what to say to an employee who’s requesting too much time off, training the person who’s taking your job, and more

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

1. How can I coach an employee to have more professional polish?

I have recently inherited a team of three whose previous manager provided little to no feedback, goal-setting, or performance reviews. I am working on establishing these metrics with them and getting to know how they work. It is a great team and they all work very hard, but I am having an issue with one of the team members that I am having difficultly figuring out to address.

She is a young woman who has been out of school and working professionally for about 2.5 years. She has been with us for about 6 months, and before joining actually worked with a company I was previously at. I know the culture of that company was very lax (like everyone swearing at each other all day, going out to drinks on a weekly basis, showing up in sweatpants, etc.), but that is not the case here. This is a very professional company that prides itself on its public perception. She is very good at her work, but does not seem to have the awareness that she needs to be more professional. She does somewhat crass things like burp or talk loudly in the hallways about inappropriate topics. She has no real filter for what comes out of her mouth and doesn’t understand that certain topics shouldn’t be brought up in meetings with coworkers, especially high-level bosses. I have tried so far to drop hints about some of these things, but she is not getting it. I wish I could send her to charm school.

She is very defensive when anything even somewhat negative is brought to her attention and takes things very personally. I want to be more upfront, but feel like this will be a direct attack to her. How, if at all, can I coach her to be more professional when what it seems like she needs is an injection of class/polish?

This isn’t about class or charm school; it’s about professionalism. Sit down and tell her that she does good work but that she needs to present herself with more professional polish, and then give her specific examples of what you’d like her to do differently (explain what topics aren’t appropriate, that freely burping around others isn’t professional, etc.). Stop trying to hint and tell her directly, because clearly the hints aren’t working and she needs you to be very clear and explicit about what you want her to change.

And make sure that you frame this all as being about professionalism, and the type of thing that will impact what projects she’s given, how others in the company see her, how easily she’s able to advance, and her overall reputation. Don’t frame it as class, because she may legitimately not care about class (and class really isn’t the point); she needs to understand that it’s about professional expectations with real ramifications.

You probably need to address the defensiveness too, because you have to be able to give her feedback without that happening; more on that here.

2. What to say to an employee who’s requesting too much time off

I have a question about an employee who is requesting a lot of time off. This employee is considered auxiliary (works less than 20 hours per week), and her shifts are working evenings and weekends in healthcare. She typically works a regular schedule of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and a mix of evening shifts in there. She recently graduated and applied for a full-time job in the department, but due to an excessive number of call-outs in her past, we did not consider her for the position. Because she is auxiliary, she does not get PTO, but that doesn’t stop her from requesting time off (without pay) fairly often – approximately 2-3 shifts per month. Although her position description states that she should be available to cover in some instances of full-time employees taking time off, she rarely volunteers to cover shifts, and will sometimes only cover a shift for a full-time employee if they guarantee her that they will work for her.

She sent me an email today asking for another auxiliary employee’s personal email, so that she could offer her all of her Sunday shifts in October, and in the same sentence asked to be off on three separate Saturdays in October. She then ended the email by asking for a raise, since she now has her degree (which is not required for her position). My workplace gives annual raises, but it is my opinion that if an employee wants an additional raise, they need to present a case for themselves, outlining their contributions to the company.

How do I address her email tactfully, telling her that it’s inappropriate to request to be off for over half of her shifts in a month, and that her raise request is inappropriate?

“Jane, I’m actually counting on you to be here reliably for your regularly scheduled shifts. It’s okay to to request time off on occasion, but that should be rare, not multiple times each month. It sounds like you’re proposing that you miss more than half your shifts in October. If there’s something unusual going on that you need help accommodating*, please let me know, but otherwise I really do need you to be here reliably on those days and going forward. Is that something that you can do?

I’d need to see sustained reliable attendance from you** before we could consider a raise.”

* You’re saying this because you do want to be flexible with her (to the extent that you can) if she’s dealing with a serious family health crisis or something like that.

** If she’d also need to raise her performance to a higher level before you’d consider a raise, insert that here as well (so that you’re not implying that reliable attendance alone would be enough).

3. We have to train the person who will be taking our jobs

I have a very specialized job at my company that they have now decided to off-shore to our operations in India as part of a company-wide effort to cut costs and improve efficiency. They say we won’t lose our jobs, but how can you cut costs if you don’t get rid of people? They say there will be some sort of job for us but won’t say what it is. They act like we should just be happy with whatever they give us. I find that extremely insulting. To make matters worse, they actually sent someone over from India and made us train him in how to do our work. Which we did. Because we are professionals. For weeks, I came to work everyday with the sole purpose of training the person who is taking my job. Am I wrong to be insulted by this? Is this common? Because it seems really bizarre to me.

Also, the person leading this charge is so uncomfortable being the “bad guy” that she actually asked us to tell her why we think this is a good idea. I refused tell her it’s ok just so she can sleep at night. I don’t agree with any of this, but I have done everything they have asked of me. So before our colleague left to return home, he asked for a group picture. So we took a nice picture with him and her. But now I am afraid that picture is going to be used as propaganda to communicate how happy we are about this and that we are all on board, when in reality, half the people in that picture will probably lose their jobs because of this. Is there a way we can ask for that picture to not be used for that purpose without looking like we aren’t “team players”? Or should we just just accept the fact that our company doesn’t care about us at all?

Don’t get hung up on the photo or whether or not to feel insulted — you have bigger issues here than that. Some sort of big change is coming, and there’s a pretty good chance it will be layoffs. If it’s not layoffs, it’s something else that they’re being cagey about. It’s time to job search, and you’re going to be better off putting your energy into that. Be professional and do what’s asked of you (because you care about your own reputation and the reference you get, and because as long as they’re paying you, it’s reasonable of them to expect that of you), but switch into active job searching mode if you’re not there already. And let the photo thing go; it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.

4. Can my cover letter mention that I know a lot about this field from talking with my husband, who works in it?

My question is about referencing my husband in a cover letter. I’m applying to a job as a shipping / logistics coordinator for a company that essentially makes film bookings in movie theaters on behalf of the general public. I feel fairly well-qualified for the position — I had earlier in my work history a similar role at a financial startup for a brief period (about 9 months) — but I also don’t really consider myself to be an ideal or shoo-in candidate.

In my cover letter, I’d like to distinguish myself from other applicants, as you’ve often suggested, by highlighting my interest in and knowledge about what they do, which are both genuine. However, my knowledge of them specifically and the ins and outs of theatrical film bookings in general mostly come from years’ worth of conversations with my husband, who has been a film programmer in our city for the past 3 or 4 years. I definitely don’t want to seem like I’m name dropping, or claiming any particular expertise that I don’t actually have. But the industry is very small, and the knowledge I’ve gained by helping my husband talk through problems or challenges at work, or picking his brain about his day-to-day business, or what have you has genuinely given me a lot of insight (and allowed me to form educated opinions!) that someone who has maybe a stronger work history but no connection to this industry would not necessarily have. Just for context, my husband works for a major player in this industry in general and basically a titan in the city where I live, so while they might not know him specifically, they will absolutely understand the kind of work he does, the scope of his work, etc.

Is it appropriate and/or relevant to mention what I’ve learned about this industry from my husband? If so, how can I pull it off without sounding like I’m trying to make up for something I’m lacking, or just kinda weird overall?

Nope, you really can’t. While I don’t doubt that conversations with your husband have given you insight into the industry that you wouldn’t otherwise have, that’s not likely to make up for the weirdness of citing your husband as, essentially, a qualification of yours.

The better way to take advantage of your husband’s experience in this industry would be to see if someone in his network is connected to the hiring manager for the job.

5. I was asked to interview but then rejected

I applied for a administrative assistant position. A week ago, I received a email stating I should call and schedule a interview. I was excited. I called left a message and I sent a email. I received a automatic reply saying, “Tim is on vacation. Please contact Jim or John.” I contacted both Jim and John. John responded and scheduled a interview for the following week. He said that I would get a email for confirmation and address. I never got the email. I called again. He said that he would send a email again. I still haven’t received this email. Later in the day, I checked my email and saw that Tim had sent me a rejection.

I don’t understand. I didn’t get the confirmation email from anyone, my interview is in a few days, and I get a rejection?! I’m honestly upset and confused. I plan to call and hopefully get someone to explain. I am genuinely interested in the position.

It’s possible that it was a mistake and you weren’t supposed to receive a rejection. It’s also possible that they did change their mind and decide to reject you and communicated that really poorly (or possibly most likely, that Tim, who’s managing the hiring, returned and decided to reject you without realizing that John had already started to schedule an interview with you). It’s reasonable to call and ask for clarification.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: You have my sympathies. I work for a large subsidiary of a much larger corporation, and they are in the process of outsourcing all accounting jobs across the entire enterprise. The jobs at my company are moving to India also. This is a horrible idea that will be a complete disaster, and my company should surely know better than to do this. They tried something similar a few years ago, and the result was very well-publicized cost overruns spanning multiple years and costing billions of dollars. But here they are doing it again.

    My job is not immediately affected by this decision, but since I support the financial software, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the jobs for the people who support the finance users will in all likelihood be following the jobs for the actual finance users offshore. At this point, I’m holding out for the severance pay, which will be a nice sum.

    Alison is right. As galling and infuriating as it is, your energy is best spent updating your resume and starting to look for a new job. My advice is to time it correctly so you don’t leave any severance money on the table by quitting too soon. Of course, an amazing opportunity might come along that would make it worth walking away from that, but evaluate your options carefully and don’t do anything too hasty. Good luck.

    And as for the group picture, your co-worker might just have wanted a photo to take back with him so his colleagues will be able to put faces with names. And I really don’t think that anyone would try to pass that off as evidence that you’re all thrilled about what’s happening. Offshoring jobs is nothing new — everyone knows that an arrangement like this means that some people are going to end up getting laid off.

    1. MK*

      What confuses me is how the OP thinks the photo will be used. I mean, who will have to be convinced that the OP and his coworkers were ok with the idea? And, to be blunt, if they are laid off, why do their feelings about this matter?

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I could imagine the picture being used in company news letter / magazine or appearing on the company intranet in an article about the work transferring overseas, but I agree that no one will see that and think the OP is happy about their job moving.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Which is why they could scoop it from the Internet and make a statement about it.

            September 14, 2015: Everyone in this photo was employed.
            January 15, 2017: Only one person in this photo still has their job. Can you guess who and where all the other jobs are now located?

            Seriously, that photo is PR nightmare just waiting to happen if they choose to use it as propaganda.

            1. MicheleNYC*

              Based on my experience everyone I have worked with from Asia and I am including India… Love to take pictures with everyone they meet and/or work with when they visit the U.S. office. It would be weird if the person took no pictures before he left.

              1. Jenny Z*

                It’s not him using it that I am worried about. It was emailed to everyone in the photo along with the corporate people who are heading the process. I fully expect one of them will take it and put it up on our internal website as an example of how well things are going.

                1. Kate M*

                  I get that you wouldn’t want to be misrepresented, but honestly, even if that happened, what would it matter? If they do for some reason post the picture online and say how well things are going, is it going to affect your outcome at all? If they’re already planning lay-offs, that picture isn’t going to change anything. And on an internal website? I would assume that everyone employed knows what’s going on and won’t be confused by a picture.

                  But really, there’s no reason for them to do that. Why would they try to convince people things are going well when they’re just going to lay-off people? I can’t really think of a reason they would do this.

                2. Apollo Warbucks*

                  I don’t think it is strange, my current firm and my last firm have very active intranets and publish bi monthly news letters and in house magazines. I can imagine that the picture could be used their to support an article that shows what is happening with the off-shoring and there could be some weak attempt and PR spin by saying the staff involved are being supportive about the transfer.

              2. the gold digger*

                I have been to Dubai twice for work. Each time, it was photopalooza. I hate to have my photo taken and I really do not want it taken the morning after I have taken a 13-hour flight squeezed in coach between two really big men, one of whom spent the 15 minutes before takeoff repeatedly slamming his phone shut after screaming, “F you, Rene’!” to the woman I imagine was in the process of becoming his ex-wife.

              3. RMRIC0*

                Yeah, if I just spent a couple of weeks working with people in a foreign country I might want some selfies too.

    2. Artemesia*

      I really feel for the people losing jobs this way. Many US companies have apparently abandoned customer service completely by doing this. We spent an hour on the phone with 5 different CS reps for our phone company in India and not one could understand or answer our question. They can sell A B or C but they can’t go outside the lines and help customers with actual issues. so we get worse service and local jobs are lost damaging the community.

      Look at the disaster that occurred when Boeing fired competent plane builders who had been building high quality planes for decades and off sourced things piecemeal and tried to make a high tech plane. Most of the savings were eaten up in cost overruns when things didn’t work properly and even more so in lost business when they stopped being the reliably high quality company that had built the reputation.

      1. Traveler*

        I worked as a CS rep years ago, and though I was here in the US they regularly threatened us with sending our jobs to India if our performance numbers weren’t perfect every month. Because “they could pay them half what they pay us”. This was for a company that was and is very well off because of its near monopoly. Its honestly just about the bottom line for so many companies, and whats best for their profits. If they can eek out a few more dollars here or there, and show stock holders that – that’s all that matters.

        1. Koko*

          Ugh, yes. I’m not exactly anti-capitalism, but it really disturbs me that our economy demands not merely stability but constant growth. It’s not enough to be doing well. You have to be doing better every quarter than the quarter before. I don’t pretend to be an expert in economics but I just don’t understand how that can be possible indefinitely. There must be some sort of eventual limit to this?

          1. Nashira*

            There has to be, but think about how many people believe in various forms of magic economics. It isn’t so much about reality as it is almost a kind of religious faith, imho.

          2. RMRIC0*

            I’d imagine the limit rests somewhere around wholesale economic collapse or revolution – people driven solely by acquisitiveness aren’t good at self-regulation.

            1. Honeybee*

              I mean, that’s essentially what happened to the housing market. Housing prices kept rising, and investors kept speculating on them, until they collapsed.

      2. anonanonanon*

        My last company outsourced some of our positions overseas. While this is fine for some of our work, they made the ridiculous decision to outsource copyediting of English language books to a foreign vendor. I’m all for teaching ESL and a lot of people whose native language isn’t English actually speak it better than native speakers. The vendor we used wasn’t one of those. One of my books came back with errors all over the place. They changed all of the idiomatic expressions, slang, and contractions. Basically, anything that didn’t look like a sentence out of an English grammar book was changed. It was a nightmare, but my former company insisted that they were much cheaper than in-house employees. They were still outsourcing to the same company when I left.

      3. class factotum*

        I had to keep calling Sears because they were SEVEN HOURS LATE delivering my washing machine. (And we had not moved into the new house yet, so I was hanging out in an empty house with nothing to eat.)

        The CS rep wouldn’t tell me where she was – “Security,” she said, and I thought yes, I can see someone wanting to bomb a CS service center after the run-around you are giving me. However, I knew from her accent and from the way that she asked where I was that she was not in the US. She asked, “Are you being in Milwaukee City?”

        1. Traveler*

          To be fair, the CS rep could give perfectly good service and still be in danger because the company did something wrong, and the CS people are front line and easiest to blame. The run-around might not even be her fault, but something the company mandated, or poor policy or training on their part. I had plenty of calls where someone wanted an answer I couldn’t give them, not because I was stupid or a jerk, but because the company just never bothered to teach us where that information was or didn’t want to. I couldn’t tell the customer that or throw my company under the bus though, because then I would have certainly lost my job.

          I get your anger, especially when the people are having trouble even communicating in English, don’t get me wrong, but… lots of people are nuts. I don’t blame the CS reps either. They just want a job.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        I can totally relate re: overseas customer service (I’m sure most of us can). I don’t have anything against Indians, I know a lot of Indians here who are nice and hardworking. But, the strict script that they must adhere to is very very frustrating. Like you said, they can’t think outside the box, at all. It’s not their fault, I’m sure that’s how they’re trained, but it’s truly frustrating and sad that this is what it’s come to.

        1. Nashira*

          It is how they’re trained, and please believe me that they get so frustrated when that script doesn’t match what’s going on. I take a lot of calls from foreign call centers and sometimes, at the end, we’re both frustrated because my office does things strangely and that script can’t be easily adapted. They do the best they can with what they’ve got.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Even in the States, companies don’t really train or empower CSRs anymore. They all go off a script and seem very reluctant to escalate if the problem can’t be solved at the first tier. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get dinged when they do escalate.

        If you take care of your customers, the money will follow. I’m convinced the whole reason companies want to have monopolies is so customers can’t bail when the service is poor and they can skimp on everything.

    3. steve g*

      Outsource accounting? I thought that definitely made sense to keep in the usa because it’s governed by us laws and you need to go to school and pass the cpa here to be one (right?)? Plz don’t tell me the cpas continued to be here, but accounting positions not requiring degrees moved there

      1. Liane*

        Medical Transcriptions are outsourced!! If they will outsource those overseas, they will outsource ANYthing!

        As longtime commenters know, I used to be an editor for a medical transcription company. While most of our transcriptionists were direct (USA) employees of our company who worked from home (as I often did), we also subcontracted (I think that is the term) significant amounts of work to another transcription firm. Located in India.
        Hello?!?! If ever there was a job that required above average native fluency in written AND (especially) spoken English, transcribing medical dictations for practitioners in America is that job! Not only did doctors mumble* at times but you listen with the recording sped up greatly because it is the only way to make good money.**

        *Strong accents, oddly, were less of a problem, since doctors who had them were usually careful to speak very clearly to compensate
        **Transcriptionists are paid by the word

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Hrm… well I was doing freelance work for a major pharma company just over 10 years ago when they did just this — outsourced all the accounting to India. It was a nightmare. I don’t know if the CPAs remained in the US or what but if your submission deviated by one comma, it could be rejected.

        All this short-term dollar bottom line stuff, it’s like a pyramid scheme. The first few companies that offshore jobs can get away with it, there are enough companies/jobs to absorb the laid off. But as the profits start being shown, hundreds of others jump on the bandwagon and then, there just simply aren’t the places to absorb all those people. Those people then stop eating out, getting their hair cut as often, buying clothes except when necessary and generally cutting back. Profits start to slide and all the suits who thought this was such a fabulous way to make the shareholders happy are all “How did this happen? Why aren’t people buying our products/services?” Uh… because you took away the power they had to purchase them and sent it to India? Or if they specifically didn’t buy your products/services, they didn’t patronise places that did purchase them because they couldn’t afford it and it’s a giant chain reaction of squeezing? Really? Is cause and effect a new thing or something?

        1. steve g*

          This is a very sad trend, and your comment makes me cringe a bit! I work in energy and hope one day that my analytical job (that can be done anywhere) doesn’t get outsourced ever, as if they make a mistake, it increased utility bills for our customers, or even for the grid as a whole!

      3. Charby*

        It’s not too hard to outsource accounting jobs, either to another company or even to a company in another country. A lot of corporate accounting roles feature a lot of data entry and authorization-type work which can be done remotely. Tax and compliance work are frequently outsourced and offshored as well. Payroll is another area that is frequently outsourced; I’m not sure any large companies still do it inhouse. In addition, if the company has multinational operations they’ll likely want accountants trained in those countries as well.

        You don’t need a CPA for most accounting functions; in fact, the only thing that you actually *need* a CPA for is to sign an audit opinion, which is something that will be done by a public accounting firm and not the company’s own employees anyway.

        There is no particular reason why someone has to live or work or have been educated in the U.S. to take the exam. Many states don’t even have residency requirements for licensure.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I disagree. I’ve got a finance background, and all through my career I’ve had to deal with this assumption that accountants are just a dime-a-dozen, anyone can do the work, and that it’s “just” debits and credits so it’s no big deal. Not the case. Even with something as mundane as accounts payable. A good AP person needs to be someone who doesn’t mind doing the heavy duty data entry, but is also engaged enough to be able to spot something that doesn’t look right, or doesn’t pass the sniff test. Critical thinking skills are not easy to come by and certainly are not a dime-a-dozen.

          1. Charityb*

            I never said or implied that accounting was “dime-a-dozen” or that “anyone can do the work”. What I said was that the work can be outsourced or offshored relatively easily. I’m a CPA; a lot of my work is client-facing but even in my industry the firms offshore some of the lower-level auditing work to delivery centers in places like India where they can get someone who can do the same work as first-year staffs for 1/6th the cost. There are a lot of real concerns about quality control and oversight similar to what you’ve expressed but as we know it usually takes a major disaster — or more than one — before companies fall out of love with their latest cost-savings idea.

            When it comes to corporate accounting, a lot of the functions commonly lumped into accounting usually don’t have to be done by dedicated employees. A lot of firms are making money in accounting outsourcing right now, reasoning that not every company wants to have the controller function in house. It’s ubiquitous right now in tax and payroll and there’s no particular reason to assume that every company will want to keep their entire finance function in-house. Many will, of course, but many others will find a firm that will do it — either in their own country or elsewhere depending on their needs.

            There aren’t too many industries that are safe from outsourcing unfortunately which is why it’s important for workers in the OP’s position to just be cognizant of that risk so that they aren’t caught off guard. It still sucks to be treated that way, and I’m not going to pretend like this is some kind of good thing that she should be happy about, but it’s a risk that has to be acknowledged.

    4. Beezus*

      I guess my experience is atypical, but when my company announces a change and specifies that they’re not laying people off, they’re really not. Now, the jobs we moved to might not be our first choice, and they might reduce headcount by attrition as people leave, but if they say no one is getting the boot, we can take them at their word about that, at least. (That said, I’d still be looking.)

  2. Dan*


    AAM, as one of those analytic types, I think your advice is a bit too vague. With PTO, I suppose there’s some implicit understanding that you have X amount of time to use, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. No discussions about “taking too much time off” because you’re taking what’s been given.

    Unpaid leave is trickier, but I would suggest to the OP that she figure out how much time she’s willing to let the employee take off, and communicate that directly. I.e., you get one Saturday every six months, or one day every month, or something. The employee needs something definitive to plan on/count towards. Part time or not, paid time off or not, not being able to count on getting away from work when you need to (or want to on occasion) is a real drag.

    1. Lea*

      This seems like a really great idea, especially as the employee’s gauge for what is appropriate seems a fair way off in this instance.

    2. Traveler*

      I was thinking this. If you require people to pick up a certain amount of shifts or only give away a certain amount in a given month, then that needs to be clearly stated to the employee. Otherwise, you can’t fairly punish them for it.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yes. Quantify, quantify, quantify. If you’ve told her that she’s asking for too much time off without telling her exactly how much is okay, she doesn’t have a fair chance to succeed here. This is especially important with employees who don’t get PTO, since PTO generally provides a guideline for how much is okay. We typically tell the PRN people who don’t get PTO that they may ask off for a number of days roughly equivalent to the PTO days that others get.

    3. Liane*

      While the second paragraph has great advice, I don’t agree with the first paragraph. My previous employer has a (partly-deserved) reputation for not treating employees, especially part-timers, well, but not having PTO (or using it all) didn’t mean you couldn’t take time off unpaid. That was fine, as long as you requested it 3 weeks out before the schedule would be made.

    4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I used to manage part-time student employees who seemed to justify unpaid PTO as “well, I’m not getting paid, so why does it matter?”

      I ended up reprinting the section of their employee handbook and having them initial next to the attendance section after each bullet. It felt a bot condescending, but it was helpful when they would try to call out and I could say, “remember where it said X.”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I too was going to suggest having the employee sign something outlining the policy and acknowledging they read and understand.

    5. Kate M*

      Yes, plus, if you’ve been allowing her to switch shifts or take time off without saying anything (but silently holding it against her), then she has no reason to think she’s taking too much time off. I don’t doubt that she is (and it seems like a lot to take off), but she has to have feedback first, and then be told how much is acceptable.

    6. INTP*

      I agree with this, especially when you’re dealing with people who work less than 20 hours per week. The expectations for availability and reliability tend to be different for people who aren’t full-time or nearly-full-time workers, which is fair (they probably aren’t supporting themselves or a family on what they are making, so they are going to have other priorities in their lives). Of course, there should still be standards for how reliable they need to be, but I don’t think these workers should be expected to just intuitively know what the limits are when they’re in a unique employment situation. Quantifying would be helpful, with the disclaimer that if you’re in some exceptional circumstance, bring it up to your supervisor and more flexibility may be given.

  3. Dan*


    This is a really good case where “show, not tell” is your friend. Merely saying that you are married to so-and-so, who performs X function for such-and-such company, is going to get you nowhere, because it does not convey any knowledge that you have. For all the employer knows, your husband never talks about work when he comes home.

    I spent several years as a grunt working in various airport jobs, which would never seem relevant on its face to my current career. But I sought out a masters degree in an analytic field, because I realized that the industry is rife with analytic problems, and I knew I didn’t have the appropriate academic background to solve.

    My cover letters now talk about the logistic problem airlines have (like, “is it really necessary to schedule your airplanes to depart within 45 minutes of each other, when it causes backups of 20 airplanes at the runway? Given how airlines pay their flight crews, doesn’t it make more sense to park those planes at the gate until the queue thins out?”)

    It makes for a compelling cover letter (I’ve gotten compliments on it on more than one occasion) and great fodder for interviews. “How would you actually solve this?”

    Like I said, show, not tell. If you can work your background knowledge that other candidates likely wouldn’t have into a cover letter, it will sell you without ever having to mention your husband.

    1. Al Lo*

      I did do this successfully once, for my current job. I work at a performing arts organization that deals in choral music, among other things, and I am married to a choir director, both my parents were choir directors, and my grandparents were choir directors. I’ve sung in choirs my whole life, and I mentioned it in my cover letter in conjunction with the information about my family (including my husband). I framed it as an amusing anecdote about listening to Christmas music in June my whole life, and knowing the pain of trying to track down and out-of-print piece of music. It was a sentence in the cover letter, but it was part of what made my application stand out, I think. I’m qualified for the job by my education and work background, but I think that referencing the family background provided an interesting anecdote about my connection to the field.

      Incidentally, the organization I work for hires contractors who are connected to employees quite often, and in the several years that I have worked there my husband has become one of our go to contractors for his field. I didn’t know that about the organization when I wrote the cover letter, but the culture of the organization and the interconnectedness of many employees and contractors probably meant that that part of my cover letter wasn’t taken as negatively as it might’ve been from some other organization. It was a bit of a lucky fluke on my part, that it certainly played into the overall culture of the organization.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Agreed. I don’t know much about the film industry, but I can totally relate to the “absorb by osmosis” style of learning from your significant other. I sometimes feel I’ve talked to mine so much about his work, that I now know agile, scrum, waterfall and product introduction checklists just as well as he does and could possibly do at least some of his job. But I don’t really, nor do I have the degrees or certifications his job would require. I understand the Op’s frustration, though, just wanting to get her foot in the door kind of thing. Hopefully she can draw a relevant connection of the similar experience she mentions she does have well enough to get a phone screen, at which time she can “show” through conversation by talking the (industry) talk.

  4. Mike C.*

    Also, the person leading this charge is so uncomfortable being the “bad guy” that she actually asked us to tell her why we think this is a good idea. I refused tell her it’s ok just so she can sleep at night.

    This infuriates me the most. If you don’t like the moral implications of your job, own up to it or find something else. To pretend to others that everything is going to be fine that that what you’re doing is the best for everyone involved – it’s insulting to people’s intelligence and it’s cowardly.

    There was a Planet Money/All Things Considered piece a week or two ago about how cutthroat Netflix was about firing people – they didn’t care how hard you worked, loyalty or anything. It was about “what have you done for me recently”. More to the point, the woman who was in charge firing was gleefully telling the stories of how she told people how happy they should be to be fired from such a great company and the no one had an excuse to be upset and so on.

    Turns out she was a huge proponent of that failed company split idea between the streaming and DVD sides of the company. The idea that lasted all of a few days. She had her own private meeting a few months later.

    For some weird reason, she didn’t want to talk about how great her experience being fired from a company as great as Netflix was on the air.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wow. Just wow.

      She sounds like the principal of my high school, who had a permanent smile no matter what. The school somehow lost the records for several students’ senior years, so she told them in all seriousness that they wouldn’t be able to graduate and would have to stay there another year, but that was GOOD news because the school was *such* a ~wonderful place~.

      (Several kids did end up repeating their senior years because of this, but the awesome mother of one of my friends threatened to sue the school, so her daughter graduated.)

      Although, unlike that Netflix executive, the principal was clueless rather than deliberately malicious.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Yeah, I was pretty shocked too. I think the kids who went along with it, or whose parents went along with it, were mostly kids whose previous performance in school had been shaky, so maybe they were worried they couldn’t prove that they had passed. Which of course doesn’t make it the slightest bit OK.

          1. AW*

            The only saving grace here is that:

            1) They were hopefully able to explain/prove to colleges that they only repeated their last year due to their school’s incompetence.

            2) Since they were re-taking classes, they (again, hopefully) were able to get better grades than what they’d originally gotten. Best case scenario is some of them were able to get into a school they wouldn’t have before.

            What I’m most confused by is the fact that the teachers apparently couldn’t help here. Did they not have their own records of the kids’ performance? Are report cards not a thing?

        2. Honeybee*

          Me too. My mother would’ve never let this pass. She would’ve been sitting in the principal’s office every single day, from the time the school opened until it closed. She didn’t play when it came to school.

          But some families may not have had the resources or time to fight it.

    2. StarHopper*

      I was listening to that story, too, and the whole time I was thinking, “just wait until YOU get canned.” Was not expecting that ending. She came across very oddly.

    3. BRR*

      She sounds like an ass but I thought that split was a good decision. The company currently negotiates streaming content based on all users which includes DVD only subscribers. It made a lot of sense but was just incredibly poorly executed.

      1. Mpls*

        They did split the offerings, but I think there was a proposal to split the actual COMPANY (into Netflix and Qwikster) that died.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, that would have been a nightmare. My bill went up because I have both, but it wasn’t all that much, and they still have so much material I want to see on DVD that I kept the DVD service. If they had actually split the company, I would have dropped it like a hot potato.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      “For some weird reason, she didn’t want to talk about how great her experience being fired from a company as great as Netflix was on the air.”


  5. Victoria*

    What about employees that have been with the company for years, and have a ton of sick days and vacation days they are taking every month? This is one of the most frustrating issues I’m having as a manager. The work these individuals are responsible for requires them to be in the office! If they are out, someone has to complete their work for them- and it even lands on my desk sometimes.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      How much, exactly, is a ton?

      Also, if your office can’t cope with several employees being out of the office for two or three days/month each then the problem isn’t the employees being away. It’s that you don’t have enough staff in the first place.

      1. LCL*

        Not necessarily. Not if your talking about several. Maybe the office has enough staffing and some people are just milking it.

    2. neverjaunty*

      What about them? They have a ton of sick days and vacation days; that’s part of their compensation. If your workplace can’t manage properly when an employee is sick, the problem is not the employee.

      1. BRR*

        Exactly that’s part of their compensation (although I do save some sick days for an emergency and usually lose some). That’s like wondering why they’re accepting their whole paycheck.

      2. KT*

        This! Their sick days and vacation days are part of their compensation package; they have a right to them! If your company can’t cope with people using their benefits, it has much larger issues.

        1. LCL*

          No no no no no! Sick days should never be interfered with, but you can certainly control how vacations are taken, in a way that allows everyone their allotted leave time. And you can certainly tell people planning elective procedures when an optimum time for their leave is, as long as you are clear they get their medical leave no matter what.

          So start by focusing on the vacations. Figure out how much leave people have, and how much can be carried over. Then figure out how many people can be out on vacation at any one time. I have seen the figure between 10 and 20 percent. Because of staggered shifts our small unit can allow up to 25% for a short time. This is just vacation, medical leave doesn’t enter into these calculations. Then comes the hard part, figure out your vacation request process. It is best to have a committee of employees working on this, so everyone has some buy in. Be wary of the person coming up with a policy that grants them first choice of everything. Once you have your policy, hand out frequent reminders with calendars. You have to be able to tell people, especially if they are in use it or lose it territory, that no, they can’t get the week between Christmas and New Year’s because three people already have it off, let’s sit down and pick out some time that will work for you. And then be willing to sit down with them and the calendar and figure it out.

          If you can’t get control of vacation, you can end up in the position of trying to decide who’s time off request is more important. This is lose-lose; if it wasn’t important to the requester they wouldn’t have asked. I approve vac requests based on our policy, which means I have approved some for what I consider utter BS.

          Yes, vacation is an employee benefit. Time off availability is based on business needs, and everybody can’t have vacation whenever they want.

      3. the gold digger*

        I worked for a paper company. There were some mill and plant employees who had been with the company for 40 years and had six weeks of vacation. The factories were staffed pretty leanly – these guys were super specialists and it was not easy to cross train and you don’t want to pay to have redundant press operators.

        So a lot of the factories just closed for a week or two every year in summer. That’s when they would do the big maintenance, too. (Many of the factories also closed for the first week of hunting season. No point being open if half your people are going to be taking vacation.)

        1. Nashira*

          I could see businesses closing for hunting season where I live. At least for turkeys and deer. Many folks grew up in subsistence hunting families, and it’s a Big Family Thing to do even if you’re now able to afford store meat. I approve of it so long as the wealthier ones bring back spicy deer jerky to share, nomnom.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        I see what Victoria is talking about, though. I think she means a good number of employees don’t use their time, then when they have so much accrued that they’re about to lose it, they begin taking a day or two off every week, or something like that. No matter how good your staffing is, if enough people do that, it can cause issues. I’ve noticed a couple of coworkers being gone a lot lately, and found out it’s due to exactly that. Although, there aren’t usually any guidelines given as to how spread out your PTO should be taken.

          1. Mabel*

            Yep. This is why a lot of companies (mine included) don’t allow you to accumulate a lot of PTO and carry it over year after year.

    3. UKAnon*

      I understand the frustration, but saying it “requires them to be in the office” makes it sound as if the reason they have so much PTO built up is because they are never able to take any – in which case, your bigger problem is lack of staff/lack of coverage. It would be healthier to work out a system where all work can be covered with two people out at any one time (one on holiday, one unexpectedly ill) whether that means cross-training/new staff etc. These people are entitled to the time off – you are also entitled to insist that they don’t all go at once, and that they use a certain amount of PTO a year, but beyond that you can’t blame them for taking what they’re due.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      You deal with it by realizing that people taking their ton of sick and vacation days is not an exception but the rule and that being actually full staffed on any week is a miracle and an overage. And you plan for that.

      We don’t have a crazy generous leave amount. It’s between 20 and 45 days per year (sick and vacation included, depending on years of service). That’s not super fat, but when you multiple that over a group of people, it means that we’re short somebody and often multiple somebodies almost every day. You have to build it into your plan. There’s no other way.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        P.S. for some more concrete advice:

        Cross training is a big Thing that We Do, cross training and daily, early morning automatic reports on work flow. Example, a guy that does our online product updates is cross trained to work in our sample department. If somebody in our sample department calls out or is scheduled vacation, I can flip open the sample department backlog/flow report, and determine whether to pull the web update guy to sub in the sample department that day or not.

        There’s a plan, and a back up plan, for every job function. (And some of those back ups are management people.) When we get to the back up of the back up of the back up, which happens, that’s when things get hairy.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        45 days??? That sounds amazing. I’m super grateful for my 28 days (which is the second-highest you ca. Get at my company).

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Mmm, I miscounted . It tops at 40.

          It’s not as many as it sounds like. It’s all of the sick and vacation and personal and floating holidays. Because we’re customer facing, we only close for the majors. Not closed President’s Day, MLK day, etc. , so there’s a couple of floating holidays built into those days to compensate. By the time you back out sick days a normal person will need, that’s 5 weeks vacation after you’ve been here a LONG time.

          You start with 20 days. Most people are in 20-25, or maybe 30 range. Starting at 20, inclusive of everything, isn’t fat.

            1. Dan*

              20, the way it was described, is 10 holidays, and 10 vacation days, and no sick time. Or 5 vacation days and 5 sick days. That’s not much.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Only a couple holidays. We close for Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Day after Thanksgiving, Christmas (sometimes Christmas Eve full or Christmas Eve half), and New Years day.

                We don’t close for President’s Day, anything around Easter, MLK day, Columbus Day (or whatever they call that now.) , Veterans Day. The idea of throwing a flew floating holidays in to compensate is then people have days for the holidays that are important to them like one of the days we aren’t officially closed for OR another holiday of their choice. I think 3 of the days are officially classed “floating holiday”.

      3. Ad Astra*

        Your company STARTS at 20 days off a year? Oh man, can I send you my resume? Even with my 9 holidays a year (they say we get 10, but at least one falls on a Saturday most years), I get a total of 17 days off this year. Though I agree, 20 isn’t unreasonable.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Starts-ish. They are earned but you can take them before you earn them….and then they reset with everybody on Jan 1. So you are starting with a prorated 20.

          I don’t do the HR math. Please ask HR about the maths. :p

          People can usually only get one good vacation week out of having 20 days. There’s sick days, there’s I need a long weekend to go to a wedding days, there’s crap my kids school closed days, etc.

    5. Oryx*

      That’s not an “employee with a ton of sick/vacation days” problem. That’s a manager who can’t plan problem.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Hmmm, well, it’s a hella lot harder than it looks on the other side, believe me. Managers can sit and plan all they like but most everybody is dealing with a limited number of resources.

        So, I could plan for you to do 2X the work when your work buddy is out for the day but that’s pretty much destined for fail. I don’t know anybody in this day and age sitting around with fat budgets that make planning easy. It’s a lot of trial and error and fail and try again to make things work.

        Point being, it’s easy to say “just plan”, brain hurt hard to do.

      2. LCL*

        Not necessarily. There are also “employees who milk their sick leave” problems. Not much you can do about that as a manager, because these same employees act all b!@# hurt if you point out that they are using a lot of sick time on Mondays, or just before vacation. That’s why you have make sure people take vacations, so they don’t use sick time because they just need time off.

    6. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I’ll also add that if you really can’t handle it and people are using chunks of time they’ve saved over several years, then you may be allowing people to carry over too much. If you limit their year-to-year carry over, then you have got to be 100% sure that you make it possible for people to actually use it each year, or they are going to feel cheated.

      We do allow indefinite carry-over of sick, which frankly scares me some times, but we also feel like it’s an important part of taking care of our long-time employees.

      1. LCL*

        We allow indefinite carry over of sick, which I think is the most humane thing to do. Unfortunately we cash it out upon retirement at 25%, which encourages those people who have flexible ethics to sick out their last days towards retirement. It would take changing a city ordinance to get sick time cashed out at 100%. It would certainly make my job easier.

    7. HM in Atlanta*

      One of my business units, of 450+ people, has people who accrue enough vacation time every year to equate to 40 full time employees (this doesn’t account for their sick leave). It’s something we have to plan for.

      Now, as those people retire, that number will shrink because the new people will come in with (generally) 12-15 vacation days a year (as opposed to 30). We will plan staffing and work organization differently.

      It’s all just part of managing your resources.

  6. Big al LPN*


    Is this employee part time or PRN? As someone who as worked years in healthcare it is not reasonable or expected to have an employee scheduled every weekend unless that is specifically part of their job when hired. Generally these weekend positions are considered part time no benefits, but a specific number of hours are expected of the position. If your employee is PRN then no bours are assigned to their position, they are expected to fill in, but assigning/ expecting a PRN employee to fill every open shift is not common. They work when they can. There can also be float pool positions but they again are full/part time.
    I work PRN as my full time job. I self schedule 40 or more hours a week. When there is no shifts available, I do not work. When there are open shifts I decide if I want them or not. I think the question asker is approaching this from a corporate mindset, not considering the general health care culture.

    You want your shifts covered assure than hire a weekend/evening position and get your expectations clear. If this employee thinks they are/ was hired as PRN and all the sudden is scheduled for shifts they do not want or didn’t sign up for, that is going to be the root of your problem.

    1. rori795*

      It’s an auxiliary position, which in our company means that the person is scheduled regularly, but that their regularly scheduled hours are less than 20 per week (part-time workers are between 20 and 32 hours/week). She was hired to work evening and weekend shifts, and is scheduled for 18 hours per week. I have no expectation of her covering EVERY shift, or even most of them, but picking up one or two per month was an expectation that was communicated to her when she was hired. We have open shifts at all times of the day and evening, and on all days of the week.

      Having also worked in healthcare for my entire career, I’ve worked my fair share of every single weekend, and I know it’s a tough shift to maintain. That’s why I typically accommodate her taking some time off during the month. However, I think that taking 7 out of 14 days is excessive.

      1. Zillah*

        Hold on, though. You said that you don’t expect her to pick up every weekend shift, just one or two a month – but you also say that you try to accommodate her by giving “some” time off every month. What exactly is your expectation of her?

        1. Kyrielle*

          From what I’ve gotten from other comments, there’s the regular schedule of 18 hours across Friday-Saturday-Sunday, and there’s _also_ the expectation that the position will cover 1-2 additional shifts (not at those times) per month.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            That’s how I read it too- the weekends are regularly scheduled, then other open shifts during the week can be picked up.

        2. TK*

          I had the same initial confusion. I think what rori795 is referring to when she mentions covering shifts is the employee picking up shifts outside of her regularly scheduled weekend hours– the expectation she was given when hired was that she would pick up one or two of those per month. The “some” time off every month is time off from her regular weekend hours.

  7. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    She recently graduated and applied for a full-time job in the department, but due to an excessive number of call-outs in her past, we did not consider her for the position.

    Did you tell her this? I’m wondering if this is playing into this situation somehow? I just can’t fathom wanting a full-time job, being told a particular behaviour was stopping me getting a full-time job, then continuing that behaviour (unless there’s some weird “ha, they think I was calling out too much before!” kind of logic going on).

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I also wondered if she might have taken the message from not getting the job that she’s not particularly wanted as a worker so nobody will care whether she takes fewer shifts.
      And perhaps she has another job which she has to juggle with this one?

      1. UKAnon*

        Another job was my first thought – it sounds like the part time hours won’t be paying much, particularly with what sounds like few to no benefits, so it wouldn’t be illogical for her to have had to look elsewhere.

      2. Sparkly Librarian*

        My wife has a job where she works Friday and Saturday nights; she also has a Monday-Friday job. I have a Monday-Friday job. When we want to go somewhere (vacation, visiting parents, conference, holidays), she asks for someone to cover her weekend shift(s). That has the smallest effect on our 3 jobs — I don’t have to get time off, and she doesn’t have to take time off of her weekday job, and all the stuff HAPPENS on weekends — but I bet from the weekend employer’s side it looks like she takes a lot of time off.

        (This isn’t to excuse the worker in #2, but just to provide perspective. Only-weekends-every-weekend shift are tough to fill for a reason.)

        1. Cable Mount Longframe Military Patchbay Style TRS*

          You can tell me I’ve got a crappy work-ethic, but: a job with no PTO (and, I assume, no benefits) where one works 3 or more shifts per week totaling 20 hours or less? I’d have a hard time taking that seriously as a job.

          OP can talk to her, sure, but my guess is that she’ll either ignore it and continue doing what she’s doing until she gets fired, or just leaves of her own accord. Probably to a better job – she just got a degree? Then of course she’s going to look for a better job that pays better. From the way she is acting now, it sounds like this job is priority #2 or #3, and she’s just doing the bare minimum to hold on to the gig. And perhaps asking herself why she bothers.

          Practically speaking, I think OP needs to think about hiring.

          1. the_scientist*

            So much this. I mean, I might be a little cowed by wanting a good reference, but if OP1’s employee is only getting about 20 hours a week I have to imagine she’s got a part time job elsewhere already and therefore isn’t concerned about a good reference.

            As someone else mentioned, if this is a nursing position, it also very much depends whether she was hired for evening/weekend shifts or whether she was hired on a PRN basis. If you need weekend shifts filled, you do need to hire specifically for those shifts (which are hard to fill for a reason)- you can’t just hire PRN and then be like ” oh, by the way, you’re covering every weekend and picking up weeknight shifts when we need them filled”.

          2. Meg Murry*

            Yes, I wonder if this was a case where when the person was hired, she thought to herself “I’m just working the weekend evening part-time shift until I can get hired on full time” – even if she was only told that was a possibility not a guarantee, I’m guessing she was banking on that – people often hear what they want to hear, not just what they are told. And now that she’s been told that she isn’t going to get hired on full time, she has mentally moved on, and doesn’t really care as long as she isn’t fired. She may have taken on another part time job, might be looking for a full time job, or maybe she has taken on other family responsibilities like caring for children or older family members that make it difficult for her to pick up shifts.

            OP, do you often cross paths with this employee, or are most of your interactions via email (if you usually work day shift during the week and she generally works weekend nights)? I think you need to have a face to face chat with her about the expectations, and understand why she is asking not to work at all on Saturday and Sunday for 3 of the 4 weekends in October – and express what you expect her to do about it. Do you want her to pick up shifts to make up the difference? Do you want her to pick only 1 or 2 of the Saturdays off and cover the rest? Do you want to tell her “work your shifts or quit?”

            I also wonder if she already talked to the employee that she was going to ask for Sundays in October. Maybe they worked out something to trade Sundays for Thursdays or similar already and just need to formalize it? Would you be ok if it was a situation like that?

            Last, I suspect this is a very difficult shift to maintain coverage on – it is probably the least popular, and you may need to do something to keep good workers on that shift – either some kind of shift premium, or some kind of rotation system so it isn’t just one set of employees working on Friday, Saturday, Sunday for years, etc – or you will probably see employees moving on from that shift after a year or 2 to something better.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            I’m not getting the other job vibe at all. I’m getting the “oh crap, did I really accept a job that is every single weekend, now I can’t go do xyz with my friends” vibe.

            1. mel*

              Sounds likely – working weekends every weekend forever gets incredibly lonely. You’d have to really love your job not to have continuous thoughts of what is the point of it all.

      3. Traveler*

        Yep. And if I was denied for a promotion, I’d be that much more interested in focusing on my other job.

    2. rori795*

      It was my question. She was told that her attendance was a large part of the reason why she was not being considered.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Seriously? ror795 is the OP of that question. The question says “We did not consider her for the position because X.” Query says “Did you tell her that?” OP says “She was told.”

          And now you’re saying “Are we sure she was told?”

          … I think we’re pretty sure.

    3. BRR*

      That’s my question too. I also think it’s hard when you have to work every weekend. Not really an excuse though as long as that schedule was communicated up front.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Also, she just got a degree? I’m presuming that she was working these weekend shifts and possibly was a full-time student during the week. I’m guessing she may feel like she did all the juggling she could manage, which resulted in calling in more than the OP wanted, but in the employee’s mind it was a reasonable amount. Now her circumstances changed, she’s able to be dedicated to a full-time regular shift (which she was probably expecting she would get, fair assumption or not), and she’s not getting it. I’d have one foot out the door and not really care if I missed a lot of shifts myself.

        1. over education and underemployed*

          Agreed. I’m sure she is hoping to drop this job as soon as she finds something with more normal hours. It sucks to be working literally the opposite of everyone you know, and not making enough to live on in the mean time. Not that this is helpful to OP, but I do agree that a clear expectation of how much is OK to call out, and communicated acceptance that employees working this kind of schedule WILL occasionally need a weekend day off, would help with morale and possibly retention.

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    #3, it could well be that the photograph taken by your colleague from India was for personal reasons only. Many people working on a different continent for several weeks might take such a photo, particularly if they hadn’t spent time in that country before. I’ve been to 2 and 3 day courses and seminars where people took group photos.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. Whilst the person taking over might be perfectly nice and a good experienced worker, it is difficult not to be upset that you might be getting the boot. It may well be time to start looking for a new role, as it is never a good idea to bring resentment to the office.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      +10. Also, I know it’s business and all that but it does pile it on a bit when layoffs are looming (or even settled) and you have to help train your replacement.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Agreed. I’ve never experienced jobs being outsourced over seas, but one time a company I used to work for was closing other locations, and the current employees had to fly out to the remaining HQ location and train their replacements. Adding insult to injury, many of the employees losing their jobs were saying the replacements weren’t nearly as skilled and knowledgeable as they were and found out they were making more than them! They only reason they agreed to stay on and train them was that it was a condition to receive their severance.

  10. Blurgle*

    #1 Also ask yourself if her “unprofessionalism” is more obvious because she’s a woman. You can’t expect more out of her than you do out of her male colleagues. (Voice of hard-earned experience here – I made this mistake myself once.)

    1. UKAnon*

      I think some of these are legitimate complaints in anyone. My absolutely worst professional flaw of all time ever is the inability to modulate my voice. I honestly try in every conversation, but I end up suddenly hearing myself shouting again (I think because I really struggle to hear other people in conversations) and not only is it embarrassing for me but I know it is also disruptive to others. What I will say is OP, please don’t expect changes overnight; some of these behaviours will take a long time for someone to change.

    2. RVA Cat*

      This plus 1,000,000.

      Her behavior would be boorish and unprofessional in a man, and tailor your feedback and expectations to the same standards you would expect in male staff at her level. You would not talk about sending a dude to “charm school” but you would expect him to understand that the office is not a frat house.

      1. Zillah*

        Yep. What the OP is describing is clearly unprofessional behavior in anyone, but I think it’s really important to keep the delivery from becoming uncomfortably gendered.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Exactly. The specific complaints don’t sound especially gendered, but the term “polished” is a bit of a red flag for me. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a man not being “polished” enough. He’s either professional or he’s not. I just think the OP should be thoughtful about the language she uses when she brings this up.

          1. LBK*

            FWIW, I’ve had my (male) former manager use the term “polished” in a conversation about attire with me (a man). I think it’s just an uncommon term in general in this context – people usually default to “professional”.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            A man may not be called unpolished, we’d probably say sloppy or something instead, but same thing.

          3. Vorthys*

            I’m surprised it might come off as gendered. Polish has always carried the connotation of an extra smoothness to already existing professional skills. The underlying framework has to be there first, though.

    3. LBK*

      “Professionalism” can definitely be a hand-wavy word like “cultural fit” that’s used to let discrimination slip by, but I seriously doubt a man would be held to a different standard of burping and otherwise being crass. It’s not like the OP is saying she’s unprofessional because she doesn’t wear lipstick and put her hair in a ponytail.

    4. JenGray*

      You are right. Perhaps the LW should take a time (a day or two) and watch the behavior of all of the people in the office where the worker is working. Perhaps it is just the one worker but it could be the culture. You say she is coming from a company with a very lax environment which could be influencing the current behavior but it could be that the culture is more relaxed than you would like. If the worker is working with other people who’s manager is not as into rules and setting expectations that could be inadvertently rubbing off on this person.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Where are you getting it’s because she’s a woman? Burping loudly or talking about inappropriate topics, would be unprofessional by either a man or woman.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        Blurgle just said “ask yourself if.” I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to stop and make sure you’re holding men and women to the same standard.

  11. MK*

    OP4, your saying talking with your husband has given you “a lot of insight (and allowed me to form educated opinions!) that someone who has maybe a stronger work history but no connection to this industry would not necessarily have” strikes me as particularly problematic. You basically want to claim that after hours chats with your spouce about his field may be more valuable than actual work experience; while not totally impossible, it’s going to strike most people as outrageous.

    1. INFJ*

      After years of listening to my bf discuss the ins and outs of the sales floor rules at his company and narrate customer interactions with painstaking detail, I in no way think that makes me at all qualified to do his job (mostly due to my introverted nature!).

      What this information can do for you is give you a leg up/smaller learning curve if you do get the position.

      1. LW4*

        Just to clarify, I don’t think this info makes me more qualified to do the job, nor does it even really have a direct bearing on the actual position. My intent would’ve been to make my cover letter stand out a little bit with some background knowledge, in the hopes of getting to the interview stage.

        1. Zillah*

          But do you really want your cover letter to stand out because of who you’re married to? Even if it did help you to get an interview, I don’t think it would help you stand out over the long run in any positive way. You don’t want the HM just seeing you as Mr. Smith’s spouse, and if you mention him in your cover letter, that’s what will happen.

          1. LW4*

            No, you’re right, that’s definitely not what I want. I’m really trying to avoid name-dropping or what have you, and I certainly am not interested in using my husband’s name as an “in”. It’s more like — the background info I have is just the kind of stuff that doesn’t necessarily come from reading about this industry, or getting an education in it, or something like that. The issue is, how can I talk about what I do know (challenges in this industry, how I’m interested in the way this company’s work/platform address those challenges in a unique way, etc.), without mentioning how I came by the info that informs those opinions? Does that make sense?

          2. LW4*

            In other words, the knowledge I have doesn’t have much to do with the position itself, but more to do with the company’s mission in general. How do I — in a non-weird way, for lack of a better term –communicate my interest in and familiarity with their work?

            1. Not Myself*

              LW4, what sort of position is this? Are you working with carriers to move sets/props/explosives/chemicals/all of the above? Are you doing work internationally? Would you be packing, preparing documents, arranging logistics, or what?

              I know that the film industry has a huge variety of goods that they must move around. I also know that competition for those positions are quite competitive, as they tend to be pretty interesting. What exactly can you bring to the table that sets you apart? Tell them, and be specific. I honestly think that without direct experience you’re going to have a hard time.

            2. Development professional*

              If you are truly interested and familiar with their work, you should be able to demonstrate THAT without having to specify how you came to be interested and familiar. “I am energized by XYZ’s approach to ABC because it aligns with my own philosophy that film festivals should be curated with QRS at the forefront.”

    2. Zillah*

      I don’t think the OP was saying that would trump any other person’s work history, though – I read them as saying it might put them on more even ground with someone who has stronger but still limited work experience. If your reading is right, though, I agree that this isn’t super helpful to the OP’s cause.

  12. heartsinger*


    Please be aware that your employee may not be able to stop the burping. I can’t. I don’t understand how people can. My father is the same, so I think it’s somehow genetic. I’ve done as many of the things on the list of things to do to avoid burping as I can manage (I have medical conditions that make most of them impossible). Obviously saying “excuse me” and covering your mouth if you’re facing someone is necessary, and saying “excuse me” in general is good (sometimes I burp so often that it’s really impractical to do so every single time). But burping is no more preventable than breathing, at least for some people.

    1. misspiggy*

      True, but if you can’t burp silently (which means others wouldn’t notice/be offended) there may be a medical issue worth looking into.

      1. misspiggy*

        Doh – I meant the OP’s employee, not you – sorry. Must stop commenting before I’ve had coffee.

    2. Not me*

      If it’s one of those things, eventually you do learn to be quiet, step out of the room, or explain that you’re not doing it on purpose and you don’t mean to be rude. Like you said, you cover your mouth and say “excuse me.”

    3. Ad Astra*

      I’m still working on training my husband to cover his mouth and say “excuse me.” I had assumed the employee was belching loudly because she thinks it’s funny or doesn’t understand that it’s rude, but I guess we don’t know for sure. I might be a little put off by a colleague who’s always burping with her mouth covered and then saying “excuse me,” but I wouldn’t think that colleague was unprofessional.

    4. LBK*

      I mean, it’s certainly a possibility, but if it fits into the employee’s overall unprofessional demeanor I think it’s more likely that it’s controllable and she just doesn’t care. It would be one thing if it were just the burping but it sounds like this employee has issues with appropriate activity in general.

  13. "What's an 'OSHA'?"*

    #3: So if you were willing to move to India and accept Indian wages, working conditions, and labor/environmental laws, would they be willing to let you keep your job? :-)

    1. misspiggy*

      Probably not, because these decisions are often made to open up markets by employing nationals of that country!

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Not to mention immigrantion and visa requirements might mean even if someone is willing it’s not possible.

    2. BRR*

      The letter isn’t a contest and it’s not about that they’re moving jobs there but with likely less favorable conditions. That just diminishes the feelings of the op who is likely going to be laid off and this situation still sucks for them.

      1. Anony-Moose*

        Thank you for your articulate reply. I always try to gently push back when people say (or imply) “well, it could be worse.”

        The OP being worried about layoffs does not negate the difficulties of Indian workers. Apples to pears in this case. And that’s not what they wrote in about.

  14. JM*

    OP #4 – I don’t think my opinion on this will offer any additional illumination from what Alison and others have said, but I just had to chime in because I work in a similar (if not the same) industry so I’m SO curious if I know your husband/his organization! The film distribution/programmatic community in my experience is such a friendly, big community so I definitely think befriending/impressing his network is a good route. Also I bet you could find a way to work in some of the insights about the industry that you’ve learned from talking with your husband into the cover letter itself…you don’t need to say “I know this because of talks with my husband,” but if you share an educated opinion or approach on a topic relevant to the job then you are showing you have something substantial to contribute without needing to use your husband’s name.

    Good luck!

  15. hamster*

    @OP2 , while not working from India, i have seen this done both to my teams and by our teams( eastern europe ftw).
    It’s ussually called a knowledge transfer.
    I have seen it done good( the engineers who were passing the job KNEW they would get BIG compensation packages and were chill about it and looking for other jobs) , bad ( people pissed off / barely going through the motions with the training) and in-between.
    While in the position of yours, we knew for sure that due to laws and regulation it was more difficult to fire us, and the company often took new projects/customers that it would be ok/easy to find something else in the company.
    However, they were always transparent to us. The fact that you don’t know what the outcome of this is , rings some alarm bells to us. It’s not insulting to make you train the person from India. It’s insulting that you don’t know what the company plan is. However, insult doesn’t give you money. LOOK for something else NOW. If you quit and they come with a severance/new plan for you at least you have some leverege/backup plan
    Good luck!

  16. Juli G.*

    OP3, keeping you in the dark about your job is terrible. I’m glad that it sounds like you cut the trainee some slack though – when I was 23, my company acquired a company and most of the people in a role similar to mine weren’t interested in relocating. I had to go train for a couple days on a system they used that we would only be continuing for a very short time. On the first break, the person training me said, “How does it feel to take my job?”

    It didn’t feel good but I needed a job too! I stammered out something about how sorry I was and my trainer fluctuated between being bitter and ignoring me the rest of the time. When I got home, I told my boss I wasn’t ever going back. I completely get how upset she was – that was just one of those “welcome to the real world, kid” moments for me.

    1. Jenny Z*

      He was really nice and I understand he is just doing his job. And I am not sure if he realizes we will probably lose our jobs. Most of the offices they are taking this work from are small and don’t have a designated team like us. So the people who’s work they are taking are actually happy to give it up since it’s not a major part of what they do.

    2. JenGray*

      I’m sorry this happened to you and it sounds like whomever was supposed to explain to your trainer about what to expect didn’t do a very good job. I also think that in many ways outsourcing and mergers are two different things. Sometimes in mergers it isn’t about closing another company it is about combing the two whereas outsourcing mostly results in layoffs. I haven’t been involved in any outsourcing and the one merger I was a part of was actually just combing the companies into one so no one lost their job. I also think that sometimes in the work world people don’t always help others. I feel like that there are things from my first job that happened that I wouldn’t let happen now but I didn’t know any better at the time. We talk about how managers should help those they are supervising learn about office culture but in my experience I sort of had the figure it out on my own type of learning so I probably made more mistakes than if someone had just told me how to do stuff.

  17. SandrineSmiles (France)*


    Oh. My. Goodness.

    So she gets a degree she wants but that her position doesn’t need, and in the same breath announces she wants off for half her shifts AND wants a raise ?

    Sorry, I’m still laughing. That person is… quite the character. Oh my. She needs to be brought back to reality pronto, because whoah.

    1. steve g*

      I concur! Hey – maybe she can work half the hours and get double the pay so she can keep her paycheck the same without having to do so many hours

    2. Zillah*

      It’s not quite that simple, though.

      The OP says something above about there not being any expectation that the employee work every weekend shift – in fact, she mentions communicating the expectation of “one or two” weekend shifts a month. It seems like expectations aren’t particularly clear.

      I also don’t think it’s fair to say that she got a degree that she wants but the position doesn’t need as though it’s a bad thing. This job is not a career for her; if she were making major decisions based on what this particular job requires, I’d be a little concerned, and while I don’t think she should get a raise just for completing her degree, I do see how someone might feel that if their education is benefiting the company, they should be compensated for it.

      There’s miscommunication and poor choices on all sides here.

      1. Dani X*

        I think the “one or two” shifts a months wasn’t the weekend shifts – but that the person in the job is expected to pick up one or two open shifts a month – the shifts that other people are sick or or using vacation during.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I’m thinking this employee is likely new to the professional world and doesn’t quite understand how her email came off. I also suspect she’s got one foot out the door, considering the schedule doesn’t seem to be working for her and she’s probably not making enough money to live.

    4. JenGray*

      This was my reaction. I don’t think that I would ever be that ballsy and send an email (or have a conversation) that had all of these things it in unless that is how I absolutely had to do it. It sounds like there is a lot of miscommunication going on and that expectations need to be clearer. Unless you made the employee sign something that says your shift is X than she may see nothing wrong with what she is doing.

    5. Megn*

      Just because her current position doesn’t require the degree, maybe another position that she’s trying to get does. Maybe she’s looking for a new schedule that isn’t 20 hours-ish a week with only nights and weekends.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I feel like you’re really doing your employee and your organization a disservice by not actually talking to your employee about the absences and shift swaps. Does she know that’s the reason she didn’t get the full time job? Has anyone ever indicated to her that this isn’t ok? It sounds like you’re expecting a fair amount of mind-reading from her. How would she know it’s a problem if nobody has told her?

    1. Allison*

      She should JUST KNOW, Katie!

      In all seriousness, I agree, if an employee’s behavior is causing a problem, their boss needs to tell them, directly, with words that actually make sense.

    2. KT*

      Hints get no one anywhere. It’s time for a very candid conversation. The employee sounds woefully clueless-but almost understandably so–no one has had a direct conversation with her about her failings.

    3. rori795*

      Unfortunately I have had the conversation with her a few times. I think the issue is that she just doesn’t care. We talked multiple times about her call-outs and how excessive they were, and then she still acted surprised when I told her that she was not getting the FT position, due in large part to her attendance record. We also have had conversations about her not asking FT staff to cover for her or switch shifts with her, and she continues to do it. Unfortunately I am just a middle manager in my company and our HR department and administration are not very supportive of the disciplinary action process.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Ah ok, that changes things. Thanks for the clarification. She sounds clueless and/or apathetic, and you’re in a tough bind if your HR department can’t or won’t help.

        Can you tell her flat out that she’s not allowed to switch shifts and if she does so you’ll consider her as a no-show?

      2. Ad Astra*

        I would still recommend setting clear expectations from the beginning for future hires. This employee may not care, but someone who does care will appreciate having that information up front.

      3. JenGray*

        If you haven’t already I would document stuff- just write down what you talked to her about (attendance, Time off, ect.), put a spot for her to write any comments, also put that this is the X (2nd, 3rd) time that this conversation has happened, put what the expectations are in the future, and have a spot where you both sign. This is all that HR will do at least to begin with- all depends on what your handbook says if you have one. I know it is a pain but something if an employee won’t listen this is the route that you have to go before they will take things seriously.

  19. Allison*

    #4 Having a spouse, significant other, roommate, friend, etc. in a field may give you some insight, but it’s not something you should mention on a cover letter. It sounds like you’re trying too hard to compensate for a lack of real experience in the field and you’re grasping at straws.

  20. Xarcady*

    #2. I think setting some limits, for all the employees who have this type of job, would help.

    I work part-time retail and my job is to work evenings and weekends. And I have to say that working both Saturday and Sunday every weekend, and every Monday that is a Monday holiday and nearly every Friday night–you miss out on a lot of stuff–family stuff, holiday stuff, plans with friends stuff.

    We’re allowed three days a month that we can designate as no-work days. You don’t get paid for them, but you are allowed to request that day off, pending your manager’s approval. We have to pick them 4 weeks in advance–but this does allow for getting time off for a sibling’s wedding or something like that. And it sounds as if, up until October, that’s what this employee was asking for.

    I do agree that her time off requests for October seem excessive. But I also think that some flexibility is needed in a position where the employee works Friday, Saturday and Sunday every week. For many people, social gatherings happen on the weekend. Weddings, christenings, bar/bat mitzvahs happen on the weekends. Festivals, parties, parades, etc. happen on the weekends. Mom wants everyone to get together for Sunday dinner, Grandma wants a family picture, friends are having a game night. Giving employees who work all weekend, every weekend, a specific amount of time that they can be out, or trade off with others, will keep those employees in that position longer than never letting them have the time off.

    Going forward, I’d set some limits with her–so many unpaid days off a month, for example. And if you want her to pick up extra shifts, make that part of what she needs to do to get a raise. But if she has another job, picking up shifts might be difficult for her. (This is one of my biggest complaints about part-time work. Employers frequently give you no benefits, you can’t survive on part-time pay, and yet you are supposed to be available whenever the employer has hours–meaning that it is extremely difficult to find a second part-time job to cover all your expenses.)

    1. Allison*

      This is definitely a good point, if someone works every single Saturday, Sunday, and holiday they’re going to miss a lot of things that most people who mostly work “normal” hours take for granted. But for jobs like this, employers need to do two things: 1) make sure prospective employees fully understand what the time off policy will be so they can make an informed decision, and 2) understand that weekend employees are humans with friends and families who don’t work weekends.

      If it’s someone’s job to work those undesirable weekend and holiday shifts so full time employees don’t have to, it need to be made clear up front how many days per month one can expect to have “off” so they can prioritize; they’ll know that if their cousin is getting married, they’ll probably get that day or weekend off to attend, but that’s probably all their getting for that month and they may have to miss a friend’s party or weekend camping trip.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, I have some sympathy for this. I had a job where I was told going in, “you’ll have to work one weekend shift every other week,” and it somehow morphed into two weekend shifts every weekend. This happened because most of my peers had standing commitments on one day or the other, and being one of the few who could work both days most weeks, I kept ending up doing it. Except it gets wearing to do it every single week, when you’re also working three weekdays at that job and Mon-Fri at your other job and would like to have an occasional day of leisure.

    2. Retail Lifer*

      You do miss out on a lot when that’s your work schedule, but if that’s the schedule you agreed to when you were hired, you don’t have a ton of leeway. I also have a couple of employees who only work evenings and weekends because we’re their second job or they’re the primary caretaker of their kids during typical business hours. I understand their need for time off and I’ll give it to them if (a) there is someone else available to cover it and (b) they’re usually available those days. They accepted the job knowing that these were the shifts, so I expect them to be available most weekends, but not all. During most of the year, they can have off one weekend a month. During the holiday season, it’s all hands on deck for the most part, but they’re certainly entitled to one weekend day off here and there if they need it.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Well, one thing is, sometimes it’s not actually what you agreed to. Sometimes you agreed to a less grueling schedule, and it snowballed.

      2. Xarcady*

        I agree with this. Clearly, if you accept a job that is Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours, you need to be able to work those hours. But other people accept jobs that have Monday through Friday hours–and they are allowed some vacation days so that a couple of times a year, they aren’t working the days/hours they committed to. Weekend workers deserve the same consideration.

        And I think acknowledging this, and the fact that life happens, even to weekend employees, and setting up a system for it, would solve some of the OP’s problems. Not all of them, because this particular employee seems a tad entitled, but it would be a start.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          I rarely have weekend crew members who think that requesting off that many weekend days is OK. Either this employee has some major pesonal issues right now, which is entirely possible, or they’re quite entitled. You really can’t expect to get all that time off when those are the only days/times that you work.

          1. Xarcady*

            Oh, I agree. With the number of days off the employee is requesting, either she’s got a major personal problem, or she’s upset with not getting a promotion and is using this as a (childish) way of getting back at her employer.

            Of course, just because she requested the days off does not mean the OP needs to give her any of those days off. Or that she can’t be made to find her own replacement for the days the OP decides she can take off.

      3. LBK*

        Good point. I think people are thinking of it as more tenuous because it’s a part-time/abnormal scheduled, but this is no different than if you took a 9-5 M-F job and then used PTO to take every Friday off. Yeah, it’s technically within the lines of the PTO policy, but it effectively creates a different schedule for you than the one you agreed to work when you took the job.

    3. Anonby*

      As someone who works weekends plus other shifts in a PT job… Having a policy for taking time off would be really nice. At this point everyone who knows me knows that unless something is scheduled for nights, my ability to attend anything is questionable.

      For me though, the 3 days unpaid would be a nice policy… but I’m in a job where me calling out would mean essentially closing the office for those days and I tend to not like to do that. Plus, the unpaid is a burden on me–I work holidays when given the choice (if it’s one of the lesser holidays that the company gives offices a bit more leeway on), just because I need the money.

      At least now I have a tiny pool of paid sick time, even if I likely won’t end up using it (it’s too easy to schedule medical stuff for when I’m off, and I rarely need to call in sick).

  21. Tammy*

    #3 – Alison is correct. Kick the job search into high gear. This EXACT scenario happened at Huge Global Paper Products Company in my department (orders). We trained our Indian replacements (not upset with them – everyone needs to work) all spring & summer while we all looked for other jobs. We had a very complicated order system. We were not eligible for our severance package unless we stayed until Sep 30. Felt like a 6 month funeral. (Aside to Goldie – sound familiar?) HGPPC was the essence of how NOT to offshore any type of operations.

    The best person in our department found another job in July. HGPPC begged her to stay and she refused. She left wonderful documentation and had trained her replacement as thoroughly as she could. Familiarity with the system cannot be taught, though. By the end of October, HGPPC had to hire her on a contract basis (20 hours a week minimum at a hefty rate) to fix the mess the replacements had created. She paid off her house and banked a bunch of $ on HGPPC’s short-sightedness.

    Do your job & do it well. But don’t drink the kool aid. Look out for yourself and start job hunting NOW. You do not want to be at the mercy of this company saying “it will be OK” . It WILL be OK – for the company.

    1. the gold digger*

      Tammy, I remember half the people at the converted warehouse training their Polish replacements. It was a grim place to be.

      And re laying off someone who is the only one who knows the systems? Al L. was laid off and rehired twice because he was the only person who knew the legacy system used at the plants. You would think after the first time, they would have figured it out.

      (But look who is the CFO now – a woman who has never taken a finance or accounting class in her life. That is not a well-run company.)

      1. Tammy*

        Yes – I remember where the Polish outsourcing happened. It was just NOT the way to do things.

        The woman who knew the system best (that I mentioned above) – our bosses thought that she would stay thru September because she had always given her all to the job. She and I were at lunch (Backyard Burger – yum!) when she got the phone offer from Great New Job. We walked into the pod after lunch – she was holding V signs in the air (for 2 weeks’ notice) like Richard Nixon. HGPPC was stunned. They offered her LOTS more $$ to stay thru September and could not understand why she would not take it. Seriously – 6 months of an ax hanging over our heads and you want her to stay for the blood at the end? And she still got their $$ – BUNCHES of $$ – fixing the mess that the inexperienced replacements made. Made me happy, tho it seems that HGPPC did not learn much in the process. HGPPC was – apparently, still IS – clueless.

        I miss the $$, but I do NOT miss HGPPC.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, and if your management wants to eliminate your job – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST.

      Don’t worry about them.

      Don’t worry too much about your co-workers.

      Take care of yourself first. I once quit a job, because of an unstable situation. I had sought other employment ops in the corporate structure. But we were expected to go down the drain with the division they were folding up.

      So – I was approached “did you finalize things?” “No.” My boss said “we want to talk with you tomorrow, before you do anything.” I said “OK, but let’s talk real stuff, no ‘gee whiz or maybe next year’ or anything.”

      The next day I go into the meeting, thinking they were going to offer me a permanent secure job somewhere in the corporation. Instead they said “your layoff date is (eight months out). You would have received 12 weeks’ pay. But we can extend that to 15 weeks if you stay!”

      Uh, sorry… you guys can go on a suicide mission, I’m gonna play the rat and jump off the ship now.

  22. kf*

    OP3 the last I knew, there is a special unemployment benefit program for employees who lose their job due to outsourcing. Employees are qualified for additional unemployment benefits and retraining in a new field or additional certification to make them better eligible for finding a new job. Make sure if you are laid off to let your unemployment office know it was due to outsourcing.

    1. steve g*

      Seriously???? So the government doesn’t do anything to stop outsourcing but then pays extra benefits to those laid off, which said companies can use to augment their severance packages down???? I’m mad.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      kf – oftentimes “job retraining” programs benefit no one but the people doing the training.

      Here in my hometown we had a retraining mill teaching unemployed women to be cosmetologists. In six months they had trained 200 of them. Now, can a city of 40,000 people absorb 200 cosmetologists?

  23. Barbara in Swampeast*

    #1- I would start with her defensiveness first. I bet she will get defensive and you can point that out, kindly and immediately. Then as you work with her on the polish, you will be able to point out when she is getting defensive. Taking criticism is also part of learning to be professional.

  24. anonanonanon*

    #1: The mention of “class” and “charm school” gave me such a knee-jerk reaction since they’re most often used when people are talking about women who aren’t stereotypically feminine enough. OP, please make sure that if a male employee was having these issues, you’d take them just as seriously.

    1. Not me*

      +1 Yeah, I think I heard that tone there, too.

      I’ll add that, OP, it’s not really your business to worry about class or polish or need for “charm school.” What she needs is to behave appropriately at work. It’s important for her to learn, especially early in her career. Don’t treat her with kid gloves or hold her to a higher or lower standard than anyone else.

  25. Anonicorn*

    #1 – I wonder if this employee sees her coworkers more like friends than coworkers, especially given the environment at her old job, and it’s exacerbating the unprofessional behavior. Of course you’d think they’d pick up on cues from other coworkers, but alack.

  26. INFJ*

    #2 I wanted to point out that it’s not unreasonable to factor an education into the discussion of a raise. Just because the degree isn’t “needed” for the position doesn’t mean that it doesn’t add some value. That being said, there absolutely should also be some evidence of increased work product quality/ and effort in the discussion to go along with the degree. And in this case, the excessive abscences would factor in against her.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Agreed. Even if a degree isn’t 100% relevant, it might help. But to ask for a raise when you never want to come to work? That takes some balls.

  27. sunny-dee*


    In the first paragraphs, there were eight instances where the OP used “a” instead of “an.” A email, a interview. If I were hiring for a position that required sending or responding to emails or writing other correspondence or doing light proofreading, that would be a huge red flag for me.

    That may sound weird, but since the rejection came after several emails from the OP, I wonder if the grammar in the emails was bad enough to make them pull the interview?

    1. KT*

      I think it’s worth giving the OP benefit of doubt. They thought they had an interview and then received a rejection. That would be enough for anyone to be upset and confused and go rushing out for advice. obviously they’re not going to triple-check and proofread an email to AAM because they want advice quickly and they’re frantic.

      Cut them some slack.

    2. Kelly L.*

      We’ve talked here before about how this blog is informal writing. People are not going to proofread their letters and comments here to the same extent they would a cover letter or the like.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Except that’s not actually true — some people do a horrible job of proofreading their own work even for something important. I just recommended that we pass on an interview for a guy because his writing sample had over 30 typos, mainly inconsistent capitalization. This is his official writing test that he had days to prep. It’s one thing if she had one error — that’s a typo. The same error 8 times in 100 words? That’s a pattern.

        I’m not saying it to be a jerk. I am saying that that may be a legit reason to pull the interview. Flip it around — “AAM, I had a really good applicant who was great on the phone, but then I received an email that had a lot of typos ….”

        I’m just saying that it may be something to examine, if the rejection was not a mistake.

        1. KT*

          But you’re just guessing that is the case. There is no evidence that her letter to the company or emails had errors. You’re grasping at straws, and acting as grammar police for letters submitted can make potential submitters hesitate about sending it in.

        2. Lore*

          Also, my phone would love to autocorrect “an” to “a.” The same error 8 times can also mean the machine is making it!

          1. Vorthys*

            This is a very good point. My autocorrect picks up odd things from me at times and then applies an incorrect rule as broadly as possible.

            It still wants to insist I can’t possibly mean “skills,” but rather wanted to type out “skulls.” It makes the interns nervous.

            1. jhhj*

              Dear AAM,

              I’m one of a bunch of interns, and my supervisor keeps talking about improving our skulls, and taking best advantage of our skulls, and seems weirdly focussed on my skeleton and internal organs. But he’s a very well-known psychiatrist who gives fantastic dinner parties, so I’m sure I’m overreacting, right?

      2. Spooky*

        But “a” vs “an” isn’t formal writing. It’s a very basic grammar rule. Getting it consistently wrong shows not that you’re informal, but that you lack the most basic foundation in grammar.

        1. Alternative*

          I agree. This definitely ~could~ be a reason that the interview was cancelled. But there are many possible explanations, so no way to know for sure.

  28. Three Thousand*

    #1 The gender concern has been addressed, but I also really like the distinction between professionalism and “class” or “charm.” The former is an attitude you adopt in the workplace because it benefits you directly. The others are prescriptions for what women “should” behave like because it’s morally correct for them to do so, not specifically because it will directly benefit them in tangible ways.

    1. dawbs*

      Yes–I help train some young, public-facing employees, and one of the cardinal rules is “You are to always be polite and professional. Don’t mistake that for being ‘nice'”.
      Because you can be very professional while you are essentially telling someone to go away, they are awful and you hope they never darken your doorway again. (and I give lessons if they get stuck :))

        1. dawbs*

          It isn’t something I used to be good at–and in some ways I’m horrified that I’m ‘teaching’ this–because I still don’t consider me good at it. But somebody has to (And to be fair, these are usually 18 year old college students in their first real jobs-faking confidence and authority is hard at that age). It works best in person –we role play. (and my boss has referred to this as Ms. Dawbs’ finishing school for young professionals–and has approved me/begged me to make time to do this, so apparently, it has some value)

          We write scripts–as in, literally write scripts and put them on 3×5 cards. I can give them my script, but my script sounds ‘mine’, they need to be able to adapt it to them (and they don’t have to FOLLOW the script word for word, writing it out helps, even if they go off-script) And then we act them out (and we literally act them out–because we talk about posture too–about standing straight, about looking bigger, about spacing your feet so you take up a bigger footprint, about keeping a barrier object between you and someone you think is likely to really flip out). And they go something like this (with me being the surly angry person-all details of this particular incident are made up–but may reflect a real job I had once. :) ).

          NewKid: I’m sorry Mr. Smith, I’m afraid I’m unable to do your son’s math homework and I’m afraid that no, we also cannot write your daughter’s term papers. Those are not services we are able to offer. What I can do…

          Me: *argle bargle* *bang fist on table* Oh yeah? You’re a disgrace to your career and to human beings everywhere. And *redacted because no, I”m not doing those swears here* *insert some more stuff usually about race or gender*, you *insert another swear* .

          New Kid: Mr. Smith, that language is not acceptable. Per the rules posted at the entrance, if you are unable to remain professional, I will have to ask you to leave. Now.
          As I stated, I am unable to do homework for your children. We do have resources that we’d love to offer–because *helping* is something we are eager to do. However, I am only able to go over those resources while we are both communicating calmly, and I do need to remind you that helping is a service we offer; doing the work for them is not a service we can offer.
          Lets start with what we can do about the math…

          It’s far from exact, but we start with things like that.
          And we work on learning some key phrases that are fairly passive and polite:
          “I’m sorry that you feel that way, but I”m unable to change those rules”
          “I understand your frustration, but my boss is sitting at the far desk, and I do need to follow my work rules” (<yes, I am 'bad cop')
          "These rules are not up for debate. You are free to discuss the rules with *boss's boss*, but I am required to enforce the rules until the point when *boss's boss* changes them"

  29. Ghost_Hunter*

    #1: From your letter I suspect you are treating this employee in a sexist way, even if you are not purposefully doing so. That is why I am going to suggest that you first spend some time reviewing your interactions with her thus far, and reading up on some of the new research out their in regards to modern sexism in the workplace. Forbes did a fantastic article on the “Performance review Gender Bias” which I will link below.

    To be clear, even if you happen to be female yourself I suggest you first look objectively at how you have been treating this employee as your letter above strongly suggests a sexist approach. I’ve experienced sexism from several, mainly older, women managers myself who had outdated ideas of how a women should dress and behave in the workplace. They all accused me of being defensive as well, but it’s hard not to be defensive when you are getting vague, personality based feedback at every turn despite having great performance.

    Take a look at those “hints” you have been dropping as well. Was it neutral and professional feedback like “Excuse me, but your voice is carrying down the hall, could you please speak softer?” or was it more overtly sexual “Well that was un-lady like.”

    Once you have addressed your feedback flaws, then sit down with your employee and hold a direct, non-gendered, discussion on what behaviors you need to see from her. If you can frame your feedback in a non-personal manner, make it direct and business related. It will be much easier for your employee not to get defensive.

    Too often I’ve had managers give very personal feedback (I was once called ridiculous for my opinion on an event by my bosses boss in a very public way) and then blame the employee for getting “defensive” when the employee doesn’t behave as the manager would like. In some ways calling an employee “defensive” is a get out of jail free card for poor management, and women are more often labeled defensive for the most normal and professional of responses. I was once called defensive for asking for specific examples I could use to improve – something my male counterparts certainly frequently asked for and were never chastised over.

    1. AJS*

      “Older women …outdated ideas.” I’m curious what those outdated ideas could possibly have been, and why you assumed they were outdated and not just different from your own. And these older managers–what were they older than, exactly?

      1. Ghost_Hunter*

        These were boomer managers managing a millennial who thought women should wear makeup, pantyhose, and a dress suit (not pants suit) to the office and anything else was unprofessional. They also often suggested the need to wear jewelry. Not every boomer is in this camp, and I was simply sharing my experience.

        Only the most conservative of fields still require this level of dress for women (I believe law is one of them), but the vast majority industry’s have updated professional dress standards to be more gender neutral including the fact that pant suits and no makeup are perfectly professional so long as the employee is clean and well-kempt.

        1. AJS*

          Actually, speaking as a 59-year-old, I’ve never met anyone of my generation who would insist on that type of attire (outside of, as you say, conservative industries) I think you’ve been dealing with a few very odd individuals.

          By the way, almost every “boomer” I know of hates that term.

          1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

            Maybe it’s regional? We had generational diversity training at OldJob since the issues between boomers and millennials became large enough to impact productivity and boomer was used by all involved. Additionally one of my great retiree friends uses boomer, as does my mother in law and father in law. I’ve actually never heard of any other term for the baby boomers generation — what term do you and your friends prefer?

            1. Ghost_Hunter*

              Also this is Ghost_Hunter. Switched computers and did not realize another name was in the name field saved to cookies.

  30. Not Myself*

    #4, as someone who works in shipping/logistics (imports specifically), talking about it a lot with someone who is peripherally involved in no way qualifies you. You really have to go in and actually do the work. X10 if you’re working internationally.

    Just my 2 cents.

  31. Alternative*

    I have a young coworker who is still learning how to be professional. Today, she is a wearing a skirt so short that when she sits down, there is nothing between her uh, …undercarriage (except, hopefully, underwear!)…and the chair. I’m totally squicked out, and definitely will avoid ever sitting in that chair.

  32. ImprovForCats*

    OP 1, it might help if you can present it as much as possible along the lines of professional mores/norms being “different”–not better, not classier, not a sign of maturity. Just modifying your behavior for the setting, as you probably behave differently while clubbing/at church/meeting your SO’s family for the first time/whatever. I do this a fair amount in teaching and coaching writing and it often helps. I’m not there to rail about text speak or slang or dialects or to justify why a sentence fragment is “wrong” if the meaning is clear; I’m just saying “These are the expectations for academic writing.” She might still be defensive, but this at least might make it seem less like personal criticisms.

  33. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – what I recommend – the minute you smell the offshoring aroma – forget severance, forget “packages”, get another job and quit.

    Weigh over what you’d get in a package versus what you’d get if you found something else. If they’re offering a six month severance but you have to work yourself out of your job in four months, wouldn’t you rather be moving forward?

    If you do leave – do not be surprised if you are offered a counter. If you can get it – in writing – that you will be one of the ones kept after your job is sent offshore, you might make out at it. Ironically, those that do that on the front end of a training/offshoring cycle sometimes get those offers. The company may have to keep some bodies in the States, why not work to make one of them YOURS?

    Obligations? To thank a company for eliminating your job? Hell, I remember the move Dr. Strangelove, where Slim Pickens rides the bomb out of the airplane, so as to guide it to its target. You DON’T have to do this for any company.

  34. AnnieNonymous*


    Has this employee filed any complaints recently, perhaps about the working conditions or a coworker, or even about a troublesome patient? She sort of seems like she’s fallen into that mode of “I’ll keep this job, but at this point I don’t care if I get fired.”

    I realize that this individual person might not deserve the raise, but as a rule of thumb, if you have an employee who’s dealing with the lousy combination of an inconvenient schedule plus not enough hours on that schedule, it’s not entirely wrong for her to proactively tell you that she needs more money if she’s going to keep dealing with it. 18 hours of pay really isn’t enough for someone with a degree who want more hours.

    If there’s no money for a higher wage and there’s no way to reconfigure the scheduling, OP2 may need to accept that this is a Defense Against the Dark Arts position. You’re going to have to expect to hire and train someone new every year or two.

  35. NicoleK*

    #1-I applaud you for attempting to address your direct report’s lack of professionalism. Some supervisors do nothing about it.

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