my boyfriend won’t share info about our coworkers, employees who can’t multi-task, and more

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

1. My boyfriend and I work together, and he won’t share info about our coworkers

My boyfriend and I met at work. We do not work in the same department. However, we started working on the same brand last month and we have been in more meetings together.He has issues with his assistant, but they are things he would not share with me because it is “inappropriate” for him to do so. We used to share stories with each other. I think I have the right to know as his girlfriend. I think he needs to see me as his girlfriend, not as his colleague for this matter. The way I see it is like we are sharing stuff about work with each other like we used to (about work itself, colleagues, etc.), as friends or as a couple. We used to talk about this assistant, other assistants…not gossiping, just normal conversations about the day, etc. Why does this have to change? What am I missing?

If you date someone at work, you’re not just boyfriend/girlfriend; you’re also coworkers, and that comes with a real need to maintain boundaries between work and your personal lives because of all the sticky issues that can arise. It sounds like your boyfriend is trying to set up those boundaries, which is smart — particularly when it comes to performance problems with his assistant, which you really shouldn’t be in the know about. Think of it this way: If your boss was dating one of your coworkers, would you want her telling that person all about your performance problems?

That said, why not ask him what his thinking is here so that you have a better sense of where he’s coming from? Don’t ask in a way that sounds like you’re pressuring him to talk about things he doesn’t want to discuss, because that would be out of line; rather, make it clear that you’re asking because you want to better understand his perspective. Hopefully that’ll initiate a conversation about how to preserve appropriate boundaries while you’re dating and working together.

And in general, don’t pressure someone you’re dating to share information with you about a third party. You’re not entitled to that, and pushing for it will usually come across as overly controlling. You don’t want to be that person.

2. Re-declining candidates who apply a second time

I am meticulous about getting back to candidates who apply to work at my company. I think it completely sucks to apply for a job and then never hear anything back, and my goal is to respond to everyone within about a week. Most folks get some fairly generic version of “we’re moving forward in our interview process with other candidates we think will be a better fit” because normally I’m declining before we’ve actually filled the role.

My pain point comes when I re-post the position, which I normally do every 1-2 weeks while we’re looking, to various job boards. When someone I’ve already declined follows up with me via email to say they saw we reposted and want to reiterate their interest or ask if they can be reconsidered, it just feels so mean to reply and reiterate our lack of interest. Is there a tactful way to respond to these emails?

Yeah, at that point you need to be more direct that it’s a “no, not the right fit for us,” not just a “someone else is a stronger fit.” In this context, I usually say something like: “Thanks so much for getting back in touch. I don’t think this role is quite the right fit, but wish you the best of luck in your search.”

3. Managing an employee who can’t multi-task

I have an employee who I’ve been struggling with. He is in a technical role, and he is very smart and good at tasks related to that role — as long as it is one task. He is simply incapable of doing anything else but that one task until completion. Even if he has multiple tasks that are very simple, he just cannot do multiple things at once. If I ask him to send out an email giving a status on the XYZ project, he will not stop doing task ABC to send an email. I’ll ask, “How are we coming along with the status email?” and I get “it’s in progress.” If I give a deadline, it’s just flat out ignored and missed.

It’s becoming quite problematic, as he is in a position where a lot of tasks will come at once. I’ve tried to tailor my style to make sure he’s not getting bombarded, but I find that I’m just micromanaging and he’s not showing signs of improvement. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if he’s doing it just to be stubborn. I’m at a point where I’ve exhausted all attempts of coaching and moderating his workload. The next step would be a PIP, which I have no problem doing. This really is an appropriate use of a PIP. However, there are just some timing issues in my organization that I won’t go into, but I don’t want an employee on a PIP at this moment, especially something so silly. This is my last ditch effort – what do you do to get someone to think about more than one thing at once?

Have you given him direct feedback about the issue, pointing out the broader pattern rather than just addressing individual instances? If not, that’s your next step. Clearly articulate to him what you’re observing, why it’s a problem, and what you need to do instead. Use language like, “I need someone in this role who can switch gears as time-sensitive items come up and juggle a few things at once” — so that you’re framing it in terms of what the role requires, not something optional, and so that he’s clear that it’s a serious issue. Too often, managers skip this piece of coaching, but it’s a crucial step.

You might also ask him what he thinks would help — who knows, he might have some useful insight into what’s going on. But if none of that works, then yeah, you’re really looking at a PIP as the next step after that.

4. Manager asks me to clock her out long after she really left

My manager has me and the one other evening shift employee sign her off of the clock an hour/hour and a half after she leaves. The company started making her take one-hour lunch breaks, so in order for her to keep making the same money, she makes us clock her out after she’s already gone. Is it illegal for us to clock her out, and if so, how should we go about reporting this to the company?

Illegal, no. But against company policy, almost certainly, and your company would be pissed to find out this is happening — pissed at her and not too happy with you and your coworker, who are assisting in her fraud (at her direction, granted). I’d discreetly go over her head on this one — to her boss or to your HR department if you have one. You can frame it as, “We’ve been asked to do this and it doesn’t seem like something we should be doing, so I want to check with you.”

5. What does “open until filled” mean?

I am looking for jobs at a college/university, and many positions are “open until filled.” Can I still apply for a position if the deadline has passed, and what are my chances of making it into the applicant pool if I apply beyond the preferred deadline? Any tips or suggestions?

Yes, “open until filled” generally means that you can still apply after the deadline; they’re willing to consider candidates until they’ve made a hiring decision. That said, the bar is usually higher at that stage, since they’ve generally identified finalists who they’re most interested in, and you have to be as good or better as that group to get serious consideration. But if you’re a strong candidate, go for it.

{ 335 comments… read them below }

  1. CanadianWriter*

    #4 – Why don’t they have a hand scanner? That prevents this sort of thing pretty well.

    1. sally*

      since using biometrics is intrusive and shouldn’t be used except in extreme circumstances.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I agree using bio metrics would be over the top in this situation, tackle the person abusing the employers trust and committing fraud.

      2. randomperson*

        Not trying to start a debate biometrics on AAM’s blog at all but the typical hand scanners aren’t really what I would personally define as intrusive. I just wanted to reply with typically how they work (at least the ones I worked with – this is in the UK) . This is more just in case anyone is interested in how they actually work:

        The scanners I worked with are verification only. This means they only know a specific hand “template” matches a numeric ID and this is only once you tell it who you are (they cannot reconstruct what your hand looks like from this template either). All they do is fire a signal which may be for example hooked up to a relay and open a door if the hand matches the ID you yourself give it. These act as a punch in and out method as they also have a timestamp and the last OUT punch is considered as your leaving time (a normal PC would fetch these transactions, which would just be an ID and a timestamp, and deal with it from there).

        I understand and respect though that some people really don’t like the idea of hand scanners and that is fine. I just wanted to inform people to how they work from my experiences at an old job.

        1. randomperson*

          Also forgot to say. I agree that biometrics are over the top for this but buddy punching is a huge issue in places where health and safety is critical such as construction sites.

    2. Twentymilehike*

      Tbh, it sounds like she works in retail, and I guarantee they don’t want to spend the money on the technology. Been here before ..

      1. CanadianWriter*

        Weird, I’ve only worked one place that didn’t make me scan my hand. I guess my former employers weren’t as cheap as I thought!

        1. Koko*

          I’ve never worked anywhere that used them. I’ve only seen them in movies where they’re used by the FBI and the Army at Roswell.

            1. Bea W*

              I’ve never heard this term, and i can’t get this image out of my head of someone literally punching someone else in the face.

              1. OhNo*

                +1 That was my first thought, too. I had to go look it up to make sure we weren’t talking about fistfights at work.

        2. Lamington*

          my mom works in a university and they do have biometrics. She is on the dental school so it is not so sensitive information. I always wonder if people will go mission impossible and chop off your hand to make it seem someone else scanned you.

    3. RetailMama*

      My previous retail job had a finger scanner to clock in or out. It was a large furniture corporation and I’m positive the reason they had it was to avoid the buddy clock out problem.

    4. hnl123*

      my sports gym uses a finger scanner and a personal ID code…. never thought of this as intrusive

  2. neverjaunty*

    OP #1: “the right to know”? What does that even mean here?

    Honestly, while you may not have intended this, you come across as mad at your boyfriend because he won’t share juicy workplace gossip you want to hear. That is both unprofessional and horrible behavior in an SO. Please stop.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have been married for decades and would never consider that I had a ‘right to know’ things my husband didn’t want to tell me that did not involve our life or relationship. Yes, I have a right to know what he spends money on and vice versa since we share finances, but I don’t have a right to know the details of a confidence his sister shares with him or vice versa.

        This whole nag ought to be a giant red flag for the boyfriend.

        1. Tina*

          So glad you said this! I feel the same way, except from the other side – as the person being talked about. I don’t want my bff telling her husband stuff about me and my life, and we’ve had uncomfortable conversation about that. So I’ve started to withhold certain pieces of personal info, which is a bit sad since we’ve been friends for twenty years.

          1. the gold digger*

            I don’t want my bff telling her husband stuff about me and my life

            Yes! I was quite angry when I discovered a college roommate was sharing my conversations with her with her husband. I told her those conversations were private and she said that she told her husband everything.

            So I stopped telling her things.

            1. millenialreader*

              I am having this problem now. I am glad I am not the only person who doesn’t like it. I do not know my confidant’s new SO, I don’t immediately want my personal issues known to them!

              1. Tina*

                Even if you did know him, I’m sure there are some things you still wouldn’t want shared, and that’s totally reasonable. When you marry/partner with someone, you choose to share your life with them. That’s great. But it doesn’t mean *I’ve* chosen to share my life with them. Even for couples that share everything, it still seems fair to me that the “everything” applies to their own lives, not necessarily other people’s lives.

                1. millenialreader*

                  Tina – I agree. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case for this particular couple. Sometimes I am okay with them telling their spouse, but if it’s really private, I don’t want to then hear the spouse bringing it up to me; I guess I know they know, but would rather they didn’t, so it’s better if they do not bring the topic up. If that makes sense :)

                2. Julie*

                  In response to millenialreader: I agree! There’s a big difference between knowing your friend’s SO has been told something about you and wanting to talk with him/her about it!

              2. Vancouver Reader*

                I think the best way to solve this is to say straight out that what you’re telling your bff is strictly confidential. It may seem like a no-brainer to you, but sometimes what you think is a private matter, someone else may not feel the same way.

                My s-i-l was telling me about her problems, and I reassured her that I wouldn’t be sharing any of what she told me with her brother (hubby). She said she knew I wouldn’t, but I felt it best to say it out loud so that we knew we were on the same page.

            2. OhNo*

              I’m actually on the other side of this, in that I’m the friend that gets to hear about all my friend’s other conversations. It is a little weird sometimes, but it often really helps me get my friend’s mindset because all that information about her interactions with other people gives me context. I totally get that it is weird and uncomfortable to know someone may be talking about you to other people, but I tend to think it is really helpful for most people to have one person who just knows everything, who you can talk to if you need to.

              Out of curiosity, for those who are uncomfortable with the idea: does it make a difference if the person being told knows you or not? Does it make a difference if the other person is sworn to secrecy (and trusted by your friend to actually uphold it)?

              1. tina*

                In general, I feel the same whether they know me or not. But this particular situation is compounded by the fact that I despise her husband and wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      I’m hoping that OP really just meant she feels like she should be/wants to be her boyfriends confidant/support and feels like that role has lessened now that their work overlaps more. The wording does give me pause though.

      OP, you’re going to need to accept that working together does in fact impact your relationship and it’s boundaries. There is no way around that (which is why it’s often not always a great idea to work together in the first place). He actually sounds like he is approaching the situation in a very mature and professional way and I think once you step back and think about it, you will see that and may learn from it.

      1. Koko*

        Agree with Maggie, this is the kind of comment I love to read. You made an attempt to understand the LW’s perspective while still addressing the apparent disconnect between her expectations and professional norms.

    2. anonymous for this*

      I agree. I hope she never dates anyone in law enforcement or other sensitive position. My husband is on the security detail for an elected official. There’s a lot I don’t know. Some I find out after. And some I will never know that I don’t know. We have plenty of things we can talk about in regards to his day. And plenty of other interests to share.

      1. Chinook*

        I have to agree – even as a spouse, I don’t have the right to know about a lot of stuff about DH’s job. In fact, if he tells me to go somewhere or not leave home, I do it without asking. Part of being a couple is trusting the other person will tell you what you need to know and that silence isn’t personal.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Chinook, is your spouse in law enforcement? I think I remember you saying so. I’d love for you to clarify that when he tells you to stay home, it’s because of a sticky law enforcement situation that it’s not safe for you to go to certain places until it’s resolved.

          Because, otherwise, a partner *telling* the other to stay home would put my antenna up for an abusive relationship.

          1. Michele*

            I have a number of friends that have spouses that are in the DEA, FBI, and the never talked about CIA. There is so much they do not know and like she says you learn quick in the relationship that there are things that you are just not going to know. They have some of the best stories. Once a newly married agents wife told my friend that if her spouse was not home by 6 every night she would not make dinner for him. Yeah, like they are ever home by 6. We all got a good laugh about that one!

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            I’m also a LEO wife and was just thinking about how a lot of our relationship norms would appear very worrisome to the outside world.

            Once I was walking down the street w/ my husband and saw a female detective from his department walking towards us. Turns out, she was on loan to the state DEA and undercover. My husband grabbed me and pulled me into an alley before I could accidentally out her by yelling “hey ____.”

            I have also had the “don’t go to ____ today but I can’t tell you why, you just have to trust me” phone call before. The first time it didn’t go well for him and I argued and fought about it until he eventually told me why. Now I don’t ask. I can have a big mouth and there are some things I’d rather not know until after so I can’t accidentally screw them up.

          3. Chinook*

            Yup, DH is a a member of the police force with the red jackets and yellow stripe pants. Our first week at his first posting, I got a call to stay inside and he’d explain later. Turns out there was a train accident involving dangerous chemicals. I pointed out later that he aslo should have told me to close the windows!

            The other time, he called me and told me not to work out at the gym that night. Later it was reported that a man with ‘roid rage killed his g/f and no one knew where he was but he had called and threatened someone at my gym.

            DH and I set up this protocol back when he was on base self-defense force in the army. This way, he could do his job without worrying about my safety. We also knew where I would go in case of an evacuation because we both knew he wouldn’t make it home until a state of emergency was over.

      2. Mimmy*

        There’s a young couple on my soap opera where the husband is a detective, and the wife is always prying for information about his cases. I know it’s just a TV show and not reality, but I cringe every time she does it. The OP in this post is probably not that much different.

      3. SerfinUSA*

        I’m also married to someone ‘in the business’. I probably get more info than I should, but then again, I don’t share it. And it’s lower level stuff than national agency/security.
        Our household runs on an extremely tight time/labor budget, so there are times when having a heads up on certain things helps me be a better support person on the home front.
        We also share many close LEO friends, and they assume spouses are more in the loop than not. To a point…

        It’s rather amusing when my coworkers assume I have inside knowledge about regional events, being handled by different agencies. Many times, if I do, it’s because I’m a scanner junkie and have been glued to live feeds of whatever is going on.

      4. in the dark*

        Ditto. I have close contact with someone who *could* disappear for days at a time on stuff. if I get told “I’m going to be busy” that’s where the discussion ends. If I find out afterwards then I do.

        Unlike someone else who was texting left right and centre and should know busy means “radio silence. you’ll hear from me when you do”.

    3. KJR*

      Now would be a good time for you to look for other things to talk about. Do you have a hobby in common? Like a particular TV show? Usually the last thing I want to talk to my husband about in our limited time together is work. I might mention a funny story now and then, but that’s the extent of it. We’ve been married for 21 years, and I’ve been HR for the same amount of time. Obviously I cannot discuss certain things with him, which he knows and understands; and frankly I don’t think he would want to hear most of it! Long story short, find something else to talk about.

      1. Harper*

        I agree here. I was going through a pretty stressful time at work and realized that was all I was talking about, so I stopped. And you know what? It’s MUCH better now that we both don’t talk about work as much. I think OP may find that it actually enhances the relationship.

      2. saro*

        I think you make a good point, my husband doesn’t like to discuss work because he doesn’t find it relaxing. He would prefer we discuss other things. Perhaps that’s it?

    4. Kate M*

      Yeah, I definitely think the two of you need to discuss boundaries and what is appropriate. For instance, it would make sense to me that:
      -At work, you act as nothing more than coworkers, and don’t interact more than you would if you weren’t dating. i.e. no PDA, no asking for special favors, no personal emails over the company email, etc. It could make sense to send one or two texts per day like any other couple would (i.e. “want to grab a drink after work” type of things), but ideally anyone who doesn’t already know that you’re dating shouldn’t be able to pick up on it from the way you act.

      -At home, you still shouldn’t be privy to more information than you would if you weren’t dating. Think about how you talk to other coworkers regularly. Another coworker might share a funny story with you about the day, or vent a little about how their boss is treating them. But your coworkers shouldn’t be giving you information like issues their direct reports are having, or other people’s salaries, or personal information about other people, or who is getting ready to be fired. You shouldn’t get special treatment because of who you’re dating, and getting information that you wouldn’t have otherwise seems to me like special treatment.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Dear Alison: My boyfriend won’t gossip with me about mutual coworkers. Is that legal?
      C’mon OP – you know you don’t have to “right” to hear gossip; that comment made you sound immature. There’s no reason you need to know this stuff and maybe your bf doesn’t think he can trust you not to repeat information he tells you.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Like the ladies at church used to say, it’s not gossip we just need to know what to pray about.

    6. kd*

      geez – My BF is the IT guy where we work together and we don’t share info. It just isn’t done. It isn’t Law Enforcement, just a office job. This is where MYOB comes in.
      Work is work and your relationship doesn’t have anything to do with it..or it might if you just happen to know/learn something you shouldn’t.
      You both could put yourselves in jeopardy of loosing your jobs if someone says something they shouldn’t.

    7. Vancouver Reader*

      I know of a couple that work in the same department, he’s faculty and she’s admin. They agreed that once they left work, they wouldn’t talk about anything work related unless it had to do with a deadline or something. I think that way, they focused more on their family life and didn’t let work be the be all and end all of their lives.

      1. Julie*

        I really appreciated that my former partner could be trusted to keep a confidence. Sometimes one of her friends would talk to her about something sensitive and ask her not to tell anyone, and she didn’t. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t upset that she was “keeping things from me,” but those things weren’t any of my business and didn’t have anything to do with me.

  3. kas*

    4. Your manager is brave. I would get soo tied up and forget to clock her out so when they look at her hours she’d be wayy over/higher than usual.

    My friend was just complaining about a new employee who has been doing something similar. She realized she’s been coming in and leaving early as she pleases. If her shift is 9-5 she’ll come in at 7:30, clock in and sit around doing nothing. Then she’ll begin working at 8 and leave at 4 which is a huge no-no. My friend reported it but so far nothing has been done.

    1. danr*

      At my old company clocking someone else in or out was a firing offense., for both people.

      1. Windchime*

        Same here. We actually had two people fired for this….the clocker and the clock-ee. Big no-no.

      2. Vicki*

        I don’t understand why #1 is NOT illegal.

        If it’s illegal to clock someone out before they finish work (in am attempt to not pay them for the hours worked), how is it not also illegal to clock them out after they’ve stopped (in an attempt to be paid for hours they didn’t actually work.)

  4. PEBCAK*

    AAM, I wanna nitpick your wording just a touch on #2…I’d drop the “not quite the right fit” in favor of “not the right fit.” The first one reads to me as trying to spare someone’s feelings in exchange for possibly giving them hope, and worse, possibly making them feel like they can continue the dialogue or ask what would make them the right fit. Ideally, the person would be able to read between the lines (and you’ve already rejected them twice!), but why chance it?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To me, “not the right fit” says “you are clearly not a match,” whereas “not quite the right fit” conveys more of “it wasn’t crazy for you to apply but you’re off in some nuanced way that you wouldn’t reasonably have been able to spot from the outside.” I think the former is more likely to leave them confused and wondering what the deal is, if they met your basic requirements.

      1. Trixie*

        I’ve also seen postings with “Search re-opened – previous applicants need not apply” or something pretty direct to those already considered and passed on.

      2. PEBCAK*

        I’m not sure I follow…if someone is far enough off that you would repost the position rather than talk to them, aren’t they clearly not a match? And why give them any indication that they might be *close* when you have no intention of ever considering them?

        1. Adam*

          I guess it depends on your personal willingness to engage with them. Odds are they were close to being a good match but were lacking in a key area or two, and if they ask you about it you can give a brief explanation as it’s likely not something they can address in time to be eligible for the position. I guess you’re just hoping people are reasonable and can accept a “Thank you, but no” response.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          On the employer side, it’s often easy to spot nuance that tells you the person isn’t quite the right match, even if they have the basic experience you’re looking for. For instance, someone’s resume might be a good match, but they’re clearly a weak writer. You can often tell that they’re not going to be right for the job without talking to them, even though it was reasonable for them to apply.

          That said, there’s nothing wrong with your suggested wording. I just prefer mine in these cases because I think it allows for more nuance. But we’re debating over a single word (“quite”), so it really comes down to personal preference.

        3. LBK*

          If they applied for the job in the first place, it probably wasn’t clear that they weren’t a good fit. You’re thinking of it too much from the employer’s side, where they have a better grip on who they’d hire. The fact is, they might actually have been close to want you need, but when you’re hiring out of 200 people for 1 position, “close” isn’t enough to get considered.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            There are so many people who just blindly apply for jobs and barely glance at the requirements. I am screening right now for a VP-level strategic planning position (requires an advanced degree and very specific consulting experience which we make very clear in the posting). 30% of the applications were ridiculous – a drugstore cashier, an admin with no degree, and many many many more in that vein. And some of these people apply for every position we have open – I don’t see how it’s not clear these people are terrible fits even if I’m looking at it from the “employer’s side”.

            1. De Minimis*

              Some people may be on unemployment and need something to apply to for their documentation, although I’d think entry level people like cashiers and admins wouldn’t have a hard time finding other jobs to apply for.

              1. Dan*

                Sometimes the trick is to apply for jobs you know you’re not qualified for, so you can report the contact and not risk losing the week’s pay because you turned down an offer.

                1. Jessa*

                  Especially if there’s nothing in your field. Because if you take a desperation job or are required to take one because you’re losing your unemployment because you were offered, it can seriously derail you. It’s the catch 22 of unemployment, you want work, but you really can’t afford to take a job that pays so little or has onerous requirements or is an hour and a half away. So you apply to things you KNOW you will not get because applying to those other things, you won’t be allowed to turn them down.

                2. Vicki*

                  Been there. Done that. As Jessa says, sometimes there’s really nothing appropriate but the requirement is to apply for 3 jobs every week (and be able to prove you did so.)

            2. LBK*

              Wow, people actually do this? Fair enough then, but I also think it would be easier to just give a “You don’t meet the minimum qualifications for this position” response in that case – a cashier shouldn’t be surprised they aren’t at all qualified to jump into a VP position. I’d only say “Not quite the right fit” if that was actually true.

              1. De Minimis*

                I’m assuming that people who are just applying for the sake of applying probably won’t care too much about getting a response.

                I did re-apply to a position once at a university, but I had enough of the qualifications to where it seemed reasonable to try again when they re-posted it. I guess it worked well enough to where the HR person finally notified me that no, they weren’t interested and please don’t apply again.

                There was also a government job where I applied a couple of times since they kept reposting the job. It wasn’t directly in my field but it was business-related and I figured my graduate degree in accounting might at least be somewhat relevant, but nope…

              2. Lily in NYC*

                It happens so much more than it used to because one of our new HR people posts all of our jobs on Monster. Which is useless. I have never, not even once, pulled a resume for further screening that came from Monster (not because I have a bias, but because they are always from people who don’t meet the requirements). We have much better luck with posting on more specific sites (like alumni sites).

                1. Dan*

                  I’m a technical guy, and I *do not* use Monster. Except once. And since I knew somebody with a few contacts at the company, I didn’t bother with Monster and just said, “can you make a call for me?”

                  A call was made — I got a fast track to the VP. HR called me afterward and said, “We never found your profile on Monster.” I really, really tactfully told her that she wasn’t going to find anybody’s profile on Monster that is worth hiring. She seemed shocked.

                  And this wasn’t for a one-off job, most roles in that org were technical.

                2. OP #2*

                  The problem with some sites (like Monster or Indeed) is that they make it too easy to apply. You upload your resume and then you can apply for a job in two clicks, why not apply for 400 of them?

                  We use an application system that requires people to upload a resume, enter some personal info, and answer some short answer questions. It probably cuts down 80% of the silly applications.

      3. ella*

        I understand why the OP (and other hiring managers) shouldn’t ever use the actual wording you used in this comment, but I’d be amused to get an email that started with “So it wasn’t crazy for you to apply, but…”

  5. EngineerGirl*

    #1 – Generally you don’t have a right to know about things where you are not involved. Not as a girlfriend, or even a wife.
    You are blessed with a closed-mouth boyfriend. That means he won’t bad-mouth you when you have a fight.

    1. MW77*

      +1. This is actually a very good sign you’re dating an ethical and moral man. It’s something to respect, not complain about.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      And not as a friend, either.

      One of the management team who’s one level above me in my current job (but not my direct supervisor) was a good friend before I was hired. We have an unspoken agreement to never, ever, talk about any members of our team, or any workplace issues, when we go out for lunch or coffee. Yes, it does put certain restrictions and boundaries on the friendship that weren’t there before – but it prevents a whole heap of other problems that would be far worse than that. And there are always plenty of other things to talk about!

      #1, your boyfriend is being really smart here.

  6. LAI*

    #2 – I feel like you could avoid this problem pretty easily by waiting until you are done posting the position before you send out your rejection emails. It’s very nice of you to be so concerned about responding quickly but I don’t think most job applicants expect a response within a week. The fact that you’re responding at all is awesome – I’d say it would be ok to wait a few weeks or a month if it saves you some hassle.

    1. Observer*

      Firstly, waiting a month can be a real drag for people. And, it also means that wrap up after hiring becomes a much bigger deal. Also, sometimes it can take a while to fill a position – much longer than a month.

    2. OP #2*

      What if we’re looking for six weeks or more longer? It’s not cool to leave people hanging that long, especially if we engaged with them in a phone or in person interview.

      1. the gold digger*

        Nope. Not cool. I had two hour-long phone interviews and then two one-hour in person interviews (for which I had to drive 45 minutes each way) in early March. I have yet to get my “go to heck” email. I have moved on, but really, an email telling me no would have been courteous.

      2. Leah*

        I was curious about what type of job boards you’re re-posting on. Is it the bigger boards like Monster, where postings can easily get lost? Or to more specialized boards? I only use the more specialized boards and rarely see reposts. When I do see an organization post the same job description twice in a few months I assume it’s a different opening with the same job title and HR is simply using a standard posting for that job title, even if the position’s portfolio might actually be totally different from the previous one. If my skills were close enough that I applied for the first position, perhaps they’d be a better match for this other position. I saw this exact thing happen at a former workplace.

        In short, I think noting that it is a re-post for the same position and stating that previous applicants need not reapply is going to solve this issue.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The thing is, in (maybe) solving the issue, the OP will turn off other applicants, because the wording sounds … just off. Kind of chilly. And it’s really not a huge problem that must be solved in the first place. The OP can simply send a rejection note, as discussed in the original post. It’s not that onerous, and she’s perfectly willing to do it.

          1. OP #2*

            Agreed. It’ not a ton, but I just reposted a fairly high level role and immediately got three emails the same day from people asking to be reconsidered who were decline within the past 3-5 weeks.

            I already go out of my way to be super communicative with people and we do so much more than a lot of other companies and I make myself really, really available to candidates, check in with people we’re in talks with about every week, make sure we decline people right away and never leave anyone hanging, it just feels a little bit like really? You’re following up with me again? I already spend so much time communicating with people we’re declining. Leave me alooooone.

      3. Felicia*

        I think no one expects a response after just an application, because that’s so rare. But I’m really glad you respond after phone or in person interviews….that’s becoming more rare as well! I think if it was a phone or in person interview it’s nice to respond as soon as you know you’ll reject them. Most people will realize applying a week later is not going to change the answer, and it’s just nice imo. The only time I reapply to stuff is if I see the same job posted a year (or more) later, because I’ve done enough other stuff that I might have become a better fit in the year.

        1. OP #2*

          We send a response after an application. It either says basically we’ve filled the position or that we’re moving forward with other candidates, depending on whether we’ve actually hired someone yet or not. It’s an automated email from our application software (and while it’s friendly and personable, I think it clearly looks like an automated email) but I think it’s better than nothing.

    3. Artemesia*

      I ran a big search that took a long time to finish and was directed to not send those emails until it was complete. I wish I had pushed back a lot harder on that, because we had about 100 people we were not even considering at all but who probably thought they were a good fit; it is unfair to leave people hanging. for the next search I insisted we send that email as soon as we had narrowed the pool a bit. We didn’t send the reject to people who made the first and second cut till the end but all those who were screened out early on got one. I think it is great that the OP was timely with this; it is the kind thing to do and a short second email is not that onerous.

      I can imagine an applicant not fully understanding that they were well and truly rejected if the job is advertised again — they might even have thought it was a second position. I used to hire for a similar position and get people from the first pool applying a second time.

      1. Jen RO*

        Someone recently asked me if my department had a lot of turnaround, since the ad had been ‘reposted’ a lot. Nope, we were just hiring a lot of people for the same position (5 in the last 3 months).

    4. Nanc*

      We’re a small office and when we post a job we get generally get 1000+ applications (yep, the mind, she boggles!) and since I have to do my regular job as well as screen applications I came up with the following email which I send to every single applicant within 24 hours:

      Dear NAME,

      Thank you for submitting your application materials for COMPANY NAME’S JOB TITLE position.

      While we appreciate the time and effort you put into completing your application, due to the volume of submitted applications we will only contact applicants who move into phase two of the application process.

      If you are not contacted for phase two of the application process we will keep your materials on file for one year to review against positions that become available during that time.

      Again, thank you for your interest in COMPANY NAME and best of luck in your job search.

      It lets folks know that we did receive their application and [mostly] prevents emails and phone calls asking if they’re still in the running. And yes, I really do keep the aps and we do review them against future positions and we’ve hired from the “slush” pile.

      1. OP #2*

        Yeah, people who apply with us get an auto reply immediately that says we’ll review their info and reach out if we want to talk further. I also send an auto decline email if we decide not to reach out, but I figure the initial email covers me if and when I get super behind. Most people who get a call get a personal email but sometimes if I’m busy they get an automated email. Of course anyone who comes in gets a personal note.

        Nanc, how do you accept applications? Every once in a while I forget to turn off the options to allow people to apply on LinkedIn or to be able to just send an email from craigslist. I get seriously, like, 20 applications within ten minutes. When we force people to actually complete our own online application it’s an amazing filter.

        1. Nanc*

          We usually go via LinkedIn because we’re in a very specific niche market and need very specific skills. If we have a need for someone who has to work here in the home office we’ll go with the local Craigslist (even then we get applications from all over since we’re in an area lots of folks where lots of folks would like to relocate) and the state employment department website (challenging as their online forms are clunky but my local contact is wonderful about making it work!) We’ve looked at software but I’ve never found any that will work for our review process.

          Also, we have very explicit application directions (because we have super picky-fussy clients and if you don’t do it on the application, you won’t survive dealing with our clients!) and that’s our first screening test. If you follow the directions exactly, you’re past the first hurdle. I’ll admit we may have missed some good candidates but it’s an easy way to see who reads and follows instructions.

          In a tangent to OP 1, we’re under NDA with all of our clients and we don’t discuss projects with anyone outside the office. In fact, if you’re not assigned to the project, you don’t know anything other than we have a project with said company and the name of the PM on the project.

  7. Adam*

    #1: Ask yourself this: “Why do I want to know these things?” Because you certainly don’t need to know these things; certainly not as far as a work context goes. Moving from that to the more personal your relationship with your boyfriend is about you and him, not other people. And maybe some of the things he won’t tell you really are inappropriate. To me it sounds like you found a guy who knows how to be discrete, and that’s something to be thankful for honestly.

    #5: If I’ve learned anything about this type of situation is that you have nothing to lose by trying even if the deadline has passed as they’re often fairly arbitrary. You obviously didn’t know when the job posting went up, so the deadline is for themselves to move things forward, not a random standard for unsuspecting job seekers. If they do hold fast to the deadline but the posting is still up, they just won’t look at your application. No big deal. But if the deadline is just sort of there they may give you a look even if you are “late”. If you want it, go for it!

    1. nyxalinth*

      Unless her boyfriend comes in individually separate and distinct packets, I think the word you want here is ‘discreet’. I’m not being a nitpicker here–it’s one of those words that can be pretty easy to mix up!

      Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if she sees the assistant as a work rival, maybe, and is wanting to have a little schadenfreude at his expense.

      1. TK*

        I always have trouble remembering this one. The best tip I’ve come up with: “discrete” means “separate,” and the e’s are separated from each other in the word.

      2. Adam*

        “Unless her boyfriend comes in individually separate and distinct packets…”

        It’s my understanding that many women would prefer it if men came that way.

  8. MR*

    Multitasking was an extremely popular buzzword of the last decade and you don’t hear about it quite so often anymore.

    I’m curious to know what the ramifications of this employee seeing a task through to completion before moving into the next one – as opposed to having five or six tasks in various states of completion.

    In reading the OPs letter, s/he admits that it would be silly to create a PIP for only focusing on one task, so why do one? If the work is good and the person is performing at the level of output required, I don’t see the issue of the person waiting a few hours to provide a response to an email.

    If it’s that important to know what’s going on, then stop by and ask – instead of getting mad that the employee is working on something else.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She gave a pretty clear example of how it’s causing problems – he’s refusing to check email until a task is over, in a job that apparently requires you to field interruptions. That’s leading to this: “If I give a deadline, it’s just flat out ignored and missed.”

      1. MR*

        If that is the case, then the OP needs to explicitly say that she needs an update at noon on Tuesday on the chocolate teapot account. If she is saying via email that she needs an update right this second, then email is not the communication method that should be used.

        It could also be that he has the notifications turned off on new emails, and as a result, has no idea that he has any new emails until he checks sometime later.

        To me, it seems like the OP and the employee need to get on the same page with regard to communication. They are each doing two seperate things and maybe the employee is just as frustrated, and as a result is just doing his thing. Hopefully a quick 10 or 15 minute conversation can get them on the same page and move forward in a successful manner.

        1. Colette*

          If the norm is that people communicate by email in that organization, it’s up to the employee to adapt and stay on top of things, not on the OP to change how she’s communicating.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I had a similar situation. I explained to the employee that I would be communicating by email & he needed to have notifications on and respond. Some people like to keep email closed for productivity, but in my work environment, you’re expected to respond immediately and ignoring emails would be a problem.

        3. LBK*

          OP doesn’t actually say the request was made via email, just that the task she’s asking him to do is sending an email.

      2. Rat Racer*

        It’s not just about multi-tasking (or task-switching, as C-Avg put it more accurately) it’s about being able to prioritize. That means knowing when an e-mail can wait until the task is done and when it’s time to drop everything and switch gears.

        For many of us, this is part and parcel of what we do every day – air traffic control the 10 million asks that come into our in-box, sort them between the categories of Do Now, Do Later or Delegate, and be prepared to change course at a moment’s notice if the Boss (or Boss’s Boss) needs something ASAP.

        At risk of going off topic, this is why I hate it when people call me or IM me when for things that aren’t urgent and can be fielded by e-mail. There’s an instinctive urge to drop what I’m doing to answer a ringing phone or a flashing IM icon, and if you’re pinging me to ask how to make a pivot table in Excel, then you’re throwing unnecessary chaos into the system. And you’re messing with my flow, man.

      3. Vicki*

        Wait, no. Not _check_ email, but _send_ an email.

        He needs to stop task A, create an email about task B, and send it.

        Turning off email notifications is not an excuse. This is an inability to stop a task before it is completed and work on another task.

    2. Jen RO*

      Well, the OP’s environment sounds similar to mine, and not replying to an email until another task is done means that the work is *not* good. In my job, work includes a lot of interruptions, and a person like OP’s employee would not be a good fit.

    3. EAA*

      The employee isn’t responding to an email. He was asked to send out a status email. OP doesn’t state how she asked him to do this, just that she told him to do it. For the PIP the OP said it was the next and appropriate step. The only reason not to at this time was other work issues. And yes a PIP for someone who can’t do more than one thing at a time would be acceptable. Most jobs and life require you to address multiply items at a time.
      Can’t find good wording for this. But I wonder if employee has some mental or psychological issue. some people can become hyper focused. To me it’s the other end of HDAD.
      Definitely follow AAM’s advice and talk about the whole picture and not just the instance at hand.

    4. Rando*

      This person is not performing well as required by this job.

      My job is similar. Sometimes, a important, time urgent matter suddenly appears. At. that point, I need to stop everything else, finish the new time urgent issue, then go back to my existing tasks.

      If I just kept working on my first task to completion, I would miss the deadline in the time urgent matter. At my job, that would have terrible consequences for the client and our business. OP stated that this guy is missing deadlines because he can’t switch tasks.

      Multi tasking isn’t really the right term. It’s switching tasks and prioritizing.

    5. C Average*

      I have a job that involves a lot of inbound information that could turn into an action item at any given time. When I was new in the role it was maddening! But then I read something that really changed my outlook. It was a blog post about interruptions, and the gist of it was, “interruptions ARE your job.” (I don’t think it was even a work-related blog. I think it may have been about parenting or faith. It just happened to resonate career-wise.)

      I’ve since become The Person On My Team Who Handles Interruptions Well, and it’s actually a thing that gets mentioned around the office as one of my better assets. No matter what I’m doing, I can drop it for a moment and give a separate task or conversation my undivided attention, and then come back to the thing I was doing.

      Note that I don’t multitask. I don’t believe in multitasking if it can be avoided. I task-switch efficiently, which is WAY different.

      If this guy can reframe things a bit to acknowledge that interruptions ARE his work, that mental mind-shift may help him, too.

      (In my case, it helped to think about other kinds of jobs where the interruptions are the work. Journalism, for example, where dealing with breaking news is always part of the workload. Or Wall Street-based work, where stock market developments can at any moment change what you need to be doing.)

      1. AVP*

        This is such a great way to look at it. Yes, multi-tasking was a big 90’s buzzword, but we all know it’s not very efficient or precise to actually do two things at once. But being able to switch from one task to the other, before the first one is completed, is really important for many, many jobs these days. He needs to find a way to frame it in his mind that he can live with, or find one of the rare cultures where it doesn’t happen.

        1. Mimmy*

          What might be one of those “rare cultures”? I’ve always struggled with switching tasks at a moment’s notice. I don’t mind having a few things to do at once as long as I can do them at my own pace (within reason of course) and I have an idea when they need to be completed. On the other hand, being told to drop everything for an urgent matter or having a lot of things coming at me all at once get me very flustered.

          1. C Average*

            I found it helpful to invent a transition ritual for myself when I’m switching from task to task. I always keep a Notepad doc open on my desktop and if I’m working on something complex (say, an html doc with a lot of formatting, or something involving multiple source docs), I’ll write myself a short summary of what I’m doing before transitioning, e.g., “pick up at line 417, add /span tag at end of section” or “middle of p. 4 on version 3 doc from Legal re: FPM project.” If I need to, I make these notes pretty detailed. Then I’m not trying to hold the where-I-left-off details in my brain when I switch. If I have to, I tell the person interrupting me, “I need about ten seconds to get this to a good stopping point and then you have my undivided attention.”

            If the interruption takes a while to deal with, I’ll give myself a little palate cleanser before switching back: a walk to the kitchen to refill my water cup, a couple minutes to glance at AAM or 99u or other sites I like.

            If multiple things have to be put on hold, I jot them all down, in order of which ones I need to return to first.

            If I have a big project that really does require undivided attention, I schedule a meeting with myself and go in a meeting room to focus. My colleagues know I do this and do a good job of respecting this time unless something really urgent comes along.

            1. Vera*

              These are great tips! I just added “interruptions ARE your job” to a sticky note on my desktop.

              I generally have noise-cancelling headphones on, so I don’t get “real” interruptions. I usually see the person before I hear them, and I can give them the “one second” signal until I’m done with my thought. Unless it’s my boss or boss’s boss, in which case I drop what I’m doing immediately. But the headphones have really helped, most people who used to just turn to me to ask a question will now e-mail, or IM me asking when a good time to chat is. The IM gives me a minute or so to wrap up my immediate task and then I walk over to their desk.

          2. Vicki*

            ‘What might be one of those “rare cultures”?’

            Barista – Make drink A. Make drink B. Make drink C….
            Starbucks recently specifically changed things so that baristas finish each drink before starting the next.

            Computer repair. Items enter the queue and are worked on in the order they enter (which drove me nuts when I took a laptop in for a battery replacement and they told me it would be “2 hours”, no, “30 minutes more”, no, “sometime this afternoon”.

            Car repair might be similar.

            DMV clerk. Fast food counter. Tech support. Call center.

      2. Anonicorn*

        I like the phrase task-switching; it’s far more accurate and probably a lot easier to accept than multitasking.

        1. Ellie H.*

          Yeah, I really like that. Nobody can actually multitask! I can easily see how it is a problem in this case but I honestly wish I had more of the quality of sticking with a task till completion. I tend to jump from task to task too often without concentrating on one thing for long enough to finish it and it makes me less productive.

          1. Josh S*

            Actually, about 5% of the population *can* multitask. This number, however, is MUCH lower than the 90% who think they can multitask.

            I happen to be one of the ones who legitimately can multitask, though I really despise doing it–I’m much more productive when I’m focused on a single thing at one time.

            But typing an email and handwriting notes simultaneously? Yes. Complex math while talking? Yes. Driving and texting? Of course not. Paying full attention to what my wife is saying while also reading AAM? Yes, but she doesn’t believe me. ;p

            See? Life just easier when you do just one thing.

    6. Kate M*

      I obviously don’t know if this is exactly what is happening, but an example of this could be:
      -Employee is working on a task that normally takes three days to complete and is on day one
      -An email comes in asking for an urgent task to be done by the end of the day
      -Employee ignores the email because he refuses to do anything but his current task
      -The job doesn’t get done because he couldn’t rejuggle his priorities to finish the urgent task first

      I understand that a lot of times working on a task to completion is a good thing, but life and work don’t always come pre-prioritized where the first task you get is the first one that needs to be done.

    7. Anonicorn*

      The required workflow sounds similar to mine, and it would be a huge problem if you can’t even respond to an email before finishing a task – a task we don’t even know how long it takes to complete. Several hours? Several days? Several weeks? My work typically involves combinations of each, and it seems like OP’s employee lacks time management.

    8. Dave*

      Value an employee like this, who gets jobs (not tasks) done more efficiently than ANY multitasker. If the role he or she is in requires multitasking (sounds like a helpdesk style role TBQH), then create a new one where you can use this employee’s strengths FOR your company. You’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, and you’re damaging your company, and attempting to change something that is likely a significant personality trait of your employee, who your company hired in good faith.

      If you can’t allow a technical person to work without interruption (which by definition is waste, when getting the job done is #1 priority), then you need to look inward.

      Lastly, if you’re unwilling to waver, I suggest you tell this person that the first and last half-hour of each day are for answering e-mail and voicemail. Leaving 5 hours in the middle for uninterrupted efficiency might bridge a gap in this person’s mind.

      I just so happen to be one of these types of technical laser-focus people, and it rubs my hide the wrong way when people think that multitasking is THE way to work for EVERYONE. It’s not, and it’s wasteful for people like us.

      1. fposte*

        “Value an employee like this, who gets jobs (not tasks) done more efficiently than ANY multitasker.”

        That’s not true either, though. The employee isn’t getting his job done efficiently, because he’s not doing part of it at all. I think there’s a tendency for people to redefine their jobs as being only a portion, but the meetings, the communications, the wiping out the microwave after you use it–also your job. If you can’t do all of those and instead are only doing a part of your job, that’s not efficiency.

      2. KrisL*

        This employee is not doing what he was told. It’s hard to value someone who does this.

  9. going anon for this*

    #1–Why do you think you have a right to know about this? because from the way you stated in your letter–you don’t appear to work with this assistant in any capacity. She reports to your bf, not you. If that’s the case, you absolutely do NOT have any right to know about someone else’s performance issues. Frankly, it makes you sound like one of those SO’s who needs to know every secret about their partner’s friends whether it’s relevant to them or not.
    “I just want to know” is a sanitized way of saying you want juicy gossip.

    1. Celeste*

      I agree with this. It sounds like he has more authority in the workplace and you want in on that power because you are dating. It doesn’t work that way.

      I agree with the others above who said you have a very moral and ethical man here. I hope you can appreciate that, because it’s a wonderful thing.

  10. Mimi*

    #1 – Maybe, as the relationship progressed, OP’s boyfriend realized that better boundaries needed to be put into place. OP doesn’t say the boyfriend never talks about work now…..just not about the issues he has with his assistant. Appreciate his discretion for what it is, and consider it the “price of entry” for dating an adult in the same workplace.

    1. E.R*

      Oooh, maybe the assistant confessed her undying love for the boyfriend, and he’s trying to figure out what to do (like whether she can still say on board). And he doesn’t want girlfriend causing a scene or being mean to her in the meantime.

      I’m just being goofy – I don’t actually think this is happening. He’s probably just a professional dude with ethics.

      1. some1*

        Tbh, part of me wondered if the LW isn’t afraid it’s something like this, because her reaction is so bizarre.

  11. Aussie Teacher*

    #2 When re-posting the position, why not just add a line at the bottom saying “Previous applicants need not apply” or similar?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It feels kind of cold, and also it might not be true across the board. I might have rejected someone for the role three years ago who’s now a better fit, and I don’t want them to see that and think they’re barred from contacting us.

      1. Aussie Teacher*

        Interesting to hear you and PizzaSquared find that phrase cold – I always have too but it’s so common to see on job ads here in Australia that I assumed I was just being over-sensitive.

        Perhaps the writer could tailor it so it works just for that position – e.g. “If you have previously applied for this position, please do not re-apply”. But it sounds like it would be much easier for the writer to simply wait an extra week or two before sending out rejections, rather than adhering to their self-made “must respond within one week” rule.

      2. BCW*

        I think a reasonable timeline is needed, although reasonable will vary from person to person. If I was rejected from a job (without an interview) a month ago, I’m not reapplying. A year later when I have a year more experience, I think its fine. What about something about, “If you applied for this position within a year” or something to that affect.

        1. Jax*

          I agree. It sounds self-important. I read it as: “I already threw your resume in the trash. Don’t even think of bothering me again because I am too busy and important.”

          Someone who has already heard, “Thanks, but…” from a hiring manager KNOWS they were already weeded out once. The 2nd round contact is probably coming from desperation and a slim hope that they can remind the hiring manager to look at them again. (“Remember me? *wink wink* We emailed last time?”) I would think a brief line about how long resumes are kept on file would nip it in the bud.

      3. Mimmy*

        I would’ve assumed it referred only to applicants from THIS round, not past candidate searches. But yeah, I can see how that can feel cold.

    2. PizzaSquared*

      Maybe I’m overly-sensitive but if I saw that in a posting, it would rub me the wrong way, even if I hadn’t applied before. I can’t quite put my finger on what feels wrong about it, but I feel like it would influence my opinion of the company.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      It is also ineffective. I know that when I put out a posting, I get so many applicants that are obviously just applying to any new position that comes out, because they don’t have a single qualification that I’m looking for and are in a different field altogether. There are some robospammers who will throw their resume against literally every opening on Monster or other job sites. I too have a frequent flier. He’ll post to any job that opens up at our company from Janitor to CEO and usually within 2 hours of it being posted. I don’t even bother with him. Just have the tracking system reject him automatically. He’s wasted enough of my time, and he clearly doesn’t mind wasting his.

      There are applicants out there that just feel like a blitzkrieg of applications is an effective job search tool.

      1. Sunshine*

        This. Every time I post a position, I have to mentally brace myself for the barrage.

      2. HR Lady*

        I have a frequent flier, too. I don’t understand him — why does he keep re-applying, and for almost every position we have open? He doesn’t even live in the same geographic area, nor does he explain in cover letters why he wants to work for our company so much.

        1. Maggie*

          Maybe he has heard it’s a great company to work for and he is willing to do anything to get in. Have you spoken with him to find out why? Maybe he really would be a good addition to some team, he is just going about it the wrong way. I feel bad for him. (And for you)

          1. notfunny*

            Unemployment requires a certain number of activities per week, at least in MA. So, some of these folks may be applying to this just to meet a quota?

        2. neverjaunty*

          Somebody who just wants to work at a company, and spams applications to any open position, is not likely to be a good addition to a team. I feel sad for the guy if he really has his heart set on that company, but that doesn’t mean he is owed the interview equivalent of pity sex.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I feel sad for the guy if he really has his heart set on that company, but that doesn’t mean he is owed the interview equivalent of pity sex.

            You win comment of the day! :)

      3. JobSeekersWife*

        OK. So, my husband is out of work and we live in a fairly rural area. He has reapplied to the same places many many times, for anything where he is remotely qualified- especially at the college. What is he supposed to do in this situation? How does he avoid looking like a ‘frequent flier’ and getting tossed automatically?

        1. fposte*

          How remotely is the “remotely” qualified? Is he applying for the kind of jobs/in the kind of systems where you can really tailor an application with your cover letter and resume, and is he doing so? Does he know people working there, or people who know someone who’s working there, and do they know he’s job-hunting? Is he getting any interviews from this applications?

          Some places are decentralized enough that they don’t know where else people have applied, and for some kinds of jobs (clerical comes to mind) people aren’t going to consider the difference between office clerking for the math department and office clerking for the gym to be significant. But if he’s going for jobs with more specialized talents filtered through a central location and either not really retooling his application or overselling a specific career goal that contradicts what he says elsewhere, that’s when it might dull his application some, because he risks looking like he doesn’t know the difference or that he’s saying stuff just to sound good.

          If he’s been getting interviews, he’s probably aiming and framing pretty well; if he hasn’t, that may be a sign that he could improve his application package.

          Sorry he’s in this situation; good luck to you both.

          1. JobSeekersWife*

            Thank you very much for your kind words.

            The college applications all go through the same HR office, so it is the same people looking at his stuff over and over. It is very bureaucratic, though, so if he meets the listed qualifications it gets passed on to the hiring department.
            He has gotten some interviews …

            A different company seems to have flagged him as a ‘frequent flier’, though. He hasn’t been able to get a single interview there, even though he has been personally recommended by a current employee and used other connections as well.

            As to how he is framing his applications, his experience is varied, so he is playing up different things for different positions. I’m afraid that instead of seeing him as a versatile employee, some jobs see him as overqualified due to X and others see him under qualified.

  12. A Bug!*


    I think he needs to see me as his girlfriend, not as his colleague for this matter.

    AAM hit the nail on the head, and this right here is where you’re mistaken. I do understand your position; I’ve been in it myself, and I definitely didn’t always handle it appropriately.

    You really, really need to understand that when it comes to any work-related matter, you are his colleague, not his girlfriend. Yes, it complicates things, and yes, it means that you don’t get to hear about his work the way you would if you didn’t work together. But that’s just the price you pay for dating a colleague.

    More importantly, if you press him for work-related information that he’s not comfortable sharing, you’ll strain your relationship, both professionally and personally. Please trust your boyfriend’s judgment in this; if you can’t, then I recommend you carefully consider the viability of your relationship in the long term.

    1. Celeste*

      Are you using this as a test of him putting you “first” in his life? It’s a mistake for the relationship, as well as for the job. Just don’t go there. Focus instead on other ways to make your time out of the workplace special.

    2. Jamie*

      Yes, just like it would be awful to be treated like a co-worker over a romantic dinner it’s equally inappropriate to expect to be treated like an SO for work matters.

      I could never work with my husband because I know for a fact I’d never be able to set the appropriate kind of boundaries. The OP’s bf is doing great in this regard – she should follow his lead.

    3. Mints*

      Yeah, I understand how this is supposed to work, but it would be really hard for me personally. I mean, I don’t need a play by play for every minute. But being told “Something happened and I can’t tell you about it” is like tortute for me. I’d be like “whyyyy? Was it about HR? Accounting? Bob’s performance? New offices? …????”

      Dating colleagues isn’t for everyone, and I think that’s okay. And if this ends up serious, you might be looking at someone changing jobs.

      1. A Bug!*

        You’re right! Dating colleagues isn’t for everyone. It’s very possible that it’s not right for the OP.

        Also, it’s not cool to say “I know something you don’t but I can’t tell you,” either. That’s a jerk move and if the OP’s boyfriend is doing that then she needs to tell him to cut it out because it’s unkind and it’s not keeping firm boundaries. (Maybe the OP mentioned it in a followup comment that I missed!)

        1. Mints*

          Oh no, I didn’t see that in a comment, but I thought there might be a little leaning towards that since the OP knew about issues and was following up. It might be hard to give an acceptable non answer like “Things are improving with Bob. But let’s not talk about work. Want to go watch a movie?”

          I say I’m a curious person, but I might err towards nosy, and I’m sensitive to that

  13. Chris*


    I won’t pile on, but just this. When you’re in a relationship, good communication is ideal. But that doesn’t entail an encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of your partner’s life. No, you don’t have the right to know ANYTHING, if he doesn’t want to tell you. I hope you don’t start demanding access to his email and FB, etc.

    But the larger issue here is that you are COWORKERS. Of course he shouldn’t tell you about the issues he’s having with his employee, because you and the employee are also coworkers, even if you don’t work in the same department. Why does your desire to know some gossip trump her right to privacy?

    I know it’s not quite the same, but I wouldn’t want my manager telling any of my coworkers what we talk about in evaluations, etc.

    One other issue is that you say you think he should see you as his girlfriend, and not as his colleague, in this matter. Uh, why? For what reason, other than your own interest, do you need to know? It affects you in zero ways. If this had an effect on you at all, sure, I can see making that argument. But your desire to know appears to be purely for the sake of gossip.

    1. Colette*

      I think you should expect to know what’s going on with your partner – health issues, performance problems, legal issues. (It’s not that you can demand to know, but that if they don’t share things like that, it’s not a good sign.)

      On the other hand, you should not expect to know things that they know about other people – an employee with performance problems or the issues their best friend is dealing with are not things you should expect them to share.

  14. Sue Wilson*

    #1: If all you had to talk about with your boyfriend was work people, then his reticence now is a compatibility issue between you and him. You need to have more than one thing to talk about to create intimacy.

    If you think he has a thing for his assistant, then that’s about your trust in him, not his moratorium on work gossip

    If his mood from things that are happening at work is affecting his relationship with you, aka he’s annoyed all day but won’t tell you why, then you can address his behavior and tell him he needs to find a way to focus on the two of you when you are together.

    None of this requires knowing the work gossip. Otherwise, I think you need to admit that you wanted work gossip and you think work gossip will bring you closer. Find some other shared activity to gain this. Try something new together. Work gossip can’t be the only you two have going.

  15. Cat Herder*

    LW #3: I’m going to take a guess at what’s going on. My guess is that it’s a scenario that I’ve been on both sides of. You didn’t describe the sort of technical work that your employee does, but it’s possible that it requires a fair degree of focus. Computer programming is like that, for instance. Learning to balance multiple tasks while doing that kind of work is a skill in itself, and one that very few people start out with. It’s possible that your employee is overwhelmed by not knowing how to reconcile his need for focus with your need for him to make progress on multiple things. And what you see as stubbornness might be him shutting down as a coping mechanism.

    You still need to set clear expectations as AAM described. But I’m wondering if you or somebody else in your organization could help the employee learn how to cope with the stress and work productively in a multitasking environment.

    One strategy that works well for many people is to block out chunks of focus time, say an hour at once, and work on one task without interruption for that time. Then after that period is up your employee can answer e-mails and possibly switch to a different, higher priority task. Being mindful of stress and learning to set stress reactions aside in the moment is also important, but that’s a longer journey for most people.

    If possible, that coaching should come from a more senior employee who’s done the same kind of work, preferably one who’s struggled with the same issues that your employee is facing. That might be you or it might be somebody else in your organization, depending on your background and current role. I think there’s a lot to be said for having somebody other than the “bad cop” manager fill this kind of mentoring role. But you don’t always have that luxury.

    Try to keep the idea that your employee is just being stubborn out of your head. If that comes through to him — and it probably will — it’ll just add stress and reduce the chances of this ending well. Setting clear expectations and requiring him to meet them is fine and necessary. Assuming ill will isn’t, especially if you don’t have anything but your frustration to back it up.

    Finally, take a look at the status reports you’re requesting and consider whether they’re really all necessary. (This is a separate issue from your employee’s failure to do what you’re asking for, and you should handle it separately.) Make sure you understand that there’s a cost to context switching, and more status reports means less anything else. The rule of thumb I teach to new managers of programmers is to assume that it takes somebody 15 minutes to regain focus once they’re interrupted. If you can cut down on the interruptions, such as by asking for status reports less frequently, it’ll make all of your employees more productive. The more interrupt-driven their work is, the more important it is to spend those 15 minute chunks wisely.

    1. MR*

      Thank you for doing a better job articulating what I was trying to say above. I get a sense that there is a decent amount of micromanagement going on, and the employee is being resentful of this. Aceeptible? No. But chances are, if this person feels this way, the rest of the team does as well – and the rest of the team is just handling it in a more professional manner.

      1. Cat*

        This feels like an unwarranted assumption to me. All we know is that the OP asked him to do something time sensitive; it was ignored; and the deadline was missed and that this happened multiple times. What in that suggests micromanagement?

    2. Amtelope*

      There are many jobs, though, where it’s unacceptable to wait an hour before checking email or dealing with new tasks your manager has just set for you. I don’t like being interrupted while I’m working any better than the next person, but I read email as it arrives and drop what I’m doing when my manager says “drop what you’re doing, this is a new top priority,” because that’s my job. And if that’s the kind of workplace the OP and her employee work in, the employee is going to have to change his work style to be immediately responsive to emails and new tasks, or he needs to look elsewhere.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Exactly. Sometimes in an operational environment, 15-30 minutes can mean a substantial impact. I once read a time management book that made the block off time suggestion and urged you to stay away from email all day. I had to laugh out loud at this, because in certain environments, this not only wouldn’t be effective, but it’d be reckless.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Ha, those things make me laugh out loud also. I am sure that works in somebody’s world but not in any of the worlds that I’m familiar with.

      2. KellyK*

        If he’s in that sort of environment, his supervisor needs to make it clear to him that he’s in that sort of environment, and that he’s expected to drop what he’s doing to check email as it comes in.

        Also, if he’s doing the sort of work where uninterrupted focus is essential *and* where issues come up that have to be dealt with immediately, that’s a problem with the work environment and the supervisor’s expectations. You can have instant availability to deal with interruptions. You can have high-quality work on tasks that require a laser focus, with a quick turn-around time. You probably can’t have both, at least not from most people.

        If you have an environment where some interruptions will be super-high-priority and have to be dealt with *now* but where people are also working on tasks that require a lot of focus, you really shouldn’t be communicating those urgent tasks via the same medium as the low-level, routine stuff. Email, for example. Communicate urgent issues by email, and you’re requiring your employees to treat *everything* as a potential emergency. Which, sure, you can do that. But it results in a lot of wasted time refocusing.

        1. LBK*

          If he’s in that sort of environment, his supervisor needs to make it clear to him that he’s in that sort of environment, and that he’s expected to drop what he’s doing to check email as it comes in.

          I would think that the supervisor coming back to ask if it was handled yet would be a clear sign that she expected it to be done already, no? And I think basing priority on medium is weird and doesn’t always make sense – people tend to communicate in the way they’re most comfortable, so someone might call you for something that’s not urgent. It’s nearly impossible to standardize something like that when you work in a large organization, especially if you work with outside partners/clients who also do things their own way.

          1. KellyK*

            I would think that the supervisor coming back to ask if it was handled yet would be a clear sign that she expected it to be done already, no?

            Yes, but that’s only a clear sign after it’s already late. Saying, “I need this in the next hour,” up front, or having a conversation about the expected turn-around time for a certain task is important.

            And I think basing priority on medium is weird and doesn’t always make sense – people tend to communicate in the way they’re most comfortable, so someone might call you for something that’s not urgent. It’s nearly impossible to standardize something like that when you work in a large organization, especially if you work with outside partners/clients who also do things their own way.

            Sure, people are going to have their own preferred methods of communication. But if someone has tasks where they need to be able to focus intensely, they can do that a lot more productively if they have a way to tune out everything that isn’t an emergency for even an hour at a time. If they have to stop what they’re doing every time a routine email comes in, rather than knowing “if my boss needs something right this minute, she’ll call or swing by my cube,” that’s a huge hit to their productivity. A boss who insists on instant availability by email should be honest that this is the trade-off that they’re asking for—more availability for urgent issues, but lower productivity on the tasks that take a lot of concentration.

            (This is all without knowing how the OP is communicating those requests.)

            1. KellyK*

              In general, I don’t think email is the best way to ask for something urgent (say, a turnaround time of less than an hour). Even if you’re in an environment where immediate responses to email are expected, the other person might be in a meeting, or in a coworker’s office discussing a project and not see the email for half an hour. If it’s that urgent, it seems like it’s far more productive to actually speak with them so you can confirm that they got the message and are working on the task.

              1. LBK*

                But if they’re in a meeting or in a coworker’s office, you can’t really interrupt those to speak to them in person anyway…and they might get an email notification on their Blackberry or they might have their laptop in the meeting but they won’t have access to their desk phone. I still think it all depends on the person, and that if you’re in a position where very prompt responses are expected, it’s your responsibility to manage that. It’s not the responsibility of the people contacting you to hunt you down and make sure you’re working on it.

                1. KellyK*

                  I think it’s honestly some of both. If you’re in a position where prompt responses are always expected, yes, it’s your responsibility to manage that. But if you’re in more of a position where urgent things may occasionally crop up but most things aren’t urgent, it’s on the person asking to specify that it’s urgent and make sure they get a hold of you.

                  And if you need something *immediately,* I think you would interrupt the meeting or conversation with a coworker. You’d have to do it politely, but if it’s a “drop everything and do this now” task, then it probably takes precedence over those things.

                  I have trouble picturing something that’s urgent enough that it’s going to be a huge problem if you turned off email notifications to focus and didn’t see it for an hour, but that isn’t worth taking the time to pick up the phone or walk over to your office.

        2. Bea W*

          Goodhod yes! If emergencies came through email, i’d have to work under the assumption that any new message might be urgent and some days nothing would get done.

      3. De Minimis*

        Only sorta related, but I have a major pet peeve about people not checking e-mail, or having their e-mail set to where they don’t automatically see the most recent messages. My coworker is usually about 2-3 days behind on e-mails…drives me nuts!

        1. Windchime*

          I share this pet peeve. We have one team member who doesn’t ever seem to read his emails and rarely (if ever) responds. It’s maddening. Last week, I had to write him a note on a piece of paper and leave it at his desk because the matter was urgent and I knew if I sent it via email, it would be a crapshoot whether or not he read it.

        2. Jamie*

          Me too. I prioritize email and some that don’t require an immediate answer get flagged – but I attend to all flagged emails by the end of the day.

          Huge issue for me right now – I don’t know why some people feel workplace communication is optional.

          1. De Minimis*

            In our case, it is pretty important to stay on top of e-mail…there are certain activities where we get an automatic e-mail notification that action needs to be taken [certifying funds availability for travel and other purchases.] If you don’t check e-mail, you have no way of knowing that there are items that you need to sign off on.

            I don’t know how my co-worker handled this before I came along, if she just logged into the various sites regularly to see if there was anything that needed her attention or if she just let things be delayed until she happened to see the notifications. It seems like she’s generally at least a day or two behind on reading e-mail, although to be fair, we get a lot of pointless e-mails.

        3. Bea W*

          My manager has this issue, but it’s because she spends all day in meetings and comes back to 200 new emails some with monstrous attachments that mean she comes to close to her quota and has to delete things before she can reply.

          People should not be allowed to send a 300 mb attachment in email.

      4. Cat Herder*

        I don’t see anything to suggest that the LW is using e-mail to tell the employee about things that need to be done immediately. So this isn’t directed at her. But I’ve certainly worked with people who operate that way, and it destroys more productivity than anything else I’ve ever seen.

        There are certainly roles where e-mail has to be read at once. Operations people who are only accessible by e-mail are in that situation, for instance. But for every one of those there’s 20 other people who mostly get TPS reports and funny cat pictures in e-mail, but still have to break concentration to read them because every so often there’s something urgent mixed in.

        As I said, there are exceptions. But a lot of people would be more productive and less stressed if their co-workers chose the right medium based on the urgency of the message: E-mail for something that can wait a few hours, instant message for something that’s a little more urgent than that, and a phone call or a tap on the shoulder for something that really needs to be dealt with right now.

          1. Bea W*

            True, but unless the only medium of communication available is email, an organization can get it together and understand that burying all the urgent communications amongst normal priority communications is a huge ineffecient time sucking blackhole.

        1. Jen RO*

          My Outlook pops up a notification with the title of the email and the first few words. Most of the time, this is enough to tell if it is something urgent or not, and I don’t need to interrupt what I’m doing.

          1. C Average*

            You know, I used to have the pop-up email thing, and I read on a bunch of different productivity blogs that it’s better to disable it. The reasons offered were varied, and I was really reluctant to disable it, to the point of defensiveness: “I’m not distracted! I’m managing my time just fine! Shut up, Mr. Productivity Guru! You quite clearly don’t work in a place that lives and dies by rapid email response.”

            I don’t remember why, but I finally did disable it, and it made SO MUCH DIFFERENCE. I still compulsively check my email, because the expectation in my workplace is that email responses will be quick. But there’s something about me proactively going into my email and looking at it (rather than having this popup say “hey, look at me! I don’t care what else you might be doing right now!”) that makes me so much less resentful of all the email I receive. I’m frankly amazed at the difference it’s made.

            If you’ve never tried it before, you might give it a go. I find just having control over when I choose to be interrupted has completely changed my attitude about interruptions, and it honestly hasn’t affected my response time.

            1. Jamie*

              It really depends on the job though. I have mine set like Jen’s, and like her I need to know if there’s an urgent email to deal with. If I didn’t see it at all I’d be distracted by worrying about what horrible thing I was ignoring in my inbox.

              There is no one size fits all for email productivity – it’s so dependent on the position. What works for one would be disastrous for another.

            2. Bea W*

              I had to disable this immediately. It was way too distracting for me to be deep into a task and have this stupid window pop up in my field of vision, even worse if it was in quick succession or an ongoing conversation. It’s enough for me to either hear the ding or see the envelope on the task bar. Then i can choose to glance at my inbox when i’m not in the middle of thinking something out or mentally keeping track of something so as not to lose my place. In a truly urgent situation i usually get a call anyhow, because people know i’m busy and may have dozens of other emails to pick through.

            3. De Minimis*

              I don’t do the pop up, I just check when I see the new mail icon. I agree, the pop up is way too distracting.

    3. Cautionary tail*

      Exceedingly well put.

      When I was programming, it would take hours to pore over all the code to trace things out, plan out the next section, code it, run the code, repeat, etc. The whole time I was completely immersed in it and interruptions made the whole thing crash down and need to be partially restarted with a huge time loss. Now that I’m in a different role I have the option to multitask. People who haven’t experienced this, like my SO just don’t get how some positions cannot be multitasking ones.

  16. OP #1*

    Thank you for all your comments. I realized that I should not have said: “I have the right to know” and that it sounds very controlling and selfish. Wrong wording.

    A DISPATCHER said it: all I meant was I just wanted my boyfriend to open up to me for support and to be his confidant. However, I understand that I need to remind myself of the boundaries of being both a girlfriend and a coworker.

    Thank you all for making me see the bigger picture. I knew after I sent this letter/question and I knew after having the argument with my boyfriend that he was being professional, protecting people’s privacy and being mature.

    Thank you.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Hey, lemmee tell you, I read that letter I thought “sounds like a great guy”.

      He’s taking a honorable stance, goes to his character. So thumbs up to him. :)

      1. Mary*

        We have colleagues at work who are married, one works in my dept so I work with her a lot and her husband works in a role I interact with a lot. Because they are so professional I tend to “forget” at work they are married and I interact with them as their roles require.

        Their policy is never to discuss work outside of work. Since work is such a big part of everyday life this takes a lot of discipline but they are pulling it off wonderfully.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          It’s good to know there are well behaving married couples out there. I’ve thankfully only had to deal with it twice, and neither time was it very professional.

          I have unfortunately dealt with several dating relationships at work, and when they end, that always becomes a big bowl of cherries for everyone else around :( I am not a fan of company policies that dictate how you live your personal life, but I really don’t get too upset about no fraternization rules because I’ve just seen the very worst that could happen.

    2. MW77*

      I left my reply before reading yours. Yeah, we all write things that later don’t come off as we intended. And I wouldn’t want to be judged on what I say to my best friend when venting.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Hi OP#1 – thanks for being so receptive to comments here :)

      If I can give you a bit of unsolicited relationship advice, I would let go of this: “I just wanted my boyfriend to open up to me for support and to be his confidant”

      Not to go all Venus and Mars, but men don’t usually function that way. Most prefer to kind of stew over those kinds of issues and work them out themselves – not turn to their ladyfriend for emotional support. What you’re wanting him to do is more of a female approach to problems – we like to vent to our friends and lean on them for emotional support.

      I have found with my fiance that if I want to hear anything in particular about his life, I have to be specific (actually a therapist we saw for pre-marital counseling taught us this – it sounded silly but it works) – “What went well for you today?” “What frustrated you today?” etc etc.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        It sounds like they used to share stories in the way that she would like to continue doing now, so I don’t think this is really relevant. However, I date a very literal-minded person and I am stealing some of your “How are you?” variants.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          It sounds hokey, and we both kind of laugh at it, but I get completely different answers when I do this versus a “how was your day.”

          1. Interviewer*

            At the family dinner table, my daughters dearly love to go through “Pits & Peaks” where we talk about our most favorite thing and our least favorite thing that happened that day. Unfortunately, this ritual is sheer torture to my poor husband. The last thing he wants to do right after getting home is analyze his day, and now he has to listen to 4 women do exactly that. So we give him a pass about 90% of the time.

            1. C Average*

              I used to get nothing but shrugs from my stepdaughters when I’d ask them, “Did anything interesting happen at school today?” so I started instead asking them, “Did anything boring happen at school today? What was the MOST boring thing that happened?” I get lots of hilariously melodramatic responses, which usually lead to actual conversation. It’s all about knowing your audience, I guess.

              Regarding the work talk thing, though, I do feel for the OP just a bit. I grew up in a household where my parents talked shop A LOT. It was just normal conversation. I always expected that I’d do the same in my own marriage. My husband and I talk about work a lot. We work for different companies, but they’re both giant corporations with hierarchies and politics and lots of other worthy discussion fodder. We have a sort of mutual assured destruction policy. We each probably know more about the other’s workplace than we should, strictly speaking, but we believe the benefits we get from talking shop (having a sounding board, getting advice from an outside-the-company source, and just the pure enjoyment of talking about our jobs over a glass of cognac in the hot tub) outweigh the concerns.

            2. Bea W*

              This would make my head hurt. I don’t want to think after a long day of analyzing things. I just want to eat and shut my brain off.

      2. BCW*

        Your Venus and Mars analogy is very true. I alluded to that below. Men and women generally just go about handling things in different ways. Too many problems come about because one wants the other to handle things the way they themselves would. If the guy doesn’t want to talk about work, thats his choice. I know the OP may want to be his support, etc, but maybe all he wants is to have a beer and watch the NBA to deal with a stressful day, not talk about it ad nauseum

      3. Scuba Steve*

        Yes. If you tell me something about your day then you want me to fix it. If you don’t’ want me to fix it, then why are you even mentioning it?

        1. LD*

          There is a real difference in conversation styles. It’s common enough that I use “how to converse about your day” as a relationship counseling tip. It’s not too difficult to tell who is the “fixer” and who is the “conversation connector.” To the fixers I recommend: Just listen and nod when someone tells you about their day. Ask if the person wants ideas before you offer suggestions to solve the issue. To the conversation connectors I recommend: Give your fixer a break and a heads up; “I’d like for you to just listen with interest and no suggestions.” Then when you’re done, say “Thanks, your listening was very helpful for me.” It can take practice to go against your natural tendencies, but it can prevent so many misunderstandings and frustrations when people use these tips. Of course it doesn’t fix everything, but I’ve seen it work!

    4. BCW*

      I posted below after reading yours. Parts of it were probably a bit harsh, but I stand by both my general work advice and dating advice that I gave. You do sound like you are at least taking the advice and criticism well, so I applaud you for that.

    5. Zillah*

      I think it’s totally understandable to want to support your boyfriend and be his confidant, especially if you know he’s suffering from some work-related stress (which it sounds like he might be).

      That said, I think it’s really mature of you to have been able to take a step back and understand that what he’s doing is actually a good thing – IMO, you’re much better off not hearing about stresses or perceived wrongs that someone you care deeply about is experiencing at work, because that could make a lot of interactions with people difficult for you in ways that they shouldn’t be.

    6. Celeste*

      Oh, I didn’t see this before I posted.

      He might want to vent sometimes about policy or what a long week it was, and that’s okay. But the nuts and bolts details are his. I would keep the support generic, stuff like how you know this new XYZ is a challenge but you know he’s hanging in there, or you really see how hard he’s working to advance himself and you think it’s great. That way it’s more about your feelings for him as the support, and let him keep the details private. In general, I don’t feel like men “need” to do as much confiding as women do (or want others to do with them). It’s just the way things are!

      I hope this is just the beginning of a great love story. :o)

  17. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    3. Managing an employee who can’t multi-task

    what do you do to get someone to think about more than one thing at once?

    In my experience, I don’t think you can. People’s brains work a certain way. If this is an absolute deal breaker for you, you have to try to get him to adjust before you term an otherwise valuable employee, so, go for it. If it’s an absolute deal breaker.

    We work in an environment that is mostly “incoming!!” at all times. Because we have to react to customer needs and endless unexpected issues in filling those needs, almost everybody who works with us has to have the skill set and/or natural ability to re-prioritize constantly. Juggle, juggle, juggle, juggle. We hire for this and look for this ability carefully in anyone’s first weeks with us.

    Almost everybody.

    We have some set aside positions that require the absolute opposite — people who are capable of keen focus and fast completion, one thing at a time. If a person is otherwise outstanding, we can repurpose her to a job that lets her work to her strength, rather than asking her to change something fundamental about the way she works.

    I don’t know if this is possible in your world, but think about changing a job to fit the workstyle of an otherwise good employee.

    Also, consider asking for interruptions on a regular schedule meaning something like: at 11am every day could stop what you are doing and spend an hour taking care of “interruptions”, and then again at 3pm. That might be a compromise that suits both of you. If it is regularly scheduled it might not break the flow that the employee craves and does well within.

    1. James M*

      +1. Personally, I’m not a “multitasker”. Interruptions are the bane of my productivity. I’ve seen people tackling multiple tasks with a combination of reflex, rote habit, and simple flailing, but I’m skeptical that anyone with a normal brain can actually focus on more than one concept at a time.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I’m a super fast shifter. I don’t think anyone can focus on more than one concept at a time, but I can switch in nano-seconds and then shift right back to my same place again. So it exists. Plus, I have this whole backburner thing going at the same time.

        I’m not a great completer. I can tear up a large task right to the 80% mark and then, god help us, that last 20% will take longer than the first 80%, if I ever finish it all. And I hate every second of it.

        So! You can see why I appreciate working with people who have your style of working! It’s symbiotic.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          It takes a healthy diversity of working styles to make up a complimentary team! But I feel for #3, because I’m in an environment where seconds matter. I’ve had the employee who is more concerned about perfection while he meticulously completes a task in 4 hours that should have taken 15 minutes. Using the LW’s example, an email status update. In my world, that means a list of bullets… I did this, this still remains, here’s an eta. Done. But I’ve had the employee who will turn it into War and Peace and write an elaborate document detailing everything that happened until this point. And while he was doing all of this, other work wasn’t getting done…. I can appreciate the domino effect that this has on the rest of the team and the LW’s overall output.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Yeah, we live in the same world.

            What I’m able to do is have a few positions where I can hand off large tasks (and also the last 20% of stuff I don’t want to finish myself :p) to people who work best doing one thing to completion.

            I can’t keep people who make War & Peace out of what should be fast tasks though. I still need a lot of productivity and fast decision making but I can offer single tasking to the best single taskers.

        2. Chinook*

          I am a talented shifter too and part of it is learning the skills to remind you where you left off. I live and die by tasks in Outlook. Set routines (so I can check to see which steps are done so I know where I left off) and notes on the paperwork I do data entry on. Ironically, I can go weeks without interruptionS and then have a day where everything erupts at once. Knowing how to do it is essential in my job but I can see how others would struggle.

        3. fposte*

          I think “multitasking” is a really misleading phrase anyway, and that your notion of shifting is much more on point. We’re not literally doing more than one thing at a time. What we are doing is keeping more than one priority on our radar and shifting to focus on a different one when needed. I’m a completer myself, and even I get that :-).

        4. AdminAnon*

          I’m not a great completer. I can tear up a large task right to the 80% mark and then, god help us, that last 20% will take longer than the first 80%, if I ever finish it all. And I hate every second of it.

          Oh my gosh, thank you! That’s something I have done my whole life and I’ve never really been able to vocalize it. I call myself a procrastinator, but that’s completely untrue. I start everything right away and just have the hardest time completing things. Your post was a major lightbulb moment for me–maybe now that I recognize it, I can work on fixing it. Thanks, Wakeen’s Teapots!!

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            :) well good.

            My experience is success in not so much fixing as compensating for. In addition to coping/compensating tricks, I set to craft a living out of being the doer and the generator. I never got fixed; just set things up so what I’m not good at doesn’t impact.

            It’s nice when everybody gets to play to their strengths.

        5. QualityControlFreak*

          This is interesting! I am both an agile task shifter and a completer, though many of my tasks are ongoing. Progress on large projects is usually cumulative over a certain timeframe, with task-switching to accommodate shorter-term, higher priority tasks within the same span. I love it, but I really do like to be fully engaged most of the time.

      2. A Dispatcher*

        I think a lot depends on what kind of work you’re doing as well. For my job, multitasking isn’t just expected, it IS the job. You have to be capable of doing and remembering a million things at once and then immediately switch gears when an officer screams out in distress. But, give me a book to read and I have to be totally focused on that and that alone or I’ll end up reading the same page 5 times because I can’t remember a thing I’ve read.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I’m the same way. Probably why reading is such a relaxing activity for me… it forces me to shut down the multiple trains of thought always running through my brain.

      3. LQ*

        Pretty much they can’t. Studies show it over and over there is an incredibly slim portion of people who can do 2 things at the same time but most of us just do 1 thing and switch between the rest of the stuff. Which leads to a decreased quality of output. (For plenty of tasks this doesn’t matter, if I’m only watching tv at 50% of my capacity to watch tv while I fold laundry I’m totally ok with that, and also ok with my laundry taking longer.)

    2. Trillian*

      I’d also suggest that before he breaks, he makes a list of next steps. I’m frequently reluctant to break off, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to collect everything that was in my mind together again. Dumping key points onto paper helps.

  18. Gerri*

    #4 – I don’t see how it is NOT illegal! Clocking someone out after they left, and are not working seems like fraud to me, and really dishonest. I really hope this stops – it is stealing from the company – getting money for time not worked.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Every place I’ve ever worked at would consider that time-clock fraud and take it VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY. People get fired over that.

      So yes, the correct thing is to go to the next-level boss.

    2. LBK*

      It’s not illegal because the laws regarding non-exempt employee pay only state that you have to be paid for *at least* the hours you work – it doesn’t prevent someone from being paid *more* than the hours they work. I’m sure it’s a violation of company policy, but it’s not covered by labor or theft laws.

    3. Kacie*

      In my office , falsifying time cards would be a good way to get fired. Stop doing this for your manager, and if she complains, go over her head and report her.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Things that will get you fired aren’t always things that are illegal. Many things are totally wrong and things you’d be fired on the spot for, but not addressed by a law.

  19. JustAReader*

    re: #3 – I don’t know, but just wondering if the person with the multi-tasking issue could be on the autism scale (Asperger’s?). Perhaps that may be the root cause of their single focus on one task at a time?

    Research is starting to show that folks with Asperger’s can make superior programmers. Some firms are trying to find ways to recruit them as they can be a real asset. Perhaps this possibility s/b considered here?

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Um FYI, I used to be “Just a Reader” and changed my screen name to this one because it’s less boring.

      So the above is NOT me. I don’t armchair diagnose people online or IRL.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Miles of difference between armchair diagnosing and offering the idea that it’s a possibility. Just my take on it, though.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          It doesn’t matter. It’s not an employer’s role to even speculate on the cause, only to address the issue at hand.

        2. fposte*

          The problem is that it doesn’t get you anywhere to consider this, though; you don’t need the status report any less, and autism doesn’t give him any right to non-multitask above anybody else who doesn’t multitask well. If the OP wants to talk to him about ways to make multitasking more possible for him, that’s fine, but whether he’s autistic or not, if she needs regular reports that she’s not getting, that’s a problem.

          1. JustAReader*

            Please know I meant NO malice in my comment. Considering this as a possibility might make OP aware of other possible solutions. I think we s/b considerate and compassionate and try to work with people. Understanding them is a good place to start. It is better to understand than be understood, isn’t it?

            1. fposte*

              I didn’t assume you meant malice. I just think that it doesn’t really affect what the solutions are.

            2. LBK*

              fposte’s point is that just considering that the employee might be autistic doesn’t change anything. If he has a disorder that prevents him from multitasking the way the manager needs, he’s still not the right person for the job. You can be compassionate and understanding all you want, but that doesn’t change the job requirements.

              To use another example, I can compassionate to a blind person, but that doesn’t make them any more qualified to be a delivery truck driver. They still aren’t capable of performing the job requirements.

              1. JustAReader*

                But knowing a person’s situation might inspire a manager to find ways to accommodate. If you hired a left-handed tailor and found he/she wasn’t cutting bolts of cloth as fast as others, wouldn’t it be reasonable to give them a pair of left-handed scissors?

                1. fposte*

                  Two problems: this isn’t something where giving him a different tool will solve the problem (since he’s simply not doing part of the job), and a disability accommodation request has to come from the *employee*.

                  If he has a disability that makes it difficult to impossible for him to email updates during a project, he needs to raise that issue with the OP–she can’t raise it with him. And subsequent discussion doesn’t mean the OP has to say “Never mind, then”–she can say “Disability or no, I need you to be able to respond to emails during the day within established office time frames. We can work together to see if there are ways to make that more possible for you, but it’s a necessity here.”

                  And he hasn’t raised the disability issue, so the OP can go straight to the part after “Disability or no,” and the effect is pretty much the same.

                2. Bend & Snap*

                  You can’t ask someone if they’re autistic, especially in the workplace. And you can’t ask them to go find out if they are so you can treat them differently.

                  Also I’m wondering what made you pick this user name, Just A Reader–someone else had it until a couple of weeks ago.

                3. Jamie*

                  As someone who uses left handed scissors and has a kid on the autism spectrum – you can’t compare the two. If we could fix spectrum issues that easily there would be a lot less struggle for people affected.

                  It is at times heart-breakingly and impossibly hard to find the right accommodations for autism issues even when the person is highly motivated and working with well educated and devoted parents and professionals. Everyone has different needs and accommodating one area can make things worse in another. It’s the most delicate balancing act I’ve ever had to do – and it’s lifelong and it’s a lot of work. It’s also a lot of trial and error.

                  If an employer tried to accommodate that which they don’t understand without tacit involvement from the person affected – holy crap the hubris makes my head explode.

                  I am sure you meant well, but I do find it troublesome when autism is flagged as a possibility for every little thing that’s out of the ordinary where people are either socially awkward or rigid in some way.

                  There is no reason to suspect autism based on these facts and even if there were, it’s not the employer’s place to mention it.

                4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Hey, I believe you meant well and appreciate the kindness intended in your post.

                  As a fellow mother-of-adult-aspergers/autism son, thanks to Jamie for writing all she did and +1 to her post.

                5. fposte*

                  And I definitely think it’s good to be aware that people have reasons for what they do and aren’t just doing it to spite their managers; that’s true across the board, whether there’s a chance of a disability being involved or not.

    2. Xay*

      I really wish people would refrain from inserting autism into job performance situations. The subtext is that someone must not be normal if they don’t/can’t/won’t do XYZ task in XYZ way and that assumption isn’t fair to anyone whether on the spectrum or not.

      1. JustAReader*

        I am sorry if my comments offended. What I wanted to do is to point out that there may be other, legitimate reasons for this situation. Yes, I understand the manager can’t go ask about health issues. BUT, a good manager should have some awareness of this and make him/herself open to the employee initiating the conversation. I think a manager must not treat an employee as a machine: promise paycheck, collect results, repeat.

  20. jesicka309*

    OP #3 I am currently struggling with a team of anti-taskers. I’m in a marketing department, in a planning role. I frequently work with the other marketing team on integrated, cross team projects and functions. Eg. We create a campaign, we need help from the TV team, the online team, and the radio team to bring the campaign to life.
    The online team redeveloped our website in March. It’s been plagued with problems. The result of this is that NO OTHER WORK will be done by most of the team because they are ‘focusing’ on the redevelopment bugs. Add this to some poor management by a manager who hasn’t allocated someone to cover day to day tasks, and our online marketing has ground to a halt.

    Emails that were sent five weeks ago haven’t been responded to. Clients who have been contacting the online team are at their wits end because they are being ignored, and are coming to me and my boss because we at least respond to their emails, even if we can’t help them. It takes weeks for a basic request to go through, and even then, the team denies it because it isn’t their focus. They are hurting our bottom line at this point, and we have clients that probably won’t work with us again.

    I think the OP needs to work with her employee to teach them to manage expectations. Fine, focus on one task. Not everyone can have 5 balls in the air. But they need to be telling the manager this. They need to say “Alright, I will start on the Gibson project tomorrow, as I’m still working on the Wilson project.” They can’t expect the manager to somehow know what the employee is working on if the employee isn’t communicating their priorities.

    It’s the radio silence that is the problem, not the way the employee does the work. A communication problem, not a multi tasking one.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Hey, I feel you. I’ve been living the “new website development/bugs/can’t get anything else moving” dream this year myself also.

      You need buy in at the management level, or nothing is going to change.

      What we did to help fix this issue was:

      1) management buy in so the manager of the development group was more or less aligned with overall business goals and more or less on board

      2) bi weekly status meetings with leads where progress on forward goals, not just fixes, was discussed and measured.

      3) new project management organization deployment. this was crucial. the tech team wanted bug fixes on the same list as new tasks and this is where I stepped in personally and said “nope”. Two different lists, manage them both at the same time, keep them both moving, that’s it. If you haven’t made progress on both, you haven’t made progress.

      This is a big issue that has to start as high up as you can push it and get solved in a downward flow.

      1. jesicka309*

        Ah, I completely see where you’re coming from, and that would be the plan in a . Unfortunately, due to this team’s disorganisation and the aforementioned crap manager, this team is being restructured. So even the team structure is being put off until after the bug fixing is done. So inept manager (who seriously needs sacking after the attitude she’s shown) stays for now creating waves, and the tech team ignores everyone to try and get the bug fixed so the restructure can happen and THEN they’ll deal with annoyed clients/teams. And my low level periphery role doesn’t have the authority to do anything. :( All I want is one team member to do some triage!

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Customers not being taken care of makes me twitch violently. Somebody in the chain of command somewhere does care about this. All you can do is raise the issue as high as you can and then people whose responsibility it is will resolve the structure or they won’t.

          Such a serious dysfunction. The tech team members may be avoiding responding to anything because they don’t know what to say. It sounds like they can’t get anything out of the department. (I refer to that as project gridlock. So many things that absolutely nothing gets done and it seems impossible to sort out to break the grid.)

    2. James M*

      You have my deepest sympathies. Echoing W.T. Ltd., adding (imposing?) structure is a very good idea.

      There are some cases where putting new features on hold until bugs are fixed is not only a good idea, but will potentially save months of otherwise wasted time. When some “bugs” are actually manifestations of deep misunderstandings of the project requirements, new development has a high chance of propagating related bugs.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    Are you sure #4 isn’t illegal? Not from an employment law sense, but from a theft sense? You’re helping someone steal from the company. I know in cases of timecard fraud where I work we actually involve the DC police – they usually decline to prosecute if it’s under a certain dollar amount, but that’s their decision.

    This isn’t just a small matter of bending the rules – this is straight up theft from the company.

      1. RG*

        Could depend on what other benefits they get that are hours driven – profit sharing qualifications, health benefits, other perks – that depend on the hours worked (or tracked by the clock). Because if they are exempt, why do they need to punching a time clock?

    1. Kacie*

      Not illegal, but likely it’s a violation of company policy which will easily get you fired.

    2. ella*

      Basically, the boss is moving her breaks around, and taking her break at the tail-end of her shift so that she can leave half an hour early. She’s clocking out from noon-1pm, or whatever, but she’s resuming her work at 12:30. So she’s working an extra half hour while she’s clocked out, and then taking that half hour at the end of the day. (At least, I hope that’s what she’s doing.) I don’t know from laws, but every employer I’ve ever had has a policy forbidding this.

      OP4, if your manager is the sort of person you can talk to, and/or if you have access to the employee handbook where this policy would be forbidden, I’d talk to her first. Just because (and especially if this is a retail situation) as soon as you go over her head, I suspect she’ll be fired. If you don’t like her as a boss, or if she’s not a person who takes feedback from subordinates, I wouldn’t go too far trying to save her butt, but if you think she’s worth saving, you might give it a shot.

      1. LBK*

        To me, it sounds like she’s accustomed to working 9-5 without taking a break because she gets paid for all the time she works. Now, she’s being forced to take a break from 12-1, so in order to avoid losing an hour of pay for the day, she still leaves at 5 but asks her employee to clock her out at 6. I don’t think she’s actually working during the break and I don’t think she cares about the work being done, she’s just concerned about losing an hour’s worth of pay every day.

        I used to see this sentiment a lot in retail – “I don’t want to take a break if I don’t feel like I need it because I’d rather get paid for an extra 30-60 mins”. My store forced supervisors to take hour-long lunches every shift at one point as a cost-cutting measure, because too many of us wouldn’t take them or would only take 10 minutes to eat something quickly and it was adding up to impact our budget.

        1. ella*

          It depends on how her company allocates time (and how her state’s labor division covers breaks) and how they define “full time”. I was assuming that the company expects her to be clocked in for 40 hours each week. If they’re telling her she needs to clock out for a break but still have 8 hours per day of billable time, they’re basically asking her to extend her workday, which she’s apparently unwilling or unable to do. I think if she was doing what you’re doing, and basically working 40 hours when her company’s only budgeted for 35, it would be more immediately noticable on the payroll end.

          I’m also wondering if she wasn’t clocking out at all before, and violating labor laws, which payroll caught and was unhappy with, hence this new rule that she’s still trying to get around. If so, and if they catch her at this (whether she’s sneaking an extra hour or just moving her breaks around), she’s going to get fired.

          1. LBK*

            I’m also wondering if she wasn’t clocking out at all before, and violating labor laws, which payroll caught and was unhappy with, hence this new rule that she’s still trying to get around.

            That wouldn’t be illegal. There are no laws about clocking in and out, just laws about getting paid for time worked (including overtime where applicable). Even if she clocks out from 12-1 and continues working, she needs to be paid for that hour.

            The only reason this might violate labor laws is if she wasn’t taking state-mandated breaks, but there’s only a few states that require non-exempt employees to get breaks without the employee having the discretion to waive the break at will.

            1. ella*

              The only reason this might violate labor laws is if she wasn’t taking state-mandated breaks, but there’s only a few states that require non-exempt employees to get breaks without the employee having the discretion to waive the break at will.

              This was what I was thinking of. This is one of those areas where legality and workplace policy overlap in weird ways–for example, I didn’t know that the law allowed the employee to waive breaks, because everywhere I’ve worked, my workplace has had a policy that the employee can’t waive their breaks (well, I think at Target they didn’t care if I took a break or not, but every job I’ve had since I was 19 had an enforced break-taking policy) so I didn’t even realize that that was something that could happen.

              1. LD*

                The answer is: it depends…the law may not allow an employee to waive a break. In one state government office I know of a situation where lax management had to be told to crack down on breaks because of service availability and the law. Higher management had to make it mandatory for people to take a full hour lunch from 12 – 1 during their 8-5 shift. Some people had been “working through” their scheduled lunch and leaving at 4. This was problematic because according to state law they had to be provided a lunch break after so many hours of continuous work in an 8 hour day. And to be available to managers and citizens, they needed to be available until 5. People grumbled, but they complied. The employer (the state) would have been liable for fines and perhaps wages for not providing breaks according to the law if the employees had complained about no lunch break. Although the employees wanted the flexibility, the law protecting them from being forced to work long hours without a break did not allow them that flexibility. Different states have differing statutes on breaks and lunches and work hours. It’s not consistent across states or across companies.

    3. Jamie*

      I was wondering the same – how isn’t it a form of theft?

      I get most employers won’t press legal charges, because they’d have to defend their practices on why it wasn’t caught and tbh it’s a hassle and would cost more in legal fees than it’s worth. Most cost efficient to fire and cut their losses.

      But in my book it’s still theft. The same as embezzling would be or other fraud. But even an hour a day at $10 per hour is 2600 per year before taxes. So fire-able and horribly unethical, sure – but no one is going up the river for that and they’d spend that in legal fees before the first deposition.

      So I guess I still do see this as illegal in the general sense – it’s theft – but the kind that doesn’t go anywhere so in practice it’s not.

      That said I’d no sooner clock someone out late to pad their time than I would to steal a candy bar if asked – it’s still asking me to be complicit in theft.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just asked a lawyer about this and here’s what he said:

        The cases he’s seen where someone was prosecuted for falsifying time sheets have been public officials, where it was an issue of public money being misappropriated. In private employers, it could technically be considered theft, but he’s never seen it prosecuted and would be surprised to see it happen. Generally people are simply fired.

        1. Jamie*

          Absolutely agree with that – it wouldn’t be worth prosecuting.

          And fwiw anyplace I’ve worked this would be automatic termination for everyone involved. It’s hard enough to keep up with non-malicious clocking issues and keep the system clean – someone screwing with it deliberately – zero tolerance.

        2. Anon prosecutor*

          Just because many offices would decline to prosecute doesn’t make this not theft.

          The only way I can think that this woman is not committing a crime is if, as posited above, she’s working through lunch and so not claiming more hours than she actually worked. If that’s the case then she’s disobeying her manager and in violation of company policy but not committing a crime.

          But it sounds to me like she’s taking a lunch, then “in order … to keep making the same money” as she was before, she’s saying she worked an hour longer than she actually did. No way is this not theft. By participating, the OP is exposing herself to criminal charges (though yes, very unlikely in practice).

          In California (where I practice), this could be prosecuted as theft by false pretenses under PC 532 which reads, in relevant part, as follows:
          “Every person who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of money … is punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as for larceny of the money or property so obtained.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right, that’s why I said, “In private employers, it could technically be considered theft.” But it doesn’t appear to be something typically prosecuted — search case records!

            1. Anon prosecutor*

              I’m addressing the part of your answer where you say that this does not constitute illegal behavior. Whether or not a crime is commonly prosecuted has no bearing on whether or not the activity is legal.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Oh ok, that explains why it can be prosecuted where I work. Taxpayer money and all.

  22. BCW*

    #1 Not even going to read the other comments before I post. This sounds like one of the most whiny, entitled emails I’ve ever seen on this site. Frankly, I’m shocked that Alison even printed it. This isn’t a site for dating advice, its for career advice. If you take out the work part, your problem is essentially a problem that many women have with their boyfriends, being that the woman feels the guy isn’t communicating enough with them. So I’m going to respond as a guy giving dating advice, not a male in the workplace. Just because you feel the need to share every bit of minutiae about your day doesn’t mean the guy wants to, and he probably doesn’t care to hear all those details about your day either, but may be just too nice to tell you that. When my gf feels the need to tell me all of this nonsense about Jane at work, my eyes glaze over. Why would I care about someone I don’t know. Now in this case, its almost worse because you want to know more because you do know these people (or at least who they are). I know you say its not gossiping, but to me, it sounds like thats EXACTLY why you want to know this stuff. My dating advice is just to let it go, if he doesn’t want to tell you this stuff, thats his choice. My professional advice is grow up and get over it. (Note: You may be older than I am for all I know, but you are being very immature)

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Just a note. Per #1’s letter, the boyfriend was originally sharing this information with her/talking about these things, and stopped once their jobs and therefore professional interactions began to overlap (which is of course the correct thing to do). The concern was the change in commutation moreso than the general lack of it.

      1. BCW*

        Still doesn’t matter. As I guy, I can say that things I did at the beginning of a relationship kind of fall by the wayside later. I bet the guy never really liked talking the minute details of his day, but did it because she asked. I could be wrong, but I’m speaking from years of being a guy and having many male friends who share that opinion. Now, he has a valid reason not to. Either way though, work or not, she still shouldn’t be demanding to know what he is doing at work.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Abosultely. It could be killing two birds with one stone if his personal preference had always been to not talk about it and he now has a fantastic excuse. It just seemed to me like your response missed the nuance of change in communication vs no communication so I felt it was worth pointing out.

        2. Sue Wilson*

          Eh, this reads as less of a man/women phenomenon and more of a talker/non-talker phenomenon. Unfortunately for non-talker me, all of my guy friends were not socialized to believe they want to work through their problems solo. I personally would rather they had.

          1. Cat*

            Seriously, every time I read something like this, I boggle because the men in my office (and in my social circle, really) are several times more gossipy than the women.

            1. Kai*

              Agreed. I know that there are generalizations that often ring true, but this “men are this way/women are the other way” kind of talk really bothers me.

          2. Fabulously Anonymous*

            Agreed. I’m a woman and my husband is a constant talker. Drives me crazy. And he always wants to tell me about his co-workers. Sometimes I take a shower just to get away from it.

          3. Xay*

            Exactly. My SO has a pretty sensitive occupation and he tells me more than I really want to know about his day, clients, etc. It’s his way of getting everything off his chest so he can clear his head and get ready for another day.

          4. DmentedKitty*

            This. I’m a non-talker. You can pour over me all the juiciest gossip you can find about our mutual friends and I won’t itch or die if I don’t share it with at least one of them. Granted, that’s probably why I think I am the most boring person in the circle of friends haha!

            It makes me uncomfortable if I pry or if someone tries to pry info from me. Heck, when my manager was trying to ask a GoT episode that she hasn’t watched yet and tries to “guess” her way as to what happened, I told her (jovially, of course), “You keep guessing and it’s going to end up being a spoiler for you. Now unless you don’t mind spoilers I don’t want to say anything more!” :P

    2. Bea W*

      I’m a woman, and YES. Not to mention, the last thing i want to talk about when not working is work, and this kind of conversation between co-workers is gossip, and no good comes from workplace gossip.

  23. AdAgencyChick*

    #3 — This letter gives me a very similar sense to one from a couple of weeks ago in which the OP said something about giving repeated feedback every time an issue comes up and still not seeing improvement. What I said then applies here too — that you need not only to point out individual instances where the employee needs to do something differently, but also point out the *pattern* so that the employee knows to watch out for this same kind of thing in the future. Without that second piece, people are amazingly good at seeing their shortcomings as a series of one-off events, rather than a pattern that needs to change.

    In this case it’s not quite clear that even the negative feedback on a per-instance basis is happening — OP, do you say “I need you to stop what you’re doing and send the XYZ email in the next half hour,” or do you say, “What’s the status on the XYZ email?” If the latter, I think you need to be more clear at each instance what you want — but also you need to point out the pattern. And if that doesn’t work, then it’s probably time to PIP and/or part ways.

    1. fposte*

      It’s possible, but I also think that’s getting into micromanagement if the guy has been told already that the status email is due, which I think he has. I don’t think you need to explicitly restate every time you contact him that it needs to happen now if he already knows.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I don’t think she’s saying to tell him multiple times about the same thing. I think she’s saying that in each instance where she needs something done, she should be very clear about the time frame rather than the general “I need you to do X.” It should be instead “I need you to do X within the next hour.”

        1. fposte*

          My impression is that when she’s asking what the status of the status is, that’s a query when the deadline’s already passed, but I may be wrong there.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I just read it as AdAgencyChick saying that the OP should set clear deadlines for each task she gives the guy, which I think would be very helpful.

            1. meetoo*

              Agreed! When someone has missed deadlines several times that is when a little micromanagement is needed. Setting expectations even if it is every time is about retraining for new work habits.

              I agree with AdAgencyChick expectations need to be clear. Saying things like “how is the update coming along” can be taken at face value as a check in rather than as a reprimand. OP make sure you are communicating directly and saying what you actually mean.

              Some of us don’t always get management hints. I am particularly bad at this. When managers say things like “can I do anything to help you get xyz completed” I don’t know if it is a reprimand for not having it done or a genuine offer of support. If an employee does not know what you are really saying they can’t comply with what you really want.

  24. Bea W*

    I agree with the BF in #1. It is inappropriate, and when it comes to work, they are co-workers first and foremost. You can’t let a personal relationship change your professional behavior.

    An aside, i don’t get the whole “right to know” attitude. Dating someone does not grant a person special rights to anything, especially regarding professional matters. He’s a grown man. He can handle his own work place issues without having to discuss it with his SO.

  25. HMV*


    I read this as the manager has now been required to take one hour lunch breaks, but continues to work through lunch as she used to. So in order to follow their policy (at least according to the time card), she takes an hour unpaid during the day and then gets paid an extra hour after she leaves. Either way she is still getting paid the same amount of time, but now it appears as though she is following their lunch policy.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I took it as that as well, but there are far better ways to handle this than make a direct report implicit in your choice. I think the fact that the LW is having an ethical dilemma about this indicates that at the very best, the boss didn’t loop her in on the arrangement. At the very worse, the boss is padding hours.

      1. Natalie*

        Depending on the state, she may also be exposing the company to a wage & hour violation. Lunch breaks are required in quite a few states.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah, that is what struck me about this too. It’s quite possible this is going to create legal issues depending on where they live. I’d definitely stop being complicit in this.

        2. Windchime*

          Yes, this. Lunch breaks are required for non-exempt employees in my state (Washington) if you’ve worked a certain amount of hours. I think you’re required to take at least a 30 minute unpaid break if you’ve worked 5 hours, and you’re allowed a 10 minute (paid) break every three hours. So if she is working off the clock during her lunch,that seems like something that could get her company in trouble with the labor people.

      2. BaristaB*

        This is an instance in which it seems like it would be better to just tell the person directly that you’re not going to continue doing what she’s asking because you think it’s against policy. If her response is “I’m your manager and you have to,” or anything like that, THEN take it over her head. Doing so initially goes against what I think of as the usual advice here on AAM: talk directly to the person with whom you are having a problem.

    2. Sadsack*

      Maybe the manager used to say she was skipping lunch and leave early, but wasn’t really skipping lunch. No one would have realized because she only had to clock in and out for the day. Now that she has to clock in and out for lunch, she is still taking her lunch and still leaving early. Just a thought.

    3. FiveNine*

      It’s still falsifying time sheets or cards, which is something that can get a person fired on the spot at almost every place I’ve worked.

    4. Piper*

      This is how I read it, too, which means what’s happening is time sheet falsification, which is not good (and I’m fairly certain, not legal since it’s essentially stealing from the company). The person who’s time sheet is falsified and the person who actually falsified it could both be fired. (I used to work in retail management, so this kind of thing was a big deal.)

  26. jesicka309*

    I think I’ve watched too many soap operas, but my first thought for OP#1 was that she suspected something dodgy going on with the assistant, hence why he’s clammed up now about her. Like, she suspects an affair is going on. OP, you should throw a glass of water in his face and demand to know the truth! You will be heard, dammit!
    As I said, too many soaps.

  27. eemmzz*

    #1 – I use to work with my boyfriend too it was different for us in a few ways. For starters I’d been with my boyfriend for over 4 years before this happened which I think this is why there wasn’t any real impact on our relationship. We both typically met up for lunch, had a chat about work and then went about our usual business.

    Once we were at home we didn’t really mention work all that much. I’d say just enjoy your time together rather than making work consume your life. As people have already said boundaries need to be set to avoid workplace drama, which will make you both look really unprofessional.

    Are you concerned that your boyfriend has cheated on you? If so you need to address this from a relationship perspective and not from a workplace perspective. If he has done nothing to hint at it you need to consider why it is you don’t fully trust him. Relationships need trust in order to last.

  28. Bend & Snap*

    #1 yuck. I’ve worked with or for a few sets of married/dating couples and it does not feel good to even think that they may be talking about you.

    Those kind of conversations can cause serious workplace issues, not to mention low morale and broken trust.

    I’m glad the BF has some integrity.

  29. OP #1*

    Me again. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

    Instead of replying to every post, I just want to clarify that there is no cheating, whatsoever involved. It is also not trying to gossip. Sounds silly, but it was more to make conversation. But now I realize we can talk about other things besides work (thanks to a couple of readers who had to point that out to me). It was truly (believe it or not) an innocuous question on what the discussion with HR was about (“Oh, so what was it about? Are you allowed to share?” type of thing). Like I said previously, we used to briefly share about these things with each other…I understand that men and women are different, etc., so, I just need to get over the fact that I will not know everything (regarding work or whatnot) about him. More importantly, I needed to understand and realize that his decision on not telling me the details is very professional, ethical and mature. Like I said, it was an innocuous question on my end. My reaction (to the extent that I wrote Alison a letter) could have been avoided, but hey, I just needed to learn it from someone (or in this case, you guys).

    I cannot agree more with everyone else’s comments about this. Everyone has said in different ways. I now know better and I agree that he and I should move on and talk about other things besides work…

    Ok, I apologize if this kind of became a relationship advice forum.


  30. Ruffingit*

    #3 – Employee who can’t multi-task.

    Can’t or won’t? That is the question here. Some people really cannot multi-task, it’s just not in their make-up. For others, it’s a choice and it sounds like it may be the latter for this guy.

    1. De Minimis*

      I think it’s some of “can’t” and also some of “won’t.” I know we’re not aware of the work involved in completing the projects, but how long does it really take to send out a status e-mail? The only way I could see it being an issue is if this were more physical-type work where the person would have to step away to access their e-mail, but I really doubt that is the case here.

      A lot of people are bad at multitasking, myself included, but it’s something that can be developed at least to where it’s not a huge impediment. But you have to want to do it.

      I had to chuckle at the idea of asking for the status of the status e-mail….

  31. nyxalinth*

    #3 I’m curious as to why if multi-tasking is a very big deal for the position, why did they not hire someone who was good at it? Or is this a thing where it was a sudden need, and the employee isn’t able to keep up?

    1. De Minimis*

      I think most professional office-type jobs require some level of multitasking to where it’s assumed applicants can do it, similar to being able to use a computer or basic office equipment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly — there are a zillion things that you need to do a job well, but some of them are just assumed. You can’t test for absolutely everything.

    2. Ruffingit*

      It sounds like they hired him because he’s really good at each task individually, but the problem becomes when he has more than one of those tasks to complete at once. You raise a good question in that they must have known that this job required doing them all at once sometimes. Maybe they didn’t screen for that or maybe he’s such a rock star at the individual tasks that they thought he could get each one done quickly and move on to the next, but it hasn’t worked out that way? It’s a good question, I’d be interested to hear from the OP on whether they screened for multi-tasking or just didn’t think it would be an issue or what.

      1. Windchime*

        How would you screen for the ability to multi-task, though? Because if you ask me in an interview if I’m good at multi-tasking, of course I’m going to say yes. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not, but pretty much everyone knows that the correct answer to that question is “yes, I’m great at multi-tasking.”

        1. nyxalinth*

          Well, if you do the good old “Tell me about a time…” question, or say “You need to do xyz and abc, and x is vital and b and c are a second, and then Big Boss dumps 1-10 on you, and meanwhile Department has said X takes precedence even if God himself gives you a new task…how do you prioritize everything, how do you work on everything, and why?’ sort of thing.

          1. Ruffingit*

            This. I think you can ask targeted questions that will get you closer to a true answer. You can also ask former bosses during the reference check about the employee’s MT skills.

        2. Colette*

          The correct answer is the honest one – if you say what you think the interviewer wants to hear, you open yourself up to getting a job you can’t do well in.

          1. De Minimis*

            I do think that some jobs that require a huge level of multitasking should somehow probe candidates about their tolerance for that. My previous job would ask candidates to demonstrate their ability to adapt to a rapidly-changing environment…what they were looking for were people who actually preferred that type of situation.
            It was a situation where people were expected to work on multiple projects with multiple teams, and were more or less on their own as far as managing their time–it was almost like working more than one job at times.

    3. Cat*

      I think stopping what you’re doing to do things like send a status email is the default in most jobs. I agree that it’s better to make that clear in interviews but, as a potential employee, if this is something you can’t do, you’re going to have serious problems if you don’t make a concerted effort to screen for jobs where the opposite is true.

      1. fposte*

        I’m agreeing with this. If you’re somebody who really needs to know you’ll have long hours without being asked to do anything but a single task, that’s unusual enough in most fields that you’re going to want to explore this desire in the hiring process. The default is communication, not noncommunication.

  32. Ruffingit*

    I’ve been reading here awhile and that coupled with anecdata from my own life has me thinking about how many people tip toe around problems. I read other advice columns and so many issues just come down to “Tell the person what you want clearly and succinctly.”

    To be clear (pardon the pun), I’m not ragging on anyone here, just saying that the letter about the multi-tasker made me think about this plus an issue I spoke with a friend about last night. She’s being pursued by a co-worker who is crossing major boundaries and she has danced around telling him to back off. I told her she needs to be clear about her desire not to date him.

    Same applies to a lot of what we see here. Stop dancing around the issues with words like “It would be nice if you could…” and “Whenever you get a chance, could you…” No. Be clear and direct with what you need and when. So much would be made easier with that. Some will comply, some won’t, but dancing around the issue never helps and wastes a lot of time.

    1. Windchime*

      I so agree with this! To me, saying, “So what’s the status of the status email?”, doesn’t say, “The email is late.” And if I’m told, “Hey, can you give me a status email on the ?”, doesn’t mean, “I need a status email on by noon.”

      My boss is a great guy who is really good with people and with technical stuff–great combination! However, sometimes he is so tactful and gentle in his approach that I have to ask him to clarify because I don’t really know what he is asking for. Is he making a suggestion, or is he reprimanding me? Does he want me to do this task, or are we just having a conversation?

      1. De Minimis*

        I ran into that at OldJob, the “too nice” manager. She’d ask about status, and I guess I was supposed to catch the hint that I was supposed to update her without being asked. I got dinged for that in my performance review, although I suppose after the first couple of times I should have caught on that I was supposed to be more proactive.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Exactly. People will often talk about problems they have with others and when asked “Have you talked to him about it?” the answer is always “Well, no…” or “I asked him if he needed help with Project Q…”

        Two issues there – you need to actually speak to the person you have a problem with. How can I get my co-worker to stop snapping his gum in my face can be answered with “Ask him to stop.” So many people don’t bother with that basic first-line communication and then they wonder why they have problems. Then, they drop hints and dance around until the are so rageful about the problem and the person doing it, but it’s their own fault for not clearly communicating.

        Start with figuring out what you want and then ask for it. “I want a status email sent by noon today.” “I need you to stop snapping your gum in my face.” Make your needs known clearly. Don’t get mad at others for not picking up on your hints and vague passive-aggressive comments.

    2. Student*

      While I understand what you are saying about your friend, I think doing this takes a great deal more courage than you realize.

      When a woman tells a man she isn’t interested in him, he will take it personally. And then he will take it out on her to reassert his status. This is especially a difficult problem in a work environment, because she will probably have to work with him, maybe every day, for years afterward and it can have a real, negative effect on her career.

      I had to quit a job where I had insulted the status of two men by being direct with them about similar problems. One was attracted to me, and the other wanted me to follow his orders even though he had no such authority over me. I was very direct with the first guy in private, and he kept behaving inappropriately – so I was very direct with him in public, and he stopped the inappropriate behavior but also refused to ever talk to me again in a very small department. I told the second guy very clearly that he’d need to treat me as a peer, not as an employee, and he physically attacked me. My manager took his side because I had “made him (co-worker) angry”, and manager apparently thought attacking me was a reasonable reaction to becoming angry. When I said that this co-worker had made me angry, too, and asked if it would’ve been appropriate for me to attack him back, my manager said no, because I am a woman and women don’t do that. I quit very soon after that, and in the intervening time period I went into serious depression and made myself physically ill with worry over what my co-workers and manager would do to me while I was getting out.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I realize the courage it takes because I’ve had to do it myself. Your experience is awful and I’m sorry you went through that, but it doesn’t mean a woman shouldn’t very clearly communicate that she is not interested in dating someone. Fear of the repercussions does not mean a person needs to suffer forever while someone harasses her at work. Your workplace clearly had massive issues that were horrendous and your issues stemmed from that. Your workplace was horrible and treated you badly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have said anything to those men. Your workplace is at fault here, not you. I’m glad you were able to get out of that environment. Certainly sounds toxic.

        1. fposte*

          Agreed. I’ll also say that there’s no evidence that indirect rejection is any safer or less likely to lead to problems.

    3. Sharm*

      I get what you’re saying here and intellectually agree. For me personally though, I take hints and indirect language very well. No manager has ever had to ask anything of me twice, is my point, and several use(d) indirect requests.

      Though I can deal with it, I am not as enamored with the direct approach because in my experience, it is used by folks who are also very blunt, terse, and jerky. Again, I know from this site it is the best way to get results (especially when you are working with people who can’t take the hint). It also doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be a genial colleague. But at my past jobs, most people didn’t know how to be direct without being rude or jerks about it.

      As a recipient, I don’t mind the indirect approach so much as other people on this site. Now, if I were to be in management, I would certainly keep it in my arsenal. But I’ll be honest, my first approach will be the indirect one. If results aren’t up to par, then I see the value in it.

  33. Sunflower*

    #3- I’m shocked to hear you think this is something silly OP! To me this seems like HUGE deal. It might be because I work in an environment where I am constantly switching between tasks or doing a couple things at once but I don’t think this is something that wouldn’t be 100% in need of a PIP if things didn’t change after a direct talk. This doesn’t sound like a one-time thing and it sounds like this adjustment is crucial to the job.

    It’s really dependent on your work environment how you can help him adjust. It’s possible there are other people/managers who have struggled with this too if a lot of employees in your org have the same work style as this guy. Maybe try talking to some other managers and seeing if they dealt with similar employees?

  34. Piper*

    #4 – It’s illegal in the sense that you’re assisting in falsifying someone else’s time sheet. I know someone who got fired for this. I’d stop doing it immediately!

  35. soitgoes*

    #3 pops up when companies advertise on sites like craigslist and don’t include specifics about the company or the position at hand; applicants often have no idea who they’re applying to or if they’re inadvertently applying to the same places more than once. If the writer of #3 isn’t disclosing enough information in the ads for the applicants to pull up a company name in a google search before applying, this is something she’s going to keep encountering.

  36. Eudora Wealthy*

    #4 Not enough info from the OP. This could just be a bad manager, or it could be a generally bad work environment in which the manager is trapped and trying to navigate a f**ked-up system herself.

  37. Cassie*

    #3: aside from missing deadlines, I don’t see (specifically from the letter) that the status update is time-sensitive. What I mean is, is it absolutely necessary for the status update to go out within the next 30 minutes, or is it just “nice” for it to go out in that time frame?

    I tracked the number of times I was interrupted on Tuesday – the vast majority of the interruptions were unnecessary, as in the requests could have been sent via email and were not time-sensitive. One instance was a boss stopping by to tell me he was going to send me a request, sending me the request, and then stopping by again to ask if I received the email. Stuff like that happens frequently so I’m constantly shifting from one task to another to another. It’s very frustrating for me because if the new task is a quick one, I’ll stop what I’m working on and do it right away. But this means that the original task gets pushed further and further back.

    As for responding to emails regularly – I used to be super quick with reading new emails and responding. Now my email program runs slower (for some reason) so even though I have it set to check every 10 minutes, sometimes a batch of emails show up 30 minutes later. I also try to stay focus on the task at hand (especially if it’s analytical) so I don’t even notice the notification icon at the bottom of my screen.

    If the OP wants to set a policy on the response time or how often email needs to be checked, I think he/she should try that first. That way, they will have something more concrete for the PIP, e.g. rather than just “check your email more often” when “more often” is subjective.

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