how can I get junior staff to respect me, a reference doesn’t remember who I am, and more

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

1. How can I put junior staff in their place and get their respect?

I was recently hired to be a manager, but while I’m a good 10-15 years older than the junior staff, they treat me like I’m at their level. They ask me to hang out after work, they tell me about their relationships, and they undermine my authority with our big boss by taking credit for ideas I give them to do their jobs better. I’ve never given them any cues that I want to be their friend, and though no one directly reports to me, I still have to manage projects and give them assignments. How do I put them in their place so that I can get the respect that I need and show my boss that I can do the job?

Well, it’s really not about “putting them in their place.” That kind of thinking isn’t going to lead you in a direction that will command respect. It’s about earning respect by acting in a way that warrants respect: doing excellent work, conducting yourself professionally and maintaining professional boundaries, and approaching everyone with respect and dignity. So if they start talking about their relationships, you say, “We should turn this back to work” (after first talking to them a minute or two, because that’s normal politeness and managers aren’t required to instantly shut down all non-work conversation). If they take credit for your ideas, you correct the record with your own boss (calmly and matter-of-factly, not defensively) — if indeed it was really credit-stealing and not just “hey, we’re going to do X now.” If they ask you to hang out outside of work, you decline. And you manage: You set clear expectations, give useful feedback, warn people when they’re falling short of what you need, and set and enforce consequences when people fall short of your expectations.

You can’t force respect out of people. You’ve got to earn it. (That said, if people are behaving disrespectfully, you absolutely can take that on directly, make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable, and then hold people accountable to that standard. But it’s going to be a lot more effective if it’s backed up in all the ways above.)

2. A potential reference doesn’t remember who I am

I have a final interview for my dream job this upcoming Friday! Yay! I feel very confident about my ability to do well in the last interview, but I do have concerns about the reference check. When I applied for the job, I provided a list of my last three managers as professional references. I know these managers will give me glowing reviews. However, from reading Ask a Manager, I know that hiring managers are not obligated to call just the references on my list. There’s only one manager at a job who I included on my resume and application materials who I do not list as a reference, and that was my manager at my first job, which was a work-from-home position in my field that I held for two and a half years. I had very little contact with this manager when I was working for her because I mostly did my assigned work and then turned it back in with no comment or discussion from her at all. I wanted to know what she would say if someone were to call her about me, so I had a very professional-sounding friend call the switch board at the company where I had the work from home job and ask for my former manager. When she got on the phone, she didn’t remember me. At all. Ouch.

I’m actually not too surprised. My manager never even saw me face to face because she worked at the brick and mortar corporate office across the country from where I was doing work for her from my home computer. She read my cover letter and resume, administered my skills test, hired me, and then sent me work every morning, but besides that, we had absolutely no contact with one another and it has been years since we have last spoken. I am very worried that if the hiring manager for this job calls her and asks her about me, she will go ahead and say she doesn’t remember me at all, which obviously isn’t going to look good for me. I am worried this might cost me the job.

Is there some way that I can mitigate this without making things horribly awkward for all parties, and blowing my chances at the job? Do I email or call HR or the hiring manager and talk to them about this before the interview? Do I bring it up in the actual interview? Should I just not worry about it, since my actual references will all say amazing things about me?

Well, if it’s been years since you worked together, it’s pretty unlikely that an employer will call her for a reference, unless they happen to know her personally. But if you’re concerned, you can head off any “who’s that?” response by getting back in touch with her now. Email her yourself, remind her of who you are, and let her know that you’re job searching and so she may get reference calls. Include in your email a run-down of the work that you did for her, and anything else that you want to be brought back to the front of mind before a potential call arrives.

3. When should I thank contacts for helping me get an interview?

I’m a graduate student new to my field, so networking with alumni from my school has been very helpful in learning more about the industry and about the types of skills needed to be successful. A few of these alumni have been kind enough to pass my resume along to those in their offices in case an internship opening is available, and I have been diligent about sending thank-you emails to them. Much to my delight, one of their offices has contacted me for an interview in the next few days, and I’m trying to figure out when would be most appropriate to send my alumni contact a “Thank you forwarding along, I got an interview!” email. Should I send it pre-interview, with a “Any last minute tips?” bit– would that be asking too much? Or would it be better to send it post-interview?

Send them a thank-you now and mention that you got an interview, because (a) it’s polite to keep them in the loop after they helped you and (b) it’s possible that will trigger them to put in a good word on your behalf. But don’t ask for last-minute tips, because you risk them bristling at that and thinking you’re asking for insider help that other candidates aren’t getting and which could bias the hiring process away from a merit-based decision. (Not everyone will think that, but some of us do.) And then follow up with them again once you know the results of the hiring process to let them know how it turned out. (Because people who offer other people help typically like to know how things play out.)

4. My old boss is trashing me to my new boss

I recently resigned from a job that I held for a few years to accept a better position at a place that is direct competition. I have been an outstanding employee, gave 3 weeks notice, and was honest about the problems that drove me to search for new employment. My boss took my resignation very personally and has since then been publicly trashing my name to any coworker who will listen at work. In addition, he called my new boss (I have not yet started the new job or filled out any employment paperwork) in order to accuse him of poaching me, then trashed my name to him as well. That phone call may have sabotaged my new employment. Was what was done to me allowed? Are there actions that I can take to defend myself?

If your boss defamed you and caused you to suffer provable damages (such as losing the new job), then yes, you should consider consulting with a lawyer. But it’s more likely that your new employer thinks your boss is a whackjob, because making that call is Not Normal; it reflects far more on your boss than on you.

That said, even assuming you’re suffering no actual damages (i.e., still have your new job), you could certainly consult with a lawyer about drafting a stern letter to your boss about his obligation not to defame you. But if your goal is to minimize any ramifications of this BS on you, before talking to a lawyer I’d see if you can smooth things over directly with your boss. You shouldn’t have to — he’s wildly out of line — but having genuinely harmonious relations with him will be better for you in the long run than having him say things to reference-checkers like “let me see what I’m legally allowed to say” (legal but highly damaging).

5. How should I thank my boss for my raise?

I’ve just had my one-year performance review. This is my first post-college job so I’m still learning office etiquette. My manager gave me a score of 4.05 out of 5/valued performer on my review, and my boss (director of the department) followed by calling me into her office and telling me I would be receiving a salary increase for good performance.

My question is, what is the appropriate way to say thank you to my bosses for the salary increase? I, of course, thanked them verbally at the time but should I send a thank-you email now? I’m not sure what’s expected in a situation like this since it’s my first “real” job and first time getting a raise.

No need for a thank-you email; a verbal thanks is fine! Remember, they’re not giving you a gift; they’re increasing your compensation because your value has increased and they want to retain you. You should still be gracious of course, but you don’t need to thank them beyond what you’ve already done. An exception to this would be if your manager really went to bat for you to get you something out of the norm for the company and used her own political capital to do so, in which case a more emphatic thank-you would be thoughtful. But otherwise, a simple and sincere thanks at the time that you’re told about the raise is all that’s needed.

{ 131 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Any time you want to use a reference, or think a former manager or professor might be called for a reference, make sure you have provided them with a heads up and update. I used to teach and always told students to provide me (and any other teacher/professor) they use as a reference with an email that updates them on where they are now (or what job they are seeking), something to remind them of what they did that was outstanding in their work or classwork (e.g. led the class team project on X), fills them in on other information that could make the reference richer (e.g. internships, work, extracurriculars of note.) This was a reference can be much more specific about the candidate. Professors who thought you were great still won’t remember who you were (they have thousands of former students) nor will managers you had a few years back or saw little of.

    1. themmases*

      I agree. I usually ask old managers if they’d be willing to be listed as a reference, and if they’d like a copy of my resume or to be reminded about what specific duties I was covering for them at the time.

      One of my references is a researcher I assisted in college, so I usually also let him know about my job now, why I’m doing what I’m doing, and if I think it’s a good opportunity for future undergrads he employs since I assume he has a couple every year. That might be good information to add for any old boss who was interested in your career development, actually.

    2. AVP*

      Agreed, please do this, everyone! I’ve had a lot of interns and entry-level employees move on to other jobs and then list me as a reference (and they almost never let me know or update me). Which can be a little awkward if they’ve decided to radically change fields and get advanced degrees and who knows what else in the interim.

      You’re not going to get as good as a reference if my internal thought process during the call is “Oh yes Donna, she was a really good intern, she….what? She went from being a copy editor to HR generalist? Yes, I guess she would be good at that, let me think about her transferrable skills….”

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, I always contact them beforehand rather than just listing them. It also ensures that I have their correct information (they may have moved, etc.).

      1. Meg*

        I was the OP for the question you’re talking about. I do not list the manager who does not remember me as a reference, I list my two most current manager and the CMO at the company I currently work for. I am concerned that my interviewer will call someone NOT listed as a reference who does not remember me.

  2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    What does this mean?

    though no one directly reports to me, I still have to manage projects and give them assignments

    This is probably my ignorance but I’m unfamiliar with a set up where someone is management and responsible for the work product of a group, but the employees aren’t reports.

    Is this a team lead kind of thing?

    Anyway, I was set to give an entirely different answer/set of advice until I read that again. If your management responsibility is managing the projects and not the people, I’d focus on the work and delivering the best team product I could. Good people will respond to team leader who facilitates good work. The first time you remove a set of obstacles in the way (example, advocating for and obtaining necessary equipment or advocating for and obtaining an extra week on a deadline), your leadership stock will rise in the eyes of those around you.

    Be wary of this:

    they undermine my authority with our big boss by taking credit for ideas I give them to do their jobs better

    You are not in competition with the staff you lead. In group work, not every idea has to be or even can be attributed accurately because people remember origins differently.

    If you feel threatened by the team members, you are leaking weakness not power out of your pores. Powerful leaders are generous and seek to give credit to those they lead as much as possible.

    Your issue with your boss is with your boss, not with them. Determine what your boss needs to see from you in order to say you are doing a good job, and then do that. I love it when somebody figures out how to send me reports that accurately sum the status of projects in a format that works best for my style.

    1. Jen RO*

      It could be a team lead position – the wording describes my former team lead very well. She assigned us projects and tasks, but she didn’t have authority to hire, fire, give raises or formally reprimand.

      That aside, this boss doesn’t sound like a nice person to work for. The horror, employees have the gall to talk about their personal lives and not be perfect little robots! They even want to “hang out”! They need to be put in their place ASAP. No one’s saying that you need to join them for happy hour, but I fail to understand the outrage at the fact that human beings want to have a personal relationship with someone they see 40 hours a week.

      1. Jen RO*

        The “10-15 years older” also stood out in a bad way. It might be my previous experience talking*, but age has absolutely nothing to do with your work relationships. No one appointed you team leader because you’re older; they did because of your capabilities.

        *I had a coworker who was 5 to 10 years older than the rest of us and she always pointed out her age as a reason for her to get more respect. We were all hired without any previous experience in the field, so her age did not give her any sort of advantage in terms of work experience. She reminded me of Cartman’s “You will respect my authoritah!”…

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I guess I’m confused because my team leads aren’t management. They are non-exempt, get overtime and don’t have “junior staff”. They lead a team which means I expect them to build teamwork. Happy hour and personal conversations are completely appropriate.

        I can’t figure out if the OP set up is something I’m not familiar with (I’ve worked at the same company for a very long time), or if the OP is misunderstanding what are best practices for her role.

        1. Jen RO*

          Depends how you define management, I guess. Our team leads were kinda halfway between worker bee and management, so it wouldn’t be unusual for them to be referred to as managers having a team. Team members were associate, “regular” or senior Teapot Specialists, so in certain cases “junior staff” might have been accurate. But I absolutely agree that in my experience team leads (and even full-fledged managers) promoted teamwork in many ways, including having a more personal relationship with employees, not uttering commands from an ivory tower.

    2. hamster*

      It could be a project management position. Or a functional team leader, or a matrix management thing. Thing is, being older doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy. And respect doesn’t come automatically with age. If you assign stuff and evaluate work in your work, judge the lever of respect by the quality of their output. If the work you assign gets done, and the project going on good it’s ok . If you don’t have enough autority to push people to do your work, different and unrelated problem

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was wondering if OP is a project manager. Based on the little bit of experience and reading I have done this sounds like a typical project management situation. In such case, no, the employees are never going to think of you as the boss. OP is in charge of the project that is it.
      Kind of mind-bending because the job requires huge amounts of diplomacy in order to get things done.

      I could be misreading the post here and be way off track.

      However, Alison’s point stands up well regardless of the setting. You can’t demand people’s respect. You have to earn it. This goes for subordinates, peers and bosses- the hierarchy does not matter.
      My advice to OP is to strive to be the type of boss that you would want to work for yourself. It sounds like you have a nice group of people and they actually LIKE you. Please don’t blow it here. It is fine to expect more of a work focus but be careful how you go about that. I don’t see an insubornation issue here, I see a causual environment. Each of those situations requires a different response.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Well then I’m still confused because the last thing a project manager would want to do is put a resource she is relying on “in their place”.

        I can see that attitude coming from an inexperienced team lead but I think of project managers as more experienced professionals.

        I’ve had project managers fail when they were perceived as too stand offish because they were then unable to get the level of cooperation they needed to succeed. (Which, annoyed the crap out of me because I then had to get involved. )

        Anyway, I didn’t read anything from the OP about the work going bad so that’s a good thing.

        1. Jen RO*

          Oh, I’ve seen my share of project managers that were far from “experienced professionals”… sadly.

          1. Windchime*

            Same here. But I’ve never had a project manager assume s/he was my “manager”. So I would be curious to know what OP#1’s role is. A manager who manages work but not people sure sounds like a project manager.

            1. bad at online naming*

              I have had it happen – I wasn’t even allocated to any of the project manager’s projects and it still happened.

              A conversation with my (actual) manager stopped that assumption quickly.

      2. KC*

        I’m a project manager and that was EXACTLY what I was thinking (“Being responsible for the deliverables of a team with no real authority over that team? Yup.”).

        That said, the attitude of “put them in their place” is a BAD one to have in a PM position. You have to be a diplomat and a teammate, not a dictator. You earn respect from your team by being in the trenches with them. That’s my experience and .02, anyway.

        1. Audiophile*

          Yes, I have a supervisor who acts like this now. And I can say without a doubt, that few people on the team respect this individual. As Alison said, you earn respect. You can’t force people to respect you.

        2. JM*

          I was thinking it was more of a project management situation as well. We have a few of those in one of the other departments and just from how the staff react to specific ones, you can tell how much respect they have for them.

    4. Apostrophina*

      My department works like this, now that I think about it: we have one person who is in charge of scheduling and is the usual face other departments see in daily meetings, but that person is not a manager. They could probably get “/Scheduler” added to their title on the business card if they really wanted it, but otherwise they’re a Chocolate Teapot Designer like everybody else, with a few additional admin duties.

    5. The IT Manager*

      It likely a matrixed organization where all the teapot designers work for a teapot designers competency manager, teapot QA testers work for a teapot testing competency manager, etc. but they are assigned to different projects who have project manager – the LW.

      That way the “supervisor” competency managers who likely manage 10 – 20 people or more are experts in what the people they manage do. It also allows a teapot designer and testers to split their time among several different projects for several different project managers without ever getting confused about who is their main/real supervisor.

      Although project managers can provide input into performance reviews, problems, etc, they do not in actuality manage or supervise the employees, they manage their work and work product.

    6. Artemesia*

      Project managers have this problem all the time. They are not supervisors nor do they have direct reports, but they are expected to assign tasks and monitor and guide success. In many workplaces it is a very frustrating role since they are tasked with productivity without having supervisory authority.

      1. Kera*

        Yup. A large part of my current role involves managing the work of people who have been at the company longer than I’ve been alive and who are very set in their ways. They are also subject specialists with the kind of experience you just can’t buy. It needs massive amounts of diplomacy to make use of their experience without firing their habit triggers.

        Doable, mind

    7. MaryMary*

      In many organizations, a project manager might be in charge of a particular project, or a maybe a specific client or account, but share resources with other projects/client/accounts. It can definitely be harder to manage people and their deliverables when they are not your direct reports.

      OP, It sounds like you’re defining respect based on how your team interacts with you, but this might be a less formal organization than you’re used to. You can have a very productive but also very informal team. I’d suggest setting very clear expectations (due dates are set in stone, etc) and holding people accountable. Particularly if managing non-direct reports is new to you, I’d suggest reaching out to their people manager(s) and building a relationship. You can let the people manager know that this structure is not what you’re used to make sure you have their buy in and back up regarding how you plan to work with the team (and if your style is off base for this organization, hopefully the people manager(s) can help you adjust).

    8. MM*

      Agree about the credit. If you’re going to be a good leader, that means letting your staff feel good about their work by giving them the credit.
      Look into Robert Sutton’s research on “power poisoning”. It’s a common (not always, but common) trait of new managers/leaders to think that because you’re now in a position of power, it’s the “all about you” show – the rules don’t apply, and your own focus/needs come first. This isn’t necessarily done maliciously – you just haven’t learned yet that being a good leader means putting your staff first and working to serve their best interests, not your own. That comes with time and practice – you need to have the “a-ha” moment, so to speak.

    9. Katie the Fed*

      I’m late on this, but it sounds like it could a “responsibility with no authority” type of position, which explains why the staff isn’t really falling into line the way she wants. That’s a tricky situation to be in, and usually doesn’t work out well for anyone.

  3. Not So NewReader*

    OP 4. My heart goes out to you. What a sinking feeling. Alison is right though. New employer probably sees right through what the old employer is doing.
    I have seen a few employers comment “Oh, we have seen this behavior from X company before and we know to just ignore it.”
    It sounds like you are responding in a professional manner. Keep doing so. Your behavior (grace under fire) will be duly noted by your new employer. If this is the case, you actually look BETTER as a candidate, because the new employer sees that you have presence of mind even in tight situations.

    You may find out in time that “We always hire from Company X because their people KNOW their stuff. But Company X always does [y behavior] and loses people.”
    We have two competitors in my area. Company B routinely hires Company A employees with a nice automatic raise for converting over. Company B is totally familiar with tactics like you are talking about here.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #4, if I were the hiring manager and I got a phone call like this, I’d probably think, “This jerk must be in a panic because OP is good and he’s pissed off about losing her.” After all, if you’re as bad at your job as your boss says you are, he wouldn’t try to make moving to your new job more difficult by trash-talking you!

    1. Katharine*

      I was thinking this too. No one puts up such a stink about losing a bad employee. Also I would be happy you were getting out of there and know exactly why you were.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Yep, me too! I was just coming here to post this. OP, I know it’s really frustrating that this is happening, but honestly, this makes your former boss look horrible and everybody at the new place is probably thinking, “Wow, no wonder she wanted out!”

        When/If I leave my current position, I fear I’ll be in a similar situation, so I do feel for you and thanks for asking the question!

      2. Sunflower*

        Yes this definitely! I have heard of employer’s giving good references to not so good employees because they want them out of there. This will only go to further show how good of an employee you are and how crazy your former employer is.

        Still feel terrible about your situation though :(

      3. some1*

        This. If a boss is glad you are leaving because they didn’t like you or thought you were a poor performer they would have no reason to pull this.

    2. Graciosa*

      Not to mention the fact that the hiring manager has just decided to hire the OP! Confirmation bias is going to work in the OP’s favor here – even in a completely different scenario where the OP was a toxic employee and the former manager was a saint who has trying to gratuitously save the new company from this evil, the new hiring manager would still write off any warnings as not credible because that data would conflict with the hiring manager’s judgment.

    3. TrainerGirl*

      I was in the situation once…I moved from one division to another at my previous employer, and because I was the 9th (!) person to leave in a 6-month period, my boss went ballistic. She didn’t lose it until I put in my notice…it was as if “Oh, 8 people can leave and I’ll wish them well, but WTH do you think you’re doing???”

      She was so nasty to the AA who was setting me up in the new group, which was a horrible mistake. My new boss called and assured me that my boss’ behavior didn’t reflect on me at all. Turns out, she knew my boss and had worked with her before, and knew how nasty she could be when she was “crossed”. She took my leaving very personally, unlike some of my coworkers. I think that because she hadn’t given me her “permission” to leave, she was caught off guard and probably surprised that I was offered a new position without her input or assistance.

      That boss was later laid off, and everyone thought “poor Susie…that’s so mean of management to do that to her”. But Susie made her bed…by being nasty to the wrong people, she had no allies when cuts were made. Years later, I saw her profile on LinkedIn, and she rejected my invitation. Guess she hasn’t gotten over it yet. ;)

  5. Steve*

    For OP #3, sending thanks for almost any job hunting related tips is greatly appreciated. I agree with AAM about keeping people in the loop. When I’ve offered people contacts or assistance, I like to follow it through completely and know the outcome.

    I personally would like to add that a thanks even if you’re NOT hired is appreciated, but be sure to keep it about thanking them (“I wanted to thank you for putting me in touch Hugh Hefner; I didn’t get that dream job we spoke about. But, again, thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”) Don’t let it be about not getting the job (“Thanks for wasting my time on that miserable ass job lead you sent me on a wild goose chase for!”) Unless of course you think your reference needs to know something for future reference (“Thanks for the job lead at Operation Smile. I won’t be moving forward with that, but I did want to tell you the craziest story about the whole process . You are NOT going to believe this, prepare yourself for a chuckle ….”)

  6. This is exactly why...*

    …you never, ever disclose your new employer to your current one. A friend who worked in HR gave me that advice many years ago, and it’s served me well ever since. What happened to you is *not* rare, and you shouldn’t think twice about how it looks. Reasonable people will understand. There’s no good reason to give a boss so much power over you and your livelihood.

    1. Jennifer M.*

      My thought though is that it might be appropriate to disclose if you are going to a competitor. My industry is relatively small with only a few major players and 90% of the industry located in one metropolitan area. If one is involved in a bid and is going to a competitor (especially if the employee is a recruiter or technical writer), I know that my company asks them to leave immediately rather than serving their notice because of access to strategic information. My sister worked for a defense contractor and they had the same exact policy. Now if one isn’t actively involved in new business at that time, they are usually begged for more than 2 weeks’ notice. . .

    2. AmyNYC*

      That’s easier said than done. Asking what company you’ll be working for is a basic question that follows “Here’s my notice, I’ve accepted another position.” In my experience, it will raise eyebrows if you’re cagey about where you’re going.

      1. Cat*

        Yep, and you risk hurting your relationship with your former co-workers and manager who now know you don’t trust them not to be crazy.

        1. Colette*

          Agreed. If management has behaved badly when previous colleagues have left, it makes sense to be vague. However, absent that, it will come across as a little odd.

          1. some1*

            Right. It’s a completely natural question to ask out of curiosity.

            It’d be like if you told your co-worker that you were going to your high school reunion on Saturday and she asked where you went to school and you refused to tell her. Most people would ask the question out of curiosity, not so they can show up and crash the reunion.

      2. IndieGir*

        In my industry, it would be pretty weird not to say where you were going. In 16 years, only one person was really cagey, only saying that she was leaving the industry entirely. She was the resident departmental paranoid nut job. I think she thought we’d call up her new employer and tell them she was nutso. I would never do that because its unprofessional, might lead to the offer being rescinded and us being stuck with her, and anyway, they’d find out about her being a nut job on their own time.

      3. Joey*

        Why not just say “Id rather not say.” Who cares if it raises eyebrows? It’s nobody’s business where you go after you leave.

        You don’t even have to say you’ve accepted another position. All you have to say is “here’s my two week notice. My last day will be x.” Any follow up questions get a “I’m leaving for personal reasons that Id rather not talk about.”

          1. some1*

            & have people speculate about all the possibilities why you won’t tell (‘Maybe he’s going to jail’)

              1. some1*

                I’d find it so bizarre that a coworker refused to answer what company they were going quitting to go to, that, yeah, I’d wonder what the big secret is.

                1. Joey*

                  See and Id find it bizarre that you care so much about something that you have absolutely no need to know.

            1. Cat*

              I suspect a lot of people (those not in a position to know it wasn’t true) would assume you resigned in lieu of being fired.

          2. Joey*

            We’ll lots of people hurt co worker relationships merely by leaving. After all it’s pretty difficult to be as tight when you’re no longer coworkers.

            1. Cat*

              But since you’re likely to run into those people again in the future (unless you’re leaving the area or the industry, and even then, they might be called for references) you’d prefer them to think of you fondly, not as that weird co-worker who thought you were going to stalk them or something.

            2. some1*

              But you understand that at best it’s a weird last impression to leave, I hope? It’d be on par with a coworker who gets Senioritis during their notice period and starts coming in late and taking two hour lunches. It really doesn’t hurt anyone, but those are things your remember for a long time.

              1. Joey*

                Yeah, its weird sometimes, but to each his own. I mean what could you ever say without looking weird yourself- Joey’s weird- he wouldn’t tell us where he’s going to be working?

                1. Colette*

                  “Wow, Joey is treating his new employer like a huge secret. What’s going on there? Maybe he’s stealing secrets/about to get fired/etc.?

                2. Joey*

                  That’s sort of the pot calling the kettle black isn’t it? And I would be the paranoid one?

                3. Colette*

                  Here’s the thing – if you don’t share something that many people are fine with sharing, people will wonder why, and some of them will make up their own explanations.

                  You don’t have to provide every little detail, but if you want to influence what people think, you should share something.

            3. Colette*

              There’s a difference between a relationship being damaged by time and space and one being damaged by coldness or hostility.

              Here’s the thing: most people are on LinkedIn, or have friends or family who know where they’re going. It’s generally public information, so the coworkers will find out eventually. Treating it like it’s a huge secret makes people wonder why it’s so sensitive.

              It’s the difference between responding to someone who asks where you live with “Why do you want to know? It’s none of your business.” versus “Oh, I live close to “. Neither of those answers allows the person asking to show up on your doorstep, but one of them is far more hostile than the other.

              1. HR lady*

                Colette, yes, I was thinking of LinkedIn also. Especially nowadays because LinkedIn sends those “congratulate Apollo on his new job!” emails – you find out pretty fast.

                In my industry, since we only have a few local competitors, we often find out through the grapevine anyway. Lots of our employees know employees of the competitors (or used to be employed at a competitor).

              2. Jen RO*

                And you can share details about your new company without actually naming it! A coworker is leaving, and when I asked her she just told me it’s a very small place and she will be testing a mobile app. I wished her good luck and that was it.

          3. Puddin*

            I like, “I will let you know when I have landed,” with a wink and a smile. Then follow up with communication once I indeed have started. It keeps the lines open while also being deliberately vague so people understand not to pry.

        1. Cat*

          Yes, but you have to accept that, unless your relationship with your co-workers is very bad, this will make you look crazy.

          1. Joey*

            Crazy? How would you come to that conclusion? Am I considered crazy because I’m a private person?

            1. Cat*

              Where you work isn’t normally considered private information, though. Trying to make it private without a very good reason is going to make you look strange in most places (I’m sure there are workplaces where everyone keeps each other at armslength but I haven’t ever been in one).

              1. Joey*

                Lots of places I’ve been there have always been people that keep co workers at arms length. They might have a few tight friends they tell, but plenty of people don’t freely divulge it to anyone who asks.

                Are most of your experiences in with small employers or in small towns? That’s probably the only places I’ve ever worked that thought it was some sort of insult not to go into details about where you’re going.

                1. Cat*

                  No – but I’ve never worked anywhere where you didn’t have a group of co-workers you regularly interacted with that functioned about the same as a small company or small town among itself. I get if you were, say, someone who worked at home and interacted with your co-workers remotely and where nobody bothered to ask. Otherwise, I have a really hard time imagining this not being something that would be asked and answered in a casual manner. It would be like refusing to say where you went on vacation or what neighborhood you lived in. It’s just not something that is usually kept secret.

                2. Joey*

                  We might actually be agreeing. Because if I were pretty tight with someone at work and they didn’t tell me it would be a little weird. But if I’m not tight with you Id find it weird that you’re put off that I don’t want to tell you.

                3. Cat*

                  I guess it depends on how you address it. If I asked a work acquaintance where they were headed next and they gave me a vague answer like “oh, I’m looking to explore my options,” or “I’m switching to chocolate teapots,” I wouldn’t think it was weird. If they said “that’s personal information,” I’d roll my eyes and think it was pretty strange.

    3. Angel*

      I wish I hadn’t disclosed my new employer when I last changed jobs. I arrived at the new place on my first day to be told that there was an issue because my old company was threatening to sue.
      My previous employer didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, they were just being jerks, and my new employer wasn’t backwards in letting them know. I’m still there 14 years on, and that memory still makes me smile.
      I hope your new employer is the same.

    4. Jen RO*

      I think that it’s actually very unusual for something like this to happen, and declining to say where you’re going are going to be seen as unnecessarily paranoid.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s just social convention. They’re not obligated, but given how common it is, it will come across as weirdly cold not to say, and paranoid because it implies that they think others can’t be trusted with the information.

          1. Joey*

            Cold, yes. Paranoid? Id say private is more likely. And if they don’t disclose its probably not going to be out of character. If it is out of character then yes.

            1. Puddin*

              I think it depends on the company, position, and/or industry. I learned this lesson when I informed my employer after putting in a two week notice. Next thing I knew he was trying to get me to sign a non-compete -AFTER I had given notice (very unusual and not enforceable even if I did sign it). This turned into some lawyer stuff that threatened my new employment because the new company was sent legal letters stating I have signed a non-compete – which I hadn’t. Sales can be cutthroat, this kind of BS happens.

              Fast forward to my current role, not in sales, but in a hierarchical company that cultivates a culture of unhealthy competitiveness within the ranks. Trust is very low, rumors run the show, and people are actively told to not share good ideas if they want to stand out from the crowd come bonus time. None of the employees that leave tell anyone where they are going until a week or two after they start that job.

              1. fposte*

                I always wonder why people like your former company think that the new company cares about a non-compete they weren’t party to. My reaction would be “Did I sign it? No? Then why are you talking to me?”

                1. Puddin*

                  They were named as a potential party in the potential lawsuit letter. It was enough to freak them out because they did not want to go through the time and expense of any legal defense. It was not about whether I singed it or not, it was more about having to law it out and the fees involved. The whole experience sucked and that old boss burned a bridge for certain. It was all so unnecessary.

        2. some1*

          In my career, I’ve had two coworkers who lied about why they were resigning. One coworker at a retail job I had 15 years ago resigned because she said she had a major medical condition. A week later I saw her working as a hostess at a restaurant around the corner from our store in the same mall.

          Another coworker at an office job claimed she got a job closer to home, but I saw her leaving a business that was in the same area.

          That’s my last impression of them and I still think it’s bizarre.

          1. Joey*

            Oh lying, I’m with you. Its dumb and makes you look dumb. But I’ve never though anyone was crazy or paranoid just because they didn’t want to disclose all of the details of what they’d be doing next. I’ve always assumed they just don’t want me to know, no more, no less. And I’ve assumed that meant they don’t want to make efforts to keep in contact which is fine too.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I think it depends on the industry. In mine, I wouldn’t say it happens most of the time, but it’s definitely quite common for people to say “I’d rather not say where I’m going.” I think typically this happens when a) the employee is going to work on an account that directly competes with the one s/he is leaving (and wants to work the two weeks rather than being hustled out the door), or b) the employee was recruited by someone else who recently left the firm. Everyone in this industry signs non-recruits that are supposed to be for a year or two after you part ways, but people break that rule all the time. Makes me wonder why they even bother putting it in the employment agreement.

    5. thenoiseinspace*

      While I agree with the sentiment, I think a better way might be to just keep your answers general. “I’ve taken a job at a media company/ marketing firm/ etc.” If they ask what company, you can frame it by what they do: “It’s a company that builds software for tax companies/ does ad campaigns for international companies,” etc. That’s how I’ve seen others handle the situation, and it seemed to work well for them.

    6. #4*

      Unfortunately, not disclosing my new employment was not much of an option for me, although I certainly wish that it would have been at this point. These 2 companies work closely together (despite being competition, they buy and sell to each other due to the specific and limited nature of their businesses), it would have been exposed quickly enough, and not disclosing my new employment likely would have reflected poorly on me. I wanted to be transparent with my exit in hopes that it would help them to improve on the issues that drove me away while still maintaining a professional relationship. Sadly, I am coming to realize that ‘professional’ is not a term that my previous boss is familiar with! I had suspected that this could go in bad direction due to the type of person that this boss is (he has a reputation for being unpredictable in a bad way), but I had hoped that my years of hard work and dedication would over ride the urge for him to go completely crazy. In a perfect world, right? I was naive, and I should have taken more precautions to protect myself from this situation. It’s too late for that now, so instead I need to figure out how to move forward. Alison’s advice and everyones’ comments to it are all extremely helpful in that effort!

      1. Sunflower*

        I don’t think you could have stopped this honestly. Your boss sound so out of whack that even if you hadn’t disclosed where you were going, he would have found a way to dig around and find it.

        ‘I have been an outstanding employee, gave 3 weeks notice, and was honest about the problems that drove me to search for new employment.’

        The only thing I would have done differently is not have talked about the problems that drove your job search. That could be a contributing factor to your bosses overreaction. Next time just say ‘I’ve accepted an opportunity too good to pass up’ and only divulge other details to trusted coworkers or in an exit interview if you’re asked to do one.

        As long as NewJob understands the situation and isn’t holding this against you, move on and let it go. Work the rest of your time at the office, knowing you’ll be off to greener pastures, then forget the OldBoss existed. It’s way easier than you’d expect.

        1. Katie*

          I agree 100%. Unless you are very, very sure that your boss will handle it appropriately, be very positive about why you are leaving (like Sunflower’s example above “I’ve accepted an opportunity too good to pass up”). I made this mistake at my last job. They were pretty crazy, so I’m sure it would have been difficult either way. But during my exit interview I was very candid about why I was leaving, which included people routinely screaming at me, slamming doors, stealing from the organization, and just general dysfunction. Nothing was done with any of it, except that I was branded as a snitch and will probably get horrible references in the future.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I once worked at a highly dysfunctional place where the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was being sexually harassed by the guy I shared a cube with. I talked to management about him several times, including the abusive stuff he said about and to customers, and how he surfed porn, but was told that I’d just have to work it out on my own, since they paid so much to “poach” him from their competition. (We were in sales). When I quit a few months later, my exit interview was attended by the HR mgr (a nosy, gossipy, grandmotherly type woman who had been the owner’s personal secretary from way back when before he started his own company), my sales mgr. . . and a tape recorder. They tried to ask me about the harassment, coming at it from different angles (“Could you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with Craig?”) but I deflected and kept all my comments positive (“Nope. I’m sure he’s a fine salesperson. I’ve just been given an opportunity I can’t pass up.”) I have no idea why they had the tape recorder. I was told by other ex-employees that there wasn’t one in their exit interviews (and, in fact, most people who quit weren’t even given exit interviews). If they were looking for evidence against him, they should have acted the first few times I brought it up.

            Regardless, I doubt that I’d ever say anything negative in an exit interview, especially about things I had already brought to the attention of management. If they didn’t change it then, they won’t change it now; and I’d run a high risk of looking like a case of sour grapes.

  7. Sunflower*

    #1- I think OP has a skewed idea of what it means to be a manager. If the staff was refusing to do work she assigned them or wasn’t taking it seriously, that would be one thing, but it sounds like she wants them to put her on a pedestal?

    And is there an indication that the boss doesn’t think you are capable of doing the job? Because you say that’s the problem but I don’t see anything mentioning the boss not liking what you’re doing.

    Also there are a lot of company’s where it’s normal for the culture for managers and junior staff to socialize outside of work. I don’t think that means the staff doesn’t respect. In fact, it sounds like they like you.

    Take Alison’s advice and focus on your relationship with YOUR boss. It sounds like this staff is doing good work and you get along with them. Sounds like your boss would be pretty happy with you so far

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I treat higher level people exactly the same as lower level people. I don’t understand why OP thinks it is his/her right to “put them in their place” – especially considering they don’t even report to OP. Something about the original post really rubbed me the wrong way.

      1. Collarbone High*

        That phrase rubs me the wrong way, no matter how it’s used. “How can I rub it in people’s noses that they’re inferior to me?”

    2. fposte*

      I’m wondering if the OP is intimidated by the cohesion and history of an existing team, which doesn’t seem to leave her much place.

    3. Anonsie*

      Agreed, OP here sounds like they have capital-H Hangups about her perceived status and control in the group. They chat with you and share group ideas with the big boss so you want to “put them in their place?” What in the world? Do you want them to be too stiff and afraid of you to talk to/about you?

      I have had managers who had the mentality that they had to be some big scary monster in the office that everyone avoids and has to placate at all times. That’s not respect. I deeply respect my big boss and I try to learn from him and be more like him because of it, but we can still chat about our pets or our cars or whatever. He has get-togethers at his house for staff that are lovely. The fact that he’s approachable is part of what makes him a great boss.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      Well, the staff is trying to like you and include you. Dunno how long that will last.

  8. CB*

    OP #5 – I think this depends on your boss. My boss is really old school and sends written letters all the time to congratulate people, thank them, etc. She was very upset that I didn’t write her a thank you note the last time she gave me a raise. I’m not saying it’s right, but I think you should evaluate your boss’s style and if you think she’d appreciate the hand written note, there is no reason why you shouldn’t do it.

  9. Just a Reader*

    OP #1 it sounds like they like you and want you around. Don’t start “putting them in their place” if you want that to continue. A rapport with your staff is not a bad thing, but going out of your way to establish seniority is.

    Your work and how you carry yourself as a leader should establish your seniority. Good leaders treat others with respect and earn it themselves by being good at their jobs and treating people well.

  10. NonProfiter*

    Re: #1 — it sounds like from the other comments that the person might be a PM or team leader rather than a “manager” in the strictest sense, but regardless, the “my team takes credit for my ideas” thing struck me. The best manager I ever had started out by *giving* me credit for ideas she had really come up with, things I merely executed. Then she’d praise my work in front of her boss or the rest of the staff. And then when I was strong enough in my position to come up with ideas on my own, it was like she’d laid the groundwork for me to be successful with everyone else in the org.

    1. GeeGee*

      This! I’ve had a similar experience with a manager. As the employee, it does a lot for your confidence and of course it pushes you to do better. A good manager (or team leader) wants his/her team to shine. When your team does well, you as the manager looks good too. The OP has the wronf

    2. Kat*

      Yeah, I’m confused by that aspect as well. Part of the job of a manager is to develop the careers of their employees. Yes, that means them taking credit for the work they do because of your advice. I can’t tell if OP 1 is just kinda mean or has a history of working with really bad managers and doesn’t have an example of good management.

  11. ETF*

    #1, you sound like a whiny baby. I wouldn’t respect you if I were on your team. I’m guessing your team isn’t actually taking credit for your ideas, but that they are the ones coming up with great ideas, and you are deluding yourself into thinking that you thought of them first.

    Or perhaps you are clever enough to be a fountain of good ideas, and you are simply letting them walk all over you. In that case, the next time you come up with a good idea, you should write it down in an email, send it around to your team, and CC your boss, so he knows who came up with the idea.

  12. Yup*

    #1 – “How do I put them in their place so that I can get the respect that I need and show my boss that I can do the job?”

    Whoa. Your phrasing there worries me. They’re not serfs to be mightily ordered about. These are your colleagues and coworkers, junior though they may be, and you need to be treating them with respect too. It’s certainly possible that they’re acting disrespectfully towards you, but that’s not obvious to me from your letter. Inviting you to hang out after work and chatting about personal things sounds like people being friendly and trying to put the new person in the office at ease. You don’t have to socialize with them if you don’t want to, and I’m always in favor of creating good boundaries, but you’re not doing yourself any favors in creating positive working relationships if you’re dismissing them out of hand as presumptuous or beneath you because they’re younger or hold less responsibility.

    Please reconsider how you’re viewing your junior colleagues. Valuing them and their contributions to the work you all create together will be a starting point for building mutual respect.

  13. op #1*

    Im OP #1. I’m in no way a tyrrant or want to be put on a pedastal. I’ve had lunches with them. I give praise but they don’t do thorough work and I’m correcting their projects late into the night because they are so eager to finish rather than learn about what they are doing. I know age shouldn’t demand respect but it’s frustrating that they dont know basic things about the job and yet ask to work on more advanced projects. I’ve been in the job for almost six months and it just feels like things are getting more and more casual with them as time has gone on.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’ve mixed up things that don’t matter with things that do. Asking you to hang after work: doesn’t matter. Not getting work done: does matter. Being casual with you: doesn’t matter. Being casual about performance standards: does matter.

      I really think you need to clarify exactly what *performance* expectations aren’t being met and meet with your team collectively or individually to talk about how you expect that to be improved going forward. Then monitor them more closely on those performance goals, and let the rest of it go.

    2. Del*

      Then why didn’t you say any of that?

      You’re talking about two completely different things here. One of them is the quality of their product, and the other is their interactions with you. Whether they are inviting you to hang with them after work or not is pretty much entirely unrelated to their ability to perform the work they’re doing.

      (Also, just for your future reference: a reference to putting people “in their place” is pretty much always going to sound tyrannical. I’d suggest dropping that attitude no matter what their behavior or product is like.)

    3. Sharon*

      There is a management/leadership principal that says whatever you reward is the result you’ll get. It’s a trap that many managers fall into: accidentally rewarding the wrong behavior. If your team rushes their work, are you accidentally giving them too much time pressure or rewarding them for turning in incomplete work? Also are you finishing their work for them, or are you sending it back for them to complete? Are you praising them for complete AND quality work, or praising them for other trivial things? What exactly about their work do you value? Praise them for paying attention to the details you actually value.

    4. MousyNon*

      The problem here is that you’re equating the quality of their work with “respect,” which –especially as you define it (as a measure of age and role) isn’t relevant to the issue at hand.

      If they’re making mistakes, it’s your job to ensure they understand what those mistakes are, what you and your bosses expectations are, and how they can go about fixing them (and it’s also your job to ensure your boss is in the loop). When they ask for advanced projects, you calmly explain that once they’ve mastered x, y, and z and reduced their turn-around time, you’d be happy to discuss more advanced projects with them.

      None of this has anything to do with their being “casual” in the office. If the office culture supports a casual rapport, that is not something you should suppress in order to “force” them to do quality work, or as means of punishing them for your frustration or a perceived lack of respect.

      To put it simply: Address the quality of their work by discussing the quality of their work. Address the “professional boundary” issue by politely declining invitations and gently redirecting conversations. Do not conflate the two–these are entirely unrelated areas.

    5. JM*

      What you mention in this post better describes the issues you’re having. I think had you mentioned these originally, the responses you would have gotten would have been drastically different. That being said you should speak with them about clear expectations, what they need to do now to be able to get more advanced projects in the future, and maybe some techniques on self-correction.

    6. Tinker*

      One thing to consider is that if you do connect with these folks, you can spend that social capital on getting them on board with addressing the things that annoy you. It’s a lot easier to help out a friend, even a “boss friend”, than it is to get “put in your place” — even if you’re a generally motivated human, which these folks may not be.

    7. ETF*

      Your problem is that you correct their work late at night by yourself. Instead of doing that, tell them what they did wrong, and make them correct it themselves. They are clearly eager to take on projects. I’m sure they will be just as eager to learn what they are doing wrong so they can correct it and learn something in the process.

      Teach them to fish, don’t catch the fish for them.

      1. Judy*

        Right. In the end, I’d assume they are responsible for doing the work, you are responsible for making sure the work is done. Those are two separate things.

    8. Zahra*

      So it’s not so much that the atmosphere is casual than the fact that they’re not producing quality work.

      I imagine you’ve already told them “I’d love to give you a chance on more advanced projects, but the work you’re turning in has so many holes/errors/etc. that I can’t do that right now. If you show me that you can produce better work, consistently, we can revisit the matter.”

      On the current projects, can you institute regular check-ups on their progress to avoid the problems you’re having? Or request an earlier turn-in time so you can look over their work and send it back to them with the corrections needed?

      Also, check Alison’s article she just published about 10 things great bosses do. Maybe you can see some points you can improve on.

    9. A Teacher*

      That’s a different question then. You are asking how to re-mediate skills that they don’t have–I do this a lot as a teacher. I’m sure that many of the regular commentators that have done project management will have suggestions to this.

      I don’t “demand” respect of my students, I earn it and they work better for me when I’ve earned that respect. You can have a casual relationship with your co-workers and still get good work out of them.

    10. MaryMary*

      If there are performance issues here (and if you’re spending a significant amount of time correcting their projects, there are), then it’s even more important that you work in conjunction with the actual people manager. You need to set clear expectations and hold your team accountable, but they need to hear the same message from their people manager. There’s no reason you can’t set the expectation that these associates won’t move on to more advanced project work until their current work is exemplary. However, it will be more difficult if they’re hearing something different from their manager.

    11. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Ah, okay, totally different question now.

      Your challenge isn’t getting them to respect you, your challenge is getting them to respect the work.

      These things aren’t connected:

      I know age shouldn’t demand respect but it’s frustrating that they dont know basic things about the job and yet ask to work on more advanced projects.

      Respecting or not respecting you doesn’t have anything to do with what they know or what they ask for.

      If your team or members on your team are turning out poor quality work, the first place you look is yourself. You ask yourself if you are being clear enough, if you are available enough, if you have given them the tools they need to do their jobs well.

      After you do that inventory, then start working with the team members individually. Do not redo people’s work, hand it back. Explain what is missing/inaccurate/not-up-to-standards clearly.

      If people improve, great! If they don’t, connect with their manager-they-report-to pretty early on and go over the deficiencies.

      Overall, though, I am concerned for you. If your problem is your team is turning out poor quality work and the thing you thought to write in about was they are taking credit for you ideas, this is not a good sign. You can turn it around, though, you can!

    12. Kera*

      A colleague of mine was obsessed with her team showing her respect and knowing their place. Before long, she was left without much of a team at all, those capable of doing the work and doing it well having jumped ship to a team lead who focused on results.

      If you’re doing their work for them, they’ll never learn to get it right first time. If you’re not communicating clearly about what is important to you (as was the case with your original letter) , they won’t magically work it out. If they’re new to employment, have you told them the job basics, and reinforced that when they slip?

      It sounds as though they have the impression that if they finish X, they can do interesting thing Y. You need to correct that miscommunication . What are your priorities with task X – fast, cheap, or good? And in which order?

      As an aside, I’d expect things to get more informal, the longer I’d worked with a team, not less.

    13. Rain and Lemon Balm*

      I wonder if you’re assuming that there’s a causation between “more casual atmosphere than I’m used to” (small talk about personal stuff, inviting you to join them in after-work socializing) with “not getting their job done, or doing their job poorly” (which is a genuine and serious problem). That’s somewhat understandable: if you’ve always been in a more formal environment, and now you’re in one that’s more casual *and* stuff isn’t getting done, it makes sense that you might think the two are related. (Especially if there’s a culture mismatch such that you not only are used to a less casual environment, but strongly prefer it.)

      The reason you’re getting pushback here, I think, is that they aren’t related, necessarily. I’ve worked in jobs where what you describe in terms of casualness is entirely normal (chitchat, “hanging out” with people in manager-type positions after work) and things still got done very well, and I’ve worked in jobs that were very formal (very little small talk, you wouldn’t think of asking a manager if they want to get lunch or something) where productivity was poor. And of course vice versa. Obviously there’s such a thing as too casual/too familiar, but what you describe is fairly normal in my experience.

      It might be wise to let go of the complaints about casual talk and hanging out–you don’t have to participate in it if you don’t feel like it, you can use AAM’s suggestions for redirecting social chat or turning down invitations, but try not to see it as a problem that you need to solve–and instead focus specifically on the quality of work issues. The two aren’t necessarily related at all, after all, and you can solve the latter without struggling against the tide to change the former.

  14. Us, Too*

    OP #1 – I’m going to suggest that it’s possible that your team doesn’t understand that they’re having performance issues, especially if you articulate your concerns to them in the same way that you did to us. If we were confused imagine how confused they may be, especially with less professional experience “reading between the lines”. You need to focus on the actual issues: their work product. Not whether they respect you or the work (“respect” is a very nebulous concept). Or who is getting credit for ideas. Or any of that. Focus on the work.

  15. Dan*


    AAM, you wrote:

    “But don’t ask for last-minute tips, because you risk them bristling at that and thinking you’re asking for insider help that other candidates aren’t getting and which could bias the hiring process away from a merit-based decision.”

    I found this to be an interesting choice of words. I long ago (and I’m not that old) stopped looking at the hiring process as something that is a pure merit-based decision. I want to prove that I am the best person for the job, that I am what they are looking for, etc.

    I have a blue collar background in an industry where I was looking to transition to white collar work within said industry. Clearly, I know a lot about the industry, or at least I think I do, and I was looking forward to showing off my industry knowledge, because I thought it would give me a leg up on other candidates.

    The interview process was geared toward people who knew nothing about the industry and had come from other office backgrounds.

    More recently, I had another interview with a company that had been a client of mine for three years at a previous job. I was looking forward to showing off what I knew about the company that went well beyond what you can get from their website, and how I could apply my analytic skills to their operation.

    They never once asked me what I knew about their company, and everything that I had prepared to discuss how my analytic skills could help them, they spoon fed me.

    I’ve learned (more than once) that the best interviews are geared toward figuring out who I am, what I know, and how I can help them do the job. They aren’t about answering “tell me about a time” questions that you could ask anybody who never even heard about your industry before.

    What those companies implicitly tell me is that they don’t care enough about my background to determine if it is going to help them solve their problems. If they’re really telling me that my background doesn’t matter and therefore isn’t useful, then I don’t want to work there, because I am looking for roles where my background *does* matter.

  16. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    Questions for bosses about respect: how much do you care about respect itself vs the illusion of respect? In other words, at the surface level, I “respect” my boss in the sense that I enforce her decisions, defer to her judgment, volunteer to perform tasks that will make her job easier, make her look good to others, etc. But on the inside, I think my boss is an extremely poor leader, is downright negligent, and I’m positive that she would have been fired ages ago if she didn’t found our nonprofit. In that sense, I don’t actually “respect” her. I’ve always wondered if the whole boss/respect issue is referring to genuine respect or face value respect, but I’m guessing it’s the latter.

    1. Joey*

      Well I don’t think you actually respect her, you just respect her position. That’s a short term solution to a long term problem.

      1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

        “That’s a short term solution to a long term problem.”

        True. But what do you do if you otherwise love your job and enjoy your coworkers? Rhetorical question, of course.

    2. fposte*

      I’d say it’s not about what you privately think, it’s how you treat people–and how you refer to them in their absence (save for, you know, significant others that you’re allowed to vent to). Treat me civilly, speak of me civilly, deliver on what we’ve agreed, and I don’t care if privately you’re rolling your eyes.

      I will say that I’ve been in your position and it can be really tough to keep the behavior impeccable if you genuinely find the person poor at what she does. Sometimes there’s at least room for going on the record with dissent or concerns that can help you feel less like you’re acting a part.

      1. Joey*

        Yeah, usually when people are talking about respecting your boss they’re talking about showing behaviors that are respectful which is different from respecting your boss because he’s good at his job.

      2. Nonprofit Office Manager*

        “Treat me civilly, speak of me civilly, deliver on what we’ve agreed, and I don’t care if privately you’re rolling your eyes.”

        I imagine this is the case for most good bosses.

    3. Anonna Miss*

      Obviously, genuine respect is preferred, but until/unless it is earned, face value respect will do. Face value respect is certainly better than the alternative – actively demonstrating a lack of respect. Either by not enforcing their decisions, openly questioning their judgment, undermining them to others, etc.

      Yes, it’s much better if managers earn genuine respect, and employees give it. In the meantime, faking it is better than not. I’ve certainly had bosses that I’ve privately thought were making bad calls. Sometimes they were, other times they turned out to know more than I did. Occasionally they fell on their face. But it wasn’t because I was intentionally making things even more difficult by trashtalking them to whoever would listen, or worse.

  17. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – Alison is right on. You’d be amazed at what a letter from a lawyer can do. I had to deal with a bit of crazy once and a letter from a lawyer straightened that right out.

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely! I’ve always said all I need is legal stationary, a prescription pad, and the legal right to use both and I’d be invincible.

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