how can I get an employee to solve problems on her own, when does my two weeks notice start, and more

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

1. How can I get an employee to try to solve problems on her own?

I have an employee who’s been with me for 6 years in an entry-level researcher position. Late last year, my senior researcher went out on leave, so my two entry researchers have had to pick up some of that workload. Also, early this year we switched to a new computer system that is completely different from what we’re used to.

Lately, one employee has started to come into my office using the phrase, “I haven’t done this before” or “this is new to me” and then looks at me as if she’s expecting me to detail her next steps. Yes, some things are new, but with her being here 6 years and having helped out the senior researcher before, I have the expectation that she knows enough about the business we are in to figure it out or at least come up with some potential options and then check with me on which one to proceed with. A couple of times I’ve said, “Yes you have, this is just like project x” or “We covered this in training” and then she just stares at me until I start talking again, when I usually say, “Well, what do you think should be done?” She has a poker face so I can never really tell what she’s thinking.

How do I, or should I, politely tell her that I’d like her to stop saying these phrases? I don’t think they’re doing her any favors. If I said that to my boss as often as she says it to me, my boss would be wondering why she hired me. My boss thinks that I need to get rid of her because she’s “not getting it'” and therefore is not supportive enough to me.

It sounds like the other entry-level researcher is handling this just fine, so that’s a useful reality check that your expectations are probably reasonable here — but even if you were expecting too much of her, it would still be reasonable to want her to try to solve problems on her own before coming to you. However, you need to tell her that you expect that; it sounds like so far you haven’t been clear with her on that front and have been expecting her to pick it up without directly saying it.

So tell her clearly what you expect! Say something like this: “I hear you that some of this is new, but most of it is similar to projects you’ve done before that or that we’ve talked about during training. I’m here as a resource for you, but when you get stuck, I’d like you to think through some potential options and then bring those to me if you’re still unsure. If you’re truly stuck and unable to do that, you can still come to me, but I’d like your default to be that you first try to figure it out (including checking the computer system training materials) and come to me with some options that you’ve thought through.”

2. When does my two weeks notice start ticking — when it’s sent or when it’s received?

I sent my manager (who is also the owner of the company) my two weeks’ notice a week ago. Today, she asserted that because she didn’t receive the notice until today, my two-week notice period starts today, not a week ago. She was out of the office last week, but she is the only person to whom I can submit notice and she advised my coworker that she would be available by email, which is how I submitted my notice when I found that she was not in the office.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s unfortunate and inconvenient, yes, but an employee’s life (not to mention job offers) doesn’t go on hold when the manager is out of the office. She, on the other hand, has expressed disappointment and anger. I can understand her frustration, but don’t feel that I have any obligation to stay for longer than my notice period. Who is right?

If you’d emailed your notice during a period when she had warned you she wouldn’t be checking email, you’d be in the wrong. But she had said she’d be checking email, so you reasonably assumed she’d see your note. That said, I do think you erred her in letting a week go by with no response and not checking in with her during that time, when you didn’t hear anything back from her.

But as for what to do now: Two weeks notice is simply professional convention; it’s not required by law, so you can leave whenever you want. You don’t want to burn a bridge, of course, which is why you shouldn’t quit without notice in general, but in this situation you could say something like: “I’m sorry you didn’t see my note until Monday. I sent it a week ago and assumed you saw it because you had told us you would be checking email. I’m not able to move my final day back because I’ve committed to starting my new job on X, but I’ll do whatever I can this week to help with the transition.”

That said, in general I recommend giving notice in person or at least by phone — not in email. Even when a manager is out of town, most would prefer a phone call to let them know what’s happening, rather than finding it in an email. And if you do send it by email and don’t receive a response for a couple of days, that’s a sign that you need to pick up the phone and make sure it was received.

3. Being considered for a promotion while interviewing for other jobs

I’ve been looking for other jobs and completed a final interview less than a week ago, and I feel very positive about my chances of being offered the job. I’m very excited!

But at my current workplace, they are interviewing for promotions and my boss is very adamant that I apply for the position because he feels like I am very good at what I do now and this position is the next logical step to a successful career within our company (he also didn’t want to see me become complacent in my current role). If I hadn’t already interviewed for another position that I feel I’m a better fit for, I would have jumped at this opportunity in a heartbeat. But I’m worried that I will be considered for this promotion and have to leave for the job I really want. What do I do? Should I discuss my career prospects at another company with my current boss? (The hiring manager for the other company indicated that I should have an answer by the end of this week, or next week at the latest. That means that they are making a decision on that position while my interview for a possible promotion would take place, according to the timeline my current boss gave me.)

You’re right that it’s not ideal to accept a promotion and then leave right away for another job — but the two timelines here sound like that won’t happen. You sound likely to get an answer on the other job before your current employer makes any promotion decision, so if you get the other job, you’ll have time to withdraw from consideration for the promotion. However, if the other company’s hiring process starts to drag out (which can happen), at that point you could contact them and let them know that you have a timeline constraint (explaining that you don’t want to accept a promotion and then leave soon after) and ask if they’re able to expedite their timeline.

But do throw your hat in the ring for the promotion, since there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the other job and it sounds like you’ll want this one if the other one doesn’t work out.

4. Is it rude to decline an interview with a company’s COO?

I have just had my first interview today with a company that contacted me regarding a job opening they would like to fill up quite quickly for a position that I am looking for. I had a few doubts before interviewing and suspected the job and company would not be the right fit for me. I still interviewed with them to get more information. Turns out, it’s not exactly what I am looking for and would feel like a step backwards for me in terms of the reputation this company has in the country/market I work in. Additionally, my current job involves quite a lot of travel, but the one I interviewed for involved a lot more than I am comfortable with.

They have contacted me an hour after the interview to say that it went great and requested that I do a second interview with their COO tomorrow. They seem to be quite eager to fill up the position as quickly as possible. I already know that I absolutely won’t take this position if they offered it to me, and I feel like I am wasting their time by interviewing with their COO while they could be speaking to other people who are a better fit. I am speaking to other companies I think would be a much better fit for me. On the other side, I am wondering if it’s acceptable to decline a meeting with their COO (I am not very senior with 3 years of work experience).

I don’t know how to politely decline without burning any bridges with them and their recruitment company. The market and industry I am in are quite small and I wouldn’t want to risk losing any future opportunities. How do you suggest I handle the situation?

It’s not rude to withdraw from an interview process when you’ve decided you’re no longer interested, and your seniority versus the interviewer’s isn’t a factor at all. In fact, accepting an interview you don’t want is arguably rude because it wastes the interviewer’s time and potentially takes an interview slot from someone who does want it, and I promise you that COO doesn’t want to spend her time interviewing someone who doesn’t want the job.

It’s totally fine to just explain that you’ve concluded the position isn’t for you. You could say something like this: “Thanks so much for reaching back out. After talking with Jane yesterday, I’ve realized that the position isn’t quite what I’m looking for, so I’ve decided to withdraw my application. But I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me and wish you all the best in filling the role.”

5. Applying when an employer keeps reposting the same job

How many times can you apply to the same job if an employer continuously re-posts the same opening? I first applied in March. However, I never heard back and the posting was taken down. The job was re-posted in May. I applied again and never heard back, and the job posting was once again taken down. It is now July and they re-posted the same exact position. Is it too pushy to apply a third time? The post says specifically not to contact the employer, so I haven’t been able to follow up at all. It really would be a perfect fit for me and my interests, so I don’t want to give up. However, I’m wondering if my continuous applying will prevent me from having a chance at future opportunities within the company.

I think it’s fine to reapply a third time, since these seem to be three separate hiring processes, not one long one. However, make sure you’re not sending the same cover letter that you’ve sent previously; that will look too perfunctory (and it didn’t work last time, so it’s time to change it up anyway). Write a letter that opens by noting that you’ve applied before (so that they don’t think you just don’t recall that) and explaining why you’re so particularly interested in the job.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Jerry Vandesic*

    #1 – If your boss advises you to let someone go because they are not performing up to expectations, you need to seriously consider letting them go. Unless you have some other reason why that wouldn’t make sense, you risk looking like you are unable to manage and make tough decisions.

    1. Artemesia*


      Someone who continues to underperform should have been let go some time back; there are dozens of people who could do this job and would love to do the good job you are looking for. Never retain someone who consistently doesn’t perform AND when your own boss has noticed it and suggested firing her.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Perhaps, but it sounds like the OP hasn’t yet told her directly what she’d like her to do differently. She’s been there six years (in an entry-level position, which maybe raises other issues); the OP should give her the opportunity to hear where she’s not meeting the bar and what she needs to do differently.

      1. Jeremy*

        Entry level for six years should absolutely raise other concerns! My gut tells me this employee has largely not been trusted with projects in which they can take initiative, and thus doesn’t think to do so here.

        Maybe they aren’t capable, or maybe they haven’t been given the opportunity, but either way, the manager needs to take a serious look at how this person has been managed for the last six years. Something needs to change.

        1. Sandrine (France)*

          Some people don’t want to go beyond entry level, though.
          I remember one of my previous jobs. There was this guy who had been there over ten years and was so happy doing what he was doing that he just didn’t want to move up.

          Yes, people like that do exist :)

          1. BRR*

            I had a guy at my last job who had been in an entry-level position for 30 years. This was also an organization that did not give out raises that often.

            1. De Minimis*

              It depends on the structure of the organization, if there aren’t a lot of opportunities for advancement within the organization it shouldn’t be a problem for someone to stay at the same level long term. A lot of smaller employers are like that.

          2. Nutcase*

            This is certainly correct. My dad has been his position for over 20 years now. Although it isn’t entry level, it isn’t too far off. He enjoys what he does so much and is already well paid so he doesn’t want to be moved into a management role despite several offers for promotions over the years.

            I often wonder about this sort of thing myself. I’m one step up from entry level but I have no interest really in managing other people. I love actually DOING the work that I do and moving up any further would mean doing less of what I love in order to oversee other people having all the fun. This might seem like a silly question – I’d love more authority and responsibility but does that always come with having to manage others?

            1. CAA*

              It depends on your industry, but you could look for opportunities to manage projects; design or architect solutions; own part of a larger project and contribute to the entire effort; mentor people without managing them; lead teams; participate in committees or organizations that set standards; establish training classes.

            2. Jen RO*

              I think it’s possible. I am just a regular working bee (a senior worker bee, albeit), but I am not a manager of any sort. Still, my coworkers respect me and my opinion has a lot of weight. Best of both worlds!

            3. James*

              Some people love to lead/manage others (regardless of if they are actually effective at it or not), and other people hate it. If you are the type who hates it, you probably really enjoy the hands on production. Don’t spoil that enjoyment if you know the promotion will cause you to dread coming in to work.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Yes they do. I’m that way. I have no desire to manage, and I have other outside things I’m doing that I’d rather spend that extra energy (and/or hours) on.

          4. Juli G.*

            Yes, I’ve run across these people too. However, they’re usually role models of their job. People that have knowledge and experience that is difficult to replace. In this case, the employee sounds completely replaceable – and you may get someone better.

            If you want to stay at a low level and your company gives decent accrual of benefits (i.e. consistent raises, more paid time off, etc) then you need to find way to improve your value outside of doing the job as well as someone three months into the job.

          5. Maggie*

            Thank you. While I may be overly ambitious, I know plenty of people who love the comfort of staying right where they’re at. There is nothing wrong with it, in fact, there are plenty of corporations whose success is built on the backs of these entry level ‘lifers’. Why knock them?

        2. MK*

          I wouldn’t say “absolutely” raises other concerns. Some people are not ambitious or interested in their careers or maybe there are personal reasons for which they choose to stay at that level. It’s even possible that entry-level is as far as their abilities can take them. As long as they do a great job in their position, they shouldn’t be penalized or viewed suspiciously for it.

          On the other hand, some people who make this choice think that forgoing promotions means they get to put only minimum effort into their work. This could be what’s happened here; maybe the employee has gotten into the mindset that she has a low-level, undemanding job and isn’t prepared to put extra effort now that the job requires it.

          1. CartoonCharacter*

            Entry-level can also mean no opportunity to move up or politics that prevent one from doing so. Last place I worked was staffed by dinosaurs…no body left, so virtually no one moved up.

            1. JC*

              Yes, this. I work as a researcher in a place with a relatively flat structure, where you come in as a researcher and the only promotion available is to senior researcher, unless you leave the research track to become an executive (and there is little opportunity for this). It typically takes a long time to be promoted to senior researcher because it’s the ceiling, and 6 years in the non-senior position is not unusual.

              1. Tina*

                I agree with the comments about how some people like what they’re doing/don’t want to move up, or that there aren’t always opportunities to move up. The research organization where I worked typically hired bachelor level candidates for entry-level researcher jobs, and you didn’t advance far without getting a graduate degree. Most of the entry-level researchers either left to go to grad school, or just left to advance at another company.

                Based on OPs letter, we also don’t have any reason to believe that the employee *isn’t* good at her current job, just that she’s not good at the senior researcher job. Of course it’s entirely possible, there’s just nothing specific in the letter to indicate that.

            2. De Minimis*

              The agency I work for has opportunities for advancement, but you have to be able to relocate. Some people do, others choose to remain in the same positions for their entire career.

            3. Not an IT Guy*

              I would suspect politics are coming into play, especially if the OP says she’s worked with the senior researcher before. I was considered a temp for three years with my current company…the person put in charge of my training refused to train me and my manager told me to keep my mouth shut about any issues I was having. So I would think that if she is unsure of her job after 6 years there may be a major internal problem that is beyond her control.

            4. Karen*

              I’ve been in that situation at one of my former jobs, too. I was there for 5 years and although the scope of my duties expanded considerably, on paper I was still the “Office Assistant” until I had my title bumped up to Office Manager (which was still more admin-sounding than my job really had become at that point). But it wasn’t a promotion… it was just a title change. It was still the same entry level position with no hope of promotion because the company was so small.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I’m kind of in the same position right now. I’ve been in my role for eight years (which is not at all unusual on my university campus; there are many, many of us who have been in the same role for many years).

                My duties have expanded considerably since I started, and my job has been reclassified into a several-tiers-higher strata than it was when I started. An HR rep came and did what they call a “desk audit”, in which they observe the level of duties performed and judge the merit of a title/pay increase. So that was a sort of promotion-in-place for me.

                And getting a new department head always seems like starting a new job. I’ve had two so far, and will get another in a year. It’s refreshing to re-examine the way I do everything and realign myself with a new person every now and then. I also feel well-respected by our unit’s upper administrators (I’m often asked to consult on issues of office tone and culture, for example, which apparently has become my area of expertise).

                I sometimes get the feeling from reading this blog that I should be itching for more responsibility (i.e. managing people), but I honestly want absolutely nothing to do with that. Higher-level work that I can still do by myself = yes. “Higher-level work” as a code-word for managing others = no.

        3. Mike C.*

          Either that, or this workplace doesn’t offer opportunities for folks to move up on merit.

        4. Biff*

          I also had similar thoughts. I was stuck in an Entry LEvel position for years and would do the same thing to my boss. Because HE was not consistent with is instructions and if I did it the same way I’d always done it, he was liable to blow up. We weren’t trusted to do anything right, but we were also told that we should ‘know this already.’

          Strangely enough, he also often told us that if he behaved the way we did with his boss, he’d be fired, which alwasy struck me as strange logic. OF COURSE a high-tier manager would act differently than a grunt!

      2. WorkingMom*

        My boss has trained us to “bring her solutions, not problems.” She doesn’t want us coming to her and saying, “What should I do about X?” Instead, we come up with a solution, then go to her and say, “The teapot machine exploded. I’d like to implement XYZ to fix it by tomorrow, in order to do that we’ll need ABC resources. Would you like me to move forward?”

        This way she can gauge how clearly we understand the business, see how we would solve the problem on our own, etc. Then based on what she feels is best, she might redirect us and say, “Well that machine is not worth fixing, so let’s buy a new one… etc.” or “great idea, go for it.”

        1. CAA*

          The only problem with this is that it encourages employees to hide intractable problems that they can’t see a solution for. I don’t want people to do that, so I try to encourage people to bring me problems, but then I start of the conversation by asking about their ideas for solutions.

      3. Be the Change*

        In our organization, it’s so difficult to get reclassifications approved that someone being entry level for TEN years would not raise eyebrows. Reclassifications mean raises, and if a reclass would mean getting a raise of more than about 8% (say you are low in the pay range of your current class), it will be denied no matter how good you are because that’s just too big a raise.

        The employee sounds like a rather dull crayon, but it *may* not be her fault that she’s still entry level.

      4. OP #1 Here*

        Thank you all. Some of the advice is a little tough to hear, but this is definitely what I need.

        AAM is right. I need to be more direct & clear with my expectations. I am in an environment of sink or swim – give someone work with very little direction & see how well they do. My bosses do that with me and I am apparently repeating that same pattern. So I now see that I definitely need to break that cycle.

        1. AcademicAnon*

          Some people even in research positions just can’t problem solve. They do good work when it’s clearly laid out what and how to do it (or they can find out online how to do it), but when they are asked to come up with procedure X to fix problem Y, they just cannot do it.

  2. GrumpyBoss*

    #2: to echo AAM’s advice, there are some things that just shouldn’t be done solely on email. Email is great to follow up with your letter of resignation, last date, etc. It shouldn’t be the primary communication medium for critical conversations. Even when I’ve left the crappiest jobs/bosses ever, professional courtesy warrants a phone call to let them know I’m moving on. If a manager had been unavailable, I’d have given my resignation verbally to their manager and/or HR.

    Sending an email to quit when the boss is out and then not following up with at least a call or a voice mail is pretty passive aggressive.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I think I have to agree. Normally, if the boss was out of the office, I’d advise going to the boss’s boss to give notice in person, but in this case, since the OP’s boss is the owner of the company, that was not an option. So I think it was on the OP to try everything she could think of to notify the boss about the resignation as soon as possible.

      As a manager, if I made a job offer to someone who asked to push out their start date due to a situation like this, and didn’t want to leave their current employer in the lurch, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I would respect someone’s desire to wrap things up on a professional note, tie up the loose ends, and so on. Unless it’s truly dire circumstances, an extra week isn’t going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

    2. LAI*

      Agreed. I think the OP should proceed with the 2 weeks notice that she originally requested and leave on time, but I also think this was mishandled. If I were in this situation (wanting to give notice but my boss was out of of the office), I would have negotiated to start my new job in 3 weeks so that I could resign in person and still give 2 weeks.

      1. Vicki*


        I would have found someone else to tell. Resigning in person is not a good enough reason to require 3 weeks’ notice. What if the manager was out on personal leave? Would you wait 3 months?

        1. Jamie*

          Me too. I wouldn’t alter my timeline because of a social nicety.

          I’d do it by phone and then send an email follow up confirming dates and cc HR.

    3. neverjaunty*

      OP #2 said the manager is the owner of the company, so guessing there was nobody further up the chain (and, possibly, no HR).

      It also seems that OP did not know the manager/owner would be gone for a week and only found out after the fact from a co-worker. Absent facts we’re missing here, it seems like OP was in a bind: no advance warning that the manager would be gone and contact should be by email.

      So yes, normally it would be a bad idea to just email the boss and not follow up. But it seems like OP’s boss created this situation.

      1. Felicia*

        I had a similar situation when I gave my 2 weeks notice on Monday…I was out on Friday for a pre-planned vacation , no one told me my manager would be gone for 2 weeks starting Monday. So when I got the job on Monday, I had no idea what to do. My manager is as high up as you can go in the company (executive director) and I had no idea who else to tell (and no HR department, it’s a small company). So I emailed my manager and HOPED she would get it since she didn’t mention her vacation maybe she’d be checking email. Luckily on Monday night she replied, congratulating me on my new job and saying she was sad she wouldn’t get to see me before I left (she’s so nice!) . If she hadn’t replied I don’t know what I would have done…I only know her work cell # and I actually tried that first (it automatically went to voicemail, saying she wouldn’t be answering her work cell phone for 2 weeks). I didn’t know her personal cell # and had no idea who would – personal contact info is not something most people other than her have access too. So while it maybe could have been handled better, I can totally understand how the OP had no idea what to do and i’m just glad it worked out in my case. The OP probably didn’t know her boss’ personal phone number, and/or didn’t know where to find that info, especially if their boss was as high up as you go in the company.

        1. C Average*

          Ugh, what a crazy-making situation. I’m glad your boss is nice and you were able to get a quick response by email.

    4. Valar M.*

      I have to disagree a bit here. While I’ve always made sure that I did in person, I’ve had cases where doing that professional courtesy became a huge inconvenience to me. I’ve had bosses who were constantly out of the office on vacation or sick leave, MIA and unresponsive to phone calls, etc. (Those things being part of the reason I had chosen to leave). I’ve had to wait 3 and 4 weeks to give notice before because of that. In fact I had one boss, who just refused to accept that I had given my two weeks notice and got upset, when two weeks after my notice I stopped coming to work. He called my phone insisting that I come in.

      The OP didn’t give a lot of detail around the event but the fact that s/he said “when I found out”, leads me to believe this might not have been a planned vacation. I don’t think this is necessarily passive aggressive depending on the circumstances. In some cases, it could be your only option.

      1. LBK*

        I agree with the last paragraph, especially because the OP had to find out from a coworker that the boss would (allegedly) be reading emails. Who doesn’t tell their direct reports they’ll be out and how to contact them if needed?

        1. Tina*

          One of my first bosses right out of college. There were numerous occasions he didn’t bother telling me he would be out, and the only reason I knew was because I sat in the office right next to his. People would stop at my office and ask where he was, and all I could say was I haven’t seen him, and they’d get annoyed (with him, not me).

        2. Felicia*

          My boss! I think she tells some people, but not me. Well I just gave my 2 weeks notice so I’ll be gone soon.

        3. C Average*

          Uh, my boss. And the boss I had before that. I’m not super keen on being Facebook friends with my boss–I thought long and hard before clicking “accept” to that invite–but if I weren’t, I’d have no idea of her whereabouts a lot of the time. Sometimes she’s here, sometimes she’s not. When she’s not, she could be in meetings, could be on vacation, could be marooned on an island somewhere . . . she does not communicate this stuff at all.

          1. Audiophile*

            Ugh the Facebook dilemma. I have a rule generally, that I’m not friends with any managers or supervisors, until I’ve left a job.
            If there is an instance where it may be required, my likely course of action will be to accept, but put boss in a separate group, to filter messages and content out. Not that I’m very active on Facebook anyway, as someone pointed out, it’s mostly foursquare check ins.

            1. Valar M.*

              People still use foursquare?? Huh. Interesting. There was a flurry of that awhile back and now I don’t see it anymore.

              Also, after I moved on to a new position my bosses deleted me off FB and then I momentarily wondered if that meant something. Did that mean that I couldn’t use them as references? Were they only adding me to monitor me?

              Just better to not have them.

              1. Audiophile*

                I do. And some of my friends do. It’s not as popular as it was once, that I’d agree with you on. I like(d) it because I occasionally found deals by checking in.

        4. Anon for this*

          My boss. He’s a bit of an absent-minded professor. Sometimes people seem to know that he’ll be out, but he doesn’t usually tell the entire team.

          We actually had a coworker give notice while Boss was out last week. Fortunately, Boss’ Boss was here and Coworker was able to submit notice to Boss’ Boss instead.

        5. LBK*

          So for those who have said their boss does this – do you find this acceptable for a manager? I’m not saying a manager needs to be accountable for their time 24/7 obviously, but if they’re going to be truly unavailable – no phone, no email – and they don’t tell you, that seems really frustrating and poorly planned.

          1. Felicia*

            If they’re totally unavailable, then yes I think this is unacceptable in a manager. My manager always responds to emails though, so even though she didn’t tell me she’d be gone or when she’d be back, it’s good I can reach her by email

          2. Anon55*

            I find it completely unacceptable and it’s one of the many, many reasons my boss that did this is now my former boss. He was the bottleneck in our department. Everything had to go through him. Reports, emails to customers, requests for things, purchases, you name it. He would never let anyone know where he was: meeting on our floor, meeting on a different floor, lunch, doctor’s appointment, out sick, on vacation, carpooled to one of our other locations, meeting with a customer off-site or if he’d simply parked his car in our parking lot before taking a cab to the airport!

            We even had people show up for scheduled interviews and no one would be able to find this boss. So whatever lucky coworker had been polite and grabbed the visitor from reception got to babysit until our boss showed up or someone was able to figure out where he was and if he knew there were people waiting for him. He would never block off days on his calendar to show he was out of the building or even the country so we’d have to ask everyone until someone remembered he was going golfing that day.

            We once had accounting try to get myself and a few other coworkers to authorize payment on a 100k$+ order that had a one sentence description because our boss was on a week long vacation in BFE and was unreachable due to lack of reception. Nope. We all laughed at that request. None of us were sticking our necks out for that boss and politely told accounting that they could tell the customer that due to the boss being MIA no one could approve this being paid to them.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              I find it completely unacceptable and it’s one of the many, many reasons my boss that did this is now my former boss.


        6. Darcy Pennell*

          My previous boss did this, and to answer a subsequent questions, no I did not find it acceptable. She once went on a week-long trip to a company office in a country with a 12 hour time difference, with all the senior staff in our department, and did not tell the rest of the department that they were going, who was in charge in their absence, even who to contact if something happened. They checked email sporadically while they were away, but considering the time difference we were on our own. I work pretty independently and don’t often need manager support, but it would have been good to know that it wasn’t available that week! That manager operated on a “need to know basis,” and her idea of what people needed to know diverged pretty wildly from mine.

        7. AdminAnon*

          My boss.

          She’s getting much better now–I’ve been training her to at least tell me (her executive assistant) when she will be out–but when I first started, she would sometimes disappear for a week or more and would only sporadically respond to emails. No one in the office had any idea where she was, how she could be reached, or when she would be back. Now I have all of her contact info and preferences, plus she remembers to keep me in the loop 98% of the time.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Valar, you absolutely shouldn’t wait weeks (or even a single week) to give notice. That’s bad for you, and it’s bad for your employer. If your boss is away, you either find a way to reach her or give notice to someone else in a position of authority. You don’t have to wait until you can do it in person if that would mean delaying — and most employers want to know ASAP so they can start moving on a transition. Very few managers would want you to wait just so it can be done in person.

        1. Valar M.*

          Your advice is exactly how I’d handle things now, and I’ve learned from the experiences. The cases I mentioned were situations where there was no higher authority because the person was the owner, and one where I feared going over the manager’s head because it would have caused an incident that the manager would take very personally/burned a bridge. I just wanted to make the point that an email might be a last resort rather than a passive aggressive act depending on the situation.

          1. Valar M.*

            And I wish sites like this had been around then so I’d had the advice to know how to handle it.

        2. Abradee*

          When I left my last job, I had to alert the president and VP of my organization. I would have much preferred to tell them in person, but unfortunately they were both on long summer vacations so I had to call them during their respective travels. The president was not checking his email regularly, and the VP was out of the country without email or cell service so actually I had to call her hotel.

          Not only did I have the usual guilt about leaving a decent job, I also felt terrible for disrupting their vacations with the news. However, I knew it was the right thing to do for all the reasons AAM mentioned, and to be honest I didn’t see any other way around it. I had to let them know right away.

    5. ArtsNerd*

      Oh man, if I’d gone to my boss’ boss in my last job when I tried to give notice, it would have been BRILLIANTLY passive-aggressive. This is one of those “know your company” things.

      I left a voice mail, and sent an email with my resignation. I tried to set up a meeting to followup and discuss the transition, but his assistant canceled the meeting without explanation. We were two days into my notice period and my boss hadn’t acknowledged my resignation to me AT ALL.

      His boss was high enough in the hierarchy that she shouldn’t have to hear about or deal with this kind of thing, and me taking a simple resignation to her because her employee wasn’t confirming my attempts to quit… She wouldn’t have been happy.

    6. Emmy*

      I had to give notice over email once. I had already accepted a new job with a start date in two weeks, but my current boss was in the middle of her annual two-week sailing trip, and her boss was also out of town. Unfortunately, email was the best option.

    7. Ed*

      I agree. I’ll admit I’m sort of old school but I would only quit a job in person (or over the phone in OP’s situation). It’s a matter of respect more than anything else but you also want to go out of your way to leave on good terms and protect your reference. Worst case scenario, I would notify (again, in person or by phone if possible) my manager’s boss or assistant to make sure my two weeks notice is officially recognized by somebody that a) matters and b) could probably get hold of my manager if I couldn’t.

      Having said that, I have had management make ridiculous statements about “requiring” six weeks notice because it will take that long to fill my position which is laughable. This tends to be at smaller companies where you report directly to some pompous CEO. Uh, and what about my new (most likely better and higher paying) job that wishes I could start tomorrow and not even give you two weeks? At that point it becomes new company vs. old company and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who wins there.

  3. Michele*

    Not to challenge AAM’s advice on Question #2, but I’m just wondering why if the original email was sent and shown as delivered that this wouldn’t count as officially setting the start date for the 2 week notice? For argument’s sake, there is a time stamp on that email, showing the date as well as the time of its submission. So technically, wouldn’t OP be right?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You are welcome to challenge my advice :)

      But in this case, we don’t disagree. The places where I think the OP erred were in using email in the first place (rather than calling) and in not following up when she didn’t hear a response to her email for a couple of days.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Except that I’ve sent emails and had them not show up on the other end for several hours, and sometimes not at all. Which is why I agree that email should not be the primary method of contact for an important message, if at all possible.

  4. Callie30*

    #1 – Just want to add that clear communication is key. You need to tell her directly what you want done differently and outline your expectations now that the Senior Researcher is on leave. She may actually perform better if she knows what exactly is expected and that this is a ‘formal’ addition of responsibilities. What was she like before the addition of responsibility? Was she competent over the past 6 years?

    I certainly understand the frustration with someone seemingly not picking up more over a long period of time, but she hasn’t been ‘in charge’ of making the decisions before (assuming that latter part) and that adds a layer of complexity over this that could be solved with a clear discussion. Hope that helps.

    #2 – Agreed with Alison here. It’s certainly a lesson learned ‘the hard way’. Always, always follow up on matters of higher importance if you haven’t heard back in a reasonable time frame.

    1. Nutcase*

      In response to #1 – I agree completely that clear communication is necessary. Perhaps she is behaving as she always has done and the senior researcher had encouraged this level of guidance? Does she need clearer guidelines on what she can or cannot take the initiative on? Saying that you cannot tell what she is thinking because of her poker face isn’t really fair on her. Why don’t you ask her what she is thinking if you are concerned? She is asking for your help so getting to the bottom of this with a clear discussion (especially if there is talk of her job being on the line) is the best help you can give her.

  5. Jen RO*

    #5 – Why does it sound like it *isn’t* just a very long recruitment process? My read was that the company posted the job, gathered resumes, interviewed, then realized none of the candidates were good enough, so they reposted the job, etc. In this case, I think that applying a third time would absolutely hurt OP’s chances with the company. Unless the OP has an inside contact who can confirm that there were three different jobs, within separate departments, I would not reapply. (Why different departments? Because if there were three jobs in the same department/with the same manager and OP was a good prospective candidate, they would have called him/her the first or second time; the same hiring manager won’t suddenly have a change of heart the third time.)

    1. Callie30*

      Hmm. There are many assumptions here – A question I have – Is it a type of job where a company has multiple openings for the same position? Perhaps they had openings 3 individual times.
      Just a thought.

      Re-applying with a new cover letter, etc. doesn’t seem to hurt anything in my view.

      1. Jen RO*

        What I don’t get is why would a candidate that was overlooked twice for the same job would be called in the third time. Even if three separate jobs exist, if you weren’t a good enough match the first two times, why would you suddenly be one the third time? I’m not saying it’s not possible, but in my company we do have many openings for the same position and a person would not be seen positively if he/she applied three times, even if three separate jobs did exist. We always interview *all* candidates that we consider might be a fit – if someone isn’t chosen for an interview the first time, they won’t be chosen later (unless later = a year later, after they gain more experience).

        1. John*

          That was my reaction, too. Sounds like OP is not within the ballpark of what they’re looking for.

        2. Neeta*

          if someone isn’t chosen for an interview the first time, they won’t be chosen later

          At my past company, we were instructed to make sure to not “alienate” any of the candidates we interview, because they wanted them to apply again (if they’re not chosen).

          1. John*

            But those are candidates…people they interviewed. OP was passed over twice just for an interview. It doesn’t sound very promising to me.

            1. Felicia*

              I think unless they gained new experience in the time (Once I applied for the same job 4 months later, and had completed a relevant 3 month contract in the mean time, so that strengthened my candidacy. But it’s also possible that let’s say the first 2 times, they had 250 applicants (possible) and could only interview the top 6 people. Well maybe those times the OP was 8th best , so they just barely missed out on being interviewed, and with a new crop of applicants they’d be in the top 6 and wow their interviewer. So I guess no harm in applying, but just go into it with the mindset that its unlikely. And change your cover letter 100% because it obviously didn’t work the first time and maybe revamp your resume. Doing those 2 things makes a big difference for any job. And more unlikely things have happened! I was rejected for a job on the 14th of July, and then on the 21st was told “this job is open again, it’s yours if you want it”, so anything is possible!

      2. HR Manager*

        I agree with JenRO. I’ve often had similar positions open up in succession, and if previously submitted good resumes were available, I would go to them first, so there wasn’t a need to re-apply anyway. I think a few and far between re-submission is ok, but a new resume every few months in the absence of a change in title/experience, would come across more as whackadoodle (or desperate).

        In every job I’ve recruited, there was always at least 1 person who would either apply for every single job that opens, or keep re-applying for the same job. I even had one person who would email me her resume and cover letter every 3-4 months or so with a ‘checking in if you can use my skills…” — this went on for 2-3 years. Really, just NO.

    2. BRR*

      My company has reposted a position because we didn’t have enough applicants. I agree that the OP should stop reapplying. By the third time if they do not want to proceed to the next stage it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        Without knowing more details, it’s hard to say, but I’ve worked at places where different teams have posted for the same position, but the search is managed by different hiring managers. So, if the first two positions were managed by people who weren’t interested in OP’s candidacy, that’s not to say the third position’s hiring manager wouldn’t take an interest.

    3. #5 Poster*

      Thanks for all the comments and thanks for your help! To clarify, it is the exact same job, in the same department. At any given time they’ll have 10-15 people in that position. There’s a high turnover rate, so it’s possible that 3 different people quit between now and the original positing. Or it’s possible that they simply never filled it.
      I suppose it’s possible that I simply wasn’t good enough or made a mistake that I was unaware of. However, I know I meet all of the posted qualifications and I have experience and examples to back it up.
      I also don’t know anyone at the company that could give me further information about the opening

      1. C Average*

        There is a role like this in my department. It’s a role that has high visibility to the rest of the organization, and people in this role are often poached in short order by other departments. We’re all well aware of this, so we hire carefully with an eye to finding people who will be ready for advancement to other roles. In our case, we’d definitely want a well-qualified candidate to re-apply. We’d also definitely notice a repeat applicant, so the advice to vary your application materials and acknowledge that you’re a repeat applicant is good.

      2. CAA*

        If this is a new position, it’s extremely likely that they are taking another look at all the applicants from the earlier postings, so you don’t need to reapply. The existing candidate base is a little bit stale at 4 months, but not so old that they would assume everyone in it would decline to interview if called now. If I had a new opening and an attractive candidate had applied 4 months ago to a similar position on my team, I’d certainly be calling that person to see if he was interested in discussing the new opportunity.

        So if you haven’t gotten a call about this new/reposted position yet, then I think you should assume you’re not an attractive candidate for some reason. I know you meet all the posted criteria, but there’s something else that’s making them think you’re not a good fit or they would have called you already.

      3. OhNo*

        If that’s the case, then I would definitely revisit your cover letter, resume, and any other application materials. It sounds like you may be a viable candidate, so the fact that you haven’t gotten any kind of call back may mean that either their applicant base is just phenomenal, or your application just isn’t catching their eye.

        That said, I think three times is the limit you should apply to the same re-posted job opening. Any more than that (or any repeated applications without changing app materials) makes you look out of touch, in my opinion. If you don’t get a call this time, consider waiting before you try again.

    4. Waiting Patiently*

      I experience this with one organization, I have applied for the same position 4 times (different job code/req #) over the past year. This All my information is in their database(I guess I should just take the hint that my skills are not matching what they need). I’ve never been called back for an interview– just an email a few weeks later, stating they filled the position. I just applied the other day and before I could finish and hit submit, I got an automatic reply that my application had been received. This will be my last time applying…

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe, but maybe not.

      I’ve hired for roles where the reason I rejected a person originally wasn’t that they were unqualified but that there were too many better-qualified people in that particular pool … or they applied late in the game where I was already about to hire someone excellent … or other reasons that weren’t that they wouldn’t make the cut if they tried again.

      It’s hard to know from the outside which it is.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        It is hard knowing which it is. I did update my references’ information yesterday because maybe I was getting pinged for not providing the information. It required email addresses and phone numbers. (but the field wasn’t formatted–so I just wrote “available upon request/offer” Anyways, I updated it and put in their information. I’ll see.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          I’ve applied to a few roles more than once and I did end up getting an interview the second time around. Not all companies end up reading through every application. They could have 100 applications and just look at the first 50 and ignore the rest. Also if you applied through an ATS, not all ATS systems are calibrated correctly. If the job requisition is mis-calibrated, you could easily end up in the No folder as compared to the Yes folder.

          1. Waiting Patiently*

            I thought about a calibration issue especially when I got the email notification that they received my application before I even hit submit.

  6. SC in SC*

    #5 – Before you apply again, I would recommend that you critically review your cover letter and resume. Better yet, get someone who is knowledgable to do it. You’ve applied twice for a job you felt was a perfect fit with no luck. Either you’ve had some bad luck or the company doesn’t see you as a strong candidate. It’s possible that you’re not as good a fit as you think or it could be that your submission materials are the problem. A revised cover letter and resume will hopefully make a better case for your consideration either way. After that it’s up to the company. Good luck.

    1. Circumpolar*

      Re reposting: I am a supervisor with a large government agency and hire for high five-low six figure jobs. We have a position I am desperate to fill with the right person. It is currently on its third reposting, now nationwide. The reason we keep reposting it is because we cannot find the right person within the confines of the government guidelines with which I have to abide by. To expand the pool nationwide requires approvals, etc.
      I cannot interview anyone if they do not meet the qualifications as posted. So, despite noticing a couple resumes and cover letters from people I would have loved to talk to, I could not. Thus, the position is reposted to gather a larger pool, and hopefully, the people I wanted to interview will notice the change in the language of the job posting and re-apply.

      All this to say to someone wondering if they should keep applying–Yes. Redo your cover letter to let me know you noticed the change in wording and hope to have an interview since you believe you meet the new criteria posted.

      Maybe this isn’t the original posters issue at all, but it is an explanation from a hiring manager as to why a position gets reposted and what an applicant might look for in reading it. Attention to detail is everything ….

      Good luck

      1. C Average*

        Really interesting! I love it when commenters here share real-life behind-the-scenes examples like this. Thank you.

      2. #5 Poster*

        This is good to know! If this is the case, that would mean I can still have hope. The posting didn’t really change at all, but it’s possible that they’ve changed what they’re looking for slightly without it being reflected in the posting.

      3. JMegan*

        That’s a good point. Especially in government, the rules are SO strict, and you have to explicitly demonstrate how you meet their qualifications. The idea being that any outside auditor could come in and review the applicant pool, and see objectively why each person was or was not selected for an interview.

        So I agree with the advice to take a good look at your cover letter and resume, and make sure you’re being really clear about how you meet the qualifications. Good luck!

    2. #5 Poster*

      If I do apply again, I definitely plan on it! Even if they glossed over my resume the first two times, clearly I need to change something to stand out. It’s just a matter of trying to figure out what I might have done wrong. I’ll try to find someone who I can ask for help. I appreciate the advice!

      1. AVP*

        How is your cover letter? Is it tailored to the job, original, stand-out-worthy? If not, as Alison said above, that will be a big improvement.

        FWIW I would reapply, assuming it won’t take more than an hour or two of your time.

  7. MrsA*

    I’m the OP for question #4, thank you Alison for replying I greatly appreciate your advice!

    I actually managed to reach an ex-colleague after posting my question. She used to work in the company I am currently in, and then moved to the company who has interviewed me. She knows me quite well professionally, and she told me not to go there. She worked there for 6 months before resigning (she was in the position I am interviewing for), the company is very badly managed. For example, they don’t pay their suppliers when their orders have been produced, they cancel goods after production and have thousands of dollars of unpaid invoices to their suppliers. I called the recruiter to remove my application, but she is being very very pushy and keeps telling me that I will be shooting myself in the foot if I don’t accept the position. She still wants me to think about it and reconsider my decision, but I know what I want. I am in the early stages of job searching and hopeful that something much better will come along!

    1. Graciosa*

      I’m glad you’re in a position to make good long-term decisions about your career, and you’re right to take that opportunity. I understand that the recruiter cares about her commission, but that’s not a reason to put yourself in a bad situation.

      1. MrsA*

        Thank you for your comment. When the recruiter told me I would shoot myself in the foot for not accepting the job because something better may never come along, I thought I would shoot myself in the foot if I accepted this job. Having doubts because it won’t be a good next step in my career is something, but being involved in a company that is not paying money they owe is another…

  8. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    #1- When she comes back again to say that something is new, you should just ask her, what she has tried so far to figure it out.
    If she hasn’t done anything, send her back to doing so and if she still can’t manage she is allowed to come back and ask you. And please have her tell you what she tried.
    I have to say tho, that this sounds like someone who needs to learn fast or be let go…

    1. plain jane*

      #1 – Another idea, since you have two people in this role, is to ask her to work with her colleague on these items that she isn’t sure about and come to you with the plan of attack instead of just a request to be told what to do.

      Also, for the new system, has she created written documentation on how to use it? Sometimes that can be a very effective way to get someone truly trained on a system.

      1. Graciosa*

        I’m generally pretty supportive of having colleagues help each other (a collaborative work place is very important to me, and nobody is an expert on everything) but I’m not sure it’s the right choice here. There seems to be reason for concern about the individual’s performance in this case, which in my mind means that the manager really needs to handle this one herself.

        If the OP succeeds in shifting all the questions to the successful employee – who will probably just give the poor employee the answers because it looks like the most efficient option if she’s not a manager herself – then the problem will appear to go away in the sense that the manager’s time is no longer needed to address the problem, but it won’t really be fixed. There will be no change in the performance or skills of the poor employee, and the performance of the currently successful employee will go down because she has to spend more of her time helping the poor one.

        I’m not really seeing this as a great option for increasing the self-sufficiency of the poor employee.

        I do like the idea of asking the employee what she has tried so far, and having her create documentation may also help.

        1. fposte*

          Though before we go to training the employee’s behavior, I’d encourage the OP to simply state the expectation, because that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Otherwise it seems like going to a lot of trouble to avoid saying “I expect you to handle most of these questions on your own.”

      2. Artemesia*

        Somehow transferring an annoying no non-producer to a co-worker just seems cruel. I can see the co writing in about how they are now doing the work of two people since the non-producer was foisted on them.

        1. plain jane*

          I agree, you can’t just transfer the poor performer over, you need to keep an eye on it, and have ongoing communications with both people about how it is going and be willing to cut your losses at some point.

          However, in several cases I’ve seen both people bootstrap themselves up once they’re freed from feeling they need to always go to a manager and given explicit responsibility to figure it out. Sometimes a poor performer is just really bad a communicating and reading their role in a hierarchy, but has good ideas and execution when in a peer setting.

  9. CartoonCharacter*

    I assume senior researcher makes more $$ maybe that’s why she is not so motivated to step up, no rewards and it doesn’t sound like there have been any.

    1. LBK*

      The working world just doesn’t work that way, though. You show you can do something, then you get the rewards. You don’t ask for the money first before even bothering to prove you’ve earned it.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        The working world doesn’t work THAT way a lot of the time either. You show you can do something, and they’re happy to get that something for what you were already being paid. The reward often only comes when you find a different job, if something better can be found.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It really depends on the specific context. What LBK is saying is very often true. Sometimes it’s not — depending on the manager, type of work in question, company, etc.

        2. LBK*

          It can work both ways, but in general I find “I’ve proven I can do X new task well for the last 6 months so I believe I should be compensated more for it” is a stronger argument than “I’m not doing X new task until you pay me for it.”

          The major factor in this for me is how far the new task stretches your current role/how much more you’ll truly be taking on. If it’s running some extra reports or covering for a coworker when they’re out, that is definitely not worth it. If they’re asking you to take over a managerial role or branch into a completely different area (like you’re an admin and they want you to start doing financials), that’s a situation where I’d be more comfortable asking for the compensation up front.

    2. Anony*

      Yeah, I thought that maybe her behavior was a little passive aggressive. I didn’t think it’s that she doesn’t know, just a case of NMJ.

      I don’t mind stepping up when needed, and while the working world does have the prove it then earn it attitude. There are those places that will take advantage of a situation like this.

  10. anon*

    #5 – While I agree with most of the comments so far, I have also faced this situation. The real underlying question as I see it is, how do you know that your resume was even reviewed?

    Based on what I have been seeing here most employers are receiving so many submissions that it’s possible yours is not even being seen on the first go round. Without being able to follow up there is no way to know. While I would not advocate a third submission I don’t think a second is out of line.

    1. Harper*

      I agree here. Where I work, we always receive so many applications that even after the initial HR screening, it can be overwhelming. I can see how someone might get overlooked one time and then the next, actually be noticed, even with the same materials. It’s certainly not the way it should be, but I can see it happening.

      1. #5 Poster*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. It’s also why I was hoping to apply again. I guess I’m just nervous that this isn’t the case, and the employer will say “her again?”
        It’s frustrating that it’s impossible to tell if it was seen.
        I appreciate the feedback!

  11. Anoncat*

    #1 – it’s possible she’s looking to her boss for instructions because she’s still terrified of failure, or afraid of acting without explicit instructions. Of course, after 6 years, it’s better for her to figure out a solution and look to her boss for approval, but she might not know that. She might not know that her boss now trusts her to do so.

    I know, it would be awesome if people just did that they were supposed do without being told – I’d love it if my roommate would wash his dishes and write his rent check each month without being asked – but realistically some people need a nudge in the right direction.

    1. some1*

      This was my thought. Someone in the same entry-level position for 6 years could very well be someone afraid of change, and she is so scared of making a mistake in the new system she’s paralyzed from taking initiative at all.

      1. fposte*

        That’s what I’m thinking–not even necessarily afraid, just erring on the side of caution without realizing the problem of the error. I did something similar with a new employee once, and simply telling her about the expected level of independence was really helpful, because she knew she was meeting expectations when she worked independently. I think it’s quite possible OP’s staffer doesn’t know that’s what’s expected of her right now, and simply telling her could be an easy fix.

        1. Frances*

          Yes. I would be curious to know if anyone sat her down when the senior researcher took leave and explained what decisions she can make on her own now and what she should confirm with someone else.

          Last summer, I had to cover for my boss when she had an unexpected medical issue and as soon as it became clear this would be a long term absence, her boss and I had a detailed discussion about what things were pending that my boss would normally take the lead on, and whether I should now take over those projects or if the big boss would. We also discussed who I could go to if I had questions about various projects. I think both of us found it helpful in easing some of the stress of the situation to make sure we were on the same page.

        2. OP #1 Here*

          Great points. She does seem to do well with tasks that are laid out step by step, or ones she’s repeatedly handled over the years. I do think she’s afraid of failure and the software change is highlighting that. I’ve realized that I need to stop making assumptions & be more direct with my expectations. Thank you for the advice.

    2. C Average*


      Might also be worth examining if she or other employees have been punished harshly for mistakes in the past and/or if she has reasonable cause for being extra fearful about mistakes. As I’ve moved beyond entry level with my organization, I’ve at times been reluctant to take initiative because I’ve seen how people are treated when they make mistakes here. It’s scary. Even now, when I’m taking initiative on something new, I think through very carefully how to avoid mistakes and what my contingency plan will be if I do make a mistake when I’m undertaking something new/difficult.

      Workplaces that don’t allow room for error and deal harshly with honest and understandable mistakes will create a culture of timidity and blame-shifting. It can be really dysfunctional. You can work effectively around a fear of mistakes in this atmosphere, but it takes awareness of the fear and conscious planning for how to deal with it.

      Also, there’s huge power in someone higher up the chain saying (as was said by someone above me in the hierarchy), “[Mistake] was my fault and [action] is what I’m doing to correct it.” If entry-level people see that mistakes happen, you own them, you fix them, you don’t repeat them, and you learn from them, they’ll carry that attitude into their own work and gain confidence, independence, and the initiative to act, even when mistakes are a legit risk.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Actually, I think the bigger question is how many of these types of questions she was directing to the senior researcher rather than doing on her own. It’s very possible that she has always been a crappy employee, but the senior research was carrying that load before so the manager never knew.

        If she’s been at the company for 6 years, any PTSD from a previous bad experience should really be irrelevant. She should be familiar with and performing in this environment.

        1. Astor*

          But it’s also possible that the senior researcher was the one encouraging those questions, and that the previous expectations was that she would not suggest or implement suggestions.

          1. OP #1 Here*

            Yes, I think my Sr had been a buffer for her poor performance. Now that the Sr is gone it’s come to light.

            I don’t over-react to errors, so it could be something related to a previous boss. Most of the time, errors can be fixed while having little serious impact. Maybe it’s just an overall fear of failure.

  12. TotesMaGoats*

    #5-I’m going to disagree and say don’t apply again…unless you know for sure that this is the same position but different department/hiring manager. I don’t think this is a case of 3rd times the charm. Either they’ve got a glut of candidates and don’t even look at your resume or you aren’t as perfect of a fit as you think or there is something in your cover letter that isn’t sparking interest. I would cut my losses and stop applying for that position.

    When I see the same people applying for the same positions that I hire for, refills BTW, and I didn’t call you the first two or three times, I want to say “take a hint”.

    1. #5 Poster*

      Thanks for your comment! That’s exactly why I asked, because I’m definitely nervous that this is a “take a hint situation.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is tricky, because I have roles I’ve hired for where I’ll think that too. Those are roles where I talk to anyone who looks promising — usually more senior or hard-to-fill roles.

      But I’ve had other roles I’ve hired for where I’d welcome re-applications — because the reason I rejected the person originally wasn’t that they were unqualified but that there were too many better-qualified people in that particular pool … or they applied late in the game where I was already about to hire someone excellent … or other reasons that weren’t that they wouldn’t make the cut if they tried again.

      It’s hard to know from the outside. The OP should be very honest with herself about how well she matches what the ad says they’re looking for, but if she feels she’s truly a strong match, I don’t think she has anything to lose by changing up her materials and trying again.

      1. CAA*

        But if you were hiring for the same position only 2 months after the previous posting, wouldn’t you start by going back through the resumes you just got a few weeks ago? If this were 6 months, I’d say reapply, but 2 months seems too soon, especially since this would be the 3rd application in 4 months.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’d look at the previous apps, absolutely, but a lot of employers don’t. Hell, there are employers who call the first 5 qualified applicants they receive and ignore everyone else. There are a lot of bad hiring practices out there.

      2. #5 Poster*

        That definitely makes sense. This is not a hard-to-fill role. The qualifications are very basic. I have experience doing the same role temporarily at a similar company from about three years ago, which is why I still have my hopes up for this position. I think my plan of action will be to update my resume and cover letter and hope for different results. I appreciate you taking the time to post/answer my question, Allison!

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          If the qualifications are very basic, I would suspect they are getting lots of applications from people who not only meet but exceed those qualifications. You need to be able to demonstrate not just that you would be adequate at the job, but how you would knock it out of the park.

  13. Brett*

    #5 I don’t even review that many applications compared to other people involved in hiring, and I really only remember two types of candidates:

    Those who were clearly talented but just a bad fit. I would not care if they applied repeatedly and would really hope they would keep applying even if it was the exact same position.

    Those who clearly lied or did something else that egregiously bad. They would already be poisoned for me anyway, and applying multiple times would do absolutely nothing to hurt them further.

    For anyone else, I really would not be that likely to notice that they applied three times. I would expect to notice _some_ difference from application to application though. I mean, they have to be doing _something_ in the last few months to improve themselves, right?

    1. #5 Poster*

      So in any case it couldn’t hurt? I looked over my previous applications to make sure I didn’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes that might have put a red flag on my application. So I’m hoping I don’t fall into that second category!
      I have been able to get some more experience in a temporary job the past few months, so maybe that will make a difference. I appreciate the feedback!

  14. LQ*

    #1 It kind of sounds like this is a new behavior for this person. 6 years is certainly long enough to have a handle on a job and it didn’t sound in your letter like she’d always been doing this.
    I wonder if there isn’t some outside factor coming into play here. Are you suddenly over her shoulder more? Did she get a couple things wrong in a row and now she feels like she isn’t getting anything right so she’s turning to you more than she had? Had she been asking these things of the Senior researcher before and that person has changed or they said they just couldn’t do it any more?

    If she’s done this for 6 years, there is pretty much no hope. But if it is a new behavior it is worth trying to figure out why and resolve that.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      I was wondering about this. Years ago at a prior job in retail, we had a woman who, over the course of the summer, essentially forgot how to run registers. She’d been doing it for years, but she suddenly had the most elementary questions. She became very spacy, would wander around and ask people somewhat inappropriate questions about their hours and paychecks, etc. She was younger, mid to late 40s. Shortly after I left that job, she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer disease. The things we noticed were really the start of an incredibly sad decline.

      I’m not saying this woman is like that, but the language of the poker face, staring if she didn’t like the answer/didn’t understand the answer, inability to come up with ways to do things, and so forth all reminded me of the woman I worked with.

      1. Mephyle*

        A face that doesn’t show expression (poker face or ‘masking’) can also associated with Parkinson’s. This doesn’t necessarily imply a cognitive decline, but there are other problems.

  15. OP #2*

    Thanks for the input, everyone! I would like to note that I did follow up by phone, left a message, and got no response from that either. At that point, I figured my boss was irritated and ignoring me (it happens) so I let it go until I saw her again this week.

    As of right now, I’ve compromised by agreeing to stay part-time for a week while starting my new job on a part-time basis.

    1. Harper*

      Oh, I was wondering if the boss was the type to ignore people at times. I think you did all you could in that case. Too bad the job offer came in while she was out of town. Good luck in your new position!

    2. Felicia*

      If you followed up by phone and left a message, I don’t know what else you could have done. Hope your new job has a more reasonable boss, and good luck!

      1. Anon55*

        I would chalk this up to a simple power-play by your boss. You can’t leave until she dismisses you or some other nonsense. You let her know by email and by phone, that’s all you can do. I’ve had bosses who would conveniently forget things they were told by direct reports when it allowed them to make the narrative fit their version of events. We simply started telling them in person and by email. They’d still try to claim they didn’t remember the conversation nor see the email and this was somehow our fault and not theirs, but really it was an issue for their boss (or possibly doctor) to deal with.

  16. Lyndelamos*

    #5 – I agree with what’s already been posted, but I’ll share something that someone told me. I can’t verify it because I am not familiar with the firm or the industry. Someone accepted a paralegal position with a firm that paid her a good salary and when she completed a three month probation period, excellent benefits to follow. Just before she was to complete her probation period, she was let go, with the excuse that they lost a major client and had to reduce their staffing budgets. She then told me she discovered that this particular firm has a reputation of hiring employees and letting them go close to the end of their probation period. I can’t confirm if these were legitimate performance issues or if someone is making poor hiring choices, but frequent repostings would cause me to do more research in a company.

    1. #5 Poster*

      Very true. I know people come and go from this position often, but I’d hope I could be one of the ones to stick around. Thanks!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Oh, that’s a good point. I never thought of that. I applied to the same place several times when I was looking, and they reposted, and this never occurred to me.

  17. MJ*

    OP#1 Lessons from parenting teens:

    This employee is draining your energy by making you responsible for something she should be responsible for. Make “figuring out” part of her job, and use as few words as possible because the more you talk at her the more reward (your attention, plus minimal energy expenditure on her part) she is getting.

    When she says she doesn’t know how to do something, the simple response every time can be, “It’s part of your job to figure that out. Let me know when you have made some progress.” Praise the progress reports – “I knew you could figure it out!” or “That’s a promising first step!” – in order to get more of the desired behavior.

    Also document each occasion, so if she doesn’t step up, you can move her out of the position. (Can’t do that with your teens, alas!)

    1. C Average*

      This is good advice.

      Maybe you could give her some very broad suggestions for self-helping, even citing your own experience picking up new skills. Not everyone gets this stuff intuitively or knows where and how to “figure it out.” Say something like, “When I first started doing the chocolate teapot requisition forms, I learned a lot from the tutorials on the intranet. They’re really well done.” Or “If you want to see a good example of how the chocolate teapot requisition forms need to look, last year’s forms are on the network drive. The format doesn’t change from year to year.”

      Sometimes, for a new task, “figuring it out” is all about identifying the right self-help resources. For me, tutorials are all but useless, but I can reverse-engineer practically any document if I have a decent example in front of me. For others, tutorials or manuals are great.

    2. OP #1 Here*

      Thank you for this advice. I think this is definitely the direction I need to go. Sounds like managing kids is the same as managing employees!

  18. Circumpolar*

    Reposting here because I’m afraid it will got lost as a Reply: #5
    Re reposting: I am a supervisor with a large government agency and hire for high five-low six figure jobs. We have a position I am desperate to fill with the right person. It is currently on its third reposting, now nationwide. The reason we keep reposting it is because we cannot find the right person within the confines of the government guidelines with which I have to abide by. To expand the pool nationwide requires approvals, etc.
    I cannot interview anyone if they do not meet the qualifications as posted. So, despite noticing a couple resumes and cover letters from people I would have loved to talk to, I could not. Thus, the position is reposted to gather a larger pool, and hopefully, the people I wanted to interview will notice the change in the language of the job posting and re-apply.

    All this to say to someone wondering if they should keep applying–Yes. Redo your cover letter to let me know you noticed the change in wording and hope to have an interview since you believe you meet the new criteria posted.

    Maybe this isn’t the original posters issue at all, but it is an explanation from a hiring manager as to why a position gets reposted and what an applicant might look for in reading it. Attention to detail is everything ….

    Good luck

  19. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 Are the LW’s expectations appropriate for the entry level position? Or are the expectations based on the 6 years of experience? If it’s the second, has the salary grown along with the gains in experience?

    1. De Minimis*

      What really hurts the employee is that her peer seems to be doing the same work with no issues.

  20. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Ok #1

    There are multi reasons employees do this:

    1) incompetence
    2) lack of confidence
    3) laziness (I don’t feel like thinking)
    4) resentment (not my job!)

    2 & 3 can be fixed . 1 & 4 can’t. (If anybody ever figures out how to fix passive aggressive resentment, send the miracle pill cure plz)

    Before you throw her out, figure out which one of them it is. Be clear about your expectations, not hinting, and ask “why” if she doesn’t do as you ask.

    1. OP #1 Here*

      I don’t think it’s #4. Probably a combination of 1-3 to varying degrees. I’ll definitely be thinking about these as I figure out how to proceed, thank you for you input!

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Well good luck.

        What is effective for me with a mild case of #3 is telling the person, truthfully only, that I believe in their capability to do (whatever).

        “You’re smart. I know you can handle this.”

        “You are fast and one of the most organized people I’ve ever worked with. I know you can do this.”

        Can’t just walk out of the room, have to listen next for objections. Nobody is going to say, “oh, I’m not really smart or organized, you have a misimpression of me”. They will agree with a truthful compliment. What they might say is, I’m so busy with ABC, there’s no time for thinking about XYZ…or mention another obstacle.

        Okay, so then what do we do about that? Letting the other person come up with and own the solution works for me way more times than it doesn’t.

    2. Laura*

      Well, 1 can be fixed sometimes. If it’s generalized incompetence, no.

      But if it’s a case where someone has been given new duties and they don’t have enough of an understanding to know how to start asking the right questions/thinking, that can be fixed if they’re willing to work on it also. (If #2 and #3 are involved, those have to be addressed at the same time or earlier, because addressing #1 is some work on their part also when the additional info is given.)

      I remember working on a tough problem years ago and being told scornfully to just Google it. I had. Repeatedly. And gotten nowhere. The person talking to me popped up Google, put in search terms that _had never occurred to me from the context_ (because I lacked sufficient knowledge to think of it) and pulled up five relevant pages.

      Ignorance sufficient to block boot-strapping can masquerade as incompetence, but is far more soluble. And it can be generalized or specific to small sub-topics.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      Totally agree. When the OP noted that this had begun “lately” that made me wonder if something has changed for the employee lately to change her behavior. OP indicated elsewhere her hypothesis that the Sr. Researcher may have been a bit of a buffer for the employee before, so that might be the case, but I actually wonder if there isn’t something else going on. If her workload has increased, or the stakes of that work are higher, which seems likely, that could be anxiety-provoking.

      I’m aggressively independent (completely hate being trained by others, much prefer to just figure it out on my own, sometimes to the point of spending too much time investigating something someone could have answered quickly) but when I started working on a really high stakes project, even though the work itself was nothing new necessarily, I was totally flummoxed and became the employee in the letter. Frankly, I think it suited my boss who would prefer to give more input in my work, but I was pretty miserable. I think it would serve the OP really well to get to the bottom of what’s happening here.

      Though I’d add 5) ignorance — the employee genuinely doesn’t understand that she’s allowed/expected to seek out solutions independently. If this has been going on for 6 years as the OP suspects, this assumption could be pretty thoroughly ingrained.

      P.S. to #4, there are of course some people who just enjoy the feeling of being put upon and probably nothing will convince them to give up their resentful attitude, the one thing that has sometimes worked for me is really investing in the person as a person–who they are, what they care about, what is hard about the current situation and why. Pretty often when you just let them talk it out, they’ll come to the conclusion that they could take more responsibility for the situation and that there are things within their own locus of control. Definitely not a cure-all — fundamental disengagement is pretty much the death knell of productive employment — but sometimes it works!

      1. OP #1 Here*

        Two comments have me thinking more, so thank you for this. I think these could certainly be playing a part.

        Laura: Ignorance sufficient to block boot-strapping can masquerade as incompetence

        Jillociraptor: ignorance — the employee genuinely doesn’t understand that she’s allowed/expected to seek out solutions independently

  21. Various Assumed Names*

    #1- Just to play devil’s advocate, have there ever been examples of times that she went with her gut and was reprimanded for doing it wrong? Not saying this is the case but just keep in mind that if you expect employees to figure things out on their own (very reasonable) you also have to be somewhat forgiving if the result isn’t the exact way that you would have done it.

    1. Magda*

      Soooo true. I worked with someone who would answer questions with “just make a judgment call”… and then would put you on blast in an email and cc the supervisor if you didn’t figure it out the way she would have. Forgiveness was definitely NOT easier to ask for than permission with her. So I really stopped caring if she was annoyed to get “small” questions because the potential result of not asking was so much worse.

      In the case of OP#1’s employee, some of this may also depend on Senior Researcher’s management style as well. If she spent six years being accustomed to always checking with someone higher up, it may have just become habit at this point.

      Either way, I think it would be overly harsh to let her go without explicitly spelling this out and giving her a chance to correct. It may not be great management to hang on to someone who isn’t performing, but it also isn’t particularly great management to blindside a potentially capable employee with a firing without ever having explicitly told them what the problem was.

  22. HM in Atlanta*

    #1 – I’ve seen this sometimes with people who want to passive-aggressively remind you that they are not [higher position title]. They are only [lower position title], and you shouldn’t be expecting them to do any work outside of that. Usually, they don’t want to do the work OR they want a promotion.

    The conversation AAM talked about will help to figure out if it’s a can’t do the work vs won’t do the work situation.

  23. Mimmy*

    #1 – How do I get employee to solve problems on her own

    I am vigorously nodding my head at all of the comments to this question. While I haven’t been in a single entry-level position for 6 years, I have been that employee who runs to the supervisor asking “what do I do?” or “did I do that right/give the correct info?” without really thinking it through. This is a tough one to answer because I’m the type that relies (probably too much) on clear, upfront directions and guidelines. The OP definitely needs to have a frank discussion with this employee and emphasize that this could affect her employment. This discussion should include specific feedback and giving her the opportunity to describe what her specific concerns are. I also agree with whoever said above that she should work with the other researcher.

    #5 – I’m always leery of repeated job postings. If it’s a large company/organization, it could very well be separate positions. Depending on where you found the postings, they might indicate the specific department in which it’s open. Absent that, however, I’d be weary of applying for a third time, especially in such a short time frame.

  24. Name*

    #1 – Every time my mother didn’t know how to do something at work she would ask a supervisor. Who would tell her to look it up in the manual. Then she would come home and rant about what an Ahole this guy was for not wanting to teach her anything or how he was too stuck-up to bother training anyone on how to do their job.

    Some people want a human being to tell them how to do it. Or they want approval on a process before they go ahead. I agree with AAM in saying you haven’t told her to stop asking and WHY and that you need to make it really clear that you trust her to make her own decisions. Try to be supportive, and I hope you don’t blindside her with a firing just because she doesn’t like learning through a computer help file but has otherwise done her job satisfactorily for years.

    1. Anon*

      I managed this person at my last job. If I didn’t drop what I was doing to come sit next to her and walk her through it, I wasn’t training her and she would use that as her excuse whenever a mistake was made. I had a very busy job and most days I just didn’t have the time to slow down enough to do that. Nor did most of these tasks require that kind of training, especially two years in to the job.

      It was definitely a mismatch in styles. I ended up having to basically pair her off with a senior employee who had more time and had a tendency to go into minutia when training anyway. The two hit it off and it seemed to work out. Maybe that is an option here?

    2. Aisling*

      I’ve known a number of people like this in jobs as well: the ones who want someone to walk them through it, each time. The problem is that there is a clear training period, and after that, the person is expected to do the work as anyone else would do. Otherwise, it’s taking too much time away from everyone else when someone wants them to stop what they are doing and constantly train. It also sometimes means that the person is not enough of a self-starter to try something new. In some places, that’s fine, but in other places, it would be grounds for letting someone go. It would be a mismatch of styles, or just a difference in work cultures.

      I’m currently working with someone like this, and the person has now been trained on a single task three times. Every time it comes up again, rather than looking at notes or manuals, she wants someone to sit down and walk her though it again. It takes enough time that it would just be easier to do it myself.

      1. Observer*

        Training multiple times on the same task is very different from not trying something new on her own. This is not just a style mis-match. Some one needs to tell her that no one is going to walk her through the same task multiple times. And, if she still can’t manage, then something needs to happen, sooner rather than later. And, it shouldn’t be a surprise to her.

        1. Aisling*

          Very true. If I were this person’s manager, I’d absolutely tell her that, but I’m just a peer. Her manager isn’t in the same building, unfortunately.

  25. Anon M. Us*

    #1 – I’ve been that person, to a lesser extent. There were a few things going on.
    (a) Fear of being wrong. When the wrong solution is met with. “NO. anon, that is NOT the solution! God! I’ll just do it mySELF!” you begin to believe you’re incompetent.
    (b) Fear of financial insecurity. After leaving an environment like the above, where being wrong is unacceptable, it’s easy to worry that a mistake will mean losing my job, even two years later. As the primary earner for my family and an entry level worker, I’m well aware of the precariousness of my life.
    (c) Foggy thinking/need for coping skills. It can get very chaotic in my mind, and I have to force myself to write out — by hand — the desired outcome, constraints on the process, and possible approaches within those limits.

    Maybe the researcher just needs to know how to work through a problem?

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      That was me for a good many years, not so much (b), but the fear of being wrong and having too much on the brain and not the time to process it all. It’s taken me having to leave that environment and go temping (where I start fresh each time) to gain the confidence to initiate some ideas/solutions again.

  26. inkhat*

    The notice one is actually kind of scary! What if your boss is out for a huge amount of time when you get an offer? Or even a week. The new job might not want to wait. What should you do?

    1. LibrarianJ*

      I had something similar happen once. Was trying to get out of a pretty toxic work situation. I gave notice in person, but OldBoss was about to leave on a 2 week business trip and was not. happy. Unfortunately, NewJob would not wait more than 2 weeks — so I didn’t either. OldBoss was upset with me, but OldBoss was infuriated that I was quitting regardless of timeline, so the reference bridge was already burned anyway. It was so worth it just to get myself into a better place.

  27. Observer*

    I don’t want to pile on to #1, but I think something really needs to be pointed out:

    I totally get how much of a problem your employee’s behavior is. But, I’m kind of shocked that you’ve allowed the employee to reach the point that she’s on the verge of being fired without ever being told that her behavior is a problem.

    You need to do a few things:

    1. TELL HER what you expect of her. If you don’t see any results, follow up with her. Don’t start with this, but if you need to let her know, clearly, that keeping her job depends on this.

    2. As others have also pointed out, make sure that she won’t get penalized for getting it wrong. If she has been, in the past, figure out how to avoid that, and let her know, clearly, how things have changed.

    3. Make sure she has the resources she needs to find answers. “read the manual” isn’t always realistic, as some manuals are horrible, and some people aren’t all that good at getting information that way. And “we discussed that in training” isn’t always all that useful either, for a number of reasons.

    4. As others have mentioned, there may be something else going on – the frozen / poker face seems to indicate that is a real possibility. See if you can find out if that’s the case, and if it’s something you can do something about.

    1. OP #1 Here*

      Thank you for the advice. Looking back I think that my Sr Researcher was a buffer for her. With the Sr gone & the new computer system, her abilities (or lack of) have really come to light.

      I agree that I need to be clearer in my communication with what is expected, because it sounds perfectly clear in my head but apparently isn’t coming out of my mouth that way.

  28. Lora*

    1: I have much experience with this, people who do not think for themselves. Important points:
    -There must be no punishment for failure, no yelling/anger/obvious unhappiness for her doing it wrong. You simply teach her how to do it right and move on.
    -If anyone micromanages her or tells her what to do and how to do it in general, they need to stop it posthaste. It might be that the senior researcher is always telling her how to do, therefore she doesn’t have to think for herself ever.
    -This can often be a where-you-went-to-college thing. Not that the elite colleges are better at teaching people to think individually (they’re not), but if her undergrad experience included doing her own research, coached her specifically on how to do this thing, it was part of her coursework, etc. she will be more comfortable with it. I see a great many graduates of Big State Schools who did not do independent projects who had to be walked through everything. If they did independent projects though, they usually can handle figuring stuff out.
    -Just once, walk her through the process of where to find things out. In these modern times, not so many people know how to use a library.
    -Back her up. She is learning, beginners make mistakes, critics can help or get out of the way.
    -Affirm that she has made correct decisions when she asks you if something is OK.
    -Explain the rationale behind things. One of my kids didn’t want to run a particular piece of equipment because she felt it was scary and complicated. So we took one apart and I showed her that she had used all these components before, and that it wasn’t actually all that complicated. Some of her questions were on the order of, “why is that knob there, what does it do,” and I was able to tell her, “nothing, the guy who built it was an idiot who liked random knobs”.

    1. Scott M*

      “nothing, the guy who built it was an idiot who liked random knobs”

      This explains so much about so many things!

  29. HRasaurus*

    In regards to #5, follow what Allison said and take a look at your previous applications and see what you can improve!

    My company has done this with several of our roles. Why? Because we’re hiring multiple people under the same title and our business is expanding, so we’re not refilling, we’re adding more people with that title. Sometimes the posting comes down because it expired and needs to be manually reposted, and once it came down because we had filled all of our needs…then we landed another contract and had to re-open hiring.

    I’ve had several people re-apply multiple times. If a candidate adjusts their cover letter to explain why they want that particular job, or why they are interested in working for our company, I’m more likely to give them a second look than the people who just resubmit their resume (because then I wonder if you’re just spamming applications and don’t remember applying). And sometimes, the person is just not a fit, they don’t have the background and experience we’re looking for and no matter how many times they re-apply, or how badly they want to work here, I can’t put them through to an interview.

    Also, when you mention you are re-applying, don’t act entitled. An example of an app I received this morning “I applied with you guys in May and you never scheduled an interview with me, so I’m giving you another chance to realize that I’m the perfect person for this role and that this is my dream job.” Of course this was from a candidate that has 2/10 of our “Must Have” qualifications.

  30. Scott M*

    #1 : I have a question – is the stuff she’s doing really new to her? Has the other entry-level employee been doing different work than her? How much do you know about this employees experience? Are you sure your assumptions about her experience are correct?

    I’ve had this situation where people assume I know things because I’ve been here a long time. But my area of work is quite different and specialized from my coworkers. Previous bosses would not realize that I might not have the same experience as my coworkers.

    1. OP #1 Here*

      I would say the bulk of it is kind of new. The computer system is new, and operates completely differently from our old one which means thinking about how we do what we do in a different way, but the concepts & results are the same. The actual business practices have not changed. I’ll add that she did participate in both testing & training for the new system.

      There are some truly new tasks/procedures that come along with a new system but I try to provide training on those topics with step by step instructions, sometimes in writing.

      Good point that I should not assume that she understands every task or business process just because she’s been in the dept for so long. But my boss does.

  31. Angora*

    5. Applying when an employer keeps reposting the same job

    It’s a red flag if a particular job keeps being reopened. Do you know of anyone in your network that would know the history of the position? To me it looks bad, like either the management is such they cannot keep anyone, or they are firing the individuals they hire or a combination of both. I accepted a job two years ago after moving home, so I didn’t know the history of the position. I was the 4th executive assistant in 6 months. I quit without a job lined up after 3 months. It’s also possible the hiring committee and/or recruiters are not doing a good job screening candidates.

    Be sure to ask that ? during the interview process. Unless you’re desperate for a job. If you have a current one, be leery of taking another when it’s re-advertised so much.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends and it can be hard to tell from the outside. Sometimes there are 10 roles with the same title/job description in the org and it’s different slots that you’re seeing advertised. Sometimes it’s a very narrow, hard-to-find skill set.

    2. Echoing AAM here*

      Yeah, we have a lot of very similar positions – about half our office is posted as one title and skill set. So that’s 12 nearly-identical positions. (There’s actually a progression of titles, but when one opens up, we pretty much always post the entry-level one and then let people advance internally, though title adjustments are made pretty quickly for new people with more experience who just need to learn our specific niche.)

      Recently we had to hire several of them, but I’m not sure that’s a red flag really. One resigned to take another job, one retired as planned, and one had to go out on long term disability (not due to an on-the-job incident, and we stretched holding the position for them past FMLA until it was clear they wouldn’t be able to return in any predictable time frame). And one of the three positions got re-posted once because our pool of candidates for that round didn’t result in filling the position.

      So, maybe it’s a red flag, and maybe it’s not. It depends on whether they’re cycling people through rapidly, and if they are, for what reason – the more similar positions there are, the less of a red flag it is, IMO.

      And the more specialized a position is, the harder it is to fill, and the more you might see it re-posted after failing to fill it altogether.

      Also, sometimes someone will remove a posted position if there is a temporary hiring freeze, a grant comes into question and they’re waiting to see, there’s a potential internal transfer (that they didn’t know about yet when they posted it) who has to make up their mind, etc. If they subsequently have funding for the position and no one in it, it gets re-posted.

  32. D-orx Nami*

    #1 – I think sometimes you have to accept that some people lack skills to think critically, be proactive, or be able to think outside the box. As humans we’re all different….there is no real shame in not knowing how to do that.

    I reckon you have to either show him or her the tools how to develop this, or accept they’re not capable for the role (no shame in that either…)

  33. OP #3*

    Just wanted to give Alison a big thank you for her great advice!!! Just to update, I followed it this morning by posting for a promotion, and just now received a call from the hiring manager at the other company offering me the position! I was so excited and accepted on the spot!

  34. Cassie*

    OP #1’s situation actually reminds me of a couple of coworkers. They are constantly asking me (a peer) how to deal with a new task. even when it’s identical or similar to a request that they just finished. I feel like it’s groundhog day over and over again.

    For me, I don’t have that luxury. If my boss (a professor) comes to me with a new situation, he expects me to fix it – he’s not going to walk me through all the steps I need to take (he won’t know anyway), nor is he going to sit with me to investigate solutions. The coworkers can’t ask their bosses (also professors) so they go to the know-it-all with all the answers. It’s very tiring – especially when some of their questions can be answered with a quick Google search or if they would just keep better notes and use checklists. Arg.

    1. FX-ensis*

      I can relate. It annoys me no end, but then I’ve kind of figured that they probably (for whatever reason….upbringing, personality, lack of confidence, naivety, etc.) haven’t learnt how to think of things on their own.

      It’s not my ultimate problem though, because I’m not his supervisor.

  35. OP #1 Here*

    Follow up – just last week this employee and I had our mid-year ‘so how’s it going’ meeting. At that time we reviewed the objectives set in January to make sure they still apply & that she’s on track.

    Today I met with her again, prompted by everyone’s feedback, we read through each objective out loud and I told her what I think each one entails and what the expectation is for each one. I made sure to be clear & gave examples when needed. I also noted how when she runs across something that is new for her, to think about how to solve it & then come to me with some suggestions and we can work through the suggestions together to determine the best one.

    She was on board with everything I said and had no objections. I asked if she had any questions or needed any further details, examples, clarification and she said No. I told her that my door is always open should she have questions or need clarification on anything at all. Now I need to pay closer attention to her & her work to see that she is progressing as I anticipate.

    Thank you everyone for you input!

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