or liable in any way?

Your boss is a tool, but no, you’re not legally required to report him or liable for not doing so. (In fact, assuming we’re talking about reporting him to the police, it’s highly unlikely they could do anything at all about it if you did. It’s just a photo, not a report of something else they could act upon.)

3. Will I make more money through raises at my current company or by changing jobs?

I have been told by a couple of mentors (within my company) that you make more money and get more responsibilities by staying with one company, as opposed to moving jobs for modest raises. I have 10 years of experience in my field and I am currently working for my second company, where I’ve been for 5.5 years. When I moved from the first company, I received a 35% increase. My current raises have only averaged approximately 3% and the recent promotion I received was only 6% (with more responsibilities). Should I stay and hope more money will come with seniority or is it better to change and get more money in the short term? I could easily move to another company an immediately get 10-15% increase, but I am not sure if loyalty will pay off in the long term. Any guidance on this subject would be much appreciated.

What? No. That is backwards. It’s widely accepted that most people get significantly higher salary jumps by changing jobs than they do through company raises. Some companies are exceptions to this, of course, but it doesn’t sound like yours is.

Any chance these “mentors” in your company are just trying to get you to stay there?

4. My boss’s wife makes me do her schoolwork

I am an executive assistant to the chairman and CEO of a major firm and I need help. My boss is a real creep. A sneaky, unethical and cheap individual. Rarely acknowledges me, let alone says two words. However, he sits back and allows his wife to use me as her personal assistant. For years now the wife has imposed her schoolwork on me. Just today, she shows up to the office with thick textbooks, so I can work on her essay – create footnotes, bibliography and appendix, etc. He knows this is happening. My colleagues laugh at me and tell me, “I hope you are getting the diploma.”

To make matters worse, I have been putting off surgery (gallbladder removal) because of my workload, and when I reminded her today that I am scheduling for Nov. 6, she responded with, “Well, if that is the case then, since you live in the same county as I, when P is away (my boss) on business on the 30th, I want you to work from the house to help me with a big project of creating files for the past 7 years of home repairs.”

When is it going to stop? Just recently, they gave salary increases and as expected did not bother providing me with one…in nearly 7 years one increase of $3K and that is it. I am disgusted and tired of the abuse. He knows this is happening and says nothing. He doesn’t value me, so whom do I turn too? I was never hired to do personal work especially not for the wife.

That’s ridiculous. You could try telling your boss that you’re uncomfortable doing personal work for his wife when you were hired to work for him, but it doesn’t sound like you have much rapport with him or that you think he would care. And since he’s the CEO, it’s unlikely that you can do much about this.

So the answer to “when is it going to stop?” is probably that it’s going to stop when you leave, which is what you should probably be thinking about doing. You’ve been there seven years so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be looking at other jobs anyway — but in light of all this, it would make a ton of sense to be actively looking.

5. How to start an email

I often find myself starting emails with “I hope all is well with you…” To be honest, I hate using this line, and I sometimes really don’t care how some people I am addressing are feeling. Do you know of a neutral way of asking this question? How can I start off my email without sounding discourteous?

You don’t necessarily need to open with a substitute for that line. In many contexts, especially for internal emails, it’s fine to go straight into what you’re writing about — for instance, “Hi Jane, I’m sending over a write-up on Jesse Pinkman that I thought you’d find useful,” or whatever. But if it’s someone you haven’t talked with in a long time or who you otherwise feel the need to use opening niceties with, “I hope you’re doing well” is pretty standard.

6. Interviewer wouldn’t tell me how many people they’re interviewing

I just had a full-day interview, and my interviewers knew I had been offered another position and had to make a decision. They had yet to interview the remaining candidates, but the interviewer wanted to be up-front with me about the time frame. She said I was still in the running and wanted me to make whatever decision was best for me. I asked her if she could tell me how many candidates remained to be interviewed and she told me she could not because it was illegal. However, she then went on to tell me that they had received 50 total applicants for the position and that these had been screened with phone interviews down to the current pool (I’m assuming so I could make an educated guess about how many were in the full-day interview stage).

Is this actually illegal? If so, why? And why was she still able to tell me how many applicants applied in the first place? If it’s not illegal, why would she tell me it was or be hesitant to provide the number of other interviewees? If she really is interested in me “doing what’s best for me,” it seems that knowing how many people I’m competing with would be a pretty important factor. This was in the state of Louisiana if that makes any difference.

No, that’s not illegal. That’s an interviewer who has no idea what she’s talking about. I have no idea why she told you that — but I’d guess that she really believes it, just like loads of other people think things are illegal that actually are not.

7. How can I show my increase in responsibility on my resume?

I’ve been in my current position for 5 years. Two years in, I was given an increase in responsibility but it caused no change to my title. (I became the one in charge when my boss was out for the day or on vacation, meaning I was responsible for handling emergencies, bringing in additional staff if we were short, locking up the building, and signing off on any reports that had to be handled ASAP.) Two years after that, another person left and I took on half of what she did (Job B) and my boss took on the other half.

How can I show on my resume the increase in responsibility for the last 3 years, even though there was no change in my title? So far, I’ve put something like:
Job A: 2008-present
Job B: 2012-present.

Saying I’m the “#2 behind my boss” feels phony even though it’s the truth and everyone in my department (and management) knows it.

If you weren’t trying to specifically show an increase in responsibility, I’d say that you should just put all of it in a single bucket, but since you are, the way you have it here works fine. And you could include something like, “Served as acting manager in director’s absence: [details here of what that entailed].”

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Rich*

    OP1- This is a great thing to do, and I’m very fond of it because managers can’t always see what’s going on. The only introduction you might possibly need is, “I worked with Jane on Project X,” just to give context. But it looks great for the person you’re praising, and equally great on you because you’re giving credit where it’s due!

  2. Liz*

    OP4: I suppose it wouldn’t be good for your career OR your short-term situation if you contacted the wife’s college and told them she was cheating. But in your shoes, I’d be tempted.

    (Alternatively, blatantly fake footnotes.)

    1. CC*

      Ha! I love it. Also, include obviously plagiarized excerpts. Let her try to scramble her way out of that by claiming she didn’t do the work.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        But get another job first. Boss and wifey sound retaliatory. But I also thought about going to the school. Most have ethics standards students sign.

        1. Rayner*

          If I did this, I’d make sure that I’d have plenty of proof too so it doesn’t just come across as a totally baseless accusation. Any emails, the pages of notes, any recorded information such as voice mails, “HAVE YOU DONE MY ESSAY YET? DON’T FORGET TO REFERENCE!” etc. Just make sure that it would be a totally solid plagiarism case.

          Also, I would think honestly long and hard about doing this if the OP isn’t worried about burning a bridge here, and has another job AND HAS ACCEPTED, NO CONDITIONS NEEDING TO BE MET PENDING.*

          Because academic plagiarism is despicable. it’s dishonest, it’s unfair, and it’s blatantly against the idea of learning. And it undermines the value of education and the reputation of the institution that they’re attending.

          It also opens the door for issues with integrity, honesty, and whether or not a person actually understands what they’re doing – e.g. can they actually complete the work their accountancy degree says they can? Lying in your job application or misrepresenting your skills is a BAD idea, as we’ve seen.

          As an academic adviser, I’d be very interested to hear of this kind of plagiarism. I know at my university when I attended, an accusation of plagiarism that was found to be true could kill your academic career dead. You could be forced to retake the year, leave for a year, be barred from collecting your degree, have it revoked if it was already issued, be made to repay any grants given by the university, and be prohibited from taking any more classes from the university or any of it’s institutions for a period of time up to years.

          *I say this because if the OP was still pending on references, for example, this would explode in the worst possible way for example. Only a cast iron job offer that they’ve accepted – and possibly started as well will do in this situation.

          1. fposte*

            I’m not sure it would technically count as plagiarism if it’s footnotes and bibliography rather than the essay itself, but it’s still academic dishonesty.

      2. Bea W*

        Oh my, #2 and #4 – WTH?! #4 – Buff up your resume and start job hunting. I think Alison is right. It will stop when you leave. #2 might want to consider the same.

        #2 – Is this something that would be appropriate to speak to someone above the boss’ head about? HR? If the boss wants to do something illegal outside of work time that’s his choice, but showing pictures of it around the office is totally inappropriate and raises serious concerns about his judgement and whether or not his drug use is putting other people at risk or would negatively impact his ability to do his job. At the least someone should have a friendly chat with about about not over-sharing at work.

        #3 – I think your mentors are either blowing smoke up your butt, since they work for your company – of course they will try to convince you to stick around, or maybe they are just clueless, or older from back in the day when people stayed with one company for a lifetime. Unfortunately, going from one employer to another is the best way to increase your salary. It definitely happens where employees who have been with a company for a while are making less than new people coming in. Some employers adjust pay for everyone as they change the starting rate for new employees, but many don’t.

        1. Bea W*

          Ugh, I meant to post this as a new comment, then clicked another “reply” while scrolling through other comments.

      3. Bea W*

        I wonder if she even bothers to read the essays very carefully. If not, the OP could insert a few really outrageous and/or non-contextual statements in there.

        1. fposte*

          I wasn’t clear if she has to do any writing of the actual essays or if it’s just footnotes and end matter that she’s stuck with.

        2. Lisa*

          She has been there for 7 years. She needs the reference for when she leaves. Otherwise 7 years didn’t matter. When she is settled in a new job, if she wants to, then she can notify the school to tell the truth. Have the papers to back it up in case the provost asks.

          1. fposte*

            While job security can be important, the seven years of experience and contacts definitely matter even without a reference. I totally think it’s the OP’s call as to whether she wants to take any additional action on this (though I suspect it’s not going to blow anything up to the degree we hope), but you really don’t want to pin everything on a possible reference from volatile people.

      4. Anonymous*

        Another old trick in the book is to write something completely stupid in the middle of the paper or insult the professor or the work (for example, write “This is bulls***” in the middle of paragraph somewhere).

        However, considering this OP needs to work and earn a paycheck, it’s probably not the best thing to do.

    2. evilintraining*

      I get strict warnings about plagiarism with every class I take. At worst, she could be expelled, so I agree that you should find a new job first–but definitely report her. Not only is it unfair to you, it’s unfair to the other students who aren’t getting any help from anyone. And with 7 years as an EA, you should be able to find a new job. The unfortunate thing is that you’ll probably have to suck it up in the meantime to avoid any repercussions.

    3. Bryan*

      I’m mad somebody beat me to it. Either contact the college or just do worse work, but I imagine the worse quality of work so she stops asking might put your job in jeopardy.

    4. thenoiseinspace*

      Oh my god, PLEASE do this! Everyone in the world of academia would thank you! (myself included – I work at a university and I know just how seriously this would be taken.)

        1. Jessica*

          And honestly, even if they do try to retaliate/give you a bad reference/whatever, your explanation as to what happened would be GOLDEN.

          I would even go so far as to say that ratting her out to her school is ethically the right thing to do.

        2. Yoteach*

          +2. Currently teaching at a college and I shove the anti-plagiarism line down the throats of my students repeatedly. It’s unethical, unfair, and otherwise wrong in so many ways. Get a new job OP and then report her to the college.

          1. fposte*

            But would you treat this as plagiarism? To me, it sounds more like the student was doing what researchers often do–having somebody handle the clerical details of the end matter. You’re sure as hell not supposed to do this as a student, so I’m not saying it would get a pass, but I think it would be treated differently than somebody who was having their essays ghost-written.

            1. Yoteach*

              I wouldn’t call it plagiarism in this case, but I would treat this as a serious violation because part of being a student is learning to create footnotes, bibliography and appendix, etc. In this case, the woman is farming out that work to someone else and that isn’t OK. When you have a Ph.D. and you’re the researcher, go ahead and have your students do the clerical work, but when you are the student, it’s expected that you will do your own work in this area because that is part of the purpose of being assigned papers like this – so you can learn how to do it.

            2. Rayner*

              I don’t think it would be.

              Although it’s not straight up faking your work, it’s not within the spirit of doing the work yourself. As a student, you don’t get to outsource making footnotes, bibliographies, and referencing, but still say it’s all your own work.

              Part of the essay’s design is understanding your materials, knowing where your ideas and information came from, keeping track of your quotes etc… By passing that off to someone else, the boss’s wife is definitely committing academic dishonesty that is at the same level as ghost writing an essay, imo.

              Put it this way, it would definitely get the same level of punishment in my university that having your essay ghost written would.

              1. fposte*

                In mine the outcome would be totally school-dependent, and the context would influence it hugely.

                Just to be clear, I still think this woman is a horrible, horrible person; I just wouldn’t bet the farm on being able to get her in serious trouble.

            3. Dr Lemur*

              It’s academic dishonesty. A certain state undergraduate institution is in long term trouble, which started with accusation that a tutor had done this sort of work for a member of a sports team.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      I wonder if there’s a way for OP to do this safely (though I have to admit I’d wait until I found another job to do it). As in, can OP contact the professor and say, “I’m in a really uncomfortable situation — I work for the company that Mrs. Sleazy McSleazerton’s husband is the CEO of, and I’ve been asked to do some things for her that feel like academic dishonesty. Is there a way I can share this information with you without her knowing how you learned of it?”

      Maybe they might think of something like requiring her to explain the material or to talk about her source material without having it in front of her — and her inability to do so will give her away without giving OP away.

      (It’s a totally delicate situation, though, and I can’t blame OP if s/he doesn’t say anything before landing a new gig.)

      1. pghadventurer*

        I like this suggestion and think it could work–although McSleazerton may well suspect the OP and get her fired, even without proof.

    6. Brett*

      Most colleges will allow anonymous complaints on academic dishonesty. Normally these are not that anonymous, since eventually you get to the point where you have to testify.

      But in this case, since so many employees know about the academic dishonesty, there would be no way to know who actually reported the case.

    7. Lizabeth*

      Take the credits from a Monty Python movie and turn them into footnotes?

      12. Pages x-y, The Moose that Roared, written by Walter T. Moose, Moosewood publishers, 1914

      The possibilities are endless there….

    8. Anon*

      Just write it really, really badly. Not sure what the laws are in your part of the world (UK here) but surely they can’t take any action about you not being able to write an essay in your boss’s wife’s field as a PA?

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          But then OP would be sans job and with her employer of the last 7 years almost certainly willing to badmouth her if called as a reference.

          At least if she job hunts now, she can say “don’t contact my current employer because duh, he’s my current employer.” But if she job hunts while unemployed, then hiring managers are going to want to talk with Sleazy for sure.

          OP, this sucks all around. I’m sorry.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I totally agree–I’m just explaining to Anon in the UK what the US law likely does and doesn’t afford the OP.

    9. AF*

      I was thinking the same thing. Only after having moved on, of course. But it sounds like the boss and his wife belong together, because they’re both terrible people. Hell, you probably SHOULD being getting that degree, or a degree, for all the work you’re doing. Good luck, OP #4, and please send an update if you do leave!

    10. holly*

      since the Op mentioned her workload, what if she just doesn’t have the time to get to the wife’s work? i mean, company work first, anything else later… otherwise, yeah, i wouldn’t try so hard at it. screw those citations.

  3. redvelvet cheesecake*

    Re: #4…. I t’s beyond my understanding how spouses of business owners think they can boss around staff to do their stupid shit work. And yes, it IS stupid shit work. Just reading it is making me irrationally grumpy.

  4. Jessa*

    Re #2, I think it matters what the boss does, if the boss operates equipment or is responsible for large amounts of money reporting him to HIS boss/HR would probably be a good thing to do, just as a good corporate citizen. The cops can’t do anything but if I owned a company I’d want to know particularly if someone as access to my money.

      1. Lizabeth*

        Find another job and leave asap…because the drug addition is probably “only” the tip of the iceberg.

      2. Rindle*

        I’ve had this happen. I agree with Lizabeth. The situation and the consequences are way out of your control, and things can change for the worse at the drop of a hat.

      1. Bea W*

        I don’t think Jessa was assuming facts so much as speculating on situations (the word “IF” being the tip-off) where having an employee with a drug habit would be of real concern for an employer. We don’t know what kind of work this person does, and in some cases, having an employee under the influence creates a safety, financial, or other legal liability hazard, all things a company most wants to avoid.

        1. Cat*

          We also don’t know that he’s a drug addict though. I mean, I agree that he’s clearly a tool with poor judgment, but that doesn’t mean he’s coming to work high.

          1. Lizabeth*

            Sometimes you can’t tell if they’re high or not (alcohol included in this too) by how they behave. There are some highly functional drug addicts and alcoholics out there…but eventually they come crashing down.

            1. Cat*

              Sure, but it’s fallacious to assume that because you know of one incident where your boss did coke, that he’s a drug addict or someone who comes to work high.

              1. fposte*

                Exactly. Same as he’s not a drunk for having a picture with a beer in his hand.

                On the other hand, passing around a picture of him doing illegal drugs does prove he has a serious glitch in his judgment center.

                1. some1*

                  Exactly what I was going to say. The disturbing part is his piss poor lack of judgement, not the act itself.

                2. Bea W*

                  Do people really socially do cocaine the way they socially drink though or smoke pot? I’m not sure it’s comparable. I’d strongly suspect anyone using cocaine has a drug habit or is about to develop one.

                3. Cat*

                  Bea, I’m not opining on the wisdom of doing cocaine, here, however, like all drugs, relatively few people who partake become addicted. I don’t have accurate numbers handy, however even for the most addictive drugs (tobacco, heroin), only something like a third of users become addicted to it. It’s lower for cocaine, though I don’t remember how much lower (15% is the number that sticks in my head for some reason).

                4. BCW*

                  Bea, yes less people do cocaine than smoke pot, but I think it may be more prevalant than you think. Its kind of a jump to think someone who does it has a drug problem. I know many people who have done it a handful of times in their lives who I would no way classify as having a drug problem.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think the stats show that casual users of cocaine are more prevalent than addicts, actually (but I’m not positive and would need to look it up; it’s been a long time since I read that).

                6. Anonymous*

                  I love commenters on this blog. This is information I was wondering about. My only experience with people who use cocaine has been with people who are not only using it but addicted to it. That includes an ex-fiance who was both an alcoholic and addicted to cocaine. That was my social circle 20+ years ago. The only things people partook in without an addiction were drinking (though many people I knew were also alcoholics) and pot. I am a 20 years this past summer recovered prescription drug addict, and many of my friends and acquaintances also did what were considered the “hard drugs” – cocaine, heroin, meth.

                  In my present social and professional circles now the social drugs of choice are limited alcohol and pot (nicotine and caffeine also of course, but I’m talking about the things people enjoy on occasion without having an actual addiction). I seriously do not know anyone who uses cocaine and have never really heard of it as a drug of casual use without addiction. So for me, it was no big leap at all to think someone using cocaine at a party would likely be addicted. That is my only experience with people who’ve used cocaine. I’ve never encountered it at a party in my non-addict social and professional circles.

                  So I have learned something new, and will have to look this up for my own curiosity. Thank you!

                7. Ellie H.*

                  Yes, casual users of cocaine (or pretty much any drug) are more prevalent than cocaine addicts. Way more people are “chippers” than you would think. And yes, people do do cocaine socially, all the time. In fact my impression is that cocaine is probably the most common “infrequently used” drug. That is to say, that people who smoke marijuana ever are more likely to smoke marijuana regularly, than people who do cocaine ever are likely to do cocaine regularly.

                8. Anonymous*

                  Bea W wrote: “My only experience with people who use cocaine has been with people who are not only using it but addicted to it.”

                  The only way you could know that you don’t have experience with non-addicts is if you’re polled the people you have contact with to see if they have used cocaine casually, or you live in some sort of closed environment where you be sure who has and hasn’t used cocaine.

                  Otherwise, there may well be people who have used cocaine and you simply don’ t know they have.

            2. Bea W*

              This was the VP of finance at a former employer. He would go out with colleagues for 2 hour liquid lunches, but he was functional and doing his job. I’m not sure many people who didn’t work closely with him were even aware of what he was doing. It is true that eventually it catches up with people though.

    1. BCW*

      I don’t know if I even agree with that. I know plenty of people who are responsible for large amounts of money who get completely drunk on weekends, but that never affects their work, and the effects of alcohol last longer than cocaine. If you thought he was coming in high, thats different, but if he isn’t, its something I’d just chalk up to over sharing. But then again, I’m not someone who is concerned with what people do outside of work. You wanna get drunk and smoke weed? Have at it. As long as you can perform the job during the hours you are getting paid, I don’t care.

    2. Anonagain*

      #2 It is a Big Deal if your coke-smoking boss is the mayor of Toronto…illegal or not, there should be serious repercussions for such poor judgment from publicly elected representatives

      1. Claire*

        Ha! I’m glad someone pointed out the similarities between this questions and the current and very public story about Dear Rob Ford.

      2. Bea W*

        As a US American, Marion Barry the former Mayor of Washington DC immediately came to mind when I read this comment.

  5. Amber*

    #4 I’m betting this slowly came about because you have low self esteem. The second anyone ever told me to do their homework for them, I would say no. If the continued to push and said it was a requirement for the job then I would either immediately quite or do it and begin job searching. I have too much self respect to get taken advantage of like that. Stand up for your self and put a stop to this one way or another.

    1. Elysian*

      I don’t think this has anything to do with low self esteem. I think someone who has a job, in a terrible economy, wants to keep it, and when the boss (or his wife) ask you to do stupid stuff, you suck it up sometimes because no job is perfect. I don’t think it has anything to do with the OP’s self esteem.

      That said, she should leave if she can. And I like the idea of reporting her academic dishonesty to her school. They usually take that stuff seriously, if you have proof.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      I think it can be more of a “hey, I’ve got bills and need to eat/live and need the paycheck to do these things so…” type of situation.

      The OP should be actively job searching and has been there long enough to say it’s time for a change/new responsibilities. Unfortunately most people can’t quit their job without another job lined up or a substantial amount in savings to cover living expenses for a very long time.

    3. redvelvet cheesecake*

      I would agree with the low self esteem bit if we were talking abtou a child in school (or high school, even college)…. not sure if I agree when it comes to an adult in a full time job.

    1. esra*

      Damn, you beat me to it. Laughing at our horrible, horrible mayor is our only alternative to openly weeping about it.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. I often start an email with “I hope you are well” if it’s somebody senior with whom I haven’t been in contact recently.

    If it’s somebody I have emailed several days previously, then I don’t tend to bother. Although I might do if they live somewhere that was recently on the news (e.g. St Jude’s day storm or Hurricane Sandy), then I would add something along the lines of “I hope you haven’t been too badly affected”.

    1. Lyssa*

      It weirds me out that the OP said that she sometimes doesn’t care if the person is doing well. With the exception of, say, really horrible criminals, who would you not hope is doing well? That seems pretty miserable.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think that’s all that weird. I mean, I hope you’re doing well in the same way that I hope everyone is doing well, but I don’t know you personally, and so I don’t have the same personal connection as if, for example, a family member or a close friend were going through a difficult time.

        1. Lyssa*

          Why would that phrase mean anything more than hoping that the person is doing well in the same way you hope that everyone is doing well? It’s pretty much up there with “have a nice day.” You hope everyone is having a nice day, not that you’re necessarily going to lose any sleep over whether they do or not.

        2. Gjest*

          Yes, I took this to mean that the OP felt more like I do when the grocery store cashier asks me how I am doing today. They most likely just want me to say “fine, how are you?” and I just want them to say “fine.” Neither one of us want to actually hear “Well, my cat woke me up at 4am for wet food, even though the dry food bowl was full. Then I fell back to sleep but my alarm didn’t go off so I had to race around to get ready, and was late for work anyway. Then my boss…….”

          I think the “hope you are doing well” and “how are you today”s are polite, but essentially meaningless. That’s what I took the OP’s comment to mean. Not entirely that she was hoping the email recipient was not doing well.

      2. Sadsack*

        I think the point is that OP and the recipient of her email are not going to go back and forth discussing how well they are or are not doing. The point of her email is to get to the business reason for writing. Would you expect the recipient to actually write back with anything other than they are doing well? Like the recipient is going to write back a paragraph about how her family and pets are doing, etc. No, they are exchanging emails about business, there’s no need for anything else. Just get to the point…in a nice, polite way.

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    #1 — yay for you! The praise email is a powerful thing. You can send one to the boss, or you can also send an email of thanks and praise directly to your colleague, cc’ing the boss — that way the employee can save the email and trot it out to the boss when it’s time for performance reviews.

    #3 — I suspect they’re telling you that because they want you to stay. Yes, you can often get more *responsibility* by staying at the same company — if you don’t have experience with skill X, and you want it, it can be much easier to convince your current company, where you’re a known entity otherwise, to let you try it, than to sell yourself to a new company that knows you haven’t done X and also doesn’t know your other strengths and weaknesses yet. I’ve found that staying where I’m at has allowed me to move up in responsibility, whereas when I’ve interviewed for outside jobs, they want someone who’s already experienced in whatever it is they’re hiring for.

    That being said, the way to make more *money* is usually to move. Companies don’t want their budgets automatically increasing by large percentages from year to year, so they try to keep raises under control — yet to hire someone for a vacant position, they have to offer enough to make that person want to leave. And because offering more just to new hires saves money over offering more to everyone, that’s what most companies do.

    It’s a tradeoff. If there’s a particular area in which you’re looking to grow, and there’s a good opportunity for that at your current company, then staying makes perfect sense. And if you’ve grown as much as you can at your current place, and/or they’re substantially underpaying you, it makes sense to move.

    1. adrienne*

      Ditto #1 – It’s great to share with the person who’s involved too! Plus it contextualizes more for the supervisor.

    2. Jamie*

      You can send one to the boss, or you can also send an email of thanks and praise directly to your colleague, cc’ing the boss

      That’s what I do – send a thank you to the person and cc their boss…so they know it was sent.

      I will, though, sometimes follow up privately with the boss if I see potential for career growth in certain areas to open a discussion …because I don’t want to say things in front of someone that may not come to fruition, but sometimes a little nudge about did you think about so and so for X…or I’m not shy about why I think should get extra consideration for bonuses, raises, etc.

      If it’s out of my department and I don’t have an official say so I toss my two cents in when someone is particularly great. But I wouldn’t say that in the email to them.

  8. felix erdie*

    Sorry if its taking so long. Thanks for being good ideas,im so happy right now,not just u and u but all the belevers who dont beleve cristianity. Gods hug, greetings for lost souls. Im crazy. Lets say im mob cod players, and im the head boss and when the day my death has come my last words to my disciple let my knoledge past bla..blaa like jesus. My point is i need a big big help to take down a big corp. Church! I dont wanna see a human or young consusness being abuse with those third party. So lets say its just started with name and end with the name. I want my people to understand what is the life that bible saying where their still alive. I.n.c is one of the biggest corp so thats why my land of elternity is doom and hard to explain but i can say is like a lake of fire. None of your bussiness? If u accept me as your people lets go help me to recover one of our land. I got all those answer like my name is the key. 3rd party is still alive. I got no funds my parent not supporting me because they just repeating what is in the bible. + they cant kik my ass in the church because I got the name of the head and his half body. So we just need to kill the other part.thanks its emarging like cancer

    1. Mystic*

      This is so creepy and kind of funny, it’s just fascinating…

      “How is babby formed?” comes to mind :-P

    2. Anonymous*

      I feel like that’s a poem that I would have been assigned in college to read and I’d be saying to myself, “WTF??” and all my classmates would be talking about the imagery and symbolism and I’d just never get it.

  9. Anonymous*

    #4- It’s so easy to be an outsider, look at how ridiculous the OP’s situation, and tell her to simply say no to those absurd demands, or quit her job, but I assume quitting may not be an option and sounds like this douche bag boss/ wife team are bullies. The OP mentions she’s having gallbladder surgery soon, which might be an opportunity ( after some recovery) use some of that medical leave to really “hit the payment” and do some resume updating/ job searching. You’ll probably be off for a minimum of 2 weeks, so really use that time to get moving on getting out of that toxic situation. Don’t put up with that BS anymore, also, if you can, seek out EAP or counseling to help you talk about it, they can often help in giving you support and tools to manage work situations. good luck!

    1. Rindle*

      Agree. Also, as an EA at that level, OP probably has probably developed tons of outside contacts over the last seven years. If she’s good at her job, someone will snap her up in a heartbeat. Good EAs are worth their weight in gold. (Obvious disclaimer to use this network judiciously so as not to alert the boss before the appropriate time.)

  10. A Teacher*

    #4, what you are doing is also called academic dishonesty by all universities I’ve ever worked for or with. Doesn’t matter if she gives permission it’s still dishonest and could probably get her booted from school…which means lots of other schools won’t take her and no financial aid in the US in many cases.

    1. A.Y. Siu*

      You’re absolutely correct, but, for some reason, I have a feeling financial aid is not really going to be an issue in this situation.

      1. A Teacher*

        Correct, but depending on the terminal degree, if she’s going for a master’s and wanted a graduate assistantship or research assistant ship that runs through financial aid as well–at least two of mine did.

        The biggest thing is in “helping” the wife the EA puts her own future at risk should she need to go back and get a degree at some point–not saying she will but if she’s charged with academic dishonesty–and I could see the wife flipping the blame to the EA.

  11. Rindle*

    #5 – I wish launching straight into the facts in an email would get more traction. I hear from so many people – friends and colleagues – that they feel it’s rude / abrupt. I used to feel this way, so I do understand. But I have become so much more efficient since I quit worrying about exactly how to start an email in a way that eases into the real purpose of the conversation.

    1. Clever Name*

      I heart you. I really don’t want to talk about the weather or how someone’s weekend went in an an email. I just want to launch in to the actual purpose of my email, which is to get stuff done.

  12. John*

    #3 — For perspective, 3% raises in the current economy is not bad at all. Lots of folks have been frozen since the financial crisis or received much less and with less frequency. And a 6% bump for more responsibility in this environment is also pretty healthy. Lots of folks get the responsibilities, perhaps a title, and nothing more.

    Still agree with AAM that what your mentors are telling you is self-serving.

  13. K-Anon*

    #3 One reason people say you make more money in the long run at your current job is due to improved promotion opportunity. This is probably especially true of people who are mentors, they are so because they are high performing, which often means they get promoted. 2 years ago a friend was trying to confince me I should move to his company for just a little more, I stuck it out here and got a big promotion and a 20% bump the next year. So, really you need to think about your company and what your chances are to get into new roles and higher salaries. If you are the “Just do your job” type, then yeah, you’ll likely make more hopping around a bit.

    Another good reason is the total benifit package… for me it’s especially the PTO. I’ve been with this company 10 years now and it’s a lot of PTO i’d be giving up if i start over somewhere else.

  14. Colette*

    #4 – Totally agree you should get a new job.

    However, you say you’re having surgery on the 6th, and that the boss’s wife has decided that you should work from home on the 30th. If you’re still supposed to be off on medical leave on the 30th, that’s an easy one to say no to. “I’m sorry, my doctor says I won’t be able to work until X”.

  15. Joey*

    #2. I’m a little surprised by your answer given your views on drug use. I know this is slightly different since he’s parading it, but if its not impacting work why is he a tool? Isn’t your view that recreational drug use should be okay as long as it doesn’t impact work. I would also surmise that you believe people shouldn’t automatically stigmatize drug users either, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. So I would expect you to have more of a problem with people drawing conclusions about him based on drug use that doesn’t necessarily affect his work.

    So how’s it different from say a manager offhandedly mentioning he uses marijuana?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m actually a big fan of responsible users of drugs that are illegal talking openly about their responsible use, because that’s how you remove the stigma, but showing your employees pictures of yourself using cocaine is bizarre. It’s not political advocacy; it’s just inappropriate and will make employees uncomfortable.

      1. Mystic*

        I’m a big fan of your progressive viewpoint!

        There are lots of activities that are (or should be) perfectly legal when done responsibly, but that doesn’t mean photos of them belong in the workplace!!

      2. Rayner*

        To be honest, I’m not a big fan of people talking openly about drug use when it comes in the workplace. Especially manager to subordinate.

        There’s a reason they’re illegal*, and it would definitely undermine my confidence in my manager if they said they were a user of a drug like cocaine or heroin, even occasionally.

        Weed is one of the few exceptions, but even then, it’s something that’s very touchy.

        1. Joey*

          Why is weed okay but the others aren’t? Are you saying its impossible to responsibly use illegal drugs with the exception of weed?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I imagine the point was that it’s different because marijuana is widely considered (by both scientists and laypeople) as less harmful than alcohol and most people know someone who uses it or has used it (and indeed, a majority of Americans now support decriminalizing marijuana).

            1. Rayner*

              There are few medical benefits I can think of to a coke habit, for example. Or a heroin addiction. Weed on the other hand, is less clearly defined, and it’s uses are being explored.

              *Also, I’m calling it weed because my ability to spell today is severely depleted and I physically have not got the spoons to fret about that.

        2. A Bug!*

          “There’s a reason they’re illegal”? All illegal drugs, every single one, is illegal for a really good, scientifically-supportable reason? And that reason is equally valid for every single illegal drug out there?

          “It’s illegal, therefore it must be bad” is a really lazy argument. You can’t just trust your government implicitly to make good laws, because a lot of times they don’t. Governments make bad laws all the time because reasonable, critical thinkers don’t fight as hard for good laws as moral crusaders fight for bad ones.

          1. Bea W*

            ^This. It was once illegal to marry outside of your race. It was also once illegal for women to vote. People become horribly addicted to perfectly legal drugs, prescribed to them legally. It’s not black and white.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly — and you only need to look at some things that used to be illegal but now are not to see that (segregation, alcohol prohibition, women not having the vote, and so much more).

          3. Rayner*

            …Uh, the reason why things like Heroin and meth are illegal in the way they’re produced as street drugs is because they can kill people, cause massive physical damage , and has a myriad of documented negative side effects?

            I don’t necessarily trust my government to make perfect decisions and I don’t expect them to get the needs of the people down pat but when something kills people and damages health, I generally thinks that’s a good reason for it to be illegal.

            Now if we can just get cigarettes on that list of things that should be illegal, we’d be golden.

      3. Joey*

        Isn’t responsible illegal drug use an oxymoron though. How can doing anything illegal be considered responsible? I get the advocacy part, but I have a hard time finding people breaking the law to advance a cause credible. Its sort of like drug lords advocating for legalizing drugs.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Drug lords don’t generally advocate to legalize drugs, because then they’d lose their business. Their business relies on there being an illegal market. (Unless they’re in it for philosophical reasons, which some are.) But drug prohibition is what keeps illegal drug dealers in business.

          In any case, I don’t think the mere fact of something being illegal makes doing it irresponsible. Is it irresponsible to read banned books in countries that ban them? To drink wine during Prohibition? I think we’d all say of course not.

          1. Bea W*

            I struggle with this a lot, and you give a great example that makes sense to me.

            Some illegal drugs are more awful than others. There are people who argue that certain legal drugs are worse than some of the illegal drugs. Legal drugs can be used irresponsibly and can also lead to addiction. It’s not a simple issue as dividing things into legal = good and illegal = bad.

          2. Joey*

            We probably disagree. I don’t think breaking the law to right a wrong is an effective method of advocating. It shows you cherry pick the rules you abide by. What’s the point in rules if that’s acceptable?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Do you think that in every case or only about drug laws? What about past laws against interracial marriage or gay relationships? Reading banned books? Lunch counter sit-ins? What about sheltering runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad?

              I’m not comparing drug prohibition to slavery; my point is about whether it’s wrong to break laws that you feel strongly are wrong and cause injustice.

              This country actually has a long and honorable tradition of civil disobedience, starting with the Boston Tea Party.

            2. Joey*

              I didn’t live in times where slavery was legal so maybe my view would be different if we were talking about life and death or basic human freedoms but, were talking about mostly an activity of leisure (except legitimate medical use) which doesn’t come close to comparing.

              I guess what I’m saying is adhering to the laws is more important than your desire to smoke a joint.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                How about banned books, which is more comparable? Would you really not read a book you wanted to read just because the government said you couldn’t?

                1. Joey*

                  Probably depends on what the book was about. I think freedom of information is pretty much a basic right. Although I wouldn’t seek out a banned book on fiction simply because it was banned. It would have to be something so important that it outweighs my responsibility as a citizen to follow the law.

              2. Anon*

                Why are you ok with medical marijuana? Because it is legal? Why is it different for a person with a disease to smoke weed but not a healthy person? What is the difference? Why is it ok to smoke to relieve nausea from cancer but not food poisoning?

                If the electorate is not constantly questioning our laws and revising them based on the will of the people than what is the point of having a democracy?

                1. Joey*

                  I’m okay with it when it’s prescribed by a qualified healthcare provider because a persons health is more important than their responsibility to follow the law.

                  I’m not saying you shouldn’t question the legalization of weed. I’m just saying i believe in most circumstances your responsibility as a citizen to follow the law trumps your desire to engage in an illegal leisure activity.

        2. A Bug!*

          Do you think the women in Saudi Arabia, protesting the prohibition of female drivers, are not credible?

        3. Seattle Anon*

          Except that, Joey, drug lords are specifically NOT advocating for legalization because that would be putting themselves out of business.

          Recreational marijuana use is now legal in WA state. I smoked weed before the law passed last year and I smoke weed now. There has been absolutely no difference in how I procure, use or act when under the influence of the drug. I have not gone out and killed someone, beat my spouse/kids or endangered the lives of others.

          Your views are incredibly naive. \

          1. Joey*

            Naive because I believe you have a responsibility to follow the law unless your health, life or basic human rights are compromised? Naive because I have a high regard for the law? Please do explain your points.

            1. A Bug!*

              Who decides what is a basic human right? I might be inclined to say that the right to choose what I put in or do to my own body is a pretty basic human right, but the government at various levels seems to have trouble with that.

      4. Bea W*

        That’s the impression I got from your response – that the guy was a tool for showing co-workers this photo of him getting lit up at a party, not for his actual drug use. As for taking away stigma – sharing photos of this nature only adds to it. It’s like people posting drunk photos on FB. It really isn’t a good example of responsible enjoyment of alcohol.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And to be consistent, since I just advocated people talking openly about their responsible use of drugs that are illegal:

      I smoked my share of marijuana in college, like a lot of other people. I still enjoy it on occasion, but rarely — like every-few-years rare. The last time was two years ago, when I ate a marijuana cookie and tried to watch the Rachel McAdams movie “Morning Glory,” but because I’d eaten too much of the cookie, couldn’t tell whether it was a comedy or a tragedy* (I was so befuddled that I had to look up reviews online to find out and then still wasn’t sure), and then went to bed.

      I don’t think I belong in jail for that, and it pisses me off — both as a fiscal conservative and a civil liberties advocate — that the government spends huge amounts of resources arresting and imprisoning people who like me doing things like that in the privacy of their own homes.

      It’s okay if that makes anyone find me less credible, though I’d hope you’d judge based on the six years of presumably sound and reasonable posts here.

      (I would not share that cookie story with employees though, and the manager in the post is still a tool.)

      * Morning Glory is, in fact, a comedy.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m not sure if I’m reading sarcasm (you not liking her as an actress) so please excuse me when I add:
          -Mean Girls
          -Wedding Crashers

      1. Anon this time*

        Last time I ate a pot cookie, I convinced myself there was a ghost in the house. I smelled a whiff of “old lady” perfume*, and my cats were both staring at something in the doorway that I couldn’t see**… I ended up saying “it’s OK for you to be here, but I don’t want to see you”, then went into the bedroom and hid under the duvet, with the light on and the cats for protection.

        *I figured out when smelling it again a week later that it coincides with the guy who lives downstairs having his Mum over for dinner once a week… the smell was coming up through the air vents

        **no idea what that’s all about. They don’t do it very often, but when they do it’s ALWAYS when I’m home alone.

        1. Sissa*

          There is something with cats that causes them to stare at nothing in particular. Freaks me out. :D

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Do whatever you want, but drug use (including excessive alcohol use) is a deal breaker for me. No roommates, no dates who do any of this. Friends–do it when I’m not around. I’ve watched people get really high and frankly, they looked ridiculous.

        **Disclaimer: yes, I’ve smoked weed (meh) and was a tobacco addict (I don’t smoke anything now), and yes, I drank in college.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I agree with that part of it–I think throwing people in prison for ten years because they smoked weed is stupid. Especially when they let rapists out to make room!

  16. snarkalupagus*

    #4, back in the long-ago at my very first job out of college, I worked for a married couple as their main research assistant and EA. They each had two kids, daughters my age and sons a little older. His daughter was in grad school and her son was starting medical school. He asked if I would help his daughter with her papers because I had been an English major and he knew that I had typed papers in college to make money (this was in the Dark Ages before most people had PCs and access to decent printers). I explained that I would be glad to type her papers for her according to the rules for my college typing clients: my standard rate was $1.00 per page (chuckle…as I said, this was a long time ago), and I typed exactly what was on the paper, with no grammar or spelling corrections, because any editing on my part meant that the student wasn’t turning in original work. He asked in a more forceful way if I couldn’t just clean up minor errors and I said, “Unfortunately, since that’s plagiarism, no, I won’t.” Right about then his wife walked into the room, heard the last part of the conversation, and ripped him a new one about academic integrity and putting me in an uncomfortable position. (The place was a nest of crazy on both their parts, but on occasion ethics would win over nuttiness.) He exacted revenge in other ways over time but he ended up working on the papers himself.

    Not long after that, her son asked me to help him type his applications for medical school, and paid me out of his own pocket. He said that he knew that it was his responsibility to deliver quality product for packaging, and that he would appreciate knowing if he had made an error so he could fix it. His stuff was flawless when he gave it to me, so it wasn’t actually even necessary.

    TL;DR…#4, I know the situation is different–it’s a different time and economy now, and you have health issues to worry about. Enlist your doctor if that would help with the immediate demands, and do spend the time working on your resume. A good EA is hard to find–use the wisdom and advice here on AAM to market yourself and find a position working for people who aren’t slimy. Good luck.

    1. Kou*

      This is interesting to me because when I was a student, we were actively encouraged again and again to have friends or tutoring lab staff proof-read and make corrections to our papers. I even had classes where we were assigned to groups and required to trade papers to each other for editing. I’ve never understood editing (“there should be a comma here, this is a fragment, this paragraph is unclear”) to be lumped in with people actually writing for you as academically dishonest.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s not the same thing though; editing is transparent. The editing you did in class was with the full knowledge of the professor and the school. It’s part of the class and could also be considered critique, which isn’t dishonest.

  17. Anoners*

    OP 4. If you really want to get back at her and teach her a lesson (haha), report this to her school. I’m sure they’d love to know that one of their students is basically plagiarizing her ENTIRE way through their program. Obviously you could only do this if you quit, by the sounds of it all hell would break loose if you were still there. I hate that I had to work full time and do a Masters, but others are just basically cheating their way through life (ughhh). Good luck!

  18. Anon Accountant*

    OP4- hoping for a speedy recovery from your surgery and good luck with finding a great new job. I’d like to see a good update on this one with a good outcome for the OP4.

  19. Anonymous*

    OP 6, while this information is nice to have, it won’t give you a complete picture of what’s going on. If they’re interviewing three other people, that’s still not a 25% chance- you’re not considering the intangible factors of skills and training, and they’re not going to share that information with you. This process can take a ridiculously long time, so if you want to try to stall the first offer while waiting for the second, it’s your risk. Be prepared to choose without having all the information.

    1. Judy*

      I did once interview for a position, and when I asked how many people were interviewing for it, I was told “one”. I did get the job offer.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s lucky! I’m glad you fit the qualifications they were looking for. It’s also kind of an outlier, if we’re looking at hiring statistics.

  20. Ruffingit*

    #1: Just finished doing this myself this morning. I sent an email to a volunteer group I work with to tell them one of the volunteers I worked with last night was fantastic. Absolutely more people should do this, we are all quick to complain, but we’re often stingy with kudos.

    And, you should definitely send a copy of the email to your colleague AND tell her in person what a stellar job you think she’s doing. It’s great to read the words, but even better to hear them face to face. Good for you for wanting to recognize her hard work!

    1. fposte*

      And the thing is, it’s really fun to do (at least in my praise-stinted organization)–people are really excited about hearing their staff is doing so well!

  21. PPK*

    OP #1 — You could send to the manager and CC the employee. I do this when I work with people outside of my product. I try to keep it short — but I point out the work and then the things I appreciated (their positive attitude, accurate help, etc). Otherwise, I tell my manager directly (we have regular meetings together so it doesn’t have to be out of the blue — just part of my report of things I’m doing) so he can be an advocate for great fellow employees outside our department at review time.

    1. Leslie Yep*

      I often send the feedback directly to the person and CC their manager. It’s nice to tell people you appreciate them directly too :)

    2. MaryMary*

      I like to cc the employee when sending positive feedback to their manager too. A lot of people really appreciate being able to see your comments verbatim (I know a couple people who save positive emails to re-read on bad days!). It’s also helpful for the employee to have a copy for their own records, if they transfer to a new manager or if their manager is a bad one and doesn’t pass on the feedback or take note of it.

  22. Ruffingit*


    #7 needs this part to be italicized Saying I’m the “#2 behind my boss” feels phony even though it’s the truth and everyone in my department (and management) knows it.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – when you do get another job, I hope you tip off the university on what you’ve been doing. Provide all the evidence and emails and bust her for it. Hopefully she’s still a few years from graduation and there’s enough time for her to be removed from school for academic dishonesty.

    1. fposte*

      If she’s just having somebody else do her footnotes and end matter, it could just be just a slap on the wrist; it’ll depend on what program and institution and what defense she’s able to make.

  24. NW*

    OP #1 – Good on you! I agree with Alison and other commenters, definitely let the manager AND the person you’re praising in on it. It’s always good to hear the praise directly from the person giving it!

    OP #6 – I can’t help but wonder if we’re interviewing for the same job. I’m in the same state and had an interview yesterday where the HR person told me they had a lot of applicants and she had phone screened down to a much smaller pool of interviews. Hmm…

    1. Raga*

      I don’t think so. For one, it wasn’t the HR person who told me that. There was no interaction with an HR department at all during this hiring process. For another, that’s pretty standard practice with phone interviews.

  25. Former Agency Recruiter*

    OP #6 – “She said I was still in the running and wanted me to make whatever decision was best for me.” This does not mean she is trying to make a decision that is best for you, or looking out for your best interest. She is telling you to consider your options and make your own decision based on the information you have because she can’t make it for you.

    Also, sometimes it’s hard to nail down a number while interviewing if that number could change. My company doesn’t set a number of interviews they’ll do for each position – if they get a resume they find interesting, they’ll interview you. Since we keep getting resumes even after the interview process starts, I never give out a number of people that we’re interviewing because that number can change daily.

    Additionally, just because you’re one of x amount of people that we’re currently interviewing, doesn’t mean that we are going to hire one of you. We might interview and decide we haven’t found a good fit, and keep looking. Based on that, I wouldn’t want to tell a candidate “you’re one of x amount of people currently interviewing” have them get their hopes up, and then decide not to hire out of that pool of people.

    As has been discussed on this blog many times before, finding out the number of people interviewing can just psych you out more since you start trying to calculate your chances. (I know I did that in my earlier years)

    1. Raga*

      If she doesn’t know the number, I see absolutely no harm in her telling me “I’m sorry I can’t tell you because the hiring process is still open and we are still accepting applications.” In this case though, I know they aren’t still accepting applications because they closed the posting weeks ago and they’ve already gone through 3 previous stages-application, phone interview, talking with references. If they don’t hire somebody from this pool of candidates they will have to start the process over.

      Also, I never really claimed that knowing the number was a single determining factor for my chances of getting the job. It *is* a factor though. A solid candidate has a better chance of getting the job competing against three other solid candidates than they do competing against 10 solid candidates. If as you say, she’s not really doing this for my mental well-being, then whether I would be “disappointed” or not because of what she said isn’t even something that should be on her radar. If she thinks I’m a good candidate, she should be doing what she can to retain my interest. If she isn’t, she should be blunt enough to get rid of me.

      To me this just seems like another classic case of a company withholding information for no particular reason except they can and they have some weird perception that it gives them some kind of advantage. (Refusing to post salary as an example.) It doesn’t. It just confuses candidates and makes them make decisions based on hunches and vague guesses rather than actual data.

  26. HR lady*

    # 6 – My guess would be she meant it’s against company policy (or against her boss’s policy) to tell people how many applicants there are. And maybe it’s been company policy for so long that she just thought it was the law and so she said it’s against the law to tell you.

    But plenty of people won’t tell you how many applicants are being interviewed- there’s just something about it that starts to get very “real” and it makes candidates think things like “OK, so I’m one of three candidates, so I have a a 1 in 3 chance, but I know they really seemed to like me, so I bet I have a 1 in 2 chance.” Or whatever – it just makes people start to draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily true. And then that can lead to disappointment. Or, worse yet, questions to the interviewer like “so you told me there are 2 other candidates. Could you tell me how I rate next to them? Or what they have that I don’t have?”

    I’d say typically most office jobs come down to about 3-5 people getting to the interview stage. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

    1. Raga*

      So information should be withheld because I *might* be disappointed if I misinterpret it or it *might* lead me to asking invasive questions about somebody else’s performance? As is, I most definitely will be making decisions based on hunches and speculation because I don’t have all the data present that could help me make an informed decision. In the second case, I see no reason she couldn’t just say “I’m sorry I can’t tell you that out of respect for the confidentiality of the other applicants.” It seems like only a jerk wouldn’t accept that answer, and if I behaved like a jerk that’s still valuable to her. She now knows not to hire me. But for that matter, if she thought I’d performed better than the others why couldn’t she tell me that? I’ve actually had a past interviewer tell me explicitly “only you and one other applicant have impressed me.” It does absolutely nothing to disadvantage the company and it gives me a much, much clearer picture of what conditions I’m operating under.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But toward what end? What decisions do you need to be making that that information will help with? There’s no job offer until there’s a job offer, so why do you even want the information? And why are they entitled to tell you something that isn’t commonplace to even be asked about?

        1. Raga*

          I’m trying to decide whether to accept the first job offer or not. They know I have to make a decision on that within a matter of a few days. The more information I have (even tidbits of information), the more informed my decision can be. There is always going to be guessing in such decisions, but it can at least be educated guessing. Statistically, it’s a lot sounder to turn down the job offer when I’m only competing with 1 candidate than when I’m competing with 10. I sincerely don’t get this strain of logic that a lot of people are putting forward that “there’s no job offer until there’s an offer” as if everything I do is inevitably 100% based on random guessing and chance anyway. There *is* a statistical difference in competing with fewer candidates as opposed to many. If you are a strong candidate, you do have a greater chance of getting the job the fewer other strong candidates you have to compete with. I want the information because it does give me more useful data to way when making my decision.

          I guess I don’t understand the second part of your question. Why are *they* entitled? So long as they aren’t breaking the law, being rude to people, or breaking company policy, it seems the interviewers and hiring managers could theoretically tell me anything they want about the hiring process. Entitlement doesn’t seem to come in.

          As me asking about it, I don’t think it’s a matter of entitlement. I never said they owed me anything. I know perfectly well that they are completely within their rights and power to tell me as much or as little as they want. I didn’t even expect them to answer me. I just find that the reasons that have been provided for why they didn’t have been extremely silly. It seems to have everything to do with some perception of a power dynamic (a needless and not particularly useful one) and not a lot to do with sound policy or practicality. I’m willing to accept the reality of the situation for what it is, but not without pointing out what I think makes no sense about the reason given.

  27. Half kidding, Half serious*

    Italicize or change the font of words or letters in the document to spell out/say something like “I’m being forced to write this against my will. Help! Help!”

  28. Jamie*

    #4 – cholecystectomy with a totally routine, no surprises recovery will have you on pain meds for several days and you should be focused on resting and allowing your body to heal. Surgery, necessary as it is sometimes, is an assault on your body and it needs to repair itself.

    If you are in a great deal of pain your brain is using your body’s resources to deal with the pain…so it has less energy to heal. That’s why doctors will tell you pain management is so crucial – they want to keep you where it’s bearable and you can rest, eat, etc.

    So is she asking you to work from home post-op? Or before your surgery. Because if you’re having acute attacks there is no way you can work through those, but if you’re okay now is the issue working from home or that it’s personal? I’m a little confused.

    On a coincidental note I’m also having surgery the 6th – too bad we can’t be hospital roommates and post wild comments before the anesthesia wears off!

    Regarding your post-op schedule I’d just make sure they know what your plans are, but with the caveat that they can change.

    I’m planning on being off and unavailable for a week and the working from home as much as possible for the next 3. But whenever someone asks me about my schedule I’m a broken record adding the disclaimer that it all depends on my feeling up to it. No one wants me working on pain meds (trust me) and I won’t subject myself to extra pain because someone would rather deal with me than my back-ups.

    As is the mantra on an excellent medical forum I now frequent, “you only have one chance to heal properly.” You owe it to yourself to make sure you aren’t compromising or prolonging your recovery due to external pressure.

  29. Chinook*

    O P #2, you don’t happen to work for a politician in Toronto, do you? If so, then you already know the protocol – sneak a copy of the photo, put it up for public auction and leak news of the photo (but not the photo itself) to the press and the disappear before disclosing the photo. It won’t get your boss fired but it will entertain the country for a few months atleast.

      1. Felicia*

        Haha love all references to our crack smoking mayor:) but in his case it was a video of him smoking crack, and the police have finally confirmed they had it. This question made me instantly think of our mayor.

  30. Working Girl*

    #4 I’ve seen this happen often with homework for wives, kids, but not to that degree. Seems like the company does not value you working there. Most likely because they have you doing non-work related work. Tell her you are very sick due to the gallbladder and stand your ground and then after surgery tell her your doctor indicated no extra work, take sick leave earlier than the surgery date and take it all the time you can so she has to do her own work, you need to look after yourself first, miss a deadline or two or leave out important information, she will get the hint when her marks go down. Email her all the work you do so you have a record of it and email her saying here is the homework I did for you so there is no mistake that you just typed it. Email saying when do you want me to do your homework for deadlines, ask if she needs you to rework the essay if it is too long or too short, etc..Keep a copy of your work in case they fire you for not helping her so you could consider whether to report her to her school. Sounds like you need to find another job. And since you have already done the work you could apply to school and get a certificate in your own name.

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