my boss won’t let me manage my staff, my old company plagiarized my resume, and more

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

1. My boss won’t let me manage my staff

I’m really getting fed up with having to supervise a slacker. My boss won’t let me fire him because “the next person could be worse,” though I don’t see how. Despite coaching, memos, training, and close supervision, he continues to mess up on the same kinds of tasks, is unreliable in attendance, and doesn’t follow through on what he’s agreed to do. I wind up spending time fixing his mistakes for customers because he has called in sick or had an emergency. He seems impervious to documentation and poor performance evaluations, and doesn’t seem to care at all about the inconvenience he causes to others.

I’d like to demand proof for every absence – doctor’s notes, notes from car repair shops or his furnace repair technician, but I can’t do that. I’d like to be able to put him on a performance improvement plan, something our organization doesn’t do. I can’t even give him a mandatory referral to EAP — I can only suggest it.

After years of this, I’m starting to look for other jobs. Should I tell my supervisor that her lack of support is driving me to this? What would it take to get through to her?

Your manager sucks. Big time. And yes, when you leave, you should tell her that the driving force behind your departure was her tying your hands and refusing to let you deal with performance problems — or at least you should tell her that if the relationship will allow you to say it without burning the bridge and losing the reference.

If your’e asking if you should tell her now, before you resign for another job, I don’t think there’s really much point. What you’ve described is such shockingly bad management — such refusal to let you have even the most basic tools to manage your staff and get things done — that it’s highly unlikely that it will do any good. Best case scenario, she makes a few changes around the edges; you’re still going to be stuck working for someone utterly inept whose instincts are to stop you from doing your job.

(That said, I do want to point out that demanding proof for every absence is unnecessary and distracting. Either your staff member is at work enough to get the job done or he isn’t. Don’t get caught up in wanting doctor’s notes and other proof. A clear warning and then firing is what you’re looking for here … except of course that you’re not allowed to do it.)

2. My old company pulled my resume wording word-for-word for an ad for my replacement

I left a position about six weeks ago, for a much better opportunity. The pay, environment, and job are all improvements.

I know my previous employer is trying to fill the position I left, and this morning I got an email from a recruiter which looked quite familiar. The job requirements were pulled word-for-word from several points on my resume. I confirmed that the job is for my old employer.

I do not normally go around looking for things to be offended by, but frankly I’m not sure how to feel about this. While I realize that my previous employer is looking for someone with a very similar skillset to what I have, is it a faux pas to lift my resume for their own use like that? Would it be rude of me to ask them to at least re-word it?

Yes, it’s a faux pas; they basically stole your resume content for their own use. It would annoy me too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying something like, “I noticed that a lot of the wording in the posting for my replacement is pulled straight from my resume. I wonder if you’d tweak it a bit so that it’s not a word-for-word copy.” (Of course, someone who does this in the first place might think it’s a petty request, but those of us who write for a living won’t.)

3. Returning to a more junior position after covering for a more senior coworker for a year

I have been covering a maternity leave position for a senior coworker for almost a year, and it’s been great. I have had so much more responsibility and have learned a ton of new skills. I also feel like I’ve performed very well, despite it being a very steep learning curve and a much higher workload.

My coworker is due to return from leave in about a month, and I’m starting to get anxious about returning to my previous job. My maternity leave position was essentially a higher-level, more senior version of my previous job, and so I feel now like I am overqualified for my old position. I think I’ll be bored and restless and will feel like I’ve taken a step back in my career. I’m not sure how to talk to my boss about my concerns. I would like to stay with my organization, but I’d rather find a new job then go back to a lower-paid, less demanding position. How do I broach the subject with my boss? Do I wait until after my coworker comes back from maternity leave, or should I do it before that? How do I phrase my concerns without sounding resentful or ungrateful?

I’d talk with your manager now, rather than waiting — since to have the strongest shot at a different role, you’ll want to give her some time to think about what you’re asking. I’d say something like this: “I’ve been thinking about what will happen when Imogen returns in a month. Now that I’ve been juggling higher-level responsibilities and a higher workload for a year, I’d love to find a way to continue using some of these skills. Are there any possibilities to change my old role or put me in a different one, to allow me to continue forward on this past year’s path?”

How possible this is will depend on a bunch of factors like how big or small your organization is, what roles might be open or possible, and how well you performed this past year. But it’s very reasonable to ask, and once you have this conversation, you’ll have a lot more data to inform your thinking about whether or not to stay.

4. Was my firing mishandled?

My manager was out on medical leave. One of my coworkers was sent to my desk and told me to go to the manager’s office because he was on the phone there and wanted to speak with me. When I entered, the Human Resources manager and site manager were in the office with my boss on the phone. They issued me a termination letter, and the manager rudely read it to me over the phone. I was stunned and didn’t know what to say or even ask. The site manager had signed the letter and written that it was on behalf of the manager. I never signed a thing. There was no place for my signature on any departure paperwork of any kind. There was nothing about any kind of negotiation on how my departure would be described and the letter included that all health coverage was terminated immediately.

I just feel that this whole process was handled unethically. I understood that when a person is out on medical leave, they have no work contact except for with the benefits department. The person who signed the document is not the person who actually read the letter. Am I wrong to think this was handled inappropriately?

It sounds like it was handled pretty coldly — they should have had an actual conversation with you rather than just handing you a letter and reading it to you on speaker phone.

The other stuff isn’t particularly problematic though. The site manager signing the letter in place of your absent manager and not having you sign anything isn’t really a big deal. Some places have people sign termination paperwork and others don’t. Whether or not your manager is supposed to doing any work while she’s on leave isn’t something you can really know yourself; it depends on arrangements she’s made that you probably aren’t privy to (and ultimately wouldn’t be relevant to you in this situation anyway). And the fact that the person who read the letter wasn’t the signatory doesn’t really matter, although the reading of the letter is odd on its own — and again, far more cold and weirdly stiff than a termination conversation has to be.

5. Can I accept a job offer but explain I’m going to keep looking for something else?

I’ve been job searching for upon graduation, and now an offer has come in but it is much lower than I was hoping it to be. I want to continue looking but now I am faced with accepting or declining this job offer. I want to accept it as a back-up job but it doesn’t feel ethically correct. Could I accept the offer but let the employer know that I anticipated a higher wage and let them know in the months to come I will continue looking?

No. If you say that, the employer is going to yank the job offer, and rightly so — no one wants to hire someone who has made it clear that they’re going to be actively looking for something else. However, what you can do is try to negotiate the salary. But if you decide to accept the job, you should do it in good faith — meaning that you’d need to stop actively looking for something else after that. (Assuming, of course, that this is a job that expects a reasonably long-term good-faith commitment.)

{ 231 comments… read them below }

  1. jordanjay29*

    I wonder if there aren’t additional circumstances surrounding #4 that OP isn’t letting on. Not that OP needs to discuss the reason for their firing, but if they weren’t getting along with their manager before he went out for medical leave, then I’m a bit less surprised by this brusque demeanor at termination.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, usually people say either that it was a complete shock or that they knew that it was coming, so glossing over that part is a bit strange. But having someone read a letter is such a passive-aggressive move; they should have, oh, I don’t know, had someone from HR have an actual conversation with the OP?

    2. stebuu*

      I agree that there could be the Rashomon Effect going on here. I’ve found, in general, that companies resort to stiff formalities when they are expecting trouble and are trying to dot their Is and cross their Ts.

  2. A Dispatcher*

    #1 – It looks like Alison only addressed you mentioning your concerns about this in an exit-interview type environment (and that advice I agree with), but to me it seems like you’re asking if you should tell your boss *now* that her actions are driving you to look elsewhere. That can be pretty dangerous, as signalling you’re job searching (even when it’s for perfectly legitimate reasons) can put your job in jeopardy even in otherwise healthy workplace situations.Yours seems to be so dysfunctional that extremely poor job performance, absentee issues and mistakes that affect clients won’t get someone let go, but telling them you’re thinking of leaving just might, as retention (even of bad employees) seems to be their highest priority.

    And honestly, if your supervisor refuses to manage to the point where performance issues are ignored, the situation is too far-gone already. There will not be a magical 180 if you threaten to leave unless changes are made. Get out now and if you feel comfortable mentioning your reasons why, do so only after a firm offer is in hand.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I would, however tell your manager how very frustrating you are with the employees performance and clearly spelled out how their poor performance is negatively impacting your department . Share the facts in a big picture way. Number of missed days in comparison to the department norm, average number of errors in reports, customer satisfaction scores, etc.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      How can it put your job in jeopardy with a boss who won’t allow a low performer to be fired? :)

  3. limepink22*

    I think the last sentence in the answer to #3 is ‘whether or not to stay’. =)
    Number 1 boss would drive me batty. Does she have other reports with similar constraints or are you the only one?

  4. Perpetua*

    Kinda related to #1, at my workplace we’ve been talking a lot about what to do with absences. Our current policy is that you don’t need a doctor’s note if you’ve been out for 3 days or less, which I find quite nice and fair. However, my bosses are worried that the number of absences is up in comparison with, let’s say, last January, when that policy wasn’t in effect and that this way we’re basically giving people free days off with almost no accountability (how do you decide what is too much?).

    I keep replaying many comments I’ve read from both Alison and the commenters, about treating the employees and adults and addressing performance concerns if they exist, I’m just not sure where to draw the line when it comes to those performance concerns… The nature of our job is that it sort of gets done, but it might be later than planned, although in some cases it’s due to real sickness, in others it could be an abuse of the system, and I don’t see a way to distinguish between those two options?

    1. Jeanne*

      I think there’s almost no way to be sure who is really sick and who isn’t. The doctor’s note thing is infantilizing and punishes doctors more than anyone. It is a waste of our healthcare dollars.

      You say the work sort of gets done and is later than planned. I think you need to find a way to nail down the details of that better. Does sort of mean that the work isn’t done to the level of detail it should be? How does later than planned affect your business? Once you figure that out, you can then decide how to address that. Do workers need to cooperate more so someone can keep working during a coworker’s absence? Do workers sometimes need a little overtime to complete work? Etc. Work out these details for yourself and you’ll probably see what to expect from your team, flu season or not.

      My other question is: Can workers take a few hours for a doctor appt or car repair or do they have to pretend to be sick all day? A little flexibility can increase productivity.

      1. Jeanne*

        Of course this advice only applies to regular employees, not hopeless employees like in #1. I feel bad for a manager stuck in an impossible position like that.

      2. Dawn*

        Last summer, my teen boys worked for an amusement park making close to minimum wage. They demanded doctor’s notes for every single sick call out as a matter of policy. I think it is a stupid policy. I understand they primarly have teens and young adult workers who may need more handholding. However, you don’t go to the doctor for a 24 hour stomach bug. At their wage leve it takes them approximately 3 hours’ worth of work to pay the copay for this unnecessary doctor visit. I paid for them but what if they were young adulting living on their own (like my 19 year old daughter who does’t have the money? It makes no sense to me. If an employer wants a doctor’s note, they should pay for the visit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Employers are really ticking off doctors with these types of policies. The backlash from that is that some doctors are more willing to write a patient out of work, because they are more sympathetic to the patient. It kind of makes sense in a way because a stressed out person is less apt to heal quickly or thoroughly. This is more of employers driving up their own medical costs without realizing. Granted, amusement parks probably consider most of their employees temporary and do not give them insurance. However, employers do get a reputation with doctors in the community.

          1. Hotstreak*

            Not to mention how bad this is for folks without insurance, who may be paying $80-$120 to get that doctors note.

        2. Melissa*

          Besides…doctors will usually give you a note if you see them and say you have symptoms, even if they can’t find anything wrong with you. It’s not like if you go to the doctor they’re going to say “no, no note for you!” You could in theory pretend to have a cough or a sore throat, go to the doctor for 10 minutes, pay your $20-40 copay and walk out with a doctor’s note.

          For me, it’s only partially about the money (my new job’s copay for office visits is so low – $10!). Really, it’s about the fact that I’m sick and I don’t want to drag myself out of bed to the doctor’s office for him or her to tell me that I have a stomach bug and to go home and rest. Which is what I was doing before I had to run up there to get a note.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        The only time I have ever asked for a doctor’s note was from an employee (on the verge of being fired) who I was pretty sure was a pathological liar (actual pathology) and I was just too curious to see what would happen next. (this was for a multi day absence with Much Drama and Way Too Many Details about what, where, when and why.)

        What happened next was funny. First a note for entirely the wrong date range from another year. Then a note that said an office visit for only the first day of what was supposedly a Dramatic Illness Involving A Hospital Stay. The reason for the wrong notes? “Oh, I have so many notes piled up on my dresser I just mixed them up.” Finally, a week later, a note for the right range (on just that tear off notepad stuff, not an actual letter or anything), with handwriting that looked nothing like the original handwriting.

        The real point, though, is that even in that case, I didn’t really *need* a doctor’s note. I knew I was being bullsh*tted. And the real problem is that he was lying about stuff in the workplace and covering stuff up.

        We just left enough clear space around his illness dates and then terminated him.

        1. Judy*

          Every time I’ve been given a doctor’s note, ie. kid with rash is not contagious let him back to school, the doctor has written it on the prescription pad.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Right, I didn’t mean that it should have been an actual letter. It wasn’t the prescription pad either, it was a preprinted slip of paper 2″ x 5″ with blanks to fill out. Because I had 3 of them, the one for the right dates stood out as appearing altered…which, I had no need to chase to get to The Bottom of It.

            (Side note to the story: we paid him unaccrued sick days for that time so it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to press harder, just not advantageous in the big picture re waste of time.)

            1. Mabel*

              What does this mean — “We just left enough clear space around his illness dates and then terminated him.” Why did you need “clear space” (I assume this means a few days back at work)?

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                If we termed him directly after the Dramatic Illness, the veracity of the illness would have appeared to be the point of the termination. We didn’t want to leave that appearance either to him or other people who work with us.

                1. Melissa*

                  Oh, I was thinking that Lying Employee might have also been Exceptionally Litigious Employee, and tried to sue you for firing him for an illness.

          2. Mike C.*

            Uh, whoa, that sounds like a terrible idea. I’ve always just gotten a letter with the clinic’s letterhead at the top.

            1. Judy*

              The prescription pad is probably one of the most secure things in a doctor’s office. You can fake letterhead, but it’s much harder to fake the security features of the prescription pad. It also is much less work for them to just write a few sentences on a pad, and they have record in the carbon copy.

              Now, the doctor does have to write clearly, which can be a problem. ;)

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                Ha, true! If a manager ever asked me for a doctor’s note, I’d say, “Sure, but you’re not going to have any idea what it actually says, so what’s the point?”

                (Then again, my boss has a pharmacy degree, so she might have actually been trained to read the things)

                1. Melissa*

                  I’m always quite impressed that pharmacists seem to have little problem reading the chicken scratch doctors write on Rx pads.

                  The again, just yesterday my optometrist wrote something for me (an OTC eyedrop) on a sticky pad and I was amazed because the writing was really clear and easy to read.

              2. Koko*

                I was under the impression that doctors had to account for every slip of paper they used on a prescription pad so that blank slips didn’t fall into the wrong hands where they’d be abused. Jotting a note on a prescription pad would seem to be a no-no if I’m correct as they can’t account for writing a prescription with that slip.

            2. Sparky*

              I once worked with someone who was out sick long enough that a doctor’s note was requested. So she tried to create a fake note, even making up the clinic, which was The Chaucer Clinic. I don’t remember the fake doctor’s name. The forgery was easily discovered and she was terminated.

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                One of my old jobs was coordinating a handyperson service, and there was one guy who used to put fake dates on his job packs that were blatantly obvious. Once he changed the date on one pack to 31st February 2011!

              2. Loose Seal*

                On the campus where my husband teaches, there was a big to-do with one of the fraternities about their members turning in fake sick notes all from the same doctor’s office that were photoshopped with the date/time the student needed. They were caught because they were using a gynecologist’s office letterhead …

        2. JB*

          I just have to say–every time I read one of your comments, I think what a good manager you must be to work for. As someone who has had my fair share of bad managers, a lot of middling managers, and very few good managers, I think the people you manage are lucky!

    2. Elysian*

      I don’t think employers should be getting into a position of deciding when an employee is sick. Unless you have an inordinate amount of sick time, its their time. It’s part of their benefits package.

      If its affecting work – things aren’t getting done, someone is constantly calling out at the last minute for a position that requires the manager to find coverage – discuss those things separately. But just the idea of “Hrmmmm people seem to be actually using more of the sick time we grant them in their benefits package, maybe this is something should reign in before they start to think they can take all of their vacation time or maternity leave, too!!!” is neither reasonable nor good business sense.

      1. Perpetua*

        Well, I agree re: not deciding when someone is sick. The thing is, we have unlimited sick time, in the sense that there is no pre-determined amount of sick days allotted at some point. We have 24 days of vacation a year (and put very few restrictions on when to use it, as well as allowing 14 of those days to be rolled over) and fairly generous maternity leave (6 months 100% pay, 6 months less pay but still paid) and we’re constantly trying to be mindful of creating a good and fair environment for everybody, but it can be hard to determine what is affecting the business as a result of abuse (and should be dealt with) vs. what are the expected costs and losses of doing business.

        1. Elysian*

          Would your bosses be open to the idea of adding some time to your vacation pool, turning it into a general “PTO” bank and getting rid of the unlimited sick leave? I think that would be better than trying to micromanage whether every employee is taking sick leave for “real” or not, and if employees are using sick leave for non-sick-time purposes, they’d probably be more likely to schedule it in advance if its coming out of a PTO bank (as opposed to calling in the morning of saying *cough cough I’m really sick* when they’re not), so that time off wouldn’t be as disruptive. I don’t know if you’d have the power to do that though.

        2. Colette*

          I used to work for a company with unlimited sick time, and I’m not aware that anyone abused it. (I’m sure someone did, somewhere, but no one I was aware of.) Basically, if you hire people who care about their professional reputation and measure their performance on what they accomplish, they don’t have an incentive to abuse their sick leave. In fact, it can work for you, if some of your employees think of sick days as “must take”.

          1. De Minimis*

            It’s been my experience that the more difficult you make things for employees regarding sick leave [or other leave] the more you get a lot of rampant absenteeism/sick leave abuse.

            When I worked at the Post Office they instituted a policy where you had to call a specific “attendance control” supervisor each day you would be absent [unless it was prescheduled medical leave,] then when you returned you had to report to them to sign your leave paperwork–they made it seem like you were in trouble for using the sick leave you had earned. The idea was to try to intimidate employees into not using their leave.

            But the more they did that sort of thing, the more people wanted to call in, I think to try and show management that they needed to quit trying to keep people from using their sick leave benefits. I believe they have since scrapped it and have gone with an automated system.

          2. Another Lauren*

            Same. I work for a company now that has unlimited sick leave and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone abuse it. I think it just changes the mindset – because if you “get” 5 sick days and “only” use 2, then you somehow feel cheated out of the other 3 days that you theoretically could have had off. But with unlimited sick days, you really just take off the time you need. If constant absences become a problem, the person’s manager can just deal with it like any other performance issue… I also like it because I feel like there is little to no guilt associated with using your “sick time” for doctor’s appointments and then coming in the rest of the day to work and making up the missed time later(whereas some may feel like they have to use the whole sick day for an hour-long doctor’s appointment).

            1. Koko*

              Telework and adequate vacation time can have a big impact on this too. Our sick leave accrues at half the rate of our vacation leave but I always have a pile of sick leave that I could never hope to use. When I’m sick enough that I’m too gross/disruptive/contagious to subject my coworkers to my presence, I just work from home that day. If I take a sick day, there’s only a few reasons: 1) a pre-planned medical appointment, 2) temporary blindness preventing me from using a computer (this actually happened to me once after getting a bunch of dust in my eyes at a crowded outdoor event), or 3) illness requires me to be unconscious or in the bathroom all day.

              Because I use so little sick leave and when I do use it, shit is usually getting pretty real, I don’t think of sick leave as “time off” the way I think of my vacation leave. Even though it’s only a handful of days per year, I’ve rolled over so much each year I’ve been here that at this point I basically just think of it as virtually unlimited. I’d have to be taking a lot of sick days on days when I was fully capable of working (from home) in order to have any hope of using them all. Meanwhile, I get 15 vacation days a year plus 10 holidays a year when our office is closed. The thought of abusing my sick leave just doesn’t even enter my mind because 1) I have enough leave and 2) the work continues whether I’m here or not, and abusing sick leave is just shooting myself in the foot when I have to play catch-up the next day.

              1. De Minimis*

                Yeah one of the key reasons for the rampant sick leave abuse at my postal job was due to how they handled vacation time. You bid on vacation weeks at the start of each year, based on seniority [which also determined how many vacation weeks you had.] Those weeks were the only time where you had an absolute right to take off. If you wanted to deviate from that, it was entirely up to management whether to allow it. So most people if they had something come up they would just call in sick.

        3. ella*

          I think if work isn’t getting done, then you address the work that isn’t getting done. “We need tasks X, Y, and Z done by Date T. Can you make this happen?” (Or something that sounds better, I haven’t had coffee yet.)

          There could be a lot of reasons for the increase in absences besides abuse. If the policy is relatively new (or if you have a relatively high number of new hires), then I think people may abuse it a little at first before evening out. If the weather this year is substantially worse than last year, people may be using their sick leave for snow days. Or maybe their kids are getting sick more, so they’re calling out because they have to stay home with their kids. It could be any number of things.

        4. Erin*

          It’s also been an unusually nasty cold and flu season this year, to the point that in my area hospitals are closing to visitors under 18. (Children are more likely to be germ carriers). The flu virus is less than 50% effective this year, and even if someone doesn’t get the flu, there are several unusually icky colds going around. So people could honestly just be more sick this year, not related to the policy at all.

          1. Morgan*

            ITA. My whole household (3 adults, 2 kids) has had at least 1 sick person since late November. We currently have 3 with bronchitis now. I’ve lost count of the sick days we’ve taken.

      2. MT*

        the question always is, how much time is “inordinate” is it 5 days, is it 10 days? If you want to hold someone accountable, they need to know what they are be hold accountable to.

        1. Elysian*

          Ah, well with “unlimited” sick time I can see a need to reign it in. I get 7 sick days a year and 10 vacation days, and I am very possessive of that time. If my boss started to get mad because I was taking too much sick time, I would be pretty upset given that I can take less than one sick day a month.

          But if your sick time is unlimited and someone is taking off every Friday or something, I can see that being an issue you’d definitely want to address, because there wouldn’t ever be a clear end to it.

          1. MT*

            That’s the biggest problem for these perks. One person can ruin it for the group. If you have unlimited sick time, how can you judge one sick person’s productivity against someone who takes sick time off when they are not sick.

            1. Us, Too*

              I actually think it’s pretty easy to judge: you just look at how much each person produces, period, without looking at their attendance. I know that their are roles that attendance governs how much you can produce or is critical (e.g. receptionist), but the rule still applies. If they aren’t there, they aren’t producing.

      3. Kathryn*


        I get really riled when people start getting snooty about actually using the benefits package. We don’t compete on who can get paid the least or returning money to the company, we don’t ignore things like the stock purchase plan or 401k matches… PTO and leave are part of what makes work acceptable to my life, just like the paycheck.

        Add to that my deep desire to work with people who are on their game, rather than snotting germs all over me and desperately thinking about when they can get back to bed.

    3. Helen*

      Doctor’s notes are ridiculous. If I have food poisoning, am I supposed to go to the doctor (hoping I don’t get sick on the way) just to get a doctor’s note? What about debilitating menstrual cramps? Or a really bad day of the common cold? I know my body, and 99% of the time I’m sick I do not need to see a doctor. I need to rest. Something going to the doctor directly prevents.

      I also think there are several legit reasons to use sick time that doctors couldn’t confirm at all–personal or family emergencies, etc.

      1. Matt*

        Over here in Central Europe (German speaking region), doctor’s notes are extremely common – most larger places demand them by policy for any absence of more than three sick days. It’s also a matter of stately health insurance here – they get those notes too (and take over to pay the employee after some weeks or so, when the employer isn’t obliged to anymore). I agree that it’s awkward having to go to the doctor with diarrhea (he always believed me :)). On the other side it seemed ridiculous to me having to call in sick every single day as was discussed here some weeks ago – this is entirely uncommon here. The doctor’s note has a date set when one has to come back to the doctor to decide whether to continue sick time or return to work, so the employer has an idea of how long it will take … then depending on the job, someone might check in with their direct supervisor from time to time, but certainly not every day.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Agree, for long-term (well, that is specified by each European country) illness doctor’s note is absolutely necessary, otherwise employee will not receive illness contributions.

          For “i cough and scare my colleagues” it’s either “sick days” that companies provide (say, 3-5 a year you can call in sick and do not show up. usually questions “is it diarrhea or something else?” are not asked. btw i had a funny case where manager argued “bad hangover after” is not a sick day). And/or reasonable employer who lets you stay at home, making sure business is uninterrupted.

          Everything else is done either because employer is a control freak or employer is suspicious/borderline desperate for a reason (like our OP)

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Calling in every day is for when you don’t have an expected return date established.

          If you have surgery and the doctor says your return date should be two weeks hence on 1/30/15, it’s not usual that your employer would ask you to call in every day.

          Calling in every day is for your manager to know what to expect that day. If she already knows what to expect that day, it’s not necessary (although I’ll betcha there are AAM readers who have employers who wanted the call anyway).

          The point being made in the thread the other day is that it is not okay to expect your manager to guess you are out sick that day if you don’t show up (after having called out the day before).

        3. Cat*

          Do you call in each day for the first three days, though? I think that’s more analogous to the situation people were talking about.

          1. Matt*

            No – I call in as soon as I know that I’m sick and can’t come to work, then I tell my direct boss how long I expect it will take, and if I’m planning on going to the doctor and getting “written sick”. Maybe I’ll call again the last day and tell her “hey, I’m coming back tomorrow”. If I get a doctor’s note, I scan it and e-mail it to my boss and HR; on return I’m supposed to provide the original paper to HR.

            1. Cat*

              So this is mostly at odds with my experience because I rarely know how long I’m going to be sick for. Usually it’s one day, and when it’s more, I don’t really ever know until I wake up the next morning. I don’t know that my (American) workplace would object to me saying “I can tell I’m going to be out for the rest of the week sick” but I have just never known that.

              1. Zillah*

                Right, exactly. I think I’ve told a boss at some point that I thought I’d be out the day I was calling in and the next day when I was running a relatively high fever, but most of the time, I don’t know whether a day of rest will do it or not.

        4. ella*

          I’ve heard in some areas that that policy is widely abused, though, and not actually a check on whether employees are actually ill.

        5. Artemesia*

          I wouldn’t have a big problem with notes for more than 3 days of sick leave, but then I don’t think I have ever been out for 3 days in a row. That suggests a serious injury or a significant illness that would be treated. Up to 3 days can be a bad cold, a stomach bug or other illnesses that don’t require doctor’s care.

          I do agree that fiddly rules create a big incentive to game the system — workers treated like children tend to behave that way. So unless I was feeling a lot of abuse was occurring, I think I’d manage individuals who abuse the time rather than having blanket policies that annoy everyone.

          1. Koko*

            I agree here. In general I think you’re better off not requiring notes (like the story upthread, when an employee is being dishonest you can usually tell in other ways and requiring the note is just sort of combative way to make the liar squirm/dance, it’s rarely the only or best way to address the dishonesty). But if you are going to require them, I think more than 3 days is the appropriate place. If you’re too sick to leave your house for 3 days in a row that’s about when WebMD starts telling you to visit a doctor instead of a website.

      2. Annie*

        Doctor’s notes are definitely a waste of time and resources. And frankly, they prove nothing. I was once very ill with a flu virus or food poisoning or something like that, and I was essentially confined to my bathroom for 2 days. On the third day I felt much better, but my work required that I get a doctor’s note. So I went to my doctor, explained that I was feeling fine but had been sick recently, and she simply asked me which dates to write on the note. Done. So I wasted an hour of my time and 15 minutes of my doctor’s time just so that my manager could have “proof” that I wasn’t faking sick.

    4. Colette*

      This has been a nasty year for colds & flu, so it’s possible people are just sick more this year. You’d really have to try the new method for a number of months (probably a full year) and then compare it to past years to see whether there’s really been an increase.

      1. blackcat*

        I was going to say just this. I’ve known SO MANY people to get the flu in a way that knocks them out for a good week. I was wheezing terribly for 4 days a month ago–I don’t know what bug I had, but I sure as hell wasn’t going anywhere when I couldn’t make it up the stairs in my house without stopping to take a break. Anyways, I’ve seen a much higher rate of illness and long duration of illness this Dec/Jan than last. So it really just could be that more people are sick and/or who is getting sick needs to be out for longer.

        (And my health insurance sucks, so going to the doctor would have cost $50 or more. Until I’m REALLY sick and am sure I need treatment rather than just rest, I’m not going.)

        1. Koko*

          Almost everyone in my office has been taken down in the last month. There was a round the week after the holidays that took out 1/3 of our folks within a few days of each other, and just this week another 3 people are working from home due to illness.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, there’s a nasty flu going around that the flu shot wasn’t really set for. That happens sometimes, though getting the shot can help stimulate your immunity to that one a bit. (Or so I’m hoping; I got mine in early September and I haven’t been a victim yet!)

        Plus, a lot of people think of flu as like a cold, but it’s not; it’s a respiratory illness that can have serious complications. And it just sucks, too. How can you be expected to work when you’re that sick? Especially in FOOD SERVICE, but that’s a rant for another day.

        1. Zillah*

          I got mine in the fall, too, and I have yet to get the flu, even though I have a bad immune system and usually do get it. Fingers crossed!

      3. Kelly L.*

        I had a hideous cold in October. I don’t think it was the flu, since I had H1N1 back in ’09 and it was ten times worse than even this awful cold, but it sure was a nasty one. And everybody I know has been sick at least once too, in the last few months.

    5. Cat*

      Of course the number of absences are up, though. If my choice is dragging myself into the doctor unnecessarily or dragging myself into work, I’m often going to choose the latter which doesn’t cost me money, use my sick time, or risk burning capital at work. That doesn’t mean it’s actually reasonable for me to be at work vs. at home. It’s okay if people are taking more sick time and possibly desirable since it means they’re not infecting people at work. More sick time doesn’t equal per se abuse.

    6. Amber Rose*

      You know how I get a doctor’s note?

      I say, “Doctor I feel sick. Can I have a note for my boss?”

      Whether I am sick or not, if I ask for a note I get one. Costs $10. How does this prove anything aside from my willingness to wait a couple hours to see a doctor for a day off?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think doctors should have a thing where you talk to them or the nurse and then they can email you a note. Then you can get one for a cold and not have to drag your sick self in and potentially infect everyone in the waiting room!

        1. Elysian*

          My doctor does this!!! Though I pay extra for the fancy-pants doctor “concierge” service that allows stuff like this and emailing your doctor questions without making an office visit.

    7. Kyrielle*

      If I had to have a doctor’s note if I had been out even one day, then I would come to work sick a lot. Getting a doctor’s note costs me a minimum of $25 copay each time. If I could come to work and not be a safety hazard on the road, I’d come to work. If I could work remotely, I’d do that. I’d do anything to avoid calling in sick unless I was so sick I worried about an accident en route to work or throwing up on myself in the office, because I wouldn’t want to pay a doctor to write a note that I had a cold or a stomach bug or the flu.

      Absences would be down. So would my performance…and the performance of any coworker I gave my germs to.

  5. jag*

    “Could I accept the offer but let the employer know that I anticipated a higher wage and let them know in the months to come I will continue looking?”

    Do you even need to ask this question? Please put yourself it their shoes and think about it.

    Or think about this: they hire you but say they thought they might get someone stronger, so will keep advertising the position when you start to see if someone better comes along.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Ha! Last sentence is great!

      Bless your socks, fresh-out-of-uni peeps who face harsh reality of “not what i was hoping for”. When i graduated i was happy to get a job and start my professional experience. But then again, i didn’t have a student loan.

      1. SerfinUSA*

        I work at a university, interact with students a fair bit, and am continually gobsmacked by how utterly unprepared these adult children are for the grittier aspects of post-college life.

        The flip side are the laughs I get when these folks express disdain for classified staff type jobs here. Little do they know how many over-degreed applicants we get for a tick-over-entry-level clerk opening, willing to move cross country and deal with high cost of living in our little sea & ski university town.

        My high school taught a life skills class (though I think it was meant for more remedial students) involving how to open bank accounts, balance check books, deal with landlords, etc. Maybe this should be a part of higher ed requirements…

        1. Cheesecake*

          Don’t even let me started on this topic. Here is Europe people study longer or they don’t go to uni immediately, finishing masters at 26-30 is ok. So you don’t deal with adult children, you deal with adults. Yet, i am indeed gobsmacked by how oblivious these adults are to real office/work culture.

          I have a friend my age with a law degree, compared to that my degree that is more like a pre-school paper, but i have quite some years of work experience, while she does not. Her first job was awful because of bad office culture and when she moved on to another company, she asked for 6 months contract “because what if it is equally bad”. I face palmed for a week; the person is utterly intelligent but sort of lost touch with reality with all that studying.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Well, obviously the letter writer did… This person just graduated, I’m glad she wrote in with their question rather than shooting herself in the foot!

      1. Blue Anne*

        Thank you for pointing out that the LW is just graduating. I missed that part, and was rolling my eyes a bit, but for a new grad it seems like a more understandable learning curve question. :)

        1. Kai*

          Yep–I can imagine considering the same question if I’d been in the OP’s shoes as a new grad. Don’t think I would have actually gone through with it, but there are so many professional norms that you just can’t know about when you first start out. I still cringe when remembering some of my early blunders ><

      2. BRR*

        I missed that as well. But now I wonder if the LW can get the salary they were hoping for? Some fields have terribly low entry level salaries and I’ve met some recent grads who have high expectations. I forget the field one person wanted to go into but it wasn’t the most lucrative, they wanted a starting salary in the mid $80s in a low cost of living area.

        1. Audiophile*

          A starting salary in the mid 80s? Unless you’re in a tech field (computer science, etc) you’re not going to see that. Even then, you’re still likely to not see that kind of salary.

          My first job post graduation paid less than 20k a year, in fact, so little that I met the requirements for welfare.

          1. BRR*

            If I remember correctly the conversation started with what he expected to earn per month post tax, then the realistic person in the conversation walked him backwards through it to get to an annual pretax salary in the mid 80s….for someone who wanted to go into I believe writing or publishing. He got the wake up call.

            1. Elysian*

              This is one of the hard parts of budgeting as someone new to paying your own bills, I think. If you’ve never been responsible for your own finances and you’re trying to figure out what to expect and what you need, its so hard to remember that a salary of $XX turns into a salary of $Y when you deduct taxes and stuff. I can totally see someone without experience in this trying to work out a personal budget saying, “Ok so it looks like a one bedroom apartment costs $800, $150 a week seems reasonable for food, a for gas, b for whatever, etc” and then coming up with a number because they don’t really know how much those things honestly cost. It’s tough when you’re just starting out and you don’t know what kind of life you can live with a salary of, for example, $35k.

              1. AVP*

                Especially since it’s hard to figure out what your take-home pay really looks like until after that first check, which in many cases is after you’ve signed a lease and figured out your transportation!

                1. Denise D*

                  Paycheckcity dot com is a great website I’ve used to calculate as a ballpark figure when I’ll have overtime pay coming about how much my paycheck will be. It’s usually within $10 of my actual check so it has served me well.

                2. Judy*

                  There are rules of thumb about % of gross income to use for housing, transportation, etc. I learned them in a personal finance course in college (my only free elective in my engineering degree).

              2. Zillah*

                Oh, god. My partner is still figuring this out, and it’s painful. I’ll be unemployed starting next month, so my partner and I had a conversation about how much of the household expenses he would take on in return for my picking up most of the chores. He agreed to pay for most of the food and a couple other things. An hour later, I saw him drawing up a February budget.

                He’d budgeted $200 for food.

                I kind of died inside. I had to say, “Sweetie, right now we each spend $250-$300 on food. If I’m not bringing in income, we can eat cheaper, but there’s no way $200 is going to cover most of our food.”

                I’m still not sure he got what I was saying. Sigh.

          2. Ezri*

            There are only a few companies paying that much, let me tell you. I’m in Computer Science and received two really solid offers when I graduated, but neither one was close to 80 grand.

          3. AVP*

            Oh man I remember being in my first (professional, post-college-degree) job and trying to figure out if I could get food stamps or the Earned Income Tax Credit. I missed the cut-off by like $50.

          4. loxthebox*

            There are mining engineering jobs with starting salaries in that range, but those positions are really in demand too.

        2. Helen*

          I doubt the LW was expecting $80,000. Unfortunately, many jobs that hire recent grads pay $9-12 an hour. I think it’s reasonable to be disappointed by this.

          1. BRR*

            I didn’t say they were. The $80k part was just a personal story. But recent grads may not know what the positions they’re applying for pay (the data may not be out there, I know it wasn’t for mine).

          2. Colette*

            It’s reasonable to be disappointed, but it’s also possible that the pay for this job is in line with what the job pays elsewhere, which means the OP could burn this bridge and end up somewhere equivalent or worse.

      3. jag*

        Sorry to be harsh, but the Golden Rule should be taught to kids.

        It’s not about jobs and hiring, it’s about life. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and at least think about it.

    3. Sigrid*

      I made that mistake when I was young and foolish. The thing was, there was no way I *wasn’t* going to keep looking, and I thought it was better to be honest.

  6. Cheesecake*

    I am thinking if this not firing because “next person could be worse” beats what my ex boss once said about a a colleague with same problems/attitude OP #1 described (and on top he once went on team building trip, got so drunk he smashed a hotel room door) “we can’t fire him because he has a family with 2 kids”.

    Sometimes bosses avoid making hard decision to the cost of entire team and beyond getting demotivated. And here actions speak louder than words (you keep one bad employee and lose at least 2 good ones). Good luck with job hunt!

    1. MK*

      I don’t think the two things are comparable. Not firing someone who desrves it because they have a family to support does make some sort of sense in an act-of-charity kind of way; the employer is basically consenting to pay someone more than their work is worth, because the money goes to something they think is worthwhile. It’s misguided, it doesn’t do the person concerned any good in the long term and it usually affects other people negatively (the rest of the employees who have to pick up the slack). But it’s basically a kind impulse to avoid being the indirect cause of misery to others.

      The “next person could be worse’ makes absolutely no sense. Why would even anyone assume that? It’s not like adequate workers are all that rare.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        There’s an argument to be made for measured expectations for a particular job and pay scale. Not the same thing at all as “the next person could be worse”, which is ridiculous, but new managers sometimes have to be reminded to measure their expectations to the level of ability and dedication that’s in line with what job can pay. Ideally, all positions are filled with highly capable, dedicated, enthusiastic workers but sometimes the management job calls for getting the appropriate amount/quality level of work out of the staff that you can pay for.

        Example: if your production art job pays $16 an hour, don’t expect a team of people turning out Mona Lisas.

        1. Cheesecake*

          That’s a good point to try justifying ridiculousness of the statement. I think here is OP’s problem: employee is clearly not turning in Mona Lisas, because MS Paint job he gets $16 for is not done.

        2. BRR*

          I’m hoping for that with a job my husband just applied to. It’s in the same field as me which I have two years experience in but he’s a recent grad. I make the requirements just barely but it’s a semi-stretch for him. Except that it pays 10 grand less than I make with worse benefits. There is a similar position 5 minutes away that is asking the same and paying the same. I’m not sure what they’re hoping to get.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Right, who knows?

            If they have been hiring frequently and recently, they probably have a decent idea of what $X will get and what they should expect.

            OTOH, if this is their first tussle with the school of hard knocks on this particular job description/scale/level in awhile, they might just be offering way below market come to find out later. Another division of our company that is not mine engages in magical thinking it seems like whenever they try to hire for a type of job they haven’t hired for in awhile.

            So who know but best of luck to hubby to get the job that is right for him!

            1. BRR*

              It kind of reminds me of my mom. She has an idea of how much things should cost. What do you mean you’re paying that much in rent?!?! etc.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I find it embarrassing but, not my problem, so I keep my mouth shut. (Mostly, okay mostly. Sometimes I mutter “I told you so”).

              2. Sheila*

                I was in the midst of being laid off once and was job-searching with little luck. I was applying for near entry-level accounting positions at a $15K pay cut. I made the mistake of bemoaning it in front of my grandmother, who was SHOCKED that this bothered me. After all, couldn’t I live on that smaller amount???

                (spoiler: no)

            2. Lia*

              Ha, I have seen that below-market ploy with a few companies around here. I get recruited from time to time for these jobs, as I have the skill set (which is not that common here) and every one of these places pays well under market (usually 20-25K under what the skill set commands) , and then the jobs pop back up again a year or so later. The companies haven’t learned, though.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                I worked for a place like that, and there is one advantage. They would hire people for very low wages, they’d get experience, and they’d leave for a better job, because they now had experience. It didn’t do the company any good to be always re-hiring, but there were sure a lot of people who used that as a starting job.

      2. Cheesecake*

        There are in-person interviews and then probation periods for a reason. Maybe boss doesn’t know about such things? Because i can’t justify this thinking any other way. Also, i understand employee doesn’t have a particular amazing skill hard-to-find, so yes, there are adequate workers out there (somewhere :) )

        Yes, these are sort of different “concepts”, but to me they are both ridiculous. And though one is explainable as done by you, i can’t even… Because when you tell me “next person can be worse” i will raise my eyebrow or both or all body hairs. But when you tell me “well, he has a family” – my blood pressure will raise because there is nothing as disrespectful to absolutely everyone single or married as this.

        I think AAM should make a topic about these epic reasons to avoid firing someone

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “Poor reasons for not firing someone and why these reasons do not work”

          I so agree that would make a great topic, Alison. There have been times where I have been able to explain to a boss why their poor logic wasn’t going to work. But this means I have to quickly come up with the rationale and put it into words. (I usually think in pictures so this is an encumbered process for me.) Sometimes I cannot get over the Grand Canyon size lack of logic in the statement to even muster a few sentences.

          It’s one of those things where you can either express what you need to say in the moment or you have lost the opportunity forever. I do know that there are times if a person can spit out a well-thought out response the boss can and does change her mind. Part of the way this happens is because of the way the employee delivers the message- in an explanatory/helpful way as opposed to “you are an idiot” type of tone.

        2. Zahra*

          And it will usually be applied to only men… If I heard my boss say that, I’d scrutinize every single firing to make sure there’s no sexism involved.

          1. Judy*

            I once heard a co-worker (20 years ago) discuss how layoffs should go.

            Married women first, since they have someone to pay their bills anyway. (When one of the women in the group had a disabled husband that pretty much everyone knew couldn’t work. And who knows about the others.)

            1. SerfinUSA*

              Maybe 10 or so years ago, I was turned down for one of the few (county) decent paying jobs, which I was well-qualified for, because jobs like that were “for men with families”.
              It was in a back-assward part of my state (where high school kids believed that dating a black person could somehow make you “part black”) so I wasn’t surprised.
              But still….that mindset is out there, just a bit more hidden.

              1. Seattle Writer Girl*

                During a post-interview discussion (no candidates, just internal employees), my boss, a middle-aged woman, flat out said to the group:

                “She’s young and married. What if we hire her and she gets pregnant and has to go on maternity leave?”

                This was in 2010.

            2. Miss Betty*

              I worked somewhere once where the pay scale ran (from least to most): single women, married women, single men, married men. This was not quite 30 years ago, so it’s not like it happened yesterday, but I’m pretty sure it was illegal in the late 1980s. No one complained, because we weren’t supposed to know what anyone else made. Discussing our pay was a fireable offense. (I didn’t know that was illegal until last year when I began reading Ask A Manager – every place I’ve ever worked has said that discussing pay with fellow employees can get you fired.)

      3. lawsuited*

        I think the employee described by OP #1 should be fired, but I will say that employees use “the next place could be worse” or “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” all the time to determine whether or not they should make a change or maintain the status quo.

        1. Colette*

          I’ve never heard anyone say that. Even if someone did, that doesn’t mean they’re correctly interpreting the risks of leaving. In both cases, the answer is to make the change but screen carefully.

        2. LBK*

          I’ve heard that from a lot of bad employees but rarely if ever from good ones. The ones who fear change for its own sake are usually the least proactive or creative and contribute the least to the progress of the business.

      4. The IT Manager*

        But the next person they hired could be married with three kids or three kids and a sick spouse/mother/father/in-law. ;) and quite possibly be a better worker too.

      5. JC*

        I see why you’re saying “the next person could be worse” and “he has a family to feed” aren’t comparable, but from the perspective of an employer, they damn well should be. No matter what the thought behind them, they both result in keeping an employee around who should not be there.

        As an employee, I find the “he has a family to feed” rationale to be the more offensive of the two. Who is my employer to judge which of their employees needs the income from their job more? Most people work because they have someone to feed, even if it’s just themselves.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Absolutely. I told my boss that i actually expect a “father of two” to work harder than anyone else, not the other way round. On a personal level it is incredibly selfish to keep doing so poorly (when boss explained consequences to your face), knowing that there are people who rely solely on you. I can’t even…

    2. LBK*

      This rationale is just so ridiculous to me. Hiring doesn’t have diminishing returns – if anything, the more bad people you hire, the better you get at screening them out in the future. My manager hired someone really terrible and ended up replacing her with someone who was barely any better, and then he learned his lesson and the 4 people he’s hired since there are total rockstars.

      Saying the next person could be worse is really an admission of incompetence on the manager’s part, IMO, because it implies that he isn’t smart enough to screen out a bad candidate.

        1. LBK*

          Ack, sorry if that came off as a knock to you! I didn’t mean to imply that your manager only hired bad people. I actually see that as a point in favor of what I was trying to say, which is that a manager has choice in who they hire. And the fact that they were able to hire someone good (yourself) proves that there are good people out there who are worth hiring.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Seriously. If this were my boss, I’d be very tempted to say in my exit interview, “The next person you hire for my job could be worse. Good luck!”

    4. Artemesia*

      I had a colleague who got drunk on a team building retreat and went around banging on doors at 3 am — apparently not as unusual as I thought.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Let’s argue who’s colleague was worse :) Getting drunk and banging the doors at 3 am – ok, bad, embarrassing. But this one, he smashed the door to the point that owners (friends of other colleague’s father!) had to replace it completely together with something else in the room. The guy didn’t even formerly apologize to us. And HE is a father of two kids.

  7. John*

    #3 — I was you. I was running the dept during my boss’s maternity leave, making all the decisions. The thought of returning to being (very closely) managed like the rest of the staff was unpalatable. I found another opportunity within the organization. I encourage you to have that conversation. It’s really hard to go back. And you’ve proved you can do it.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. I think it is entirely reasonable even expected to have this conversation — ‘where do we go from here’ — how can I use the skills and experience I have gained in this position elsewhere in the organization. They may be just waiting for you to bring it up — or they should be. With a focus on your future contributions (rather than a whine about fairness or something) the OP will come across as professional and competent and lazy managers who haven’t really thought it through may be motivated to come up with something.

      If not then quietly start the job search — certainly don’t threaten to do so — just do so.

  8. Carrington Barr*

    I one worked for a company that made a similar huge hiring mistake as in #1.

    We had a 3-month probation period, and it was obvious that the guy they had hired could NOT handle the technical aspects nor the stress or pace of the job. However, the lab found itself in a position where we were SO BUSY that it was easier to have this guy doing the absolute bare minimum than it was to fire him and go through the entire hiring and training process with someone else.

    It was another 2 years before we could get rid of him, and that w2as only once I finally got hard proof that he wasn’t actually doing testing and was instead falsifying data.

    What a nightmare.

    1. Artemesia*

      I know two cases where people didn’t handle disasters during probationary periods for state employment and ended up stuck with dishonest incompetents for the long haul.

      Really short sighted but businesses do the same sorts of things about not biting the bullet on hiring and firing.

  9. AggrAV8ed Tech*

    I was in a similar situation to #1 (thankfully, that coworker is gone and I’m almost positive he was ultimately fired instead of the line that I was fed that he found another job) and all I can say is that for some reason or another, some incompetent, unskilled workers are just protected by management. Bad management will do this and it’s a big reason why I’m still seeking other employment.

    1. Cheesecake*

      One reason is: if manager’s performance goals has attrition rate in it and bonus is based on this goal, manager is very eager to keep people no matter what

    2. Lia*

      Yeah, I have seen this. The incompetent person was the first hire made by new management, and new manager could not admit that a terrible mistake had been made. One staffer even identified that incompetent person had flat-out lied on his resume, which was supposed to be a firing level offense, but incompetent person remained. By the end of his tenure — believe it or not, he managed to get a job somewhere else after the manager had left for another job — he was doing maybe 4 hours of work a week and even screwing that up to the point where someone else had to re-do it. Every other task his position was supposed to be responsible for had been re-assigned to others to ensure it would be completed.

      1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        Wow, did you work with my former coworker? That’s shockingly similar to what I experienced.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’ve seen it where my old manager inherited an incompetent hire (she was new to the post herself, and other managers had done all the hiring for the vacant roles on her team). When the manager was presented with the list of names of new hires, she took one look at incompetent person’s name and immediately said “Oh, f***!” because she knew this person’s reputation from a previous job. She then felt guilty about her reaction to incompetent hire and went out of her way to overcompensate for it by defending this hire against all complaints about her, ignoring them or dismissing them as malicious without investigating properly.

        In the end she was let go in a round of layoffs. Old manager is no longer a manager either.

  10. #2.OP*

    I have since spoken with the new CISO at the job I left(the job reqs were copied/published by an interim CISO). I showed him the posted job requirements, and my resume at the time, and noted all the places that were copied, including how the some of the copied requirements don’t fit the job they’re trying to fill.

    He assures me that “this will not happen again”, and offered me my old job, which is now a contract position which would make significantly more than I made before(but not more than I’m making now). I politely declined.

    I am still cheesed about what they did, however. Bridge-burningly-unprofessional behavior from C-level employees is not what I expected.

    1. Colette*

      I have to say I’m a little confused – did they copy the job description from the resume you used when you left the job? Did you share that resume with them?

      If they used what you said you did as the requirements for the job, you might want to take a look to see if you’re highlighting what you accomplished, rather than what was required as part of the job.

      1. Zahra*

        If you copy most of your resume on LinkedIn, they may have lifted it from there. Or gotten her resume from a recruiter.

      2. #2.OP*


        I do not know where they got my resume, but I know an engineer I worked with there had a recent copy. Someone looked at the functional section and copy-pasted whatever they thought relevant to generate the skillset they were looking for in my replacement.

        I have to say I’m a little confused – did they copy the job description from the resume you used when you left the job? Did you share that resume with them?

        If they used what you said you did as the requirements for the job, you might want to take a look to see if you’re highlighting what you accomplished, rather than what was required as part of the job.

        1. Colette*

          I’m not suggesting that you go into some big investigation, it just wasn’t clear to me whether they were using the resume you used when you applied to the job (i.e. your previous experience) or the one with that job included. Either way, it’s an odd thing for them to do.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I would be annoyed too — what if someone was googling bits from the job posting and came across your resume and assumed that your resume was plagiarized. I realize the chances are low, but still!

      I guess it’s a demented compliment — someone figured your description was better than whatever they had before.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Exactly what I was going to say – a couple of years down the road it won’t be clear to a third party who plagiarised whom. OP, next time you’re job hunting, I’d recommend googling those parts of your resume to make sure they’re not showing up somewhere on the internet, because it could make it look like you’re the plagiarist. If they do show up, it’d probably be advisable to re-write those sections, which is annoying because it sounds like they were good! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that…

            1. Zillah*

              Wow. That seems a little bizarre, especially since I imagine the phrasing on resumes doesn’t differ so wildly in the first place. But I don’t hire, so I could just not get it!

  11. Elkay*

    #4 I wonder if there was some specific legal wording in the letter that they had use. When I was made redundant my boss had to read a prepared statement to me.

    1. some1*

      They might have a company policy that the term conversations have to go a certain way, but it’s probably not in a law anywhere. Getting fired isn’t like getting arrested where they have to read you your Miranda rights.

      1. Judy*

        I’m assuming Elkay means that the lawyers drafted the letter, to make sure that all the points were covered in a legally acceptable way. Not that it’s a law they have to use certain words.

        1. Elkay*

          That’s exactly what I meant. It’s a case of CYA, my company didn’t want me to be able to turn around and say “You failed to tell me x, y and z” which would result in something costing them money (I have no idea what this might have been I just know that my boss apologised for having to tell me in such fomal, non-sympathetic terms).

      2. fposte*

        They don’t even have to read you your Miranda rights when you’re arrested. That’s another TV lie :-).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s right, and people don’t know this! They only have to Mirandize you if you’re in custody and they’re about to question you about a crime.

          1. Evan Þ.*

            And if they’re going to use your answers against you in court. They’re allowed to question you all they want if they’re just curious.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            And see Salinas v. Texas from 2013 about how complicated things can be if you want to plead the 5th.

  12. some1*

    #4, I completely understand where you are coming from. Not only did you lose your job, but it feels like they went out of their way to do it in a cold way. I felt the exact same way when I was laid off. Every time I thought of my boss I felt angry. Ultimately I had to let go of that feeling for my own piece of my mind and concentrate on my job search. Please know that you are right that you weren’t treated the best way and do whatever you can to let the resentment go.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If it was me, eventually (and I do mean over a loooong period of time) I might come to the conclusion that the way they fired me was yet another reason why being separated from that company was a good thing in my life.

      Not trying to undermine your concerns, OP, if you think about other things you saw while you worked there, you may realize that there was just too much wrong. See if you can figure out warning signs and use those warning signs going forward to figure out what type of an employer your next place is.

      I read about people’s crappy experiences here and think to myself “oh that is vaguely similar to XYZ that I went through”. Then it sinks in, “that was actually a crappy employer/bad fit for me/whatever”. There is some comfort in knowing I am tad wiser, for having had the crappy experience.

  13. some2*

    I’m not sure why #5 is terrible – well, part of #5. Clearly you shouldn’t say that to an employer. But I don’t see a problem with taking the job for now and continuing to job hunt – just don’t say that that’s what you’re doing. I’ve done this successfully in the past – take a job right now because I have rent to pay and food to buy, but continue to search for something that’s a better fit. It can take many months, even a couple of years, to find a good job, so by the time #5 actually found a better opportunity, it might not be so unreasonable to move on anyway.

    1. some1*

      It’s not necessarily terrible, but it’s shady. The company is holding this position for her — like a previous commenter pointed out, how would LW feel if this employer continued interviewing people to see if they found someone better?

      1. Artemesia*

        Companies often go as low as they can and gleefully take advantage of a bad economy to make sure people are not paid living wages. I think the OP should be careful about the impact on her own future of job hopping but sympathy for these user employers is not high on my list of concerns. They pay so low — often less than they paid years ago — because they think they have applicants over a barrel. Serves them right that people don’t stay long.

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah, I agree. It’s not like they’re holding the job for her out of the goodness of their hearts!

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I sort of agree with you, and this is as someone on the hiring end of folks straight out of college. I don’t think it’s morally wrong to keep looking, but, that comes with a few “buts”. A couple bad things could happen next:

      1) if you are unhappy from the get go and use all of your energy to keep looking, you may turn in a bad performance in your new job and end up fired. Being terminated in your first job is a bad start to a career.

      2) you may find a better job in a short period of time than you expect, leaving you in a position to start off your career job hopping. It’s not the kiss of death in your first job, but it’s not a great start.

      It’s hard to launch. Settling for a less than ideal job to start is probably more the norm than the exception. Never ceasing to look when you have started your first job is probably not in your own best interests.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, #2 is particularly important – as Alison has discussed, you really only get one or two passes on job hopping on your resume. I’d avoid trying to eat through those right at the beginning of your career. Although I supposed if it’s only a month or two before you find a new job, you can always leave the first one off your resume, especially if that’s the beginning of your job history so there’d be no visible gap.

        1. Zahra*

          Yeah, but if it takes you only 2 months more and you’re straight out of college, you can simply omit the short job. After all, a resume is a marketing document, not a biography.

          1. MK*

            But you run the risk of them finding out from another source; say a manager in your first job is now working for the company about to offer you a great career chance. Then you might come across as both unreliable and not-totaly-honest.

            1. LBK*

              You’re never obligated to put any job on your resume. If you have a fill out an application that asks for a complete work history, that’s another story, but a resume is not meant to be an exhaustive affidavit.

              1. des*

                I think MK was pointing out that the information can come from other sources, not just the ones you list on your resume. For example, I had a hire back out right before the start date, and took that unprofessional act and handled it even more so! Now, that will never show on their resume. The only consequences for them are never working for our company – and never working for me. In the grand scheme of things they should be fine – but five years down the road, I would still pass on that particular resume. Again, I don’t think big picture these burned bridges really do much harm, but you never know.

                1. Zillah*

                  I also think it’s important to point out that while the burned bridges may do harm, that’s a risk you can weigh after you get another job offer – you’re not burning bridges by looking, and applying isn’t a binding agreement.

    3. Sunflower*

      I’d encourage the LW to keep looking for every reason you said in the last sentence. I’d only encourage that if you do take another job, make sure it’s one you really want. Don’t jump jobs just because this one is a little better than the other.

      1. LBK*

        Ugh, I have two friends who do this and it drives me nuts. Between the two of them I think they’ve held 10 jobs in the last 3 years. Each one is a salary increase and a difference set of experience, so I can see how it might be hard to say no, but I just want to shake them and say stay in one spot! Your resume is going to be a trainwreck!

  14. long time reader first time poster*

    #2 — the same happened to me! I had a pretty unique turn of phrase in my resume, and I was really annoyed to see it turn up in my former company’s job posting.

    Most especially because the job posting was after all the senior level members of my team (including myself) had been laid off, and new hires were being made at a junior (read: much less expensive) level to do our same jobs.

    I had so many complaints about that place that the job description theft was pretty low on the list, but it still irked.

  15. Joey*

    #5 you’d get a free pass from me to look for another job if the job severely sucks and everyone knows it. That’d be the case whether I’m the sucky employer or the place you interview. Just don’t say it out loud.

  16. Future Analyst*

    OP 1, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I’m in the same boat, only my manager supports me, and HR won’t let us set anything in motion to try to improve our slacker’s work. I was even told that I shouldn’t give him deadlines (??!!). I have no ideas how to proceed from here.

    1. #1 Responds*

      You have my sympathies. I think my boss may be constrained by HR now that you mention it. They fear a lawsuit more than an incompetent workforce.

      1. Denise D*

        Is there a chance the employee you were referencing is in a protected class where he could allege discrimination and file a lawsuit even if it was a baseless suit?

        My boss is going through that now with an employee. She’s in a protected class and has hinted that if fired she will file a lawsuit. It’s baseless but she has his back against the wall. She’d file a lawsuit in a hot minute too.

        1. Zillah*

          Not to be pedantic, but we’re all in protected classes – age and disability status aside, it’s not specific groups that are protected, it’s characteristics. You can’t discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, race, etc – you just run into a lot more cases of discrimination against specific groups.

    2. Artemesia*

      Why does HR have more power over managing productivity than the managers? That seems severely screwed up. (They should advise on procedure for dismissal not on whether to retain or not.)

      1. Future Analyst*

        I agree. I’m not sure why they’re involved at such a micro level. I walked into this situation two months ago, and still can’t quite tell what’s going on.

  17. soitgoes*

    4) The fact that this happened while the manager was on leave (though we don’t know for how long) seems odd to me. Is there a plan to bring in a replacement for training when the manager comes back? Is the whole team being restructured? I can’t imagine why this firing was so necessary that it had to be handled in such a seemingly haphazard way. The only time I’ve ever been “let go” in a similar way was when I’d been working somewhere full-time and they hadn’t told me that I was basically just a temp – they’d always planned on letting me go when business slowed in April.

    1. LBK*

      That didn’t strike me as particularly odd. When I think medical leave, I usually think months of absence, not a few sick days. If they want someone fired they probably aren’t going to wait a month or two for the manager to come back, especially since IME large companies with a lot of HR bureaucracy involved in firing will typically give you a limited timeline to complete the termination once it’s been approved. IIRC once company I worked for required that you terminate someone on their next available shift after the termination was OK’d.

        1. LBK*

          Well, it’s still her team and a termination is a big deal. I assume the manager is the one who initiated the termination process before she left and that this wasn’t corporate or some other manager deciding to clean house behind her back.

          1. soitgoes*

            Let me rethink my reaction of “this situation is weird”…..

            It might actually be because there’s an aspect of “We need this person out of here NOW NOW NOW ASAP, to the extent that we can’t even go over the procedure amongst ourselves for five minutes first to make sure the conversation goes smoothly.”

            1. LBK*

              Eh, I guess I’m also not surprised by that part. A lot of managers are bad at firing people (Alison herself even says she was terrible at it when she started managing!). It’s certainly not ideal and not how I would personally do it, but it’s common enough to bungle a termination that it’s not weird when I hear about one going badly.

  18. HR Manager*

    #1 – Ugh, so the company is racing to the bottom by pursuing a path of “at least the employees don’t suck the most”? I can’t understand why companies think that’s a good philosophy. I get that individual managers have hang-ups on terminations, but that a whole company doesn’t do performance plans? WTF?

    #3 – You shouldn’t feel that you are now overqualified. You did well in a stretch assignment, and that’s worthy of kudos but it doesn’t really mean that you’re skills are not aligned to the old job. I’ll assume that managers took note and now feel comfortable giving your more, or feel that you’re ready for the next step. I agree that it’s worth speaking to your manager about interest in taking on different projects or more challenging assignments, but I wouldn’t position this as I’m already above my current job.

    #4 – If I had to guess, they had someone read a scripted letter because the interim manager was not comfortable with what to say, and so HR or Legal wrote out something (and may or may not have asked him to read/paraphrase it). Most managers I’ve dealt with on terminations hate them — they have no idea what to say, and I spend a lot of time prepping them for it and it still doesn’t quite come out the way I expected. That’s ok. There was nothing illegal in what they did, but it can come across awkward or cold. I know firings are tough and it’s hard to have this perspective, but managers often dislike them just as much and aren’t the smoothest in the moment of the actual conversation.

    1. some1*

      “I spend a lot of time prepping them for it and it still doesn’t quite come out the way I expected.”

      Thanks for doing this. I can imagine it’s a bad conversation to have, but treating the employee with as much dignity as possible goes a long way – even when the employee deserves to be let go.

  19. illini02*

    #2 while I can see being a bit annoyed, I can somewhat understand it. My last job, what my role was by the time I left was very different than when I started. So if they were trying to replace me in that role, I can see using my resume as the way to write the new job description. While I don’t condone plagiarism, depending on the responsibilities sometimes the most basic wording is the best and its really hard to paraphrase or re-word something like “answer incoming calls”

    1. #2.OP*

      While I understand the difficulty in rephrasing basic expressions, let me give you an example of what they copied:

      “-Provide support for WAN network utilizing Cisco technologies. T1 & DS3, EIGRP, DHCP, NAT, maintaining access-lists, investigating routing issues, establish direct connections to outside agencies and vendors, and troubleshooting connectivity & telco issues.”

      They only changed “provided” to “provide”. The entire line could easily have been re-written while maintaining the same information.

      As a side note, my job, and my replacement’s job, is responsible for NONE of the above outside of “maintaining access-lists”. They even copied irrelevant portions of my resume!

  20. The IT Manager*

    I understood that when a person is out on medical leave, they have no work contact except for with the benefits department.

    I am 99% certain that this is untrue. This definately doesn’t sound like a “law” (Is it legal?). It could be a company policy. It certainly sounds like such a rule is for the benefit of the employee to keep the company for bugging her while she is out on medical leave.

    I haven’t experienced this myself, but I work with so many hard working, dedicated people, that I can imagine that (1) they simply might like to keep in touch with co-workers and vice versa (2) they’d be happy to field work-related questions if they are medically capable in order to help keep things running smoothly in their abscense.

    1. Colette*

      Depending on whether/how they’re getting paid while they’re on leave, there might be issues with them doing actual work, but that’s not the OP’s concern.

    2. Zahra*

      Over here, employment insurance will deduct 100% of any salary earned during a medical leave (if the person elected to apply for employment insurance during that period) from your benefits. It is not to your advantage to work while sick. Typically, people will be in contact with the benefits department and/or HR.

    3. Judy*

      I’m sure it’s a company policy to limit liability. I had a co-worker who had surgery on his spine. We were told to not contact him about anything work related until he got a “partial return to work” clearance from his doctor. The reason we were told was that we didn’t want to be liable if the recovery didn’t go as planned, and it could be said that we wouldn’t leave him alone to recover.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I am thinking less of doing actual work than asking questions like where did you leave this, what was the decision on that, but yes that’s where I was thinking where the law might come in.

        I think it is good that the LW’s actual manager was involved, and that’s really the only good thing about the way the firing was handled. Because the LW was fired by the person they know as their manager and who should be involved in their discipline and not a proxy. It makes it appear less as a sneaky thing done while the manager was away and more as the next/final step in a process that the manager particpated in.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I think the OP was thinking of FMLA, when you can get into trouble for trying to pull the employee into work things. There’s a concept called FMLA “interference,” where the idea is that the employer is denying the person FMLA benefits by continuing to try to give them work. But the OP has no way of knowing what the manager’s arrangements are around leave, and it really wouldn’t be relevant to them anyway.

  21. Iro*

    #4 We had a senior leaders shipped out after he took 3 months of maternity leave. Basically while he was gone they were like – huh, we don’t need this position anymore!

    It was a crappy situation. He came in sat down, and then was marched out.

  22. fposte*

    On #4–this is the second time in a week somebody’s talked about an employment situation where the employer didn’t offer space for negotiation. I totally get why an employee might not be prepared to come up with a negotiating suggestion right after getting fired, but I think it’s important to remember that employers aren’t likely to initiate negotiation or signal that it’s okay if you do. It’s not to their advantage; they’d rather you accept the situation or salary as offered. It’s therefore up to the employee to start negotiation when the relevant issue comes up. If you wait for the employer to give you negotiation permission, you’re going to wait forever.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I think I’m going to write something about this soon. I think it’s especially common for people to feel that way at the start of their careers, when they’re not as used to salary conversations.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I think even beyond that – they’re just not used to any difficult conversations.

        I’ve mentioned before but when I dealt with my first sexual harrassment issue, it honestly never occurred to me that I could just tell the person “Please don’t speak to me that way.” I’m not a naturally assertive person at all. So instead I stressed over it for a long time, then eventually talked to my boss, who asked me what I had said to the person and I was like “egads? I can say something?”

  23. Amber Rose*

    I once had an interview that went so awesome she offered to cancel her other interviews and hire me on the spot (why can’t they all go that well). The catch was less than minimum wage pay* and part time hours, something I hadn’t been previously aware of.

    I turned her down, saying it wasn’t fair for me to take it when I knew I’d still be looking for something full time or higher paying. She understood. I was shocked by how many of my friends/family thought I should have taken it. I know that it’s important to be able to pay the bills but screwing over someone I’d clicked well with seemed like a good way to burn some bridges and to be disgusted with myself.

    *It was a liquor store. They get to pay less than minimum wage for reasons I don’t understand and are probably bullshit.

    1. Denise D*

      I don’t see how that can be legal. If working as a restaurant server or in a job where it’s custom to receive tips the employer must ensure the employee’s pay is at least minimum wage. Can someone else chime in and address if there is an exception to where the liquor store could pay less than minimum wage?

        1. Paul*

          That source states it’s only in cases where the liquor is served directly, like at a bar – it looks like those working in a liquor store (off-licence) would have to get the full minimum wage.

  24. Kateyjl*

    #4 Sounds like the letter writer thought that only her manager could fire her so she wasn’t worried as that person was on leave. She’s wrong, as she discovered. A direct manager/supervisor doesn’t even have to be present or sign anything for the organization to let someone go. It wasn’t handled in the best manner, but not the worst, either.

  25. Teapot Enthusiast*

    Re: #4, kind of off the main topic — OP doesn’t say what country they’re in or what official reason was given for the termination (if any), but if this was in the US, would it really be legal for their health benefits to be terminated immediately? Perhaps someone with a better understanding of the law and COBRA can shed some light on this aspect of the termination for me.

    1. BRR*

      The health benefits refer to the employees current insurance plan. For example, the next day they couldn’t go to their dr and present their insurance. COBRA is an option to stay on the same insurance plan but you have to pay what the employer paid. It is not mandatory to enroll and a company cannot prevent you from enrolling, it is just an option.

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