my company said I could work remotely but then replaced me, unwanted help from a coworker, and more

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

1. My coworker keeps pushing unwanted help on me

It is my first year working at a boarding school, and one of my coworkers, who has been here for numerous years, has slowly been poking his head in my responsibilities and using them for his own agenda. For instance, one of my responsibilities was to interview students for a position. He sat in on all my interviews and kept trying to boost students who he worked with and gave me reasons not to pick the students that I work closely with. His reasoning was, “Well, this is your first year and I thought you could use the help.” I have moved dates and projects around mainly because they did not fit his schedule. Any time I have come up with an original idea, his response is, “Well, THIS is how we have always done it” and he becomes super persistent until he gets his way.

I appreciate his input and guidance, and I do not mind trying to accommodate, but I need him to let me do my job. Not to mention, the responsibilities he has been poking his head in are now mine because he originally did not want them. Unfortunately, I work AND live at the school and so does he. Additionally, he is very sensitive and insecure. Where I am looking for a colleague, he is looking for a best friend. ( I did not add him on Facebook and it became a “thing.” ) I am looking for advice on how to tactfully let him know I need to do my job while not making it awkward at work/home.

“Thanks, I appreciate the offer to help, but I’m going to handle this on my own.”
“I think I want to figure this out myself, but thank you.”
“I’m going to do this on my own.”
“I’ve got this, but thank you.”
Etc. And you say this pleasantly, but firmly. And then you continue to repeat it firmly until he backs off.

If at some point you want to address it more broadly, you could say, “I appreciate your offers to help, but I think I need to handle most of this stuff on my own. Thanks for understanding.” But since he’s sensitive and insecure, you might be better off just addressing it in the moment as it happens and assuming that he’ll back off once you’ve clearly established that you don’t welcome the “help.”

2. Giving feedback about shoddy work to someone I don’t manage

I work for a franchise of a national company. We own the business, so we generally make our own decisions, with the promise of support from the company in exchange for our royalties.

A nearby business that competes with ours recently re-opened, so I called our “home office” to speak with their marketing specialist about ideas. She and I had a long talk about a lot of things, then she said it would take about a month for her to analyze and get back to me. We set up a meeting for today, which I was really looking forward to, until I received the analysis she’d written up. It looks like it was written by a toddler – run-on sentences, poor spelling, misuse of words, etc. Worse, while the first couple pages apply directly to us and seem to be well-researched, the other ten or so are what appear to be canned responses.

I am so disappointed by this and see no point in having this meeting, as it appears it’ll be a complete waste of everyone’s time. I emailed her back to cancel and included a couple lines about how I didn’t see that most of what she’d included applied to us (for example, she suggested we register with major online review sites, all of which we are already registered with, which she would have known if she’d visited our website).

Was this the right thing to do? I don’t want to shame her, but I can’t help but feel like she turned in skate-by work. If I were her teacher or her supervisor, I’d know how to handle this, but I have no idea if what I did was correct here.

Absolutely. Canceling the meeting was perfectly reasonable given what she’d sent you, and being straightforward in explaining to her why you no longer thought it would be helpful is more useful to her than if you hadn’t told her the reason. I’d actually go a step further than that and say that it would be worth telling someone at your home office what your experience with this support was. Part of the franchise fees you pay buy you support from this home office, and you should speak up if they’re not providing what they promise. (And quality issues fall under that category; wouldn’t you want to know about this if you were them?)

3. My company said I could try working remotely, but then replaced me

I have been at my job for almost five years. About five months ago, I moved about 4 hours away from my job to live closer to my boyfriend. Before I made this move, I asked my company if I would be able to work from home and come into the office once a week. They agreed to try this arrangement out for four months and see how it was. During those four months, I did not hear any complaints or negative feedback. I also spoke with my boss and she assured me that everything was going great.

Well, last week, my boss called me in and told me that it wasn’t working out and that they wanted the person in this position to be in the office five days a week. She told me that my performance has been excellent and the only reason for this decision was that I am not in the office five days a week. She also told me that they had already hired my replacement and that they would be starting in a week.

My boss said that I can keep working there until July or until I find a new job but I would be expected to train my replacement in the meantime. I was pretty shocked and hurt that this was all done without any discussions or feedback. I asked for severance, but my boss was very adamant that I wasn’t fired and that it was my choice to move away. I don’t know what I can do from this point forward. I obviously feel like I was fired and I don’t want to work there anymore and I especially don’t want to train my replacement. I also need to focus on finding a new job. However if I don’t stay then I won’t get any severance or be able to collect unemployment. Was I fired? What can I do in this situation?

It doesn’t sound like you were fired. It sounds like your company assumed that you were going to move whether or not they okayed you working remotely and so they agreed to try it for four months, thinking that they might or might not keep you on longer than that … but that if it didn’t work out, it would just be the same resignation that you would have otherwise given when you moved. They absolutely erred in giving you no heads-up about their thinking, especially when you asked directly how the arrangement was working out, and they suck for blindsiding you like this. But it’s also true that it was set up from the beginning as a four-month experiment, and it’s not crazy that they decided at the end of that time that it wasn’t working for them. (And presumably you knew from the beginning that this could be the outcome.) They’re giving you another 2+ months, which is more than they agreed to at the outset, so in that respect, they’re being pretty accommodating. Really, the only thing they did wrong here was in waiting to fill you in on their thinking once they started having concerns.

As for what to do now, I’d stay while you look for a job, train your replacement, and do good work so you don’t burn the bridge and so you preserve a good reference. When you find a new job, give two weeks notice and move on.

4. Why do interviewers give you their card at the end of the interview?

I have had several interviews over the past few weeks, and I was offered cards at the end of the interview. I assume this is for thank-you notes, but I also use them to ask about timelines if the timeline they mentioned in the interview has passed. One woman gave me a very blanket vague response like she was annoyed that I asked, one woman didn’t even bother to reply to my emails, and the other just fell off the face of the earth. And I had really good interviews! They seemingly like me at first, but afterwards I hear nothing and they get irritated if I reach out. I’m confused!

They give you their cards because it’s a business convention to give people your card at the end of a meeting. (You’re not expected to give them one in return since you’re not there representing your employer.) It’s really nothing more than that. As for why they’re not helpful or don’t respond when you contact them later, that’s part of a larger pattern of employers not getting back to candidates after interviews. Sometimes it’s because they have no news yet, sometimes it’s because they’ve taken you out of the running but are too inconsiderate to tell you, and sometimes it’s because they intend to but forget to in the rush of higher priorities.

5. Did I mess up by addressing my application to HR instead of the hiring manager?

Recently I submitted an application to a generic email address (e.g., and I thought I was being smart by addressing my cover letter and email to their human resources director. After reading your definitions for HR and a hiring manager, I’m not so sure. Did I screw up my chances of getting considered by addressing the email and cover letter to the HR director instead of the person the open position reports to? If so, is there anything I can do to correct this mistake?

No. No one cares how you address the cover letter as long as you don’t make up fake names or spell people’s names wrong. You’re over-thinking it. You don’t even need to address it to a specific name, unless they include a name in their application directions. “Dear hiring manager” is fine, and so are most other variations of that. They do not care. Put it out of your mind.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. I'm happy to be here*

    I totally don’t get the answer on the remote thing. The fact that they didn’t give her the opportunity to come back to 5 days a week and just replaced her is sign of it not being voluntary. If she had told them in the beginning “Can I work remotely and we can try it out for a bit?” she never gave a notice. She asked for an accomadation, they gave it to her on a trial basis, it didn’t work out, therefore she should be able to go back to the way it was.

    This happened to me. I asked to move 1.5 hours away and they said yes. Had they said no, I hadn’t made a decision on whether or not I would leave. I never needed to play that card, because I didn’t use an ultimatum. I never said “let me do this or else I quit.” The agreement here was stated was that they would try it out. I’m betting the employment commission in the OP’s city would agree with me. They can’t imply this as a resignation.

    Now, I do think it would be better for the OP to escape this place. This kind of shady treatment and potential non logical decision making is a red flag to me.

      1. yam44*

        #3 Seems like being fired to me as well. The OP wanted to stay in the job. The company decided that was not going to happen.

        Calling it voluntary is just adding to their other dishonest behaviour, IMO.

        As noted above, the only consolation is it seems like a good place to be away from.

    1. Bea W*

      I wouldn’t be at all shocked if employers make these agreements knowing full well they don’t intend to keep the remote worker on. Agreeing to “try it out” just buys them all the time they need to find and train an on site replacement. If a person just asks for an accomodation in work schedule and receives it, even on a trial basis, I don’t see how that is the same as giving notice.

      It’s really unfair to the employee who is making a major decision based on being able to work remotely. In the OP’s case, she may have moved anyway, but had her employer been up front about the outcome, that’s 4 months she could have been applying for local jobs. In other cases, someone may choose to not move as far away or to stay. My employer decided to lay off all remote workers a couple years ago as part of a massive RIF. There was at least one person who moved clear back across the country to avoid losing her job. Sometimes staying to keep your job trumps the original plan to move or things change.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree that it looks like OP#3’s employer used the 4 month experiment as cover to search for a replacement. They agreed to a change in circumstances and never gave her the option to continue her employment when they chose to end it. They just assumed she wouldn’t move back and that just seems wrong.

        1. Lisa*

          Totally, my boss gave notice, was given a promotion to stay then fired after a year for reasons that make no sense, since his replacement did the same stuff and was praised for it while he was vilified. So the owner couldn’t lose him at the time he resigned so gave him a 30% raise and a promotion to head of dept. but in a year he didn’t need him and tossed him.

      2. Sunflower*

        The thing is though they told her 4 months ago that it might not work out. Yes they should have been more transparent during the trial about how things were going and what the likely outcome would be but she knew upfront, before this started, that it was a trial and at the end of the 4 months it could have gone either way. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done the same thing and ended up in this situation but I think she should have been applying for local jobs the whole time just to cover her own butt

        1. FiveNine*

          I guess I was under the impression — and would have had this impression if my own boss said this to me — that the trial part of the agreement was the working remotely aspect. It would never occur to me that I was now somehow in a trial period for employment, period.

          1. Cat*

            Well, we don’t know how the OP presented it to the company. Did she say “I’d like to try working remotely to see if it works out?” or did she say “I’m moving and will have to give my two weeks notice unless you’re open to telework.” It really depends on the framing.

            1. BB*

              Yes- as Allison said, it sounds like the company assumed she was moving either way. There isn’t enough information in the letter to know what OP was thinking. Although I’ll assume OP did ask about it, she doesn’t mention anything about offering to move back for the job- she only says she’s upset that there were no discussions or feedback.

              1. OP #3*

                Thank you all so much for your feedback! It is really helping me come to terms with what has happened as well as see other points of view. When I originally posed this as an option to my boss I did not say that I was moving either way. I simply said I would like to move and wanted to see if this was an option. In reality I probably would have moved anyway but I would have at least tried to find a job before moving.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, that’s good context. I had pictured this as: “I am moving to City X, and I wonder if I could continue in my job once I’m there.” (Subtext or explicitly: If not, then we will need to replace me because I will no longer be living here.”) It sounds like it wasn’t quite so clear-cut.

                  Is it possible, though, that they interpreted it the same way I did and thought you were all on the same page about that?

                2. OP #3*

                  Yes, they probably did think this but they would have known differently had they discussed this with me before replacing me. We may have been able to at least come up with some other options like coming in 3 days a week and seeing if that is any better.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I agree they should have talked to you. I also think they probably decided they want someone in the office full-time and thought you weren’t open to that because you moved (and because this was framed as a short-term experiment).

                  I think for moving forward now, the question for you is: if they’d told you that you needed to return to the office full-time, would you have? It sounds like the answer is no, and that you’re upset they didn’t tell you earlier so that you could look for other jobs. But they’re giving you an extra 2+ months so that you can do exactly that. (And those extra months weren’t in the agreement for the experiment, and they didn’t have to do it. It’s not that different from if they’d told you 2 months ago, which it sounds like you would have been okay with.) So I don’t think it makes sense to be this bitter. You asked for an experiment, they gave it to you, it didn’t work for them, and now they’re giving you 2 months to look for something else.

                4. OP #3*

                  Very true thanks! I think I am just a little bitter because I was so shocked by this decision and that there wasn’t even a discussion. I am also shocked by the fact that they don’t think that I was fired and therefore may not be able to collect unemployment if I don’t find a job in two months. All of the responses have definitely helped me see the company’s point of view and also made me realize that there was probably nothing else that could have been done, I just feel like they should have handled it differently.

          2. Bea W*

            Yes! You communicated much better what was in my head. I was thinking the trial period applied only to the working remotely, not the working, period.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Exactly! And if they had said no, it’s possible she could have made other plans. (Or not, as she implies, but it’s possible.) My husband is a restaurant GM, and that’s a really fluid and transferrable industry. It is entirely possible for me to ask my company about working remotely from Location X, but if that doesn’t work out, the alternative may be that my husband finds a new job in Location Y and I stay in the position I am in.

              In other words, the company saying no to working remotely could mean that I alter my plans to keep my job — not that I am implicitly handing in my notice.

              This was a not good move on the company’s part.

        2. Bea W*

          “It might not work out.” is different than saying “We’ll allow you to telecommute for 4 months, after which we will have to replace you if you can’t be in the office 5 days a week.” One communicates the possibility but not the certainty the person will be let go, and gives the impression that if the arrangement works well for the 4 months, it will likely continue. The OP said she was not given any other feedback or reason to believe it was not working out and that her manager really needed her to be in the office 5 days a week. The dissatisfaction and decision to not continue this arrangement was not communicated to her, and I think it was deceptive of her manager to continue to reassure her that everything was “going great”. Obviously, it wasn’t “great”.

          If I was given the impression that the remote working situation was “going great” and wanted to continue in that job, I wouldn’t be looking at local jobs. It is true it may have been a trial period, but my expectation would be the same as the OP’s – if my employer communicates to me that it is going well, there’s no reason to expend the energy on looking elsewhere. You can be let go at any time for any reason in most jobs, but people don’t normally keep sending out resumes on the off-chance things go south. That would be impractical. You have to assume you still have a job until told otherwise.

          1. OP #3*

            Thank you Bea! Exactly my thoughts:) I had never thought that this would be the outcome since they were assuring me everything was going great. Therefore I have not looked into any jobs. I feel like this was a slap in the face and now I have to work there and look very actively for jobs. It is hard to devote my full attention to either in this situation.

          2. rr*

            This was my thought, too, so I was very confused by the response that this wasn’t firing. It didn’t seem like anything else to me.

          3. Lexie*

            I’m wondering if when they were saying this is working out or going great, they meant “this is working out/going great for somone who is telecommuting, but we would still prefer someone in the office.” It is definitely on the employer to communicate that clearly, but I could see them thinking nothing is necessarily wrong with the employee’s work but they are still not satisfied with the whole set-up.

            1. sunny-dee*

              That is a pretty significant miscommunication.

              OP: “I’ve been telecommuting now for two months. How is it going for you?”

              Boss: “Great! Well, actually, it sucks. I want someone here full time because I just don’t feel like I can work with someone I can’t see. But, I really like the people I’m interviewing to take your job. So the situation is great!”

    2. Sunflower*

      I’m a little torn on this. I agree with Allison that employer should have given the heads up that this might be happening but I can understand why the employer didn’t offer her to move back. If I’m the employer, I’m thinking ‘okay, this employee wants to move to be closer to the boyfriend. Obviously this is something she’s been thinking about for a while and they’ve discussed. If we ask her to move back here, what are the chances she actually stays and doesn’t leave as soon as she finds a new job in new city?’

      I mean, if they had given the heads up, maybe the boyfriend would have made plans to move but as the employer, you need to watch out for yourself so I can understand why they didn’t want to risk her coming back and leaving but they should have been more transparent about the reality of the arrangement aka not told her everything was perfect when it wasn’t.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        I think this is the type of situation where maybe the employer doesn’t technically have to give the employee notice, but it sets a precedent with the remaining employees that the company will not be straightforward. Kind of like letting employees work their notice period. If I was another employee here, you bet I would take this into consideration. For example, if I had the choice of asking my employer to work distantly or just quietly look for another job, you bet I would just keep mum and look for another job.

        1. rr*

          Yeah. If I’m an employee here, I’m looking very hard at what just happened. Especially since some of the other employees likely knew that someone was being hired to replace the OP and weren’t allowed to say anything about it.

          If that’s how they treat someone else, that’s how they’re willing to treat me, too.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But it could also be that the perfect person fell in their lap and they decided to hire her — rather than sneaking around behind the OP’s back this whole time. (They still should have talked to her before hiring the person, for optics if nothing else, but it doesn’t mean they were doing a hiring process and swearing other employees to silence.)

            They were clear it was an experiment. If they hadn’t been, I’d have a much bigger issue with them.

            1. OP #3*

              Typically, it is my job to place ads for new employees so after they told me about this, I actually went to the different sites that we use and looked for an ad and found the one they posted for my position. They had posted it 22 days before they let me know. I also think that they had posted it before I spoke with my manager to find out how it was going although I can’t remember the exact date. So she may have just been lying to me.

            2. Monodon monoceros*

              How clear were they that the results of the experiment could be that they would hire someone else for OP’s position without even discussing any issues they were having with her remote work, though? I just think there should have been more communication with the OP about the reality of the situation.

              1. Vdubs*

                OP#3- Was it set up as an experiment from the beginning? (Did your manager set any parameters or reviews when you asked?)

            3. Vicki*

              That sounds reasonable, until you consider that the only way the perfect person could “fall onto their laps” is that they posted a job opening and held at least one set of interviews.

              It’s simply not normal to be told, after 4 months of “it’s great” that “by the way, we’ve replaced you.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Not really. Someone interviews for another job but is perfect for this one, someone they know at an outside organization and who is fantastic is leaving and they were able to snatch them up, etc.

                The OP’s comments indicate that wasn’t the case here, but in general it certainly could be.

      2. Joey*

        The thing though is you’re assuming she wouldn’t have stayed. Wouldn’t you want to give the employee the option anyway, if nothing else out of common courtesy? Would she have stayed, probably not. But just the courtesy of asking goes a long way. Besides what kind of message does that send to the other employees- we’ll tell you everything’s fine even when it isn’t?

        1. OP #3*

          Yes, if they believe that I wasn’t fired than there should have been a discussion and I should have at least been informed that it wasn’t working out and that they will need to look for someone else if I can’t come in 5 days a week. Instead they replaced me and hense it seems like I was fired.

          1. sunny-dee*

            But then she’s still being fired, just for a different reason. The point is, her leaving was not her choice. It was the employer’s choice, done without her knowledge.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The way I’m reading it (and assume they heard it) is that she told them she was moving, which means she’s leaving if she can’t telecommute.

              1. Joey*

                Moving doesn’t equate to quitting. She was just trying to eliminate some of the commuting time. It’s no different than if I asked to come in late regularly because I needed to drop my kid off at school. If they changed their mind should I be fired even though I could very well find another solution?

                Maybe she moves back. Maybe she shacks up with a friend during the week. Who cares? As long as she able to make it to work reliably?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Hypothetical situation: Less than top-performing employee (sorry OP, I don’t know you and am just giving a hypothetical!) says she’s moving 4 hours away and wants to try remote work. You agree to try it, don’t love it. You could give her the option of moving back, but you assume that if she does, she’s likely going to move again as soon as she can find a job in the other city anyway. You’d really want to give her the option to come back and live with a friend during the week? That rarely works well long-term, especially for someone who has already moved and presumably wants to stay there, and for a less than top performer? I don’t see it.

                2. Joey*

                  Would they give a poor performer 2 mos? I wouldn’t assume that long. She’s got to be at least sufficient or better.
                  I would have probably said “this isn’t working out. We need someone here everyday long term. I understand that might not work for you, and if it doesn’t we understand. We’d like to work with you on a transition plan.” [silence/expected response]. That way she knows she on her way out but she is determining the end date which works much better for both. That way its a true quit unless she can’t keep up her end of the bargain.

                3. Joey*

                  If she was less than acceptable Id just be less flexible on how long Id agree to keep her on. But since none of that was communicated I would still be willing to be somewhat flexible. At that point though it would clearly be about her being fired for performance, not the commute.

                  If she was acceptable I’d be inclined to agree to however long she can commit, but there would have to be a transition sooner or later.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I could see using it as an opportunity to replace someone okay but not great with someone great. They still should have been more candid though.

                5. Maggie*

                  As a manager, if I felt that the employee’s performance was less than stellar, it would have been a no from the very beginning.

                  What state are we in? I’m curious if her manager wanted her out from the very beginning (SORRY OP) and because she’s in a right to work state, her manager finagled the empty FTE by way of claiming OP deserted her role. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but I have witnessed my fair share of dirty terminations as a first tier manager in a national sales org and this looks just like it.

                  Even if they’re not in a right to work state, the company could write their policies as such to minimize risk. And liability of unemployment payouts.

              2. Vicki*

                She was willing to come in once a week from 4 hours away. Being willing to change something else isn’t too far out to consider.

                I know people who’ve accepted jobs that were 4 hours away with the knowledge on both sides that no, they wouldn’t be moving. Arrangements were made.

                I worked with a man who commuted from Santa Monica CA to San Francisco every week for many years. He lived in a room in a shared apartment nearby Monday – Thursday and flew home on Friday afternoon.

                OP #3 was fired, without notice.

    3. LQ*

      I agree, the fact that they hired the replacement says they had no intention of actually letting the OP try this. If they’d really wanted someone full time at the end of 4 months (or sooner) they would have said, Nope! 5 days in the office. They never even gave her that opportunity.
      Instead they said, “Sure sounds great!” and hired a replacement.
      At the start they could have said, “We’ll try but we will be hiring someone to replace the work you do at the office and if we can’t find enough offsite work for you then we won’t be able to keep you on.”
      The OP specifically asked for feedback and didn’t at any point hear, 5 days in the office is required, but instead heard it’s all good.

      1. OP #3*

        I agree with you completely! There is definitely other work to be done which I could do remotely. That is why I feel like I was fired, there was no discussion and if there was, there could have been a better solution then this.

        1. Sunflower*

          FWIW it sounds like your employer might be trying to get out of paying you severance or unemployment. By discussing other solutions or accommodations, it might have made it seem it like they fired you for not doing these things as opposed to you leaving on your own. I have no idea if any of this stuff will stick but it could be why nothing was discussed.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      I was surprised by the answer as well. I think it was a very crappy thing for them to do to a supposedly valued employee. Every once in a rare while, there’s an answer here that highlights the difference between HR and other staff. It’s always good to remember HR is mainly there to act in the company’s best interest, not necessarily the employee’s. I really don’t mean that as a negative comment towards Alison because I “get” why it’s this way – and of course I know there are many ways HR protects us as well. It’s just easy to forget that their point of view is sometimes very different than ours.

      1. Joey*

        Except that it is in the best interest to try to retain an employee who is already a proven performer and show other employees you value that. Sneaking behind her back and essentially firing her by making her decision to quit for her shows other employees you may receive false feedback about your standing at the company. That’s likely to make people scared to be fired which doesn’t sound like its in anyone’s best interest.

        1. OP #3*

          I agree with you completely Joey! I am shocked that they wouldn’t want to retain a good employee. There were several other things I could have done that wouldn’t have required me to be in the office at all. They didn’t really even consider these things and that is why I feel like I was fired.

          1. Joey*

            Fwiw when/if you file for unemployment I would list that you were fired for no reason and that you were still ready and willing to work when they fired you. If they try to dispute that you moved I would say you intending to keep working there for the foreseeable future. The end. Do not give extra details since you have no idea how long it may have taken you to find another job. I would bet you’ll qualify for benefits this way.

              1. Chinook*

                Also, to back up your claim that you were willing to keep working but they weren’t, I hope you have a screen shot of the help wanted ad to show they were already looking.

            1. Annie O*

              Joey’s advice is awesome. And it’s not a lie; the OP *was* ready and willing to continue working. It was the employer who decided to terminate.

              1. mirror*

                +100 for Joey. You were fired. I dont care how the employer may have interpreted the talk you had when you asked to telecommute. If you did not actually use the words “I will quit if I cant telecommute,” then any other decision they make means they fired you. THEY decided they did not like the arrangement and hired your replacement. You were never even given a chance to decide if you wanted to continue the arrangement or not. How is that not firing you?!

        2. Citizen of Metropolis*

          Total agreement, with this comment and the one you made earlier. The way the company handled this is demoralizing, and a clear signal to the other employees that they need to be elsewhere.

          1. sunny-dee*

            This is one of several situations where I kinda wish I knew the company name, so there’s no chance I ever end up working there. :)

          2. Mints*

            The demoralizing thing I think is the worst bit. I mean, AAM’s argument that being very flexible for someone who is moving anyway isn’t a permanent solution makes sense, but if I worked there, I would feel really bad for LW. Especially since they posted the job before telling her. That’s so sneaky to me, I would be scared they could fire anyone (me) without warning me, then try to look generous with a long notice period. It’s not the worst, I guess, but it feels dishonest and I’d be more worried

      2. Celeste*

        Agree all the way. I think they only agreed to the arrangement to avoid her giving a 2-week notice and leaving them scrambling. Usually they do have to cope with those, this time they found a way to make it easy for the company. To me it comes back to the company’s needs vs the employee’s–at no time did the company ever think it would be good for them to have the OP working remotely, because they didn’t offer it to her.

        There is so much written about modern workplaces and all kinds of new ways of doing things and negotiating deals for yourself, but some things never change. The employer has more power than the employee.

        1. Joey*

          I doubt they had ill intentions. I bet the manager hoped it would work and just ultimately couldn’t stomach the idea of paying someone who wasn’t in the office. Some people are just like that.

          1. Cat*

            Or it turned out the work wasn’t as amenable to being done outside the office as they hoped; sometimes it turns out that way.

            1. Mephyle*

              Cat: “Or it turned out the work wasn’t as amenable to being done outside the office as they hoped; sometimes it turns out that way.
              OP3: “During those four months, I did not hear any complaints or negative feedback. I also spoke with my boss and she assured me that everything was going great.

              If the work indeed wasn’t amenable to being done outside the office and it wasn’t working out as they had hoped, then the boss was lying through her teeth. This was more than just a misunderstanding or miscommunication through differing assumptions. If we look at the facts as reported, they are:
              Boss (for 4 months): “Everything is going great.”
              Boss (after 4 months are up): “It’s not working out. We’re replacing you in 1 week.”
              I am with those who say this is called “firing.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, the boss erred. But it’s not “you’re gone in a week.” It’s “you’re gone in 2+ months, which is more than half of the full amount of time we agreed to try this for.”

                1. Annie O*

                  Is this the reason that you think it’s a resignation instead of a firing? Because the company is allowing the OP to work 2+ more months? I just can’t seem to wrap my head this one. It seems like a firing to me.

                  Of course, my judgement here may be clouded by the fact that my company went through something very similar last year, but no one tried to call it a resignation and the employee was given a generous severance.

                2. Joey*

                  Most legal entities would consider it a fire. The employer changed the terms. But the key is the terms were never turned down by the employee. They only assume she would have turned them down, but there is no evidence that she actually declined the new terms of the job. That’s a fire all the way.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No, I consider it not a firing because she said “I’m moving (and therefore can’t continue in the job as it currently exists).” “I’m moving” = resignation. “Let’s have a 4-month experiment of me working remotely” = experiment to see if she doesn’t have to resign.

                4. Joey*

                  It’s the same as firing someone because they said they’ll quit. Unless they actually quit its a fire.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If you say “I’m quitting” but don’t set a last day, your employer can certainly decide what that last day will be (and in my experience an unemployment agency will agree).

                6. Joey*

                  “I never said I was quitting. I just said I was moving. I intended to stay past the day they told me not to return.”

                  I don’t see evidence of a quit.

                7. H. Vane*

                  I disagree, Allison. For instance, in my home town, the cost of living is extremely high. Many people choose to commute up to four hours daily to work for the primary company. Some even buy personal planes for the commute. Some of those people request modified workweeks so that they can avoid the long commute. If I was to say, ‘Hi boss, I’m moving to other city, so I’d like to arrange a different schedule to make my commute easier’ and they agree, then change the terms of that agreement a few months later by letting me go without giving me the opportunity to return to my original arrangement, that would be a firing. No doubt. And that’s pretty much what happened here.

                8. Vicki*

                  The only reason (I see) for letting her stay the next 2 months is because they want her to train her replacement.

                  And maybe a little bit of guilt.

                9. Jerry Vandesic*

                  “I’m moving” does not equal resign. Until she resigns, either explicitly or implicitly (by now showing up for work), she is still an employee.

                  The OP should not resign, and continue to work as she has been doing for last four months. It is up to the employer to terminate her. If they don’t terminate her, she is owed her wages, and could file a wage claim (I assume she is exempt). Once she is terminated, she should file for unemployment.

          2. Celeste*

            I think what you say isn’t always what people hear. OP had a solution to her problem that would work for her at this point in time. Employer heard, I’m moving 200 miles away to settle down and won’t be back.

            I’m not advocating letting the employer know the ins and outs of your relationships. I’m just saying, they saw the logical progression being, get married, have a family, not be able to keep up the commute even one day a week.

            Should the OP have realized this? Maybe. I don’t know whose sake the 4 months’ trial was for. I mostly wonder what the OP planned on if at the end of 4 months, the employer said it was a fail. Would she have moved back? Unfortunately she was in a position where she felt she had to make a choice between the two. She tried to have both, but the employer decided she had already chosen one over the other from the distance perspective.

            1. Joey*

              No doubt that’s what the employer heard. Problem is though they’re not thinking about what their employees hear and how it may affect them.

          3. BB*

            From what I’ve seen, a lot of telecommuting jobs that are either not designed originally for telecommuting or are not the company’s idea rarely work out long-term. Things always seem to come up that make the employer think that the job is just better suited for someone in the office everyday.

            There’s also a big difference between someone who works from home, 20 mins away, and can be in the office on relatively short notice and someone who’s trip to the office is a legitimate trip and travel.

          4. ScaredyCat*

            Fair enough, but it shouldn’t have taken them 4 months to realize this, and then just go ahead and find someone else.

            I’ve been feeling seriously demoralized since reading this, and I’m not even the one affected. In any case, it’s also a good lesson to learn: make sure to explicitly ask what would happen if it “didn’t work out”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, I’ve never been in HR. I think that was in response to Lily in NYC’s comment about HR being there to protect the company’s interests. But Lily, you know, that’s true of managers too. The question here is whether this WAS in the company’s interest, which is a question that needs to take into account the way it appears to other employees and the impact it might have on them.

          I think it’s very possible that the way it looks to other employees is “Jane said she was leaving and asked to work remotely. The company agreed to try it for 4 months but it didn’t work out. Jane is annoyed that they didn’t give her a heads-up earlier, but they gave her a heads-up once they were sure.”

          1. sunny-dee*

            I think that problem is that the “heads-up” was hiring her replacement. That’s not really a heads-up — she asked if the situation was working, and they didn’t say flat-out no or identify any problems with it that she could potentially address (e.g., video chats or different travel times).

            This is exactly as if the “heads-up” that your performance wasn’t up to par by your boss having you train the replacement, after telling you everything was great in a performance review.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree — that’s where they went wrong. They should have signaled it earlier. But it’s totally possible that they’d concluded there was nothing she could do on her side and they wanted someone in the office full time, period, and they didn’t want to prolong it or give her false hope when they’d already decided.

              When you move and you ask for an experiment in telecommuting, one potential outcome is that the experiment will end up failing. They were up-front with her about that.

              The only thing they weren’t up-front about was in giving her a better sense of their thinking along the way.

              1. Monodon monoceros*

                That’s exactly where I have problems with how the company handled it. Hypothetically, the OP moves away, but hates the new city/is thinking of breaking up with boyfriend/would rather move back than be unemployed. Maybe the company says “we’ve really realized we need someone in the office 5 days per week. If you can’t do that then we are going to have to find someone else for the position.” And then OP decides (assuming they weren’t trying to get OP to quit anyway- but still- more communication would be better even in that situation).

                1. alfie*

                  Yes I completely agree. The company just had to say no, we require you to be here five days a week, or to be able to get here within 30 minutes or whatever. It should be up to the employee to figure out how they are going to be at work at the required time. I have no idea how this can be deemed a quit when the OP was replaced without even being consulted about it.

            2. Teacher Recruiter*

              Not only is the heads-up not a good one – the manager took a big risk in posting the position prior to telling OP. What would’ve happened if the OP saw it on a job board or heard it from someone in her network before the manager had the conversation?

              To me that adds another layer to the story, which would make me further question the organization’s ability to be honest and communicate well.

          2. Joey*

            I disagree that you’ve never been in HR. What you do right now is pretty much HR- advising employees and employers on employee relations issues- no real power except influence. The only difference is you’re not as biased as you once were. I still totally believe you’re biased (in a good way of course), just not nearly as biased since most of the advice you give (on the blog) is unpaid.

              1. HM in Atlanta*

                I’m an HR Business Partner, and coaching managers is 75% of my job. Payroll, benefits, compensation planning, recruiting, policies about clothes and flexible work hours – those I don’t do.

    5. LBK*

      Agreed completely. They should’ve asked the employee if she was willing to commute every day or move back if it didn’t work out. What if they had told her right up front that the job couldn’t be done remotely? Would they have just terminated her on the spot without asking if she still wanted the job, knowing she would have to be in the office 5 days a week? That would definitely be firing her, and I don’t see how this is any different. The OP never told anyone she was leaving the company, the company told her she is. That’s firing her, pure and simple.

    6. MK*

      But perhaps she didn’t put it like that. Maybe she said “I am going to move 4 hours away. What do you think about me working remotely?”, in which case they might feel justified in thinking that she basically quit. And that the agreement on a trial period for remote working was a seperate thing.

      1. OP #3*

        I said to them “I am thinking of making this move, would I be able to work from home?” And they said we can give it a try. Had they said no, I would have at least looked for another job before making the move. There was no definite date of the move when I brought this up.

        1. mirror*

          If I’m looking at it from a collecting unemployment angle, and I’m trying to decide if she quit or was fired, it seems there are 2 assumptions here:

          1. The company interprets “I’m moving” as “I quit if I cant telecommute.”
          2. OP believes she is getting to try out a new work arrangement. It may or may not work out, but at the end of 4 months they’ll figure out where to go from there.

          If company and OP are operating on two sets of differing assumptions, who wins? If OP did not realize she told them she’s quitting, then how can she be told she quit? Is there some legal employment guide out there that OP and I havent read that says using the words “I’m moving” basically means “I’m quitting?” I have to believe that the unemployment agency is not going to read too much into company’s assumptions when the poor employee doesnt even realize she told them she quit.

    7. Ed*

      We will never know the exact circumstances as far as whether a great candidate just happened to come along (at a time when they were having mixed feelings about this experiment) or whether they interpreted her request as a statement and not a question so decided to protect themselves and proactively replace her. It’s not an uncommon strategy for relocating employees to string along their old companies while they job hunt. Either way, she’s not in a bad situation with 2+ months to find another job and I assume a good reference.

      I was fired once and laid off twice but it was only in hindsight that I realized how lucky I was in how all three were handled. At the time you’re upset and hurt so no amount of severance can compensate for the loss of a job. Companies exist to make profit and don’t owe us anything. Look at it from the viewpoint of your company. If they already hired your replacement, they probably don’t “need” to keep you on for two more months. They could just as easily let you go next week to save money.

      I would immediately start looking for a job like yours was ending tomorrow. A dangerous trap to fall into is mentally giving yourself two months to find something. Your company could always change their mind and let you go sooner. For the record, I do think it sucks the way your company handled this but that’s now in the past. As long as you didn’t relocate to some hick town with no jobs, I would just move on and consider yourself lucky you have a little time to transition.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Work is work, whether you do it in the office or remotely. Sounds like she was fired to me, and not for cause either. Plus, the company did say her work was fine, but they wanted someone in the office 5 days a week.

    1. Bryan*

      I would think yes. Like most unemployment claims the company would appeal but I can’t imagine an unemployment office would believe the excuse “they left voluntarily” with no paperwork to back it up and an employee who says they were fired.

      1. H. Rawr*

        I think there is a case for the employer saying that the job she was hired to do required her to be in the office 5 days per week and she moved 4 hours away making her unavailable for work, which is part of the deal when you are getting unemployment, at least in our state. I don’t know if the trial period and training period would end up working in the employer or employee’s favor in that argument though…

        1. Joey*

          Except its hard to refute if the employee says she would have commuted if the telecommuting arrangement didn’t work.

          1. LBK*

            Especially since it doesn’t sound like the employer even asked if she’d be willing to commute.

            1. Cat*

              Four hours though? That’s eight hours of commuting a day – I can’t imagine that’s feasible. I’m not generally into employers policing commutes, but I just have a hard time seeing how someone can commute 8 hours a day and be reliably in the office.

                1. OP #3*

                  Thank you for your feedback! It’s true that 8 hours a day would have been way to much for me. But it would have been nice to be asked at least instead of just replaces. Also, if there was a discussion, we could have come up with some other arrangements possibly. For example, I could have given up some of the work that required me to be in the office and taken on some other work that was easier to be done from home. Also, I could have started coming in 2 days a week to see if that worked any better. There was just no effort to fix the situation at all and instead I was replaced.

              1. LBK*

                But that should still have been a conversation rather than an assumption, and even if the judgment call had already been made by the employer the conversation should’ve gone differently. It’s well within the employer’s discretion to say they don’t want an employee commuting 4 hours to work, but it’s bizarre for the employer to assume the employee wouldn’t be open to any other alternatives and to not include that in their explanation of why she’s being fired.

              2. Elsajeni*

                She could have done a weekly commute or something like that, though. Still tough, and for many people not sustainable in the long run, but more doable than an 8-hour daily round trip, at least.

              3. Bea W*

                People do this though they don’t literally commute from home every day. What they do is commute to work Mondays, stay over locally during the week, and go back home on Fridays. For a young couple without children it’s not ideal, but it’s doable. Sometimes couple have no choice but to have this kind of arrangement for a time, because the alternative is one of them not working or they do it while they sort out where they want to settle or where they can both get jobs locally.

                1. OP #3*

                  This was definitely something that could have been a possibility had there been a discussion instead of just being replaced.

                2. AB*

                  A lot of people in my office do this, and almost all of them have families. Their work generally involves a lot of travel anyway. So, rather than uproot the family to a new city (where the worker won’t be much anyway since he/she travels all the time), they keep the family where they are and rent a small apartment nearby or stay at the long term stay hotel.

                3. Decimus*

                  Yes, my most recent job involved staying in an extended stay hotel during the week because the commute (including traffic) would have been about 3 hours. Commuting is feasible.

  2. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. Sometimes on a company website, you get something like a message from the HR Director or a “If you want to work for us, please get in touch”.

    I have also seen a page of photographs with local contacts (Big Boss, Medium Sized Boss, HR Director, Business Development Team etc.) so if I knew the name I would address any communication to the HR Director. Even if it’s an HR assistant handling the applications, they may not be the one with their name on the website.

  3. HR “Gumption”*

    #5- Speaking as a Hiring manager and HR Manager I completely agree with AAM, don’t let this be your worry.

  4. Sophia*

    #5 As part of my job, I occasionally have to cover phones for our office. I can not tell you the number of times we get calls asking for the hiring manager’s name and it drives me crazy. It’s a big waste of my time and the candidate’s time. At our office, no one cares if you found out the hiring managers name, and in general it’s more likely to count against you because multiple people review applications and it’s so easy to get the wrong name.

    I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “Seriously it will not help you in anyway to find the name and it could hurt you!”

    Pet peeve rant over.

    Anyway, I usually use, “Dear hiring committee” just because I assume most places have more than one person reviewing a resume.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      I would give them funny fake names. “The hiring manager is named Mr I.P. Nightly”

    2. Joey*

      Oh, come on. Have some sympathy for the people trying to dot every I and cross every T. I agree it makes no difference, but Id much rather have that type of applicant that ones who make no effort.

      1. Heather*

        Yeah, this is one of those things where there’s not much consensus on whether or not it matters. Before I started reading AAM, I’d say about 70% of jobhunting advice sites & books recommended finding the hiring manager’s name. I think Alison’s way makes more sense (and is waaay easier!), but like Joey, I would see it as an applicant trying to take some initiative.

        If they keep bugging you after you tell them to use “Dear hiring manager,” that’s another story.

          1. Heather*

            But they’re usually not the ones writing jobhunting advice…so unless someone has been lucky enough to find this site, they’re probably reading crappy advice that they haven’t had enough experience to know is crappy.

            To me, I guess it’s like a new grad who includes an objective on her resume because the career center has pounded it into her head that SHE MUST HAVE ONE. It’s based on bad advice & not something hiring managers want to see, but it’s not something that should cause them to immediately disqualify a candidate they’d otherwise be interested in.

      2. some1*

        How do you think you’d even find out, though? Are you going to ask your receptionist, “Write down the names of everyone who calls asking what my name is, and email them to me”?

            1. Joey*

              Doesn’t really matter how they find out I’m the hiring manager. Either way I know they had to go to some effort to do it. Don’t get me wrong its not going to make me interview someone who wasn’t qualified, but I think it shows more effort than lots of people who haven’t appeared to make any effort to customize their résumé/app/cover letter.

            1. Joey*

              because I have someone else who fields inquiries about my jobs. That person is listed as the contact on my job postings. I don’t have the capacity to do that.

      3. Fabulously Anonymous*

        I disagree. I’d rather have an applicant that knows what’s important and what’s not. It shows she’s knows how to prioritize and how to best manage her time.

        1. Joey*

          Obviously. Except in lots of jobs, especially entry level, low skill, or manual labor type jobs you’re hard pressed finding anyone that knows what’s important. I’d find it refreshing to see someone who was making efforts to do what most don’t bother to-attempt to do some research, even if it is misguided.

          1. Fabulously Anonymous*

            I think that’s where we disagree: I don’t consider those who don’t include names as not bothering to make an attempt at research. There are other ways of determining if an applicant did research. For example, did they reference something about our company or industry in their cover letter? That would be more impressive to me, and show me they understand more about our needs, then their ability to make a phone call and badger the receptionist.

            1. Joey*

              I’m talking about the hordes of people who don’t appear to be applying to anything specific. You know, a list of their experience or skills as it pertains to nothing in particular.

    3. some1*

      +1. This was a huge pet peeve when I was a receptionist. Also the candidates who insisted on delivering their resume in person vs. mailing (this was 12 years ago and we didn’t have candidates submit resumes online) and clearly expected to be able to chat with someone regarding the job.

      1. Leah*

        Maybe they had read ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’. He’s big on that kind of thing. Apparently, following the job posting’s instructions for how to submit an application are for suckers.

    4. LBK*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily an “above and beyond” thing, I think people are just uncomfortable addressing a letter to an unknown, vague party. I find it weird, even though I know it ultimately makes no difference (or at least shouldn’t!) in whether I get hired or not.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I’m more likely to open a letter addressed to “Poohbear McGriddles” than “Resident” at home, so I’d assume a hiring manager would be the same way at work.

    5. Miss Betty*

      Please keep in mind that calling and finding out who to address an application/resume/cover letter to is job-hunting advice that was all over the place at least seven years ago (when I was last job hunting). It might be bad advice, but – like lots of bad advice! – it’s common. People are doing what they’ve been advised to do by people who should know better. They’re not doing it to make your job more difficult.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I’m glad it doesn’t actually matter. That advice used to make me really anxious. In many cases, I didn’t even see how I would find out. (Notice this advice always simply says TO find out, but never HOW). “IBM is currently seeking software developers with experience in..” OK, the local IBM office has 8000 employees, at least 200 of whom could be hiring software developers. So…?

        Half the time, it’s a recruiting agency, so they deliberately don’t even mention the company by name. “A dynamic, fast-growing internet startup is seeking experienced JavaScript developers…” and somehow you can derive not just the company, but the exact person?

    6. Blue Anne*

      I’m not bothered by people trying that, although they’re unlikely to actually get anything out of me, as we put all the detail we want people to have into the job adverts. If we haven’t put a specific employee’s name as the contact, it’s because we don’t want recruiters calling up and asking for that employee. They are the real time wasters. I almost NEVER put calls through to my Bosslady, because if it’s anyone’s name out there, it’s hers, and the vast majority of people callign our main number for her are recruiters.

      We get calls from so many that normally I just say “Is this a recruitment call?… I’m sorry, we make a policy of not dealing with recruiters. All of our staff are hired directly. But thanks for your time!” And then I hang up on them. Effective on all but the most ballsy. (And the super ballsy ones are entertaining anyway.)

      1. Blue Anne*

        I should mention – I’m very polite about it to jobseekers when they do call up. I’ve been there.

      2. Joey*

        You won’t give out a hiring managers name to an applicant? That would make me weary. Maybe I want to look them up on linked in to see if I can glean any info that might help me in applying.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Or maybe you want to bombard them with “please hire me!” emails and phone calls. Since I have no idea which kind of applicant you are, better safe than sorry.

          1. Joey*

            See and I’d probably conclude something along those lines if you didn’t want to give out a hiring managers name- that you think I’m not adult enough to have it.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              Yup – this is a classic case of the bad apples spoiling it for everyone, but it is what it is.

            2. some1*

              Or you can conclude that she’s doing her job the way she has been instructed — her boss doesn’t want her name given out to applicants.

              If that seems shady to you, blame the boss, not the messenger.

              1. Joey*

                I wouldn’t really differentiate unless someone was particularly rude about it. You=your company.

                1. some1*

                  So if a receptionist has been instructed by her boss not to give out her boss’s name, she should disobey that instruction & risk getting in trouble because it might put off an applicant?

                  I get that you are saying it would look unprofessional to you, but I would think you’d understand that the receptionist has to follow her boss’s policies even when they are unpopular.

                2. Joey*

                  A receptionist should communicating the feedback she’s getting from candidates to her manager. If someone finds it weird, suspicious, off putting or whatever you communicate that to your manager.

                  I don’t think most people attribute a companies policies or practices to the receptionist unless they’re way outside of the norm.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Bingo. We get a ton of these calls already. If I just put them through, my manager would not be happy. If I did anything that might increase their frequency? Even less so.

                2. Eden*

                  And all you have to say is, it’s our policy not to give out that information. Most applicants would understand.

                  However, having been on the receiving end of lots of bad advice, I’d probably try to be kind to the applicant who calls and just let them know that having that name won’t matter to the process at all.

                  Side rant: I know it’s hard to be nice to people who call for what you consider stupid reasons, but remember, we didn’t always possess all this great AAM knowledge, and we’ve all been on the other end, so why not err on the side of kindness?

                  I particularly hate to call somewhere for information, only be greeted by someone for whom that call is their pet peeve, and is accordingly snotty and dismissive. I’d love to issue a PSA to companies everywhere: if you get a TON of calls that aren’t getting to the right place, it isn’t US. It’s YOU. Make sure where to call is clear on your site or literature. And if you’re the hapless person answering the phone, bring it up to someone so it can be fixed, or deal (although I get it that not all these issues are fixable). But being mean to people who call isn’t going to fix the problem.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  @Eden, I won’t disagree with that at all. Upthread someone said he’d be wary of a company that didn’t give out the person’s name, and I was addressing that–not whether the applicant is turned down politely. I agree that receptionists should be polite about it.

                4. Blue Anne*

                  Eden, I’m not sure whether that was directed at me specifically, but yeah, I definitely try to be sympathetic about it. I have been in the position of those jobseekers and can totally understand it. If anything, I try to explain the reasoning, so maybe they get that it will probably apply to some of the other places they’re applying too.

                5. Eden*

                  @Kelly L, yeah, sorry, that wasn’t really directed at you at all. The ‘gatekeeper’ reference made me think of all the times I have researched numbers (not for job apps!) and called for info, only to have some peevish and unhelpful person snipe at me without offering any advice on what number I *should* be calling for the info. Just thought I’d make the point that being the gatekeeper doesn’t mean you need to vent your speen on callers you deem a nuisance. I know you didn’t say any of that, but it made me flash on all those moments of “why can’t people just be nice”?

                6. Eden*

                  @Blue Anne, nope, not directed at you either. Just free-associating here with my Sudafed head. Sorry guys, I’m loopy on drugs :-)

            3. Fabulously Anonymous*

              Whereas I tend to think that if a company didn’t include a name in the job posting, they think applicants are adult enough to realize they don’t need to play all sorts of silly games to find out a name.

              1. some1*

                Right. I think if hiring managers want cover letters personally addressed to them, they should put their name in the job posting.

                It seems a little “Gotcha” to me to not include your name so the applicant has no way of knowing you want a personal greeting, but give extra points to the applicants who didn’t follow directions and sought out your name by calling the receptionist.

                It’s like if a guy invited me over to hang out and was disappointed because the last girl he invited over showed up with beer and pizza.

              2. Joey*


                So if I don’t tell you to make some effort to learn about this job before you apply or interview and end up hiring someone because they did I’m playing games?

                If you only do what I specifically spell out for you I’m not so sure you’re the type of person I want to hire.

                Look, I’m not saying its some sort of gotcha, you didn’t know some obscure detail I look for. I’m talking generalities. If I see extra effort to learn about the job that counts for something

                1. Annie Laurie*

                  I see your point, but it just seems like common courtesy to offer your name to someone you are being introduced to – a cover letter serves that purpose in this setting. But then, I think common courtesy is often ignored in interview settings.

                2. Anonymous Educator*

                  If you deliberately withhold details from a job posting and then reward someone who calls to bother your receptionist for those details, you are game-playing, yes.

                3. Joey*

                  I concede its a game, but only in the sense that whomever is the best wins. I can’t tell you what the best is until I compare you to everyone else. What that means as an applicant is that you have to figure out how to be the best relative to everyone else. I’m not going to be able to predict and therefore tell you exactly what it will take to be better than everyone else. Game on.

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          Not to mention (my queendom for an edit button): if you are the type of “go getter” who calls looking for the hiring manager’s name, I’d presume it was MORE likely that you’d be the second type of applicant, and I’d be even more reluctant to put my hiring manager in your sights.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Indeed. I have utmost sympathy for the people who have called looking to put a name on their application, and do explain it in terms of “I’m really sorry, and this isn’t your fault at all, but due to the amounts of calls we get from recruiters I can’t give out names. We won’t mind at all if you put in a generic greeting.”

            BUT. The one time I have actually gotten someone cut from the running, it was one of those people. He was clearly calling up not because it was awkward for him to put a generic greeting, but to “make an impression”, among a number of other gimmicky behaviours in his application process. (I do our phone screens as well.) I felt a bit bad for him – he’d clearly taken some terrible jobseeking advice.

        3. Blue Anne*

          Other commentors have already explained the reasoning perfectly well – they’re absolutely right in their guesses at the reasons I don’t do this. But if it would be a red flag for you as an applicant, fair enough, that’s a good sign we wouldn’t work well together.

    7. Citizen of Metropolis*

      There is a real quick and easy way to solve this: tell the applicants how to address their materials in the job posting.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I guess that would settle it once and for all, but would make for a strangely-worded job posting. “Dynamic, fast-paced Internet startup located in north Austin seeks developers experienced in Ruby, JavaScript, and Mysql. Must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. Addressing cover letters to ‘dear hiring manager’ or even simply ‘greetings’ will be fine.”

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I have to assume this is really more of a pet peeve than a real time-waster, right? I can’t imagine this taking up more than 5 minutes a day, and that would be a lot of phone calls.

    9. OP #5*

      To clarify, I most definitely did not call the organization (especially since the posting explicitly said no phone calls). This is a small non-profit that displays all employees (and their e-mail addresses) on their about page. (I also didn’t directly e-mail HR or supervisor of the position, as the posting said to e-mail a generic address.

      Since I’ve started my job search, I have seen a lot of articles about finding out the hiring manager’s name (including calling the company), so I am grateful for the feedback here! It sounds like this is completely unnecessary, which is a relief as it makes the whole process that much easier. Thanks for the advice!

  5. (Internal) Management Consultant*

    OP#1: Stop moving meetings for him. If you’re changing to accomidate him, of course he thinks he is welcome.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yes! By accommodating him, you are telling him you want his help. I think this is a situation where ‘repeat, repeat, repeat’ is a good idea. If you tell him ‘Thanks but I think I should handle this on my own’ and he continues to push, just continue to say that, with a smile and eye contact. It might even help to say ‘Thanks I have this on my own but if I need any help I’ll be sure to ask’

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, I was confused about that – is the OP moving meetings to accommodate the coworker, or so that the coworker is not available?

      I’m actually kind of confused about why the coworker knows enough about the meetings to be able to show up.

    3. Jubilance*

      I read it as OP #1 is moving meetings to times when he’s not available to avoid him and his unsolicited input in her work. It would be good for the OP to clarify.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yeah, that’s how I read it too, and I have to admit I would have done the same thing.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      This is good advice, but it’s complicated by the fact that the workplace is a boarding school, and both the OP and her problem co-worker both live and work at the school. Normally, you could at least leave at the end of the day and go home, but that’s not the case here. When the OP wraps things up for the day, it’s likely that she’ll see her problem co-worker at dinner in a more social context. That makes the whole situation even more awkward.

      I’ve never worked at a boarding school, but I did attend one — actually, 2. The teachers and staff were essentially on duty 24/7. They eat their meals in the big dining room with everyone else, and in some cases are dorm parents too, expected to act as chaperones and guardians. And on top of that they had to do everything that teachers do — lesson plans, grading papers, and so on. I’m sure they rotated weekends on duty, or maybe were allowed to bow out of eating meals with students now and then, but for the most part, they had to work together all the time.

      So for the OP, that makes it tricky. I think Alison’s advice is sound, though. Just very cheerfully and politely say, “Thanks, but I’ve got this covered,” or “Thanks, but I’m going to handle this myself,” and repeat as necessary. My other advice would be that since the co-worker seems lonely, and is looking for friends, to do social things with him once in awhile but keep your boundaries established. Like if you join him for lunch one day, and then he assumes that you’ve got a set daily lunch date, smile and tell him, “You know, I usually really need to have some solitary time mid-day to recharge my batteries, but let’s definitely have lunch once a week,” or something to that effect. This is of course assuming he’s a generally nice person. If he’s a pill, still be pleasant, but hold him at arm’s length.

  6. Marni*

    #3 more likely- the company strung you along to keep you till they hired someone. They know the economy- and so you get to train your replacement. If you were going to move regardless of their willingness to let you commute- you are a little behind eight ball looking for work. Stay on- at least you will qualify for unemployment.

    Companies look out for themselves first- just something to realize when analyzing work choices.

    1. Celeste*

      This is what I think, too. Four hours away is a long way. Working remotely was the OP’s idea, not the employer’s. While I don’t think it was correct of them to say they were pleased with the arrangement when they so obviously weren’t, they did it for themselves and not for you. The fact is, to a workplace, everyone is replaceable.

      I don’t fault you for going forward with a move for the sake of your relationship. I know from experience that it’s tough to look for work in a town you want to move to; I think it’s much easier once you’re local for many reasons. I also think you have a whole life, and it’s a balancing act between the components. You sound like a great worker, so I would try to make sure to get the best reference for your new job, even though it stings right now. Best of luck to you in everything!

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes and to add on this- don’t take this whole situation personally. I don’t think this situation is in any way a reflection on your work or self. You’ve been at your job 5 years so I’m sure you were valued and did great work- this sounds like a logistics decision. Train your replacement, put on a happy face and you should receive an excellent reference to help you get your next job in your new city.

    2. some1*

      I agree. Otherwise I think they would have A) given some sort of feedback along the way indicating they had issues on their end with the arrangement, and B) given the LW the option of returning to being in the office 5 days a week (no matter how unlikely they thought she’d be to accept.)

  7. Sunflower*

    3- Did you happen to mention or give off the vibe that this was going to be your situation until you found a job in the new area? It’s possible the company viewed this as a temporary situation for you and you would be leaving anyway. And that might be why they didn’t offer you the option to come back- they figured you’d come back and then leave as soon as something in the new area came up.

  8. Ann Furthermore*

    #3 – This really stinks and I feel bad for the OP. I agree with others here who said that the company never had any intention of accommodating her request to be remote in the long term, and instead, her management told her the 4 months was a trial period when in reality they treated it as a notice period.

    OP, is there any way you can find out how your replacement was hired? Was there an opening posted on the website or other career sites? If so, then you could use that to help show that they acted in bad faith by telling you one thing and doing something else.

    I agree with Alison’s advice here: do the right thing and train your replacement and give enough notice when you do find another job. The last thing you want to do is provide anyone with any reason to give you a bad reference — then they’ll spin it to look like they were justified in pulling the rug out from under you the way they did.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I just thought of something else — you should see if you can find your position on an external website. Sometimes it takes awhile for jobs to get pulled off those. If you can get a screen shot of your position with the original posting date, that might show they acted in bad faith. If it was happened in the last week or 2, they could make a case that they just hadn’t had a chance to talk to you yet. But if it was out there for a couple months, while you continued working remotely, that’s a different story.

      It might help your case if you try to get unemployment.

    2. Funfetti*

      My office did something like this to a co-worker of mine – and it was not cool. She had been working for us for over 2+ years and her husband got a new job, so they moved. She asked to work remotely PT and because purse strings were tight around here, as in we couldn’t afford to rehire (as well as her being awesome at her job) it was okay’d. Did I mention she was pregnant?

      Of course, right around Christmas it was determined that we really needed someone FT in the office and the ED was seriously going to tell this girl two days before Christmas (and a month before her due date) she was going to be let go. They wound up working it out and making sure she got maternity leave, and then was let go. My understanding is she will be getting unemployment.

      But the point remains that she did great, solid work remotely and then was unceremoniously let go without a discussion.

      Honestly, I think we could have kept her on because we have so much work here we’re all doing two jobs. Remote help by an awesome person would have been nice.

      1. some1*

        Yeah, at my former toxic company they had a few employees who worked remotely. One was not doing her job well remotely so management’s solution was to make everyone be in the office 5 days a week. It was obvious they were hoping the underperformer would quit (which she didn’t) but the people who were good employees did.

        1. Jen RO*

          So typical…

          Not related, but something I heard recently: at a company where a friend works, one of the managers kept telling his staff that “jobs are on the line” and they should work more. He was very surprised when his best employee took him at his word and, not feeling comfortable with her job being “on the line”, quit. All other employees in his department are also job searching.

          1. Bea W*

            Not very well thought out on the part of the manager. When people think their jobs are at risk, they start looking at other options rather than risk becoming unemployed. It’s easier to get a job while you have a job.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              And the best people can get other jobs most quickly. Why encourage your best to jump ship?

          1. some1*

            That was their philosophy on almost *everything*. Another example is that that salary and hourly employees had a set schedule, 8 and 1/2 hours with 1/2 an hour for lunch. If you took an hour lunch, you were expected to work 9 hours.

            At another out of state office in the company, they had an issue with a couple of employees taking a full hour for lunch but leaving after 8 and 1/2 hours, so they instituted 9-hour workdays after that. Argh.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        A great example of a company that forgot the employee’s perspective. Unfortunately, it becomes up to the employee to remember the employers perspective. Not fair, but better than letting stuff like this eat up your insides. And that is what our choices work down to either focus on the unfairness OR think about what the employer is seeing/thinking.

    3. EM*

      I agree with this. I usually agree with Alison, or at least understand her POV even if I don’t fully agree with an answer, but for this circumstance, I do feel like the OP was terminated.

      If her company is resolute about not providing severance, I do hope she can at least get unemployment benefits. I think she has a good shot based on the circumstances. I would file and explain the situation, even if the company tried to appeal.

  9. Brett*

    #4 At least on the interview committees I have been on, the only people in the room who mighty be able to answer timeline questions were the hiring manager and the HR person. And sometimes neither one could provide those answers either. The other 2-3 people on the committee would be totally unable to help with that question.

    I don’t give out cards or connect on LinkedIn with people I recently interviewed. I am wary of communicating because too many times that people have interpreted that as “a good sign” when I have little influence on that after the interview. More than a few times my top rated candidate was not the one extended an offer.

  10. Poohbear McGriddles*

    We should totally hook up OP#1’s lonely coworker with the lady who invited her coworker for a sleepover.

    Not for another sleepover, necessarily. Just a couple of people who need people!

  11. BB*

    #3- When your company told you it wasn’t working out and they had hired the replacement, did you express interest in moving back to the area for the job? I’m just curious because you didn’t mention it in the letter and I’d have to think if you did and they hired the replacement anyway, that is pretty cold. But if you didn’t mention interest in moving back than I’m not sure what else could be done.

      1. Celeste*

        Agree completely; it’s done and all she can do is make the best of it. OP was willing to sit on the fence about the two choices, the employer was not.

    1. Laura*

      I was thinking the company *should* have communicated first to find out if that was an option – but it sounds like the company sent “everything is fine” signals until after they hired the replacement, *then* said all this. At that point “but, but, I’d move back” won’t solve much since they’ve made up their minds and also hired someone. :|

      1. BB*

        This is true and they definitely should have not said everything was fine when it wasn’t but it sounds like the company thought she was moving to the new area regardless of the telecommuting situation. There’s not enough information here to know exactly what they were thinking and there should have all around been better communication but the company may have been surprised to hear she was willing to come back

  12. Laura*

    For #1, another phrase that might work if you want to address it more broadly is, “I really appreciate all the information and help – but it’s important to me to do things myself, because I learn best by doing.”

  13. Elizabeth West*

    Re #4–I usually had to ask for a card. Very few interviewers offered one, even if the interview was awesome and I ended up getting an offer. That may just be something around here, though.

    1. Jubilance*

      I think it depends on the company too. My first job was at a company that had a strict “no handing out your cards” rule for people who were involved in interviews but weren’t the hiring manager or HR. The rationale was that they wanted to prevent having people who weren’t involved in the hiring decision being bombarded by emails from candidates. That could be in play as well.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    The key to doing what Alison suggested in #1 is be as nonchalant as possibly, as though someone offered you a stick of gum that you don’t want. If you make a bigger deal of it, he might realize it’s a sensitive issue.

    1. some1*

      So much this. You don’t want him to be able to have any legitimate complaint about your “attitude” even though he started it by trying to micromanage you.

      I’ve personally BTDT and it just made the situation worse.

  15. MR*

    Yeah, I’m not feeling #3 either. S/he got screwed. If things were not working out, the company could have just said ‘hey, we need you in the office five days a week.’

    That didn’t happen. They didn’t say anything until after they hired the replacement. That tells you what the company is really about.

    Start looking for a new job right away. Hopefully it sends a signal to your co-workers that if they hope to try something similar, they can expect similar results. This is nothing short of a firing and I would think you could still collect unemployment if you are unable to find new work. Good luck!

  16. Leah*

    #4 I feel you on the lack of response. I once had an interview with the founding partner of a tiny law firm. The interview ended up being two hours because we got along so well and even he said that I matched everything they wanted so perfectly. It seemed so perfect. He said that he’d contact me (they had no HR) within two weeks and that I was one of 3 interviewees. I sent my thank you email and waited. Two weeks passed and at just shy of 3 weeks, I emailed to see if any decisions had been made and tried to give him a clear out if they hadn’t. I never heard back. I tried again two weeks later and nada. A LinkedIn connection of a friend got the job so I found out through that. Ugh.

  17. I'm happy to be here*

    I should add: I currently work a telecommuting job right now (I live 2 hours from the office). I come into the office once a week (Thursdays). Since I’m originally from the area, I use Thursdays as my “contact day” with co workers and friends (after hours). My company (very very large) has a program for telecommuters, but every year they do an audit to make sure that the right people, roles, positions are telecommuting and not others. I knew right off the bat that they can revoke the right to telecommute at anytime. Someone in a position to make the decision way up the line could not like telecommuting and up and change the policy. Or, maybe they feel my performance is down because I’m telecommuting. I’m lucky, because I know they don’t have the real estate to put everyone back in the office.

    That said, I still think this is not a resignation. At a minimum, I’d be watching my back in that office if I were one of the OP’s coworkers because management doesn’t seem very transparent.

  18. Leah*

    #5 If no name is given, I generally address the organization since most of the ones I apply to are small and like to feel special (ie local non-profits) or try to find the name of the person whom I’d most likely report to. Since I already look for any connections I might have at an organization to help get my application seen, this is pretty easy. Even if the cover letter isn’t going to that person, it also shows that you do care enough to do research on the company which is something many job seekers fail to do when sending out a more-or-less generic cover letter. Also, I once discovered that the job posting had spelled the recipient’s name incorrectly, assuming she knew how to spell her name correctly on LinkedIn and facebook. I have been praised multiple times by interviewers that my cover letters were “clearly personalized/customized to X organization” when in fact I work of a template and sometimes change little other than the name.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for the feedback, Leah! My situation sounds similar to the types of jobs you mention- small organization and non-profit. When you address the cover letter to the name of organization, how do you do it, e.g. To [name of non-profit] or Dear [name of non-profit]?

        1. OP #5*

          AaM, I really appreciate your advice, and I feel much more at ease about the application I submitted. It’s great to hear that if I addressed the wrong person that it shouldn’t really matter. However, I would still like to get Leah’s feedback on how she has addressed an organization directly rather than “Dear Hiring Manager”. This is out of personal interest and really doesn’t require much energy.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I know, but I think you’re missing the point that IT DOESN’T MATTER. Hiring managers DO NOT CARE. I’m pretty sure you haven’t processed that message :)

          2. Gilby*

            I have long since given up in addressing my cover to anyone in particular.

            I say…. ” Hello”…. and start my cover.

            I got the interviews ( or not) based on my cover/resume and whether or not they liked what they saw. Not how my salutations was.

      1. OP #5*

        I apologize for the unprofessional photo! I’ve updated my information with Gravatar and changed my photo several times. However, Gravatar keeps posting this old photo from my undergrad years. I am posting with no email address this time, so hopefully the photo will not display with this reply.

  19. KM*

    #3 — Yeah, jumping on the band wagon: that sounds messed-up.

    I agree with the other comments that it seems like the employer’s intention was always to hire a replacement and to let the OP cover the workload for as long as it took to hire a replacement (maybe with a small allowance for the possibility that the telecommuting arrangement would work out surprisingly well and they wouldn’t need a replacement after all). If that’s the case, then the appropriate thing to say was, “We’d really prefer to have someone in the office full time. If you like, we could agree to let you do this work by telecommute while we look for a replacement — that’s a bridging arrangement that could benefit both of us — but, I mean, unless something happens that RADICALLY changes our expectations, we’re going to need to find someone who can be present in the office.” And then, you know, continue being honest about how they felt about the telecommuting arrangement, and their intention to hire someone.

    It sounds like what they did instead was deliberately vague it up to keep their options open (because if they told the OP that they weren’t anticipating that this would be long-term, then the OP might give notice before it was convenient to them!). That’s very selfish and manipulative, and it shows a lack of respect.

    That said, I agree that the best thing for the OP to do is keep working there while looking for a local job.

  20. GoodGirl*

    #3 – I was in a similar situation at my job. I wanted to move out-of-state for several reasons. I talked to my employer about the option of working at home in New State, and they agreed to it, partly because New State did have a remote office that I could go into if need be.

    I will say that working from home isn’t suited for everyone (including me). I live alone and it can be very lonely/depressing, especially in a new city where you know only a handful of people. However, because I’ve been just as productive as I ever have been, my employer has been fine with the arrangement. I still travel back to Old State regularly for meetings and such, and whenever they need me to. Some people just aren’t productive working from home, for many, many reasons. It’s possible that the OP’s company has some sort of bias for working from home in general, or maybe they’ve been really burned in the past by others who have not remained productive.

    One of my favorite sayings is “What looks like rejection is really God’s protection.” OP – there are better things out there for you. Consider this a blessing in disguise and move on to a company that will treat you better.

  21. Ed*

    For #3, this is why I would never base my financial future on converting my existing office job to 100% telecommuting. I’ve know multiple people that came up with a plan to keep earning their NY or DC salary while relocating to a super cheap town near the beach, only to have it all fall apart. Now they are stuck in a beach town with no jobs in their industry. I would only consider a plan like this if I was already telecommuting from my current city. And I would live beneath my means and have one hell of an emergency fund.

  22. Vicki*

    Re #4, all I can say is Really? People give you their cards after an interview? Wow. We are _not_ interviewing in the same industry.

    I’mu usually lucky to get a piece of paper before the interview with a schedule of who I am expected to meet (and then that invariably changes). The only contact info I get is for the recruiter.

  23. Biff*

    OP #3 — I’m wondering if you are getting burned because of either some wobbles before now or because of someone else’s flakey behavior.

    (Note: non-crucial details have been changed) I have worked with people in the past that were in long distance relationships and my experience has been that their performance is really up and down, especially those that have SOs on different schedule than themselves (E.g. one girl worked regular 9-5, her guy went to school and worked weekends. When was he home? During the week. When did she take off time/take long lunches/go home early/ “work from home”? During the middle of the week.) I’m not saying you ARE that person, but if there had been someone before that pulled that particular routine, I can see it ruining the prospects for those down the line.

  24. Vicki*

    Re: #3 My company said I could try working remotely, but then replaced me…

    AFter thinking about this a while my thought was: If you have a choice, you’re quitting.

    If you don’t have a choice, you’re terminated (fired, laid off, find a euphemism).

    The important question is: who was in control? The OP wasn’t; she had no choice; it came as a surprise.

    She was fired.

  25. Turanga Leela*

    Alison, regarding #5, thank you so very much! I’m applying for a receptionist position in person tomorrow (as the newspaper listing demands; my apologies to those above who hate walk-ins), and my cover letter is addressed to Hiring Manager because I couldn’t find an office manager’s name on the company website. I’m glad to see that’s an expected way to address the letter, rather than a cop-out which screams, “I have no clue who you are, person for whom I want to work!”. Also, your definitions link cleared up how I would address a cover letter to a temp agency, in that the hiring manager would not be the recipient.

  26. Maggie*

    #2 – if you’re paying for the support (are you paying monthly, quarterly, annually, ad hoc?), I would take it a step further and discuss it with your internal relationship manager. There is no reason for the company to employ useless support. Or maybe they’re unaware that the employee is overworked, under-trained, etc. I wouldn’t just let it stay with consultant because that feedback could go straight to her trash and then what good is it going to do you? (or others in the franchise platform)

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