should I send a very belated job rejection, getting paid for doing required reading outside of work, and more

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

1. Sending a very belated rejection to a job candidate

I just realized I composed a decline email to a candidate on December 11 and never hit send. It’s more than a month later. Should I send it or just let it be? The kicker is that after we decline people, we send a handwritten note to say “thanks for coming in, it was nice to meet you, good luck with your search,” etc. and I did send that. The idea is that comes after the normal decline email. On its own, the note seems like a vague I’m-implying-you-are-declined-without-actually-saying-it.

It’s probably clear that she didn’t get the job, but she must think we have the strangest way to decline people.

I’d go ahead and send the email now, but just add a line at the top saying that you thought you had sent this a month ago and just realized that it hadn’t gone out, and that you apologize for leaving her hanging. If she’s reasonable, she’ll understand that, and she’ll just appreciate that you got back to her (especially against the backdrop of the large number of companies that don’t send rejections at all).

2. Why would a terrible temp be hired over a great temp?

I was a temp at a company for about 8 months. It was a 6-month temp-to-perm assignment. Our stats would be sent out at the end of each month. During my time there, I out-produced the hired employees each month since the week I started. We did have another temp who started about 2 weeks before I did who was a very poor performer and was the lowest performing specialist on the team. Unfortunately, our boss decided to hire him at his 6-month point. Frustrating as that was, when it came time for my 6-month hire-on, our boss said he had already filled all the positions and that there might be space later on. What gives? I did find a better permanent job, but what is with a supervisor hiring someone know for performance problems?

He’s a terrible manager? The bad temp was someone’s friend/nephew/blackmailer? The temp was good at some other skill that the team needed (and which you didn’t know about)? You had good performance stats but weren’t the right fit for some other reason (like a personality clash, or they needed someone who was also good at X, which you didn’t have)? It’s hard to say, but those are some of the possibilities.

3. I was told to charge a team building day to my vacation time

Recently I was “volunteered” to participate in a company golf outing. I did not have any desire to go, but of course it would have looked bad for me to dodge out. The outing was on a Friday and involved golf and alcohol, all of which were comped by the company. We had a business meeting around noon, where we discussed the company direction and other similar things. The golf teams of four were pre-arranged to allow for maximum team building, which seemed to be the purpose of the event.

My issue is: when I returned to work Monday (after losing my weekend flying back from said event), I questioned how I should bill my hours for that Friday. Maybe towards marketing (there were a few potential clients we were there to market to) or perhaps towards “employee meeting” time. I asked a higher-up and they told me to bill it all toward my own vacation time.

This did not feel like “paid time off” – it was work. There are a million things I would rather do with my precious vacation days than work, golf, network, or participate in business meetings. Any thoughts on this? Is the company right to ask me to use my vacation time for this? The whole thing rubs me the wrong way, which seems unhealthy for the company all around.

No, absolutely not. This was a work function, and it wasn’t vacation time — and that’s true whether it was “voluntary” or not. Is it possible that the person you asked was a slightly deranged half-wit and you can ask someone else without appearing to just be fishing for the right answer? If that person was not your manager, it’s totally reasonable to say to your manager, “Bob said to bill Friday’s trip to my vacation time, but that can’t be right since it was a work event.” If that person was your manager, check with HR, who are generally sensible about this type of thing.

4. How to connect a friend with a business contact who’s hiring

One of my friends recently graduated from college, and she’s applying for a few jobs within an adjacent industry. I have contacts through my work with an organization she’s applying at (my company did some marketing work with the organization in the past) and I offered to introduce her by email to that contact. However, I just realized I’m not sure how to really approach this person or what to say – we only worked together on the one project, and although we’re cordial, it’s a strictly business sort of contact. The other person I want her to connect with is a former coworker who moved into her industry and used to work for that organization, so that’ll be a lot easier; it’s just the first person that I’m unsure about.

How do I go about approaching the first contact without looking unprofessional or making it sound like “hey, you should give my friend a job”? Is it okay if I email them through my work email or should it be my personal one? Are there any tips you have?

Well, you’re not saying “give my friend a job.” You’re saying, “I know of someone who might be a great fit for the job you’re hiring for.” In fact, you’re doing your business contact a favor (because hiring is the right person is hard, and getting referrals from a trusted source can be hugely helpful), not asking her to do your friend a favor. I’d just say something like, “I’d like to introduce you to my friend Lucinda Snodsgrass, who’s applying for your ___ job. She’s smart and has an encyclopedic knowledge of teapot design, and she might be a great fit for you.” (If that last sentence isn’t true, leave it off, since your reputation is at risk here too.)

And it’s fine to use your work email for this; it’s business networking, and you’re not job-searching for yourself.

5. How can I point out that we must be paid for doing required reading outside of work?

My employer is trying to implement the philosophies from a business book. This means that all employees will be required to read the book. My employer will assign chapters each week for the employees to read, and then we will review those chapters as a group to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the book’s principles (the review of chapters will be during a work day – this will be paid time). They want us to do this required reading on our own time, meaning we will not be paid for the reading. Can they do this, and if not, how can we address this?

Yes, they can require you to read the book outside of work, but if you’re non-exempt, you must be paid for the time you spend reading it. To point that out to them, I’d say, “Since it’s a required activity for work, how should we track our reading time so it’s on our timesheets?” If they miss that hint and respond that you should do it on your own time, say, “I think that since it’s an activity required for work, we actually have to count it as work time.” If they still push back, say, “Could you look into that? I don’t want us to get in trouble for mishandling non-exempt employees.”

(Note the use of the “we” trick here — you’re saying “we” to make it sound collaborative, not adversarial.)

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. That was certainly not a holiday weekend! Can it be categorised as an Offsite Meeting?

      1. OP #3*

        Well, these comments make me feel a bit more vindicated. I plan on bringing the issue to the HR department to get their take.

  2. Windchime*

    “Is it possible that the person you asked was a slightly deranged half-wit…?”

    Ha! I love this! :)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I think he’s just lucky he didn’t have to make all of the golf balls the night before.

      “Here’s a stack of rubber bands. Be creative! We’ll decide if you get a promotion based on this wacky assignment!”

  3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    We temp to hire a lot. More than half of our new hires are temp to hire after a three month stint….but, we probably only hire about 20% of the candidates.

    Beyond skill sets and production, we’re looking for soft matches also. Everything we do is team based, so we look for people who match our culture and fit in.

    ( I should say that we don’t tell the temps flat out this a temp to hire position when we expect to hire only 1 in 5 or 1 in 4. They do learn pretty quickly that Sally Sue and Bobby Joe started as temps so they learn that being hired is possible, but it’s never a given that they are then rejected from.)

    Anyway! The previous manager may have been an idiot or the company just might not have been a good fit for you overall.

    1. Joey*

      So exactly what do you tell them? Hopefully its something like “there is a possibility that we will consider hiring you perm after the three month mark, but there is no guarantee.”

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Absolutely. And we support people who find full time/perm positions in the meantime. Fair is fair.

  4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    We love referrals! Don’t be shy!

    You’re doing everybody a favor. We were just having this conversation the other day, how can we get more referrals. I’m thinking of attaching a “We love referrals!” graphic to my work signature (kidding, but barely).

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Ha! That’s okay. If you have walked past an aisle of teapots once in your life, I’ll take the referral. :)

    1. Sunflower*

      Question for you on the flip side- As a job seeker, I sometimes feel like I’m annoying my contacts/friends by asking them to connect me with people. Do you think this can be true?

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        I think it can if used too often or used inappropriately. If a friend contacted me and requested an introduction with a few specific people, I’d say no problem. But if this friend kept asking for introductions too frequently and/or to too many people, then I’d get frustrated.

        Also, consider phrasing it with a opt-out built in. For example, saying, “I’d appreciate an introduction to Alison if you know her well enough,” gives the option of the listener to say (perhaps truthfully), “I’d love to, but I’ve only spoken to their assistant once; I’m not sure I’m the best person for you. I’m sorry!”

        1. some1*

          This. It can be uncomfortable for your contact if they think you don’t have a good work ethic or hesitate to recommend you for some other reason, though, so you may want to stick with people who have offered to help in this capacity.

    2. OP4*

      Any additional tips to go with what Alison said? I’m staring at my email trying to figure out what to put for the subject line, haha. I’m definitely over-thinking this, but it’s also my first time doing an introduction like this and I do want to make sure I do it right..

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I do it this way nearly every time:

        Subject: connecting you to Lucinda Snodsgrass (or just “Lucinda Snodsgrass”)

        Body of email: Hey, Bob. I saw you’re hiring for a teapot painter, and my friend Lucinda Snodsgrass might be a great candidate for you. She’s smart, really funny, and while I’ve never worked with her before, my hunch is that she could be great. I’m attaching her resume here, and I’ve asked her to apply directly as well. I hope she might be someone worth talking to.

        Good luck with the hiring process, and I hope you’re doing well!


        1. OP4*

          Thanks, Alison! I feel like such a dunce for worrying over getting this just perfect, but hopefully there’s other people out there that might’ve wondered how to do this right and it’ll help them too. :)

  5. Chinook*

    #2 is it also possible that the permanent staff grumbled about a temp outshining them? This would be definitely be a work culture thing and not a reflection of your skills, but I have worked with people who told me to slow down because I made them look bad (at a coffee shop, no less) and I could see a manager not wanting to bring you in if they knew you may become a target.

    1. ellex42*

      This kind of thing happens more often than some people might think. It’s not just co-workers who take offense at being out-shone, but managers who fear for their own positions or just don’t want to deal with the extra work they may have to do to keep up with a diligent employee’s output.

      I worked at a company where I was caught between a rock and a hard place because I had to coordinate my work with another department. My own manager and the general manager were encouraging me to get things done ASAP…but the manager of the other department insisted on 1-2 days just to proofread a cut-n-paste form letter that went with every report. When she was on vacation for a week and the GM proofed the letters instead, she actually yelled at him for it. Unfortunately, the GM had no power to fire her.

      That manager also got upset when I typed up the form letter myself when the secretary who normally did it was busy or on vacation.

      Happily, I don’t work there anymore, and last I heard, the other department was over a year behind in their work.

  6. E*

    Re: #2

    I’m not at all saying that this example is your situation, but I’ve been the manager in a situation like this.

    Had a group of temp employees, and on paper one of them was super efficient and turned out a ton of reasonable work. When a FT position opened up this person obviously very much wanted the position, but was the worst imaginable personality fit for the team. Wonderfully qualified for other positions, but not even close for this team.

    From the employee’s perspective I was the crazy/rude/terrible manager who didn’t know The Awesome that I was rejecting. From my perspective, I was saving my team and the employee from a very bad fit.

    1. Graciosa*

      I have a similar experience with someone who is fantastically productive and probably considers herself a top performer – but her personal skills are disastrous to any team or project she works on. She is so focused on getting things done that she steamrolls right over anyone and everyone to get to the end goal.

      There are other factors at work that matter more than production.

      1. Dan*

        I have to work with someone like this from another department occasionally. Output is fantastic, but oy!, she is a pain to work with.

  7. Brett*

    #2 Also sounds like the first temp was hired as soon as the hit six months. It is possible the manager thought they had two positions at that point and hired the other temp thinking they would hire both eventually. But when the LW’s six months came up, the other position had already been eaten and the manager had nothing available. Especially if this was near the end of the year, I could see such budget shenanigans happening.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I was thinking along those lines, too. You never know what can happen in a few months as far as funding positions.

  8. Mike C.*

    When I keep hearing about qualified people with awesome skills not being hired due to vague issues of “cultural fit”, I can’t help but wonder how many times it really just means “you’re not the kind of person I want to have a beer with”.

    I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but it’s a good question to mentally ask yourself. “Cultural fit” is a great way to exclude people who belong to particular groups.

    1. Jake*

      I tend to think in the other direction, as in, “maybe you aren’t quite as super-competent as you think.”

      I know a lot of managers that encourage average or mediocre workers in such a way that makes them think they are top performers. I don’t blame the workers, I blame “too nice” management.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’m sure that happens as well, but I see a lot of male dominated industries where women are locked out due to “cultural fit”, where the culture turns out to be “frat house”.

        1. BCW*

          Yeah, but like I said below, is that really that bad? If the existing culture is “frat house” and then you have someone (girl or guy) who would come in and you know everyone would feel that they have to walk on egg shells around that person, that will just make a bunch of people uncomfortable. Now I’m not arguing in favor of gender bias here. I know some girls who would fit great into a frat house type atmosphere and some guys who completely wouldn’t. But if a culture has been established, and is successful, you shouldn’t need to change that for one hire if there are other qualified applicants out there.

          1. Zahra*

            Actually, that is discrimination. And, you’re cutting yourself off from some very valuable feedback about your company/product that you don’t have otherwise. Diverse teams produce more value because they don’t target a clientele based on prejudice, but based on actual experience. (And, no, having a girlfriend, wife, etc. is not the same as having a woman colleague. There are things that are so common for women that we don’t share them. If it was appropriate for a product, we would. Such as the hovering problem for automatic flushes. You should look it up ;) )

          2. culture.anon*

            I don’t agree with this. If people would “feel that they [had] to walk on egg shells,” they probably were doing something wrong in the first place.

            For example, if a company’s employees all happen to be very thin and make “fat jokes,” they might feel the need to “walk on eggshells” if a new hire is plus-sized. In my opinion, that means that they knew their comments were inappropriate and rude the whole time; now they just have someone in earshot who might be offended, so they feel awkward. That’s a problem with their *culture*, not with the new person fitting in.

          3. LisaLyn*

            Yeah and attitudes like that are why we’re still struggling with inequality in regards to gender, race, and a whole lot of other things.

            1. NylaW*


              Just because a culture is established and succeeds at their jobs, doesn’t mean it’s a healthy or good culture to have.

            2. BCW*

              You’re looking at this as a gender/race thing. You can have a diverse office in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation etc that has certain behaviors everyone may not feel comfortable with. I mentioned a close knit team I worked with below. It was a gay mexican guy, a lesbian, 2 white girls, and me a black guy. We got along great. Some of our conversation topics though were things that some of my teacher colleagues wouldn’t have felt comfortable with. Thats all I’m saying.

              Likewise, if you have an office of mostly orthodox jewish people for example, bringing in a very outspoken evangelical Christian may not be the best idea just because you can see the potential culture clashes that will arise.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I strongly disagree with this.

                Personal conversations about personal topics should not be a defining criteria as to who gets hired and who doesn’t….especially one’s presumption about them.

                This is how gender, age, race and class discrimination thrives right under the nose of the law.

                Should an office of 20 somethings never hire anyone about the age of 30 because that’s not a “cultural fit”?

                Do you not hire the person of color who grew up on the poor side of town because he just wouldn’t be able to plug into discussing your date with Muffy on break time?

                You can’t do this and you shouldn’t do this. Furthermore, having break time discussions that would eliminate someone’s employment because they weren’t comfortable with the sexual or racial nature of the conversation is a hostile environment (the “is this legal? no!” kind)

                1. BCW*

                  Thats your opinion, and you are entitled to it. However, I will stand by my opinion, like it or not, that those factors do come into play with a close working team. While I”m not saying a group of 22 year olds should cut off hiring for anyone over 30, I don’t think its a huge leap to say that hiring a 55 year old would vastly change the dynamic thats in place. And it goes both ways, although legally age discrimination can’t work toward younger people. I’m sure a group of 60 year olds wouldn’t be thrilled to have a fresh out of college 21 year old as the 5th member of their team.

                  Also, the “hostile” environment, yeah, I got a problem with that too. If I’m having a conversation with a friend at work, and you walk by and don’t like the topic, even if you aren’t involved and only heard in passing, the fact that it could be considered “hostile” is stupid to me. But my point was, this very diverse team I worked with sometimes just had these conversations while working. None of us found it hostile. But to bring someone in who does find it hostile and then has a problem with it, well to me you are then just asking for conflict to arise. I’m referring to someone who you get the feeling from talking to them that they are super conservative with stuff like that. Why bring in someone who probably can’t work cohesively with the team?

                  Ok, commence with how I’m sexist or something and not an adult. I’m used to it at this point.

                2. Jen in RO*

                  Not that it matters, but I agree with BCW, from both sides of the problem: as a candidate and as a current employee. If you’ve got a team that has to work closely, yes, personal fit is also important. I want to be screened out of a team of people who never discuss their personal lives and never make jokes!

                3. Colette*

                  The problem with that sort of thinking is that it’s discriminatory, and that it weakens the team. A group that is homogenous will have common weaknesses.

                  There’s nothing wrong with having coworkers you like and can joke around with. There is something wrong with only hiring people you can like and joke around with – legally, morally, and from the business’s perspective.

                4. A Teacher*

                  But it is hostile to some extent, as a former teacher, if your students were in the hall making fun of someone for being fat, ugly, gay, etc…but the person couldn’t hear would you allow it to go on or not? When my students start in on someone that’s not there that’s almost lower than something else and it makes the culture or dynamic change.

                5. BCW*

                  To A Teacher, I agree with what you are saying. But there are things that as teachers we force students to do that we would never force adults to do, so the comparison isn’t the same. And understand, I’m not at all talking about making fun of others, I’m just talking about conversation topics that others may not like to talk about. Some people find talking about how drunk I got on the weekend inappropriate for work, I’ve talked about that with managers before.

                6. A Teacher*

                  Right, BCW–I know what your are saying but in my careers classes, both at the high school and at the college where I’m an adjunct, I’m constantly saying to my students that just because you don’t find something offensive, someone else might. There are many times in the dynamic when you get caught off guard and roll with someone says because its easier–the Duck Dynasty controversy was one in a professional setting that came up. Some of those I worked with were very vehement in their opinion. They were making “jokes” about people’s sexuality and the majority went with the flow. To put in context it was 6 people, all heterosexual. I didn’t. I was told I should just be quiet because “most folks were okay with that opinion.” The dynamic in most work places is also very fluid and even when you think you know someone or where they stand (example I just gave) you really don’t. My opinion of the six of them has changed dramatically based on “jokes” that they were comfortable with.

              2. Mike C.*

                All I’m trying to say is ensure that judgements about cultural fit are truly about building a good team, and not about excluding members of specific groups. I’ve seen plenty of cases where the latter happens under the guise of the former, and many times not intentionally.

                1. DeMinimis*

                  Agree with Mike on this one, as an older employee who has struggled to break into a new field where many of the entry level jobs are predominantly filled by 22-25 year olds.

                  An example of poor cultural fit would be someone who is used to a highly structured environment with a lot of direct supervision trying to adapt to a workplace where employees
                  are left on their own to find and manage their own workload. It’s more about work habits and basic personality traits—like the example of the employee yesterday who was argumentative when getting feedback. I think when you bring age into it or start moving into any other area outside of work habits/personality traits you start getting into discrimination.

          4. Zahra*

            So people should be free to be sexists and then try to create products for women based on their prejudices? The video games industry says women don’t buy games, but their “frat house” mentality excludes women from their teams, which makes them less likely to create products that really appeal to women. We don’t need rainbows and unicorns (or, god forbid, babysitting, house-cleaning, etc. games for younger girls). Games like The Sims, Tetris or WoW (or many MMORPGs) are very popular with women and were not designed explicitly for women.

            1. Jen in RO*

              I don’t really understand what a game that appeals to women looks like. A game should appeal equally to both sexes and try to be inclusive of both sexes (ability to choose both female and male avatars, for example). But I would be offended if a game was marketed as “appeals to women”. What, meaning that a woman can’t like “guy” games? I think more women should be included in the gaming industry because women *want* to work in the gaming industry, not as part of a master plan to bring a “female touch” to CoD or whatever.

              1. Ash #1*

                Ha, when I worked at Gamestop back in college, I was routinely asked (by both men and women, but mostly men), if I actually played any video games, or did I just work there. Yay casual sexism.

          5. BCW*

            Not that I think I’ll change anyone’s mind, but things aren’t always that black and white. I would never advocate for discrimination, however humor is subjective. What one group of people finds funny and acceptable isn’t always true for everyone. The kinds of discussion that are acceptable at work, aren’t true for everyone. My last office was very professional, but we made a lot of jokes at each others expense. Occasionally they would be race or stereotype jokes. We were fairly diverse, but if my white co-worker made a black joke, I could take it. I could also give one right back. Dumb blonde, asian, we participated. No one’s feelings were hurt because we knew each other and had a good rapport and everyone knew that it was just in good fun. (Before people get up in arms, yes this can happen. Happens with my friends all the time). Everyone would not be comfortable working somewhere like that, which is fine.

            I’ve also had places where it was common to discuss (in some detail) your weekend activities, which could include a lot of things that some people wouldn’t find appropriate for an office. Now if someone came in and was uncomfortable because I was talking about how drunk I got, or a girl I hooked up with, or how my female co-worker met a guy at the bar, well thats the type of place it was. Like it or not, for some groups of people, they bond over stories like that just like for others they bond over talking about Game of Thrones or their kids. But if you are interviewing someone who you could tell wouldn’t be comfortable in these situations, why bring them in unless the were the ONLY person who had some very specific skill you were looking for?

              1. BCW*

                Because no one has a problem with it. We are a close group of co-workers. We hang out outside of work, and we know that there isn’t anything malicious there. Can you honesty say that there have never been comments you’ve said to a close co-worker that aren’t 100% work appropriate? Maybe you can, but I don’t think most people can say that. If you have a close work friend or 2, you may joke, tease, etc. with them. There is nothing wrong with that.

                I know the topic of racial, gender, sexual preference humor is a controversial one, but its really just about whether or not someone is offended or not. I personally think you can make a racial joke without being racist. Others don’t. That’s fine, I’m not arguing that. Would we make these jokes to a new hire? Absolutely not. But if they join in because we are doing it to each other, then its fine.

                1. Joey*

                  So basically you’re saying that you engage in what most people consider inappropriate workplace behavior that violates most company discrimination policies and if anyone has a problem with it its on them?

                2. BCW*

                  I’ve never been written up for violating any discrimination policies. I know who I can and cannot joke with. Why is that a hard concept. I’m sure in everyone’s life there are people that they can tease about something and they can laugh it off, and others who they know won’t take it well. If you choose to call my behavior inappropriate, that’s your opinion. But none of my former co-workers or managers would say that. At work I have forwarded Dave Chapelle sketches to people. I’m guessing to some people, thats completely inappropriate, but in my office it wasn’t. Maybe I have lucked up and ended up in places with people who actually have a sense of humor, unlike the workplaces a lot of you seem to have. But its never been a problem.

                3. DeMinimis*

                  Maybe people are too intimidated to say they have a problem with it…I know I’ve been in that situation before.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I agree that there are contexts where controversial humor is okay, because all the participants know each well enough to know everyone sees it the same and no one in the group is actually racist/homophobic/etc. But I think it’s really problematic at work, even if you know everyone is okay with it, because (a) it exposes the company to legal liability anyway, and (b) it’s tougher to know in a work environment if the new guy really is okay with it or actually uncomfortable and just joining in because he feels like he has to.

                  The reality is, the law makes this stuff hugely problematic for companies, even when everyone claims to be okay with it. There’s no way to safely allow it without taking pretty serious legal risks.

                  Legal issues aside, I do think that you risk missing out on a diversity of viewpoints if you only hire for that particular type of culture fit. Diversity of viewpoints generally strengths your product/approach, and “cohesive bonding through humor” doesn’t really outweigh the value of that diversity.

                5. Joey*

                  But how do you know its true acceptance and not someone who will get sick of it? People decide all the time enough is enough.

              2. H. Vane*

                I’m with Joey. They can laugh the jokes off, but it’s possible that they just feel uncomfortable calling you on your inappropriate humor. If you feel like outside people might be offended, chances are you’re being offensive and you should stop. It’s unprofessional to do otherwise.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  Or maybe they *like* the jokes? Why would your opinion that they are uncomfortable trump BCW’s opinion that they are comfortable with them?

                2. BCW*

                  If someone makes a black joke toward me, and I’m not offended by it, its not someone else’s place to be offended for me. Sometimes, I think they are funny. So if its not a leap that I can think that, why is it a leap to think that others, who I know very well, think in a similar fashion.

                3. H. Vane*

                  My rule of thumb is to avoid behavior that might hurt people around me, even if such an injury would not be obvious. How is being kind and thoughtful a bad thing?

                4. Jamie*

                  Or maybe they *like* the jokes? Why would your opinion that they are uncomfortable trump BCW’s opinion that they are comfortable with them?

                  Leaving personal views out of it, because if BCW is wrong and people are uncomfortable but just not saying anything at the moment, the company has a potential liability if they decide enough is enough and file a complaint.

                  There is no liability to the company to avoid areas of public conversation which could get them sued…and lose.

                  This isn’t about keeping everything vanilla and bland and policing every word. It’s about common sense of not goofing about protected classes at work.

                  And yes, there are certainly groups of people where everyone is okay with it – but when he mentioned if people overhear two other people talking it’s shouldn’t be an issue. Maybe it depends on what the joke is, but if a couple of people want to find it funny to bash gay people verbally that affects the environment of other people who have to hear it.

                  And a lot of things are context – and at work it’s easy to hear things out of context so there are certain things you shouldn’t say.

                  For example – there are certain ethnic slurs that people within a group use amongst themselves, sometimes to be funny, and there’s nothing offensive about that to me because everyone is on the same page and knows there is no ill intent.

                  For example – many people of Polish descent will affectionately or jokingly call each other pollocks. There is no offense intended at all because everyone knows it’s tongue in cheek and there is no insult meant. But if I walked by a couple of co-workers tossing the word, especially those I know for a fact are not of Polish descent? That’s a problem because maybe they meant to be insulting or maybe they didn’t – who knows – why do I have to parse it out. I should be able to go to work and not have to vet the intention whether every racial slur I hear.

                  People should err on the side of not appearing insulting, bigoted, sexist, etc in the workplace because co-workers are a captive audience. Offend someone in your personal life and they can drop you as a friend – but people need their jobs.

            1. KJR*

              With all due respect, and I do see where you are coming from, but I really think you’re setting yourself up for problems down the road with this type of environment. I can just see an employee getting disgruntled over something (could be anything – pay, lack of promotion, etc.) and bringing up of instances of what everyone considered light banter, into the issue, or God forbid, a formal complaint. “They mocked me because I am asian/female, etc.!” People have been known to turn on a dime when they feel they’ve been slighted. To me, it’s just not worth it. Keep the office talk professional, especially if it’s in a common area.

              1. BCW*

                That is a very fair point. Luckily I have never experienced it, but its true. Someone could take something that was said lightly (even if they laughed at the time) and then 6 months later after a fight, decide that it was hateful. When you put it like that, it makes sense why its a a bad idea (as opposed to others who just say “its bad because its bad). I guess I’m just a very trusting person, but I know that people can turn at some point. Thanks for the input.

                1. Colette*

                  And keep in mind that just because someone laughs, doesn’t mean they aren’t offended. They might just not feel comfortable pointing it out.

                2. HR lady*

                  I just wanted to chime in to agree with what some of the others have said: some people will NOT let on that they are offended by those jokes, even though they actually are offended. I think this is an aspect of American culture, at least for some people.

                  And I have proof: the ones who won’t tell you that they’re offended come to me, in HR, to tell me that they were offended. And they literally say to me “I laughed and pretended I was OK with the joke but I was offended.” Or they might not laugh but their face won’t register any emotion. Of course I coach them that it’s OK to speak up when they are offended, but some people just don’t feel comfortable doing that.

                  (Now, of course BCW and I don’t work together so I have no idea if this is actually happening in his/her workplace, but I have experienced it, so I just wanted to point out that it does happen.)

                3. Dan*

                  Unfortunately I have personal experience with this as well. A few years ago I was talking with a couple of coworkers about a problem with a machine. The mood was light and we were joking around a bit.

                  I used the word “dummy”; I don’t remember precisely what I said, but I know it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular. After a bit, the conversation ended and we went our separate ways.

                  The next day, one of these coworkers decided she was offended because she had been called a dummy and went to HR.

                  I thought I was going to lose my job. I was put on a PIP and as a result, a there was a whole lot of fallout from that incident.

                  In reality, the situation just got blown way out of proportion. No offence was intended, and if she would have said something, I would have been deeply embarrassed and would have apologized profusely. But since she chose to simply complain to HR, I didn’t have the apportunity to fix it and my manager decided to lay down the hammer.

                  Sure, it’s important for people to be protected from an environment that’s offensive, but at the same time, some people need to grow up and realize that the world does not revolve around their feelings. And unfortunately, the rest of us don’t know who’s going to get their knickers all in a bunch over something said in jest.

                  In any case, be careful and err on the side of caution.

              2. Jen in RO*

                I just want to say that I am very happy to work in a place where a coworker can say a potentially offensive joke and the other coworkers understand that it’s a *joke* and coworker 1 doesn’t think that all women are stupid or whatever. I think people are taking political correctness way too far.

                1. GeekChic*

                  And I’m happy to work in a place where “jokes” that demean other people aren’t found “funny” (because they’re not). And where people don’t rant about “political correctness going too far” to excuse pathetic behaviour.

                2. A Teacher*

                  That is the argument I got when I pointed out that making jokes about someone’s sexuality isn’t okay. “Well isn’t someone the PC police today.” The other thing I will tell my students is that in the US you do have freedom of speech BUT you do not have freedom from the consequences of that speech.

                  Consequences come in all forms: lawsuits, getting fired, getting sanctioned, losing friendships, losing co-worker respect, etc…

                3. Jen in RO*

                  I agree with your conclusion, A Teacher. It’s up to each individual to make those decisions. I decided to work somewhere where harmless jokes are not seen as the biggest threat ever, and I’d rather not have friends who are easily offended.

                4. BCW*

                  I know its been said, but I think some people need to lighten up. And it does depend on what was said, the context, the intent, and even the person etc. For example. I had a roommate once with a gay brother. I knew the brother pretty well. My roommate would make gay jokes toward his brother, or just gay comments in general quite often. We all knew he wasn’t homophobic or anything, they were just jokes. As I said earlier, if someone made a black joke around me and I wasn’t offended, if someone else (not black) speaks up about it or is offended, well I think they need to just chill out.

                  Some people really need to get off their high horse. Everyone has prejudices. Everyone has made comments about another group of people that SOMEONE would probably find offensive. So just because you think a certain thing crosses your moral line, doesn’t mean its that way for everyone.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But I’m sure you agree that one person not being offended by a particular joke doesn’t mean that no one in that group could reasonably take offense. Different people have different thresholds for it.

                  And while that might cause confusion in other contexts, there’s no need for guesswork on it when you’re talking about work, because the law makes the standard really, really clear. You don’t get to make those jokes, period.

                6. BCW*

                  Alison, I’m curious, what exactly does the law say about that? I mean I know its about not excluding, etc. But I’m really curious about the wording of what would make something a hostile or offensive workplace. This isn’t meant to be a joke, but is a Blond woman saying “I had a blond moment” or a black person referring to a stereotype about themselves considered hostile if others in that same group find it offensive? How blatant does it have to be? Is me referring to a woman (not in the office) as a bitch against the law, such as saying “My Bitch ex girlfriend”? I mean its one thing for people to have a moral line that is or isn’t crossed, its another for it to be a legal line, and I’m genuinely curious where that line is.

                7. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The law doesn’t make an exception for language that comes from a person of the race/religion/sex being talked about. So race-based comments that would create a hostile workplace if said by someone of a different race could still create a hostile workplace if said by someone of that same race (if the audience found them unwelcome).

                  That said, the comments must be “severe or pervasive” so the samples you gave here aren’t going to cross a legal line on their own.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes to KJR’s point. There have been many court cases where someone who used all sorts of inappropriate sexual language themselves later sued for harassment (either because they were later disgruntled, or because while they were okay with some sexualization of the environment, they weren’t okay with all of it).

              4. Elle D*

                The other issue is that not all co-workers have the same level of closeness, which creates all kind of gray areas about when it’s appropriate to say what. I work in a mid-sized office where foul language and off color humor are common amongst close co-workers, as long as clients aren’t around. Employees also regularly go out drinking together, and people have been known to get highly intoxicated at company events and no one bats an eye.

                At a company event, a drunk co-worker made a comment and gesture towards me that I found very offensive. The tone and context, along with our lack of relationship is what made it offensive to me, whereas if a co-worker I was close friends with had said similar words to me in a joking context I may have rolled my eyes but would not have felt uncomfortable. Although I know I could have gone to HR, I felt uncomfortable doing so because I frequently have a few glasses of wine at company events and joke around with my coworkers in ways that could be considered “workplace inappropriate”. I also felt that others would judge me as overreacting if the story somehow became public since no one else bore witness to the tone and intent. I’m “over” the incident now, but it’s made me completely reconsider our workplace culture and whether or not I want to continue working in that type of atmosphere.

                1. BCW*

                  Thats fair. And you brought up a really good point, you have to know who you are doing that stuff around. While I make a ton of jokes, I know who I can and can’t say them to. In your situation, I understand why you felt uncomfortable, because you didn’t have that level of familiarity. However my problem would be if that co-worker said it to someone who did find it funny, then you overheard it and decided it was inappropriate.

                2. Joey*

                  What’s wrong with finding something offensive whether its directed at you or not. I’m sure most people find highly inappropriate behavior offensive .

                3. Colette*

                  And keep in mind that even if they don’t say so to your face, offensive comments will cause others to lose respect for you and hurt your reputation.

              5. Grace*

                The rule of thumb: If your conduct were videotaped and played on the evening news would it reflect well or badly on your company? If you couldn’t pass the muster of the viewing public, then silence is golden.

            2. Ash #1*

              A study came out last year that demonstrated that groups of men who hear sexist jokes about women are more likely to “undervalue” female candidates and co-workers, and even mistreat them in some respects. Fostering that kind of culture can lead to actual sexism/racism/other assorted bigotry, whether intentional or not.

          6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            The thing is BCW, and I don’t think you are seeing it from this direction — you can’t make the willingness to listen, enjoy and go along with sexual and racial humor a condition of employment.

            Exception: working for the Howard Stern show.

            In that case, it is quite literally part of the job and not illegal to require somebody to listen to it and pretend to enjoy.

            Under most other circumstances, it’s not legal to make that a job condition. (In the US, because we have a craptastic historical track record of using just this sort of “criteria” to cut people of color, religious minorities and women out of workplace opportunities.)

            1. BCW*

              I’m not saying a “condition of employment”. However what I am saying is Lets say your top 2 candidates, Jane and Jill, are relatively equal. If Jane has a sense of humor and personality that would probably fit in more with the 4 people she is working with, I don’t think that there is a problem with that part being the deciding factor.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                You are probably not going to find that out in the interview. Unless you ask them, “Are you okay with an environment where people sometimes tell jokes and call each other names that some might consider offensive? Because that’s just our culture here.” If someone said that to me in an interview, I’d end it right there.

                I HAVE been asked if I minded cussing, at an interview for a job where I interacted with a very blue-collar group of workers (“Sometimes they cuss,” the boss told me). I said no, that sort of language didn’t bother me unless it was derogatory toward people. But I didn’t–and wouldn’t–pipe up and say “F*ck no, I don’t mind it one g*dd*mn bit!”

          7. aebhel*

            Yeah, *some* girls would be okay with it, and *some* guys wouldn’t, but let’s be honest–it’s mostly women who have a problem with frathouse humor, and the reason is that a lot of that humor is degrading toward women. Pretending that it’s just ‘oh, you can’t deal with raunchy humor’ is willfully ignorant and sexist as hell.

            Are there women who don’t care (or will pretend they don’t for the sake of a job)? Sure. Does that make it okay? No.

            I like raunchy humor just fine. I’ve also worked at jobs where coworkers would ‘joke’ about raping women they didn’t like, and been told that it was ‘just the culture’. So I’m pretty suspicious of that claim being used to call frathouse humor harmless.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I agree with you that it’s important to be mindful that “cultural fit” criteria isn’t gender, class, age, or race discrimination. A homogenous workplace likely needs a cultural adjustment itself.

          In our case it’s things like being comfortable throwing on a pair of jeans and helping out in the warehouse for a day, no matter what your job title is, etc.

      2. Kelsey*

        I don’t think that’s the case here- it sounds like from what OP wrote in that all employee’s stats are available for the entire team to see and OP learned from that that she was out performing people.

        1. Jake*

          Like Mike, I was speaking in general.

          That being said, it is so easy to misinterpret metrics. For example, at oldjob I was responsible for purchasing formwork, as was a coworker. He ordered over 10,000,000 dollars worth and I ordered just under 500,000 worth. If you look at the raw numbers I look like a terrible worker, however, what I ordered was very highly specialized and required a technical analysis that had to be approved by the client. My coworker’s formwork was all off the shelf stuff that was as easy as looking in a catalog. We both did the same amount of work, but looking just at the numbers makes it seem very different than it was.

          I guess all I’m saying is that relying on the metrics the OP mentions can be extremely misleading.

      3. GL*

        I wonder if the OP’s perceived notion of performance is based on quantity, not quality. If the top-performer’s work has to be frequently corrected on the back-end because s/he is working too fast to be very accurate, the perceived “poor performer” might be putting out better work because s/he is taking their time.

    2. Lucy*

      I’m sure that it can mean that in some cases, but in others (and in my experience) it’s more of a “You’re not the kind of person we want to spend 40+ hours of our week with and rely our projects on.”

      For example, someone with a sales-y type of mentality wouldn’t do well on my team. We do a type of sales, but we need someone with a project management mindset that also can do sales. So we would probably be more likely to hire someone with a finance background than with a sales one, even though you might not be able to see that from the outside.

    3. Yup*

      I’ve seen it used as a reason to only hire replicas of the existing employees, which made for a group so homogenous that I literally had trouble telling them apart. I’ve also seen it used as polite language for “you individually are a total nightmare to work with but I’m being vague in my comments because I seriously don’t want to engage with you any further.”

      I think it’s one of those vague phrases like “s/he’s just not my type” in dating that can go either way. If in fact your dating type is exclusively billionaire PhD models, well, then the statement is both technically accurate and illuminating as to your character.

      1. some1*

        “I’ve seen it used as a reason to only hire replicas of the existing employees”

        I’ve also seen hiring managers who hire people who are like them, especially when they are new to hiring. A previous boss’s first hire for an entry level position was basically the boss at 22. It was almost eerie.

          1. Jamie*

            Right. And there is an evolutionary reason this kind of thinking is encoded (in our early history “the other” represented a greater threat of disease, violence, etc. so we’re programmed to feel more comfortable around the familiar. Who is more familiar than people like ourselves?)

            But we’re no longer living in the wild so we need to understand that this now unnecessary bias is there and deliberately and consciously work to evaluate everyone fairly and equally.

      2. PurpleChucks*

        A “billionaire PhD model” sounds like a unicorn or other mythical being yet to materialize in this world!

    4. BCW*

      I think it depends on the position and team. But yes, that probably is it sometimes, and thats not necessarily a bad thing. My last couple jobs, that wouldn’t have mattered. While there were “teams” it was more like a bunch of people working in the same department, but on their own projects. I had one job once where we were collaborating and truly working together about 80% of the time. So when one person left and we were filling the spot, team chemistry was a BIG deal. All of the rest of the team was brought in at various points in her interview process. She wasn’t my first choice, but she was the choice that everyone was comfortable with to work closely with everyday, even if there were other people who on paper were more “qualified”, they just wouldn’t have fit in with our existing team very well.

      In another instance, if everyone in an office or group is super chill and laid back, then you have this crazy ball of energy come in, well that person again might not be right in that office. We saw that with a letter earlier this week with the “I love my job and perks!” person who wrote in. She was annoying to her co-workers, and their lack of enthusiasm annoyed her. So yeah, her fit probably wasn’t right.

      Now I’m not saying to go out and grab the coolest person and forget about their skills. However if they can’t fit in with the people there, its not doing anyone any favors.

    5. Joey*

      Eh, could be, but it’s equally possible it means things like:
      -you like lots of direction and I’m a hands off manager.
      -you’re uncomfortable with our philosophy or strategies.
      -you like rigidity and we’re very flexible.
      -You talk way too much or not enough.
      -You showed up in khakis and we expected a suit.

      There’s just no way to tell.

    6. Kacie*

      I had an employee who was great at her assigned job, and terrible at interacting with everyone else on the team. She thought she was great, and she was in certain areas, but the rest of us suffered for her extreme personality issues. I would totally have a beer with her, but she was poison to my working team.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I had a coworker like that. Good at her job usually, but so pushy towards other departments that it actually hurt *our* department, because people didn’t see it as “Mary being pushy”, but “Our Department being pushy”. Another pushy person would have been a bad fit.

    7. Cat*

      We no offered an intern last summer for cultural reasons; namely that while his work was fine, he was hostile and defensive and nobody could deal with it. On some level, this does equate to “I don’t want to have a beer with him,” I guess, but there are also work implications, so I don’t think it’s a bright line.

    8. Mints*

      Yeah, the “brogrammer” phenomena is pretty awful. Cultural fit in those places is code for white guys, and it’s become another barrier for women or people of color to want to be a part of that industry. It’s really problematic that people who are intellectually and professionally interested in that are being pushed out because they’re not meshing with the frat boy culture

    9. Xay*

      The very few times that I have participated in hiring and someone wasn’t hired because of cultural fit, it was either because it was very obvious that that person’s personality was going to clash very negatively with another person on the team or they expressed some personal views in the interview that demonstrated that there would be problems with the soft skills part of the role (for example, interviewing for a public facing position in an infectious disease office and the person says they would be comfortable working with people living with HIV and then continues on to negatively stereotype people living with HIV).

  9. LMW*

    #2. I think it was simply that he hit the 6 month mark first and the manager didn’t even think of you. I was in a “temp-to-hire” position for a staffing company (I was in HQ) and it really didn’t seem to matter how good anyone was. If they had the money to hire you the day you hit the end of the temp period, they would, and if they didn’t you were pretty much screwed. Using that method, they have a bunch of mediocre people who are still there and a bunch of really good people who have left feeling resentful.

  10. nyxalinth*

    #2 could be any of the things everyone mentions. I admit I also thought it might be something as frivolous as (as hiring reasons go) a shared passion for a hobby or sports team.

    But I really do think it’s culture fit. OP, if you’re willing could you tell us about your own personality at work, his personality, and the overall culture? Because if you’re very chatty and social (as an example) and everyone else is thinking “Are they ever going to quiet down and let us work?” or the opposite “We’re very laid back and like to talk while working and you’re just too hyper-focused and never talk with us and Sam does.”

    One other thing to keep in mind: “worst” and “poor performance” are these things that YOU have decided? Is his performance harming the team, or is he just the lowest ranked in term of numbers, while still doing a decent job? Metrics are useful, but waving them around and calling someone the worst isn’t. someone comes in first, and unless everyone is all equal in the #2 slot, someone is going to come in last.

  11. S*

    I worked at a company that would bring in temps for 3 to 6 month projects. My manager brought in 2 temps to help us (a team of 4) with getting caught up on processing late fees. One of the temps (lets call him DJ) was poor performer and was late to work at least twice a week. After 6 months, DJ was offered a full time position! I couldn’t understand the reason for hiring him since he was not the best performer. DJ never improved and continued to be a poor performer. And after being on the job for 2 years, he was a no-call / no-show. I never found out what happened to him. He just disappeared!

    1. some1*

      I’ve seen managers do this. They think any behind in a seat who knows how to do the work (however poorly) is better than to go through the hiring process and training someone new.

      I had a co-worker at a previous company who acted like DJ (except she was a perm employee), and no one could figure out how she still had a job. She was great at the actual tasks of her role, but she called in way too much and acted unprofessionally a lot. She went on leave and the temp who filled in for her did a better job and the co-worker was let go at that point, after two years of pulling stuff that would get most people fired.

    2. Felicia*

      Sounds like someone who just got hired after being a temp, in the last temp position I had. I was a temp for 4 months with three other women to get caught up on a project, and we knew there would be one position at the end. The one who got hired, let’s call her Holly, was 30-40 minutes late every single day, and wasted another 30-40 minutes a day on personal phone calls. The other three temps had to pick up her slack, because even when she was working, she wasn’t as effective as we were. We’d tell her “Holly, we need to to do x so we can be done this project by the deadline and not stay late.” And she’d say hold on a sec, and she’d be surfing the web. If I wasn’t hired , and one of the two other temps who I thought did a pretty good job too were hired, I would have been ok with that. But I was soooo angry that Holly was hired, because she sucked. I think she was the one the manager felt she could hang out with best (though all of the other people working there seemed like they hated her too). Well, the company will pay for that. She never got reprimanded for coming in late, and the rest of the 25 person team was there on time, so the start time wasn’t that flexible. She also never got reprimanded for the excessive personal calls, using the company phone to call her mom for at least half an hour a day. I usually don’t care when someone was hired over me, but in this case I as mad.

  12. BCW*

    #2 Not to belittle your question, but thats like me writing in here asking why last month I didn’t get a job I was great for. The only one to know that is the hiring manager. Now yes, you know 1 bit of information, which is how they performed a certain task in relationship to you, but thats it. Trust me, I’ve walked out of interviews sure I had a job only to not get it. Even when I’ve gotten feedback, you never really know the reason. It sounds like you are better off now anyway.

    1. some1*

      I agree, but I think there’s more frustration in these situations vs trying to get hired externally. An external candidate is always untested, but when you have already been doing the exact job well it’s easier to believe you have proven yourself worthy to be hired perm.

      It’s like when when a supervisor leaves and someone is moved up as interim supervisor and does the job well, it can sting if they don’t get that promotion permanantly for the candidate, while the employer may want someone who has more experience (or whatever).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think sometimes it just feels so baffling that the person is left thinking, “WTF?” It can be helpful to hear, “Well, it could have been X or Y or Z,” just to help pull you out of the utter confusion where you’re having trouble even thinking of those possibilities.

  13. books*

    @ OP 1, I do this all the time. It’s a really bad habit that I need to break, and outlook 2013 makes it worse.

    1. OP #1*

      I get in trouble when I compose the email but wait to send it. I’m usually waiting because one, I want to be sure our pick accepts the offer before declining other candidates or two, because we’ve decided to decline them ten minutes after they left the interview, and it feels really rude to send it so soon.

    2. HR lady*

      I often compose emails and then wait to send them — because often when I go back to look at them a second time, I find better ways to phrase things. It’s just part of my process, and it works well for me.

      ….. except when I forget to finally hit send! So I now make sure to regularly check my drafts folder, even if I don’t think that there’s something in there waiting for me to send it. Checking it regularly ensures that I don’t forget to send something.

      1. OP #1*

        You can change your settings in Outlook to keep drafts in your inbox. I start emails and send them later allll day long, and having them in my inbox keeps them top of mind. Not sure how this one escaped me, I think my inbox just got out of control end of December and it got pushed down.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wouldn’t think anything bad about it if I got it after Christmas. Most people are gone during that time, and I would just assume that if I didn’t hear anything, it was because the hiring manager or HR were on holiday leave. Christmas messes everything up.

  14. some1*

    #1, yes, definitely send the belated rejection, and I don’t necessarily think you need to mention that you meant to send the email a month ago. Four weeks isn’t long at all to make a hiring decision and if it were me, I wouldn’t think anything of getting the rejection email after that much time.

    Either way, it’s better to possibly look a little flaky or ambivalent than to give no response at all. Best to leave the candidate with a polite, positive impression of your org.

  15. AnonK*

    My no nonsense, grumpy advice for the day.

    #1: I’d just send your standard form letter and not worry about the delay. You’re informing them they didn’t get the job, which is better than most employers do.

    #2: This is one of the things that makes me really dislike being in management. People take one piece of information available, such as productivity stats, and think that they have the full picture and will constantly second guess any decision that is made. Any number of reasons could have led to him being hired over you. The best advice I can give is to ask the manager for feedback – what could you do differently to get hired? Focus on the things you can control – you, and not how you measure up against someone else.

    #5 Is the problem that you aren’t getting paid, or that you are being asked to read at all? I, personally, would love a job that was 9-5 then I can turn it off when I go home. But in 20+ years, I don’t think I’ve ever had a job like that. I constantly am reading, both assigned and of my own pursuit, to keep my skills up to date and to have the perspectives that my employer requires. I used to have a boss where I knew if I saw a book on his desk, I’d better order a copy stat, because he’d be quoting it and redefining his style based on it. It’d only be a matter of time before he told us all to read it anyway. I don’t have any non-exempt employees, but if one my direct reports ever made a comment about getting paid to read after hours, I’d know quickly who didn’t have the drive and ambition to improve themselves and grow with the company.

      1. KJR*

        This, exactly. It is the law, and the DOL takes this very seriously. Requiring any non-exempt employees to do unpaid work (*regardless of whether or not they agree to it*) is unlawful. It should in no way be taken as an indication that the employee is unmotivated or unwilling to grow.

        1. Grace*

          Your response seemed unreasonable to me as well about #5.
          Employees are reimbursed all of the time for business-related expenses and time: mileage at the IRS rate, meals,
          conference and hotel expenses. Mandating that an employee read a book on their personal time = pay them for it like any other business expense.

          1. Jen in RO*

            I don’t think it works like that for exempt employees. Maybe the boss should buy the book for them, but pay them for the actual time spent reading it? I’m not in the US, but from reading AAM and other sites I take it that would not be the case for exempt employees.

    1. Rayner*

      Regarding your advice for #5.

      It’s not about clocking off after 9-5 work, or keeping skills up to to date, or whatever.

      This person is required by her job to read an extensive text. That is it. There is no using it to help understand where the bosses quotes are coming from, it’s not a personal choice.

      The OP is required to read a certain number of pages for her job. She should be paid to do this. She has not chosen to read this stuff, and in all honesty, it’s probably a load of codswallop and pigswill printed on very expensive paper as many ‘faddy’ corporate books are. But she is required to be paid for the time that she spends reading it for her work. Period.

      Or would you like to apply your logic to another task – “My employer asked me to file papers after hours – it’s for work though. Am I entitled to pay?” / “My boss requires me to deliver these parcels but won’t pay me for the time. Is this fair?” / “My manager said that I should finish all these spreadsheets after hours, even though I won’t get paid. Isn’t this unfair?”

      Choosing to improve yourself off the clock by reading the same book as your boss is one thing. Same as choosing to take additional classes, volunteering in your field, or devising your own projects to put forward.

      Being made to read a book by your job for your job is work. It needs to be paid for.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agreed. It’s perfectly possible to be good at your job without putting much stock in corporate rah-rah books, as I like to call them. I HATE getting told to read one, and generally respond to such “requests” (or outright orders) by reading a summary, if I can find one, or finding just one chapter that I can use to make a comment that makes me sound like I read the whole thing. I realize this makes me a less-than-perfect corporate citizen, but since I continue to do good work, I’m okay with that.

        If OP is an exempt employee, then I would skim the book in whatever time I could spare (or see whether there’s an audio version to listen to on my commute). If OP is non-exempt, then s/he should absolutely be paid for time spent reading the book, because it is an assignment from the company…which means it’s work.

        1. Rayner*

          The alternative to the audio book is of course, a library copy. Free, and when the boss ditches it in two weeks because it’s boring and nobody does the assignment, then the OP hasn’t paid out twenty bucks for a crappy book that they would never have got otherwise.

      2. AnonK*

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree here. The quality of the material is irrelevant. But sometimes, you have to use your own time to continue to grow your skills and keep them up to date.

        1. the_scientist*

          But again, this isn’t about “growing skills and keeping up to date”, this is about being given a work assignment and being asked to complete it without pay.

        2. Rayner*

          As other people have repeatedly said, this is not a personal choice. It is required for her job.

          Not to improve, not to help her work closer with her boss so she decided to pick it up in addition to her work.

          It. Is. Her. Job.


          You get paid for doing your job, and when someone is paid by the hour, you expect to get paid for every hour you give to your company. For some people, reading a book is a long task – four to eight hours, maybe, if it has very dense language and text.

          That is time the OP has given to their company, and they should be paid for that.

          You seem to be under the illusion that because you choose to pick up extra books or work to improve yourself and your job, everybody else is in the same position.

          They are not.

        3. aebhel*

          Sure, and if she had the option to opt out, that would be fine.

          Since she doesn’t, it’s a work assignment. If she’s an hourly worker, that means she’s entitled to be paid.

  16. Anon.*

    For #5, the book reader, a professor told me this comment from another professor “only an idiot reads an entire book.” That glib statement really means, that oftentimes non-fiction, critical thinking books can be repetitive. This is esp. true for the business world. Most business related books are really designed to be skimmed, and some even have the key points for each chapter. Read the summary or key points, skim the rest. I’ve been burned by reading a chapter in a business book, when the summary concisely said it all, minus a few examples.

  17. Ruffingit*

    Not able to read through all comments right now, but I just have to say on #1 – I personally would prefer that you send either a rejection email or the handwritten note (preferably the email for me), but not both. I think it’s overkill to do both and as a candidate, it would be like getting rejected twice. Not giving you a job email and then let me follow that up with a mailed note saying we’re still not giving you the job. Why? That isn’t necessary. I know a lot of people here complain about no response after an interview, but this seems to be too much of a response in my view.

    1. OP #1*

      Well, the handwritten note is to say thank you for your time, great to meet you, and good luck. All pretty standard things to say to people you are declining but hopefully the additional follow up makes them feel like we really and truly did appreciate them coming into our space.

      Interesting feedback, though. I’ve gotten lots and lots of compliments and thank yous on that practice.

      1. Ruffingit*

        If it’s working for you, go with it. It’s just not something I would personally appreciate. Being rejected once is enough for me :)

      2. Rayner*

        I would query if you’re sending the note after the interview but before a decision is made, and then the email after rejecting them, but idk.

        Please don’t do that. It’s horrible for a candidate to get things like that twice. Tell me it didn’t work out once, that’s great, I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that. But don’t send me a second note after you’ve already said I didn’t make the cut to tell me thank you for the time I spent preparing, rehearsing, and researching for the interview when I didn’t get the job.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Exactly, this is where I’m coming from. Sending it twice would annoy me and make me feel like “Yeah, I know you didn’t want to give me the job, you don’t need to tell me a second time.” It would be like someone breaking up with you face to face and then sending a note to say “Just so you know, totally enjoyed dating you, but we’re not going to be moving forward.” UH…yeah, you said that already, why add a second layer of rejection?

  18. Vicki*

    Does #5 (My employer is trying to implement the philosophies from a business book. … My employer will assign chapters each week for the employees to read, and then we will review those chapters as a group …) remind anyone else of the book club letter we had over a year ago? (

    At least those employees were allowed to do their reading during work time. (If the book is required reading for your job, you should be able to put reading it on your prioritized list of tasks to be done during working hours.)

    1. Jen in RO*

      Yep, I definitely thought of that! (And of the time my manager sent my team lead “Fish!”. She extracted quotes and we bonded over the stupidity.)

  19. Another Sara*

    Regarding the “we” trick – how effective is that in practice? Does the target really believe you have the company/department’s interests in mind? I can think of a number of people I’ve worked for/with who would not even notice I said “we,” and immediately be on the defensive. (Then again, some of those folks tend to assume every statement/question is veiled criticism, so maybe it varies from person to person). I can also see a situation where the target believes you are concerned about the company, but still interprets your question as an accusation (e.g. “You’re doing something illegal!”)

    I’d love to hear about others’ experience with phrasing like that. Was it successful? How did the recipient react?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m definitely not saying it’s a magic pill, but it’s much less adversarial than “you’re required by law to do this.” If you want to bring the thing up, “we” is going to make it go down more easily than “you.”

    2. Ruffingit*

      This is a good point. A lot of people just hear the “it’s illegal” part and go on the defensive. That said, as Alison mentions, if you have to bring this up, “we” is a good way to approach it and at least try to soften it.

  20. Cassie*

    #5: my sister and some of her coworkers are taking a mandatory supervisory training course, and one of their supervisors told them that they can’t use work time to do the homework assignments. These are homework assignments are are related to their jobs as supervisors (e.g. do a gap analysis for one of your current staffers). I told my sis – as long as you are getting your work done*, how would they know if you are also doing the assignments during your work hours?

  21. Anonymous?*

    #5 I am in a similar situation, except the required reading takes almost all of my time off. Anytime I am not reading, I feel guilty because it has to be done. I tried carefully bringing up the illegality of requiring non-exempt workers from working and not paying them for it, but my boss insisted that even though it was required, it was not work because professionally we are expected to know the material. I did not push it because I was the only one objecting and did not know how to find out if there is a loophole that allows these kinds of assignments. It does not make me like my job, though, even if I might voluntarily cover similar material without it being assigned.

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