my coworker is using the wrong title, I don’t want to tell my employer where I’ll be working next, and more

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

1. My coworker is using a more senior title than her real one

I have a coworker who has “senior manager” on her email signature line. She is NOT a senior manager and is only a manager. This disturbs the other coworkers who have been promoted to senior manager. What can we do? I work for a very large health care company. We don;t want to seem petty and tell our directors. Thoughts?

Well, it’s really between her and her manager, isn’t it? Is it really anyone else’s business what title she’s using? (Also, can you be sure the title isn’t accurate? Isn’t it possible she’s been formally given the title and you weren’t in the loop about it?)

That said, there’s no reason you can’t just ask about it outright (and really, that’s preferably to talking amongst yourselves about it). You could just say to her, “Hey, Jane, did your title change to senior manager?” Or if you have an opening to ask your boss the same thing, you could ask, “Did Jane get promoted to senior manager? I saw her title in her email signature and wondered.”

But I think you’ve got to either be straightforward about asking her or your own boss, or you need to let it go.

2. When I resign, I don’t want to tell my employer where I’m going next

My company culture has become almost toxic over the last few months. I have been persuing other options. One of these options is with an old colleague of mine with whom I got along well. If I do get the job, do I have to tell my current employer where I’m going? It’s within the same industry. I don’t want them to ask me a bunch of questions or, frankly, get me involved in drama. I want to keep it to myself. How do I gracefully say this without sounding coy or paranoid?

It’s very hard to leave a job without saying something about where you’re going, because most people will ask and responding with “I’d rather not say” will sound really odd. However, you can certainly be vague; rather than naming the specific company, you can say something like, “I’ll be doing some ___ research with a small firm” or anything else that gives the basics without the specifics you’d rather keep private.

3. Should I ask about my larger-than-expected raise?

I feel ridiculous for asking about this, but I have a happy-but-puzzling situation. I’ve been at my job for almost two years now. Every year, everyone gets a 2.5% raise (as far as I know). Last year, a few weeks after that raise (on the actual anniversary of my start), I got an additional 7.5% increase on the original salary, so a 10% raise (which I was, obviously, thrilled about).

This year, when I was expecting the 2.5% increase on my first paycheck after the New Year, I actually got a 10% increase again (and I’ve done the math so, so many times to make sure I’m getting that right) – but without the weird conversation with the owner that I had last year. No one has said anything to me about increasing everyone’s annual raises, or a personal raise, etc. Should I ask what’s up, or thank the owners? (I report directly to the two co-owners; it’s a small family-run business but I am not a family member). Or just go on being happy about my raise but confused as to the reason for it?

I think acknowledging a raise is a gracious and reasonable thing to do. I’d just send your two managers a quick email saying something like, “I saw the raise in my paycheck this month and just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate it! Thanks for recognizing me like that and being a great place to work.”

(Obviously, you could leave out that last part if it’s not true and you can’t stomach saying it.)

4. When do I contact my references?

I’m a student working on the job search process, and though I’ve not had much luck so far, I’m curious how to handle requesting references. I read on your blog that most jobs will only request references when you get to the interview stage, so should I ask/notify them before I get an interview?

My worry is that after an interview, I’ll be asked to e-mail a list of references, and I’ll have to wait to hear back from the professors I’d like to list if they happen to be busy. On the other hand, I don’t want to ask so early that if I don’t end up a final candidate that they end up hearing nothing at all for months.

So, how should I be timing my reference requests? First when I get an interview? Should I do periodic reminders if I get new interviews? I don’t want to bother my references too often, but if I have a string of bad luck, I don’t want them to just forget about me either.

You should check with your references at the start of your job search — and then you don’t need to check with them for each specific job you apply for. They’ll give you a blanket yes that will cover your whole search. (There are some references who like to know details about the job you’re applying for, but the majority of people would rather just get a heads-up that you’re giving out their name and that they might get called at some point.)

5. On snow days, some of us are required to work while others get the day off

My office has closed a few times for snow but requires me and a few other non-exempt employees to still work. So some staff (both exempt and non-exempt) are allowed to stay home and receive pay, but we still have to work, for the same regular pay. We are in Michigan, in case that makes a difference. Could you tell me if what is happening is legal or not?

Yes, that’s legal. Some jobs just require people to continue working even when others have the day off. (In D.C., this is highlighted all the time when the federal government closes for snow “except for essential workers.”)

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    On #4–speaking as a reference, I also think it’s nice to be told when you do get a job. For one, we can move your reference calls off our radar, and for another, we like good news too.

    1. BRR*

      I was told with my offer I had especially strong references, they each got handwritten thank you notes.

    2. Koko*

      I generally reach out at the start of my search as a general inquiry, and then if I get to the interview stage with any applications, I’ll shoot a quick email to my references letting them know I’ve just been interviewed for Position X and so they may get a call about that job soon, and I will attach a copy of the job ad to the email.

  2. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If it is a large company, then news might have got lost. For a while now, I hadn’t realised somebody had got married and changed their name!

    1. Lily*

      Doesn’t even have to be that large. My company is barely 50 employees and because of some unusual circumstances surrounding my promotion last year, it didn’t ever get announced in the usual all staff email, and then the office manager forgot to update my title when she sent out the new phone directory. My email signature actually is how most of my coworkers learned I got a promotion. (My department knows and HR knows, so that’s all that matters to me.)

    2. Witty Comment*

      Or maybe they’ve been told they can use that title, but the official company records don’t reflect it yet. It took almost 2 years for my “official” title to reflect the one my manager told me to go ahead and use. If anyone looked me up in my company directory, they would think I was using a title that was more senior to the one that showed there, but it was the title that reflected the level at which I was hired into the position and the title my manager (who created the position) wanted me to use.

  3. They merged while Ripley was in hypersleep*

    #2 – just go for the big lie: “My next employer has requested I not tell anyone”.

    #3 – Yes, send a thank you. If the raise was a mistake, they’ll notice it sooner or later and quite possibly insist that you pay them back.

    1. Buu*

      I agree with this, I got a job once and one of the final stage candidates was on holiday. Since they wanted to tell them directly over the phone they asked I not tell anyone because it’s a small industry. Though small caveat of warning there’s a minor chance of splashback on this. For me this ended with head-office phoning colleagues asking where I was going ( no one told them though) Luckily my boss at the time was really on the ball and phoned back to complain!

    2. NJ anon*

      #2 you can be vague without lying. I was leaving my job at a social services agency and I didn’t want my boss to know where I was going so I just said to a similar organization. I did not have a good relationship with him and my co workers understood.

    3. Elysian*

      #2 – Oh gosh, I wouldn’t lie. Also, that lie will come off weird in a lot of industries (like any industry that doesn’t sincerely use the phrase ‘if I tell you I’d have to kill you’). I would just tell your coworkers where you’re going. Then if they ask a bunch of questions, you can say you’d rather not talk about it. I like Not So NewReader’s suggestion below about “I’d rather focus on ensuring a smooth transition.” But just refusing to tell, or worse, lying, is going to come off extremely strangely.

      1. Yep, me again*

        #2-I was in this same position. My former employer was a telemarketing firm who contracted with other big companies to telemarket for them. On one occasion the VP of one of the verticals said they were pursuing a company several of my co-workers went to. I didn’t want them coming along behind me to solicit MY new employer. I didn’t even so much as update my linkedin status for a few months just to be sure they weren’t trying to find out where I went to.
        Sometimes there are good reasons not to tell who you’re going to but I didn’ lie. I simply said, ‘I’d rather not say if you don’t mind.’
        This was also the reply of several other co-workers who had left the same company I left.

    4. Sadsack*

      I wonder if #3 should mention that he wasn’t expecting such a large increase. If he doesn’t say something specifically about the additional 10% and the 10% was a mistake, the owners may think he is just thanking them for the 2.5% without realizing that he got way more then he was supposed to.

      1. ChristinaW*

        I agree. 10% a year without a specific ask for a raise seems very out of the ordinary. I think LW #3 needs to check to make sure it was correct.

        1. maggie*

          I can see this happening if there is an internal plan for equity increases and Boss is just too busy/lazy to notify the LW.

        2. Koko*

          FWIW my employer gives out merit raises as part of the annual review without the employee necessarily having to ask for or negotiate. I presume there are people who are making explicit asks and negotiating dollar amounts, but at least at my level money doesn’t really come up in the sit-down review with your manager because our direct managers can only make recommendations and most won’t throw out a dollar figure without knowing what they’ll actually be able to get for their employees. Each department has a pool of money for raises that the department head determines how to divvy up based on recommendations from all the managers following completion of the performance reviews. I’ve never asked about my raise in my review meeting, and I still received a 20% increase in one year. Of course, they DO send you an official email and postal mail letter notifying you of the merit raise, so the lack of notification definitely seems weird to me, but getting the raise without asking for it doesn’t.

    5. with three fingers I steal their soul*

      Re #2 – This has been an interesting discussion. I’d never really thought of it before, but it appears that there are many valid reasons for not wanting to say where you’re going:

      – Because the new employer has explicitly asked you not to say.
      – Because it’s standard practice in some professions.
      – Because you fear you’ll be immediately escorted out the door.
      – Because you want to avoid awkward conversations.
      – Because you want to avoid rounds and rounds of awkward conversations where management pleads for you not to leave.
      – Because you want to avoid gossip about taking the new job.
      – Because you fear your current employer will somehow sabotage the new job, perhaps convince the new employer to rescind the offer, or cause a substantial delay.
      – Because you feel that it’s none of their damn business.

      1. Job Leaver*

        I’m the OP for #2. I would say you hit the nail on the head. These are my main reasons:

        – I don’t want to be escorted out.
        – I don’t want people asking me a million question.
        – I don’t want management getting in my head and telling me I’m leaving for a worse place.
        – I don’t want gossip
        – I don’t want them to badmouth me to the new employer. Again, small industry. And the CEOs know each other (in passing).

        FWIW, I did tell some that I am leaving, but I told them it’s a marketing job in the food industry. If they want to figure it out on their own, they can. I just kept it vague like Alison said. (Thanks for the advice, Alison!)

        1. EditBarb*

          I think the vague answer is a good way to go. Being completely evasive definitely leads to gossip (which you’re trying to avoid!) and more questions. I had a former coworker leave and she refused to tell anyone anything about her new job–not the role there, not the type of company, anything. It led to the most awkward going away party ever, because we couldn’t discuss her new opportunities.

          And, of course, we found out where she went anyway, and she easily could’ve gotten away with a vague answer.

    6. KH*

      “I’m not sure yet. I’ve been looking for a change. I’ll be taking some time off to consider my options before I decide where to go in my future.”
      I used to work at a consulting company that had an ‘up or out’ culture. It was a great place to work. sometimes people were let go, unfortunately, but the company was generous enough to nearly always make the separation a “mutual consent” event that is characterized as the employee has chosen to leave.
      Almost everyone answered like this when their departure was announced (or not announced and became common knowledge).

  4. Chloe*

    #1 – If you work in a place similar to mine (big 4 accounting) that would be a very inappropriate thing to do. Promotions are earned and well publicized and pretending to be the level above your real level would be quite unethical, and probably lead to disciplinary action.

    Just wanted to give the other end of the spectrum, as Alison’s reply didn’t seem to find anything objectionable about it, whereas people in our industry would have a lot of objections.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I was just coming to say something very similar, it’s widly inappropriate to misrepresent your self in certain work places (accounting and legal in particular).

      Maybe Ive just worked in very hierarchical organisations but jobs have always had grades and titles assigned to them people getting ideas above their station bugs me.

    2. Auditoholic*

      Yes, wildly inappropriate here too where promotions are a BIG deal and not just awarded. All positions are applied to and if someone just received a promotion/new position without others being able to be considered there would be quite the uproar.

      1. Brandy*

        This is likely not your scenario, but I hired someone into a role that has an “official” title in our HR system, but she uses “senior manager” on her business cards/email. We came to that decision together because it is a familiar that best represents the work she does and level she is at (she’s a highly paid individual contributor equal and our company won’t allow any technical HR titles of “manager” unless you actually people manage…)

    3. Tenley*

      +1. I sometimes wonder, though, whether some people really do not realize that “senior X” is a real title to be promoted to (as opposed to a casual self-description).

      1. maggie*

        Ha, you mean like the person thinks because she’s older (aka senior citizen) that she can simply add it to her title? I wonder if I can get away with ‘Nearsighted Analyst’.

    4. Molly Smith*

      The other thing to realize is that sometimes there are privileges associated with certain job titles. For example, at an old job. the amount the customer’s employees could spend without further authorization was based on job title and our procurement team knew it and used the customer’s job titles to shunt requests through the customer’s review/sign off process. We had issues a few times where people had put inflated job titles on their emails. Ultimately, these were legally the purchaser’s issue (in this case, the OP’s company) since they were “allowing” the purchasers to misrepresent themselves through public email.

    5. Natalie*

      I’m not reading anything in Allison’s response that suggests she doesn’t find this objectionable. All she’s saying is that the LW isn’t in a position to address it because she isn’t the person’s manager.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Exactly. If the co-worker is misrepresenting her self, that is inappropriate. But it really isn’t the OP’s place to question it. She also says that it bothers others who have been promoted. If it bothers them so much, let them raise the question. Honestly how her colleague presents herself and her role is between her and her boss.

    6. MaryMary*

      It absolutely depends on the organization. OldJob was a large consulting company, job titles and promotions were very structured and formal. Now I work at a smaller, family owned company, and it’s not unusual for someone to negotiate a title upgrade (in addition to or instead of a raise) to use a different title in certain situations. For example, my title is senior project manager, but sometimes I’m introduced to clients as a senior consultant.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Alison didn’t say there wasn’t anything objectionable about it; it’s like when people complain that a co-worker comes in late or doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s not really your problem unless it affects your tasks directly, in which case you talk to your own manager. It’s up to the problem person’s manager to deal with a lack of productivity or a misappropriated title (if that’s indeed the case). And as she pointed out, the OP may not know the circumstances, such as a promotion that hasn’t been publicized, or an arrangement to work from home or shift hours.

      1. MK*

        Also, it would look very bad if the OP brought this to the higher-ups’ attention or mentioned it to the person concerned in an accusing manner, and then it turned out the coworker had been using the title legitematelly. Alison’s suggestion to bring this up casually is perfect, because a) if the coworker’s manager wants to, they can correct this discreetly, b) if the coworker is making a genuine mistake (thinks this isn’t a big deal or that they are entitled to use the title), they can correct it without public embarassment, c) if the coworker is trying to misrepresent themsleves, they will know they won’t be able to get away with it and probably stop and d) if the OP is misinformed, they don’t come across as a jerk. It gives the best chance to avoid unneccesary drama.

    8. Colette*

      I’d be surprised if this were an actual attempt to mislead (as opposed to a communication failure somewhere along the line), because it’s in her email signature.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes – doesn’t she email her boss sometimes? Maybe the boss is oblivious or never pays attention to the signature, but unless she’s editing her signature just for her boss, the boss has probably seen it.

        Alternately, could one of the new people who were promoted to senior manager say to her “Oh, I didn’t realize you were also promoted to senior manager, congrats, me too!” If she was honestly promoted, she’ll probably say something – and it not, she might realize she’s been caught in a lie.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, no, I certainly don’t mean to imply that I don’t find anything objectionable about it! It’s not okay to lie about your title! I just figured that went unsaid.

      But it’s not the title-changer who’s writing in for advice; it’s the coworkers. And for them, it’s not really their business (they’re not her manager), although my suggestions for asking about it are a way to highlight it if they feel they need to.

    10. JeanLouiseFinch*

      In law firms “I’d rather not say” usually means you will be going to work for a firm that takes work on the other side of the “litigation v.” Essentially, you are switching sides and trust me, sometimes it feels really good to do that, especially after a toxic work environment.

  5. RO*

    I do respect that some people work hard for the titles, but also acknowledge that there are conversations I may not be privy to. Having now worked in two large health care organizations, my thoughts are that titles are a matter of interpretation. Example, my old boss allowed us to use the “manager” title for signatures, business cards, LinkedIn etc. even though HR would not acknowledge that title. Now new also large health care organization, a walk to the security will get a result in a title change if you want.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Wherever I’ve worked titles have been very ridged, and have formed part of the terms and conditions of employment so they can’t be unilaterally changed by the employer or employee.

      1. RO*

        That is what I thought too and even asked some seasoned HR folks who were well versed with job design and descriptions, and all the feedback was that you cannot just change titles. Even after bringing all this information (including printing out the organizational policy) to my boss, he claims he got an exception. I left about two months later after I finally got tired of the blatant disregard for policy.

      2. Felicia*

        As another point of anecdotal evidence, everywhere Ive worked titles have been rather informal and kind of meaningless, so you could just change titles one day, even if you didnt get an official promotion, as long as your boss said it was ok.

        1. Anonymous Ninja*

          This is my experience, too. I worked one job where the client insisted in talking only to VPs and higher. So we all got title upgrades!

          1. Felicia*

            Totally random, but because of your username, I remembered that I know someone who has the word Ninja as part of her official title (and someone else who had Wizard in her title at her former workplace), so titles can be totally meaningless.

            They’re also possibly interchangeable. Marketing Coordinator , Marketing Administrator, Marketing Assistant and Marketing Manager have all been titles i’ve seen at different organizations for the exact same job (same responsibilities, same duties, same pay). In less formal and/or smaller organizations, the manager just makes the titles up as he goes, there’s no standardization across companies, so the second word of the title is rather meaningless. Better than being Marketing Ninja though.

              1. Felicia*

                My boss randomly made up a new title for me recently to reflect a change in responsibilities, and he asked what I wanted and I jokingly said Ninja. When I was job searching I saw more than one posting with ninja in it.

                1. Corry*

                  My (belated) uncle started a new job once, inquired how to get business cards, and was pointed to a form on the intranet. A week later, his boss informed him that business card titles now required your manager’s approval… but he could keep the 500 “Super Genius” (a la Wile E Coyote) cards that had already been printed and delivered.

            1. C Average*

              When I used to work in social media for my company, I was known for having a deft touch with difficult people, and I got nicknamed “the Troll Whisperer.” I’d love to have been able to use THAT on my business cards!

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              At LastJob (where I didn’t have a business card and never used my title anyway), I was starting to refer to myself as “Software Necromancer”. I find out why your program is dead and bring it back to life, bwahhahh!

          2. Judy*

            That’s similar to what I mentioned below, some of the higher ups (but not that high) at one of my old companies had 2 business cards so that they could give VP ones to certain clients and vendors, especially in particular countries.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Yeah…we have some of that too. Our official titles come down from many levels up, are really cumbersome, and mostly are used by HR for record-keeping purposes. We have kind of colloquial versions we use in conversation. Because it’s awkward to introduce yourself as the Junior Associate Assistant Teapot Facilitator, Level I or whatever. ;)

      3. Mike*

        I had a job that changed our titles and rank to one that was on a different track (from Teapot Tech 2 to Teapot Programmer 1) without telling any of us. It didn’t change our pay at all but it was annoying to find out we’d been using the wrong title for 3 years.

    2. MK*

      This is definitely field-specific. In mine, rank is very rigid, but “senior” is completely relevant and has to do with where you stand in the hierarchy/seniority. In my previous position, I was No3 in a hierarchy of 7 and could call myself senior, if I wanted to; in September I transferred to a larger division of the same organization and am N099 in a hierachy of 120, so of course it’s no longer appropriate.

      1. MT*

        Every place i have worked, adding a “senior” designation only affects pay and not responsibility.

        1. Raine*

          Where I work, “senior” is both a higher pay scale and a higher level of responsibility (in addition to outwardly indicating a more advanced skill set — it’s not necessarily a seniority-based designation as an advanced-skills-based designation). Often the senior role also serves as a sort of cushion between management and the workers not in the senior position, meaning. Deciding on your own that you’ve been there longer and thus should be able to use the title “senior” upsets not only people within the organization but outside it too — it’s misrepresenting to clients both your role in the organization’s hierarchy and your skill set.

          1. MT*

            As stated in the response, this person may have the title, and the letter writer may not know about it.

          2. MT*

            It has been my experience that the senior title is used as a pay cushion for someone who hasn’t reached the next responsibility level.

          3. Judy*

            I’ve generally seen manager vs senior manager to be both a responsibility and pay difference. Usually the breakpoint is 12-15 employees. So a manager would have 10 employees, and a senior manager would have 20 employees. They’ve been in different pay bands in my last two organizations.

            I did work at a place where people had two email signatures and two sets of business cards for some people. You used the ones with the real titles unless you were communicating with vendors and clients in certain countries. The hierarchy in the US has much lower titles than in Asia. Even within the company, people with responsibilities of individual contributors had titles of manager, so there was about a 2-3 title level shift between countries. I have a business card somewhere from my director at that company that shows his title was vice president.

            1. Koko*

              At my workplace managers and senior managers can be individual contributors without staff under them. The title conveys that they’re a project manager. Basically, VPs set the big picture goals that they delegate to directors beneath them, directors translate those goals into projects that they assign to managers beneath them, and managers run the projects with a significant amount of discretion and decision-making. Below managers are coordinators, associates, and assistants/interns who may work on projects with a variety of managers who they don’t report directly to. Some coordinators have interns (assistants) as direct reports but it’s generally a situation where there’s enough low-level work to warrant an intern and the work is so entry-level (proofreading, internet research, answering phones, data cleaning) that it doesn’t make sense for a manager busy with an important project to waste time supervising an intern doing rote work.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          At my last job, when I got the promotion that added “senior” to my title, it was in recognition of greater responsibility but didn’t come with a pay bump. Just another data point.

    3. CW*

      Job title inflation has made them almost meaningless. Look at the thousands of “Vice Presidents” floating around.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Not everywhere. I work in software, and things like “senior” and “principal” most definitely have real meanings. There is a big difference in pay and quality for a engineer v a senior engineer, and it’s something that carries over if you go to different companies.

        Funny enough, we also have meaningless titles, like “evangelist” and “ninja,” for people who have some kind of industry-related passion that sorta-kinda works with their job area.

  6. Csarndt*

    #2-you could consider not disclosing that you have a new job. I left my last job without having a new job lined up and that shut down question really quickly. If you are willing to be slightly dishonest by omission “I’m taking some time off” (like Saturday and Sunday before I start a super awesome job Monday) or “things are still up in the air” (like where I’m going to put my super awesome pen holder on my super awesome desk) may be your friends. If coworkers want to try to pry into your personal life, then you can deflect there too. “How are you going to pay your bills?” “My husband and I have made plans for that” and normal people will realize they’ve crossed a line and wish you well and move on. Abnormal people (like my former boss at crazy town) will ask more questions of a more personal manner like when is the baby due and what I’m going to do with all my spare time and suggest a career change back to the below minimum wage job I had in high school….but most or all of your coworkers are probably more sane than that.

    1. RO*

      Since I was taking five months between old and new job, I just told my immediate office I prefer not to disclose until I officially start in case things change. The only people who knew were my references and my boss’ boss.

    2. MK*

      That’s fine as long as you are reasonably sure your old coworkers won’t find out. It would be embarassing to tell people you plan to take some time off work on Friday and then meet them as you discharge your new duties on Tuseday.

    3. Colette*

      You could do that, but I’d wonder why you’d bother. I could see not giving details about exactly what you’ll be doing and who you’re report to, but there’s not really a downside to telling your current coworkers what industry or company you’ll be working in, and not doing so will potentially hurt your reputation with them.

      1. neverjaunty*

        That depends very much on your current employer and your industry. As some people noted upthread, there are places where revealing you have a new job will get you marched out the door, and may even cost you the new job.

    4. kozinskey*

      I think you can absolutely say you’re exploring your options and you’re not entirely sure yet where you’ll end up. Even if one of those options is a solid offer with a start date, you don’t technically *have* to take it. It’s not a lie, just some vagueness with the truth.

  7. GreatLakesGal*

    #1: True story– at my last job, new grad junior coworker finally got her required name tag from HR.

    It read “Suzy Jones, Regional Director.”

    She got a lot of ribbing about her rapid rise to power, and we took bets on how long it would take our (often oblivious) manager to notice.

  8. Ollie*

    Related to #4, how often do you have to re-ask if people will serve as references? The last time I talked to my references was late September, and they’ve never been contacted by any possible employers because I haven’t had any job searching luck, so they’ve probably totally forgotten about it.

    1. misspiggy*

      I don’t think you need to re-ask them. If an employer tells you they will contact your references, or you get a job offer, you could get in touch to tell them an enquiry might be coming their way. But people understand that job searches take a long time.

    2. majigail*

      As a reference, it’s nice to have a heads up if you think that you’re to the stage in the process where the employer might be calling, like after a second interview or something like that. Not necessary, but nice.

      1. some1*

        This is what I do, especially if the phone number I provided is a cell, so my reference will be more willing to answer an unknown number.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      If it’s been more than six to mine months and I haven’t gotten any calls, I might appreciate a quick email letting me know you are still searching. By that point, I might have misplaced your resume. You could do this by sending references an updates resume.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        This is assuming you have no other contact with the reference. Also, at some point you may want to reconfirm their contact info. It annoys me when candidates have outdated contact info for multiple references.

    4. themmases*

      I ask mine at the start of every new job search, which is usually years apart. Usually when I have new news to share about how my last job went, why I’m looking, and what I’m looking for.

      If I know a specific job will be contacting them because I had an interview or I was otherwise told, then I usually send a brief email letting them know that. I consider it polite since I now know they’ll be called, and either give them two sentences max on what the job is or check back in to see if they want any more information about either me or the position.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    #2. Just my opinion, but I think it makes it harder when you do not say where you are going next. And some people will definitely take that answer as a slap in the face. My family member’s old boss said he was going to cut off access to Cobra because of the attitude behind the MYOB answer. (Okay, that is a whole discussion in itself- however, the over-arching point was this boss was reeeally ticked off. It’s never a good idea to make angry hornets even angrier. My family member just shrugged and walked away. This gesture totally stole the boss’ power from the boss.)

    You could consider telling one or two people that “I am going to work for XYZ, Inc. Please let everyone know that I would appreciate their respect for my privacy and I will not be discussing this. My preference is to focus on making a smooth transition for Current Company to the next person who takes my spot.” Then let the rumor mill pass that around for you. If someone does bring it up just go back to that statement and say “I am pretty much focusing on creating a smooth transition here and I prefer not to discuss it.”

    1. BRR*

      Not saying where you’re going also draws more attention to it. I really don’t see what the big deal is especially since they’re likely to find out anyways. I understand there might be certain situations that warrant not letting the information out but it just doesn’t seem like the hill to die on. I like the “I don’t want to announce it until everything is finalized” but once again, anything other than I’m going to work for Chocolate Teapots, Inc draws more attention and gets the rumor mill speculating more.

      WTF with threatening to cut off COBRA access because that’s such a stupid threat. I love the shrug and walk away. I would have probably laughed and walked away. “Will you put that in writing for the lawyers?”

      1. some1*

        And, fwiw, when I was leaving a toxic job for a much better job in a different industry, I have to admit I felt a little satisfaction describing the new job.

        1. BRR*

          I was fired from my toxic environment and got a job at awesome new organization (the same impact saying you worked at google or apple would have). I wanted to canvas my old office building and email my department (still kind of do).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I visited Exjob a couple of months ago to ask a question about something (I could have called, but I wanted to say hi to certain people). It gave me great pleasure to answer the question “So where are you working now?” with “[Insert name of much better company than this one]!” >:)

            1. Csarndt*

              I kinda want to wear my new job uniform to my old job and watch their eyes bug out when they see the logo of a fortune 100 that is also in the 100 best to work for and ‘accidentally’ drop a paycheck stub…and ask my boss to explain just why he thought I was incompetent for a minor error on paperwork at the end of an 18 hour shift…

              …but it’s better just to stay away…I guess…

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Cobra boss. The whole story was something else. Family member had been given a week off with no pay because of Small Potatoes Incident. So he decided to job hunt that week. Even his supervisor told the boss “you just gave him an entire week to look for a job”. Sure enough, he found that job.

        I have seen this a few times. A person tries to do Evil Thing to another person and the recipient of the evil gesture lands in a good spot. The other person- not so much.

      3. rock/hard place*

        this is actually something my husband and I have thought a lot about. We work for the same (small) company and would like to at some point in the next few years like to move back to our hometown, which is halfway across the country. Obviously one of us needs a job in the hometown before we can move, but we’d like the other person to stay on for a month or two while searching for a job remotely. We can’t say “oh, Husband got a job at XYZ” because everyone would know that means I’m soon to follow (and vice versa). Ideas we’ve tossed around are 1) fake divorce (joking) 2) being super coy and not saying anything or 3) “my new employer requested I didn’t tell anyone because I’m replacing a person who doesn’t know they are being replaced”. And, the real kicked – I work in HR so it’s doublely difficult to keep mum about such things.

    2. MK*

      I agree. The OP (and most of the other people who want to avoid giving this information) say they want to avoid drama, but frankly trying to evade answering this very common question probably makes it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. If your employer is reasonable, they will be satisfied with the limited information you provide and follow your lead in not wanting to discuss it. If they are as toxic as that, refusing to answer will simply create a different kind of drama.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        It is the OPs prerogative to not say where they are going, but in my experience it will cause more office gossip than just naming the organization even if it is a competitor. When people are coy or refuse to name the organization it just causes a lot of sidebar conversations. “Do you know where Judy is going, she wouldn’t say?” “Why isn’t Judy saying where she is going?” “Do you think it XYZ company?”

        1. Colette*

          And they don’t necessarily even need to name the organization – “Oh, it’s a small company over by Landmark”, or “I’ll be doing teapot design with one of my former colleagues”.

  10. MaryMary*

    OP2 – In my industry, it’s not unusual for people to choose not to say who their new employer is, and it’s considered shorthand for going to a competitor. You could also use your new title, but not mention your new employer. “I’m leaving to be a senior teapot designer, and I’m excited about the opportunity.”

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Same here. It’s very normal in my niche of advertising, and usually indicates that either the person has been recruited by a former coworker (everybody signs agreements not to recruit other employees for a year or two after your departure, but many people don’t adhere to them, and they’re hard to enforce) or that they’re going to work on an account that’s a direct competitor of the account they’re currently on.

      I guess when people do this they’re trying to make sure they’re not escorted out of the building the day they resign, as may happen if management doesn’t want you taking files that could be useful to the competing account. But I honestly don’t see what real purpose it serves — in my experience, whether you get to stay through your notice period depends on your past job performance, not on who you’ll be working for next. It’s usually only the problem children who were about to be fired anyway who get shown out early.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Not only can it happen, it usually has happened, which is why I don’t think anyone bothers to do the escorting thing unless someone was performing really poorly and the resignation is just an excuse to cut off their paycheck sooner.

      1. Judy*

        I had one manager that wanted to fire someone for interviewing with a competitor. I guess this guy hadn’t kept it quiet, or the network at the new place was too noisy. The guy did get the job and resigned a few weeks later. I only heard about it through gossip after the guy was gone. “Did you hear that Bob learned that Wakeen was interviewing with Teapots LLC and had a fit in the manager’s meeting?”

    2. YourCdnFriend*

      This is why I think my current employer would insist on knowing. If I’m moving to a competitor, I’m being walked out. If I refuse to say where I’m going, I’m being walked out.

      It would be super weird not to say where you’re headed.

    3. MaryMary*

      A lot of times it’s less of an issue of taking organizational or customer information to a competitor, and more so avoiding the awkward conversation of why you’d prefer to do the exact same work somewhere else. Sometimes that conversation can be very valuable and should be had (for example, at OldJob several people left because a competitor was offering salaries of $10,000+ for the same role, and eventually we all got market adjustments to bring our pay in line with the industry). Other times, it’s understandable to not want to tell your boss he’s a terrible manager, or go into detail about your toxic coworkers. Or you’re leaving for a reason your current employer can’t match (better commute), and you don’t want to have rounds and rounds of conversations about it. I don’t think it’s weird not to say where you’re going.

    4. Goldie*

      Same here too. “Oh it’s a small company, you wouldn’t have heard of it” worked fine for me. If you want to really give the impression of telling them something while not really saying anything, say “a small company in (city)”. But then, it’d really have to be a small company. If LW2 is leaving Microsoft to work for Google, I don’t really have any advice on what to say.

  11. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – I have to wonder if the OP is worried because they signed a non-comp and that any disclosure will cause the employer to enforce it.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I wondered that as well. If that is the case, rest assured, your company will find out. And by not being transparent it will cause them to wonder. OP, if you do have a non-compete and are planning on violating it, I would recommend you go to your current employer and ask to released from it.

  12. Rebecca*

    #3 – the first thing that popped into my head was The Steve Miller Band “Take the Money and Run”, but on second thought, you may want to thank them for another generous raise just in case it was a payroll error.

  13. Apersonymous*

    I actually did that at my last job. My coworker and I were leaving at the same time but we were going to two different companies for the same job. He told them first and the managers tried to convince him to stay. However they had no power to change what we wanted (higher pay, more hours as there was a union). They told him it was a big mistake to switch; he’d just graduated college and was searching within his field but needed more money. When he wasn’t around, they were saying things about how not smart this move was for him, how disappointed they were, etc. Hearing that caused me not to say what I was doing. It might have been wrong but to heae how they were treating his departure made me want to say very little. We see it on here at times. Treat someone harshly in two weeks and others won’t give as much notice. Now it wasn’t as harsh as we read here, but I didn’t want to be told how much my decision was wrong or misjudged.

    1. some1*

      This is what I thought, too, the LW is trying to eliminate gossip. LW also mentioned a toxic environment, perhaps she accepted a position with a lower title, pay or at an org with a less prestigious reputation than her current employer just to get out of Dodge and it’s a pride thing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The problem there is the mistaken belief that we can control or eliminate gossip. That will never, ever happen. Better to realize that people talk, that is what they do. OP, let them waste their days and their lives gossiping while you go out there and actually live life instead of sitting around talking about it.

        1. themmases*

          Yes, definitely. I used to worry a lot about what was being said about me at my old job after I left– I liked a lot of people there and I knew how my predecessors were spoken about to me. It killed me to think of people I would have mentored and befriended if we’d overlapped hearing that I was some big slacker. I think the OP will care less about this once they get settled into their new job. Soon after you move on, everyone at your old job is still a big part of your network and your history– of course you care if they are gossiping about you! But the more you get involved in in your new place, the less relative importance they have. Six months after leaving, it’s a lot more real to me that I have options other than dealing with those people again.

          The OP probably had to think of a diplomatic reason they are leaving their old job for their new one when they interviewed. Maybe they can repurpose that when they tell people about their future plans. To the extent that you even can control gossip (still not very much), you can at least take the fun out of it by having a short, positive, inoffensive script for why you are moving on.

    2. MK*

      If you didn’t say what you were doing, what did you say instead? I cannot imagine that, in the environment you describe, they didn’t pressure you to give some reason for resigning.

  14. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP #1: I’m surprised you didn’t address this directly when you first noticed it. A quick IM or call (or quiet face-to-face) saying, “Jane, I just saw your email signature– congratulations on your promotion!” is what I’ve seen happen (had happen, and done myself) when an email signature changes like that. As it stands now, though, I agree with Alison– not really your business. So many conversations happen behind the scenes and sometimes things are kept quiet for one reason or another.

    I definitely agree that if she’s falsely using that title, it’s not good, nor is it appropriate. It’s just out of your hands.

  15. LBK*

    #3 is some of the letter missing? The second paragraph references a weird conversation with the owners related to the first 10% increase, but I didn’t see that mentioned in the first paragraph. Not sure if knowing the content of that conversation would add relevant context to this situation.

  16. Lia*

    #5, I work for state government and if we close, essential employees do have to report — those are people who are responsible for health and safety (medical staff, police officers, etc). There are relatively few essential staff and all of them know who they are. If the office closes, non-essential staff who do NOT report have to take a vacation or personal day, although generally those will be repaid at some future date.

    That said, in my particular division, none of us are essential (lol) but there is the expectation that we should try to work from home if possible if the office is closed.

  17. INTP*

    If my understanding is correct, and the OP is saying that they aren’t necessarily forbidden from staying home but just have to go in to work to get paid for that day, this is not only legal but a normal and fair arrangement. When circumstances dictate that you work extra, you get paid for it and they don’t. When circumstances dictate that you stay home for a snow day, they get paid for it and you don’t. Many companies are pretty lax on tracking time off for exempt employees but only pay non-exempt hourly workers for time worked and accrued PTO because they have to track the hours anyways.

    If I’m misunderstanding and they’re drawing the line as to who has to come in and who can stay home based only on exempt vs non-exempt status, that’s pretty strange and seems unfair.

    1. soitgoes*

      I had the same thought as your last paragraph and I think that’s what the OP is getting at. I wonder if it’s not an actual policy, but rather the employees exempt employees deciding that they’d rather just stay home. Are they allowed to work remotely while the non-exempt aren’t? That’s a point worth bringing up with management.

    2. Vin packer*

      IME, it’s not that they’re deciding who has to come in and who doesn’t based on exemption status, it’s just that it’s disproportionately the non-exempt people with no sick leave that are forced to come in–not “you must come in to get paid,” but “you must come in to not be disciplined/fired, even though it’s so cold outside that exposed skin can get frostbite in a matter of minutes.” The custodians, the maintenance people, etc. I mean, I get that they have to make sure the water pipes don’t burst and that sort of thing, but it’s a pretty crappy situation for those workers, and I don’t blame #5 for feeling grumbly about it.

    3. Iro*

      I do not see a problem with employees having a split here, even if it occurs strongly along exempt/non-exempt lines. There’s a ton of legitmate reasons this could happen.

      I use to work at a call center, and on snow days all the CSRs (non-exempt) had to come into work or use PTO. Most of the exempt workers, like the analysts, and process managers, could work from home instead. The caveat was that if the weather got so bad that they closed the office, those employees who came in for the day got paid for the entier 8 hours, whereas those who took PTO still had to use PTO for the hours the office was close. Additionally if you were working from home, it was expected that you would continue to work from home after the office closed.

      Seems like a fair trade to me.

    4. Rae*

      I worked in higher education. Snow days we closed me and all of the salaried persons stayed home. Hourlies had to take no pay (we often changed up hours to help them make up). There were a couple of hourlies with key privileges who lived close enough to walk and they could go in and get things done. No one ever, ever had to come in. But they also didn’t get paid.

      They were often very, very sore about this and saw management as lazy. But they were paid for every hour they worked and in reality there were those really busy “back to school weeks” when we were working 70 hrs and still bringing home the same old paycheck….lower managers often earning less than minimum wage if you divided by 70 rather than 40.

      Often we had to remind folks what salary vs hourly really meant.

  18. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Re: #3, see, this is why I see the culture of “you don’t discuss pay rates!” as a way of keeping workers in the dark. Yes, knowing everyone else’s pay rate could make for some epic resentment and cause accusations to fly, but I think that sometimes you’re going to have envious employees no matter what, at least with transparency people won’t be guessing. Keeping people in the dark is usually part of a plan to keep them under your thumb, and it’s extremely rare that it’s really for the benefit of the person or people being kept ignorant.

  19. Angora*

    Ref: 2. When I resign, I don’t want to tell my employer where I’m going next

    Unless you are training someone, you can tell your boss that you do not want to announce you’re leaving until the last date. That you are resigning for personal reasons and do not want to discuss it. “Personal reasons” should shut the conversation down.

  20. JustMe*

    Maybe it’s just me – pun intended; I have on my vision board at home a magazine clip that reads “Mind Your Business” right at the top. I tend to live by it these days. If it doesn’t affect my work or my living, as Alison has stated many times, it’s really none of my business. When people leave their manager to go work elsewhere, again, it’s none of my business. I only make it my business if I’m interested in leaving and want to know if the company they’re going to is hiring. I do ask sometimes out of curiosity, however if the answer leans towards none of your business, I leave it at that. I am so much happier when I focus on my own work and keeping my nose clean. I’ve learned a lot from Alison’s blog, and “Mind Your Business” is at the top for me.

    1. MK*

      That’s good for you, but saying that people shouldn’t care what others are doing isn’t helping the OP, if their coworkers don;t follow that dictum.

      And, while I agree that people should back off immediately if they get the vibe that the resigning employee doesn’t want to talk about it, for another personality type or under different circumstances responding to the news that someone is leaving with total indifference will come across as dismissive, cold or rude.

      1. JustMe*

        MK, I always congratulate my colleagues by expressing well wishes. I’m neither cold nor dismissive. What I don’t do is throw speculations and gossip at the reasons why. This is where the focus on your work and keeping your nose clean comes in. Unless it affects you personally you really should send best wishes and leave it at that. I can only offer that advice.

        1. MK*

          I wasn’t saying you are cold or dismissive! But there are those who would feel that, having told you they are leaving for a new job, your telling them congradulations and changing the subject or leaving it at that equals dismissing them. Not everyone dreads the common follow-up question “so what are doing next?”; and it’s so usual to ask it that NOT asking it might seem like marked unconcern. One person’s discretion is another one’s indifference.

  21. Nobody*

    #2 – When I left my job at a toxic workplace for a similar job in the same industry, I decided not to tell my employer or coworkers. I gave vague/subject-changing answers, like, “I’m moving down south! I’ve had enough of this chilly weather. Can you believe it’s still snowing in April?” Or, “I’m going to work for a white chocolate teapot company. I’ve learned a lot from working with dark chocolate here, but there are some exciting things going on in the white chocolate side of the industry. Have you heard about the new solar-powered white chocolate melter?” If they kept pushing, I just said, “I’d rather not say.”

    The reason I didn’t want to give specifics was that I had heard tales of managers at my former employer sabotaging job opportunities because there was such a high turnover rate that they couldn’t afford to keep losing people. I heard that they would call managers they knew at other companies and ask them to rescind the offers. Other people (including my own manager) were aware of this happening, too, and were pretty understanding that I didn’t want to say where I was going.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think Alison has written some thoughts on Old Employers who try to sabotage New Job. Good topic, though, maybe we should revisit it? (If I am remembering correctly that there was a discussion.)

  22. jag*

    On #1 I don’t agree that this is just between the person (let’s that person Pat) with the inflated title and her manager. The title is not something that is important to the relationship of the Pat and Pat’s manager, but what other people receiving these emails think of Pat’s role and level. Assuming the OP is correct and she didn’t just miss news about a promotion, it’s the title is incorrect information being shared. That’s not appropriate.

    1. Iro*

      It is between “Pat” and Pat’s manager to correct her if (and that’s a big if) she is using the wrong title. Most likely, Pat and her manager are in email communication so I would be surprised if Pat’s use of senior manager was not correct or enouraged.

      It’s not like Pat has a inflated title on her business cards that she made outside of the company, but uses her correct title in the organization, it’s in her email signature where her manager could see it and know if it were innappropriate.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s between Pat and Pat’s manager, because Pat’s manager is the one charged with addressing issues with Pat and correcting them. It’s the same thing as if the issue weren’t a job title, but anything else that doesn’t affect her coworkers.

      1. jag*

        Raising/pointing to a problem is not the same as being the person charged with correcting it. The OP, as a responsible member of the organization should raise it if it is incorrect. Just because she isn’t the person to solve it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t point it out.

        I don’t work in IT, but if I notice a problem in that part of my organization and raise it appropriately, that’s welcomed.

        I’ll add that in large organizations, title standardization may well be outside a manager’s control. Or at least they need to check with other groups in the organization before making that sort of change unilaterally. This is for both internal morale/consistency and also consistency and clarity of how the outside world views people in the organization.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, it’s somewhere on the line between “reasonable to point out a potential issue to my boss” (like Jane isn’t returning client calls — definitely something the boss should hear about) and “really not your business” (like Jane is always a few minutes late but it doesn’t impact anyone’s work). But again, if the OP really wants to raise it, I gave her language to do it. The issue, as I said in the post, is stewing about it with other coworkers, which is obnoxious; they need to either ask about it directly or let it go.

  23. Jubilance*

    #2 – I had never considered not sharing what company I was moving to, until a former colleague resigned. He had a friend who resigned from Company A and told them he was going to Company B; Company A then called Company B and said “you can’t hire him” and it turned into a monthhs-long issue with the employee unable to work at either company until it was resolved. My former colleague decided to never again share where we was going, and when he resigned the company was forced to treat him as if he was going to a competitor because he wouldn’t say where he was going. For us that means you pack up all your stuff and are walked out as soon as you give your resignation, no two week period (though you are paid for it).

    1. MK*

      Well, when all is said and done, no one can be forced to reveal their next employer. People simply have to decide what outcome they prefer or are willing to risk. I must say, though, that making the decision based on someone else’s experiences with two different companies doesn’t make much sense to me; less so, to decide to rigidly follow a principle based on something that happened to a friend once.

  24. C Average*

    Re #2: You’re over-revving on this.

    If a colleague I’m not close to is leaving my organization and we bump into each other in the hallway and I ask, “Where are you headed next?” it’s not because I plan to stalk them. It’s small talk. I’m probably not even going to remember the answer, unless it’s especially interesting. (Two colleagues I actually WAS pretty close to left recently to work at consulting firms on the east coast. I couldn’t tell you which firms or which city, because I don’t remember.)

    If you tell me “Oh, I’m joining Chocolate Teapots Ltd. as a junior designer,” I’m gonna say, “Congrats, that’s awesome” and then promptly forget about the whole conversation. If you tell me, “Oh, I’d rather not say,” I’m gonna think, “All righty, good luck with the witness protection program, weirdo” and then spend the next post-work happy hour speculating with my colleagues about what became of you and why you were being so evasive.

    1. some1*

      “If a colleague I’m not close to is leaving my organization and we bump into each other in the hallway and I ask, ‘Where are you headed next?’ it’s not because I plan to stalk them. It’s small talk.”

      Right. It’s going to seem really weird to refuse to say where you are going to anyone who’s only asking out of polite interest.

    2. Colette*

      … and in a year when someone you know says they’re thinking of hiring your former colleague, you’ll respond “oh, that’s the one who wouldn’t tell anyone where she was going when she left. Kind of weird.”

    3. Elizabeth West*

      You’d waste valuable happy hour drinking time speculating on where your colleague might be going? If you truly don’t care, why would you bother?

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding your comment, but this came off as judgmental to me, especially mentally labeling someone as a weirdo if they don’t tell you their personal business. If I asked and they didn’t want to tell me, I’d just assume that they had their reasons for not sharing and that would be that.

      I guess I don’t understand the whole “you have to tell people where you are going or it’s strange” thing. It’s none of their flipping business!

      1. C Average*

        Sorry, that wasn’t my intent at all!

        I guess what I was getting at is that, at least in offices like mine, you’d stand out if you were all cloak-and-dagger about the fact that you were moving on to a different position somewhere else.

        Something non-specific that still answers the question (“I’ve taken a marketing role in the Bay Area,” “I’ve decided to go back to HR,” “I’ve taken a position in the midwest to be closer to my family,” “I’ve gotten a really cool opportunity at a local startup,” etc.) would be totally appropriate, but something that draws attention to the person not wanting to address the question at all (“I’d rather not say,” “I’m not comfortable sharing that information,” “None of your business,” “I’d rather keep that private,” etc.) would stand out as unusual. And yeah, it would absolutely get discussed! It wouldn’t be so much that we care deeply where they’re going; it would be the weirdness of them being evasive about it.

        By being so cagey about answering the question, they’d make us MORE interested, not less. People certainly have the right to not share information about where they’re going, but it would be strange and it would be remarked on.

        1. C Average*

          Also, no one would bat an eye at “I’m not sure yet–I’m still exploring my options.” It’s just the abruptness of a “no, I’m not telling you” that’s weird and off-putting.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Ah, okay, I get it now. I can see that, especially if you work in a place where people are very open with each other about stuff.

            It was kind of like that at Exjob, although if you said “If I told ya, I’d have to kill ya” nobody would question it. At my current job, I barely know the names of all the people on my floor (it’s huge) and I’ve been here for almost two years.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I’ll bet in a lot of cases you could answer something like “if I told ya, I’d have to kill ya! (laugh) But seriously, we need to meet on the teapot handle process soon, because …” You could get into a work (or non-work) discussion by changing the subject and many people won’t even notice you didn’t really answer their initial question.

      2. Colette*

        I guess I see responding with “I’d rather not say” or “It’s none of your business” the same way I’d see responding to “how was your weekend?” with “why do you want to know?” If you have a friendly relationship with your coworkers, why would you want the last thing you do to sour it?

        I don’t think you need to share all of the details, but no explanation at all (or an explanation that will be obviously false when you update your LinkedIn the next week / they talk to a friend who works at your new employer) is unusual and can reflect badly on you.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Exactly — it comes across as weirdly cold. And if you’re suddenly cold to people when you haven’t been previously they’re going to wonder why.

    4. Job Leaver*

      OP #2 here. It sounds like your company is not as toxic. Mine has a reputation for trying to sabotage and intimidating.

      Also, all of the other people who left before me due to this toxic environment kept mum about where they are going as well.

      I think it depends on the work environment at the end of the day :)

  25. CW*

    #2 – The way I see it, if a company is allowed to be mum on why they lay me off, I’m allowed to be mum on where I plan on working next. It’s a two-way street.

    1. JustMe*

      CW, I just don’t get why people care that much. Maybe someone can explain this to me so I get a better picture of how me not disclosing where I’m going to work next is anyone’s business. I don’t get it. Chances are you’ll see my LinkedIn update anyway. I have experienced people saying they’re moving out of town to be with a sick parent, next thing you know they update LinkedIn to show them working for another company in-town. Another guy I knew wouldn’t say a word, changed jobs a few times, and now settled into a job he’s enjoying. Some people leave and won’t say because frankly, they want to leave but aren’t all too excited about the next move. It may just be a ‘something else for now so I can get the heck out of dodge’ type move. It’s really just a pride thing. Maybe they don’t trust the manager they are leaving. Maybe they made a deal with HR and they have time to find a job, but must leave current company. So, some people really do not know where they are going. I don’t see it as a big deal and I understand why people do it.

    2. MK*

      It’s not a question of being allowed; after all, no one can force you to tell. It’s just that it will come across as odd/suspicious and the same thing goes for the employer who fire someone without even a token reason. There was a letter about this not long ago: someone had been fired with no reason and the comments run wild with speculation, some kind of discrimination being the most likely reason offered. That’s kind of the issue, if you refuse to tell, people’s minds naturally run to the worst possible answer.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s where I don’t get it. Who cares what the coworkers think? You’ll likely never see them again once you leave, unless you’re going to be working with them in the future, and you would know that before you left, like if you were going to work for a vendor or a customer or something.

        1. Colette*

          Your current coworkers are part of your network, though. In two years, one of them might be working at a place you’d love to work (or they might know someone who is).

        2. MK*

          Well, unless you can predict the future, you can’t be sure your ‘ll never see them again; in fact, you can’t be sure that one of them won’t come to work for your new employer in a couple of months as your new manager!

          I think this is part of the bigger question “why should you care what other people think?”. You care because the vague notion of “other people” in reality breaks down to a series of specific persons, some of whom might be in a position to affect your life at some point. That’s pretty much the whole point of social conventions, to grease the way of people interacting smoothly.

          1. JustMe*

            I agree MK.

            I think the thing is too that some people really don’t know what there next move will be. When I was leaving my old job, I just wanted to leave. I had 3 other companies I interviewed with, all went extremely well, and I was sure I’d get at least 1 offer (which I did). When I was asked by a colleague where I was going, I said I wasn’t sure, and I really wasn’t sure. At times it isn’t being secretive at all. Now what really is creepy and odd is calling my cell phone to inquire more about my move or sending me emails to get the ‘juice’, oh and even stalking my LinkedIn profile. I’ve experienced this, and I wouldn’t want to work closely with those people.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Of course you’re allowed to be; no one can require you share. The issue if that because of social and professional conventions, a refusal will come across as chilly and odd, and people will take note and wonder (and it may even change the relationship). As I wrote in the article on this that I linked to from my answer, you’re entitled to be secretive if you want to, but like many things you’re entitled to do, you’ll probably negatively impact the relationship.

  26. Brett*

    #5 Just a note on the “essential workers” phrase. The reason that exists is that being an essential worker under emergency conditions triggers special rules in both federal and state law. Under federal law, the comp time cap for essential workers in emergency conditions jumps from 240 hrs to 480 hrs. When a government worker hits the cap, they must be paid overtime instead of receiving comp time, so the cap is pretty important. (Comp time is only 1:1 instead of 1:1.5 like overtime pay.)

    More importantly, under many state laws, essential workers in snow emergencies (and other emergencies) are also paid at straight time instead of time and a half even if they would normally be paid time and a half. Or the really sucky part, if you are an essential worker and you are required to remain at the work site but not actively doing work, you are not paid at all even if non-exempt.

    1. Brett*

      And related to this, there has been labor related case law in some states dealing with the OP’s exact situation for public employees. Even for public employees under labor agreements that stated otherwise , the state was allowed to pay non-exempt workers who stayed home and workers who came in the same pay. For example, in New Jersey during the 2006 furloughs, workers who were required to report to work and workers who stayed home eventually received the same pay even though some union contracts stated the workers who reported to work during a government emergency had to receive comp time in addition to their pay.

  27. Iro*

    #1 Totally with Alison on this one. I’ve been the person with the ‘inflated’ title and it was really embarrasing for the person who made a public stink about it with a group of co-workers in the break room (I guess they thought a group approach was best?). They were sternly reprimanded and the boss was not happy with their approach, or assumptions about me/lack of trust in their co-workers. Not to mention he was furious they didn’t clear it up with him first.

    Anyway in my sitution there were title II’s and title III’s on the team. title III was the most senior position you could have in that role, and I was even introduced to the team (although to be fair the head complainer in that crowd was not yet hired at the time) as “Senior Title”. As a senior title it was even in my job description to provide guidance and training to the junior titles. I guess the head complainer thought that, by using “senior title” I was somehow diminishing his role as “Title II” and that I should instead use “title III”? Who knows but it did not end well for him.

  28. Mena*

    #1: Be sure you are correct about the title before saying anything. My title was incorrectly recorded by our HR department for 2 years …. and once notified, it wasn’t corrected for 10 months. While I used the correct title, it ‘appeared’ that I was not.

  29. Mockingjay*

    #1: A former boss kept assigning his “problem children” to my documentation team, in hopes that I could straighten them out. (I was lead technical writer on a massive software project.) One gift was a new, junior engineer (‘removed’ from the software test team) who fancied himself a grammarian. His email signature:

    “Documentation Engineer”

    1. sunny-dee*

      OMG, that has long been a joke with me and my brother … sweet merciful crap, I didn’t know anyone actually did that.

      Thomas is a developer, and he thought it was humorous about a decade ago when QA and release teams started calling themselves engineers. I’m a tech writer, too, and he used to joke one day I’d be a “documentation engineer,” his boss would be a “management engineer,” and the janitor would be a “sanitation engineer.”

      1. Wander*

        The department I work in tried in all seriousness to advertise a position as something akin to Office Engineer. Said engineer’s sole responsibility would be cleaning the office – so basically a janitor. Several people pointed out that the title would be misleading and would likely attract the wrong candidates, but the people in charge insisted that it was standard these days, and everyone would totally understand.

        HR, from what I heard, put their foot down and refused to approve the title.

  30. Amber Rose*

    #4: Although it’s a blanket yes, if there’s a gap of a week or two between when I ask people to be a reference and when I actually get an interview, I usually send them a heads up email about the interview and that they might be getting a call. As a courtesy. I’m never too specific, just let them know I had a promising interview and they may be getting a call.

  31. Iro*

    #2 I get confused by these questions because I’ve never told an employer the name of the company I’m going to, and I’ve never felt like my exit conversations have been weird.

    “What are you going to be doing?”
    “Oh I’m going to be researching choclate tempering techniques. I’m looking forward to expanding my role in that area, but it’s going to be tough to leave such an awesome team”

    “What industry is it in?”
    “It’s still in the chocolate teapots industry”

    And that’s usually more than they wanted to know and jovial farewell conversation.

    1. Hotstreak*

      In my industry they definitely want to know (right before they escort you out the door!). When a salesperson leaves we are all aware that when their do not compete expires in 12 months, they will be going after their old clients. If we know where they’re leaving for, and know the strengths and weaknesses of that company, we can identify which clients are most at risk and structure the existing client relationship to protect it from poaching. The sooner we know the better! There’s not enough time to do this for ALL the clients.

      For example we might have “design” and “manufacturing” departments. If we know Ashley left for a competitor with a better “design” offering, we might reduce our pricing or offer extra “design” services in order to retain the client.

      Of course Ashley wants to protect that information, so she has more opportunity to win her clients over to her new company. Because of this nobody really discloses, unless they’re moving out of town or going in to a different role or industry or something.

  32. C Average*

    It’s interesting to read about the different workplace cultures with regard to titles. In some places, titles seem very hierarchical and have very specific meanings; in others, it’s just a handy descriptor of what you do, and you’re free to switch it up to make it more comprehensible to people outside your organization.

    In my organization, titles do have very specific meanings. A lot of them LOOK very similar to an outsider–I remember surfing my company’s job board before getting hired here and having only a vague idea of what some of the titles meant or who might be qualified to hold them–but within the company, it’s generally pretty well understood what each one means.

    For those of us with convoluted titles (I am officially the [My Company] Consumer Services Digital Sport Knowledge Base Author), we often adopt a shorter and more colloquial title in our signature, and that’s pretty well accepted.

    I could see a person new to the organization (particularly someone who came from a company where titles were more casual) interpreting this behavior as a laissez-faire attitude toward titles and behaving accordingly.

    Also, for reasons I’ve never understood at all, getting your title updated in Outlook is a glacial process here, so it’s not uncommon for someone to either keep an old title in their signature line (so it won’t clash with the Outlook title) or update their signature title upon promotion but have a mismatch between it and their Outlook title for up to a year. (Seriously, it takes forever. It’s crazy.)

    Regardless, I think the “stay in your lane” advice holds.

  33. AnonCan*

    #1 – I find titles seem to have such varied meanings these days. For example in some organizations friends have the title “director” or “manager” but do the same work as a “coordinator” at mine. To have the title of director here you would be managing a multi million dollar budget and be in charge of at least 30 employees. I know a former colleague who has director title but really only manages a social media presence.

    1. Iro*

      ^ This. At my previous company “team leads” were individuals who supported management with data and were available to answer some questions of staff. They had a few managmenet responsibilites, but it was a small part. Now I’m in a org where “team lead” is the manager of a team of 4 – 15 employees and reports directly to the “director”. Very different and confusing.

  34. HR Manager*

    #1 – My companies often give some license to employees to use a title that is more recognizable to clients than convulated internal titles. Adding a senior though is not kosher anywhere I know of.

    #3 – *sigh* I don’t get the managers not talking to employees about increases before they hit. It’s a wasted opportunity to tie reward to performance.

  35. Job Leaver*

    Hi all, I’m the OP for the #2 question. I read all of your feedback, and all of it was excellent! I ended up telling some people that I am close to, and of course, my boss.

    They asked where I was going, and I just was vague and talked about what I’m going to “DO.” My answer was, “I’m going to do x for another food company.” Simple as that. They didn’t really pry more. When they would press, I said, “I’m really superstitious and don’t want to share the good news until I start!” (cheerfully) and they were OK with that.

    I do have one co-worker that knows through the industry grapevine, but she will not say anything.

    My CEO is notorious for letting people go early and escorting them out, which is why I didn’t want to say anything. My team has a lot of work left to be done and I don’t want to leave them hanging. They even told me not to tell anybody I’m quitting so I don’t get escorted out. Also, my CEO knows the other CEO as well which could potentially be awkward.

    Thanks again for the advice. It was great.

  36. STX*

    I would definitely mention the unexpected raise to someone – maybe someone in HR who I think should be aware of everyone’s compensation. I worry that it’s an accounting mistake and you would owe the money back. It happened to my mom once.

  37. Cath in Canada*

    #4, I agree with Alison that you don’t need to ask your references about every single job application, and that a blanket request is enough. I’d also like to add something specific to getting good references from academic professors:

    It’s not news that a lot of academics don’t know very much about the world outside of academia. You therefore might want to also let your professors know about the general categories of jobs you’re planning to apply for, and the skills involved in those jobs. You could also remind them of any times you’ve demonstrated those skills in their classes, or in any other contact you’ve had with them. For example, when I was looking for my first job outside academia (in marketing) I let my academic references know, stressed that one of the key requirements for the marketing job was strong written communication skills (I think I actually sent them the job description), reminded them of times they’d praised my writing skills, and asked them to focus on that aspect of my performance in their reference letter.

    Good luck!

  38. Ed*

    #1 – We have a guy on our team who added “Senior” to his LinkedIn profile. We are in the process of changing titles throughout the company to include things like senior but currently nobody has a senior title. We all find it funny. He is one of those people who thinks a senior title is guaranteed because has been here the longest but he’s actually one of the weakest members of the team. We’ll all waiting for him to lose his mind when our department is done and his title doesn’t change. I’m one of the newest employees here but also by far the most experienced so he will be particularly unhappy when my title changes and his doesn’t:)

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Back in the days before LinkedIn, a colleague left the company I had worked for and went freelance. At that company, for a long time no one in the art department had titles — not the senior/junior/art director/creative director types — everyone had the same general title. Then someone got their panties in a bunch over that and made sure titles were instituted, which was good for some people, but not for most of the others. Aside from status symbols, they also became ways to placate people. One person, for example, was going to leave, told them they were looking for a new job and since there wasn’t any money for a raise, it was negotiated between various people at the company what title this person could be given that was impressive enough to keep them around. No, that’s not a joke. They were “allowed” to be an Art Director, which was ranked as higher than Senior Designer (their previous title), while the other two remained the more “senior” Creative Director. This lead to the dust-up involving the colleague who went freelance. That person started calling themselves Something Director (I can’t remember if it was Art or Creative) and the person whose panties were originally in a bunch over no one having ranked titles was very offended by that because, to their mind, the new freelancer hadn’t “earned” that title legitimately by being given it while working at an established company due to talent and years of experience like they had. So I’ve sometimes wondered since I’ve been freelance for so long, how one does go about giving oneself a title when you are Chief Cook and Bottlewasher at your own place and if titles really matter outside of a corporate structure where they are used as indicators of position within that company?

  39. Traveller*

    Related to #1, I absolutely was in this position where I had been promoted for several months but it hadn’t been announced to the team.

    My boss was trying to promote two of us in his team at the same time, but I was in a different site than my peer — and my local HR processed my promotion much faster (about 3 months, I think) than the HR in the overseas location. I was fine to have the announcement wait until the 2nd promotion came through (it didn’t change my job scope & I already have my raise). However, my local HR also updated internal systems like the Outlook address book with my new title – which also shows your title when we use our internal instant messaging system. So, it was visible to most who I worked with, even though I didn’t flaunt it.

    Eventually, I did have one co-worker ask me directly “When are we going to talk about your promotion?” Unsurprisingly, my co-workers seemed to care about the announcement and timing of it more than I did.

  40. Not telling*

    With regard to the comment about snow days, I would like to point out that not having to go IN to work and not having to work at all are two different things. As a Chicagoan who lived in DC for far too long, I share the LW’s pain about many people getting to stay home on snow days. Many people look for any excuse not to go to work. But AAM’s example of the federal government closing needs to be clarified.

    Actually closing the federal government entirely is pretty rare. It happens a lot more frequently for budget shutdowns than it does for snow. Most of the time the government schedules telework for anyone who’s job allows them to work from home. So a National Park Police officer is essential and has to work but a policy analyst who writes documents all day can do so at home.

    But this is not to say that the policy analyst is not working, as LW suggests. They are still working, they are just doing so at home. If they are unable to work from home, in most cases a federal worker who cannot get into the office has to make up the time somehow or take vacation time.

    It can feel frustrating when some of us have to find a way to make it to work–get up early to shovel the driveway, etc.–while others stay at home in their pjs. But it’s also important to remember that if all those people didn’t stay home, the roads would be a nightmare because the roads would be blocked with cars instead of clear to allow snowplows and salt trucks to get through. If everyone went to work in a snow storm, not only would the commute be just as bad, but the problems would probably linger for longer.

    Essential workers can wrap themselves in the warm fuzzy thoughts that at least our work is recognized as crucial to our employer. Meanwhile all those analysts are at home fretting over their ‘non-essential’ designations. No one likes to be labelled ‘non-essential’!

    1. Willow+Sunstar*

      I agree. I work at a company that allows remote time. Some departments use it more than others, but very often on a snow day, it will be a ghost town in the building.

  41. NoneYa*

    OP#2: I worked in a VERY toxic environment where the turnover rate was very high, so much so that managers started preventing employees from being a reference (made it company policy that you must disclose to them first whether you will be a reference) in order to minimize an employee’s chances of getting a new job. I did not get along with my colleagues because they were very gossipy, discourteous and immature and my boss was the same way. They were the type of people who would call your new colleagues and try to badmouth you before you got there. I decided not to tell them where I was going and while it did create more intrigue, I did not care because I would rather save any relationship I had with my new employer than try to ingratiate myself unto people at the job I was in when they weren’t going to give me a good reference anyway (i.e., I think a bad reference/gossip can be VERY damaging and cause them to be cautious and when you’re in a new job trying to learn the ropes, it can cause you to fail because any mistakes or reactions will be magnified). I moved on to the new job and love it. Those old coworkers do gossip about me, but …I’m very good at my job so they just look like jealous fools.

    1. Second Verse Same as the First*


      Don’t know who you are but it sounds like we may have worked at the same place. Whether we did or not, you did all the right things in getting on with your life. IMO, the people you refer to at the old place have no lives, so they try to glom onto someone – anyone – who has at least something going on outside of work…gives ’em something to discuss on those lonely nights (and days, weekends, months, years, decades) when all the people who actually have lives are busy with family, friends, out on dates, etc. Good for you for clearing out of the no-life swamp, and I wish you all the best in the future.

  42. Willow+Sunstar*

    It is possible that the coworker’s promotion was recent and it takes time for HR to officially update it in the company Outlook system. I got promoted this past summer and it took a couple of weeks for my correct job title and manager’s name to appear correctly in the system.

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