my coworker’s creditors call her constantly, indignant over lack of a raise, and more

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

1. Employer asked me to do 30 hours of free work as part of a hiring process

I am being interviewed for an executive director job for a U.S.-based NGO doing work internationally. I have been told I am a finalist for the position. The next phase of the process requires that I create a detailed development plan that should take “30 hours” to complete over the next couple of weeks.

I have a problem with this on many levels. I don’t think the motives of the rather young and inexperienced board of directors are in anyway nefarious, e.g., to get free work and then pass it on to someone to implement. Yet, I will not do this. The most I would spend on the task would be 8 hours, which is even more than I think is necessary to achieve their stated objective of understanding strategic competency. How would you handle this?

30 hours?! That is insane, and not acceptable.

As I’ve said here many times, it’s crucial when hiring to see candidates actually doing the work they’d be doing if hired. But that means an hour, maybe two.

I’d say something like this: “I’m not able to do 30 hours of work without charge. I’d be glad to walk you through similar plans I’ve created in the past and/or refer you to references who can talk in detail about how I’ve approached this kind of work.” (If you prefer a different framing, you could replace that first sentence with one about how your schedule doesn’t permit you to do 30 hours of work in the next few weeks because of existing commitments to your current job / clients / etc., but that leaves the door open for them to try to extend the timeline or even shrink the project to, say, 15 hours … which would leave you needing to use the first, more direct explanation anyway.)

(Also, I’m sure you’re right that they don’t intend to screw you over; they’re inexperienced and don’t realize that this isn’t okay. That kind of thing isn’t uncommon at smaller nonprofits, but you can point it out to them.)

2. How can I discreetly ask my coworker to stop letting creditors constantly call her at work?

I am responsible for reception duties as well as some accounts payable responsibilities at a mid-sized company. Every day, I receive many personal calls for a particular coworker of mine, most of which are credit card companies and mortgage companies trying to collect a debt. I have been dutifully transferring these calls to her line multiple times a day, but it is reaching a point that it is interrupting my work and seems excessive. I know it is within my colleague’s rights to tell the debt collectors not to call her at work and they must respect this request, but for whatever reason she hasn’t done this. Is there a way I can stop these calls without stepping over any personal boundaries or embarrassing my coworker?

I’m guessing that you don’t have the authority to tell your coworker to stop taking so many personal calls at work, which means that you’d need to frame it as a suggestion rather than a request — framing it as “I wasn’t sure if you knew you could tell them to stop and they’d have to, and thought you might find it helpful.” But if she declines to do so, then you’d be left needing to talk with your manager about it — and actually, that might be the place to start, because your manager might prefer to intervene with your coworker herself than put you in the position of doing it. (Or she might tell you to let it go and not say anything.)

3. Should I be indignant that I’ve taken on much more responsibility without a raise?

I was hired right out of college, a year and a half ago, at a TV news station as half producer, half assistant producer. On the weekends, I’m in charge of entire shows, but on the weekdays I simply assist all the full-time producers with their shows. However, when one needs vacation or sick time, I end up filling in, sometimes with no notice. I may go an entire month being an assistant but once.

These are big newscasts with incredibly high ratings, and more reponsibility and more pressure than an assistant deals with – but I’m not being paid more.

Do I have any justification to be indignant? Is it fair to ask for a raise based on these new circumstances? If a similar thing happens in a future job how should I react? Again, this is my first ever job so I don’t have much to go on.

You can absolutely ask for a raise based on this. (In fact, if you haven’t had a raise since you started a year and a half ago and you’re doing a good job, you should probably be asking for a raise anyway.) But I’d try not to be indignant about it. It’s nice if your employer offers you a raise unprompted, but ultimately you’re the one responsible for advocating for yourself and negotiating your salary. There’s advice

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