should promotions be based on seniority, my boyfriend’s accountant is flirting with him, and more

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

1. Should promotions be based on seniority?

I am currently in a department where a woman who was hired five months ago is already outperforming the rest of the team and has shown such efficiency that she’s getting special projects to do. It has been overheard that a supervisor position will be created by the directors and, because she needs to promote internally, the manager informed the directors she would like to put this woman in the position because she is the best qualified and has the most potential. I heard a few coworkers complaining that, while everyone on the team likes this woman and values her knowledge, attitude, and professionalism, several other women should be offered the position first because they have seniority, are older, would be respected more (she is 27), and they have expressed interest in a supervisory position, whereas this woman has never mentioned the desire to advance.

While I like them personally, I feel that many would make less than stellar supervisors because of their temperamental manner in answering team members’ questions, their tendencies to shirk responsibility, and their inability to follow through and meet deadlines. (The newer woman and another coworker were supposed to be training our two new employees, and the woman ended up training both employees by herself due to the team member coincidentally going ghost.) I believe the manager respects her because of her keen knowledge and understanding of concepts in our field, which is much better than anyone else on our team; her ability to collect monies the rest of us would miss; and her willingness to stop anything she’s working on to answer anyone’s question with no irritation towards anyone. Do you feel seniority should play a part when promoting internally? Is it fair to pass her for this promotion because she is new to the company?

People shouldn’t be entitled to promotions just because been there longer. Promotions should be made based on who would do the best job in the position. If two candidates are equally strong, then sure, it can make sense to look at seniority. But when the newer person is clearly stronger, it doesn’t make sense to promote a weak candidate instead just because the weaker candidate has been there longer.

That said, any internal candidate who’s interested in the role should be allowed to apply for it. If the rest of your team feels that someone was simply anointed as the new supervisor without giving anyone else being genuinely considered, it’s going to be a recipe for resentment. So your managers would do well to make the process reasonably open and transparent.

2. My manager keeps putting off the schedule change I was promised

I work for a community mental health agency with approximately 400 employees. My position is as a clinician on a child psychiatric crisis unit, and I love what I do. What I don’t love is my schedule. I’m the night and weekend person, as such a facility needs 24 hour coverage. When I was hired 9 months ago, I was told that I could transition to weekdays “quickly,” as there is fairly high turnover. But when I remind my boss of my desire for a traditional schedule, she says she’s working on it and drops the subject.

Just FYI, I get good performance reviews and I’m also cross trained for another department with 3 openings. It wouldn’t be a huge deal, but I’m a single mom of a toddler and my daughter is developing more cognitively everyday. She has 2 great babysitters, but I want her in a structured day care with a curriculum to maximize her growing mind and skills. I can’t afford both her babysitters and daycare, and there is no daycare where I am that operates nights and weekends.

There are numerous open positions at my agency. When I asked HR about applying for an open position, they gave me a form that I need my supervisor to sign in order to be permitted to apply for any of the current open positions. That seems like a bad idea in so many ways. First, I’m pretty confident my supervisor would be unhappy and limit my opportunities for training as well as deny requested time off. Second, all the open positions are on different campuses, so I have no idea if they are actively looking to fill the position, nor do I know the supervisors so I can’t informally feel out the situation. So to risk my manager’s ire and possibly being forced out of my position, without even the promise of an interview, seems unwise. Will I need to apply outside my agency to get a schedule that works? What are your thoughts?

I wouldn’t apply for a transfer from a job you love until you’re sure you can’t get the schedule you want. That means not just “reminding” your boss that you want a different schedule, but tackling it more assertively. I’d say something like this: “When I was hired, we thought I’d be able to move to a more traditional schedule quickly. My daughter is reaching the age where I need to put her in daycare, so it’s becoming more pressing. Is it possible to figure out a more definite timeline for making the change so that I can plan for it?” (And no, you shouldn’t have to cite your child care situation, but it’s useful when you’re pushing your manager for something to explain why you’re pushing for it.)

If she puts you off again, at that point I’d say, “I really love my job here, but knowing that I do need a different schedule, would you object to me looking at other openings in the agency if we’re not able to switch my hours in the next couple of months?”

3. What’s the best tone for a written response to a negative performance review?

My boyfriend has found himself in a difficult situation, and I am not sure how to help him. He recently had his performance review and it went very poorly. His manager had almost entirely negative criticisms of failure to meet goals (some legitimate, some not) and no positive comments. At this point, we are sure he is going to put on a performance improvement plan. He is currently finishing his paperwork for the review and has written a three-page response documenting all his disagreements and issues with the review. I read it and it is inappropriate and emotional and unprofessional. Although I am sympathetic to how much this sucks, I don’t want him to burn his bridges. He is stubborn and won’t be able to let this go without responding, but I want to help him respond in the most professional and mature way possible. Can you give me any advice on how he should respond in these comments?

Yeah, emotional is not the way to go here. Point out to your boyfriend that the response he wrote might feel satisfying, but it’s not as likely to get him the outcome he wants, and the outcome is the most important thing here. His response is going to be far more credible if it’s calm, sticks to the facts, and acknowledges any legitimate points his manager made.

Suggest that he think of the report an outside observer trying to solve the problems would write about the situation, and use that tone himself. Otherwise, any legitimate points he’s making are likely to be lost.

4. What’s the best way to confirm an upcoming informational interview?

I have an informational interview coming up next week, which was booked a month ago. We had communicated and set up the meeting time via email, and the last I’ve heard from her was a month ago when we agreed to and finalized the meeting place and time.

Because it was booked quite awhile ago and I’m semi-paranoid she’d have forgot about the meeting by now, I was wondering if it would be appropriate to share my personal calendar by including her in the time slot (where you insert all attendees’ emails, and they get something in their mailbox where you can accept or decline the meeting)? I hope this sends the message of “hey! remember me and our upcoming meeting?” (even though I might have seem more organized by inviting her shortly after it was arranged). I’ve had shared calendars for other informational interviews, but they were booked within the week, and they were initiated by the other party.

You’re over-complicating it; there’s no need for any calendar business. Just send her an email that says, “Just want to confirm our meeting this Thursday at 2 p.m. at Teas Unlimited. I’m looking forward to it!” Then, assume it’s on unless she replies back and tells you otherwise.

5. Is my boyfriend’s accountant crossing professional boundaries with him?

I am in a relationship with a very wealthy oil man. About the time I got involved with him, he hired a woman to take over his accounting in his office that he visits infrequently (maybe 10 times per year). Soon after her hire, she became flirtatious with him, professing her adoration of him and her new job. I understood how she would be grateful; she has a wonderful opportunity in a town where there is not much. She sent him a valentine saying she “loves” her boss, then about 6 months later asked him to help her buy a house, then sent flowers and a flirty note on “Bosses Day.” She also sends him notes on the weekends about the weather, etc.

I’m not generally jealous, but it just seems inappropriate. She is doing a good job at work though and getting better at it. I don’t know, but it is annoying and I would be more accepting of it if she were a female friend vs. an employee. I think my own boss is fantastic and we have both expressed mutual support, and respect. But we do not exchange cards of any type.

Is it appropriate to give your boss a valentine telling him you love him? Should you ask your boss to help you buy a house? (By the way, the woman is married with a semi-adult child; shouldn’t she be turning to her husband or at least including him in such a request?) What is this Bosses Day? I live in California and never heard of it.

No, it is not appropriate to give your boss a valentine or tell him that you love him. Nor is it a good idea to ask your boss to help you buy a house. Bosses Day is a recently made-up fake holiday that exists to sell cards.

But you don’t have any reason to be jealous, unless your boyfriend is returning his accountant’s flirtatious and inappropriate behavior. He’s the one whose behavior is relevant to you, not hers. Assuming this is a one-sided flirtation and he’s committed to you, jealousy shouldn’t come into play. (If it’s not one-sided and/or he’s not committed to you, then you’ve got bigger issues that are about him, not his accountant.)

However, from a good-management and sensible-person standpoint, your boyfriend should certainly (a) consider whether he has inadvertently signaled that this behavior would be welcome, and (b) figure out how to create better professional boundaries with her. But that’s really a management issue for him to resolve as part of his workplace dealings; absent some sign that he’s relating inappropriately to her, it should be a non-issue for you (or at least as much of a non-issue as any other management problem on his side would be).

{ 162 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Another Reader

    Alison’s advice to #2 is spot-on. I hope the OP gets the schedule change she needs, and I hope she’s one of the readers who writes in with an update in the future!

    1. Adam V

      Why don’t more bosses understand that if you have an open spot on the schedule, and an employee who wants to switch, and you tell them they can switch and don’t follow through, you’ll soon have *two* open spots?

      Seriously, your employee can either take your open spot, or they can take an open spot on another team, or in another company. Do you want to replace one person, or two?

  2. Artemesia

    Since the last letter writer is so aware of the flirting, Valentines etc I assume the boyfriend has mentioned them. ONCE ONLY she needs to say ‘she wouldn’t be doing this inappropriate boundary pushing if she didn’t think it was welcome; if you don’t want this kind of unprofessionalism you need to tell her that and responding.’

    The house buying thing is WAY over the line especially since she has a husband. I would be less sanguine than the OP that he wasn’t encouraging this and enjoying it.

    1. fposte

      And the thing is, a girlfriend who starts telling her boyfriend how to handle his employees (apparently unsolicited) is also overstepping boundaries. If you’re jealous because you think this has implications for your relationship, that’s a valid conversation, but making it about his management just puts the girlfriend in the same boat as the employee.

      1. Artemesia

        This isn’t about management. This is about a boyfriend who is encouraging personal overtures from an employee and then bragging to his girlfriend about it. Her pointing this out before she dumps him has nothing to do with his management of employees and everything to do with their relationship.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But I don’t think we really know that to be the case, from what’s written in the letter. I can easily imagine a situation where he’s not encouraging it and is telling the OP about it because he’s perplexed.

          1. Ruffingit

            I agree. In my experience a lot of people (men and women) don’t know what to do with this kind of out of the norm behavior in the office. This woman is a valued employee so he doesn’t want to insult her, but at the same time he knows it’s odd. Could be too that he’s getting a little ego boost from it, hey we’re all human and that’s normal. But on the whole I’m guessing he’s just not sure how to handle it and he wants to be transparent with the OP so he tells her about it rather than having her find the valentine inadvertently and think he’s cheating on her.

            1. fposte

              Or he mentions everything that happens in the office, or he’s making it up, or, or, or… we just don’t have any information that explains his motives here, so I don’t think we can assume a particular scenario.

              1. Ruffingit

                We absolutely can’t assume a particular scenario. I’m responding to Alison’s statement ofI can easily imagine a situation where…. All I’m saying is that I can see that as well.

                1. fposte

                  Yeah, I was just building on your point.

                  I’ll give the OP credit for not actually assuming a meaning either, and mostly just asking if this is as weird as she thinks it is.

    2. GH

      “The house buying thing is WAY over the line especially since she has a husband.”

      I don’t see the relevance of the husband, unless he’s a real estate agent. Is there some presumption that men are good at buying houses, or that you need a man along while looking at houses, so only a single woman would be justified in asking a colleague for their help?

      To me, it depends on what kind of help it was. If I had someone in my social or professional network who was financially successful and experienced in house-buying, I might well ask for their advice, even if they were my boss. Asking them to come along on house tours? Only my best friend. Or my stepmother, she’s awesome at the real estate thing. (Though I wouldn’t consider that flirting in that case!)

      1. Cristina

        My guess is the intent behind that statement is that since there is an adult partner in the household it doesn’t make sense to be asking someone else to partner with you in a house purchase unless you’re asking a professional or someone with expertise in that area. It would be equally as weird for a man to be asking his female boss to help him buy a house instead of collaborating with his wife, but the genders happen to be the other way in this story.

        1. fposte

          I think that depends on how you’re reading “help,” though. Some of us are seeing that as “guide,” and some are reading it as “contribute financially,” and it’s a very different experience depending on which way the OP meant it.

          1. Anonymous_J

            I also read it as asking for financial help, and that, IMO, WOULD be “way over the line”–UNLESS she has asked for a raise, but the OP did not clarify that.

            Based just on that and my own read of it (as the accountant asking for money), I find it HIGHLY inappropriate.

  3. Josh S

    #3: “Point out to your boyfriend that the response he wrote might feel satisfying, but it’s not as likely to get him the outcome he wants, and the outcome is the most important thing here.”

    Don’t discount the large number of people whose desired outcome is nothing more than to feel better about themselves/the situation. Yes, it’s shortsighted and naive, but some people–feeling better *NOW* about stupid boss is more important than having good job long term.

    Boggles the mind, but it seems the only way to explain a lot of behavior like this.

      1. Adjunction

        +1 on the marshmallow study reference. I use that with students a lot in talking about emotional intelligence, delayed gratification, etc.

        1. Jamie

          I always thought that test was a measure of strategic reasoning much more than the ability to delay gratification.

          1. fposte

            And didn’t I hear recently that it got challenged because of the substantial amount of trust it required? If your experience is that there never is a bird in the bush, you definitely take the Peep in the hand.

            1. Jamie

              That makes a lot of sense.

              And if they are using Peeps that’s just not fair – you can delay gratification for a regular marshmallow, sure…but the fear that the promised two Peeps may never materialize? That can break a child, or create a future psychopath.

              I can’t resist Peeps now.

            2. TL

              You did! There was a study? perspective? something on the fact that children who had been lied to recently were more likely to take the marshmallow. And they connected that to children from lower socioeconomic households, especially households where the money is always about to come through but never does, for whatever reasons.

              1. Melissa

                They did a study with two parts once – the confederate said that she was going to bring the child a box of new crayons. In one condition she brought it, but in the other she left briefly and returned without the crayons. The children who didn’t get the crayons were far less likely to wait than the kids who did.

            3. Melissa

              The psychologist who conducted the original studies is a professor in my department, and they addressed that as a limitation in the study when they did it. There’s been some more recent work that does show that children do wait longer when they trust the confederate in question; there’s also been some speculation about what that means for low-income children or abused children/children with other traumas who don’t trust.

    1. Sydney Bristow

      I’ve definitely found it helpful in various types of situations to write that super emotional first draft. It’s always something I do with no intention of ever sending it, but it can be helpful to get it all out, wait a few days, then start it over with a clearer head. It’s been helpful to me in both personal and professional situations.

      1. themmases

        I do this too! I find it really helpful to start listing everything I think is wrong with the situation (and of course every bullet point is two paragraphs at first) so my emotional rant becomes an outline. That makes it very easy for me to pick out the points that will actually be persuasive to my boss and write a tl;dr version that’s fit to bring to work.

      2. Ruffingit

        Same here. Getting it out of my head and onto paper is a great help emotionally, makes it easier to stop thinking about it. I always tell people to go with the 3-day rule:

        Day 1: Be bitter, angry, emotional about thing/person.
        Day 2: Discuss bitterness, anger, emotion with trusted advisor/get it on paper.
        Day 3: Wake up with clearer head, begin looking toward solution.

        No one should confuse Day 3 with Day 1. You need some time to process so you don’t spew the bitter all over the person. That doesn’t typically lead to a good outcome.

      3. Elizabeth West

        Yes, but make sure you put the draft away or delete it BEFORE you send the actual message so you don’t mix up the two.

        Sorry, just re-watched Atonement last night and all I could think of was Robbie’s letter to Cecelia!

      4. QualityControlFreak

        Exactly. My own personal rule is “never e-mail mad.” Oh, I WRITE them, all right. But I don’t send them anywhere but the recycle bin. I agree with Ruffingit – three days is just about perfect.

    2. Emma

      It’s the response that OP3’s boyfriend needed to write…but it’s not the one he needs to send.

      Options now that he’s written it? Re-read it dramatically for the amusement of friends on game night, frame it for posterity, stick it in a drawer, or throw it into the fire…but don’t send it.

  4. Sandrine

    #1 By all means, promote the good employee if she wants it!

    At my company, there have been quite a few frustrated people when the last round of promotions happened. Because it was strongly suspected that the promoted peeps weren’t as strong candidates as some others could have been (and I was one of the frustrated in some previous rounds, even though I came to realize that the promoted aren’t that bad at all, and I like them in their role) , people griped for weeks.

    Have the selection process open to everyone who wants to. Don’t promote someone because you need one person, promote the one you think fits the role better.

    But make sure the new person wants the role, too :) .

    #3 Yeah. Help him rewrite it with the facts list. Or something less emotional as what you’ve read. I can understand how he feels now(sooooo tempting to say everything on your mind!) but he will SO regret it later… if he really had to send something, I am hoping he will accept your help rewriting it so it sounds like a badass response instead of whinewhinefactwhinewhinefact (which it will sound like to the boss if he sends it as is, even if it’s not) .

    #5 Your boyfriend may not have said anything to her so far because he thinks it’s ridiculous and will stop by itself. But he needs to say something indeed, especially because of the house thing (I mean, really o_O ?) . He needs to tell her to keep it professional and to actually tell her what his boundaries are.

    Some people are a lot friendlier than others, and it might be she thinks that way, but appearances being what they are, she should be careful.

  5. RJ

    For #3, I once had a bad review experience. My immediate supervisor gave me an excellent review, we had the conversation, both signed off on it, everything was hunky dory. About 10 days later, she scheduled another meeting with me. She’d been told by her manager to revise my review with a much lower rating. (Something like a drop from a 98 to an 82.) I was very angry and upset, but I took a little time to reflect. I wrote a succinct response with bullet points and facts to express my position. The manager was impressed with my “reason and professionalism”, considered my facts, and re-revised the review to a higher level we could both live with. I absolutely went home and cried and whined and had to revise my response when I was calm, but being professional instead of emotional got me the results I wanted.

      1. RJ

        It’s sort of a long story, but I had been asked to travel to another state to do a two-day live training presentation to 100+ people with 36 hours notice when I had never done a live training presentation before in my life. I was in a new position and this definitely would have been part of the job down the line, but I assumed I’d have a lot more training and preparation of my own first. (This was back in the 80s when on-the-job training was still a thing that existed.)
        At the time, they both told me that it was 100% ok, no problem, if I wasn’t ready to do it yet, etc. So I said I wasn’t ready. And that turned into an issue with the manager (though obviously not with the supervisor) down the line at review time.
        I could see that being feedback that I needed at the time about accepting new challenges or whatever, but the bait and switch of “oh, it’s absolutely fine and understandable if you’re not ready yet” to “oh, I’m going to knock you down two full rating levels based on you not doing this thing I said it was fine for you not to do” was upsetting to say the least.

  6. CK

    #1. Promotions to management should _not_ be based on seniority… Or age, or hair color, or any other arbitrary measurement that ha nothing to do with how well someone can do the job. While someone more senior may be better at it, it’s not always the case.

    Also, for many roles, being an amazingly awesome ‘chocolate teapot maker’ does not necessarily translate to being even a satisfactory manager/supervisor – I hope your company is one that recognizes the different skill sets required in general for this sort of role change, and looks for skills needed to succeed in the new role – and not focus completely on what makes them great in their current role.

  7. James M

    #1: Sometimes, the people who *want* a promotion into management actually just want to shirk the grunt work and have a feeling of superiority over the bottom-rung minions. Does this sound familiar?

    #3: I advise writing a response filled with scathing vitriol… then deleting it. It really helps.

  8. Kimberlee, Esq.

    While the boundaries with the accountant in the final question certainly appear to be off, I kinda think the “buying a house” thing might not be as big a deal as it sounds like. I mean, was this asking someone for a bit of advice on something they knew about (which I think could be totally fine depending on one’s relationship with one’s boss), or was this really a “Let’s go look at these houses, this $x is what I can spend, what do you think of this financing, etc?” And either way, it could have been done with the husband’s full knowledge and consent.

    I mean, I really don’t want to believe that her inclusion of the boss automatically means she was buying a house without consulting her husband. But I suppose we’ve seen crazier stuff on AAM before!

    1. Not So NewReader

      I tend to agree with you, Kimberly. We don’t know enough context first. Does BF do this for other employees? Has he done other favors for the accountant?
      No one factor points to a problem, it is a matter of looking at the whole picture.

      I know a few well-do business people that use their good fortune to buoy up their employees. It does not mean they are having inappropriate relationships with the employee. Likewise, I have seen business owners reach into their own pockets to loan money to CUSTOMERS.

      I think the cards are of the most concern. That takes time/planning/forethought and could be an indicator that she spends way too much time thinking about her boss. None of this is the BFs fault. The part the BF is responsible for is drawing the line. That can be as simple as saying “I don’t want these cards/etc, I just want you to do you best every day with your work. That is the way I want you to tell me ‘thank you’.”

      I guess where I land with all this is a concern for violating basic ethics that accountants need to follow. Is she in violation of those ethics? If the licensing board found out, could her license be pulled? (I know in my state any gifting/financial help would be a problem.) OP could just gently caution her BF about these things and let it go at that. “Honey, it’s nice that you want to help people but you want to make sure that you don’t jeopardize their licenses (and livelihoods) in the process.”

    2. FiveNine

      According to OP, he visits the office maybe 10 times a year. I think OP needs to drop this, and not just for that reason. The few people I’ve known who owned a small business — this satellite office sounds like it has only one dedicated accountant — or had enough personal wealth to have a personal accountant have all not only been extremely picky about whom to trust in that role but invariably have a sort of strange, close, yet separate relationship with these people, usually for as long as both are still alive. (They can be in a position to advise them on every possible delicate financial matter, personal and professional, including details about planned takeovers, divorces, wills, trusts, all of it.)

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh, I took “asked him to help her buy a house” as meaning “asked him to loan or give her the money to buy a house.” If it’s the former, then I agree it’s not weird to just ask for advice about the process.

      1. Jamie

        I assumed it was advice, and that’s a non-issue for me. Heck, I’ve had people buying in my town ask me which inspector and realtors we used – and I’m positive none of them are in love with me.

        If it’s a loan or even going house hunting, I agree that’s weird.

    4. Ruffingit

      That was my reading of it – she was asking for his advice on home buying, not for a loan or something else that would be way out of bounds.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Perhaps, and the Valentine could have just hit the OP as skewed. I do know people who send V-day cards in general (my mother does; I have told her to please stop it but she won’t), but because most of us think of it as a holiday for couples, it can really rub you the wrong way.

        I understand her consternation, however. On the face of it, it does sound a little weird.

        1. Ruffingit

          I think the valentine is way out of bounds regardless. That is just not something I’d ever consider OK to give a boss. The house thing is less of an issue for me if it was just general help she was asking him for since I’d do that with friends/family/etc. You mine the info sources you have and if someone is good at real estate matters, it’s no big thing to ask for their assistance. But the valentine? No way. That is just not OK on any level in my view.

          1. fposte

            It is kind of the collective picture on this one. I wouldn’t bat an eye at somebody helping an employee with the house-buying process, for instance, but in conjunction with the rest of this, I can understand the OP if she’s thinking “Isn’t there anything she can leave her boss out of?”

        2. Judy

          My mom sends Valentines Day cards to me from our cats, the ones that live in my house. It’s not like she disguises her handwriting. Oh, and birthday cards from our cats too.

          1. Parfait

            My cat has terrible handwriting, so it’s probably for the best that she writes the cards for them.

          2. Mints

            This is hilarious and I’m really tempted to print out a few cat Valentines for my fellow crazy cat people

          3. Jamie

            Okay I officially love your mom so much.

            And I’m stealing it and instead of from us the kids Valentine’s will come from the fur babies this year.

            And in case there is ever a poll – I’m of the mind that Valentine’s are for couples, parents/grandparents and kids…because I refuse to give up buying themed candy and pinks cards with hearts for my kiddos no matter how old they get.

            I’m not a real holiday oriented person so I’ve never associated it with the couples thing. Just like I will always forget my anniversary unless I have it in Outlook. (Fortunately my husband forgets too, and neither of us care.) But every Valentine’s day I still miss the giant heart shaped box of Fannie Mae assorted candy with the satin ribbon and the always pink “to a beautiful daughter” card containing a hundy from my dad.

            My husband tried to do it one year, but there was no money in the card which just ruins everything. Some things are better left in the mists of time.

            But this time of year I always crave Fannie Mae trinidads (the best, so I ate them first) and money. I’m a very sentimental soul.

  9. Sharm

    Speaking of Bosses Day, I’d love to get advice on how to handle being the only one in the office that doesn’t want to partake. I never even heard about this in California but it’s the rage in Hawaii. I actually love my manager, but it is so tacky in principle it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bosses have more responsibility, sure, but they get the money and the power too. Why do I have to chip in for this completely fake “holiday”? But when everyone else is buying cards, leis, making fancy lunch plans, you look like a real jerk for not partaking.

    I go along with it and imagine that’s all I can do. But oh, does it grate.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.

      Is there some way you can participate in a way that’s not grating to you? I’m thinking some kind of giant-but-super-cheap gesture, like making a giant card and having people sign it.

      A birthday tradition at my college was a banner you put up on the wall made of butcher paper that everyone signed and wrote on during your party (and write down what drinks they had). I’m just thinking of ideas where you can get the “extravagant gesture” credit without actually spending much time or money on it.

      If all the ideas grate, though, I’d agree that you’re probably best to just go along with it. I’d say fight it if it weren’t such a culture thing, but it sounds like it’s really ingrained in your office. Do people also go all out for birthdays, showers, etc?

      1. tcookson

        I was just reminiscing about a birthday tradition at my college: the birthday person was thrown into the campus fountain by her friends, which was nice and foamy from the soap said friends had added the night before. I work on a university campus now . . . maybe I could start a tradition of throwing the bosses into the fountain on bosses day :-)

    2. Not So NewReader

      Maybe use the big picture perspective? All the Hallmark Holidays are contrived. Grandparents Day? Really? I always thought that is what birthdays were for, to tell people that they are special.

      However, there are two parts to this question. I think that you can tell your boss she is a great boss AND not spend a dime doing it. If your company culture is to make a big deal out of boss’ day then I would develop some kind of plan to participate in my own low key way. This could be shooting her an email that says “Just wanted to remind you that I really enjoy working with you. Happy Boss’ Day.”
      OR maybe stop by her office the night before and say something. “I don’t want to get busy tomorrow and forget that it’s boss’ day so I just thought I would stop now and wish you a happy day tomorrow.”

      I am only suggesting these things because you say you do actually like her. If you had a fool for a boss, I would not suggest this. It’s about your sincerity.

    3. Joey

      Just send him a nice email if you feel you must do something. A nice, genuine note will mean more than all of that other crap. And I guarantee you he will keep it a lot longer than all of the other stuff and read it over and over and over. And it doesn’t have to be long or formal.

      But really, if he’s that good he should be telling you guys to stop blowing smoke up his ass.

      1. Jamie

        But really, if he’s that good he should be telling you guys to stop blowing smoke up his ass.

        This. I’ve never worked for a boss who wouldn’t be ridiculously uncomfortable if someone got so much as a card – the only place I ever hear about bosses day is here.

      2. tcookson

        But really, if he’s that good he should be telling you guys to stop blowing smoke up his ass.

        Ha! This is exactly what I can imagine my boss saying to me if I tried either one of the scenarios from this AAM post: the Valentine flirtation OR the laying-it-on-too-thick bosses day card.

    4. Grace

      Our group just comes up with a menu of various snacks, cut up fruit, dips, veggies, and desserts and we place that in the kitchen.
      We sign up to bring something. Cards for each boss. Food all day long for bosses and the crew. Everybody is happy.

  10. Kate

    What type of help buying a house? There is a difference between give me a down payment and can I get some advice or a letter for the bank. Does he see it happening? Asking your advice on how to stop it?

    1. PEBCAK

      Right…I have friends who come from class backgrounds where home ownership is rare, and they have no idea where to even begin finding a relator, lawyer, mortgage, etc. That’s the type of thing it would be normal to ask a “wealthy oil man.”

      1. Elsajeni

        Yes, especially if he’s the kind of wealthy guy who, say, buys property as an investment, or owns vacation homes — someone who has way more experience buying real estate than the average person.

      2. some1

        “I have friends who come from class backgrounds where home ownership is rare, and they have no idea where to even begin finding a relator, lawyer, mortgage, etc”

        I don’t think this is limited to people who grew up this way. I grew up middle class where my parents and pretty much everyone I knew owned their home, plus, my mom worked in real estate. There’s a ton of stuff I wouldn’t know about applying for a mortgage etc.

        1. TL

          Yeah, my parents own probably 10 properties (they’re landlords) and I would have no clue how to go about buying a house besides showing up at one and saying “Here! I have the moneys!”

        2. Sophia

          But the difference could be – you could ask your mom or someone else you knew for advice. If the coworker didn’t know anyone who owned a house except for her boss, it’d be a different situation

    2. FiveNine

      She’s the accountant for a big oil guy — it’s unclear to me whether she’s his personal accountant in a personal office he has or whether she’s an accountant in some satellite office of the oil company, but my guess is more along the lines of the first scenario. In any case, the accountant for a big oil guy already knows her way around money, professionally. I don’t think she wanted help financially in the form of a down payment, or with advice about how to finance a mortgage, for example. When I read the letter, frankly, I took it as a status thing — he’s a big oil guy, he has to have massive pull in the area, he might well know about major great houses that are not listed, that kind of thing.

      1. Mints

        I’m not sure that’s true. (An accountant knows about money therefore didn’t need help buying a house)
        I know people who have worked up to accounting by being admins and did bookkeeping, who eventually did higher level/more complicated bookkeeping and accounting. They could be great at office-type business accounting, but not know anything about real estate. Especially if they grew up in a family without home ownership.
        I mean, I’ve never bought a house, and I imagine I’d need a lot of hand holding and googling.
        I read the letter as asking for advice and asking questions.

  11. Katrina

    #5 – I don’t think she’s being jealous, necessarily, just wondering if this is as unprofessional as she thinks it is. And the answer is ultimately, “Yes.” Is it anything you should address? Eh, probs not. Might as well let it go; he’ll either handle it or he won’t. If it’s a relationship dealbreaker for you, then just tell him it makes you uncomfortable and skeezed out.

    I will say, small businesses and their close environments can break down some professional barriers. My office is very formal to onlookers, but behind the scenes we’re inappropriate cut ups who know way too much about each other and say things that would get you fired or sued elsewhere. Even still, I would never give my boss a love note or flowers, or any V-Day anything, ever. Bleck.

    Then again, we’re in this boat 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, not 10 times a year.

    1. FiveNine

      I agree, and as I said in a response somewhere upthread, the choice of a personal accountant or designated accountant for a small business is not a choice made lightly because they are trusted with all sorts of not just private financial information but, invariably, business and sometimes personal information that dovetails into finances (wills, trusts, inheritance, divorces, mergers, firings, gains, losses, taxes, bank accounts, etc). OP believes the accountant is lucky to have such a great job (and sort of implies maybe she’s not all that money-savvy, as she’s learning or getting better at what she does, etc), but come on, a big oil guy doesn’t hire as a designated point-person accountant someone not astute about finance.

  12. Feed Fido

    PIP-
    I’d skip the treatise in defense. Defense rarely works- confidence is a better route. Facing a PIP, I’d read AAM guide to job hunting and clean up resume. Unless they are charging you with a crime, its your word against theirs and the already condemned employee rarely wins in a debate.

    1. Anonymous_J

      This is absolutely true. When I was let go in December, my stupid boss cited a THREE YEAR OLD PIP as one reason for letting me go. (I had a hard time not laughing in his face.) Fortunately, they also gave me a VALID reason. I will be getting unemployment.

  13. Feed Fido

    Senority is different than age, race etc. Sometimes enduring a job is reason enough to be promoted or probably more likely left in place b/c no one else will do it.

    It’s easy to be a superstah for 5 months and there’s always the junior genius appeal of a wunderkin, managment should consider those who perform steadily for years – keeping work flowing.

    1. MK

      I agree that five months might be too soon to judge someone’s quality. While I don’t think seniority should be the most important factor in promotions, it’s not meaningless either. Or rather, it’s not seniority itself, it’s what it means: the person who has worked with a company for years has a proven record and is a known quantity, for better or worse.

    2. Chinook

      I agree that 5 months is often too short to judge someone’s skills, but it is plenty of time to judge whether or not someone would make a good supervisor. If the OP willingly answers questions, and is approached with these questions despite her lack of seniority, than she is definitely supervisory material. I would encourage her to apply but also realize that she may not want it. After all, she may not want the responsibility or may realize how toxic her work may get if she gets the job and others resent it because of her age.

      1. Judy

        I guess for me it depends on the “project cycle” of a position. If projects take weeks, then maybe it’s enough time. In my work, projects take 6-36 months. You can be a 5 year employee and only on your second project. And you don’t know the true success for a project until a year or two after completion. (You can nail down that you’ve met cost and schedule targets, but quality targets can’t be shown until at least 1 year of consumer usage.)

        1. NK

          Many people don’t work in project-based positions at all. I was once promoted in a role after 5 months, but the work was more rapid-fire day-to-day stuff, and I had come from another company doing basically the same thing, so I knew the job well. People were already coming to me for help, so it didn’t seem like an unnatural promotion (I realize that’s my perspective, but I never sensed any grumbling or resentment).

      2. tcookson

        I’ve seen a few people, though, who appeared to be superstars for about five months or so, but they couldn’t maintain that level of performance for the long term. So some duration at the job sometimes reveals the person’s true level of performance.

    3. Joey

      Enduring a job? Your making it sound like work is so terrible that merely not quitting is an exceptional feat. That’s the kind of attitude that perpetuates mediocrity at best.

      Personally, I give much more weight to actual performance. Five months is a pretty short time, but it’s very possible that its enough time to be reasonably confident in her abilities and potential.

      1. Anonymous

        I think we’ve seen from a lot of the posts here that some jobs simply are endured until you can either find something better or finally get that promotion. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t try to do good work while one is “enduring.”

        1. Joey

          Agreed, but enduring isn’t reason in and of itself to promote. Enduring is the minimum standard. Just because you’ve endured longer doesn’t mean you’ve done better. It just means you’ve endured longer no more no less.

          1. thenoiseinspace

            I’m going to disagree with this. There are some jobs with such a high burnout rate that “enduring” them for even six months is rare. I have a friend who works at mental home for special needs children and teens with violent tenancies. His job is to restrain people when they start getting violent so they don’t hurt themselves or others. Most people last a single semester, max, and he’s been there for a year and a half. I think (though I am not sure) he has been promoted, and that’s based on the fact that he has endured it for longer than anyone else. I would challenge you to see the work he has to do and NOT consider staying for a year and a half “an exceptional feat.”

      2. Arlo

        Agreed that performance should trump all, but let us not forget that there really are some jobs (actually, more than some, let’s make that many) so bad that making it to the end of the workday is indeed an exceptional feat.

  14. Stacie

    #3 Just don’t do what my coworker did and write a 15 (yes seriously, 15) page rebuttal to her review. It was so absurd that it hurt her way more than helped her, and cemented some of the criticisms in the review. And basically said it was all the supervisor’s fault. I don’t think she’s on a PIP yet, but she’s about 1 step away.

  15. Del

    #1 – Promotions definitely shouldn’t be based on seniority, as Alison says… but on the other hand, is five months really long enough for her to be ready for the promotion? I don’t know exactly what either your individual contributor or management positions entail, of course, but in my department, 5 months would not even be fully trained, let alone ready to advise others on what they should do in unusual situations, let alone ready to take charge over others.

    While you certainly shouldn’t promote the others over her just because they’ve been there longer, I think you should take a really long and hard look at the idea of promoting her this quickly, and be really, thoroughly sure that she has not only the energy but the knowledge, grounding, and breadth of experience the positi0n needs.

  16. Barbara in Swampeast

    #1 – has management addressed the shirking and attitudes that make the other people less than ideal? Probably not and the senior employees probably have no idea that there is anything wrong with their attitudes and work habits. If the newer person is promoted it will probably get worse and if she finally addresses the issues she will be considered the evil supervisor because everything was ok before she became the supervisor.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This is a really good point. The managers would be doing the new employee no favors by promoting her without first dealing with the other employees’ performance.

      1. Joey

        That would be ideal but we know frequently the message is “congrats. Here’s a problem for you to fix.”

  17. Allison

    #1 My old company didn’t so much have people apply for promotions as they just appointed people to lead and management positions as they saw fit. That said, when it looked like someone with less seniority was being groomed to be promoted over me, I was worried that I wasn’t progressing as much as I should be, and I wish my manager addressed those concerns rather than dismiss them. I wasn’t so much jealous of her as I was concerned with my own development.

    #5 Even if the flirtation is one-sided, I’d still feel uncomfortable with it and ask her to stop. He might not be cheating, but she’s showing a blatant disregard and disrespect for the relationship he’s in.

    1. TL

      #5 – I don’t think the girlfriend really has a leg to stand on when it comes to talking to the accountant. She can ask her boyfriend to talk to her but that’s probably the limit of what she can realistically do.

      1. fposte

        Seconded. That’s a huge overstep–it’s in no way appropriate for the boss’s girlfriend to be telling his employees how to act.

      2. Jamie

        Absolutely – if there’s a problem, he’s her problem – not her.

        If my husband cheated on me I can’t imagine giving a crap about whomever she would be…she’s not by whom I’d feel betrayed. My anger would be have laser focus and be all on him.

  18. Brett

    #1 There are reasons that promotion is considered a factor too. Having someone who has been with the company only 5 months get promoted over team members, and with a newly created position, looks very much like someone was hired from the outside to take that position and avoid giving it to anyone on the team.

    That results in people leaving. In particular, your best people who would have won that promotion if the new person was not in the picture will be the ones most likely to leave. Your low performers will stay.

    And even for the ones who stay, that puts the new manager into a difficult situation where they have to manage employees who have more reason to resent her promotion. Even the smallest slip up is going to be magnified. This happens with promotions anyway, but even more so when promotions do not consider seniority.

    1. Joey

      Unfortunately that happens( and I’ve seen it happen multiple times) But, it would be a bigger mistake to promote someone who wasn’t the best candidate.

      And if an existing employee shows hes resentful that’s affirmation that he probably doesn’t generally handle rejection well. And its a sign that he doesn’t respect my decision. That’s fine, but maybe it is time to move on.

      The person who does it right will accept the decision gracefully and look for ways he can make himself a better candidate( I’ve seen this too. This might mean he leaves for a promotion or has a better shot at an internal promotion next time. When this person leaves this is the one I’m sad to see go (although I’m happy for him.)

      1. Brett

        Though this is team that apparently has never had a promotion over years of existence. I think it would be reasonable in that situation to assume that there will not be a “next time” for internal promotion.

  19. Katie the Fed

    “A very wealthy oil man” – sounds like a character on Dallas. I’m so curious why OP#5 specified that.

      1. Chinook

        Living in a city where there are people with oil money, I see it relevant because a) it makes it sound like the accountant may be interested in him for his money b) oil money, atleast here, is often “new money” and the people with it aren’t necessarily used to people likin g the just for their money (I.e. They grew up working class and never had to worry about gold diggers). That being said, the accountant’s behaviour is inappropriate because she should have a professional relationship with her clients and this could be deemed a problem by her accreditation board (if she has a designation). If she was just some Jane off the street, it would only be a problem if the man told her no and she contined (which would make her stalkerish), but the fact that she has care of his books and taxes means she could negatively, and illegally, affect him if he he flat out rejects her (think a misplaced decimal or an “accidental” typo. This may be why he is reluctant to reject her advances.

      2. PoohBear McGriddles

        I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messing with no broke [radio edit]. I can understand the house buying, as long as they’re talking building construction or mortgage rates and not picking out curtains together. The “flirty” V-Day card is kinda weird and most likely inappropriate. Sounds like she’s pretty fond of this guy she only sees maybe once a month.
        What is a semi-adult child, by the way? Is that a new word for teenager, or a 20-something who lives in his parents’ basement and plays X-box all day?

        1. Nichole

          I found that term interesting too, and took it to be a blend of those things-aged about 18-23, living at home and depends on parents emotionally and/or financially, but not in need of supervision per se. I wonder if the change in phase of life of having a child on the cusp of leaving the house has this woman more interested in making connections outside the home, and she’s just chosen an inappropriate way to express that? That’s pure speculation of course, but changes in one’s lifestyle can lead to some awkward interactions as they adjust.

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      That was a bit odd. I wondered if it would come back to seem relevant, but I’m not sure it did?

      1. AnonHR

        I never saw that post and the link is kind of making my day…

        “There will be no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity, or celebrations of any kind within the office.”

      2. Jamie

        Any reference to Tiger Mike always makes my day.

        And the thought of anyone pursuing Tiger Mike is just cracking me up.

        1. De Minimis

          “There will be no Valentines or asking for house advice while you are work. Conduct your personal business on your personal time, not mine. This includes asking me for advice. If you wish to speak with me, schedule vacation time and make an appointment.”

    2. Fee

      I did like that but actually the bit that cracked me up was “She also sends him notes on the weekends about the weather, etc.”

      Is OP in a relationship with a wealthy oil man in the 19th century?

    3. Anonie

      Have to say I thought the same thing…….
      Also I am in California and I have heard of bosses day it is on Calendars and most stores including the grocery stores have cards and ballons in the front of the store so you can miss them.

  20. Anonymous

    #1: I believe seniority should only involve perks – getting more vacation time, more sick days, etc. I don’t believe it should involve issues such as more pay, more hours, and promotions. That’s all something unions typically do. And I say this as unwilling union member; I am only in one because I live and work in a non right-to-work state. Because of seniority in complete effect, my hours can easily be given to my coworker if she needs more hours, and I can’t negotiate my pay because of a contract. I’m saying this because my coworker really loves to shove her seniority in everyone’s faces, and no matter how much I try to fight back, it is like hitting a brick wall. I can’t stand the lack of growth potential this job really has!

    There are some people who are not union and still try to hold true to that whole seniority thing, but they usually pull rank when it comes to perks (like who gets the choice of vacation time first). My mother, who was non-union, had seniority at one point in her career, but she never pulled rank.

    1. Anonymous

      I totally agree, and you have my sympathies, Anon. Unions have taken seniority to a bad place, IMO. People should be promoted for the same reasons you are hired in the first place, because the person doing the hiring or promoting believes you would be the best at the job, not because you managed to stick it out the longest.

    2. LCL

      Your hours problem isn’t specifically a union problem. Your problem is your group has a lousy labor agreement. I work for a place that is strongly union, and what you describe re your hours being given away CAN’T happen at my company. I have worked for two other union shops, and they wouldn’t have allowed higher seniority workers to take your hours, either.

      The way to get this changed is to talk to your coworkers, then talk to your union steward. Labor agreements can always be renegotiated, individual business unit needs can always be brought to the union and addressed separately.

  21. OP #3

    Thanks for all of the practical advice. I knew I had to tell him kindly that he could not send those comments but I wasn’t sure what to tell him to say instead. He took my advice surprisingly well. Although he is still really angry, after talking to a couple of people in his field whose opinion he values, he is trying to craft a response that is more professional. He has yet to meet with HR but he is being proactive and applying to other jobs. I think although this is painful, in the end he will be happier somewhere else. He got put in his current position after a reorganization and his boss wants him to immediately be up to speed. My boyfriend asked for additional training but his boss told him no. So I can understand his frustration (I would find it hard to be polite to this guy if I ever ran into him!)

    1. Artemesia

      Glad this worked. What people don’t realize is that sending a letter like this will simply reinforce the conviction that the boss made a good call. Unprofessional behavior proves the bad review.

  22. Lorriane

    #3 My husband was put on a PIP after his manager gave him a mediocre (at best) review which followed a verbal argument with a coworker (who was eventually fired) after she twisted a situation to get several staff in trouble for breaking policy (healthcare, so it was a fairly big deal). My husband was the only one who was candid about what happened, and he ended up being the only one who got a bad review and was put on a 6 month PIP. He wrote a sort of rebuttal to the whole thing, and it too was very emotional and inappropriate in its first draft. But after he calmed down and I asked him to write out the facts that he could prove or had documentation on, the second draft was much better. In fact, the HR director got involved as well as his boss’s boss, and the PIP was considered complete after only 2 months. His review was also updated and he got a slightly improved score.

    Your boyfriend needs to stick to the facts that he can prove and keep emotion out of it as much as possible. If his boss isn’t receptive to discussing anything, he could follow up with HR and find out if the company has a formal process or policy for this type of situation.

  23. RMJ

    #5, what you are really asking for is relationship advice. What this lady is doing rubs you the wrong way because you are jealous! Admit it! You should probably have a conversation with your boyfriend about it.

    1. thenoiseinspace

      It’s also totally inappropriate. Sending a Valentine to your boss? Unless it’s an elementary-school style Valentine consisting of a picture of a popular tv character, a bad pun and a lollipop given to everyone in the office, it’s…odd, at the very least.

      1. RMJ

        Inappropriate and childish but… so not her business. Why do you think she asked this question? Is she in a managerial position over this woman? Absolutely not. Is this employee engaging in behavior that would actually harm her oil tycoon’s business? Absolutely not, the employee is a high performer who happens to be flirtatious. IMHO, her interest is merely personal.

        1. Rose

          Just because you don’t manage someone professionally doesn’t mean nothing they do is “your business.” It’s obvious that she’s bothered for personal reasons, not because she’s afraid this is going to effect profit margins in some way. She’s not claiming to be worried about how the business is doing. You can worry about if something is work appropriate without it being for business reasons.

      2. Katie the Fed

        It’s totally inappropriate, but it’s his issue to deal with if he wants to. It sounds like he doesn’t, at least not yet.
        I’d ignore it if I were OP.

      3. TL

        Aw, I love those stupid Valentine’s card and I still give them out some years :)
        Generally with chocolate dipped strawberries, if I can.

          1. TL

            Nothing says “I’m celebrating a cheesy holiday awesomely” like a Scooby-Doo card proclaiming affection with an awful pun.
            But appropriate for anyone.

            The Hallmark route, with flowery words and overly intimate puns? I don’t think I could ever buy such a card.

    2. monologue

      I think the question OP5 was asking AAM is, “is this woman’s conduct unprofessional?” This gives her information that will help her proceed with what is, yes, a relationship issue.

  24. kelly

    #1. I think it’s wonderful that your company is recognizing that new talent deserves a chance to advance their career. That being said, maybe the newish person isn’t thinking about a promotion after less than 6 months. More than likely, they are focused on doing their best to be kept on permanently at the end of their probationary period, which can be anywhere from 6 months to a year after the hiring date depending on the company. Does the OP’s company have either a management training or mentoring program that they could ask the person that they would like to be a part of? I see that OP mentioned that the person was getting extra work assignments because of the good work they were doing. Keep doing that and see if the person does the same high quality of work.

    If the higher ups are serious about promoting another person to a supervisory role, advertise the job to all current employees who meet eligibility requirements. Like others have said, make the process a fair and open one where everyone who applies has a chance. Don’t give the job to one person by default just because they are next in line for a promotion or they may threaten to leave if they don’t get the promotion. Give it to the person who demonstrates the best qualities needed for the job.

    Most of us have been in positions where you don’t understand how so and so got a promotion because of their prior work history. It is demoralizing to work under someone who gets the promotion just because management is too lazy to look beyond who is next in line and you are stuck with a lousy and imperious supervisor. I think that companies should require at least a year long probationary period for people newly promoted to a management role. That way if they get too arrogant towards their former peers, it’s easier to correct them before it’s too late.

  25. thenoiseinspace

    OP 2 – As pessimistic as this is, my rule is that if you’re promised something that will happen “soon” or “a few months” after you start, assume it’s not going to actually happen. In my experience, it never pans out. I’d move forward assuming things aren’t going to change. If they do, then great, but if not, at least it won’t be a surprise.

    If you keep waiting for your manager to make a change and only drop a few gentle reminders, you could very easily find that six months or a year from now, you’re still in the same position and that nothing has changed. From the sound of it, this just isn’t a priority for your manager – they need people round-the-clock and they’ve got it. To change your schedule would (I’m assuming, though I might be wrong) mean hiring a new person for the night shift, and that might be difficult to find. Hopefully Alison’s advice will help remind your manager that, at least for you, there is a clock ticking on your time there.

    That said, is it possible that your manager HAS started the hiring process/schedule-changing paperwork, and just hasn’t told you about it? Saying “I’m working on it” could very well mean just that – she’s working on it and is getting caught up with paperwork/HR/etc. Sometimes those are very long processes.

    1. Adam V

      > From the sound of it, this just isn’t a priority for your manager – they need people round-the-clock and they’ve got it. To change your schedule would (I’m assuming, though I might be wrong) mean hiring a new person for the night shift, and that might be difficult to find.

      But at this point, you’ve got a frustrated night-shift person who’s going to look elsewhere anyway, and then you’ll have to hire and train two new people. At least if you allow them to switch, it fills one role you’d otherwise have to hire and train.

      When you hire someone for an unattractive role, and you tell them that better roles will be available, don’t expect them to be happy that it’s easier for *you* to keep them there because it’s hard to replace them.

      1. LCL

        OP, ask your manager to sit and explain to you what has to happen before you can be moved to dayshift. It’s possible hiring has started, it’s more than likely what Adam V said is the truth. It looks like you don’t have quite enough information to make your best decision, it is the manager’s responsibility to give you this information. The fact she hasn’t told you anything points toward she has no intent of hiring unless you quit.

    2. ScaredyCat

      I actually quit my past job over something similar. Wanted to be assigned to a different project (after 3+ years), and kept getting non-committal answers (nothing as specific as “soon”). I even had my request in writing.

      So when I finally find a new job and go to resign, everyone is telling me that they had no idea. I ask them to look for a specific e-mail (from 3 months prior), which they find and then “well… we didn’t think you meant that”. Meaning, I didn’t threaten them with leaving.

      That said, I do feel bad about it, because I did like a lot of aspects of the job. But as an avid AAM fan, I don’t much fancy “blackmailing” my employers.

      1. Ruffingit

        It’s not a smart thing to do anyway because the blackmail will almost always blow up in your face. AAM’s “why you shouldn’t accept a counteroffer posts” pretty much prove that. Generally speaking, at least in the US, employees have very little to no leverage. If you threaten to quit, a lot of employers will say “there’s the door.”

        1. some1

          Or if they don’t, their assumption is you have no better options and they can treat you however they wish.

  26. Jamie

    Yeah, emotional is not the way to go here. Point out to your boyfriend that the response he wrote might feel satisfying, but it’s not as likely to get him the outcome he wants, and the outcome is the most important thing here.

    Yes, those kind of responses are satisfying. I’ve written more than one scathing, ranting, histrionic resignation letter – a couple over 6 pages – because it was so cathartic to get the “and let me tell you another thing…” out of my head and onto paper.

    And it only works with paper and pen – I don’t get the same release typing.

    Some people keep a journal – I write hate letters to people who piss me off that they will never read.

    But I only write them at home (once in my car at lunch) and they are destroyed at home. Never written or left where they would burn my bridges. When it comes to professional correspondence the angrier I am the more dispassionate and unemotional my verbiage.

    So I think it’s good the OP’s bf wrote the response…for himself. Now he needs to take it and distill the facts and that’s his dispassionate response.

    1. TL

      I think a published book of hate letters would be infinitely more amusing than a published journal. Please become famous (and stop burning them) so we can one day read them!

      1. Jamie

        Ha – perhaps under a pen name, to protect the idiotic (and keep me from being sued.)

        Off topic, I over heard people talking today about wishing they were famous – just joking around, but there are a lot of people who would love that. Not to be all JD Salinger, but too many people talk to me now…I long for a society where there is complete anonymity. (Although I’d settle for an hour where people weren’t at my office door needing something.)

        1. fposte

          How dreary to be somebody!
          How public like a frog
          To tell one’s name the livelong day
          To an admiring bog!
          –E. Dickinson

    2. Elizabeth West

      I don’t use paper; what if I become famous and I missed one, and then I die and someone finds it?

      But you have to be careful with digital stuff too. I learned the hard way not to write the whine actually IN a message box. It’s far too easy to hit Send and then you’re screwed. :{ Write it in Notepad instead.

  27. Matthew Soffen

    #1 As someone who’s been on the “losing” end of a promotion dog and pony show, If they have already made up their minds about who is going to get the promotion they shouldn’t lie to people (and lets face it, If they’ve already made their decision, they’re NOT going to change it due to interviewing).

    I think its actually 10x worse when they “play” the game that the process is “open” and they’re going to consider all applicants equally.

    In 4 of 5 interviews, No matter how well I did, I had known who was going to actually get the promotion (in each time it was a “favorite” of the manager).

    1. Judy

      I remember once my husband was on a business trip with the “Teapot Spout manager”, his manager. The manager told my husband that he was moving to a new role, and that Myron was going to be the new “Teapot Spout manager”. The role showed up on the internal job board (somewhat surprisingly) a few weeks later. Myron, my husband and two others interviewed. Myron was selected.

    2. Ruffingit

      UGH yeah, that really stinks. It makes it hard to even bother prepping for the interview because you’re thinking “What’s the point?” It’s a show of total disrespect in my view to interview someone who has no chance at all of getting the position. Don’t waste my time is my motto. If you already know who you want, put them in the position and move on.

      I especially dislike this when employers do this to candidates who are unemployed, traveling to the interview, etc. They can’t afford this nonsense, literally. Have some respect.

  28. Jamie

    I feel bad, but I’m dying over #5.

    No, it is not appropriate to give your boss a valentine or tell him that you love him.

    I must be a business savant because I totally knew that!

    I am in a relationship with a very wealthy oil man.

    My husband isn’t even a little wealthy, nor is he an oil man, but he did just make an appointment with our accountant to do our taxes. Hmmm.

    He has a relationship with her that precedes our marriage by decades as she’s a friend of his mom and has known him since he was a toddler.

    She’s always asking him personal non accounting questions like “how is your family?” and “Do you have any new pics of the kids? They are so grown up now, I remember when they were little! Such a beautiful family”

    Non of those inquiries or statements are GAAP required. Maybe I’ll go with him to this appointment so she knows I’m on to her using feminine wiles on my man.

    All kidding aside, in the OPs situation I would be very not happy because I would have expected my boyfriend to make it clear, in no uncertain terms while being polite and professional, at the first inappropriate instance that it was not to be tolerated. Flowers, cards, I love you….how does this happen more than once? I don’t care how good she is at her job, she isn’t maintaining professional behavior or boundaries and I don’t know why this wasn’t addressed immediately and decisively.

    I wouldn’t be pissed at my husband if it happened once – but the second time I’d want to know what was said before and if he was clear why she’s allowed to continue in her job when she’s violating norms like this. I’d have issues with this.

    1. Ruffingit

      I agree with you. As I posted upthread, I think the OP’s boyfriend doesn’t know how to handle this so he’s just not. But, something else that comes to mind too is if she’s violating professional norms in this way, might she also be violating other professional norms with clients, etc? If so, that could create some major trouble for OP’s boyfriend business wise. I hate to make the leap there unfairly, but whenever someone is doing something that is so basically wrong, it makes me wonder if they are carrying over that behavior in places where it could really hurt the business.

      1. Jamie

        I think I’m extra wary of intent because she’s an accountant.

        Stereotyping maybe, but I’ve known a lot of accountants in my day and they tend to me some of the most professional and discrete people in the world. The default for most accountants is need to know – so her blowing off the normal boundaries if not a deliberate attempt at seduction, a really problematic trait in someone who has confidential information.

        She either knows what she’s doing and needs to knock it off, or she doesn’t and he needs to make sure this trait of sharing inappropriately isn’t compromising his business.

        1. tcookson

          She either knows what she’s doing and needs to knock it off, or she doesn’t and he needs to make sure this trait of sharing inappropriately isn’t compromising his business.

          I think she knows what she’s doing and doesn’t intend to stop (or doesn’t know any other way to operate around men). You should see our accountant — not that it’s an accountant thing — and how she plays up her feminine wiles on men all the time. Sometimes I don’t think she knows she’s doing it, and sometimes I think she knows and is just crazy like a fox. She happens to be from Dallas (hello, wealthy oil men), and she plays up the southern belle thing to the hilt.

          *nothing against accountants or most women from Dallas* :-)

  29. Sadsack

    Am I the only one who thinks it is absolutely crazy and unacceptable that the boyfriend’s accountant, whom he sees about once per month, sends him Valentines and tells him she loves him? No way I would be cool with that, just no way. He should tell this person that he values her as an employee and it is inappropriate and unprofessional for him to accept cards/gifts and terms of endearment from her. She has to stop. OP should be able to tell her boyfriend that these shows of affection worry her. How does the accountant act when he is visiting in person? OP has no idea. I would be asking the boyfriend what he would do if it gets to the point where the accountant feels like she should make other overtures; basically, what if she throws herself at him when he visits? How would boyfriend respond to that? If he doesn’t want to end up in that awkward situation, he needs to establish some boundaries with the accountant. Guess what, there are other accountants out there. You don’t just keep one around who you are having problems with because you don’t want to be hassled finding another one.

  30. MR

    For No. 5, with your boyfriend being a wealthy oil man, you have to expect that women will be throwing themselves at him. It’s just a reality of the situation. Once you accept that, things may go better for you.

  31. Grace

    I think it depends on the wealthy person and what kind of image that they want to project. I work in law and have spent years working in high-end estate planning with ultra-wealthy clients, many of them founders of famous companies. Many of those clients are low-key in their dress, behavior, etc. and you couldn’t tell them apart from a math teacher.

    1. Ruffingit

      That’s the premise behind The Millionaire Next Door. A lot of these people are millionaires because they aren’t flashy and spending tons of money on “the look.” They are conservative with their money and they don’t call attention to themselves. I’m nowhere near a millionaire, but I am a low-key jeans and T-shirt type so I always like to work with people who are too. All for being professional when you have to be, but in general I like low key.

  32. Jazzy Red

    Alison said: Bosses Day is a recently made-up fake holiday that exists to sell cards.

    OK, one more time – The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) began Bosses Day more than 40 years ago to express appreciation for our bosses who treated us as real partners in business. It was DECADES (those are 10 year spans) before Hallmark started making cards to cash in on this day.

    If you like your boss, and your boss doesn’t treat you like a servant, there’s nothing wrong with giving your boss a card every October.

    1. Anon for this

      Hmm . . . so that’s why our local chapter of the IAAP hosts an annual bosses day luncheon. Members can bring their bosses for free, and non-members can register for $15/person. The former dean’s assistant and I used to take our bosses to it together, and it was a lot of fun.

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