my manager’s boss interferes with my work, working through lunch, and more

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

1. My manager’s boss keeps interfering with my work

My boss’s manager sits at the desk next to mine, and each time my boss (who sits in another office) assigns me a task, his manager intervenes and asks me to do it differently. This is frustrating (for me and my boss) but the bigger problem is that the manager is completely inexperienced in our area of work, so when the manager asks me to do something differently, this usually means less competently and sometimes bordering on negligently.

I’m really concerned that my (and my boss’s) professional reputation will be damaged because work I am asked to produce to the manager’s instructions is not of a professional standard I am happy with.

Can I tell my boss’s manager that the way he is doing things is risking all of our professional reputations? Should I put the onus on my boss? I am actively looking for another role, but this may take some time and I don’t want my chances of getting another job damaged by a PR disaster in the meantime.

You should start by talking to your own boss. Explain what’s happening and ask how she’d like you to handle it. Ideally, she should then talk to her boss and get more aligned about how the tasks they’re giving you should be done. That’s between the two of them to settle, and you shouldn’t need to referee it; your role here is just to raise the issue as something that’s causing problems, and which they need to resolve.

2. I’m an administrative assistant with an idea for our program work

First, a little background on me. I have a BS in Psychology and even have taken some graduate level psychology classes (essentially, I have a lot of education in the field of psychology, this will become relevant soon). But right now I am working as an administrative assistant at an education solutions company while I try to figure out what my next step is.

The company focuses on increasing student success and retention throughout high school and college, but is right now there isn’t much, if anything, being implemented regarding mental health. I actually studied student retention in undergrad and have done more research recently and I know that mental health plays a big issue in student retention and success. I think that the company and students would benefit from integrating mental health questionnaires/resources into our already existing programs.

How in the world would I present this idea to anyone and who could I present it to? I think it would be really successful and would help a lot of people – and I have the education to back it up – but I just don’t know if it would even be worth bringing it up since I am “just” an administrative assistant.

Yes, bring it up! Figure out who’s the main person working on student retention in your company and give that person a quick rundown of your idea and your reasoning for it. For example: “Hey, Jane, do you have a minute? I had an idea for your program sparked by some of the research I did in school, and wanted to share it with you.” Or you can put it in an email — either approach is fine. But good employers and reasonable coworkers welcome ideas from any source and shouldn’t shoot you down just because you don’t do program work there.

Be prepared, of course, for the possibility that someone else will end up being the one to implement your idea if they like it; that’s just the nature of different people in different roles. But there’s also a possibility that if they like the idea, you could end up getting to play more of a role in it, at least acting as a resource. But no matter how it plays out, you’re not overstepping by suggesting the idea.

3. Letting an employee work through lunch to make up sick time

I have a nonexempt employee who called in sick on Monday and now wants to work through lunch the rest of the week so that she only has to use four hours of sick leave instead of eight. Should I let her do this? Isn’t it against FLSA regulations?

The FLSA only requires that you pay her for all hours worked, and that you pay her overtime for any hours over 40 worked in a week. It doesn’t prevent you from allowing an employee to work through lunch to make up time she missed earlier in the week. However, your state may require nonexempt workers to have a lunch break each day — google your state’s name and “break laws” to find out. But if her proposal doesn’t violate your state break laws, there’s no reason not to let her do this.

4. Personal branding statements on resumes

I was recently laid off. My company pays for two months of service with an outplacement company as part of the severance package, so I figured what the heck. So I sent the coach my resume for review and immediately got a response saying I needed to watch their videos and write a “personal branding statement” and change my short bullet points to huge blocks of text.

I’ve already decided to not work with them, but are personal branding statements on a resume common at all, especially in the tech fields? The samples just look like buzzwords strung together.

Ick, I hate the whole concept of personal branding. Employers don’t care about your personal brand; we care that you do good work and have a good reputation.

However, if they’re talking about a profile section at the top of your resume, that CAN be effective. Profile sections have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes and basically sum up in just a few sentences or bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer, providing an overall framing of your candidacy.

Anyone who tells you to replace resume bullet points with blocks of text should be ignored.

5. Listing a major and fast promotion on my resume

At my last job, I was the only person in the history of the company (it’s been open for 40 years) to get promoted from receptionist to director of sales (top of the company) in under a year. I would like to include this in my resume, but I am not sure where to put it. Also, seeing as I was promoted, should I write both positions, and include bullet points for each?

Either way is fine; which one is better will depend on the rest of the content of your resume. But I’d definitely include something like this:

* Promoted from receptionist to director of sales after X month (only person in 40-year history of the company to achieve this)

{ 216 comments… read them below }

  1. Lillie Lane

    Haha, I read Alison’s answer to #3 as Googling how to break state laws, not *meal break* laws! Whoops.

  2. Steve G

    As per #4, “branding statements,” I just wanted to add that I added one such thing to my last job on my resume, and got 4 interviews this week alone, out of 10ish applications (which is totally nuts in NYC, and we are talking good jobs!!) after I got only 2 responses from 15 applications on my old resume:

    I put this in bold before the bullet points for my last job, which seems to have made the difference:
    “Managed the financial and performance numbers for an energy market portfolio with over $7M in annual revenue, with leeway to increase or decrease this amount by +/- $400K based on my analyses and bidding decisions”

    I think it helped answer the questions of “huh…what did you actually do/what responsibility did you have/how much financial responsibility/ownership did you have?” all in one sentence without companies having to read my many (impressive, albeit perhaps not interesting to HR Assistants) bullet points.

    As per blocks of text, heck no!!!

    1. Fucshia

      Your addition isn’t something I would think of as a branding statement. I see it as more of a standard accomplishment bullet point type statement. I’m not saying it’s not a great accomplishment and it was a good idea to highlight it in the resume, but it doesn’t sound like a personal branding statement.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I would think of a branding statement to be more like “Creative Go-Getting Leader” or “Innovative Innovator” or other such silliness.

      1. Steve G

        I totally get you; I was thinking of these type of responses as happy-mediums between no-branding statement and cliché “creative go-getting leader” statements!

        1. Steve G

          I meant “statements,” not “responses.” Sign it’s a time for bed!

          And I thought I’d note this changes to my resume because of the crazy increase in resume responses this week, which is the underlying question in the post), that I can’t even keep up with (I only applied to 2 new jobs this week because I’ve been to busy planning for an doing interviews)

      2. Tigress

        Yeah, I also think of personal branding statements as something buzz-wordy like “innovative innovator” and it looks silly. However, I do like the concept of personal brands as context for myself. It wouldn’t be a good idea to say outright “Well, my personal brand is…” in a job interview, but it think it can be a useful internal guide in terms of what you can offer an employer. I try to think of my personal brand as what’s unique about me. What have I done and what can I do that’s unique for me? And, also when I make decisions on what do to next, perhaps in terms of software to learn to use or sub-fields to specialize in, the personal brand mindset is useful for me to focus and not spread myself too thin.

        1. Cheesecake

          Exactly. Personal Brand is a concept of how you position yourself. I once had sort of training on “personal branding”. It was about who you are (and it helps to look at yourself as a brand or product), how to connect it to your work skills+how to “position” yourself on social media. It was not about silly buzz-word statement on your CV.

          1. Bend & Snap

            Right. Personal branding goes way beyond a statement on a resume–it’s your entire public profile across every platform you use. I don’t think it’s silly at all, but it is something only a few people do really well and a lot of people do poorly.

    2. BRR

      This doesn’t feel like a branding statement to me. Was this on your resume before but in a different place?

      1. Steve G

        Oh, I thought this was like a branding statement but I guess it’s not from what everyone is commenting:-)

        To answer your question, I didn’t have a summary for certain jobs but just individual bullet points, and I realized that recruiters weren’t reading even 1/2 of them to give themselves a good idea of what I did……

    3. OP #4

      That reads much better than the fluffy buzzword examples the rep gave me, but I’d agree with other replies that it’s more of a profile statement/summary than a branding statement.

      I think the woman was just really out of touch. I’m a new engineer (under two years’ experience) and my job consisted of doing calculations in Excel and models in a CAD program, so there was no money-saving, process-improving, “award-winning” (seriously, that was an example for engineers), etc., to be done at my last position.

      1. Judy

        That really depends. When I was doing that type of work, we were always looking for efficiency in the excel sheet. We were always looking for ways to make sure the parts were easier to manufacture and therefore lower cost. Comparing designs to the previous year’s model, for example might be a good way. It is hard to prove money saving when it’s a design choice. It can feel silly. “I made the part out of aluminum instead of titanium or gold, therefore I saved $X or even $Y.”

      2. LBK

        Did you make any changes to how the calculations worked? Did you learn the process impressively fast? Were you tasked with training others on any of the systems?

        My job now is a lot of just doing calculations in Excel, but I’ve done a lot of macro writing and improving of formulas so that the process of doing those calculations is easier. Anything like that you can include as an accomplishment?

      3. Cheesecake

        Adding to the comments, when you write you short summary, there are two “ways”. One: make some points job specific. They want someone modelling chocolate teapots in CAD, that’s exactly what you did, go write it down as one of bullet points. Another:vamping previous one with accomplishments (if possible). “Improved CAD modelling by implementing bigger/better/faster excel calculation. (know what i mean? kinda silly example, but it is friday). ”

        I totally get your point on “i don’t sell or save money or create award winning stuff” . It is not all about it. It is just easier to give examples on sales. My ex-colleague was very confused with this stuff because she is in finance. But she was responsible for 5 companies and prepared/managed a million billion budget. And that very much speaks for itself.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, that’s not a branding statement :) That’s a straightforward description of an accomplishment at a specific job. It’s a pretty normal resume bullet!

    5. AAA

      I use the “personal branding” area to describe key skillsets. I try to keep it as a 1-second description of what I can do, which is elaborated by bullet point accomplishments under my job titles. I keep them as 1-2 words each in a 3 column table, so, depending on the job, I highlight 3 or 6 skills. It looks something like this:

      Qualitiative Data Analysis Ethnographic Inquiry Project Management

      1. AAA

        Hmm, the formatting I used there didn’t quite work as planned! There should be tabs between those things!

  3. periwinkle

    #2: This may seem cynical but I’d suggest outlining your initial ideas in an email rather than verbally, and send it to more than just one person. Not that we should assume that the person in charge of the program will take credit for your idea (I hope not!), but it’s a good thing when more than one other person knows that you have an interest in the company’s mission and ideas that could forward it.

    1. Steve G

      Yes, and exactly what Tess should have done in Working Girl!!!!

      I have to say with this response, I’m not the type to say “great response” to AAM all of the time (because I like this blog because I generally agree with what people write, but not always), but I definitely saw wisdom and expertise in this response. It totally brought me back a few years when she wrote “Be prepared, of course, for the possibility that someone else will end up being the one to implement your idea if they like it; that’s just the nature of different people in different roles.”

      I so did not know this earlier in my career!!!!! It was painful to see my ideas taken over by other people, it kept me up at night, it was so painful. In the movies and media, they make it seem like – if you have a great idea, it is yours. You can jump a few levels if you have a great idea!!! But you aren’t always the best or logical or person with the relationships to implement it. I wish I had done/reacted to a few things differently, had I gotten this advice 8 years ago. It is really good advice, at least for entry level workers (which OP may not be, but..)

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Yes, this happened to me as well, but it was a group of “management consultants” or some other nebulous group of jackasses. When I pointed out to my boss that the consultants’ idea she lauded as absolutely amazing was quite similar (if not identical) to a suggestion I’d made 6 months before — one that she completely dismissed — she told me that I was being petty, and that I should just be thankful that the idea was being implemented.

        Yeah — worst boss ever.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          Which is something to consider OP#2. If you’re wondering what your next step should be and you see that this is something that is overlooked/an unaddressed need, you could be the one to develop this as a consultant, externally from your company. Perhaps this would require going back to school/continuing your education and putting more of an emphasis on this area going forward to gain the research and hard stats to back you up. Unless you have the most amazing boss in the world and work at a company with the kindest most generous people ever, odds are someone is going to take your idea and run with it.

          I suggest you start mulling this over and working on it in your spare time, what sort of questions should be asked, how would you phrase them, how would these assessments work, suggested courses of action after assessments. Observe your workplace and see if this is the place where you could make a shift like this — it may not be. Ask around and see if there have been any people who started out in one position and moved up into another, if the company is committed to helping their employees grow and develop. You don’t say how long you’ve been working there, so you just may not have been there long enough to have any historical perspective on how they operate.

          If you see or hear things that are discouraging, this is not the only company in the world that is interested in the success and retention of students. You’re right that sometimes people will put you in a little box and not see any potential beyond that box you’re in. Just as many people now job hop to get salary increases, I think that sometimes if you want to change course you have to change jobs. You’ve hit on something that at least one commenter here has said they wish was addressed in their school district, there are bound to be more out there. If you do this within the company you currently work at, you would help some people. At a company of your own creation, you could help considerably more, across a wider playing field.

          1. AA from #2

            Thank you so much for all of that advice!
            I have only been here for three months – but had temped here for a year prior. It is a relaxed, friendly, and open company but I completely understand and will take into account everything that you are saying!
            Your post reminded me that one of the previous admins recently got a job in our marketing department – I am going to talk to her about that!

            1. AA from #2

              Note: temped on and off for a year – I just filled in. But they loved me so much they offered me a job – so there is that.

      2. AA from #2

        I am OP#2 – and I just wanted to mention that a manager of mine had actually suggested I watch Working Girl because she said I could learn from it since my job is like the main characters! I am definitely going to watch that now :)

        And thank you!! I will definitely heed that advice and keep it in mind – it is something that worried me and I should definitely figure out how I would handle it if it did happen.

      3. periwinkle

        That’s exactly what came to mind when I read the OP’s letter!

        “So I started to think, ‘Trask, radio… Trask, radio.”

    2. Telepaths Within Nin-Edin

      It’s a tightrope that you have to tread very carefully, if you want the story to end with either you getting the credit, and / or you being placed in charge. In fact, this may be why certain management persons communicate in cryptic one- or two- line messages: frustrating tho it is, you’re always left either a) feeling like you only have part of the master plan, or b) you just take what you’ve got and run with it, and if you end up putting together something nice, then now your working closely with the big boss. And maybe he’ll share some of that Big Picture Goodness with you.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The point that I wanted to make in my original response — which may not have come across clearly! — is that it’s not the sign of a problem if someone else ends up implementing the OP’s idea (although she should certainly get credit for it). Organizations have specific roles, and if Jane has a great idea for Ferdinand’s program, it’s probably going to make sense for Ferdinand to be the one to implement it. That’s not stealing Jane’s idea; that’s the nature of having individual roles, and it’s how work works. It’s not anything bad or nefarious.

    3. AA from #2

      I am the admin assistant who asked question #2.

      I just wanted to say that that is great advice (in addition to Alison’s). Thank you!!

  4. Ann Furthermore

    #3: Assuming there’s nothing in your state laws that prohibit this, I’d let my employee work through her lunches to reduce the amount of sick time she has to use. It would probably build a lot of goodwill with her, and it won’t cost your company anything.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      I would also do that. Not that this is an appropriate basis for making the decision for some people and not others, but I notice that people with kids sometimes get really close to using up all their time….not only do they seem to get sick more themselves, they need time for the fact that kids catch everything. Being able to make up lost time and keep some in the bank provides security for the next time around.

    2. Adonday Veeah

      Some states (mine, for instance) require you to pay overtime for any time worked over 8 hours in a day — so make sure your state isn’t one of those before you allow this.

    3. Fuzzy

      My boss has let me do this and it was GREAT. I usually don’t take a full lunch anyway, so I loved an opportunity not to lose any sick time.

      1. Stranger than Fiction

        Well, in California, this would be a big no-no, so please check as Alison said. All of our hourly, nonexempt employees not only have to take an hour lunch break, but it has to be taken no more than 5 hours after you clocked in for the day. And, you can’t take it too early either, or you risk going over 5 hours in the afternoon. We allow two 15-minute breaks as well, but those aren’t clocked in or out for.

        1. CA Admin

          In California, the law only requires a 30 min unpaid break before the 5th hour for every 8 hours worked. So, you can be required to take your lunch break after 2 hours, that isn’t a problem legally. You also could (legally) take only a 30 min break and leave 30 min early.

          A complicating factor in California, though, is OT is any hours after 40 in a week OR 8 in a day, so there’s no way for a nonexempt worker to make those hours up unless she’s coming in on the weekend. Taking half a lunch or no lunch wouldn’t work.

          1. abby

            Actually, the California Labor Code allows nonexempt employees to “make up for lost time”. Essentially, if certain conditions are met, they can work up to 11 hours in a day without payment of overtime. We use that a lot to give our nonexempt employees flexibility. But you have to be careful that it is used at the employee’s request and for the employee’s benefit. We had to crack down on one of our departments that was misusing this.

            It is true the labor code only requires 30 minutes for a meal break. And it is true that this break needs to be started no later than 5 hours after starting for the day. If an employee works 10 hours, then he or she needs to take a second 30-minute meal break.

            1. CA Admin

              I didn’t know about the “make up for lost time” provision! I learned about all these laws when I was in retail, so that wasn’t one we ever used. I did know about the 2nd meal break provision, but that hardly ever got used because when do retail companies want to approve OT?

    4. Joey

      The potential problem though you run into is when folks start expecting you to always allow them to make up missed time.

      The other problem I’ve seen is with folks who have a lot of PTO that they have to use or lose. I’ve seen folks that have used so little PTO throughout the year that at the end of the year they’re scrambling to not lose PTO. And as a result they end up asking for multiple weeks off at the end of the year which puts the manager and other employees in a tough spot around the holidays.

      1. neverjaunty

        Why is that a problem? Unless you mean that they then get sloppy about working required hours because “oh, I can just make it up at lunch”.

        1. Joey

          One offs sure. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to allow someone who’s developed an attendance problem to make up time.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I agree. It’s a good solution for a good employee who doesn’t have an attendance problem. If someone does, that’s its own issue that you’d want to address head-on.

      2. abby

        I am not seeing the problem with this, unless there is a legitimate business need for someone to be at work precisely during “x” hours. My concern is the work getting done.

        I manage two nonexempt employees and I need them on the premises during certain core hours, and I want consistency with these core hours so other employees know when they are around. Otherwise, I don’t care as long as their work is done and done well. If I had a problem with their work, I would address the work and leave the working hours out of it, unless I became aware that was the source of the problem.

        However, I am coming from the perspective of a nonprofit manager, so our employees are paid a bit less than they would prefer. I make up for this by allowing a lot of flexibility as long as the work gets done. Would I let someone make up time to avoid using sick time? You bet, within the bounds of the relevant California laws.

    5. Sam

      My boss has allowed me to do this as well. For while I was missing two hours every Tuesday for an appointment; I was easily able to make up my hours.

    6. Lily in NYC

      It’s funny how the managers who nickel and dime people over missing hours never seem to notice or insist that person put in for overtime when he/she works late or comes in early (I’m not saying that’s the case with OP, just something I’ve noticed where I work).

      1. LCL

        I nickel and dime people about missing hours, because we are public employees. But I also hound them about putting in their overtime, and will follow up and write it in myself for them, if necessary.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I’m a public employee as well. We get so much shit if we put in for overtime, but we are still expected to work extra hours. I did 12 hours of overtime last week and submitted for zero hours because I have been here long enough to know they will find a reason to fire me if I don’t. At least I don’t get hassled if I miss a few hours to go the the doctor.

  5. Merry and Bright

    Personal Branding seems to be the big thing at the moment on jobsearch sites. These things spread like the measles

    1. TeapotCounsel

      I’m getting a snicker of thinking of what would happen if “personal branding” were constrained by “strict truth telling.” We’d see resumes with:
      “Borderline Sociopath”
      “Passive-Aggressive Manager”
      “Micro-manager with anxiety disorder”

      1. HarperC

        Well, there goes my morning. I’ll be in the corner making these up for each of my coworkers. ;)

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Oh! I love this. I’m imagining resumes with these at the top, in a bold, italicized font.

        “I turn a blind eye to tough problems”
        “Easily confused, but very nice”
        “There’s nothing I love more than control”
        “I creep out young women”

        1. LBK

          “Easily confused, but very nice”

          This is exactly how I would describe one of my new coworkers.

        2. Dr. Johnny Fever

          “I run screaming from conflict.”
          “I mentally defenestrate my perceived work enemies.”
          “I often lose myself in daydreams.”
          ” Ask me about mayonnaisse for skin care!”

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever

              Well, I do it after a protracted siege by trebuchet, so that’s a bit of an unorthodox twist.

              “I am the person who recycles all left printouts on Friday afternoons without notice.”
              “I take the last cup of coffee and never make a fresh pot.”
              “I clip my nails at my desk and leave the trimmings in my coworker’s drawer.”
              “I once pooped in a potted plant.”

        3. Leah

          These are so funny!

          “I will leave my printouts, always.”
          “I often give conflicting instructions and refuse to clarify.”
          “I burn popcorn.”
          “Let me tell you about my Paleo marathon!”

      3. Serin

        “Mood Swings Make the Work Day Exciting”
        “My Expectations Are Crystal Clear — In Retrospect”
        “I Finish Your Sentences”

      4. Gene

        “I bloviate on subjects I know nothing about using made up words.”
        “I will show everyone my abs, but file a sexual harassment complaint when someone compliments them.”
        “I will bust into my boss’s home front door waving condoms around while claiming someone put them on my windshield at work.”
        “I am always right. Period. About everything. And I’ll become the epitome of asshatery if you show me I’m wrong, but I still won’t believe your evidence.”

        1. Phyllis

          Gene, I actually dated someone who was just like your last description. You could even show him in a dictionary or encyclopedia (this was in the days before internet) and his response? “The book is wrong.” ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! This was one of the reasons we broke up.

    2. C Average

      I am astounded that this doesn’t already exist, but the internet apparently has no Personal Branding Statement Generator! Once I leave my current job in three weeks, I totally know what my first passion project is going to be. I’m going to learn how to build that sucker.

      (There are many wonderful generators for things like technobabble, corporate jargon, thesis topics, etc. I love them and find them really funny.)

      1. Hlyssande

        I hope you’re planning to post it here for our amusement once you’re done building it!

      2. Persephone Mulberry

        My favorite is STILL the Hipster Business Name Generator (hipsterbusiness dot name). I can literally lose hours clicking “ANOTHER!” and I have a running list of my favorites.

          1. Meg Murry

            Buoy & Beast with a little pig in the top section of the logo is my favorite I’ve hit so far.

        1. Apple22over7

          Haha, that’s great! Although to a Brit, most of them sound like legitimate pub names.. I’m sure I’ve had a pint or two in “The Frog and Needle” before now.

          1. Merry and Bright

            Yep. There is/was a “Frog” pub chain. I know I went to “The Frog and Nightgown” and “The Frog and Radiator” (couldn’t make that up). Ah, misspent youth!

            (Must Google them to see if they are still there).

              1. Merry and Bright

                Showing a worrying knowledge of pubs here, but a firkin is an old English name for a beer cask. I know there were names for different sizes. I just checked this one and a firkin held 9 gallons.

          1. Melissa

            Toad & Victim does sound like a really bad pub in a college town, the kind with sticky floors and low lighting but where the beer is like $3.

        2. Cath in Canada

          Brilliant!

          For Twitter users, there’s also That Can Be My Next Tweet, which assembles snippets of your previous tweets into new configurations. I just got “Leonard Nimoys last night in science labs, report says . hmmm, looks younger than I have, what, four of?”

        3. Melissa

          Wonder & Clock
          Yard & Channel (my favorite)
          Twig & Legion
          Geese & Weather (sounds like a rain/trench coat maker)

          *snicker*

  6. Monodon monoceros

    #1 It sounds like your direct manager already knows about this problem- This is frustrating (for me and my boss). If that’s the case, it’s more of a problem that your manager isn’t doing anything about it. It’s kind of their problem if their boss is meddling with their direct report’s work.

    However, maybe you could try saying to your manager’s boss is “This is how Sheila asked me to do this, can we talk with Sheila before I do it differently?”

    1. Sadsack

      I agree with this, I don’t see any harm in putting it this way. You’d think it would occur to the higher-up that the person reporting to her (OP’s manager) is having a worker do things differently than she would like them done, so she’d want to discuss it with OP’s manager. Or is that just too much direct communication?

    2. Stranger than Fiction

      Exactly, Monodon. It sounds like boss’s boss is a control freak that doesn’t trust boss to do her job/manager her resource on his or her own.

  7. Editrix

    #1, could you make a business case for being seated closer to your direct manager (and away from your manager’s manager)? That might solve the problem (and have other benefits too).

    1. Jeanne

      The manager could also call the employee into her office for instructions since that office is separate. Or they could agree to communicate more by email. There are some simple ways around this.

  8. Cheesecake

    Ok, speaking about personal branding, you need to sell that brand. What do your “consumers” want? They want to find evidence that you can do the job. And they have 10 seconds for it. What i advise as someone occasionally screening CVs: make a couple bullet points on top after your name about your skills and experiences in connection to the particular job. Sales position? “Generated $1MM by selling one ton on snow to “Eskimos United””

    What i particularly hate are those “mission statements” or friggin demands “i seek an environment with friendly Victoria’s Secret models and fluffy kittens to fully deploy my accounting skills”. Where did you see brand statement “L’Oreal. Because You Worth it. But only if you invest 1K in beauty products every month and wake up at 5am to do you make-up.”?

    1. Not So NewReader

      Am laughing out loud. “Brand” has so much negative connotation that it really does not get the point across: “know who you are and what you have to offer”. “Branding” makes me think of selling something to people whether it is good for them or not.

    2. LBK

      Isn’t what you’re suggesting just a profile section? I don’t understand what that has to do with personal branding. It sounds to me like what you describe as a “personal brand” is just knowing strengths and weaknesses…and that’s something good employees have been doing for eons without needing a cheesy buzzword for it.

      1. Cheesecake

        The company advised OP to write “personal branding statement”. I have never seen anyone creating a meaningful statement in a CV that makes me go pick up the phone. I am usually very annoyed when i see it (and i have only started looking at this point!). It is awkward. What i suggest is writing a sort of bullet point summary of skills and experiences related to particular job. Without fluff and buzzwords.

        Doing “personal branding” and evaluating yourself is great. Want to imagine yourself as a brand and write a statement – go on. But please don’t put that on CV.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yep, that’s a profile section. Pretty common on resumes these days and useful if done well (but not in a generic way, which is the usual problem I see with these).

    3. Lily in NYC

      I love when they forget to change it for specific positions. I got a resume yesterday with this objective: “To obtain a summer internship at Chocolate Teapots”. I work for a government agency that has nothing to do with teapots.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I had one like that recently. The objective made it clear she was looking for a much more substantive job than the one she was applying for, which is a horrible way to convince an employer that you’re okay with doing admin work.

        1. LUCYVP

          I had one just yesterday that had the objective:

          To obtain an Director/Management position that will allow me to utilize my education and work experience while developing my leadership skills.

          Slight problem – this is an entry level assistant position which is made very clear in the ad.

          1. Melissa

            The rest of it just shows why objectives are unnecessary. Doesn’t everyone want to use their education and work experience in their jobs?

      2. Cheesecake

        Separate case: I had a statement about how the person wants to utilize his consumer goods experience to help speed up slow pharma industry…srsly?

      3. LBK

        This just makes me roll my eyes at the whole concept of an objective. No duh your objective is to work here, I would assume that’s why you’re applying for the job.

  9. Lamb

    It sounds like OP1’s manager comes to their desk and gives them assignments. If OP1’s seat can’t be moved, I’m wondering if it would help for OP1 to go over to manager’s office to be told their assignments where the meddling boss can’t hear and then go back to their desk by the boss and get straight to work?

    1. JB

      That sounds like a good idea. They could do a brief check-in meeting at the same time when it’s time for one to happen.

    2. Nanc

      Excellent suggestion! Strategic without having to be confrontational (says she who will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid conflict . . . )

  10. AdAgencyChick

    #4: I roll my eyes because this person has probably heard of concepts used in advertising, but has never actually worked in advertising.

    “Personal branding” seems to correspond with the idea of “positioning” in advertising: What unique entity is your product to consumers? (I don’t mean that the product is ACTUALLY unique in this way, at least not necessarily — what matters with positioning is whether consumers perceive it that way.) So maybe Jane’s Teapots are “affordable beauty,” Wakeen’s Fancy Teapots are “the luxury choice,” Teapots by Lucinda are “built to last,” etc. Real positioning statements are more nuanced than that, but you get the idea.

    The thing is…positioning statements are never shown to the consumer! They are there to guide employees of the company that makes the product, and all the ad/PR/other communications agencies that do work about the product. So Jane’s Teapots would focus on beautiful photography and statements about price point; Wakeen’s might go for a celebrity spokesperson; Lucinda might do a commercial showing the teapot dropped from a fourth-story window and surviving.

    Similarly — if you want to have a short phrase in your head that represents the impression you want employers to have of your resume, go for it! But don’t write it down on the page, just make sure that the way you describe your accomplishments is consistent with that impression. When I’ve provided resume advice to others in my field, I typically brainstorm with them the three qualities that set them apart from others the most, and then we work on writing the individual points that make those qualities clear.

    1. Chloe Silverado

      This is really great advice! I plan to put this into practice next time I update my resume.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Perfect.

      I don’t reject the concept of personal branding. I just don’t think that most of the people yammering about how to do it know anything about branding.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Great explanation. Based on this, the branding statement should not be on a resume because you show it through examples, not by making an overarching statement.

    4. LBK

      Yes yes yes! I love this. I like to keep a list of “differentiators” that are things I consider unique/above average about myself, and that helps guide me in interview or when writing self-assessments, but I would never show the actual list to anyone.

    5. Blue_eyes

      Great advice. It kind of reminds me of acting. When you’re rehearsing, you often talk through the character’s motivation and feelings in various scenes. But you don’t get on stage and say “I am worried about leaving my mother alone but I want to run off with my lover” – you SHOW it with your acting.

      1. LBK

        Ha, I was actually thinking of “show, don’t tell” as well while reading AdAgencyChick’s comment. It’s all about subtext!

    6. OP #4

      Thank you, this approach makes way more sense than having a dedicated section for it. I think it’s akin to making sure my cover letter, resume, interview habits, everything, all fit together and paint an accurate idea of me as a candidate, rather than a disjointed set.

      1. AnonManager

        And by the way, in case it wasn’t clear…I was rolling my eyes at the person giving you the advice, not at you!

    7. Ask a Manager Post author

      Perfect, and it’s about showing, not telling, which is exactly how people should be approaching their resumes.

      Plus, personal branding statements (ick, I can’t even type the words without rolling my eyes) are generally subjective, and employers don’t believe candidates’ subject self-assessments of themselves. They believe direct evidence, which is what you’re advising.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        It’s also about refinement of message to point people towards what you want them to see — if you want to transfer how you brand a product/company to “personal branding”.

        We pick a couple things to demonstrate to customers over and over again, in different ways, not every possible message we could say about our company or a specific product. The idea is to focus people on what we want them looking at.

        Now, if the things we choose to demonstrate aren’t important to some potential customers, we’re not going to capture them, but we have a profile of whom we do want. Rather than trying to be everything to everybody, we try to present ourselves clearly to the people we do want.

        I’m sure there’s some personal application in those methods, somewhere.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          Definitely. The reason positioning is so important in advertising — and, I would argue, in presenting yourself as a candidate — is that we as human beings have finite memories. We can’t remember 20 different things about a person at the same time.

          So the way to stand out is to pick two, at most three things you want people to remember about you, beat the drum like crazy about those things, and de-emphasize or even cut out the rest.

          Clients often say they get this, and then want to write a positioning statement that’s three paragraphs long and has 15 facts. We in advertising call this the BOB (“bucket o’ benefits”). The result is a positioning statement that’s so long even the clients can’t remember it, which defeats the entire purpose!

          Similarly, when I revise my resume I’m ruthless about cutting out points, especially from older jobs, that don’t support my personal positioning statement.

  11. Phyllis

    To OP #2: This really is a spot-on observation. I’d handle it just as Alison suggested, and add that you might also want to add an idea or two of how to incorporate mental health. I work for a rural school district, and mental health issues, lack of understanding & the stigma surrounding them, as well as lack of access to services, are tremendous challenges for us.

    1. AA from #2

      I am OP#2 and thank you for the encouragement! I also think that is a great idea – as I would really like to be able to have some input since I am so passionate about the issue.

  12. snikta

    #3 – This is a great opportunity to exercise good management in allowing your report some flex time. As AAM points out, though, sometimes the law gets in the way. In addition to meal break laws, I would advise you to also investigate state overtime laws before making your decision. There are a few states which would require overtime premium be paid on hours exceeding 8 in a day.

    1. Meg Murry

      Yes, I was going to mention this as well. It would be really nice if you could do this for your employee, but make sure you won’t be running afoul of any laws or policies requiring break times of a certain length, or overtime requirements for over 8 hours. Also make sure you physically can do it – if your payroll system is connected to electronic timecards or timeclocks, it may “require” you to put in 8 hours for Monday, and not understand 4 hours on one day and 9 hours on the others. If you manually input though, you should be ok.

      Last, even if your area does require a lunch break, chances are it’s not a full hour – so if you currently have 1 hour lunch breaks you could let your employee take a 1/2 hour lunch instead and then either come in 1/2 hour early or stay 1/2 hour late to make up the difference.

      However, while this is definitely a nice thing for you to do for this employee, if the job has actual coverage requirements where it matters to have a person there to answer the door or phone during business hours you should remind the employee that this make-up time policy is for this time only, and she will need to seek your permission if she needs to do it again. In one office I worked in (which had a major responsibility of answering phone and foot traffic) there were a few employees who started taking a half day every week or every other week and “making it up over lunch” in order to avoid using their vacation time- and they abused the system so much that the company explicitly made rules against it, ruining it for everyone.

  13. Not Today Satan

    #4. I recently was working with a staffing agency (which was a disaster in many ways). Before they sent me on interviews they sent me a guide of suggestions that had SO many awful tips–like “asking for the job” at the end of the interview. Also on the list of things to “NEVER” bring up in a work interview are the hours for the job. ?!?!?

    Anyway, unfortunately there are tons of recruiting firms and career counselors with awful advice. I wonder when they will realize that their methods don’t work. =\

    1. Not So NewReader

      “SO many awful tips–like “asking for the job” at the end of the interview. Also on the list of things to “NEVER” bring up in a work interview are the hours for the job. ?!?!?”

      My brain hurts. So how do you find out the hours for the job if you do not ask? Annnd I can just see it now, the interviewer saying, “Yeah, that candidate cared so little about the job they did not even ask what hours were necessary.”
      With advice like this how do these places even function?

      1. Partly Cloudy

        Asking for the job = asking for the sale, because recruiters who work for staffing agencies are salespeople. Some of them want the placement bad enough that they don’t care about the candidates or the clients/companies (which is short-sighted, but happens in sales all the time). They’re coaching the candidate to be as accommodating as possible just to get the deal done. Think about the car salesperson who asks “What will it take for you to drive away with this new Ferrari today?”

        1. Not Today Satan

          Yeah, another thing they said to never discuss was salary requirements–even if the employer asked! They said to always stress that you were flexible.

          I mean, on the one hand I don’t like talking about salary requirement either, but they mostly seemed to be concerned with stressing that you will take any salary.

          1. Persephone Mulberry

            Well yes, because the agency doesn’t get paid until they fill that job, so of course they’re going to discourage anything that might be an obstacle to that goal (like a mismatched salary expectation).

      2. AmyNYC

        My first professional job I hadn’t asked about hours at toward 6 pm on my first day I asked the women who had been working with me “so…. ah…. what time do people LEAVE?”

    2. OP #4

      Oh wow. The sad part is I actually received better resume advice from my college’s career center than this outplacement group (shh, don’t tell Alison!).

    3. Apollo Warbucks

      My mum told my younger sister that the best answer to the interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years time?” is “doing your job” When I’d regained the ability to speak I told my sister that she shouldn’t listen to such dumb advise.

      1. Leah

        I don’t know, I feel like that could almost work in some very specific situations. If you’re interviewing somewhere they promote internally, and it’s clear that the assumption is that the interviewer will have moved UP, and therefore interviewee will take over their now-vacant job…
        or maybe I’m naive.

    4. Allison

      Let me guess, they figured anyone working with an agency is so desperate, they’re not in a position to care about “little” things like pay, benefits, or office hours, and should take whatever job they can get. The questions are just a formality to make them seem like good candidates, rather than an attempt to actually feel out whether the job is a fit.

      Those agency recruiters are just out to get butts in seats, and as long as you hang around for a few months, they don’t really care what happens with your career once they collect commission.

      1. Not Today Satan

        Yeah, she once wanted to submit me for a job that was basically scanning and filing things (and below my salary requirements obviously). I’m not “too good” to do any sort of work, but my experience is at a much higher level and for a variety of reasons I didn’t think it would be a good move for me. She took umbrage with that. I also had a week-long temporary job and she thought it was outrageous that I didn’t want to do any phone interviews while at work that week.

  14. Simplytea

    #5–you should be immensely proud of yourself! I’m not surprised you were the first person to make that jump… It’s a massive one!

    I hope they increased your salary accordingly.

    Cheers!

    1. AnotherAlison

      I’m also impressed by this, but before promoting this on the resume, I would want to make sure the rest of the context shows this as a positive thing. How long was the OP sales director before changing jobs? What were the sales results (up/down, by how much)? I’d hate for the rest of the story to be that the OP washed out of the position 6 months after achieving sales director, with a 40% decrease in sales during that time.

      1. C Average

        I’d also really want the back story on this–and OP, as impressive as the achievement is, if the back story makes the achievement any less impressive, please be careful about trumpeting it too loudly. How big is the organization? How many people were you managing in that role? What led to such a big promotion–were you working closely with the previous sales director in a way that made you familiar with the work so that you were able to step up, were you identified by management as someone particularly suited for such a role and groomed for it and encouraged to pursue it, was there a sudden vacancy that needed to be filled, etc.?

        None of this is meant to downplay what you’ve accomplished–you should be proud! Just make sure that if you’re highlighting that accomplishment front and center, you’re prepared to provide an explanation for how you got from A to B so quickly and what that actually looked like.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          I want the back story on this because I love hearing how people got the jobs they have, and this sounds like an especially good one.

          (Although I also agree with all your points, C.)

          1. Bekah

            What would jump out at me as a hiring manager is that this is a company where multiple receptionists have gone on to be Directors of Sales. Definitely not the norm – does this mean that the company is incredibly wonderful and encourages internal advancement, or is it a sign that the company plans poorly or is ill run?

    2. YandO

      what do you mean you are not surprised?

      Do you know the OP? Or do you know a lot of receptionists who go from answering phones and bringing coffee (nothing wrong with that, I’ve been in those shoes myself) to director of anything? Within a year?

      What could she has possibly done to accomplish that? She landed every client who walked through the door? How? Why?

      Who was doing her job while she was landing clients?

      1. C Average

        I think Simplytea meant he/she’s not surprised there’s been only one person ever to make that leap, not that he/she’s not surprised the OP in particular was able to make that leap. At least that’s how I read it.

        1. Simplytea

          Thanks for clarifying C–

          Yup, just generally saying it’s a huge accomplishment.

          :) Happy Friday!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      “First” implies that more followed her though, which makes it less impressive (and inaccurate in this case too, it sounds like). I think “only” as fine as long she as doesn’t at some point learn that it’s become inaccurate.

  15. Natalie

    LW # 1, could your direct boss email you assignments? It sounds like Boss’s Boss is overhearing you two speak, and email would prevent that.

    1. Leah

      Ooh, good idea! Though if Boss’s boss is the micro-manager he sounds like, he might just be all, “What are you working on?” and then the OP will have to tell him.

  16. Joey

    #3. Obviously, you should only let her work through lunch if you have actual work for her to do during that time. It’s probably not a good idea to start letting employees make up missed time when there’s not actually a business need.

  17. YandO

    Ok, so, how do you go from receptionist to a Director of Sales?

    I am not trying to be cynical…but it does add up. If you had sales experience the past, then why did you end as a receptionist? And if you had to take that job because reasons, then I’d skip mentioning all together or at least drawing attention to it.

    If you were a receptionist, how in the world did you go from that DIRECTLY to director of sales? You skipped over a bunch of people because….why??

    If I was looking at your resume this information would seem bizarre and “not right” to me.

    You would need to give a very detailed explanation in the cover letter and have extremely good back up with your current employer.

    1. AnotherAlison

      These are many of the same questions I have. If the OP had no prior sales experience AND can end up DIRECTOR in 1 year, does she truly know what she’s doing, or is she making it up as she goes? Was she a junior sales person for 6 months, and the director left, so they said, “Okay, you’re director now.” That’s fine if she has 5 years of results to back it up now, but having had a title in one place does not necessarily mean you have the skills to do the job. I would only care about her sales results, not the time it took her to get a title.

      1. YandO

        Exactly!

        Also, I’ve been a receptionist. I took on responsibility quickly and got a promotion within months to… an executive assistant.

        I cannot even imagine a situation where you can prove yourself in a meaningful way on a scale large enough to be then promoted to a director. Unless the company is four people, but then you are not a director of anything. You are just a sales rep or an account manager.

        I just think drawing attention to this would raise too many questions. If she has a good explanation, I would bring it up in an interview where she has a chance to explain it.

        1. Lia

          This. I work for a university with many, many departments and units, and some of them are very small — like 2-3 people, yet almost every one has a “Director” and an “Assistant Director”. If there are only three people in the department, that does not say a whole lot.

          1. Joey

            I just don’t get executive type titles in small companies unless you’re the owner or in another capacity leading the whole business. It sort of feels like if I went to my dentists’ small office and the receptionist told me she was now the Director of Customer Service.

            1. AnotherAlison

              My dentist’s office actually does have business-y titles for everyone – everyone is a coordinator, not a director, so it’s not quite that bad, but there are only 7 people who work there.

              1. AnotherAlison

                I also remember years back when a friend was a CNA at a hospital, they changed everyone’s titles from things like RN, LPN, and CNA to things like “patient care coordinator” so that they could have lower skilled people do more without anyone knowing. This really bugs me. Bringing it back to this discussion, people will figure out if you’re director of sales for a company that does $250,000 in business each year or one that does $2 billion in business. Inflation of titles doesn’t really fool anyone into thinking you’re a big deal (not that that’s what the OP is trying to do. She’s using her own title, which is all she has available to use, and I have no idea how big her company is.)

                1. the gold digger

                  they changed everyone’s titles from things like RN, LPN, and CNA to things like “patient care coordinator”

                  I do not like the way the insurance profession is trying to de-professionalize physicians by calling them “health-care providers,” along with everyone else whom a patient might encounter during a medical visit. A doctor is not the same as a CNA.

          2. Chloe Silverado

            People at my company have the title Director of Sales if they’re the highest ranking salesperson in their territory/product specialty. That means that in some cases, a salesperson holds the title Director of Sales because they’re the only person in their territory/product specialty.

    2. LBK

      Agreed completely with the cover letter explanation. That would raise serious eyebrows for me – at best I’d be skeptical that “director of sales” actually means what it sounds like, and at worst I’d just assuming you were straight up lying.

      1. RVA Cat

        …Or, I hate to bring this up, but since receptionist is so pink collar, someone (sexist) might assume there was some “horizontal networking” going on, shall we say.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Exactly – Director is generally above Manager and in between the C-levels and managers, usually. But yeah, this may be a small startup where everyone gets inflated titles to sound good to potential investors. Or this may be similar to calling someone who’s a sales rep a Business Development Manager.

    3. Allison

      You raise a good point, and if I saw that on a resume I might not doubt the validity, but I would wonder what kind of company they were working for. Wonky career progressions are almost always going to raise concerns.

    4. Not Today Satan

      I don’t think it’s that outrageous… could be a Peggy Olson situation if the company’s small and she only supervises 2 or so people. Also nowadays many people with business degrees are forced to take admin jobs to get their foot in the door. She could have a sales degree and some intern experience and be excellent at her job.

      1. YandO

        Peggy Olson climbed the ranks with blood, sweat, and tears over the YEARS

        her progression was surprising for the time, but it was absolutely logical

      2. AnotherAlison

        That’s why these letters are so hard to judge. In my industry, it’s almost outrageous to move to a sales position with *only* 10 years of total industry experience. Most of our sales people have had a decade of experience doing our work and another decade managing our work before they move to the sales side.

    5. E.R

      I also have to assume that the OP had sales experience in the past, otherwise this makes no sense. As an experienced sales person, nothing grinds my gears like having a director or VP of sales that has no sales experience, and yet is forecasting, budgeting, “training”, and lecturing about performance, and yet is of almost no resource to the sales people when they need help. Not saying the OP is this person, just that it’s a situation I’ve been in and really don’t like.

    6. Dolcina

      Well, actually I did something very similar. As people have said, it was in a very small company (6 people), but it is still something I put on my CV.

      This is how:
      The company was the MD, a Teapot Manager, two Teapot Administrators and two secretaries, one of whom was me. I didn’t have any teapot experience, I was hired to type and answer the phones. I reported directly to one of the two Teapot Administrators, who wasn’t very good at her job, so I found I was taking on more and more substantive work as I picked up the teapot world. Then, when I’d been there about six months, one of our client’s teapot factories burnt down and I was seconded to be the client’s main liaison with the insurance company, enraged subcontractors etc, with a promotion to Teapot Administrator. Six months after that the Teapot Manager left and I was offered the promotion (managing my former managers, awkward!). After another half a year, when I’d been given all the most difficult clients, the MD wanted to make sure I’d stay so she made me co-Director of the company.
      (Then I decided that teapots aren’t for me and left, but that’s another story).

      I hope the OP will come back and tell us how they did it, but I don’t think it’s as implausible as some people are saying.

      1. M

        I don’t believe it’s implausible but if its at a small company that type of leap is just not as impressive as the OP is attempting to make it. In fact it’s raising more questions about her experience and competence for the roles she’s attempting to interview for.

  18. Joey

    I know Id side eye that accomplishment.

    Id probably go into it assuming really small business with few folks (if anyone) to skip over.

    1. Allison

      Oh I’d probably give them the benefit of the doubt, provided they were qualified for the position, but I’d definitely want an explanation once we got the conversation going.

  19. Anonsie

    #2 Also be prepared for them to say that this isn’t something they’re interested in pursuing, full stop. It can be really frustrating to see something so crucial left out of services due to business & feasibility reasons, especially when you know the impact can be massive, but this is a big boulder to climb and it’s often outside the scope of an org to cover it.

    1. C Average

      This. I think you’re less likely to have someone pilfer your idea than to have it acknowledged as a valid idea that no one has the bandwidth to actually implement.

    2. Not Here or There

      I think this is just a general statement for everyone. No matter where you fall in the organizational chart, you’re going to have proposals and ideas that just can’t move forward. They might even be revolutionary ideas that could be massively important, but it simply doesn’t make sense for that business at that time to move forward with them (one company I worked at did a lot of R&D, and while some of the R&D projects were great, patent-worthy even, they simply didn’t align with business needs and so weren’t pursued).

      1. Anonsie

        Definitely, but there’s always an added sting to it when you work somewhere that has a very direct impact on struggling people and you have to pass on things you know could help them.

    3. AA from #2

      This is a really good point – thank you!! I will definitely reflect on and come to terms with that before I take any action. I can definitely see a situation like that being hard for me, so definitely good to think about ahead of time.

      1. Nonprofit

        I used to work at a non profit that sounds nearly identical to yours, and there were very solid reasons for why we didn’t address mental health. Primarily our staff were responsible for working with a very large number of students each because of limited funding. If we started saying that we were responsible for student’s mental health, even through innocent survey questions, we could easily open ourselves up to lawsuits because we didnt have the bandwidth or training for it. If students filled out a survey saying their mental health is XYZ, they may think that our staff members were a mental health source which they wernt. (Adding somthing like this to the job description would have meant we had to pay more for better talent which would mean we would serve less students which would mean less funding….) Our staff members were trained on how to deal with serious mental health issues in that they knew how to refer a student to the appropriate souce and how to take emergency measures to prevent something bad from happening. I know our staff would have loved more training like this. I could really see a benefit from someone with a background in psychology talking to them. I just wanted to give you an example of reasons why not so you can start thinking about counter reasons or be prepared to accept reasons like this.

        1. jmkenrick

          To add my voice to the chorus: it’s very likely (esp. if an employee is new) for the improvements and suggestions that come to them (which, of course, they should share!) to often be things that have been thought of and are in process or on hold or vetoed for other reasons. You should still share, of course, but it’s something to be aware of when you present the info.

        2. AA from #2

          Mmmmm.. You make good points, however I think mycompany seems a bit different than that – we create software programs that high schools and colleges can implement to help track students progress throughout their schooling experience and to help build retention by making it easier for schools to identify at risk students due to grades or absences, etc. We more or less provide the platform that allows schools to easily connect with their students? But we also have personalized software that helps students discover their strengths and possible career goals and matches them with colleges – so I feel like integrating a mental health questionnaire into those programs and then notifying the teachers/professors/whoever already gets the notifications that a student is “at risk” due to the answers on the questionnaire wouldn’t require too much more work on our end but would allow schools to more easily identify at risk students and connect them with services that could help them. Does that make sense? The schools would then be liable if something happended.. So I guess that might make more wary to use to the product.
          All of these responses have really gotten me thinking! Thank you!

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Yea #2 don’t get discouraged or think it’s futile to have good ideas but realistically in my experience people at the top sometimes just have no intention of making big changes or sadly any changes. There’s risk taking forward thinking companies and there’s more conservative if it ain’t broke don’t fix it type companies.

  20. C Average

    Re #1

    It’s really hard to do your job well when it’s not clear from where you should be taking your marching orders, and when you’re in fact receiving multiple sets of orders telling you to march in various directions. You’ve definitely got to rope this in. Misalignment can really bite you in the ass politically if roles change, people move on, or your power structure otherwise shifts.

    When people above or on par with my manager have tried to assign me projects or manage my work (and it used to happen all the time), I’ve gotten in the habit of saying to them, “That sounds like an interesting project, but I can’t give you a solid yes or no without talking to my manager, Jane, first. She sometimes knows about upcoming projects before I do and I like to run new projects by her before I commit.” And “Jane’s asked me and the rest of our team to do it this way. Out of respect for her preferences, I’m sticking to our established process. If we need to reconsider this approach, please loop her in for awareness.”

    Basically, I’m reiterating at every turn that Jane is my manager and she is therefore the person who manages me, and that others’ attempts to manage me will need to go through Jane. Obviously there are extraordinary situations where Jane’s not there and the teapot situation needs to be dealt with NOW and no one is worried about the org chart! These definitely demand flexibility.

  21. Not Here or There

    OP #2, I’m an EA, and as such I tend to be involved in a lot of higher up meetings (to take notes or what have you), so I get the opportunity to both look at the big picture and see things from a different perspective (since I’m not as involved in the project minutiae, I’m not “too close to the project”). So, sometimes I get ideas of how we can change something, add something, or do something differently. Depending on what the idea is, I’ll do a little research and send a proposal to my manager, or I might even speak up in the meetings “have you ever thought about x?”.

    Being support staff doesn’t mean you don’t understand the work being done. In fact, gaining understanding of the work and offering ideas or suggestions when appropriate can make you an even more valued member of the team. Just like any other team member, your ideas might be used, they might not. It may be something you get to take on, or it may make better business sense for Joe to do it. But it doesn’t hurt to speak up, and it can even help. You never know, perhaps by speaking up, you could even create a new position for yourself. Look at the other letter today, she moved from receptionist to a director of sales, and I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that it was because she had ideas and spoke up with them.

    1. AA from #2

      Thank you for the encouragement! It is hard for me to take risks for fear of being rejected – but that is something I need to push through or I won’t get anywhere! Your advice definitely clicked with me and it was much needed. Thank you!

      1. Not Here or There

        I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. I’m naturally more reserved , esp when in a group setting. It’s really hard for me to jump in there and say something. It’s something I’ve been working on for years, but sometimes I fall back into old habits. When I find myself falling into reserved mode, I try and do something that’s way out of my comfort zone (joining a group or a club where I don’t know anyone, purposefully striking up a conversation with a stranger, etc).

        For meetings at work, esp staff meetings, I try and set a goal for myself of speaking up and saying something at least once every hour. Obviously, there are meetings or situations where it really isn’t appropriate for me to chime in, but if I have an idea that might be helpful during those times, I’ll make a note and talk to my manager about it later.

  22. YandO

    #1
    I work for a husband and wife. Wife is not around often, but when she is it is always drama, at least it used to be.

    She would call husband “the Boss” exclusively and then undermine or ask me to undermine him every step of the way. He would say he does not think we should do something, then she would come to me in “secret” and tell me to tell him to do it because “he listens to you” and “it’s your job from now on to make sure he is doing X”

    I have three responses “You should talk to Husband about that” and “Husband said he wants it done X way, unless he says otherwise, I am sticking with X” and “No, I do not feel comfortable doing that”

    She stopped. She no longer comes to me with nonsense because she knows it will not get her anywhere.

    I know your situation is different, but I think I would use the same technique. “Boss said to do it X way, if you think I should do it differently, we need to discuss it with him first”

  23. DrPepper Addict

    In regards to #4, I’ve never heard of a “profile section” on a resume before. I’d love to read more about that and see some examples.

  24. Rebecca

    #3 – Sadly, I have just discovered that in PA employers don’t have to provide breaks for employees 18 years of age and older. But, if they do provide breaks, breaks under 20 minutes must be paid. Overtime kicks in after 40 hours in one week, so the working through lunch part to make up time wouldn’t mandate overtime for that day.

    I think it’s great if the employee could make up the time, especially if it’s something that happens once in a while and the employee has good attendance otherwise. And I hope her manager can be consistent with the application. Last year my manager forced me to take 4 hours of my PTO time because I missed 1 hour in a 40 hour week due to an unplanned medical appointment. I made up my mind then and there if this was going to be an ongoing procedure, all my appointments would magically be scheduled for 1 PM on Fridays. The next time I had an appointment, I asked how I should handle it, due to what happened the last time. My manager had no idea what I was talking about, and asked why I thought I couldn’t make up my time. Ugh.

      1. Rebecca

        Exactly. I figured if I had to take PTO for even one hour, I’d take an entire Friday afternoon to make it worth my while.

  25. K.

    #2 — Contributing ideas that way is how you get promotions or get out of the AA/EA/generalist track in that organization and onto the specialist track, if that’s something you want to do. (And when it’s not something you want to do, that’s also totally okay!)

  26. Suzanne

    As to #3, I had a job as a contractor several years ago which required us to use half our lunch time to make up time taken for Dr appointments, etc. We didn’t get any vacation or sick time so I guess they were trying to bleed every drop out of us they could! All for $10 an hour!

  27. Retail4Life

    #3 Be careful too because in my state (CA) overtime is not just over 40 hours a week but also over 8 hours in a day. So I could work a single 9 hour day in a week and still get overtime.

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