my boss implied I let religion impact a hiring decision, a new employee is snarking at me, and more

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

1. My boss implied I hired someone because of her religion

What’s the best way to address my boss making an assumption that I hired someone based on an EEOC-protected category?

I have a new manager who’s great overall. He speaks frankly and is helping me develop in my career. I sent him a resume three days ago for an employee I’ve hired who starts tomorrow (the hire was decided prior to my boss joining the team). My manager and I had a check-in meeting today, and he said the new employee’s resume was interesting to read. With a little smirk, he added, “I know now why you hired her.”

This employee’s resume shows service at an organization that indicates her faith. It’s a faith I share, and I believe my manager is assuming that I gave this candidate undue weight because of this. I’m on the interview committee at work, and pride myself at being able to put aside issues like this in deciding on a candidate’s fitness for the role. How should I confirm with my manager that this is his suspicion and address that I found it offensive that he would assume this? With a manager I haven’t worked with before, I don’t want to leap to conclusions. However, I also feel that if my suspicions are correct, I need to address it head-on.

I agree; you shouldn’t just let this go and allow the assumption to hang out there as unchallenged fact. I’d go back to your boss and say, “I didn’t fully process it when we were talking the other day, but I want to make sure you don’t really think that I hired Violet Thistlewell because of her religion.” If you get any response other than that a convincing explanation that he was joking (and actually, even then — because that’s a pretty sketchy joke), follow up with, “I want to make sure you know I’d never hire that way. I hired Violet because she has a great track record in ___.”

2. An employee on my new team is undermining me with snark

I recently started a new job and learned through my manager that a person on the team had interviewed for the role I was offered. This is a new position that was formed as part of a restructure and from what I understand, the person who applied felt they were a shoo-in for the position since they have been working for the company for several years. I am completely new to the organization and the business.

Anytime someone from the team asks me a question, this person is quick to respond, “Why would she know? She’s new to the business.” I try to ignore it, but lately it has been making me feel insecure and has me wondering what I can do to protect my credibility. I tried involving this person in my business processes to diffuse hard feelings; however, they continue to comment on my limited knowledge of the business. I realize this person has more knowledge of the business but for whatever reason (I suspect poor people skills) they were not offered the job. I’m trying my best to learn, but there is no way I can get up to speed and know as much as they do. considering they have had longer exposure to business within the unit. It’s difficult enough to adjust to a new job. How do I deal with this?

By nipping this in the bud. By allowing her get away with open snark toward you, you’re weakening your own authority, both with this employee and with anyone watching. The next time it happens, interject and answer the question you’ve been asked. Meanwhile, deal with her privately, by talking her through the standards of behavior you expect from anyone on your team and how you’d like her to approach things differently — and hold her to that. There’s advice here and here on how to do that, but you’re going to need to be more assertive than it sounds like you have so far, which has given her an opening to undermine you (and will get worse if you don’t stop it).

3. Rejecting a candidate for the second time

Do you have any advice on how to best reject a candidate for a second time? In this case, a candidate was a finalist for one position but was not selected. When a different opening was posted a few months later (which on paper she is also qualified for), she reached out again and we interviewed her again. She’s not the right fit, and I feel like saying no a second time really closes the door in a way the first rejection does not. Knowing she will likely read it that way, how should I follow up with her?

Just explain her your reasoning — and if you’d welcome applications from her again in the future, add that too (but don’t say it if it’s not true). For instance: “This was a tough decision, but ultimately we concluded we’re looking for someone with more experience in X. I really appreciate you going through our process twice now, and if we haven’t scared you off, we’d welcome your applications in the future.” Or, if it’s not a skills/experience issue but more about personality/culture fit, you could be vaguer: “I really appreciated the time you put into our process. This is a tricky role to hire for and we end up turning away some great people in the process. I won’t be moving you forward to our final interviews, but on a personal note, I enjoyed the chance to get to know you better and wish you all the best.” Or whatever. Just make it a little more personal than a form letter, since it’s her second time around.

4. Company told me I had more leave than I did and now wants me to repay the difference

I work for a small company that has only one HR person, who also does payroll. She recently emailed me that she miscalculated the maternity leave I took in August-October and would need to take $1,400 out of my next two paychecks. I spoke with her in person, and her mistake was not checking my leave accumulation balance and just using an arbitrary number. This is not the first time she’s made a mistake like this with me or many of my coworkers. The mistakes only come to light at the end of the fiscal year for my company.

Is there any financial recourse for me? She did these calculations before my son was born and I chose to take a specific amount of maternity leave based on her calculations. I would not have taken as much had her math been accurate. I have emails from her telling me the earlier amount.

If the company overpaid you, they’re entitled to recover that money from you by withholding it from your next paychecks … but you”re also entitled to point out that they gave you bad information that you relied on to your detriment. I’d pull together those emails she sent you earlier with the wrong amount and explain that you were promised X amount of leave, that you had no reason not to rely on the numbers the company gave you, that repaying the money would be a hardship and feels unfair (since you would have made different decisions had they given you correct information), and ask for the repayment to be waived or reduced. If you don’t get anywhere with her, take your case to her manager. (You might also try to get your own manager to go to bat for you on this, if your manager has some sway.)

5. Did this auto-reply indicate that I should follow up about my application if I don’t hear anything?

I have a question about an online job application I recently completed. I filled it out and then uploaded my resume with it. When I hit submit, their response word for word was the following: “Thank you for applying. We will contact you shortly.” This is interesting because virtually all job applications will say that they will contact you if your qualifications match their requirements. Here they are not saying that, so I am wondering if I should contact them through email about the my status if they do not contact me?

Nope. You’re reading too much into the auto-response. Companies don’t put nearly as much time into refining the wording of these as applicants spend in analyzing them. It’s just an acknowledgement that they received your application, nothing more and nothing less.

You’ve applied, they know you’re interested, and they’ll get in touch if they want to interview you.

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    In #2, your advice sounds as if the LW is the other team member’s manager, but I don’t see anything in the letter that suggests that. If they are peers, how should she handle the conversation with her colleague?

    1. Fun-&-Games*

      I get the vibe too that it is a management position, probably because it feels unlikely that someone would be upset about not getting an equivalent position. It almost HAS to be a better position in some way to make someone jealous.

      1. Enid*

        I was thinking the new position could be something like “Spreadsheet Specialist”, where it’s on the same level as the bitter employee, but the bitter employee really wanted it because they loved spreadsheets. It doesn’t have to be a promotion in order to be a more attractive position to that one person.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      That’s sort of how I read it, too. It sounds to me like the OP and the snarky coworker might not be exactly peers (the coworker did apply for the job, which suggests it’s likely some kind of step up) but it also doesn’t sound like the OP is directly above the coworker in the org chart. If that’s the case, I hope that the coworker’s manager isn’t hearing these comments in meetings and letting them go.

    3. Jessica*

      That was what I was wondering too- from the letter it seemed to me that they were peers, or at least that the LW would not have any direct authority to set “standards of behavior you expect from anyone on your team”.

    4. theotherjennifer*

      Ugh. I have this and it is painful. The person who applied for the role I received does not have the experience or even the temperament to work in a client facing position. She is one of the rudest, nastiest, snarkiest people I have ever had to work with. My manager is a touchy feely type – hates to hurt anyone’s feelings so they just let her do whatever she wants because she is excellent at the role she is in. Luckily I am able to avoid her about 92% of the time, she is no longer supporting the execs I support because of her attitude. Pretty soon she will run out of execs. I agree, you need to speak up, especially in a meeting with your team, you have to talk to your manager and you have to talk to this person one on one about her comments and how it’s affecting your working relationship. Good luck!

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, interesting. I read it as if the person reports to the OP, but you’re right that maybe she doesn’t. OP, can you clarify? But if she doesn’t report to the OP, I’d use a toned-down version of what I suggest in the post — answer questions when people ask them of you even if the coworker has made a snarky comment, and talk to the coworker in private to ask what’s up.

      1. OP*

        Hi, I’m the OP for #2. We are co-workers, the position was a result of a restructure in business unit. The snarky co-worker worked for the business before the restructure and her position was eliminated. She was given the following choices: 1. receive severance and leave the company, 2. interview for my role which oversees the training for other staff, or 3. take a role that was available that closely resembled what she used to do. I guess she could be looking at it as “promotion” since this role has more authority (although not direct) over others. I hadn’t even considered that aspect of the situation.

        Hope that provided clarity, thanks everyone.

  2. neverjaunty*

    AAM’s advice on how to handle this is great, OP #1, but wow. “Interesting to read” and smirking? In addition to his insulting belief about your professionalism, if it were me, from then on out I’d assume he had a pretty condescending and unpleasant view of people who shared that faith. Permanent side-eye to this dude.

    1. MK*

      That’s assuming the OP is right about what his hint mean. It wouldn’t do for the OP to take that for granted, she should verify what he really meant before getting all defensive about her professionalism. The boss could be making a silly joke about the employee coming from the same town as the OP or that they are fans of the same sports team. But I agree that he rpobably shouldn’t do it anyway, especially since they don’t know eachother well yet. I have learned that humor in the workplace can be a bit tricky; it can easily be taken the worng way, so it’s probably a good idea to be more restrained till you know more about your co-workers.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        +1. We have to trust that something more was said or implied that led to the jump that this was about religion. I’m not sure I’d make the leap from “Interesting to read, I see why you hired her” to favoritism due to a similar background. Seems like a very defensive stance, so I wonder what else I’m missing here.

        Even so, if she is uncomfortable with the statement, she needs to ask him for clarification.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Interesting to read”, plus a mysterious statement about why the new person was hired, plus the smirk.

          A boss who isn’t being obnoxious would most likely say something like “Wow, she has an impressive background”, or “Oh, I see she’s an officer in the Teapot Engineers Society” as an explanation for “I know why you hired her”. There’s really no reason to be coy and snarky about it except to convey the message, I figured out your secret reasons.

          Although sure, it could be that Boss is being a cheesebag because he’s trying to imply OP #1 is looking out for a sorority sister or whatever. It’s still obnoxious and out of line.

          1. MK*

            “I can see why you hired her” isn’t all that mysterious; frankly, I don’t understand why the OP didn’t ask right then and there “What do you mean?”, which would have clarified the whole thing immediately. And a smirk is hardly proof positive of anything. I get that the boss obviously had an unfortunate manner, since it gave this impression to the OP, but it could be a misunderstanding.

            The thing is, if you look at it from the opposite point of view, the OP’s assumption that the phrases “the new hire’s resume is interesting to read” and “I can see now why you hired her”, plus smirk, mean “I see that the new hire has the same religion as you. I guess you people stand by eachother, haha” is kind of far-fetched, an exaggerated reaction. It even raises the question why the OP immediately thought of their shared religion, when the employee’s resume presumably listed other items that the boss might be referencing.

            In any case, the OP has nothing to loose and everything to gain by not bringing up the religion aspect herself.

          2. GrumpyBoss*

            Completely agree with MK. There is nothing mysterious about the statement. “I can see why you hired her” could refer to anything on her resume. Maybe she has the type of background that looks fantastic on paper. Maybe she went to Yale and got a graduate degree from Harvard. Maybe she volunteered doing something impressive. If it wasn’t clear, ask for clarification!

            The only thing that is obnoxious is immediately jumping to the defensive and assuming this is an insinuation of some sorts. Having been in my fair share of toxic environments, I’ve met more than one person who automatically thinks that everything that happens is the result of their race/religion/gender. It’s not. And I’m not saying that is what the OP is doing, but she certainly didn’t present the comment in a way where an average person would make the jump to him insinuating professionalism.

            1. Student*

              Agreed. I’d ask him what he meant directly, without carrying in a lot of assumptions about it.

              I’d also want to get his input if he doesn’t honestly believe this candidate is appropriate for the position that she’s been hired into. If he has a reason for thinking you made a poor hiring choice, you’d better find out why. You are going to need to address that by making sure this new employee proves her worth quickly to the boss. It should also inform your future hiring decisions if he has something useful to say about what his hiring priorities are.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I totally agree- he may have been pointing at something else and have absolutely no clue that OP thought the comment was about religious affiliation.

        She says he speaks candidly. Sometimes candid people run into trouble because something they say is ambiguous or not thought through all the way. He is probably used to people coming back and saying “The other day, you said xyz and I wanted to touch base on that because I still feel unsettled about it today.”

        The other thing about candid people is that they often find candor refreshing in others. So, when OP goes back in on this question, he may actually be pleased that she had the strength to deal. He might even say “Thank you for letting me have a second shot at that one, it did not come out right the first time.” Or he may indicate “Any time something leaves a question in your mind, please come back ASAP and ask me about it.”

        She says he is a good boss and he is helping her grow her career. This makes me optimistic about her quandary now. I think she can go back in on this one and get good results.

        1. JB*

          I wondered that, too. This point–that she may be bringing her religion into the workplace a little too much–is something OP should maybe consider.

          On the other hand, that doesn’t really address her question, so I think Alison was right not to focus on it. Regardless of how her boss came to know her religion, he shouldn’t be implying that she hires based on it. If he’s really concerned about that, snarky remarks aren’t the way to address it.

          But she might also think about whether she talks about religion too much at the office.

          1. Cat*

            There’s all sorts of way her boss could know her religion even if she talks about it the bare minimum or not at all. He could be making assumptions based on her name (which happen to be true here, but aren’t always). He could have seen her leaving a place of worship. She might wear hijab. She might have needed accommodations to take religious holidays off.

            Anyway, the mere fact of most people’s religious isn’t particularly secret.

            1. Sarahnova*

              Agreed; the fact that the OP’s manager knows her religion is not by itself evidence of anything.

              1. anon*

                Except that’s not what I said. I implied that it’s unlikely op’s manager knows op’s religion.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  We don’t know that it’s unlikely. There are all kinds of ways to know somebody’s faith pretty quickly that don’t involve OP talking about it at work nonstop.

            2. anon*

              Don’t you think if it were that obvious for a new manager to tell, OP would have mentioned it (I wear blah blah)?

              1. fposte*

                I don’t; the point of the post isn’t how the OP’s manager knows her faith, so I wouldn’t have bothered to mention the how if I were the OP.

          2. Observer*

            That’s making a whole lot of unwarranted assumptions.

            Some religions have specific dress codes that anyone who cares to check up on can figure out. Or maybe she took a day off for religious observance and let people know why she was going out. Or maybe she mentioned a religious milestone / event in her life or the life of a family member. Or a half a dozen other scenarios I could think of. Is it now forbidden to mention anything about one’s personal life it reveals your religious affiliation?

            Maybe, she even has work relevant experience with an organization belonging to her religion. Is she supposed to hide that? Should the new employee have hidden her service since it reveals her religious affiliation?

            1. anon*

              The assumption I didn’t make was what was said in the post: that the manager was new. In other words, highly unlikely any of your examples would apply other than dress. i think OP would mention dress that if that were the case.

              1. Observer*

                Totally not true. Resume would certainly be something he might have seen. And even the other types of things are quite likely to show up in a fairly social office. Say, Jane Smith makes a comment about preparations for her son’s Bar Mitzvah and June Cleaver responds with a related comment about her experience preparing for her a child’s confirmation. You now know something about the religious affiliation of two people, from the normal kinds of “water cooler” chit chat you find in a lot of offices. It’s not just about kids, keep in mind. It’s about parents and the people themselves. And it’s not just about the events themselves. So, maybe people are talking about the pros and cons of having a car in their city, and Sharon mentions the lack of parking at her house of worship. Again, you’ve just found out about her religious affiliation if you heard the conversation, even though she isn’t talking about her religion.

                And if there is any issue of religious accommodation, then her supervisor would HAVE to know about it. She would never have had to say a word relating to her affiliation in that case.

                The bottom line is that there so many normal ways that the supervisor could know, that it’s a real leap to assume that over-sharing or proselytizing is the most likely way this information “got out”.

                I see below that there is a religious accommodation issue. The general point still holds.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, it’s pretty common to learn early that X keeps kosher, that Y leaves early for mass some days, that Z doesn’t do caffeine for religious reasons; stuff like that is pretty open in most workplaces. I don’t know everybody’s religion, but in my experience it doesn’t take long for things like that to come up within a group, so it seems perfectly normal to me that the OP’s boss would know her religion even if it hadn’t turned out to be his own.

        2. OP #1*

          OP #1 here- I need to leave early one day a week for a religious event. It’s a faith my new boss grew up in- not sure if he’s still practicing in any way, but we just had a brief discussion about our faith and some of the challenges growing up that way. Nothing too serious, but he is aware.

    2. Katie NYC*

      You know, this just reinforces my belief that you shouldn’t publicize your religious affiliation on your resume (unless, of course, you’re applying for a job where it’s relevant). In most cases, I think volunteer gigs like Sunday school teaching won’t add a ton to your qualifications, but they can open up cans of worms like these. I know that doesn’t resolve the OPs quandry, just my 2 cents.

      1. Observer*

        On the other hand, sometimes they are very relevant. For instance, if you are looking for a job working with young children, experience handling the 5 year old Sunday school class really IS relevant. Sometimes it’s less direct, such when you are trying to show that you can work in an environment that is similar to the one you are applying to. So, for example, if you are coming from an environment that is pretty free-for-all and applying to a place that is more structured, successful experience in any organization that is somewhat structured would be relevant to show that you CAN operate that way. If it happens to be a Sunday School, well so be it.

        We have nothing in the original letter to indicate whether the service was relevant or not, but I would think that if the resume was “great” overall, there is a good chance that the candidate only included stuff that she thought would be relevant to the position.

      2. Chinook*

        Katie NYC, the thing is that one of those volunteer gigs can be very relevant. For example, you could be the secretary, treasurer or president of a council which deals with large amounts of money. In that case, you have experience with government rules about a charity or non-profit as well as things like Roberts Rules. Even running a Sunday School program involves organing people and schedules while ensuring everyone is following a curriculum. While teaching a class would never make my resume, as soon as I am in charge of a budget, it could be very relevant

        1. fposte*

          It doesn’t even have to be a volunteer gig; a lot of nonprofits and social service organizations have religious affiliations, so for quite a few people it’s right there in their work history. (It doesn’t guarantee the employee is a member of that faith, but it certainly makes that a likely perception.)

          1. Career Counselorette*

            I could absolutely see this situation playing out where the new hire worked for something like the Jewish Board of Family Services and the OP has a recognizably Jewish last name and the boss smirks and makes his dumb joke because “you know how they are.”

            (I’ve actually run into this a lot in different work situations. I never talk about religion at work and I am not even a particularly observant person, but I have the quintessential Jewish last name that people use when they’re trying to illustrate just how Jewish something actually is, so inevitably people are always like “HEY I BET YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THIS JEW THING HUH” or “I BET YOU LIKE HER A LOT BECAUSE YOU’RE BOTH JEWISH RIGHT”)

            1. neverjaunty*

              Ugh, so much this. My favorite, at a former employer, was a manager who didn’t understand why I would leave early/take PTO for particular holidays when Other Employee didn’t. When I explained that there are different levels of observance, she then proceeded to rag Other Employee about his being a slacker. Yeah, that was ALL kinds of fun :/

            2. JB*

              That’s not something I had considered, which shows how much more informed I need to be about discrimination that goes on in the world when it’s not the kind that’s directed at me. Because I don’t know what last names are “quintessential Jewish,” I had never really thought about the fact that some people do and how much that might open people up to lots of additional fun rounds of “how do you not know how that statement makes you sound?” I hate that game. I’m sorry, that sucks.

      3. OP #1*

        OP #1 here- Katie NYC, I agree in general and often cringe at what people think is appropriate to include on a resume. This is a new hire right out of college and the organization was something she led on her campus- I think including it was partially excitement and partially very little other experiences that applied to the role.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Of course, working for a religious organization doesn’t always mean you are of that faith. Plenty of churches hire employees who don’t go there. In fact, I applied at a huge Baptist church for a media admin position one time and they specifically told me they don’t hire members because they prefer to keep the employment separate from the worship. It was a direct contrast to the Huge Giant Evangelical Church Organization whose Careers page basically says, “Yeah, if you’re not a member you can apply, but we won’t even bother with you if you don’t live your life outside work by our rules.”

  3. ella*

    The manager in #1 isn’t just insulting the OP’s professionalism, he’s insulting the qualifications and the abilities of the new employee. If he thinks her religion is why she got hired, he won’t give her a fair chance to prove she can do the job. So yeah, I’d address this for your sake as well as hers.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: Ugh. That is just so icky. I think Alison’s advice here is good. Address it directly and get it out there. You’ll be calling your manager on his comments and letting him know that you’re not going to just let them go unacknowledged, but in a tactful and professional way.

    This makes me wonder if the OP is Muslim. I have seen so many examples of people being treated pretty abominably just because they’re Muslim, which is really horrible. And I’ve seen this crap come from people who should know better. I remember a post on the open thread a few months ago from Muslim OP who heard a client say something like, “I can’t believe you hire those people,” while she was standing right there.

    1. fposte*

      Well, we don’t know if anybody’s being treated abominably yet, and the OP so far likes her boss. I also think this is a scenario that can play out with any number of faiths, since preferential hiring is a rumor about just about all of them.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Agreed. I think I’m hypersensitive to this in particular for a couple reasons: one is that I grew up in the Middle East, so while I would never hold myself out as an expert, I think I know a tad more about the culture and faith than the average schmo. Second, I see all kinds of stuff pertaining to this posted on Facebook, sometimes coming from people I thought I knew pretty well. It’s pretty shocking.

    2. Judy*

      I’ve heard it said about Mormons, also. At least twice, once while someone who was Mormon was standing right there.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes, I’ve seen this too, and it also makes me mad. What’s strange is that I am not a religious person at all, but as long as someone isn’t trying to impose their religious beliefs on others, then any commentary about their faith should be off limits.

        When we were house hunting a couple years ago, one day we drove through a neighborhood one day to take a pass by a house we’d seen listed online. On the map, the house looked like it backed right to a very busy road, but we wanted to make sure because sometimes those aren’t always accurate. It was, so we weren’t interested, but the are was really nice. We drove around, checking things out, and realized that there was an LDS church right smack in the middle of the neighborhood. We decided to keep looking. Not because we have anything against the curch, but just because most Mormons I know are very active in their church, and their faith is a big part of their lives. I totally respect that, but since we don’t practice any particular religion, it would be pretty easy to feel like outsiders.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            You should see it here in Atlanta – we pack the churches in tighter than all the buildings in Manhattan!

      2. JB*

        And atheists. I have a coworker who is (maybe more, this is the only one I know about because she’s also a friend). She keeps that pretty quiet because around here, that would get here some side-eyes if not worse.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          My husband is an atheist, and doesn’t care who knows it. When he found a new doctor a couple years ago, he said the first thing he was going to ask was, “Do you believe in evolution?” and if the answer was no, he’d thank him for his time and be on his way. I laughed when he told me that, and he asked if I was kidding. I said, “No, I know you’re not kidding, that’s why it’s so funny!” So he did indeed ask the question, and the doctor was non-plussed for a moment and said he’d never been asked that before. But that yes, he did believe in evolution.

          1. LucyVP*

            I may have to use your husband’s system for checking doctor’s. An MD who doesnt believe in evolution would be worrisome to me.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            There are doctors who don’t believe in evolution???!! But but but, how do they explain the evolution of antibiotic resistance, viral and other pathogen evolution, genome evolution in tumour cells, the existence of the appendix, and tons of other stuff???!!!

            I’ve never even thought to ask, because I’d always assumed you couldn’t even qualify as a doctor without understanding basic biology.

            Mind. Blown.

    3. bearing*

      The OP has taken pains not to specify which religion, probably to avoid us all getting sidetracked. Let’s respect that and keep it general, because it doesn’t MATTER which religion it is.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        You’re right, of course. My mind went here because sadly it seems that some people think it’s OK to disrespect this particular faith, and don’t even really try to pretend otherwise.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Depending on where you live the faith differs. I think you are getting myopic because of your own background. I’ve seen Jews marginalized, Baptists marginalized, Mormons marginalized, atheists marginalized, Catholics marginalized – all in different parts of the country.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I think if anything has made me myopic it’s Facebook. Some of the stuff I see there is pretty appalling — either stuff posted by people I know, or things they comment on or like.

          2. Student*

            There are actually national rankings for most-hated faith.

            Atheism and Islam do considerably worse (in the US) than any of the other religions.

            Curiously, public statements of hatred of Atheism are still broadly acceptable. They’re greeted with applause when uttered by serious presidential candidates. Public statements against Islam occur, but are at least met with some low level of backlash. Most of the other religions send in lawyers or issue press releases when it happens.

        2. Cari*

          I see it all the time here on facebook, the media etc. Between the far right political parties and the cult of Dawkins, muslims and Islam are quite demonised in the UK. It is apalling, but this topic is far from the original post :(

  5. Sandy*

    For number four, it think you are unlikely to be able to argue that you shouldn’t have to pay it back at all. BUT you may be able to argue that the repayment should take place over an increased number of paychecks.

    For example, at my workplace, a repayment can’t take more than 10% of your net pay per paycheck. If it takes them longer to collect, it takes them longer to collect, but you do have to repay it.

    1. Raine*

      This, plus definitely bring this to the attention of a manager, whether that be the OP’s or whoever is above HR. That’s a ridiculously flip and casual pattern toward employee issues; what happens if this person made a mistake and an employee in an accident discovers she doesn’t really have the long-term health care they thought, etc.

    2. NylaW*

      This. Our policy is that if it’s our fault we will eat the mistake unless it’s over X amount (where X is a reasonably significant $$). We also won’t take more than 10% of your check and it comes out after everything else is calculated. It also means adjustments need to be made to the OP’s tax base and withholding accumulations for the year.

    3. Vicki*

      You should be able to argue not having to pay it back because it was LEAVE (not money in your paycheck) and the leave was allocated to you by HR. This wasn’t an accident of payroll misplacing a digit.

      In any case, repaying time off with $$ is nuts. At the very least, if you have to repay it, you should repay PTO with PTO.

      1. Student*

        Indeed! She should just be “in the hole” on PTO for a while. This is insane.

        I’m cynical; are you sure she isn’t just going to pocket the money?

        I’d talk to your manager and her manager about this, immediately. If they insist on repayment, then negotiate something more reasonable.

        1. Annie*

          It might because of carry over- it looks like the OP took the leave last year and if fiscal year was July-June she might not be able to make it up in leave- but they need the cash to balance the books.

          Personally I think that this should be brought to a manager but that’s because my last HR group was so dysfunctional after being told 2 different things about funeral leave I refused to go trust anything from them with out it in writing or without my manager or someone else (co-worker of a higher position) with me.

  6. Mike B.*

    #4 – I’d be curious whether your HR person’s manager is aware of and on board with the repayment plan. I have a hunch she’s hoping that you’ll meekly accept these terms and won’t do anything to bring her mistake to the attention of people who have authority over her.

    It sounds to me like the kind of mistake an organization should accept as part of the cost of doing business…and rectify by keeping closer tabs on the person whose fault it was.

    1. MK*

      I would agree that the company should suck it up, if it was a lesser amount. Overpaying 1,400$ to someone because of a mistake is way too much to just write off, especially if this is a small organization.

      Actually, the “fair” thing to do would be for the HR person to be the one to repay the company; she made a mistake that cost them money, she should be responsible for repaying them. Again I think the amount of money matters; employess will make mistakes, it’s a fact of life, but if those mistakes are a) a result of the employee not doing their job right and b) over a certain acceptable level of “these things happen”, they should be held accountable. Example: if a waiter drops a tray and breaks a few glasses and plates, the bussiness should assume the cost as a matter of course, since it is an almost unavoidable mistake that will almost certainly happen at some point to everyone. But if the waiter programs the dish0washer incorrectly out of carelessness and destroys half the glassware of the bussiness, he should compensate his boss.

      1. chrl268*

        Maybe I’m just cynical because of issues in my workplace but this sentence made me very grumpy with the HR lady: “This is not the first time she’s made a mistake like this with me or many of my coworkers.”

        Just fyi, my problem is with people who make repeated mistakes, not HR people.

        I agree that the business should suck up the expense, or the HR person should be responsible. Not the OP, because the OP checked before making these decisions. I hope the OP updates us about this.

        1. BRR*

          I agree, I’m wondering the other mistakes the HR person has made and if her manager knows. I wouldn’t be too happy with the person in charge of payroll messing up like this.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this raised my eyebrows as well. I wonder if the HR person isn’t being lazy on the assumption of ‘oh well, if I make a mistake I’ll catch it when I balance the books and they can pay it back’.

      2. Cari*

        Taking into consideration the knowledge that this isn’t the first time this type of mistake has been made, $1400 (~£830) is a small amount for the company to cover – providing they take action to ensure this mistake doesn’t happen again – when you consider how much the company could lose through employee demotivation or rehiring costs. If all the employees at this company know they’re going to have to literally pay for this person’s mistakes, why would they bother putting in any hours of unpaid overtime, or work above what is required of them during their paid hours? I know I’d be looking to work elsewhere at the first sign of this level of incompetency in a company’s payroll department.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I completely agree. $1400 is small potatoes compared to losing a valued employee. What is that, one week’s pay? Given that the OP has proof in writing/email that she believed in good faith she was entitled to as much leave as she was granted, and made her choices based on that, a reasonable company would eat the cost.

          And that HR person needs some serious retraining, and probably a writeup. The person who gets short shrift here should be the employee who made the error, not the one who did her best to do the right thing.

          1. LD*

            It would be lovely if that were a week’s salary. I was making that much 15 years ago. The recession had taken a toll on opportunities and on salaries.

        2. JMegan*

          Agreed. And I don’t know how much the OP makes, but having $700 come off each of my next two paycheques would be a significant hardship for me.

          That’s a really aggressive repayment plan, for what is a relatively small amount for the company. Which is what makes me think that this is a “plan” the HR person came up with by herself, to cover up her mistake. I would definitely escalate this, if for no other reason than to come up with a more reasonable repayment period.

      3. GraduateDiplomaInkStillWet*

        I disagree that the HR employee should personally be responsible for her mistake, or even the dishwasher in your analogy. Employees sometimes mess up and cost their employers money. If there is no deliberate intent to defraud, it is ridiculous to expect them to personally make reparations. Stuff happens. It is the cost of doing business. It should not be the cost of being employed.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, I agree. If someone makes an expensive mistake, disciplining or even firing them is appropriate. Expecting them to cover the cost of it is not.

        2. louise*

          I don’t think the HR employee should be *financially* responsible for her mistake, but neither should be the employee who was told she had to repay. The HR employee being put on a PIP or fired if this is part of a similar streak doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      4. Loose Seal*

        I don’t agree that employees should pay for losses incurred through their mistakes at work. It’s cost of doing business. However, if the employee makes more mistakes that cost money than is acceptable by the boss, they should be let go or transferred to a department that isn’t letting them handle the same sort of money-loss issue.

    2. Cari*

      Same here.

      I’ve always assumed overpayment screw-ups were a mistake the company was supposed to cover (in th UK any how), although never known what a company’s legal obligations actually were in this regard. Effectively punishing an employee (financially) for their mistake is certainly unfair. And handling payment mistakes like this, in this manner, is a great way to demotivate and lose employees (which can end up costing companies more in the long run).

      1. B*

        If you get ovrpaid in the UK you still have to pay it back even if it’s through no fault of your own. In my case it was blindingly obvious, my pay is the same each month and i was overpaid by hundreds. But i realised immediately so didn’t touch it :-/

      2. MK*

        Legally, when you aquire something (anything) by mistake, you are obligated to give it back. I imagine this is true in all juristictions, but it is certainly so in the UK. However, in many overpayment cases the company, even though they are entitled to the money, doesn’t demand it back for the reasons you mentioned.

        1. fposte*

          Accidental overpayment is different, though; this is is somebody who made plans because HR told her something about her pay that proved not to be true. This is more like a retroactive salary cut.

          1. Betsy*

            Yes, exactly. This feels like a written agreement they now want to renege on, way after the fact. This wasn’t someone adding an extra zero or sending two people’s checks to the wrong person by mistake. This is a human being who made a statement, committed it to writing, and then followed through for months with that statement as the basis of reality. Now they want to undo it.

            Now, regardless of any of this — contractual issues and promises and whatever — I’m sure it’s legal to dock the pay, just like it would be legal for my employer to tell me, “Hey, so starting today and for the next 4 weeks, we’re only going to pay you minimum wage because you wore ugly shoes today.” As long as it’s not applying to hours already worked or bringing you below minimum wage, they can change your terms of employment at any point. But it’s seriously gross behavior, and I would hope that someone higher up than the HR person would be interested in knowing they’re probably eventually going to lose good people because this incompetent is destroying morale.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m feeling the same way. Management isn’t taking responsibility for screwing up, and now they’re being especially hard on the OP for it.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              I’m not even sure it is management. I suspect it is just the HR person making rules to compensate for her mistake. Does anyone else even know what she is doing? I’d definitely raise the issue with my own boss and also the HR person’s manager. Especially since there appears to be a series of problems.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      That “resolution” from HR is as unprofessional as the mistake was. A boss would have to be Scrooge McDuck to have signed off on that.

      I would eat the mistake and fire the HR person, not for the mistake but for scaring the crap out of an employee that their money was gone to be taken. This is not a traditional payroll mistake overpayment situation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. This is blatant carelessness that is part of a pattern of many errors. Why this company keeps this person is beyond me.
        Hopefully, they don’t let her work on their taxes.

        I could see it if it was a $50 error and this person had a history of not making mistakes like this.
        That’s not what we have going on here. Additionally, I don’t see OP saying this person even apologized for the error. It could be that she did and OP didn’t mention it in order to keep the question brief. But there is nothing here to give us a clue that the payroll person is mortified by her current and/or past mistakes. If I were off by $5 I would be apologizing to everyone impacted by my error.

  7. T*

    #4, If they won’t reduce or waive the amount they want you to reimburse, see if they will work with you on an alternative way to pay the money back. Maybe they would let you forfeit earned comp time or accrued PTO. If nothing else, they should allow you to pay back over a longer period so it’s not so much taken from each pay check.

    Does your company have a benefits manual that explains how much maternity you should have had? If not, bring this up as a factor in your defense. If they do, make sure you keep a copy for future reference. You should be using their written policy instead of the faulty memory of the lone HR person, anyway. In future, check what she tells you by the policy because she could be wrong again, especially if she has too much on her plate to do multiple jobs well. I would also suggest keeping your own records (on a simple spreadsheet) of time earned, time used, and the money paid back if they allow you to do so over a longer period. It would really stink if you think you’ve paid it all back only to find out she made another error.

    1. Noah*

      I’m surprised they don’t just use up PTO or even allow PTO to have a negative balance and allow the employee to accrue it back. Seems like a reasonabl way to cover the loss without forcing the employee to immediately pay it back.

      As an employee I would still argue against it, because vacation time has value, but it seems reasonable that the overpayment originated in leave and could be repaid in the same way.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        I think that would be more reasonable. Asking her to pay back the money just doesn’t make sense to me. They overpaid time, not money. It’s not extra money, on top of what she’d usually be making.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Great point at the end here. How does OP know the $1400 figure is correct? She could end up on perpetual payback, with the way this payroll person handles numbers.

      I will say though, that I have seen the formulas for figuring PTO and that calculation is no longer accessible for the average employee. The most recent one I encountered was PTO was based on hours worked. So if the employee left an hour early for the doctor, that hour would have to be deducted from hours worked before the PTO could be calculated. This sounds simple enough but it works into a real mess.

  8. Fun-&-Games*

    #2: Write-ups.

    Address it quickly and at every instance. Dot your Ts, cross your Is and keep a paper trail and be prepared to cut her(?) loose.

  9. Cari*

    OP #2 – if this person’s behaviour is making you feel insecure about what you know or are capable of, try and keep in mind that if they knew enough or were good enough to do *your* job, the company would have taken this person and their several years experience working for them over you. Keep that thought to yourself, ofc, you don’t want to end up snarking back. Just recognise their behaviour is purely sour grapes and intended to have that effect on you/ affect how your colleagues see you, and isn’t a reflection of your knowledge and capabilities :)

    1. Gina*

      This isn’t necessarily true. Companies shaft internal candidates all the time. The employee shouldn’t be behaving unprofessionally either way. But the OP needs to be able to address that as an issue whether or not the employee “deserved” what happened or not. (Because the flip side would be that if the OP knew somehow that they were hired for the wrong reason–say the other employee was being discriminated against, or it was a case of nepotism, then by this logic they would have to feel insecure).

      1. Cari*

        It’s funny, but I’m kinda saying what I did from the position of an internal candidate that has been overlooked within the company I worked for in favour of external candidates who (I am assuming, on good faith) were a better match for the job I applied for. The discrimination factor wasn’t something I considered though, regarding the OP, and it is certainly something the OP should take into consideration when interacting with their colleague. But I don’t think the OP should feel insecure even in that case if they are qualified and capable of doing a good job in the position they were hired for. It is also not inconceivable that the OP is from a marginalised group within their profession and their colleague from a group that’s better represented – a similar reaction from a colleague in that position isn’t uncommon from what I’ve read of people’s experiences in that situation (e.g. if the OP were a woman in a STEM profession and their colleague was male).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think checking in with the boss is a good idea. A wise boss will realize that not only is this a pot shot at his employee but it is also a pot shot at his ability to make management decisions.

      It’s a good observation on the part of OP to realize that this person did not get the job because of questionable people skills. I think that OP is on to something there.

    3. vox de causa*

      I think you’re right about the other person’s motivation, but I don’t understand the rest of your comment – are you advising OP#2 to ignore this in the hopes it will go away after the other person’s feelings heal?

      I think it needs to be dealt with right away, and whomever is the other person’s manager should address it head-on. It’s unacceptable to handle rejection in this manner. When you lose out to someone else on an internal position, part of your job becomes supporting the person who did get it.

      My guess is that the manager in this situation either hasn’t made it clear to the person who did not get the job that their soft skills are holding them back, or the manager HAS told them that, and the employee disagrees. I have worked with someone who was ridiculously bad at collaborating, being approachable, and hiding his condescension. People avoided him when possible. His manager has tried coaching him to modify his behavior, but it didn’t change anything. The feeling we got was that he thought he was right to behave that way and everyone else needed thicker skin.

      He applied for a promotion and don’t get it. He was shocked, because he had been sure he was perfect for that job. He didn’t understand that aside from strong industry knowledge, the position required a LOT of training of other employees, along with customer- and vendor-facing duties, which he was not a good fit for. While his knowledge and experience would probably have resulted in the correct answer to the questions that would have come up, his delivery was a bad fit.

      1. Cari*

        Oh no, my post is additional to the advice the OP has already received, and I totally agree with you :) It was intended to be a bit of encouragement I guess, as in when someone might say “don’t let the bastards* grind you down,” but without the “you’re doing it to yourself” subtexts such platitudes seem to have when used in this sort of context.

        *not that I’m saying this particular wording is appropriate here, I know nothing about the OP’s colleague other than they appear to be aggrieved by being passed over for the job OP has.

  10. Luxe in Canada*

    #2: This sniping and undermining is the very reason that this person missed out on the opportunity they thought they had in the bag. There is a serious lack of professionalism here. Do not get discouraged despite this underminer. If all else fails, remember that each and every person in that department, including your opponent, was once new to the company and to the business. Everyone else had to learn the answers one by one too, and you can do this. Learn as much as you can, be the bigger person, and hold your head high.

    #4: I would make sure that your manager knows that this happened, since this is absolutely not a person I would trust with financial information again, whether it is PTO accrued or insurance benefits available or whatnot. That’s a lot of money, especially for a parent whose kid is in daycare, and to expect $1400 to be paid back in one month is just nuts. A bunch of people have already suggested that if you can’t get a reduction in the amount of money owed back that you should try for more time and smaller increments to pay it back. I’d say to try for both at the same time; you might have more luck by initially asking for $250 less on each paycheque over 5 pay periods than to flat-out ask for the whole $1400 to be dropped. Get everything in writing from this person, including any re-payment terms, because I wouldn’t trust this HR further than I could throw ’em.

  11. nep*

    #2 ‘…has me wondering what I can do to protect my credibility.’ A person gains and maintains credibility through competence on the job and professional relations with colleagues. Agree with Alison’s advice that it’s time to be more direct and nip these resentful and disrespectful comments in the bud. But in the end your credibility rests in how solid you are in carrying out your job.

    1. BritCred*

      I’d nip it in the bud too but be frank with the employee: “I know you wanted this role and have several years in the business that I do not. If I do need any advice on a matter please be assured I’m aware of your experience and the valuable asset it will be and will not overlook your input on the situation. In the meantime please do not make comments to your colleagues that disparage me as it does help any of the team get the job done.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Wise advice.

        Yeah, you do have to speak up because the person will just take silence as a green light to keep doing the cheap shots.

      2. Mike C.*

        I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t seek advice from people who are trying to devalue my work in front of myself and others.

        1. LBK*

          Well, if this person really is the subject matter expert in this area, the OP might actually need or want their assistance, as long as it’s being provided in an appropriate manner (ie without the coworker being a jackass about it).

          I don’t think the OP needs to constantly fall over herself to tell this person how smart and valuable they are for the rest of her time there, but one mention of it in this context makes sense to me. It shows the OP acknowledges that the coworker has a background in this area, but with the counterpoint that being snarky about it makes the coworker just as useless as if he didn’t have any expertise at all.

        2. BritCred*

          I didn’t say you HAVE to then do so….. point is to not make the employee feel even more disgruntled as LBK says.

          It turns it from “this person who was parachuted over me wants me to shut up and stomp around showing off their position” to “this new manager recognizes my abilities and wants the team to work together, my attitude isn’t helping that”.

          1. Colette*

            But I think it’s fine to deliver negative feedback without … sucking up is the best phrase I can think of. They don’t need to stop with the sabotage because the OP will look to them as a resource – they need to stop it because it’s not OK to do.

            And if I were the manager, I wouldn’t be confident that I’d get accurate information from someone who was trying to make me look bad, so I wouldn’t be going to that employee for information unless there was someone else who could confirm that it was correct.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I didn’t read that as sucking up at all. I read it as it was stated–“I will consider your input,” not “I know I’m going to need you, so here’s a bone.”

              1. Colette*

                It might be that it’s rather formal language – I think it would be fine to say something like “I understand you have more knowledge of the business than I do”, but I wouldn’t go farther than that.

                1. Cari*

                  Assuming their colleague does have more knowledge of the business that is :) It is totally possible to work for a place or in a particular business for several years and actually know sod-all that is useful for the job OP is doing. All we actually know about OP’s colleague is they have worked in that business for several years and the OP suspects they didn’t get the job due to their people skills, while saying themselves they realise their colleague has more knowledge, without saying how they have come to that realisation (maybe the snarky colleague has demonstrated the relevant knowledge in meetings, or maybe it has come from colleague’s snarking about the OP’s assumed lack of knowledge due to being new *shrug*).

  12. BRR*

    #1 Before you go to your boss, are you absolutely sure it’s about religion? It sounds like it is but I just worry about any ramifications.

    No matter the answer to that, I’m assuming other people interviewed the candidate. I would point out how Bob and Jane thought Nicole was the best chocolate teapot maker who applied. So it’s not why YOU chose to hire them, it’s how everyone came to the conclusion that Nicole should be offered the position.

  13. Natalie*

    #4, it might be worth checking your state laws on paycheck deductions. Given the overall sloppiness of this HR person, I wouldn’t take her word that what she’s proposing is even legal.

    1. Natalie*

      Oh, and no matter what state you’re in, as I understand it she can’t bring your check below minimum wage.

  14. Betsy*

    #4, is this an old letter, or are they seriously trying to collect on an overpayment nearly a full year after the fact? Most than anything, that would tick me off. I understand that if the company overpays you through a mistake, they have a right to fix that, but isn’t there some kind of statute of limitations on this? If they’ve been giving you an extra $10 a week for 12 years, can a company suddenly turn around and say, “Oops! You owe us $6200!”

    What if they told you that you were getting a raise, explained the new amount you were getting, then told you six months later that it was a mistake? What bothers me about this is that it isn’t just someone cutting a check for the wrong amount. The OP asked how much she’d be able to be paid. She received an answer from an official source, in writing. The checks she received were in line with the answer she was given. Now, 9 months later, they have a different answer, and want to apply it retroactively.

    If I’d gotten an answer like that about other leave — asked my manager if I could take two paid days for my grandfather’s funeral when the standard was one, been told yes, taken the days, and been paid — could the company decide months later that they were having cashflow issues so they were retroactively look for deviations from policy and ask me to pay back the days? It feels like a similar situation.

    1. Meg Murry*

      When she refers to “year end” it means the business’s finance year, which isn’t necessarily December 31. I’ve worked places where the financial year went from July 1-June 30, and another that used April 1-March 30 – it just depends on how the company defines its year.
      OP – definitely push back on having that much taken out of your checks all at once. I agree that you shouldn’t have to repay it at all in 2 checks – if my budget was suddenly cut by $1400 in one month I couldn’t pay my bills and it would be a hard deficit to make up. If they have to take out the money right away to have it work out correctly in the fiscal year, can they then give you an advance of the same amount to be paid back slowly instead of in 2 checks?
      This situation stinks, I’m sorry. At one (terrible) company I worked for something similar happened. A coworker on maternity leave was supposed to be getting 50% of her regular pay for the first X weeks she was on leave. But someone didn’t change her payroll status in her first 2 weeks and she got a full paycheck. She didn’t notice, being busy with an infant at home, and the company realized the mistake the week she came back – so they informed her that first pay day back that she was only getting a 50% check. She was so stressed, because all of her bills were set to automatically pay based on that check – so her mortgage payment, etc were going to bounce. Her boss was able to intervene and finally get her an advance check cut that day – it was a mess. And before anyone snarks on her for not having an emergency fund – she had had one, but it mostly got used up for medical bills in her complicated pregnancy & childbirth – exactly the type of emergency its meant for .

      1. tesyaa*

        It’s human nature that when an error is made in one’s favor, one overlooks it or convinces himself that it’s not an error… when an error is made not in one’s favor, one notices it right away. If she’d been paid at 25% (or 0%) instead of 50%, I bet she would have noticed, even being busy with an infant at home.

        1. De (Germany)*

          Yes, she probably would have noticed, because her checks would have bounced. That doesn’t mean that if it happens in the other direction, it’s willfully overlooking; just that it doesn’t send alarm signals into one’s direction, in the form of people calling because they are expecting money from you.

        2. Observer*

          As DE said, she would probably have noticed, because of bounced checks, not because she would have checked the amount on the check. I’ve seen this happen – where someone was underpaid (by mistake) and the person didn’t catch it. The payroll department eventually realized the error.

    2. CAA*

      Yes, it sounds like she’s talking about August 2013 to October 2013, and if the fiscal year ends on August 31, 2014, then the overpayment would have been in October, so 10 months ago.

      My company matches it’s fiscal year to the US Government, so we run from 10/1 to 9/30.

  15. Livin' in a Box*

    her mistake was not checking my leave accumulation balance and just using an arbitrary number

    How can someone this stupid still be employed???!!!!?!?!???!!!

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Given how this happens at so many companies, I don’t think nepotism is always to blame. Laziness and a “devil you know is better than the devil you dont” are more likely culprits.

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, and “oh, but so-and-so has a family.” People come up with all sorts of reasons not to fire nice but incompetent employees, some of which are even reasonable if you squint.

          1. Colette*

            We see that kind of thinking here a lot, too – it’s confusing the value of someone as a person with their value as an employee.

  16. J.B.*

    OP 4: Have you checked your employee handbook? I mean, any paid leave is at the company’s discretion, and certainly some companies give paid maternity leave that is separate from other leave banks. Is it possible for a manager or HR to give some paid maternity leave at your company? If so you can argue that is essentially what they did by omission. Definitely go to your manager first to go over the situation and see what the politics are. Also as someone pointed out check to make sure any repayment (if worked out and agreed to by all parties) does not take you below minimum wage.

  17. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I’d have the clarifying discussion with your boss that everyone is suggesting. The comment may not be about religion at all and is about the college the employee attended or some other trivial piece of information. Or it’s about religion. Either way you need to make sure your boss knows it’s not about any of those things but that you chose the best candidate.

    #2-You’ve got to nip this in the bud. No, you can’t download all the info you need immediately. Learning a business takes time for a good reason. But I would start coming armed to meetings to refute the “how could she know” comments with exactly why you do have an answer. Be firm. It sounds like this person is reporting to you, you’ve got to stop this.

    #4-Wow, that sucks. I’d push back. I triple checked my calculations and then had my numbers guru check my leave again before I figured out how long I could take maternity leave for. We don’t trust HR or our system to be accurate.

    #5-It’s an auto-reply, why you are ascribing human motives to it?

  18. MPL*

    #4, the exact same thing happened to me, they overpaid me for my maternity leave. Instead of taking money out of my paycheck, though, they just told me there was an embargo on paid time off until I “paid them back” on time off. So, if I absolutely had to take some time off, it was unpaid for a while (and with a new baby, of course, that happened.) It was a bit easier to take than having money sucked out of a paycheck. Maybe you could suggest they do something like this instead?

    1. MPL*

      Oh, AND, the HR person who made the error was subsequently let go, but I don’t think it was only for this incident (I think there were other incidents I don’t know about). I actually didn’t think it was that big of a deal, although I was kind of put out that I had to “pay” for someone else’s mistake.

  19. Observer*

    On the overpayment issue, I don’t know if anyone mentioned it because I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thread, but there is another potential issue. Even if the company won’t eat any of the cost, the particular repayment plan may be illegal. Even if your pay is semi-monthly, that’s a lot of money to be taking out of your check, and different states have different rules about how much you can take out of someone’s check. (At the federal level, you can’t take out so much that a person is not going to be getting minimum wage for the time period the check covers, but laws vary from state to state.) Certainly, you should make the argument that they need to stretch this out more, if they won’t forgive the money.

    And, absolutely, kick this upstairs. But, make sure you have an explanation of why you depended on her say so when you know that this is an ongoing problem with her. It’s not fair, but don’t be surprised if they turn around and try to make it your fault because you should have known that you can’t depend on her. It’s also a stupid move, but not all bosses are smart and fair.

  20. Latte*

    #3. I think it’s nice to send a personal note. However, I think it’s also true that you really are telling her that the door is closed and she need not apply again. She has shown strong interest and initiative. You have interviewed her twice now. And, it seems that feel she is someone who you would like to have in your organization. If you really do want her to join your organization, you need to take the initiative. Can you hire her now in another role that works with her background/interests and helps your organization. Either that, or tell her you would like to bring her on board in a position that is opening up in the near future (hopefully, being definite about dates and job description).

    If you don’t have the authority to make that decision, then wish her the best. Unless you can assure her that the third time will be different, then saying that she is welcome to apply again is asking a lot.

  21. anon-2*

    #1 – Just be careful not to start a “religious brotherhood / sisterhood” within the office.
    I once worked for a place where, if you did the Christian fellowship thing, and belonged to the boss’ church, you went up the ladder quickly – your raises were better, etc.

    And you could open yourself up to, uh, dis- , uh, I can’t say it, uh, dis-, discrim-, uh

    DISCRIMINATION. Yeah, that’s it!

  22. anon-2*

    #2 I realize this person has more knowledge of the business but for whatever reason (I suspect poor people skills) they were not offered the job. I’m trying my best to learn, but there is no way I can get up to speed and know as much as they do. considering they have had longer exposure to business within the unit. It’s difficult enough to adjust to a new job. How do I deal with this?

    Very difficult. First of all, don’t assume poor people skills. The individual(s) who have been passed over for a new hire may not have acquired their attitudes UNTIL after they were passed over. Being passed over for a position one has worked years to get to, and someone who does not know the job needs help, well, it can definitely change attitudes. And you’re not going to turn people around by begging for sympathy.

    Were those passed over given reasons for it? Were those reasons shared with YOU? That can have a bearing as to how you , and your management, should proceed.

    Be on the lookout — although someone who’s passed over generally has been placed into “dead end” status, those who feel they were adversely affected by a move may take a passive approach toward not supporting you, hoping you’ll go away. Or hoping you’ll fail.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know; the other employee is displaying poor people skills, and it’s reasonable to associate that with their lack of progress. Even if they weren’t this bad before, it’s likely that their capacity for this has been noted. And while I understand they may be unhappy, this is exactly the way to make it clear that management made the right decision.

      (Not sure where you’re getting “begging for sympathy,” btw.)

      1. anon-2*

        It’s a guess. I’ve seen peoples’ attitudes change overnight when a pass-over occurs.

        It’s not right – but it happens. A comparison = one might be a loving husband to his wife – until he happens to catch her afield, or comes home in the middle of the day and finds his wife in, uh, a situation.

        An employee might be fiercely loyal, dedicated, and exhibit a great attitude – until he / she gets passed over for a position or promotion that was expected. People are human. The only solution would be to have the manager call in the subject of OP’s posting, and

        a) be candid as far as why the person was passed over. DON’T MAKE THINGS UP AFTER THE FACT. Bogus rationalization may simply cause you to insult his/her intelligence. It will go through the office. If the manager made a mistake – SAY SO but also inform the person that we have to live with the situation.

        b) lay down the law = you have to work with (OP). Try to get along. Help out. Or else.

        c) see if there are other options. The situation can’t be fixed, unless OP moves on, and the manager eats humble pie and says “the job is yours now.” Other options = a higher position somewhere in the company.

        1. fposte*

          It happens that people hate what they loved and feel wronged by it, even if they were professionally behaving before, sure. But if they’re comfortable overtly bullying somebody who isn’t the person who wronged them, that’s not a transformation, that’s a revelation of a character that quite likely played a part in what happened.

          We’ve all been screwed over. If we can’t manage to be civil to people who had nothing to do with the screwing, we deserve the consequences.

          1. anon-2*

            Yeah, that’s true. But how many people who have advanced into their current positions – that they’re happy with — would have been angry if they were passed over?

            Bullying is one thing. It’s wrong. But expecting a passed over person to go “happy happy joy joy” and train the person who got the job is something else.

            1. Observer*

              That’s not what anyone is expecting. The problem is that the old employee is being actively inappropriate and very rude to the new person.

              1. anon-2*

                Oh, I agree on that.

                Which goes to show – lesson 101 from “Dinner Table Stories” – if you’re going to pass over an internal candidate for a promotional position – weigh out all post-action possibilities.

                As a manager, you are OBLIGATED to sit down and explain to passed over staff what happened and why, and how you want the passed-over person to assist going forward.

                Now – I can imagine the responses from some of you “NO, I owe no one ANYTHING. I’m the boss.” Yeah, but if you don’t fend off the problem in advance, you’re creating a battlefield.

                That you will have to clean up. You might say “the best candidate available” — OK, let’s talk REALITY here. You may have a perfectly qualified candidate in-house. “But, this external candidate was better. Yes.” How much better? Anyone can always find a candidate with more potential if he or she looks long enough. You may recall a few weeks back – I scoffed at the comment of a non-profit director who claimed that in all these years she never could find an internal candidate to promote. Uh-huh.

                IMHO I would never go “outside” unless NONE of my internal candidates could do the job. Using your own internal candidates as “benchmarks” to be exceeded on an external search will cause YOU problems.

                IMHO if you’re going to do the pass over dance, clear the air with everyone affected before the new hire comes aboard. And pray that you can get everyone to go along and get along.

      2. anon-2*

        “Begging for sympathy” — asking for help — OP may not have the people-skills to work with those she passed over to get the job.

  23. Mona*

    Situation #2 happened to me also. I was hired as part of a restructure, and found out that others had applied for the job but were not hired. It was a bit of an upgrade and to another division within a federal agency that had a better advancement structure. I finally had to tell the one person that was making nasty remarks that it wasn’t my fault that she didn’t get the job and that I had nothing to do with the hiring decision, but now that I was in the job, I was there to stay, so she could either be civil or not speak to me at all, her call. She chose not to speak to me, which was no skin off my nose since we were in two separate divisions and I didn’t work with her anyway.

  24. Payroll Lady*

    Regarding #4, I have skimmed through today, so if someone else brought this up, I am sorry, however, the repayment plan the “HR” person is proposing is actually totally incorrect based on when the overpayment was made and Federal regulations on repayment of overpayments. Since this was made in the prior year, the employee would have to pay back the gross amount LESS Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employer should give the employee an letter stating this was done AND re-do the employee’s W-2 showing the repayment in all wage boxes and only social security and medicare tax boxes. The employee now has to re-file their 1040 for 2013 showing the lower income in order to receive a refund of the federal taxes that were deducted at the time. As you can see, the “mistake” that was not caught earlier by the “HR” person, causes a lot of work for the employee as well. Being a Payroll/HR/Benefits department of One is not always easy, but this person should be long gone, especially since it seems this is a common occurrence.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      That was my concern as well, that she’d have to file an amendment, and while it’s not the biggest concern–amended returns aren’t exactly done for free either, so more problems upon problems for the employee…..while the HR person/company get away with being asshats? That sounds horrible. I really hope with such gross incompetence the HR person is severely disciplined or fired, and things work out in OP’s favor.

      I’d really like to see an update on this soon!

  25. Concerned*

    #2: Definitely stand up for yourself to her. And tell your manager too. What this person is saying about you might also impact what your colleagues think of you. Sometimes new employees (or ones that don’t know you that well) might heed her words about you without getting to know you. Have had that happen to me. Once it happens, it’s tough and take a long time to change people’s minds about you and your abilities.

  26. Christine*

    For Letter #4, I had a similar situation at my workplace. In my case, my HR person misapplied the rules for our company short term disability insurance for my maternity leave. She originally communicated that I was not covered (I had been with the company less than a year), then a change was made to the plan and she researched the change with our corporate office and *sought me out* to communicate that I was indeed covered and would receive full pay for the duration of my leave. I made financial decisions and decisions about the use of my PTO based on that communication, only to find while I was in recovery that my leave was not covered and my maternity leave would be completely unpaid.

    This was not the first error related to medical leave and/or application of disability benefits by that particular HR person (I was the third person in my department of seven to have a problem over the course of a couple of years). I followed up when I returned, and my company wound up kindly paying the amount I would have normally received in insurance payments over my maternity leave (which was not full pay for the duration of my leave, either, it was 60% for all but the first two weeks…but I digress). They did not have to, and many companies probably would not have done the same thing, but it definitely left me feeling better about the organization than leaving me high and dry would have, and I still work here, so win/win!

  27. Cassie*

    #2 reminds me of certain people in my office and how much they are willing to just ignore snarky comments because they think they can’t say anything. I’m probably one of the most non-confrontational people ever but I think there are times when you need to speak up assertively (though not aggressively). I keep trying to tell my coworker friend (due to her position, people make a lot of snarky comments to her about other employees) that she needs to tell the person it’s inappropriate to gossip or whatever but she doesn’t feel like she can “correct” them because it’s not “work-related”. It’s all work-related! If you just sit there and let someone say something inappropriate about someone else, you are essentially condoning what they are saying. That’s at least my opinion about it.

    It may not be possible to have a 100% gossip-free, snark-free office, but I feel it’s up to managers and the powers that be to define the workplace culture. If the boss says “no gossip”, people should try to heed it as much as possible. Or they can find a job elsewhere.

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