my manager’s girlfriend just joined our team, my boss doesn’t understand what I do, and more

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

1. My manager’s girlfriend just joined our team

Three weeks ago, my direct manager’s girlfriend joined my team from another team in the company. It felt like a really bad idea at the time and my worries have started to come true. We’re working in a creative field and he has to sign off on design ideas and our work. It’s very obvious when we discuss ideas in meetings that they’ve already discussed things in advance which makes it feel like my and my colleagues’ ideas will never get the same chance.

She’s a good team member and I like her as a person, but it’s really affecting how I feel about my job. Bringing in ideas feels more like a waste of time, as they’ve already discussed things over the weekend and I’ll never get the same “space” to present mine as she gets.

Both of them are youngish (late 20 – early 30) and it’s his first position as a manager (and he has been at it for a couple of months). Do you have any suggestions on how to (and with who) bring this up? Our (one person) HR is pretty crazy so I’d prefer not go through them. What worries me is that my manager will become defensive and claim their relationship doesn’t affect his work.

It’s insane that your company is allowing your manager to supervise his girlfriend. Insane, and I wonder if they even know about it. Allowing it opens the company up to all kinds of bad things — like the appearance of unearned special treatment (as you’re seeing firsthand), him not giving her objective feedback feedback or assessing her performance impartially, and even charges of harassment down the road (“I wanted to break up with him, but he implied it would affect my job…”).

But it’s a really awkward thing to talk to a manager about directly — and it’s unlikely he’s going to take action to change the situation himself anyway. So if you want it addressed, you probably need to either talk to HR (despite your HR person being crazy — this kind of thing is HR 101 so unless they’re crazy and horribly incompetent, they should still intervene) or someone with authority over your boss.

2. When a former employee wants to come back but you don’t want to hire them

Our office employed a person in the same role for about a decade. Last year, they moved to a less demanding and technical job in the company. This was at a busy time for us and left us in a crunch, but we managed. Now, the person we got to replace them (who was excellent, and really expanded upon the work previously done by this position) has been promoted, leaving the position vacant again, and the position’s original occupant wants to return, having found the new job unsatisfying for a variety of reasons.

The thing is, we have some very promising candidates, and are not sure we want the person back. Although this person has a wealth of institutional knowledge, their work was sometimes sloppy and they didn’t keep up with the technological changes in this field. I doubt that they were given any feedback indicating a need to improve while they were still working in our office, so they likely believe they are a sure thing for this current hiring process. Do you have any advice for handling this situation delicately?

I’d be direct: “We’ve taken the role in a different direction since you were last in it — Jane did X, Y, and Z in the role and we’d like to keep going in that direction. I’m glad to talk with you about the opening, of course, but I want to be transparent with you that we’re also talking with other candidates, and it’s going to be a competitive process.”

3. My boss doesn’t understand what I do

My new supervisor does not understand what I do. I work on a very specialized project that is not really integrated at all with the rest of the organization, because it comes from a separate funding line. I do some technical work like light web programming and some research. We’ve discussed my work many, many times but I think fundamentally he just does not understand it.

A coworker of mine who is closer with him told me that he had mentioned he has no idea whether I’m a good or bad employee, because he doesn’t understand my work. She told this to me in a joking way, but I’m pretty concerned about it. I can’t get feedback about my work from the federal employees who are actually involved with my project because they aren’t allowed to have that kind of relationship with a contractor. But my actual boss has no idea whether I’m doing a good job or not. I’m at a loss as to what to do, aside from continuing to give him metrics that he doesn’t understand, or forwarding him a bundle of “thank you” emails from my customers. And now I’m even starting to question whether I’m good at my job.

Is it on me to make sure my boss understands my role? And do you have any ideas on how I might approach that?

Is there any way to talk about your work in terms of the outcomes you’re responsible for achieving? The details of your work themselves may be too different from your boss’s responsibilities for him to easily understand, but he probably doesn’t need to understand those details anyway; what he needs to understand is what outcomes you’re responsible for and whether or not you’re achieving them.

In other words, if your job is done extremely well, what does that look like to others in your organization? What outcomes affect your team or your company or other parties, and how? I’d lay out for your boss what you’re working to achieve in those areas, and then periodically proactively report in on the progress you’ve made toward those goals.

4. Employee gave four days notice and wanted to use vacation for part of it

I’m a manager of a small business with nine employees. One of my staff recently asked for a day off, which I approved. Two days later, the staff member gave notice and told me they were leaving within four business days because the other company was “desperate.”

I accepted the resignation but asked that the employee forgo their vacation day (which they mentioned that they were using to hang out around the house) so we could train one of the other staff to do their job while we were trying to find a replacement. Like many small companies, we don’t have a ton of overlap among employee responsibilities. The employee was very angry, telling me that they would not have another vacation day for several months.

I’m a pretty seasoned manager and realize this employee could have quit on the spot without notice. But was it wrong of me to rescind their approved leave? I come from the school of thought that you should at least give your employer two weeks notice – especially if you are asking me to be a reference.

Nope, that was totally reasonable. The point of the two-week notice convention is to have time to transition your work. Your employee was already violating that by only giving four days notice, and it was entirely reasonable of you to say that you’d like them at work for all of those four days. In fact, many companies don’t let people use vacation time during their last two weeks at all (for exactly this reason — they want them there to help with the transition). Your employee’s expectations are way out of whack with how this stuff works.

5. How to greet a hiring manager in an email

I was wondering on how to address or start emails to a recruiter and/or hiring manager. I have been communicating with a recruiter on scheduling interviews, following up, etc., and she will begin her emails with my name and then a comma (like “Anna,”). It seems like a common practice, but I wonder if this is too formal or maybe even rude without any greeting if an applicant does it. I’ve been writing or replying back with “Hello so-and-so,”, but I also wonder if this is not the proper way either. What is the etiquette on communicating with recruiters and hiring managers? Would it be weird if I suddenly switched?

You’re over-thinking it. First, if a hiring manager is addressing you a certain way, you don’t need to worry that it’s too informal to address them back the same way. They’re telling you that they’re fine with that level of informality. Beyond that, it really doesn’t matter. Hi Jane, Hello Jane, Dear Jane — any of those are fine.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne*

    #1, is there any chance your company contracts with one of those companies you can call to report ethics violations? I can’t tell how small the company is although with one HR I guess it’s small. I’m sorry you’re between a rock and a hard place. Could you convince any other team members to go with you when you talk to the person in authority? It might help.

    1. Asker #1*

      No ethics violation company to report to. but trying to talk to team members sounds like a good idea. Then it won’t be so much me having a problem with it, as the team having it.

      Thanks for the suggestion

    2. Anon.*

      This is definitely a risk for ethics violations. What happens if there’s a R.I.F.? Or, how can the boss effectively evaluate his gf’s performance? What happens if they break up? She also shouldn’t be privy to some things that she could very likely be privy to (layoffs, salaries, etc.).

      I worked/contracted at a big company that seemed to thrive on nepotism. It’s wasn’t uncommon to see 2nd generation employees and spouses work there (one just can’t directly or indirectly manage the other, which makes your situation so much more difficult and disconcerting). When a spouse was hired to work in the same department as a manager (the manager didn’t manage the employee), there was concern by others in the department, since this person will have the scoop on info that may only be for managers, such as salaries, RIFs, and son on. The new employee was obviously not hired for skills, although a nice person, was not a good performer, in part, because that person did not have experience doing that kind of work. And, this person’s performance really didn’t matter.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – also curious as to how raises/bonuses are decided in that company.

        If someone has authority over raises/bonuses for their SO even if they are the most ethical person to ever walk the planet there is no way most people won’t assume that their relationship is a factor in how big a piece of the pie the SO gets.

        I think I’m an ethical person (for the most part) and I’d never be able to make those kinds of calls for my husband because if he gets a raise or bonus it increases my household income as well. This type of reporting structure being allowed is just such a bad idea.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yep, this was my first thought — many people would be tempted to give their SO a larger raise so they can in essence give themselves a raise! And even if they didn’t, even if they were fair and ethical, it could appear that way.

  2. James M*

    #2: I’ve gotten the impression that in tech fields, a candidate who doesn’t actively seek out challenges is an unequivocally poor candidate. Of course, phrasing it that way is not the delicate approach you’re hoping for. AAM’s advice is good, but I would think twice about mentioning the recently promoted person’s influence on the role; simply saying that the role has changed and now requires skills X, Y and Z should be sufficient to let the former employee know that he won’t be a shoo-in, without suggesting that his skills were overshadowed by his replacement.

    #3. Wow! You’re in a sticky pickle! I would suggest tapping into your professional network to see if anyone can explain (to your new boss) the gist of what you do and how it benefits your company.

    #4. “the other company was “desperate.””… The aroma of bull-**** is faint but clear. Instinct tells me that this employee is naive and possibly misled. If I’m right, their troubles are just beginning; please don’t begrudge their lapse of courtesy in this case.

    1. fposte*

      Why should I help shoulder the burdens of an employee who’s treating my organization badly, though?

      1. Michele*

        Totally agree with you fposte. Being young and naive is not an excuse for a lapse in professional courtesy.

        1. Artemesia*

          I agree, I would rather aggressively explain that the failure to give two weeks notice is a major lapse of professionalism and that they are also signaling to the new company that they are not likely to be a reliable employee. Tact here is going to sail right over the employee’s head.

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree, I would rather aggressively explain that the failure to give two weeks notice is a major lapse of professionalism and that they are also signaling to the new company that they are not likely to be a reliable employee. Tact here is going to sail right over the employee’s head.

      3. Tiff*

        I can easily see how a young and/or inexperienced person may not know what the standard is, and they are clearly overlooking the big giant red flag that should be waiving when a job wants you to start right away and ditch your old gig with little or no notice. Of course, there’s a chance that the employee is just being a bit of a jerk, but there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with being an inexperienced job hunter. You just don’t know all the protocols.

        I guess this would totally depend on what kind of employee this person was and what kind of relationship she had with the OP, but I’d lean towards rescinding her day off (I think we all agree on that one) and have an earnest conversation about Companies That Are Ok With That.

        1. hayling*

          I feel like you have to be living under a rock to not have heard the term “two weeks notice” or “put in my two weeks” – if not in the office than in a movie or something.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          A young person might not know that “we need you in four day’s and we’re desperate” is a red flag, but anyone over the age of 17 should still know you give your two weeks notice.

          1. Melissa O.*

            Yay! My question was published.

            The employee who gave notice was pretty publicly unhappy with his job, specifically with the lack of upward mobility that we have available so giving notice wasn’t a shock. The surprise was the lack of notice – and that this was a seasoned professional in their 40s. So “young and naive” can fly out the window. This person had also been a manager before. I honestly think he just didn’t care anymore.

            He pitched quite the fit when I rescinded his vacation day and made quite the scene of complaining about my flip-flopping on his time off to our fellow co-workers. Of note: any time he accrued was paid out to him in his final check. Thanks to all for your support. I needed a sanity check!

          2. Tara*

            Not sure if that’s an inclusive or exclusive 17, but it’s worth mentioning that I had no idea two weeks notice was the standard until I found AAM. I’d heard of giving notice but I kind of figured that was only for union jobs. When teenagers quit jobs it tends to be in the moment after being screamed at one too many times or because they’re leaving for university, in which case there’s months of “notice”. I can easily see a recent grad at their first real position not knowing this isn’t acceptable. (Although I can see below that’s not the case.)

      4. James M*

        fposte, are you sure you intended to reply to my post? My advice to OP4 is basically “don’t make it personal”. I can’t see how to extrapolate that into “…help shoulder the burdens of an employee who’s treating my organization badly”.

        People make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes big. Where is the benefit of persecuting someone for any mistake, regardless of size? When a situation is already resolved (e.g. in OP4’s case), the only things left to address are what you learned and how you choose to feel about it. OP4’s question concerns the latter point (which in itself supports the claim “I’m a pretty seasoned manager…”). I think we agree that OP4 was right and the employee was wrong; however I suggest that the employee was wrong because they made a mistake whereas you suggest that the employee was wrong because they’re “…treating my organization badly”. Demonizing people is not how I choose to react to their mistakes.

        1. fposte*

          Yup–you said “please don’t begrudge their lapse of courtesy in this case.” I pointed out that they were hurting my organization, so I don’t particularly feel the need to cut them slack on their mistake.

          1. fposte*

            And I don’t see it as demonizing; it’s just stating a fact. I’m not going to hunt them down or stab pins in a doll shaped like them, and presumably they don’t need a reference from me if they’re walking away like that anyway. But a failure to meet minimum notice practice hurts my organization; a failure to meet minimum notice practice *and* to want time off during that minimum notice makes me think we’re lucky that they’re going.

          2. James M*

            By all means, do or don’t cut slack wherever you deem it appropriate, but my opinion remains: please don’t begrudge (look upon with disapproval) someone’s mistakes, even when it causes you harm in some way, when you don’t know the reasons for those mistakes.

            Actually, scratch those last 9 words.

            1. fposte*

              And I don’t get this. Why shouldn’t mistakes be disapproved of? I feel like you’re seeing this as a call for kindness and I don’t think it’s the same thing at all–it’s about assessing people’s behaviors and giving more approbation for some behaviors than others, which is absolutely integral to work life. If somebody says they’re leaving a job for me in four days, I will be perfectly polite to them, but I will certainly disapprove. I will disapprove as I cancel my and other people’s days off to cover the shortfall and as I spend the weekend in the office making up the time. That doesn’t mean I can’t imagine their having reasons for what they did, and that I would never cut them slack if I knew them. But it’s fair of me to disapprove of the fact that other people are put out by this action, and that it’s not admirable behavior. I don’t see why it should be treated as if it were.

              1. James M*

                The critical dichotomy is thinking v.s. doing. Disapproving of someone’s actions is doing. Begrudging someone’s actions is thinking. I discourage OP4 from thinking a certain way about the incident. I think she handled the situation both correctly and appropriately.

                If you were faced with a situation similar to OP4’s, I’ll take your word that your would mete out the appropriate consequences in a professional manner. But would you stew on it? Would you resent the employee for causing completely unnecessary hardships to you and your coworkers? Or when the dust settles, would you let it go? Would you choose to set aside those negative feelings and look past the incident? Though obviously hypothetical, I believe OP4 is faced with similar questions. Hence my advice: when you’ve upheld the appropriate consequences, please don’t dwell on the mistakes that precipitated them.

                Condoning unprofessional behavior from coworkers is an unkindness, imho, since that would reinforce an attitude that will likely bite them (and others) in the a**.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          You don’t need to demonize someone to
          1)Let them know that this is an unprofessional, annoying thing to do that will definitely be mentioned if you need to give them reference
          2) Not let them take a vacation day

          OP asked if was wrong not to let the employee take a vacation day, not if she should take it personally. It wasn’t wrong at all; vacation days aren’t allowed after you give your notice at most companies. FPoste’s answer was a clear reaction to that; they wouldn’t allow someone to screw the company over by taking a vacation day at an inconvenient and unreasonable time. This really has nothing to do with begrudging someone or taking something personally.

          1. James M*

            I consider the possible impetus for any question someone asks. A seasoned manager (like OP4) doesn’t need to be told whether rescinding an approved vacation day for an imminently departing employee was a correct decision. My interpretation is that OP4 was having mixed feelings about the decision and articulated that by asking whether the decision was a wrong one.

            I could be utterly incorrect in that interpretation, but I think it is constructive to advise anyone not to harbor negativity about decisions which, even when right, have a negative (or mixed) outcome.

  3. J*

    #4: I’ve always wondered what to do in situations like this because I’m currently looking for jobs to get out of my ‘job from hell’ and I have a 3 week (ugh) notice period, but a lot of jobs I apply for say ‘immediate start’ and I’m really worried about how to end it. I know I’m meant to do the 3 weeks, but I’m worried I’ll miss out on a better opportunity by holding myself to it. How can you handle that one?

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Well two points:

      1) You’re not an indentured servant. You can walk out the door anytime. The problem is, if you walk out without notice, you’ve burned that reference. You have to weigh whether the cost of burning a reference (that any future employer may call with or without your okay) is worth it.

      2) Any would be employer who demands you walk out of a current job with no notice, is waving red flags with red neon lights. Decent employers don’t do this so, frying pan > fire.

      Anyway, don’t fret it until you get there. Two week notice is SO common that employers understand if they are interviewing an employed candidate, there’s a minimum of two weeks between offer and start.

      1. Jamie*

        2) Any would be employer who demands you walk out of a current job with no notice, is waving red flags with red neon lights. Decent employers don’t do this so, frying pan > fire.

        Yes, and I’d argue that a decent employer would have tremendous pause over someone who was willing to do that. I don’t want to see someone so willing to abandon professional norms because I’m wondering what mess they will create for me.

    2. AB Normal*

      “Immediate start” should never mean “drop your current job without notice”.
      It could mean that if someone is already available, they can start right away. I’m a consultant, and once started a job on a Monday after ending a contract on the previous Thursday and interviewing on Friday. But that’s because I was available.

      Last time I was changing jobs, I was told they wanted me to start right away; I refused and they hired a consultancy to do the initial portion of the work I was doing, then I joined. Now I have great references from both jobs. You need to think long-term, what will your current company will say about you when a future employer asks for reference?

      As for the 3 weeks, since 2 weeks is the standard, I’d try to negotiate 2 instead of 3, but that’s it. Remind yourself that if an opportunity is really that good, the company will not punish you for doing the right thing for your current employer and working through your notice period. Good luck!

          1. KittyhasKlaws*

            Ha! My last job had a 2 month notice period and my manager made me stay for the full amount, I was so happy to get out of there!

            1. KittyhasKlaws*

              I should also mention that I was junior and had no work to do (one of the many reasons why I was leaving)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Watch out for places that want you to “start immediately”. My husband had one boss say this directly, “Of course we will wait for you to work through your two week notice. We want you to do the same thing for us, if you decide to move on. It only makes sense that we let you do it for someone else.”

      Good companies will wait. It’s part of being professional, it just a part of business.

      1. Revanche*

        We advertise for an immediate start but we don’t mean for them to walk out of their jobs that day. It’s: the sooner you’re immediately available the sooner we’ll start you. This is more of a welcome flag for freelancers and currently unemployed applicants, really – we want ya! And also useful for people to bring it up if they can’t start for two months. I’ve had quite a few of those applicants where they have to do something for another few months but apply now.

    4. literateliz*

      I imagine this means simply that they’re hiring for a position that’s currently open, and not for one that will open up in March. Not that they want you to start the day after you’re hired, but that you’ll start as soon as is feasible for you.

      If it turns out that they really do mean “immediate start” in the literal sense, then the posters above are correct that it’s a red flag, but I think you’re reading too much into it! (Not that there aren’t some nutty employers out there, but I can’t imagine that they ALL mean that you must start the day after you’re hired.)

    5. hayling*

      Yeah I don’t think “immediate start” means “tomorrow,” it means that they want someone as quickly as they can reasonably fill the position. This language also maybe more common at companies that also have positions with a specific start date that may be a little bit farther in the future.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Agreed, I’ve seen a hiring process before that said “immediate start” or “as soon as possible” when they really meant “if we make you an offer and you accept you should be prepared to give notice right away and come to us as soon as your notice period is over.” They might not be doing themselves any favours by phrasing it that way, but if I saw that kind of ad I’d assume there was some flexibility for employed candidates (unless it was very, very clear there wasn’t) and I’d be kind of wary if it truly meant immediately.

    6. themmases*

      I would apply for them anyway; I always just interpret “immediate” as “ASAP” and normal employers pretty much realize that starting in less than 2 weeks isn’t actually possible for most people. I’ve been turned down for one job because I already had a job (I applied anyway just in case, because I was really qualified & also desperate to leave my job), and they were pretty clear that their needs were so short-term that they couldn’t consider people who would have to give notice to an existing job. I think that’s such an unusual requirement that postings are not vague about it when it’s present.

      It may also help you to think like an internal person. Even for relatively easy to fill, entry-level positions, hiring does not happen overnight. Getting a position approved, posting the job, going through applications, setting up at least one interview where the candidates’ time is also a factor, IT credentials, orientation– it all takes time. No one is sitting down to post an ad on Monday, really hoping they can get someone started on that backlog Friday.

  4. Anon Accountant*

    “The other company was desperate”. If this is what the employee was told they’re going to have many bad days there. Reasonable employers would be understanding an incoming staff member was giving a standard two weeks notice.

    Come on board faster because we are desperate for staff? Doesn’t sound good.

  5. Rebecca*

    #4 – I found out the last person hired in our office was given this ultimatum by our manager, except our manager told her on a Friday “you’re hired”, and when this person said she’d need to give a 2 week notice to her current employer, our manager told her that she either showed up on Monday morning or she didn’t get the job. She did this, burned her bridges at the other company, and is now miserable with the rest of us.

    As much as I want to leave my current job and its craziness, I would never accept a job offer if a manager told me to just leave my current job without notice. It’s one thing to say “if they give you a hard time, or march you to the door when you give notice, please call me and you can start right away”. It shows a total lack of respect for the new employee and his or her former employers to demand they simply quit on the spot.

    1. J*

      Yeah, this is whatI’m struggling to separate. A lot of jobs seem to have immediate start noted down, so I imagine they are looking for someone who can start immediately. I can’t tell if this means they are unreasonable/don’t want to work around notice etc or whether they just genuinely need someone to start immediately because they got left in the lurch or whatever and that’s why they noted it down. I’m in the position where i’m trying to escape the job from hell and am both desperate to get out but also don’t want to end up in another job from hell.

      1. misspiggy*

        Don’t they just mean, ‘immediately after 2 weeks’ notice, and the hiring process will be a rapid one’? You could always double check.

      2. Cheesecake*

        What surprises me (or more, outrages me) is the following. We know that it is much easier to find a job, being already employed. I live in Europe, in a place where notice period is 3 months. Yet, there are job offers with immediate start….Really? My current role is based on project and employer was desperate to find someone asap, because project has already started + i was not working at that moment. But any regular job with “immediate” start date….wtf?

        1. MissM*

          I agree with this. There are some people, like college students, who want to negotiate a start date a month or two down the road, and “immediate start” means that they need someone who is ready to hand in their notice and start right after their 2 weeks.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yeah– “immediate” is usually code for “the sooner the better”. I think it’s more an indication of how fast the company wants to move. My new job had timing that was “very aggressive” but they wanted ME, so they had no problem when I asked for a start date a month out for professional and personal reasons.

          The only time I’ve seen a manager object to holding off was when I took a 2-week trip (planned for 2 years) and we hired someone I needed to train. She wanted to start while I was gone, he insisted she start 2 weeks before I left (recent college grad, no job that required notice, she wanted to take a family trip). I don’t like the way he handled it, but I understood his reasoning. As it happened, none of my training stuck with her, despite copious notes, and I wished she’d waited until I got back.

        3. Koko*

          Yeah, this is what I usually take it to mean. Their hiring process itself is frequently rolling until a suitable candidate is found, so once they’re already allowed flexibility in how long it’s going to take to conduct interviews and make an offer, what’s another 2 weeks to get ducks in a row before the new hire starts? And if the hiring process isn’t rolling and they have a firm deadline by which to make an offer, I’d expect that deadline factored in 2 weeks before the hire started.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I agree with others that they’re probably looking for people to start ASAP, but they probably consider a 2 week minimum as a possibility with any currently employed candidate. I’d say it’s worth applying for those jobs that say they want you to start immediately, and see what they say, but I agree you should probably turn down any offer that demands that you forego 2 weeks notice. Even if they want someone who is unemployed to start right away, if they are smart they will be willing to wait 2 weeks for the right candidate…you!

        1. J*

          I just worry if I turn down something, it could be months before I see another offer…..months I’m suck in this employment hell.

  6. Layla*

    #4 – I wonder if companies could write a policy starting that when a person turns in a notice for x number of days/weeks, that denotes working days/weeks and either no vacation days are to be used or if used, the employee agree to a snow day policy where it must be made up.

    1. J*

      I think the problem could be when the employee genuinely didn’t do it to screw over the current employer. I had a co-worker who was job hunting and had a prebooked and paid holiday on her upcoming vacation leave, she got offered a new job. Told them about the holidays, they said ‘no drama, you can start afterwards’ and she wanted to use vacation leave as her half her notice (work one week, first week of vacation notice, another week on vacation, a couple of days booked to rest, start new job). Employer wasn’t happy but he had no recourse to make her forgo her vacation leave. He could have refused her using it if she asked when she resigned, but it had been booked for 3 months.

      1. Tenley*

        I think most jobs would not allow her to take that as paid vacation once she gave her notice and would not be required to; she could of course take it as unpaid leave. But she’s still shafting the employer, I think she was just lucky because that employer certainly wasn’t obligated to just say oh well.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I agree. If I were the resigning employee in that situation, I would have tried to work it out with the new employer to move the start date back such that I could resign the day I came back to the office from vacation. (In fact, I *have* done this three times now — I suppose it’s a good thing it’s always been at a different company, or I probably wouldn’t be able to take a vacation abroad without my boss asking, “Are you going to quit when you get back?”)

          Every company I have worked for has a policy of no PTO after you resign — I’m not sure what they actually do if an employee tries to get around that policy, though.

          1. J*

            I think in this case, they’d already moved back the start date back nearly two weeks for her to take the pre-paid vacation, but couldn’t really push it back ANOTHER two weeks because they really did need someone to get in and start. She decided having the new job was more important than pushing to come back here for 2 weeks. She said it was good because she’d have spent her whole vacation dreading coming back here (the boss is a bully, I’m desperately trying to leave). In the end, all that was well ended well because she’s been at the new company for a year now and is very happy there.

        2. J*

          Where I live, they can say no to using leave once you hand in your resignation, but when you resign, anything already booked has to be honoured. A lot of people play the system by booking leave and then hanging in their resignation a day later because there is legally nothing the employer can then do.

          1. KH*

            I used to work in Japan where don’t pay for unused vacation days. If you quit on January 1 and had 4 weeks’ unused vacation days, your effective separation date would be February 1. If you wanted to, you could work the new job starting from January 2 and nobody would say anything – so effectively you could get paid for unused holiday.

            In the US they seem to pay for unused vacation days so each unused day is worth its weight in dollar bills. Denying vacation time results in a lower payout for that employee.

        3. sally-o*

          The unpaid leave alternative doesn’t really make any sense if the employee is just going to get paid out for her remaining vacation days after she leaves.

        4. Jamie*

          It depends on how vacation time is accrued, the company policies, and if they pay out.

          It’s not required in my state, but I’ve never worked anywhere they didn’t pay out accrued vacation upon separate. If a person has X number of weeks and takes some during leave there would be no benefit to making them take it unpaid leave when they have to cash out the balance anyway.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Intentions to screw over or not don’t matter. The two week notice period is to help transition the job and you can’t do that when you’re on vacation. The co-worker gave one week, not two week notice.

        Again, it’s a matter of, do you want to burn your reference or not.

        1. Judy*

          Two of the places I’ve worked, both in states that do not require vacation payout, would escort someone out if they said, “Here’s my 2 week notice, I’ve got two weeks of vacation.” I’ve seen some people say “Here’s a month notice, I want to take a weeks worth of vacation days interspersed within it” and have it accepted, but always there were 10 days at work to transition whomever needs information.

        2. Worker B*


          So you get your vacation as paid vacation. You almost certainly lose a reference (especially if you do it as described above, knowingly game the system). People who are going into a new job might think they’ll never need that reference (but down the line then regret burning that bridge). Seriously, is it really worth it? It’s one week that you can take unpaid, or move back with the new employer, or simply take and then come back and put in your two week notice. There are so many options other than essentially wasting this reference.

      3. fposte*

        So why didn’t she just ask to start two weeks after her vacation ended so she could serve out some decent notice? I think she blew that one.

      4. EvilQueenRegina*

        At my old place, my coworker, I’ll call her Katrina, had booked a day off for an urgent medical appointment for her child. After booking this, she handed in her notice and our manager tried to make her come in on one of her non working days instead to make up for it (she did 3 days per week).

        We were going through layoffs at the time and our manager had been telling anyone for ages to go for other jobs. Once people started getting them, she didn’t like it and made things difficult for those who were going. HR had to intervene in the end.

    2. Ilf*

      Most states are “at will” states. I think the employer can mandate that employee does not use vacation days during notice period (if notice is two weeks or shorter), but they cannot mandate that the employee comes to work longer that they want to work for that employer.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    # 3 Maybe it would help your boss to understand what you do if you talk about work flows. Show how you are connected to the processes in the company. Or give him simplified examples of what you are working on currently.

    I see two problems here. The boss does not understand the job is one problem. The next problem is that the boss does not seem to have incentive to try to figure it out. Maybe you can cure the second problem by showing him how your work dovetails with his department. Some folks need to know how something impacts their own work before they can move out to see the big picture.

    If your work does not directly dovetail with his department, maybe you can explain why/how your job title got placed under his supervision. “About ten years ago, the company needed someone doing what I do. So they installed this position but it was basically it was a position that had no manager. So they stuck it under your watch because your department does x and y which is vaguely related to my a and b.”

    Last thought is explain to him what you need from him to do your job. Not in a rude way, explain in an informative, conversational manner. You can balance out the talk by saying “In return, I give you back [insert your end product here].”

  8. Hiring Mgr*

    This may be tangential, but on #4, as an employer or mgr I ususally find that the transition period does not require two weeks, nor should it. We all know the “hit by the bus” scenario. I would probably just let the employee take the paid day. Won’t they get paid out unused vacataion days when they leave anyway? So they’ll take the unpaid day now anyway, get paid later, and you’ve just make the few days where they will be there more difficult… just my 2 cnts

    1. Liane*

      “Won’t they get paid out unused vacataion days when they leave anyway? ”
      Most places in the USA, it depends on OldCompany’s policy. I *believe* I have read on AAM that California law requires the payout. That said, it does seem to be a fairly common policy in this country.

      1. Frances*

        My last employer required four weeks notice to get those unpaid vacation days. I was lucky, and found a new employer willing to wait that long, but I’m absolutely sure they set it up that way on purpose knowing most people would rather forego the vacation balance rather than lose out on a position that can’t accommodate that long of a wait.

      2. NowProwl*

        In CA, vacation time is considered a wage. Per the state: “the employer must pay the employee at his or her final rate of pay for all of his or her earned and accrued and unused vacation days”

      3. Miss Betty*

        We don’t get paid out for any unused vacation time when we leave, not even if we’ve used none of it all year and no matter how much notice we give.

    2. MK*

      In a “hit by the bus” scenario, is the transition smooth or a rush job that unsettles the workplace for weeks? I would agree that not all roles need that particular amount of time; some may need less, some more, it depends on the type of work, if there are other workers doing the same thing, etc. And of course you can manage with zero notice, if you have no other choice. The length of the notice period was probably determined as a middle-way: enough to cover the absolute basics even in the case when a new hire will need more time to become fully trained, but not so much that you are asking a departing employee to put his career on hold for their old employer.

    3. MK*

      Also, an employee being there to smooth the transition and the company having to pay out some time off are not equivelant. Most employers would rather make that choise themselves than having an employee determined which is better.

    4. Windchime*

      Our HR department can’t even get the job posted in two weeks, normally. We’ve got an opening in our area that we’ve been trying to get filled for several months: At first the position was posted with an incorrect title so we got some random applications that didn’t fit the *real* job. Then they posted it with the correct title, and we got more random applications. We’re now having to go through a recruiter.

      So really, the only reason for a person in my department to give two weeks’ notice is so they can tie up their loose ends and document things. There is no training, and no way to even have a person hired that quickly.

    5. Melissa O.*

      I’m the author of the question – so just to add clarity, we do pay out for any unused, accrued vacation time and the gentleman who gave notice was told that when he gave 4 days notice.

      From our end, we needed to identify resources to cover for him and definitely needed two weeks to do that.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    #1 Ugh. Just Ugh. Well, at some point the duo will run out of magical ideas for the department and they will have to turn and listen to you guys.
    One time, I was in a work group that was several married men that all hung out together. In the course of playing golf or whatever they did, lots of decisions were made and I was clearly out of the loop. Making matters worse, why would I, as a woman hang out with a bunch of married men???
    I felt so stuck.
    Then I realized. NO, this not true. We are still accountable for the work we do as a group. This meant that I could ask questions, have my own thoughts on things and so on. I realized that the correct venue for this discussion was in a MEETING and as a GROUP. I was not the one who was wrong here.
    So how did this play out? I kept my chin up. I participated in meetings EVEN when I knew I was talking to a wall. If one of them said “I will do X.” I acted like I expected X would be done/handled– but not in a mean way. I just carried a matter of fact level of expectation. “You said you were taking care of X, how did that go?”
    Sometimes ideas were suggested that were – uh, not so hot. So I would ask questions. “Does this plan include what to do if A or B happens?” [Where A or B are reasonable and foreseeable occurrences.] Sometimes they would conclude that maybe their idea was not so hot.

    It took a lot of time working this way, but eventually, I got the result I was looking for. I wanted things done openly and done as a group.

    Short version: Understand that the magical ideas between the two will stop at some point in the future. Keep a level head. Carry the expectation that everyone will be professional at all times. Let that expectation of professionalism show. What I liked about this was that at no point did I feel that I was being less than professional. Yes, that helped me a lot to stay on course with my method here.

    1. MK*

      I also wonder if the manager and the coworker/girlfriend are in a honeymoon period of them working together, when it’s still new and exciting to work with your SO. It’s possible that they will tire of having work discussions all weekend; or, even better, they will realise how inappropriate it is to have private meetings before the rest of the team has a chance to have a say. Perhaps the OP can sublty hint about this, in a “Oh, I don’t remember us having talked about this before” way.

  10. Jake*

    I’ve got a question relating to #3. I’m trying to put myself in the manager’s shoes here because as a new manager I haven’t experienced this yet, but I will eventually get to a point where I do. Let’s say that I figure out how to evaluate the outcome, and I come to the conclusion that it is not acceptable. I know to give clear and honest feedback as to the fact that the outcome is not acceptable because XYZ, but isn’t it also the manager’s responsibility to explain how to get to a point where the outcome is acceptable by doing ABC? If I don’t understand how the work gets done, how can I give (useful) feedback that explains how to get acceptable outcomes?

    1. misspiggy*

      I think it depends whether you’re expected to be managing that person on a technical basis (you have expert knowledge of what they do) or just as a line manager. If the latter, it should be fine to ask them to improve on the outcomes without mentoring them on how. An awesome non-technical manager would help their staff identify and approach technical mentors separately.

    2. MissM*

      This is a good question. In my first managerial job, I was managing people who had technical skills that I did not have, and I struggled with how to manage them. I thought I should be the expert and be able to train them in how to do their job. But I came to understand that my job was to establish overall goals and hold them accountable for that. Our company provided training courses in the technical side of things, if they needed it, and I had senior staff who could mentor the junior staff. My job wasn’t to be a trainer, but to help them get the training they needed to be able to do their jobs.

      1. Swarley*

        I don’t have anything to add, but I wanted to write how much I enjoyed your input. This really gave me some perspective.

      2. Judy*

        One thing I run into in software development is that there is a perception it is all about typing a few things and then it’s done. Sometimes it is hard to explain that just because your son can get a webpage up in 4 hours on a weekend, an enterprise level web portal just takes more time. Actually documenting the requirements, so you know when it is done. Writing the code. Creating at least some documentation for whomever will be maintaining the code. Reviewing the code with peers. Testing the code yourself. Handing the code and requirements to an independent tester for testing.

        Many managers are only worried about one outcome, schedule. It’s like the discussion about mistakes the other day. I believe software should not be delivered with only one person handling it, it doesn’t make for a quality process. If you don’t write down what the software should do, then how do you know it is doing the right thing?

  11. Xay*

    #3. As a federal contractor who has had supervisors who don’t understand what I do, I know what you are going through. Alison’s advice is right – you need to reframe your feedback in terms of whether or not you are producing the outcomes. Also, even though the federal FTEs can’t provide feedback to you, they can talk to your supervisor about whether or not they are pleased with your work and your supervisor should be able to get that feedback from them whether or not he understands what you do and pass it on to you.

  12. sally-o*

    #5 The OP seems to be concerned that replying to the hiring manager in the same manner is too *formal*, not too *in*formal. It’s as if the hiring manager is being very strict and non-nonsense by using the OP’s name and a comma alone, but the OP wants to appear more genial.

    OP, I think it’s safer to use the greeting/salutation that you are comfortable with – such as “Hello Kate,”. Do what feels natural to you, rather than copying the hiring manager’s style.

  13. Elizabeth West*

    Alison, in #4, I think you meant to say “way OUT of whack.” You a word. :)
    (I just found that exact mistake in my ghost book–good thing I’m doing a hard copy edit before I send it somewhere. Gah!)

  14. Swarley*


    This sounds to me like an issue with reporting structure. I get that managers may not always understand every detail of each of their employee’s jobs, but a manager who “doesn’t understand my work” is not in a position to give me critical feedback. First, If I’m the one laying out the results that are expected of my work, why wouldn’t I just set the bar incredibly low so that way I look like a stellar employee regardless of whether or not that’s actually true? (I wouldn’t do this, but someone might) Second, even if the manager saw that I was falling short of “my expectations,” how would he or she explain what success is supposed to like? And how would he or she explain that I get there? There needs to be another person in that organization that is more suited to overseeing this role. Either that, or your manager needs to meet with the federal employees who have a hand in your funding and find out what the expectations are, and how success is measured in this role.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It really depends on the role, and the higher up you go, the less likely your boss is to know how to do your job. A CEO of a hospital doesn’t need to understand how surgeons do their jobs, just whether they’re getting the outcomes needed.

    2. AnonyMouse*

      I think in a lot of cases like this, the manager can’t necessarily evaluate the technical nitty gritty of the work, but can (like Alison said in her original response) evaluate whether the work is overall accomplishing what it needs to for the organisation. If I was, say, a statistician (I’m not), I might work for people who knew a lot about statistics and could understand what I was doing…or I might be the only statistician at an organisation that worked on policy or something like that. In that case, my manager would probably not know how I performed tests or how to interpret the raw results directly, but they would know whether I was producing useful final results on the questions they needed answered and whether I was doing it in a timely fashion so they could use the summary results to make decisions, write reports etc.

  15. JMegan*

    #3, I have had lots of bosses who don’t understand what I do. It seems to be the nature of the work that I do, and the fact that the profession hasn’t really been around long enough to have established a clear career path, so a lot of managers come at it from a totally different direction. It’s not a bad thing – and in fact, it can be a really good opportunity to show the boss how great you are at what you do!

    What I would do, is set up a meeting with the boss. Don’t approach it as a “You don’t know what I do, so I’m going to tell you” kind of meeting, because that probably wouldn’t go down very well. Instead, approach it as a “planning for next year” kind of meeting, where you agree on goals, metrics, performance standards, etc. So you prepare all that ahead of time, then open the conversation with “This is what I think my role should be this year, do you agree?” Especially if he’s new to the role himself, he’ll probably appreciate your help getting him oriented.

    1. Jamie*

      I love this and it’s what I would do.

      In a perfect world we’d all work for people who understood what we do so they’d totally get it when we pull off an amazing Hail Mary …because they would understand the mental effort and complexity that went into it. And there would be fewer unreasonable deadlines tossed out there simply due to not understanding what’s involved.

      So people being managed by those without the same technical expertise have to become good at communicating why that teapot tempering software won’t be done by Thursday – without resentment because you have to understand they aren’t asking for the impossible because they are running a sweatshop, they just don’t know, and with alternate timeline (broken into steps with updates for bigger projects.)

      And managers who manage people whose output they can’t personally evaluate need to find a way to do so. Either someone else in the company, another profession, research into appropriate metrics, etc. Trust but verify. It’s insulting to put someone under an umbrella of distrust permanently and consistently – but while you’re learning how to evaluate no one should be insulted by second opinions.

      The universal experience for those of us who work largely with people who don’t really know what our jobs entail is being wildly thanked and lauded as a genius for trivial stuff and often the really complex impressive stuff going largely unremarked upon because they have no idea how awesome the achievement was. Or even how overworked one may be.

      The last point especially crucial in positions where you may only have one employee filling the role. How do you know when you’ve pushed your lone IT close to burnout because your view is narrow and you don’t understand that in other companies the load is shared, or less, or outsourced, whatever. People need to advocate for themselves, and bosses need to educate themselves on reasonable expectations when they are managing people who do what they don’t understand.

      1. JMegan*

        The universal experience for those of us who work largely with people who don’t really know what our jobs entail is being wildly thanked and lauded as a genius for trivial stuff and often the really complex impressive stuff going largely unremarked upon because they have no idea how awesome the achievement was. Or even how overworked one may be.

        OMG, yes. I can map a network drive to someone’s desktop and get raves for weeks, plus emails to my manager about how helpful I was. And yet I can also work for a year or more to overcome resistance to my project, get people working with me, complete it, implement it, and change-manage the heck out if it, and don’t even get a pat on the head. Good thing I like my work so much, or I would find that incredibly frustrating!

        1. Jamie*

          OMG mapping a network drive is always the example I use! Like it’s some dark magic known only to us chosen few.

  16. Bend & Snap*

    #1 ethics aside because they’ve been covered–who wants to see their significant other that much? Don’t they need breathing room? What happens when all this togetherness turns into a fight?

    My former boss was married to the president of the company. I was in his office one time when he took a call from her and proceeded to talk down to her in such a demeaning and condescending way about a personal matter that I had trouble seeing her in a position of authority after that.

    Maybe the girlfriend will undermine the manager at some point and that’ll help things along.

  17. OhNo*

    This is more tangential to #1 than an actual response, but what on earth makes people think that working directly with their SO is a good idea? I literally cannot wrap my head around it. What do they plan to do when they break up? Even if they don’t break up (ever), what will they do when they fight? What will they do when they have a bad day and their SO has to deal with them at home AND at work?

    Seriously, can anyone explain to me why people think this is a good idea? Is this something that can ever really work?

    1. fposte*

      I think sometimes it does actually work fine. I’m in academics, where spousal hires are pretty common. I think reporting to your SO, however, is going too far, and I think that after the first flush of “Wow, I can get my girlfriend a sweet job!” there’s likely to be some regret.

      1. Seal*

        I’m also in academia and have seen the impact of spousal hires on departments first-hand. While I understand why they happen, particularly amongst teaching faculty where it is not uncommon for spouses to work together on research projects, I am always very leery of those situations. One library I worked for had a husband and wife working side-by-side for several years. While the husband was in a managerial role in their department, his wife technically did not report to him on paper; in reality, his role had quite a bit of influence on hers. Because of this, she regularly got away with being abusive to other staff members and no one could touch her. Eventually, due to a combination of health issues and complaints of nepotism she retired. Interestingly, after she left her husband visibly relaxed and became much easier to work with, no doubt due to the fact he was no longer spending 24 hours a day with his wife.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, there are definitely concerns about it. But the other side is the impact of *not* doing spousal hires–of the faculty we wouldn’t have if we refused to allow partners to work together. We’re a lot better off for doing spousal hires than we would be otherwise.

    2. Jamie*

      I work in an industry where it’s common (as well as family relationships) and some people do a great job of compartmentalizing. As long as they aren’t in the same reporting structure it could work with certain people – not me (ever) – but some can pull it off.

      1. Katie (Not the Fed)*

        I work with my spouse (we are on the same level and pay grade) and the owners of this company are also married. We met at work so we were coworkers and then friends before we started dating. It helps to not talk about work on the weekends; conversely we spend a fair bit of time apart outside of work, though we still enjoy each other’s company.

        Where it breaks down though, is having good bosses. This company is very small (8 people) and as I mentioned before the owners are married to each other. The partner in charge of managing scheduling is disorganized and frequently blames employees for mishaps; it is very hard to remain silent or objective while your spouse is being chewed out in front of you for unfair reasons. For these and other reasons I am searching for other work. Another issue that complicates working together is what happens when one leaves a poor work environment while the other stays. You have to have a solid rapport with your partner in this case.

        Benefits: we can carpool together and I know there is at least one rational employee in the company.
        Downside: taking vacation together is a toll on a small company (2 employees out of 8 is a lot) remaining impartial in face of irrational management; moving jobs when one partner wants to stay put; maintaining boundaries and communication skills.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Another downside: if the company needs to lay off people, you’re looking at the possibility of both of you being unemployed at the same time.

          That’s the main reason I left a job where my spouse also worked. We were in separate groups, but it was nice seeing him during the day, eating lunch together, carpooling. But when the company sold and we looked at the chance that the new company wouldn’t pick either of us up — never again will we put ourselves in such a vulnerable position.

          1. Katie (Not the Fed)*

            Yes – thank you for bringing this up. I also worry about having all the eggs in one basket. If anything happens we will both be unemployed. I’ve tried to diversify our investments to counterbalance this but it’s not the same.

    3. Nerdling*

      We have a lot of spousal couples and one family who have made it the family business, so to speak. That seems to be something of a tradition in law enforcement. The most important thing is not to be reporting to one another; after that, it seems to be not being in the same reporting structure at all; often, being in different job roles helps, too. All of that means that you’re working different areas and you’re less likely to have a lot of overlap, so when one of you has a busy time, the other can pick up the slack at home. I know one couple who work in the same reporting structure, and the wife has already made it known that if something went down that required their structure to be working extra time, she would not be able to do the extra work because she would have to stay home with the kids; to me, that’s an example of poor management in allowing them to be in the same chain of command in the first place.

      1. Sara M*

        My parents worked at the same university. But in different departments, and they had no authority over each other.

        It was nice that they could walk across a parking lot to see the other one, if they wanted lunch together. (And both were one block from my elementary school which was also nice!)

        They also liked being able to compare departmental politics (different sets) and discuss university-wide policies that applied to both of them.

        The only real disadvantage was we kids grew up with very little idea of how most jobs are, or what it’s like for a parent to change careers, or any of that. I was really naive when I started in the working world.

  18. Seal*

    #4 – Sound like this was a young employee with little work experience; sometimes I wonder if this is another generational thing. All of my more seasoned employees understand the concept of giving a two week or longer notice when leaving a job; those fresh out of college and/or at their first full-time job act as if they’ve never heard of such a thing. Earlier this year I had an otherwise stellar employee in her first full-time job out of college tell me she was planning to interview for an internship in anticipation of going to graduate school. A week and a half later, she told me she had been offered the internship and since they wanted her to start the following Monday she would be leaving at the end of the week; this amounted to three and a half days notice. When I commented on the fact that she wasn’t giving me much notice, she said that she told me almost two weeks ago about her interview. Another employee who was friendly with her and had many more years of experience quietly explained to her why I was so upset and that notifying your boss of an interview is not the same thing as giving notice. To her credit, my now-former employee was mortified by her breach of etiquette and very apologetic; unfortunately, she still wound up leaving at the end of that week. Hopefully she learned her lesson and won’t do the same thing to her next employer.

  19. Snarkus Ariellius*

    LW 3>  Most importantly, if your boss doesn’t understand what you do, then you do not have good job security.

    As for your boss, it’s really unprofessional and terrible on his part to openly admit he doesn’t know if you’re good at your job because he doesn’t have a clue.  It truly does reflect poorly on him.  Do you think he’s aware of that?  Maybe he doesn’t care?

    I’d like to probe a bit further here, and I hope you’re reading.  Is it possible that your boss doesn’t understand because he doesn’t care to know?  For example, before my job, I didn’t understand the specifics of the issues my agency dealt with, but I buckled down and really pushed myself to learn it.  How have your previous conversations gone with him?  What acknowledgement DOES he give you when the issues come up?  Is he embarrassed that, after all this time, he still doesn’t know what you do?

    At some point though, there’s only so much you can do.  After multiple meetings, emails, phone calls, etc. of metrics and the ins and outs of what I do, I still couldn’t get a former boss to really grasp my job because she fundamentally didn’t care.  I’d like to say it was on her and not me, but it did hurt me in the long run.  

    1. Jamie*

      Sure, it can be unprofessional if the reason for the boss not understanding is lack of concern – but that’s almost never the case in tech jobs.

      I work for an SMB and report to the owner of the company. Do they know the overarching goals of my jobs and what I need to accomplish – sure. Should they become an IT SME just to evaluate me? It’s not something you can glean from reading a book or a little research…I don’t know how anyone could be fully competent to understand all of what IT (or other highly technical positions) without it being what you do for hours a day every day for years on end.

      It’s analogous to other things where we pay people to do stuff we’re not trained to do. If I have a mechanic work on my car I’m taking it to a professional because I don’t understand the first thing about what’s wrong or how to fix it. I can get estimates, check out reviews, ask people I trust who are in a position to know if I’m getting ripped off…but I couldn’t vet them personally unless I became a mechanic to do so.

      If it’s something easily learned or things they should be expected to know and don’t, that’s totally different and speaks badly of a boss like that.

      1. Snarkus Ariellius*

        But there’s a difference here.  You’ll know if your mechanic has done a good job because you already know how your car is supposed to function.  LW’s boss wouldn’t know what a functional car is supposed to look like or how it should be operating.  (As another commenter said, that’s a great way for someone to fool you.)

        Sure I get bosses shouldn’t have to know EVERY minute detail, but everyone’s boss should be able to step back and say “You’re doing well” or “You’re not fulfilling these goals” or “Your work needs to fit into this segment of our mission.”  A boss should be able to say something *substantive* about every person he supervises or he shouldn’t be supervising that person.

        What’s bugging me is that this boss doesn’t seem to be making an effort to understand despite the LW’s attempts.  (LW, please correct me if I’m wrong.)  If I were this guy, I certainly wouldn’t be telling people that I don’t know if Bob is doing a good job or not because I don’t understand what he does.  (And if this were the case, I’d be busting my butt to change my outlook.)

        Maybe I’m a pessimist but I do see all the ways in which this is going to backfire if nothing changes: review time will be a surprise for the LW; if the LW needs approval for a special project, he probably won’t get it; and when the budget needs reductions, the LW will be on the chopping block.

        1. JMegan*

          It sounds like the boss is new, though, in which case it’s not unreasonable that they may not be up to speed with the details of everything going on in their department. It also sounds like the LW hasn’t made a specific effort to get him up to speed, other than giving him “metrics he doesn’t understand.” It doesn’t read to me that the boss is deliberately being obtuse, just that he genuinely doesn’t understand the work, and hasn’t (yet) been given the information he needs to do so.

          1. Snarkus Ariellius*

            See I couldn’t tell. I got the impression that the LW had already made several attempts that went nowhere because there was no initiative or curiosity from the boss’s end. I figured that if the boss was still new, new the LW wouldn’t have written in the first place.

            Then again, I don’t know. I was hoping that the LW would weigh in.

            It seems really weird to supervise someone and not know what he does or how to measure that person’s success at the job.

    2. LQ*

      If the boss understands the big picture. Builds beautiful websites. Make programs that make the org run more efficiently. If the boss gets this, but doesn’t understand the specifics, is your code elegant? Is that the best program to do that task? That’s how a boss should function. If my programs start failing then my boss might worry. But if my boss had to understand that I need a SharePoint Library here rather than a List with attachments, oh and they are all called apps now anyway, because I only want one document per item and each document should have it’s own metadata tagging and so that I can move things between folders? No, my boss shouldn’t have to care. He should care that I say, Yup, it’s done, here’s how to use it, and here’s the documentation should I get hit by a bus.

  20. JCC*

    #3: Part of it may be an issue with unnecessary technical language. While every field has concepts that do not have equivalents in other fields, many fields have invented terms for things that they do that already have plain English equivalents in an effort to seem more professional.

    As you work for the government, maybe their Plain Language Project might help:

    Otherwise, a careful study of Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” and George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” ( certainly helped me improve the clarity of my writing.

  21. Illini02*

    #4, there are some situations where I can understand needing a person to start right away. I don’t think it necessarily is a red flag, although it could be. What I do think is interesting is that you are trying to demand she come in. Lets be real, it doesn’t sound like you are going to give her a glowing reference anyway (I could be wrong on that though). If you try to force her to do the time, nothing is stopping her from not coming in anyway, leaving you in a bigger lurch, and legally you’d still have to pay her for that vacation time. I understand how its very inconvenient for you, but I don’t know that its worth the fight.

    I still find that the 2 weeks notice thing is so one sided to benefit the company to be ridiculous. You do that, some jobs will walk you out immediately. If they want to fire you, many places won’t think twice about firing you immediately. But you as a worker are just horrible and unprofessional because you would dare quit with less than 2 weeks notice.

  22. CPE*

    #3. I am in this situation and I have given my two weeks notice. I suffered the real consequences of this problem. I worked for my current manager for less than nine months. For all that time, I felt he just doesn’t understand what I am saying or doing (as a matter of fact what everyone else is saying). He used to ask me the same question again and again. I used to explain it to him by writing on white board. But still I was not convinced that he understood what I was saying. Say we discussed something in a meeting involving other team members, after a couple of days he would talk something totally different from what we discussed in the meeting and me/other team member had to kind of remind him of what happened in the meeting. He just failed to understand the difficulty of the job.

    Now, about how it impacted me. He called me to a meeting two weeks back and he told I would get a negative performance review and if I chose to, I can leave taking a severance package. It was a shock for me. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I had work so much and there were big positive impacts on the project due to my work and I had spoken to him four weeks back about promotion. I had kept him in the loop for everything and he had not read any of my emails!!! Then I had to write everything that I had done, attach all the emails where other teams/clients had appreciated my work, provide the proof that the work I had done was very challenging (by attaching the mail in which other people gave up on that stating it was difficult). I also had to tell him that I will have to go to HR if he continues with this. He was shocked at the amount of work I had put in. He apologized for what he did. He said he was not aware of what I had done and I would not get a negative review.

    I don’t have a solution but you have to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. His perceptions will have real consequences for you.

    1. Chriama*

      That’s totally shocking. As a boss, I don’t know how you get to the point where you’re ready to fire an employee and then find out they’re actually amazing. Where’s *his* boss, and why isn’t s/he checking up on him?

      1. CPE*

        My previous manager advised that I should report this to my manager’s boss. I am not sure what to do. I will be out of here this friday. I have no confidence in this person and I will never feel safe working for him again. I am still contemplating and thinking that if my manager’s boss calls to talk to me before I leave, I should tell him what happened.

    2. LoFlo*

      I worked for one of these types. They are just totally clueless and expect their staff work around their limitations because that’s what effective teams do right?????

  23. Jane*

    #3 – This sounds like a Co-Employment situation. I work in that space quite a bit and one of the ways you can get feedback is to request that your supervisor/manager reach out to the leadership of the federal employees and ask for feedback. Then, your manager can provide you feedback from the “client” – i’m not sure if there are restrictions based on the federal piece, but in my client/supplier relationships I am the client and I give feedback to supplier leadership to give to their employees because I cannot give it to them directly. The supplier leadership then determines when/how/what to tell their own people based upon my feedback.

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