giving input for someone else’s evaluation, the job I wanted to apply to disappeared, and more

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

1. Giving input for someone else’s evaluation

I work for a government agency, and my position is somewhat supervisory, but not directly. I am often asked for input for the secretaries’ annual evaluations. Due to our office structure, several of us share a few secretaries, and we interact with them often, assigning work, working together, and communicating in writing and in person. My boss normally sends out an email to us for our input and we are given some time, but very few/no parameters. When I have a good working relationship with a secretary, it’s easy– I try to give examples of things they handled well. I talk generally about how they approach their work and if it’s enjoyable to work with them. But when I don’t, I’ve struggled with whether to provide feedback and what is the best way to do so.

Additionally, my coworkers told me that they don’t provide feedback on the evaluations because they have been burned in the past. Their comments have been shared and attributed to them, which has made it more difficult to work with the secretaries. They said that they always say that everything is okay. However, everything is not okay. Balls are dropped, lots of mistakes are made, and honestly it stresses me out. Also, I understand that since I work for the government, no one is going to get fired or let go. I feel like I want to do something about it, and providing feedback is a good way for me to do that. But I don’t want to seem grumpy or adversarial or petty (most of my evaluations of the secretaries would point out a lot of issues), and I don’t want them to not be taken seriously. What would you suggest?

First, tell your boss that you’d like to share candid feedback but are concerned about causing tension in your relationship with the secretaries, and ask if she can use your feedback as background for herself or in aggregate with no names attached. But then, yes, you should absolutely give feedback. Balls being dropped and mistakes being made are big deals, and you’re being explicitly asked to give feedback on their performance. It’s not grumpy or adversarial to point out factual things like that, as long as you do it in a calm, objective way. If there are things you do like about working with them, include that too, of course.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. The job I wanted to apply to disappeared

Over this past weekend, I saw two openings listed on Idealist at a company in which I am very very interested. I went to the company’s website and they were listed there as well. I was thrilled, but I wavered as to which I should apply to, as they were both semi-similar but very interesting and frankly I believed I could be happy with either. So, I wavered until Monday — and I could not believe it, but they had been removed from the job listings. I reloaded the page multiple times to make sure it wasn’t an error. I checked the original job posting site, and sure enough, they had been removed from underneath the company’s heading. I am shocked and angry at myself for not moving more quickly, but most of all I feel as though I’ve lost my opening within this company.

My question is what now? Is that it, do I just move on and check back to see if anymore relevant openings come up? Would it be plausible to contact the company just to inquire about whether the jobs were filled? Or should I assume that they were because the listings are gone? What is your advice going forward for seeking a job at a company in which you are interested, but there are no listed openings and you have no internal contacts?

There’s no harm in contacting the company and asking if they’d still accept your application — or, even better, just submitting it now with a note saying that you hope they’re still accepting applications. Don’t go into the explanation of why; just keep it simple.

And yeah, generally if you see a job you want to apply to, you don’t know what the window of opportunity might be (they might stop accepting applications, they might hire someone, etc.), so it’ good to apply as soon as you can.

3. Explaining why I’d like to stay in a job long-term

I am a law student currently interning at a firm in a city that I have absolutely no connections with. Generally, all the interns receive offers to come back to the firm, but I am really worried that they may make an exception for me. My work hasn’t been outstanding to the extent that there is no way they could not give me an offer, but I think it’s generally been fine. The biggest worry is that I’m from California, and I have a boyfriend in a different city, so I have no real reason to stay there. And to make things worse, an attorney that has only been around for 6 months, and is also from California, just quit to go back to CA. I think they’re going to be worried about making the same mistake twice. My mid-summer evaluation is coming up, and I want to convey to them that I am interested in staying here long term without making it too obvious that I’m worried about that. What should I say?

Just be straightforward: “I’ve really loved working here and I’d love to stay on long-term. I know you’re probably not at the point where you’re making decisions about that, but I wanted to let you know how very interested I am in that.” It will help if you can talk more specifically about why you want to stay with the firm — what you like about the work, the culture, etc.

4. While I was waiting to hear about a job, HR called me but didn’t leave a message

I had an interview this past Tuesday for a property accountant position with the director of accounting (not HR). After the interview, I emailed my references to the director as requested and sat tight, as she had said they would make their decision by Friday. On Thursday, I missed a call from her when I was in a meeting with my team. She did not leave a message, so I had no idea if I should have called her back or why she didn’t leave some sort of message (I’ve received rejection voicemails before). I called her back as soon as I saw the missed call (about an hour later) and could not reach her, so I left a brief but detailed message.

Was this the correct action to take? Should I call again sometime this week? She was not the easiest person to get ahold of initially to get the interview set up, so I’m not sure if she just isn’t savvy with scheduling or HR type of etiquette.

You left her a message, and now the ball is in her court. I can promise you that if they want to hire you, they’re going to contact you at some point to tell you that; there’s no danger of them forgetting. Don’t keep following up; that will be annoying. (And really, the best thing you can do is mentally move on. Agonizing over it will do you no good, and it’s not like they’ll know that you’ve moved on in your head.)

5. Am I owed overtime when two pay periods are lumped together?

The company I work for made a mistake on my last check and decided to put the missing hours on my next check. When they do that, it’ll put me over 80 hours (I get paid bi-weekly). If they do it in this way, do they have to pay me overtime for the hours they’re correcting or are they are able to put it on my check as straight time?

No, they don’t have to pay you overtime just because they’re including it on a check with another pay period. You’re only owed overtime for weeks in which you actually worked more than 40 hours, not when they’re just lumping one pay period in with another.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. Loose Seal*

    #3 — Are you really interested in staying long term or do you just want the security of having a job lined up? No harm in either one; each is a valid choice for you. But your employers would prefer for you to be truly interested. You are probably going to be seen as someone who will leave as soon as they get an opportunity in a different city as you say you have no real reason to stay in your current city. I think to be taken as a serious candidate, you’re going to have to come up with some reasons to stay in town other than your job and mention those reasons much more frequently than talking about your boyfriend in other city or your hometown. At the very least, start looking at real estate and talking about it in the office — asking what are nice neighborhoods, etc. I’m not saying actually buy a house but make it look like you have an interest in settling there.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I think that showing you want to establish ties is great advice. I recently lost out on a job in a city and state where I had no connections, and this ended up being a real focal point for one of the senior leaders of the company who was interviewing me. He kept on coming back to why would I move there with no family in the area. No matter how much I tried to explain that I was interested in the company and the career path, and I’d make any location work, I could tell I lost him in the interview. It was a blessing in disguise for me, but it showed me that some people really do put a high emphasis on things like roots and don’t want to risk it on someone who they fear will go “back home”.

      1. Stephanie*

        A few months ago, I interviewed for a job in the Midwest. This was during the polar vortex. I live in one of the few places that wasn’t hit by the polar vortex (we even had a super warm winter). One of the interviewers kept being like “Are you sure you want to move here and leave the sunshine?” I kept saying I was very interested in the company and the opportunity (very true) to no avail.

        1. duschamp*

          Aah! I had this in my last interview too! It wasn’t weather based, but the interviewer kept asking if I understood that I would have to move from Scotland to Philly for the job in question. I swear I was asked if I was “sure” about that no less than ten times at each stage of the process. I got the distinct impression that no one interviewing me could believe that any sane person would make such a move.

          I kept stressing my genuine interest & my extensive family connections in the area because (a) the job looked crazy amazing, (b) Philly is way nicer than the Philly-based interviewers seemed to want to believe and (c) Scotland is lovely, but being unemployed can take the shine off of any place.

          1. Stephanie*

            I interviewed for a job in Philly and really liked the city. Granted, the job was at a university, so I would have been working (and maybe living) in the University City/Center City Bubble. And I know Philly does have lots of legitimate problems.

          2. TK*

            Once again, as someone in an academia-allied field, this is all so bizarre. Moving for work is so totally the norm in what I do that I can’t imagine prospective employers ever being concerned you wouldn’t have any ties to an area.. that’s the norm and the expectation.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Well, they could have been burned in the past. It’s not the same thing, but my dad works in the Arctic Circle, and the typical schedule is two weeks on / one week off. They have a terrible time with staffing because people come because the money or chance for advancement looks good, they swear they can handle the schedule … and six months in, they or their SO start complaining about all the time away and they quit. Distance is really hard for some people to handle.

            2. AcademicAnon*

              It happens in academia too. I just lost my 2nd set of tenure-track faculty neighbors because they didn’t like the weather here in the Midwest. The previous set didn’t even get to experience the polar vortex!

    2. neverjaunty*

      Better than window-shopping for real estate – get involved in the community or in social groups if you aren’t already. That also gives something to talk about with people in the office and shows a commitment to staying, instead of just being there for the job.

      And yeah, if you’re from CA (especially the Bay Area or LA) then people are going to assume you will flee at the first opportunity. I once had a job interview in a rural area of California and literally every third question was “But what happens when you want to move back to San Francisco?”

    3. Gwen Soul*

      Yeah we just had two people move back to CA from the midwest. This happens quite often so we make sure to ask also. I understand wanting the security but to have someone just really get up to speed then leave because they really don’t want to live here is frustrating.

  2. Sarahnova*

    OP #1, do you give the secretaries feedback/call it out at the time when a mistake gets made or a ball gets dropped? Because that’s probably the first step here, and if you don’t do that, I’d really recommend you all start. “Hey, Secretary A, you know that typing for the Percival Montblanc file – I was expecting it done like X, but it seems to be done like Y. What was going on there?” Then the old… just listening.

    Frankly, if they’re not hearing about the mistakes at the time, they have some justification to feel narked if it’s coming up in feedback at evaluation time only. Good luck!

    1. Anonymous*

      I was a bit surprised that Alison didn’t ask about giving feedback in the moment. I’ve given feedback that could be perceived as negative when requested by other departments, but I’ve always made sure that the person hears it from me first so that I can put it in context and so that it is never a surprise coming out of left field. Luckily my coworkers return the favor–just the other day my boss mentioned she’d been given some negative feedback about me. It was actually a relief to be able to say “I’m aware of that concern and I’ve been working with Jane and Wakeen on it already by doing X, Y & Z.” I definitely would have felt very frustrated if I thought everything was going great and then had a bunch of negative observations sprung on me.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        My manager brought something up to me the other day that I knew myself was a bit of a problem (related to a new work process and new software), but when I told her how I was working to minimise the error she took it as defensiveness. I’m not sure how to deal with that sort of response. It wasn’t defensiveness, I just wanted her to know that I was aware of a problem and how I was dealing with it.

        1. Alter_ego*

          I struggle with that so much. Especially since I have two coworkers who are at the same level of authority and seniority, and sometimes I’ll ask one how to do something, do it the way he says, and then the other one ends up being the one to check my work, and he says I’ve done it wrong. And how do you say “but that’s what Wakeem told me to do!” Without sounding like a child?

          1. neverjaunty*

            You may need to talk to them proactively. “I understand you and Wakeen have different approaches to this; the problem is that sometimes one of you will ask me to do X in a certain way, and it doesn’t match the other one’s approach. Could we arrange things so that the person who assigns the task also reviews it, or would there be some other way to resolve this?”

            I have been on the receiving end of your problem a lot, btw. I don’t feel like the other person sounds like a child when I hear “I did X because Wakeen asked me to do it that way.” Then I can either say, okay, do it Wakeen’s way, or explain that I understand it’s frustrating, but if a project is going to be done for me, please do X, and listen to Wakeen when the project is going to be done for Wakeen.

            (Although if Wakeen really IS wrong, I would find a way to diplomatically explain that, too.)

        2. GrumpyBoss*

          I never was good at accepting feedback until I had been a manager that had to give it frequently and became frustrated when I hear defense/rationalization/excuses. And when I’d point this out to the recipient, it is clear that is not what they feel they are doing. So I’ve taken steps to make sure that I’m completely open to the feedback. I find it is better that you take some time before responding because then you create the perception that you have mulled it over and given it some thought.

          When I get feedback, even if it is something that I 100% do not agree with, I always say, “thank you” and leave it at that. Then, later in the day or the next, I will follow up with my boss. “I was thinking about what you said about the teapots, and what I out in place a week ago to address it is….. What are your thoughts?”

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            I think it’s good for managers to keep in mind that it isn’t always defense/rationalization/excuses, though. There are definitely times that when I get the feedback I really don’t have a problem with it. Sometimes I just want to explain why I did it the (wrong) way that I did, to show there was a reason for it and that I wasn’t doing it because I was not thinking/disregarding what they said/didn’t give a crap. Sometimes I truly had an innocent reason for doing it the way I did (misunderstanding, conflicting instructions and I obviously chose the wrong one, etc.), and I just want to get that out. But I’m happy to do it the way that they want it now.

            I’m wondering if most managers don’t care about this, though. Would they rather not hear the innocent reason? (I realize this sounds snarky but I’m actually asking…)

            1. fposte*

              The thing is, those are defensive behaviors even if you don’t feel defensive (and I say this as a practitioner myself). I don’t think they’re necessarily a big deal individually, but if it’s a cumulative pattern that’s not presenting yourself in the best possible light. Unless you’re seeking clarity or suggesting a different way, there’s no reason the boss would really need to know why you thought stuff went to Jane and not Bob; she just wants Bob to get the stuff. Wanting her to know why is essentially defensive.

              The sane supervisor is going to assume the reason for your not doing it is innocent anyway and that you do give a crap, and the not-sane one is going to really bristle at defensive behaviors. So it’s pretty unusual to be in a situation where this actually helps you.

              1. neverjaunty*

                True, although ‘clarity’ is the exception. If you thought stuff went to Jane and not Bob because you got misinformation from the office know-it-all, or because the procedures are poorly explained, I would want to know that – not because you need to prove you are innocent but because that is a problem that needs fixing.

                90% of the time, though, “Oh, okay, I’ll do Y next time” is the correct response.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  Yes, this is what I was trying to say about why I would think that sometimes a manager would want an explanation.

                  And 90% of the time I do just change whatever I’ve done, but I do think that sometimes there is a process issue that the manager should know about.

            2. CAA*

              You say it isn’t “defense/rationalization/excuses”, but you had “an innocent reason” and you “just want to get that out”. Do you see the contradiction here? You’re saying you’re not defensive, but you just want to defend yourself.

              Of course I cannot speak for all managers, but for myself, if this is the first time we’re having a conversation about a mistake, I am not blaming you and there is no reason on earth for you to feel guilty or need to defend yourself. It’s far more likely that I am blaming myself for forgetting to tell you about something before you needed to know it; or I am concerned that we gave you too much new information at once and you weren’t able to absorb it all.

              If you immediately jump to explaining what you did and why, it shows that you don’t understand what’s important about the feedback you’re getting. For example, if your response to “Hey Monodon monoceros, can you please do X instead of Y from now on?” is “Well, I’m doing Y because I thought A, then B and I also considered C”; then you missed the point. Talk about X first; make sure you understand it and then express your agreement to do it. After you’ve done that, then it’s your turn to talk and you can bring up the things that misled you if they are likely to mislead other employees and the manager can work on correcting them. This is a separate and secondary topic in the conversation though. Make sure the previous topic was finished and take a breath before you introduce the new one.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  Hmm, I can see what both you and fposte are saying. Perhaps in those situations I am either being defensive or perceived as defensive, even if I am really not intending to be?

                  I think there is a difference between “defending” and “explaining” but I guess it’s just not worth the risk of any misinterpretation.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I think on the recipient’s end the difference isn’t explaining vs. defending but needing to know vs. not needing to know; most explanations don’t fall on the need to know side.

            3. GrumpyBoss*

              Frankly, as a manager, no, I’m not really interested in hearing an innocent reason. I’m seeing X, when I really want to see Y. When I give feedback, I make sure I explain why Y is better than X. After I go through that, if someone says, “But by doing X, I was hoping to accomplish ABC”, it shows to me that they aren’t listening to me. If I was open to a discussion of X vs Y, I’d have phrased it as a discussion – “I see you are doing X instead of Y. Why is that?” But correcting feedback isn’t usually meant to be a philosophical discussion of how to get a task done. It’s meant to steer behavior in a different direction.

              As fposte rightly points out, a sane manager won’t assume you are taking the wrong action for malicious reasons. The manager just wants a different action to take place.

              When AAM posted a list of things a boss wishes their employee knew a few weeks back, this is one I wish was included. We don’t care why you were doing something when we give you feedback. We just want it to change.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Except that puts an employee in a very bad position if they can’t change it.

                “Why do you keep doing X?”

                “Because every time I do Y, your co-manager Wakeen makes me do it over again.”

                “Why didn’t you tell me?”


            4. Mephyle*

              Would managers rather not hear the innocent reason? I think it could depend in many cases on personal history. If the manager has often dealt with defensive, excuse-making people in her life (whether in family, or in work) she is more likely to interpret explanations as excuses.

          2. Stephanie*

            That was one of the hardest things as a new grad in the workforce. I always wanted to respond to feedback immediately with justification or defensiveness.

        3. MissM*

          I don’t know exactly what was said, but I think to avoid sounding defensive, make sure that you first clearly acknowledge the mistake and let your boss know that you understand why it’s a problem. Then you can say what you are doing to deal with it. It can sound defensive if you skip right to how you are dealing the issue.

          1. Fish Microwaver*

            I did all that in the way that AAM had suggested (Iknow it’s a problem, I know why it’s a problem and this is how I am working to prevent it in the future) and the manager still thought it was defensive.

        4. Mealso2*

          My boss does this too. Explaining what your thinking was on something and/or how you will be changing that in the future is verboten for him apparently. It’s hard to have a real conversation because of that. He also expects us to be psychics on certain things, which is difficult.

          1. Persephone*

            I never defend myself. This leads to perpetual problems and unsolved issues. Boss doesn’t want to hear it and as I read here it’s given boss is right , there’s no excuse and so bad management rumbles along.

            Why not ask why? A good employee keeps making an error? Why would that happen?

            Dumb. Telling someone why is not defensive always often it would help.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s a given here that boss is right.

              It is a given that the boss has authority her reports don’t, of course, so if you have a boss that doesn’t want to hear it, you’re right, it doesn’t make much sense to share.

              But I have really good staff. Like everybody including me, they make mistakes, especially when they’re learning something new. Unless it’s an obstacle to doing it correctly in future, I don’t really need to know why they did it the way they did, because I assume they had logical reasons; I also assume they’ll do it the way requested in future.

              There are a lot of corrections and redirections in working with staff, and it would take a whole lot of time for no real organizational gain to hear the reason every single time. Tell me if it’s procedurally important or if there’s a reasonable chance the way I asked for it is a problem. If it’s just because you thought something else, figure that I’ve already guessed that.

              1. Monodon monoceros*

                Not to be defensive :) but like you said, the boss might need the explanation when it is procedurally important or they way it was asked was a problem- this is exactly what I am saying that managers need to be open to hearing these explanations. And not just immediately think the employee is being defensive.

                When I have managed people, I wanted to know if there was a way to avoid the problem in the future. Of course I didn’t want to hear excuses, and tone makes a difference, but it was useful to me to correct bigger issues and avoid similar mistakes or misunderstandings.

    2. OP 1*

      I do sometimes. It depends on the issue and how much I have to fix/redo. I’d say that about 3/4ths of the things I’ve brought up, I’ve addressed or attempted to address. Some things there isn’t an opportunity, because it’s not just a single mistake, but a a pattern of behavior. Also when I’ve added my boss whether I should address x our y problem directly, the answer has been No.

      1. fposte*

        That advice is crucial when it’s somebody who reports to you, but it sounds like these people don’t, which makes it more difficult.

        1. OP 1*

          Yes. This creates a difficult dynamic. Also, I check in with my boss since these people are not direct reports. I don’t know what priorities they have been given (maybe my work is considered less urgent by management?), or other personal stuff they have going on that could affect work.

    3. some1*

      +1. This letter could have come from my old workplace. I was an admin in a govt law office and the attorneys were asked to give input on the support staff at annual evaluation time. One of my coworkers got dinged in her first evaluation because one of the attorneys said she socialized too much. It was a valid complaint but it’s hard not to get defensive when it doesn’t get reported for months.

  3. Mimmy*

    Speaking of #4… You absolutely made the right move, although I’m curious you meant by “brief but detailed”. I’m sure your message was fine, but that jumped out at me for some reason. I do think it was rude of the director to not leave a message when she didn’t get you though, but that’s somewhat beside the point.

    I’d move on mentally, especially since you don’t know the nature of the director’s call.

    1. fposte*

      I think “brief but detailed” means “I didn’t ramble annoyingly, and I included contact and contextual information so that she would have enough information to call back without looking me up.”

    2. Reader*

      I took this to mean name, number, returning call, maybe reminder about job applied for. No rambling, no over explanation, no asking why she called, no speculations.

    3. Artemesia*

      People usually don’t leave a message when it is ‘I am calling to tell you, you didn’t get the job.’

      1. Stephanie*

        I got one once, which was surprising. But I did appreciate that the interviewer let me know and told me why they went with a different candidate.

    4. some1*

      Honestly, people who call me back when I didn’t leave a voice mail is one of my pet peeves. If I don’t leave a message in a business context, it’s because I need info immediately and will ask someone else, or I will send you an email because I’d rather play email tag then phone tag.

      As Alison pointed out, you aren’t going to lose a job offer because you missed a call. They will leave a voice mail offering you the job or asking you to call back.

      1. some1*

        ETA: For all we know the hiring manager called the wrong number by mistake and still hasn’t made a final decision.

      2. Reader*

        If I’m waiting/expecting a call and get one without a message I would certainly call back. How do you know that somehow the voice mail didn’t get messed up?

        1. some1*

          I’d call my voice mail, and if I didn’t have a message I’d wait and check back after the deadline has passed. The hiring manager already knows I’m waiting for the decision, s/he’s not going to make it faster if I call to say I saw the number on the Caller ID.

        2. some1*

          ETA: I can understand why the LW or someone in this situation would call to check in, but I do disagree with Mimmy that the hiring manager was inherently rude for not leaving a voice mail when s/he called.

  4. Ashcat*

    Hi everyone- I’m the person who asked about missing a job posting. Does anyone have any firsthand experience with this that they’d be willing to share?? And thank you Alison for your comments. I never even thought about still just applying. The worst they can say is sorry the job has been filled…

    1. some1*

      I don’t have advice about job postings disappearing, but I don’t think there’s any reason you can’t apply for two positions at the same time, assuming you are qualified for both.

      I’m an admin and large companies frequently have more than one admin role open, if I have interest in more than one role I explain that in my cover letter so the recruiters don’t think I’m resume bombing.

    2. CAA*

      I’m not sure what kind of first-hand experience you’re looking for, but in many job posting systems, the employer has to enter an end date, after which the posting will no longer appear on the site. It’s fairly typical to pick a Friday or Sunday because that’s the end of the week. If they don’t have enough qualified candidates, it’s easy enough to repost the positions.

    3. lonepear*

      Apply! It won’t hurt. If you are really late and they’ve already picked the shortlist, then yeah, maybe you won’t get considered but no one should hold it against you for trying. (Even then, you might get a second look if the current candidates are not what they had hoped.) But I’ve looked at candidates who submitted after the deadline if the interview process hasn’t started yet, no big deal.

    4. Mephyle*

      If I understand you correctly, you wavered because you were deciding which of the two to apply to. If something similar happens again, why not apply to both? There’s advice in past columns about what to do in this situation (how to apply to two different jobs in the same organization at the same time).

  5. Steve G*

    #3 – do you really really want to stay there?

    I lived in an interesting city from 22-25 (not going to mention name because it is considered cool, and don’t want that to detract) that I had no connection to. Obviously I made friends there, which is very easy at that age…..

    But as I was approaching 26 I started to feel guilty being far from home because the living relatives in my grandparent’s generation were getting old, I was missing weddings, was missing graduation parties for younger first and second cousins, missing baptisms of my older cousins’ kids…..and I decided to go back, which was totally not my intention at 22.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    for #1 – I would provide comments verbally rather than in writing if you’re concerned it will get back to them.

    Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to the admin assistants if you don’t say anything at the time but then say something when it’s time for the their appraisal. Are you giving them feedback throughout the year?

    Finally, are these secretaries or admin assistants? The word “secretary” is so outdated to me and where I am they’re admin assistants. It’s a small difference but it matters.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      I find the title “secretary” so much more professional than “admin assistant”. An admin assistant could be quite unskilled while secretary implies a poised skilled professional. If I worked in that field I would prefer the title “secretary”.

    2. OP 1*

      Thier job title is Secretary. I understand the differences in uses & that many people prefer admin assistant, but their job title is secretary– which is why I used it.

    3. OP 1*

      Also, it’s a govt position job titles will go unchanged for up to 20 years.

      Yes, some feedback is given. See other responses I’ve given here. Some is pattern of behavior and some is addressed but blown off. I’ve asked my supervisor whether to address some specific issues and the answer has been no.

      1. JMegan*

        Ouch. Sounds like your hands are tied, in that case. If your supervisor doesn’t want you to address the issues, you may just have to smile and nod and say everything is fine, regardless of what you really think.

        I work in government too, I know how frustrating it can be!

  7. Cassie*

    #1 – we have a similar system in place where faculty are asked to provide annual feedback our general admin staff. I’ve heard that many faculty do not provide any feedback at all because they don’t want the comments attributed back to them. So few people respond to the email request, and those who do are generally neutral to mildly positive (generally about how friendly the staffer is, rather than how their work performance is).

    I’ve heard firsthand from faculty about many instances where balls were dropped and stuff weren’t done, but nobody is willing to say anything about it. The faculty just figure out who the star staffers are and go to them instead (everyone “knows” that there are about 5 reliable staffers out of 26 staffers and if there’s a crucial task, you get one of those 5 staffers involved).

    As for on-the-spot feedback – I can hear it from my cubicle and frankly, it doesn’t seem like the staffer cares. When a professor asked why the staffer had missed an important deadline, the response was basically simply “I forgot”. There are absolutely no repercussions for poor performance – faculty don’t even yell at staff anymore like they used to (not that I think they should but these days, it feels like faculty have to beg and implore staff to get stuff done).

    On the flip side, I was in a staff meeting once where we were discussing improving the evaluation process. Some staffers said that they would rather not know which faculty/student provided feedback because they didn’t want it to affect the working relationship.

    1. OP 1*

      Yes! This is the dynamic at my work place! I’m glad to see I’m nog alone and disappointed because I have a feeling that things aren’t going to get better.

      1. Cassie*

        My suggestion with dealing with staff who have a history of not completing their tasks – be very specific about what you want (and how it should be done) and give a firm deadline. Send a reminder for crucial tasks – don’t worry about “nagging”. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

        For the performance evaluation feedback – I’d give a couple of specific examples of balls being dropped and such. Ideally, it will help the staffer understand what was expected and how he/she failed to meet that expectation.

        I tend to approach other staff (and frankly faculty) with the assumption that they will forget, or that they will have a different interpretation compared to what I think is correct. It’s a sad world view :) but it reminds me to be very clear and also tempers my expectations. After all, people aren’t mind readers and when someone gives me a task to do, I’d rather they be excruciatingly clear about what they want. I still remember the time my boss sent me to the student store to buy her a bottle of water, and me standing there in front of 3-4 displays of bottled water, utterly confused about what I should get. In my mind, the gallon size would be cheapest (per ounce), but maybe she doesn’t want to lug around a gallon. Is a 20 ounce enough or should I get the liter? Should the bottle be refrigerated? Does she like Arrowhead or Crystal Geyser? Is a regular lid ok or does she need the sports top? Too many choices!

        1. OP 1*

          yes, that is how I communicate with staff (all– actually, because it’s just easier to have good habits for assigning work than tailoring for 1-2 people when you have to), but it is still difficult.

  8. John*

    #3 — the bigger issue is that your work is not outstanding. In a competitive job market, “fine” doesn’t cut it, nor should it. You need to make the case for them to offer you to come back and, reading your letter, you sound okay with your mediocre performance. I would use your mid-summer evaluation to figure out how you’re going to move the needle. Stop focusing on things outside your control and focus on doing a great job.

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