another four reader updates

Four more updates from readers whose questions were answered here this year —

1. My colleague works around the clock and I’m concerned it will impact management’s idea of realistic workload (#2 at the link)

Things ended up working themselves out, though not in the best way. Unfortunately, all the overtime caught up to my colleague, and they ended up on almost a month of stress leave. There were private, extenuating circumstances to it all to which I wasn’t, rightly so, privy to.

Our manager is monitoring workload much more closely and opened up a productive dialogue about our hours and made rules around overtime clear. The main one being in the government you can’t just decide to work overtime, it has be to approved in advance, which means if your workload is too much you have to have a conversation with her, and as the manager it is her job to manage the team’s workload and outputs. I have actually been assigned some of their files, and like some commenters deduced, it turns out that despite the hours, the actual work being done wasn’t very efficient. They are back at work now, and have definitely taken a step back.

2. My CEO wants us to wear pants with the company logo on the butt

Alas, I haven’t got an update yet. My boss hasn’t said another word about those pants since he first mentioned it, and I don’t want to say anything unless he brings it up again. I don’t know, maybe he has nixed the idea all on his own and letting it die a quiet death? A girl can dream!

3. Interviewing when obviously pregnant (#5 at the link)

I asked for advice when interviewing at 6 months pregnant. I found an open position in my field and applied. I didn’t mention the baby bump at the first interview – I’m not sure if the employer actually noticed. At the second interview, I did bring it up and the employer responded with an instant congratulations, when are you due, etc.

He had no problem with my situation and offered me the job on the spot. I even ended up with a partially paid maternity leave.

Thank you again for your advice. Your articles have great information!

4. Interviewers keep commenting on my height (#3 at the link)

I haven’t needed to use your advice or any of the great tips left in the comments. I went on a few more interviews, where no one commented on my height (or any other aspect of my appearance), before landing my current job.

I’ve been at my current position over 6 months – I love it! And the only time my height becomes a topic of conversation is when I ask for help getting something down from atop our tall cabinets.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Bubbles*

    #4, I’m glad your situation worked out. I had a friend in college who was quite tall, around 7ft I think, and he was always fielding questions about his height. Oddly enough he started wearing a tail on his belt so people would ask him about his tail and not his height. He had a very humorous outlook on life :-).

    1. L McD*

      I’m very happy for the OP too. I’m tallish, but I don’t really get that stuff anymore – I’ve been the same height since early adolescence and it stopped being impressive once I was actually an adult – but I do remember getting a lot of weird, invasive questions and comments about my height. So awkward for everyone involved. I don’t know why people feel it’s appropriate to bring this stuff up in conversation.

  2. Juli G.*

    I’m very happy to hear about #3. Lots of pregnancy discrimination cases right now in the media but plenty of companies realize the short term impacts of a pregnancy are worth it for long term benefits.

    1. Sophia*

      Yes, me too – happy for OP! Though I was surprised Alison suggested mentioning the pregnancy during the interview, rather than once an offer was made since that’s what she recommends for nearly everything else

      1. Tau*

        I think it’s the “obviously” that’s the key. In some situations it’s really not possible to hide a certain fact until after the offer is made, and I think at that point Alison suggests bringing it up in the interview so you can talk about how you’re planning to deal with it in order to prevent the interviewers from making assumptions or jumping to conclusions that are far worse than the reality. For instance, I have an obvious speech disorder and was looking for advice on how to deal with that in interviews in the archives – that’s another one where Alison suggests talking about it in ther interview.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Exactly. If they’re going to realize you’re pregnant whether you mention it or not, you might as well address the questions they’re probably thinking about but can’t ask.

          1. Sophia*

            Tau and Alison – that makes sense! Though I do think that at 6 months the OP thinks it’s obvious but it may not be obvious to others. I was interviewing at 5 1/2 months and no one knew, in fact they were surprised when I mentioned it during negotiation (and I don’t think it was just politeness on their part). Either way, congrats OP!

            1. Kyrielle*

              It very much depends on the woman, and the pregnancy. Many people are showing by 6 months, though not all. With my second, people noticed around 3 months. With my oldest, I’m not sure they’d have noticed until 5-6 months except that I announced it just past 3 months (and of course it’s more “obvious” when you already know).

    2. Artemesia*

      This one stunned me. Good for the OP and for the company. I think it is a rare company that would make an offer when one is obviously pregnant and will be needing leave.

      1. Alma*

        +1. Congratulations on the birth of your child, and on finding a great employer. Your pregnancy really gave you an opportunity to see “beyond the interview” to gain insight on the employer. Thanks for updating!

      2. Cindi*

        A former boss was hired when obviously pregnant. I was impressed when they did that. She went on full maternity leave (12 weeks) two months after she started.

  3. Rebecca*

    #1 – I cannot stress this enough. If you are non-exempt, you are not doing yourself or your company any favors by working off the clock. Some of my coworkers have been working through breaks and lunch since last summer, putting down out time on their time cards but still working. This greatly skews the perception of how much work can be done by X employees in Y time. Now a person has been promoted from our department, and it appears we don’t need a replacement, and we sorely do. Our manager has said “no overtime”, but she also has made statements about not understanding why people aren’t working overtime, which is a whole discussion in itself. I tried to tell them this has a bad impact, and why, but I’m on their level and the response is always “but I can’t get my work done and I have to do all these things, I don’t have a choice”.

    The impact of just 5 people coming in 1/2 hour early and working through their 1/2 hour lunch break without documenting it means that 25 hours of work per week are being done off the books. That’s half a person. Now we’re down a whole person, plus that 25 hours of “free” work is still out there.

    I’m not even sure this can be fixed at this point. There’s a phone call to HR I’d like to hear.

    1. Takver*

      I know there’s a lot of pressure on everybody and it’s a scary job market out there, but honestly, the word that comes to mind is “scab.”

      1. Just Visiting*

        Yep. I’m horrified at the number of people in my generation who willingly work for free and I do call them scabs. Millennials need to learn some labor history.

        1. Clerica*

          That’s really not fair. Millennials are constantly being told how entitled they are despite in many ways having less than the previous couple of generations–by that I mean that my parents and grandparents didn’t need a bachelor’s to sort the mail; the bachelor’s was a fraction of what it costs now if they did get one and was actually worth something in the job market; they had much better job security (no 39.5-hour-a-week “part-timers,” better health insurance, pensions, etc); they weren’t having to do the work of three people so the company could cut costs, and cost of living has been rising much faster than salaries in recent years. A whole lot of quality-of-life stuff the older generations conveniently forget about. Yet millennials are called entitled just for wanting something better than McDonald’s because they need to pay the huge student loans they took out to allegedly not be stuck working at McDonald’s. Okay, so you have a millennial who actually cares, and one of the very few things in their control is how many hours they work. It’s hard for one to wrap their mind around the fact that this is the one thing it’s okay to refuse to do (and in many companies it isn’t really okay, labor laws be damned, but you can’t quit that job for moral reasons because there might not be another one). It’s just as fair to want a college education that doesn’t financially cripple you, or a living wage, or a little house, or more maternity leave like, you know, every other industrialized nation (just a few examples), so being called entitled for wanting those things doesn’t really prepare someone to accurately calibrate issues like working off the clock. They’re not doing it to suck up, they’re doing it because they’re told to shut up on literally every other issue, so why should this one be different?

          1. Just Visiting*

            I am a Millennial, born near the beginning of the generation, but still. The scab is also just trying to keep their head above water and make an honest living, but that doesn’t make what they do right. Ultimately the system is at fault but until individuals within the system assert their rights nothing will ever change. If every person refused to work an “unpaid internship” or work off the clock then the system would HAVE to change, and I’m not above shaming people who do these things because it’s for their own good. I don’t see where entitlement enters in, except toward the employers who feel entitled to exploit people (except that now it’s white-collar and retail workers being exploited, not manual laborers).

            1. RP*

              “Ultimately the system is at fault”

              If you actually believed that then you wouldn’t be blaming individual people for systemic problems. You’d be calling for stronger labor laws, better enforcement, protections for whistle-blowers, a better economy and job market, etc. You’d be calling for the elimination of the root causes of people’s desperation. You’d be calling for systemic solutions to a systemic problem.

              Instead you’re calling for people to be willing to get fired to avoid 30 – 60 minutes of overtime and call being unemployed “for their own good”. To me that says that you think it really is their fault and that if trying to fix it harms them then they deserve it.

              1. Anna*

                I think what Just Visiting is saying is that it’s not a one way relationship. How do you change systems? You get enough people unwilling to work within the system as it stands to band together and force change. In order to do that, you need enough individuals refusing to let the system take advantage. The system does not exist outside the people who create it; that’s called reifying and it’s used by both sides to keep change from happening.

        2. Sloop*

          Sigh.. is this really a “millennial” thing, or a “crappy job market and people will do anything to keep their jobs” thing?

          1. Anony in the half shell*

            Anonymous for this one, but it’s not a millennial thing. I have several older coworkers who are hourly, but they often work off the clock. They complain about having too much on their plate, and I’ve said for years that they need to quit putting in the unofficial (unpaid and illegal) overtime, because they are hurting themselves. If they need another worker to help out with their workload, that will never come to light because management turns a blind eye to the extra work. One of these coworkers has been at this company for almost 20 years, and they are both older than 50.

          1. Just Visiting*

            Just because it’s understandable doesn’t make it right. Traditional scabs are also desperate, by and large.

        3. Stephanie*

          Have you read Intern Nation by Ross Perlin?

          I agree with your sentiment, but I’m unsure about “scab.” I feel like you can’t begrudge people trying to get started on their career when unpaid internships more often than not are the entry point for some fields.

          I don’t think unpaid internships are right and tend to draw only those who can = afford to work unpaid (which can often exclude those of fewer means). I know for some agencies and nonprofits, they can’t afford to hire a paid intern. But I did wince at friends who felt pressured to work what sounded like a full-time job for no pay with the vague promise of a permanent offer.

          It does sound like there’s some growing backlash (with that Black Swan lawsuit last year). I do hope going forward that if an unpaid internship is offered, it can at least be designed such that the intern could make money elsewhere.

          1. Just Visiting*

            I know for some agencies and nonprofits, they can’t afford to hire a paid intern.

            This might sound harsh, but if you can’t pay your regular workers, your agency shouldn’t exist. I have no problem with a nonprofit hiring volunteers, that’s a totally different thing. But the second you’re locking someone into something that looks like a full-time (or even a part-time) schedule and giving them a role with any complexity, you need to pay them. There’s a huge amount of hypocrisy in running a nonprofit that supports the poor and under-served that only exists because of unpaid labor.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Plenty of people do unpaid work for nonprofits — including roles with some complexity — because they believe in the organization’s work and are perfectly happy to donate their labor for something they believe in and want to see advanced. And in some cases, also because they want to get experience doing something that they’d otherwise not be able to get hired for, and they calculate that it’s to their advantage to get the experience unpaid versus otherwise never getting hired in the field they want to work in at all. I’ve hired unpaid interns, and in most cases they were people I never, ever would have hired if the role was paid; I would have hired more experienced people who wouldn’t need such close supervision and training. It’s not as black and white as you’re making it out to be.

            2. sunny-dee*

              How is it hypocrisy? Non-profits are funded through donations. The time itself is a donation. I volunteer at my church, and I do it willingly. Why would I demand payment and divert funds from actually doing things? This is my contribution to make.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          My understanding is that ‘Scab’ is a slang term for a strike-breaker; someone who is hired to keep production going, or who returns to work during the course of industrial action, thus undermining the striking workers.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            The term “scab” is actually an acronym –

            S till
            C ontinuing
            A ll
            B enefits

            If you’ve ever been through a union situation – it applies to

            a) people who cross the picket line and defy their union and
            b) people brought in – strikebreaker workers – to try to keep production going.

            Coming from a union movement town – we knew that term , what it meant, when we were in primary school – and – such a person is regarded as the lowest of the low.

            And history shows – no one truly respects strikebreakers. Not even management. That being said

            I would never classify an exempt employee who puts in extra time as a “SCAB”. It is a competitive world. When cuts are made, the ones who are willing to put in extra time and roll up their sleeves – tend to stay, and the clock-watchers tend to get the bricks.

            This is not to say “you’re a sucker if you take work home one-two nights a week and work on it there”… execs, managers, etc. , all have to sometimes put in the extra time. If 80-hour weeks become the norm, however, there’s a problem.

    2. RP*

      Our manager has said “no overtime”, but she also has made statements about not understanding why people aren’t working overtime, which is a whole discussion in itself.

      Oh man, I’ve gotten that. “Get this done by (really soon) date but there’s no overtime for this.” Yeah, great.

      I also have co-workers who seem to think non-billable work is supposed to be off the clock but whenever I’ve asked someone in charge they say that’s not the case. I don’t know who’s saying or implying that to them. It could be that they’re picking that up from the tendency for meetings to happen at noon.

  4. Jill of All Trades*

    #2 I’m with you; if it can die a quiet death let it. I wouldn’t bring it up but if he does you’re armed with how to discuss the concerns. Good luck!

      1. OP#2*

        Actually I told him about AAM my first week of joining the company four months ago. We were dealing with a HR issue and I directed him to a post on AAM on how to deal with it. He admitted later that he was too lazy to read the post and asked me to verbally tell him what it was about. So I don’t think he reads AAM, but he sure is aware of it. :) The reason he hasn’t brought it up is we have just been so busy. Company swag has simply taken a backseat. We’ll see what happens in a few months when we have time to talk about it again. I’ll be sure to reread the advice I got. Haha.

  5. INTP*

    Is it too terribly evil of me if when I saw that there was an update about the pants….I kind of hoped that the unisex butt-logo khakis of doom had been produced and there would be pics?

    1. Stephanie*

      Khakis of doom is redundant (at least for women). (If someone can tell me where non-sad-looking women’s khakis are, please let me know.)

  6. Stephanie*

    #1 – This was a problem at FirstJob (also a government agency). We had a giant backlog of cases. Our performance was evaluated on quotas that were determined back in the 70s and weren’t really realistic anymore. So people worked crazy hours to meet the quotas (overtime could be authorized, but only after you met the initial quota). Since the backlog was sort of getting tackled (the public would probably disagree), management didn’t really see a need to change things. We were unionized, actually, but the union was pretty toothless (this was in a right-to-work state, among other things). And no one would want to refuse to do work, as failure to meet quota was the top fireable offense. It was just a crappy situation all around.

    1. ?*

      A federal agency? My understanding is the OPM, career status rules, and bargaining agreements overrule any state right to work statues. (My state just tried to pass a right to work law in the past two years but we wouldn’t be effected.)

      1. Stephanie*

        Hmm, unsure. That was just a guess as to why our union was never very effective. You could be correct. Our agency was also kind of anomaly since it was self-funded and had some of its own rules (and its own GS pay scale).

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