my boss joined my Toastmasters club, why hiring managers look at LinkedIn profiles, and more

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

1. My boss joined my Toastmasters club

I am a junior accountant, and one area that my boss would like me to work on is speaking up more in meetings. I am by nature shy, and this is something I have always struggled with. It is something that is extremely difficult for me, and I have a particularly hard time speaking up around authority figures. However, I am actively working on improving in this area and one thing I have done is join our company’s Toastmasters club. Almost immediately, my boss decided to join also because he said he wants to work on his public speaking skills also (I was confused by this because he is an excellent speaker). He asked me if I would mind, and I said “No” because Toastmasters is supposed to be a really supportive environment, and I thought it would be okay.

Well, it’s been a few months, and I dread going to the club meetings because it is so anxiety-provoking. My boss is a very outgoing person who doesn’t have a lot of problems with public speaking. And although he is not a terrible boss, he can be very judgmental about employees’ abilities. For example, he will often make statements about other employees’ weak areas, e.g. “He really needs to work on his organizational skills, etc.” For that reason, I am afraid of making mistakes around him. Consequently, Toastmasters meetings have become more like work meetings than a place where I can safely practice public speaking. I am extremely nervous before the meetings, and I don’t think I am getting much out of them.

I’d like to quit the club and find another place to practice my public speaking that does not feel so threatening, but I don’t want my boss to think I am flaky. Do you have any advice on how to handle this? One thought I had was to offer a replacement, e.g. tell him that I found a different club/class in which to practice my public speaking. But I think he may wonder why I am doing this.

Why not join a different Toastmasters group in your area if this one isn’t serving its purpose for you anymore? There should be some near you that aren’t affiliated with your company. As for what to say to him about why you’re switching, it depends on how comfortable you are telling him the truth. Ideally, it would be great if you could explain that you’ve found it harder to practice and make mistakes when you know your boss is observing you. But if you’re not comfortable doing that or think it won’t go over well, then you could explain to him that you found the other group was a better fit for you because of ___ (could be hours, mix of people, number of people, the overall feel of the group, you have contacts there, or whatever).

That said, there could be advantages to staying in the group your boss is in; since your public speaking fears are tied to speaking in front of authority figures, this could be a way to work on that — as long as your boss isn’t penalizing you for how you do there. But if you’re dreading the meetings and your anxiety is getting in the way of you improving your skills, then I agree that trumps the advantages of practicing with your boss, at least for now. (Although it could be interesting to improve your speaking skills in a different group and then return to this one when you’re feeling more comfortable, as a sort of “201” class — working specifically on your ability to speak in front of intimidating people.)

2. Should I tell my employee that I can’t promote her because of her poor interpersonal skills?

I have an employee who is absolutely great at what she does, skill-wise. She takes initiative, she gets her job done well and she’s very clever with what she does. The problem is, she has incredibly poor “soft skills” and we’re in a company culture and in a department that demands those types of skills.

She constantly puts people on the defensive, frequently focuses on overly technical details with people who don’t want them and just generally doesn’t know how to read a room. She’s been at the company just over a year and I’ve given her immediate feedback following each episode. I’ve seen no change or growth in this area and now she’s pressuring me for a promotion.

I think she’s great at what she does and would be happy having her on my team doing what she does. By constantly asking for a promotion though, she just shows me even more clearly that she’s both not ready for it and can’t read a situation properly. My question is — should I be very upfront with her and tell her she’s not in line for a promotion this year? Or should I continue to coach her along hoping she picks up the skills?

You should do both. First, you should absolutely be direct with her! Explain to her why and how these issues are holding her back, that she needs to tackle them before you can think about promoting her, and specifically what you need to see change. But you should also continue to coach her on the issues as well.

3. Will recognizing super stars make others feel left out?

We’re working hard on building a positive and cohesive team, and we seem to be on the right track. We want to start rewarding employees to show our appreciation when they go above and beyond to help out the team, like participating in optional overtime or changing their shift to meet company needs. Gifts and thank-yous sound like a good thing, but some team members have expressed guilt (or concern that others will “feel bad”) when we recognize our superstars, even just with donuts or team emails. If all staff are given equal opportunity to go above and beyond, but only a few actually do, should we even feel bad for those who are “left out” of the thank-you tokens? What’s the best approach here?

No. It’s completely reasonable (and normal) to reward higher performance with additional recognition, perks, and compensation. That’s what things like merit raises, promotions, public praise for a job well done, and other forms of recognition are about.

That said, you should tailor how you recognize people to what makes them feel good. If you have particular people on your team who are uncomfortable with public recognition, you should find another way to reward those people. But that’s about making your recognition individual to the people you’re recognizing; it’s not because there’s something wrong with public recognition in general.

4. Company wants me to repay professional membership fees since I’m leaving

You helped me a month or so ago with a question about a job offer. I took risk and landed the job with the bigger pay raise, more challenges and I am ecstatic. I am going to start next month, but my question is about professional development and my department demanding that I pay it back.

In January, my department purchased my membership to two educational guilds (about $350 total). I did not start to look for another position until late February. My department manager states that I need to reimburse them the total cost for my membership as they paid for it and it is theirs not mine.

I am totally fine reimbursing them (as I don’t know if they can just transfer the membership to my coworker instead), but I am wondering if they are wrong here. At the time I accepted the memberships/professional development, I was fully intending to stay at my current organization and using that knowledge to help my department. However, an opportunity came up that was closer to my family, paid more, better benefits, offered challenging work, etc. I haven’t said anything to my manager as this happened yesterday afternoon and I said I would get back to them this week.

Yes, they’re totally wrong. This was a business expense that they agreed to pay. Sometimes people leave after their employer invests in them; that’s a cost of doing business. You have no legal or ethical obligation to repay these membership fees.

I’d say something like this to them: “I understand the timing is bad, but this was a business expense that we incurred while I had no plans to leave. It’s not an expense I would have taken on myself, had I needed to pay for it personally at the time, and I’m not comfortable paying for it now simply because I’m moving on, just like I wouldn’t expect to have to reimburse the company for, say, a business trip that was booked but doesn’t fall until after I’m gone.”

5. Why do hiring managers look at LinkedIn profiles?

Maybe this is a stupid question, but I don’t understand why hiring managers look at LinkedIn profiles when they already have my resume since they say the same thing. Am I missing something?

Well, not everyone’s LinkedIn profiles are identical to their resumes. Some people craft a different (often less formal) profile than what’s on their resume. Some people have recommendations and other interests listed. Some people write articles and send out news items through their LinkedIn account. You might also have connections in common with the hiring manager, who might be people the hiring manager potentially asks about you. And hell, sometimes hiring managers are just interested in seeing your photo, because they are human and people like knowing who they’re talking to and they know it might be there.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Fucshia*

    #1 – If you have one around, you might look at joining a theater group. That helped me, since you usually get a script to follow and there are other people on stage to pull the attention from you. As you get more comfortable, you can take on larger roles. You can also work on roles very different from yourself which forces you to learn to adapt and project the image you want the audience to see.

    Also gives you an easy out of your current group since you can explain you wanted to try a different approach.

    1. John*

      Personally, I find playing a role and public speaking totally different things. Whereas I’ve always been at home playing a role, I used to have a terrible fear of public speaking. The distinction is, in the latter I will be judged for who I am, if that makes any sense.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I also have this problem and am still working on my public speaking skills, while I’ve never had any trouble on stage as part of a performance. I think this approach would probably be helpful if the OP’s hesitation is more related to shyness but if the concerns are more related to how people will judge what she’s saying (the problem I have that I’m still trying to overcome), looking for another Toastmasters club or other environment where she can practice public speaking with something she’s prepared would be more beneficial.

      2. KC*

        I think that’s interesting. Primarily because I always feel, every time I’m public speaking, like I’m performing (similar to how I’d be on stage). I’m just playing a more confident version of myself, if that makes sense.

        1. LBK*

          I think part of the difference is that when you do a presentation, you (presumably) wrote it, so you’re being judged on the content as well as your “performance”. You aren’t usually performing your own play when you do theater. I can see how they’re completely different and have different pressures involved.

          1. Bea W*

            This is a good point though for me it’s all the same. I feel like since I’m delivering the performance whether I wrote it or not, people are judging me one way or another. So it’s all the same in my head.

        2. Bea W*

          That’s exactly how it feels to me. For people who are more comfortable with theater because you have a script you have learned, public speaking involves a script too, except that you are writing your own lines. If it helps, literally write out your script for your talk or presentation and practice it as if it were a play.

          1. Kelly L.*

            This is what I do for my phone-phobia. I hate calling people on the phone and get really anxious when I have to do it–so I write out what I want to say, and it makes me worry less that I’m going to say something stupid.

            I get it, though. I’ve always had an easier time acting than regular-speaking. When I’m acting, the audience just kind of…falls away for me.

            1. AdminAnon*

              I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that! Sometimes I even end up writing two “scripts”–one for if the person answers and one for if I need to leave a voicemail. It’s silly, but it helps.

              1. Chinook*

                I used to write a script for phone calls when I worked overseas. My proficiency in Japanse was okay for face-to-face dealings but I always froze when I was on the phone (or worse, started using French instead as that was my second language. When I panicked, my mind just understood “speak in ‘not English.'”). Having the phreases written down in front me allowed me to relax and I could even go off script if I wanted to.

            2. KC*

              I’ve totally done this. For phone interview prep, presentation prep, regular interview prep–I have conversations with myself in the mirror. Practice looking composed, practice the answers to pretty common questions, examples I’d use for particular situations, etc. I have to convince myself I’m confident first, then I can convince anyone.

    2. OP #1*

      This is a great idea and one that was suggested to me by somebody else. I will look into it, thanks!

  2. EAA*

    #3 – Rewarding superstars is fine. Just make sure that the rest are being recognized for their contributions. Positive feedback and the like. Too often those who do their jobs well get ignored. Also remember some of those employees may not be in a position to do overtime or change shifts because of responsibilities outside of work.

    #2 – Yes tell employee. As been pointed on this site before clarity about any shortcomings and their consequences go a long way. Just coaching how to do something differently without explaining the benefits to the employee isn’t as likely to stick.

    1. Question Writer*

      Thanks! I know I’ve felt that I’ve been clear about the shortcomings, but have not been as clear about the consequences. I keep some hope I think that she’ll magically turn things around and would prove herself ready for a promotion. I also just really don’t want to demoralize her. But… you’re all right that clarity is more important than feelings.

      1. Noelle*

        Yes, definitely talk to her. Last year at my performance evaluation, my boss gave me great reviews on my work, but just came right out and told me I needed to work on being a team player and coordinating with others instead of doing everything on my own. He said that he would like to promote me to a managing position but I’d need to make some changes.

        I was in a slightly different position than your employee, because I hadn’t asked for a promotion. But his comments made me do a lot of thinking about whether I wanted to pursue it or not. I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I have definitely improved on being more approachable and working better with people because of his feedback.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        I’d like to add this: You can’t “just hope she picks up these skills”. Not ever. You have to TELL her that she MUST learn how to act in the office. Wishing and hoping were great for Dusty Springfield, but are totally useless in the business world. Your employee needs to know that these people skills are necessary for a promotion.

    2. Mephyle*

      Also, just telling somebody to “be more of a team player” or “read the room” without specific examples tends not to be helpful to someone to whom this doesn’t come naturally.

      1. Vicki*

        Seriously, this.

        To you (OP), “be more of a team player” or “reading the room” may make sense. To someone else, it’s like being told “you need to run a 10 minute mile” or “play Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on piano” or “plan and prepare a formal meal for 10 people” or “sell 500 units a month”.

        These aren’t skills that come naturally to everyone. In fact, some people, when given the full list of how to learn these skills (if that’s even possible) may realize that they don’t want the position/promotion/whatever after all.

      2. Mephyle*

        Something that resonated with me very much was the sequence in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Snape was supposed to be teaching Harry Potter occlumency to close his mind against V. All he did was shout at him things like “Clear your mind!” and “Control your emotions!” but without giving him any guidance onhow to do it. Search YouTube for “occlemency” to view the scenes – a great example of how not to teach soft skills.

        1. Crow T. Robot*

          I love you for referencing Harry Potter with regard to teaching soft skills. Could you imagine if those scenes had included Snape giving specific instructions, like telling Harry to recite a mantra or something? I would watch that.

  3. kas*

    3. Recognizing amd rewarding employees is a great idea, as long as it’s done fairly. I worked for a company that was big on rewarding employees but it wasn’t consistent. For example, people would come in on their days off, work late when asked etc and get nothing. One person would work late just once and would be publicly rewarded. Other employees felt left out and stopped caring, some wouldn’t even help out like they used to. The prizes were big and often included money so we all wanted to get noticed to earn some extra money (up to $500). When others were getting recognized for something you just did/always do and getting money for it, it was tough.

    1. Anonymous*

      You said exactly what I was thinking. It was very frustrating to do twice as much work as certain coworkers but never be recognized bc I worked remotely part of the week and didn’t get as much facetime.

      1. Sabrina*

        Agreed! I worked on a team where two people were constantly being recognized and rewarded for going above and beyond and always volunteering for extra projects. The problem was, they were the only two people in the room with the managers when they asked for volunteers. New managers have gotten better, but it soured a lot of people who were there before the change in management.

    2. Eden*

      I agree with this, and would add re fairness: there should be more ways than putting in overtime or changing shifts to earn the rewards. I don’t have kids, so these things are completely possible for me, but some folks have schedules that just don’t permit them to switch it up or stay late.

      True superstars should be able to produce more or contribute ‘above and beyond’ during business hours. And I have always resented the “look at me, I’m staying late again because I’m so dedicated” contingent, who clocked lots of overtime but were always web surfing when I’d stop by their desks. Not that this is what’s occurring here, but I’d make sure nothing is just about hours, because it encourages that kind of behavior.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yes Superstar means something totally different to me than being flexible.

        And rewards should be rewarding. Public recognition is often patronizing and feels like kindergarten (e.g. employee of the month with your own parking space, for example) Rewards that actually provide a benefit like money, time off, etc are IMHO the way to go.

        1. LBK*

          I think it depends on the person. Not that I’d say no to getting a bonus for extra work I did, but I do get value out of public recognition. The majority of my work is behind the scenes and doesn’t revolve around hard metrics, so it’s essentially invisible to the people it doesn’t directly impact. I would love to be recognized in front of the whole department for the extra effort I’ve put in.

        2. Arjay*

          They could reward me by patting me on the head and telling me my presentation was cute, if it came with a reserved parking spot. It took me 10 minutes covering 3 different lots to find a space this morning…

          1. Jamie*

            This. Give me stickers or grade my work with check pluses and I’m good as long as I keep my spot.

            Everyone who works with me knows how I feel about other people parking in my spot. I’d take a pay cut before I’d lose my spot, and there’s no way I’d take a pay cut.

      2. MaggietheCat*

        +1 I used to work with a woman who was always saying how long her days were. She would come in at 5 am (sometimes 4 am!) for our shared, hourly data entry job and make personal phone calls, cook beans, and a lot of other things that were not work. She always complained about how she worked… it was really odd!

          1. Bea W*

            Used to work with a woman who would tie up the microwave at least 30 min cooking either brussel sprouts or squash. The brussel sprouts stunk up the room really bad.

      3. Manager M*

        That’s a good point.

        All of our time actually has to be tracked and accounted for, so if someone was spending all their time surfing the web, that would quickly reveal itself and be corrected. (If they were tracking “surfing time” to clients, that would just be theft and result in immediate termination when caught.)

        What sort of things do you think employees should be recognized and rewarded for, instead of time spent?

        1. Eden*

          In web design? I’d reward:
          -Innovative solutions, either design or programming
          -Taking the initiative to cross-train or learn skills that aren’t technically part of the person’s work scope
          -Going above and beyond for clients (in a meaningful way, not picking up dry cleaning)
          -Taking on overflow work outside the person’s normal scope if there’s a time crunch or resource shortage

          I can think of a million caveats to those bullets, but I’m hoping you know what I mean–situations where the person isn’t neglecting other duties to do something extraneous, for example.

        2. Leah*

          I worked in a company where time had to be tracked for billing and it encouraged people to take as long as they could get away with to accomplish tasks. I was wondering if your company has any way to reduce this because it seemed pretty ingrained and almost rewarded at the company.

      4. Vicki*

        At LastJob, the “Superstars” were nominated by their co-workers and voted for by their co-workers.

        It’s much less frustrating knowing someone has been recognized as a superstar by multiple colleagues, not their manager.

      5. LaSharron*

        Or the ones who have high volume but poor quality–after all, there’s no since in rewarding Les Worker for making 200 teapots if Slowbee has to fix 150 said leaky teapots. That’s a problem at a lot of places I’ve seen. They reward for volume and hours and not results/quality.

    3. Piper*

      Yep, this. And along those lines, make sure you’re actually rewarding productivity and not just face time. I rarely have to work more than 45 hours per week, but I also deliver results and don’t miss my deadlines. I have a coworker who goofs around all day long, then has to work weekends and evenings to catch up on her work and still misses deadlines. She should not be rewarded just for the face time she’s giving (but that has happened). My company’s culture has a tendency to reward face time over productivity, which sort of sucks.

      1. LBK*

        Ugh, I hate this. I also have a coworker who complains constantly about the long hours he has to work, but almost every time I’m at his desk he’s reading the news or watching videos on Youtube. I mess around on the internet at work, too, but not when I know I’m going to be so busy that I’ll have to stay late if I do, or if I do end up staying late due to my own lack of productivity I don’t whine about it.

        1. Bea W*

          Same. If it’s my own doing the only person who needs to hear my whining is myself, and I hate whining.

          Even if it’s due to things beyond my control like short resources, someone else’s huge goof, or because poop happens, it doesn’t even occur to me to whine about it. Maybe that’s because I’m too busy to expend any extra energy on things that aren’t productive. If I do feel the need briefly to indulge in some self pity, it’s off hours to friends.

    4. Manager M*

      Thanks for your input! I’m the original question writer here about recognition, and this is exactly what I’m trying to do: recognize the people who are doing a great job in a way that’s fair and consistent.

      Although, this does bring me to a concern I have about expectations. If something like optional OT is opened up, I don’t want people to do it with the assumption there will be a prize. From the company’s perspective, 1.5x pay is the prize. When we’re talking perks and thank yous, they are often coming out of *my* pocket. I don’t want to set a precedent where employees expect something every time they do something extra–I can’t afford that!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not sure you should be doing additional rewards for OT, especially if you’re paying for them. People are already being paid extra for the time. Why the additional rewards? Are you having trouble getting people to sign up for overtime otherwise?

        1. Manager M*

          Yes and no. It can be difficult at times, but generally we have people who are willing to do it. I think the pressure comes more from the company, which wants to recognize those who do a great job, so that other people will follow suit.

      2. Eden*

        Manager M, I think you are right on the money (no pun intended) to be thinking in terms of expectation management.

        What you’re trying to do is (IME) very difficult, because it’s hard to articulate exactly what you mean by ‘going above and beyond’ in a way that is universally understood–because I think most of the time, you’ll know it when you see it, and you may not be able to make a list in advance.

        Also IME, the question of fairness starts to raise its head when you find that you are rewarding the same person or few people every time. Some people are going to consistently outperform others, and when you have the person who goofs off all day but will switch shifts or works OT, do you reward that, for ‘fairness’?

        In my last workplace, it got a little hairy, because the people who weren’t performing felt that there was favoritism because the people who really were performing would consistently be recognized. It was a way for the under-performers to think, no reason for me to try harder, when so-and-so is clearly teacher’s pet. It’s a cop-out, but a common one, and it affected morale. In the end, it was better in our situation to not have public rewards.

        Having said all that, I think it’s a good idea, but depends on whether you can be clear about what expectations are for the norm and what constitutes recognition-worthy accomplishment. Also to a certain extent, the maturity of your group will be a factor. Good luck!

        1. KAS*

          “In my last workplace, it got a little hairy, because the people who weren’t performing felt that there was favoritism because the people who really were performing would consistently be recognized. It was a way for the under-performers to think, no reason for me to try harder, when so-and-so is clearly teacher’s pet. ”

          This makes me sad.

    5. E.R*

      Agreed. I worked on a team once where senior management actually admitted to me (in private, when asked directly) that the reason they publicly acknowledge “high performers” was to shame the lower performers and stress them out so they would work harder. And you could tell, if you thought about it, because high performers who management weren’t crazy about (ie grooming for management themselves) were neglected, and people who performed quite average , but were management favourites, would get these over the top public accolades (and money, to boot), It was so political, and honestly a big reason why I left (and since I didn’t want to stay, I felt free to ask them directly about their subjective recognition program!)

      But if you publicly recognize your staff on objective measures, and you know its coming from a good and non-political place, then I think it would be a good thing.

    6. Cassie*

      Ditto – and make sure you are recognizing the right people (e.g. the people who were heavily involved in the project, rather than a person who was minimally involved but is more vocal).

      We don’t get bonuses so we don’t expect it, but the public recognition usually goes to the person who’s high up on the totem pole (even when she has had no involvement in the project). It is demoralizing to say the least.

  4. Leah*

    #3 If “participating in optional overtime or changing their shift to meet company needs” are the type of things that are being rewarded, I can guess where the discomfort is coming from. The rewardees maybe be well aware of why their colleagues can’t always be so flexible with their schedules. It would make employees feel less valued for work they put in if they know they’ll only get rewarded if they don’t care for family members or have other obligations. What the rewardees are doing is great but if those are the only areas being rewarded are having a flexible schedule then the harm to morale may not be worth it.

    As a kid, I had a few teachers who made a huge deal about students who’d had perfect attendance the previous quarter. There was always a speech about responsibility, preparing for the real world, and how we should all try to emulate those kids. I’m not sure what it said to the kid who stayed home when he had the chicken pox but it sure annoyed the heck out of me since being subject to a joint custody agreement that included parents on two sides of the country was already a huge pain.

    1. Jessa*

      Or the kid (me) who had chronic asthma and other medical conditions that required many doctor’s appointments or being off for treatment or in hospital. As a little, I was at hospital so often (this was way pre computer, paper files) they had my file in the desk drawer at the ER and the nurse at the desk was “Hi Jessa is it your stomach or your asthma?” I was there so often for stomach issues my father saw the nurse with a bag of ice and a hammer to make ice chips for the kids on that ward. He bought the hospital paediatrics unit a restaurant style ice chipper. I really felt like garbage when it was all “Ooooh attendance, good kids, being chronically ill, bad kids.” Even though I maintained an E/A average during my entire school career no matter how many days I was out. Attendance stuff like that was horrible and they kept trying to shove me in a special ed class (not an issue if I’d needed it, because of being behind for absences, a friend did,) but I was going along perfectly well in a mainstream class. But the teacher was mad her attendance stats were being messed up by me being sick.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Oh my! I had a teacher like that too! And yes, it was allergies. She wouldn’t let me be in advanced math because I was “out too much”. I was humiliated and in tears because I couldn’t be with my peers. My parents went to the principle and the teacher said that if I could do 3 months of homework in 2 weeks I could join. I did it and the teacher hated me more. She also blamed me for messing with her bell curve – it had a blip on the right side because there were 3 high achievers in class when there were only “supposed” to be 2. And since I was the girl I was the one that was supposed to be eliminated to restore the bell curve.

        That’s why I get so freaked by people that judge by silly things. Measure the right data and the rewards go to the right people.

        1. Lora*

          Lots of people don’t understand math as a language. I am dealing with an accountant right now who thinks that because we are not budgeting for out of scope projects, therefore spending four hours on out of scope work per month is being 4000% over budget. I wish I were kidding about this.

        2. Bea W*

          I had a teacher in grade school who claimed because he only had 2 advanced text books only 2 kids could do the advanced work. He chose one and then asked that child to choose between me and another kid. Well, the kid doing the chosing didn’t like me. So you can guess how that ended. Not only was it totally unfair and not based on ability or merit, the kid who got to make the choice told me he didn’t pick me because he didn’t like me.

    2. Jen RO*

      This is odd to me, coming from a non-US school system. In schools here, if you miss school because of health issues and you bring a doctor’s note, those days are not counted as missed, so if a child had chicken pox, but was present on all other days, the child would still have perfect attendance. (Custody agreements aren’t the school’s problem and I agree with the school here.)

      1. EAA*

        I like this way. Though I really think the whole perfect attendance thing has to go. There have been a couple of kids where I live who have had perfect attendance for all of their school years. One child went home sick and then had his mother take him back to school so he wouldn’t mess up his perfect attendance.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, all it really does is (a) create pressure to bring the kid to school when she’s too sick to concentrate, and (b) spread the disease to the rest of the class.

        2. Student*

          School attendance rates feed into how much money a school gets. You have to dissolve the money link before schools will adopt more common-sense approaches to attendance.

          The US culture is also heavily into the concept of working while you’re sick, and that’s a lot harder to change. I suspect that the teachers themselves probably don’t have much sick leave, so they don’t view it as important for the children they supervise to have reasonable sick leave either.

          1. Leah*

            I was in a private school so it wasn’t an issue of funding. It was also the type of atmosphere where it was drilled into you that you were expected to attend a good college and required a lot of parental involvement.

            You also didn’t qualify for perfect attendance if you were late. We didn’t have a school or public bus system so kids got the message that they weren’t “good” because their parent or carpool was late. Perhaps I should have clarified that this was through the 5th grade. Kids not getting to school or getting there late would have been an issue to take up with their parents instead of lecturing the kids in class.

      2. Eden*

        This is a great way to do this. But I still utterly fail to see any value in ‘perfect attendance.’

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup. I got a ton of these ribbons from school, and a ton of lovely memories of throwing up in class. Heh. Most of my sicknesses didn’t require a doctor, just time to get the bug out of my system or for the migraine to pass, so I wouldn’t have necessarily had a note.

        2. LBK*

          Agreed – it says almost nothing about your actual performance. I think *bad* attendance can say something about performance, eg someone who is consistently out, especially during important times or who doesn’t get caught up on work in a timely manner, but if you’re sick for a day…that doesn’t make you a bad employee.

        3. Anonicorn*

          I agree. In all ~12 years of school, a kid is expected to never miss one time? That’s crazy.

        4. the gold digger*

          The value of perfect attendance for some schools is they don’t get funding for the days the student is out. That is, some states have a formula where the school gets money only when the students are actually at school.

        5. Judy*

          Although I don’t think that there should be major awards for it, I do know that there have been several studies that show correlation (not causation, I know) between attendance in elementary school and high school graduation rates.

          There are families that just decide that it’s too much work for the kids to go to school every day. This is not about kids who are sick, this is about kids who have barriers to attendance. A quick google search shows grass root organizations who help with clothes, alarm clocks, etc to get kids to show up. Peer mentorship.

          All of my kids outgrown school clothes go to the PTA clothing bank locally, so they can help outfit other kids for school.

          1. Kelly L.*

            That’s different. Perfect attendance awards, IMO, work more to pressure the kids who are already going most of the time into going on the few days of the year that they really shouldn’t. They often have high-pressure families already, and it’s the family that will push them into going while sick just so they can add another award to their pile. I don’t think the prospect of winning the award can make the difference between 80 and 180 days present (the programs you mention sound much more useful for that)–they’re more pushing a kid who’d attend 178 days into attending 180. (Numbers hypothetical.)

        6. Tinker*

          I got the impression from somewhere that part of it might have been to give an opportunity for awards to folks who otherwise probably wouldn’t have much of a chance — at my high school, a lot of the academic awards that were awarded to less than five or so people went to the same group of people, and likewise the sports awards tended to go to another group (with some overlap).

          Particularly since the perfect attendance award was for literally perfect attendance including a lack of excused absences for outside activities, as far as I could tell those awards tended to go to folks who weren’t otherwise involved in activities that left one buried in a blizzard of paper every awards ceremony.

          I’m not for complete sure that was the intent, but it was at least to an extent the effect.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Well, in my grade school at least, it was pretty much the same kids: the overachievers. Whether it was because they were perfectionists themselves or because their parents were perfectionists, the same perfectionism that spurred them to the honor roll/track championship/spelling bee/whatever carried over into doggedly showing up every day for school, rain or shine or vomit.

            This was grade school, though, so there weren’t really off-campus extracurriculars. I don’t remember there being an attendance award in HS, where it actually would have excluded a lot of the more involved students.

        7. Lynn Whitehat*

          You guys know why they do it, right? The school gets paid by “actual attendance” (one butt in a seat for one day is worth $X to them). It has nothing to do with teaching any kind of lesson about good citizenship or good work habits or anything.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I don’t quite like this policy, either. There’s a space between “too sick to go to school” and “sick enough to need to go to the doctor.” If little Billy has a fever of 100 and is throwing up now and then, he definitely shouldn’t go to fifth grade today – but there’s probably no reason to drag him out of the house to sit in a doctor’s waiting room and spend his parents’ money on a co-pay, just so he can still have a perfect attendance record with the school. Just let him sleep all day and he’ll probably be fine tomorrow.

    3. Manager M*

      Are you suggesting that we just don’t recognize the people who *do* manage to rearrange their schedules?

      I guess that’s my challenge here. Where’s the balance between understanding life’s demands (trust me, I get it), and recognizing the people who are being flexible when they don’t actually have to be?

      1. Lora*

        I do bonus cards. Visa cards pre-loaded with a bunch of money. You can get em at Target. They have to have results to show for it though, it’s not enough to show up and fart around the water cooler for eight hours, production actually has to be up as a result of their efforts. That’s what Engineergirl is saying upthread: measure productivity and how much Wakeen got done vs how much Apollo got done.

        1. Lora*

          Clarification: If Wakeen came in on the weekend or stayed late or whatever, and as a result Shipment X went off without a hitch, THAT is what you reward–the effort to make sure Shipment X got on the truck. Apollo worked his regular shift and since Shipment X went out Friday night after Apollo had gone home for the day, he does not get blessed with money.

          1. Judy*

            Except then you need to judge if Wakeen stayed late to get shipment X out because he was on Youtube for 6 hours over the course of a week, and Apollo’s components for the delivery were ready on Wednesday, per plan, because he stayed late on Monday and Tuesday.

            Team of 7, with deliveries once a month. We only had 3 test benches, and worked out schedules the week before deliveries of who was using the benches when. I usually gave a big push the week before that, and that weekend, rather than the weekend before the Monday delivery, because I could have the test benches to myself. It would frustrate me that the managers would reward those folks who were working all weekend before the delivery, when I worked the weekend before, so that I wouldn’t be “the one who made us late”.

            1. Lora*

              It still works if you’re measuring output by person if you are measuring component completion.

              1. Judy*

                They were not rewarding everyone who had their part done on time, they were rewarding the ones that did extra work in a visible way right before the deadline. The two of us who planned our work out and did extra all the way through to be done with minimum fuss at the last minute were never rewarded.

                “The teapot team members Bob, Wakeen and Apollo worked through the weekend so that the delivery would go out on Monday. Here’s a visa gift card guys” No mention that Jane and Tony had their things done early to mid-week of the week before, sometimes by coming in the earlier weekend.

                1. Judy*

                  I guess what I’m saying is to be careful when you’re rewarding last minute extra effort. Many places seem to follow the “If you did it without fuss, it’s not that hard” school of thought.

                  Firefighters are rewarded more in some environments, and some of those firefighters are arsonists.

                2. CEMgr*

                  Agree re “OT heroes” =(often)= firefighters. Some are arsonists, but far more are just careless about leaving oily rags around. Management plays a direct role in nurturing the firefighters.

                  There’s a reason municipalities don’t pay actual firefighters on a piecework system.

      2. Eden*

        I’d start rewarding project managers who create realistic timeline expectations with clients and so have project schedules that don’t require a lot of flexibility. I worked in graphic design/web design for years, and while I get it that sometimes the crazy client wants it yesterday, or something breaks at the last minute, generally your project schedules should be doable without major shift changes or OT.

        Having said that, I don’t think it’s wrong to recognize people for being flexible, as long as those who can’t be flexible but can contribute in other ways are not passed over.

      3. Leah*

        My concern was that the awards listed were only about working extra hours and not about people who might go above and beyond during their regularly scheduled hours. It sends the message that what workers do during the bulk of their working time matters less.

    4. MTG*

      Slightly hijacking maybe but yes, the ability to be flexible is not the same thing as going particularly above and beyond. I was passed over for a cash prize at work over someone else who was able to come in on a weekend when I couldn’t, because I had to be at another work shift, because I have to work two jobs, because I’m so underpaid. That really stung.

    5. Sue Donem*

      My fourth grade teacher made a HUGE deal out of perfect attendance one quarter. It had been a brutally cold winter, and the teacher went on and on about “All the kids that came in when it was 20 below are so *brave*, and *dedicated*, and *tough*!” I was sitting there *livid* because the one day I’d missed that quarter–when I threw up on the bus that morning and was promptly sent home–it was 30 degrees. I yelled out that I’d braved all those cold days, too, and my teacher responded, “But your attendance wasn’t *perfect*.” Guess she would have rather had a puking kid in class.

      1. OhNo*

        In my junior year of high school, I had a similar experience with an English teacher. Except instead of praising the kids who came in on “cold” days, he was praising the kids who came in on the day there was a bomb threat to the school.

        He was, of course, promptly shouted down by absolutely everyone in the class, all of whom made the valid point that perfect attendance is never worth dying for. We all got a day of in school suspension for yelling at a teacher, but it was worth it.

  5. Scotto*

    3. I’d second what others have said about being consistent and fair. When others are recognized for doing something, while you’re left out for doing the same thing… ouch.

    5. I have plenty on my LinkedIn that I wouldn’t have on a resume – some because only certain work experience is relevant to certain jobs.

  6. SherryD*

    I have a question related to #3, rewarding superstars. I work in an industry where optional weekend work events happen frequently. Our boss encourages staff to go to these events and support the team, but ultimately they are optional. Recently, though, my boss has decided to keep track of who goes to these events, so she can reward the “superstars” with a gift card (or something like that). Due to the nature of my position, I’m at 99% of these events, and I now have my boss’s secretary calling me on Mondays to ask who went to the weekend events. This makes me really uncomfortable — I feel like a tattle-tale. I think that if the manager and her admin want to know about Joe’s attendance, they should ask him themselves. Is there a way to get them to stop asking me? Or should I get over my discomfort?

    1. Anonymous*

      That sounds more like your boss wants to appropriately thank the people who put in the extra time for the company rather than penalize the people who don’t show up. If they don’t offer any sort of thanks, people might eventually stop putting in the extra effort.

    2. EAA*

      So the boss wants to reward those who help at the weekend events but she doesn’t go to them? The boss should already know who’s going. Doesn’t she need to know ahead of time so there will be enough to staff it?

      1. MW77*

        That was my thought. If it’s that important, the boss should show up occasionally as well.

    3. MikeP*

      I don’t know about a way to get them to stop, but it sounds very much like you’re being asked to perform a supervisory duty, and it doesn’t sound like you’re being compensated for it. They’re placing you in a very uncomfortable position.

      Can you say something like “Oh, it was pretty busy, I can’t say with much confidence who was and who was not there, I would feel very uncomfortable doing so.” And think very loudly at them, “Isn’t tracking attendance YOUR job?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. Isn’t attendance their job?
        I think what I would do is say “Boss, you know, I have been reporting attendance on the weekend for a while now and I am growing more concerned about this each week. As you know, I attend most of the events, but I do not attend all. So there will be an occasional weekend where I have no report. But primarily what concerns me is [fill in with logical statement- such as you could accidentally forget someone or not even realize someone had been at the event.] Ask if an alternative method could be used. Perhaps someone at the event could sign something for the employee. Or the employee could bring in a brochure that was only available at the event as proof of attending. Or perhaps employees could sign in at the event. Not sure what would make sense for the setting.

        I get it- about feeling like a tattle-tale. You’re really not there to do an employee head count.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, no — tracking who was present at an event isn’t inherently a supervisory duty, and refusing to it on the grounds that you’re not a manager is really, really not going to go over well. This is a really oddly adversarial way to look at things. Particularly when the point is to reward the people who showed up.

        1. MikeP*

          It seems like it’s an extra duty that’s now being *expected*, simply by virtue of the questioner being present, rather than *stipulated.*

          Perhaps ask for clarification if that’s really an expectation? Right now I’m getting the feeling that it’s just been passively added to the questioner’s duties, rather than something that they’ve actually been asked to do.

          It may be somewhat adversarial, but it’s not putting the employee in a good position to be doing that in the first place, not without making it clear to the questioner – and everybody else – that attendance is taken.

          As a manager, if I was asking employees to do something that’s even further outside their normal job description, I’d *want* them to ask me why, if only to avoid the situation of making them feel like a tattle-tale in the first place. Or I’d make a point of showing up to the events myself, so I could do it myself.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It sounds like she’s being directly asked for it, so it seems pretty clear to me. It also doesn’t seem like a major project to do.

            1. MikeP*

              I dunno, the feeling I got from the description was less “please do this” and more “oh hey, since we know you were probably at the last one, can you let us know who was there?” I do see a difference between “employee, you’ll be at the thing this weekend, yeah? can you note who’s there please?” and “employee, you were at the thing this weekend, can you tell us (who you remember) was there?”

              The former implies a certain level of responsibility and I’d be fine with being asked and asking that; the latter implies – to me, anyway – that they’re taking attendance without actually formally taking it, if you know what I mean. And I wouldn’t be fine with that without clarification.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If that’s the case, the solution for this person to just ask directly: “Hey, do you want me to make a point of doing this each time, so I’m not just relying on informal recollection afterwards?” Or, she could just assume that it IS a part of what they want from her going forward (since it appears to be) and make a point of doing it. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.

    4. Manager M*

      This is tough. On one hand, it sounds like your boss has good intentions. But on the other, I can see why it makes you uncomfortable.

      If you aren’t comfortable putting a stop to it by expressing your unease, is it possible to put your own positive spin on it? Instead of telling them who isn’t there, why not just let them know who was? “Oh, you want to know who was here? Suzanne, Mary and Joe all came in this weekend! They’re great.”

      That way, your boss is focusing on the right thing–recognizing the superstars–and not getting hung up on who had other obligations that day.

        1. SherryD*

          Thanks for the thoughtful answers, everyone! After considering what you all have said, I was probably making a mountain out of a molehill. I still don’t love reporting on Joe’s and Sue’s attendance, but, really, it’s just a yes or no question.

  7. DG*

    #1. Some other options:
    – ask your club president or vp, education for advice on how to handle the conflict you feel. if it’s a good company club, this is the kind of issue they should be familiar with.
    – volunteer to be a club officer, then you’ll be the boss of him.
    – speak more often. after all a lot of the benefit of Toastmasters comes from channeling or managing or being comfortable with tension, not from eliminating it.
    – discuss it with your boss. you are both there to get better. she probably appreciates the courage you show by stepping up to do something like this.
    – you and your boss both promised to make your meetings have a ‘mutually supporting atmosphere.’ that means your boss should not bring the judgmental – maybe that is something she is trying to work on too.
    – as a last resort, follow Alison’s advice to find another club

    1. Who are you??*

      This! Exactly!
      As I was reading the OP I kept thinking “If it’s the right club her boss will need to work on being better at giving feedback because he’ll get called out if it’s judgmental or mean.”
      I also was part of a company Toastmasters club and, while my boss wasn’t part of the club, he and his boss would routinely sit in the back of the room and observe when they knew one of their team members was giving a speech.
      What about enlisting your supervisor as your supporter? I would always ask co-workers if I could practice on them before I gave a new speech. It helped me work out the kinks in what I wanted to say (especially while trying to work without note cards),timing, breathing etc. I would always practice several times and usually on one of my supervisors. I always found that the supervisor whose criticism I was most afraid of was always the one who was most helpful.
      And if it’s the ice breakers that are tripping you up at meetings…well, I have no advice there. I still struggle with on the spot questions like that. In fact, I need to get myself to a meeting to practice those skills. :)

    2. Chinook*

      Thank you for the advice on what to do if there is no other club to go to in the area. Alison’s advice is usually spot on but this time the assumption that the OP had the option if other clubs was based on being in a huge city. I don’t know about others, but most groups only have one chapter even in the big city next to where I live.

      1. Judy*

        It certainly depends on the area you live. I lived in a town of 50,000 people, and there were 2 community clubs and two corporate clubs. I’m in a place more than 5x larger, and there are at least 5 community clubs and 3 corporate clubs.

        The advantage to the right community club is that it’s not at lunchtime, as most corporate clubs are. In my experience, you have more opportunity to speak when your meetings are 1.5 hours long with a “soft stop” rather than 55 minutes with a “hard stop”.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is some really great advice here. The little I know about TM it seems that they should have ideas on how to work through this. They do have resources they can tap for more ideas, too.
        I can understand if you quit TM, but at least give them a crack at trying to find solutions before you do quit. See if you can talk to one of the leaders there in private, hear them out and then decide to stay or go. You might get lucky and find someone who would mentor/coach you one-on-one.

    3. OP #1*

      Some good suggestions – thanks. I am already a club officer, and I have been volunteering for a role at every meeting. I thought this would make it better, but the tension is getting worse because sometimes my boss comments on other people’s performances after the meeting in a critical way.

      1. Chinook*

        “but the tension is getting worse because sometimes my boss comments on other people’s performances after the meeting in a critical way.”

        Is your boss creating tension in general in the group is is it tension in your mind? If it is the latter, remember that he is commenting on others (probably thinking it is useful) but, if he is not commenting on your work, then he is actively trying to not hinder your development because he knows it could be taken the wrong way. In fact, if he has nothing to say about your speaking, maybe he is trying to ignore (in a good way) what you are doing so that you have the room to experiment without the stress of wondering what your boss is thinking. His silence can be taken as a very good thing.

        1. Sharon*

          It sounds to me like the problem is that his criticism of other people behind their backs makes the OP think he’s doing the same thing to her. Which by the way is completely against TM’s mission. It’s supposed to be a safe, supportive place to build skills.

          Someone needs to talk to him about that, but I’m not sure who. The TM club president? Otherwise, I think he should really be the one to leave the club, not the OP who is trying to learn.

  8. Anon*

    #5: I’m a hiring manager and I look at LinkedIn profiles mainly to see if I have common contacts with the candidate.

    1. Jaimie*

      Me, too. Also, I could live without the “endorsements”, but personal written references are really helpful. Also, I like getting an idea of what the person looks like– less awkward when I go to reception to pick them up if I know who I am looking for.

  9. EngineerGirl*


    We want to start rewarding employees to show our appreciation when they go above and beyond to help out the team, like participating in optional overtime or changing their shift to meet company needs

    Working overtime and changing shifts isn’t helping the team, and shouldn’t be rewarded. Helping the team is explaining things to team members, having your stuff ready when others need it, filling in when someone is off, etc. If a person works efficiently they may not be doing overtime, yet still helping the team. Changing a shift with another member is helping that member (teamwork). How about the person that plans ahead so that their stuff never needs rework? That helps the team.
    In short, all of the things I’ve listed are invisible unless you go out and look for them. The ones you’ve listed are obvious but do little to improve teamwork and morale.
    Focus on the right things to reward the real superstars.

    1. Jen RO*

      I don’t think I get your point. First you said that changing shifts isn’t helping the team, and then you said that changing a shift with another member is… helping the team.

      Of course working overtime and changing shifts helps! Not everyone can do it, but I don’t think the workplace is meant to cater to everyone. If someone *can* and *does* go above and beyond, I think it’s perfectly fair for them to be rewarded. (To be clear, I am referring to overtime required by the company, not overtime because you couldn’t finish your work on time.)

      Next thing we’ll be arguing that it’s not fair to reward a person who completed a complicated project, because coworker X was also capable of doing it but she was stressed about Y situation at home so she chose the less complicated project.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Changing shifts because the company changes the shift times doesn’t help a team member – it merely helps the company. But swapping shifts with team members because they have religious or other needs helps a team member.
        As far as overtime – what if a member works slowly and requires overtime to get the same job done that another member can perform in a regular shift? Will you reward the slower worker for working overtime to accomplish the same amount of work that a faster worker can do in less time? This is rewarding “face time” Vs. rewarding actual work accomplished. Or maybe the worker is working overtime to rework something previously done sloppily. Again, the other worker got their work done the first time in a regular shift. So the OT worker doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for face time.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          And here’s another scenario. Worker one performs work excellently the first time. Other workers are negligent and despite excellent workers coaching still don’t produce a good product. Project falls behind and overtime is required. Should excellent worker need to work overtime to compensate for poorly performing team members? If excellent worker spends weekends for rejuvenation and poor workers work OT, the poor workers are being rewarded for going above and beyond where the excellent worker is seen as a not dedicated.

          1. Jen RO*

            A good manager will know which is which. Even a mediocre manager (mine) could tell the difference. We probably agree in principle, we are just phrasing things differently.

            1. plain jane*

              I find that the manager often knows, but someone 2-3 levels up sees that person with heavy overtime for a week or two, and then gets the wrong impression. It’s very difficult to then shift upper management’s impressions – especially if that person has used a couple of those late nights as an opportunity to create a social connection with a senior person they wouldn’t have had time with otherwise. In my experience that ends up playing a really large part in company awards.

              The other problem was when people got awarded for “going above and beyond” because they were spending time on special projects. But people who were spending time on projects that we were doing for clients somehow always fell through the cracks. So they felt like they were penalized from all sides
              – they didn’t have time for the special projects because they were making the company money
              – they weren’t getting recognized for their accomplishments because it was “their job”
              – they didn’t get to work on the “cool stuff”

              And at the same time, the people with special projects created relationships with upper management, so continued to not have time to help the team on client projects. It lead to a great deal of resentment.

            2. Piper*

              I work in this situation and one of the managers (not mine but one who manages part of the team and is at the same level as my manager) cannot make this distinction. It’s all face time, face time, face time instead of efficiency and results.

              1. Fee*

                I’m always puzzled by why managers make this connection, especially when the overtime must often be coming out of their own budget!

                1. Piper*

                  Well, everyone here is exempt and salaried, so we can work 100 hours and it doesn’t cost the company anything as far as pay goes.

        2. Jen RO*

          “To be clear, I am referring to overtime required by the company, not overtime because you couldn’t finish your work on time.”

          Of course a person shouldn’t be rewarded if s/he works slowly, that’s why I added the parenthesis. But if an issue shows up at 6 PM the day before a release, I would reward the employee(s) who stayed late to finish it. If someone can’t stay late because of other obligations, it shouldn’t matter to the employer if it was a party or childcare.

          1. MikeP*

            Isn’t that reward “getting paid extra”? The OP was talking about compensating employees for working optional overtime. Assuming the overtime is paid, they’re already compensated. (Or, what FiveNine said.)

            If it’s not compensated already… well, I work at a place where people *can* work extra hours if they like, but it’s not paid. We get paid for a fixed number of hours a week, regardless of how many (extra) we might work. Many do extra anyway, “because otherwise the work won’t get done.” Now they’re masking for a lack of staff time.

            This helps the business because often they’re correct – the work won’t otherwise get done. This hurts the business because they’re masking for a lack of staff time that should be addressed, as it’s generally chronic. This hurts the business because they are that much more likely to burn out. This hurts the business because sometimes they’re covering up for another, lesser-skilled, co-worker and that problem is being masked. This helps the co-workers who pick up less extra work because those co-workers won’t have to, but see above. I’ve been in a department where a significant proportion of the staff were out on stress leave simultaneously; the remainder were that much more stressed. This hurts the co-workers because they may not even be aware that they’re leaving work behind for their other co-workers, who may resent them for it. (Been there, done that.) That means the co-workers doing less aren’t necessarily even given the opportunity or motivation to learn how to do things better, and it may mask from the managers the fact that there’s a problem.

            Responding to the point Jenn RO made: “But if an issue shows up at 6 PM the day before a release, I would reward the employee(s) who stayed late to finish it” in particular – see above. Also, if this happens chronically, the company is screwing up in two ways: 1) it needs to make sure that this isn’t chronic, and 2) perhaps if that issue is unavoidable, the OT shouldn’t be “optional” it should be “expected” and that should be taken into consideration when building employee contracts out.

            1. Jen RO*

              We are probably talking about different kinds of overtime – or rather, I am not using overtime in the US sense. I was talking of exempt people (to use an US term) that work more than 40 hours a week for no extra pay.

              1. MikeP*

                I’m not from the US, I’m not familiar with that term. :) But I get your drift. I guess it depends what the OP meant.

                If it’s “unpaid” and “voluntary” but the company wishes to acknowledge the work done – why not just, you know, pay the OT?

                1. Adam*

                  My organization usually rewards employees by granting a bit of extra vacation time based on your OT hours worked. I’m not sure how that policy relates to the state laws as all employees at my organization are salaried, not by the hour.

                2. Jen RO*

                  Because the company probably doesn’t give a damn (they got the work they wanted out of you already), but the individual manager might want to recognize it.

        3. My2Cents*

          Helping the company is…helping the team. And in my line of work – public safety – many times if someone doesn’t sign up for overtime, someone else doesn’t get time off (shift work with minimum staffing requirements). This helps the team, as does being flexible with shifts. So you bet I recognize those folks, but I also find different ways to recognize and appreciate the ones who won’t or can’t work extra or be flexible.

          My advice to the folks who aren’t getting recognized as much as they think they should: toot your own horn a little! Compliment each other to your boss, and if your boss isn’t noticing what you yourself are doing, tell her. She has a span of control over numerous employees, plus other work to do. My experience as a supervisor has been that even with the best of intentions, I miss some of this stuff. But I always follow up on compliments and reports from my employees, I research it and verify it and give them recognition for it. You’re probably thinking, “I shouldn’t have to tell her that, she should just know.” I used to think that way too sometimes, until I got promoted and suddenly the job expanded from my own little ‘how does this affect me, My2Cents,’ world to something much bigger with many different priorities to balance. Yes it is my job to notice. AND everyone including me is also responsible for our own success as well. So do yourself and your boss a favor by letting go of the expectation that she’s omniscient and give her a status report once in awhile. You might be surprised; once she hears from you once or twice she’ll probably be focused in your direction and will start seeing it for herself.

          1. Vicki*

            “Helping the company is…helping the team.”

            I have to disagree. The company and the team often have very different motivations. The “company” is also often blind to reality.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s not how a healthy organization runs. If that’s happening, there are totally different issues to deal with — but there’s no reason to assume it’s the case with the OP’s team.

        4. Bea W*

          Or maybe they’re putting in overtime because of short resources or hard deadlines or some other craziness where people need to step up beyond their normal workload gor a short period. It really depends on the situation. Not everyone who works late is slow.

    2. LBK*

      I completely disagree. Just because someone is available for more overtime or more shifts doesn’t mean they’re obligated to do so. You can have all the free time in the world and still say no to working extra. Yes, some people won’t have the option, but those that do have the option and choose to work extra to help out are still going above and beyond the standard expectations.

      I worked retail straight out of college when I had no other time commitments. I worked tons of doubles, covered shifts for other people, stayed late when we were busy, etc. not just because “well I’m free so I might as well!” but because I wanted to put in extra effort and time to show that I was dedicated to working hard. Trust me, it wasn’t just for my own enjoyment or convenience.

      The managers need to pay attention to who’s doing what with their extra time, but it does make a difference and show dedication. When I was the manager in this scenario, I knew which people picked up shifts just to get the extra money and which were doing it because they wanted to help. It’s pretty obvious if you know anything about your employees.

      1. Adam*

        Agreed. I totally get that people with health concerns or family responsibilities often can’t be flexible on their schedules. But just because I’m single with no kids and have an easier time working off hours doesn’t mean I wouldn’t much rather be doing something else.

        So there needs to be a balance with a committed effort by managers to recognized the contributions of ALL employees. If the people who can’t change their schedules are indeed great employees there must be somewhere their work is going above and beyond that can be acknowledged and rewarded accordingly, just like those willing to work the inconvenient shifts should get some sore of recognition as well. If volunteering to work the unusual hours doesn’t come with any sort of gratification, no matter how minor, eventually people will stop doing it and managers will be forced to assign people. Then everybody’s unhappy.

    3. Vicki*

      “Working overtime and changing shifts isn’t helping the team, and shouldn’t be rewarded.”


      Why do we have overtime? Because something isn’t properly planned or we didn’t have enough people or there was an emergency. If you’re non-exempt, you get paid for overtime because the government recognizes that this isn;t supposed to happen in the normal course of things. People who work overtime are already being rewarded by $$ in return for lost personal hours.

      Changing shifts helps a specific team member, not the team itself.

      These are not things that need to be “recognized and rewarded”. (Honestly, if I see Bob getting a reward for working OT, my thought is that Bob is being rewarded for not planning his time well, or for his manager not planning the team’s time well.)

    4. Vicki*

      Anecdote –

      At one company where I worked, we had awards at a department meeting. One of the engineers received an award for “fixing the most bugs in the code that quarter”.

      Yeay him, right?

      Except… it was his code. He created the same bugs he fixed. (Many of us believed that if he had been a more careful programmer, he wouldn’t have written those bugs into the code in the first place.)

      Moral: be very very careful what you measure.

      1. LSG*

        I know exactly what you mean. My previous manager gave awards for “most claims worked” for the month. One coworker consistently got it six months in a row. When our present manager audited our claims reports, she found that 85% of the employees “work” was fruitless, either sending multiple claims or adjusting off claims that could have been paid.

        I’m with you on that.

  10. EngineerGirl*

    #5 – My LinkedIn profile has a lot of extra stuff that won’t fit on my resume. I’ve listed links to my projects, my volunteer work, and my professional interests. My profile also has endorsements from a lot of my past managers (and that’s obvious by their title).

    1. Eden*


      If I were a hiring manager, I’d check it out because (1) I will get an idea of how thorough the person is generally (I’ve seen plenty of bad/incomplete LinkedIn profiles), (2) if the person has taken the time to create a well-rounded profile, I’ll get a better sense of the person, and (3) endorsements and recommendations are interesting to read.

      1. JC*

        Eh, maybe it will show you how thorough the person is in general with their work, but maybe not. I’m a very thorough person when it comes to work, but I don’t really use LinkedIn. My profile has a bare bones listing of the jobs I’ve held. Sometimes a lack of LinkedIn presence is due to someone not really caring about social media—which could be relevant to work depending on the field, but might not be.

        Granted, I get why a hiring manager would look at your profile and would judge you on it when they have limited information about you. If I were looking for a job I’d probably spruce up my profile at this point.

        1. Eden*

          I agree that a bare bones profile doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t thorough–if you aren’t looking for a job, I wouldn’t think anything of it.

          But if you’re looking for a job, and have a LinkedIn profile, it seems like you should bother to fill it out (which sounds like what you’re saying). I mean, you may not give a hoot about social media or your online presence, but knowing that hiring managers might check it out seems like motivation enough to either completely remove it or make it as good as possible.

          1. Bea W*

            Or it could mean you don’t make a lot of information public to non-connections because you have an ex who would use it to stalk you to your next job so he knows where to send all his creepy mail and chronic calling.

            There is a great deal of info on my profile, but only for connections. The public facing view is pretty limited, and definitely does not include any of my work history.

            1. Anon.*

              Personally, I don’t like having my professional and personal information available for everyone to see, and I don’t link in typically with people, even people who love my work and would readily give me a glowing recommendation (who also aren’t big on using Linkedin). I realize that my very much incognito profile may look suspect to hiring managers, while others who put on a good LinkedIn front, regardless of how well they can actually do the job, and may even be not the nicest person in the world, may get more notice over me. But, I’m still not comfortable with it because you never know who may be interested in this information, especially when it’s so easy to find.

      2. Pixelpaintr*

        I have a lot more info on my LinkedIn profile than my resume, mainly additional interests, volunteer work, and a complete work history. I also added a portfolio of my design work by company, some other artwork, and have a good deal of recommendations. If a prospective employer looked over my profile, I can see them getting a better sense of who I am through that.

    2. Vicki*

      In fact, many many articles, career counselors, etc, recommend that your LI profile _should_ contain these things that aren’t on your resume.

      Write articles, join LI groups, post in those groups, get and give recommendations, connect to people, get and give endorsements, add rewards and certificates. LI is your CV.

  11. Lizzy*

    2.) I read plenty of comments here and on other blogs from people who are usually in the shoes of the employee seeking the promotion. I think the reoccurring scenario that keeps popping is a.) I didn’t get the promotion I wanted, but more importantly b.) I wasn’t given a clear reason as to why. Coaching her is great and I imagine she already understands where improvement is needed, but this would not be as effective to her growth without some clarity/context. Plus, if you want to keep her for the long haul, open communication from you is a must.

    1. Artemesia*

      I well remember sitting down with my most disastrous hire (very talented but someone who consistently undermined the department outside, alienated people we had to work with, was a PITA to work with) and providing feedback couched in ‘cultural difference’ as we were a company in the south and she was a northeasterner. It did not have the slightest effect because she was not a person capable of change apparently. People who are already tone deaf to how they impact other people and who either don’t see or don’t care about social cues, also are not likely to pick up on feedback. Of course it should be given, because sometimes people do recognize themselves and change — but in my experience people who are socially inept are that way because they are very resistant to feedback.

  12. Allison (not AAM!)*

    #3 – Absolutely reward the superstars. Do it fairly, and make sure they are comfortable with how you recognize them. In the meantime, recognize others doing their jobs well, and they can be on a subsequent round of recognition. BUT – do not feel badly about the workers not getting rewards. Not to decrease morale, but it makes me think of school systems who reward every child just for showing up. This is real life – people get rewarded when they deserve it; not just for showing up and doing what they’re expected and getting a paycheck to do, but for going above and beyond. If you can recognize the great ones in such a way as to inspire the rest of the team, they will WANT to get better and earn the kudos. And hopefully they can be genuinely happy for their co-workers; an atmosphere of camaraderie and cohesiveness as a team is a sign of a great manager.

  13. FiveNine*

    The problem is with the definition of superstar in the OP letter: that definition has nothing to do with quality of work but with … taking on optional overtime? Which is already rewarded with overtime pay. I’m guessing the OP is from a call center or some other service industry, and i understand why the company would value most such employees. But labeling them the superstar employees is going to breed resentment from, yes, your actual unrecognized superstars who are by the content of their work keeping a much higher percentage of customers as subscribers or resolving their issues etc.

    1. Ollie*

      Also the problem that some people can’t do overtime or change their shifts for reasons beyond their control. Seems like it would be better to reward people for being awesome during the hours that they’re supposed to be working, not reward people for having more available time or a more flexible schedule.

      1. Colette*

        I think it’s fine to reward people who go above and beyond, whether or not other people are capable of doing the same. Not being able to work extra means that you won’t be rewarded for working extra – anyone who resents that needs to reevaluate how they believe the world works.

        Having said that, I agree that “above and beyond” should not be defined as working extra hours – other ways of going above and beyond should be recognized as well.

    2. Manager M*

      OP here. Yeah, I get that, and there are numerous ways to recognize the quality of work people do too. Raises and bonus systems are the incentives for doing a great quality job. e’re talking donuts because you came in on Saturday–I’m not sure that should cause resentment from others. But if it does, that was the exact reason for my question. How do I thank the people who are going above and beyond in a manner that is appropriate, without alienating those who didn’t? How would you approach this?

      PS: We are a web design company, not a call center. Entirely different culture!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m confused by the continuing concern about resentment from others. If you’re clearly explaining what you’re rewarding and why, and making sure you’re not leaving out people who engaged in that same behavior themselves, then where is the issue? If you’re seeing resentment in that scenario, there’s a different issue. Are you? If so, can you give more context?

        1. Manager M*

          I’m honestly not sure either. Essentially, here’s two recent examples:

          1. I sent an email out to the team thanking everyone who did optional OT over the past few weeks, because it helped us meet a new target (no OT needed!) One of the replies was, “Don’t make me feel guilty.”

          2. A bunch of people voluntarily changed their shifts to a much earlier one, and I brought bakery treats in for those people. There wasn’t enough for the people who didn’t change their shifts and worked later in the day. The feedback received was that I was going to make other people feel bad because they didn’t get a treat.

          This was all in response to feedback a few months ago that people weren’t feeling appreciated enough.

          I’m essentially trying to find out how to thank the people who are being voluntarily flexible when needed, without creating a culture of expectation or alienating those who can’t be due to kids, volunteer commitments, etc. I can’t seem to find the balance!

          1. Lora*

            You work in a kinda weird place. I say that because everywhere I have ever worked, when they brought bagels/muffins in for people who did extra work or whatever, if you didn’t get any–too bad. Also, When I Was Your Age, I walked to work in the snow, uphill both ways, etc. etc.

            However, at least you have easy metrics:
            -material contributions, in terms of stuff written/fixed for a website
            -immaterial contributions, e.g. handling a particularly difficult client who doesn’t understand the InterToobz that all the young people are doing these days
            -new clients generated, client service renewals
            -hardware/facilities contributions, such as new server installation without a hiccup in service
            -new software launch & implementation

            You can probably think of more. Celebrate milestones achieved and contributions towards the milestone, not face time.

          2. Esra*

            Wait, someone actually replied that your thank you/recognition email made them feel guilty? Is this from one of your reports, because that’s not really appropriate. Guilty feels about not being able, or wanting, to work overtime is not something you share with your manager.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Okay. You’re taking those responses too much to heart. What you did in both cases was totally appropriate. The reactions you’re receiving are not. You should not change what you’re doing over those reactions. You should, however, explain to people that you’re not going to stop rewarding others going above and beyond just because it might make them feel guilty.

          4. MJH*

            That “don’t make me feel guilty” thing wasn’t really appropriate, but in the future, what if you just sent an email to the people who did the overtime saying, “Thank you so much! I (and the company) appreciate the extra time you put in.”

            That doesn’t create social pressure for others to step up, of course, but if social pressure IS what the ultimate goal is, then the “don’t make me feel guilty” person is correct, if not a little rude.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        (Also, if you could tell me what didn’t work about the advice in the post itself, that will be helpful in modifying it so that it does work for you.)

      3. LQ*

        I’ve always thought that things like doughnuts/fruit on Saturday when you are working on Saturday is a good thing. (Or pizza when everyone is working late, that kind of thing.) Is a good way to acknowledge because who is going to say, DANG I could have had free breakfast if I’d come in on Saturday morning. But when I’m in on Saturday morning it is nice to have.

        (In a previous job I many times offered pizza and a couple times beer to those who stayed late on a Friday night to help stuff envelopes/fold flyers/etc last minute things for a Saturday event. Those who could help did, those who didn’t/couldn’t it wasn’t a problem because the incentive got enough help to complete it in a timely manner.)

      4. KAZ2Y5*

        I think if you are having people come in extra (Saturday in your example) it is perfectly appropriate to bring something just for them (snacks for the day, etc).

        I work in a hospital pharmacy and there are times when we need as many people there as possible. We have inventory 2 times a year and this is one of the few times our boss will authorize overtime (although you are not penalized if you can’t come in). Usually both breakfast and lunch are provided. If I can’t work that day (for whatever reason) I’m certainly not going to be mad because I missed free food! If I wanted that “reward” that badly I could get myself up there at 7am along with every one else!

  14. AdAgencyChick*

    #2: I find as a manager that it’s not enough to point out each instance of a behavior as it happens — you also have to point out that it’s a pattern. People are really good at seeing their shortcomings as a series of one-offs!

    1. Question Writer*

      Oh that’s so genius — I never thought of it like that! I swore to myself when I became a manager that I’d give feedback in the moment rather than waiting until it had built up. I can see though that there IS a value in highlighting the pattern as well.

      Particularly because she does SO often just explain away what happened in the moment and not really hear it.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I had someone very similar to who you describe working for me. A couple things to add to Alison’s excellent advice:

    – Tell her that you’re going to table any further discussion of promotions until you’ve seen sustained improvement for a given period of time. As in “I’m willing to revisit the issue of promotions in a year if I’ve seen serious improvement on these issues”

    – Keep an eye on her that she’s not jumping the chain of command. In my experience people like this often look really good to people higher up in their chain (the ones who don’t have to work with them on a daily basis) because they’re so technically proficient, and it creates this bad situation where her boss is giving her negative feedback but everyone else is telling her what a brilliant and competent person she is, and it gets really bad.

    Good luck. My problem employee never got better, but I did move her to a position where her particular style is more appropriate.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      My problem employee – I coached and coached and reviewed and coached some more. SO highly capable, so impacted by her lack of being able to play well with others.

      I thought I had made a difference and then she flamed out, spectacularly, in way that everybody else but me saw coming, and I had to let her go.

      Here’s the truth: she never acknowledged she had a problem, even when I told her quite bluntly “you have a problem, this is what the problem is”. My fault was in trying to work around her issues instead of forcing her to confront her issues herself and fix herself.

      It’s my greatest failure of the last few years and it bugs the crap out of me.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        You can’t change everyone, and you can’t change people who don’t want to change. And a lot of times, people like this find their style works for you.

        I read a good book about difficult personalities at work and it said the important thing to realize when dealing with people like this is they just want to get things done, and often view other people as an impediment. So basically, you’re looking at a human version of a tank – they will get the mission done, but there will be a lot of collateral damage.

        So I tried to oriented her to tasks where her tank-like approach was useful, and keep her away from civilian-populated areas. :)

        1. Lora*


          In my job, people have to write the date in ways that are sensible internationally.

          USAians write May 20th, 2014 as 5/20/14.
          Brits and various others I can’t recall write 20/5/14.
          So for regulatory purposes, we teach people to write 20MAY2014.
          This is SO SO SO SO hard. It takes, I am not kidding, three solid months of coaching, reminding, checking every line of every document the person touches for months on end to make sure they really honestly have done it properly. Because it’s a habit and they’ve been writing dates the other way all their lives.

          If it’s that hard to change the habit of writing the date to 20MAY2014, how hard do you think it’s going to be to change much bigger things, like how they interact with their fellow humans? …Right. Unless you are your employee’s personal therapist (which would be weird), probably not gonna happen.

          1. Esra*

            Haha, it’s actually just the US and Belize that does Month/Day/Year. We’ll grudgingly accept that in Canada, but the rest of the world is pretty set on D/M/Y or Y/M/D.

            Now about the metric system…

          2. Cath in Canada*

            2014-05-20 all the way! It’s the only format where a folder full of files whose names start with the date (common in my work) sorted the default alphabetical way will also be sorted chronologically.

      2. Question Writer*

        I’m just really really hopeful I’ll find a way to make this all crystal clear to her and she’ll take it on like she’s taken on tackling other huge projects. She COULD be a spectacular employee if she did so.

        And I think she’s got a bit of self-awareness about her style – just not how it’s holding her back. She mentioned the other day that she has a tendency to go in guns blazing to meetings so people know that she knows her stuff and uses that to make them listen to her. I don’t think she realizes that people really just want to be heard first.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          The good news is that with someone like this, you can usually get away with being REALLY blunt (unlike one of my other employees who I have to really soften any feedback and she’ll still burst into tears). So maybe you just need to say exactly that:
          “You could be a spectacular employee, but you need to make some serious changes to how you interact with people because your message and your intelligence is getting lost in the delivery, and all people are remembering is that you’re abrasive.”

          And then give some specific advice.

          If she wants to change, you might have a chance. Of course there’s a big difference between self awareness and making changes. My problem employee knew people found her awful, but she was pretty much unable or unwilling to change.

        2. KrisL*

          Soft skills can be tough to learn, even when someone really wants to. But they can be learned.

          At least she should learn not to “go in guns blazing”. I’ve found that if someone is socially a little awkward but seen as a nice person, people tend to give the person the benefit of the doubt.

    2. ADE*

      Hey Katie will you do an AMA on the open thread about being a PhD dropout to being in management?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        ha sure. I’m not sure I have any particular insight, but I’m willing to give it a shot :)

    3. Graciosa*

      I would also add that you need to keep in mind that changing behaviors like these (please note the plural) is hard, and requires a lot of commitment from both the employee and the manager. In this case, it may be even tougher as the employee seems to lack whatever it is that clues an individual in that Things Are Not Going Well without someone standing next to them and providing immediate feedback.

      The other potential problem here is that the employee needs to want to improve their soft skills – which is a different desire from wanting to be promoted. There are individuals who believe that they are entitled to a promotion (usually because of how brilliant they are) but don’t see why they have to change anything about their behavior, personal style, or whatever in order to get it. They will sometimes give lip service to making the necessary changes, but without any real commitment to do something they regard as stupid and unnecessary.

      I’m not sure which is harder – changing someone who doesn’t want to change, or changing someone who lacks the ability to pick up on social cues required to change behavior. I really hope that this problem is much less serious than it appears to be from reading the post, and that the employee will turn into one of the success stories.

      That said, I strongly echo Katie’s caution about messaging to higher ups (otherwise you’re going to get some sidelong looks when you explain that you had to let the Wunderkind go) and Wakeen’s about tackling this head on. You may need to take the employee off any high profile projects until the behavior improves. The explanation to the employee is that the soft skills are not at a level where you can risk the project (regardless of technical competency) but this also reduces the employee’s visibility at the upper levels. I was once involved in a discussion about putting an employee on an improvement plan which was complicated by the fact that the individual had just been commended by the company president. Try to avoid this.

      Your job as a manager is to deal with this swiftly and decisively rather than letting it linger. You won’t do anyone any favors softening your message and offering gentle coaching (particularly to someone who doesn’t pick up on social cues!). Figure out quickly if the individual is going to get the message and improve – if the answer is no, take Katie’s advice and move the person to a more appropriate position (even if that’s out the door) before you have to deal with a massive flame out.

      No level of technical skills will make up for the lack of interpersonal ones in a job that requires working with other people. The damage these individuals can do by dragging down the productivity of other team members easily outweighs their own contributions.

      Good luck.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “No level of technical skills will make up for the lack of interpersonal ones in a job that requires working with other people.”

        Agree so much. When my problem employee left, a lot of the team’s issues dissipated. It turns out we didn’t have major conflicts with other teams – she was the problem.

    4. SallyForth*

      It’s totally possible that this person has Aspergers or another condition that makes it difficult to work around these issues. They need coaching.

  16. misspiggy*

    Doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with rewarding people who regularly work extra time, as long as there are also clear rewards for people who don’t work extra time and do perform particularly well.

    If that can’t be done, it would be better not to have a rewards system. Perceived unfairness or bias in rewarding performance does way more damage to morale than not having special rewards at all.

  17. BCW*

    For #1 it seems a bit wrong to be mad that your boss joined the COMPANY toastmasters club just because you did it. If it was just a random club you mentioned you were joining, then he said “oh, thats great, I’ll join too”, but I have to assume since your company sponsors it, he has every right to do it as well. If you want to leave, then leave, but I don’t think you are doing yourself any favors there.

    #3 Ugh, that mindset reminds me of crap they started pulling when I was a teacher as to not make kids feel left out. Look, if they are a superstar as you call it, they deserve to be singled out. The others can either opt to rise to that level or not. However, if they get jealous, well thats just petty and juvenile. I do agree with Alison though about making recognizing them in a way that they like.

    #5 Managers look for the same reason I would look at a company or managers profile. See if you are connected in someway, or to just get a clearer idea of who you are. Not just based on the things on the resume, but yes the picture, the people you follow, that type of thing. If you don’t want managers to look, don’t have a profile.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t think #1 was mad. I think “anxious” or “stressed” would be a better descriptor. I am REALLY uncomfortable speaking in public and this would freak me out too.

    2. OP #1*

      I’m not mad, and I don’t think it was wrong of him to join. I think you missed the main point of my question.

      1. KrisL*

        Toastmasters might help your boss to give better feedback. It’s one of the things evaluators learn.

  18. Ausclerk*

    #1- I go to Toastmasters as well, and I would hope that nobody from work joins me there. You mentioned that he is judgmental on your coworkers weaknesses, so that would definitely be intimidating or me also. Hopefully there is a another club in your area you can switch to where you don’t need to worry about anybody you work with being there and watching your speeches/table topics etc.

    Toastmasters is good for communicating, and impromptu speaking which most of us have to do when getting interviewed for a job.

    And anyway, last night I made a speech about one of my coworkers, so probably a good idea that nobody I know from work was there, I used first names. HAHAHAH!!

  19. Ann Furthermore*

    #2 – Please tell your employee why she’s not being promoted. She deserves the opportunity to address those issues and work on improving what’s holding her back.

    I struggle with kind of the same thing, although not to the extent (it sounds like) that the OP’s direct report does. My reviews every year are a version of the same thing: my work is outstanding, but my fuse is too short sometimes. Normally this is a function of my stress level. It is something I know about myself, and I do try to work on it.

    I’ve talked with my boss a couple times about what it would take to move up to the next level (still in a non-management role, but at a higher job grade) and this is the big thing I have to work on before that happens. I really appreciated her candor with me about this, and now it’s something I’m much more attuned to.

  20. Robin*

    #1: Part of me wonders whether the boss thinks he is being supportive by joining Toastmasters, a sort of “let’s do this together!” approach, and is just oblivious of how his employee feels.

    #5. Honestly, I take it as a good sign when a hiring manager looks at my profile. You can put a lot more information there than will fit on a two page resume. It’s a sign that the hiring manager is interested in learning more about me. To me it shows that they are being thorough.

    1. OP #1*

      Yeah, absolutely I think he is being supportive. And I think he is oblivious to when he is being judgmental (he’s not trying to be mean). But I know he wants me to succeed, so I think I may try talking to him about it.

      1. Robin*

        Okay, OP#1, so you have a boss who supports your professional development, who wants to see you succeed, and is going out of his way to support you? He’s giving you pointers based on the mistakes of others? It sounds like he is a little clueless about how you’re actually reading his actions, so there’s definitely a personality mismatch there, but this mostly sounds like a really good thing. Is there any way reframing it this way in your mind would help?

  21. s-tad*

    Re: #4. Company wants me to repay professional membership fees since I’m leaving – In January, my department purchased my membership to two educational guilds (about $350 total).

    I disagree with Alison`s response. The departing employee should be asked to reimburse at least the prorated value of the membership for the period they are not employed with the company that paid for the membership.
    My employer requires this and so did all other employers that I have worked for. Membership fees are not treated the same as business travel, since they provide benefit to the individual after they have left the job.

    1. LQ*

      Why? I don’t understand why I should pay for an expense that the employer paid? I’d be fine with transferring it to an existing employee but I didn’t decide to make that expense the business did. I would think an employer who demanded I repay my professional association fee that I wouldn’t have signed up for in the first place would be an employer I’d think was extremely petty and not a place I’d ever speak highly of again.

      1. CTO*

        Agreed. While I might get some personal benefit from an association membership, the main purpose of it is to improve my work. My company benefits from this. Sometimes that membership doesn’t benefit me at all in a different job.

        If the employee wants to keep the membership for personal use, I can see a company asking the employee to reimburse them (pro-rated) for the rest of the year. But I still think it’s far, far classier for the company to absorb this as a normal cost of doing business. The total dollar value here is worth much less than the value of goodwill, a continued good relationship with the former employee, and a positive reputation.

        And if the employee wants to transfer her membership to another employee or ask the association for a partial refund, that’s great, but it’s not her problem if the association doesn’t allow that.

  22. NavyLT*

    #3 – Flip it around. If you never recognize anyone, will the people who do go above and beyond decide that their efforts are unappreciated?

  23. Mike*

    Re #5: It is a good idea to know what is on your LinkedIn profile as well as your resume when job searching. During my last job search there was some confusion when an employer started referencing things that were on linkedin but not my resume.

  24. Ann Furthermore*

    #3 – My company has come up with a pretty good way to handle recognition and awards. There are some formal awards that are a Very Big Deal, but then there’s another category called “Spot Awards,” that anyone can nominate anybody else for. The idea is to keep the process easy and make it simple to recognize someone for an effort they’ve made without having to go through all sorts of management approval chains.

    For example, I got one last year for some work I did in the ERP system to automate what was previously a manual process for amortizing prepaid expenses. The time investment was not huge on my part (mostly testing to figure out how it worked), but it has really simplified and streamlined things for the Accounting group. For that I received a $50 iTunes gift card as a thank-you, along with a nice write-up of how my efforts were appreciated. One of my colleagues nominated me for it.

    I like this approach because even though the amount of the award is not huge, it’s nice to be thanked/appreciated for something that you’ve done, and there aren’t all these stringent criteria to meet in order to get one.

    Formal awards are such a minefield for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. I got a $500 award for work I did on an ERP implementation last year. I was quite happy with that, because hey, it’s free money. I gave it to my husband with instructions to purchase some new light fixtures so we could finally get rid of the hideous brass ones that were making our house look like Donald Trump’s bathroom. But another person’s award for work on the same project was a smaller amount, theoretically because he was not as heavily involved in it as I was. But the work he did was just as critical as the work I did, so I didn’t get why his was less than mine.

    1. MikeP*

      Ann, our business had something similar for several years. One department wound up having everybody in it nominate everybody else. Since it was a large department, they wound up dominating the awards. I actually got nominated too, and while the cash prize was nice (it amounted to about 25% of a monthly paycheque at the time) all the snarking done by non-nominated employees – not necessarily about me, but about some others – made me feel like it wasn’t really worthwhile. I guess that’s kind of a nice problem to have (not being so desperate for cash that I really needed it) but still.

      I guess after the discussion it’s no surprise, rewarding people who are doing better than average really is difficult.

  25. AMT*

    Re: recognizing high performers, think of it this way. Whenever you don’t recognize people who do well, you’re slighting them by making them feel unrecognized. Frame it this way and you won’t feel as bad about leaving out the people who underperform.

  26. Joie de Vivre*

    #3 – In a department I used to work, people who worked a lot of OT were recognized publically, thought of as ‘superstars’ and often promoted quickly. The only thing was, many of them slacked off a lot during the day, making it necessary for them to work after hours to complete work that could have been done during the day. It did cause an issue with other actual superstars who worked hard all day, completed their tasks, assisted others, generally went above and beyond but got it all done within standard working hours.

    With a change in management, we started identifying our superstars based on output levels and quality of work rather than simply hours in the building. Made a huge difference when the right people were being recognized.

  27. pizzagrl*

    There’s someone at my job who is noticed for working late, but the reason he works late is because he doesn’t work during the day (watches movies, reads articles, plays games, etc instead). Kind of amusing actually.

  28. Jillociraptor*

    #3, I don’t think recognizing strong performers makes anyone feel bad, with some of the caveats that others have shared (making sure you’re consistent in what you recognize, in alignment with individuals’ preferences, etc.)

    One other area where I would caution you, though, is making sure you’re recognizing good work, not just good firefighting. Not sure if it’s an issue where you are, but if people need to work overtime and switch shifts, etc., because your management and teams aren’t planning well, and tend to have lots of little (or big) emergencies, you’re basically recognizing their ability to enable that behavior, and that doesn’t always feel good. If you’re also making sure to recognize those who save the company time/money, who are efficient in their planning and execute projects effectively without the big fires, you’re probably fine. But we’ve found that by mostly recognizing those who had to work all night because someone else forgot something important, people start to perceive that they’re not doing their job well if they’re not frenzied and stressed, feel there’s less impetus to do a good job of planning if you’ll only be recognized for rescuing rather than executing well in the first place.

  29. SallyForth*

    #2- Great example of when a third party needs to get involved. If your company has one, use an HR coach. If not, spend the money for an external coach. This is someone who doesn’t know how to read cues in other people’s behaviour, and that can be taught. There is a site called “Social Thinking” for people with social skills deficits and it is increasingly featuring articles on workplace issues.

  30. Frieda*

    Re #4: Alison, would you feel the same way about tuition reimbursement? I’ve been getting tuition reimbursement for a part-time grad program from my job, but I just accepted a new job. The official policy is that if you leave less than 12 months after you graduate, you owe them the reimbursement. But a friend I have in finance says they’ve never enforced this. I understand that I get more of a personal benefit out of this than the #4 OP, but they have also gotten a lot of benefit out of the things I’ve learned in my program. My plan right now is to not mention it unless they do, but that doesn’t seem like the most rational way to handle the situation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do think tuition reimbursement is different, in that they’re (generally) telling you up-front that in exchange for the money, you need to commit to staying for a specific amount of time or pay it back. So you decide whether or not to enter into that agreement with full knowledge of that.

      In this case, there was no discussion beforehand of any obligation to repay.

  31. Kat M*


    Who is your boss’s mentor in the club? Is this something s/he could bring up with him so that he understands his critical attitude is inappropriate in a Toastmasters setting? Or maybe the VP of Education if your club doesn’t have a strong mentoring program. If you think that won’t work because your boss outranks (at your job) the officers (at your club), consider asking your Area Governor or even someone from District leadership to visit your club and speak with him. Sometimes these discussions need to come from someone outside of the workplace.

    As for why your boss is doing what he’s doing, it’s not unusual for people who are already good speakers to join Toastmasters to improve their skills, and because they enjoy public speaking as a hobby. I’m one of them, and your District-level events are probably full of people like this. Still, most of us know how not to be asshats to folks who don’t find speaking comes naturally. It sounds like your boss needs to be reminded what Toastmasters is all about.

  32. Anon*

    Somewhat-necro-anonymous post, but thank you to the poster for #2. I’m in this exact situation. Now I don’t have to write to AAM :-)

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