convincing a company to let me work long-distance, should I explain that I took six months off due to stress, and more

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

1. Convincing a company to let me work long-distance

I applied to a job based at the other side of the country (I live in Canada). The job posting specified that for the right candidate, they’d be willing to have someone work long distance, which is why I applied. During my second interview, they asked if I’d be willing to relocate to their city. I explained that I’d rather stay put but wouldn’t want this to affect their final decision. They explained that they do prefer having someone in their offices.

I’ve moved around all over the world for the past 10 years and finally am ready to have a base, in my current city. How do I make them understand this? Can I use their original job ad as a negotiation tool?

Well, you can’t really “make” them understand it. You can explain where you’re coming from and see if they’re willing to hire you in your current location, and you can explain what you’d do to make a long-distance employment work smoothly with a minimum of inconvenience for them. From there, it’s up to them to decide if it’s worth it to them or not. And keep in mind that while they might be willing to have a telecommuter in very specific circumstances, that can mean that the bar is much higher for a telecommuting candidate (i.e., they’d let a perfect unicorn of a candidate telecommute, but otherwise they might want to hire locally).

Also, it’s not necessarily in your best interests to push them into allowing it if they’re not comfortable with it on their own, because that increases the chances that they’ll decide down the road that the arrangement isn’t right for them.

2. Should I explain that I took six months off due to stress?

I have been a team leader/trainee manager for a little over three years, and on the whole I became fairly good at it and enjoyed many aspects of the job. However, a combination of the working environment and company policy was not healthy, and over those three years the stress mounted up to having a major impact on my health — I was depressed, suffering panic attacks, and physically run down. Six months ago, I decided to step down from the management team, relinquish responsibilities, and work part-time whilst looking after my mental health.

Now I feel like I’m gaining perspective on my career again and want to go back to a management position elsewhere, but my confidence has taken a blow. I also don’t know the best way in which to explain this six-month break to potential new employers, as no doubt future interviewers would ask. Should I be open, and tell them how my mental health was affected by a workplace with a negative culture? If so, how do I convince future employers that I will be able to handle similar pressures in the future? I believe I could do so and be an effective leader, but my confidence is not what it once was.

Nooooo, do not do that. It will raise too many questions. No matter how warranted your reaction to your previous office, prospective employers will wonder if your reaction was more about you than the workplace, and whether you won’t be able to handle stress or occasional dysfunction somewhere new. Instead, say that you were dealing with some health issues that have since been resolved (which is true). There’s no need for any more detail than that.

3. I’m pregnant and might need to avoid a coworker’s radiation treatment

I am 6 weeks pregnant and would prefer to keep it a secret. However, a coworker of mine is about to begin undergoing cancer treatment. She will be off work for a period of time, but I have heard this will involve an “implant” for radiology treatment. I do not know what type of implant (according to the internet, there’s a difference) and if she will have this in while she’s at work before the procedure, or not. If so, I believe there would be some restriction on my proximity to her while I am pregnant and her implant is active. How do I handle this? Should I approach the employee directly to try and ask the details of her treatment, so I can discuss with my doctor? Should I explain my concerns to my supervisor and ask her to do it on my behalf? All of this would involve telling someone I’m expecting sooner than I would like to, but in this situation it’s probably inevitable. Of course, I feel bad for my coworker, and awkward having to do this as we are not close, but I think my concern is valid. Any suggestions?

I’d start by asking your doctor about this, because it’s possible that you’ll hear that there’s not going to be any medical impact on you (although I do see from a quick Internet search that some cancer patients with specific types of radiation implants are advised to keep away from pregnant women). But if your doctor does think it’s something to be concerned about, then I think you’ll have no alternative other than disclosing your pregnancy earlier than you wanted to someone — either to your coworker herself, if you don’t sit near her and can simply work this out discreetly with her, or to your manager and/or HR if you need to move where you’re seated.

4. I’m a nanny and my employer is illegally paying me through their company payroll

In May, I started working as a nanny for a family that owns a business. They put me on their company payroll. I thought nothing of it, and they told me that is what they have always done with their nannies. Recently I have found out that it is illegal to pay a household employee with your company payroll. I am not sure what to do. I am afraid that if I go to them with this information they will fire me. Am I at risk with getting in trouble with the IRS? Please help, I am unsure where to go from here.

It’s your employer who would face penalties from the IRS, not you. However, if you’re getting health insurance through their company, that could potentially put you at risk — if you filed a major insurance claim, the insurance company could end up refusing payment on the grounds that you’re not truly an employee of the company and therefore not legitimately covered by its health plan.

Your employer probably doesn’t realize that they can’t legally pay you through their company payroll; they probably simply assumed that was an easier way to do it. You could bring it to their attention by saying something like, “I recently read that the IRS doesn’t allow nannies to be paid through a business payroll, since they’ve ruled that household employees aren’t direct contributors to the success of the business and so the business can’t take tax deductions for their wages. I was surprised to read it, and figured you probably didn’t realize either.”

5. Supervisor wants morale surveys turned in directly to her

Everyone in my department has just had a performance review within the last week. One of my coworkers who relationship with our supervisor has become quite tense over the past few weeks quit because our supervisor had nothing but disparaging remarks to make about her.

When I went to work the other day, I found our supervisor had placed a questionnaire in every department employee’s box. Attached was a note typed on the director’s letterhead asking for feedback regarding morale. At the bottom of the page was a handwritten note from our supervisor asking that completed questionnaires be placed in her box. Shouldn’t these go to someone in human resources or to her supervisor? Although we do not have to sign our names, it seems that placing them in her box removes any anonymity, especially since there are are only a few of us and several do not work full time (meaning she can most likely determine who returned a questionnaire to her based on the day and time it was turned in).

Yep, that’s silly. I’d mention it to the director or HR and ask if they can intervene and make it clear to the supervisor that it’s not okay to do it this way — that it will inhibit candor and do the exact opposite of helping morale.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. MW*

    #4– I’m wondering if it would make a difference if the business isn’t incorporated, and they’re filing business taxes on a Schedule C?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the issue is that businesses are allowed to write off some or all of the cost of employee salaries, but individual household employers can’t do that — so if you paid the nanny through your business, you’d be getting a tax write-off that you’re not entitled to.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        There is a big difference between costs a business pay, accounting profit and taxable income, all three could be a different figure. In theory if the accounting treatment of the nanny’s wages was corrected there wouldn’t be an issue. I’m in the UK so the rest if this post might or might not apply to the US.

        It is not uncommon for owners of smaller business especially partnerships to process personal expenses through the business, as they do not take a salary each month but take a portion of the expected profits as drawings. At the end of the tax year if the personal expenses are added to the owners salary so they pay tax on the value of the goods and service they have received and do NOT claim it as a business expense, then there’s no need for any one to worry, there’s not enough information in the post to know what’s going on.

        However if the accounting treatment is wrong that’s where the authorities will take a interest in the the accidental or intentional misstatement and apply interest and penalties as appropriate.

        If I was in the op’s situation I’d be tempted to call the accounts department and speak to the accountant (someone like a CPA or other professionally qualified person) and ask them if the situation will have a negative effect on you in anyway. If the accounting treatment is wrong they will then have a professional obligation to correct any error in the accounts and treat the expense in the right way and if the accountant is at all discreet they can just pass it off as coming to light in a route review of the business accounts and calm the owner down by telling them it’s better they found it down than having the IRS find it during an audit.

      2. annon*

        There are a number of ways to pay a nanny: payroll service, through the company or 1099.
        Our tax accountant, who is our payroll company encourages paying our nanny through our business payroll. The nanny is a legitimate employee of the business. I cannot vouch for anyone else, but we pay all the taxes (state, fed, SSI, unemployment), offer health insurance, retirement, vacation and pay workers comp on the “nanny”.
        Many past nannies appreciate not having to file and pay their own taxes (as a 1099 independent contractor). I have had nannies refuse to work for me because it is not “under the table”.
        What the business and their accountant write off on their taxes is their business. But, if taxes are being paid on your behalf and you don’t end up with a 1099 at years end. I would think you should be happy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t know your personal situation, obviously, but the IRS says that nannies are NOT employees of a business; they’re household employees.

          1. annon*

            I just checked and you are correct. Color me bright red!
            I still maintain that the OP should be very happy the taxes are paid on her bahalf instead of receiving a 1099 in January.

          2. Davey1983*

            I happen to be a tax accountant, you are correct– nannies are not employees of the business. It is illegal for the business to deduct (for tax at least) the expenses.

            This type of situation is common. However, for tax purposes at least, the business might not actually be doing anything wrong.

            Businesses that are incorporated (or are partnerships) can “M-3” the salary of the nanny off the return– which means any expenses associated with the Nanny are not deducted for tax purposes. Then, the corporation treats the expenses paid for the Nanny as dividends/wages/distribution (whatever is appropriate for the situation) to the individual who had the nanny.

            I would still mention something to the owners, but they may be doing what I described above. If so, the owners wouldn’t have much to worry about with the IRS on this issue.

    2. CTO*

      There are payroll services specifically for nannies and household employees. Breedlove is one; their website might have helpful resources for both the OP and her employer.

      I have sympathy for the OP–I know that many nannies and similar employees are paid in illegal ways, and nannies feel they have no choice but to look the other way. Some household employers break the rules intentionally, and others unintentionally. It can be a complicated area for employers to understand.

      At least you’re probably in better shape than if you were being paid completely off the books. Your income taxes, FICA, etc. are being withheld, which offers some protection at both tax time and retirement time.

      1. Sunflower*

        That’s what I was thinking. Most of my friends who are nannies receive their salaries as tax-free, personal checks from their employers.

        1. Davey1983*

          Sunflower– just to clarify, receiving income via a personal check does not make it tax free. It just means the responsibility to pay FICA, state, and federal taxes is all on the employee.

  2. quix*

    #5 – Would it make more sense to go to the director than to HR, since apparently that’s the person who’s behind the survey the manager is mishandling?

  3. A Dispatcher*

    #5- if for some reason no one decides to step in and override this method of turning the surveys in, could one employee collect all the surveys (in a folder or envelope of some sort so they are not out in.the open/read by other employees) and then turn them all in at the same time. Absolutely not the best solution but it may help with anonymity. As would typing the answers if possible.

    1. CC*

      In a small group, you can often tell who wrote what by their phrasing and word choice even if you take away the handwriting cue.

      I had to do a 360 review one year (I am not management, so it was all peer and supervisor review) and even though it was done electronically, the names were removed, and the answers to the questions put in a random order, it was painfully obvious who wrote what.

      1. Cassie*

        Our TPTB recently collected some anonymous feedback from staff (low morale was one of the big problems) – anyway, some of the coworkers commented about how they had to “dumb” down their writing or write in a different style so they wouldn’t be found out.

        Some coworkers opted not to give feedback because they fear retaliation. Maybe not to the point where they would get fired, but just get the cold shoulder from the mean-girl manager.

  4. German Chick*

    OP#1, would you be willing to agree to other arrangements, e.g.:
    1) work 6 months at the actual office , then switch to long-distance
    2) work 1 week per month at the office, then 3 weeks from home?
    Personally, I can see why a company would not want an employee whom they don’t know at all to work 100% long-distance. This, it might be worth to discuss other options with them.

  5. anon*

    #5 – My company did a random anonymous employee satisfaction survey last year. HR personally handed out the surveys to the employees who had been randomly chosen. To make it even more anonymous, HR had printed the name of each employee on the envelope containing the survey. Shockingly not too many surveys were completed and mailed back. HR was actually puzzled by these results.

    1. Lanya*

      Yeah…we did one of those employee surveys once at OldJob, in a company of 10 people. It was mandatory to turn them in, and then we all had to sit around a table a few days later, while the CEO read each of the responses out loud and then “addressed” every one of the negative responses by telling the “anonymous” writer how they were wrong in their assessment. The next year, nobody turned in the mandatory surveys and management couldn’t understand why.

      1. Rin*

        Reminds me of a Scrubs episode where Elliot and Carla fill out an anonymous survey, ripping apart Dr. Kelso, only to have him inform them that the anonymous surveys were given out one at a time, so he could address the writers’ “concerns” individually.

  6. Legal jobs*

    1. I’ve interviewed recently for a telecommute position. Even with the company promoting the role, they seemed to be a biased against it. I not sure why. 90 percent of the work would be via individual calls or email. The meetings part seemed to be an issue that could be handled by conference call bc there were no visual presentations outside of reports thst I could only read before the meetings.

    In short, I think it will be difficult to convince a company to allow telecommuting. Despite the increasingly automated office place and work anytime culture (e.g., using company cell so they can reach me at nights and on weekends) .

    I think the real issue is that the employer wants to feel in control, and. Telecommute raises questions about that control even when the employer has offered the option.

    2. Re nanny, another issue is fraud

    But this is not my area of law so I am not sure who would be liable or the risks

    1. fposte*

      Can you talk about what kind of fraud it would be? (Aside from the tax and insurance stuff that we’ve discussed, of course.) Would it matter if it were a privately held company? I’m wondering who would count as the victim in that case.

      1. Jamie*

        Fraud matters in a privately held company in part because of bank loans. Many banks require audits from regulated external parties certifying the integrity of the accounting practices. If you have issues with a financial audit – even for something like this – you risk the bank calling the loans.

        If you are completely independent and don’t ever require the use of bank loans even for multimillion dollar purchases to offset costs for the interest – I don’t know how much it matters.

        But even something as simple as over or understating inventory by an non-material amount can throw financial standing in jeopardy.

        The nanny issue would definitely throw the fraud flags because of insurance and IRS, but also the payroll and benefit liabilities hitting the balance sheet so it’s misrepresenting the actual financial situation.

          1. fposte*

            Okay, this makes sense–basically, if there’s any external interest, this won’t pass the audit/sniff test.

            1. Jamie*

              Correct. And I have pretty extensive experience with these kind of audits and the only way it’s not being brought to light is if people actively lie.

              Although my suspicion has always been that our auditors aren’t so much human as some kind of life form created with the the highest of unquestionable ethics and an inexhaustible fascination with the smallest of details. Cloaked in the persona of really nice and brilliant accountants.

              1. De Minimis*

                It’s funny, though…I had a totally different idea of what auditors did before I actually starting studying accounting. So much of it involves making reasonable estimates. I used to think they went in and looked at everything, and they just can’t unless it’s a very small company or organization.

                1. Jamie*

                  Oh sure – unless you are a tiny organization what they are looking at is always a control sample as there aren’t enough hours in the year to look at everything.

                  But the big questions about whether you’re aware of anyone committing fraud, or if to your knowledge the practices are in keeping with GAAP and in compliance of X laws…that’s where the lying comes in.

                  If I were on that staff and the nanny was going through, I’m not lying that everything is in compliance when asked a direct question. That’s why they ask the big picture direct questions – they are asking you to put your reputation behind your answers to the best of your knowledge.

                  They are counting on people not taking the hit for other people’s mistakes or malfeasance.

      2. Legal jobs*

        Probably would only become an issue if other there are owners who didnt know and only if employee somehow is proven in on it

        Its a very very minor concern given the description in OP does not indicate the fact pattern that I’m adding

        More likely this is just mixing the books like you see in many mom and pop outfits which is not such a good idea

        Not a good idea but not an issue for employee unless they really were working for the business

  7. ella*

    #3–I think that once you talk to your doctor (and maybe get an actual radius of danger if you can–how close is too close? 10 feet? Can you sit at opposite ends of a conference table if you need to participate in the same meeting), you’ll need to bring this to HR, to act as a go-between and nothing else. This situation is going to require that you and your coworker perhaps know more about each other’s medical situations than either of you will be precisely comfortable with–I imagine she’s going to have to tell you the exact type of implant and the timeline of her treatment, and you have to tell her you’re pregnant. Depending on how often you guys bump into each other you may have to keep tabs on the other person’s approximate location so you can avoid it. And if you can’t be in the same room, I don’t know who can be an intermediary besides HR, or emailing the coworker.

    Also, maybe make an extra effort to email her, to keep in touch over non-implant related topics, and just make sure you’re communicating, and that it’s clear that you understand this needs to be done but that you don’t think she has cooties or anything like that. Frankly I can see this getting really awkward really quickly.

    1. MaggietheCat*

      I agree! I would not be comfortable bringing that issue up with my co-worker. Haven’t there been other posts where LW’s were advised not to comment on people’s medical issues? I would probably just let HR handle it.

      1. some1*

        I agree with this, it just seems to put the coworker in a really awkward position, when she’s already in a scary and stressful situation.

    2. Lyssa*

      I wonder if the LW can get away with saying something like “I have a medical condition. I’d rather not get into the details of it, but it makes me particularly sensitive to radiation.” – Granted, a lot of people would probably suspect that it’s pregnancy, and some people might question whether a condition like that actually exists other than pregnancy (I have no idea, but it seems at least plausible), but it’s truthful without actually revealing that she’s pg yet.

      I agree with AAM that she should talk to her OB first and find out exactly what she needs to be worried about, though.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I don’t know if I’d bother with cloaking the pregnancy as it were. It’s going to become obvious shortly anyway so might as well be upfront about it now.

        1. ella*

          This. I’m also a little uncomfortable with essentially saying, “I would like to know detailed information about the timeline of your medical treatment, but refuse to tell you why I need to know it or why I am actively avoiding your presence.” Disclosure needs to go both ways for this to be mutually respectful.

    3. Anonymous*

      Having once been the irradiated with a pregnant officemate, can I offer some perspective?

      I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I realize pregnancy is Big Thing, but don’t make it about you, you are not the one who just got the odds from a cancer specialist. I hope you never do, but until you are in those shoes, you don’t have any idea.

      If your officemate’s oncologist and rad team have cleared her to be around “the public”, you are safe, your baby is safe, and stray toddlers (the most sensitive group) are safe. It is tough to control your suspicions, but remember the radiology group has a bit more training and knowledge than you probably do. If they say it’s safe, it is.

      Don’t treat her like a pariah. She already feels a bit disconnected and pariah-ish.

      Best case, use this as an excuse to get HER a private office. She probably needs the personal space right now anyway. Make it about her, not you. Someday you might be in her shoes though I sincerely hope not.

      1. fposte*

        I agree that the person undergoing therapy is important here as well, and that shouldn’t be lost sight of; it sounds like maybe your officemate did lose sight of that, and I bet that really sucked.

        Other people are still important too, though, and seeking to make sure the risk to one’s fetus is minimal really isn’t making somebody else’s treatment about you and not them. I also wouldn’t assume that release to the public meant all exposure was perfectly safe–even with my comparatively modest radiation treatment, I was released to the public but told to leave babies alone for a couple of days (not just because they’re vulnerable, but also because I was getting my thyroid ablated, and you hold babies quite close to Ground Zero). And advice on that is really variable depending on where you’re getting your medical treatment, so I think Radiation Safety below has a point about doctors not always being the best guides here.

        1. fposte*

          Additionally, I’d be careful of asking to get the co-worker put in a private office–if you don’t know that she’d like one, that seems like a really alienating response to illness, and it puts the onus on her to relocate. Obviously if she’s on board, that’s a different matter, and if office proximity was the issue this would be a win-win.

  8. Rebecca*

    #5 – our company did an online survey. We had to sign on to our office computers, go to the intranet site, and fill out a survey. They said it was anonymous. I’m still chuckling about that. And yes, I gave everyone the highest marks possible.

    1. Joey*

      What, are you worried that your company is going to trace your responses back to your login? 99% of employers probably aren’t going to take the time to do this. Employers typically aren’t this deceptive or even have the time to do this. If they wanted to know who you are they probably wouldn’t go to such lengths.

      1. Gjest*

        I can imagine my old employer doing this, though. Maybe not for every person who filled out the survey, but I can totally see them seeking out anyone complaining about HR or other specific managers or departments. They were paranoid like that, and would seek out people they knew to have made comments to basically “re-educate” them on that department. It was like working for North Korea.

      2. Schnauz*

        It’s not about whether they likely would, just that they could. I had the same concerns about how all of our “anonymous” company surveys are now being sent via the company intranet.

    2. Anonymous*

      Depending on what system the survey is done in you can actually set it up to not capture that information (though generally that is extra steps).

      *That said I’d always poke until I was sure, or if I didn’t care. I recently completed and “Anonymous” survey that I am certain wasn’t, I could see the part where they were capturing who sent it, and I still gave my very honest opinion. Because I knew my boss and his boss wanted my brutally honest opinion shared.

  9. Chinook*

    OP #1 people, unless the job was specifically advertised as a telecommuting position, I think you shot yourself in the foot. As a Canadian who has worked in numerous provinces, at best you came off as naive but, at worst, as a snob who won’t lower themselves to live where there is work. The workplaces of many of the cities where there is work are full of people from “away” and have made the decision to value a job over their choice of where to live (only 1 in 5 of my colleagues are from the city where I work, 3 in 5 from this province and 4 in 5 from Canada – which is typical for this city). Add to that some of the East/west biases that exist, and it is possible that they have decided that you would not be a good fit for the company culture.

    Lastly, it could be a huge headache tax and regulation wise of they have no other interprovincial employees. Would they consider you and employee situated in their office (which means you probably have to pay more taxes because they are based on residency but are calculated when taken off payroll based on the office’s province) or you are based in another province, which means setting up new payroll provinces just for you.

    1. Colette*

      I explained that I’d rather stay put but wouldn’t want this to affect their final decision.

      This to me sounds naive. Of course something like that will affect their final decision. It may not make the difference between getting the job or not getting the job, but as Chinook pointed out, there are financial and legal ramifications to having an employee in a different province. In addition to the ones above, different provinces have different statutory holidays, and they’re likely in different timezones.

      1. BB*

        Well if the company didn’t want to deal with tax and payroll regulations that come with having long distance employees, than they shouldn’t say they would consider long distance employees and be wasting both their time and the applicants.

        1. Chinook*

          There is a huge difference between telecommuting from somewhere within the province vs another province! One allows for it being reasonable to go to the office every so often while the other could be cost prohibitive (interprovincial flights in Canada can be quite expensive). It is also important to note that the position isn’t advertised as a telecomuting one but that they are willing to consider the option for the RIGHT person. As well, if you want to make the arguement for telecommuting, saying flat out “I don’t want to move there” won’t win you any points whereas giving concrete reasons like family commitments, inability to sell your house, etc., may work.

          1. BB*

            I’m just saying if you write in a job posting ‘can telecommute for the right person’, don’t be mad when 200 people email you saying they are the right person to telecommute and no they don’t want to move.

            1. Cat*

              Right; it’s easy enough to write “Right person may telecommute, but you must be a resident of X province,” if that’s what you mean.

            2. Colette*

              I don’t think there’s any indication that the employer was mad.

              I do think, though, that there’s a tendency for people applying to jobs to overestimate how valuable the employer will think they are. If you see a salary range from $X-$Y, it’s natural think you’ll be offered a number closer to $Y than to $X. Similarly, when you see “open to telecommuting”, you think “Great, it’s no problem that I’m 3 timezones and a $1000 flight away”. The employer may have intended something more like “works from home from the same city”.

              In this case, it sounds like the OP’s work history may have reflected her moves over the past 10 years, so it’s entirely possible that the employer may have assumed she’d be willing to move again.

              1. Cat*

                I totally agree with this, but I think it was worth addressing the framing in Chinook’s comment, which stated “at best you came off as naive but, at worst, as a snob who won’t lower themselves to live where there is work,” which I think is harsh.

                1. Colette*

                  I’m not sure I’d jump to snob – but it depends on what happened when the employer asked the question. If the response was “What? No! I’d never live there“, then snob would be appropriate. I doubt that happened in this situation, though.

                2. BB*

                  Yes exactly, I do agree that LW is not a person the company wants to telecommute and I probably should have clarified- I was trying to point out more so Chinook’s response as opposed to the company. Chinook called LW a snob and I don’t think that’s fair to say that to someone who clearly followed the directions on the application and up until this point, had no clue what the company’s was thinking as far as her telecommuting.

                3. Colette*

                  I don’t actually see anything that says that the company wouldn’t let her telecommute. Based on the original question, they simply asked whether she’d be willing to relocate.

                4. Admin*

                  I think Chinook may have a bias on this based on the city they live in (which is also the city I live in). As a Torontonian living in Alberta, I often hear negative stereotypes about how Ontarians are perceived. As someone who also does interviews and resume screenings, it’s pretty common to get applicants from Toronto who have absolutely no desire to move here and want to telecommute. The general perception in this city is that people from Toronto are snobby, entitled elitists who think they’re too good to move out to the prairies.

                5. Chinook*

                  BB I actually said that, at worse, she would be considered a snob. There is a cultural aspect here where there are people I have met in Toronto and Montreal regions that would never lower themselves to live amongst a group of rednecks in Alberta but believe we should be happy that we are allowed to have their expertise remotely (though this segment is shrinking, thank goodness). I never said the OP was one of them but that she risked looking like one if not handled with the right tact. Instead, I take her somewhere in the middle and thinks that she is amazing enough for the company to be will to take on the travel expenses (and since I don’t know her qualifications, she just might be).

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nothing indicates the employer was mad.

              The reality is that in plenty of cases the employer might be open to telecommuting for the right person, but no one else. I’m working on hiring for a position right now that we’d like to be based in X, but if we found an absolutely amazing candidate based somewhere else we’d consider them — but the bar would be much higher for such a person than for someone based in X, to make up for the drawbacks to having someone not based where everyone else is. The problem, I think, is that candidates don’t always understand that piece of it, or even what a higher bar would mean in a case like this (which isn’t a failing on their side; it’s not always possible to understand that from the outside).

              1. Jamie*

                This is exactly how it reads to me. They’d prefer someone local but don’t want to rule out the perfect candidate or they know from past experience they might not get any local candidates so are widening the net just in case.

                Except in special circumstances where you need the person to be in another area (field sales for example) I think it’s a safe assumption that most employers would prefer local all things being equal. Especially for unknown candidates.

      2. Ethyl*

        Yeah to me that response rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe instead, the OP should have said something like “This job really interested me because of the possibility of telecommuting,” and maybe follow that up with something asking what sort of changes to the role telecommuting would entail. I think by focusing it on “I’d rather stay where I am now,” you’re taking the focus off of why you are the best candidate and making it about your personal preferences, if that makes sense?

        1. Vicki*

          But if that’s the truth, not saying it (and getting farther in the interview) isn’t necessarily in anyone’s best interests.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      IMHO, even if you could talk them into telecommuting, it sounds like a bad idea for your future. If you need a job now & plan to keep looking, that’s one thing, but if you are interested in a longer-term career-type position with the company, you need to be where the team is. (At least for this job. . .some companies have all remote teams, and that’s different than when you’re the only person who’s remote.)

  10. ClaireS*

    But they did advertise it as a potential telecommuting job. I understand that a lot of people move for work but everyone has different values and needs. You can’t assume that just because someone isn’t willing to move for a job that they are a “snob.”

    1. CAA*

      It sounds like they advertised telecommuting “for the right person” and in their estimation, OP isn’t that “right person” who is so awesome they are willing to make the sacrifices that having a telecommuting employee entails.

      Also, to them, telecommuting may mean “close enough to drive in to the office a couple days per week” where OP is 3000 miles away.

      1. fposte*

        I was thinking both those things too. I think telecommuting out of the gate would be a way to acquire a candidate otherwise too fabulous to work for them; it’s not a perk they’re prepared to offer to somebody with the same qualifications they can find locally.

        (Whether that’s a good approach or not is another question.)

      2. Sharon*

        Then I think they should have stated that in the ad. It’s a peeve of mine that employers say “willing to work with X” in a job ad but then in the interview they seem to discourage X. It’s not just telecommuting, it also happens with skill requirements. For example an ad that calls for experience with Office 2007 and then in the interview they tell you they STRONGLY prefer experience with Office 2010 (and you can intuitively tell this is a show stopper for the interviewer). It wastes everybody’s time.

        1. Colette*

          “Willing to work with X” doesn’t mean that their preference is not something other than X.

          In this case, for example, it may depend on what the applicant brings to the table. They’re not going to write a job description that says “We’ll let you telecommute if you have skills X, Y, and Z, or if you have a history of high achievement in a telecommuting role, or if you live close enough to one of our other offices that you can be there for three days a month” – even though those might be situations where they’d be willing to work with it.

        2. fposte*

          I think this is different from that, though–they said they’d consider telecommuting for the right candidate, which is saying it’s not a given. They want phrasing that would invite the superb candidate who could telecommute as well as the decent candidate who’s local. Is there a phrasing that you think would have been better to cover both those eventualities?

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agreeing with Collete and fposte here. They’re not saying any candidate they hire could do it; they’re saying if someone is awesome enough, they’re open to it. Candidates aren’t in a great position to judge if they’re “awesome enough” in the company’s eyes, so they should go in understanding that that may or may not end up being the case.

          1. Legal jobs*

            From a practical stand point, I don’t see why that matters. Either the employee will be in the office or not. I know people act as you describe, but just in terms if the day to day of getting things done,, it doesn’t add up. Why would have them in the office make them a better candidate if the job does not require it?

            1. fposte*

              I get what you’re saying, and, as I note above, this does open up the question a bit. But I can also follow the possible logic: in their experience telecommuting reduces the value of an employee by a certain percentage, so they’re only interested in offering it to candidates whose value exceeds the standards for the position.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              All kinds of possible reasons. For example:
              – clients prefer to meet in person but will do it via phone if the person is good enough
              – being in the office helps you absorb culture and “how we do things here,” but if you’re good enough, you might already be aligned on those things
              – being in the office means you can take your share of less desirable jobs that require physical presence
              – easier to meet with you, get a sense of who you are and how you’re operating, easier for you to get a sense of that with others, form relationships that make it easier to get things done, etc.

              1. Ruffingit*

                It’s hard to do the telecommuting thing for many of the reasons Alison stated. I’m not saying it’s not worthwhile because for many people it absolutely is. I’m just saying that there is a difference between interacting in person on a regular basis and being part of a team that you rarely, if ever, see. You get a lot out of that personal contact that just doesn’t happen in any other way. I was certainly closer to the classmates I went to in-person classes with a couple of times a week vs. the classmates I was with online who I saw once or twice a semester at required seminars or what have you.

            3. Colette*

              I work on a time that is spread across two locations. Normally, my manager and I work in the same office, and the rest of the team is in the other location.

              This week, my manager is traveling to the second office, and I feel very disconnected from the rest of my team. Part of that is that the team is busy meeting with our manager (and thus I don’t interact with them as much as usual), but part of it is that if most of the team is in one location and one person is not, it’s much less natural to remember to include that one person.

              Being in one place allows an employee to get information pertinent to their job from casual discussions, and it is an effort on the part of the whole team to keep someone who is offsite in the loop.

        4. Vicki*

          This often happens when the people who wrote the job description aren’t the same people who do the interviews.

          I interviewed for a writing position, The job description went on and on about new user guidelines and support documentation. The interviewers asked me about JavaScript code. Both possible tech writing positions but very different (and a waste of my time at the interview).

      3. Sunflower*

        OP did say long distance- not sure if that’s what the ad said- to me, that is differently than telecommuting. Long distance means that coming to the office is considered a trip and may require overnight stays whereas telecommuting can mean long distance or that you simply don’t work out of the office regularly.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s a point too. I’m not familiar with that as a regular job phrasing, but maybe it’s more a Canadian thing.

          However, I think the underlying point still applies–the company said that only certain candidates would get to do that, so that doesn’t translate into promising that distance candidates would be equally considered.

        2. Meg*

          We had two long distance contractrs working here when I started my current job. Their contracting company would pay for train every day, plus the hotel room for the week. That lasted a little over a year.

  11. Anonymous*

    OP #3, I manage a cancer center, and unless it’s a permanent implant, your coworker will likely not be at work during their treatment and may even be admitted to a hospital. Low and high dose temporary implants are in for maybe 7 to 10 days and then removed. A permanent implant stays in forever, and like anything radioactive, degrades over time until it’s inert and harmless. You may only need to be careful for the first week or two, depending on the dosage, and they may not even be at work during this time. Many of our patients are not allowed to return to work for at least the first week because they have daily appointments to monitor the effects of the radiation. Some are unable to work due to sickness from the radiation. It’s similar to being sick from chemo, but it doesn’t always go away after a couple of days. I see many of our patients being off work for at least two weeks from the time they have the permanent implant put in.

    If they are worth their salt, your coworker’s doctor will absolutely make sure they know they cannot be around very young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone who is immunocompromised. HR would be the best route to go now that you are aware of what is going on and they can follow up with your coworker to make sure everything is okay, but you will probably find this is much less of an issue than it seems.

    (That said I completely understand the enhanced concern you have being newly pregnant, as I am myself. Best of luck!)

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I had a relative who had to have a radiation implant for a tumor and they were in the hospital from the implantation until the removal, which was about a week. Their hospital room was lead-lined, someone came in every day to check the radiation levels and if they left the room, then they had a wear a special lead overlay to prevent the radiation “leaking”.

    2. aebhel*

      “If they are worth their salt, your coworker’s doctor will absolutely make sure they know they cannot be around very young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone who is immunocompromised.”

      Absolutely, but if the coworker doesn’t know that the OP is pregnant, she won’t know to avoid her. It’s kind of a sticky situation all around.

  12. Anonalicious*

    HR surveys are the worst, seconded only by employee satisfaction surveys. Ugh. We do a mini survey, general organization only, every even numbered year, and on the odd years we do a full staff satisfaction survey that asks questions about the company, HR, your department, and your manager. The results then drive some of the goals for HR and managers, but most of the time we all feel like they know who left what comment, who scored things the lowest, and shockingly nothing really changes.

  13. Sophia*

    #5 My sympathies to the OP. I worked at a place where our ‘anonymous’ surveys were emailed to the HR rep (who was HR as a side job). A few others and I brought it up to the HR rep and he agreed and emailed everyone that they could be turned in by hand. Everyone except the four of us (think a 12 person company) emailed. This was the place I’ve spoken about before – where black face jokes were told at wine time and another called my coworker a “ghetto Latina” for wearing a studded belt

  14. Radiation Safety*

    #3 – I work in Radiation Safety. I appreciate that Alison acknowledged that there may not be a concern, BUT I would like to caution you that your doctor may not be the best person to ask for advice about the health effects of radiation on pregnant women. I would highly suggest submitting a question to the Health Physics Society “Ask the Experts” (will post a link in a second comment so this one doesn’t get held up in moderation.

    Without knowing exactly what type of implants your coworker received, in general, you are unlikely to be at risk as long as you are working at normal distances from your coworker (so, not snuggled up to him or hugging him, etc). Radiation dose decreases greatly with distance.

    As for how to work with your manager about this situation, Alison’s advice is great, as usual.

    For what it’s worth, I worked in a nuclear reactor throughout my pregnancy and did choose to disclose my pregnancy earlier than the usual 12 weeks in order to limit my dose during those sensitive early days. But that’s fairly normal in a culture of radiation workers.

    1. Another HP!*

      Leaving lurkdom just long enough to say I’m really excited to see another health physicist around here.

      1. Radiation Safety*

        There are a few of us from the nuclear industry in this thread! Always nice, as opposed to telling people what you do in a party and watching them take a couple of steps back :)

  15. Just a Reader*

    #3–I agree with checking medical resources, but for your own safety and that of your baby, it may benefit you to disclose early.

    I disclosed my pregnancy I think around 6 weeks because I needed some accommodations around travel. I told my (trusted) manager early and she made sure I got what I needed, and I wasn’t required to tell anyone else, including HR.

    It depends on your relationship with your manager but if you can swing it, telling 1 person instead of several (additional management, HR) would be my recommendation.

  16. Graciosa*

    Regarding #2, a large part of a manager’s job is dealing with stress – people bring you the problems that they can’t handle and expect that you can. Not only that, you must remain calm, cool, and collected while you do it – even when everyone else involved is significantly upset. You need to do this all day, every day, for everyone on the team plus your customers or internal stakeholders (ensuring that the number of stressors you deal with are multiples of those encountered by anyone else in an individual contributor role).

    That said, it would be very hard for me to believe that someone who couldn’t handle it before is suddenly more capable of handling it now. I don’t mean to be cruel about this, and happen to be a big advocate of getting help for mental health issues just as you would for physical ones – but I want to be very candid about what I would be thinking if the OP shared this story. Behavioral interviewing is pretty typical now, and this tells me that the OP breaks under pressure. I’m going to look for a candidate who displays other coping mechanisms.

    Alison is right, OP – don’t tell me this if you want the job.

    But think long and seriously about whether you want to manage again. It is possible that your previous work place was significantly toxic in ways that even as a manager you could not correct – but think about what a strong manager would have done in such an environment (probably found another position before the mental health impact). This isn’t what you did.

    Even in a good environment, this isn’t an easy job and it isn’t for everyone. Attributing a reluctance to do this job to lack of confidence automatically makes it something that should be “fixed” because everyone *must* want to manage. This is flawed thinking.

    Doubts the OP is experiencing could be instead coming from self-awareness that this is not the right job for the OP – and it doesn’t have to be! Many people have perfectly satisfying careers as individual contributors. OP#2, think seriously about whether you really want to manage again – it isn’t an easy job under the best of circumstances, and you need to go into it knowing that you can count on *not* being able to expect that things will run smoothly.

    I am sorry if this one seems a bit harsh – but protecting you mental health for the rest of your life is a lot more important than a role as a manager.

    1. fposte*

      I think this was a point worth making, and I’m glad you were able to make it clearly and compassionately.

    2. Just a Reader*

      I agree with this, but also want to add that the environment is critical. Someone who had a tough time in one environment may excel in the same role in a different environment.

      Many times it’s not the work, but the people making a job unbearable and stressful.

      So the right company might make all the difference.

      1. fposte*

        Very true. However, since, as Graciosa notes, a lot of the relevant pressures are pretty common, I was wondering if the OP had developed strategies for dealing with managerial stresses that she’s likely to face even in a good job. It’s tempting but, I think, risky to assume that all of the stressors were unique to that particular organization, and right now would be a great time for the OP to use therapy or other support to explore ways to more safely co-exist with the stress. (And she may already be doing so, hence her confidence about trying again.)

        1. Just a Reader*

          That’s a great point and the OP’s situation may lie somewhere in the middle.

          There are also a lot of companies that reward individual contributors and allow people to get ahead without taking on management roles. That may be worth exploring.

  17. 400boyz*

    My manager tried to pull a similar shenanigan years ago with a 360 review. What I did was tell my co-workers to give them to me first, and I would turn them in. That, of course, made me the nail that sticks its head out, but it was the right thing to do.

    1. Dan*

      If you’re a strong performer, the saving grace is that you have options. If they retaliate against you, at least you would hopefully be able to survive on the free market.

  18. some1*

    #5 I don’t think turning an “anonymous” survey into your direct sup means it will stay anonymous. A boss is most likely going to recognize her reports’ handwriting, and if it’s typed, her turn of phrase.

    That being said, is it possible that the Director *told* the boss to collect these surveys? It’s still a bad idea, but it may not be a matter of the sup wanting to see the answers before the director.

    1. yasmara*

      One point – my boss & co-workers have *never* seen a sample of my handwriting. Everything is done via email, presentations, etc. I may have written on a white board sometime, but no one would be able to identify anyone else via handwriting. YMMV on this one.

      1. some1*

        That can happen, but, as I mentioned, I bet your boss and others you email frequently would recognize your turn of phrase and writing style.

  19. Jamie*

    It’s funny in thinking about the survey question I am both appalled that someone would call it anonymous and then collect them personally and amused that I don’t think I could ever be anonymous no matter what the media for collection.

    I cannot imagine anyone being surprised by anything I’d opine about regarding the work place – and anything I feel should be addressed I already do…so I’d leave my opinionated fingerprints all over any survey.

    I do think it’s really wrong to call something anonymous if it isn’t – you can’t blame the warier people for clamming up.

    1. Just a Reader*

      My former company did this–“anonymous” electronic survey that was mandatory.

      In a meeting with my jerk boss he told me that the results of the survey were positive for me and all my people were happy so they company didn’t have anything on me as a manager. I asked how he knew that if it was anonymous.

      He went pale and told me not to repeat what he said. Turns out they were using the surveys to find problem managers.

      I have not trusted anything labeled “anonymous” since.

      1. Colette*

        Every anonymous survey I’ve done rolls up the information by group, assuming there’s more than a minimum number of people in a group.

        It wouldn’t be anonymous if they approached you about your specific answers, but an aggregate of the results in a group is normal and expected.

    2. Gene*

      I’ve never considered any work survey anonymous. If anything, I figure I’d be easily identified because mine would have proper grammar and spelling.

      We recently had a request for cost savings that was organization-wide. Since some of my suggestions were politically charged (elimination of certain work groups, reorganization some work groups, and the like), I wrote them up, had my wife rewrite in her words, and submitted via a new gmail account that has been since deleted. Other suggestions were sent in the normal way.

      One I sent in the normal way was implemented and I’ve gotten some flack about it from coworkers. Such is life.

  20. SamTowana*

    To #1, I am currently in a job where I basically convinced them to let me work remotely. And, to be honest, I’m regretting it. I love working remotely, and from my perspective it’s working well. But I am getting increasing pressure from them to relocate, and they are sending more and more signals that they feel it’s not working. It has created an uncomfortable situation for all involved, and I’m kicking myself for not having read the signals that they weren’t 100% comfortable with the arrangement. I will chalk it up as a lesson learned, but it’s an expensive and painful lesson.

    So, my advice is to tread carefully here.

    1. Jamie*

      This is one of those things that is changing, but pretty slowly.

      Even when it’s working well or makes perfect sense to implement it some ptb have such a strong bias against working remotely that it’s impossible to overcome. All the logical arguments in the world won’t matter against a strong belief that you need employees to have their butts in the seats.

      I’m surprised this hasn’t changed more quickly – I’d have thought by now that technology has advanced enough this would be be widespread by now – for the positions where it makes sense. I find the resistance frustrating but I’m fascinated to know the root cause.

      1. Cat*

        I think I’m a broken record on this topic every time it comes up, but I also think there’s a lot of positions for which telecommuting makes sense on paper but doesn’t actually work that well in practice. For instance, if you have a job that requires a lot of creative collaboration with people in the office, it’s easy to think that can be done remotely. Then you realize that the people in the office are drawing impromptu visuals on a white board that they try to send to the telecommuting person via cell phone camera, but meanwhile the speaker phone isn’t picking up everyone’s back-and-forth just right, so they’re missing a lot and everyone else has to try to rephrase it directly into the speaker, and then someone decides to try to set up remote desktop sharing, and an hour later everyone is just hideously frustrated with the process. Or worse, they’ve long since given up and just don’t bother collaborating with the long-distance colleague so that person languishes in their own world while everyone else is moving on without them.

        Or, it turns out there’s tasks that are not part of that position’s “core” duties but which are shared by a variety of people. The person at home is being fantastically productive on their own projects, but their colleagues in the office are getting pulled for that person’s share of minor tasks – retrieving Y file and sending it to a client; reviewing X task with the intern (because it’s just easier when you’re in the same room as per point one, above); entering Z’s hand-written edits in redlines to that the person at home can review them. Etc.

        This isn’t every position, obviously, but I’ve seen a lot of these circumstances where the telecommuting just ends up being a source of constant irritation for everyone left in the office and leads to the conclusion that, you know, it may seems like it, but this actually just isn’t a position it works that well for.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree with you on every point. And I’m the first to say it absolutely doesn’t work well for every position, or even every person. If I had a job customer tailored to full time remote work I wouldn’t do it – I don’t function well that way.

          But yes, collaboration can be more difficult and people have to work harder to establish and maintain rapport with remote workers and if everyone isn’t on board with that it will crumble.

          I think the positions that lend themselves to this well are those where the work is mostly autonomous and interaction easily dealt with by email and phone. Also positions where the work can be easily measured and assessed so management has a good feel that measurement objectives are being met.

          I can think of some functions in accounting, IT, HR, QC, and engineering that would fit the bill…but as you said it would depend on there not being other ancillary duties which would end up falling on those in the office by default.

          1. some1*

            I used to support a VP who worked from home across the country most of the time. It was fine most of the time but the time difference was a big challenge. Sometimes I needed his input on something and he wasn’t awake yet, and he had a tendency to dump stuff on me at the end of the day* — because it wasn’t the end of *his* day.

            *Of course, some bosses dump stuff on you at the end of the day when it can be avoided and they work 2 ft away from you, but it’s easier to not be aware of these things when you are remote.

            1. Cat*

              I had a friend who telecommuted from California to an employer on the East Coast who had the opposite problem. They expected him to be up and available at the start of business on the East Coast, but also shunted after-hour inquiries from West Coast clients onto him. He only lasted a few months. Obviously, a mitigatable problem if people are conscious of it but a lot of people just aren’t.

              1. Chinook*

                The time zone issue could be huge for the OP if they were doing East Coast of Nfld. to west coast as that could mean up to a 4.5 hour time difference which could be difficult to work around.

  21. Catbertismyhero*

    On #4, the nanny may need to be prepared to find another job if she pushes this. It is not her problem as long as taxes are withheld, it is betweent he employer and the tax authorities. If medical insurance were an issue ( and I suspect it is not offered), she would have the right to go back against her employer for unpaid medical expenses since she was promised coverage.

  22. Canuck*

    re: #4 – Nanny being paid incorrectly

    I have to respectfully disagree with the advice here; I would actually do nothing in this case.

    I know it may not seem morally/ethically correct to not speak up. But for the OP, there is absolutely no positive benefit to saying anything. If she mentions it to her employer, there are a few realistic outcomes:
    1. they will do nothing, and continue to pay her on payroll
    2. they could fire her, and hire someone else
    3. they could start paying her properly – which just means that they will stop reporting the salary as a business expense, but changes nothing in terms of how much she gets paid. In fact, if she does have benefits through the company, these will likely be lost once they have to pay her out of personal money

    So in this case, bringing this up to her employer, at best, results in no change whatsoever to her pay. At worst, she loses benefits or even gets fired. So although it is selfish and mercenary, I suggest leaving this alone, and perhaps start looking for a new job if the situation makes you uncomfortable.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Problem is that if she has benefits through the company and makes a claim, it could be denied if the insurance company finds out she’s not an employee. Someone addressed that upthread. I certainly would be concerned about that if I were her. Doing nothing could have some massive effects on her financial well-being if she goes into the hospital or even breaks an ankle or something and then finds out the health insurance company won’t pay a dime because she was inappropriately classified as an employee of the company.

      1. Canuck*

        True, but quite a few things would have to happen for this to occur:
        1. Significant injury or illness
        2. Insurance company decides to investigate whether the person is a legitimate employee (which would be an odd thing to do in the first place)
        3. Deny the claim, and also win the legal challenge that the employee expected insurance on good faith (as in, it is not the employees fault that they are deemed not covered).

        That’s a pretty far fetched scenario – and besides, what does it matter? If the OP is removed from payroll, then they are likely going to be removed from having health insurance anyways.

        So again, what is the benefit to the OP to trying to “fix” how she is paid? To me there is no positive outcome, thus my suggestion that she not say anything.

  23. Anonymous*

    #3 Nuclear physicist weighing in!

    Please, don’t worry about this. Those cautions about interacting with pregnant women are really geared toward keeping a man in treatment from having intercourse with, or sleeping next to, his pregnant wife. Anything short of that kind of intimate, body-fluid-exchanging, extended contact is a non-issue with these treatments.

    If I in your shoes and pregnant, I would not hesitate to interact with your co-worker entirely normally. I would have absolute faith that the baby would be completely fine. Plane flights and second-hand cigarette smoke are considerably more dangerous, radiation-wise.

    The vast majority of the treatments like this have no radioactive dose whatsoever outside of the patient (with the exception of the patient’s various bodily excretions – I highly recommend you stay away from her urine, but I rather hope that is not within the scope of your normal job duties). The ones with a measurable external dose will be very small, and normal workplace distance will render it less radioactive than a banana.

    If you want something to do for the sake of protecting your baby and dealing actively with your (understandable!) anxiety, then just don’t sit directly next to this co-worker at meetings for two weeks. Radiation can be easily rendered harmless by distance; this is the great weakness of radiation. It is also rendered harmless by shielding (including your own body, which will protect your baby quite admirably), and by time.

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