recruiter contacted me at my work email address, interviewing for a job where I’d work at a small table in my boss’s office, and more

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

1. I’m interviewing for a job where I’d work at a small table in my boss’s office

I have a second interview coming up for an admin position in a small company (less than 30 employees). I am a seasoned admin, coming from a much larger company in a much larger city, but this job appeals to me for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s seven minutes from my house, as opposed to my current one-hour commute each way. The money is not as much as I’m making now, but with the difference in gas money and the wear and tear on my car, it’s almost a wash, not even including my time.

There’s one thing really bugging me, though. This is a newly created position. The interviewer (VP and sister of the company owner) will be my boss, and the work space she has planned for her new hire is a computer set up at a small round table in the corner of her office. That’s it. No desk, no shelf, no drawer, not even a proper office chair, at least as far as I could tell in my first interview. The building the company occupies is new and nicely furnished. It’s a very pretty little table. We sat at the matching side chairs for our interview.

She explained that she wants to keep her new assistant “close” while this person learns the ropes. I don’t know if she plans to move that person to a real desk later. (God, I really hope she does, even if it’s not me.) I didn’t get a tour…I only saw her office and the front/showroom area. I don’t know how much other space there is.

What do you think? Should it really be bugging me this much? Should I ask her about it, and if so, how? I’ve never in my life had a job where I didn’t even have a desk.

I suppose it depends on your own preferences, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to work at a tiny table in my boss’s office, unless it was only for a day or two for training.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask, “Can you tell me more about the office space this person will ultimately have? Will they continue to work from your office or move to a different space once they’re trained?”

Depending on the answer, you may need to consider how much a seven-minute commute is really worth to you.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. Recruiter contacted me at my work email address

This morning I had an email about a job opportunity. Lucky for me, I’m in a very hot career field and I get these emails pretty regularly via LinkedIn or from recruiters who’ve held on to my resume for years and years.

This one came to my work email. I’ve only had this job a few months and my work email address isn’t listed anywhere. It’s not on any company website or on LinkedIn. I realize it’s fairly easy to guess someone’s work email address and that must have been what this recruiter did. Considering that LinkedIn is the only place that mentions where I’m now working, I can’t understand why this person chose not to contact me on LinkedIn. Is it best just to delete it or should I reply back about how completely inappropriate this is?

It’s actually fairly common for recruiters to email people’s work addresses; I’m not really sure why. I think you could certainly write back and say that you don’t want to be contacted at work about other jobs; it’s a legitimate point to make. (And if you don’t want the correspondence on your work email at all, you could write back from your personal email address.) But it would also be fine to simply delete or reply that you’re not interested.

3. My former company laid me off but is telling reference checkers they fired me

Six years ago, I was laid off from a job I had been at for about six months. The reason I was given was that my position was being eliminated, but they also said that it was a concern that I had used one more sick day than I had accrued. They gave me a severance package, and I collected unemployment until I found something else. Since then, when interviewing, I’ve said that I was laid off due to my position being eliminated. I’ve even used my direct manager at that job as a reference. So you can imagine my surprise that when I got a copy of my most recent background check a potential hiring company ran, I saw that the company gave the feedback that I was fired due to attendance and would not be rehired. Obviously, this is bad. What is my best move for future interviews and background checks?

Contact the company and tell them that you’re concerned that they’re providing an inaccurate reference that’s standing in the way of you finding work. Tell them that when they laid you off, they told you that your position was being eliminated — which is different from what they’re now telling references.

This is a little tricky in that it’s possible that they selected your position for elimination because of attendance concerns (and it actually sounds like that might be the case), and it’s also possible to lay someone off and still consider them ineligible for rehire (because of their performance before the layoff, even though a layoff is different from a firing) — but by addressing it forthrightly, you might be able to negotiate what they say. At a minimum, they shouldn’t be saying you were fired when you were laid off.

Sometimes a lawyer can be helpful in negotiating this kind of thing, so that could be an option to consider too, depending on what kind of dynamic you have with the company.

4. How can I get an employee to be less chatty with customers and coworkers?

I have an employee who is very chatty on calls with customers, as well as with employees. She’s an older lady and she is overly thorough to the point that my warehouse mangers and drivers don’t like having to talk to her because she keeps them on the phone too long. I have done a couple of one on one meetings with her but she continues to ramble with employees especially. Can you please advise me of ways to address this?

How direct have you been in your feedback? Have you told her clearly that she needs to significantly pull back on how chatty she is with customers and coworkers, or did you soften the message (which managers often do in an attempt not to hurt people’s feelings)? If you haven’t been very, very straightforward, now is the time to do that. You should also spell out exactly what her chattiness level should look like — because she might think she’s pulled it back sufficiently and doesn’t realize that it needs to be, for example, 50% of what it is now.

If that doesn’t get you where you need to be, you’d need to decide if you’re willing to invest some time coaching her on this, which could include things like observing her interactions with people and giving her feedback afterwards and/or practicing conversations with her.

5. My manager says my weekend hours “don’t count”

I am a salaried exempt employee. I worked hours over a weekend (our work week ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday) and then had pre-planned vacation that next Thursday and Friday. I took vacation time to equal 40 hours for the week; I included my weekend hours in my calculation, as it was the same work week.

Upon my return, my manager suggested that my weekend hours “don’t count” toward meeting the expected 40 hours, as they were not in my standard Monday – Friday schedule. Is this legal? Can I be made to take vacation time above the 40 hours in a week?

Yes, it’s legal although it’s really, really bad management. It’s unfair, and there’s no faster way to discourage people from doing extra work over the weekend when needed than to tell them it “doesn’t count.”

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    Re: #1

    I wouldn’t necessarily call this a dealbreaker, but I would take it as a sign that your possible boss doesn’t always think about the needs of her employees or that she expects a lot out of an assistant. It’s not impossible to work for that sort of boss, but I would take it into consideration.

    1. Amanda*

      I have to agree – does she know specifically what work she wants to give to a new assistant? And if so, perhaps she hasn’t considered that most work requires a bit of actual workspace with computer, which I can’t imagine easily fitting at a small round table…. Even a laptop and some paperwork would be difficult to juggle (for the size of table that I’m picturing). Maybe by going over the workload with her and then immediately asking about the workspace would make the lightbulb go off?

      1. Sadsack*

        Working at a small table would probably cause me all kinds of pain in my shoulders, back, neck, you name it. Definitely find out how long you’ll have to be at that table. Also, the thought of having to be so close to my new boss all day every day would just plain suck. I would feel like I could just not relax in that setting. Good luck, OP, I hope that whatever you choose to do works out for you.

        1. Sadsack*

          Also, you would be sitting there hearing every phone call or in-person meeting she takes in her office. Is she going to ask you to leave the room during those times? Where do you go in those situations? How oftem eill your work be disrupted? I’d ask about that.

          1. INFJ*

            I was thinking of this, too. If this person manages several people, those direct reports are going to need private access to her, probably on a regular basis.

    2. UK Curious*

      Hmm I kind of would see it as a dealbreaker, just because who wants to be crammed into their boss’s office with no privacy, no supplies for years- it just sounds uncomfortable and that she’ll be uncomfortably micro-managery plus she’s also a little clueless/inconsiderate and you’ve got to wonder how the rest of the business is run if she can’t get a desk set up right. But work set up was one of the many red flags I should have noted in my last job. But agree with Alison – check whether it’s changeable- also ask whether it’s a new position and what happened to the last assistant (did they have the same set up?)
      But small things that feel off to you can be an indicator of big stuff that’s off.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yeah, it would be a total dealbreaker for me – in large part because of what it says about the boss and the company. I’ve worked in places where there weren’t proper workspaces – where there were fewer computers than employees and sometimes I’d be twiddling my thumbs without one, for example – and they were nightmares for other reasons.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I like that you said proper workspace – maybe the Op can use that when she questions it: “So, how long would this person be sitting in with you before moving to a proper workspace?”

      2. Artemesia*

        This. This woman is looking for a slave not an assistant. The idea that she wants her assistant in an inadequate workspace ready to hop at every whim is creepy. It symbolizes probably many things about how she sees employees and what she expects. It is not professional. The odds you will be treated as a professional are pretty much zero. I can’t imagine even considering this as the woman is giving out squirrel vibes I can feel here.

        1. Zillah*

          It gives me bad vibes, too, but the OP does say that this is a new position. It’s entirely possible that the boss isn’t really aware of what standard practices are, and I think it’s unfair to assume from the information we’ve been given that she’s “looking for a slave.”

  2. Kat A.*

    To #1: Even if the boss says it’s only temporary, it might not be. You have a right to feel however you want to feel about the work space. If it bugs you just thinking about it, imagine working there day after day for months. Listen to your instincts.

    1. Jeanne*

      I vote don’t do it. This boss has some serious boundary issues. Maybe there’s a job with a 15 minute commute.

    2. Liane*

      “Even if the boss says it’s only temporary, it might not be.” +1, at least
      There have been a number of posts on here that a Company or Boss told someone, “In X months, you’ll get a raise/promotion/much-needed assistant/whatever,” but it’s now been a whole lot longer than that, and whenever Company is asked about it, they put the person off.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes, this. Something very similar happened to my husband. He was hired for a newly hired position and told that he would be working at a small table in a co-worker’s office for two weeks. Yadda yadda yadda, it ended up taking six months before he got his own desk. He still talks about how horrible it was working without a proper workspace.

    4. puddin*

      Kirsten Wiig just walked into the room and everyone crowd whispered “Red Flag.”

      I N e e d m y S p a c e.

      And “keeping my assistant close” is a whole separate red flag. Is this indicative of trust issues, a control freak, covering up for some other (financial) reason there is no separate space…I don’t like it. Nope, not one bit.

      Now OP you may be willing to take the plunge based on the closer location. But I am willing to bet you can cut your commute without having to take this risk. You can do better.

  3. Stephanie*

    #1: I share a cube with my boss. My computer’s in one corner and he’s about 5 feet away at another wall. It’s a little odd. Working at a table in your boss’ office is really odd.

    1. Coffee, Please*

      Early in my career I shared a office with my boss is well. It was a small organization with three other employees who each had their own office and needed privacy for the work. Our boss quickly realized that it was not ideal for anyone to have the shared space. So he invested in a rolling desk and chair. When I arrived in the morning, I had to roll my desk out into the open space between the three offices. They often kept their doors open to talk with me, but had the option to close the door for private conversation. I had my own space, even if it was just a larger hallway. I have a filing cabinet and locking before in my boss’s office. It was a pain to unplug everything and roll it back at the end of the day, but it was definitely better than the alternative.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      The only time I’ve sat in such close proximity to my boss, is when, upon hiring, they told me the company was moving to a new building in 2.5 months, and they did. But until then, there were four of us in one crammed jammed packed office that was maybe 14×14 feet or so. Then we moved and it was glorious, I had a huge cube and the whole row to myself.

  4. Mike C.*

    Re: #1 No proper chair? I hope this company enjoys L&I claims for ergonomic issues!

    Setting that aside, are you sure you really want to work for a small, family run business when you aren’t part of the family? Sure there are some unicorns out there that keep it totally professional and promote non-family members, but if they aren’t professional, there are some amazing and terrible ways this will manifest. Please take that into consideration.

    Re: #5 I would have a very difficult time ever working a weekend for this jackass. “Well you said that time doesn’t count, see you on Monday!”

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      Re: #1 Yes, I was thinking the same thing about the family business. If it was just a regular small business, I’d be more inclined to think the manager was just a little thoughtless. But in the context of a family business, where boundaries are often crossed/don’t exist, I’d bet her definition of “close” does not just refer to proximity. I would nope right out of that situation.

      (Also, this sounds a lot like my old boss, except for the size of the company. It was when I worked for a furniture company, and instead of providing proper office furniture, they used the office like a showroom and made us use the desks and side chairs they manufactured. If they are the same person, I want to apologize because I’m probably the reason she feels she needs to keep such close tabs on her assistant!)

      1. Jess*

        I had a setup like that at my first job out of grad school. It turned out the boss wanted me in his office so he could leer and hit on me when he came back from his four or five martini lunches. I noped right out of there within a month.

      2. PEBCAK*

        I read it a little more charitably…if they haven’t done much (or any) outside hiring, maybe they just don’t understand how weird this is, and would be willing to work out a different arrangement.

      3. MsM*

        Yeah, the combination of the family business and the desk setup is setting off all kinds of red flags for me that these people may not understand appropriate workplace boundaries or expect you to put up with unreasonable stuff because it’s for the good of the business – and if you were really family, you wouldn’t complain. That may be an overly harsh assessment, so feel free to ask lots of questions and try to negotiate before you decide, but I think I’d pass. A seven minute commute is not that much of an advantage when you have a job that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. A family business is generally poison for non family members unless they have no ambition for themselves and are happy with ‘hours’. But a family business without consideration for the comfort and resources for employees — clear sign that there will be no boundaries. My skin is crawling.

          And listen to your gut. I once refused what looked like a dream job that a very prominent person in my field has recommended me to. I did it because something I could not put my finger on was tingling my spidey sense. I felt foolish at not taking this opportunity until talking later to a professional colleague who had taken the gig; it was a nightmare. The head of the organization who had a huge pert chart on the wall showing all the milestones reached and who had talked about how the project had enlisted community etc etc had: 1. alienated everyone in the community the project needed to work with by offering people jobs, having them give notice, and then not following through with the jobs 2. had himself been dipping into funds and embezzling. My colleague luckily was in a personal transition and so could put his head down for year, do what he could and be out of there. I would have moved my entire family into this mess.

          Our vibes are there for a reason.

    2. LQ*

      #5 I agree. If weekends don’t count why would you ever work them? Because clearly he doesn’t care about the actual work done on the weekend.

  5. skryrimfanatic*

    #1: my biggest concern would be that she might want to micromanage you. If your uneasy, listen to your instincts.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m worried that she may think “administrative assistant” is the same as “personal assistant.”

  6. Matt*

    #2: I think with email it’s not that bad, since usually people have personal email accounts … although there is the possibility that someone is on vacation and has their email forwarded to a coworker, or even their boss, or has them reading out their inbox.

    I’ve actually been *called* by a recruiter at work, in my office, on my desk phone. That was when I really freaked out, baffled, quickly just said “no thanks, I’m not interested” and hung up.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      See, I think the calling is actually not as bad as the email. At least with the calling, there’s no record of what was said, and you can simply say, “This isn’t a good time to talk; can I give you my email address?” I used to get called by recruiters on my office line all the time, simply because, especially in the pre-Linked-In days, the easiest way for a recruiter to track someone down if she knew only their name was to call company reception and ask to be transferred.

      I do get emails at my work address occasionally. Usually they are simply, “We have a position you might be interested in,” and if I care to respond I do, and if not, I just hit delete. But once I got one that was a little more, “I heard you were looking, and blah blah blah” — AFTER my boss had already somehow* found out I was looking. Maybe it was paranoid, but I replied to that recruiter from my personal address saying, “I’m interested, but I’m about to send you an email that says I’m absolutely NOT interested, and please never email my work address again!” and then replied from my work address with, “I don’t know where you heard that from! I’m not looking.”

      *After I resigned I found out it was because someone at an agency I had interviewed at was gossipy and called him the second I walked in the door. Not cool.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I get calls on my work phone from recruiters pretty frequently. So do my coworkers. So did my coworkers and I at OldJob. Not sure where they get that information, I’m not looking and haven’t given my work contact info to any outsiders ever, and pretty sure most of my coworkers can say the same. The guy that called me this week though, is a definite winner. He left a voice mail that just said “Hi Masha, I am Silent Bob, call me back”. Of course I called right away, because Silent Bob might be a customer or a colleague who needs something from me. THEN he finally goes “I am a recruiter…” I interrupted him and said, “Oh Bob. You should’ve said something! Good-bye” *click*

        I also once got repeated emails/phone calls (on my personal phone/account) from a recruiter who was placing people at my job at the same time. I wrote back saying “Not only am I not looking right now, I also work for Teapots Inc, who is your client, so you can’t really place me”, then I got another voice mail from her, followed by an email. I called her. We had a nice chat about why she really and truly cannot place me. I also let my boss know – I wanted him to hear the correct version of what was happening from me, before he could hear a distorted version from someone else. After that the calls and emails stopped. Whew. That was awkward!

      2. Brandy*

        When we are out, our bosses get into our email looking for urgent emails. So anything in my email can possibly be seen by a supv. They might think Im looking if they saw this email.

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      This has happened to me, too. For me, it was more awkward than receiving an email because I work in an open-plan office, so everyone could hear my half of the conversation. Not a fan. I’m also not really a fan of the email to my work email address since plenty of recruiters seem to have no trouble finding me and contacting me on LinkedIn, but at least for me personally that’s less intrusive so I guess if you have to go with some other method of contact sending a message to my work email address is less bad.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Except that IT can monitor email, and depending on how paranoid management is, they can have the monitoring software look for keywords suggesting recruiting/job-hunting. At most firms, no worry – IT has far more important things to do. But you don’t know how normal or weird the place the person is working is, and it *does* leave an electronic record if the company looks into it for any reason. I’m in camp Not Cool – a phone call is better (if only because you can quickly put them off as you did, if you need to, and not leave a trail of what was said).

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, usually they have far better things to do- unless you’re already being watched due to performance or they have an inkling you may be leaving, or both!

    4. Mpls*

      I got both an email (easy formula, first.lastname@company) AND a phone call to my direct line (pretty much only the telemarketers have been calling me so far) the same day, 2 months into starting a new job. And the recruiter KNEW I hadn’t been at new job long (not a secret, its on LinkedIn). The phone number is the part that’s kind of baffling me, though.

  7. Kathlynn*

    There’s a word missing in number three it says “…, they told you were position was being eliminated” which doesn’t make sense without adding or changing a word or two.

    And I don’t understand why the last question is legal. If they are hours worked, they should count either to the week previous (which the employee says they don’t) or the week after. Or one day for each week (like, Saturday is previous week, Sunday is current week).
    Would not be legal in Canada. gov. law says work week is Sunday through Saturday. No boss would legally be able to say “well those hours worked Sunday don’t count for anything”, though they could say “well, you worked Saturday, not Sunday so they don’t count”, unless your work week/pay period was say Wednesday to Tuesday. (and luckily most employees are still entitled to overtime, even if they are salaried. And even if they aren’t entitled to over time they are entitled to full hours paid (like, you can’t base someone’s salary on 40 hours worked, and expect them to work 80. Even managers exempt from overtime. They either need to be paid overtime, or (if exempt) the equivalent of their hourly wage for the time over 40s.). *but* I’m not a laywer, so I could be understanding some things wrongly.
    Also what the law says, whether it’s enforced, and what employers do are often completely different.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The person is exempt so the question isn’t about pay or overtime, but rather about whether or not they need to use vacation time for other time that they took off during that week.

      For example: You work 8 hours over the weekend, plus 8 hours each on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. You go on vacation for Thursday and Friday. You worked a total of 32 hours, so you only put it for 8 hours of vacation time (to get yourself to 40). Your manager then tells you that you need to put in for 16 hours of vacation time, because only the hours worked Monday-Wednesday count.

      1. Esperanza*

        I’m exempt and it has never occurred to me to ask for my occasional Saturday work to be counted toward my 40 hours. In practice many of us pull 48+ hour weeks sometimes, whether that means staying until 7 p.m. or coming in on Saturday to catch up. That’s just part of being exempt. We work extra hours during peak times, and we don’t get to bank them for more vacation.

        I think my boss would find it really weird if I tried to take time off M-F without using my vacation days, because I had already worked 40 hours. None of us are recording our actual hours and seeking compensatory time, plus being out for an entire weekday affects the entire workplace — I don’t think I should get to do that every time I realize I’ve hit my 40 hours. But maybe it’s just a different office culture.

        1. Brandy*

          This. I regularly work 60 hour weeks. Then again, we have unlimited PTO so I don’t run into things like this (nor do I take muh PTO).

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yes, exactly. It depends on the workplace. At my company, if we work over 40 hours it’s generally encouraged for us to take comp time, especially if we work a Saturday and/or Sunday. This also means people don’t have to use leave to come in an hour late from a doctor’s appointment, for example, if they work an hour extra sometime during the week. As long as the work gets done, that’s all that should matter. Of course, for some businesses that means 9-5, M-F, period, but I love working somewhere where my tasks are more flexible.

        3. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s how it is working for the state. No comp time. If you’re off during the week, you’re off, no matter what happened on the weekend.

        4. Beezus*

          My office culture is the same. I take off 8 hours for each full business day I’m off, regardless of overtime worked other days. In fact, early in my career I worked tons of overtime for a few months because of some turmoil at the office where I got to save the day, and I told my then-boss at one point that I was taking a couple of days off and NOT using vacation because I’d worked 10x the 16 hours in overtime in the last month and I was burning out. I got the time off paid without using PTO, but taking that position hurt my standing with her. I would never do that now. (I would also never work crazy, crazy amounts of overtime on a one-woman mission to fix a problem without any clear benefit to me or recognition for my work beyond my own team.)

          1. Mike C.*

            Your boss is incredibly short-sighted and terrible manager. I get that sometimes you have to put the time in to do stuff, but like you said, you’ll burn out if you don’t take the time to relax. The fact that you “lost standing” for being perfectly reasonable says a great deal.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yuck! This makes me extra grateful for my manager, who recently told me to take some PTO off my time sheet because he knows I work “overtime” often.

          3. Ad Astra*

            I believe you that taking the position you did might have hurt your standing with the boss, but I’m not OK with it. It bothers me that your boss (and so many other bosses) want you to be generous your time while it’s being stingy as hell with time off. You should never have to use PTO in the same week that you’re also working 40 hours.

          4. OP#5*

            Your boss sucks if you are judged on taking care of yourself and not burning out for your job.

            Actually any boss that will let you work 60 hours a week without either
            1. getting you some help or
            2. at least asking why your job is taking 60 hours a week is a jackhole :)

        5. Kyrielle*

          My $OldJob didn’t do comp time as such, but *within the same week* you could juggle with time that was spent, if your manager was okay with it (managerial pre-approval was needed). But not usually for part of a whole week, more for a one-day recovery period.

          Say you work Saturday/Sunday/Monday pulling something out of the fire, if there’s nothing majorly wrong your boss might let you skip one day (usually not two) later in the week, as a partial repayment on your weekend.

        6. CAA*

          I just had this conversation with a coworker earlier this week. The job I have now is the first one I’ve ever had where exempt employees take only enough PTO to make up the min hours for the pay period rather than taking 8 hrs for each full day they’re out. My coworker has never done it any other way.

        7. Cat*

          My office (a midsize law firm) technically doesn’t do comp time for lawyers but people tend to flex it a bit within the same week informally. It seems to work okay and avoids any suggestion that lawyers should get 1:1 comp time which is unfeasible.

          1. bridget*

            But does your firm make you “put in” for vacation time, which is capped at a certain number of hours? IME, there’s no such thing as vacation time but one needs to be hitting a pace of about 35-45 billable hours per week, in addition to meeting deadlines for the client. If I want to take Thursday/Friday off, and the partners I work for are fine with that (i.e., nothing big is due during that time, or can be done early), then I take it. But I have to make up those missed billable hours some other time, on weekends or evenings.

            1. Cat*

              Yeah, we do have to put in vacation time and it’s not uncommon among other firms I’m familiar with. Maybe a regional thing.

        8. Megn*

          This “phenomenon” is called “flex time.” It’s part of a “perk” that’s common in my industry. Even while salaried and exempt from overtime, our pay is really only calculated for 40 hours, and weekend/overnight hours count towards the 40 hours that week. If I worked a full weekend day, I could take off any other day that week instead (as long as we notify our manager) without having to use vacation. If I worked 12 hours one day, I’d be allowed to work only 4 hours the next day without having to use vacation or PTO for the remaining 4 hours.

          It’s not comp time, as we’re not compensated for any overtime we’d accrue, but is “flex time.”

          1. Nashira*

            And flextime is a lovely thing. My office only lets us flex a few hours per week, and only for certain reasons, but it’s saved me tons of PTO when I’ve had a lot of doctor appointments. Which happens a lot – I have to see one specialist or another about every month.

        9. Cath in Canada*

          We get up to 5 comp days per year in recognition of the fact that we often work a couple of hours on a weekend, and half-hours here and there in the evening etc. It’s up to each person to responsibly balance the number of comp days they take against how much extra work they’ve actually done, and it’s all at the manager’s discretion. We have to request the days through the same system as requesting vacation days, and people will put “comp time / paid vacation” as the type of leave – the manager decides what the split will be for any given request. It works well for our team, although some of my friends who work elsewhere think it’s a really weird system so YMMV!

        10. Ad Astra*

          I can think of at least one past manager who would have told me what the OP’s boss told her, but I don’t think it’s very fair. If an employee is putting in 8 or more hours this weekend and you nickel-and-dime her over PTO, you’re a whole lot less likely to get another 8 hours out of this employee the next weekend.

          Giving her credit for hours worked over the weekend doesn’t affect how much the company will have to pay her, nor does it affect the number of hours or days she’ll be out of the office. So the company is gaining nothing but the employee is losing PTO. It’s a crappy way to manage.

          Now, cutting off a normal work week at 40 hours when the week’s not over would be totally different. The idea behind exempt status is that employees don’t charge the company extra when they work more than 40 hours, and in return the employer doesn’t dock pay if the employee falls short of 40 hours for the week. It’s supposed to be a give and take, but so often 40 hours is the minimum, not the average.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    It’s happened! I completely disagree with Alison! (I’m a little tingly.) I completely disagree that the manager is in the wrong here, based on the information that the OP provided.

    First of all, there’s no indication that the employee had to work on the weekend (traveled for a trade show, was required to crunch all weekend for a deadline, was asked to work 16 hours on the weekend by boss, etc.) It sounds to me like the employee chose to work two weekend days to equal her vacation days so she would not have to take vacation day time. It also sounds as if she didn’t ask her manager for approval in advance, but just did it.

    Not only don’t I think that’s bad management, I would do the same thing as the manager did!

    The world of teapots is fast fast fast, and business to business, so business hours M – F are when the action happens. When anybody takes off, someone has to cover for them. I can’t think of a single position where coverage isn’t needed, so exempt or not, people can’t just write their own days of the week that they work.

    Would I let Wilma, who was out of days work, weekend hours so they could take the next Friday to go to their cousin’s wedding? Yes, if Wilma asked, and she didn’t keep asking for the same favor. But understand that when I do that, I’m actually giving away Fred’s time, the person who has to cover for Wilma. It would be bad management for me to let Wilma keep screwing up Fred’s work week.

    I’m sure there are exempt jobs where the actual days you work don’t matter, but I don’t have any of them at Wakeen’s.

    1. Honeybee*

      I had the same thoughts, Wakeen.

      I’m in an exempt job where some of the work can be done remotely and independently, and where no one would have to “cover” you per se if you were out of the office. I have heard colloquially of some of my coworkers working a few hours on a Saturday in addition to a few extra hours M-F so that they can take off on a Monday or Friday. However, even in this kind of position, there’s a recognition for the necessity of most people working during the normal business hours (between 8ish and 6ish) from our offices for a variety of reasons. So this kind of thing is pretty limited and definitely approved by a manager ahead of time.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, in that context I can see it. I’m used to contexts where exempt employees’ absences often don’t require someone else to cover for them if it’s just a couple of days, but you make a good point about cases where it’s the opposite.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I’m so excited to disagree. :-) I was just saying at work the other day that we need more disagreements . Everyone is so nice and agreeable it gets worrisome!

        Yes, examples in our world would be training new employees/fielding questions/checking their work, supervising warehouse shipments, checking and approving large customer quotes, interfacing with suppliers about problem resolution, etc. It all happens from M to F.

        You’d think that something like marketing would be an exception but our marketing people are constantly assisting reps with product information while the reps are assisting customers. So there’s always someone who has to cover for anyone.

      2. Jerzy*

        Regardless, this is something that needs to be cleared with management beforehand. I’m an exempt salaried worker who must account for every hour worked. (I’m a government contractor so most if not all of my hours need to be billed to specific projects.)

        I often work more then 40 hours a week, but I also have some flexibility in how I use my time. If I have to run an errand one day, I can do work from home to make up for it, and the same goes for being sick, if I’d like to avoid using a sick day. But all of this needs to be run past management. The answer is generally yes, since most of my work will not have to be covered by someone else that day, but by me on another day. I’m still doing the work, so I can pretty much do it during the time that works for me… with management’s sign off, of course.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      Yep I agree with you here, if the weekend isn’t normal work time it can not be used to finagle an extra couple of days holiday. And certainly not without running the idea past the boss first.

      1. Softwhere*

        And at least for me sometimes, when I gripe about how I “have to” work on my days off and make it sound like I’m Bob Cratchit and Old Man Scrooge is FORCING me to give up my own time for the good of the company… it’s because I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s my own fault for dragging my feet all week, and now I’m racing to get caught up.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I have been struggling w/ when to allow my team to take comp time. We sometimes work killer hours in a crunch week–andI can’t actually let people flex their hours in that same week because, well, it’s a CRUNCH week, and the entire week is busy. My company doesn’t officially have comp time, but my entire section relies on it.
        However, about a year ago, I got tired of having people extend their vacations by hoarding comp time. I decided I was going to insist that they use their comp time before the next crunch period.

        I didn’t want to have to track comp time for so many days; it’s just more fiddly work. And I tend to always allow vacation without much pushback, eve if it means I spend money on someone to fill in for them. I wanted these extra days to come out of the schedule when I wouldn’t have to hire someone.
        And, the purpose of comp time is to return some of your life to you so you can get your laundry done, or whatever else you let go when you were working so hard. And it’s supposed to also mitigate the frustration of having to work those hours. So I want you to feel “Ahhh! I don’t have to work” in pretty close timing to “Grr! I have to work so much.” I don’t believe I get the same psychological boost if you take your comp time 3 months later by tacking an extra day on a vacation.

        1. sstabeler*

          Yes and no. It’s true enough that it’s reasonable to put a limit on how long you ahve to use comp time in, but it ISN’T strictly speaking to get the laundry done. ( basically, think of it as paying the overtime as vacation days- THAT is what comp time is really designed to do.)

          Basically, comp time is more that you have to risk burnout for a bit, then the company lets you have extra time off to help you recover mentally. ( which is why it’s reasonable to put a limit on how long it can be built up for)

    4. Oryx*

      Yes, I completely agree and came to post the same thing. Being exempt doesn’t mean you get to make up your own work week, especially if the business isn’t typically operating on the weekends.

      1. OP#5*

        Clarification: I scheduled the vacation months before knowing I had to work this particular weekend on a software deploymemt (I did not work on the weekend by choice to negate my PTO). I work in IT and most of our customers operate M-F so we do a lot of work off hours to avoid customer downtime.
        I took 4 hours of PTO to equal a 40 hour work week; do you think I should have had to take the full day and a half PTO equalling a 48 (actually closer to 52) hour work week?

    5. BRR*

      I can definitely see where you’re coming from. If this LW made up their own schedule, didn’t check with their boss, and work in an office where there isn’t comp time for exempt employees I agree with you. In the end I think there are a lot of it depends. In my job I wouldn’t need somebody to cover for me but it’s totally not ok to just work a weekend day to avoid using a vacation day.

      1. Oryx*

        “but it’s totally not ok to just work a weekend day to avoid using a vacation day.”

        And this, I think, is the crux of the issue especially if done without prior approval or, at the very least, prior notification if you don’t need actual approval.

    6. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I used to have an exempt sick time abuser who would not show up during business hours (which was very inconvenient to others and made her miss tons of important client meetings) and then say that she had worked over the weekend or in the evening when no one was around so it wasn’t fair for her to use PTO because she worked 40 hours.

      Now, if someone is legitimately sick, and business needs dictate that some piece of work has to get done that week by them personally and they make up the time to get the work done, then fine, don’t charge PTO. But you cannot work an unapproved, inconvenient alternative schedule just to avoid using your PTO. She had taken an absurd number of sick days for various colds and vague ailments, and was complaining that her inability to meet goals was due to unreasonable expectations. No. Come to work during the hours when your job can actually be done, or charge your PTO, which will soon be depleted.

    7. Meg Murry*

      Yes, everywhere I have worked would have required you to clue your manager in on your plans, at a minimum, and at least ask permission the first time. As in, send your boss an email saying “I plan to work Saturday so I can take off Thursday and Friday but only use one PTO day instead of 2, is that ok?” The request would be more likely to be approved if you had a business case for it (examples: we promised customer X the teapots report by Wednesday, but if I come in Saturday we can get it out Tuesday and make them extra happy, or this test takes 4 days, so I either have to wait until next week to do it Monday through Thursday, or I can start it on Wednesday and finish it on Saturday and get ahead on the project).

      The general policy everywhere I’ve worked in the past few years has been that you could take up to 2 hours for an appointment without using PTO by flexing your time other days in the same week (staying late an hour for 2 days, for instance), but anything beyond that you need to use PTO for. The only exception was in circumstances of ongoing medical treatment – for instance, someone on intermittent FMLA or a pregnant worker who had appointments each month where the appointments sometimes ran longer – they might be given a little more leeway to flex 3-4 hours for appointments in that week if they were otherwise good employees and could be trusted to work outside the core hours, or even up to a day if there was reason to work a Saturday.

      I also have seen occasions where due to extenuating circumstances, salaried workers are asked to work all weekend, and then are given the option to take a comp day or two in the next week or so – but again, that is because there was a compelling work reason for the employee to work a Saturday, not just because they felt like it.

      1. tesyaa*

        Yes, it’s about deliverables. If there are deliverables it’s reasonable to at least ask for comp time for working a weekend or holiday. Otherwise it’s just a way of finagling more PTO time.

    8. JGray*

      I have to say I agree with you in this context. I too have never worked in a work place where there wasn’t a set schedule of some sort for everyone and if someone took time off someone had to cover. And the schedule was usually Monday-Friday (pay period was Sun to Sat) and generally 8-5. My current job has a lot of exempt/salaried people but everyone still has to record 40 hours. This job is also different from most in that we work 7-5 Mon to Thurs and 7-4 on Friday and then you get every other Friday off (employees are in groups that alternate). The pay period begins at 11am and ends at 10:59am on Fridays. So my office has worked out an extra benefit (3 day weekends!!) because lots of people work more than the standard 40 hours. Also, not everyone gets to take their Fridays’ off- if you have a project deadline or work that has to get done you work your Friday. It is very rare that people work the weekends but sometimes they do.

    9. lawsuited*

      I really don’t see the manager in #5 as discouraging “extra work over the weekend”. It’s really not extra work, given that she’s exempt she’s still just doing her 40 hours, but she’s rearranging her work schedule to suit her own needs so she can take vacation during the week. It seems to me that the manager is encouraging work during regularly scheduled work hours. It’s not unreasonable for employers to want to have bums in seats during business hours, so I’m not surprised the manager called the OP out on her workaround.

    10. The IT Manager*

      Excellent point. Rereading the letter it sounds like the LW worked those weekend days for the sole purpose of not having to use PTO at the end of the week instead of my original interpretation of having done it for a business reason. And in that context as the manager I would be really upset to discover this tactic by reading someone’s time sheet instead of clearing it with me first.

      If there was a business reason/emergency that the work needed to be done, my position changes a bit, but it would have made more sense to take the comp day or days on the Monday or Tuesday so the employee got a break and wasn’t putting in 10 work days in a row. From the employee perspective, a four day weekend is great. But from the employer perspective, an employee is more likely to be less productive on days 9 and 10.

    11. QualityControlFreak*

      Preach! We have a receptionist who likes to “work” (using that term very loosely) … whatever hours they feel like “working.” They do like to be paid, so they will come in before office hours, “work” during lunch hour, disappear frequently while on the clock, etc., and leave me to cover the reception area. Well, I can’t do some of my own work while I’m handcuffed to the front desk, so … yeah. I’m being paid at a higher level than a receptionist, and I’d really like to be doing my actual job. And yes, I have talked with management about the problem (which goes WAY beyond a simple lack of work ethic). So thank you for being a good manager!

    12. Mike C.*

      Require management approval first, sure. These sorts of things need some planning and forethought to ensure things go smoothly. Cross-training, documentation, automation all those sorts of things are important to make time for.

      But this culture of exempt employment is really getting abused. The whole idea was that you’re getting paid to perform a job, and once that job is done you go home. Now this has turned into some idea where you have to stick around for minimum numbers of hours AND days AND be available evenings AND weekends and it never seems to end. This attitude that “this one person needs to dedicate their lives to work or the whole thing will come crashing down” is not sustainable, and it costs so much more in the long run.

      I’m exempt. I get paid for time over 40 hours anyway. My bosses know that if I’m coming in on an emergency that afterwards I’m going to need time to recover or I’m not going to be very useful to them. I’m certainly driven by incredibly visible production schedules (people regularly photograph my worksite to note rate and deliveries to specific customers) but the absence of a single person isn’t going to stop everything in it’s tracks.

      Instead of working people 60+ hours/week, hire more people. Spend time planning for next year instead of next quarter. It’s not that hard, and it will make you and your company money.

      1. Director of Things*

        I agree with you, Mike. I’ve just never worked anywhere that cared about their employees more than saving a buck.

        As an “cost savings” we laid off 10% of our employees today, despite having enough work for everyone. We currently have several temps as well. We are to get everything done with the remaining staff or hire more temps.

        1. _ism_*

          For every person who retires at my job, a temp is hired to replace them. We’re losing daily new temps and people are deciding to wait to retire now.

      2. Witty Nickname*

        I agree. I’m exempt, and I don’t get paid overtime, but I have pretty much 100% flexibility. If I need to work longer hours during a crunch time, I do. If I need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment/school thing/because it’s Friday and sunny out and I need a mental health hour or so, I do. If I want to work from home, or the office, or Starbucks, I do (I have never worked from Starbucks because I like still having money in my bank account). If I put in crazy hours on a project and make it hugely successful, I have leadership that tells me to go ahead and take an extra day of vacation off the books.

        My job doesn’t require me to be in the office during certain hours, or to make sure there is coverage on most of what I work on when I’m gone (other people on my team will act as backups, but it’s rarely needed), and I’m really glad my leadership recognizes that and doesn’t try to make all sorts of rules around hours just for the sake of having them.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I agree in that I’m a proponent of a 40 hour a week culture.

        None of the the conditions that you’re talking about are in the OP, none at all and not all jobs are abusive. If the OP said “I had to work 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday because my boss told me/emergency project required, etc”, I’d agree that Thursday and Friday would have been a fair trade, but that’s not what the OP says.

        If anything would cause over work and stress in our world, it would be Wilma deciding to write her own days of the week so that Fred is stuck covering for her in excess. With all of the available information, my POV is more employee friendly than the OPs.

      4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Mmmm and P.S., it’s organization that process that keeps us close to that 40 hour a week culture, too.

        When our exempt people go on vacation, they go on actual vacation. They don’t work, they may or may not check their email. When they come back in after a few days or a week off, they don’t have all of the work they didn’t do stacked up and waiting for them. The worst they have is an email backlog if they’ve chosen to not check their email while they are out.

        And, pretty much everybody takes all of their allotted days and pretty much all requested vacation gets approved, unless a day is short too many people already.

        Now, Fred’s sweating harder while Wilma is out and he may have to throw in a little bit more time to cover for her, but Barney and Betty help too. People work together and cover for each other because when it’s their turn, they are covered for also.

        You see that in that set up, Wilma writing her own work days in order to get more vacation time is unfair to the collective.

    13. Ad Astra*

      It sounds to me like the employee chose to work two weekend days to equal her vacation days so she would not have to take vacation day time.

      It sounded the exact opposite to me. Perhaps that’s because you’ve worked in a 40-hour culture for so long and I’ve worked mostly in “work every day all the time even if you’re on vacation” cultures.

      If your interpretation is right and the OP was essentially trying to flex her hours without approval so she could save herself some PTO, then we agree that it’s a problem. If my interpretation is right and the OP was required to work over the weekend, it’s not fair to make her use enough PTO to total 48 hours instead of 40.

      And, like I mentioned upthread somewhere, the company is gaining nothing here while the employee is losing 8 hours of PTO. If the PTO use affected how much time she’d spend in the office doing her job, I’d be more sympathetic to the employer. In this case, she was going to be gone either way.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Very interesting. I posted just above you at the same time you were posting. You might find that interesting, the process we have that makes a (mostly) 40 hour a week culture/you get actual vacation work.

        I think the takeaway is: It depends! The right answer depends on details we don’t have, but we can’t say the manager here is wrong without the details.

    14. Carrie*

      Actually I didn’t work over the weekend by choice, we had a software upgrade that took about 12 hours of my weekend. I had scheduled the vacation time months in advance of knowing the date of the deployment.
      In my view, time is time and I have put it well over the 40 hours many times with no comp time, and I did take 4 hours of vacation time to equal 40 hours for the week. What I disagree with is my manager expecting me to take more vacation time than what would equal 40 hours for the week.

    15. Carrie*

      Sorry for the delay, my internet was a bit wonky over the weekend. This is my post and I will give you some clarification:
      I did not go into the office over the weekend by choice, we had a software deployment that took about 12 hours of time over the weekend.
      I had the vacation time scheduled months before the deployment date was finalized
      I didn’t ask for the time off because I had worked over the weekend, however I was told that I should take full days of vacation time when I had already worked on days off
      I initially put in 4 hours of vacation time to equal 40 hours for the week, I was not asking for my weekend time to count as a full two days, just the hours that I worked to count toward my week.
      I do not work in a capacity where work doesn’t get done if I am not here, my team is rounded out so that work gets handled when people are not in the office.

  9. Stephanie*

    #2: I wonder if the recruiter just guessed your email (“Hmmm, maybe Kevin Smith’s email is ksmith at company dot com.”) and that’s how she reached out without your work email being published.

    My work email handle is slastname. There’s someone much higher up named Steve [Same Last Name] and I get sales pitches semi-regularly from people who probably figured this guy’s email is mine.

    1. Ama*

      I’ll admit I have done this before — not in a recruiting sense but occasionally in trying to find an old volunteer or grantee. We know they’ve moved to X institution since we last contacted them, but either X institution has no public directory or hasn’t updated it to include that person. But I only try it when the person we’re trying to find has a very unique name and I can be reasonably sure that if I guess wrong it will just bounce back to me.

      However, I’ve also found people’s emails on the internet in strange places (like a document containing an email chain that was posted in a publicly shared google doc or yahoo group) — so the OP may want to try a little internet searching on themselves and see what they pull up. “OP name + business name + email” is often how I find them.

  10. Worker in a small company*

    OP #1
    I think this type of working arrangement is not unusual in a lot of small companies.

    I currently work in a small company, and had a similar situation when I joined, when I worked in the same office as my boss. The reason for this is that we hire offices within a larger serviced building, and so when you create new positions, then it’s much more cost-effective to try and squeeze them into existing workspaces than to rent out an additional room in the building, i.e. the costs of doing so can often be disproportionate to the benefit you gain from that extra employee.

    What is does probably reflect is a general mindset of cost-efficiency, which is more hand-to-mouth in a small business than a large business. In the large companies I’ve worked for, the amount you spend/waste on stationery per month for example, is not going to break the bank. However, for a small company, over a year it can eat into your profits particularly in slow months. I think this is part of the wider culture of small businesses that suit some people but not others – everything is more intense, more at the front line, and you make more of a difference to your business in the things you do on a day to day basis.

    For me, working in the same room as my boss was made much easier by her going out of her way to make my working space comfortable for me. That’s more about her personality than anything else – so it’s worth asking what AAM has said and getting a sense of the culture and personality from the response. As the company grew more we ended up moving into a larger office that was more accommodating for everybody.

    As a side-note – I wouldn’t assume that the layout of the office (e.g. no desk, no office chair) will be the same for your work as it was for your interview. As we have expanded, we have often interviewed in the current layout and then rearranged the office to accommodate them after we join. Which I suppose is another feature of small businesses – we are flexible, and adapt and change a lot!

    Hope this is helpful. :)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Once upon a time, my division was a scrappy little start up within a relatively small family business. I had just a few employees and limited space.

      This letter made me cringe because I had a new employee quit (note slipped under the door on a weekend!) because of a similar (although worse) office set up. I was shocked at the time and now I’m shocked I was shocked!

      Those of us who were working together to get this thing going didn’t care about things like working space and I was so young and green it didn’t occur to me anyone would. 101 would have been explaining to people before they agreed to take the job, yes?

      Anyway, I so relate to your post, thanks for sharing. Makes me miss the old days!

        1. Olive*

          Not Wakeen’s but – I once had to share a table with my boss in an open-plan office. Like, we faced each other. It was fine for her because I was her assistant, so if she needed to make a phone call, she could tell me to be quiet/not make any calls so she could hear herself, but I couldn’t do the same to her. And if she didn’t like the way I phrased something on the phone she would loudly tell me what to say while I was still on the call. This was also a startup and that workspace situation only lasted a few months, but…I took a lot of walks. (Worked for her for another 5 years and we’re close friends now, so it had a happy ending, but I still shudder thinking about the beginning.)

          I think Alison’s advice is good, totally reasonable to ask about what happens after you “learn the ropes.”

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I’m embarrassed to say! This is what I get for opening my big mouth!

          We were out of desks so the new hire shared (intended temporarily) a cube space with the woman who was training her. It was a large L (but not that large!), so her desk for her new job was in the same physical space as the person training her, the leg of the L.

          Because this was the idea of the person training her, who has giving up half of her not that large cube for this, it didn’t register (for years) how bad that was to spring on someone unsuspecting.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Except the boss has already given OP an explanation for the setup, and it isn’t “we have limited space” or “we’re trying to be cost-effective”. She wants to keep her new admin “close”, which is very different.

      1. AnonyManager*

        Exactly! Wanting to “keep the new admin close” reeks of micro-managing control issues or over-the-top new BFF boundary issues. Blech!

  11. straws*

    I agree. I work for a small company with a small office space. We often get creative when we have new hires, but we also try to be flexible and accommodating to requests if our 1st option isn’t ideal for them. Definitely ask! Use the ask, stop, & listen method. Lay out that you’d feel uncomfortable with working in the current layout for very long, ask how long it would be for and what other options there might be. Observe the reaction and listen to what she has to say. It’s possible that she might decide you won’t be happy in the position with the current plan (and she’d be right!), but at a minimum you’d get her thinking about how ideal her plan is.

  12. Xarcady*

    #1. When I was hiring people, they did stay in my office for the first two or sometimes three months–for training. It was a lot easier to handle the many, many questions when the trainee was sitting in the same room. But everyone else shared offices, and the trainee had their own desk, computer, file cabinet, etc.

    If nothing else, a round table is not ergonomic to type on–the curved edge gives you no place to rest your wrists/forearms. A friend was working from home for several weeks and had to stop working at her round dining table because of this.

    So I while I can see the point in having a trainee in the same office, I would definitely ask if there were plans for a desk somewhere else after training is over.

    My thought is that if the VP regularly uses that round table for interviews, meetings or project work, then having an admin there all the time isn’t going to work for her in the long run. With the admin right there in her office, she won’t be able to have confidential meetings, or disciplinary meetings. I suspect that after the training is over, she’ll want that new admin out of her office. But I’d still ask, just to make sure.

    1. Sadsack*

      I’d just like to point out that it is not ergonomic to rest your arms or wrists while typing. The table is probably not ergonomic though because the keyboard would likely be too high for a natural resting arm while typing, and one would have to reach too often for things, such as placement of source documents, office supplies, etc. Also, the lighting over this table should be considered. If it is not well lit, that may be a problem.

      1. Sadsack*

        I should clarify that wrist rests are needed by some people for occasional use, but the ideal setting is to not rest arms or wrists when typing as it can cause numbness in the wrists and arms, and shoulder pain.

  13. Liz*

    Tell her people appreciate friendliness but her colleagues need quick answers, not a full conversation each time. You can give examples. “When John called to ask about the new teapot lids, he just wanted to know whether they’d been entered in the system or were still going through approval. That call should have been under three minutes, not over twenty.”

    Do you have the ability to record calls? A very simple way to demonstrate this to the chatty coworker is to actually *show* her the difference. Sit her down with the recordings, and run a timer. Do the same with another coworker’s call. If she doesn’t notice the difference in duration, point it out.

    Listening to yourself is a very strange experience, but also exceptionally helpful when training people for phone-related work. (It also shows you how long a “short” pause really is to someone who can’t see your screen.)

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I had a receptionist intern who was VERY long winded on the phone. Cringe-worthy. Awkward. It helped her for me to quantify the number of sentences (generally, one, in response to each thing the person says) that were appropriate and then role-playing. We also wrote out her responses to common questions and then edited out all the unnecessary chatter. She did sound a bit stilted for a while, but it was better than the other option, which included endless rambling about where someone might be, everything she had heard about their whereabouts and from whom, speculation about when they might be back, their full title, and a synopsis of their job description…all in response to a caller saying, “may I please speak to Sarah Smith?”.

      We also talked about the callers’ point of view, which is that they want to speak to that person (or leave them a message) quickly and without being delayed by reception.

      1. JoJo*

        I once had a boss rip me a new one because I didn’t chit chat with the callers. The regular receptionist would bend their ear with small talk for minutes before transferring a call; I would say, “one moment please”, put them on hold, get their party on the line, announce the caller, and transfer the call. Apparently, that was extremely rude and unprofessional.

        When I pointed out that busy people calling for John Doe want to speak to John Doe, not gossip with the receptionist, I got an earful about how the receptionist was just as good as anyone else. I didn’t last long at that job.

    2. Sheepla*

      #4 is such a tough one. My mother is the chattiest person alive…I mean just steam of consciousness chat. But the problem is, she totally, totally does not know it about herself. She denies it when I tell her. So the recording idea is a good one.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        You must be my sister! My mom would never be able to hold a job because she barely stops to take a breath and doesn’t listen, just waits to talk

    3. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this. I’m an editor, so I’d be so tempted to record her calls and type them up. Then go through with her, and a pen, and cross out all the parts that I want her to stop including.

      Or some other method where she can see exactly where to cut whole sections out. Video her, or audio record. And sit with a stop watch and measure how long the necessary stuff is, and how long the blather is. It might be really dramatic. (Be sure to include some “how are you” as OK–the point is not to stop being pleasant.)

      Giving her a time frame to end the calls–and a clock or timer–is a good idea as well.

      And point out–it’s not just her time that’s being wasted–John’s is too. He has things he wants to go do, and he doesn’t want to be rude. She’s not being considerate of him. Social chat should happen some other time.

      1. Bonnie*

        Thanks! I’m so glad I asked this question, the feedback is very insightful. The clock/timer is a great idea and will help address other areas of being timely as well. She constantly leaves late to go to lunch, and clocking out at the end of the day. OMG All of which she has received verbal warnings for.

    4. Bonnie*

      Thanks! This is very helpful. We do listen to QA calls so I think it will help to show her difference. She admits that this has been a problem for her with previous employers so each time when I have made aware of it she responds that she is just trying to make sure the caller has all the info they need. I have provided her with points to touch on. She does well for a couple of days then shes back at it. Kinda frustrating

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ll be honest–I don’t think that most people for whom this is a serious problem (i.e., they are so bad that other people have explicitly said, “I don’t want to call because I might get her on the phone”) are capable of changing.

  14. Lee*

    OP #3….just had a question. In the background check the potential hiring company ran on you, they included written feedback from past companies you indicated you had worked for on your resume?
    It just seems strange to me. I’ve called/emailed plenty of applicant references/past employers over the years, and I’ve never included any written or verbal responses in any background check provided to the applicant.
    Also, if your past company was lying in their written reference of you, isn’t that libel?

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Well there was a gray area because while they said they were laying her off they also did mention something about attendance.

  15. ShellBell*

    I work in an open floor plan office (and like it!). I share desk with someone. Some people in my company hot desk or use empty desks of peoplenon vacation. It works. I do have a small file cabinet, but that’s it. Now that I work this way, sitting a table in someone’s office doesn’t seem odd to me as longs as there is a proper set up (lap top + monitor and keyboard).

  16. Allison*

    #2, I refuse to e-mail potential candidates at their work e-mails. When a recruiter asks me to find an e-mail for a candidate, because they’d rather contact someone via e-mail than LinkedIn, and all I can find is their work e-mail, I either lie and say I couldn’t find an e-mail or I tell them “all I can find is a work e-mail, and I really don’t think we should use that.” Some recruiters will have an aggressive, whatever-it-takes approach and will contact you any way they can, because to them the end justifies the means. I’ve never liked that.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Wow that’s amazingly rude and I didn’t realize the world of recruitment had gotten to that point. It’s as if they’re all former collection agency workers!

  17. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I’m thinking that the VP is either clueless, or is a micromanager. There is no way in hell I’d take a job with a workstation setup like that, even with a huge reduction in commute time. And especially not for a salary that works out to a wash. I sometimes find it hard to concentrate in my own office. I can’t imaging trying to concentrate when the boss is on the phone. And what happens when she has a meeting? Do you have to go elsewhere for an hour or two and be unable to work because your work requires your computer?

    OP, you need to ask about this setup. How long will you be sitting in her office? How will she deal with meetings? Will they be held in her office and you have to leave, or do they have a conference room she can use? And if you’re eventually moved, what will that workspace look like? If you’re offered the job, don’t take it without asking. If you turn the job down because of the workspace issue, I’d be inclined to mention that’s a reason for turning it down. Maybe it’s not appropriate, but that’s what I would do.

  18. L*

    To #1: If there isn’t a separate space and the boss thinks the set-up is fine, RUN. Anyone who puts their employees on a leash like that is going to cause you problems.

    I’d also encourage you to think of your commute differently, depending on the employer. For some, it will be incentive to always drag you in on the weekends, have you stay late, etc.

    1. JGray*

      I agree that this situation will probably not work out well for the LW. I also always sort of find it a red flag when someone advertises for an administrative assistant but then refers to them as “my assistant”. To me an admin asst is different then an (executive) assistant to a VP. The admin asst is usu sally doing work for the whole office where as an assistant to a VP works only for the VP. It could be that since this is a family business there isn’t much structure so who knows what the job will entail. This could be just the structure in my area but there is a difference just not in title but pay and job duties between these two job.s

      I also agree with you on the commute and employers will take advantage of that. I like family businesses but they can be dysfunctional so its possible that the LW might end up being asked to do all the stuff no one in the family wants to do in regards to the buisness.

  19. Yep*

    #3 – My sympathies are with you. I too was in a a weird situation where I was essentially both laid off and fired. Although for me, if I were to break it down, it felt like 75% fired, 25% laid off, and for you it looks the opposite.

    I was told I was being “terminated” (could we use more ambiguous wording?) and that my position was being eliminated. They also mentioned how I had “shared company information with another company” and “had personal information on my computer” both of which are long stories I won’t get into. But basically, certain influential people wanted me gone, the powers that be found reasons to get rid of me, and conveniently they happened to be eliminating my position at the same time.

    When filing for unemployment, I explained I had been both fired and laid off to the unemployment people on the phone. I was told I had to pick one. I explained my situation as briefly as I could and they said, “If your position was eliminated it’s considered a lay off.”

    Now maybe that varies by state (I’m in New York), but that’s what I go with. I’m lucky because my former manager who left two months prior to this serves as my reference for that job (he knows the whole story). Unfortunately you don’t have that, but let’s see.

    1) Your position was eliminated. Therefore, you were laid off. They *told you* you were laid off.

    2) As sucky as it will be, you probably will have to contact them and actually confront them on what they’re saying. If they say they won’t sabotage you anymore going further, have a friend or someone call pretending to be a reference and make sure this is true.

    3) If they continue to give you a bad reference, you’ll have to be up front about this with potential employers. It would be really great if you had some sort of proof that you no longer have an attendance issue via a reference.

    So when you’re asked about why you left that job in an interview you could say something like, “I was laid off – they eliminated my position. And to be honest with you, I know I had some problems with attendance, but that isn’t an issue anymore. I make it a point a point now to leave five minutes earlier than I think I need to, for everything. For instance, I’ve been volunteering with X organization, and I frequently arrive early for their events to help set up.” (And then have a reference from that place who can attest to that.)

    1. Beezus*

      I’m not even sure the attendance issues were significant enough to be of concern for most employers. I’d want to know the story. The OP used one more sick day than s/he had accrued in six months. If the company allowed, say, five sick days a year and accrued them over the year, the OP could have been out three days and would have technically been a day over. If it was something like that, and the time was a genuine illness/injury that could happen to anybody (a bad case of the flu or a broken arm), I think the explanation gets a lot easier and the burden of proof for proving a clear attendance record otherwise is a lot different.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Yeah, using one too many sick days is just not worth badmouthing someone for. If they hadn’t laid her off until 3 months later, she would be at zero again.

        And if she wasn’t abusing sick days, then it’s really hard to say someone has to come to the office when they’re sick–what do they do then? Quit? Or do you just dock their pay for the day they’re not working? Or, maybe subtract one from their future sick days?

      1. Erin*

        I’m certain I read somewhere – possibly here on AAM – that terminated can mean either laid off or fired. If someone else knows for 100% I’d love to hear the answer.

        Admittedly, “terminated” certainly sounds more ominous and therefore, more aligned with a firing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Terminated can refer to both. “Terminated for cause” is fired. “Terminated due to a reduction in force” (or whatever) is laid off. Hell, there’s even “voluntarily terminated,” which some places use to mean “resigned.”

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m wondering how the company filed it with the unemployment office and if they’d share that with the Op. I think I’ve told the story here before where my Oldjob denied my unemployment because they said I checked the wrong box (I put involuntary and then it had me choose from a drop down, and I chose position eliminated) and they didn’t like that and told unemployment they fired me) long story but we had a hearing in which I prevailed and Oldjob got a strongly worded lecture. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably be getting bad references from them but I think that whole thing silenced them. It was very similar in that they verbally said were eliminating your position but they also brought up an issue about a shipping error which was totally trumped up by evil boss. Evil boss used to love going around saying how she couldn’t wait to get rid of one of us so she and her pet could get raises!

  20. Azalea*

    #1 – I share an office with my boss. My advice: Don’t do it. Between the lack of privacy, the uncomfortable moments where he’s disciplining other employees, the speakerphone conferences that he must attend, and the constant feeling that I’m being watched – plus, in my situation, the severe ADD side effects on his end – it is driving me insane.

    Also, I had the five minute commute for a time. At first it was nice. Then there came that feeling that I could never really “get away” from work. It was always just down the street.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Thank you! You found the part that was making me feel creepy about this! It’s like the VP wants to feel like she is on a reality show with an audience watching her all day. It will make the VP feel important, but it’s not a way to train an employee.

    2. BRR*

      I didn’t even think of that. I had focused on being monitored but sharing an office with someone senior would be very inconvenient. I wouldn’t think it feasible to leave every time they needed privacy.

    3. Erin*

      Good point with the short commute.

      After moving I now have a 30 to 45 minute commute depending on traffic, instead of 10. I do miss it being 10.

      But, admittedly I have way more time to wind down in the car after work to transition to being at home. My husband is 10 minutes or less away from his work, and he needs at least 15 to wind down when he gets home (during which time I can’t talk to him about anything I expect him to retain, lol).

  21. AtrociousPink*

    #1: Don’t do it. That kind of setup signals trouble that goes way beyond working at a small table in the boss’s office. It signals an employer with no idea of how to even hire, let alone work with and manage, a seasoned admin. Keep looking, and let that position go to someone at the entry level who can benefit from the experience before she herself moves on to something better.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I worked with a massage therapist that would talk and talk during sessions, and she would talk about sensitive things like religion and politics. It was addressed with her, and she was eventually fired because she couldn’t change. She begged for her job back, then was fired again because she still couldn’t stop talking!
    It’s something to think about. Some people are just built to chat.

    1. F.*

      My husband used to go to a massage therapist who talked through his sessions. She treated him like a father figure/mental health therapist. Creepy!

    2. Allison*

      I could see clients venting during a massage, but a massage therapist who talks through the session, especially about sensitive topics, is not someone I wanna keep going to.

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      Sounds like the lady who did my pulmonary function tests a few years ago. Long story, I had just had a stent put in one of my arteries, I was in acute kidney failure because the dye they used to place the stent didn’t agree with my kidneys, AND I hadn’t been able to take a deep breath for about three months*. She had the nerve to tell me I should thank God for my blessings. Now, I’m a Christian, and I DO thank God for my blessings. But that’s not the right thing to tell a 31-year-old who has been diagnosed with chronic illness on top of chronic illness and is worrying about how to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills. If I hadn’t been so sick, I probably would have complained to the hospital.

      * After three years of being unable to take a deep breath, the problem resolved after I had my gallbladder removed. They found I had some adhesions stuck to my diaphragm, so every time I tried to take a deep breath, the scar tissue would prevent my diaphragm from working properly. My surgeon cut down the adhesions, and now I can breathe normally!

  23. Rebecca M*

    I think the way my workplace does comp time for exempt employees is fair. If it is mandatory or they request volunteers to work on the weekend (support production, big project in need of extra hours, user acceptance testing they want completed before Monday rolls around), additional comp time is given for the hours worked on the weekend. If we choose to work extra hours on the weekend no comp time is given because it wasn’t a management request. Last year I ended up with 32 paid days off (in the US!) between vacation time, extra comp days and Holidays.

  24. Kara*

    #1 – I echo all those saying to run.

    I’ve been part owner in a family business, I’ve owned my own business, and I’ve worked for other family owned businesses. Never, ever again. The red flags in your situation are myriad.

    The sister being the VP makes me question – is she the VP because she’s the sister of the owner or is she the VP because she’s qualified? If it’s the first, she’s likely to be a very bad boss in all kinds of ways.

    The fact that you’re 7 mins from the office can (and likely will) be used to extend your work hours and work load because that’s how family run businesses tend to be. “Oh but you don’t have to commute like Jane does, so staying an extra 30 mins wouldn’t really make a difference” or “You live just down the street, so I know you can pop in on Saturday for an hour and it’ll be no big deal”. Etc.

    And finally that she wants you to work from a small table in her office so you can be “close” reads very clearly “so I can micromanage you”. In my experience, most family owners don’t have any kind of sense of professional boundaries at all. I am willing to bet that even if she says you’ll have your own space at some point, there will always be a reason to keep putting it off and putting it off, until it’s been 6 months and you’re still trying to work from a table in the corner.

    Big ol’ heaping piles of nope to all of the above.

  25. Mimi*

    To #1: make sure it’s only temporary, sitting at a small table in your boss’s office. I was so desperate to get away from a certifiably insane boss (I’m not exaggerating) that I took a pay cut and went to work in an office that I shared with my boss. She was a nice lady, a few years from retirement, but she had absolutely nothing to do all day except read trade magazines, which she could do for hours without moving (except to turn the page.) It was a terrible situation, and I wished I had given it more thought before I took the job.

  26. Allison*

    For #5, I think it’s fair to want to work during the weekend so you can take time off during the week and not need to use PTO to cover the whole thing, but that’s something you need to run past your boss.

    1. INFJ*

      Yes, that is something that should be given the OK for ahead of time. “Thanks for approving my vacation time for Thursday and Friday. Is it OK if I work a day over the weekend so that I only have to use PTO for one of those days?”

      1. Carrie*

        Working over the weekend was not a choice I made in order to not have to take PTO, it was a requirement of my job and happens on a semi-consistent basis. I did take 4 hours of PTO to equal out to the 40 hours for the week.
        When my boss confronted me on not taking full days of PTO I asked how many hours above 40 I should take and he could not answer the question, he stammered and stuttered and implied that my weekend time “didn’t count” as working.

  27. Mimmy*

    #3 – You have my sympathies! My situation was really strange:

    1) Told my position (part-time, 21 hrs./wk) was being eliminated and replaced with a full-time position
    2) Was invited to apply for FT position, but if I chose not to, I’d be laid off

    I chose to be laid off and I got unemployment easily (filed online). My employer even forwarded me a position at a university I might be interested in! I figured, okay…they know this isn’t a fit for me, but maybe I’d do well elsewhere. They even threw me a goodbye party.

    Here’s what concerns me: I’ve remained friends with a coworker (she’s since gotten a job elsewhere) and, according to her, the girl that replaced me was given a different reason for my leaving when she was interviewing for the position. I had a lot of issues at this job with my confidence. So goodness knows what potential employers were hearing about me from this agency.

    OP – In a way you’re fortunate in that you have concrete proof of what reference checkers are hearing. I would suggest contacting them directly. It could very well be that there was a miscommunication – do you know if your manager is still at the company? Try to rectify this directly with them first. Assume that it is in error. If you get a runaround or pushback, then that is where a lawyer may be able to help. I really think that should be a last resort though.

  28. Megn*

    #5 – did you check with your manager to deviate from the regular schedule? Is flex time (where your work hours are flexible as long as you do 40 hours in the full week) or comp time (where your overtime hours get put into a bank and you can use that time in lieu of vacation time) a perk at your job? If your employer/manager does not specifically say “yes, you can use flex time or comp time” or it’s not a perk offered at your place of employment (because it’s not required for employers to offer that) – there ARE laws that say you can’t offer comp time in lieu of overtime for non-exempt employees because you MUST pay non-exempt employees for hours worked – then yeah, it’s absolutely legal and it’s absolutely fair and not bad management if flex time or comp time policies are not in place at your workplace.

    1. OP#5*

      I had a software deployment that was scheduled for that weekend after I had already scheduled my vacation, so I already had the time off and the weekend work was not a “choice” it was scheduled by the team working the deployment. My manager was aware of the deployment schedule as well as my vacation time.
      Upon returning from vacation and filling out my hours, I took 4 hours of PTO that would make my time for the week 40 hours.
      There is comp time and flex time at my job, but there is no written policy and it is handled differently by each manager.
      When I asked my manager how many hours I should take off above and beyond the 40 that had been clocked he panicked and could not answer the question.
      Technically exempt means that we get paid to do our job, not for a definite 40 hours in a week and even my managers boss has said that “If you are done with your job and you have only put in 36 hours for the week, that is fine”.

  29. MM*

    #2 – This might not work for everyone, but I’d forward the recruiter’s email to my personal email and then reply back using my personal email, saying a polite “thanks but no thanks”. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to burn a bridge – you really never know if you’ll need them in the future (no matter how slim the chance might seem). This way it also demonstrates that you prefer to communicate via a personal email rather than work.

    1. NonPro Pro*

      This is more or less what I do, though I don’t necessarily forward it to my personal email first — I’d just straight-up write to them from my personal email, explaining who I am. And even then, I only respond if I’m actually interested in talking to the recruiter about the role.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recruiters emailing people at their work email, even if you were concerned that someone at your employer might see it. Receiving someone’s spam isn’t an indication of interest in that spam.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and actually, that’s one thing you could do, if you were worried about your email being monitored: Write down any contact info you were interested in, and then move the email to the Junk folder.

        Do any follow-up contacting via your personal email. From home.

  30. Bee Eye LL*

    #5 – A little more info is needed:

    1. When does your work week begin? Saturday, Sunday, or Monday?
    2. Did this fall in between a pay period?

    I am also salaried but we have two week pay periods in which I’m expected to put in 80 hours. However, some salaried people do not get comp time (we have two personnel manuals based on hire date) so if you go over 80 hours inside that pay period, then too bad.

    This happened to a co-worker on a business trip where we had to leave on a Sunday for a conference that started first thing Monday. Our work weeks goes from 12am Monday until 11:59pm Sunday. The day we left for the trip was the last day of a pay period. My boss let him have an extra day off, anyway, but he didn’t have to.

    1. OP#5*

      The work week begins on Saturday morning at 12:00am, ends Friday nights at 11:59pm.
      This all fell in the same week, same pay period.

      We too have a 2 week pay period, and I could almost understand if this had been straddling pay periods, but I think what gets me is
      A) there is no set policy about comp time in our organization
      B) the insinuation that giving up my weekend time is less important than my M-F standard schedule
      C) other managers in our same organization would have either given me the time off or taken the 36 hours + the 4 hours of PTO and not said a word about it :)

      Thanks for asking.

  31. OP #1*

    Thank you, everybody! I truly appreciate all the feedback. Workspace aside, I’m thinking more and more that this might not be as ideal a job as I thought at first. I am going to go on the second interview, I think, and ask more questions…but this might not be the best teapot company out there.

    Y’all just don’t know how much I hate that commute. Loathe entirely.

    1. NickelandDime*

      Good luck with your search! Ask LOTS of questions during the second interview. And listen carefully…

    2. LeighTX*

      I do understand what its’s like to have a long commute; I have a long one myself with lots of traffic most days. But I can also tell you that having a job you hate–like the one I left just a few months ago, that made me cry almost daily–is much worse than a long commute. Find some podcasts you enjoy that make your drive time go faster, and be selective about your new job. Good luck to you!!

    3. Mimi*

      I have a long commute as well but I LOVE it! I listen to books on CD while I drive, and it’s “my time” to unwind after a workday.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I also think you can just drag this right out into the open:

      “I have some concerns about the workspace. Sitting at a table instead of a desk–and a round one at that, which eliminates a lot of working surface–with no drawers is a problem for me. And sitting in your office might be doable for the short term, but what kind of training are we talking about, exactly, and how long will it last?
      “Because I think it will be hard to do my job effectively in this setup.”

  32. Mena*

    #2: this isn’t ‘completely inappropriate’ and happens frequently. Either market it as junk or reply from your personal email if you are interested in talking.

  33. OP#3*

    Thanks everyone for the feedback! I have some more details if it would clarify my situation:

    1. This is a very small non-profit with a lot of turnover- no one I worked with at the time is still there. HR is outsourced, and the HR company has even changed a couple of times since I was there. I don’t know if HR answers these questions or if an internal employee does. Either way, it’s far from anyone who knows me personally or remembers the situation. I think calling them and trying to straighten it out is a good suggestion.

    2. Since I really had used more sick time than I had accrued (though I never received a warning), I think the suggestion that a few of you gave to just explain the situation frankly would work- and if there’s an issue with me taking 3 sick days during flu season for a job I was at 6 years ago, I probably don’t want to work at that company anyway.

    3. For what it’s worth, I got the job that ran the background check that brought this to light! Hopefully I’ll stay here long enough that it will be even less of a concern next time I go through the interview process.

    1. NickelandDime*

      Congrats! I think you should still make the effort to get your former company straight. What they’re doing isn’t right.

    2. Some2*

      Any reason you’re listing a job you held for six months six years ago on your resume? Or is it one of those “list all jobs ever held from the beginning of your life” type applications?

      1. OP#3*

        I was hoping AAM would tell me I could drop it from my resume, but she didn’t.

        I am less concerned about my resume (where I can probably drop it after I’ve been at my current job a few years and have 3 strong long term positions) and more concerned with background check (where yes, I need to list ALL jobs I’ve had since the beginning of time).

    3. Ima Little Teapot*


      Yes, I’d try to get it fixed – but don’t forget to celebrate in the meantime.

  34. Anon for this*

    Is this thing on?

    I just misdirected a message to an outside party…about said outside party. Meant for my coworker it said this person was ruining my day off. I’m completely mortified.

    I did apologize, no response.

  35. Cath in Canada*

    #1 kinda reminds me of the shared house I lived in as an undergrad. There were 7 of us who wanted to share a place, and we finally found a place with enough rooms and that we all really loved. The problem was that one of the bedrooms wasn’t big enough for a bed and a desk. One of the other 6 women was going to be studying in France the following year, so I said I would take the small bedroom if I was guaranteed to get her room when she left (it was the best one in the house), I could pay a slightly smaller share of the rent, and I could have a desk in another person’s bedroom. Let’s just say that it did not go well despite the best of intentions and clear guidelines about how it was supposed to work. We managed to salvage the friendship the following year, but just barely. I know it’s different when you’re in someone’s work space as opposed to their living space, but, just, nope.

  36. Cassie*

    I have a coworker who is very very chatty – part of her job involves going over paperwork with other employees and she rambles as she points out each section. For example, instead of just saying “put today’s date here”, she’ll say “put today’s date here, not your birthdate, not your mom’s birthdate, not your employee number, people put all kinds of crazy numbers in that box, but we need you to just write today’s date”. I’d be confused just listening to her list all the things NOT to write!

    Or maybe it’s not chatty, really, and more over-explaining? Like if someone asks her for a status update, she’ll launch in to all the reasons why she wasn’t able to get to it yet (e.g. being out the day before, having a pile of stuff to work through, getting interrupted by other people, deadlines, etc).

    1. JoJo*

      It sounds as if she’s had to deal with people constantly entering the wrong information, so I’d cut her some slack.

  37. Ima Little Teapot*

    My concern re: #2 – at many organizations, employees have no expectation of privacy when it comes to company emails. What if the OP writer’s boss sees it?

  38. TeapotCounter*

    #1 -I would warn the OP to stay very far away. Already there are red flags – not a good physical setup, wanting to keep the employee close and not getting a tour of the office.

    Family companies are very difficult to work in. Most times, family members are hired without requiring the basics, like competence. Between my spouse and I, we have worked for four family companies (husband and wife) and at only one would the spouse have been hired based on capability. And yet at all the other small family companies, the spouse threw their weight around, tried to justify their position by micro-managing, tried to stymie the interaction between the employees and the owner, and treated non-family employees as personal servants. And understandably, they all have extremely high turnover. They get overpaid for the job they do and end up causing more work for the employees.

    As to the commute time, I took a job with less pay and a family company, where one of the reasons for taking was a lesser commute (plus I already committed by the time I heard back from the other company). I also thought it would be great to work in a small company – that there would be autonomy, quick decision making and flexibility. All that I discussed in the interview.

    I ignored the flags – not being introduced to the other employees, the lack of consideration for my time and money (I was doing hourly contract work, so for the three interviews I had to miss work and the subsequent pay), requiring me to quit the contract job before the end of the contract period, but the recruiter vouchsafed them – stable company with little turnover. Get in on the ground floor of a company going somewhere.

    The reality is most of the employees were hired within the last year and they are extremely unhappy. It is a very awkward work environment and the owners have fired many employees in the few years they have been in business because of a bad fit.The owners alternate between trying to make you their best friend and confidante and treating you as a personal servant.

    And the autonomy, quick decision making and flexibility I was looking forward – has never materialized. All of the promises and discussion in the interviews have come to naught. The job and position as discussed is nothing akin to the reality. There was at the least a great miscommunication and I am not the only one that has expressed that opinion.

    I will stay far, far away from a family small business from now on. My advice is unless you are the family member, run and don’t look back.

  39. OP #1*

    Okay, gang…y’all know you’re all awesome, right? TOTALLY.

    I have written AAM with an update, but just wanted to let you know quickly that I had that second interview. Lots of questions, lots of discussion about a myriad of topics, and I was very impressed with the answers.

    The main issue re: the table in her office? Temporary, and there’s an actual workstation NOT in her office ready for me.

    I am looking forward to that short commute!

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