liberating an employee from obligatory socializing, corporate headshots, and more

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

1. Liberating a coworker’s employee from obligatory socializing

A coworker, Jane, has a direct report who she expects to socialize with constantly– the two eat breakfast and lunch together every day, and there are weekly post-work drinks. From hints, it seems like the direct report feels obligated to attend all of these activities. I think Jane has a duty to keep things more professional, as the one with managerial power.

Is there a good way I can help? Things I’ve considered: invite the direct report to the occasional meal with me alone in hopes to gently encourage her to stand up for herself, or bring it up with Jane and brace against the inevitable stormy outburst and repercussions. I also don’t know with 100% certainty that the direct report needs “liberating” from this situation, though my gut feeling is she is too afraid to try and change the status quo after a full year of employment. Do I just stay out of this entirely and hope the direct report figures out how to handle it eventually? I worry my own personal feelings are clouding my judgement: this coworker has a history of steamrolling everyone and being rewarded for it, partially because no one in management wants to face her meltdowns.

If you have a good relationship with Jane’s own manager, you could certainly share what you’ve noticed with her manager. Or, if you’re willing to, you could create an opening to say something to Jane herself, such as “Hey, I’ve noticed that you and Lucinda have meals and drinks together a lot. Have you thought about the weird dynamics that can create for employees because of the power dynamic in the relationship?” I don’t know that I’’d bring it up with the employee though; that feels too likely to just make her feel really awkward and still unable to do anything about it, and if it turns out that she actually doesn’t mind, it’s just going to be weird all around.

And beyond that, I don’t think think that there’s really much you can do about this one; it’s not impacting your work and you don’t manage either of them. You’re right, though, that managers shouldn’t have those types of relationships with the people they manage.

2. Answering “what’s your greatest weakness?” with “Kryptonite”

Recently, on a board I am on, someone posted that you should answer “What is your greatest weakness” with “Kryptonite.” Many people on the board thought it was clever and said they would use it. I thought it was funny but a pretty bad idea, unless you planned on following up with “But seriously, my biggest weakness is…” What do you think?

Don’t do it. People who suggest this kind of thing are missing the point of why interviewers ask the question; they actually want an answer. If a candidate said that me, I’d laugh politely and then wait for a real answer. And if I didn’t get one, I’d explicitly ask for one.

For the record, I don’t ask that question in interviews — but I certainly ask variations of it (like “what areas have past managers encouraged you to work on improving in or do differently?”) and I’d be annoyed if a candidate didn’t give me a serious answer. I know there’s a feeling out there that it’s a gotcha or a bad question, but it’s not a good strategy to refuse to actually engage on it, which is what a joke answer does.

Plus, it’s never, ever a good idea to get your answers to interview questions off the internet. The whole point of an interview is to figure out if you’re a good fit for a job; using canned answers isn’t in your long-term best interests, if you want to end up in a job that you’re good at and happy in.

3. I’m not allowed to use my corporate headshot anywhere else

Is it typical for employers to restrict use of corporate headshots to company purposes only? This is my first headshot paid by an employer and it looks fantastic. Unfortunately it can only be used on LinkedIn and the company website. In fact the only copy of my photo I received is a compressed image sized for LinkedIn. What is the standard on company-paid headshots?

Nope, that’s not typical. I’d be curious to know their reasoning. There’s no harming in asking. You could say, “I really like my headshot and would love to be able to use it on X and Y. I was curious about why that’s not allowed.”

4. Can I pass along an external job posting to a coworker?

I have a very good relationship with a coworker, who recently expressed that she is bored with the job. By chance, someone sent me a job ad from a different company, and it fits my coworker’s profile perfectly. Should I send it to her? I am happy at work and am not going to apply, and I am worried that it will look like I want to push her out. That’s not the case; I honestly think she would be a great fit for the other position. What’s the proper etiquette?

I think you can do that as long as you’re explicit about why. For example: “I hope we never lose you here, but I know you mentioned the other day that you’re feeling bored. Someone sent me a job posting recently that described you perfectly — would you like me to send it to you?” (Note that you’re doing this in-person, not over email, since you don’t want to use company email for this conversation, including the mention of her boredom.)

5. Shouldn’t I get the same reimbursements that my out-of-town coworkers are getting?

I am in Texas and I work for a company from Illinois. They are doing a job here in Texas. They do not pay per diem, but they have some employees from out of town, and they pay for their hotel/place to live. But as for me, I am a local and they don’t pay me that same amount. Is that legal and is there anything I can do about that? If they pay for their hotel/housing, shouldn’t they give me the same amount, whether I am local or not?

What? No. They’re paying for those employees housing costs while they’re temporarily in town for work, because those are special additional expenses that those people wouldn’t normally have. They’re not going to pay that to you because you’re not incurring that expense. It would be like wanting to be paid $20 every time your coworker got reimbursed for taking a cab to a work event.

You get reimbursed for your own work expenses, not other people’s.

{ 231 comments… read them below }

  1. Lindsay*

    OP#5 — that would be like if you went on a business trip to Illinois and everyone who lived in Illinois and worked at your company got $100 every night you stayed in your company-paid hotel. Not only is that impractical and illogical, it would cost a big stack of pretty pennies.

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, I think OP is missing the point that his out-of-town coworkers are paying their own rent/mortgages back home while they are working in Texas. If OP traveled to Illinois, his expenses would also be reimbursed. No one is getting a better deal than the other here.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Or, to put it in a language they would understand, we can use the converse: if OP traveled to Illinois, why should they pay OP more to work in Illinois when no one who is based there is getting paid more? How is that fair that OP gets paid more than them?

    3. The IT Manager*

      Your co-workers are on a business trip – possibly a months long business trip – but a business trip none-the-less, and companies pay for food, lodging, and travel on business trips. Your co-workers are being reimbursed for expenses they would not have if they were living at home in Illinois. This is 100%, totally normal. What you are asking for is completely unusual and unfair. Although I understand that if you’re trying to keep up with them by going out to meals with them and such, that that’s a big expense for you, but you have the option to pack your lunch or go home to eat dinner every night. It’s your choice if you don’t do that.

      It may seem that your co-workers are saving extra dough or living high on the hog, but they have to live in a hotel and eat in restaurants because they are not at home while still maintaining a home in Illinois. And, yes, some people (particularly young and single people) might move out of their place in Illinois, put their things in storage, so they don’t have an rent back in Illinois, but that’s a personal inconvenience on them. They had to move out, will have to find a new place when they move back, and then move back in. They may be saving money, but they are sacrificing time and effort.

      1. The IT Manager*

        BTW there’s something about this LW#5 that makes me think in addition to being young, he’s blue collar so these are not your average business men on a business trips. He may have no family experience of someone going on a business trip either so he was perfectly sincere with his question because this is something white collar kids obsorb or can ask their family about. (I’m also picturing his co-workers going out drinking and partying every night on their per diem and LW#5 trying to keep up on his normal pay.)

        “Blue collar” was in my first answer, but the internet ate it because my name wasn’t filled in (after deleting cookies and such yesterday) and my comment was lost. <– That's not user friendly.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Really? Maybe it’s a browser issue. When that happens to me, my comment is still there, but it’s in a comment box at the very bottom of the page. I have to copy and paste it in reply to the right comment, but the text is still there.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Maybe. It’s a work computer so there are some extra security in effect. And it doesn;t usually happen because my name is usually saved.

    4. Ella*

      The key word here is “reimburse.” As in “re,” to return or get something back. The Illinois employees are not getting something extra. They are getting the extra money that *they paid* for hotels and meals returned to them because otherwise they would be paying their employer to work, and that would be a huge problem.

      1. Sunshine*

        This. These employees aren’t making a profit. The company is paying a business expense to have those employees work outside of their home base.

      2. Ultraviolet*

        I think this is the best way to look at it. The Illinois employees aren’t really being given extra money. It’s the company paying to have its Illinois employees work at the Texas site. The logistics require that the employees pay some of this money upfront (for hotels and meals) and then get reimbursed so the company pays for the cost of doing business and the employees come out (mostly) even. They basically loaned the company some money, and there’s no reason to give extra money to a local employee who didn’t.

        That said, I totally understand why you would ask an expert not affiliated with your company about this. This is probably enough money that it would really sting to leave it on the table if you were actually entitled to it.

    5. Ann without an e*

      Unless you are from Texas moved to Illinois and were sent back to Texas, just because you can stay with family or friends doesn’t mean you should have to. That is the only scenario in which you should also receive that money.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Even that depends. In that scenario, with my company, he’d only receive reimbursement for actual expenses. So, if he rented a car, stayed in a hotel, and bought food — reimbursement. If he stayed with family, used his own vehicle, and ate meals with his parents, he’d only get mileage. My company does expenses, but not per diems.

  2. IWorkInSockFeet*

    #3 I don’t think they are concerned about employees using the head shot as they are ex-employees using it. Especially if there is a logo wall background or anything else that can be associated with the company brand,

    1. Artemesia*

      I find it totally weird. I always used my company head shot for publications — when publishers wanted a head shot, for speeches when those who hired me wanted to publicize with a head shot etc etc. My husband used his company shot for his similar activities and also for one of his community activities. I can see them wanting some control if there is a logo in it — but is that usually the case?

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      My first thought was the company didn’t want it used because they had paid for the shits to be taken.

      1. ReanaZ*

        But it’s already paid for. It’s not like there’s an additional cost for each time it’s used.

        I mean, unless there’s a clause in the contract with the photographer. That would be really weird though.

        I use my headshots from my old consulting company for basically everything professional still, even though I haven’t worked there in over a year (LinkedIn, professional online profiles, internal intranet at my new company even, etc.). They’re nice pictures, very sleek and professional.

      2. ReanaZ*

        Heh heh. Also, I just saw your typo. Which I normally don’t nitpick, but that one was funny and changed the tone a bit. :p

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          That’s what I get for posting before I’ve had some coffee, but it is pretty funny.

      3. Omar*

        Not quite. They paid for specific uses of those shots. If they wanted a general use license, then they would have had to pay the photographer more money. If the photographer finds out the photos are being used beyond the license that was granted, then the company might be on the hook for damages. For example, if the company started using the photographs for some sort of advertising (say, posting on a web page) and that wasn’t in the agreement, then they would need to negotiate a new agreement with the photographer.

        In other words, those photographs belongs to the photographer, not the company, unless the photographer was a direct employee doing it on company time, or if the company bought all rights.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Maybe OP could contact the photographer and purchase additional rights to her own photo? Our office uses an architectural photographer, and we have a certain level of permission for the photos. Sometimes people who publish our work have to purchase additional permissions, but I’m not sure in which cases; I haven’t worked here long enough to notice.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Or find out if the company will pay for the additional rights for work related purposes – like the examples above, if OP is going to be a speaker at a conference and the conference wants a picture of all the presenters to put on the website, handouts or Powerpoints.

            Who coordinated the photo session, OP? Can you ask that person? Its possible the company actually does have access to the higher resolution photos, but they aren’t giving them out without a valid business purpose or they have to pay the photographer more to do so. Or they just want to make sure to give the photographer proper credit where appropriate – for instance, many headshots on book covers have a photo credit either next to the photo or inside the book.

            1. Lauren - OP #3*

              I had previously spoken with the photo coordinator. My company has photo rights and the full resolution photos. Unfortunately our coordinator doesn’t know what she is doing. I can’t really word it any other way. She’s our Social Media Coordinator with zero experience.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Then maybe someone needs to come up with a good “test case”, so to speak, maybe if they are presenting at a professional conference and representing your employer, and the conference uses headshots in the program or session posters or something. That would be the perfect time where the company should want to use their headshots outside of the previously approved usages.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Is she very junior? If so, just assume she’s mistaken and go over her head to her boss — “Hey, Jane, do you mind if I use my headshot for X? Sarah doesn’t think I’m supposed to for some reason, but that can’t be right.”

                1. Meg Murry*

                  Yes this makes sense, or if it’s a matter of she can’t figure out how to tell which picture is high resolution or how to get it to you, offer to make the call to IT for her and have someone walk her through it.

                2. Person*

                  This is good advice, but keep in mind that although the company has ‘photo rights’ for this use, I’m betting they don’t have it for other uses which is why only a low-res version was distributed. The coordinator may not understand the nuances, just doing what she was told.
                  Photography licensing is priced based on: size, placement, distribution and type: editorial, advertising, business collateral. This is business collateral, and any other use is a further license. Using this image in any other way is stealing, and I’ve been on the side of the photographer going after companies who misused photography, and we always win.
                  The reason this image of you looks great is the photographer is a professional! This is their livelihood. Hire them again for yourself, and have your own professional portrait. It’s a great investment!

                3. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Actually, Person, the OP stated above that the photos were not contracted out, the company produced them and has the full rights to them.

                4. Person*

                  “My company has photo rights and the full resolution photos. ” – that’s all I see in regard to who produced the photographs, and above she said it was “company-paid”, not company-produced, which indicates to me a photographer was hired for the project. Having the rights can mean anything from ‘one-time use, on intranet, at 200×200 pixels’ to ‘exclusive, worldwide rights in perpetuity”. I don’t mean to be intense about this, but my sister is a freelance portrait photographer, and I see how the attitude that her hard work is free-reign is really hurting her ability to make a fair living.

                5. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  You’re right, I saw “full” and “photo rights” in the same sentence and mixed them up. The OP has hinted that it’s definitely not a rights issue, and we haven’t heard that the photo coordinator has mentioned the reuse rights as a reason, so we don’t want to assume that, but maybe she should ask specifically and pointedly about that if she hasn’t already.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, but unless the company is tiny they probably just purchased a decent digital camera and took the shots themselves, which they could also do for PR and internal newsletter stuff. That’s what my company did, even back when we were 100-150 people and digital cameras used 3.5″ floppy discs.

          1. Judy*

            In my experience, that’s what happens. There’s an employee in the communications department that handles it. They’ve got a backdrop and a couple of lights, but nothing horribly elaborate. The person travels to locations about once a year and does monthly shoots at corporate.

            1. Retail Lifer*

              Our office administrator takes them while we’re standing in front of the closest thing to a white wall we have in the office.

          2. Omar*

            I was going by the specific question where the OP stated this was a paid session:
            “What is the standard on company-paid headshots?”

            If it was done by a staff person, then it would fall under work for hire rules where the company owns full rights and can decide what employees can do with the photo, just the same as they can decide what you can do with a company supplied vehicle or laptop.

          3. Prof*

            “unless the company is tiny they probably just purchased a decent digital camera and took the shots themselves”

            Doubtful. From the letter it seemed clear that these were professional headshots. Not uncommon in many workplaces, especially if employees have a public facing image. My workplace contracts with a professional photographer to come in (at least) once a year with all the works (lights, backdrops, nice camera, etc.). It is the same photographer they use for special events. We use our headshots anywhere and everywhere, and we have full access to print-quality files. Especially useful if I am giving a lecture or leading a meeting somewhere that most of the audience does not know me— including my headshot in the flyer helps them recognize me.

        3. Artemesia*

          If so the company made a bad bargain with the photographer. I know that any time I hire a photographer I always get the rights to the pictures. It is so commonplace to use headshots in a variety of professional settings that to not allow it is sort of churlish.

          1. Kara*

            As a photographer I will NOT sell full rights to my photos. I might sell limited use rights, but full rights for publication anywhere, any time, any place? Nope. Not gonna happen.

            1. Jubilance*

              Interesting…my wedding photographer granted us a full license to use our photos anywhere and any way we wanted, which we appreciated. It seemed pretty standard for the wedding photographers we looked, maybe that’s a specialized case?

              1. Koko*

                Yeah, I would expect that portrait photography would have different norms around this. Who wants a photo of nothing but themselves that they can’t use as they see fit?

            2. jag*

              It seems to me you should sell full rights when you can – just for much more money.

              What Koko describes is the issue from the consumers point of view.

              1. Omar*

                Full rights means the buyer can do whatever they want. If an employee turns famous (or infamous), they would have the right to use the image for future advertising, sell to news agencies, other websites, you name it. If the company goes bankrupt and there is value to the photo, they have an obligation to get that value out of it. They can photoshop your head on whatever body you want.

                If nothing else, the photographer wants to retain control so that if the image gains value in the future (used in a world wide advertising campaign), they can share in the value as the creator.

                These might be extreme examples, but they go to show that the issues can be beyond what you would think.

                1. Koko*

                  Wouldn’t photoshopping my head onto another body and using my image in advertising etc require me to have signed a model release?

                2. Judy*

                  Does that mean that a photographer somewhere is getting paid for the pictures of Brad Pitt on the middle school basketball team that is all over the “Look at them before they were famous” websites?

                3. jag*

                  ” they would have the right to use the image for future advertising, sell to news agencies, other websites, you name it”

                  They can still do that even with giving the client full rights to use the image. If they gave the client exclusive rights, or transferred copyright to the client, then they couldn’t.

                  But ask yourself this – which would be better: making, say, double the fee on half or a quarter of your projects that you can upsell to full rights or hanging onto them all in the hope that some person you took corporate headshots of turns famous?

                  Kara wrote: “If I sell ALL rights that means I no longer have any rights.”
                  It’s worth being clear. If I say to my client – “You have full rights to use the images however you want” or even “You have all rights to use the images however you want”, that doesn’t mean I have no rights or have given away my rights. It I say “I’m transferring copyright to you” then yes, I have no rights.

                  I buy photographic services all the time from some quite successful photographers. And they charge more for full usage. I get better product; they get more money at once. This is basic.

              2. Kara*

                If I sell ALL rights that means I no longer have any rights. It means I can’t use the image in my advertising, I can’t submit it for professional competition, I can’t put it in my portfolio. A photographer who sells “all” rights to the images they take is pretty much an idiot.

              3. Kara*

                Jag – with all respect you seem somewhat unaware of the realities of owning a photography business. Most companies are not willing to pay the amount of money a photographer would need to charge to sell “all rights”. Not when there are 20 people lined up behind him who just bought their first digital camera and are ready to sell everything plus the kitchen sink for $50.

                If a company did hire a real, honest to goodness, professional photographer with a business license and liability insurance and all that jazz and not an M/DWAC, then they’re not likely to want to pay $$$$ for “all rights”.

      4. Koko*

        I agree. Very petty of them, if that’s it, to just resent the idea that their employees would get a free side benefit of employment.

    3. Lauren - OP #3*

      The background is white – no logos. Employee retention is extremely high. Most people stick around for at least 5 years.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I’m going to go with CosmicAvenger here and say that the next time you are going to a conference, find Social Media Coordinator and tell her they want a high resolution photo for use in something. Once you have a copy of it, it’s digital and no one is going to know what you’ve done with it — unless your Coordinator is savvy enough and has enough time on her hands to run reverse image searches for it once a month. I mean, what are they going to do with it? Beyond delete it if you leave, I mean, it’s a photo of you, not a product shot and (no offense) really has no value beyond promoting you as an employee of the company.

        Frankly, IMO, if you’re going to insist your employees get a professional headshot taken, and you’re going to pay for the photographer to do so, so long as there aren’t any company-identifying things in it, why not just give them a copy? Unless you are also going to be paying for makeup, wardrobe and hair, every employee is going to have to take care of that themselves (and they may not be happy having to dress up for photo day or knowing that their image could be used for whatever reason by their company). Giving them a digital copy doesn’t harm anyone and would be a nice way of saying “thank you for participating in this.” Most people can’t afford to have professional photos taken or don’t like taking selfies or feel they do not photograph well and avoid it. Even those who love being photographed, those photos are often taken with decidedly unprofessional backgrounds (i.e. Christmas with the family or out at a bar with a drink in the hand). Speaking for myself, I am in the position where I am going to have to hire a professional because I need a good photo of myself for my own promotion and I don’t think there’s been one taken of me that I’ve liked since I was in Grade 4. I would love it if someone else was going to handle this for me, but such are the issues of the self-employed.

        I would also like to take a moment and say, well done OP3’s company for hiring a pro. It is such a huge headache to deal with people’s private photos (selfies, vacation photos) that are over/underexposed, badly composed, low res, ones that were obviously taken by someone in the communication department for a security badge where everyone looks like they were just arrested. Seriously, I get that this is an expense but I can’t begin to speak of all the times where I have to do something to recognise all the employees for their company meeting and it’s just a nightmare because of the bad photos. In the past few years, there seems to be a trend going on where companies are seeing the value of having professional photos shot, I’ve been at more than one show where there’s a photo area set up at the awards night for just such a purpose and it’s great.

        1. Person*

          It hurts the photographer to steal their imagery and use for more than was licensed for. It’s stealing, and will always lose in a lawsuit.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Well, I’d like to see that contract then. I could understand it if the photographer was Annie Lebovitz and she had been hired by Vanity Fair to photograph the OP for an interview. I could understand it if the OP was a famous sports star and was charging money to autograph copies of that photo. Or if the OP wanted to use it on the cover of the book they were writing and had a signed contract to publish or for the series of paid speaking engagements they were about to embark on. But a private citizen who wants to put it on their Facebook page/give a copy to their Mom/use on their dating ad? If it was going to be that harmful to the photographer, then everyone who sat down that day to be photographed should have signed a waiver or contract that spelled out under what terms their image was going to be used for, the penalties for using it for purposes unintended and what recourse they, as the sitter, had to either purchase the rights outright or go after anyone who used their image in any way they didn’t consent to. What if that photographer also liked the shot and was using it on their website as a portfolio sample, and the OP objected to that?

            I totally get what someone said elsewhere about not being able to use it for their headshot at another company or other commercial use but this just seems overkill. If it is a huge problem, then Social Media Coordinator should pull out the contract, provide the OP with the name and contact of the photographer and let her go at it. I mean, I have handled literally thousands of photos of people taken by professional photographers and it would not surprise me if a fair percentage of the people photographed wanted a copy of that photo for their own personal use, even if it was just sending it to their Nana to show what they were up to. In all probability, just my being given a copy of those photos to format for the company’s [insert media here] could have been in violation of the original photographer’s contract (that I never saw), let alone any of the video or presentation work I did based on direction from the client — there is no way to know how many times that stuff was copied digitally or where it exists now.

            There is probably someone who reads this blog and is a professional photographer who can give an idea of what is contained in a standard contract and how that works. Although, I do know someone who does school photos, I should ask him the next time I see him.

            1. Person*

              I’m a professional photographer and used to write these contracts. The contract was between the photographer and the company who hired them, and they own the license of those images for the uses they outlined. The employee does not, and by stealing it and using it for her purposes, she is not hiring a photographer to take her portrait for her uses. I used to be that person doing reverse lookups of imagery to make sure licenses were adhered to, and believe me you’ll lose if you’re caught.
              People are always so excited to use a photograph, and use this argument that it shouldn’t be a big deal… if it’s not a big deal, then why is it such a big deal? Pay for it.

            2. Kara*

              If you do not have specific written permission to copy or publish a photo that you did not take, you are violating the photographer’s copyright. It doesn’t matter the person in the photo is famous, or Joe Schmoe from down the street. Copyright resides with the creator of any work unless contractually specified otherwise.
              A photographer can sell all different kinds of use rights to the client, but those rights ONLY apply to the client.
              The bottom line is that if YOU do not have the specific rights to the picture that you want, then you cannot use the picture in that way. So if Jane Photog is hired by the Teapot Company to take headshots and it is specified that they are for company use, publication on the company website, and use in the company promotional materials, that is the ONLY use that is allowed under law. The Teapot Company cannot give those files to their employees to be put on someone’s personal website, used on a dating site, put on FB, or printed to send to Nana.

    4. EmilyG*

      Could they be concerned that you’d use the photo somewhere inappropriate and it would get reverse-image-searched to your workplace? I think that’s paranoid but the first thing I thought of.

  3. A Bug!*

    Re: #5

    If it helps you get over it, understand that these coworkers are most likely not getting a windfall here. They’re still most likely paying upkeep costs for their homes, for one thing. They’re also having to deal with myriad other small inconveniences and drawbacks that come with work travel.

    1. Artemesia*

      And they are also likely separated from their families — they don’t get to ‘go home’ at night.

  4. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #5: The employees from Illinois are paying for the upkeep of their homes in Illinois out of their own pocket. They get the stipend to pay for the hotel while they are in Texas. Many probably have family (spouses and/or kids) in Illinois that live where they usually live.

      1. Ife*

        If they don’t have family or roommates, the they’re probably incurring additional expenses for house sitting or travelling back home to check on everything… Thus coming out behind!

        1. baseballfan*

          This. When I was single and lived alone, I had to board my dog when I traveled, which was not cheap and not reimbursable.

  5. Steve G*

    I am the first to admit I’ve missed a lot of pop culture…so I just looked up what kryptonite even meant…it looks like a Superman reference….so you need to be interviewing with someone who was reading comic books in the 60s or at least was a kid in the late 70s to see the movie. It is 2015, so such a reference, unfortunately, will be lost on quite a few people!

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Late 20s female who has never read a comic book or seen any of the superman movies, and I still know what kryptonite references. I would think most people do; it would be kind of like saying that something is your Achilles heel. You don’t necessarily have to have studied greek mythology or watched Troy to catch the reference, it’s pretty well known.

      That said, I wouldn’t recommend using it as an answer anyway.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I really doubt it would be lost on people. Totally mainstream reference.

      But still a bad idea.

      1. Steve G*

        A lot of people don’t know the real meaning of mainstream references though! They pretend to! Like when I used to say “they’re baaaaaaaaaaaack!” to my coworker when I knew our bosses were about to come back to the office, and she didn’t know I was referring to Carol Ann from Poltergiest! I guess she just thought I liked singing those words:-).

        Or when I called her Moon Zappa because she used “like” 10x in once sentence (we joked around a lot BTW). She never heard of Moon Zappa even though she was scandalized the previous month that I’d never heard of Annie Hall.

        Not everyone knows the same stuff – (old) references as jokes aren’t always good!

        1. Ops Analyst*

          But I think your examples above are a lot different because Poltergeist was one movie and both Poltergeist and Frank Zappa were extraordinarily popular at one time, but not so much now. Superman is a mega franchise and has been reproduced countless ways since its inception, in the form of television shows, movies, and newer comic books and other stories, as well as characterized in numerous other tv shows. Even very recently. You can buy Superman bed sheet, pajamas, costumes, action figured and countless other paraphernalia. There are even them park rides dedicated to the character. None of which can be said about Poltergeist or Frank Zappa.

          1. Felicia*

            I definitely wouldn’t get Poltergeist references or Frank Zappa because i’m too young for the orginal, but superman has been done so many times, in so many movies, constantly for like 70 years (wasn’t there one like last year? ) it’s a long lasting franchise that gets done over and over, like batman, so it transcends generations.

            1. LBK*

              Exactly. Even if you’ve missed one iteration, there’s guaranteed to have been a few others during your lifetime. Just in my 25 years, there’s been 3 movies and 2 TV shows (not to mention the comics are still running). Not quite the same as Frank Zappa or Poltergeist.

        2. LCL*

          Whenever I come back from walking the dog, I announce to one and all “We heard you missed us, we’re back!”
          So far no one has got it, even though we are from the same time period/pop culture era.

          1. Jamie*

            I love all three of you so very much.

            No one gets my VH references and I make them all the time .

        3. Ops Analyst*

          This conversation has gotten me really curious about just how prolific Superman actually is. I have a 3 year old and I am certain that if we’ve ever mentioned Superman around her it was just in passing. Tonight I am going to show her a picture of Superman and just ask her “who is this?” and see what she says.

        4. ThursdaysGeek*

          Not everyone knows the same stuff – So true! Sometimes I’m surprised at what someone much younger than me doesn’t know, and then I realize I’ve had a lot more time to learn things. On the other hand, I’m sure they are often surprised at my lack of knowledge in very common areas. We all know different things, and there are very few (if any) pieces of information that are truly universally known.

    3. FiveByFive*

      I think it’s just you missing out on pop culture. :) Even in 2015 I bet most people know about Superman and Kryptonite.

      However – I find it very bizarre how people think job interviews are a fantastic venue for working on their stand-up routines. This Kryptonite thing reminds me of the “I was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 2006” knee-slapper. Nothing wrong with some light-hardheartedness, but these types of jokes kinda miss the mark, I think.

      1. Steve G*

        I was going to say I was too young to remember the 1983 Superman, but then I just saw there was a 1987 one……then others, but they aren’t “real” ones without Christopher Reeves. Not a subject for this blog though:-)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Hey now, you didn’t know what Kryptonite was a few hours ago, you don’t get to declare the actors illegitimate yet. ;)

        2. Ella*

          DC has also done several animated Superman movies in the last ten years that are aimed for kids, and possibly a TV show, though I’d have to double check. Also kid-level graphic novels and Superman Little Golden books. They don’t get checked out quite as much as Batman, but they’re really popular. Oh, and the animated JLA stuff, Superman is in that. And of coursw the adult-level comics are also still being published.

          Superman is everywhere.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            The animated Superman movies and JLA stuff might be kid-appropriate but I thought their main audience was adults. Most of them aired in evening time slots (although one could argue that they’re based in the same universe as the afternoon animated series from 20 years ago).

          2. danr*

            TV: 1952 – 1958 with George Reeves. And yes, Kryptonite was featured in a fair number of the episodes.

            1. Bill*

              It’s not about what movies people have seen or comic books they’ve read. Superman is a cultural icon, up there with Tarzan, James Bond, and lately, Spider-Man. The Achilles heel reference is a better one.

              If the interviewer doesn’t get it, you probably don’t want to work there. (But if you said “Yellow” and he does get it, that would be cool.)

      2. Kelly L.*

        I thought of the Time Magazine thing too, mostly because it–like Kryptonite–was probably clever the first time it happened, but by the time it’s gone around the Internet a few zillion times, it’s a groaner.

      3. A Minion*

        Well, I can see it. I’m an inappropriate joker. Not inappropriate content, mind you, but I tend to joke at inappropriate times, such as in an interview. Which is because I’m usually very nervous. Once, in an interview by a panel I was asked, “What would you consider your ‘dream job’?” I immediately quipped, “Well, this one of course!” 3 out of 4 panelists laughed politely. The one who had asked the question was Not Amused. I quickly apologized, turned bright red as I explained that I joke when nervous, then gave a completely inane and ridiculous answer about a job that I could “own”.
        Needless to say, I was not invited for a second interview. I don’t think I even got a rejection letter from them.

    4. Uyulala*

      Your research failed you a bit on this one. There have been quite a few superman movies, TV shows, books, etc that have been done between the 70s and now. :) I think superman is just a gap in your pop culture references. No worries. But, since it has been around so long and in so many media, kryptonite being superman’s weakness is fairly well known across several generations.

    5. chrl268*

      There was (is?) a tv show in the last 10years – Smallville (just checked, went from 2001 to 2011) – that was about Superman, so its more recent than 60s/70s. As a 24yr old I got the reference, I’d assume it was a kinda geeky comment but I got it.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Didn’t Henry cavill just play him within the last 2 or 3 years in a movie as well?

        1. Anon4this*

          And there’s one coming out this or next summer I think. Big fuss made over a leaked trailer.

      2. Juli G.*

        Also, a popular show in the 90s, The Adventures of Lois and Clark.

        There’s nothing wrong with not getting it but I would be more surprised about someone not getting the reference.

      3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        Oh Smallville. It was one of the many WB shows that was on before or after something I actually wanted. Waiting with baited breath for Angel (or whatever) to come on is the reason I know there’s red AND green kryptonite!

    6. Stephanie*

      Also a late 20s female who’s not really into comic books/superhero movies and I caught the reference. That being said, I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies (yeah, I know) and totally have missed references beyond the big ones (like “Luke, I am your father”). I could easily see a foreign-born interviewer totally missing the reference.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Probably not if they’re from Europe.

        Superman is pretty well known in the western world.

      2. Davey1983*

        I always get a kick out of the “Luke, I am your father” thing because that was never actually said in the movie. It is like the “Scotty, beam me up!” from Star Trek, it was never actually said on the show or the movies (or at least, the original movies, it may have been said in the new ones).

        Anyway– I got the reference as well, as did my wife. It is well known among the general public (neither I nor my wife has ever seen the old movies or read a comic book). Though, to be fair, I have seen Man of Steel (but I don’t recall kryptonite being mentioned in that movie).

        1. Oryx*

          Same with “Play it again, Sam” from Casablanca. Close to the actual quote, but not quite right.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          It’s because you didn’t see it when it came out and the special effects were just so incredible compared to every other movie. It was epic.

          1. Loose Seal*

            And my husband with The Princess Bride. He never saw it when it came out and thought it wasn’t terribly good when I made him watch it last year. I told him he is missing out on all the pop culture quotes!

      3. Red Rose*

        Whenever my son was sick from about age 8 on, he binge watched Star Wars. One of our family’s favorite quotes is “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

      4. Ella*

        I had a coworker once who had never seen any monty python. After awhile he could recognize monty python quotes the rest of us made, even if they weren’t quotes he’d heard before, because of their inherent pythonish-ness I guess.

          1. Windchime*

            Same here. It just seems incredibly stupid to me, like the Three Stooges or something.

            1. nona*

              I like stupid humor*, but Monty Python just doesn’t work for me.

              *Last thing I laughed at: Kaitlin Olson running head-first into a car door.

              1. nona*

                I meant to add to this: It doesn’t work for me because there seems to be some expectation to think it’s a little smarter than it is.

    7. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Kryptonite is a mainstream word, way more than a comic book reference (although it is giving me a red squiggle in firefox). Google results: 9,910,000.

      Plus, you know, 3 Doors Down song.

      1. Dutch Thunder*

        Extra points for mentioning the 3 Doors Down Song. I might have to go find that on YouTube right now.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yup, it’s in common slang even without mention of Superman. Chocolate is my kryptonite, that kind of thing.

      3. LizB*

        As soon as I read the question, the 3 Doors Down song popped into my head, and now it’s stuck. :)

      4. Kelly L.*

        And Five for Fighting’s Superman song (also mentions Kryptonite!) came out the same year, I think. It was really in the zeitgeist that year, I guess.

        1. Hous*

          My friend bought me a whole CD called “Sounds of Superman” or something similar, with a variety of covers of Superman-themed songs. There’s also a truly awful Superman musical from the late 1960s, although I don’t think there are any references to Kryptonite in that? They try to defeat him with psychological warfare instead. That thing is a mess.

      5. AW*

        Also that song by Big Boi and the Purple Ribbon Squad.

        Also that song by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

        Also that Epic Rap Battle between Stalin and Rasputin.
        Also that Epic Rap Battle between Superman and Goku.

    8. Wednesday*

      Not really. I think most people would know this was a Superman reference without ever having read a comic book.

    9. Angela*

      Try comic books starting in the 1930s continuing to now. And referenced in a million different ways in a multitude of places. I could not be more baffled at anyone of any age not knowing what kryptonite meant. I thought it was the same level of common knowledge as the sky is blue!

    10. BRR*

      I think most would get the reference but this makes a good point about what would happen if your interviewer doesn’t?

      1. the gold digger*

        I said something to my immigrant boss about his being Lucy with the football and he asked, “Who’s Lucy?”

        Another time, he said, “Hey. I have been on the rodeo before, you know.”

        I love working with the guy – super smart and funny and a reminder that I have to be careful with cultural references. (Even though I missed so much of US pop culture, I still know more than someone who grew up in Iran in the 60s!)

          1. bad at online naming*

            I love slight changes to idioms – they highlight just how ridiculous idioms actually are.

            One of my favorites: “You’re pulling my legs” v. “You’re pulling my leg”

            1. Rebecca*

              Haha, one time I was talking to a coworker for whom English is his third language. I was talking about how I’d received a great job offer after finding out my position was being eliminated. He said, “See? When God closes a door, he opens like twenty more.” I said, “You mean a window?” He gave me a puzzled look. “Why would you want a window?” Haha, fair enough!

    11. Felicia*

      I am a 25 year old female who doesn’t read comic books and has never seen a superman movie (i may have watched the cartoon as a kiid – this cartoon was on well into the late 90s). It’s most definitely a mainstream reference. Superman’s been done or referenced so many times. I don’t think the reference will be lost on that many people (Superman has been many movies, and TV shows, most of which are more modern than you’re saying)

      1. Felicia*

        Not that anyone should use the answer, it’s a horrible answer. Just most people will know what it’s referring to

    12. LBK*

      The first Superman comic came out in 1933 and there’s still movies coming out now – the teaser for next year’s Superman v. Batman just came out a few days ago. He’s been a cultural icon for generations. Kryptonite is a recognizable enough reference to have become an idiom – ie “chocolate teapots are my kryptonite”. Honestly I think it’s a tiny, tiny minority for whom the reference would be lost.

    13. The IT Manager*

      Wow! I did not realize that there’s anyone (or any American to be fair) that wouldn’t catch that reference.

      “It’s my kryptonite” is a fairly mainstream phrase I would expect most people to get.

    14. Graciosa*

      I think the real difficulty is not people misunderstanding the reference, it would be people actually understanding it. I don’t need that level of ego on my team (nor do I need a wise guy who makes cracks and then follows up with “Just joking!”).

      I realize I probably sound utterly humorless – I’m not – but I take the job of hiring the right talent for my team very seriously. There’s a time and a place for this kind of comment, and it’s not in an interview.

      1. AW*

        That’s a good point that this remark can be seen as egotistical, even if it’s said in jest.

    15. Allison*

      1) Hollywood’s been churning out Superman movies for decades. In fact, they made a new one a couple years ago, and now they’re making one with Superman vs. Batman. With Wonder Woman making an appearance.

      2) there was a primetime TV show, Smallville, about Superman as a teenager; I’m sure they mentioned Kryptonite there too.

      3) there was a popular song in the 90’s with this reference, which probably helped keep it alive

      4) DC is still releasing new Superman comics, and re-releasing books of vintage comics.

      5) There are plenty of adults who like comics, many of them work in the tech community.

      It is possible the reference will be lost, but a LOT of people know what Kryptonite.

      And so we’re clear, I do read comics but I don’t read Superman comics, nor have I seen a Superman movie or even an episode of Smallville. I’m partial to comics about Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel (the new one, Kamala), and Captain America. I STILL know what Kryptonite is.

      1. Miss Betty*

        Never mind, I see that you weren’t and that I’m late to the comment train.

        Dean Cain – now there was one handsome Superman! (Though his eyes were the wrong color. I found myself not caring every time he smiled.)

          1. Graciosa*

            Also loved the repartee between them in the early seasons.

            “You like to be on top. Got it.”

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I got to meet Dean Cain at Salt Lake Comic Con a couple of years ago. Every bit as nice and gracious and awesome as you hoped he would be. And still drop-dead gorgeous.

          1. catsAreCool*

            That is so cool! He is fun to watch. It’s nice to know that he is nice and gracious too.

    16. Tenn*

      Kryptonite has become a word used colloquially (in the United States at least) for almost 75 years now, with it appearing in everything from pop-cultural type things to front-page article headlines about national political campaigns to this day. These days I still might come across words apparently in widespread use that I’d never heard (but more often now, it’s the shock of hearing how some word is pronounced, which I will have thought I’d known for years but apparently never heard spoken aloud).

    17. Koko*

      30 year-old female here. No interest in comic books or old movies, but I watched the Superman cartoon as a tyke and the reboot “Lois and Clark” TV series in elementary school!

    18. Omne*

      Of course you’d also have to know what kind of Kryptonite they were referring to:
      Green Kryptonite
      Blue Kryptonite
      Red Kryptonite
      White Kryptonite
      Gold Kryptonite
      Jeweled Kryptonite
      I can’t believe I actually remember what all their effects were… too old.

  6. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, the real problem is that you have a workplace where “Jane” can throw angry tantrums to get her way and intimidate co-workers, and management won’t lift a finger. Her domineering a direct report is just a symptom.

      1. Person*

        Yeah, I had a supervisor like Jane. It was ‘fun’ at first, and I was new in the city and didn’t know anyone. When I started getting berated on during Monday morning synchup for doing my own healthy, affordable thing on the weekend instead of meeting up with her for unhealthy, out-of-budget activities with her, it was not fun. This was the recession, and she kept saying things like ‘I like to work with friends’ and talk about people she knew more qualified than me who had been laid off. With layoffs happening in our office, and even on our team, I knew I needed to cooperate with her or be out of a job. It was embarrassing. She would discuss my personal life loudly and dismissively in the office and everyone could see that I was her flacky, which did damage to my reputation and allowed her to be a very bad manager because I was under her thumb and would not be taken seriously if I complained.
        I really wish someone would have spoken to her manager about professional boundaries.

            1. Ann without an e*

              How did the situation resolve or is it ongoing? If your situation is similar to the one the OP is witnessing what you did, what you with you did, or what you wish others had done could be very helpful.

              1. Person*

                I was eventually laid off, and the ‘friendship’ ended. What I really wish I had done is stand my ground from day one, because when I tried to do that later it was really not taken well, and when I tried to communicate with her about being a reference, I was ignored (although I was a reference for her…) I wish someone would have spoken to her about the expectations that come with being a manager, because I was in a very powerless position, and very afraid of losing my job, as we all were at the time at that job. I also wish I had known about Ask A Manager! Reading this blog has been like hearing all the unsaid things I wanted to know, but nobody tells you. It has confirmed to me all the times I felt something was off, but people said I was wrong, so I guessed I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong.

  7. Not long now*

    #3: yeah, this is a bit odd. I’m going to guess that the image on the company website is a low-rez image like the one on LinkedIn? So essentially, they have a high-rez version of your picture saved off somewhere inaccessible, doing nothing? It’s not being used for a badge?

    This is a guess, but maybe it’s a copyright thing? The company paid for it, so I believe that they legally own the picture / copyright on the picture. It sounds like a policy invented by some anal-retentive lawyer. I mean, that’s what copyright essentially *is*, is control of who gets to make copies. And for some reason, the company wants to hang on to this control.

    That said, I wonder if you could social engineer a high-rez copy out of the photographer? But you’d want to be careful about putting it on the web: a Google image search might find it, and all hell might break loose.

    1. LisaLee*

      Unless the company specifically purchased all rights to the photo including copyright (this is called “work for hire” and it is a possibility but seems unlikely), the photographer should still own the copyright. Usually what you buy when you’re buying professional photos is the right to use the image in certain agreed-upon contexts, while the photographer retains ownership (copyright) over the actual image and can use it in their portfolio, keep their name attached to it, etc. People usually use “copyright” to mean all rights attached to the work, but really there are a bunch of different rights that can be sold individually, of which copyright is only one (and the one least likely to be sold outside of work-for-hire situations).

      It could still be a copyright issue–perhaps the company only paid for some uses and not others. And if the photographer retains the copyright, reproducing the image without attributing it to them could be illegal. That said, it seems bizarre that a company *wouldn’t* have bought the rights to reproduce something like a headshot freely online. This isn’t an art print we’re talking about here, there’s no real reason for a photographer to want to retain anything but the copyright.

      My guess is that the company’s legal department doesn’t actually understand copyright.

      1. Delyssia*

        My guess was actually that they think employees either don’t understand usage rights or can’t be trusted to follow the rules.

        At my company, we routinely have new hires who want us to use their headshots from their previous job. We can’t do that. We don’t have any rights to that photo. The company in #3 may be trying to keep tight control over where and how employees use their headshots to avoid this kind of thing down the road.

    2. Fabulously Anonymous*

      Whereas my first thought is that the company didn’t hire a photographer but took the shots in-house.

    3. Lauren - OP #3*

      “It sounds like a policy invented by some anal-retentive lawyer.” – Replace lawyer with owner.

      My guess is that my company doesn’t want employees to use the headshots for personal gain. It doesn’t make sense.

      1. AW*

        But if they don’t want the employees using it for personal gain, why are they OK with it going on LinkedIn? Do they expect you to delete the photo if you change jobs?

  8. Wilton Businessman*

    You may not be able to use the headshot elsewhere because your employer didn’t pay the photographer for use elsewhere. Remember, the photographer owns the image, not your employer.

    1. jag*

      “Remember, the photographer owns the image, not your employer.”

      That’s true often but not always.

  9. Editrix*

    For #1, maybe the OP could encourage the company to issue a general piece of guidance about socialising between managers and the people they supervise? Something that would cover this situation, without being noticeably targeted at it? This could at least give the report a basis to stand up to the socialising, if it is unwanted.

    1. LBK*

      That feels awfully passive aggressive and a large undertaking for something where the OP doesn’t even know for sure if her read on the situation is accurate.

      1. Liane*

        Plus Alison has written several times that One Employee Problems should be solved by addressing that employee’s problem(s), not by making a new policy.

      2. Jamie*

        Yes- and there is some theory about this with a name where people make blanket rules or policy changes instead of addressing the one person with the issue. What’s the name of this theory – it’s something about shoes. Shoes is in the analogy or theory name.

        This is going to bug me all day.

        1. Myrin*

          I thought it was something with trains? OMG Jamie what have you done know I won’t be able to stop thinking about this!

          1. Jamie*

            Found it – the analogy was one guy has a bomb in his shoe and millions of people every day now have to take off their shoes in airports is like when one person arrives late/leaves early then everyone has to have rigid start/end times rather than dealing directly with the person who is the problem.

            I am NOT expressing any opinion about TSA or whether airports should search shoes – just posting it in case it was going to bug Myrin as much as it was bugging me.

            (It’s so weird – like talking to myself since your gravatar is the same icon I use for myself in Spiceworks. I feel such a kinship to you with our shared computer bunny.)

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      It’s interesting that one of yesterday’s letters was the favouritism that one employee thought was being given to a new team member, including that the manager was eating lunch with this person every day… and today it’s a manager who appears to be insisting that her report be her best “work” friend.

      So, maybe Jane needs her boss/manager/superior to sit her down and explain that people have been noticing the amount of time she spends socialising with her direct report and that she needs to knock it off and let her employee find friends at her level of the hierarchy. Because she can’t be friends with someone she has to correct/potentially fire or lay off/give a review to. Or that if she is given another person for her team, it will cause problems between the old and new team members. It is possible that this is something that Jane needs to be trained on, if she is new to management or just never learned it in rising up the ladder.

      If Jane has a history of being unpleasant, it’s no wonder no one on her level wishes to eat lunch with her. She could see it as The. Best. Thing. Ever. that now she’s got someone who *has* to be her friend/do her bidding. I’ve got a big issue like that with one of my clients and it’s hard choosing the right words to push back with when I’m being “volunteered” for things that they have no earthly right to think I should do for them. I really feel for the employee in this situation if she does feel like she’s over a barrel about not being able to refuse.

      OP1, if you do want to do something, you will have to be subtle about it. I don’t know if there are things your company does like have a workout room (see yesterday’s letter) or lunch time seminars that you might casually suggest to Jane’s report as a way for her to liberate herself if you bump into her getting coffee. You can’t suggest that your reports invite Jane’s to join them for lunch and I can see how you would want to avoid eating with Jane yourself. The only other thing I can think is you could say to Jane in passing something along the lines of “wow. I don’t know how you do it, have lunch with your report every day. I specifically do not have lunch with mine because I must remain impartial so that I can guide them. I just couldn’t do my job properly if I knew too much about their lives and problems, or they knew about mine” and let her stew. Or drop a similar comment in Jane’s boss’ ear at an appropriate moment such as if you both happen to see them eating lunch together “Gee, Jane is in for a bunch of trouble if she keeps eating lunch with her direct report, it’s been over X months now and the time is long past where she should be expected to do it in order to make a new employee feel welcomed. How is she going to give a fair annual review to someone she considers a personal friend? Or if she gets another person to manage? That new person is going to think it isn’t fair that Jane is so chummy with their teammate.” [shake head] let them stew on it.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yes, I thought immediately of that letter when I read this one and even wondered whether “Carrie” from yesterday even wants to eat with that OP every day!

  10. Sandrine (France)*

    For OP 5:

    So you mean to tell me that you want, essentially, a bonus because others are getting paid something you’re not ?

    But… you’re close to home. You’re not paying more to work. You’re not using your car more, you’re not having more external meals, you’re not paying for the hotel.

    I think the letter strikes me as… ah, I don’t know. I don’t want to offend the OP because it’s better to write in than to actually ask the employer. Still, this is a little naive.

    You live in Texas. The work is in Texas. You get paid regular salary. Anyone from out-of-state will be paid “more” , but even then it’s not “more” pay: it’s just pay for expenses they wouldn’t be paying if they were working in their home state.

    Would you expect to be paid for expenses if it was someone coming from overseas o_o ?

    1. olives*

      Everyone is absolutely right about why companies do this. I have been in situations, though, where I’ve been local and other people have been taking advantage of the company’s willingness to pay for their expenses on a fairly long-term (but technically out of state) engagement, by essentially not maintaining a residence at home and instead living out of whatever hotel the company drops them in. When you’re one of only a few who are actually paying for their own housing, it really does feel unfair.

      It’s still legal, it’s still not something that can or should have anything done about it. But I’ve seen it arise that it can indeed feel really lopsided, and make a person feel like they ought to be vagranting* around the country themselves for more money.

      * probably the wrong word – all I mean is without a home base

      1. Christy*

        Don’t you think the advantages of having a home base are worth it, though? I mean, sure, you could choose to be homeless, and that would save you a lot on rent costs, but it’s not an advantage because you don’t have the accumulated stuff of having a home, and you’re dependent on your company for your immediate housing. What if you lose your job? I think it’s a grass is greener kind of thing–it looks appealing from the outside, but you wouldn’t want to live it yourself.

      2. LBK*

        That’s an obvious trade off, though – surely you don’t think the nomad lifestyle that would require is the same as having your own home to go back to? You’d have to have very limited possessions, be at the mercy of your employer’s choice of hotel, be constantly moving, be very unlikely to be able to build a family of any sort or have pets, be subjected to the rotating hotel guests around you (some of whom I’m sure are not exactly delightful to stay next to)…all I can think of is George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air who ultimately finds his transient lifestyle empty when he ends up wanted something more substantial.

      3. Sadsack*

        If the people who are living on the company’s housing get laid off or fired, where do they go? You’d go to your home that you pay for. Also, if someone is being sent around the country on a permanent basis, then having their housing paid for may be a perk that they are earning due to the nature of their work and not having it be practical to have their own home.

      4. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I’ve known people who were single that took long term assignments and either sublet their apartments or let their leases go and either lived with their parents when they were “home” or just paid for a cheap motel for the few days a month they were in the “home office”, and stored their stuff in parent’s basements or cheap storage units. For some of them, it was pretty draining to not have a “home”, while others loved being footloose and fancy free. I can also see the OP getting frustrated if the traveling employees appear to be living relatively high on the hog with restaurant expensed meals daily – but trust me OP, that gets old pretty fast.

        For the OP – your company hired you to be local help. If you want a traveling lifestyle, there are jobs out there that do that – but your position isn’t one of them.

        Also, don’t be too jealous of your co-workers “extra” money – if they are residents of Illinois, they are paying Illinois state income tax and possible local city taxes as well – while Texas doesn’t have an income tax.

        1. Mpls*

          They’ll get taxed on their regular salary. You don’t have taxes taken out of reimbursements, because the company is paying back after-tax money.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes – I didn’t mean the reimbursements were taxed. I’m just saying that while they get an “extra” perk as the OP sees it, they also have the ‘penalty’ of Illinois taxes on their paycheck.

      5. The IT Manager*

        … other people have been taking advantage of the company’s willingness to pay for their expenses on a fairly long-term (but technically out of state) engagement, by essentially not maintaining a residence at home and instead living out of whatever hotel the company drops them in.

        That’s not taking advantage of the company unless they are jacking up their hotel costs in some way. That’s just the company treating everyone fairly, and some people being willing to sacrifice time and convenience (to move and apartment hunt on return). Now it’s possible the nomad may be taking advantage of family or friends for moving help, storage space, a couch to crash on, but not the company. If the company had wanted to avoid those expenses they would have hired local help and not paid hotels and per diem.

        1. fposte*

          And, presumably, the company has been hiring people from out of state for a reason, and they’re not likely to get them to come for on-site work if the employees had to pay for food and lodging out of their own pockets.

    2. Sans*

      The people from Illinois aren’t being paid ANYTHING extra. They are being reimbursed for additional expenses. They have the same expenses as you back home – rent/mortgage, food, utilities, car, etc., – and when they’re in Texas, also have the expense of a hotel room, rental car, eating out in restaurants when it would be way cheaper to buy groceries, etc. Once those expenses are reimbursed, they are still left with the same expenses you have. They don’t end up with more than you.

      1. Sandrine (France)*

        Yup, Sans, that was basically my point.

        I mean, even with the “overseas” bit… I’m in France. Imagine someone from Japan is coming to work here. So there’s 1000 euros for a plane ticket, 1000 for a hotel room, 500 for food.

        Apparently, in the OP’s logic, because I’m French I should get 2500 euros just like that because the company spent that money on the other person… yeah, no :) .

    3. ReanaZ*

      Two of my brothers work jobs like this. (They program/setup/troubleshoot cell phone towers–like climb the towers and do the physical, on-site tasks for the towers. It’s an Illinois company, but they get contracts all over the States and get sent out for months at a time. Including in Texas. Which is making me wonder!)

      Sometimes the contracts are for a few weeks or months; sometimes a year or two. Most of the employees do not live in the areas where the jobs are located, even if it’s a big project workers might be on for years. There’s just too much uncertainty for whether you’ll get called to the other side of the country with no notice. One of my brothers has a house, wife, and kids in Illinois. He lives out of company-paid-for hotels, pays all his at-home expenses (his wife stays home with their kids), and goes home every few weekends (which I think the company at least partially pays for).

      My other brother is young and single and enjoying partying it up in new cities and not ever going ‘home’. But he doesn’t like living out of hotels. So when he gets assigned mid-to-long-term projects, he’s taken to leasing a big house short-term. Now that he’s technically ‘local’, the company no longer pays his accommodation costs,,, but they do pay him a per-diem to let other employees stay in the apartment if they prefer having an actual apartment to a hotel room.

      Jobs that require you to be traveling long periods of time on contracts are hard for a lot of reasons (although both my brothers really like it) and there are all sorts of ways people manage it. But it’s not ‘taking advantage of the company’ to “let” them pay your traveling expenses if you’re not local, and it is super weird to expect them to pay you ‘reimbursements’ for travel expenses you don’t actually have because you’re local. Everything about this question is weird.

  11. thisisit*

    #1: Ugh – “inevitable stormy outburst and repercussions”?
    I just do not understand how teams function with these types of people – I suppose they are so brilliant to be irreplaceable? I had a Big Boss once who was an awful person, but most of us were insulated. I’ve heard some others talking about meltdowns and the like, but I think I’ve been lucky to work for and with low-drama people.

    #2: Why can’t people just answer the question asked? I suppose if you had a great rapport with the interviewer and maybe knew they’d take the answer well, it could go over well, but forced humor is just the worst.

    #5: When you go to Illinois, do you get your expenses covered? Is there an office in Texas or do you have special dispensation to work there? For the most part, companies reimburse for work travel or relocation (which can sometimes include cost of living adjustments, hazard pay, etc), but it sounds like you were a local hire, so you don’t fit those categories?

  12. TeapotCounsel*

    Do I just stay out of this entirely and hope the direct report figures out how to handle it eventually?

    Yes. This. Entirely. MYOB.
    Seriously, why get involved? If it’s it’s to make the world more fair, there are many other, more productive endeavors.

    1. TeapotCounsel*

      Meh. Coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
      Post above is quoting OP#1.
      “it’s it’s” should read “it’s”

    2. A Dispatcher*

      Agree – it’s been a year. I’m sure if direct report wanted help with the situation she would have sought it already. One might suffer in silence for a bit, but I’d doubt a year. Or perhaps direct report does hate the constant socializing, but has figured out this is a good way to keep herself in Jane’s good graces, which is where you want to be when Jane is known for “stormy outbursts” and “steamrolling”. Suffering through the socializing may be worth it to her, and if you step in you may actually be making direct report’s life harder.

      1. LBK*

        Ooh, I totally didn’t connect those things. That’s a great point – that maybe the employee has purposely subjected herself to this to stay in Jane’s “circle” and out of the range of her attacks.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        That’s a good point. I wouldn’t assume that the report would have already sought out help—-I have worked in a place where an employee felt trapped into socializing with her boss for years, and her personality was such that she didn’t do anything about it. But I think you are maybe on to something with the idea that she’s figured out this is in her own interest.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          This is like the letter from last week about the IT guy who the boss wanted to get rid of since he didn’t want to train anyone else in what he knew for “job security”. He had that person on his team “Jenny” who always backed him up. If you’ve learned that the best way to avoid being attacked is to be (or pretend to be) on the side of the one who does the attacking, well, sometimes that’s what you have to do in order to get through your working day.

          This employee might not like Jane. Might desperately want to eat lunch with anyone other than Jane and decompress from Jane but either doesn’t know anyone in the company or has been on the receiving end of things the OP hasn’t seen when she has said things like she has a doctor’s appointment that lunch. Or she brings a book. Or uses headphones. If you’re a new employee and you need the job and your boss freezes you out/blows up at you/or is otherwise unpleasant and when you attempt to exert your independence from them in normal things like eating lunch — depending on what kind of family you had growing up — you may just decide to take the abuse… which you may not even see as abusive. But, without knowing who this employee is and what they’re all about, there’s no way to know for sure. This situation wouldn’t tweak OP if they didn’t feel something was amiss about it.

      3. Jamie*

        Agreed – and if she didn’t seek out help…she’s a professional adult and someone else swooping in to rescue her unsolicited could come off as very patronizing.

        If someone here thought I worked too many hours and decided that wasn’t fair and chose to save me from this I wouldn’t be grateful – I’d be wildly insulted at the implication that I was either too stupid to notice I was in a bad way or didn’t have the ability to address it myself. And that person would have no idea how I felt about my balance or what kind of trade offs I get which make it okay for me.

        I can conceive of very few situations where I’d intervene in someone’s relationship with their manager* and even fewer where it didn’t violate policy or labor laws.

        *If I saw policy or regulation non-compliance (i.e. asking someone to work off the clock, harassment, directives to disregard procedures or safety rules, etc.) I’d be on that manager in a hot minute – it’s my job and I should be fired if I ignored it. It has less to do with saving the employee as ensuring a fair and safe workplace.

        This fortunately hasn’t been an issue for me in many years as this kind of thing is so not tolerated culturally here, but if I had suspicions but no proof that there may be something sketchy going on like harassment I’d make it a point to reiterate that if people can speak to managers outside of their chain of command if they have questions or concerns. To put it bluntly there are some situations in which a woman would be more comfortable speaking to another woman – to the point where if it’s not an option many would chose to say nothing rather than report an incident to another man. Some harassment issues, but other legitimate work place issues that aren’t harassment can be very difficult to address with a man (for some women.)

        For issues where it’s not a violation of anything I tend to speak to managers when I see great employees overworked and carrying slackers…because I think it’s shitty and it’s a great way to make sure people with options use them. Just in a manager to manager thing – I’m not on a white horse or anything.

        And in this case if the employee was super young and/or new to the workforce and my spidey sense was telling me they maybe didn’t know they didn’t have to socialize I would probably make a ‘joking’ comment in front of her to the manager – something like ‘Jane does know she’s allowed to take meals without you right?’ or something less bitchy, but just tossing the idea that this isn’t required out there and then if Jane needed to ask advice in how to back out of it should could bring me a brownie and I’d be her anti-social mentor. If and only if she sought it out. Some people really love that kind of social thing and if I went around saving everyone who socialized more than I would prefer that would be a full time + job in and of itself.

  13. B*

    #1 relates perfectly back to yesterday’s post about the manager having lunch every day with the new employee. This is why it should not done because even though it doesn’t directly effect your work relationship you see it as an issue. And yes, it is an issue that I think you should be willing to lend an ear and possible advice to the employee if they come to you.

  14. JMegan*

    #4, that’s very thoughtful of you. In addition to having the conversation verbally, make sure you send the posting from your personal email to your coworker’s personal email. It’s totally normal for people to pass job listings back and forth, but it’s a definite no-no to have them touch either of your work email addresses in any way.

  15. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    A general comment about #2, being asked about your weakness:

    I’ve had success with proactively mentioning it and avoiding the question altogether. For instance, if the interviewer says they want someone who can do x,y, and z, and I have strengths and weaknesses, I’ll address them.

    I had an interview like this last week – I explained that I was well-experienced in X and Y, but it had been awhile since I had handled Z (a specific financial tool). I then stated that I am familiar with it, but might need a mentor on Z to bring me up to speed and ensure I’m trained on latest procedures. The interviewers gave me feedback then that they appreciated my honesty, and assured me that mentors would be available for anything I needed.

    I’ve used this approach successfully by working the weakness (and a solution) into one of the other questions, thereby eliminating the awkwardness of the direct question (and the temptation to answer, “entertaining willful ignorance”.). I would make any promises, but it might be worth trying.

  16. Grand Bargain*

    The IT Manager and Sans make a good point above. That (in Sans words) they aren’t being paid extra, just reimbursed for expenses.

    My question is whether you have extra expenses? Do your out-of-state co-workers buy lunch together, do they eat dinner and talk over the day’s work, do they share cabs back and forth all over town? All that can add up to quite an expensive bill.

    Out-of-state teams rarely stop work at 5pm. Lots of important interaction happens outside the normal day. When you are simply driving home at the end of the work day, you may be missing out on these conversations and decisions. So, if effective participation in this effort requires you to join your co-workers for these activities, it’s worth asking your manager for some reimbursement.

  17. ThursdaysGeek*

    #2: “What areas have past managers encouraged you to work on improving in or do differently?”

    If I were asked that, I wouldn’t have a good answer. Because that implies you’ve had a manager that has worked to help you improve. I’ve had many managers and supervisors, and they all just say “you’re doing a great job, here’s a very small pay raise”. I’ve specifically asked for areas where I could improve, and they can’t come up with anything. Somehow, however, it doesn’t make me think I’m awesome, especially since I don’t get awesome raises or increased responsibilities.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s easily addressed though; if that’s the case, the interviewer can adjust the question to “where are you working on developing yourself?”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yes, and I see plenty of my shortcomings. I just wish I knew which of them were most important to my managers.

        But I guess I was saying that your rephrasing of the question would lead me to talk about former managers, not myself, as you want. “Where are you working on developing yourself?” — I like that one. Your first is better for those few who have had managers like yourself, the second for the rest of us. (And I’m not saying they have been bad managers, but they are spending their time on other things than helping me get better.)

    2. TalleySueNYC*

      This is easy–then you answer the idea -behind- the question (a smart tactic always): How do you approach the idea of getting better at what you do?

      So you say, “I haven’t actually had many conversations like that with managers; but I do always look for ways to get better. A colleague once mentioned that Procedure B was a royal pain because I was dropping off my part of it piecemeal, so I asked her to explain, and we both decided I should drop them off in smaller chunks. It gave me a chance to really consider her
      Or, you say “I found I was always working late to finish Process X, and so I sat down and analyzed how I was using my time, and I decided that parts of it might be unnecessary, so I investigated with stakeholders and
      Or, “Sometimes I’m not that motivated to be strictly on time when things are slow, so I’ve started creating a morning to-do list at the end of the day and putting one of my more enjoyable work tasks at the top.”

      I’m looking for certain things from you:
      -how do you take criticism: do you think you’re perfect? do you get defensive? do you always want to improve? do you consider all parts of improvement (your personality, yes, but also your brain/behavior patterns, the emotions inherent to the situation that everyone would experience)

      -how do you approach improvement: do you just beat yourself up? do you reach out to other people for info? do you reach for concrete and tangible tools? do you reach for emotional or cognitive tools? do you seem sensible and confident in your approach?

      -what do you identify as “a problem that really needs fixing”?

      My go-to interview tactic: Think about what questions your interviewer is -really- asking, and think about what they want to hear in an ideal candidate. Can you give similar answers–honestly? Can you tell *short!* stories that illustrate those attributes?

      There isn’t any question you can’t answer, because you’re not really expected to strictly answer “only the exact wording of the question you were asked.” *You* should adjust the question to something you can expand upon that still addresses the underlying topic the interviewer is trying to explore.

  18. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I can understand one and only one situation where #5 **MIGHT** be justified in seeking reimbursement.

    If he/she is forced into expensive dining situations – the others’ are being reimbursed, he/she has to pay out-of-pocket.

    Example – “We’re all going to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for dinner – you HAVE to come, it’s required – and oh yeah – you’re local. You pay for your own dinner.” That can be an unexpected and unreasonable expenditure for someone not eating on a company-supplied meal ticket.

    If you’re required to participate in such activities and they’re beyond your budget, it is not unreasonable to ask the company to pick up your dinner check. After all, it’s a business dinner.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yes, I know – that’s why I said “the ONLY” exception to this.

        I have been in a situation like this – when out of town visitors came in, I was expected to “go along” with the program, and my family wound up eating a lot of soup the next week because I had to go to restaurants and pay for expensive dinners which (in those days) were out of my financial means.

  19. Cath in Canada*

    #3: our headshots at work are taken by whichever admin person is free on your first day, and they’re almost universally awful (although some are hilarious – they never update them, so we all get to laugh at the mullets and facial hair of the guys who’ve been there for decades. Mine’s just overexposed and ever so slightly out of focus). They’re all displayed on the wall in reception, and it looks like a wall of mugshots in a police station. I’d like to have proper photos taken, but it’s not enough of a priority to justify paying for it myself. I hope you get to use your photo!

  20. Retail Lifer*

    #5 Years ago, we were opening a new store and we had a bunch of people from stores out of state come in to help. Corporate paid for their hotels and gave them a per diem for meals. Those of us that were local wanted to be reimbursed for lunch since we didn’t have access to a fridge and only one of us lived close enough to go home for lunch, but even that was a no go. We wound up buying groceries and eating at that one person’s house a few times when we were running out of money. Aside from that, we didn’t incur any other expenses that we wouldn’t have otherwise in a normal work day so there was no reason so seek reimbursement.

  21. Dawn88*

    #3: Easy. Because the company paid for it. I was lucky to grab my own JPEG file and email it home, for later on. They are just being tightwads, yet I remembered it cost the photographer $400 to come out and do 2 people. He set up hair lights, umbrella lights, a nice backdrop, and made us look great!

    Get the guy’s card and get your own done….it’s a good investment, compared to goofy “selfies” plastered everywhere. It amazes me how CFOs and similar executives use terrible cellphone pics on Linked In. Pay the money and get one done right! Especially since it gets used so much when it is a pro photo.

  22. TalleySueNYC*

    #3: I can totally see why a company wouldn’t want that headshot used anywhere else.

    If I (the company boss) am putting that headshot on my company’s website, then it become a bit of a “logo” or “brand,” even -without- any identifying info in the background.

    When you, the employee, use it elsewhere, you are linking my company to the place that you are using it. Especially in the days of the internet, when search technology is going to make the comparison even easier for other people to make that mental link. (and since you can search for a specific image with a simple right-click)

    I don’t want that link to happen unless I specifically authorize it. So, I don’t want it on your personal blog, your new job, your online resume, your Facebook page. Because, God knows what you’ll have going on there, and I don’t want to be “endorsing” whatever that is.

  23. RR*

    #5…. It was just a question, I was just wondering and not crying about it but the out of town employees are not just from Illinois. The company is from Illinois they just hired some guys from out of town, like Cali and Arizona when they can just hire people from Texas. And they don’t reimburse they just straight up pay for their hotel so there is no pay back. And for the inconvenience that’s their choice, they can just find a job where they are from like I did. JS

  24. MarCom Professional*

    #3: Are you guys CRAZY?! I’ve been the one to hire the photographer for corporate headshots. Your company paid the photographer for the time to take and process the photo and a fee to LICENSE their use of the headshot. Your employer didn’t buy the photo. They bought the right to use the photo for specific purposes that are outlined in their licensing agreement with the photographer. SO, it may be possible for you to contact the photographer and buy the right to use it, BUT if your employer’s licensing agreement includes something that restricts how the PHOTOGRAPHER can re-sell the image license, that could prevent that. (I’ve never seen a clause like that, but I also never requested it).

Comments are closed.