new hire confessed she lied about her skills, I’m managing my boss’s spouse, and more

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

1. The person I helped hire confessed to me that she lied about her skills

I received a full capital sponsorship to start my own business. When I resigned from my job, my boss was very upset, as it is hard to find people with my skill set. I suggested to my former boss that they could outsource to me, which they are now doing.

One day, my former boss called me up and asked me to sit into an interview with a potential replacement for my position. I told him it would be a conflict of interest as I would lose them as a client. He promised me that they would never break their contract with me, but I was not convinced.

We interviewed the person, and in order to not sound jealous and to give her a fair chance, I said nothing bad about her and I was supportive of their decision to give her a 3-month fixed contract. Today, she confessed to me that in the interview, she lied about having skills that she doesn’t actually have. She told me that she should have been more forward in her interview, but she has never built a website from scratch before in her life. I don’t know how to respond to this because if I run to the client and tell him, it would look like I am being spiteful, not to mention that I would put a single mom out of a job. If I don’t and it comes out that I did not, they might lose trust in me and it may come back to kick me in the bum. How do I deal with this situation?

I think you’re being overly zealous about possible conflicts of interest and as a result are anticipating weirdness in your relationship with your client/former employer that just isn’t likely to be there. It’s okay to help them with interviews, and it’s okay — in fact, necessary — to speak up about concerns that you develop about candidates during those interviews. Assuming that you have a track record of integrity and that you can explain where your opinions are coming from, no reasonable client is going to think that you’re being jealous or spiteful. And the same is true now if you relay what their new hire said to you, especially if you’ve continued to do work for them, which it sounds like you have.

You don’t have to go on a witch hunt against her; you can simply say to your client, “Hey, Jane mentioned to me yesterday that she exaggerated her skills in the interview in order to get the job and she’s never actual built a website before. You should probably talk to her yourself, but assuming that’s right, I think the ramifications of this for the work are ___.”

You won’t be putting a single mom out of a job. You’ll be doing your job, which is to be a fair dealer and share information that will affect your client. If she loses her job because she misrepresented her skills, that’s an outcome she created for herself; it won’t be your doing.

2. I’m managing my boss’s spouse

I work for a nonprofit that has a staff of 25. There are 3 levels – the CEO, the VPs, and the rest of the staff. I am a VP who is managing a staff member (Bob) who is the partner (same-sex couple) of the VP/CFO (Tony, a very tenured staffer of over 15 years). Bob is a toxic employee who is constantly negative, demoralizes other staff, and points fingers at everyone rather than being a team player. Prior to my promotion to VP, I was on the same level as Bob and we worked fairly well together. Once I became a VP, that quickly changed. Bob cursed at me on several occasions, slammed a door in my face, and has basically said (in much nastier terms) that I had no idea what I was doing. As a newly appointed VP, I learned that in the prior eight years Bob was on staff, he was allowed to do as he pleased, when and how he pleased, basically unchecked. Tony is blissfully unaware of this because the previous VPs would never discuss it with him.

Bob is dragging down the morale and undermining the culture change we are working toward. He refuses to use our interoffice chat and online project management system, despite other staff and teams using it. He is not a team player and is consuming salary dollars (how much I don’t know, as Tony won’t disclose it to me) that could be utilized better. We have no formal write-up procedure in place, but I have made it my mission to confront him head on and let him know his behavior is unacceptable. I’ve also started a journal of it and our discussions.

The bottom line is that Bob needs to go. Tony does not hold his own team accountable so his leadership and accountability style is lacking to say the least. Any suggestion on how I can help Bob move on? Oh, and Tony is currently serving as the interim CEO too.

The only path to an outcome where you can get rid of Bob goes straight through Tony, at least as long as he’s CEO and/or your boss. If previously VPs refused to fill Tony in on what was going on, it’s no surprise that he’s unaware. So: are you going to be the person who finally says something? If you want to address the situation, it sounds like you’ll need to. Whether or not you should depends on your own standing, how reasonable or unreasonable Tony is, and how much risk you’re willing to take.

If at some point, Tony stops being interim CEO, you could possibly take up the situation with the new CEO (or HR, but on a staff of 25, I’m betting you don’t have an HR person, or at least not one with significant power — although if the organization has an influential second-in-command, that person could be an option).

For what it’s worth, it’s pretty awful that your organization apparently allows romantic partners within a chain of command, but I’ll save my rant on that for a different letter coming later today.

3. Employee was accidentally terminated in our system and now has to apply for job all over again

I supervise the tutors at my college and one tutor was recently terminated accidentally due to miscommunication among departments. Our new HR rep contacted my supervisor with a list of employees that had not received a paycheck for six months. My supervisor responded to terminate those employees. Neither the HR person nor my supervisor ever asked my input about this employee’s status. If they had, I would have requested they keep the employee as they are still an active student and a willing tutor; they just had not received any requests for work in a while.

As “luck” would have it, the employee in question had two tutoring sessions just as they were being terminated. I was never informed of their termination status so I did not hesitate in requesting their assistance. It was not until I went to approve electronic timecards did I notice the employee was no longer listed under my profile. I then contacted HR and was informed of why they were terminated.

I have been informed that the tutor will have to go through the entire re-hire process (application, background check, drug test, on-boarding) in order to be re-instated as an employee and receive a paycheck for the hours worked. My question is – is this legal? How are there no provisions made in the company’s policy to re-instate employees that were terminated in such a manner?

It should be perfectly legal as long as the person is still being paid in the timeframe required by your state law (state laws usually require people to be paid within a certain number of days after performing work). However, if you work for a public university, even that might not apply, since public employees are sometimes covered by different laws.

That said, it’s ridiculous and incompetent, and they should be able to fix it more efficiently.

4. Can I use a new offer to get more money from the job I’ve already accepted?

I’ve accepted a job in one city. It was a great offer, and during negotiation they offered an increased annual salary instead of relocation. I had asked for one or the other. I knew another offer was coming for another city, but it had been taking a while as there are more hoops to jump through and it’s never guaranteed, so I accepted offer #1. Well, now offer #2 has come in, and the salary is $5,000 less but they’re offering me a $5,00 signing bonus, $5,000 relocation, and a bonus structure. I technically want the first job more as I’d rather move to that city, but that $10,000 at the start would be very helpful as I’m moving from another country. Can I use offer #2 to get more out of offer #1? Even though I technically already accepted? I am considering backing out of offer #1 now I know what the money for #2 is. What could I say to #1 without seeming like I’m not still excited to work there?

Nothing. You accepted the offer, and the negotiations are over. If you try to open them back up, that will look like serious bad faith, and there’s a very good chance they’ll pull the offer entirely. (After all, how would you feel if you turned down other offers and the one that you’d accepted tried to lower the salary you’d agreed on?)

You can pull your acceptance of the offer if you want to, but you can’t try to reopen the negotiations.

As for whether you should pull your acceptance, (a) be aware that it will burn the bridge — which might be a price you’re willing to pay, but you should factor it into your thinking, and (b) think seriously about whether a one-time $10,000 payment is enough to warrant moving a city that isn’t your first choice, unless you’re very excited about the second choice city too and the job itself. $10,000 (or $5,000 after moving expenses) is a pretty low payment for a city you don’t want to be in.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Explaining why I’m moving, when the reason is the Flint water crisis

I’ve been wanting to leave my job for a while because the company is a mess, but circumstances in the area have changed so that I’m now even more desperate to leave.

See, I work in Flint, Michigan. If you’ve been reading the news at all lately, you know that Flint has serious water issues, chief among them being extremely unsafe levels of lead. I feel now more than ever that I need to leave, and soon. I have no personal ties to Flint; I didn’t grow up there, and I have no family here, so I don’t feel compelled to stay and stick out this crisis like some other people do.

My issue is this: how do I say that on job applications? Do I state that the water crisis is my reason for leaving, or is there a more diplomatic way to say it? I’ve never been in a situation like this before, where environmental factors are at play in my reason for leaving, so I’m not sure how to handle it.

I think you’re better off talking about why you want to move to the place you’d be moving to, rather than why you want to leave the place you’re leaving. People will probably figure that the water situation isn’t exactly helping matters, but mainly they’ll be concerned with what’s drawing you to THEIR area (because they want to know that you’ve fully thought through the choice, won’t regret in six months in, etc.).

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    #4 seems like kind of a non-issue. I mean, I get why $10,000 up front might seem more appealing, but you would be making $5,000 more every year at the job you actually want in the city you actually want to live in. Even if you just put that $10,000 on a credit card, you could pay that off in a little over two years with the difference in salary and then save even more money (assuming the cost of living is similar between the two places). Definitely don’t try to renegotiate at this point!

    1. MK*

      It is an issue in the OP’s mind, because they are tempted by the upfront cash bonus. To the point, frankly, of desperately trying to convince themselves it might be OK to reopen negotiations (“technically” accepted the offer? As far as I can tell, they accepted it period).

      OP, have you considered that the company might reasonably ask if the other offer matches theirs in terms of salary? Would you be satisfied if they had you the bonuses but lowered your salary? Also, bear in mind that sign-up and relocation bonuses often come with strings, usually that you have to pay it back if you don’t stay in the job for X period of time.

      1. Graciosa*

        Backing out of an accepted offer is a pretty bad thing to do to your reputation (unless you have a much better reason – serious illness, for example – then a desire for a signing bonus).

        I’m also tempted to point out that the company has dealt with the OP very honorably in giving her the money as a recurring salary payment rather than a one time bonus. The “extra” money *every single year of her employment* is coming from the company and out of its salary budget! The OP asked for the company to make a choice, and the company chose something that is much better for the OP and increases the company’s expense.

        So the OP is dealing with a company that treats its employees well, and is offering a “great job” in OP’s preferred city which the OP already accepted.

        Treating the employer less than honorably does not seem like the appropriate response here.

      2. OP #4*

        Thanks for the comments. It was a huge issue in my mind because I’m moving from halfway around the world to NYC and that’s really expensive and my stress level is through the roof. For various living situation reasons, I left the other country within a week of quitting my job and all that meant things cost way more. This one has a quick update though because I decided to take the first offer and my first day was yesterday. In the end, I decided I’d rather be in NYC more than Chicago and the first company is really great. I didn’t write this in my letter but the Chicago job was with friends from an old job and the job really intrigued me but I’d already lived there and wanted something new. I was pretty torn and the money just made it a bit harder. I didn’t bring it up at all to my new job, just let it go.

        I am curious about the idea that backing out of an offer is a huge deal. I’ve talked to others and they didn’t seem to think it was huge only because when you’re looking for jobs things may not always line up perfectly. You’re obviously looking at more than one opportunity (hopefully) and if something better comes up after someone else offers then that happens and it’s not great but people have to do what’s right for them — surely you’d want someone backing out if they decided they wanted something else more? Otherwise they’d just leave sooner rather than later.

          1. OP #4*

            Well at one of my clients, they had a Director start and then an offer came in 3 weeks after he started for a job that he had interviewed with before he accepted the job at my client. So he left immediately for that other job. It really shook up the organization, but I kind of get it. All your offers won’t show up on the same day.

            I don’t know, it seems as if people should do what’s right for them and not take a something where there heart isn’t in it because they have another option. If you accept one job and then another great offer comes in and you weren’t sure it was going to happen, what do you do?

            1. Lily Rowan*

              The thing to remember is, it’s likely that no one from that organization will ever hire that Director for any other position — and people change jobs all the time. It burns bridges.

              1. OP #4*

                Fair enough. Just pointing out that sometimes things aren’t so cut and dry. If you do it, be prepared to deal with the consequences — they could be worth it in some situations though.

            2. Silver Radicand*

              Well, to think of it the other way around, what would you think of a company who had another candidate finally accept an offer for your position three weeks after you started, so they fired you and hired them instead.

              That where the negotiating extra time with the first offer company and letting the second potential offer company know you currently have an offer and could they speed things up comes into play.

              1. OP #4*

                Isn’t that what probationary periods are for though? I just came from an agency that did this. It was because the guy wasn’t working out and they let him go within a week and then offered the second choice. I think maybe my new thoughts on cultural norms from working outside the US are coming into play here because I saw a fair amount of this other places where you have contracts with probationary periods that can be broken within 90 days so surprisingly lots of moving goes on within those 3 months before you’re locked into your contract.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No, that is very much not what probationary periods are for! A probationary period is there so that the company can fire someone more quickly if they’re not working out instead of jumping through the hoops they might jump through with someone who’s been there longer (formal improvement plan, etc.). It’s not so they can hire a better candidate if one appears.

                  But yes, it’s definitely possible that you’re used to non-U.S. norms on this stuff.

                2. De (Germany)*

                  Case of the Mondays: At least in my country, the probation period is equal for both parties – I could give 14 days notice without a reason, so could my employer. After the probation period, the norice period is now 3 months.

                3. Sunflower*

                  @A Case of the Mondays: Not sure what you mean? The employee is free to quit or air their concerns any time as well. The company can still fire the employee anytime before or after the 90 days. Most probationary periods are just company policies, not laws.

                4. Natalie*

                  @ Case of the Mondays – it totally goes both ways. If you fired someone during their probationary period because they were bad at their job, that’s one thing – the equivalent for the employee might be that the job was substantially different than advertised or a really abusive environment. The issue with firing someone a week in because you found someone better isn’t that it’s illegal, it’s that it’s shitty and would rightfully impact your reputation. Again, there would be similar results if you quit your job a week in just because someone offered you a higher salary.

              2. TootsNYC*

                well, I’ve known people who quit a job and two weeks late got laid off from that new job. Or were told that their job was restructured out of existence in the two weeks before they started.

                A lot of it will depend on how you handle the news, whether you can help in any way. As someone hiring people, I wouldn’t like it, but I would actually understand it. And I will probably have other people I can turn to. The impact on me is not as big as the impact would be on the employee.

                I wouldn’t like it. But I would consider it to be far less horrible than if a company does it to a job candidate.

              3. INFJ*

                Your point is valid, but the example is moot because that would never happen. If a company were still waiting to hear back from their top candidate, they wouldn’t just hire their second choice while still waiting for the first choice.

            3. neverjaunty*

              What do you do? Well, you acknowledge that you made a decision and accepted a risk, knowing that Offer #1 was certain but Offer #2 wasn’t. You could have rejected (or tried to delay accepting Offer #1, taking the chance that Offer #2 would become a thing, but also taking the risk that Offer #2 wouldn’t happen.

              Trying to re-do Offer #1 or back out of it isn’t really about your heart not being in it. It’s about offloading the consequences of your decision to Employer #1.

          2. OriginalEmma*

            Yea, things tend not to line up perfectly…when your actions misalign them.

            It’s thoughtless to accept one offer, then reject it in favor of something more enticing. This goes not just for job offers but dates, nights out with friends, etc. Especially when you do it without keeping the others abreast, and even then, when you do, it may not work out in your favor. I know we’re all looking out for #1 but developing a reputation as someone who will jump ship at something more exciting rather than committing isn’t helpful in the job world, especially when your field is a small one.

            1. neverjaunty*


              And when you find yourself justifying your actions with vague platitudes about the heart, that’s a pretty good indicator of whether your choice is well thought-out.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Sorry – as in hand-waving something off that you can’t or don’t want to talk about. Say, when you point out to your boss that it’s literally impossible to get a deliverable to the client by the date she promised, and she says “oh, I’m sure that with enough can-do spirit we’ll figure it out.”

            2. Brisvegan*

              Vague and dismissive. Like the gesture some people make when dismissing the concerns of others.

            3. Ultraviolet*

              For what it’s worth, I’m more familiar with it as meaning something like “not rigorously justified, but hinting at an argument that might be reasonable.” Like a lot of science fiction has hand wavy explanations for how things like faster-than-light travel might work. In this sense it’s not really used pejoratively. I’ve never actually heard it used with dismissive connotations.

        1. Silver Radicand*

          I think the confusion may be, declining an offer is not a huge deal and if a candidate is waiting on another offer, sometimes they will ask for more time before committing to one offer. It is the reneging on your acceptance of an offer that is the big deal. No one is expecting accept every offer, but in most cases you are expected to stick with what you have committed to once you have done so.

        2. C*

          Glad to hear things have turned out well for you, but backing out of an accepted offer is in fact a very big deal and the counsel you’ve been giving sounds as if it’s coming to you from people on the younger/less experienced side. Juggling job offers and acceptance of those offers is not online dating, where you can certainly “back out” if a better fit comes around.

          1. OP #4*

            Actually it wasn’t. It was coming from more the “it’s just business” side of things. From people with lots of experience hiring others. Knowing that things happen.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s a big deal. It will burn the bridge with people at that company, it will harm your reputation, and it will be a reason not to hire you in the future (including if they move companies and you apply to the new company). There’s a much longer discussion of it here, but the people who told you it’s no big deal are wrong, unless your field has really different norms than most:

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Also! You weren’t just talking about reneging on your acceptance of the offer – you were talking about trying to reopen negotiations on a job offer you’d already accepted. That’s a different thing, and it would really come across as operating in bad faith. You’d basically be saying “my word doesn’t mean anything” and asking for more money in the same breath. It doesn’t end well.

                1. OP #4*

                  Well I decided not to. I get why it’s a big deal but when you’re in the situation, you’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s not always easy to swallow that you can’t change your mind because circumstances have changed. If I had some distance from it then maybe I’d feel differently but it’s still very fresh.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  THIS is true. Someone who wanted to renegotiate but still work for me would make a far worse impression than someone who said, “I know I said yes, but this other job came along and I really can’t turn it down.”

                  I’m a human being. If it’s $5,000/year in salary at a relatively high salary, I’m going to side-eye you a bit. If it’s $5,000/year in wages at a low-wage job, I’m going to be glad for you, annoyed for me, and go hire #2 or #3.

                  If it’s “once in a lifetime opportunity to turn a passionate hobby into a career,” I’m going to be a little annoyed and wish you well. (I know someone who did this; I don’t think she’d be welcome back at a job like her old one, but most of the people who worked with her then didn’t think it was horrible and untrustworthy of her.)

                  also–as time goes by, you might recover from the damage; if you’ve turned that job into a true career path, people will be less likely to see you as flaky.

                3. A Bug!*

                  I sympathize with your position. It’s rough when you make a decision and then learn information that might have affected the outcome if you’d had it sooner. I’m glad you decided to let it go, and I hope that you’re able to feel better about the situation once you have the benefit of time and reflection.

                  It’s not always easy to swallow that you can’t change your mind because circumstances have changed.

                  Of course you’re always entitled to change your mind. But let me point out that you haven’t changed your mind – you still prefer the first offer as it stands over the second offer, and have no intention of backing out. And neither have the circumstances actually changed. As you confirmed in a reply to another comment downthread, you’re looking for a do-over on your negotiations because you think you might have left money on the table.

                  But what you’re proposing is not the same as job hopping, or backing out of an accepted offer before starting. These things might not always burn bridges in your industry, but there’s still a risk of fire. It would be very silly indeed to play with matches on a bridge you still intend to cross.

              2. OP #4*

                I work in a field with lots of job hopping — digital agencies / tech. So maybe that’s why. I don’t know. I get it’s a potential issue but it seems like something that is a necessary evil if you’re conducting long and drawn out hiring processes.

                1. Anonymous Educator*

                  I do think the damage your fire makes depends a little on your field. It doesn’t mean you aren’t lighting a fire—it’s just a matter of whether the bridge gets singed a bit or totally incinerated.

                  For example, I have a friend who works in tech. She had two job opportunities in play, but one took longer to get back to her with an offer than the other. She accepted the other offer and then several days later she backed out. Sort of to her credit, I guess, she felt sheepish about having to tell the hiring manager she wasn’t going to be on board after all, because she knew it was a scummy thing to do but just weighed out the pros and cons and figured lighting that bridge wasn’t going to hurt her career overall.

                  In my field (education, mainly independent secondary), though, you will absolutely burn bridges (as in you may never get hired again) if you sign a contract with a school and then back out and sign a contract with another school. Not saying it’s never done or I haven’t heard of people doing it, but it reflects very badly on you and could seriously ruin your career.

                2. Kat*

                  Ugh. The digital agency world is TINY. I’m in Florida but I know all the big folks in LA, New York, Philly, etc. It’s a very small world where everyone knows everyone else, and someone leaving after accepting a job within a few weeks or trying to re-negotiate salary would be squashed and out of the industry pretty rapidly.

                  Proceed with caution. Whoever is giving you this advice is not doing you any favors.

                3. Sunflower*

                  I work in a field with high turnover and people job hop BUT it’s tight knit and everyone knows everyone else- and this is no small town, we are a big city. So leaving a job after 9-12 months won’t bat any eyes but backing out after you’ve accepted an offer is a no-no. Also it’s highly likely that the hiring manager will change jobs and work at a company(probably many different companies) you’re going to apply to one day.

                4. Velociraptor Attack*

                  There’s job hopping and then there’s accepting a job and backing out before starting. These are two very different things. I was in an industry with a lot of job hopping and one where it was still expected that you would see people accept an offer and back out.

                  That doesn’t mean that every time it was done it wasn’t a red mark against that person. I engaged in quick hiring processes but still when someone committed to me and then dropped out, it was a red flag for me not to hire them if they came across my desk in the future.

                5. Moe*

                  Agreeing with Kat above! I work in digital (agency side) and think that for most decent places/people trying to renegotiate salary would be bad for your reputation (in the bad faith sense and in that it would be seen as like you weren’t aware of how off base it is), and same for pulling out of a job you’d just accepted due to a better offer. The latter might be a bit more understandable to many people depending on the specific circumstances and how you handle it, but I think it could still very well be a thing that would haunt you later. And even though the industry is growing and there’s a shortage for talent so it can feel like some of the normal rules in favour of the employer don’t always apply, it’s still pretty small – you will come across people again (especially due to all the job hopping!) and they might be working somewhere you might want to work, so you should try to avoid putting these disadvantages up for your future-self :)

              3. Windchime*

                Yes, this. Old job hired a guy years ago to be a director of a big software package that we were going to implement. It takes a couple of years and dozens of employees to pull it off, and he was going to coordinate and direct the whole thing. He lasted about a month and decided at that point that he didn’t want to move his family after all, so he quit.

                It was eight years ago, and I still remember this guy’s name. He will never be eligible for rehire at OldJob or NewJob (a sister company) because of this.

            2. Kate M*

              But like people said above – would you be ok with the company that offered you a position rescinding your offer after two weeks if someone better came along? That would be “just business” too, if they found someone better who would do the work for less money. But it’s unethical.

            3. C*

              Fair enough, but I still think that’s bad advice (as do most commenters here, I notice). I ‘ve worked in many industries in NYC and backing out of an accepted offer is frowned upon in all of them. Maybe AAM will chime in with her input.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Well, wait, I don’t want to discourage people from asking questions here even if they think they feel confident in the answer. People like to check their assumptions and get other voices in the mix, and that’s okay.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I agree! But there’s a difference between ‘other people have said X, what’s your take?’ and ‘well I disagree with you and lots of people who know what they’re talking about agree with me’ . Honestly, it kind of feels like OP is not so much seeking advice as emotionally outsourcing some conflict about her decision, and it’s frustrating.

                2. A Bug!*

                  By the same token, neverjaunty, your comment above reads as a rhetorical question – you’re not actually expecting an answer; you’re just venting your frustration with OP#4’s responses.

                  To put a finer point on it, “Well, why bother asking, then, if you already know the answer” is pretty far from “You seem pretty dissatisfied with the answers you’re getting; can you give us a better idea of what response you were expecting?”

              2. Anonymous Educator*

                The question, I took it, wasn’t “Will I burn a bridge if I back out of this offer?” so much as “Can I use this as leverage to renegotiate?”

        3. Sunflower*

          I understand how you were stressed out and thought this was all a good idea. Unfortunately, even if you had not accepted offer 1, I am not sure you would have had much ground to stand on by coming back with offer 2. You’re dealing with two different cities and one of which is NYC. NYC vs Chicago have totally different costs of living so the salary point is rather moot. I know no one who has gotten relo assistance moving to NYC. Also, at the end of the day, most people are probably going to move to the city they want to live in more. A couple extra thousand a year is usually not enough to sway someone from where they really want to live. I’m glad you stuck with the offer and went to the city that you wanted to live in more.

          ‘surely you’d want someone backing out if they decided they wanted something else more? Otherwise they’d just leave sooner rather than later.’ – What??? Nooo. If you accept a job it’s because you WANT the job. If you’re offered another job, it might make you wonder which job you want more but it doesn’t mean you’d like the accepted job less. The only ways I’d see this happening would be if you only accepted offer 1 because you needed a job and that was was offered or if offer 2 was your dream job- which probably isn’t going to turn out being your dream job once you work there since dream jobs don’t exist.

          1. Michelenyc*

            The first time I moved to NYC I did receive a relocation package that was about 18 years ago. I only got $5000 and it was gone in a matter of minutes. It is sad to see that companies are still only offering that much to move here almost 20 years later. It costs so much more and frankly it would not sway me to accept a job.

            1. Michelenyc*

              After re-reading the letter $10k is slightly better but still not that much in the grand scheme of things. Once taxes are taken out you sren’t left will all that much to get your self set-up.

              1. OP #4*

                The company offering relo and signing bonus was in Chicago. I got nothing for NYC. Which is fine, I got the higher salary. Though NYC vs. Chi living … sigh. I’m very happy with my decision though.

        4. LD*

          Backing out is different from trying to re-open negotiations. Both can be alright depending upon the situation, but reopening (again, depending upon circumstances) makes it look more like you are trying to hold the company hostage to your demands. When or if you back out can make a big difference to the organization you end up rejecting and be better or worse for your reputation, as well. An organization has invested time and effort to source, recruit, interview and then choose a candidate and if they did it the right way, they’ve made a commitment to the person they choose. They are expecting that if they did their due diligence in selecting the candidate that the candidate has done due diligence and is excited and interested in that job with that organization and isn’t just waiting for a better offer, especially after the candidate says, “Yes, I will accept that job.” If it’s a more compelling personal or professional reason, (my health requires something different, my family situation has changed, my spouse can’t relocate, my dream job in my dream location wants me, the best teapot manufacturer in the world has offered me the CEO job at 100 times the salary you are offering, or something similarly personal or dramatically different) then you have a different reason. And, of course, you don’t even have to say why you are backing out, but it seems like the world is smaller and smaller and it’s likely they would discover the reason. And the reason can make it into the reputation you have in your field and then be either a non-issue or a disturbing question about your judgment or your integrity. It’s your call regarding your field and your circumstances, but it’s a sure bet that you had some concerns because you wrote in to ask about it.
          And congratulations on the new job! I hope it’s everything you hoped for!

          1. OP #4*

            Yeah. I really wanted to try to get some relo just because I’m a bit nervous about things and this city is scary expensive but I had a feeling I really shouldn’t. Backing out is one thing, reopening salary negotiations is another. I’m glad I didn’t do it, I was really at a loss for what to say to start it even so figured I should probably drop it. The comments have been interesting though.

            And thanks for the congrats! So far, so good but slow. Which is nice to ease in.

            1. C*

              OP#4 – again, congrats, but backing out after accepting/reopening $ negotiations are both bad. Just want to ensure that that message is the one that you, and others, are absorbing.

        5. newreader*

          I once accepted a job offer as a knee-jerk reaction because I badly wanted to be out of s toxic situation and this was the first offer I’d received after six months of searching. After a few days of consideration, I realized that the new job would just be moving from the frying pan to the fire. So I called the hiring manager and rescinded my acceptance. While I know what I did was best for me, I’m still a bit embarrassed. And I will never consider applying to that company ever again. I should have more carefully considered the offer before accepting.

    2. Ad Astra*

      And signing bonuses and relocation money are taxable income, aren’t they? So that $10,000 won’t actually be $10,000 when it shows up in OP’s bank account. Obviously the same is true for regular old salary, but the difference is a lot more noticeable when you’re talking about a lump sum.

      1. nerfmobile*

        Bonuses are taxable, yes. But relocation assistance can often be not taxable, depending on how the company handles it.

    3. AGirlCalledFriday*

      Here’s my concern – I live in Chicago and yes, it can be expensive…but New York is CRAZY expensive. This isn’t comparing apples to apples. If the choices were Chicago and New York, choosing New York should also come with a raise that’s significantly more than 5,000. A 50k salary in Chicago is the equivalent of about 75k in New York – that’s just in Brooklyn. It’s 97k in Manhattan. If they offered you just 5k more, I’d be extremely concerned about your ability to survive in the area…I mean, unless they planned on paying you a 6 figure salary in Chicago.

      1. OP #4*

        Yes. It’s the tech / digital agency industry so that is the range, very much into the 6 figures. The Chicago job came with some more perks as well as it’s more of a consultant job. Chicago on 6 vs NY on 6 is well… different but I wanted NY. Can you feel my stress? Sigh. And I’m very privileged and I realize that. I’ll figure it out.

  2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    #1 Besides Alison’s advice (which is spot-on), what would happen if this woman messed things up for your client, cost them a lot of time, money, and headaches and then they found out that you knew all along but didn’t say anything to them about it? It would probably tarnish your own reputation and possibly damage your relationship with them for keeping quiet. I would feel more of a sense of loyalty towards the client you’ve worked with for some time than a woman who admitted to lying about her experience.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Definitely! Your first loyalty should be to yourself. Your 2nd loyalty to the company. And really no loyalty at all to someone who lied to you.

      I think part of where you got off-track in the beginning, actually–is that you DO see your loyalty to yourself, and so you were thinking, “If I help them hire someone, it hurts me.”

      But that’s not automatically true—it’s not uncommon for a company to develop and nurture a strong relationship with their consultants that’s very robust and elastic. Diligently helping them hire, helping them identify needs, working to benefit the company–all those things help your relationship with them, build your reputation, etc.
      Even if the company eventually decided that they didn’t need you anymore, you are still helped greatly by assisting in the way they asked. Your reputation is everything–and this hiring thing only builds it.

      Your loyalty to yourself is fulfilled by being honest with the company about concerns over the future of the contract with them.

      But it’s also a form of loyalty to yourself to be loyal to them–and to do a really, really good job as their consultant. (Heck, you could have asked that they pay you to help with that hire. That would greatly increase your responsibility to be energetic and diligent in that role.)

      I’m not sure you did such a great job, because you weren’t focusing on the right responsibility:
      “in order to not sound jealous and to give her a fair chance, I said nothing bad about her and I was supportive of their decision to give her a 3-month fixed contract.”

      You focused on a loyalty to the job candidate here, I think (“to give her a fair chance”). I get that you were trying to be ethical, but this is part of my point about properly identifying the ethical obligation.

      They were counting on you to be the expert and ask the sorts of questions that would help you discover that she didn’t have the expertise she claimed. They were counting on you to give your true opinion, your EXPERT opinion, even if that means you haD to say “bad things about her.”

      Your wording almost sounds as though you just sort of rubber-stamped their decision without offering any true value for your time, or theirs. Of course, that’s just your wording.

      Now, you need to look at the ethical responsibility and realize, you owe it to yourself AND to them to tell them what she said. Don’t get dramatic (Alison’s script is nicely low-key), but tell them.

      If you don’t, you are going to torch your reputation -with them-, and there will go this contract.

  3. Honeybee*

    #3 – Sounds like you work at my bureaucratic nightmare of a graduate university. I used to do part-time statistical consulting for a unit of the university and they did the same thing: If you hadn’t gotten an assignment in a while, they would terminate you from the system (even though they knew this was a persistent problem), and they’d have to rehire you again before they could pay you. I also had a different research position at the same university, and in that position every May they would have to fire me and rehire me into a different position and then fire me and rehire me in the original position every September. It was the most ridiculous thing. People used to ask me all the time “And when you’re finished, do you want to work at X University?” and I would say “No! Never, never, never!”

    1. Ani*

      How does that not result in so many claims for unemployment by workers who can contest these so-called firings? It’s a question I wondered reading the OP too.

      1. fposte*

        Depends on the state, but often an employee has to work a certain number of hours weekly to be eligible.

      2. John Cosmo*

        In some states, if a person is also a student, they are not eligible for unemployment compensation.

      3. LQ*

        If they hadn’t been collecting paychecks for that long the point where they might have been eligible likely would have been when their hours were cut to nothing not when the system said they were fired. Chopping someone’s hours in half may (your state may vary) or getting rid of them completely can make you eligible for unemployment, even if you are still technically on the books as an employee. (But there are also student and other things happening here.)

      4. Ama*

        At my university we didn’t call it “firing” for student workers, we called it “detachment” — unless the student had done something that made them ineligible for rehire (which would have had to be really bad), they were just detached for the summer and reappointed in the fall. I think it had something to do with there being less restrictions on student work hours when school wasn’t in session– but why, when we implemented a custom electronic timesheet/payroll system, they didn’t put in a setting that would allow a student employee to toggle between “in semester” limits and “vacation” limits I don’t know.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah, they’re not really “fired,” they’re just removed from the payroll system (detached from the computer, unplugged, so to speak). It’s administrative.

    2. hermit crab*

      We actually have a setup similar to #3 at the private company where I work. My coworker dropped down to part-time to go back to school, then got kicked out of the payroll system due to inactivity — later, when I wanted him to do some work on my project, we both realized that he wasn’t in the system anymore. Because of the requirements associated with our government contracts, I had to post a job description, he had to formally apply, I had to get HR to extend an offer letter, etc. I tried to write the job description narrowly enough that an outsider couldn’t have possibly met the requirements, but it still felt sort of icky and I really hope that nobody else applied and got their hopes up about it. At least there was no background check or drug testing involved, though!

    3. OP#3*

      I am in a bureaucratic nightmare but at a proprietary college and not a university. Our HR person is hundred of miles away. What frustrated me with this scenario is that HR could have/should have contacted the employee’s direct supervisor (me) if they had questions about the employee’s status. This whole ordeal could have been avoided – in fact, the last HR person actually did contact me last October asking about employees who had not worked for a while and I informed them to keep them on, which they did. But, turnover happens and situations like this come up. I totally understand HR wanting to keep the books clean as far as active employees and I have always done my due diligence in letting HR know when tutors graduate or no longer meet GPA requirements, etc.

    4. Jenny Next*

      The constant firing, re-hiring, and switching between positions is also what they do when they don’t want to pay for benefits and/or want to avoid classifying someone as a career employee. It’s sleazy.

  4. Naomi*

    Wasn’t #3 an episode of Better Off Ted? When your workplace can be compared to Veridian Dynamics, you know something is wrong…

    1. mondegreen*

      Yep! It’s Season 1, episode 6. Makes me a little skeptical if this is a real letter, although truth is stranger than fiction and Honeybee above mentions a similar thing happening in her real life.

      1. Meredith*

        As a person working in a huge, bureaucratic state university I am very inclined to believe hiring/firing at this person’s institution is also FUBAR. It is an illogical, brain – bending mess at mine.

        1. OP#3*

          Yes, it is – totally. ALL employees must take drug tests – even our poor models who pose nude for drawing classes. The models work maybe 4 hours a semester. If it were me, I would need drugs in order to pose nude for college students.

          1. S.I. Newhouse*

            No wonder why tuition at those proprietary schools is so high. All that drug testing and all that unnecessary bureaucracy must cost the schools tons of $$$.

    2. Afiendishthingy*

      Yes- if OP can just send a bunch of employee IDs into space, the university will have to reboot the system and it will fix the issue

      1. Natalie*

        Skies teeming with ordination citizens strapped to rockets, flying through the air at 60 miles an hour in any direction… A lot of people are going to die.

    3. OriginalEmma*

      “Veridian Dynamics. We’re Sorry – You’re Welcome.”

      EXACTLY what I thought. What a great show.

  5. Mando Diao*

    #5 in cases like these I like to say something along the lines of, “I no longer felt safe or comfortable there, and I’m hoping to work for a company that has a more positive atmosphere.”

    It’s one of those odd scenarios where your interviewer will likely already suspect why you’re looking for work outside of Flint, and I think it would register oddly if you made a point of not touching on it.

    1. Blerp*

      I don’t know, that kind of sounds extremely melodramatic. I understand it’s a terrible situation but I think Allison is right in suggestion the emphasis should be placed on why the candidate is drawn the new city/job etc. I understand what you’re going for but that phrasing doesn’t ring right for some reason.

      1. MK*

        Yes, it sort of implies that the OP is desperate to leave the area. And I don’t see how it would be odd to not mention the issue, considering that it’s not a matter typically referred to in cover letters. Leaving it out isn’t going to register as making a point to avoid it.

        1. OP #5*

          In cover letters and interview I would absolutely focus on why that particular job or place is attractive to me, but in my industry 99% of the time I’m required to apply with an actual application, and a resume/cover letter to supplement. On this application they almost always ask your reason for leaving each job, which is why I’m having this dilemma.

          Thanks for the advice!

          1. kac*

            In the application you could simply write, “I’m looking to relocate cities.” Then ppl can infer that Flint water might have something to do with it, and you can elaborate more in person.

            1. WorkingMom*

              Totally agree – no need to give details on why you want to leave Flint, just focus on where you are applying to. For example – let’s say water was drinkable in Flint, but your landlord was a psychopath stalker. You wouldn’t explain to a potential employer that you’re looking to get away from a crazy landlord… no need to give these types of details at all. Focus on where you want to move TO, and if you did have an interviewer comment on the Flint water crisis, you could certainly acknowledge it in a lighthearted manner, something like, “Yes, of course, that is a factor. I hear the drinking water in Seattle is wonderful!” and then get back to the job discussion.

            2. JMegan*

              This seems like a reasonable solution. “Looking to relocate” is fine, and they will almost definitely read between the lines when they see where your current employer is located. As you say, the situation in Flint is pretty well-known, so you probably won’t even have to explain any more than that.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              This sounds reasonable to me. Anyone who follows the news will likely guess when they see the OP is from Flint, and they might even ask about it before the OP can say anything. If so, I’d say, “That’s one reason, but I’m also really excited about pursuing X in Y city, blah blah blah,” to keep it oriented toward the positive.

          2. hermit crab*

            Saying that you left a job because you are relocating to New City is almost always going to be OK. Anyone reasonable reading that isn’t going to think twice! It’s the same as if you quit your job because you needed to move to a different city with your spouse.

            Regardless of the water situation, though, I advise saying “I’m relocating to New City” rather than “I want to move away from Old City” — both because it makes the relocation seem like a done deal and because it’s more of a fact rather than a want, if that makes sense.

            1. BananaPants*

              Yeah, I’d say “I’m relocating to New City” rather than “I want to relocate from Flint”. It’s more forward looking and positive, and as hermit crab says, it makes the relocation seem like a done deal. The Flint water crisis is so well-publicized that many people will assume that’s part of it.

          3. Artemesia*

            But your reason can be I want to move to Seattle for whatever reason and not I am fleeing Flint.

    2. Graciosa*

      I really wouldn’t recommend this.

      “No longer sale of comfortable” in an entire city in the developed world is going to make me, as a hiring manager, think the candidate could turn out to be a flaky pain to deal with on my team. What other cities would the candidate regard as unworthy of her presence (and are any of them cities that I might need to send her on business!)?

      As a hiring manager, I’m moving on.

      OP, please come up with some reason (preferably better than the excellent water supply) why you want to move to the city in which I’m hiring. This is analogous to explaining why you want to work for a new employer without ever badmouthing the previous one. Admittedly, I’m not as concerned about someone not understanding the normal requirements of professional behavior by badmouthing a city, but there are other risks and there’s no point in adding red flags to your application if you actually want the job.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t know, it literally is an entire city that is literally not safe in a really long-term and wide-reaching way. It’s not the same, IMO, as “well, there was a mugging here once.” It’s not the kind of thing where the odds are in favor of your being safe. The odds are way in favor of your not being safe. Everybody uses water, and everybody’s pipes are now screwed up from this.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Because people sometimes want to know why you want to move. When I was job searching, people were wary about my move until I mentioned my family was from here, for example.

            That’s not to say that coming up with some kind of positive spin on the new city isn’t a good idea! But I’m bristling at what seems to be an implicatiom that feeling unsafe in Flint, even if you keep it inside your own head, isn’t reasonable. If that’s not really being implied, then never mind.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              The problem is people might think you are just running away from a crappy situation instead of really wanting to work for them. There’s nothing wrong with leaving for that reason – people are just saying that it’s not a great idea to give that reason during an interview. My cousin left NYC after 9/11 (she worked at the WTC and was traumatized). But she never mentioned it in interviews; she just said she wanted to move to X city.

            2. Charity*

              I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to leave Flint if you can over something like this. It’s a legitimate public health disaster. I think the point that people are trying to make is that just wanting to leave Flint doesn’t explain why you want to come to D.C. or Sacramento or Paris or Honolulu and answering the latter question is essential. I don’t think that someone who wants to leave Flint is a “flake” or a “pain” but it’s definitely important to know that they didn’t just pick their destination city at random.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Again, I don’t disagree with the idea that you want to spin it toward good-mouthing the new place. I mostly had trouble with the wording of “an entire city in the developed world,” which felt to me dismissive of the concern itself, when it’s actually a pretty unusual and terrible situation.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Then why be evasive about it with “I don’t feel safe and comfortable there”, instead of “I didn’t want to live in a city where mismanagement means the water is poison and is likely to be for the foreseeable future”? (I mean, setting aside the issue that, again, the employer really wants to know why you are moving TO their city.)

                2. fposte*

                  Yes, this isn’t a “don’t badmouth the former employer” thing. This is more like “I’m leaving New Orleans because a hurricane nuked my city” situation.

                  But none of that tells me, as an employer, why you want to work for *me*. So if you’re asked directly–some shut-in with no Internet says, “Why would you want to leave a beautiful state like Michigan?” I don’t think you have to soft-pedal the fact that your town had a disaster it’s not going to quickly recover from, but you still refocus on why my organization is where you want to work now that you’re leaving.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  If an interviewer said “Why would you want to leave a beautiful state like Michigan?”, I would guess they are also a former Michigander and we would have an enormous laugh about that question. ;)

            3. LD*

              Hi Kelly L, I think I understand what you are thinking, and yes, it’s reasonable to want to flee, but not to share with the hiring organization. That could raise serious concerns in the mind of the hiring manager regarding the applicant’s commitment to the new job or location. The reason you offered to the organization where you applied is still “I’m drawn to this location” (because you have family there), versus “I’m fleeing my current circumstances/location.” Hiring companies want to know what you are drawn to about their job or location, not that you are grasping at anything that would get you away from a bad situation. If the location where you were applying is not a typical place that people are clamoring to go, then of course they want to know what is prompting your interest, and your response that you have family there is a good reason to want a job in that location.

      2. Alessia*

        The city has been declared a state of emergency and the fact that the candidate no longer wants to live in a danger zone makes them a flaky pain?!

        1. Artemesia*

          No but the fact that she might be a drama queen about it instead of simply focusing on the job she is applying for would be. It is reasonable to leave a place with a bad boss too, but do you want to hire someone who has no compunction about bad mouthing the boss? It is about being a mature professional. If the only thing they know about you is your are melodramatic about relocation then how will that help your application?

          1. Alessia*

            Well, a bad boss is not the same as a state of emergency. I value quality of life over work, as do most sane people. Self-preservation is not melodramatic at all.

            That said, I agree there are better ways to word this. But she should not have to, and if I were the hiring manager, I would be sympathetic.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue with with the wording — “no longer comfortable” just sends up red flags to a lot of hiring managers, I think.

          It would be fine to say “I’ve wanted to move to X for a while, and the water crisis was the prompting I needed.” It’s not that she can’t mention it. But the mysterious “I’m no longer comfortable in the city where I live” is just going to sound like odd language to most interviewers — it’s intentionally vague, and for all they know, it could mean that you don’t want to see your ex on the street, or you’re being run out of town by the cops, or who knows what. It’s just weirdly vague. (Yes, with Flint, they might figure it out — but that just makes it weirder, because you could just come out and say it.)

          Use clear, precise language, and — as I wrote below — keep the focus on why you want to come to their city, because that’s what they care about more than why you’re leaving the one you’re in.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes, this. And, bluntly, people often use weirdly vague language because the real reason is one the employer didn’t like. Think of people who say that they find a neighborhood ‘has changed’ or ‘isn’t a good part of town’ when what they mean is ‘too many people with skin darker than mine live there’. There’s no reason to signal to an employer that you might have problematic reasons for leaving where you live (especially if you don’t!).

      3. kb_trigger*

        Not feeling safe or comfortable living in a U.S. town (that didn’t even have a terrible crisis ongoing) was absolutely part of the reason I left a job before. I certainly made my applications about the new opportunities/cities, but often I would get asked more specifically why I wanted to leave the old position and it was helpful to be able to have a specific, understandable reason for moving away.

      4. Not me*

        I’m not a hiring manager and likely never will be, but… There’s lead in the water. Will wanting to get away from that really seem flaky or like OP might leave another city over something finicky? I mean, it’s lead poisoning.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I read the OP as saying she’d mention the city by name and/or the water crisis by name, not “uncomfortable in the city where I live,” but I might be misreading.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think this is all in response to Mando Diao’s suggestion of “I no longer felt safe or comfortable there, and I’m hoping to work for a company that has a more positive atmosphere.”

      5. Bailey Quarters*

        Agreed. I live in a city that had a similar water issue, and after a while if you talk about the water issue, you are seen as melodramatic. Amazing to me, but I have had that reaction. Best to focus on what is desirable about the location you’d be moving to.

    3. Bleu*

      See, the Flint water situation isn’t just statewide news, it’s national news, and I personally don’t see an issue with OP saying this is one of the reasons OP is seeking work and relocation elsewhere. I mean it comes off to me as borderline weird NOT to mention it directly and instead say these vague things. It’s not OP’s fault. And it doesn’t mean OP isn’t genuinely interested in the jobs.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Again, why is it strange in the context of a job application? We’re not talking about an evasive answer to a direct interview question about the water crisis in Flint.

            1. Elsajeni*

              It just is! It’s weirder to drop vague, ominous hints about a push factor for your old city (“I no longer feel comfortable here”), especially when it’s something like this that no one could really argue with you wanting to get away from, than to either come right out and mention it (“I’m looking to relocate, in part because of the water situation here”) or leave it out entirely and just discuss the pull factors of the new job/city.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The thing is, employers care much more about you wanting to move to their city than about you wanting to flee the city you’re in. Their priority is making sure that you’re going to be happy in (and therefore stay) in the place where they are. That’s why it’s better to focus on “I want to move to X because ___,” not “I want to leave Y.”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes, because you could want to leave Y and go anywhere else. So, you want to leave Y; what makes you want to move to X? What about X is appealing to you in a way that makes you want to settle in and stay for a while? That’s what they want to hear about.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      “Interesting in relocating” – reviewer sees you’re in Flint, says “ah, yes.”

      “No longer feel safe or comfortable where I am” – reviewer says “huh, weird thing to say, could be a drama queen.”

      (At least if I were the one reviewing your application.)

    5. TootsNYC*

      yeah, no, as a hiring manager, I don’t want my interview to get sidetracked talking about what’s wrong at your old job.

      Let me bring up the, “Oh, and you’ll be getting away from the water problem in Flint, too!” and you can say, “that’s certainly one of the positives.”

      1. Charity*

        That’s a good point. I hope that this person doesn’t try to exert any kind of pressure/sympathy/guilt trip on the OP to keep her secret.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think we should trust that the OP, who has met this woman in real life, has reason to think this is accurate enough to mention.

  6. Observer*

    #2 is why most well run organizations have nepotism policies. Some places won’t even allow two people in the same family to work there. Most don’t go that far, but in a well run place, there would be no way for someone to be CEO with a spouse in place – even in an acting capacity. If I’m not mistaken in New York this is now illegal.

      1. Observer*

        No, non-profits (at least if they get government funding.) The New York State Non-Profit Revitalization Act has put some very strict conflict of interest rules into place.

        Putting someone in a supervisory role over a relative is a major no-n0.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, the government funding piece makes sense (and maybe the nonprofit part too). Otherwise that would have been a pretty weird over-reach on their part.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Also, nonprofits have a category of responsibility to the public at large, since they’re not taxed and people give them money without getting anything tangible in return.

          And hiring a relative is one way corruption happens in nonprofits. “The family nonprofit,” with relatives in no-show jobs, is something that can happen in very small nonprofits, so there’s a reason for the gov’t to say, “If you want to be tax-free, and you want to be eligible for gov’t contributions, you have to follow some rules.”

          That corruption can happen in business too (Dad hires his son as a salesman for the plumbing-supply co. and others), but at least the people who give businesses money are getting something in return, and the owner is the one who pays the price.

          W/ a nonprofit, the donors are the ones paying the price for the no-show job.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      The company I work for gladly hires family members of current employees all the time – just not into the same department/division. We’ve had some couples marry who work in the same division too, but the company usually doesn’t make one go somewhere else mainly because the two people involved are usually on separate teams that don’t have functions that cross over, so they’d never work together.

      With that said, I find it hard to believe that Tony doesn’t know about Bob’s reputation in a company that small. Not saying the letter writer is lying (she may have been told he doesn’t or assumed he doesn’t because of his rank), but usually when people are acting a fool in the office, spouse of a higher-up or not, word spreads. The fact that Bob’s husband runs the show, and apparently chooses not to manage his own team, makes him think he’s untouchable – and he probably is.

      Have the talk with Tony like Alison suggested, OP #2, but don’t be surprised if nothing happens. Tony sounds like the type who will continue to let Bob do what he wants so he won’t have to deal with the fallout at home.

      1. OP#2*

        i know it’s hard to believe but, Tony truly sees Bob as an angel. And I think you’re right about fallout at home. Tony tends to be a conflict avoider. And anyone who has challenged Bob also suffers repercussion from Tony in various forms (non-support, emotional-based decisions, less recognition etc).

        1. Doriana Gray*

          See, that would have me looking for a new job. How in the world can you effectively manage when there’s one person on the team who’s untouchable? He gets to come in and poison the well every day, and your other employees see this and know nothing can be done – their morale must be in the toilet? And cursing at you?! Bob is off the chain. You have my sympathies, OP, but it may be time to start looking.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here. I don’t see this problem as fixable as long as upper management does nothing. Even the fact that none of the VPs have said anything is troubling. They either are afraid of Bob or afraid management (Tony or others) won’t do anything.

            It’s not functional. And Bob is an abusive asswaffle.

            1. OP#2*

              I’m hopeful that a new CEO will assist. In the meantime I’m continuing with my plan of meeting head-on, standing my ground, and documenting.

              BTW. Asswaffle. That’s a new one for me! Thanks Elizabeth!

          2. Michelle*

            I agree- time to start looking. Cursing at you?? No, absolutely not. I don’t care if Ton & Bob are married (or domestic partners), cursing at a supervisor with no repercussion is a huge red flag with warning sirens.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          People often have very rosy views of their spouses or family members even if they have heard otherwise from other people. I’m betting Tony has heard about how awful Bob is, but totally discounts what other people say about him. The problem is more likely to be denial than blissful ignorance.

          1. LQ*

            Or he knows it because he experiences it but he can overlook it because of other things so why can’t everyone else?

            1. Charity*

              He could be downplaying it too, or excusing it with the usual rationalizations (everyone else is “toxic”, people are just jealous of Bob’s experience/knowledge, people are just being overdramatic, etc.) It sounds like no one has confronted him so he’s working off of whatever Bob tells him at home and whatever rumors he has heard, and it’s very, very easy to discount rumors and innuendo that you don’t want to believe.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                Yeah but Bob is the common denominator over and over again…I think tony knows full well what’s going on and doesn’t care.

          2. OP#2*

            Teapot, I’m reflecting on denial vs blissful ignorance. Bob has said some interesting things in staff meetings that demonstrate his lack of a filter At times what he says throws Tony “under the bus” and Tony is noticeably bothered by it. I’m pretty sure I’m the first VP to take on the battle of “checking” Bob’s bad behavior. And previous CEOs have allowed it, which makes the situation ever more difficult. Since this is my first true management position I don’t have significant experience to draw upon. This site, Allison and all of you commenters, have inspired me to take on the battle. I bought the “Managing to Change the World” book and have spent hours on the site reading and drafting conversations that I need to have with Bob and other staff members too.

        3. Jerzy*

          If that’s the case, there’s no way for you to effectively manage Bob. You need the support of someone higher up, or forget it. But I agree with Doriana Gray: it’s time to cut and run. With Tony in the way you’ll always be left with this toxic employee or you’ll be dealing with a resentful boss with a grudge against you. I’m sorry OP, but it sounds like a no-win situation.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes. Tony is choosing aboiding conflict and his rosy view of Bon over his employees and the well-being of the organization. OP, even if you got Tony to listen to you, you can’t believe he will actually take action. Bob’s behavior is so over the line that no sane manager would permit it.

        4. Artemesia*

          Well there you are. If other people have challenged Bob and Tony comes to his aid what will make your situation different? This is a place to get away from asap. Tony knows or ‘doesn’t want to know’; he doesn’t care.

    2. NYC Redhead*

      I do not believe it is illegal, but there are stricter rules in NY around disclosing conflicts of interest in non-profit organizations. It may be that it is only a conflict of interest with board members.

      1. voyager1*

        I worked somewhere that had strict rules, but after a manager knocked up a subordinate they changed them to be more loose…. and within a year:
        Head of internal audit and daughter worked for us.
        Head of HR and daughter worked for us.
        Manager in one branch got daughter hired as asst manager at another.
        Manager (female) got daughter hired as teller
        Manager (male) got son hired into IT
        Manager (female) got daughter hired as head teller.

        This bank only had 34 branches and about 500 employees.

        Oh and the guy did end up marrying the pregnant girl.

        A company’s organizational chart shouldn’t be found on

          1. AVP*

            I wonder if they really liked one of the employees and they stretched the rules so as not to force her/him out? That sounds like a great management technique! /not

            1. voyager1*

              AVP: Yes the manager who got the girl pregnant was well liked.

              Audio: I do not work there anymore.

        1. GreenTeaPot*

          I worked for a bank where the HR director hired her husband as a loan officer when he lost his job. It made a lot of people very uncomfortable, even though the two did not work together, but fortunately they both moved on within a couple of years. There really should be a policy about spouses working together.

        2. Who Watches the Watchers?*

          I think I’ve got you beat! My very first teller job there were 3 sets of sister-in-laws working at my branch!

          One of those sister-in-laws was having an affair with the Manager of the branch; so TONS of family drama between the two about that situation.

          Another set was constantly into it because the newer sister-in-law felt left out and ostracized by her new in-laws.

          And the third set was always talking about each other behind the others’ back but would always act so nice when they were together. There was SO MUCH FAMILY DRAMA it was worse than living in a soap opera!

          And when our new Assistant Manager went to the HQ HR people to try and deal with all of this, he was ripped a new one by affair having sister-in-law and escorted out–all during the day with customers coming in hearing all that screaming and cursing! Later HQ put out an email that said he was being transferred to another branch.

          It was a truly awful place to work.

          1. Audiophile*

            Wait… the assistant manager, who presumably wasn’t having an affair with anyone, was let go??!??

            1. Who Watches the Watchers?*

              They certainly tried to fire him. But HQ came in and just decided to transfer him to another branch in another city. If I were him I would’ve sued and not just settled to get transferred.

            1. TootsNYC*

              well, it’s not like there’s a large labor pool. And people are often motivated to go into fields that their family members are in, if only because they’re familiar with it and can visualize working in it.

        3. OP#2*

          THIS “A company’s organizational chart shouldn’t be found on” IS HILARIOUS! Thank you for the chuckle!

    3. asteramella*

      My company encourages referrals of/hiring of family members and spouses on the grounds that “we’re a family company.” In practice this has resulted in huge amounts of drama because we do have an anti-nepotism clause, but it’s selectively enforced. E.g. my team wouldn’t consider hiring my spouse in a role with zero crossover to my role, when there is also a zero percent possibility that I would ever become a manager in this department, while other departments happily hire spouses to work in heavily overlapping roles. The C-suite also regularly gets their kids and grandkids jobs in their own chains of command.

      We also had a case where a manager (married) had an affair with his second-in-command (also married). They both divorced their spouses and married each other. In response, my company promoted the subordinate to manager and split the department into two parallel teams, so technically the anti-nepotism rule was followed but in practice it just looks like my company rewards the practice of having sexual relationships along the chain of command.

  7. Pat*

    #4 “It was a great offer, and during negotiation they offered an increased annual salary instead of relocation. I had asked for one or the other. ”

    They did you a favor. Unless you really need some up-front money, why wouldn’t you go for a higher salary? That’s going to be a higher amount every year and it will form the basis for any future raises or possible bonuses (if they’re based on a percentage). $5,000/year beats $5,000 signing bonus + $5,000 relocation in the long run.

    People need to stop putting so much weight to one time “bonuses” and focus more on the long term.

    1. Deb*

      Yes, exactly this!! In the long term, the extra money in your base salary is significantly more valuable than a signing bonus or relocation stipend. Raises are most often based on a percentage of your previous salary, so what starts out as an extra $5,000/year has the potential to grow and grow. You’ll also get a higher employer contribution to your retirement account (assuming the company offers that benefit) since that’s a percentage of your salary.

      OP should not reopen negotiations for all of the reasons Alison wrote and also for these reasons right here. Please, and I say this to OP and others, do not get tempted by the prospect of more money upfront paired with a lower base salary – take the higher salary!

    2. Bailey Quarters*

      Exactly. I asked if there was a possibility of relocation assistance with a job, and although the employer couldn’t offer that, she did bump my salary to cover. I’ll take that all the time as it’s permanent. :-)

    3. Ad Astra*

      It’s true that the increased salary is by far a better long-term deal, but moving to a new city (and country!) is really expensive and it’s not crazy to take the upfront money if that’s what your circumstances demand. But, in OP’s case, if the relocation money was a deal breaker, she probably wouldn’t have bothered asking for the increased salary. So that may not be what’s happening here.

      1. OP #4*

        It wasn’t a deal breaker no, but it would have been really helpful. When I asked about relo they said that they almost never do that unless it’s a transfer between offices but they would ask the CFO and see what the outcome was. The outcome was an extra 5k in salary but relo was not possible. There’s also no bonus structure and the other place had up to 7% annually. I think being so stressed about moving and money and finding a place to live and all that jazz has really warped my brain and my sense of what is best.

        I ended up taking the first job and I’m glad I did. Especially reading the comments.

        1. Bailey Quarters*

          I’m glad too. It sounds like you’ll be much happier there. Best of luck in this next step!

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. If your location is given on your CV, then perhaps it might come up in pre-interview chit-chat? “Oh you live in Flint. Isn’t that where there is a problem with the water?”

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yep, and even if they don’t bring it up, your interviewer probably knows about it. I agree with Allison’s advice – what helped me get a job outside of my local area was playing up why I wanted to move there (climate, family close by, outdoor activities). Interviews are not the time to be negative.

      1. Newbie*

        I agree that the focus should be on the positive and not the negative. While it can be helpful to mention why you like the new area (climate, family, etc.), the majority of the focus should be on the positives related to the job and company. I’ve been on hiring committees where some of the committee members questioned candidates’ commitment to the job and company. One standard interview questions we have is along the lines of “what interested you in this position/role/area?” If a candidate speaks more about the skiing or hiking or their nearby family, there can be concern that our job is just a way for the candidate to move to our area and may not stay with our company too long. Right or wrong, that can be the perception in some cases.

        Mentioning positives about the region or city can show you may plan to stay in that area long-term, but companies also want to know you’re fully committing to the job you’re applying for. You want to convince them you’re the best candidate for that particular position, so more comments and questions about the role and company can be beneficial.

      2. Felicia*

        When I was involved in hiring if people were from elsewhere we would rather not them focus on why they’re leaving their previous place (whether that be previous job, or previous city), because if they did it sounded like they were just looking to go anywhere else, they didn’t care where, not necessarily that they wanted this job, or to live in our city. I think focusing on why you left makes it sound like you don’t care where you move, which may sound like less specific interest in the new place

        1. OP #5*

          I absolutely make it a point not to be negative during interviews or in cover letters. The issue is that in my industry 99% of the time I have to apply with an actual application, and the resume/cover letter are supplemental. On those applications it almost always asks your reason for leaving, which is why I’m running into trouble. Otherwise I wouldn’t bring it up.

          Thanks for the advice!

          1. Mike C.*

            If they’re being that specific, I don’t really see a problem with mentioning the water issue in Flint. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being or saying something negative so long as it’s not the focus or main theme of the interview.

              1. Mike C.*

                I don’t think there’s a need to do it, all I’m saying is that there’s no harm either.

                In fact, I think wording the answer in the form of, “I’m leaving Flint and was attracted to this area for X, Y and Z” makes a much stronger case because it says that it took a massive crisis before the OP decided to leave.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Do they really ask your reason for *leaving,* or do they ask your reason for changing jobs (which could be, your reason for going to something new).

            But even if the do use the word “leaving” (or similar focus), just say, “want new opportunities,” “relocating to City X,” “want more responsibility/autonomy.”

            See how those are focus on what you hope to get out of the NEW job? Not about why the old job is bad. Sure, “I don’t have enough responsibility” or “I don’t make enough money” are the same essential meaning, but choose rhetoric that looks forward, not backward.

    2. JMegan*

      It absolutely will come up. I come from a small town in southwestern Ontario that nobody had ever heard of until they had an e.coli crisis in 2000. And even now, when I say where I was born, people remember the town as the place with the cow poop in the drinking water.

      Flint is going to be on the map for this for a long, long time. And as I said above, I think your reason for wanting to relocate will be pretty obvious once they see it on your application materials.

  9. Knit Pixie*

    “For what it’s worth, it’s pretty awful that your organization apparently allows dating within a chain of command, but I’ll save my rant on that for a different letter coming later today.”

    Did I miss something? I thought they were same sex partners, not dating. I didn’t see where it says they met at work. Not that I can decide which evil is lesser: dating within the CoC , or a non – family company allowing your SO to work anywhere beneath you.

    Still relevent to the point of course, that this dynamic shouldn’t have come into being/allowed to continue.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, I read “partner” as “together, but not married” (and I generally say “dating” about unmarried couples, but maybe that’s weird), but I could be wrong, and either way I’ll clarify it in the post. (They of course shouldn’t allow dating or significant others or family members in a chain of command.) Thank you.

      1. AlsoInHigherEd*

        The headline to the piece “I’m managing my boss’s spouse” made me think they were married.

      2. Tara R.*

        Partner in the queer community is a long stand-in for “spouse that I’m not allowed to marry”, and that’s still a pretty common use (even if they are/could be legally married).

    2. OP#2*

      Despite not being legally married I refer to them as spouses, when perhaps I should have used partner. Bob had been dating Tony when he was hired and while I was on staff at that time I’m fairly certain it was 100% known that Bob and Tony were in a relationship.

  10. John Cosmo*

    #3. I used to be an Admin Assistant in an HR Department and when similar situations happened at the school where I worked, like for returning seasonal employees who were rehired, the unfortunate employee still had to undergo another drug test, but we tried to make it as easy as possible for the employee to get back in the system. Most of the time I just made copies of the employee’s original application and permission to run a background check form, whited out the original signatures and dates, and had the employee re-sign and re-date it. The application was filed and I re-ran the background check information. (During the two years I worked in that job, I never saw a situation where an employee had been arrested in between the time we ran the earlier background check and the later one.)

    I also had to rerun the employee’s I-9 form through E-Verify, but if all of the information had stayed the same, (i.e., none of the I.D. they used when they originally filled out the I-9 form had expired) I could have them re-sign and re-date it and I would just re-run it through E-Verify. The only time I had to have people fill out new forms was when someone’s name changed (usually due to marriage) or when the I.D. they used on an I-9 form or criminal background check permission form (a driver’s license or passport) expired or they got a new driver’s license from a different state. (This might happen for every 4th or 5th rehired employee.) I didn’t have to redo the on-boarding, thank goodness.

    Having to to re-run an I-9 form through E-Verify for a returning employee who is a U.S. citizen that we’ve previously hired seems kind of silly, but I suppose that there could be someone who had previously been a U.S. citizen who would renounce his or her citizenship. OTOH we did have to re-run the I-9 information on non-U.S. citizens because sometimes they’d get new passports or visas and it seemed reasonable to re-run the updated information through E-Verify.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I would think re-doing drug tests and background checks for these employees probably cost quite a bit of money. Yuck.

    2. OP#3*

      Thanks for the feedback and it was good of you to make the employees’ headache of constantly re-applying a bit easier. And as Ad Astra mentioned below, I’m sure there is quite a bit of cost associated with re-running drug tests and background checks for the same person over and over.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Mentioning the money bit to the HR folks, and maybe even to an HR manager, might prompt them to get better about asking before deleting people.

        Money can be motivating!

  11. Sara*

    #4 Is that $5,000 relocation fee a fixed payment into your account or, like in my role, a contribution to cover relocation expenses up to $5000?

  12. Sara*

    Hit submit too soon! I never profited from the relocation money as it was either paying back expenses that I’d already paid out or was used by the company to arrange the big things like the movers.

    1. Big10Professor*

      Yup, this is a good point. If relocation only costs you $3500, for example, do you get the other $1500? Or does that disappear into the ether?

        1. LD*

          It completely depends upon the relocation agreement or policy. I’ve relocated and received all the covered expenses reimbursed and I’ve relocated and received a lump sum and could keep anything I didn’t spend. It all got run through taxes, too, so even if I had some left over from the lump sum it was included in my salary and benefits.

      1. Ad Astra*

        The two companies who paid me to relocate just added the money to my first paycheck without verifying what I actually spent — but they only paid me $1,000 and $1,500 to move.

  13. FSO*

    #2: If anyone is looking for a sample nepotism policy, the federal government has some very strong ones. The Department of State’s policy, for example, is here.

    Relative includes a live-in domestic partner, so it would cover exactly the situation mentioned here.

  14. Just A Girl*

    #2 I am going thru a very similar situation now, but have taken those next steps and have regretted it. Both co-workers work in my department, but one is my employee and one not. He is however in a place of influence over my staff and has influence with higher administration. These two employees constantly gossip with each other and then both shares information they wouldn’t typically have access to with other members of the team. It is tearing our department to shreds so I visited with HR and got approval to tell my employee to transfer to another department.
    The backlash has been significant. I anticipated backlash from both, but not at the level it has risen to. The one who is not my employee has went to very high levels of administration with multiple complaints about how I manage the department and how the department can’t afford to lose this amazing employee. I’m being told that administration is supporting me, but there is discussion of letting my employee remain in the department.
    Neither of them speak to me, but are gossiping with everyone else in the department about what is going on and I can see my team crumbling before my eyes. I am now looking for a different job. My advice to the OP would be to dust off your resume if you pursue this because it may get really ugly.

    1. OP#2*

      Thank you for sharing your experience! I have given considerable thought to “dusting off the resume”. It sucks because I LOVE my job and the potential the organization has is incredible. I really, really want to help move the org forward but I’m realizing more and more that culture and accountability are across the board are essential to building a productive and innovative TEAM.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Nonprofits that allow this kind of behavior and relationships between staff do not have potential. The concept might be great, and there might be other amazing people, but the dysfunction you are seeing (as you probably already know) might as well be on a listicle of “Ten Reasons Small Nonprofits Fall Apart”.

        1. BethRA*

          Having seen bs like this at my wife’s companies, I don’t think this sort of thing is limited to non-profits.

          I still don’t have much hope for OP #2’s situation, given what they’ve said about Tony’s reaction to prior attempts to deal with Bob, unless their willing/able to hold out for a new CEO. And that assumes the new CEO is willing/able to deal with the situation.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, and yep to BethRA’s point that it’s not limited to nonprofits.

          If this is how the organization runs, it doesn’t matter how much you like the mission.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. Much the same dynamic is why “family-owned business” is almost a synonym for “swirling vortex of disfunction.”

          2. neverjaunty*

            Oh, it’s definitely not unique to nonprofits! I mentioned that only because that’s the context the OP has.

  15. Mookie*

    LW 1, in asking you to sit-in on the interview and vet a potential replacement they were demonstrating their trust in your judgment and as an authority in your field. If they didn’t want your honest opinion — good, bad, or indifferent — they wouldn’t have bothered keeping you in the loop. It doesn’t sound like it was a courtesy to you, but a solicitation for help. You weren’t asked to say “nothing bad about her,” but the exact opposite. Refraining from initially offering up a judgment (and expressing certain misgivings) while occupying a role that absolutely requires both judgment and objectivity was a mistake. Now’s the time to correct it.

    In the meantime, decide whether or not you wish to continue your association with this company, because in your letter you indicate that you didn’t trust them when they made you a promise about retaining you and that’s a problem in and of itself. That distrust led you to be overly cautious, quiet, accommodating, and complaisant in the hope of securing more work from them. Whether that kind of conflict of interest was inevitable or not isn’t important anymore, but there’s some worrying miscommunication there. Your doubtfulness about how a negative evaluation of their new hire might affect your continued relationship suggests an uneasy tension that has nothing to do with the new hire at all.

    1. Graciosa*

      This read very much as weakness to me, which is probably not what the OP wants to present.

      Top consultants share a trait with top employees – they feel free to share their best opinions, thoughts, and judgments without fear because they know they can always find another source of income. Yes, they’re just that good.

      Ironically, I think the two are related. That knowledge of your value and the security that comes with it is part of what creates the value itself. Fear for your job – or here, focus on the risk of losing the contract – is actually making the OP less valuable and attractive as a consultant.

      The really outstanding professionals always put the interests of their clients or employers ahead of their own. That’s truly avoiding a conflict of interest in a way that’s much more powerful than refusing to provide support for anything that might impact you as an individual.

      And it pays off in reputation and future business far more than the value of any individual contract.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I agree. And I think the company was offering the OP the opportunity to think of herself as “that good.”

        I think she lost a bit of that opportunity by not being really proactive in the hiring process. But she should get it back now.

    2. LQ*

      I agree that this was a good opportunity to be an authority. That doesn’t mean being overly deferential. But thinking thoughtfully about maybe the person won’t be at your level, but will the level they are at work for the org. You are an authority. That’s awesome. They are treating you as an authority. That’s awesome. Be honest with them about your concerns because they are looking to you for the authoritative answer. (And consider if you should be raising your rates ;))

  16. LSCO*

    #5 – If I were hiring and saw you were applying from Flint, I’d hazard a guess as to whether the water crisis was a factor in that, and I’m sure it will cross the mind of other hiring managers. However, wanting to move away from Flint isn’t the same as wanting to move to Los Angeles, or New York, or wherever. As a hiring manager I don’t much care why you’re moving away from the place you are currently; I want to know why you want to move to this particular city so I can be somewhat convinced you’re likely to stay for a while and not get homesick/move after 6 months here.

    1. Temperance*

      In your opinion, do you think it would be beneficial for LW#5 to mention (if the question is raised) that she doesn’t have any family ties to Flint, as a way to reinforce the idea that she’s not going to run back there out of homesickness?

      1. Allison*

        OP might not run back home, but they might run somewhere else if they don’t click with the new city right away.

      2. fposte*

        Nope–that’s falling into the trap of talking about why you’re leaving, not why you want to be where you’re applying.

        Back to how hiring is like dating–bad things about the previous date are disconcerting, but good things about the current date are very pleasing.

  17. Juli G.*

    #4 – is your sign on tax assisted? If not, keep in mind that the 10K upfront is going to be more like 7K (assuming the relo is tax assisted, which is the norm in my experience).

  18. Hlyssande*


    My company has a policy where you can’t have someone related to you in any way in a direct line up the command structure. Not sure how many levels removed that cuts out, but my coworker had to switch to my group from the one she was getting hired for because her FIL would’ve been her manager (above her supervisor).

  19. OP #5*

    This issue I’m having isn’t necessarily about cover letters and resumes, since I agree those should be focused on why I want the job I’m applying for and an overall positive experience.

    The problem I’m running into is that 99% of the time in my industry, I can’t just apply with a cover letter and resume. I have to apply with an actual application, and the resume/cover letter are supplemental. On those applications, they almost always ask your reason for leaving each job, so there isn’t really any avoiding saying at least something. That’s where I’m stuck.

    1. Sassy AAE*

      Put down your reason as “Desired new challenges and opportunities,” or something.

      In your letter you say, “I’ve been wanting to leave my job for a while because the company is a mess…”

      Just forget about the water crisis, and say why you’re leaving this particular position. Cause it’s not all about the water apparently.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “I’ve been wanting to leave my job for a while because the company is a mess…” — don’t say that!

        Talk about why you want to relocate to the new city and why you’re interested in and would excel at this particular job.

        On the application, reason for leaving can simply be “relocation.” It’s really that simple.

    2. J.B.*

      When I encounter that, I always use some positive change type reason for the reasons for leaving. Career advancement or similar. For your reason leaving for your current job maybe particularly look at something about the job for which you are applying and why you would like that. As long as the reasons seem generally positive try not to overthink it.

    3. Judy*

      I’m assuming there are other reasons, like wanting advancement opportunities, a different company culture, etc.

      If you were 100% happy with your job, I’d assume you would be less willing to move, even with the water crisis. I’m just guessing that the water crisis is the straw that broke the camel’s back, not every reason that you would like to leave your position.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I’ve basically never given the real reason why I left a job in an application. Seeking new opportunities, relocating, going back to school = boss was crazy, family crisis, fired.

    5. Cucumberzucchini*

      Just say “Looking to move to XYZ city” as the reason for leaving. You don’t have to answer with the whole reason.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Talk about what you want from the NEW job. The unspoken implication is that the old job didn’t have it.

      You want to live in a new city (because you don’t want to live in Flint).
      You want more responsibility, authority, and autonomy (because you don’t have any at the old job).
      You want more money (because they don’t pay you enough).
      You want to work at a best-in-class company (because the old company is crappy).
      You want to better your skills by working at a company with up-to-date technology (because the old company is still using old software, and you’re afraid they’ll pass you by).

      Now, wanting to work for a decent boss is probably a little too granular to get into.

      And remember–this isn’t therapy. This isn’t a heart-to-heart with your BFF or your SO. This isn’t a confidential consultation with your mentor, your pastor.

      You can lie. You can exaggerate. You can focus on the nice-sounding thing and just neglect to mention the stuff that’s distractingly negative.

  20. Kyrielle*

    #3 – I”ll be honest, if I was that tutor, I would refuse to reapply. No one told me I was terminated, you told me there was work to do, I did it. You can pay me. And if you make me reapply to a) get paid for work I already did in good faith, believing I was going to be paid, and b) to get any more work, I wouldn’t do it. (If I needed the money that badly, I’d have found a job with more regular hours than this tutoring gig.)

    I’d just say “You have to pay me within X days by state law” if true, or dig up whatever policy did apply. And tell all my friends who might be tutoring or tempted to tutor or anything. Why? Because I’d _never_ want to work for you in any capacity again.

    1. Kyrielle*

      To be clear, this is specifically over the re-application scenario. Given a scenario where you just said “I’m so sorry, your employment record was terminated incorrectly. We’re going to get it reinstated but it may delay your pay for this a bit.” – I would not be happy, but I’d continue tutoring. I *might* continue tutoring if it was “We’re going to get you paid for this, but they say you’ll have to reapply before I can give you any more tutoring assignments.” – but I might not.

      But having to reapply *to get paid*? Oh no. Oh heck no.

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s especially bad if the background check and drug test are at the applicant’s expense, though we don’t know if they are.

        1. OP#3*

          Fortunately, they are not at the applicant’s expense – the challenge is finding a drug screen place that is open when the applicant is free and is close by to where they live and work.

            1. OP#3*

              That’s to be determined. From a non-HR background, I would assume they would still owe the employee money but she was officially terminated on the 19th and then worked the 22nd and 25th. Of course, neither the employee and I were aware of this and both were assuming they were still an active employee.

    2. Natalie*

      I agree. I doubt the state’s board of labor or equivalent is going to be very sympathetic to the employer in this scenario. Perhaps you could mention that to your HR department to light a fire under their butt.

    3. Charity*

      I wonder what process is in place. Is the goal to make people get frustrated and give up on their paycheck? I can understand if they needed to do it for future assignments (well, that still doesn’t make sense but at least it’s not completely unreasonable), but the idea that they can withhold pay for hours already worked while they wait for a drug test and a background check to come back? What if the tutor fails the drug test this time? Does that mean they don’t get paid? What if the background check takes longer than normal?

      It seems bizarre and borderline unethical to do that to someone. They might be hiding behind a bureaucracy but all of that stuff sounds completely voluntary on the organization’s part.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Yep, the bureaucracy has a policy of cleaning out the deadwood from th computer records now and then. They get lots of time cards with 0 hours (I do–because the computer issues a timecard for everyone who on the list, every week), and it gets unwieldy and distracting to look at.

          The person looking at the long list of null time cards is in another building from the people who are actually hiring and supervising the employees.

      1. OP#3*

        I more or less hinted about that scenario to HR last week (“so if they don’t re-apply they won’t get paid for the work they did when both of us were under the impression they were still employed?”) and I got a vague “that’s why I am sending them the link to re-apply” response. We will see how things progress. I totally support my employee and any steps that have to be taken to get them paid.

        1. JMegan*

          I would skip the more or less hinting, and spell out exactly what the problem is.

          Jane was terminated on B date, and she worked for us on C and D dates, because nobody knew she was terminated. As a result, we owe her $X dollars. What’s the quickest way to get the money to her so she’s not out of pocket for those hours?

          And if you can, keep pushing for not making her re-apply. I understand that she needs to in order to do future work, but she shouldn’t have to jump through ANY hoops to get paid for work that she has already done. The organization screwed up, and it’s their responsibility to fix it asap. If the first person you talk to in HR can’t do it, go up the chain to their manager, try going directly to payroll. Even in the most bureaucratic organization, there are ways to fix things like this – but you need to do it quickly, in order to preserve any kind of good relationship with the student. And it looks like you’re going to have to be the advocate for her, which means being direct and assertive about what needs to be done.

          1. OP#3*

            Thank you for the advise – I definitely need to be more assertive and advocate for the employee in question. Will follow-up with HR and make some noise.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I would have to consider doing the same thing. The employer is responsible for paying for that work regardless, as far as I can tell. Just cut me my check for the $50 (or whatever) you owe me and reconcile the payroll stuff on your own time. Not my problem.

      For me, the drug test is the last straw. Drug tests are a pain in the ass for the employee. They do nothing to predict or prevent someone from showing up to work intoxicated, and who the hell cares if a college tutor is a recreational drug user? Not to mention drug testing is expensive, and I wouldn’t love the idea of my university spending funds on drug-testing a part-time employee twice.

      1. OP#3*

        I agree that the drug tests are a pain, especially for college students. There is a 3 day window for applicants to complete their drug test and if they miss that window, they are “locked out” from applying to the company for a year. I have had that happen with other applicants-sometimes they just skip out all together, other times they show up and the place is not accepting appointments after a certain point in the day. It’s a nightmare just to get people through the whole process. Oh the nightmares of bureaucracy.

    5. Student*

      I’m shocked that they didn’t tell the tutors that they’d been terminated. Not surprised, but I find that horrifying.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Or even their manager, so the manager would know *not to assign any more work to them*.

        I mean, it’s seriously wrong not to have told the tutors. But they not only didn’t consult the manager to confirm those people were done (or had defaulted when called or something, vs. not being called), they didn’t even *tell* the manager. Who, predictably, assigned work to someone they still thought was working there.

        I don’t even.

        1. OP#3*

          I know, right?? That was my reaction too. I’ve been approving this employee’s blank timecard for months and now and the second they actually get some work, other personnel at the company decide to terminate them without consulting the employee or their supervisor. *headdesk*

          1. TootsNYC*

            If you’re getting a blank time card to approve, I wonder if you can use that as a tickler to alert them as to status.

            Maybe once a month, send an email that says, “These people had blank time cards, but please KEEP THEM IN THE SYSTEM” and “these people had blank time cards, and WE CAN REMOVE THEM bcs they graduated.”

            It’s fiddly on your end, but it’s something to consider. You’ll be the one who knows whether the cost-benefit ratio is something you’re willing to live with.

            1. OP#3*

              Good thoughts and I may have to do that in the future. I actually let HR know beginning of this year which tutors had graduated in December and requested to remove them from teh system. I get how annoying blank time cards are (after all, I have to approve them!) and I understand why HR wants clean records.

    6. OP#3*

      Kyrielle, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As the tutor’s supervisor, I was livid on their behalf because the whole scenario could have been avoided had HR actually contacted me and not someone higher up who did not know the situation. What’s even weirder is neither myself nor the tutor received any sort of communication when she was taken out of the system. I informed the tutor they would probably have to re-set their password in the timecard system and to make sure they logged their hours so they could be paid. When I went in last Friday to approve time cards, that is when I discovered they were missing from my profile and contacted HR.

      As of now, the tutor is willing to go through the re-hire process (bless them) and hopefully everything works out ok – to make things even more fun, applicants have 72 hours from the time they receive the email to take the drug screen to actually go there and take it. If they miss that window, then they cannot apply for a position with the company for a year. And at that point, the tutor will have graduated. Imagine the chaos if the tutor either does not take the drug test or fails it. Oy vey.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Be sure to loop that person who’s higher up in, so they know how much energy you and the tutor are going through.

        Because THAT person could easily have looped YOU in. So make sure this productivity ding is clear. Point it out that way to everyone: “I’ve spent X hours, the HR person has spent X hours, the employee will spend X hours to fix this. It would have taken 10 minutes to forward the email to me.”

        And maybe suggest an email group, as a solution: “What if we have an email group, and you just send it to everyone? It doesn’t matter if managers in other departments or chains of command see info about my tutors.”

        When my org has time cards that haven’t been approved, the guy emails everyone whose employee is on the list. So I see

        That said, we have the same problem w/ freelancers’ tech accounts being shut off and deleted. I cannot get them to notify me, even though I’m the one who submitted the request to set them up. The IT software deletes me as a stakeholder on the account, and the only person they notify is the freelancer–who’s not in the office to get the email.

        So I might ask, in a curious way, whether my name is still associated with the tutor in the system, and whether it’s possible for the HR person to pull a list from the database that includes manager names, and then just email the entire list to all the managers in Column B, “would that be too difficult on your end? It seems a little fiddly, but it would sure be a lot less time and trouble, even for you, than dealing with the whole on-boarding thing. And the cost of the drug screen all over again, too.”

        1. OP#3*

          That all sounds reasonable. Forwarding an email does not take long. I know the tutor has been listed under my time card profile since they were hired. I’m not sure when HR pulled the initial report of no pay for 6 months if it had listed the supervisors for employees – if they had, it would have been very reasonable and easy for them them to loop in the direct supervisors and not just the top brass at the school.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Honestly, I would tell HR that since HR screwed this up, HR can pay for a taxi or Uber at HR’s expense so that this tutor can get to the drug testing facility. Or whoever up the chain that told HR to go ahead and remove those tutors without actually talking to you – take it out of their budget. Unless there is some kind of policy somewhere that says that tutors have to re-apply every semester or if they don’t work for X months they have to re-apply, it is crazy that someone else got this student kicked out.

        Or tell the employee to fill out an expense report for the cost of getting to the facility and back, and if you can find a way to do it, their hourly tutoring rate. After all, having to go take a drug test is WORK at this point.

        You might also want to consider some kind of “work one hour per semester” policy for continuing tutors so they don’t get kicked out of the system. Have some kind of paperwork they have to complete (a new survey that says what classes they will tutor or what classes they take) that they then charge an hour for on a timecard. That would keep them on the books and maybe avoid this problem.

        Have you checked to see which other students might be in the same “aren’t currently employed” status?

        1. OP#3*

          Thank you for the advice and the suggestions. I already spoke with my immediate supervisor about paying the tutor a few extra hours for the time spent filling out the application, going to drug test, onboarding, etc. One of my other tutors was affected but they are graduating this term and most likely will not have any work. I think it is a great idea to have those with little to no work at least come in an hour per term for some sort of training just to keep them off the “hit list.”

  21. Bowserkitty*

    I was wondering if we’d see any letters involving Flint. I’ve been curious what the job situation might be like up there now.

    1. OP #5*

      It hasn’t been good for a while, that’s very true. And in my industry, where our funding is directly tied to property values and taxes, it has been even worse. We were just starting to recover when this crisis hit. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a mortgage that would force me to stay (it’s nearly impossible to sell a house here, and if you manage it the sale price is half or less what you paid for it), which is the problem many, many people are running into.

      1. Ife*

        Being stuck in Flint because you can’t afford to sell your house, or aren’t able to… that’s a scary thought. I’m glad you’re not in that situation!

        1. Meg Murry*

          I’ve heard that it may not even be legal to sell a house with a known lead problem – and/or that almost no banks would underwrite a mortgage for a house with a known lead problem. I’m pretty sure at a minimum you couldn’t get an FHA mortgage in a house with a known lead problem. That’s the basis of one of the lawsuits in Flint right now – falling property values.

          OP, I think if you can find a way to casually mention in any interviews that you can relocate easily because you don’t have to sell a house that wouldn’t be a bad thing – if I was interviewing someone from Flint that would probably cross my mind. Not enough to disqualify them or not interview them, but enough to wonder if the OP would be able to follow through with relocation if the offer went through.

          1. OP #5*

            That is something that’s a concern for a lot of people, but I don’t know if we’ve truly gotten a straightforward answer. I’ve heard things like you can sell but you have to add a whole house filter, and I’ve heard you aren’t allowed to sell at all. It’s a very tricky situation.

            1. doreen*

              It’s not illegal to sell your house -I’ve seen a few articles debunking that idea. You might have to complete a disclosure ( like the one required in NY which requires sellers to disclose lead plumbing among other issues) and you might have difficulty finding a buyer/getting the price you want, but it’s not illegal.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Yeah, I live in the Saginaw area, and I know this is personal, but I’m deeply curious how you ended up in Flint to begin with–I always figured most people still living there had family in the area. I mean, it wasn’t exactly an attractive place to live before the water thing hit.

        (although, I do know a guy who ended up living in one of the worst parts of Saginaw, having bought a house sight unseen, and had no clue what Saginaw was like… I felt so bad for the poor guy!)

        1. OP #5*

          I’m from the Grand Rapids area, but I had been living in Georgia for a while. There was a family situation that prompted me to move back to Michigan, and like a fool I said yes to the first decent job offer I got. I knew the stories and the reputation Flint had, but I figured it couldn’t be all bad and I was excited about the specific job opportunity I was getting. Of course, it’s all come back to bite me because the job is nowhere near as great as it sounded, and now with the water everything is a mess.

  22. Former Retail Manager*

    #2….you have a choice to make….either deal with things as they are and accept that Bob is untouchable or leave. If the other VP’s before you didn’t touch this with a 10 foot pole there is clearly a reason as it sounds like the consequences for addressing it far outweigh the benefits. As so many others said, it is likely time to dust off the resume. So sorry you are in this position. I have worked with “untouchables” before, although not spouses, and they’re a nightmare. Best of luck!

    1. OP#2*

      I’m always up for a good challenge. And I’ve already started down the path. I mentioned in an earlier response that this is my first management position and I’m going to use it as a learning opportunity. I’ll break out the resume and start looking for my next adventure, but in the meantime I’ll learn all I can from this. Thanks for you insight!! It is nice to know I’m not the only one encountering an “untouchable”.

  23. TootsNYC*

    “I think you’re better off talking about why you want to move to the place you’d be moving to, rather than why you want to leave the place you’re leaving. ”

    In almost every situation, it’s better to talk about what you’re moving to, and not what you’re moving away from. About what you want, vs. what you don’t want.

  24. Donna*

    My mom has worked for decades in a university department that occasionally gets the “privilege” of hiring the family members of higher ups or politically influential people. They’ve come to accept it as the cost of doing business and try to minimize the effect on other employees’ morale. Sometimes these people work out well and sometimes they don’t.

    Her boss handles it like this:
    When a new “untouchable” starts (to use another poster’s apt term) they are given the same chance to prove themselves as anyone else. If they turn out to be lazy, but generally personable, then they are allowed to carry on at their own capacity and people just work around them. If they turn out to be toxic, their responsibilities are gradually parceled out to the other employees and they are given a soft transition to non-essential tasks (i.e. “special projects”) which don’t affect or involve any other employee. And or course, everyone is nice to them and they get to keep their office. Usually what has happened in the past was that they ended up getting angry and either quit outright or stopped showing up to work completely. (That is, if they can afford not to work, and most of them can.)
    My mom’s boss is a good boss, and is aware of the strain it puts on his employees. He tries to be accommodating about family leave and often will work it so that the newly acquired responsibilities lead to eventual promotions or at least a small bump in pay in a few years time.

    1. OP#2*

      Wow! Our organization is way to small to work around anyone, so that route is out of the question. Not only that, Tony believes Bob knows everything and can do some people’s jobs better than they can. I can sympathize with your mom, it is a difficult environment and it sounds like her boss and the rest of the team are well aware of how the boss handles it, which seems like it would help maintain morale as opposed to completely deflate it.

  25. HRish Dude*


    I think everyone for the most part has moved on to other posts, but would it change the legality of #3 if he failed his drug screen and then was not paid for those days he worked?

  26. Christie*

    #2 – replace spouse with father and you described my last position to a T. I brought my concerns up with my boss (my employee’s son) and it didn’t go over well. After 8 months, I was fired. I hope your situation doesn’t end up like mine. I wish I would have left on my own accord.

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