my job wants to use Facebook to monitor employees, demoralized by a coworker’s promotion, and more

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

1. I’m worried my employee will be demoralized by a coworker’s promotion

I’m newly the manager of a very small group of three people. One of my first acts will be to promote someone in our group–let’s call her Sarah– who is overdue for recognition of the truly outstanding work she does for our organization. One of my other reports–who’ll I’ll name Diane–currently shares the same title as Sarah, and has been at the company far longer, but won’t be receiving a promotion now (or at any point, unless her contributions change considerably.) Diane does a lot that’s great but only in particular areas–she is inconsistent and at times incompetent at others. Nonetheless, she is valued for the number of things she does do very well.

What is the proper etiquette in this situation? Should managers tell his or her other reports that one of their colleagues will be receiving a promotion before the announcement goes out company-wide? I anticipate that Diane will feel demoralized at this news, something that I’d like to address if I can because one of the things that hinders her work is a recurring sense of discouragement and disengagement when things don’t go well. Should I tell her in a matter-of-fact way about Sarah before she hears along with everyone else? If I think she has mixed feelings about it, should I find a tactful way to raise that with her? Or should I just be business-as-usual and stop trying to anticipate possible reactions?

I don’t think you have to tell Diane ahead of time — unless she had applied for the same promotion, in which case, yes, you’d want to let her know before the rest of the company. But if your sense of Diane is that it will go over better if she gets a heads-up earlier, then sure, that’s fine to do. Just keep it matter-of-fact and avoid any tone of “you’re a delicate flower who needs special handling,” since that risks being insulting to Diane’s professionalism (and also potentially introduces a problem that wouldn’t otherwise have been there).

If Diane seems demoralized, I’d address that head-on by talking to her about whether she’s interested in earning a promotion herself at some point and specifically what she’d need to work on and do differently to be eligible for one. And — regardless of this situation — I’d also make sure that you’re giving her direct feedback about the inconsistency in her work and how it’s holding her back.

2. My new job wants to use Facebook to monitor employees

I just started a new job and in the midst of the training and information-dump stage, I was asked to like the business on Facebook and friend the two owners. This was stated as a way for them to monitor how employees are talking about work online, and potentially to observe any behavior that would disrupt the flow of work. This was stated verbally and I said something like, “Yeah, I can do that.”

Now I really regret agreeing to that. To avoid a long ramble, it feels icky. I’m a recent graduate and have worked hard to make sure my public presence online (what anyone can see who googles or searches for me on a social media outlet) is not objectionable and represents the most professional image. How do I avoid friending my bosses without violating this workplace policy? I just don’t feel comfortable giving them access into my personal life, and this workplace seems very chummy.

Just don’t friend them. I don’t think you have to go back and say, “I’ve decided not to do this” — you can just not do it. There’s a decent chance they won’t notice or bring it up again. But if they do, you have the following options:
a. Say something vague like, “Oh, I’m hardly ever on there, but if I go on there again, I will.” And then don’t. Continue to be vague about it.
b. Say no directly: “I feel strongly about keeping my professional life separately from Facebook and have a personal policy not to mix the two.”
c. Take the road of least resistance: Add them, but immediately block them from seeing any of your posts.

3. Working hours changed dramatically seven months into the job

My husband interviewed for a new job about seven months ago. It was a very long interview process, where he spoke with multiple managers, HR, and Corporate. Because we have a new baby, he was very upfront about needing flexibility with work hours and making sure the job was the right fit for us, and vice versa. He was assured by multiple people that during the “off” season, 30-hour weeks were the norm and during “busy” season 50-hour work weeks were standard. Time off for vacations/sick days wouldn’t be an issue.

He got hired at the start of the slow season, and within three weeks, nearly all of his local office was fired for misuse of company funds and new managers were brought in. He started working 45-50-hour weeks and now, at the start of busy season, he’s regularly working 65-hour weeks. He was told there are no vacation days granted from October through March. He’s salaried.

He tried to explain to his new manager that he had been told multiple times during the interview process that things were flexible, and was essentially told “tough luck.” Short of a new job, does he have any recourse?

Unless he had those promises in writing, probably not. And even then, unless the written agreement covered a specific period of time, the employer could still change the terms going forward — at which point it would be up to your husband to decide if he wanted the job under those new terms.

He did the right thing by explaining to the new manager that he had taken the job in part because of hours, but if the new management is determined to change those hours (and it sounds like they are), he probably needs to decide if he still wants the job at this point, knowing that these are the new conditions. That sucks — I’m sorry.

4. Should I take it seriously when my boss suggests I could replace her when she leaves?

How seriously should you take it when your boss suggests that they want you to replace them when they leave the company?

I work at a very small company (less than 10 people), but the company has been around for over 20 years. This boss is not the owner of the company, but the assumed successor of it when the owner retires. I’ve been at this company for one year, and this was said to me after the office I was working in closed and I could either relocate to a different office or leave the company.

Is it just blowing smoke to get me to stay with them? I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I was very flattered.

Hard to say. In general, when your boss says that to you, it at least means “I’m thinking seriously about it, but it may or may not happen.” There are certainly bosses, though, who talk out of their asses without considering that their words have meaning, or who do deliberately string people along. You know more about your boss than I do, so you probably have a better sense of which of these explanations is most likely.

But if you want to learn more, it’s totally reasonable to go back to your boss and say, “You mentioned a while ago that you’d consider me as a replacement when you leave the company. How serious were you about that? It’s something I’d be interested in talking more about.”

5. Withdrawing from a hiring process because I’m overqualified for the job

I recently interviewed for a position at an organization that I’ve always wanted to work for. The problem is the position is somewhat below me, such that I’m overqualified and the compensation is lower than my current job. There are a number of personal reasons why I feel I can’t take a job at this organization right now (longer commute, small children, money), but I’d love to reapply in the future when they have a vacancy at a higher level of pay. I feel like it might be appropriate to pull my hat out of the ring now – this would save them paperwork and let them fill the position sooner, but I want to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt my chances for future employment there. Any ideas?

Absolutely appropriate, and if you’re straightforward, they’ll appreciate that you didn’t waste their time considering you further. I’d say something like this: “After thinking it over, I’ve decided to withdraw from consideration for the X position. I’m very interested in working with you, and our interview solidified that, but I don’t think this position is the perfect fit. I’d love to talk with you in the future, though, if you have an opening doing ___.”

{ 111 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia

    Vague promises and hints and even very clear promises are made all the time by some managers. I worked for a guy like this. He was always making huge promises to new hires and offering grandiose opportunities. Often he had no power to grant these, or just forgot and unfortunately I was in a position of managing a team of people for whom I could then not deliver on what the ‘big boss’ in the unit had offered. People who knew their way around knew to discount his promises — but new people often made decisions based on this and then felt mistreated. He was a mover and shaker who in fact sometimes delivered wonderful things — but often not. Such fun to be the janitor walking behind the elephants.

    I would not make any decisions on the chance that you will get the top job — of course see how it goes — but don’t forego a great option elsewhere on this vague hint.

    1. #4 Question Asker

      Thank you Alison for your response and advice! Also thanks Artemesia for sharing your experience. You are right Artemesia, it is smarter not to bank on any grand promises (especially if they weren’t meant to be promises). It’s possible she was giving her sentiments about my active interest in all aspects of the company, with a dash of stringing along. This company has been a bit tricky with me in the past and I’m not sure if I’ll stay. To be honest, even though I was flattered, I don’t find it a very professional or fair thing to offhandedly mention (as in, not make a serious offer) as an employee is trying to decide whether or not to stay with a company. I’d feel a bit embarrassed to try to bring it up again and see if she was serious.

    2. MK

      And it’s worth considering that even very clear promises by sincere and responsible managers who have no intention of stringing you along may come to nothing, because circumstances change, especially if the timeline is long. For example, imagine the OP’s manager is serious about them being their successor in, say, a couple of years, then suppose a new coworker joins the company, someone who has an edge in an area different than the OP, and the company moves into a direction where the new coworker’s skills are more valuable. The OP could end up being passed over for the new person; alternatively, the OP might get the promotion, because the manager feels an obligation, and not excell at it, because they are no longer the right fit for the company, which could hurt their career.

      Planning ahead is good as far as it goes, but, unless you can predict the future, it’s better to consider both long- and short-term goals. Don’t stay with a job that isn’t satisfying to you in the hope that you will be promoted years down the line.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Plus, if a manager leaves a company, they don’t always get to appoint a successor. When I left my last job, I had groomed someone to take over for me. I had her targeted in annual succession planning, so it didn’t come out of left field. I presented her as my recommendation to my boss in my transition plan, and again to HR when I was asked for my opinion during the exit interview. Ultimately, my boss didn’t agree with my assessment and decided to open an external search for my backfill. I feel bad for my protégé, but it wasn’t my job to offer.

        A manager saying that you should take over their role someday is not a job offer, and shouldn’t be viewed as a guarantee.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Even if she is – that decision may be taken out of her hands at the last minute. I just see so many caution flags here.

      2. Artemesia

        Being leaving also don’t always get to choose their successor. Often organizations are just waiting for the old guy to leave so they completely revamp their direction and that often means not a new person.

        And stuff changes. Years ago I hired someone with the thought down the road that she would replace me in running a couple of important programs when I retired. The job was not promised but we did discuss that it was a possibility. She hadn’t been on the job for a month when it became clear that in spite of her many strengths, her tendency to undermine us externally in the organization made her the last choice for leadership. She was incredibly angry when a couple years later, I chose another person to direct the main program I had been managing. Frankly, it didn’t even cross my mind to consider her at this point but she felt she had been promised the role. Somehow the two years of her creating one problem after another for us in the organization hadn’t translated into ‘hey I bet they are not counting on and trusting me to be a leader here.’

    3. Graciosa

      For me, the key in this situation is what the manager is doing to get you ready for the promotion. Skill development and coaching is worth a lot, whether you end up being promoted at your current employer or a different one.

      A manager who offers promises in lieu of development is not helping – even if there is a later promotion for which the employee may not be truly ready.

  2. Sally

    2) just do what the kids do. Create a second account and friend the owners. Make sure you’re setting are set so only you can see your friends. Then post stuff like “doing homework is awesome” or “I love my history class”. Lol. Think how much fun it would be to mess with some creepy “adults” 😏

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Same here. I was going to add that as actually the most desirable option. Use that same account to “friend” other people in the company, too.

    2. Kimothy

      Ha, that’s a good idea.
      Honestly, I really do worry about the tech-savviness of companies who do this, considering how easy it is to skirt the privacy settings.

      1. Natalie

        What ways can you skirt privacy settings on FB? Everything I’ve seen is either a glitch, Facebook changing your settings, or someone who doesn’t actually know how to lock down their account. I’d be more inclined to think this requests indicates the company is deeply not tech-savvy, since this isn’t an effective way to monitor your employees.

          1. Waiting Patiently

            True. You really have to know how to lock down your account. While most of my account is locked, I keep some options open–like tagging which become visible to people I block. **I feel I’m being rude if I block tagging ability..lol although I was about to block it when my sister joined facebook and decided to tag me and everyone else in all her stat updates…

      2. KH

        Unless you completely hide your real Facebook account, lies like “I don’t use Facebook” or making a fake account won’t work. A simple search will show the other account.

    3. Elysian

      This seems needlessly complicated to me. I always use AAM’s option A – with my coworkers, my boss, the family. My whole family is sitting in friend purgatory at the moment because “I don’t really use that thing, I didn’t even see you friend requested! Sorry, dad.”

      1. Arjay

        Have they changed the part, or can you control the setting, where people with pending friend requests can see your whole timeline? This was a couple of years back, but I had accepted one friend request while I was mulling over one from a different person. That person could see that I had added the first person and noticed that I didn’t add her at the same time. Slightly awkward.

        1. Waiting Patiently

          Oh yeah, that happened to me early on. Now you can control how fb looks for people who aren’t your friends. You can pretty much block all your information even your friend list. Perhaps –I don’t know if it’s the best or the worst but you can even edit timestamps on some stuff you post on fakebook… yep good ole fakebook

        2. Sally

          No, they cannot see your timeline until you friend them. Unless you have it so friends of friends or everyone can see your posts.

      2. AmyNYC

        But with smart phone, this can backfire; I’ve had guys at bars whip out their iPhones and open Facebook while asking how to spell my name. NO THANK YOU.

    4. soitgoes

      Facebook is actually uptight about that sort of thing. If you have an uncommon name and you’re putting your preferences down as living and working in the same places that are on your “real” profile, your fake account might be removed.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yeah, I had that happen with a gaming account with a completely different name. I currently have a “Work-only” Friends list that doesn’t see most of my posts. (Most of the stuff that I might be concerned about anyone seeing I post on Google+ anyway. Who would see it there anyway? According to all the tech news and bloggers, my friends and I on there don’t exist. :D

      2. Angora

        I have friends that use a foreign country or another state as their location. Their friends are aware. But the thing is you can do a search by the e-mail address and locate them. Change your City & State on FB & block your bosses, etc. and lock it up tighter. If they are wanting you to monitor others, they are probably snooping at your FB page. Just let your friends know and make it un-viewable to the public. I block a lot of people at work because I do not want them to see things like where I tripped while speeding walking and posted a photo of my face all black & blue.

    5. T

      Another vote for this option (only if they press the point). It won’t keep them from finding you on Google, as you’ve already noted, but it would give you a little more space between work and personal life and keep you from having a fake “like” on your profile.

  3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    #2, this sounds to me like something the bosses just thought of off the top of their heads one day. That, or they encountered negative information about themselves written by an employee and now….they want to scare you into not saying negative things? This is ill advised and weird. I’d bet they don’t know how to enforce it, or even if they can. I’d go with Alison’s option #1 and hope they don’t push it.

    1. Tenley

      I think they want the like for increased business visibility or why any business wants more likes, and for some reason it sounded like maybe for OP to also friend them more to somewhat monitor the amount of work time OP spends on Facebook than to bother reading all the comments OP is making or photos and stories OP is liking.

  4. Mister Pickle

    #1: it’s definitely LW’s judgment call – but I strongly suspect that yes, “Diane” will be unhappy about “Sarah”‘s promotion. With D being there longer, and S and D currently at the same level – D is almost certain to be downed out over this. Especially if the announcement is being made at a large gathering, I think it’s largely an act of kindness to let her know beforehand.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I agree. Happened to me once. I was totally thrown off-guard and handled it badly (as privately as I could, but my boss still saw me in the bathroom post-crying bout). It would be kind to pull Diane in and tell her what’s happening and talk to her about what it would take for her to get promoted too, if that’s an issue for Diane.

      I also had this from the other side– I was promoted and someone in a satellite office who had been there much longer hadn’t been. She and I had been friendly, but right after the announcement, she completely shut me down and cut me off. I said something to my boss, and he said, “You deserved it, she doesn’t. She does X, Y, and Z when she’s supposed to be doing A, B, and C.” I asked him if she knew that. Apparently, it had been hinted at but never explicitly discussed, and she left a few months later.

      1. Ali

        Yep, I am in a similar situation a few months since one of my old peers got promoted to manager when our last boss had to quit. However, I at least kind of had an idea that my peer deserved it, even if it makes me somewhat resentful that he’s younger than me, put in less time at the company overall and now he’s leading a team, whereas I was told something like “You may get a promotion here; you may not, there’s no way of knowing.” I get envious when I see my more successful peer being a manager and the fact that our last boss mentored him to that point (encouraged him to move closer to our satellite office, gave him more responsibility before he had to go out on the leave that led him to quit). He was also telling me about all the meetings he has to prep for before flying out to our main office across the country next week. I know I’m valued for the things I can do, but I also don’t see a lot of room for growth in my company, so I’m desperately trying to look somewhere else where I can feel challenged and hopefully grow into someone that’s valued all-around.

      2. Monodon monoceros

        I’ve also been in the position of being promoted while my coworker, who was there longer than me, was left behind. I think it’s better if the boss talks with the person who isn’t being promoted beforehand. In my case it made things really awkward with my coworker. I don’t think he handled it super well- he definitely held it against me- but the outcome may have been different if the boss explained to him beforehand what was happening, and perhaps how he could be promoted too.

        He left shortly after, actually for a much better job, so it was probably good for him in the long run. But the boss was pretty clueless about how unhappy he was with the whole situation and was then super surprised when he left (no one else was).

    2. Chriama

      I also agree. I think it can be kind of a shock, and even a professional person might have an embarrassing emotional reaction (e.g. crying in the bathroom mentioned above, or being uncomfortable around the coworker and thus not working well with her). I also think it’s important that Diane receives good feedback about what got Sarah promoted (not in the vein of “this is why she’s better than you” but rather “these are the skills that we find valuable”) so she knows what to work on. If it’s possible to come up with a plan for promotion (in some companies there isn’t room to move up unless someone leaves, but in others a promotion means more autonomy and pay but not necessarily a newly-created position) by telling her what skills she’d need to improve, that would be kind but not necessary.

      Overall though, if Diane has been getting feedback about the areas she’s “incompetent” in, this shouldn’t be a surprise. If it will be a surprise to her then it means you’ve dropped the ball and really need to make a point of giving frequent, clear feedback going forward.

      1. Steven M

        OP may not be in a position to know if Diane has been getting feedback in these areas, as she’s new to managing this group. She describes the impending promotion as “one of my first acts”. If the former manager is still available it may be useful to have a discussion with her as to what feedback/coaching Diane has received in the past – it may be able to give some insight into how surprised Diane will or will not be.

        I agree that whether she’s been getting it from prior manager or not, Diane needs to have feedback going forward (as do all employees).

        1. Chriama

          You’re right, I’ve missed that part. Diane’s current manager may or may not have made it clear what she needs to do to get promoted, so I would recommend OP make sure to do that going forward — and in that case I think the overall “this is what you need to do to be promoted” conversation is even more important, because OP doesn’t want Diane to feel she treats them un-equitably (i.e. is grooming Sarah for a promotion but not giving the same mentorship to Diane).

          1. anonintheuk

            Also, if Diane has not been getting feedback about what she needs to improve, she may well decide that the OP is not going to promote her and look for another job, and the OP will lose the things which Diane does very well.

  5. jag

    #2 – I think AAM needs to offer some general guidance at helping not say “Yes” when surprised by a question.

    1. Chriama

      Haha I’d love that! I just got through a situation at work where I was agreeing to basically triple my workload because I didn’t know enough to say “I can’t commit to that until I have more details”. A lot of times I say yes in the moment, then have to recant later. How do you practice changing your reflexive response from ‘yes’ to ‘maybe’?

      1. College Career Counselor

        I have tried the “maybe” or a version of “we can do it, but I’d like to look at taking ABC off the table,” and it most definitely did not work out. I got labeled as “obstructionist” and “not visionary” because I didn’t immediately jump to take up the mantle of the division head’s idea. Mind you, this idea was presented as a suggestion, and I was specifically asked to provide my thoughts and assessment, based on my professional expertise. Unfortunately, what I came to find out later was that for the division head, “thoughts and assessment” = “unconditional support”. After a couple of these instances, I went to my supervisor who coached me to respond with, “That’s an interesting idea…” followed by “here’s how it could work.”

        TL;DR: Know your boss and your company’s culture before you say “no” or even “maybe” and ask for help in making that response.

        1. Chris80

          +1 for “That’s an interesting idea…” followed by “here’s how it could work.” I’m definitely going to try that response!

          1. JMegan

            That’s a great response. Especially if you don’t actually think it could work, you can still sound like you’re agreeing with them, and then lay it on a bit thick about all the challenges, extra resources required, etc.

            Follow that with “If we can have all those things, we can totally make it work!” Then let the boss go “Um, no actually, I don’t think it will work after all.” Done and done.

    2. HarperC

      I received some really good advice from a friend once about never saying “Sure” or “Yes” when someone asks, “Can you do me a favor?” Wait until you hear what they’re asking!

        1. Julie

          Try repeating the request back in some way. “You want to monitor my facebook?” “You want me to come in early and leave early tomorrow?” That’s my stall tactic #1 to ensure I process it. If I find myself wanting to say no but hesitant I usually follow up with “Let me check my schedule” or “Let me think it over” and a timeline on when I’ll get back to them (if I think I will).

        2. Not So NewReader

          “ohhh, what’s up?”
          OR
          “I might, what is on your mind?”

          Alternatively, maybe you can help the person find a different solution that she could do on her own. Also watch out for people who just want you to tell them how to do something so they can do it on their own. Don’t misunderstand that question as “will you do this Entire Huge Thing for me?” Make sure you are getting their actual question.

          For the most part people are amazing, in that, I find most of the time if I cannot do Thing they are asking they will pretty much accept that or whatever part of Thing I can do. Many times it is not the big deal it seems to be in our heads. I do watch out for the look of desperation, though. If I see someone who is looking frazzled, I usually try to help.

      1. chewbecca

        I usually respond with a non-committal “what’s the favor?” or “it depends on the favor” – said lightheartedly, of course.

    3. a.n.o.n.

      So true! I’m often caught off guard and answer “yes” in the moment because I haven’t even digested it yet. I get myself into trouble with that sometimes.

    4. Malissa

      Send me the details in an email so I can take a good look at the situation and I will get back to you.

      That line has saved me a lot of stress.

  6. Crow

    #2: In my Luddite eyes, this is simply another good reason not to be active on social media. I would be able to honestly say that I wasn’t on The Facebook, and I’d walk away from that conversation happy that I had completely shut down an uncomfortable situation.

    #3: That really sucks, and I’m sorry for you two. It sounds like he did everything right, and you should both hold your heads high knowing that. Good luck to you.

    1. neverjaunty

      I doubt it would shut down bosses that foolish. “You’re not on Facebook? Then go start an account.”

      1. AB Normal

        “You’re not on Facebook? Then go start an account.”

        That’s what I did — not because I was forced to, but because I’d miss most of my company’s communications if I weren’t there! (We are a “social” company and use Facebook for internal communications.).

        There are ZERO personal friends in my Facebook account — only coworkers. I also only subscribe to the company’s page and a couple of pages we use for internal discussions (no business secret, of course, but we have things like book discussions there).

        Perhaps creating a separate account for work purposes is the solution. I know lots of people do that; may not be something Facebook wants but I never see my friends who adopt this approach have their accounts shut down.

  7. Angelfish

    Requiring employees to share social media access (usually people are asked for their passwords, though requiring you to friend them might count) actually is against the law in certain states and I think I’ve seen a decision out of New Jersey finding it violated federal law (I think the Stored Communications Act) and the employee was able to get damages for being fired for what was said. Obviously the “is this legal” game is not the most helpful way out of the problem, but you’re not alone in thinking this is wrong,.

          1. jag

            Yes.

            And it’s worth noting that not every request from a boss is an order.

            Colette’s comment “I don’t really understand the concept of believing that you must comply with every casual, non-work-related thing your manager asks you to do without pushing back or asking questions.” is spot-on.

            And it extends to all sorts of stuff at this time of year – including colleagues and organizations asking people to parties, to make donations, etc etc. If someone asks nicely, once, and make it clear it is a question, that’s not the same as an order, or them not taking no for an answer and pestering you.

          2. Angelfish

            In the NJ case, the employee consented to the boss’s request to access a private Facebook group where people were complaining about the company (a restaurant I believe) and the court found the consent was no defense because the employee didn’t feel she could say no.

        1. Colette

          I don’t really understand the concept of believing that you must comply with every casual, non-work-related thing your manager asks you to do without pushing back or asking questions.

          If your manager is asking you to do something work-related (and it’s not illegal, unethical, or unsafe), you need to comply. If they’re asking you to do something outside of work, you can absolutely push back.

          1. LBK

            And even then, there’s no reason you can’t ask some questions or push back (gently) even if it’s work-related. Unless your boss is a loon, they’re not going to fire you on the spot for a bit of conversation around something you’re not comfortable doing.

            1. Colette

              Agreed. I didn’t mean to imply that it was never appropriate to push back on work-related items – it’s absolutely reasonable to raise concerns or ask questions, as long as your manager is reasonable and your questions/concerns are constructive.

          2. Mike C.

            I’m not saying that it’s something that cannot be questioned, I’m just pointing out that for many managers, a request is nothing more than a polite order.

            1. Colette

              I’ve never worked with a manager like that.

              I think that perception is why so many people ask “is this legal?” – they don’t think they have the ability to push back without having the law on their side, but as long as they’re reasonable, polite, and constructive, most managers will respond the same way, even if they don’t change their mind.

            2. Mephyle

              Yes, it’s a matter of communication style. For some managers, a casual request is their way of giving an order.

    1. neverjaunty

      Right, but it doesn’t seem like they want access to the account.

      The legal issue I see rearing its head is the employers using this as a way of suppressing/retaliating for employee complaints or unionizing activity.

  8. Sharon

    Quick comment on #1 before I read the rest:

    I love Alison’s suggestion to talk to “Diane” about what she needs to do to earn a promotion. In my 25 year career, I have NEVER had a boss talk to me that directly about that topic. I have worked at a few companies for long periods of time (9 years at one) and never promoted or even been told what I needed to move up. As time goes by with no more recognition than arbitrary performance evaluations (exceeds expectations consistently except when it’s someone else’s “turn” because only a few people are “allowed” to exceed expectations), my performance and motivation definitely degrades. I don’t know if this is the OP’s situation at all, but the description of Diane made me think of myself at those times/places. I would have been seriously excited and motivated to work toward the goal of being promoted if my boss had just had an honest and direct discussion with me about it. Keeping close to the vest leads to misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions on both sides.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I have been working for 36 years and ONCE, several years ago, I had a boss talk to me about promotions. I think part of the problem is that there was no where for me to move up to in some instances. And when I started working there was more of a “fend for yourself” attitude in business.

      OP, Diane has been at this company for this many years, how many times has she missed a promotion? How often does a position become available that would fit her background? My thought is if you tell her that she should do A, B and C to be eligible for promotion, she is going to try to figure out if it is reasonable that there would be a position open for her at some point. If she does not think there will be a position opening up, then she will conclude “why bother?”
      Similar to OP 3, she could be more confused, than helped.
      I think that you should just explain that you needed someone to do A, B and C and let it go at that. If you told her before it was announced that would be good.

    2. Cath in Canada

      Ask!

      At my last review, I asked my boss what I can do now to make me a strong candidate next time there’s a promotion available (which is really rare in my department). He gave me some really good, specific advice, which I’m implementing now. I know it’s no guarantee (and he was very careful to make sure that I knew that!), but if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t be able to start working in that direction.

  9. soitgoes

    For #4, I’d take it as a sign that the boss sees you being with the company for a long time, should you choose to stay there. I was once talking to my CEO’s son about paying off my student loans “oh, but that’s 15 years down the line,” and he said, “Well you’ll be a corporate honcho here by then.” The son would definitely be aware of his dad’s feelings about me as an employee, but I didn’t take his words at face value. If anything, I was happy to have any statement confirming job security :)

  10. jordanjay29

    Regarding #2, be careful if you venture to C. Your profile may be locked down, but your friends’ may not be. This has the consequence of photos and posts that link your name showing up in someone else’s feed. You can cut down on this by requiring approval for photo tags and mentions, but this may create bigger overhead for you, and might compromise you if you approve something you consider harmless but your employer sees as compromising.

    I’d recommend following Sally’s advice and just creating a new profile if you prefer to try C. Less of a headache for you, and it satisfies your employer’s need to track you.

    On a whole, I would never agree to friend my employer’s FB page or their accounts because they asked. In my opinion, my employer has the right to track what I do while I’m working. When I’m not working, that’s my time, and I’m not obligated to share it with them. Even if I have my employer listed on my social media profiles, that still does not give my employer the right to scrutinize what I say on social media, I have a right to my own opinions.

    1. Mike C.

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking about. My wife was required to friend her bosses to ensure “she wasn’t wasting all of her time on facebook”, and I had to start watching what I posted online. F*ck that noise.

      1. De Minimis

        Our area director sent out an e-mail a while back warning us we could get in trouble for things we posted on social media, even on our own time, if we’d put our place of employment on our profiles. I decided to just remove the specific agency and just have “US Government” as my employer.

        1. soitgoes

          I don’t list my job on my fb at all. Usually just something dumb like “on sabbatical” or “woman of leisure.”

          1. Liane

            For job I use the website where I am Lead Mod. I also don’t use my legal name on the account. It is a short version of my given name (that I have never been called by) & only the second part of my legal hyphenated surname: Li Married, rather than Liane Maiden-Married. I don’t know if an employer would have problems finding my account due to the name difference, but it does confuse people I have told to “send me a Friend request next time you’re on.” Even though Li is a fairly common nickname for Liane* and Married is the surname I use socially, they don’t make the connection because they have always called me Liane. So now, if I really want a new FB Friend, I tell the person specifically, “Search for Li Married, I’m the one that lives in ___.”

            *for those who didn’t see the open thread on AAM usernames a couple months ago, Liane isn’t my real first name

        2. jordanjay29

          This really should be illegal. I know it’s been challenged in some courts, but it hasn’t made its way to SCOTUS yet. But really, listing your place of employment on FB does not constitute being a representative of that company for everything you say, it’s merely an attribute of your person.

  11. Hummingbird

    Comment to #2:

    This company I work for hired me and a few other people this year. I’ve heard that quite of the few old and new coworkers exchanged personal cell phone numbers and friended each other on Facebook. I hear the chatter in the workplace: “I’ll text you later.” or “Did you put that up on Facebook? I want to see that picture.” Only our manager has my cell phone number so that she can text or call in case of emergency (“don’t come to work in this blizzard”). I haven’t traded my number with anyone else, and they have not given me theirs. I also went onto my Facebook account and blocked those I could find so they wouldn’t find me and try friending me (that includes the manager and the company owners); it avoids the awkward conversation of rejecting friend requests. I also didn’t like the company’s page and blocked it; I can’t figure out who runs it and I don’t want them to be able to see my page from there either.

    I just get a strange vibe with this crew, and while I have shared phone numbers and Facebook with coworkers at my other job, I just decided to take the keep work and personal life separate stance with this workplace.

      1. Hummingbird

        You can either do that or change your name. Educators tend to do the latter. One of my teacher friends made her first name a nickname and took her boyfriend’s last name, prancing people for a minute that he got married! But if you change your name, some people can still find you if they know the email you use to log in. So I just from the get-go. If their profile is public once in a while I’ll unblock to spy but then I have to wait 48 hours before reblocking.

  12. Rebecca

    #1 – please talk to Diane ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than being pulled into a full departmental meeting, and being told via speakerphone that your colleague is being promoted when you had no idea there was even a promotion available. Please do this especially if she has asked what she can do to be promoted or move up in the organization prior to this. Don’t blindside her.

    1. Kat

      +1. Horrible Boss promoted a colleague (same level and same length of service) to supervisory level and did not tell us ahead of time. I was left feeling demoralized and hurt, especially as I had expressed a desire to move up in the organization. So yes, please do give her a heads-up.

      1. Rebecca

        That’s what happened to me not too long ago. I’ve been asking what I can do for several years. Manager said nothing; no one gets merit increases or cost of living increases, blah blah blah. Then we got called to a meeting, and someone from the home office announced a coworker with much less experience got a promotion to new position, etc. Almost everyone in the room was stunned, except a few people. I’m still hurt. And have doubled my efforts to get a new job.

        1. Not So NewReader

          That sucks. When I see stuff like that it makes me wonder what is running in the background. Maybe they felt the person would take the position for less money. Or maybe they felt that they could manipulate the person more. Not all promotions have good reasons behind the move. It depends on the company, if you have a known toxic company, I would mull over these angles.

  13. a.n.o.n.

    RE: #1

    If Diane asked about being promoted prior or gave any indication that she was hoping to be promoted, then yes, OP should sit Diane down and let her know about the promotion. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s really necessary.

    This happened to me once. I worked for a very small company so we wore many hats. We hired a VP/Controller. Around that time I specifically asked about being promoted to an SVP position since the Controller was not hired into the vacant SVP position (I was a VP of Operations). No one answered one way or the other, but word got around among the execs that I was interested (the talk got back to me through the grapevine) and there seemed to be a lot of excitement on their end. Months later at Board meeting they announced the promotion of the Controller to SVP/CFO. I was devestated, to say the least. There was never any indication that I was not being considered for the SVP part of the position and no one ever said when I asked about it, “No, we have Sally in mind for that.” I realize there was never any specific encouragement in either direction, but it really hurt because we were a very closeknit group of people who had worked together for years. I got over it, but I really dislike the way that they handled it. Had I know there was no chance, I would have focused my efforts in another direction.

    1. Not So NewReader

      What is up with companies? I worked one place where jobs would be posted- silly me. I thought that meant there was a job opening. I would look it over and someone would say, “Don’t bother applying, they already have decided on Jane/Bob/Alice, the posting is a mere formality.”
      It just did not make sense to me.

      1. Waiting Patiently

        Same thing happened to a friend of mine at work. It “seems” that even in this job market–no one else applied for the position before it was handed over to Sue. Turns out it was never posted.

  14. Lamb

    On #4, another thing I didn’t see mentioned; your boss is talking about you getting promoted to her position *when she leaves it*. If that is when she gets promoted as the owner’s successor, is the owner retiring in 2 years or in 20 years?
    (And if she means when she leaves for another job, consider that 1. the heir apparent who jumps ship is extra unlikely to be able to pick a successor and may even get their protege on the owner’s no fly list, and 2. if the person the owner is grooming to run the whole company wants to get out of there, you need to figure out why and consider if their reason is a dealbreaker for you too)

  15. HR Manager

    #1 – Assuming this Diane is aware of the issues, even if she did come and ask about why she hasn’t gotten promoted, re-iterating the feedback would be the right next step. If she hasn’t heard it yet, then I would start giving the feedback now and being clear that if she wants to earn a promotion, those are the first steps.

    #4 – I’m not sure of the organizational structure at the company. While the boss’ feedback can be a huge validation, what will matter most is the hiring manager’s opinion. It may not be a knock on your experience or performance, but sometimes hiring managers want to go in a different direction. If your boss is just suggesting that everyone bumps up, and you would be your boss’ replacement, then why not ask? Turn it into a development conversation – if I were to become XX role, what do you think I should focus on to develop the right competencies and skills to lead this group successfully? This doesn’t have to mean the change is going to happen – it could be presented as an opportunity for both short- and long-term development.

    1. #4 Question Asker

      Hello! I wanted to reply to this: the company I work for is unusual. There is no designated HR manager. The owner along with my direct supervisor (whom I was speaking about) make the hiring decisions. I’ve actually “hired” an unpaid intern, after asking my supervisor if that would be ok… and to my surprise I was left to place the ad, interview applicants, make the decision, and do the hiring and drafting of an internship agreement. She only met the intern once about a month after I hired her! I have no HR experience, and the entire affair was terrifying (didn’t show it of course). So it’s a bit of kooky situation, to say the least.

      I have decided to just tuck all this in the back of my mind as a possibility and develop as much competency in everything that I can. Thanks for your advice HR Manager!

  16. C Average

    #1

    I kind of AM the Diane of my group. Been here forever, not as good at certain aspects of my role as my more recently-hired and high-performing peer, highly valued for a few specialized things I’m really good at, easily discouraged by the constant reminders that I’m really not well-suited for this job and I’m not good enough to have much of a shot at being promoted out of it.

    Here is what I would want my manager to do in the circumstances presented:

    –Give the heads-up that Sarah is getting a promotion to both me and our third teammate, as a simple matter of keeping us in the loop. Could be either a meeting or an email. Email might be better.
    –Since you’re new, meet with me and ask me in general terms what my job is like, what my successes and challenges have been, what career path I envision for myself. You might learn something that would give you insights into what motivates me and what discourages me, and you might be able to use this information to help me improve.
    –Don’t compare me explicitly to Sarah or ask me to be more like Sarah. Although we’ve been peers, we’re two different people with two different experiences in this role. Talk to me about what specific things you need me to do differently. And be honest about this!
    –Use your role as a new manager to have honest conversations with me about my areas of opportunity and to bring about change.
    –If you don’t ever see me being a good candidate for promotion, be honest about that. I may be on a career path now that’s not ultimately a good one. I may even know it already. If we need to address that reality head-on, let’s do it sooner rather than later, because my life is passing me by here, and I could be doing something I’m better suited for.
    –Make it clear to me what you need from me in terms of supporting Sarah in her new role. Will she be delegating to me, or will my assignments continue to come from you? Will I need to provide her with any specific resources? Set those expectations early and as clearly as possible so I’m not blindsided.

    1. Caroline

      Thanks so much; I”m the original poster and these responses have all been helpful. I will definitely talk to Diane. I just want to be careful not to do it in a patronizing way. I should have been clear that this is one of those promotions that doesn’t change the job description in any way–at my workplace there’s no opportunity for that right now in our division–but is recognition for someone who has consistently overachieved. In any case, I will speak to Diane and I really appreciated your advice, particularly because you can relate to her position.

  17. Cheesehead

    #1: I used to work for a company in IT, in support. After I put in a few years, I started wondering about promotions. Cue the time when they reorganized/reclassified our positions, so therefore any potential promotions were moot. Then you had to ‘prove yourself’ for another few years. But I kept asking, and expressing an interest to move up and have more responsibility. Enter the nasty coworker, who was an HR assistant before moving to IT, with no IT experience. But despite her obvious lack of knowledge and abrasive personality unless she was sucking up to you, the squeaky (b*tchy) wheel gets the grease, and believe me, she squeaked. Ex: when we all had to provide coverage, she took a *2 hour* lunch (normal was 1/2 hour), never called in to let us know she’d be late coming back, and acted very blase about it when she did return. Never apologized to the rest of us who had to cover for her, and the supervisors didn’t even seem to care, whereas for the rest of us, it would have been a deadly sin.

    Around this time, I asked to go part time b/c I had small kids. Much to my surprise and delight, this was granted. I was still doing the same job, just fewer days per week. However, after this, I found out that at the same time I went part time, squeaky coworker got a promotion and she was higher than me in the ranks. Squeaky had not nearly as much experience, was rude, and as we could overhear others’ support calls, I knew that some of the support advice she gave was flat-out wrong. Yet she got promoted. I knew that my ‘reward’ was being allowed to go part time. Still, I would have really appreciated someone giving me a heads up and telling me outright that squeaky was going to be promoted and that I would be giving up my chances of a promotion b/c of my new part time status. just be straight with me…no stringing me along. Nobody ever told me anything like that, despite me asking my supervisors for quarterly meetings to assess how I was doing at moving toward a promotion. (Those meetings were a joke, with a constantly moving target of things that I had to do. I would work on what they said for 3 months, and then they would say that I hadn’t done something that they’d never before mentioned as a performance goal while glossing over anything I had done.)

    So yes, please do say something to Diane, as a professional courtesy, especially if she has already shown instances of pouting or getting down on herself. And please give her clear feedback, not vague: “You do A and B really well. Your attention to detail for B is really appreciated. However, C and D are also in your job description, and you know from past discussions that there have been a lot of inconsistencies in the quality of your work. You would certainly be a candidate for a promotion if C and D weren’t in the picture, but they are. Promotions are granted when someone succeeds in all facets of their job. If you want to work on C and D more, we could arrange some monthly check-ins to chart your progress.”

  18. Kristie

    RE: Facebook

    It is silly for bosses to require their employees friend them on facebook.

    Good advice from Allison on how to deal with the request.

  19. Chloe Silverado

    #5 – Allison’s wording is great! I wish I had read this before my last job interview. As the hiring manager described the position, it became very clear to me that it would be a step backwards in my career. She then said to me “Really, this is an entry level position. Are you ok with that?” I was pretty disappointed as the job description indicated needing a higher level of experience and I was looking for a step up, not backwards or a lateral move, so my response was “NO!” way too quickly and forcefully. I backpedaled, clarifying that after hearing more about the position it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but I’m pretty sure that company will never consider me for another position after that outburst.

    1. Colette

      That really doesn’t sound like a “never consider again” misstep – I doubt the hiring manager made the point of telling everyone else at the company about it.

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