I’m not my boyfriend’s keeper, employee is openly job searching from work, and more

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

1. My boyfriend’s boss tried to track him down through me

My boyfriend and I work in the same nonprofit organization, in different departments, under different bosses. However, our workspaces are pretty close together, and it’s a casual environment, so people often see us take lunch together and know that we’re dating. Usually this is a positive thing– people are friendly and it doesn’t cause a problem.

Today my boyfriend was sick and wrote in that he wouldn’t be in the office. However, his boss needed something he was working on (boyfriend didn’t know this). Rather than email or phone boyfriend (or just check his own email…), he came by my desk, looking upset, and in front of my whole department, very testily asked where boyfriend was and told me he was supposed to be in by such-and-such a time. I just responded that he mentioned in the morning that wasn’t feeling well but that I don’t know his whereabouts at all times. He persisted in saying things like, “This is when he’s supposed to be in… he should be here.” I said that I could try to contact him but I didn’t have any information for him (honestly I wish I hadn’t even said this, he was being so rude, but I just wanted him to go away).

His boss has always been kind of over the line like this (when I hear stories, it drives me nuts) but usually it doesn’t involve me. Is there anything I should do about this? I feel like telling my own boss, “Hey, can you tell this guy not to act like I’m boyfriend’s mom?” But I have a feeling my boss won’t be able to do much and it will just create bad feelings all over. If his boss had just emailed or asked politely, I’d have no problem telling him what I know, but it was frankly pretty insulting the way he was yelling at me for something completely not my business.

I think you handled it perfectly; you made it clear that you aren’t your boyfriend’s keeper and you held firm when he pushed back. I don’t think you need to take any further action, although if it happens again, you could say something like, “I’m really no more able to help you find Fergus than anyone else here would be.” And if it happens a third time, I’d say, “I’ve noticed you come to me when you can’t find Fergus. I need to ask you not to — I have the same boundaries with him at work that anyone here does.” (You could do that the second time if you wanted, but if he’s senior to you and depending on the dynamics in your organization, you may need to give him slightly more slack than he deserves.)

2. Employee is openly job searching from her work computer

I am the team lead of a two-person admin team for a sales department. I am the supervisor of the second person, but not her manager; however, most critiques are expected to flow through me first unless there is a serious problem.

The second person spends most of her time in our reception area (answering phones, greeting visitors, etc.) It can be slow, so my manager is very flexible about internet usage. Recently though, I have noticed that this second person is spending quite a bit of her time at the front desk searching for a new job. She is doing this on the office computer, which is visible to guests and anyone who walks through the reception area, which is a common thoroughfare in our office. My office is absolutely the type where people notice what other people are doing on their computers.

My problem isn’t the idea of the person leaving; this job has a high turnover and it’s expected most people will eventually leave the position because the room for growth is minimal. But I am not really comfortable with her spending her time this way, as it feels to me inappropriate and unprofessional to use company time to find a new job. I am not sure if I am overreacting and I don’t want to create unnecessary conflict if there isn’t a need. Their quality of work has not changed noticeably. Should I approach this with my second person, take it to my manager, or leave it be?

Both. Your job as her supervisor means that you should say something to her, and for that I’d say something like, “Jane, I’ve noticed you spending a lot of time looking at job sites while you’re at work. It’s fine to look at news or other non-work sites when it’s slow, but I want to ask you not to job search during work hours. If you’re ready to move on, I’ll support you in doing that, but openly job searching from works looks really bad to people who see what’s on your computer.”

You should also give your manager a heads-up (and let her know that you addressed it) so that she’s not blindsided if she hears about it from someone else. That’s not tattling; you’re both part of the management team above this employee, and she should have the same information you do.

Read an update to this letter

3. How can I reconcile my view of management with my boss’s?

My boss and I have very different management styles. She believes her role as a manager is to convey company policies and to rally her team to comply to the new rules and procedures. I, on the other hand, feel like my role is to articulate to management how these new rules will impact my team. I see myself as an advocate for my direct reports, and sometimes I disagree with company policies because I felt they negatively affect morale (and they have). My personal rule is that I will always voice my opinion but I will follow my boss’ direction regardless of my feelings (i.e., I’m not defiant by any means).

However, I’m concerned that my boss thinks I’m a negative nelly because there’s been a series of new policies that I’ve strongly disagreed with. She would say, “All this energy to be angry can be avoided if we can just accept that this is the company policy that we have to follow.” She genuinely does not have a problem with these policies, and she truly believes that they’re created with the best intensions. The overall morale is low and many people have quit over the new policies. Our GlassDoor reviews are atrocious. She’s disconnected with the pulse of the staff, but I don’t think I can change her mind. What advice can you give on how I can communicate better with her?

It’s possible that you’re both right. It’s true that part of being a good manager is making sure that management above you understands how new policies will affect your team. But it’s also true that part of being a good manager is hearing when those above you are telling you that they’ve judged that others things need to take priority, and having a good feel for what battles are worth fighting and where to spend political capital.

If you get to the point where the conflict between what you think they need to hear and what they’re willing to hear is too large for you to live with comfortably, that’s a flag that you might need to move on — but a lot of this comes down to judging how far you can push with the people above you without compromising your effectiveness.

As for how to change your boss’s mind, you may not be able to. You can certainly lay out your point of view and why you have it, but she’s presumably seeing the same turnover numbers and GlassDoor reviews as you are. At some point, I’d probably say to her, “We have really different takes on X and Y. I don’t want to be annoying in how much I’m pushing my perspective, but I also don’t want you to be blindsided by what I think are growing problems on the staff. Do you want me to keep raising this kind of thing or ….?”

4. Should my resume include short blurbs what what each company does?

Should a resume include a one-sentence blurb about what the company did/does, especially if it no longer exists and therefore has no web presence? Something like:

Madeupword, Inc., 2004-2007
Small chocolate teapot startup developing novel pouring methods via machine learning

Generally, no. They tend to take up real estate that’s better used to describe what you did, not what your company did. Where it’s providing important context to your work, though, you can instead weave it into a bullet point about what you did there. For example, “managed daily operations at small chocolate teapot startup” or whatever.

5. Travel pay requirements

My son was hired to work on a crew about 30 minutes from where he lives. Last week, they reassigned him to a crew that is four hours away. He has to work there Monday through Friday and can only come home on the weekends. They just told him that he will be working this crew until the first of the year. They are not offering any sort of extra travel pay or per-diem for meals. They are covering the crew’s hotel. Is there any requirement legally that they offer extra pay or a per-diem?

Nope, there is not. A smart company will offer it anyway, and he could certainly try negotiating for it, but they’re not required to agree to it.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. katamia*

    Re OP3, if OP follows the advice in the final paragraph and the boss’s response is “Drop it,” does that (typically) mean “Drop it forever in all contexts,” “Drop it unless something major happens that changes things,” or something else?

    1. Jeanne*

      It means drop it forever unless you can stand the consequences. Those could be the boss’s ill will, bad reviews, lack of promotions or other opportunities, and possibly losing your job. Each person has a different standard with what they are willing to fight for.

      1. MK*

        Consequences should also be measured against the possibility of gain. Once you make the higher-ups aware of the problem and been told that things aren’t going to change, continuing to fight is pretty pointless.

        But I think Katamia meant to ask if it’s ok to bring up the issue again, if circumstances change. I think it depends on context; and it would have to be a major change, not “my coworkers are still not happy an one person left”.

        1. katamia*

          Yeah, that was kind of what I was getting at–I was envisioning the boss saying “Drop it,” OP dropping it, and then huge problems for the OP later because “Why am I just hearing about this problem now?”

          1. fposte*

            You can’t protect yourself from everything. It’s unlikely that the OP’s boss would say, “Why am I just hearing about this now?” because she’s not–the OP has been telling her repeatedly. And it’s unlikely somebody above the boss would come to the OP instead of the boss. If the boss says, “Don’t talk to me about dissatisfaction with policy any more,” the OP is risking a lot more to go against that than she is by not railing to the boss about the new no-coffee policy.

    2. Artemesia*

      One of the hard things for those of us who care deeply about the organizations we are in have trouble with is learning when to shut up. Once you have made your position clear on something (and thing twice about always being the one who is contrary every time something new comes down) then you have made your position clear. Bosses don’t like saying no or explaining themselves, they really really really don’t want to keep revisiting the same issue again and again. I know two people who were fired as a result of this (not at that moment and for that stated reason — but I know for sure since I managed to save one of them the first time they were threatened that this was why they ended up let go when they were up for review.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, I got in trouble for pushing on things I cared about at Exjob–like actually having what I needed to do my job. I was so frustrated that eventually they put me on a PIP. I decided that I wouldn’t leave on their terms, but on mine, so I dialed it back. Unfortunately, the only way to do that was to stop caring. I still did my job as best I could; there was no drop in the quality of my work. I just did what was required and what I was told and did not care about going above and beyond anymore. Like everybody else there who ran out of the building at five o’clock like it was on fire.

        1. Jennifer*

          Hah, yeah. Every time I bring up something, I get told that they’re doing it the way they want to and I just have to put up with it (I just got out of a meeting where that was the topic) and there’s nothing I can do–so why should I stay interested and engaged and care? No, I’m here to take orders and shut up and smile.

  2. Marzipan*

    #1, a side note to the real issue, but I see that you mentioned your boyfriend ‘wrote in’ that he was off sick and that had his boss checked his email, he would have known about it – what’s your workplace’s usual arrangement for calling in sick? If the procedure is to send an email then fair enough, but many (most?) employers expect unwell employees to phone in when they’re off.

    None of that excuses your boyfriend’s boss for being a bit of an arse towards you about an issue that’s really nothing to do with you – but from your letter I’m getting the sense that the way your boyfriend communicated his absence may have contributed to the problem, so it might be worth asking him to think about how he could ensure messages like this get to his boss clearly and quickly in future. That helps him as well as you, really, because a boss prone to going ‘over the line’ sounds like one who would be quite unhappy with him about this sort of miscommunication.

    1. Jeanne*

      With a boss like this, even if the official policy is to email, it might be wise to add a phone message. He shouldn’t have to do both but in the end might be worth it.

      I’m glad OP stood her ground. This guy needs to be trained that way to not come to her.

    2. Oryx*

      Agreed, especially since the OP makes it sound like the boss hadn’t checked his own email yet and therefore didn’t know the boyfriend was out sick.

      Even with the nicest bosses, it’s always a good idea to make sure when you are taking a sick day or last minute personal day, etc., you get confirmation from your manager. Be it an email reply, speak to them on the phone, text message reply, whatever. When you aren’t feeling well it can be an added layer of annoyance for sure, but it tends to save trouble in the long run.

      1. Arjay*

        I emailed the four people who needed to know that I would be out sick from my home email address (it’s a roadrunner account). All four messages went to their junk folders. Later that afternoon, the person I work most closely with texted me to make sure I was ok, since at that point I looked like a no-show. My boss was fine – he’s so nice – but it was a good reminder that multiple points of contact and redundancy can be a good thing.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Great point. I have an arrangement where I only need to text my boss. However, one time last year, her phone wasn’t working. I knew something was up when she didn’t text me back “ok, see you tomorrow”, so I called her work line and left a voicemail that day.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have my boss’s phone number in my phone, just in case I get hit by a bus. She’s labeled as my boss and in my group list called Coworkers (she’s the only one in there). I can email her from home if necessary–we have a setup that allows that.

    3. Zillah*

      Hmm. On one hand, while I think it is many rather than most, you’re probably right – even if in general email is okay in this workplace, the OP’s boyfriend should be calling in as well. On the other, though, it seems like this boss is likely the kind of person who wouldn’t always check his voicemail, either, so if the OP’s boyfriend didn’t actually catch him on the phone, there could be a similar problem.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, it seems like his first response as soon as he saw the boyfriend wasn’t there was to go ask the OP. I don’t know that the method of communication was really the problem here.

        FWIW, I’ve worked in a few places now where an email or text is an acceptable way to call out.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          I actually prefer getting a text. My team is staggered on different shifts, so I’m not always here when they would be calling out. But with a text, I know right away if I have to figure out coverage.

        2. Zillah*

          Yeah, for three of my last four jobs, that’s been an acceptable (and sometimes even preferred) way to call out or say that I was running late as well. Reliance on the phone made sense back when email wasn’t quite so commonly used, but at this point, if you’re in a job where email is used, you often check your email as soon as you get in.

      2. Traveler*

        Yes, I agree. Presumably your boss and you as the employee have a similar start time at the work place. If so, any message you leave (email, voicemail, etc.) will be a message left rather than an actual conversation if you’re going to get it in before you have to be there.

    4. Ad Astra*

      Every company I’ve ever worked for has allowed me to just text my manager when I’m sick, but I realize it does vary. Thing is… if you’re a manager preparing to go yell at someone about something, you should really check your email first to make sure you have all the information available to you.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. ESPECIALLY if the person you are about to yell at is not the person who did (or might have done) something wrong, or who was a no show.

      2. Jeanne*

        Definitely. This guy is a problem, going straight to the girlfriend. He must like to yell and scream rather than being logical.

      3. Koko*

        Yeah, everyone just emails when they’re not coming into work at my office. Often you make the decision at 4:30 in the morning that you’ve been up sick all night. Who wants to set an alarm to wake up 3 or 4 hours after they finally fall asleep just to call out sick when you can just send a 4:30 am email from your phone in bed?

        I think it probably has a lot to do with the type of workplace. If you’re generally given autonomy and you don’t punch a strict clock and you notify about your vacation dates more than you ask for permission to take them, you probably are more likely to be trusted to email in. If you are punching a time card and following a lot of strict rules and needing permission for everything, you are probably more likely to be required to call in.

    5. OP #1*

      Not bad advice, but because our work policy is to email when you’re sick, the boss is exactly the sort of guy who would say “why are you calling me? Just email next time,” if he had called.

      And to clarify, if the guy hadn’t gotten the email and just wanted to check with me where he was, I’d be fine saying “sorry, I didn’t see him this morning, haven’t heard.” But it was hostile and embarrassing to be yelled at over my personal life in front of the other staff I work with on a daily basis.

  3. TT*

    OP from #3 sounds like a total pain in the arse. If it’s a corporate strategy, or something from someone several layers above the manager, what the **** is the point of complaining? Do your job and stop complaining about things the manager can’t change.

    Also, it’s entirely possible they know the strategy will be unpopular and cause turnover, but they’ve decided that it’s worth it for whatever cost benefit they get out of it, especially if this is a lower skilled role.

    1. Jeanne*

      It depends. I would rather have OP than the I think nothing should ever be questioned boss. We don’t really know how the disagreeing is handled. Is the upper boss even trying to explain the company’s business rationale or just saying Follow Orders?

      1. Random Lurker*

        Everyone wants to have a manager who is an advocate for their team and defending them. I’d rather work for the good manager instead of the “for the people” manager. Part of being a good manager is to understand that there are decisions that are made above you that may not be popular with your team, but were made for other interests in the overall company. If she is unable to influence her manager to change the policy, she should be helping her team understand that, yes, this policy sucks, but it’s for the best interest of the company.

        1. Rae*

          I have a dual-manager sort of situation. We’re 2 teams but we must work closely. One of the managers is a “people” manager, the other is a “law” manager.

          The feels always say go with the “people” manager and people see her as nicer. The “law” manager–when a rule comes down– won’t even discuss it if it can’t be changed. In the end, however, the result is the same. The new rule doesn’t change. Many times it is for the good.

          So it’s a balance–managers are people, and not every manager wants to deal with yappiness and discussing things that can’t be changed.

        2. F.*

          I agree with Random Lurker. Team members do not have the ‘big picture’ information that upper management uses to strategize and make decisions. In the case of an unpopular decision, the manager needs to be the liaison between upper management and staff. Explaining how the decision fits into the larger strategy for the company is part of that responsibility. A manager who frequently pushes back against upper management decisions, even if they are pushing the concerns of their staff, is not going to be viewed as a team player or a good candidate for higher management.

          1. Mike C.*

            Uh, wow.

            Did it ever occur to you that there are times when upper management has no idea what’s going on at the ground level and sometimes needs to be told that what they’re proposing is a terrible idea and needs to change? How is that not an example of showing leadership?

            1. MashaKasha*

              One of the CIOs we had at OldJob was consistently making terrible decisions. At first the managers a level below him tried pushing back and explaining why they were terrible ideas. But that stopped quickly after he fired a couple of them for speaking up. Finally he came to our location and called an all-hands meeting, and everyone at the meeting suddenly spoke up about one of the changes he’d made (outsourcing level 1 helpdesk to an offshore company that had no understanding of what our company did). Everyone took turns standing up and explaining to him how this was detrimental to our business, how it was affecting the bottom line and so on. He was SHOCKED. He told us, “This is the first I’m hearing about this. I have only been getting positive feedback. I didn’t realize it was that bad! Thank you for telling me.”

              Of course, the very next day he went back to being his old jackass self and blamed the whole helpdesk disaster on the poor woman who was in charge of the level 1 helpdesk. But my point is that I, like you, see no practical purpose in keeping the upper management in the dark about the consequences of their decisions. Most of them aren’t evil, and do want the business to succeed. But they don’t know if they don’t know. They will never know that their idea is not working unless someone tells them.

              1. Ad Astra*

                I’m with you. An important part of managing is acting as a liaison between your team and upper management. If you tell the CEO (or whoever) how the policies are negatively affecting your team and he says “Sorry, don’t care,” he’ll at least be making an informed decision. And the team will know that you’ve gone to bat for them. I have far more respect for a manager who says “We’re doing this because we have to” than for one who says “This is actually a great idea” when it’s clearly not.

        3. Hiring Mgr*

          I think the best managers can be both “for the people” types as well as “law” types. Presumably there is tons of work being done aside from these battles over policy. If the team is excelling and held in high regard, sometimes the manager will have some extra chips to play with regard to pushing back….At some point though, you won’t win all the fights for the team. You may win some though, and that’s a huge factor in employees working hard for a boss and company.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed – and I think you need to balance which type you are for which audience. I honestly don’t think a lot of good comes from being a “for the people” type in front of your employees when it comes to rolling out unpopular policies. This is definitely a situation where negativity begets more negativity. That doesn’t mean you have to be a cheerleader for every terrible new policy that comes out, but I’d at least try to put on a neutral front while fighting to have them changed behind closed doors.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “put on a neutral front while fighting to have them changed behind closed doors.”

              This. The company is what it is- you can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear. We don’t know what the policies are that are alienating workers. It could be that the new company policy is to paint the ceiling every morning. The employees are pointing out how redundant/unsafe/costly this is to do. It’s tough to refute logic this strong. (BTDT)

              I have told employees that their logic is very sound. BUT. We are here to do what the company asks of us. And they are asking us to paint the ceiling every morning, until that changes, we have to paint the ceiling every morning.

              I felt as a supervisor that my job was a mixed bag of informing employees what is expected, informing management of difficulties, and all the while trying my best to retain people.
              OP, maybe in the sincerest voice you can muster, you can tell the boss that, “People are upset about painting the ceiling every morning. A couple people are looking for new jobs and I fear we will lose more people. What would upper management like me to tell them to encourage them not to leave?” Notice how you are asking what a third party wants you to do. This might make your manager feel like the two of you are working as a team to prevent a disaster. Frame your questions in such a manner that it sounds like you feel you and your boss are plotting together as a team.

              Conversely, your main concern could be employee turn over. You might want to skip talking about the policy changes and ask what you can do to reduce/minimize employee turn over. (Brace yourself. You might hear the sentence “Upper management does not care if they quit, they are a dime a dozen.” BTDT, too. In that case, I would start looking around for a job myself, because probably upper management feels the same way about ME.

              For the short run, I would be the best damn ceiling painter I can be, simply because I have to eat and pay my mortgage.

          1. Rae*

            Both my “for the people” and “by the law” managers are good managers. I actually think the most important thing is that they do not waffle. They are most clearly them. I think some middle of the road people are often the worst.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      That’s harsh and it depends on the culture. Push back or feedback from valued contributors is always something we want, as long as they are doing the damn thing that we asked them to do at the same time.

      We instituted a brand new, free, service for customers Monday of last week. There were a lot of moving parts, that involved multiple departments, with a goal of four hour turnaround from customer request to customer in hands. That was a hella thing to make live on the website and say, “Go!”.

      I personally shepherded each request. I was the only person involved in this who saw the full 360, and, as expected, the contributors in each department had things they thought should be different, reasons why this that or the other couldn’t be done or shouldn’t be done, “helpful” suggestions that would actually slow or bottle neck the process…..lotsa lotsa feedback and my answer was:

      (said nicer) Shut up and do your piece exactly the way I told you to anyway. :-)

      Now, I don’t really want to shut down feedback and my people know that. I did need to shut down feedback for two weeks to get enough experience so then after two weeks (which is what I promised everybody) we could look at our results and evaluate best practices.

      Nobody was being a pain in the ass, even if I did sometimes look like one of the people in the Excedrin commercials and wanted to shout “JUST FREAKING DO YOUR PIECE FOR LOVE OF GOD”. After we’ve got a few weeks of this, the feedback of these contributors, coupled with stats of success/failure in sales conversion, is going to be way more valuable than my initial plan that started us off.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, this sounds much more reasonable than this false distinction between “people” and “the law” management styles.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        This is great. And I love this part:
        “After we’ve got a few weeks of this, the feedback of these contributors, coupled with stats of success/failure in sales conversion, is going to be way more valuable than my initial plan that started us off.”

        That way, you have concrete reasons/metrics why the new policy may need to change or be tweaked a bit. It’s similar to always proposing a solution when you complain about something.

    3. MK*

      I don’t agree that employees should never question company policies; how are bad ones going to change if no one ever says anything?

      But I do get the feeling that she is identifying with her reports too much; yes, a good manager should advocate for her team, but being their advocate is not her main role.

      1. LBK*

        I agree – I found it interesting that she positioned her and her boss’ perspectives as opposites or even mutually exclusive when they aren’t. You can advocate to get policies changed while still working to get your employees on board in the meantime.

        If these are corporate policies determined way above the OP’s pay grade, it’s unlikely she’s going to be able to do anything about them, so to some extent I agree with the OP’s manager that her energy could be better spent figuring out an acceptable way to navigate unpopular policies than spinning her wheels advocating for change that will never come. It also sends an even worse message to employees if they seem you constantly fighting corporate policies and failing to make any change – it says “Not only does corporate not understand us, but our direct management is powerless”.

      2. NotMe*

        A good manager should question policy changes if they see potential issues with them. The trick is in how you do this. Just repeatedly saying people won’t like this is not very valuable or influential. As a manager, you should seek to understand. Did we consider X, Y & Z when developing the new policy? How should I handle A, B or C under the new policy? And if your team will be upset with the new policy and it is a for sure, gonna happen type of thing, ask you manager for help in how to communicate this change to your team.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I think the overall point here is that it’s a delicate balance. You can push-back sometimes, but you need to pick your battles. You don’t want to be the one that’s always going against the grain and/or complaining about every single decision they make. You’ll just be perceived as a PITA and after a while, they may stop listening to you, even if you’re right.

      4. Artemesia*

        How did ‘should I nag and nag and nag about something when I have been told ‘no” get turned into ‘should I never say anything even when I see problems that others may not have noticed?’ Of course one should provide feedback. Of course one should not beat a dead horse when they are told ‘we hear you but we are doing it this way for a reason.’

        In the example I gave elsewhere, the decision was terrible, it had terrible consequences, my boss understood my point, she felt she had no power to alter the decision and to try would be to drain every bit of capital she had for probably no use. I understood that, so having made my point, simply lived to enjoy being right when the consequences I predicted resulted a few years after the initial decision was made — right on schedule.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Employees at all levels can tend to repeat themselves when they have a medium to long history of not being heard in the first place.

          One thing that is helpful is to recognize the limits of the boss’ power. Sometimes there are clever ways to make things easier or to eliminate a problem all together, once the problem itself is handled the policy becomes moot. I know that I have created new procedures or brought in legitimate work-a-rounds that eliminated the problem and upper management relaxed it’s thinking on the Objectionable Policy. OP, if you have a credible, resourceful idea that addresses the core concern effectively, offer it to your boss. If your idea works it’s a feather in your cap.

    4. JL*

      I really disagree. Changes in corporate strategy can have impacts on important details that are unforeseen by anyone not doing a specific task. Especially in large companies, the butterfly effect can be a real problem. Teams should be able to confidently escalate these issues when they see the, and yes, their manager is the natural first point of contact for these.

      It often sounds like complaining – but really, it’s sharing key information.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Yes, but if the change came from 3 levels above the OP’s manager, and the OP’s manager is not the type to raise concerns to HER boss, then what is the point of OP’s complaints? It’s not going to change anything.

        1. Mike C.*

          Then talk to others. Gather data. The last thing you want to do is just raise you hands and say OH GOSH I GUESS I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!!

          1. Artemesia*

            Yeah of course you say something if it is important. THEN you shut up. Beating a dead horse doesn’t bring change it just make you annoying.

        2. Beezus*

          I talk to the big bosses directly, but my company culture allows for that. I headed off a disaster a few months ago because someone assumed something could be done as a running change, but in reality, the way our system works, this particular change would have to be a “stop everything and change it all, everywhere, now, before proceeding” change. We could still do it, but it would take weeks of planning in advance and a significant overtime investment. We’re opting not to do that right now. If we had proceeded without understanding the “stop everything” aspect of it, we would have crippled our network before we realized it was a huge mistake and changed it back.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Sometimes we have to provide our bosses with the words/data/additional considerations in order for them to speak clearly to their bosses.

          I have seen bosses be totally on board with “this is ridiculous” but they lacked the words or other proof to explain why to their bosses. I can’t blame them for remaining silent- if I cannot explain something clearly and persuasively to my boss, I would keep silent also.

          Maybe this is considered managing up, but I have thought of it as advocacy. I am advocating for the employees, boss and company to land in the best spot possible.

    5. fposte*

      It takes some willingness to be vulnerable to write in and ask for assistance. Please be kinder to people who have done that.

      And it’s possible the OP doesn’t understand the bigger picture but it’s also possible she does, and may even grasp it better than those above her. It also sounds like her manager isn’t handling the difference very helpfully. The one thing I wonder is if casting herself as the advocate doesn’t end up making things harder in her staff, because that’s going to have limited effect; as somebody who works for the state and therefore has a ton of bureaucratic rules and policies I have to enforce, I see my job as a lot of pragmatic putting things into perspective and finding other ways for my staff to exercise agency and find rewards.

    6. Bostonian*

      I think this really depends on the size of the company. If you’re talking about a company-wide policy in a company with 15,000 employees where the department issuing the policy isn’t even in the same state, then you’re right that you’re not likely to get much out of complaining. Though I think it’s still worth registering any objections with the higher-ups, since if they hear from a bunch of departments that there’s a problem, it might get addressed eventually.

      But in a smaller company, especially one with a collaborative culture, there’s a lot more chance that talking with management will either result in changes to the policy or a better understanding of why things are the way they are.

      I wonder if OP and her boss have different past work experiences that have shaped their differing attitudes on these things.

      1. Jeanne*

        Unconscious biases can stay with us a long time. Those experiences could be important. Due to my experiences, most management is full of jerks. It’s hard to change thought processes.

    7. Mike C.*

      My company is around 150,000 people world wide, and the managers that get promoted quickly are the ones who are willing to engage with employees.

      Look at the Toyota model. Huge, huge company. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE can stop the line if they see something wrong or something that can be fixed or improved.

      This idea that you should just roll with the punches because some higher up said so and never ever speak up is absolutely bizarre to me.

      1. fposte*

        As usual, I’m going for “it depends” :-). If I’m constantly telling my boss that people are demoralized because my state has no budget and won’t authorize money, this is not new information to them, and it’s nothing they can do anything about; I think it would be reasonable for them to tell me that that’s not helpful and to refocus.

        A lot of stuff isn’t like that, though, and sometimes even if it’s out of their control I want to signal boost the problems a policy is causing, so that even if they don’t have the power to change the policy they can prioritize ways to ease its negative impact.

        So for me it’s a question of pick and choose, I’d say. And also make sure you’re not reporting only negatives–if you’re just the local Cassandra, you’ll get tuned out no matter how valuable your message.

    8. Artemesia*

      This is a good point. When I carefully explained to my boss the consequences I saw of her allowing X to occur, she acknowledged that it was a bad idea but that she had no ability to fight it and that she thought it was unlikely to end up as bad as I predicted– it went all the way to the board and she felt her hands were tied. In fact the horrible consequences that I foresaw but that she thought unlikely worked out just as I had predicted and unfortunately I was the one that had to bear the burden of dealing with the mess created. The boss did acknowledge that I had been right; I understood perfectly that she really had had no choice.

  4. Random Lurker*

    #4 – I actually look for these blurbs and am glad when they are there. I suspect this is industry and role specific. In my world, being a “teapot specialist” may look different if you were doing it for a financial company compared to a communications company, for instance. I like seeing a little blurb that says “Teapots Inc is a 500 person legal firm”, as it helps me interpret how the experience below will translate to the position they are applying for.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      I have short blurbs on my resume and they’re really helpful IMO. As specific as I was about my role at each job, it was sort of confusing without knowing where exactly I worked (and I’ve had two employers with super generic names that tell you nothing about the industry).

    2. VictoriaHR*

      I recruit software engineers and am constantly removing those blurbs from resumes when I edit them before sending them to clients. Software engineering resumes are 4-5 pages anyway, without all of that crap.

      1. OP 4*

        This is a software engineer resume! (Not mine, but I am Resume Person for a number of friends and family.) But I promise it’s barely onto page 2. What on earth are people putting in pages 3-5?!

        1. Judy*

          I’ve been a software engineer for 20+ years. My skills section is nearly 1/2 page. I try to keep each one to one line, but I’ve got a line with listings for: Languages, Revision Control Systems, Issue Trackers, Debuggers, Scripting Languages, Programmers, Editors, Processors, Requirements Management Systems, Project Management Software, Operating Systems, Communication Protocols, etc. Those are just the headings I think of off the top of my head. We’ve got a lot of tools, and convention is to list them all out in one section. My resume is just a little shy of 3 pages.

          1. OP 4*

            Interesting! Do you have any recommended reading for industry conventions in this regard, or resume databases for examples? My working theory up ’til now had been that things should go under the skills section if you’re (1) really, really good with them, (2) they’re super cutting-edge in your field and you want to signal that you’re up on the latest developments, and/or (3) they’re specifically requested in the job posting or things you know the company uses a lot.

            Also, out of curiosity: I actually stripped out references to operating systems from my own resume a few years back because I’m perfectly capable of using Windows or OS X at a basic computer-literate level (and troubleshooting, with the aid of Google, to the point that I usually end up the unofficial tech support person in whatever office I’m in) but I’m no whiz. If I saw a professional software engineer listing “Windows XP” or whatever on their resume under skills, I’d expect them to be able to do the kind of mind-boggling “oh, this random string of characters that was your computer spat out when our code crashed is clearly the hex equivalent of the number 73, which is of course the Windows API error for XYZ” that I once saw someone do. I suspect that’s probably not your claim with all half-page worth of tools you list, so what level of familiarity is listing them meant to imply?

            1. KH*

              Software resumes are different. You have list everything because you can’t be certain what tools the employer uses. The general idea is you have a professional working competency for any tool listed. In the interview or phone screen the hiring company will ask questions to determine whether the skill level for a given tool meets their requirement.

        2. VictoriaHR*

          1st page is usually a summary of skills/experience, 2nd page is usually tech skills known broken out by platforms/languages/servers/etc. Third page and following is work experience/history.

        3. Persephone Mulberry*

          I realize this isn’t part of your question, but if the resume you’re helping with is “barely onto page 2” then I would definitely look for places to cut in order to keep it on one page.

          1. OP 4*

            I’ve been thinking about that. I’m not 100% sure how doable it is, because this person’s last job switch didn’t involve a resume so updating it means adding two new jobs and I’m just not sure about length, but that would obviously be preferable. Thank you for suggesting it!

          2. Meg Murry*

            Or look to make sure they are using standard size fonts and spacing – if the margins are currently super narrow or the font is small, it would probably be a good idea to see what it looks like with a little more room. Not giant, but up to a standard 1 inch margin all the way around and 11-12 pt font.

            Related to the blurbs – they might go better on LinkedIn than the actual resume. That is where I put a lot of things that get cut from my resume but that I feel still add value. I know not all employers also look on LinkedIn, but some will. I also think even if the blurbs get cut from the resume it’s still good practice to write them, so when an interviewer says “Madeupname? I’ve never heard of them, what do they do?” you have a concise 1-2 sentence answer.

          3. themmases*

            I would do that with the one bring sent out but keep a longer master version with everything.

            I did this with my CV for a while whenever it hung over a little onto page 3 until I realized I was potentially deleting useful information about a job just because I got a new publication or something. I needed to let some version of my CV grow if needed.

            It also helps to have a long master version if you are going to tailor it to specific companies.

    3. Graciosa*

      If the information could be useful in evaluating the candidate’s skills, I would prefer it to be presented in that context rather than as a company descriptor.

      “Developed marketing plan for a 500 person legal firm” will cover that as part of a stronger resume than turning it into multiple lines (“Acme is a 500 person legal firm” followed by “Developed marketing plan”).

      I look for strong, crisp resumes from people who recognize that this is valuable real estate. Wasting the space is – well – a waste, however these things tend to be compounded because it looks odd if you do it for Acme and not your other employers.

      People who fall into this trap end up further explaining that Wal-Mart is a retail store and McDonald’s is in the quick-service segment of the restaurant industry.

      I am infinitely more interested in what a candidate *accomplished* at each job.

      1. OP 4*

        I think this is my plan — in some places it’s relevant to clarify whether leading the whole engineering team means 2 people or 20, but now that Resume Person is working for A Place You Have Heard Of (which I obviously don’t need to blurb!) it loses all symmetry and I have strong feelings about that.

        1. OP 4*

          I think the reason we ended up using blurbs at all was to emphasize things that would have been better included in a good cover letter (the importance of which we didn’t grasp at the time). Thanks so much for taking my question, Alison!

        2. OP 4*

          Ah, but I just looked over this resume again and saw one place I have a question: LastJob was for a company that figured out a better way to make chocolate lids, and was acquired on that basis by a giant teapot company. Resume Person (okay, fine, it’s my husband) is still working on the same technology, with the same team, but now for Giant Company instead of Small Company. Up ’til now it was listed kind of like this:

          Giant Company (Month Year-present)
          *job accomplishments

          Small Company (Month Year-Month Year)
          chocolate lid startup acquired by Giant Company in Year on the strength of the technology and engineering team
          *job accomplishments

          Can you suggest a way to indicate this without taking up too much space?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Why not list them all as one job, assuming he stayed in the same job through the transition?

            Giant Company (Month Year-present)
            Small Company (Month Year-Month Year, then acquired by Giant Company)
            *job accomplishments

            1. OP 4*

              Is it kosher to use a obviously-very-accurate job descriptor rather than an “official” title? He didn’t have a real title at Small Company, and Giant Company has totally weird and arbitrary titles. (I would say “software engineer” or something like that.)

              In fact, I’m not sure he’s had an official job title at his last few jobs — at the moment his resume listings look something like:

              Company Name (Month Year – Month Year)
              *job accomplishments

              a couple of times, and then

              Company Name
              Most Senior Position (Month Year – Month Year)
              *job accomplishments

              Medium Position (Month Year – Month Year)
              *job accomplishments

              Most Junior Position (Month Year – Month Year, part-time)
              *job accomplishments

              OTOH that company was in a different-enough field, and long enough ago, that maybe it should be demoted to “other experience” and then different formatting and fewer bullet points is legit.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      I have them too. Things like “ABC.com, #1 online retailer of ___”. However, I will probably have to rethink that next time I’m looking, because it’s getting increasingly hard to fit my resume on 2 pages.

    5. Anotherjennifer*

      I do this out of necessity. Due to “luck” and working for software companies, out of a 20 year span, only two employers still exist. Plus, I live in a different region of the US now so even the potentially knowable are unknown. The first bullet point for each job on my resume includes a few descriptive words about the company.

      1. OP 4*

        These comments are making me wonder whether it really is necessary, even if no one has heard of the company. If you were hand-molding teapot spouts out of white chocolate, does it matter whether the people you did it for were primarily a small white chocolate teapot company or a car company that needed white chocolate teapots as part of their internal toolkit? Ugh, I’m mixing my metaphors so I’m not sure I’m making myself clear.

  5. Jennifer*

    #5 – there may be an income tax deduction that he can take though… if he normally itemizes on his tax return.

    1. baseballfan*

      You can deduct certain unreimbursed employee expenses on Schedule A – which means that this person may or may not actually be able to take advantage. The amount is questionable in my mind – Is there an increase in travel cost? Sounds like there is but it would only be the difference between 5 hours total driving and 8 hours. Meals? Depends on what you consider expenses incurred due to the employment. By way of example, I had a job at which we could only expense breakfast and dinner when traveling – lunch was considered a wash because theoretically you always have to buy lunch during the workday. Now, I considered that flawed because I usually brought my lunch when in the office – but considering that everything else was reimbursed (not to mention, I was accumulating scads of airmiles and hotel points and related status), I considered it a minor issue.

      So theoretically the answer is yes but would be an involved process to analyze and document – and you’d better believe documentation will be needed.

      1. Jennifer*

        The total unreimbursed has to come up to more than 2% of AGI before there is a deduction. There is a government per diem rate for meals based on the location of the travel that you can deduct, without having to provide receipts. The documentation that needs to be kept would be a travel log, etc. It really just depends on how much he makes whether or not it will add up to be enough to deduct. There are other expenses which may qualify, if not reimbursed… like uniforms, union dues, etc.

      2. gsa*

        On the other hand, if OP #5s son is getting a 1099 the rules are different and there is not the 2% rule. I did that for a summer and wrote off 100% of mileage and meals. We stayed at a place that provided a decent continental breakfast. We would take fruit from the buffet for lunch. We grocery shopped and made sandwiches for lunch and cooked out on the hotel grill at night. Other than the out of town part, it was not a bad gig.

    2. Noah*

      Yes, I was coming here to say the same thing. The only time I have ever hired a professional to do my taxes was when I was a flight attendant. You had to keep track of all of your trips and overnights. They would plug all that information in, along with the amount of per diem provided by the airline, and could come up with a number you could deduct. It was way easier to just turn everything in and let the pros handle it, but it is possible to deduct in some cases at least. It added up to a lot of tax savings when I was gone all the time on trips.

    3. KH*

      That kind of thing should be irrelevant. The company has taken his life away by not letting him go home. Call me a socialist, but if they really need the talent, people should be reimbursed for that kind of crap.

  6. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I don’t disagree with anything Allison said or what you did but I did want to mention something. You said you didn’t want to be seen as your boyfriend’s mom. That’s fair. However, if your relationship is out in the open (which you say it is) and longer than a few weeks, then I don’t think it would be crazy to assume that you would know where your boyfriend was, in a general sense.

    Do I think the boss stepped way over the line? Absolutely, but to essentially disavow knowledge of where your boyfriend may be seems unnecessary. “Yes, Fergus, he texted me to say he was would be out sick today. You might want to check your email for details.” I don’t think that falls under the mom category. He shouldn’t be asking you for this info but to get so adversarial, which is what I read, seems counterproductive.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think the problem with the request is the assumption that she would know where he was, but rather that he would try to access that information through her instead of through whatever normal, work-appropriate means he would use if it were any other employee. It’s especially egregious that he apparently didn’t even try those means first; I could only see this being acceptable as a last resort if he’d called/emailed/etc. already and was reaching a point of genuine concern that something had happened.

      Workplace relationship boundaries go both ways; if employees are expected to keep their relationship out of the office, then the office needs to stay out of the relationship as well.

      1. NotMe*

        I agree, however the relationship isn’t really out of the office. The OP indicated that everyone knows they are in a relationship.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          That’s kind of my point. Everyone knows. Doesn’t make what boss did right but it also doesn’t surprise me at all that he’d go to the OP. I think if it had been a casual question and not followed up with the angry “why isn’t he here”, the OP might not have had an issue.

          1. NotMe*

            Yes. I think the real issue is the confrontation was aggressive and that the manager was sharing frustration with the OP. I think if the situation was out of concern, then no one would have an issue with this. For example, ” OP, we haven’t heard from Boyfriend today. I’ve tried his cell and he hasn’t answered. This is very out of character for Boyfriend, do you know if he is ok?”

          2. neverjaunty*

            Well, sure, that’s the whole point of the letter. I don’t think anybody is saying it’s weird if two employees are friends (or more), one of them is missing and in reachable, and Boss asks the friend “say, do you know where Ferguson is”. This, on the other hand, is a boss who is simply upset that Fergus is out of the office and treating the LW like she’s his keeper.

          3. Artemesia*

            This quickly becomes the boss whining to the wife about the husband’s productivity issues or whatever. One of my kids worked at the same shop as the spouse and had to field this all the time. Any time they had a problem with him they would whine to her and vice versa. It is one of those bright lines that once crossed is easy to cross.

            1. LBK*

              Yes, I agree with this aspect too – I think this is one of those situations where the slippery slope argument is valid and frequently plays out.

            2. OP #1*

              Ha, yes. I didn’t make it about sexism, but that part bothers me too. Like it’s my job to keep him in line! In general I try to keep my personal life 100% out of the office for exactly this reason. But we’ve both worked here for awhile now, and despite being pretty modest about it, people eventually noticed.

        2. LBK*

          I should clarify – by “out of the office,” I mean it’s expected that the relationship isn’t influencing their work or their actions in a professional capacity. I don’t mean that it’s a complete secret to everyone in the office. Eating lunch together doesn’t cross that line for me.

          It doesn’t surprise me that someone might ask her, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. If the situation were flipped and the OP was going to the boss on her boyfriend’s behalf, I think we’d all be pretty unified that that’s inappropriate.

          1. LBK*

            (Specifically, if she had gone to the manager to call out on her boyfriend’s behalf, I’m almost positive we’d all be saying “Don’t do that, he needs to contact the manager on his own”. I don’t see why it doesn’t work the same way in the other direction.)

        3. Newhouse*

          I wouldn’t say everyone knowing about the existence of a relationship is what is meant when people say a relationship is/should be “out of the office” – usually that refers to behaving in a professional manner towards the person you’re in a relationship with, at least that’s how I know it (and I believe LBK meant that as well). So, no sneaking off to make out, no PDA, no overly familiar conversations etc. A relationship doesn’t need to be top secret to effectively stay out of the office.

      2. Ad Astra*

        And it’s double triple egregious if this couple doesn’t live together. Sure, there’s a good chance you at least know if your roommate/spouse/live-in boyfriend was home when you left for work that morning. But it’s crazy to expect someone to know the whereabouts of an independent adult that they don’t live with. Do you know where your best friend is right now? Cause I don’t. (I mean, I could take some guesses, but it’s not like she checks in with me every time she goes somewhere.)

    2. OriginalEmma*

      I disagree with this statement. Treat adults like adults and if the boss wouldn’t harangue someone known to be OP’s boyfriend’s mother, brother, cousin, or even good friend at work for his whereabouts, then don’t bother OP’s girlfriend. If it had been blood relations – whether parent/child, brother/sister, or cousins, who worked in the same company but different roles, as OP does, I think the reaction would be different.

      I’ve worked with people who were married for decades but acted very professionally in the office. In fact, I didn’t even know they were married for the longest time. It’s because both the employees and management treated them like the individual professionals they were. OP’s boss should do the same.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        But see your experience with married working couples and the OP aren’t the same thing. They kept things so locked up you wouldn’t have even known to ask the other person. That’s not the case here. Everyone knows to the point that the boss knows. I don’t think it’s right that he asked but given how widely the information is spread, are we really surprised? Added to that, OP states that the boss does other jerk-ish things, why not cross this line too.

        1. OP #1*

          OriginalEmma obviously did eventually find out, which is exactly what happened to me, too. My boyfriend and I kept it on the dl for a long time, but when you work somewhere long enough, usually people do eventually figure it out. After it became obvious that people knew, we started going to lunch together on occasion when we could.

        2. Lindsay J*

          And often the boss might know before anyone else, in case you wanted to make sure the company had no policies on conflict of interest, nepotism, etc, involving two employees dating.

    3. Kai*

      True, but OP did say that if the boss had been polite and reasonable when he asked, she wouldn’t have had as much of a problem with it. If he’d said something like “you wouldn’t happen to know where Joe is, would you?” that seems like it might have been different. Assuming the OP keeps track of her boyfriend’s every move, and getting even more frustrated when she doesn’t have the info he needs, feels to me like where the manager went wrong here.

    4. Kyrielle*

      I don’t know why they’d assume that. Just a few weeks and only a boyfriend (not a spouse) wouldn’t lead to assumptions they’re living together, and without that, why would OP know where the boyfriend was? He mentioned he was feeling sick, OP shared that data, why did this person continue to harangue OP about it? OP didn’t know. And also, why lecture OP about how OP’s boyfriend needs to be there on time, etc? That is a discussion the boss needs to have with their employee, not their employee’s SO. It’s not OP’s job to make their boyfriend get to work on time.

    5. MashaKasha*

      I was married for 18 years and I never knew my husband’s work plans. I left for work and to drop the kids off at school before he woke up. I wouldn’t have been able to confidently say whether he was out sick or taking a day off, unless he was in the hospital or going on a family vacation with me.

      Or, as we used to say back in the 90s, “it’s not my day to watch Fergus.”

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Same. My husband and I never meddled in each other’s work life and it is entirely possible that I would have been long gone to work when he decided to take a sick day.

    6. OP #1*

      OP1 here– I said right in my question that I wouldn’t have minded a casual question. It’s a casual workplace. What I do mind is a manager storming over to my desk to grill me about something that has nothing to do with me, professionally. And despite our relationship being known, we’re very professional in the office– we don’t even socialize with each other at the annual Christmas party. We just head out to lunch together very occasionally.

      And I did know that he was sick, which I shared. What I can’t do is check my boss’s email for him.

    7. OP #1*

      Also, to clarify, I knew he had called out earlier that week and that he was still feeling sick but I had no idea if he was going in to work that day or not. We leave the house at different times in the morning and often one of us is still sleeping when the other leaves. Frankly, I’m at work doing my job, not texting my boyfriend to make sure he made it to work on time. I don’t pack him a lunch either.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Can your BF go back to the boss and tell him that you don’t usually know his whereabouts during the day and the boss should call/email him direct? It seems to me that your BF should just have a convo about how best to find him when he has a sick day. The hard part here is making statements of the obvious without being condescending.

        “Boss, GF told me you were pretty upset the other day when you could not find me. I had emailed in, as per company policy. Would you like me to do something different? Would you like a phone number where you can call me personally? The problem comes in because GF does not know if I have decided to go to the doctor or run to the pharmacy etc. She is working so she is not aware of what I am doing moment-by-moment.”
        And if push comes to shove, your BF can say, “I prefer you contact me directly with these types of questions rather than asking my GF, who probably does not know the answer anyway.”

    8. KH*

      Work already probably tried to call him on his mobile, which is the same contact information girlfriend had.

  7. Traveler*

    #5 Does the hotel have a kitchen or fridge/microwave where they can prepare their meals? Its hard enough to be dragged four hours away but then to also have to go out to eat for 2 months straight? I can see a budget withering away quickly. Hopefully if there isnt there is a grocery close by with salads and other things.

  8. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

    #4 If there’s a chance that the company might be mistaken for another or you think the name is super generic, perhaps you could work in a wee description into your narrative about your role. “Innovator of machine learning technique for small chocolate tea pouring method, reducing tea wastage by 40%.”

    #5 I’m a little baffled as to why someone’s mother is asking questions on behalf of their gainfully-employed adult child? (I could be sensitive to this as the mother of one of my interns just called to try and get me to send her a copy of her little precious’ midterm evaluation so she could “coach” little precious about how to do a better job.)

    1. RVA Cat*

      #4 could also be useful if unfortunately the company has gone out of business. Sure, people still remember Circuit City, Borders, etc., but the countless smaller companies that folded during the recession may not have left much of a trail – esp. if they weren’t local to where you are searching now.

      1. OP 4*

        I think Alison and the above commenters are right, though, that what’s important or relevant about the company can be worked into the bullet points instead of a blurb.

    2. louise*

      Eh, writing to an online advice columnist seems the appropriate way to handle questions you have related to your gainfully employed adult child. Calling the employer directly? Oy vey.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Yup. If son frequently turns to mom for advice and mom isn’t sure how to answer, an advice column is a probably the best place to turn. Could mom say “I’m not sure. Why don’t you email AAM and ask”? Certainly. But as far as getting involved in your kid’s work life this is very minor – his employer doesn’t know his mom is involved at all.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Plus, he’s her son, working in construction and presumably young. Not really the type that’s going to go online to AAM himself.

      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        Yeah, it’s not so different than if I were to write in about my husband. I could tell him he should write in to an advice column, and it’ll happen when Satan starts making snow angels. But he’s totally willing to listen to me when I say “AAM says you should [insert awesome advice here].”

    3. Artemesia*

      LOL. Been there and seen that. The aggressiveness of today’s helicopter Moms is legendary. I know someone who went from Seattle to LA to choose an apartment, furnish it and go by and discuss the new job her Precious SNowflake had just obtained in LA with the boss — while PS stayed home in Seattle to watch the cat and water the plants. When I taught I dealt with this all the time; thankfully the law does not allow disclosure of information to parents without explicit permission from the adult child.

      1. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

        You win the #OMGWTF moment of today. I just read this out loud to my deputy director and we agreed that Mama Precious pales in comparison.

      2. MashaKasha*

        My oldest moved across country a couple years ago for his first job. He’d just turned 21 and had just graduated college. If I had a dollar for each time someone asked me, “Well, aren’t you going to fly out there and help him move in?”… I probably would’ve been able to take a vacation without pay, fly out there, and help him move in! Except that he explicitly said that he did not want me, or anyone else, out there helping him. We went to visit him a year later, he was fine. Apartment was fine. It was furnished just fine – you probably couldn’t feature it in a CB2 catalog, but hey, it was livable and there was furniture. He’d built his own table “because I needed something to do on my free time and I like woodworking.”

        1. The IT Manager*

          Ha! My parents helped with my last two moves when I was 37 and 41. It was great. I’m single, and the extra help (go buy more boxes and packing tape while I stay here with the packers) was great. Although TBH I have way more stuff than I did at 21 so I would have needed less help then.

  9. "Jayne"*

    #2 sounds like me, except it isn’t (or at least I hope so). I’m in reception where my computer is visible enough that sometimes people can see what I’m looking at. I frequently read AAM, and while I read for the workplace advice, there is also (as you all know) info about how to find a new job. I’m always nervous that if someone reads a headline relating to job searching, they will think I’m looking for a new job — which is not the case at all. I limit myself to a few professional-type websites to browse through (I don’t browse social media, I feel that isn’t appropriate, even if everyone else in the office does it), but I’m always worried someone will get the wrong idea.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been looking for jobs for my husband while at work. I always wonder if people are thinking that I am looking for myself.

      1. Development professional*

        I do this too, and sometimes wonder the same thing. I like to think that I’m saved by the fact that we do VASTLY different things, but it crosses my mind nonetheless.

    2. OP 2*

      “Jayne”- OP #2 here- this isn’t just reading a blog like ask a manager. She is actively on sites that are definitely job search websites (Indeed, government postings, university postings, etc.) It’s not just looking for advice on how to find a new job or reading job related articles.

      To the person below me- I did consider that it was her husband she was looking for, but ultimately, I don’t think it matters if the job is for you or not. As you said yourself, if people at work see you doing it, they DON’T know, and they are going to assume, and therefore I didn’t feel like it was okay either way.

      I did talk to the person and her response was “okay that’s fine.” She’s not great at taking accountability and will never apologize for things she’s done wrong so that’s about what I expected. Thanks for the advice!

      1. Green*

        I search for jobs for my brother and sister at work. I manage my own time at work and work frequently from home. I would hope if my boss had an issue with the sites I would visiting, she wouldn’t just assume my intent (or other people at work). I’m not going to be leaving my job anytime soon to be a retail manager or work in the backcountry of a national park anytime soon, so I don’t see it as particularly different from the people browsing Facebook while they eat lunch at their desks.

        1. OP 2*

          I understand what you are saying, and this is part of why I hesitated to bring anything up with her and sent the question to Alison- I don’t know if this is just considered a routine thing for people to do.

          I was trying to keep my letter concise but I probably should have mentioned that my manager has brought up her internet use in the past given that she spends most of her time at the reception area. There are certain “rules” to what can and cannot be done there that we are expected to follow. They used to be quite a bit more strict under my previous supervisor (we were not allowed to use the internet at the reception area at all, even if there was literally nothing to do, even if it was the off season) but when I took the supervisor position I loosened it, with my manager’s blessing, knowing the nature of the work there.

          Generally, my manager does not like us to use any website at the reception area that may reflect poorly, because not only is it clearly visible to the guests who come in and out of the lobby all day, but is also sandwiched between 3 departments, including the President and VP’s offices, and there have been complaints about Facebook use at the reception area before. So I was concerned that this would be another thing that people had an issue about and that would cause problems for us at the front desk.

          I don’t care if this employee uses their downtime at their regular desk to do this- it’s none of my business. But she’s not doing it in her downtime away from the front desk, she is doing it while taking phone calls at the reception area. My problem is where she is doing it, and when.

          1. Fifi Ocrburg*

            I think monitoring someone’s web activity in a reception room seems silly. She’s not looking at X-rated sites, just job sites. If she’s still handling the receptionist tasks, what difference does it make?

            1. OfficePrincess*

              If you walk into an office as a client/guest and the first thing you see is the receptionist job searching, it would certainly raise questions about what kind of environment the office is and if it really is a good place to do business, especially if it’s the first time coming in. Is the company about to have layoffs/fold? Is someone who would influence your dealings with them absolutely impossible to work with? Do the employees just not care?

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              Because it’s tacky to look for another job while on the clock at your current job. I understand if someone needs to take a phone interview on their lunch break, or of course, a vacation day to go interview somewhere, because that’s necessary. But just to be perusing the internet for jobs and posting for them? That says you have no respect for current employer and have already checked out. That’s not what they are paying you for.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah — this is (I thought) a pretty widely understood thing you don’t do at work. You don’t job search on your company’s dime, at least not flagrantly.

          2. Green*

            That’s fair then, if there are more general restrictions on website use at that particular desk. I just wouldn’t assume she is job searching for herself without talking to her about that particular aspect (although she may well be), and it sounds like you just asked her to quit visiting those websites, which is fair. However, I wouldn’t extend that logic to other computers/time that other employees are able to use for some personal matters (banking, personal email, social media, etc.) unless it became disruptive.

            Just wanted to put in the perspective that I am often looking on my breaks for positions for friends/family that have nothing to do with my own job satisfaction.

            1. PolarBear*

              I used to look in my previous jobs and even applied to jobs whilst on my breaks. Nothing was ever said.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I do this too, and try to avoid the blatant YOUR JOB SEARCH headlines. Unless it’s something crazy like “Six of the most horrible things interviewers have said,” which I know will be vastly entertaining.

  10. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

    As a side note to #1, my in laws used to do this all of the time before my husband and I were married. They would call me to find out where their son was. It was super annoying, especially because most of the time he wasn’t with me either. I directed them over and over again to “try calling him directly and I’m sure he’ll get back to you on his own”, and when that didn’t work, I just stopped answering their calls.

    A work situation is entirely different, since you can’t just ignore your boss, but I think the way OP #1 handled it was appropriate.

    1. Kelly L.*

      My ex’s friends would do this, because I got a cell phone at a time when he was still steadfastly refusing to use one. So if they couldn’t get him on the land line, they’d call me, and they’d keep grilling me even if I explained I was in a whole other town at the moment and had no idea whether he’d been abducted by aliens or was just puttering in the garage.

  11. MadameLibrarian*

    Ooh, #2 was a wake-up call. I’m in a fixed-term position ending in December, and my supervisor gave me the OK to job-hunt on my downtime (and the nature of the position is that it’s about 1/4 of the work of an actual position, so I have a looooot of downtime), but I should really pay more attention to who can see my computer while I do it. Yikes.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Exactly. I don’t think using your work computer to job search in your downtime is wrong (though plenty of people do), but the optics are bad. If your screen is routinely visible to other employees — or worse, visitors to the office — it’s better to just keep your job search at home.

      1. OP 2*

        I think this is a good summation of why I was having a problem with it- not because it exists, but just because it was visible to guests and other parts of the office. I would have no problem if she was doing it in her own cubicle, when she is away from the reception- it’s not any of my business. But when it potentially makes an impression on guests, that’s when I became concerned.

        1. Fifi Ocrburg*

          But do guests really care what’s on the receptionist’s screen? Maybe they need to mind their own business or look at a magazine.

          1. T3k*

            This. Maybe I’m just abnormal, but when I’m talking to someone at a computer, I don’t look over their shoulder to see what they’re browsing. I have a fellow co-worker who tries to do that with mine (I’m situated so you can easily talk to me across the desk, but time to time he’ll come all the way around for no reason but to “talk”) and I’m about to just say straight out “why yes, I have work’s email inbox pulled up. What do you want?”

          2. Ad Astra*

            If I walk into an office and see a receptionist on Monster.com, it’s going to be hard for me to not wonder if this is a crappy place to work, which would make me hesitant to do business there. It’s the same reason you might not feel comfortable looking up KKK websites at Starbucks, even if it’s for a legitimate research project — it looks bad. Appearances matter in public-facing positions.

            1. AcidMeFlux*

              Oh, come on, there’s a big difference between Monster and the KKK. And who knows, she might be checking up on the company’s own posted job offereings. Anything vaguely work related would be fine with me. (as if I had the right to be looking anyway.)

      2. MadameLibrarian*

        I’m sharing an office, but my computer faces out towards the circulation desk. I’m not sure how much people can see when I’m sitting directly in front of my computer, and I always minimize when I’m not there or someone’s in the office. Plus everyone knows I’m temporary and people have asked about my search, so. It’s complicated.

  12. My2Cents*

    #5: When you say your son works for a “crew,” it says to me that this might be the type of job where changing work locations is normal. I know lot of people who work in electricity (utility or linework) and it’s a known part of the job that you go where the work is. This means many people choose to stay at hotels in the area (either covered by the company or on their own dime that they write-off at the end of the year), or they buy a truck and trailer that moves with them to various job sites (both of which can come with their own write-offs since they’re used for work travel). Many of them do not keep a fixed abode because they can be asked to start working 3-4 hour away with little notice — and none of them get a per diem when that happens. What your son’s company is doing sounds pretty legit. And keep in mind that he may actually be saving money that he can spend on things like food since he’s being put up close to his job location.

  13. Butt Out*

    Her real manager may have given her permission.
    Her real manager may have told her that budget cuts are coming at the end of the year. December 31.
    Perhaps EE was told that she could use the computer during breaks and lunch for personal use.

    Do I agree? Do I think that it is professional?
    ….is different from
    the fact that the economy is still really bad.

    EE has to look out for herself

    1. OP 2*

      I spoke to my manager about it this morning. The structure of our team is definitely not one where they would prepare to cut her without telling me anything. My manager had no idea she was doing this and does not approve, and asked me to talk to her about it. She is not doing this on her breaks or lunch- she is doing this during the time she is at the reception desk.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Yeah, I’ve seen this happen once, but the person’s manager was most certainly in the loop. He told the employee, “we’re cutting your position by X date, go ahead and look for work and use me as your reference.” This does not appear to be the case here, though.

  14. Computer Screen Shields Make Good Neighbors*

    If the TRUE concern is that..
    Her desire to leave is “visible to guests and anyone who walks through the reception area, which is a common thoroughfare in our office. My office is absolutely the type where people notice what other people are doing on their computers.”

    …Perhaps reflecting poorly on you.
    …Perhaps making others think that you are “not a good person to work for”

    Get her a computer screen shield.
    She is likely working on sensitive materials anyway.

    My bill is in the mail.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      I feel like this is a bit of a stretch, especially since we give OPs the benefit of the doubt around here. OP has already addressed that the employee’s manager is not on board with this and also wants it to stop. It’s also pretty rare that receptionists for anything other than a medical office are working on anything sensitive enough to require a screen shield.

      1. fposte*

        And it’s an utterly reasonable request that the receptionist not be visibly engaged in non-work activities during work hours; I would not be prepared to use workplace funds to make it easier for her to do so.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Are you the same person as “Butt Out” and “Computer Screen Shields Make Good Neighbors”? All three responses are pretty antagonistic against the OP. The OP wasn’t sure if this was a issue or not, so she asked for advice, which is pretty standard Management 101. And while the employee could have received other information about her employment, it’s also a pretty standard expectation that you don’t job search on the clock at your current job, regardless of whether other people can see your screen or not.

      We try not to attack the OPs here, so your messages may be better received with less antagonistic usernames.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’ve posted here with different names (in this one post); would you please pick one consistent name and stick with it? Thank you!

      And I’m going to second Ibsen Takes Tea’s observation that they’ve all been fairly adversarial toward the letter-writers, so if you would, take a look through the comments policy. Thank you for that too!

  15. Solidus Pilcrow*

    Re #2, job searching — Another twist is if the employee has permission to job search, like I did. I worked through a professional staffing company (a W2 contractor). Earlier this year when my contract ended, the staffing company said the company’s direction changed and they weren’t going to be providing my type of teapot services any longer, so unless they could find something for me in the next 2 weeks I would be let go. They gave me explicit permission to update my resume, update my LinkedIn profile, and job search, etc. They even said if I had an outside interview I should just go without notifying anyone or asking for permission. I even took phone interviews at my desk. I was laid off, but I had at least gotten a 2 week head start on my job search. I found a new job the same week my severance package ended :)

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I may have gotten the terminology wrong – I don’t know what exactly describes my position. I was a full-time employee of the staffing company with salary and benefits paid thru them. They would send me out to client sites to do work and invoice the client for my services (most clients called me a contractor). I had worked for the staffing company for nearly 16 years.

  16. Student*

    #1 – People do this to me at my job over the location of a co-worker who sits in the cube next to me (who is a friend, but very much NOT anything more than that). They kind of treat me like I’m his secretary or keeper. I’m not.

    I always reply with “I don’t know, have you tried contacting him?” This turns the question back on them and tends to short circuit most complaints early.

    If someone complains about his absence, I usually tell them, “Sounds like something you should discuss with Co-worker directly, I can’t help you with that.” Or, “I don’t know his schedule, have you tried checking his (online work) calendar?”

  17. Op3*

    Thanks so much for all your great comments! Like I mentioned in my letter, I will voice my opinion but I will follow the new policies. My boss is actually the one who will not “drop it.” She will follow up several times via email and text trying to convince me that it’s a good policy and that I was wrong in disagreeing. I just smile and say okay. We’re low men on the totem pole. Neither me nor my boss have any power in swaying anyone’s decision. I’m not naive to think that we can. However, I still think it’s important to convey how this would impact someone’s work and lives. I guess I really just want her to empathize with her staff and look at things from our point of view, rather than just blindly following every new rule that gets passed down. I like Alison’s advice. Next time I meet her, I’ll ask if she even wants to hear about what people think.

  18. Elizabeth*

    RE: Travel pay
    Under Federal reg, the hotel is likely considered their new ‘home base’ from which they commute daily, which is probably why no per diems & daily commuting travel pay is required. But some of the time spent getting to from the job site out of area at the start/end of the week likely may be considered hours worked (unless he’s a passenger).

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