reference quandary for an employee I don’t want to keep, banning jalapeños, and more

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

1. I can’t give my employee a good reference, but I don’t want her to stay in her job

I have an employee who has not been doing a good job for a while. This person has clearly been unhappy (grumpy at work, calls in sick all the time and may very well be ill) and is looking for another position within the same company. I would be happy to be rid of them. I cannot give them a good review (ethically) and have been avoiding the calls/emails of their potential new manager. Any advice?

If you’d be glad to get rid of this person, then you need to start the process of making that happen — or, in this case, talking to the person about what’s going on with them and what your expectations are for their performance (including attendance and demeanor). In general, when you’re not happy with someone’s performance, you should be giving them clear feedback about the problems, and then if things don’t improve, giving her clear and direct warnings about their performance and eventually letting them go if they don’t resolve the issues. In this case, however, you have a possibly sick employee, and the illness could certainly be causing the attendance and grumpiness problems. So step one here is to talk to her, tell her what you’ve noticed and that you’re concerned, find out what’s going on, and see what can be worked out.

As for the reference — which seems like the smallest of the issues you — you need to get back to the manager. It’s one thing to avoid reference calls from outside your company when you can’t give someone a good reference. But this other manager is a colleague from within your company; you really need to get back to them. But before you do that, you need to find out what’s up with your employee; it wouldn’t be fair to give a bad reference to someone for being sick if her work was good before this. (If her work wasn’t good before the health issues, then of course you can explain that.) In any case, it means you need to talk to the employee today, because continuing to put off your colleague will reflect badly on you.

2. Encouraging rejected candidates to apply again in the future

I’m in the process of hiring for an entry-level assistant to serve two departments here. I’ve come across a number of applicants who are wrong for this position but who might be strong candidates for a position or two we expect to open in other departments in the next 6-12 months. I do normally send all rejected candidates a “thanks but no” email, but is there any reason not to send these particular applicants an emails encouraging them to keep an eye out for those other possible openings or just other openings here in general? A colleague is suggesting that this may encourage unrealistic expectations, especially since I will not be the hiring manager for those other positions, but that strikes me as overly cautious. Thoughts?

It’s overly cautious. It’s fine to send that kind of email; there’s nothing in it that sounds remotely like a promise of employment.

3. What does it mean when job postings say “women and minorities encouraged to apply”?

What does it mean when job postings say things like “women and minorities encouraged to apply,” or when online applications request information about race and gender? Why would companies ask questions that could potentially introduce new biases so early in the application process? I’m a female minority in engineering and I have a gender and race neutral name. I suspect that many hiring managers reading my resume probably think I’m a white male, and that disclosing any information about my race and gender could only hurt my chances at getting an interview. Do companies that claim they are “affirmative action” actually use the answers to these questions, or do companies just ask for this information in case a disgruntled applicant complains about discrimination later on?

Statements like “women and minorities encouraged to apply” are there because either it’s true and they want you to know it, or they want to look like it’s true. Either way, U.S. employers can’t legally consider race in hiring (but they can make an effort to recruit a diverse pool).

As for applications that ask for that information, it’s generally separated from the information that hiring managers see and use to report in the aggregate on the composition of candidates and hires. (Companies with more than 100 employees or government contracts over a certain dollar amount have to report the aggregate demographic makeup of their applicants and employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)

4. Should I get two bachelors degrees or one masters?

Is it better to get two bachelors degrees or one masters?

Two bachelors degrees is weird in most cases (with some limited exceptions). But that doesn’t mean you should get a masters either. Figure out what the career you want requires — which may be experience rather than degrees, particularly if you already have one bachelors — and then make decisions from there.

If the point here is to make yourself more marketable to employers, figure out what actually does that before making any plans. Too often people just assume that more education will do that, when in fact in many circumstances it won’t (and can even make your job search harder).

5. Can my employer ban jalapeños?

Is it legal to ban employees from eating anything containing jalapeños in the building due to one employee being allergic to them?

Yes, that is legal. A terrible tragedy were it to need to happen, as jalapeños are my favorite food, but legal nonetheless.

{ 387 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD

    5 – Illegal Jalapenos
    I was thinking, “I would enjoy seeing a law written to specifically forbid employers from banning jalapenos,” but then I remembered that I live in California, and this could absolutely appear on our ballot as a proposition.

          1. GrumpyBoss

            What do I expect? Hmm. Let’s think about that.

            I expect grown ups to try to resolve issues or concerns without going right to the “is this legal” well over trivial things. Because, are you really going to hire a lawyer and take legal action over what you cannot eat?

            I expect common sense. I’m not a lawyer either, but I know there is no basic human rights that says I must not be infringed upon if I choose to eat this food on someone else’s property. Unless there has been a new amendment proposed to the Constitution that I’ve missed.

            I expect adults to be considerate. Oh, something I’m doing can harm you? I will stop at once. Not decide that someone else’s allergy isn’t fair to you.

            I guess I live in a fantasy world.

            1. fposte

              “Is it legal?” isn’t the same question as “Is it time for me to hire a lawyer?”, though.

                1. Dan

                  No it’s not. Dropping a dime at the DOL, OSHA, or another regulatory agency isn’t really the same as “going out and hiring a lawyer.” While those people certainly have lawyers, I don’t really hire them in the traditional sense. Same if I’m a misclassified contractor. The Feds will take care of that for me.

                2. Lynn

                  Not really, because the first thing someone should do upon learning something at his work is illegal would be to collaboratively let his boss know in one of those, “Hey, due to such-and-such law, banning jalapenos is actually illegal for us to do. What can we do to keep the allergic employee safe and adhere to the law?” Lawyer should be more or less the last step.

              1. Cat

                Yeah, I think I view these questions differently than most people – I think a lot of time people ask “is it legal” not because they want to sue but because they feel like they need a concrete, definitive question to ask and that’s the one that comes to mind.

                1. themmases

                  That’s how I read these too. Lots of people write in here about their entry-level jobs, retail/food service jobs, or very first jobs ever– all areas where employers actually do crazy stuff, some of it illegal, and where employees are well aware they don’t have much leverage. Some people are definitely needlessly combative, but in all my time working in food service and retail– including some situations that were definitely illegal– I never met anyone who wanted to sue. My coworkers were concerned about making a strong argument to their boss’ boss that things needed to change, or having a good-sounding reason they quit when they interviewed at the store down the street, or if things got really bad with reporting the situation to OSHA.

                  Conditions in these types of jobs are often terrible and genuinely intrusive even if they are technically legal. Maybe the OP works in an environment where being told what not to eat was just the last straw, even if it sounds silly or inconsiderate without context. I don’t think a commenting community that mostly holds skilled jobs with options and respect should be so quick to judge OPs who obviously don’t.

                2. Kelly L.

                  Yes! I’ve griped before about the call center that tried to forbid restroom access. Nobody there had any plans to sue. But no appeal to emotions or to full bladders was going to convince this particular group of jerks of anything. They changed their minds because they realized what they were doing could get them in legal trouble.

              2. neverjaunty

                Yes, that’s the part of the “is it legal” questions that drives me up a wall. There seems to be a belief that if something is not legal, their only possible options are 1) do nothing or 2) for the OP to rush out and hire a lawyer and expend every ounce of their energy, time, money and humanity over the next several years on a lawsuit.

                Which is, to put it politely, silly.

                1. soitgoes

                  I think it’s more because they know their bosses aren’t open to conversation, so they need to have actual objective reasons to force positive changes in the workplace. When a former employer didn’t feel like putting a lock on the bathroom door or keeping hand soap on the sink, I jumped to, “You have to; it’s the law.” When he kept all of the exits (even fire exits) locked during business hours (meaning that if we left for lunch, we’d risk clocking back in late if no one could open the door for us), I jumped to, “You can’t keep the fire exits locked; that’s illegal.” A lot of things that bosses regard as preferences are actually required by law, and no one wants to argue preferences in a subjective way.

                2. neverjaunty

                  Sure, that’s often why people are asking. I mean that the reactions to that question are often along the lines of “well if it isn’t you’d better suck it up because otherwise you will have to immediately spend all your money hiring a lawyer and EVERYBODY DIES”. Whereas in reality, there are a lot of options, and even consulting with a lawyer doesn’t mean you are then required to rush out and file a lawsuit.

                3. Kelly L.

                  I agree. I think people are asking because they want a little extra oomph when they go to their managers about it, rather than because they plan to sue. Some managers are ridiculous and won’t stop doing ridiculous things unless they think they might get in trouble with some higher authority.

                4. Elysian

                  I’m with soitgoes on this one. I think a lot people jump to “is it legal?” because they’re so used to their bosses being jerks who will only change things if they are legally forced to do so. There are so many things that dumb bosses/companies do even though they actually are illegal that I think some people lose heart and hope that they at least have “You can’t do that, it’s illegal!” in their arsenal if they want to get something changed. I’ve worked in a lot of places where I know my bosses wouldn’t have made a change if the current practice wasn’t actually illegal – things like blocking fire exits and stuff. When you have an unreasonable boss, sometimes you just hope that something (the law) is there to protect you against their incompetence.

            2. soitgoes

              “Is it legal?” is popping up a lot more in the wake of startups and businesses that sell their goods/services exclusively through online channels. People start these businesses out of their homes (getting friends/family to help for free pizza and beer) and then expand them into “real” businesses without ever having taken a business course. They literally have no idea that their expectations of their non-relative employees are illegal.

              1. Mike C.

                Not to mention all the craziness you see with 1099 abuse, improper licensing and insurance. I do not envy anyone who gets into a car accident with an Uber/Lyft driver on their way to pick up a customer.

                1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)

                  Did you read the article on The Billfold this week, the account of a “try out” day at Handybook? It was obscene.

            3. Mike C.

              Seriously, do you not know how much a lawyer costs? Do you really, honestly believe that people are just hiring lawyers left and right suing people all over the place?

              1. GrumpyBoss

                No I don’t. Hence the obvious sarcastic tone of the message.

                Even without the hiring a lawyer part, is it legal is your last resort to resolving an argument. “Hey Mr. Manager, it is illegal that you won’t let me eat a pepper” would be a career limiting conversation.

                Pick your battles, people. For everything else, use some common sense and elementary conflict resolution.

                1. Anna

                  Most people do use common sense and elementary conflict resolution. What they’re looking for is some assurance that they aren’t being crazy for feeling wronged and, as has been mentioned, some concrete reasons when they go to take their case to their manager. A lot of them are probably worried that they’ll be dismissed if their only reasoning is that it just doesn’t seem right, or it seems problematic. One of the other sides of common sense is the ability to get from context what people are actually asking.

            4. Another Poster

              “I expect adults to be considerate. Oh, something I’m doing can harm you? I will stop at once. Not decide that someone else’s allergy isn’t fair to you.”

              This is always my first thought when I hear someone complain about not being able to eat something due to someone else’s allergy. Is eating jalapeños so important to you that it’s worth putting someone else at risk of severe illness or death? Really, skip the jalapeños. It’s not that big of a deal.

              1. Anna

                I tend to see the flip side of this, too, though. Why is your allergy my responsibility? I have Type I diabetes, but I don’t tend to think my work environment should ban sweets or carbohydrates, even though they are life threatening to me.

                1. OOF

                  Anna, the allergic response can be triggered by mere exposure. Your diabetes can only be triggered by digestion. So, very different things with opposite risk levels (as in, real versus non-existent).

                2. Anna

                  This is supposed to go under OOF. One person being allergic in a 250+ office is not reason enough in my opinion. But that’s just my opinion.

                3. Zillah

                  Empathy isn’t a good enough reason? Would you also walk by someone who’s just broken their leg because it’s not your responsibility? The cost of cutting a food out of one meal is generally pretty minimal to you, and not doing it for someone with a severe allergy could literally hospitalize or kill them.

                  Your analogy isn’t a good one, because you need to consume them to get sick. For an office to ban a food that someone only gets sick when they eat would absolutely be ridiculous – I have to keep a GF diet, for example, and I’d never ask my workplace to ban wheat!

                  If that’s not a good enough reason: I’m pretty sure it actually is illegal to fail to accommodate a reasonable issue caused by a disability.

                4. Observer

                  Because no one is going to kill you by eating their sweets. But, you just might kill someone by eating that jalapeno. Some allergies are triggered by airborne particles, and they really can be deadly. Of course, if the restriction were draconian, that would be different, but jalapenos?

                  I seem to recall someone writing in about banning everyone from using ANYTHING scented at work, including wearing perfumes, and even using scented soaps, detergents and fabric softeners for laundry, to accommodate a sensitivity to perfumes. At that point, I probably sounded like you, since that really was putting a huge burden on people (and would probably have been unenforceable.) But, had my boss sent out a memo saying forbidding perfume in the office, I might have pointed out that some people might be not so pleasant to be around, but if it stuck, I’d deal.

                5. Anna

                  Yeah, I’m completely without empathy and would let someone sit on the ground suffering (and not a good example anyway). What I’m suffering from is not lack of empathy, but rather empathy fatigue.

                6. QK

                  “Empathy fatigue” is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard all week. Being considerate of others is that exhausting for you? :/

                  When I was in high school, I babysat a kid who was deathly allergic to peanuts. As in, eat a peanut butter sandwich, then do no more than breathe around this kid, and he’d have to be rushed to the hospital.

                  When his mom asked if I could avoid eating peanut products on days I would babysit, I didn’t think it was a big deal at all! I was happy to help. I cannot fathom how someone could feel put out by such a request. :/

              2. soitgoes

                The thing is, sometimes banning a certain food from the workplace has a nasty racial undercurrent, or at least comes up against a culture in a way that doesn’t lend itself to compromise. Lots of cultures use peanut oil as their primary cooking oil. I’ve heard of schools telling kids with nut allergies that they were out of luck; it was not feasible to eliminate all peanut traces without changing the way people cook in their homes. It can be a major problem when things like curry and other distinctive (and culturally-linked) foods are banned from workplaces and schools.

                1. Daisy Steiner

                  “Someone is allergic to it” – yes, but they’re not all in the SAME WORKPLACE. So practically speaking, you’re unlikely to have to ban them all. Let’s go on a case-by-case basis, and come back to me when you find a workplace that contains people with all these allergies.

            5. Concerned employee

              It was never a question of anyone wanting to sue. The employees felt that if someone is allergic to a food ingredient we should be asked to label items that would be shared rather than ban all employees from eating jalapeños in their lunch.

              1. Kyrielle

                It depends on how bad the allergy is!

                I don’t know if this allergy is capable of rising to that level – but I know peanut allergy can be so bad that someone can go have a potentially deadly allergy attack because someone is eating peanuts near them, or because they shook hands with someone who ate peanuts and didn’t wash it all off their hands afterward.

              2. Kyrielle

                Also, what if you label everything clearly, but someone who has touched something with jalapeños grabs a slice of bread from a shared loaf, and brushes some of the jalapeño juice off on the next slice? Cross-contamination can be a big risk for food allergies.

              3. Observer

                Then you were asking the wrong question.

                In many cases, labeling doesn’t address the problem. People with serious allergies never touch foods whose ingredients they can’t confirm, as it’s just too dangerous, so labeling is useful but not that big of a deal. But if the person reacts to the airborne particles, then they really can’t walk into a room where that food is being eaten or prepared. It’s a whole different ball game.

                1. Concerned employee

                  I understand that only to well, I have my own food allergy. I made the choice long ago to not eat food made by others so that I would not risk my own health

        1. Another Poster

          Ha! My husband has a list of silly potential band names like this on his phone, usually its two seemingly random words that he heard put together in a conversation at some point. For example, Pill Helmet. I will have to share this with him.

    1. Koko

      My suspicion with this one is that the LW may have been asking to prove that it’s not. Like, LW or coworker has an allergy and boss says, “I can’t ban jalapenos, it would be seen as discrimination!” So LW writes in to be like, “See, I told you!”

  2. Artemesia

    A masters may or not be helpful; I tend to think that a masters is best obtained after a work record. At that point the candidate has a clearer idea of what they need to do to advance their career and a masters without experience is not a strong hiring credential except for specific careers where it is required e.g.counseling.

    A second bachelors is worthless although sometimes they are necessary if a huge career change is being made e.g. majored in music and now going back in engineering. Two bachelors looks like someone who is reluctant to enter the real world except in that narrow circumstance.

    1. Dan

      I got (in order) my BS, AS, and MS. Yup, after I got my 4-year degree I went for the associates. And two years after that, I went for my MS.

      The AS was for a specific credential. I went for the MS after the job I wanted to get with the AS didn’t pan out.

      Getting into MS program was a breeze, and I’m convinced that’s because I had some work history and a legit plan. My grades and GMAT were *not* stellar.

      I do find the real generic wording in the OP’s question funny. You’re right on both counts on the degrees. An MA/MS is only worthwhile if the field values it more than the cost of getting it. A second BS is very, very odd.

      1. plain jane

        At one point I was considering going back for a BA (I have a BSc) in a topic I’m interested in. But it would just be a personal goal, not a career thing. If I was doing a drastic career change, I don’t think a BA would be helpful, those types of jobs are more open to “completed school and has general work & life experience”. A BSc in a different subject would probably be useful if I wanted to switch out, though I’d explore other approaches to getting into the other industry first.

      2. Artemesia

        A dirty little secret of masters degrees is that they are generally cash cows for colleges and so the standards for admission in many of them are not high. Some very prestigious universities that are crazy difficult to get into as freshmen (or as PhD students) have many very easily entered masters degrees. And masters degrees tend not to have much in the way of financial aid except loans.

        It is very important that the degree really be something that moves one forward. Often they just add debt and make you less marketable. It is important to really research the placement rate of a program being considered if your hope is that it will give you real access to good jobs you can’t get now. I know several people who have done short term credentially/training e.g. Dev Bootcamp to become a web designer and similar who have found that this really boosted them into a career e.g. one acquaintance went from low paid restaurant work to a job that paid 3 times that with a local company managing their web presence. But of course any program like this should be able to show the successes before you plunk down the money.

        1. AMT

          I’ve known people in Columbia’s social work master’s program who were really, really jazzed about the fact that they “got into an Ivy.” No, you didn’t get into the undergrad college, you got into a program that accepts a large number of the people who apply. I ended up going to the most selective program in New York (the fifth most selective in the country), but it’s a state school, so no prestige there. Bah. At least I don’t have loans.

        2. Cheeky

          Not necessarily true. I got my Master’s at a public university, and tuition was scarcely more than undergraduate tuition. My program is also highly competitive and has only gotten more so in this economy. I also received both grants and fellowships (some of which I had to apply for) as part of my financial aid package. It depends on the type of program and school you apply to. Science and engineering programs will be more selective than liberal arts programs, for example.

          FWIW, for anyone considering graduate school, grad school opened a lot of doors for me. I have a degree in a social science field, but with a very technical focus. My job prospects improved dramatically, and I’m literally earning double what I was before I went to grad school, all in the space of 5 years.

            1. Cheeky

              I have a Master of Urban Planning degree, focused on environmental planning and geographic information systems.

      3. Anna

        I have two BAs and an MA. I got my MA thinking it would be the next step to getting my PhD and then, as I worked through my MA, I realized I did not want my PhD. Too much work and stress for something that may not get me a job in the end. And yeah, I have a ton of student loans I can’t really afford to pay.

        1. Jen

          Similar situation, though I didn’t finish the Masters (yeah probably stupid as I only needed a few classes and the thesis, but by that point I was so far over it I couldn’t drag myself back). Same unfortunately with the student loan debt, thank goodness for income based repayment plans…

      4. Rose

        How can you say you got degrees in that order then say two bachelors is really odd? It’s basically the same thing! :) I don’t mean that in a mean way.

        I know a lot of people who have gotten a second BS, notably in nursing, but also to change fields (i.e. first was English, second was engineering). It can be helpful for a career change, and usually only takes about two years, because you already have most of the requirements for a bachelors. No one is going to get into a masters in those fields with no experience, and you need a degree to work. I think it’s really just for people who want a major career change.

    2. AMT

      Absolutely. I’m of the generation that is now watching too many friends waste time and money on master’s degrees because they (a) don’t know what else to do, (b) believe a master’s will automatically make them qualified for a job, or (c) don’t know what the job market looks like in their field. I was lucky enough to get good advice from people in my profession, work for a year in a related field, and then get a narrowly-targeted master’s that is the standard qualification for my job role.

      I know maybe one or two people from my undergrad who did this. The rest? M.A. History, M.A. philosophy, M.F.A. creative writing, just to name a few. I hate to say that people shouldn’t do what they love, but when you’re in your late twenties, you really should have started your life already.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        I’m so glad that my family and friends with more experience in the workforce discouraged me from doing this when I was in my senior year of college. I really wanted to get a master’s degree, but they told me to get some work experience and then see what made the most sense. As a naive 21-22 year old I just assumed that having any master’s degree would make me more marketable (or at the very least, not make me LESS marketable), so they really did me a favor by letting me know that I would start getting locked out of some jobs that were a) more entry level and b) not in the same field if I had that degree on my resume. There are also very few jobs in the field I wanted to go in to so there’s a good chance I’d be not only be being eliminated from potential jobs in other fields, but also struggling to find a job in that field (totally not a win-win).

        It really ended up being for the best because I did eventually go back for my master’s, but in something totally different than what I was originally thinking I would do (and I never would have seen myself on the path I’m on now when I was graduating from college).

        1. Kat M

          My own mother tried to push me to consider graduate school when I was in my junior year of college. She was paranoid that I’d end up moving back home and, for some reason, thought me going to graduate or law school would prevent that. I essentially laughed, reminded her that I was already paying for my own room and board (plus all of my spending money and some of my smaller education costs), and only in the case of true emergency would I ever consider moving back home. As it turned out, nearly five years later, I have not gone to graduate school. I did whatever I could in terms of work until I got my first career-building job and I’m doing well now. I know not every story is like my story…..but I knew that I was not ready for grad school and know that I will be in a much better position when I do go back.

      2. KerryOwl

        when you’re in your late twenties, you really should have started your life already.

        I understand what you’re getting at here, but this is a pretty obnoxious way of saying it. First of all you should probably replace “life” with “career,” as surely one is fully capable of LIVING before one graduates from school. And secondly, who are you to say anyway? Not everyone has the same goals in life.

      3. Dan

        Ideally people get their career going by then, but that’s an ideal. Plenty don’t.

        I started my first professional job at 29, and I know I found the right career.

      4. Kyrielle

        Or it’s expected of them. When I was fresh out of college, I had a few friends who thought you ought to have a master’s for my field (I’m a software engineer) or who themselves were getting their masters, who seemed to think I was limiting my career by just getting a job with my bachelor’s.

        Truthfully, I couldn’t afford to go get a master’s, and I wasn’t sure that I was up to the work, at the time. So I got a job.

        Thank goodness, because a master’s really would not have helped, and by now it would be totally irrelevant compared to my work experience.

        1. Dan

          It depends on what you want to do. I have a BS in CS, as well as an MS in a related field — straight spec-sheet coding doesn’t require graduate degrees, and I’d tell everybody to skip it.

          But when you work on the R&D end, where coding is just a piece of a much larger puzzle, those fancy letters come in handy. At my job, over half of the technical staff has an MS, and more people have their PhD than just a BS.

      5. Natalie

        You know, I graduated from college and entered the job market the same month the Great Recession started. I had the good luck of living in one of the only US states that weathered the recession fairly well, but I still felt incredibly lucky to get a job – any job – I could support myself on, even if it meant I spent 5 years as a receptionist and had to wait until my 30s to “get my life started already”.

    3. Lisa

      It depends on the 2nd degree definitely. Music theory as 1st BA didn’t do anything for my roommate. So he got a BA in psychology. Getting a BS in biology, then getting another BS in marine biology seems like a waste to me. You might as well go MS for marine biology why waste the time and money on another science BS that while different would make more sense to specialize via a MS.

      1. ENVBIO

        I have my Bachelors in Biology and Environmental Sciences. By the time I finished the requirements for the Env Sci degree I had already completed the requirements for the Bio degree. No extra money was involved, I just had to fill out the paperwork.

        But apparently it is bizarre. I will be reconsidering my resume, since so many on this board seem to think it is extraneous.

        1. QC

          I know people who have had that happen. It is really strange to see an Animal Science and Chemistry Major but if you took the correct classes you could do it. Heck as a pre-vet student in Animal Science everyone could get a chemistry minor.

    4. LabTech

      I ended up getting two bachelors’ simultaneously, which had many more course requirements (and paperwork) compared to a double-major (which my particular program didn’t offer). While it looks better academically than a double-major, I’m pretty sure most employers don’t even realize the difference – and I risk sounding high maintenance if I correct them or explain the difference in an interview.

      Not quite the same as getting your degrees from different institutions or at different times.

      1. QK

        I, too, did a simultaneous double bachelor’s. The two majors were closely related though, and it’s not unheard of for people in my field to start in one major then end up switching to or adding the other.

        I don’t know if it necessarily says much more than “I was almost finished one degree and then decided I wanted a slightly different one, so I did both”, but on a personal level, it’s something I’ve always really been proud of. It has been a source of confidence when job-hunting–not so much from what I think it may or may not mean to employers, but from what it means to me: hard work, and being bold in swashbuckling along on the path best suited for me.

  3. Dan

    #2

    There’s another option. Hold onto the promising resumes and forward them to the relevant hiring managers when the time comes. Your candidates will be in awe that someone actually called *them*. And if they’re not interested or have another job at that point? They’ll tell you. Better that than telling them to keep an eye out and having them forget. Most people will think you’re giving them lip service if you ask them to apply later.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Except that a lot of those applicants may not be available anymore at that point or might not be interested in the other position, which may quickly cause the hiring manager to disregard the whole stack. If OP wants to go the extra mile, they could email the candidates and direct them to the new opening.

      1. Dan

        I’ve had places tell me that they will keep my resume “on file” for up to one year. I believe them, but I expect nothing.

        Over the last couple of years, I’ve had places call me 6+ months after I applied. Once one guy figured out I had a new job, he asked why I bothered returning his call. I was pretty much like “what made you think I was still jobless six months later?”

        1. KellyK

          I actually got called for an interview *3 years* after applying with a company (and got the job). It’s like winning the lottery, but it does happen.

          1. Armchair Analyst

            3 years is a long time! It’s happened to me twice – once about a year after I applied and hadn’t been in touch (I got the job, even being 8 months pregnant when they called the 2nd time!), and once when I stayed in touch with the interviewer, emailing once a month, and got a call 18+ months later. It’s my current job – I love it!

        2. QualityControlFreak

          Yup, some places actually do. I applied with my current organization and was not selected, got the standard “we’ll keep your resume on file” rejection letter. A year later, a much more interesting position came open and they called me to come in for an interview. I’ve been here over five years now, love my job and it’s a much better fit for me than the position I applied for originally. Boss was right, I’d’ve been bored silly in short order if I’d been selected for the first job I applied for.

        3. Anonsie

          Same. Imagine my surprise when, after applying for one job and being rejected without getting an interview, I got a call asking if I could come in for an interview because another employee in a similar role had been injured in an accident and they needed a temporary replacement immediately. They had actually filed away even the people who they didn’t consider for the current position and went to it when they needed someone urgently later on. I always thought that was a really smart move on their part, and I was disappointed I had to turn them down because I couldn’t start as soon as they needed.

      2. neverjaunty

        That seems overboard, and might lead the job candidates to think that OP specifically wants them to get hired. Hanging onto the resumes of promising candidates saves time on the job search later, since you’ve already got a number of promising candidates’ resumes on hand. Sure, they might have moved on, but they also might still be looking, or have taken a less-desirable job in the meantime.

      3. Bea W

        Except there are no openings to direct them to at the moment, and there may not be one for 6-12 months. Even if a candidate were told “We may have openings in 6-12 months”, they’re not going to sit around waiting.

      4. Lizabeth

        That’s exactly how I got my current job – interviewed with a company, they went with someone else, I took another job and they called me about nine months later. I didn’t hesitate because the job I had taken went south very quickly and badly.

      5. Sans

        I got my first job in my industry by coming in second initially, but they kept my resume. The person they picked didn’t work out and I got a call three months later asking if I was interested. You just never know.

      6. AdAgencyChick

        I wouldn’t do this for a full stack of rejected resumes, but I often pass on resumes of candidates whom I thought were strong but not the right fit for my needs. If I know someone else in the company is hiring for a position for whom I think this person would be a good fit, I’ll tell both that manager and the in-house recruiter (who will often already have thought of the same thing — good junior-level candidates are in short enough supply in my niche of advertising that when he finds one, he’ll often pass the resume around to more than one hiring manager) — hey, this person is not right for me, but she might be right for you. Or, if I don’t know anyone else who’s hiring at the moment in my company, I’ll tell the recruiter I liked this person a lot, she just didn’t have quality X that I specifically needed, so that the recruiter knows this is a strong candidate in general and will keep her in mind for future openings.

        I might even call up a friend at another agency who works on an account for which that candidate might be a good fit, actually. That way I might help my friend, and I might help a candidate whom I liked but couldn’t hire myself, and the next time I’m job hunting I have two more people who want to help me :)

    2. OP #2

      Thanks for the input (Dan’s, and others downthread), and to Alison for the Voice of Reason. Dan, I like the idea of holding on to resumes, but while it is something I’d like our orginization to consider we don’t really have such a system and I hate to make promises I might not be able to keep.

      Someone else suggested that I follow up the more personal “please keep us in mind” with a LinkedIn invite, but that strikes me as going overboard. Thoughts, anyone?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Honestly, I think your best bet is to just be sincere and transparent: “While it didn’t work out for this role, I think you’re great and your strengths in X and Y could be a real asset here. I encourage you to keep watching our postings and apply if you spot anything else that interests you.”

    1. Jessa

      Yeh but considering the amount of volatile oils in them, someone allergic would have major issues if anyone brought them in and was not careful of the counter tops with them. I know people that if someone put a sandwich in the microwave the airborne oils would be enough to give them major issues.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        Yeah, I feel for the coworkers who can’t bring in jalapenos anymore, but I can totally see this being enough to cause issues for the individual with the allergy. As far as I know, I don’t have an allergy to any peppers, but what has started happening to me in the last 3-4 years is that whenever someone is cooking with them where the oils are being released into the air (stove top frying, for example), I’ve started having serious sinus irritation and sneezing issues. This also seems to happen with steam (say, if I’m then washing the pans in hot water), but otherwise, unless I’m leaning over the dish inhaling, I’m fine, and the effects stop once the main steam, etc. is no longer being released into the air. It’s mainly just annoying. But since it doesn’t take much for me to have a reaction, if I had a serious allergy I could see how it might be necessary to ask other employees not to bring them in at all since it seems like the oils must be fairly potent.

        1. Hiring Mgr

          My company banned preztels, but only the sticks, not the twisty kind. There were unintended consequences, such as the underground economy created by employees who specialized in secretly untwisting the legal pretzels for sale to the stick lovers.

            1. Laufey

              We got the stick pretzels, but not the twisty kind banned once, because we were pretending they were cigars and cigarettes and other things that are inhaled. We were also eight and in elementary school, though, so your mileage may vary.

              1. Hiring Mgr

                We’re located in Massachusetts which is the largest North American producer of twisty pretzels (per capita), so the twisted pretzel lobby is very poweful here.

            1. SH

              I’m highly allergic to seafood and it’s bad enough that the smell (if strong enough) will cause my throat to close up. That said, do people regularly eat jalapenos at work? That seems so random.

              1. Jeanne

                I think it must depend where you live. I’m in Pennsylvania Dutch country where jalapenos aren’t used much. Other places have more people who grew up eating spicier foods. It seemed random to me too since I never noticed it at my work.

  4. Stephanie

    #3 – I know there’s Indian preference for the at least the Indian-serving federal agencies (like Bureau of Indian Affairs), but that’s the only scenario I’ve seen for actual racial preference.

    #4 – Yeah, I’ve only seen second bachelors work for a dramatic career change. A friend got her first bachelors in international relations and then got a second bachelors in biology. An acquaintance started in marketing and then got a second bachelors in electrical engineering. Outside of a complete career 180 (where you’d need a whole different set of knowledge like heading into science/engineering from a nontechnical field), it doesn’t seem like it’d buy you much.

    1. Lillie Lane

      How long does it typically take to get a second bachelors in an unrelated field (depends, I know, but generally)?

      1. Dan

        You nailed it — it depends.

        There is no generally.

        Engineering programs are typically 128 credit hours and provide for no free electives. They’re going to hand you a list of courses you have to check off. If you came from somewhere in the liberal arts, hopefully you have the humanities/social science requirements done. If that’s the case, you saved yourself a semester. Yes, you’re looking at four years of school.

        When I switched from mechanical engineering to computer science, I did get six free electives, and a lot of my “pre” engineering courses (like calc, physics, and chem) did transfer. So I think I got stuck with an extra year or so.

        If you’re going from one liberal arts field to another, you might get credit “for time served” to some extent.

        I remember looking at getting into accounting at one point, and IIRC you have to take a crap ton of undergraduate credit hours to sit for the CPA exam. I looked at doing something as part of a masters, but the credit hour requirements were pretty much “go get your BS/BA.”

        So I guess anywhere from one semester to 4.5 years, to answer your question.

        1. Lillie Lane

          Ouch. Years ago, when I worked for a university (and could get a hefty discount on tuition), I called up the education department and asked how I could go about getting teaching certification in my state. (I have a B.S. and Ph.D in the biological sciences.) They told me I would have to get a second bachelor’s. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

          1. Bea W

            That’s crazy. There should be an easier route for people like you, who clearly have the education to teach the subject matter but who just need a certification. Getting a second bachelors when you have a PhD in the subject field (assuming you were looking to teach middle or high school biological sciences)? REALLY?! *facepalm*

            1. Colette

              Presumably the second bachelors would be in education theory and practice, which neither a B.S. or Ph.D. would expose you to.

              Here I believe you can do an B. Ed. in 2 years if you already have a degree.

              1. B

                In the UK a PGCE (postgrad certificate of education) only takes a year. If you do teacher training straight off it’s four years i think, but if you already have a degree a year’s not too bad.
                A second batchelors is crazy.

                1. Bea W

                  That’s what I was thinking of, some kind of certificate or course work that would give a person the additional training and skills without having to get second bachelors degree. That just seems like overkill and deters potential mid-career teachers from entering the field.

            2. Judy

              Our state has (and has had for 20+ years) a teaching certificate that’s a one year program. It’s a way to get a secondary teaching license, for teaching high school in a specific subject. One of my RAs in college in the 80s was a 28 year old who had worked for a few years and wanted to teach high school science.

              1. Anonicorn

                My state has this as well. You go through the “alternate route” program, then take a test called the Praxis.

              2. Bea W

                My state has a couple paths including getting a preliminary teaching license which is good for 5 years while you complete an approved training program to get your initial license. People who already have a degree can choose to work as a teacher while completing a post-baccalaureate program to satisfy the approved teacher prep program requirement or do a supervised classroom apprenticeship and an approved post BA teacher prep program. You can also choose to work as a teacher for 3 years and go through a performance review process based on your actual work as a teacher in lieu of doing the post BA teacher education.

                I think this makes much more sense, especially for people who want to teach at the high school level where you really need solid subject matter experts who have done advanced study and/or worked in particular fields – math majors, science majors, art majors, etc. A degree in education may qualify you to teach, but not necessarily qualify you to teach physics or calculus.

          2. Artemesia

            That is nuts. There are all sorts of masters programs that certify people to teach assuming they have a bachelor’s degree major that is a teaching field in the public schools. This requires 2 or three semesters; maybe that was not true in your state or your university but I am betting you just got a knucklehead when you called. I have seen this process in three states and in any of them you could certify to teach independent of a second bachelors and could get a masters if you wished in addition to certification.

          3. Sans

            Here’s an even dumber rule. My husband was laid off about 10 years ago. He had always thought he might want to be a teacher. Many people over the years have thought he had the qualities to be a good one. So he went to an Education Open House at a local college known for a good Education program. At this point, he had a B.A. in a subject area and 20 years of work experience. They told him that because his undergrad college GPA was not a 3.0, he would have to take random undergraduate classes and get As in them until his GPA rose to a 3.0. Didn’t matter what classes, just waste your money and time taking classes that won’t count towards anything, until your GPA hits 3.0. Then – and only then – could he begin his certification.

            Now, he wasn’t even 100% sure he wanted to be a teacher. But he thought taking a class counting toward certification might show him whether that was something he’d like and be good at. He wasn’t about to take about a year’s worth of classes (and more if he didn’t get all As) just to get to that point. We couldn’t afford the time or the money.

            And yes, his GPA (from 20 years ago …) was crappy. But don’t you think 20 years of work experience would make that a moot point? No, our state requires a 3.0 undergrad GPA to get certification. No credit for work experience. Stupid, stupid rule.

            1. Seal

              When I was an undergraduate I took the scenic route towards getting my degree. I finally wound up with a double major BA and a GPA around a 2.7 or 2.8. As I was finishing up my degree I took a full-time job in an academic library where I was able to take classes for free, which I did off and on for the next 18 years. Despite taking more than enough classes to add an additional major to my BA and getting mostly straight As throughout, I was never quite able to get my GPO up to a 3.0. Yet I was able to get into graduate school in my 40s and earn 2 masters degrees with near-4.0 GPAs. My approach to school and life in general in my 30s and 40s was vastly different than in my late teens and early 20s. Ridiculous not to take that into account when pursuing a career in teaching, particularly when there’s such a shortage of good teachers.

              1. Anx

                Thank you for taking the time to comment here. I was depressed and anxious during college, and did not realize it. I also probably have either DSPS or ADHD PI. I was really too busy to assess how I was feeling. I also declared my major late. I had a 2.x GPA. In the time since, I’ve taken many other classes. My grades since have been much higher and now seem to hover around straight As (although I only work one part time job now). I was at the top of my class in my non-credit-granting certificate program, even when a good portion of my classmates majored in that subject (public health).

                I still don’t have 3.0 and I’m not sure I will soon. In fact, I have even considered a second bachelor’s to see if I can use that one’s GPA to get into graduate school and other programs with that cut-off and use a bunch of my credits as transfers.

                It’s amazing how one four-year period of your life can close so many doors. I never realized how many doors an education could close for you. I naively thought that showing improvement would make a difference, since I saw so many former lazy, unmotivated, unfocused, under-accommodated, academically immature students turn things around to great success. The key is to make sure you overcome your issues in high school or very early in college.

                Did your master’s programs have GPA requirements? Did they allow exceptions or were they lower than 3.0?

            2. Natalie

              Indeed, sometimes the rules are just dumb.

              I just learned that my state requires your M.Ed to be from a school in our state, or you have to prove that your school in another state was good enough. Holy provincialism, Batman!

              1. Anon for this one

                That’s not at all uncommon. Twenty years ago, when I ended up moving from New York State to Kentucky, I investigated teaching because I had an undergrad degree in English. New York State told me that I would have to take four to six courses in child development and education courses, plus do practice teaching. New York piles it on later — working teachers who get jobs with a bachelor’s have to earn a master’s within a certain number of years, I think.

                But Ohio and Kentucky had both signed on to some education reform (post-WWII, maybe?) and required teachers to take about two years worth of courses in order to get certified. The curriculum for my subject was prescribed, and I hadn’t taken equivalent courses. There were a lot of required courses — education law and teaching techniques, which made sense, but I didn’t see why History of Education was required. The real clincher is that in NYS, the state (at least at that time) decided if the candidate was qualified to teach. In Kentucky and Ohio, the colleges decided. A lot of teaching candidates would get to the end of their degree, and then the faculty would inform them that, well, really, they just needed these other two courses and then they’d really be ready, so come to summer school. I think that bordered on the unethical, but when the department budget depends on enrollment and the department can coerce people into taking additional courses, the result is too tempting for some teaching programs.

                I know someone in Ohio who did go back and get a second bachelor’s in order to teach. She didn’t go for a master’s instead, although it would have cost less, because there was a surplus of teachers at the time and the master’s would have put her salary at a higher level — getting hired as starting teacher at the master’s step wages would never have happened.

                Kentucky did tell me that I could get a master’s degree in English education that would qualify me to teach. Before I applied, I checked out the schools in my county and the neighboring counties while I worked as a sub. Almost all the high school and middle school English teachers were my age, and I wasn’t good with elementary kids. I didn’t get the degree because I didn’t see any job openings in the near future.

                Teacher training is very uneven, the rules are remarkably different from state to state, and colleges really like to have the power to decide who gets to teach. I think the working conditions in a lot of schools are pretty bad, too, from administrative incompetence to limited bathroom and lunch options.

          4. Anx

            • I’m sure that on your way to getting a Ph.D, you did some teaching. So you do have some education experience, which I think would be valuable (for high school at least).
            • But I’m sure you had limited training. And if you were to teach at the college level, I’m sure you would have minimal teaching requirements. Which boggles my mind
            • I have seen many post-bac programs for teaching certificates. But my state is in great need of teachers and has really low pay for teachers compared to other states.

        2. Bea W

          In some cases science credits will only transfer if the courses were completed within x number of years. So if you have been out of school for a while, you could end up either having to retake those courses or test out.

          1. Anx

            The most frustrating thing is when you need have, say, Chem 101 + lab and Chem 102 + lab in the past 7 years. And you’ve taken orgo, biochem, quantative or physical chem in the time period, but not the intro class.

        3. Cheeky

          “Engineering programs are typically 128 credit hours and provide for no free electives. ”
          This is also true of fine arts and design. You take what you are told, in the order you are told to take them. Any program that centers on progressive knowledge and skill-building will be highly regimented like this.

        4. Natalie

          Depends on the state in which one is taking the CPA. In MN, I’m taking a certificate program in accounting that qualifies me to sit the CPA exam here, and is only 12 classes. If I was in school full time I could wrap it up in 18 months.

        5. Anna

          Exactly what Dan said. My degrees are in Hispanic Literature and Sociology. I started out in Hispanic Literature and was required to take a minor, so I picked Soc. I realized that I only had to take a few more classes to complete a second degree and it wouldn’t add any time to my scheduled graduation nor would it increase my workload significantly. So it took me three years to complete two BAs (5 including the two years at a community college working on General Ed requirements).

      2. Stephanie

        The friend who went from IR to biology, it took her 3.5 years, I think. The only things that were counted from her first bachelors were for general ed requirements.

        Unsure about the woman who went from marketing to electrical engineering (I met her after she did the switch and was working as an EE).

        Another friend did a second bachelors in a year and a half. She was only able to do it that quickly because she went back to her alma mater to complete a degree from a dropped major (started out in electrical engineering, switched to English, got the English BA, went back for the second bachelors in electrical engineering) and had a lot of the coursework already.

        I believe it’s Boston U that has a specific program designed for career switchers into engineering.

        Caveat emptor regarding second bachelors: loan options are more restricted and I believe students are usually ineligible for grants.

        1. Lillie Lane

          It probably cuts a bit of time off if you attend the same university for both. If I went back (to a different university) and found out the credits didn’t transfer for all of the crap courses I took for the first BS, I would probably blow a gasket in the registrar’s office.

          1. Marcy

            It probably does help. I got an International Relations degree, worked in that field for awhile, and went back for a Finance degree 10 years later at the same university. It only took a year for the second degree. I work in domestic and international finance so both degrees are useful.

      3. Jubilance

        I know someone who went back for a 2nd bachelors roughly 10 years after they completed their first one, and it took them about 18 months to complete the 2nd bachelors. I assume they only had to take major courses and got credit for things like English, Econ, etc.

        1. Dan

          Sure, but what were the relevant majors? The OP asked about majors that were in completely different fields.

      4. Student

        Lots of people pick up a second bachelors with no extra time served. Many of the college programs don’t exactly require an ambitious schedule. No matter what, the first 2 years tend to be general education requirements that are common to all degrees. The next two years are the meat of the degree. If the subjects are somewhat related, you’ll probably have some learning overlap that makes it easier to keep up with the extra classes.

        I got two bachelors with no extra academic time (3 years total as an undergrad). I needed some classes to fill my schedule. I thought I wanted to major in Degree A, bu t found Degree B interesting enough to take the starter major classes. Stuck with it, ended up going into Business B instead of A because I liked it better. Degree A was complementary enough to Degree B that I make use of ~75% of the stuff I learned in Degree A and am glad I did it.

    2. QualityControlFreak

      Tribal governments can also exercise a preference for Indian candidates/tribal members. I didn’t know the BIA could, although it makes sense. I worked on federal contracts for years, but that was with DoD. Being an Indian (and a female) did not work to my advantage there.

      1. Chinook

        In Canada, being First Nations or Metis can help a lot with certain industries, especially if the work is being done on traditional lands or working with this group (ex: policing). This is done because FN are greatly unemployed and often not represented in any industry. It also helps to convince youth to risk further education (which often means leaving thee communities for long periods) because they are guaranteed a job, often close to their remote homes. I will admit that it is sometimes hard to swallow when you are non-FN living in the same remote community, but it is to help level a playing field that was legally unfair up to 2 generations ago.

  5. Relosa

    #5

    Can we all please hold a moment of silence for that poor OP’s office that can no longer consume jalapeños :(

    1. GrumpyBoss

      All joking aside, that does seem to be an oddly specific allergy. As someone who doesn’t suffer from food allergies, I’m wondering what is in a jalapeño that would cause an allergy – I’m guessing capsaicin. But if that’s the cause, jalapeño aren’t the only source, so why not ban all hot peppers. And hot sauce while you’re at it.

      1. majigail

        I googled, and apparently, it’s a thing. I do wish people would consider the thought that their right to eat what they want or smell how they want at work should always be superseded by their colleagues’ right to not die from what they’re eating/smelling.

        1. GrumpyBoss

          Right! I feel bad for entire classrooms of kids who don’t get to grow up eating PB&J or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for lunch because a classmate has a peanut allergy. But a right to life supersedes that, and kids just get something different packed for lunch and go about their lives.

          To put it another way, children behave better about these things than adults, who know better, do.

          1. Liane

            It does seem to be the adults that react the worst to the “You don’t eat/serve [Tasty Food] around people it will sicken/kill” concept. I don’t recall the question/topic but there was one months ago where a number of commenters mentioned this. One, not the OP, maintained that they had coworkers and others seriously threaten to expose Commenter to the food because they didn’t believe the specific allergy &/or in food allergies in general.

            1. anonintheuk

              Or they just don’t think. I had a colleague who was fine with going to the breakroom to eat his peanut butter sandwiches, because I have a peanut allergy and the smell makes my eyes stream. However, on a day I wasn’t in, he apparently had to move to my desk for IT purposes, and ate his sandwiches. Which I discovered the next day when my hands turned scarlet and doubled in size.
              I could cheerfully have killed him, but swollen hands mean a poor grip.

            2. themmases

              I wonder if that’s because food allergies are becoming more common and younger people grew up having to be considerate of this. I’m 27, and I don’t remember having foods I couldn’t bring to school but I did have a lot of classmates with multiple or serious food allergies who would eat separate food or be sick sometimes.

              Food allergies have increased at the same time that vegetarianism and other health-related special diets have become more common, and I believe US religious diversity has increased as well. I see jokes and complaints all the time about everyone having different food needs. I get the impression that many people see these diets as just pickiness, and allergies as being implausibly common now (or being allergic to implausible foods) so they must be made up to cover for a preference or to get one’s own way.

              1. QK

                I do not entertain this impression at all. It borders on the ignorant to think someone is lying about an allergy “just to get their way”. Anyone who thinks that displays a striking lack of empathy.

              2. TJ Rowe

                People with allergies survive childhood more often these days – that’s why there are more of us.

                1. HM in Atlanta

                  Or they’re like me with wonderful adult-onset allergies (to foods they really like the taste of).

          2. Jeanne

            My niece would never pack peanut butter. She wanted to be able to sit with the kids at the peanut free table. Kids seem to accept this. Maybe workplaces will find this topic easier as those kids grow up.

        2. Helka

          Yeah, this. I’m kind of baffled at the mindset behind “Is my employer allowed to tell me I can’t bring something to work that could kill my colleague?” Like, really? I’d think that would be kind of self-evident.

          1. MJH

            I think it’s generally because some people say “I’m allergic” when what they really mean is “I don’t like this so don’t put it in my food.” Therefore, allergies are taken less seriously than they might otherwise be.

            Also, death-allergies feel like a pretty new phenomenon, even if they’re not, so people aren’t sure how to deal. Like, back in the day everyone took peanuts to school without a problem, so why is it a problem now? (I know it is a problem now. It’s just kind of new.)

            1. Colette

              Did they, though? Were peanuts (or peanut butter) really common 100 years ago, or is it a relatively new thing?

              OK, I’ve checked Wikipedia, who believes peanut butter wasn’t patented until 1884. I would imagine it took a few years for it to really become common, though.

              1. MJH

                I’m talking 25 years ago, when I was in elementary school, or 50 years ago, when my mom was. There was zero talk of peanut allergies or peanut-free tables, although I think when I was in school it might’ve been coming onto people’s radars.

                1. De (Germany)

                  25 years ago when I was in elementary school my sister was deathly allergic to tree nuts. Not peanuts, but in your previous comment you were talking about allergies in general.

              2. Kelly L.

                I think there are two things going on.

                One is that, tragically, kids who had violent allergies to something 100 years ago probably died, without anyone ever really knowing why. There was more child mortality in general, and I think a lot of these deaths were probably thought of as a tragic thing that just happened sometimes. And obviously that’s not something we’d want to go back to.

                The other, I think, is that we’re exposed to a lot more different kinds of foods now, since we transport food to and from places all over the world. If you were a kid in Europe 100 years ago, even if you had the genetic disposition to be allergic to peanuts, you probably never even saw a peanut and so you never found out. It took me till college to realize I was allergic to shellfish…because I just never ate shellfish as a kid. It was expensive and my parents didn’t like it (my mom turned out to be allergic as well, though I don’t think she figured it out till later either) so I just never ate it and found out, not till college when I started experimenting with unfamiliar foods.

                1. Natalie

                  There does seem to be some kind of actual increase in allergies in the developed world, the cause of which is still unclear. One of the popular theories is the hygiene hypothesis (essentially, our early childhood is too clean so our immune system gets out of whack) but from what I understand the research isn’t conclusive.

                2. Natalie

                  One bit of clarification – the cleanliness in question isn’t household cleanliness, but broader public health initiatives like sanitation systems. So essentially, we could be looking at a trade-off between infectious disease and allergies.

                3. Raptor

                  I remember that paper. It’s not so much infectious diseases as it is a lack of parasites. We have this really fancy immune system that really wants to do its job. But it never finds all the wonderful parasites it wants to kill… so it finds something to attack. Us.

                4. neverjaunty

                  Yes, all of this. Plus, our childhood memories are not always the most reliable barometers of the way the world actually was at the time.

                5. Kelly L.

                  @neverjaunty: Yes! There are always all the “We rode our bikes without helmets and ate dirt and poured cyanide on our pancakes and WE were fine!” memes floating around Facebook. :D But what it really means is that maybe I, personally, didn’t know someone who was harmed by this or that, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and just didn’t hit the media. There wasn’t the 24 hour news cycle back then, and a lot of local stories just didn’t spread, I think.

                6. Kelly

                  I’m in my late 30s and can’t remember having any classmates with severe food allergies. My sister had one classmate who had a severely bad case of lactose intolerance in elementary school. She remembers what his pizzas looked like – sauce with toppings sans cheese. My mother taught in the late 90s to mid 2000’s and had at least one student with either a beverage or food allergy every year. I think one year she had at least two with peanut allergies and three with red dye allergies. That was the year that she wanted one kid to be a Jehovah’s Witness so she had a logical and legal reason to not have birthday or holiday celebrations in the classroom.

                  I do think that most parents who have kids in school now are more sensitive and tactful about food allergies. They know that there may be a chance that one of their kid’s classmates may have problems consuming gluten or peanut products, to name the two most common.

              3. KayDay

                I don’t think anyone has yet proven or come close to proving why food/peanut allergies are more common now than they were when our parents were in school (and yes, people ate peanuts then… remember the line “buy me some peanuts and cracker jack”…I think that song is from the early 1900s). And not that many kids up and died suddenly during ball games. (after all, the next line is not, “I don’t care if we have anaphylaxis”).

                One theory (out of many out there) that I have heard is that kids don’t play in the dirt/mud like they did back in the day, and peanuts grow on the dirt… and something about the types of bacteria/microbes we pick up. (Clearly I am not a scientist/doctor, please do you own googling). I like this theory, because it perfectly explains why I, personally, don’t have a peanut allergy… I was a kid who absolutely loved to play in the mud and get dirty. Mud = super fun. Having mom hose you down before being allowed back in the house = also super fun :)

                1. Raptor

                  The problem with peanuts (so I understand) is mostly the way we prepare them in the US. Roasting peanuts brings out the worst allergies in them. Boiling them (like the rest of the world does) is better and most people don’t ever experience an allergy from boiled peanuts. This roasting all peanuts is relatively new. In fact, the game peanuts mentioned in the song would have been boiled, not roasted.

              4. Artemesia

                I had one kid who took PBJ to school virtually every day for lunch in the 70s and 80s; there was never an issue with peanut allergies in their school during this time. The phenomenon of so many kids having lethal allergies to peanuts is a new phenomenon; it was not unheard of in the past but it was rare. I know of several kids with this problem now. Something in the way we live is increasing the severity of allergies, the number of autism cases etc. It can’t just be more diagnosis with peanut butter since this is one allergy that causes severe to lethal reaction.

                I personally have a severe intolerance for onions. It is not a true allergy; I don’t drop dead if there is an onion in the stew, but if I eat raw onion (and many restaurants merrily scatter chopped red onion on and in many dishes particularly salads or salsas or sandwiches) I am miserable almost immediately. I am careful when ordering in restaurant to make clear that the issue is not true allergy e.g. I am not asking them to sterilize the kitchen to make me a sandwich, just to leave off the onion.

                1. Colette

                  I’m not sure allergies are all that much more common than they used to be.

                  If serious allergies happen to 1 out of 1000 kids, and you have schools of 100 kids, you’ll have an issue (on average) in 10% of your schools.
                  If you have schools of 500 kids, you’ll have an issue in 50%, and if you have schools of 750 kids, you’ll have an issue in 75%, on average.

                  So something as simple as fewer schools with bigger student populations could make it seem like allergies are a much bigger problem than they used to be.

                2. neverjaunty

                  When I was a kid, not liking your milk because it made your tummy hurt was treated as being fussy and not getting your proper nutrition from the Four Basic Food Groups. That doesn’t mean lactose intolerance skyrocketed over the last few generations; it meant people in parts of the US with heavily European ancestry didn’t understand what lactose intolerance is. I find it hard to believe food allergies are much different in this regard.

                3. fposte

                  The CDC notes an 18% increase in allergies from 1997 to 2007. There does seem to be a genuine increase. I don’t know what they’re drawing from, but I’m presuming they’re limiting this to actual histamine reaction allergies and not also including non-allergic bad reactions.

                  Another interesting hypothesis is that C-sections are a problem–they do seem to be associated with a higher rate of allergies. The theory is that they eliminate a baby’s opportunity to pick up the mother’s microbiome as they do when vaginally delivered, and that their immune systems therefore don’t get a good priming.

                4. Kelly L.

                  Agree with both colette and neverjaunty. The bigger schools thing is a really great point I’d never thought of! And neverjaunty is right, if you always felt icky after drinking your milk and didn’t want to drink it, that was thought of as behavioral (you were being defiant!), rather than being diagnosed as a possible intolerance.

                5. Colette

                  To be clear, allergies probably are more common than they used to be – but I believe our perception of how common they are has increased faster than the actual increase. We talk about them more, we have bigger schools, and more kids eat lunch at school than they used to.

                6. Sarahnova

                  Actually, the increased diagnosis of autism is almost wholly due to more awareness and different diagnostic criteria. There’s no evidence of a significant increase in actual cases.

                  Allergies, I believe, are a different case, although again increased awareness and lower diagnostic thresholds are probably involved.

                7. Observer

                  The issue is not so much “true allergy” as severity. Many people have real allergies (as shown by the standard medical tests) which are not deadly, and often not very serious. On the other hand, some people have reactions that can be deadly even though it doesn’t necessarily show up in the classic tests.

            2. QK

              What? Who says they are allergic to something just because they don’t like it?!

              You’ve got to be kidding me.

              1. UK Nerd

                Some people don’t think anything short of potential death is a good enough reason not to eat something. There are caterers I now refuse to use because they refuse to cook meals I can eat. I’ve never actually claimed an allergy, but I can just about appreciate why someone would after one too many surprise ingredients.

            3. Observer

              I have yet to hear someone say they are allergic when what they really mean is “I don’t like it.” Even if there were, the idea of generalizing that to “anyone who says that they get really sick or can even wind up in the ER is really saying that to keep me from eating what I want” is nonsensical.

              Death allergies are far from a new phenomenon. There was just less awareness of the issue. And, even if it’s not death, but serious repercussions, that’s a real issue as well.

              1. HM in Atlanta

                My last boss did this. She didn’t like blue cheese, and she would tell wait staff she was allergic. They never believed her – you could see it in their faces, but they left the blue cheese out of whatever she was eating (or, as was common, she would request a different kind of cheese in its place).

                As a person with an allergy that causes at least an ER visit, it infuriated me.

      2. ProductiveDyslexic

        Could be a lipid transfer protein allergy. But as you say this is weirldy specific — I know someone with an LTP allergy and there a lot of fruits she can’t eat. No tomatoes, peppers, chillies, peaches etc.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yeah, I have a ragweed allergy and it has a protein in common with cantaloupe, so I get a little itchy when I eat the latter.

          1. Natalie

            Oh, interesting – a friend of mine is allergic to both also, but I don’t think she knew they had a protein in common.

      3. Mister Pickle

        There really are some weird allergies out there. My daughter is allergic to chicken. Which is an unbelievable pain in the tookus to deal with – do you have any idea how much food uses chicken stock in it? The only upside is her reaction is something like an outbreak of eczema (versus anaphylactic shock that could kill her).

        1. GrumpyBoss

          I’m not denying that there is an allergy to jalapeños. I am pointing out that there is nothing in a jalapeño that could cause an allergy doesn’t exist in other foods. So by that logic, if you were allergic to a jalapeño, you should also be allergic to cayenne or habaneros or Tobacco.

          1. Elysian

            My thought is that maybe the allergen is in other foods, but jalepenos are the only food that causes airborne problems? Like maybe if someone microwaved something with jalepenos, the allergic person wouldn’t be able to use the microwave, or if you cut jalepenos on the counter if could contaminate, etc, whereas other peppers aren’t as much of a problem?

          2. Colette

            I find that odd, too – I don’t eat peppers (bell peppers, jalapenos) because I react to them. It’s an intolerance, not an allergy, so I’m not going to die from it, but I don’t eat any of them by default, even though I’m pretty sure that some of them are OK.

            Having said that, though, it’s up to the person with the allergy and her doctors to figure out what her best approach is.

          3. L mc

            We don’t know if the op is accurately reporting the full scope of the ban. For all we know, it could be all hot peppers and it just happens that they only eat jalapenos so that was their takeaway from it.

          4. CAA

            I’m no expert, but I do have a mild allergy to peppers, and it is to all peppers, not just jalapenos. I wonder if people are using jalapeno as a shorthand to refer to all peppers.

            Raw hot peppers are the worst for me. Just cutting them open while I’m in the same room will cause tearing and congestion and throwing them into hot food is worse because of the steam. Once they’ve cooked down, it’s just an unpleasant smell and taste, with no further physical reaction.

            1. CAA

              Oh, and I’m not allergic to cayenne (the dried spice). My problem seems to be with one of the more volatile compounds.

          5. The Cosmic Avenger

            I would think the person with a dangerously strong allergy would be the person who would be the most interested in knowing what they can and cannot tolerate, so I would say we need to trust their information until we know for certain otherwise. Can you provide a citation for the exact match in trace elements between jalapenos and other peppers? It may not be capsaicin to which the person reacts.

            1. GrumpyBoss

              Nope not interested in getting into a citation war here. I wasn’t trying to be pedantic or question an allergy. I am merely interested – why a subset and not everything.

              I’m on the record as stating the person with the allergy knows what’s up and the OP needs to such it up and move on. Not every single clarifying question needs to be taken as disagreeing that a problem exists.

          6. Relosa

            My brother has some weird sensitivity only to bell peppers. No other pepper or food – just bell peppers.

            1. Natalie

              I seem to recall that there are a couple of flavor compounds that are unique (or damn close) to bell peppers. Could be one of those.

          7. Anonsie

            I mentioned this already below, but I’ll say it again. The relationship between these proteins and the allergies they cause isn’t well known and it’s the subject of a lot of research right now, because you bet your buns the NIAID would love someone to come up with an answer.

            Basically, we know of large sets of food items that contain similar proteins, but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to all if you’re allergic to one… And you would be surprised what unique proteins are found in individual types of plants.

            Past that, you only know what your issues are after you experience them in a way that makes it easy to connect the dots. My mom’s home remedy for stomach trouble was bananas when I was a kid, so I was already sick most of the time when I ate bananas. When I got really sick afterwards, it made more sense to assume it was the original illness than the bananas.

          8. Observer

            Actually, you don’t know that – it could be the capsacin, or it could be something else.

            Also, it’s possible that only jalapenos are being banned, because the other stuff is less likely to wind up being airborne and / or to cross contaminate.

        2. Stephanie

          I’m allergic to chocolate. And I developed that allergy in my late teens. Random, but allergies like that do happen!

      4. jhhj

        I am allergic to exactly one thing: kiwi. It is weirdly specific, and I am — luckily — not allergic to the other things that often occur with it, like bananas and avocado. But it’s easy to avoid, as long as I remember to mention it at brunch places.

      5. Anonsie

        Ooh ooh I love getting to talk about this– so the majority of food-related allergies actually involve fruits. It’s specific proteins that cause them, and there are a lot of cross-allergies between different things (seasonal or food or whathaveyou) you wouldn’t expect to be related. It’s poorly understood and there aren’t very good figures on the number of people or most common patterns or anything.

        So for example, I’m allergic to latex, which is related to proteins that occur in natural rubber. I have trouble with a number of fruits that have similar proteins, but the symptoms are different. Avocado gives typical itching and shortness of breath, but tomato and banana make me sick to my stomach. Similarly, I have mild birch and ragweed pollen allergies, which they have observed to be connected but it’s not clear why. I have no issues at all with a lot of other things that are strongly associated with these allergies, however (like apple and mango). This is a really typical presentation, but it’s not the conventional allergy wisdom so good luck getting people to believe you.

        1. HM in Atlanta

          I’m glad you commented on the weirdness in the patterns. My major allergies are to mango and pistachio (ER visit when I ingest), but no reaction to cashew (same family as pistachio and mango). I also have a sensitivity to kiwi (itchy lips and red blotches), but nothing else in that family. Separately – no reaction to ragweed at all. When the allergist does the allergy testing on my back, it’s the only non-food allergen that gets no response. Everything else flares.

    2. Mister Pickle

      .

      I’ve long felt that there might be a really good SF short story about a near future world where some virus has killed off all of the hot peppers. There’d likely be an initial round of suicides as the last few remaining bottle of Tabasco are auctioned off for astronomical sums. And after that, the human race would exist within this continuous low-level fog of flattened affect, with a lifetime’s worth of bland meals ahead of them. It would be easier for the children, as they would grow up without the memories.

      1. Cat

        If I remember correctly that’s part of the set up for The Windup Girl
        by Paolo Bacigalupi. Horrid to contemplate.

        1. Mister Pickle

          Is it? I like Bacigalupi a lot (“The Fluted Girl” is an awesome short story) and I even have that book – I’ll have to move it up higher on the stack.

      2. Persephone Mulberry

        Have we already forgotten the panic of the Great Siracha Almost Shortage of Twothousand and Something-Teen?

        1. Monodon monoceros

          I was going to make a similar comment in relation to Norwegians, but you beat me (and Minnesotans almost = Norwegians)

        2. Relosa

          I’m a Minnesotan that thrives on cayenne, habaneros, and adobo.

          Sigh. I’d be dead in a heartbeat.

      3. LBK

        I’m definitely having nightmares about this tonight. Why would you even posit such a horrible situation!?

        1. Mister Pickle

          Sorry. If it helps at all, I’d be one of the first to go. I’m one of those weirdos who grows Ghost peppers in the backyard along with several other varieties, and my refrigerator is filled with strange hot sauces. If that stuff all went away – life would literally not be worth living anymore.

          (Have you ever eaten a tabasco pepper fresh off the plant? They’re quite a bit more intense than the sauce).

    3. Kate

      Am I the only person on here who doesn’t like food that hurts?? Jalapeños, serranos and the like for me just make the eating experience painful and blot out all the other subtler flavors. Take me back to Appalachia.

      1. Kelly L.

        For those of us who like hot food, there’s a “sweet spot” where it’s more pleasurable than painful. And it’s not in the same place for everybody. I’m actually kind of a wuss compared to some folks I know–if i go somewhere where they have a 1-10 scale of spiciness with 10 being the hottest, I default to about a 4.

        1. MrO

          I can tolerate a ton of heat, but my issue with most super hot hot sauces is that they sacrifice flavor for a higher Scovile rating.

          Really my favorite is the building heat you get from something like a good green curry ordered “Thai Spicy” …MMM, think I know what I am having for dinner tonight.

          1. Mister Pickle

            This. I like the heat, but it’s heat + a really good flavor that makes for a good sauce. Too many sauce-makers focus on the heat and never mention flavor (probably because the sauce doesn’t have any.

            Disclaimer: I have a bottle of something called “Pure Cap” which claims to be pure capsaicin – it’s a little bottle with an eyedropper lid, inside of a ‘containment’ bottle – that isn’t much on flavor, but I’ll pull it out now and again whenever I get a wild hair. My dog has developed a habit of sitting by my side at meals, hoping and waiting for nibbles, but when I pull this stuff out, he goes in the other room.

        2. Kate

          Maybe it’s just me. Even when I’m eating something that’s slightly spicy and not necessarily painful, I experience it as an annoying distraction that hampers my enjoyment of the dish. I realize I’m being kind of curmudgeonly here, and off-topic.

        3. Gene

          My line is where my scalp is sweating, but I don’t have hiccups. But yeah, heat without good flavor is useless and just plain masochistic.

    4. QK

      Why is everyone saying “oh, poor, suffering office that can’t eat jalapenos at lunch”? What about the person with the life-threatening allergy? (They can’t eat jalapenos either…)

  6. Graciosa

    Regarding the reference question in #1, I definitely agree that the OP should get back to the other manager as soon as possible, keeping in mind that the most useful references are balanced ones that speak to the employee’s strengths and weaknesses.

    “Marigold is a joy to have in the office and excels at arranging our team building events. She also put together a couple events at our annual sales conference that had everyone raving. But she struggles with the routine administrative work that forms the majority of her role here, and this has affected her performance. However not all positions require the combination of attention to detail and repetitive tasks necessary for our team, so Marigold may be a good fit for you if this is not a requirement of the position.”

    This is a tactful way to make it clear that Marigold has no interest in any part of the job beyond party planning – but it may not discourage someone trying to hire a people-pleasing account rep for event planning (with administrative support provided!). Most people have some jobs that would allow them to excel – it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

    This may help the OP realize that providing an honest reference does not mean Marigold will never find another job, but the OP needs to provide one even if it does. Failing to breaches the trust among managers, and will destroy the OP’s reputation very quickly. This is the result of not only the obvious integrity issue, but also the clear failure to take responsibility for managing difficult employees – which is an essential part of the job of being a manager.

    1. Lillie Lane

      While I’m with you on being tactful, fair, and giving the employee the benefit of the doubt (Alison’s advice accomplishes this), if I were the hiring manager, I’d rather that the colleague/referring manager tell me straight-up about any potential problems, rather than sugar coating them.

      1. Monodon monoceros

        This should be true in any case, but then especially since it’s within the same company.

      2. Artemesia

        Absolutely agree. Of course the hiring manager needs to ask the right questions but it is important to be a straight shooter here. I still bless the colleague who gave me a clear idea on a potential candidate we had; it would have been a real problem if we had hired him because the thing he did badly was precisely the thing we needed done well. It had political repercussions as well as productivity ones.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      +1

      While the description of the employee in the post doesn’t sound like someone who would do well even when moved, I’ve seen plenty of internal moves that have been successful. Someone struggling in Job A can do very well in Job B, especially if it is under a different manager.

      The key is to provide the other manager with a honest, emotion free, analysis of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. There should be plenty of strengths to share because, seriously, if you can’t come up with enough positives to share without exaggerating or lying, why is the employee still working for the company?

      My POV: you have a responsibility to the company that issues your paycheck to not waste the company resources. If you waste an employee who might have done well elsewhere because you can’t give emotion free neutral reference, you’ve wasted a company resource. If you don’t manage an employee as effectively as you are capable of, same. AND, if you don’t term an employee you should have, once again, waste.

      1. Marcy

        I agree. I have an employee that was transferred to me. She had just been written up in her department and had not gotten along with her manager. I didn’t want her and assumed I’d have the same problems with her. She has surprised me by turning out to be one of the best employees I’ve worked with.

          1. AndersonDarling

            I didn’t want to read too deeply into the OP’s letter, but I’m wondering if this is really an issue of the manager and the employee not working well together.
            I got the feeling that the employee is unhappy with her current role and is looking for something else. In the meantime, the current job is a downer and is affecting her health. It sounds like there is not open communication between employee and manager, so the employee is making a change that is good for her. (If the manager has been seeing a slip, why hasn’t she said something?)
            It would be terrible to black ball the employee because things have recently gone downhill and the employee is trying the remedy the situation by moving on. As suggested, talk to the employee, see what has been going on with her, then use that in the reference. “Jenny has been a great employee, but she indicated this role wasn’t the best fit because of x and y. She has a lot of potential and has been a hard worker until these issues came up. She is an asset to the company, and I want to try and find the right fit for her so we don’t loose her.”
            Oh, and if the employee is suddenly calling in sick a lot, she may be going on interviews.

            1. AndersonDarling

              And really…why wasn’t there a discussion when the manager found out the employee requested a transfer? It would be bizarre if I put in for a transfer and my boss said nothing to me about it. I’d expect a discussion about my career path, or be asked if something was wrong with my current role.

              1. Biff

                I, too, got a weird vibe off the first letter. It just struck me as funny because the boss doesn’t mention WHY the employee is unhappy, or having met with the employee about issues. The fact that the letter writer is also avoiding phone calls makes me question the level of professionalism in the office as well.

                It’s letter’s like this that are helping me define some of the interview questions I want to ask in future times. One of which is going to be ‘how do you/your company handle employees that have been brought in or promoted to a role that doesn’t fit?’

              2. Biff

                Sorry, have more to say, that might be more constructive to LW #1, if they check in.

                It’s pretty obvious that there are some communication issues in the company. I think that the boss should find out:

                * How ill the employee is. It’s possible that the employee needs a leave of absence of FMLA, not a different position.
                * WHY the employee is unhappy. Is it the job (not enough room to grow, too much on plate) or the environment (the employee is old school and doesn’t like a more casual environment, or maybe the employee is a twenty-something in a sea of people skating to retirement?)
                *What the new job entails. If current job is Teapot QA, and the next job is Teapot Sourcing Logistics, it might be that poor performance as QA is not indicative of future performance at all. That said, I realize that the manager is still required to indicate that she was not happy with the employee. But if she’s had some conversations with the employee, she may be able to couch it as “Teapot QA” was a bad fit for Fred instead of Fred is a Loser.

                I also think that the boss needs to develop her own processes and procedures for dealing with bad fits before it gets to this. It sounds to me like maybe those standards aren’t in place where she works. It’s important to have an idea of how an employee should fit in, and how long that should take AND what to do when it doesn’t, even if it is JUST procedure for your tiny part of the woods.

          2. Bea W

            BTDT. My former Big Boss hated me and was just awful in general, and the environment was so toxic it was making me physically ill. My current boss would probably like superglue me to my chair for the rest of my natural life.

      2. LBK

        I agree with this. After we finally caved in and let one of my worst employees transfer, he thrived in the new position – he clearly just didn’t want to work with customers anymore, so getting him off the sales floor and into the warehouse created a huge shift in his attitude.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          That’s pretty much a perfect example, people skilled in/happy with customer facing and not. You’ll often get two different employees when you move someone into the side that is right for them.

          1. LBK

            Yep. It was particularly difficult in this case because he HAD been happy doing customer-facing stuff for years, but I guess it just wore him down too much to where he wasn’t interested in it anymore.

            We were very much a “don’t dump your problem people on another manager” store, though, so we were EXTREMELY hesitant to transfer him. Especially because granting a problem employee what they’re asking for seems like rewarding someone for underperforming. But it did ultimately work out better for everyone involved.

          2. Jennifer

            Yeah, I used to be a great employee here until I got moved into customer service. Now my name is pretty much mud. Unfortunately, they won’t switch me back.

        2. CPE

          I am an employee who is extremely unhappy with my current position and looking for a different job within the company and giving interviews (and also has an offer). I might be coming across as grumpy to my manager and I have called in sick a couple of days in a month.
          What I write may look like whining, but I am not a whiny person. I was one of the high performing people is my previous teams. I have an offer already to move out and I am waiting for more interview results before accepting the offer. I have come to know from my previous managers that they have been contacted and they have given very good feedback (of course they will, because I was one of the people whom they want to hire back any time and I left those jobs in good terms). My previous performance reviews indicate the same. So, I will be at my new job in less than 4 weeks from now.
          From my perspective, the manager I am working for is the worst manager ever and that is the primary reason for my sad state. The unrelenting politics of the team members, a wimpy manager who wants to turn a blind eye to the problems in his team has definitely made me my life very difficult. I would suggest him to introspect and ask himself if he is being a good manager.
          The least he could do is to give a neutral feedback so that the employee can move on where he/she can be happy and perform well.

          1. CPE

            I must add, I started in this team last year. I gave it six months to see if things can get better and if I can find some common ground. The only reason I continued for next 6 months just to avoid the question why I am leaving the job so soon an my company doesn’t allow transfers if a person is working in the team for less than a year.

  7. Apollo Warbucks

    #2 it might be worth talking to the hiring manager to see what they think about the candidates, and word the email carefully so it’s clear its a suggestion to apply rather than anything approaching a job offer or recommendation

  8. Apollo Warbucks

    #5

    I didn’t know it was possible to be allergic to jalapeños, but that seem like a pretty good reason not to have them in the office. That said maybe you can sneak some on when your allergic coworker is out of the office for the day.

    1. Jessa

      Sneak some in? And make absolutely sure you don’t leave any residue where they can get to it? No, that’s dangerous. There’s no reason to have something that someone is allergic to in their space. Nobody has to eat any specific thing unless they have a medical condition that requires x thing. In that case if the fellow employee is allergic you work out specific precautions about handling x. To INCLUDE telling the allergic employee that you are sorry that your medically specific diet includes item x as a thing you need to eat DURING work hours (and not something you can switch to another meal before or after work.) Where you keep it and how you are making sure that you don’t carry item x residue into areas that employee works in. That’s when a double accommodation comes in. You maybe get to eat at your desk in your office (which others may not get to do,) because you can’t eat in the common break room in case you forget to clean up and Sam ends up in hospital. Sam’s accommodation is no x in communal spaces, yours is you can eat x privately where Sam does not go and Sam is made aware that your space is not an x free zone.

      1. Case of the Mondays

        I watched my coworker almost die after his colleagues ate shrimp cocktail in the business on a day he wasn’t there. They used a touch screen that he used the next day. His epi pen was at home that day by accident of all days. Luckily, we had a nurse in the building who used two epi pens that were prescribed to other people to keep him alive until he could get to the hospital – where he stayed for three days. Don’t mess around with this.

    2. Zillah

      Please don’t do this. If they’re banning jalapeños from the office, there’s a reason for it – most allergies do not lead to such an extreme reaction. If your coworker were to unexpectedly stop in, or if you were to touch something that they touched the next day, there could be serious health repercussions. And for what?

      Yeah, it sucks. But I promise that having such a severe allergy is a lot worse for them than it is for you. Just adjust to not having them at work while the coworker is still there.

    3. Helka

      Nooooonononono don’t do this. Really don’t do this.

      Allergens spread very easily from place to place. If the thing in question is completely banned from the workplace, there is a very good reason for this, and please please please do not try to get around it.

    4. Liane

      Agreed. Bad idea. Especially with something like jalapeños, where not only is the essence volatile, but the residue can remain on hands & other surfaces unless they are carefully & thoroughly washed. Just about any recipe that uses jalapeños has warnings about washing up good and not touching your face, eyes, etc. during/after preparing them.

        1. Natalie

          I only recently got contacts, and I do not always remember to plan ahead when cooking with hot peppers. Sigh. I might bite the bullet and get some disposable gloves.

            1. Natalie

              Somehow I never have product bags handy. I tried to use sandwich bags but it’s really hard to actually manipulate things with sandwich bags on your hands…

        2. Case of the Mondays

          And if your SO cut hot peppers, no matter how many times they washed their hands, you might want to skp the bedroom activity that night. Ask me how I know. :(

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

            Same goes for horseradish, in case you’re thinking of a romantic, oyster-filled Valentine’s Day.

          1. jhhj

            Actually I got this advice from a friend who uses a Diva Cup or equivalent, which is just that much worse if you have jalapeno on your hands. I have been very, very careful since I heard the story.

    5. Apollo Warbucks

      My thinking was if there where jalapeños in a sandwich or a wrap brought from the deli that was eaten straightaway when the co-worker was not there, I can’t see how it would contaminate anything. I’d certainly not bring them in and have them in the office at the same time as the allergic person.

      A better option would be to ask if it’s possible to bring jalapeños in when the allergic co-worker isn’t around and that way a more informed decision could be made.

      1. neverjaunty

        Yes, the best option is to ask, not to assume. It may be that wiping down the break room table when you’re done is fine, or that the co-worker is OK as long as they’re not right next to him.

        It may be also that the co-worker’s allergies are so severe that you’ll come into work the next day and hear “Oh man, did you see that ambulance rushing Wakeen to the hospital? He touched the break room table and then he swelled up like a balloon and couldn’t breathe.”

    6. Apollo Warbucks

      My thinking was that if you brought a sandwich or wrap from the deil and eat it at your desk its unlikely that it will do any harm. I’d not have jalapeños in the communal kitchen or use any communal items to prepare them, nor would I have them in the office at the same time as the person with the allergy.

      A better idea would be to get permission first, and if the allergy was that bad that even the slightest risk of cross contamination couldn’t be taken then so be it, but I think it would be possible.

      1. Zillah

        I’m probably overreacting to this because I have a very serious allergy to something where even slight residue can make me very, very sick, but: It’s great that you think that it would be possible, but that statement is really rubbing me the wrong way.

        If they’ve actually banned jalapeños in the office, the coworker probably has a very severe allergy, and what you’re talking about is playing with fire. I don’t think that you realize it, but it absolutely is. The coworker not being in the office doesn’t necessarily help, because they could unexpectedly show up, and they may even have a reaction the next day because of something you touched.

        And, fine – maybe you’re super super careful, and nothing happens. But what you’re talking about requires that your employer be absolutely, 100% confident that no one will ever make a mistake or get sloppy. That means that you have to scrub everything the sandwich touches – because there may well be residue on everything in it. It means that after you eat, you scrub your hands very, very thoroughly without touching a doorknob or a faucet, and then wash the sink, because the residue might be in there. It means that you have to be positive that the trash will be taken out, off-site, before your coworker returns, and that whoever does will also be super, super careful. (Which means that they definitely won’t touch anything that may have even sort of touched the jalapeño or bring your trash through the rest of the office.)

        It also requires your employer be 100% confident that everyone will perfectly understand what can trigger allergic reactions, so no one assumes that something harmful is okay – and a lot of people don’t. And if just one person screws up, your coworker could land in the hospital (or worse).

        Most allergies are not that serious. If they’re banning jalapeños from the building, though, it sounds like this one is one of the more serious ones, and I just don’t understand challenging that rather than just saying, “Okay, I can’t eat jalepeños this one meal a day. That sucks, but better safe than sorry. Oh well.”

        It’s really, really awful to have an allergy serious enough that the smell or residue will cause a very extreme and violent reaction. If that’s where your coworker is, just leave it be and don’t add that to her plate.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          It’s become farily obvious I don’t know much about allergies, so its been good to hear from people that are affected by allergies and the comments above have given me some useful perspective

          I’m my defence I did start by saying that someone having an allergy was a good reason not to have jalapeños in the office, and after some of the risks were explained, modify my suggestion to include asking permission to make sure it was safe to bring them in at all in the absence of the coworker.

          I wasn’t trying to be an ass, but I seem to have misjudged in trying to to find a happy compromise.

          1. Zillah

            Totally fair. A lot of people don’t, which is part of the problem. I’m sorry if I was a little overzealous – I’ve developed a really serious allergy and asthma recently that combined made it necessary for me to quit one of my jobs and really disrupted my life in general. I had an allergic reaction a few weeks ago because I had a window open. This is a little bit of a hot button issue for me, and again, I’m sorry if I’m a little overbearing on it.

        2. Gene

          I’m starting eh Christmas fruitcake baking this weekend so they have plenty of time to absorb brandy, and asked the intended recipients if there were any food allergies to be aware of. I got one allergic to nuts and asked if it was “sanitize the kitchen” allergic or just “no nuts in that one” allergic. It’s the latter, so no worries; that batch will be nut-free.

          Another responded that peppers will kill her, so all prep for that batch will take place in stuff fresh from the dishwasher (except knives which will get a hot soap and water hand wash) with ingredients from sealed containers. And hers will be aged in its own container – peppers are a staple in my kitchen.

  9. AGirlCalledFriday

    #4, if the purpose of gaining another bachelors or masters is to switch careers, I’m unsure how relevant Alison’s advice is in general. In my experience, people want direct experience or direct education for jobs, and employers are very picky. If for example, I’m in education and want to switch to HR, it’s literally impossible for me to find a job that would teach me certain aspects of HR, as I’m pigeon-holed into solely educational jobs…which are extremely few and far between. As for starting somewhere and working my way into that position, the other day many people chimed in and stated that times are a’ changin and it can be difficult to move into different positions within even the same company.

    I personally cannot afford to go back to school because of my student loans, and for every entry level position there are many applicants with direct educational or work experience. How does one gain experience to alter their career? The only thing I can come up with is volunteering somewhere and hope I am able to eventually learn something applicable, but I don’t have the luxury of not needing a salary.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But you’re describing a scenario where additional education might make sense (although still not a second bachelors — possibly sitting for the PHR or something along those lines). That’s exactly the point: to figure out what the path you want to take requires — but not just to automatically default to more education being the answer, because so often when people do that, it’s not.

    2. Dan

      “How does one gain experience to alter their career?”

      Sometimes another degree (I did it) and sometimes a bridge job. My current job isn’t really a bridge job, it can be a career if I want it. But if I don’t, I’m picking up so many skills that are useful to a variety of employers, inside and outside of the “trade” that I work in.

      You either go back to school, or find a place that’s willing to teach you stuff you don’t know in exchange for the skills you do have. Then you take your new skills somewhere else.

    3. E.R

      For many career switches, post-graduate certificates are also a good option. They are more affordable, offered at many colleges and universities, and can sometimes be taken in the evenings. For careers like human resources, public relations, lots of business disciplines, etc I’ve seen people have lots of success making a career transition this way

      1. Anx

        Have you ever witnessed this working out? I’ve seen Alison mention that certificates are rarely valuable to an employer.

        (I have one that didn’t work out, but I still really learned a lot. It was The Professional Certificate for my field so I think that certificate would be fine if the field was actually hiring people without any experience).

      2. ASDFGHJKL;'

        Have you ever witnessed this working out? I’ve seen Alison mention that certificates are rarely valuable to an employer.

        (I have one that didn’t work out, but I still really learned a lot. It was The Professional Certificate for my field so I think that certificate would be fine if the field was actually hiring people without any experience).

  10. MBA

    #4 If you are considering this for a career change, a masters degree could be great – you can often get a masters in something that you did not get your undergraduate in.

    Now for my personal experience: I’m currently in school for my MBA and WOW…. you learn SO MUCH more in a masters degree program than in undergrad. My undergrad was in a parallel field to engineering (so definitely not an easy major) and I can say right now that I’ve learned more in a few weeks then I learned over a couple of years in undergrad. As a manager, I would give a lot more stock to someone with a bachelors and a masters than two bachelors even though a bachelors takes more time.

    1. Lillie Lane

      Interesting. What do you attribute the difference to? More challenging coursework? Knowledge in a new area? More interest in/dedication to the subject matter? More relevant to your career? Something else?

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        My experience is similar to MBA’s. I attributed it to being an adult learner with 10+ years of work experience. I approached the coursework differently as a 35 year old professional than I did as an 20 year old. I had real life examples to relate the course to and I was in school for a different, specific reason.

      2. gingersnap

        Lillie Lane, this is a great question. I know I learned more in graduate school than undergrad, but I haven’t really thought about why.
        I have an MPH in health education, and a BS in biology- I learned so much more in my 18-month masters program than in 4 years of undergrad. I think part of the reason was the diverse perspectives my classmates brought to the table- I learned a lot more from my graduate school colleagues than my undergrad colleagues. My MPH program was much more applied than my BS, and there was less hand holding (e.g. when we had to create a program plan or design a survey, there wasn’t a handout telling us exactly what to do). Also, while I was doing my MPH, I had a wide variety of assistantships in teaching, research, and evaluation where I had to use the knowledge + skills from my classes on real world problems.

    2. Marcy

      Interesting. I found that I learned much much less in the MBA program. I already had a degree in Finance when I started and they had pretty much the exact same courses in the MBA program but they were made easier because many people come from non-business majors and wouldn’t be able to handle an advanced class in the subject matter. I ended up asking to take my electives outside of the program in order to learn at least something useful.

      1. Julia

        I got my BS in Business and then went for an MBA. I found my MBA courses easier, they seemed to skim the surface whereas my undergrad courses went into things in depth. Grad courses were usually a semester whereas some undergrad courses were two semesters. People with degrees other than business had to take lots of pre-Reqs, without credit. ( about six or seven courses) . Those with working experience got more out of the program and brought more to class discussions, etc. The most valuable part of the experience was the group projects and presentations.

        1. the gold digger

          Oh yes! Grad school – also for business – was so easy compared to college! I was an English major in college (started as an engineer) and wrote three to four 10-12 page papers per class each semester.

          Grad school was nothing but midterms and finals and they were almost all objective tests. It was super easy to study for and conceptually quite easy, as well. Definitely easier than any of the engineering classes I took my freshman and sophomore years – accounting requires memorization but it does not require the understanding that calculus and physics require.

          (And this is part of the reason I roll my eyes when people append “MBA” to an email signature. It’s a pretty easy professional degree compared to law or medicine.)

          1. Artemesia

            I think this is why the MBA has lost cachet. It is demanding and still a useful credential from the top programs, but there are plenty of rinky dink programs that churn out thinly prepared graduates. A Harvard MBA will still open doors; I’m not sure the one from Local State does.

            1. Anon MBA

              The biggest factor, IMO, is the campus recruiting. I have an MBA from a top 15 program, and had multiple job offers. The companies came to us and there were a lot of opportunities in the field I was switching to. These companies never would have looked at me if I weren’t in that program or one of similar prestige. It’s possible I could have switched fields with a Local State MBA, but I think it would have been much less likely and at the very least I wouldn’t be working for a Fortune 100 company.

      2. AnonAnalyst

        I think this is true. I have a liberal arts BA and went for my MBA after working for about 7 years. I had double majored in my undergrad institution, so since I was completing coursework for two majors, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to take classes in some of the more business-focused subjects. So, for me, while I had learned about many of the subjects in my working life, the approach to a lot of them was new and I had more to learn than, say, my classmates that had been working in finance.

        The nice thing about my MBA program was that they offered opportunities to test out of the core curriculum so that if you had had the relevant courses in your undergrad work, or had come from a career that would have given you the required knowledge, you could test out and take some other classes that would give you some new skills. EXCEPT for the one class that I really had enough knowledge of to test out of, which of course was required with no exceptions (not that I’m still annoyed by that, or anything…)

        I would also say that I think ExceptionToTheRule is onto something – there’s something to be said for going back to school after having some work experience. While I was in my MBA program I was able to take graduate level classes in some other programs in my school, and the discussions in the courses I took with students that had gone directly from college to grad school were totally different than those in the MBA program. For me at least, it was a lot more valuable to have some work experience going into the program because it gives you more real-world experience to relate the concepts to, and to draw on in class discussions which I feel like made the content more relate-able and ultimately more useful since I got to hear about other people’s experiences and challenges.

    3. anonyq

      I got an MA in international relations a couple years after a BA in East Asian studies. Didn’t seem very different to me. Both from very similar, world-renowned universities.

      I got a second masters degree some years later – a professional degree in another field. Very different school – smaller. I wouldn’t say I learned more, but I learned more work-related stuff than the previous two degrees, which were more academic.

      “As a manager, I would give a lot more stock to someone with a bachelors and a masters than two bachelors even though a bachelors takes more time.” I don’t think it’s wise to make generalizations based on (at least how you’ve described it) a single experience.

      1. KayDay

        My experience was that my Masters classes ranged from very similar to a bit more challenging when compared to my last 2 semesters as an undergrad (at which point, some of the classes I took were actual grad courses), but far more advanced than my lower-level (100 and 200 level) courses. Also, the students in grad-level classes were overall more engaged, do to the greater level of specialization.

    4. KayDay

      This. In many (but not all) cases, getting a masters in a different field is possible and more useful. Masters degrees are more focused, and if you are changing careers it makes sense that you would want a more focused education. Freshman and intro-level classes will likely be very boring and unchallenging for someone who already has their undergrad degree. Of course, getting into a master’s program with an irrelevant degree might be more difficult, but a really good statement of interest can go a long way there. Also, if you need a few pre-requisites, you can sometimes take these as a non-degree student. (However, this might not work for an IR to biologist transition, or to a field that has a certification process.)

      One exception that I know of (from my quarter-plus-3/50ths-life crisis) is Nursing and there are a number of accelerated bachelors programs that take 1.5-2 years and are intended for people who already have a BA/BS in a different field. (and once you do the BSN, you can get a masters degree and so-on).

    5. BRR

      I found I learned more in my graduate programs and they were easier. I went to much lower ranked schools for my masters but I think because you are focused on a topic of interest (or I would hope you are pursuing a masters in a topic of interest) it’s easier. I didn’t have to take any STEM courses in grad school.

      1. OhNo

        This has been my experience as well. My master’s courses are easier than many of my undergrad ones were, but I’m also getting a lot more out of the experience because I’m more devoted to the subject.

        I think it’s all about how you approach it. If you approach a bachelor’s course load with the same focus and interest you would approach graduate level classes, I expect you would get just as much out of it. The difference is that most people don’t seem to take their undergraduate courses as seriously because it’s “just” a bachelor’s degree.

        1. dawnofthenerds

          Heh. Definitely not my experience. But then, I went from a BA in History (tons of reading, tons of long detailed essays, challenging but not too hard) to an MA in Egyptology (tons of reading in English, French, and German, some of it really archaic, learning two dialects of a language with almost nothing in common with modern ones (no written vowels, no spaces between words or punctuation, no standardized spelling, radically different grammar, over 700 different signs instead of an alphabet, and almost all the texts and dictionaries are handwritten, so you have to be able to get used to all the different styles of writing the signs on top of everything.)) It wasn’t the coursework so much as the language requirements that made it incredibly difficult.

    6. TotesMaGoats

      I think this is really going to vary from person to person. My undergrad and grad degrees are in counseling. I say often that my MS was a cakewalk. It really was. The hardest part was the comprehensive exam. Content I’d already learned in ugrad.

    7. Mike C.

      I’ll bet that sort of experience has a great deal to do with the school you attended before and the one you’re attending now. I know a lot of undergrad programs that are absolutely insane, and lots of places where the MBA program is a complete joke.

    8. summercamper

      You hit the nail on the head! I study and work at a seminary – it’s definitely different from getting an MBA, but this place is full of career-changers. In fact, roughly half of the students here got an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field from a secular school. While many of the students grew up attending church (and are therefore familiar, at least on a basic level, with many of the Bible/Theology concepts taught), a significant minority are recent (within 5 years) converts who have a lot of ground to cover.

      While the pastorate or other Christian vocations are certainly a unique field, in this case it would be absolutely appropriate to go from a BA to an MA or M.Div instead of getting a second BA in religion.

      It is very typical for students here to take a few years to work secular jobs between college and seminary, paying down their student debt and firming up their sense of calling to the ministry. Because of this, the majority of the students are highly motivated, and classes progress far more quickly than they did in undergraduate. For example – I went to a religious college and studied New Testament Greek in my undergrad. Getting through the pretty standard introductory textbook took one year and 10 credits. In seminary, that same standard introductory textbook is covered in 4 months and 5 credits.

  11. Kiwi

    #4 Down my way, it’s extremely common for uni candidates to combine two degrees – often in a “conjoint” structure which cuts down study time. Bachelors of Arts is most commonly combined with virtually any other degree, from law, to commerce to medicine.

    The answer is that it would depend on the field of study and the seniority and geographical location you wish to end up working in. Masters is unnecessary for success in some professions and countries, whereas some consider it almost essential for advancement.

    1. Megan

      Yep, same in Australia. One sister of mine has a Bachelor of Law/Bachelor is Science & the other sister has a Bachelor of International Business/Bachelor of Commerce. My friend is doing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Social Work. It’s very common in Australia. I have one Bachelor however I’ve done a two diplomas & a handful of certificates as well, and am starting Masters next year.

    2. Fucshia

      That sounds like the common practice in the US of getting a double major. Often, it can be just a few courses that differ between majors, so you can still graduate in 4 years. But going back later to get the second major is much more rare.

      1. TotesMaGoats

        A double major is pretty common at most institutions in the US. Most also offer a 2nd bachelor’s but it’s not as popular, which is sad. It’s a great path for some students.

        1. MT

          Where I went to school i was not allowed to use credits from one program to get a second degree. I have an engineering degree, but also all the required courses to get a degree in statistics.

        2. Judy

          There was a program for a 5 year degree at my university in the 80s, that was a BS in Engineering and a BA in (French, Spanish, Japanese, German, etc). There was also a similar agreement in the Business school. One of my cousins did a (dual degree or dual major) in Business and German.

  12. Billy

    #1. Should be interesting to read the outcome and update from OP.

    #4. This makes me infuriated to say the least. I wanted to get an MBA,but the lack of a career eliminated that idea. Besides, I cannot fathom going deeper into student loan debt.

    #5. I can see Jose Jalapeno protesting outside a corporate office,making everyone laugh over that silly idea of a jalapeno ban.

    1. Joey

      I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but your attempt at jalapeño humor doesn’t come off too well.

      1. BostonBaby

        Not sure if you realize this but Jose Jalapeno is a puppet used by the comedian Jeff Dunham. He and his buddy Peanut are hilarious.

        1. Zillah

          I’m with Joey. Even with your explanation, the characterization of a workplace ban on a substance that an employee is seriously allergic to as “silly” really rubs me the wrong way.

          1. Kelly L.

            And without the context, it sounds like an ethnic stereotype. A quick wiki’ing of the context suggests that it might still be an ethnic stereotype even with the context.

          2. Billy

            I understand you’re offended. However, I generally wouldn’t joke nor offend anyone being hypoallergenic to any substance,especially jalapenos. If someone is allergic,then keep it out of the office in the interest of the employees.

  13. Tea Girl

    If you’re just starting university, you can earn two bachelor degrees at the same time. The overlap of general ed requirements helps. I earned bachelor degrees in a humanities field and in information technology at the same time, and I finished them both in four years. I have a creative role within the software industry, so the dual degrees helped me get started in my career.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      Dual degrees and 2nd bachelor’s are not the same thing. Both are great but they use credits differently. Good for you on taking that path, I’m sure it was hard to do both of those degrees.

      1. A nony cat

        I have a dual degree, although I ended up with it rather accidentally (my intention was to double major; I only found out I was qualified to get a dual degree about 6 weeks before graduation). It is different from a double major basically because I needed quite a few more credits to get the dual degree. However, in practice it really isn’t seen any differently than a double major; I don’t think anyone besides myself, my advisor, and the wall holding up my two diplomas, know or care that I have a dual degree instead of a regular double major.

      2. LBK

        They’re different, but only insofar as you get a dual degree when the two areas of study you go for fall under two different designations, ie one’s a BS and one’s a BFA. That usually entails more work just because you can’t double count as many classes (your advanced painting class probably doesn’t count towards your chemistry major) but conceptually they aren’t that disparate.

  14. nyxalinth

    I love jalapenos. Also, I’ve been saying lately that Grumpy Cat’s favorite hot pepper s are jalapeNOs.

  15. Zillah

    OP 5 – even if it weren’t legal for your employer to do this, do you really want to be the jerk who disregards a coworker’s serious medical need bc it’s a little inconvenient to you?

  16. Bea W

    #1 – I really like Alison’s advice to talk to the employee first to get a sense of what is going on, especially if this employee’s performance has changed / gone down hill. Another thing to keep in mind is that she may be looking to move because she knows her current position is not a good fit and she’s not performing well. She may even be so miserable and stressed out in her current position that it’s making her physically ill and grumpy. (I speak from experience!) She may very well have medical issues or a stressful situation outside of work and looking to transfer to another position that will better accommodate that. If any of these is the case, and you get the sense that she would perform better in the new position, you can craft what you say to the other manager in such a way that is honest but not so terrible it would cost her the transfer. If you talk to her and believe that she would do better in the new position, you can highlight some of her strengths (but do so honestly without having to exagerate or make things up) when talking to the other manager rather than only talking about her weaknesses.

    #2 – There’s nothing wrong with generic wording letting a rejected candidate know they can apply for other positions in the future. Just don’t say you think they’ll be a good fit for a future position, because that does give the impression that something is coming down the road.

    Does you company keep applications on file for a period of time? Many companies will keep these applications in their database for hiring managers to look through as new positions open up. So while they have not formally applied for those positions, the hiring manager still sees their resume and can choose to follow-up. This is how I got my current job. I was not hired for the position I applied and interviewed for, but called back later for another hiring manager looking to fill a newly opened position.

  17. Helka

    #5 – Really? You are so desperate for your jalapeños that you can’t stand to leave them out of one meal out of your day? Even though it could cause your coworker severe harm?

    If an allergen is completely banned from the workplace, there is a good reason for this. That is not SOP for anyone’s minor “oh it gives me hives” allergy. That is SOP for “this thing will send me into anaphylactic shock and very possibly kill me.” By banning jalapeños, your company is actually doing the legal thing — they are accommodating a health issue that could be life-threatening.

    You should maybe rethink your priorities if you feel this is unfair to your heat-loving self.

    1. LBK

      Whoa! That’s a pretty disproportionate response to the question and its answer…no one said anything about it being unfair or not wanting to have to deal with leaving them out of a meal for a day. Where’s this coming from?

      1. OhNo

        Yeah, Helka, your response seems kind of out of left field. The OP just wanted to know if it was legal, there was no mention of wanting to skirt the ban or even any complaining about it at all.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger

        It could even be that the OP is a manager who wants to institute a ban and is getting pushback from employees who claim it violates their rights. We don’t have much information about the situation.

      3. Helka

        That’s very true, and I did overreact. I apologize.

        I’ve been encountering a lot of “well I don’t think your medical condition is all that severe, so why should I have to change my behavior” attitude lately, so I’m primed to read that interpretation into things right now.

        1. Zillah

          Ditto on all counts. I’ve seen a lot of comments/questions like this that are based around “But what about what I want?” and it absolutely infuriates me. Sorry, OP, if I’ve misinterpreted what you’re asking.

    2. Gina

      The thing is, not everyone has the luxury of being able to prepare meals to other people’s specifications. Some people are living hand to mouth and eat based on what’s available. Maybe they go to their mom’s for Sunday dinner and bring the leftovers home to eat that week. They might work a second job and take “rejects” home–this is what I did when I worked at Subway. This could happen to anyone regardless of their salary because they could have an underwater house or medical bills. When you’re talking about very low income people like temps or admins, then there’s a possibility they go to a food bank and you don’t get a choice there either. Food banks are big on bread and peanut butter, with peanuts being a common banned food.

      Someone with nothing better to do could think of a substitute for all of these things, but the point is that there is enough stress in most people’s lives expecially if they’re struggling hard to pay their bills without having to plan what and *if* they can eat around someone else’s allergy. I feel for people with really bad allergies but there’s so much privilege involved with assuming that’s it’s oh so easy to just buy different food.

      1. Zillah

        I don’t think anyone said that it’s oh so easy to just buy different food. But, at the end of the day, if a coworker could die or be hospitalized over a certain food, it’s your responsibility to figure out how not to bring that food into the office, even if it’s really inconvenient or difficult, as with any number of other workplace accommodations for a disability/disease.

        1. Kat M

          Yes, but then that same person also might have serious issues if the only food they can get has allergens or has been around allergens. No one should be forced to starve, either. Some school districts go to ridiculous lengths to enforce nut free spaces (or allergen free spaces) and it DOES have an impact on parents. It’s not a mere inconvenience or difficulty to not be able to eat or access nutritious food. Maybe death isn’t immediate but that doesn’t mean it’s not a severe impact, and poverty isn’t often a temporary condition or one a person can pull themselves out of.

          Of course, for jalapenos, it seems like it would be easier to avoid them than peanuts. But again, you never know. Pure preference is one thing-access is another issue altogether.

          1. Zillah

            Sure. That can definitely be difficult. However:

            1) It’s not “ridiculous” for a school to enforce nut-free spaces if they have students that could suffer serious health issues or death if they eat them. And, if the schools are serving lunch, anyway, then that is an option for some kids.

            2) Nobody is being forced to starve. Even if someone literally couldn’t eat anything at lunch because they didn’t have access to any food that didn’t have nuts (or jalapeños, in this situation), they would still be able to eat during the 16 hours a day they didn’t spend at work/school. It’s not that death isn’t immediate, it’s that death is very unlikely to result from having to abstain from eating nuts or jalapeños for one meal a day at all.

            3) No one is saying that poverty is a temporary condition. However, there’s an enormous difference between saying that people need to make sure that they aren’t bringing something to work that could hospitalize or kill a coworker and saying that poverty is temporary condition. I’m not even sure how you made that jump.

            4) I know that it can be very difficult to find food that is nutritious if you’re struggling to make ends meet. I do. But even within that, building-wide bans on foods are generally pretty limited. It’s not impossible to find affordable food that doesn’t contain nuts, nor is it impossible to find affordable food that doesn’t contain jalapeños – at least not any more impossible than it is to find affordable food in the first place.

            If someone was in a situation where they literally did not have reasonable access to food that didn’t contain nuts/jalapeños, hopefully they could figure something out with the person who has an allergy. However, what exactly is the alternative? Make it impossible for people with severe allergies to come to work/school?

            1. Clerica

              However, what exactly is the alternative? Make it impossible for people with severe allergies to come to work/school?

              Before it became common to ban these things from schools and workplaces, what did these people do? What do they do when they work for a company that won’t write a policy for them, or are anywhere other than home?

              Are you suggesting that someone who’s broke and has nothing in the house but PB and bread (which, like Geri said, is a common “broke” food) not eat for 8 hours straight? Because they have 16 other hours to eat within? Hunger doesn’t work that way. Can they have one for breakfast before they come in if they brush really thoroughly afterward?

              if a coworker could die or be hospitalized over a certain food, it’s your responsibility to figure out how not to bring that food into the office

              It’s actually the allergic person’s responsibility to keep themselves safe. I have enough to do taking care of myself and the people I actually owe something to, thanks.

              1. Zillah

                For people with truly life threatening allergies? They die. It’s really that simple. If peanuts can send you into anaphylactic shock, that’s what happens. You can’t argue someone out of going into anaphylactic shock, and if you don’t treat them when that happens, they can die. Really. If people with these allergies can’t find a place that accommodates them, they often end up being homeschooled or working from home.

                And honestly? If a person literally has nothing to eat but bread and peanut butter, yes. I’m suggesting that they either just eat bread (or bread with jelly/butter, if that’s doable) or eat before and after work. I didn’t argue that not eating for eight hours was good – I was objecting to the characterization of food restrictions in the workplace as causing death and being equivalent to forcing someone to starve.

                I’m not arguing for these restrictions to be applied everywhere – only in places where there is a person who has a medical need. People with allergies do take on the responsibility of keeping themselves safe. However, as with many other medical needs, they do sometimes need some accommodations.

                By your logic, I could say that it’s the responsibility of poor people to feed themselves. I have enough to do without worrying about their problems. And, for that matter, why are my taxes going to Medicaid and food stamps? (For the record, I don’t think that way, and I am in fact on Medicaid.)

                Regardless: I believe it’s the law to accommodate disabilities when it can be done so reasonably.

              2. neverjaunty

                Wow. I wonder what it must be like, to care so little about other people that you’re cool with putting their lives at risk over a peanut butter sandwich.

  18. Anon4This

    What about a second bachelors when you absolutely screwed yours up and it’s unusable? I’ll fess up and admit I had a woeful GPA (1.6) for my first degree due to extended illness which is now under control (I had undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue syndrome because doctors mistook it for tiredness connected to depression) and personal issues (Depression. I should have dropped out instead of sticking at it) but I am actually intelligent and capable and my only real hope of being able to get into graduate school is to start scratch with a Bachelors. I just plan to leave the first off my resume when I’m done. Anyone else been in this situation?

    1. TotesMaGoats

      I see a lot of students do this and for various reasons. The only problem you might have, depending on the school where you received your degree and what school you want to attend, is getting that 1st degree to “count”. A 1.6 would not be considered good standing at most schools, to be honest, you wouldn’t even graduate at the schools I’ve worked at. So, it would be a piecemeal approach to getting a 2nd BS. However, if your diploma says “conferred”, you should go for it.

      1. Anon4This

        They gave me the diploma, the GPA is just so awful I can’t get anyone to look at me because of it. I believe the fact I had what was considered extenuating circumstances was what tipped them over into conferring me the degree, it’s just worthless to me now. I feel really stupid but grad school just isn’t an option because I can’t get in.

        1. fposte

          I’m surprised that that many employers are requiring your GPA. Is that a specific field, and could you look outside of it?

          1. TotesMaGoats

            I’m ditto-ing this as well. I’m surprised that any employer is actually asking for a GPA. I would work on the work experience part of it for a while. Let some time go by. Depending on the program, of course, some schools will overlook a low GPA with a convincing personal statement and work experience in the field.

            1. Felicia

              I’m surprised too – I actually had a really high GPA, but i’ve never had an employer ask what my GPA was or even care. All employers cared about in my field was that I had the degree.

          2. Judy

            Me too. I’ve worked at 4 companies in 20+ years and I’ve never given GPA in the hiring process. Several of them required “proof of degree” during the on-boarding, so I’ve given transcripts or copies of diplomas, but not before hire. As a new grad, I had my GPA, and maybe had my honors listed for the second job, but beyond that, nothing.

          3. cataloger

            It sounds like Anon4This’s concern may be more about getting into grad schools, who will look at your GPA. I had a co-worker who was not accepted to library school because of low undergrad GPA, despite having a great GPA in the other master’s program she’d just finished. Very frustrating!

            1. Mike C.

              Wait, they wouldn’t consider the more recent and presumably more difficult degree’s GPA? I’ve always been advised that getting a higher degree would in a sense “erase” past GPA sins.

            2. Clerica

              That’s so weird…maybe they felt like since she did the other master’s, this was just her fallback after not finding a job? Because then she might turn that corner where you’re suddenly so sick of perpetual school and do poorly or drop out, which reflects badly on them.

            3. jag

              That’s odd. If I was evaluating people based on academic performance, whatever is most recent would seem most relevant.

    2. OhNo

      I’ve never been in this situation myself, but I know a couple of people who have had really low GPAs who have gone on to do second degrees to get themselves “back on track”. It has seemed to work out really well for them – a friend of mine who did this just got into grad school recently. If you choose to pursue a second bachelor’s, my advice would be to get as many of your general classes from the first degree to transfer as you can so you spend less money the second time around (many colleges that I know of don’t count your transfer credits as part of your GPA).

      Also, get as much work experience as you can while you are completing the degree – that way, even if your GPA isn’t perfect the second time around, you have additional evidence for a job or grad school application that you would be a good choice. This will be especially helpful if you choose to leave the first degree off your resume/application, since you will then have a gap that may raise some questions.

      1. Anon4This

        I wasn’t going to do that because they would show on my transcript as exemptions/transferred credits and then people might ask how I got them and want to see the old transcript which is basically shooting myself in the foot.

  19. TotesMaGoats

    #4-If you are making a dramatic career change or your first bachelor’s degree isn’t rigorous enough, consider a 2nd bachelor’s. It’s a quicker way to do it and often cheaper. It’s not worthless, as some have said above. If you don’t have the basic knowledge in a subject area, this is a great way to get it. For example, going from accounting to cybersecurity. You don’t need to take all your gen eds again. If you did it correctly, you’d probably only need your pre-req computer courses and the core courses for the program. So, at most schools you’d be looking at 45 credits max.

  20. LQ

    #1
    I had an employee who was a very bad fit for me. When someone called for an informal reference for her. (He was a colleague and knew I wouldn’t be upset.) I was very honest about it. She needed a micromanager, it was her first job, I was a horrible boss for her because I’d give her tasks and she’d fail, she never asked for help so I’d always assume it was fine until it was such a mess it was unrecoverable. I tried to manager her more but I’m a horrible micromanager so I could never follow up enough and never keep a close enough eye on her projects. He hired her despite this (or a little because of it) and she turned out to be a great employee for him.

    Have the conversations. They are important.

  21. soitgoes

    I enrolled in college in 2005, when a bachelor’s degree in anything was considered necessary to enter the workforce. I majored in piano because I thought it would be fun – I was still very burned out from high school AP courses that had little to do with where I saw myself ending up, and I wanted to study something that would be enriching and that would allow me to graduate without stressing myself out too much. I graduated in 2008, and a few months later the recession hit. Having not yet found a career-track job, I pursued a master’s in English, since my numerous creative writing electives as an undergrad qualified me for the program, and I had no desire to teach $10 piano lessons for the rest of my life. Three months after graduating, I landed the job that I still have and (I feel) will eventually lead to bigger and better things. The degree in English helped immensely. The piano degree didn’t open those types of doors.

    This is a very specific example, but if you’re going back to school anyway, I think there’s a lot of value in getting a graduate degree. In academia, there’s a bit of chuckling directed toward people who rack up master’s degrees. I was in courses with people who were getting their master’s in education a few years after getting their master’s in English. The prevailing thought about them was that they weren’t good enough to rise through the ranks and get a PhD. There’s no need to get a second BA unless you enjoy the subject matter or it’s relevant to the field you want to work it. Opt for the higher-ranking degree.

    1. jag

      In non-academic graduate programs, sometimes it is of value to have have an earlier, more academic degree. I’m particularly thinking of library school, where a a library degree combined with another degree is a more powerful combo for getting hired in an academic library.

  22. Allison

    You know, I like jalapenos too, but not so much that I’m gonna make a stink of them being banned from my office to protect the health of another. Just like I (and I think most people here) would comply with a ban on perfume if one was imposed for similar reasons. You can still eat them at home, or while out to lunch provided you wash your hands after. While a workplace should allow a reasonable range of food so everyone can bring in lunches they can eat, you’re not entitled to eat your favorite foods at work.

    1. fposte

      Opening a can of jalapeno worms here–I believe the burning part of hot peppers is oil-based, so soap and water doesn’t work to rid yourself of it. (Acids and fats are the usual cook’s remedy for wrecked fingers.) That might mean a hand-wash wouldn’t be enough to get rid of the allergen for a co-worker, either, depending on what component the person is actually allergic to (if it’s lipid-based protein, as suggested above, sounds like that soap wouldn’t help much).

      1. Allison

        Fair enough, so OP has to wait until dinner to satiate their jalapeno cravings. I’m really tempted to go all guilt-trippy mom here and remind the OP that there are kids in Africa who don’t have any jalapenos.

        1. Allison

          *satisfy, not satiate. man I’m tired, stupid neighborhood college kids and their all-night party . . .

        2. fposte

          Totally agreed that it’s still not a big deal, and I would attend your jalapeno privilege lecture with amusement and interest.

      2. Elysian

        Does that mean OP couldn’t have jalapenos for breakfast either, if that was the problem? This could get far-reaching…

        Also, if anyone knows how to actually wash jalapeno oil off, that seems like it would be helpful advice for the OP and everyone else. I know I’ve had more than one jalapeno-induced incident where I’ve washed my hands but then touched my eye thinking I was fine and OMGGGGGGGG

        1. Zillah

          Do most people eat a thorough enough breakfast before they go to work to have something with jalapeños?? I’m lucky if I can find time for some cereal.

          1. Allison

            Well, there are jalapeno bagels, those are quick. but I actually do usually have time for a full breakfast. I know I could sleep in earlier if I just grabbed a protein bar while running out the door, but I’ve always believed that a full, healthy breakfast is important, and I feel awful when I don’t eat one.

        2. Loose Seal

          I know I’m very late to this (trying to catch up my reading after having been out of town) but Alton Brown says that bleach will break down the oil into harmless salts that will wash away with water.

  23. Sunflower

    Second Alison’s advice about the masters and bachelors. I would say if after some years of experience if you decide you want to go in a slightly different path than it would make more sense to get the masters than another bachelors- but, like Alisons said, it really depends on your field since it might not be worth it.

    My friend received her bachelor’s last year, has been applying to master’s programs for the past year and was getting no responses. She started asking around and it turns out master’s programs are leaning more and more towards candidates with a couple years of post-college work experience.

    I was one of those people who really wanted to get a masters right after I graduated and I’m so happy I didn’t. Being in the working world has exposed me to so many different types of careers and even though I still don’t know what I want to do (or if I even want a masters), I feel 100% more confident about making a master’s program decision than I did then. Also, I’d be paying for my masters and I’d want to make sure I get the most out of the program as possible. If you go in with a clear idea of what you want to do afterwards as opposed to ‘a master’s will lead me to more jobs’, you’re going to get much more out of it and, I’d imagine, have much better job prospects.

    1. Clerica

      We have a coworker who has a bachelor’s and is struggling really hard at his current job. My boss’s job requires a master’s, and he’s said to me several times that he’s “Just going to go back to school and be a Teapot Manager instead.” Right, bud. The master’s is going to automatically make you fit to manage a department you can’t even handle as a regular staff member.

  24. BadPlanning

    On OP #1, I thought it was time honored tradition to happily foist “bad” employees off on others — especially in a larger company. So much so, that employees that should get fired don’t because it’s easier to transfer then to another department than fire them.

    But seriously — unless the OP really despises the employee, I’d try to think of her good points — and keep in mind that she might thrive in another area (sure, we should all put on our best faces no matter the job, but we all know that’s really really hard).

    1. Ms Enthusiasm

      But in the grand scheme of things this really makes the “foister” look bad. If a new manager ends up with a bad employee it reflects badly on the previous manager – at least where I work (Fortune 25 company). It would make it seem like the previous manager didn’t coach the employee correctly-or get rid of them if that was needed. To stick a bad employee with someone else would be rude.

  25. Mike B.

    #4 – In terms of what they can do for your career, it’s not a good idea to pursue ANY degree beyond one BA if you don’t have a very good idea of what you want to do with it. Further degrees don’t serve as the same kind of generic credential of intelligence, diligence, and education–most employers will not be particularly impressed that you sought and obtained a degree that isn’t necessary or particularly helpful for your field.

    Assuming you had unlimited time and money and were interested solely in learning, the master’s is probably a more appropriate challenge for a college graduate. But it would depend on the degree programs in question.

  26. Swarley

    #3

    I agree with Alison. I work for a state agency that receives govt. funds. The Dept. of Labor, and more specifically, the OFCCP requires us to report on things like race, gender, ethnicity, protected veteran status, disability, etc. We use an ATS and this kind of information is restricted from view except for a handful of HR folks who have no input in making hiring decisions.

  27. KellyK

    For #5, it’s legal, but it’s completely ridiculous unless jalapenos are an airborne allergy like peanuts.

    1. Colette

      If it’s a contact allergy, there are plenty of ways someone who doesn’t live with an allergy could be careless that would result in a serious, possibly fatal, reaction. For example, taking the lid off of your food before you put it in the microwave and put it face-down on the counter, dropping a piece on the floor, cutting a jalepeno and then opening the door to leave the kitchen without washing your hands.

    2. KellyK

      Having read the other comments, oh, right, the oils can get everywhere and are hard to get off your hands. Okay, that makes much more sense. I was picturing a ban based on an allergy where someone would have to actually eat the food in question.

  28. Jubilance

    #3 – This letter kind of struck me as the OP saying that they were worried they would be discriminated against if it was known they were a woman and a minority. I don’t want to knock anyone’s experience, but I’m a Black woman who has worked for Fortune 100 companies in my entire career, and if anything, these companies are looking for diverse populations, not less. Are there individual managers who are biased? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean the entire company doesn’t see the value of having a diverse workforce and is actively working to recruit and retain minorities, women, and veterans as well. As Allison mentioned, that aggregate data that comes AFTER your application has been submitted is not attached to your application. If you’re really worried about it, you always have the option to select “Prefer not to answer” to those questions.

    #4 – TO ME, 2 bachelor degrees look strange, but they serve a purpose when someone is switching careers drastically. Otherwise I think a Master’s is a better way to go. I know some folks mentioned that their Master’s courses were easier than undergrad, but I had the opposite experience. My graduate courses in chemistry were much more rigorous and required a lot from me. During my 2nd semester of coursework, I was also doing literature exams which was the first part of PhD candidacy, and I was teaching as well. In undergrad I had fewer demands on my time and the stakes weren’t as high.

  29. HR Manager

    #1 – One of my pet peeves are when bad employees get shuffled around to other departments because the manager doesn’t want to or know how to deal with the employee. It’s terrible for the company and quite frankly me-centric vs company-centric. Please, managers, help the company and fellow managers out – give feedback, and don’t be afraid to tell the truth to your fellow managers. Some employees are deserving of second chances, but they need to earn that by demonstrating good effort and attitude even when it’s tough and success if not in the cards.

    #2 – When I’ve come across great candidates who don’t get selected, and it’s a sincere desire that they continue to consider our company, I reach out to them personally to let them know the update, provide good feedback from the interview process, and a request that we stay in consideration. It’s generally received well by the candidates.

    1. Katie the Fed

      “#1 – One of my pet peeves are when bad employees get shuffled around to other departments because the manager doesn’t want to or know how to deal with the employee.”

      Welcome to government!

    2. RubyJackson

      #1- One of my pet peeves are when bad employees get shuffled around to other departments because the manager doesn’t want to or know how to deal with the employee.

      I see this as a two-sided equation= bad employee + bad manager. The letter writer says that this problem has been going on for a while and yet Letter Writer hasn’t addressed it with the employee. LW is also avoiding the reference seeker. Could it be that LW has an avoidance problem all together? Maybe the employee is demoralized by bad management and is acting out on those feelings, much like small children need discipline, and act out when their parent doesn’t take control.

      1. HR Manager

        Bingo!
        And @Katie the Fed — that’s why I would never be able to work for the government. I would pull all my hair out within a month. We once had someone whose resume looked decent, but who had an offer for a government job, so she asked that we move quickly and we agreed. After the interview, she was clearly not someone we wanted, and she came back to us with the craziest follow ups I’ve ever witnessed. It eventually became obvious she was not all there, and off her rocker. In one of her many emails to us, she included her offer letter for a government job that required security clearance. All I could think was…pray for us all, if this is who the govt screened in!

  30. danr

    #2… It certainly is okay to let a candidate know that you’ll keep the resume on file for future job openings. I’ve had that happen to me at various times and in one case I did get called after a couple of years for an interview. I didn’t get the job, but it was a nice feeling to know that the outfit felt that I had the right credentials and experience to make the cut for an interview.

  31. Creag an Tuire

    OP #1: Having been on the other end of this situation, I can say my OldBoss did me a huge favor by saying “Creag, your skills in A, B, and C are not where we need them to be for this role, and I’m worried that this isn’t the right fit anymore. I do think you’ve excelled in X, Y and Z.”

    Not easy to hear, but I tailored my job hunt to XYZ, kept a solid reference from OldBoss (who could honestly say he’d hire me for the job that NewBoss was describing), and came out of the whole thing with an unbroken employment record and a better job.

  32. Kimberlee, Esq.

    Regarding #3, there’s also an aspect to this that I’m kinda surprised hasn’t been brought up, which is that including phrases like “Women and people of color are encouraged to apply” or other calls for diversity have a real impact on who applies; both women and people of color are demonstrably more likely to apply for positions that make those kinds of statements. It’s more than a fluffy bit of words to make you look for feel good; it has a real impact on recruiting a more diverse staff!

  33. Nobody

    #2 – I think you should send the e-mails as planned. No reasonable job-seeker would interpret that as any kind of promise. I once got a rejection like that, where the company told me they were no longer considering me for the position for which I interviewed, but they encouraged me to apply for future openings. I really appreciated that because I figured they didn’t think I was right for the position, but they didn’t hate me, either. Sometimes, I feel weird about applying for other jobs at the same company where I’ve interviewed and been rejected, so a rejection like this would make me more likely to apply for other openings at your company.

  34. Basiorana

    As office manager I keep track of everyone’s allergies and limitations to make sure there isn’t an issue with ordering lunches for meetings etc, but the only serious allergy is shellfish. Normally that would be easy to avoid, but we’re in New England and the standard practice when we have an important visitor from out of state is lobster rolls and clam chowder.

    Right now my strategy is to always warn her when this will happen, confine the lobster rolls and guests to one or two rooms, schedule meetings between her and the guest for the morning before lunch, and after the guests leave, thoroughly sanitize the chairs, tables, and counters with Lysol wipes. We also keep epi pens on hand, both her personal one and one in the first aid kit, and have many staff trained to use them (including me).

    Thankfully that seems to be more than enough and she has never had a single reaction from these visits. I’ve been pushing to simply take guests out for a boiled New England dinner instead, but that’s harder to coordinate if they get in late or leave early. It just means that I have to budget an hour for lobster-related cleanup after each visit. If we hire someone who’s more allergic than she, the HR Manager and I will have to have a serious talk with the CEO about what “reasonable accommodation” means…

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