banning email after-hours, rescinded job offers, and other things to know this week

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: a move by some French and German employers to ban email after work hours, the truth about that rescinded job offer that’s been getting so much buzz, and more. You can read it here.

{ 75 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.

    Wait wait wait, you mean to tell us that research shows that if an employer actually invests in proper training/mentoring/development plans they can actually triple the number of good managers they have?

    Color me shocked. I’m willing to bet that if you applied this approach to employees in general, you’d have a lot fewer folks complaining about “lack of skilled labor”.

    1. Mimmy

      Completely agreed! And I don’t mean starting from scratch, but developing staff that have the aptitudes, even if it means helping with the costs of professional development or continuing education workshops/courses.

    2. OriginalYup

      Training for management as a workplace skill? Developing a pipeline? MikeC, that’s just crazy talk — everyone knows that good managers just magically appear from a haze of glitter and snowflakes. Like unicorns. ;-)

      1. Mike C.

        Hmm, that’s too bad, I think all of our unicorns were used in the company cafeteria today.

    3. Clever Name

      This is one thing I really admire about my current company. We groom folks to be managers by sending them to outside management classes put on by and industry group our company is a part of. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the managers are perfect, by any stretch, but it shows a commitment to developing internal talent, and I’m sure it does help.

  2. My Scintillating Pseudonym

    The professor story seems to be turning into a circular argument–Suzanne Lucas definitely made good points about what was wrong with the woman’s demands and the “tone” she made them in, but the point we keep missing is that a man could have sent the same email and they would probably have at least tried to negotiate, not just completely shut down the conversation. There is definitely a double standard there.

    1. JD

      “the point we keep missing is that a man could have sent the same email and they would probably have at least tried to negotiate…”

      How do you know that?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah. I would have had serious misgivings about that candidate if it were a man or a woman, so there’s really no way to conclusively say something like that.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Agreed. The sad reality is that academia is a buyers market right now for talent. A newly minted humanities PhD is beyond lucky to get a tenure-track offer, and coming back with a bunch of requests that seem to indicate you’re completely out of touch with the requirements of that particular institution or field (in this case it was a teaching college) will probably derail things regardless of your gender. Her email basically said “I’m not really the right fit for a teaching-oriented college and I’m not actually interested in being at work that much.” In a market like this – it’s not hard for the college to go with another candidate.

    2. Barbara in Swampeast

      I doubt a man would have had a different result. My DH is at a small university and says that in recent years, any of the top five candidates could do the job. If choice #1 makes seems to be too much of a problem, they could easily move on to the next choice without sacrificing quality.

    3. Blue Anne

      ” a man could have sent the same email and they would probably have at least tried to negotiate,”

      What makes you say that?

    4. Apollo Warbucks

      What makes you think a man would have been able to make the demands any more successfully ?

      The requests were massively out of line from what could be considered reasonable. Mark yourself out as high maintenance and demanding before you even accept a job offer and it will make a lot of employees reconsider.

    5. Artemesia

      I worked in higher ed and I know that men make demands like this all the time and have them met. In higher ed you don’t get diddly unless you negotiate it at hiring and you don’t get the big raises later unless you have a competing job offer. I have seen many ‘stars’ who negotiated huge increases and benefits only when someone else tried to hire them away. It is common for someone coming in to negotiate a semester with one class to teach and money for labs and assorted other benefits. This is commonplace in first rate private institutions. (public universities may have a little less freedom to negotiate at the bottom but they also negotiate extraordinary benefits at the top)

      I have seen many new hires come in with light loads, extra resources for their research, fat moving packages etc etc because they were aggressive negotiators. There is other literature that shows that women tend to be viewed negatively if they are aggressive in negotiating their salary when being hired in business whereas men are admired for it. I have seen this effect in business context; women doing the exact same thing as competent effective male hires were treated later in a negative way because of the impression they made being strong negotiators at hire.

      I think a man making the same demands would not have had the offer rescinded and would probably be on the fast track for promotion because ‘strong’ ‘aggressive’ and even ‘demanding’ are features, not bugs, when it comes to men.

      1. fposte

        What “fast track for promotion,” though? The promotional structure is pretty clear at such schools–the employee may have the opportunity to wiggle tenure review forward or back a year, depending on the department/school, but that’s about it.

        If you’re a high flyer, you can get away with asking for all kinds of stuff. At my school, asking for this as a low flyer like her, male or female, is going to get you serious side-eye and hurt your prospects. That’s not because my school is so wonderfully unsexist; it’s because the breach of protocol is more important than gender here.

      2. Katie the Fed

        It doesn’t sound like she had the record to back up those kinds of demands though. In other words, it seems like she overestimated her potential value to the school.

        To quote Top Gun: “Son, your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.”

      3. Artist IC

        I do not doubt that you have seen male candidates for faculty positions at the associate level and higher make similar demands of an R1 institution and get them, but the package of requests this specific candidate made was out of line for an entry-level position at a small liberal arts college. The evidence presented does not support sexism as a reason the offer was pulled without further negotiation.

        1. Artemesia

          I have seen brand new PhDs hired at the entry asst prof level get dramatically reduced teaching loads and research support at entry. It does not appear to have been the norm at the institution in question though. I do think, a man making the same claims would likely have received a negotiation response or even a refusal but not a rescinding of the offer.

          Re promotion. Most people don’t get tenure. Often assumptions are made early in the process about who is likely to get it and those people receive more mentoring or resources or even released time for their research. The timeline may not be faster but the process is friendlier. I have seen men with lesser credentials but more chutzpah get a much easier ride than women with strong publishing who seem to get nitpicked in the process. I have seen women essentially driven out while less impressive men walked into tenure.

          1. fposte

            “Most people don’t get tenure.”

            That’s *very* institution by institution. I’m seeing very few tenure denials/third-year-review failures. I’ve got mixed feelings about the trend, but if the college in question was one that followed it, that could also explain why they cut her loose now rather than breaching their practice and chucking her at third year.

    6. Manders

      I’m not sure if the gender of the professor matters in this case, though (apart from the maternity leave stuff; even in academia, paternity leave is very uncommon). Tenure-track positions are rare these days, and it’s hard to get rid of professors once they do get tenure. I understand why a department wouldn’t want to bring in someone who doesn’t seem to have much understanding of what an appropriate work load would be for the position or what is reasonable to expect in terms of pay.

      They probably should have repeated their original offer instead of withdrawing it, but if she took the lower offer and resented not being given something better, that would create a whole new set of problems for the department. Hiring and firing professors can be a long and difficult process, from what’s I’ve heard (I’m not in academia but both my parents are professors, and they’ve told me that resentment over salaries or a squeaky wheel who always wants less work can be absolutely toxic to a department–and you usually can’t fire a tenured professor for being a terrible person to work with).

      1. Artemesia

        But a newbie like this one can be let go easily early in the tenure process. Most places have a major 3 year review which occurs in the end of the second year in which a non-performer can be let go.

    7. businesslady

      yeah, not to pile on, but I agree–there’ s just no compelling evidence that sexism was in play here. I’m all for calling out double standards, but being overly aggressive when it’s not warranted only helps undermine legitimate claims (thereby facilitating the dismissal of all allegations with “oh, people read sexism into anything”).

      1. fposte

        It hasn’t helped that she’s apparently subsequently retconned some of her queries to try to make them look better, either.

    8. fractal

      While this would be difficult to prove – unless there are any male faculty members out there who would like to share stories very similar to this one – I can see what you mean. I almost feel like everyone, including the hiring committee, had a knee-jerk reaction against this candidate and it is highly possible that it has something to do with her being a woman. Despite her tone coming across as someone who could be difficult to work with (idk, I didn’t really get that from her email), men might be afforded the benefit of the doubt. I know that in my previous workplace, when men ask for raises and promotions, even going so far as to invade the department head’s space in order to get the message across, they’re almost always rewarded. The women, however, were shut down with a simple, “We don’t have enough money in our budget.”
      So while we don’t necessarily have enough information to prove that there’s a double standard at play in this particular case, we can’t deny the pervasiveness of institutionalized sexism in the workplace.

      1. fractal

        Also, I forgot to mention that the small number of women who pushed back against that “no money in our budget” excuse were quickly labeled as being insolent and demanding, and conveniently let go soon after.

        1. Artemesia

          This. I have seen this in business where a sharp female hire who pushed to try to get rewarded near the top of the advertised pay range (and who had experience to back her up) was pushed back and then subsequently treated as a ‘problem hire’ although she was clearly one of the most competent of her cohort.

          In the same business, truly incompetent higher level managers were relentlessly rewarded. (until they later caused the business to fail)

      2. Cat

        I have a friend who’s a professor involved with hiring at her university who looked at these emails and said “there is absolutely no way a man would have gotten the same reaction.” It was a disturbing reaction to me.

    9. some1

      I don’t know that a man would not have had the offer pulled, but I do not think a man would be as publicly villified in many arenas (present company excluded) for trying this.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t know, I can think of some widely circulated emails from men in recent years, where they were mocked for wildly overstepping professional norms. Gawker sometimes has printed them.

      2. fposte

        Though that’s complicated by the fact that it was the candidate who sought the public attention.

    10. Cat

      I think the problem with this story is that we just can’t know. On the one hand, you have academics who say these demands are ludicrous; on the other hand, I’ve also heard academics say “no, these are normal requests even if they can’t be met;” and we can’t know gender was involved, but we can’t know it wasn’t either. So we all get to project whatever we want onto it.

      I don’t know what the requests were before they were apparently retconned, but based on what I saw, I am leaning towards thinking it was shameful of the university not to have a conversation with her (assuming that has been reported accurately).

    11. Humanities Prof

      As someone who actually has a very similar job, I also feel the need to disagree on the repeated assertion that her requests were wildly out of line. Higher ed is unusual in the limited job mobility over the course of a person’s career; as a result, it’s more common the negotiations for an entry-level job are more intense than they would be in other industries. Everything that woman asked for was something that either 1) came included standard in my contract or 2) I asked for in my own job negotiations a few years ago. I didn’t get everything I asked for, but no one thought I was wrong to ask.

      Does that necessarily make it about gender? No, it might just be about a generally bad work environment. That particular institution does have a reputation in my field for treating is faculty poorly, and for claiming to care lots about research during the recruitment process only to provide zero support for it after hiring. But by the standards of the field, they acted badly.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But lots of people with experience in the field have said that the requests were preposterous — which seems to indicate that even if they wouldn’t have been where you’ve worked, they would be at other places … and thus it’s conceivable that they were here.

        1. Cat

          Though I think that kind of cuts the other way – if they’re okay at one university but not at a peer university, that means they’re not going to be granted but not that the candidate is ridiculous for asking. From friends who have gone through the process, I gather that what the culture at a given university can be really difficult to assess from the outside – I wonder if part of the issue here is that university hiring committees themselves aren’t in touch with what the market is doing. Which isn’t to say that they have to grant every perk everyone else does, but might affect their view of how candidates who ask for particular perks are treated.

      2. AAA

        I’m kind of curious when you were hired…is “a few years ago” pre-or post- recession?

        I wonder because I think that what might be considered reasonable negotiation a few years ago might be rapidly changing to “problem hire” with the oversupply of Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences.

        I speak as a recent Ph.D. in Anthropology who has been on the market for 2 years now with no offers…I’d be hesitant to negotiate as heavily as this woman did, especially at a small lib arts college (as that would be a dream position for me).

  3. Jennifer

    The manager thing just made me laugh. I have been hearing some TERRIBLE manager stories of late from other people and I keep thinking, “why is that person not getting fired for that?” However, it seems like once you become a manager–especially if you are a golden girl–you can pretty much do whatever you want to subordinates and only get a(nother) slap on the wrist. Unless you steal money–THAT might get you canned. But I don’t think bad personal behavior gets you fired any more if you have enough power. I guess it’s managerial tenure or something. Once you’re in, you’re in for life and screw everyone else below you. Especially if you’re the kind of control freak who makes sure your supervisors don’t actually have to do any work, then they love you. Or at least, that’s my theory, anyway.

    I’m so glad I love my boss and have always had decent direct bosses. But some people’s higher ups…HOO BOY.

    1. anon for now

      One of the things that confuses and saddens me about the workplace is how often people are promoted to management–not because they show any talent to manage other people, but because they are good at their *current* job and executives want to reward that.

      My current manager is the poster child for that; he’s regularly hostile to his employees and the entire team is either currently looking or about to start looking for a new job. It’s a shame, because he works incredibly hard, he’s just ill-suited for the task at hand. So it’s a double loss–his mighty efforts could be be better spent on projects he’s actually good at and our current team wouldn’t be so demoralized and desperate for the eject button.

      Of course, every time I’ve seen one of these situations executives double down on the inept-at-managing-but-hardworking manager, lose a lot of very talented people due to frustration, and then wind up laying off the bad manager years later. All of which could be avoided if they just rearranged or at least addressed things at the first sign of trouble.

      1. Laura

        That one amuses me no end. I am a rock star at my current job, according to my evaluation – and briefly, my manager tried to push me into a managerial role *even though* he knows I don’t want to manage, *even though* I want a technical track, and *even though* I said no.

        I’m working on improving my people skills, but they’re not up to the task yet even if I wanted it, and I don’t.

        Why would you take a rock star at a task you need done and force them into a management role they don’t want? I’ve seen my workplace do it (successfully) to a couple other people, and I just don’t understand it. If they want the role…then you can get into whether they’re up to it…but if they don’t, why on earth?

      2. TRB

        This. This. This. I’ve had a boss who very smart and good at what she did, she just wasn’t a very good manager. She also was abrasive at times (not to everyone) and she had an overall negative reputation at the company. I soon started to realize that she just didn’t want to be in charge of anyone but herself (she may not even have realized it) which is understandable to me. I personally prefer to do the actual work and really dive deep rather than be at the top and delegate tasks as well as keep track of the people doing those task. For projects here and there, yes this is fine but for that to my entire job I would be miserable and probably not very good.

        I think whether or not a person is actually capable of managing is super important before promotion and should be tested over time by allowing project management here and there.

      3. Ruffingit

        It’s been my experience that some higher-ups refuse to admit they’ve made a mistake in hiring or promoting a bad manager so they either do nothing or try to convince everyone that “he’s not sooo bad…” Meanwhile people are jumping ship right and left and the higher-ups then try to make it seem as though that jumping is a function of the individuals who are leaving. “Well, they just couldn’t hack it…”

    2. Katie the Fed

      The sad thing is some of us get into management because we REALLY want to be good managers and leaders, but there are so few roles models and useful training out there for us, it’s hard to know how to even BE great. That’s why I spent a lot of time here – learning as much as I can.

        1. Katie the Fed

          Thank you! I’ve been exploring some of their tools – really good stuff! I’ll check out the training.

          I read a few good books when I started as well – yours, 101 Difficult Conversations to Have with Employees, and one called Dealing with People You Can’t Stand – which was really good in understanding employees and colleagues who just baffled with their behavior and how to deal with them.

          I don’t think people realize/appreciate just how hard it is to transition from being really good at one job, to managing people at that job. It’s the most humbling thing I’ve ever done.

  4. Bea W

    I know it does not apply to all employees in France having to turn their email/phone off at 6 PM, but I can’t help thinking about the number of off hours teleconferences both US and Europe end up having working with global clients and divisions. We try to schedule during times when everyone is on work hours, and between western Europe and US (east coast) that is usually doable, but sometimes it is just logistically impossible, particularly when people are in time zones 12+ hours apart. Someone always loses there!

    1. LBK

      The law actually says outside “business hours,” I believe, with 6PM given as a guide but not a strict standard. I can’t imagine there would be many industries where a strict 6PM cutoff wouldn’t have a detrimental impact on business. Any company with a website or other online product, for example, would probably want their web team reachable 24/7 in case the site goes down.

    2. Pip

      … and when the publishing / testing grunt work is outsourced to Thailand and India it gets even worse. Maybe we should follow China’s example and only have one time zone globally!

  5. C average

    A theory about the bad-manager topic: I think part of the issue is systemic, in that there’s no established off-ramp for someone who ascends to a managerial position and then isn’t a good fit. (I’m talking internal promotions here, not someone hired into a managerial role as their first role with a company.)

    I’ve seen this transition actually handled well, so I know it can be done, but I don’t think it’s viewed as a common enough problem that organizations build addressing it into their standard promotion procedures.

    In one case, a colleague who’d always performed well in his individual contributor role was promoted to management, where it quickly became clear that he didn’t like the work and wasn’t very good at it. He spent a year in the role to give it a fair shake, and then worked with his management to pursue and transition back to an individual contributor role. He’s still in that role now, doing a fantastic job and seemingly enjoying life again.

    In another case, someone I know was promoted to management because it was the next logical career progression step, but he found that he preferred to work as a contributor on a team, rather than overseeing a team. He, too, stepped back into an individual contributor role. In his case, his organization really wanted him to eventually manage, simply because he had specialized knowledge the organization wanted a broader team to have. His management worked with him to create a team for him where he could manage and contribute at the same time. It took a lot of very deliberate planning to bring him into a management situation that met both his and his company’s needs, but it was ultimately successful.

    Companies would do well, when promoting a high achiever to management, to have a path for that person to step down in a way that allows them to keep contributing, save face, and make room for someone who’s a better management candidate.

    1. Jennifer

      Well, we had one manager do that, but they basically created a special job for her….but don’t get me started on how that one affected me in a bad way.
      I do know someone who I was told was promoted up because her own manager was being driven nuts by her…so now everyone else is being driven nuts on a grander scale.

    2. LAI

      This seems like a great idea. I actually had the opportunity to take on a management role on an interim basis for a year while some HR issues were being worked out. That year convinced me that it wasn’t what I enjoyed doing, and then I was just able step down quietly when the year ended.

  6. Juli G.

    The after hours email “ban” is interesting. I would hate it. One thing I like about my job is that I can usually come in between 7:30-8:30 and usually leave between 4:30-5:30 depending on family schedules and then answer email at 9 when my son is in bed. I would hate for a law to end that flexibility.

    1. Adam

      It does seem like one of those “good intentions” rules that in real world applications isn’t likely to work for many office norms. I personally don’t want to think about work when I’m not there, and am fortunate in that’s one of the few aspects about my current job that I like, but moving up and gaining more responsibility in many fields likely will mean extra hours from time to time.

    2. Jamie

      Me too. It would seem this would prohibit flexibility in such a serious way – I get a little anxious just thinking about the government having the authority to dictate when I am and am not allowed to do my job.

      I also do not see how it’s workable or even remotely enforceable.

      Just thinking about this makes me twitchy.

      1. Chinook

        I think there is a huge difference between the French rule (which was country wide) and the German rule (which was for government employees). The French one does make flexibility for a particular industry hard whereas the German one sets a standard for the office that the bosses will have to adhere to. I too would have an issue with no phone calls after a certain time absolutely because there are times when, as an AA, I would get a call from the boss looking for his passport/travel paperwork (he thought he left them on my desk) or given a heads up to pick up donuts on the way in for a last minute client meeting that started at 8 a.m.

      2. Mike C.

        But there are plenty of times when the government prohibits flexibility – safety rules come to mind, as well as rules for how long you’re allowed to work in one go.

        What these regs say to me is that they want to put a fine line between work and non-work time, and if businesses need to have someone covering those off hours then they need to hire someone for that portion of the day.

        1. doreen

          Except that there are an awful lot of situations where that’s just not practical- should businesses have to pay someone to stay at the office/store/warehouse even when it’s closed in case the alarm goes off? Or wait till the next time I’m scheduled to work to retrieve the keys or other equipment I accidentally left with?

          1. De (Germany)

            If I have to be on on call, I get paid for 25% of my time even if nothing happens, in recognition of the fact that I can’t go away far and can’t go somewhere I can’t pick up my phone. The mandatory 11 hours between shifts is also included in that, so I can’t be on call between two usual work days.

  7. AmyNYC

    I was just thinking of email Alison for an opinion on the French email ban! You were pretty neutral in your article, do you mind sharing your thoughts?

    1. AmyNYC

      (Personally, I think it’s great, and would love to see it in my office. Than again, I’m a firm believer in work to live, not live to work.)

      1. Adam

        For me I get skittish whenever government tries to regulate things like this. I think it’s really more of a societal/culture issue that the working world should work out themselves. Really it often comes down to an office-to-office basis. Some organizations/people would like it; others won’t. But either way I don’t think this is something the Fed needs to be involved in. It’s not something like a serious workers’ rights issue or child labor laws.

        1. AmyNYC

          I get what you’re saying… and somewhat agree (re: less regulation), except I’m in an industry notorious for bad PTO and horrible hours, in my head a law would make those things better.

      1. Zelda

        The way the French “ban” has generally been reported in the English-language press is quite distorted. It’s presented as an absolute prohibition, or even a “new law”, which is taken as something to be envied and yet another way for those Frenchie slackers to skive off.

        It’s not a law or even a ban, it’s an agreement negotiated between the unions and two business groups. The agreement doesn’t *prohibit* anyone from sending emails after a specific time. What it does say is that they are entitled to eleven hours’ consecutive “rest” without being *forced* to attend to work, and that during this time it cannot be held against them if they do not attend to work email. It also acknowledges the need for flexibility.

        The agreement applies only to a category of staff who are *not* subject to the French 35-hour maximum work week; 11 hours’ rest means that they can still legally work for 13 hours a day.

        I’ve been subject to a strict workplace “no email after hours” policy, and it was bad enough to drive me out of the job. Of course one never knows how things will play out in practice, but I think the new French agreement is promising.

        See Slate.fr (in French) for a rebuttal of the “médias anglo-saxons” and an explanation of what the agreement really says: http://www.slate.fr/economie/85825/employes-google-facebook-france-mails-deconnexion

        1. De (Germany)

          “What it does say is that they are entitled to eleven hours’ consecutive “rest” without being *forced* to attend to work”

          Which, by the way, is a law Germany already has in place. This is not something new and radical, and seems pretty normal to me.

  8. Erik

    The problem with bad managers comes from some of the same problems:
    1) No mentoring or training of any kind. Pretty much the “sink or swim” attitude.
    2) People are promoted for the wrong reasons, mostly their ability to kiss ass to senior management as opposed to their ability to work with people.
    3) Management are afraid to fire managers that fail to perform, which will make them look bad. This would actually do more good as it shows that they hold people accountable for their work.

  9. clobbered

    Is there a native French speaker around here? Because with my limited French I feel this story has been really mistranslated in the English press.

    I think it just says that there has been an agreement in principle that for exempt employees, care has to be taken that they are not, due to availability of technology, obliged to work over the current agreed working week standards. Nothing like the “after hours e-mail illegal” spin.

    Here’s a first party source:

    http://www.syntec.fr/1-federation-syntec/144-actualite-convention-collective/144-actualite-convention-collective.aspx

  10. OriginalEmma

    Yay, clickbait! I needed a break from being told I need to be congratulated for breathing air.

    That French ban isn’t exactly what’s presented. To begin, it’s not a government ban but an agreement between the labor unions and industry. It seems the only time stipulation is that employees tune out after working a 13-hour day AND that they must have one day off every 7 days.
    (Source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2014/04/frances-6pm-e-mail-ban)

    I haven’t looked at the German case, so I will not comment.

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