asking my boss to move his vacation days, I’m being laid off and don’t want a goodbye lunch, and more

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

1. Can I ask my boss to move his vacation days during our busy period?

I work in university administration, and my boss is at the “use it or lose it” stage of his vacation time, so he will often take four-day weekends to use up the days. No problem. This time, however, the Monday of his four-day weekend coincides with the busiest week of the semester for us – for about seven straight workdays, my boss and I are in back-to-back meetings with nine different students each for 4.5 hours, with the remaining 2.5 hours theoretically allowing time to prep for the next day’s appointments. But by him taking off on one of these days, it essentially wipes nine open appointment times off the calendar, making an already frantic week extra frantic and increasingly stressful.

Keeping in mind that my boss takes offense easily and that presumably our business manager approved his time off, is it even worth me asking if he’d be willing to come in to work that Monday and move take off Thursday and Friday instead of Friday and Monday? And if so, how should I approach that conversation? If he were in the office that day, my stress level would be significantly decreased (and so would my resentment at him purposefully taking off a day that he knew would be busy).

“Looking at our calendar for that week, we have so many student appointments crammed in that I’m worried about losing two days of them. It’s going to mean we’ll have to move that appointments to the other days, making them more packed. I realize you might have plans that make this impossible, but I wonder if there’s any way to take your vacation days on Thursday and Friday instead of Friday and Monday?”

A reasonable manager wouldn’t have any issue hearing that. (Of course, a reasonable manager also would have looked at the calendar and figured this out on his own.) But you say that yours takes offense easily, so you might have to decide whether trying to get this fixed is worth dealing with his misplaced offense-taking.

2. I’m being laid off and don’t want a goodbye lunch

I was recently laid off, and my last day is on April 30th. My manager asked me if I want to go to lunch with the department. I feel weird about it because it’s like celebrating my termination. Also, my position is being eliminated but they are hiring a manager to replace me.

I would want to go to lunch but not with the whole department — maybe with just a few people. How do I politely decline the invitation or how do I let her know that I would only want to go with some people (like those I work with every day and have become my friends)?

How about: “Thanks for offering. I don’t think I’m up for a department-wide lunch, but I appreciate you suggesting it!”

Or: “Thanks for offering. I don’t think I’m up for a department-wide lunch, but I might ask Percival, Lucinda, and Zeus to join me for lunch that day, since I’ve worked with them most closely.”

3. I’m interviewing someone I used to work for — in a situation that ended in legal action

From 2006-2008, I moonlighted as a part-time lecturer at a local university. I was not considered a regular employee, but an independent contractor. So, my wages were not directly deposited into my account, but I had to fill in a weekly time sheet. Payroll consistently lost or failed to process my timesheets, and my pay was consistently late, sometimes by months. Our head of department, my boss, simply really did not want to get involved in the matter.

So I had to deal with the late payment problem myself. I must admit after 2.5 years of struggling to get paid, and a paycheck not showing up for Christmas, that I told her that as an independent contractor, I would need some sort of deposit for teaching future classes, with final payment after the grades were turned in. She basically said she could not do that, and that I was not to teach for the university any more. So I turned in my final grades and left. She subsequently emailed me and said she was personally sorry that I was having so many troubles with payroll but that she could do nothing about it. (Yes, I still have these emails). I ended up having to take the university payroll department to small claims court to get my last paycheck and they settled out of court, also having to give me a late payment penalty. The payroll manager ended up eventually getting fired. The head of the department stayed at the university.

So, 5.5 years on, I am now a permanent professor at another university, and I have been placed on an interview panel for a pro vice chancellor position. We are interviewing four candidates, and I found out that my former head of department is one of the candidates. She would be my boss’s boss. As my last name has changed since my part-time position, I suspect she will not realise I am on the interview panel. Should I tell the upper admin on the panel of my experience with this candidate, or just keep my mouth shut, be professional at the interview and see what transpires?

When making hiring decisions, I always want as much information as possible; I don’t want someone deciding for me that something is irrelevant or wouldn’t be worth me hearing. I’d prefer to make that call myself — and if I agree that it’s irrelevant or not helpful, I can discard it. Moreover, in a case where you had direct experience working for her, it would be really weird not to mention that fact that to your other interviewers. (Whether or not they will listen to you is a different matter, since academic hiring is often ridiculously rigid about what will and won’t be considered.)

I’d say something like this: “I worked for Jane for two years as a contract lecturer. My experience working with her was ___.”(Fill in the good and the bad — not just the pay situation, but all of it.)

Also, it’s possible that your pay situation really was out of her hands, which can often be the case in large bureaucracies. But it sounds like her manner of dealing with you left something to be desired, and that’s relevant information here.

4. Employer asked me to be an “alternate finalist”

I just had an interview via Skype that was the second round in a three-round process. The interview didn’t go great and I wasn’t surprised to find out that I wasn’t a finalist. I was surprised when they asked me to be an “alternate finalist” in case another finalist didn’t work out. My feeling is that this would be a waste of my time… They already decided they didn’t think I was a good fit, so why would I continue the process? But, I’m having trouble with how to gracefully say no to this offer. I start with, “I appreciate the opportunity… ” but am unsure how to complete that sentence.

Is this a common practice? Am I looking at this incorrectly and should accept? If I turn them down, how would you word it?

The only part of this that’s weird is the “alternate finalist” thing. Employers often have alternate finalists, but they don’t tell them that they’re alternate finalists. They just don’t invite them to final interviews unless they end up needing to. So it’s a little unusual that they’re announcing it to you (although on the other hand, some people might appreciate the transparency).

But I wouldn’t assume it’s a waste of your time at all. Employers often have multiple good candidates who they’d be happy to hire but only one slot — so they end up rejecting (or even not interviewing) plenty of well-qualified people. That’s not an insult to those people they don’t interview or hire; it’s just a matter of math. And I’ve certainly hired people who were at one point my second or third or even fourth choice — because other candidates turned down offers or ended up not being as strong as I’d originally thought they were, and/or because those runner-ups proved themselves stronger over the course of more conversations.

You wouldn’t still be in the running at all if they didn’t think you could do the job well, so you shouldn’t turn it down because you’re insulted or think it’s a lost cause.

5. Listing a degree I don’t have for another month

I will graduate next month. Can list that I have my bachelor’s now on my resume?

No, because you don’t. List it this way instead:

University Name, Degree Name (expected May 2014)

{ 172 comments… read them below }

  1. Puffle*

    #4 People turn down job offers or drop out of the application process all the time: maybe they got a better offer, maybe they don’t like the look of the company culture, maybe something’s going on in their personal life. It’s definitely worth hanging in there and seeing what happens. I have several friends who landed great jobs that they enjoy because another candidate turned down the post.

    One piece of advice a friend gave me when I was job-hunting was to remember that your application is never sitting there in isolation. Hiring managers will be lining you up against the other candidates and seeing who they think is the best fit. Sure, maybe you’re not #1 in the list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like you (professionally, I mean), or that they didn’t think you’d be a good fit, it might just be that there happened to be another candidate who suited them slightly better. Perhaps, if you applied to the same company another time and were lined up against different people, you would be #1 in the list.

    I hope that makes sense, my brain is a little scrambled right now…

    1. Dan*

      I was rejected from a job where I was told that if the mix was different, that I would have received an offer. That or if one of the candidates declined the offer.

      I appreciated the candor, and TBH also the rejection. I was at a point in my life where the money would have to have been really good for me to accept, and I don’t think I would have gotten enough to make it worthwhile.

      Currently, my “mix” is different, so I could potentially take that job on terms that they would be willing to offer. With a rejection, I’m welcome to apply back at a later date and don’t have to tap dance around the pay issue.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, I think often it’s hard for candidates to remember that the company isn’t usually choosing 1 qualified person out of 10 unqualified people, they’re choose 1 just-barely-more-qualified person out of 5-10 qualified people out of a sea of 100+ applicants. But ultimate, there’s only one position available, so 4-9 of those 5-10 qualified people have to get rejected.

      1. LBK*

        Wow, that was horribly written. Hopefully it wasn’t unreadable. Note to self, finish coffee, then comment.

    3. Alternate Finalist*

      Thanks, Puffle. It helped to put things in perspective to think about how many other qualified applicants they may be seeing.

  2. LSmith314*

    #2- Only a completely clueless (socially, at least) manager would offer to have a department wide lunch for someone being laid off. I feel your pain.
    On another note, though- it’s a good market for employees- I recently “celebrated” my layoff with a 50% increase in pay, working for a far more prestigious company with a promotion! Things will work out for you too!

    1. Blinx*

      Yet, it’s astounding how many clueless people are out there! When I was laid off with 3 other close colleagues (and hundreds of distant ones), another coworker who kept her job wanted to have this huge bash at a local eatery. It was just an incredibly sad and dismal time all around — we really had to hammer it into her that we did NOT want a big send off! We finally ended up with 8 or so of “just us” and that was fine.

    2. Bea W*

      What field are you in that it’s a “good market”? If I got laid off today, finding another perm job would be difficult, and it may or may not come with a raise.

    3. Sunflower*

      I feel like this stems from guilt. Maybe the manager went to bat for you but just couldn’t convince them to keep you or the manager doesn’t want you to think she threw you under the bus. It’s definitely a weird social situation I wouldn’t want to be in but she probably wants to show that just because you were laid off, it doesn’t mean you weren’t valuable or a good worker.

    4. Colette*

      Whether the manager was clueless or not really depends on the circumstances. Sometimes the decision is out of the manager’s hands, sometimes the company is going through so many layoffs that it’s really obvious that it’s not personal. Looked at another way, a lunch is a chance to say goodbye to people you’ve worked with & perhaps get contact information.

      If the boss approached it as “when do you want your goodbye lunch?”, that’s a little odd, but if it were more along the lines of “if you want a lunch, I’m happy to pull one together for you”, it’s a little different.

      1. Lyssa*

        I agree. And if everyone else who has left has had a lunch, the manager probably thought that it would feel like a double-slap in the face for the LW to both get laid off and not even get her leaving acknowledged. Manager should approach it with sensitivity, but it’s not wrong to offer.

    5. Joey*

      Its kind of a tough spot for the manager. The letter could have easily been “I’m being laid off and my manager isn’t even planning a going away lunch like she has for everyone else who’s left. ”

      Granted its not as tough of a spot as being laid off, but you’re sorta damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So isn’t it reasonable to ask the employee like the manager did?

    6. The IT Manager*

      Only a completely clueless (socially, at least) manager would offer to have a department wide lunch for someone being laid off.

      I disagree. The LW’s preferences should be acted upon, but I could easily see someone writing in a saying that they were laid off and are hurt that their company is not hosting a farewell lunch for them like they do for everyone else. They had long-time work friends and colleagues they wanted to say good bye to.

      I am not a very social person, but I was once “laid off” and I had a going away lunch. It was a small lay-off in a massive organization and my immediate co-workers had nothing to do with me losing my job. No matter how upset and betrayed I was by the massive organization, my co-workers were not to blame and I was happy to have a farewell lunch with them.

      * I was laid off by the military so its not quite a lay-off, but that’s the closest civilian equivalent.

      1. Carmen Sandiego*

        I agree with this. I was laid off and my team (not my immediate supervisor) staged a small get-together in the office and presented me with a gift. I found it touching and appreciated the gesture, although it felt a little awkward at the time because everything was so raw. I think the manager’s heart is in the right place, but I also don’t think anyone would, or should, take offense if you politely decline.

    7. Tinker*

      I think it probably depends on the company culture — at the place where I was laid off from, people had the same sort of lunch event that they’d have if they’d left for other reasons, and it’d be weird not to do something like that. I’d guess that the difference is that the company is large enough that the bit involved in the decision making that produces the layoff is pretty much entirely separate from the working community from which the goodbye lunches originate.

      Which reminds me, I’ve got a bunch of former colleagues that I need to catch up with >_>

      1. Justacommenterhere*

        Where are these companies that have going away lunches? I work in an industry (Banking IT) where you’re lucky you can take a breath if you’ve been “laid off”. In fact, we just had a layoff last week and my co worker (who was exceptional in every way) was told and had to turn over his laptop right then. He wasn’t allowed to say goodbye and was escorted to the door. Those who survived were actually discouraged from contacting him, even though the bank is supposed to be trying to find him another role. In the meantime, “don’t let the door hit you in the rear” coming out of one side of their mouth but “hope to see you back” is coming out the other side. He was part of 100+ people cut! and probably just the first wave. It just felt like a death.

        1. Carmen Sandiego*

          Mine was in web design. They laid me off but delayed my end date for a month so I could finish a big project for them. It was a hard, hard month but I gritted my teeth and hung in there.

  3. skipping girl*

    #5 – I wouldn’t say “expected May 2014”, I would say “graduating May 2014” – assuming there is no possibility that you won’t be graduating.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I screen a ton of resumes for interns, and they almost all write “expected”- to me it sounds a little more professional than “graduating may 2014”. But honestly, I think either is fine.

      1. Joey*

        If I read both I’d assume graduating meant its just a formality while expected probably means its dependent on successfully completing work.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I’ve only ever seen “expected May 2014” – I think “graduating May 2014” sounds casual and vernacular and that “expected” is standard usage.

        My peeve is when people call themselves doctoral candidates when they may not technically be candidates.

        1. EB*

          Me too! A doctoral candidate has been formally advanced to candidacy by their department. Being in a PhD program does not mean you are a candidate.

        2. Lizzie*

          Yup. Seriously irritates me too. There was one girl in my program who added that to her email signature before she even started her first semester.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I despise the whole trend of email signatures including anything about schooling. We don’t need to know that you graduated last year or are the class of 2015 or whatever.

            1. Evan (in the USA)*

              My high school email account added that by default; I don’t think I would’ve even been able to turn it off.

              But no, I’d never put it in my personal email signature.

    2. Mimmy*

      I think I wrote “anticipated” when I was close to finishing my grad degree. That’s probably also okay.

      1. A Teacher*

        We were always told to write “anticipated” and that’s across 3 different schools and 3 different degrees including two graduate schools. Maybe it was bad advice but it never kept me from getting interviews and eventually jobs.

    3. Brett*

      I read “graduating” as “All of my requirements are done and I am just waiting for convocation”.

      I read “expected” as, “If everything goes right, I will graduate at this time.” If it turns out you are not done with every single class and every grad requirement and just waiting for convocation, writing “graduating” will seem odd to me.

      1. Em*

        Then you could only really use “graduating” for the week or so before you graduate… because with a month or more still to go, there are often still a lot of grades and typically a significant percent of your average still outstanding. This is furthered if you have a capstone or thesis to complete.

        1. Brett*

          Pretty much, at least for most people.
          (I actually had to wait 8 months between the completion of my requirements and convocation, since my school only had convocation in May and I defended in September.)

          1. Anna*

            What if you don’t walk and you defend in September? As far as I know once your committee signs off, you’re done. Walking is just a ceremony. I’ve also always known I was going to graduate, even the semester before I actually completed my undergrad degrees. I guess I don’t understand the iffiness of it all. I was obsessively on top of all my credits and requirements for both my undergraduate degrees and my MA.

            1. Brett*

              I was done in September, but as far as the school was concerned (and most importantly, degree verification) I had no degree until convocation.
              I’ve seen people get all the way up to that last defense… and never end up completing.

            2. Aunt Vixen*

              I completed my coursework for one of my degrees in December and the degree wasn’t conferred until January. Then I completed etc. in June and the degree wasn’t conferred until September. Sometimes that happens. I think the thing about “expected” is as others have said above – I can put “expected December 2014” when I have one semester to go, but if I can’t get the classes I need, I might have to revise my expectations. Or, if it’s Thanksgiving and I know I’m going to get the degree in December, Things could Happen. Clerical errors. Bus accidents. Whatever – just like a job offer, you don’t have a degree until you *have the degree*, and before that, it’s an expected degree.

        2. Mary*

          I know this is a US-focussed blog but this may be useful knowledge: this is country dependent. In Australia, you’d typically be completely graded by November or December (most people finish with the calendar year) and graduate in a ceremony sometime between March and May the following year. You usually list yourself as a “graduand” for the several months between meeting requirements and actually graduating. (There’s also the interesting effect that your graduation year does not match your final study year.)

      2. College Academic Counselor*

        Actually, when you walk in the commencement ceremony is not always directly related to when you graduate. My school allows students to walk in the Spring ceremony even if they still need summer school – and then sometimes those students don’t pass their summer class and actually end up graduating in Fall or later. Just because they put on the gown and walked across the stage does not necessarily mean they have graduated. I would say that your graduation date should be the month in which you finish the last class(es) required for your degree, and your degree is “expected” until you have verification of passing grades in those classes.

      1. KimmieSue*

        Totally agree. I review hundreds of resumes every week. They all mean the same thing to me.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Zeus gets invited because he always sneaks in liquor.

      Percival, on the other hand, has been kicked out of the Applebees many a time for flirting with the waiters. I’d recommend “losing” his invitation.

      1. Finbar*

        But, his successful flirting has earned the table a free spinach and artichoke dip appetizer on more than one occasion.

          1. Cube Ninja*

            In addition to WTF Wednesdays, I would like to lobby for a pantheon of pseudonyms for regular use, along with the people who would play them in the movie adaptation.

            For some reason, with Zeus, I can’t get the idea of Stephen Colbert hurling lightning bolts out of my head.

            1. Thank You, Cube Ninja*

              I read too quickly and “I can’t get the idea of Stephen Colbert hurling lightning bolts out of my head,” made me think of Stephen Colbert inside your head hurling lightning bolts out of it.

              Thank you for the laugh!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I personally like “Percival.” I’ve decided it would be a perfect ironic hipster name for a baby.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Lucinda and Apollo don’t really get along. I’d rather have Lucinda at lunch and Apollo at Happy Hour, anyway.

          1. Poohbear McGriddles*

            Yeah, the Lucinda/Apollo drama really gets on my nerves. She locks him out on the balcony one time, and he’s all like keep this (expletive deleted) away from me! Sure, it was the 33rd floor and it was raining, but who puts a balcony that high anyway?
            But I agree, Apollo totally rocks Happy Hour. Especially when he drinks with Zeus.

      1. Dana*

        Lol funny you should mention that – Percy is one of my husband’s favourite boy names for our Sept. baby. I’m not loving it quite as much…

        1. Anna*

          I think Harry Potter has forever altered the perception of Percys everywhere. Uptight, bureaucratic, obsequious.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah…could you relegate it to middle name status? My fiance and I love to come up with ironic hipster baby names – one of our favorite pastimes. :)

  4. Bryan*

    #3-I would say how you were having issues getting paid on time and the chair didn’t really even try anything. Even if they technically couldn’t do anything sometimes an email from a higher authority figure can be helpful. While there are many times you shouldn’t go to your manager with problems, that was not one of those times. If I was an interviewer that is the information that would be relevant to me.

    You also might need to disclose that you were fired/quit (not sure what it technically was) for full disclosure. I would stay away from getting into too may details, just have the tone of your boss brushed off problems that as affecting one of their employees. That’s an undesirable trait.

    1. Anonylicious*

      It’s not really firing or quitting; it’s a case of the contractor and the client not being able to come to mutually satisfactory contract terms for future contracts.

      1. Bryan*

        I was going to say “they didn’t renew my contract” but I’m not sure if adjuncts fall under contract employees or at will. I was struggling with semantics and my allergy medication is not helping with it at all.

        1. Anonylicious*

          Well, they mentioned being an independent contractor, which seemed to be what payroll had such trouble with. (Not that there’s any excuse.) I don’t know much about adjuncts or universities except from a former student’s perspective, but I know rather more about contracting than I’d like.

          Hope your allergies ease up. Medication grogginess sucks.

        2. Rana*

          It depends on the institution. Typically one is hired for a semester or a year to teach a specified number of courses, but the terms of that hiring can vary.

    2. Lisa*

      I agree with AAM, I would want to know that someone refused to go to bat for an employee and instead just accepted that she couldn’t do anything. There are always things you can do, a phone call, an email, something. Maybe she did, but she didn’t communicate that at all. It sounds like this person didn’t bother and just threw her hands up and was like ‘it’s not my job’ or maybe she had tried with another contractor before and gotten nowhere. Again, communicating that would have been better than leaving you to fend for yourself.

      Scenario question for the interview- an adjunct that you hired and manage, is having trouble getting paid by the university. What do you do?

      You’re giving her a lead-in to tell her how she would handle the situation now and not basing info on what she didn’t do 5 years ago. If she understands why you are asking (to see how she handles conflict resolution today) and not holding a grudge, she will answer it with solutions of trying to get the scenario fixed. If she balks, complains unfair treatment, you don’t want her there and as the hiring team – that is good info to have.

      1. Anonymous*

        Best comment ever! Love the scenario question. I had the same problem as a low-level university staff member–one of my students’ pay kept was held up twice, because she did two small jobs–one for me and one for another department. On the second incident, when they told me she would be paid in three weeks, I got someone else I knew in HR to fix it, though it was not comfortable for me to go to her and ask about this issue. You don’t allow your employees to not get paid, particularly when you are high enough on the food chain where a phone call will get a check cut.

    3. annie*

      I think it would be fair to say that you had so many issues with the person getting you paid that you chose to stop working there. It kind of says you don’t want to work with this person again without being as blunt as you are probably thinking in your mind, ha.

  5. Chinook*

    OP #3 – if the manager really had a part in you not being paid on time or refused to intervene when she could have done something, definitely speak up and enjoy karma at work but also be open to the fact that she may have learned from her mistake and grown. But, if she was a good manager in other ways, feel free to mention that as well (without burying the lead). By giving both good and bad points, you are showing a level headed review of her.

    Now, if she was powerless (and considering that my job involves tracking down payments to vendors that are late for a myriad of stupid reasons that I have no control over, it does happen), the panel still needs to know you worked for her.

    Stupid reasons have included: new a/p person found it too complicated, put it aside and never got back to it before being fired, one of the approvers didn’t like what name was on vendor’s invoice even though it was fine for the last 30 invoices and didn’t bother to tell anyone; and invoice got stuck in the paperclip of another invoice and was filed with that one

    1. Lisa*

      But while those reasons are valid, it sounds like OP was consistently not getting paid over the course of several years. That is a problem, and good managers go to bat for their employees trying to find solutions rather than wash their hands of difficult situations.

  6. Bea W*

    #3 – Awkward! I feel like it is right to disclose just even on the premise that because of your experience you may be biased in one direction or the other. In addition to what Alison said, I’d want to know upfront so I can decide what to do with that information.

    I can imagine if I were in this position, I might offer to recuse myself from decision making power on that candidate (for instance, if decision to move forward with that candidate are taken by vote – I would have to abstain). If I associated someone with not getting paid, I’m really not sure I could prevent that from coloring my opinion, and I wouldn’t feel right not being upfront about that with the rest of the search committee.

    #4 – If the employer thought you were not a good fit or did not want you, you would not be considered any “alternate finalist” at all. It’s not an insult. It means they liked you and think you would be a good fit with them, but they only have one position to offer and more than one good candidate, so they have to prioritize.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Agreed on both questions. #3 in particular, I’d feel wrong not disclosing my previous working relationship to the hiring committee. I might frame it as more of an FYI “by the way, I worked with Candidate Jane back in 2005” and let the rest of the committee decide if they want to pump me for information. :)

  7. Celeste*

    #3 You weren’t even given any information to show that your manager tried to intervene with payroll. When you proposed an alternate solution, she didn’t even try to go to bat for you with somebody who could effect change in payroll. I am certain she can’t produce any emails to show that she did. I think this is valuable information about her work history. Managers have to care about payroll, even if they don’t have a role in disbursement. She is the one who hired you, and she had a responsibility to advocate for you.

    Congratulations to you for all of the good changes in your life since that job!

    1. Celeste*

      But to help with what to say, you can say that your experience with her was mixed. She was great at X and Y, but she was hesistant in her management Z, which you have personal knowledge of because she employed you but would not advocate that you be paid consistently either through regular channels or an alternate contract that you suggested.

    2. Pip*

      Managers have to care about payroll, even if they don’t have a role in disbursement. She is the one who hired you, and she had a responsibility to advocate for you.


      I’ve been both a supplier and buyer of freelance work in the translation business. When I was a buyer and “my” freelancers had an issue with job files or a payment, I made sure that it was fixed. Because that was my responsibility, nobody else’s.

      So she skipped out on a fundamental responsibility, which led to her employer being taken to court and losing. This is a red flag that needs to be addressed.

      And +1 on the congratulations too, well done OP #3!

  8. kdizzle*

    #3 – Eek! Did we work at the same university? As someone who used to fight to get adjuncts their paychecks, I want to apologize for the mess the university put you through. We had people who didn’t get paid until many months after the class was over. It was horrifying to have people in my office each day (literally) weeping about their lack of pay. In my experience, it’s often a school or university-wide problem, regardless of what the individual department tries to do for you.

    No amount of daily badgering and raising hell seemed to help move the problem to a resolution. It’s a horrible situation that they put you in, but I’d be inclined to cut the department head a little bit of slack, since payroll is not a departmental level function and really is something mostly out of their control. By all means, however, share your experience with this individual, and let the hiring board reach their own conclusions.

    1. Jeff A.*

      Maybe this is a common problem at the University level. I’m apologizing to at least a handful of people each semester for our University’s incompetence with paying adjuncts and guest lecturers for their work.

      And, for whatever it’s worth, oftentimes when I contact the business office staff on behalf of the individual seeking payment, it only seems to make matters worse. Bureaucracy at its finest :(

      1. FiveNine*

        I don’t understand how (yikes, I want to say how this is legal) — it sounds like an industry of systematic and willful nonpayment for months and months on end. Seriously. Why haven’t folks in university systems blown the whistle on this?

        1. kdizzle*

          Oh…it’s absolutely not legal.

          In my experience, the adjuncts get paid such a low wage per class (way less than minimum wage for the time they put in) that my hunch is:
          a. It’s not worth tearing your hair out over something that’s not paying the bills.
          b. If it is paying the bills, you really need to keep your job, and it’s not worth rocking the boat.

          The way that many universities treat adjuncts is pretty awful.

        2. Celeste*

          If it really is so rampant, I’m guessing it’s because the university holds all of the power and the adjuncts hold none. When you aren’t even getting paid, you can’t hire a lawyer. If you want to get hired by somebody, you probably don’t want to go to the media and put your name out in a negative way.

          What a mess. I guess now I wonder if #3’s employer is the same way with their adjuncts and guest lecturers. The former relationship still needs to be disclosed, but if this kind of hazing is just the way things are…I’m not sure anybody making the hiring decisions will care.

        3. the_scientist*

          Probably because adjuncts are the indentured servants of the academic world. They typically make well below living or even minimum wage, so desperately need to be paid on time, are dealing with crushing debt, and are in a precarious position, job-wise, so may be hesitant to advocate for themselves. Plus, department heads are tenured and don’t “get it” so can’t/won’t find the urgency to advocate for their adjuncts.

        4. A Teacher*

          I work adjunct for a college and I can honestly say I’ve never had a payroll issue. The one time I wasn’t sure about something I escalated it to my department chair and she handled it very quickly for me. So it may be rampant but I wouldn’t say its universal.

          1. Celeste*

            I’ve worked for a university and had no problems. I think the issue here is the person was a sort of contractor, not a permanent staff member.

          2. kdizzle*

            Sure…I wouldn’t suggest that it happens to all adjuncts that were hired…but let’s say a large department hires 20 adjuncts / year. I’d say that at least one of those people will not get paid on time, which is still much too often an occurrence.

          3. College Academic Counselor*

            Yes, I think the problem is that large universities hire *hundreds* of adjust instructors, graduate teaching assistants, etc. every semester. When you are processing hiring and payroll paperwork for that many people on such quick turn-arounds (I’ve seen instructors get hired the day before classes start, or even after classes start), it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. But the inexcusable part is the fact that it happened so many times and the manager didn’t try to fix it. We’ve had a few payroll mix-ups in my department and my boss will drop everything to make it a priority, while apologizing profusely.

        5. Expat in Germany*

          Adjuncts in Germany are supposed to be holding another full time job and teaching because they want to give the next generation the benefit of their experience. They are not (supposed) to need the money or any benefits, so they bill us at the end of the semester and both our department has to process it and then the state has to process it, so tack on another 2 months before getting the money.

      2. OriginalYup*

        As an outsider to the field, this is pretty surprising — can you elaborate more on how this happens? I mean, is it basic bureaucracy on a really large scale (i.e., you submitted the invoice with the approval form attached on the top instead of the bottom, rejected, please resubmit with 12 signature)? Is it because of how university departments are like little fiefdoms with their own internal rules? Funding related? Something else? (I might have an opportunity to do some adjunct work in the future so I’m curious on a personal level too.)

        1. Celeste*

          Now I’m remembering the Phantom Prof blog. She was an adjunct in Texas, and wrote a blog about various abuses. She started writing about rich brats who annoyed her, and shortly after somebody tracked her identity and outed her. I think she said she got a book deal, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.

        2. kdizzle*

          Part of it can be funding related…especially if it’s related to grant funding. Who gives out a lot of grants? The Feds. They’re not wildly efficient in getting money out of their accounts and into a university’s account. If there is a short grant period and the work has to be done by a certain date, but there’s no funding yet available, then payroll for those workers may be delayed (it has to be paid using university funds and then later revised when the grant funding is received, but administrators don’t often like to approve payments to people of hard money (unviersity funds) when it’s a soft money (grant funds) position. Total cluster.

          Also, departments come out with the schedule of classes well in advance, but the instructors for those classes are usually quite fluid. There’s often last minute gaps that have to be filled with adjuncts. The semester starts on a particular day, so the university doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until the person is totally processed in payroll prior to beginning work. Depending on the speed of payroll, their pay may be delayed.

          It’s no fun.

        3. Anon College AA*

          At the small liberal arts college I work at, it seems to be partially because they have a dinosauric bureaucracy, and the administrative functions of the college seem to take the lowest priority. In our case, I just found out that there is ONE person handling all the timecards for our school, because the payroll technician quit and they haven’t replaced her yet. Our PAPER timecards, I should add.
          There are only 6 HR employees total for our college, which has approximately 3000 students (many of whom hold campus jobs requiring paper timecards) and 1200 faculty/staff employees (not counting adjunts). Its pretty ridiculous how behind the times/paper based the HR department is, especially compared to the business (non-academia) world.

    2. Joey*

      I find it highly amusing that an organization whose sole purpose is to prepare people for the business world can’t run a reasonably functioning business.

      1. KerryOwl*

        I don’t think a university’s sole function is to prepare people for the business world. It’s one of them, to be sure.

          1. OriginalYup*

            I disagree — IMO, a university’s main purpose is education. Which is different than job preparation. There’s an overlap and plenty of transferrable skills, and certain majors lend themselves more directly to job prep, but overall I see a big distinction between the two. (Versus a vo-tech institution whose main purpose is purely job prep.)

            1. Joey*

              Oh god. Gimme a break. Ask students why they’re going to school. It’s not just for the hell of it and because they just like spending tens of thousands of dollars to learn about particular subjects.

              1. Brett*

                You are confusing the purpose of the _students_ with the purpose of the _university_.

                Most universities have research as their primary purpose, even before teaching. The students go to the university because they (very mistakenly) believe that universities will prepare them for a job.

                1. Brett*

                  Colleges (especially stand alone colleges) are another issue altogether from universities and present a totally different discussion. There are definitely plenty of colleges whose purpose is to prepare people for the business world.

                  Research institution denotes a specific endowed purpose solely of research (rather than just a primary research purpose) whereas university represents a collection of colleges and research institutions.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  Well, etymologically, university refers to a community of scholars, and college to people living together under a common set of rules. Neither one really implies “business school” and if I’m not mistaken, the belief that they should be a business school is relatively new.

                  Now, I think some of the reasons for that are good! I think in the past, when it was pretty much just the rich going to college, they didn’t need job training because they didn’t need a job! The idea was to become well-rounded and “cultured.” But now people are attending college who do need job training, and yet also some of these same people (myself included when i was in college) also desire a well-rounded liberal arts education and to become a sort of Renaissance wo/man, and many professors want to provide that too. Currently, colleges are kind of trying to do both at once.

              2. fposte*

                Then why aren’t they all at East Cupcake U, where the ROI is the highest? What do they think Spinoza, Foucault, and Stravinsky will do to further their business careers?

                I’m not saying they’re just going for education either, but they’re not simply attending to prepare themselves for the business world (a lot of people don’t even work in what I’d think of as the business world, though maybe you were using that term broadly for employment), and if that’s what they think they’re going for, they haven’t been listening to the place they’re paying.

                1. Joey*

                  It’s pretty well known that high schools (and lots of parents) provide pretty crappy guidance too. Tons of people think doing what you love or are good at will turn into a job. I can probably count the number of people I’ve ever met who only go to school to learn and aren’t thinking about turning it into a job.

                2. fposte*

                  I’m not disagreeing with you, but I’m saying that $240k is a hell of a high cost for an employment agency, so presumably people who are paying that kind of money think they’re getting something beyond that. Are they getting $240k worth? That’s a pretty high standard to meet.

                  It’s a really complicated question–there’s wishful thinking on both sides, and there’s class issues, and there’s history it’s tough to escape from, and there’s legitimate value in the exploration of ideas. But it’s not a logically created system or requirement, and the more expensive it becomes, the more problematic the logical gaps become.

                3. Heather*

                  Yes. It makes me sad that people think higher education is only job training.

                  Even professional education is more than that. To use law as an example – law students spend most of their time learning how to research and think & write analytically. Most attorneys I know (and 90% of my career has been working in law firms or corporate legal departments) say that they learned very little about the actual practice of law in school.

                  And that’s a good thing, because that’s the kind of thing you learn by doing it*. What law school does is teach them how a lawyer should think and how to find out what they will need to know later.

                  *I will make an exception for using a copy machine. Based on personal experience, Using a Copier 101 should be a mandatory class for all 3Ls. :)

              3. KSM*

                Not all students get job-oriented degrees. Plenty of students get ‘useless’ (e.g. not immediately marketable) degrees for the love of learning about the subject or, in some cases, for the love of the craft (music, art). This includes me and almost everyone in my department. Heck, we would make jokes about the comparative worth of the degree.

            2. Joey*

              I find it sort of misguided that people in academia have this view- that they’re there only to impart knowledge on subjects and not actually teach people how to apply that knowledge in the business world. Isn’t that the whole purpose of school for 99% of students- to apply the knowledge they gained in school to get a job? Why on earth educators don’t get that? Isn’t that a success measure of most schools- how many of their students go on to get professional jobs?

              This is one of the huge problems with the education system.

              1. KrisL*

                I went to a junior college for a while then to a regular college. The junior college teachers were much more focused on what real life would be.

          2. Eden*

            I disagree that the purpose of college is to prepare you for the business world. At a vocational institution, maybe, but liberal arts colleges and universities aim to give kids an idea of who they are, where they come from, and what’s around them in the world.

            I think that we’ve kind of forgotten that it’s important to understand some basics of writing, art, science and history. I see this all around, all the time. For example, people view history as a boring series of dates to memorize that has no relevance to the present. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth, because along with art, science, and even ‘useless’ pursuits like philosophy, it forms the basis of pretty much everything you think today.

            I think defining this as ‘education’ might be part of the problem, since we as a society don’t seem to set much store by being ‘educated,’ or know what that even means.

            1. Heather*

              +1 million. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the U.S., I would bet that a LOT of our biggest problems would be either much smaller or much easier to solve if we placed any value on teaching kids “who they are, where they come from, and what’s around them in the world.”

              1. Heather*

                Argh…all the avatar-less Heathers were me. Changed my email address & forgot to change it in the comment fields.

            2. KrisL*

              “to give kids an idea of who they are, where they come from, and what’s around them in the world.”

              College is an extremely expensive way to do the above if that’s all you’re looking for. Maybe this is what college kids with trust funds are going to college for. Also the college kids who really haven’t thought out why they’re going to college.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Most of the rest of the world (including students and their tuition-paying parents) tends to see preparing people for subsequent careers as academia’s main purpose. Academia tends to resist the idea that that’s their purpose at all. It’s a very interesting disconnect.

        1. the_scientist*

          It is an interesting disconnect. Here, in Canada if you want to prepare for a very specific job, you mostly go to college or into skilled trades. If you go to university, you’re getting an education that will prepare you to grow into a specific role once you graduate. The exceptions at the university level, obviously, are nursing, engineering and professional degrees (OT, PT, MD, JD).

          I’m a cranky academic but the idea that a university’s main function is to prepare students for an entry level job is frankly ludicrous to me. University is meant to teach you broadly transferable skills- critical thinking, the ability to reflect, writing and communicating. It’s not to teach you “how to be an office bitch”, and it’s on students to get jobs that give them job-specific skills. It’s also on employers to stop thinking of university as a place that preps people for one specific function, because it’s not and doing so really destroys the very foundation of academia.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Good luck with that though :) We’ve convinced people they need a degree to have a professional career, and parents raise their kids with that notion. Employers reinforce it. High schools reinforce it.

            Academia — the place expected to be delivering this service — says it’s not the case, but no one really seems to be listening to that. It’s pretty fascinating.

            1. the_scientist*

              Absolutely. I find it confusing when employers expect a four-year undergraduate degree for a job that could be done by someone with a 2-year community college diploma. Part of it is that the accessibility of university educations has increased (this is a good thing!), so that employers seem to think that every job somehow requires one. It doesn’t, and that’s okay. And honestly, I think we should be encouraging students to think long and hard about what they want to do and if university is *really* the right place for them.

              I don’t understand where the change in expectation of universities on the part of employers is coming from. University classes have been structured the same way for a very long time- why do employers suddenly believe that universities provide specified job training, when they presumably attended a university themselves? I think the answer lies mainly in the fact that employers are no longer interested in providing training for entry level employees (because it costs money), and instead expect universities to do it for them.

              Also, I think this may be different in the US, where college and university are used interchangeably, and you have public and private institutions in addition to colleges. I can’t speak to Europe, but in Canada you have public universities and public colleges- you go to college to be a paramedic, paralegal, vet tech, dental hygienist, x-ray tech, early childhood educator, etc. The training is highly specific and geared towards the job you will eventually be working in. University doesn’t work that way, and in my opinion, shouldn’t.

              1. Heather*

                Canada you have public universities and public colleges- you go to college to be a paramedic, paralegal, vet tech, dental hygienist, x-ray tech, early childhood educator, etc. The training is highly specific and geared towards the job you will eventually be working in. University doesn’t work that way, and in my opinion, shouldn’t.

                This makes so much sense. I swear, if not for the cold and the lack of unsweetened iced tea, I’d move to Canada in a shot :)

              2. Alicia*

                In my experience, many of those programs you listed as college programs were taught at my university (a very established East Coast (of Canada) school). For example, dental hygienist and x-ray tech (okay, radiological tech) were both taught.

                I understand the differentiation in what you’re saying as another Canadian Academic, but the line between college and university isn’t quite as clear cut as you’re showing it to be.

                1. the_scientist*

                  Interesting. I’m wondering if that’s because of the relatively small population of Atlantic Canada. Were they three or four-year programs? Were they joint or bridging programs between colleges and universities? X-ray tech and radiology tech are I think a bit different (McMaster has the med rad program for example, that offers different specialties, for example). I ask because I listed all of these specifically because I’ve never seen them being offered at universities, only colleges.

                  Of course, I didn’t even touch post-grad college diplomas, so it’s not quite as straightforward as in my original post, but still significantly more logical than the American system.

                2. Alicia*

                  I can’t reply to your post directly, but these were both four year bachelor degrees independent of college connections to the university. These weren’t like many schools that offer a two-year diploma in engineering technology and then you get shipped to the main engineering school for the last three years.

                  It might be partly due to the smaller population, but we have community colleges here with a lot of those other programs you did mention. Atlantic Canada is what I know, so I just assumed it was similar across the country, and wasn’t such a defined line.

          2. Joey*

            Why then do universities tout so loudly performance measures that are so tied to jobs like the number of students that go on to professional jobs and the salaries of their graduates? Isn’t that measuring how well they prepare students for those jobs?

            1. fposte*

              I actually don’t hear much of that touting myself. However, I think that’s a wonderfully ambiguous brag–it wants to sound like preparation, but it could also read as a class statement: “These are the kind of people your children will rub shoulders with.”

              1. Heather*


                And it’s not really measuring how well they prepare students to DO those jobs – it’s measuring how well they prepare students to GET those jobs. Which is a whole different kettle of fish.

              2. Elsajeni*

                I would also add that, to some extent, the question of “Which attribute of our school should we brag the most about?” is decided for universities by outside forces — a particularly strong voice here is the various organizations that rank schools, and what those bodies value doesn’t necessarily line up with what the university itself values.

            2. Ellie H.*

              You do hear this somewhat, but to my mind it is largely due to the fact that it is what people in general are most interested in hearing about at this moment in time – since the economic crisis and increased joblessness, people are more concerned about employment prospects and as such they are popular topics for media.

              They are also easily quantifiable, whereas it’s very difficult to statistically measure how much graduates feel the university informed their maturity, focus, ability to reflect and synthesize information, engagedness with world arts, culture and history, social experience with others, happiness and sense of place in the universe (and much more). Those are some qualities that among many others I think a good university education can and should impart, although I also certainly don’t want to say that someone needs a university education in order to arrive at such values – just that I think they are those which a university education also or primarily imparts in addition to concrete knowledge and skills necessary for one’s career of choice.

          3. KellyK*

            Absolutely. The only career academia really specifically prepares you for is a career in academia. Everything else is either transferable skills (writing, analysis, critical thinking) or personal development.

            On the other hand, that’s not necessarily a bad thing even from a professional standpoint. I majored in English with the plan of teaching it. After two years teaching middle school, it was blatantly obvious that it wasn’t for me. But that English degree was relevant to a bunch of other career paths, including tech writing (which is what I do now). So there’s something to be said for broad knowledge and transferable skills.

        2. Brett*

          That’s a very US specific view, where we do a poor job of differentiating between technical college, college, and university. Other countries place very bright lines on these and it is really clear whether you are going to post-secondary school to get job training or to get an education. That makes the mission of the faculty much more clear.

          We place students who want vocational training in an academic setting where the faculty must do research to survive.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          “It’s a very interesting disconnect.”

          There is an added layer of complexity that raises the stakes. College loan debt. It goes down like dominoes in a row- because people are paying down college debt, they are not buying homes, they are not saving for retirement, etc. I have read sad stories of couples who did not get married because one of them did not want to take on the debt load of the other person.
          I have read some projections that state the next generation will not have parents that can pay for college- because the parents are still paying off their own loans.

          The student is the college’s “customer” so to speak. And if the customer is not getting value for their money that is when problems start.

          I was lucky to find a work-around to pay for my degree,but the college I went to was 40K per year…to give me a degree that is worth about $30K / year around here. This makes NO sense. None. Why would anyone do this?

          I understand the ideal of a classical or well-rounded education. But in a world of specialists, generalists will flounder and struggle. Times have changed and needs have changed.

          All I can conclude is that as colleges see enrollment drop over the next few decades then they might figure out something is amiss. And as more and more horror stories of college loan debt bubble to the surface this will become a bigger topic.

        1. Joey*


          Maybe not on the scale of a publicly traded company. But if you are working for pay I don’t see how you’re not a part of the business world.

          1. KerryOwl*

            What about teachers, or people who work for the government, at any level? That covers a lot of people!

            1. Joey*

              Absolutely part of the business world. They have to deal with a lot of the same things as everyone else in the business world like budgets (or lack of), efficiencies, performance measures , clients, employment issues, data collecting.

              1. KerryOwl*

                Okay, I think that your definition of “business world” is just a lot broader than what I had in mind.

                1. Rana*

                  Which seems excessively broad to me. By that standard, anyone who’s not a volunteer or an intern or a student – including the very academics Joey’s critiquing – are “part of the business world.”

                  To me “business world” implies a segment of the workforce that has profit as one of its primary goals, rather than some other goal or social good. So for me nonprofits don’t count, nor do the activities professors perform in their labs, archives, and classrooms – though the activities of their institutions’ administrative staffs may well, depending on whether it’s a for-profit school or not.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Ugh, I was a research assistant in grad school. I was so very broke all the time. Once, our terrible department admin didn’t process the paperwork on time and I didn’t get my monthly paycheck – it wouldn’t be sent until the next month.

      I’m a very independent person and never dreamed of asking my parents for help but I had to call my parents and ask them to help bail me out so I could make rent. I was just so…damned…broke.

      And that awful admin had the nerve to tell me, in the most odious use of passive voice: “the paperwork wasn’t sent on time.” No, YOU didn’t send it (that much was clear in follow-up questions). Take responsibility. These are people’s lives you’re screwing with.

    4. Meredith*

      I hire non-credit instructors on short-term contracts all the time for my university, and it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get them paid. It’s so frustrating, because they do the work in good faith, and most of the time they get paid on time. However, there are always one or two people every year for whom for some reason the payroll department drops the ball. I work at a massive state university. There is a lot of turnover in the payroll department, and they’re trying to implement a new system. This causes delays for stupid reasons, like someone was on vacation and the PIR was sitting in their desk. Yes, we do these things on paper rather than electronically. It’s a nightmare sometimes, especially since many of our instructors don’t know how vastly complex this institution is and how slowly it can move.

      For the OP3, though, I’m disappointed that the department head didn’t step up and start making phone calls. That is absolutely what my department does, and that should have been her role in this situation. I agree that you need to let your search committee team members know about your prior experience with her (good and bad).

  9. Shana*

    For #3 I would also suggest disclosing, but more to cover you. If the interview does not go her way and she does remember you, it’s better if the rest of the committee knows ahead of time about your history with her. If you don’t, she could bring that up to someone and raise the idea that you were holding it against her. Hopefully at her level this kind of pettiness won’t be an issue, but I’ve seen some craziness…..

  10. Mimmy*

    #2 – Being laid off, don’t want goodbye lunch

    Your letter sounds somewhat similar to when I was laid off from PostGradSchoolJob in 2008 after less than a year there. I didn’t even have a say in whether I had a goodbye affair, they just did it (it wasn’t an all-out lunch off-site; it was just a little party in the conference room). I actually appreciated it, but at the same time, it was a little weird. I can see how it might feel like they’re celebrating your termination (I was the only one laid off).

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think it helps to term it as a “farewell” lunch. They are saying goodbye and wishing you well – not celebrating your departure.

  11. Brett*

    #5 I know not every interviewer thinks this way, but if you are about to graduate and have a thesis or capstone project, I also like to see the title of that project or thesis. That will prompt me to ask you about it and figure out how relevant it is to the job you are applying to. (And let’s me fish into how likely you really are to graduate when you say you will graduate.)

  12. BCW*

    #1 Personally, I don’t think this is a good thing to do. First off, its your boss, so there is that. Maybe he does have plans for that day already. But besides that, I once had a job where I had to use up my vacation time, and I once had someone comment to me about the days I was taking off. First, our manager approved it so the others had no real standing. Second, I’m sorry that my taking off a Friday isn’t as convenient for others, but I’d much rather have a long weekend than a day off mid week (which I know isn’t the same for some people). I guess in general, my thought is that if managers approve the time off, its not the place of the co-workers or underlings to ask them to change that to make things more convenient for them.

    #3 To me it really just comes down to whether or not you really think she could have done anything about your payroll or not. Sometimes the person can, sometimes they can’t. It sounded like even if she didn’t do every possible thing she could, she was apologetic for the situation. But I don’t think her hands being tied should stop her from getting a job 5 years later. So, if you want to bring that up, fine, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you mention.

    1. KellyK*

      Good point as far as #1.

      I do think that if it’s going to cause problems for you work-wise, you should let your boss know that. It might be more of a “how do you want me to handle X, Y, and Z?” conversation than a “could you move your vacation days?” conversation.

  13. Overkill*

    #1. He might just have an emergency or private matter he’s tending to with his vacation days, though you seem to expect him to be recharging or luxuriating on those days while you’re slaving away. I’d be mindful of that, particularly if you ask him to reschedule and he resists.

  14. Overkill*

    #3. Like everybody else, I too enjoy the age-old sport of ‘boss-bashing’ and fantasizing about getting even with those who we believed did us wrong, but keep in mind it’s impossible to do your job well and not offend or wrong someone at sometime, whether intentionally or not. We seem to have this notion that there’s a formula for doing the job so well that everyone , everywhere has nothing but glowing things to say about us, whether on a professional or personal level. It’s a complete fantasy.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I agree, but it’s still worthwhile to bring up. No one seems to have really mentioned this, but I think it would be a useful thing to ask the candidate about.

  15. AdAgencyChick*

    #1: I strongly suggest that instead of asking him to reschedule, you simply present him with the problem. “Boss, during days X to Y, I’m going to need to schedule Z number of people and I only have A hours. I’m having trouble figuring out how to manage this. Can you help me figure it out?”

    This allows your boss to see the problem himself and realize that the solution may be to give up his vacation days (but don’t count on it; if he’s at the use-it-or-lose-it point, he’s probably not going to want to lose them altogether). But it may also be something you haven’t thought of, like pulling someone from another department in to help, interviewing students himself after hours on the days he’s not on vacation, etc. And by letting him come up with the solution instead of asking him to do something he doesn’t want to do, you take the bad-guy vibe off yourself.

    Normally I think it’s a good idea to try to present your boss with at least one solution to every problem you bring up, but this is a case where I think you’ll be better off if the solution is his idea.

    If his solution is “You’re just going to have to figure it out,” you may need to counter him with “All right, if I interview all X students myself, then I’ll have to put project ABC on the back burner” or something like that. Basically, keep offering up what you’re capable of doing without breaking your back, and get him to rearrange things until you get to a place you’re both happy (or at least okay) with.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I like this- the part I like best is to be ready with the follow up statement for when the boss says “figure it out yourself”.

      Why bosses schedule themselves off for the busiest part of the year baffles me to no end. How could they not know it is the busiest point in the year? sigh.

  16. Persephone Mulberry*

    #1 – rescheduling vacation

    If you know your manager takes offense easily, and you know he’s aware that that’s a busy week, I don’t see how asking him to reschedule his vacation could possibly go well for you. If anything, you could possibly frame it as HOW would you like to handle this, e.g. “Since you’re going to be out of the office on Monday, where would you like me to put the student meetings for that day – do you want to add a meeting day before you leave, tag a day on to the end, or just squish them in even if it cuts into our prep time? (and then jokingly) – or you could always start your long weekend on Thursday instead!”

    Also, I guess I’m a little confused about why Monday vs Thursday is a big deal – if you’re looking at “seven straight business days” of student meetings, that’s going to run across two work weeks regardless, so is it really a big deal to shift the start or end date of that window by a day? (I dunno, maybe it is.)

    I would also suggest that if the boss wants to squish them all in to the usual window, you look at that Monday he’s gone as a golden opportunity to do as much pre-meeting prep as you can, and reduce what you need to do each day before to the bare minimum. :)

    Good luck!

    1. Em*

      I agree that this won’t go well if they take offense easily, and they are most certainly aware of the issue. I think asking how they want to handle it in light of is a great idea but I wouldn’t “jokingly” tack on a phrase like that. It’s passive aggressive and probably wouldn’t go over well either.

    2. Overkill*

      Consider too that his ‘taking offense easily’ may be due to the fact that he has in fact been offended on many an occasion. Something tells me too that the OP has had her fair share of offending the boss in the past and she’s gearing up to doing it again by forcing him to lose his vacation days.

      1. Just a Reader*

        There’s nothing in that letter to indicate this. It was a straightforward presentation of the problem at hand.

        “Something tells me too that the OP has had her fair share of offending the boss in the past and she’s gearing up to doing it again by forcing him to lose vacation days” is a HUGE stretch.

      2. KerryOwl*

        I don’t believe she has the authority to “force” him to lose his vacation days — she just wants him to shift them around so that he’s not out of the office on one of the busiest days of the year.

      3. OP #1*

        It’s entirely possible I’ve offended him in the past (he hasn’t ever told me, if I have), but I’m pretty sure that it’s mostly just him being high-strung and temperamental – to the point where, on my very first day of work, one of my coworkers warned me to tread lightly around him.

    3. OP #1*

      ” is it really a big deal to shift the start or end date of that window by a day?”

      The end date was posted on the academic calendar three years ago, so…kind of a little, yeah. :) We are going to have to extend the deadline though, unless a miracle happens, so my boss now gets to contact the Provost to get approval for that.

    4. Broke Philosopher*

      re: moving Monday to Thursday, it sounds like the meetings start on that Monday and go for 1.5 weeks, and OP wants boss to move the vacation day to the previous Thursday so that it doesn’t interfere with the meetings that had already been scheduled.

  17. anon-2*

    #2 – been there, done that. When I was laid off of a job (only time in my life) it was a group layoff, and they had a “group goodbye reception.” I stayed 20 minutes. I held my nose and left. It was like a funeral – where the survivors were trying to grieve for those laid off. Waste of time. You don’t want me anymore, let’s not celebrate my career which you just put on the skids.

    #3 – was the candidate you’re gonna interview an active confederate in keeping your paycheck held up, or caught in administrative problems, or just didn’t want to get involved in the situation? This is a legitimate question = “If someone came to you today with that same problem, how would you handle it?” .. and it’s important.

    If a manager acts passively toward a non-payment of wages situation for one of his/her immediate subordinates, and it’s been documented in an affidavit – here in Massachusetts – his or her wrists could get the bracelets! I’ve seen that happen.

    #4 – one of the classiest – truly – actions I ever experienced was a job rejection. It was explained to me “we had 400+ applications, and culled them down to around 90. We went over them and called in five candidates, you’re one of the five.” The HR guy explained “we are going to wrap this up by Friday. If you are the candidate, we will make a non-negotiable offer, it will be fair and I will need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at that time.”

    I interviewed on a Monday. On Wednesday, the HR rep called me to let me know that they were going in another direction. Also explaining that things weren’t final with the successful candidate, but I should know where I stand.

    That was TRULY professional. I was unemployed at the time, and had gone through a series of “circus acts” in some interviews, so it was refreshing even if I didn’t get the position.

    And some hiring managers should learn from this. Giving candidates the run-around, playing head games, disrespect, etc. can come back to haunt you. The guy or gal you abused and disrespected, may be on the OTHER side of the desk (re #3!!!) and you’re begging for a job!

    Also – you managers out there – if you play games

    1. anon-2*

      … if you play games, it not only can set you up for trouble – but your unsuccessful candidate / rejectee may be in a position to do business with your company and may bring back the sour taste from the memory bank. Seen that happen, too.

  18. Anon for now in Student Affairs*

    #1 This situation is so close to my heart. It seems like there is NEVER a good time to take time off when there’s always open registration, late registration, early registration, drop deadline… Add limited staff into that, and this is the eternal issue in student affairs. What has helped me ebb the frustration is being ok with the fact that all you can do is all you can do. Will students be mad and fuss? Yep. Will you feel harried and overwhelmed? Yep. Will your department get pressure to serve all the students all the time? Yep. Does any of that add six more hours to the day? Nope.

    As someone who has seen my prep time dwindle from 2 hours a day to one 30 minute timeslot that I rarely actually get, I feel your pain. But even with decreasing enrollment low persistence yada yada, it’s more productive to keep your nose to the grindstone, accept that you may sometimes have to say no- even to *gasp* students- and try your darndest not to feel bad about it. If you are busy, you are busy, and if your boss opts not to take your advice and change the dates, you still can’t fit any more work in to your day. Legitimately do all you can while still doing your best work, let your boss worry about answering for it when others have to pitch in or students have to come back later.

    And I know you didn’t ask, but take a lunch. Even when you’re busy. Even when students are waiting. Even if it’s only 20 minutes. This is seriously the best advice I have ever received in college administration. If you’re anything like me (and the tone of your question suggests we may just be cut from the same cloth), forcing yourself to chill for a few minutes during times like this is a lifesaver.

    1. LibrarianJ*

      Seconded. We run into similar problems in college libraries this time of year- – everyone has a paper due, everyone wants an appointment, but there are only so many librarians and so many hours in the day (even though we generally have slots from 9am to 10pm, it’s still not enough). One of things I’m still really trying to work on is remembering that I shouldn’t — in fact, physically can’t — take responsibility for the fact that students didn’t plan further in advance. And yes, remembering to take those breaks — especially on days that end up extending past normal work hours so I can get everything done. Otherwise, you just make yourself sick and are no good to anybody.

      I’ve had a couple of busy occasions this semester where I had to go to my boss and say, okay, I have A, B, C, and D on my plate and there’s a good chance I can’t physically do it all — please tell me what you would like me to prioritize and/or if you think it is OK to do X (ex., open fewer appointment slots) to mitigate the problem. This has worked pretty well for me, although I generally have an understanding boss so your situation may be different. But I think that would be the best approach — start there and if boss does not have any solutions then just do the best that you can.

    2. OP #1*

      Thanks! Believe me, I always make sure to take lunch! :) The problem is that we really can’t say no to students, since they need to meet with us in order to graduate. If only they didn’t all wait until the last minute to schedule.

  19. OP #1*

    OP #1 here! Thanks for all the advice. I did end up asking my boss about it: “I hate to ask, and it’s probably not possible, but is there any way you’d be able to move your Monday vacation day to Thursday? My calendar’s mostly clear that day so I’d be happy to take all of your Thursday appointments, and it would be really helpful if we could open up those nine spots on Monday.” But it turns out Monday is the only day he was able to schedule a doctor’s appointment, so it’s not possible.

    The good thing is, he didn’t seem to be upset by my asking, and he did agree to cancel a couple of non-essential meetings later that week, freeing up a few more spaces on the calendar. We’re also opening up an additional day for appointments (which isn’t as easy as it sounds – it requires provostial approval, so we try and make that our last resort).

    1. Lils*

      Glad to hear it went well.

      I wanted to chime in about AAM’s comment “Of course, a reasonable manager also would have looked at the calendar and figured this out on his own.”

      I hope I’m a reasonable manager, and I would check the schedule before clearing my time off and I would care about putting stress on others. But scheduling can be complex, and it’s up to the whole team to make sure things are going right. I would have appreciated you bringing the problem to me in the manner you did. I count on my team to alert me when I’ve failed to notice something. We are all human, after all.

      You seem contentious…I hope he appreciates you for that.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Your question was well-framed, you gave him easy outs so he would be less apt to feel cornered by a demand.

      Most importantly, you saw that he could indeed hear your words and respond in an appropriate manner. Good for you!

  20. RSL*

    #3 – As someone who works at a university and submits payment requests for our independent contractors, I can verify that if payroll is negligent and doesn’t fulfill a payment request, I really don’t have options to -make- them do it other than pestering and pleading. In a university, payroll is its own separate department with its own hierarchy. If your payment requests were properly submitted in a timely manner, the head of the payroll department really is culpable here, not the head of the department you worked for. I wouldn’t hold this against your former boss…

  21. mooklemore*

    #4 – Some places (like, off the top of my head, the Department of Justice) have a formalized finalist/alternate finalist system, in which the finalist gets a job offer that they can accept within a certain amount of time and the alternate is made aware that they are an alternate. People turn down those offers all of the time, since they often apply to multiple places/sections and can only accept one job.

    1. Alternate Finalist*

      That’s interesting! I know that government jobs can be very regulated and it’s good to hear this isn’t an uncommon situation. Thanks!

  22. Kinrowan*

    #3 – I am at a public university with a million rules and regulations over which I have no control, and I have no control over payroll but that does not mean that I don’t have the power to do a lot of things too. I can call the person myself and for occasions like this I will use my title as a way to get leverage; I can call their boss; I can enlist my boss for help; I can use my own network of people I know around campus – for example I actually have come to know well the payroll’s person boss’ boss (and other people higher than me hierarchically) through committee work. That sort of thing. Not that this does not take time or is not frustrating and so inherently offensive but I often feel in large bureaucracies there is an exaggerated sense of powerless that becomes indifference and it is difficult to go against this inertia but really, one must. Also, a lot of people want to be department heads or chairs but then do not want to do this less glamorous work, which is part of the package of being a manager.

  23. OPnumber3*

    OP 3 here. I did as suggested and wrote an email to our vice chancellor giving the positives and negatives of the candidate. She was not all bad, certainly. So, the hiring committee can do with the information as they wish.

    To clarify, I was not fired as I was not formally employed…I was an independent contractor who decided to leave because of the late pay issues. This is pretty common with adjuncts…you get a set amount per class. If you want insights into what conditions adjuncts experience, look at Rebecca Schumann’s columns on Most of your kids going to uni are taking classes taught by adjuncts who are brought in as cost saving measures, and adjuncts are pretty powerless.

    Thanks to all for your intelligent and thoughtful comments.

      1. OPnumber3*

        Will do. I will be curious to see what transpires, but I do know now I have done the right thing. I really struggled with this one…combination of fear, memories of an unpleasant experience, and I suppose I still am getting used to the fact that people value my opinion and see me as an authority in my field now. When you go to grad school and pursue academics, you are conditioned never to make a fuss or speak up when something is amiss in case you are branded a troublemaker, and it could affect your chances of getting a job in a fiercely competitive profession. This is an impulse that has taken a long time to overcome. It took me a while to separate my emotional response from the necessary rational response that I needed to make…hence, why I asked for advice. So thanks again!

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