my sister might apply for a job in my 2-person department, coworker won’t take on new work, and more

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

1. My sister might apply for a job in my two-person department

I’ve got a dilemma and I feel like I can’t be objective. My mid-sized company is hiring another person with my job title due to company growth. My sister is considering applying. She has the same (really rare) degree I have, from the same school, but had always been more interested in another focus within our degree. At first when the topic came up, she wasn’t interested but now she is after weighing things out. To be clear, neither of us would be managing each other and we would be working on separate projects. My problem is that we would be the only two people in my department. My sister just graduated and needs more job experience, and a little more confidence her work (she is very talented), which she may find here. We wouldn’t be the only ones who have relatives here at work. One salesperson had a sister here for the summer, and we have a mother and son pairing who are in different departments.

We worked together last summer at my company on the same project, but with different but similar roles. The project was a mess due to poor planning, a short deadline, and the inexperience of the salesperson who was handling it. My sister feels miffed that a chunk of her work wasn’t used, but in all honesty, this salesperson wasn’t willing to try clearly communicate with us and the client and that affected the outcome. I did explain to my sister that was the case, and I often do work that isn’t used and it’s just part of this industry. To be fair, my sister and I worked well together. My manager has also asked about how her schooling has gone and when she graduates, so I do not think he’s opposed to the idea as he has hinted that he would consider hiring her after graduation.

I do have some influence in the hiring decision, and it was always going to be someone from my alma mater in the first place. Now I feel very conflicted because A) if she doesn’t get the job I will feel guilty and B) if she does, I don’t want the perceptions of her work output (good or bad) to be tied to mine. I don’t feel like I can tell her not to apply either. I don’t know what to do. Please help!

I don’t think you should work in a two-person department that will just be you and your sister. That’s not like having a relative in another department. It’s much more fraught with the potential for all sorts of complications. For example: what would happen if your sister’s work wasn’t great and if you felt pressured (either by her or yourself) to cover for her, if you got tainted by association, if there were problems that you could resolve with a coworker that will be harder when it’s your sister, if there’s competition for projects or other rewards/recognition, if your sister had a problem with someone else (would you feel obligated to take on her beef as your beef, or would she by annoyed if you didn’t), not being able to escape each other, and so much more.

It’s just an awful lot of complications and potential for problems. Since this isn’t the only possible job out there for her, it’s hard to see a compelling argument in favor of doing it.

2. My coworker turns down new work but isn’t doing much work now

I’ve been in my position longer than my new coworker who has the same title, and therefore I typically delegate the tasks between the two of us (but I am not her manager). Because I am more senior, our manager recently assigned some other tasks to me and suggested that I delegate more of the job-typical tasks to my coworker.

My coworker has started pushing back and asking if I can take on some of the newer projects instead of giving them to her. However, her door is right next to mine, and I can’t help but notice that every day she’s only in the building between 6-7.5 hours, which includes one-hour lunches with other coworkers, so 5-6.5 hours working. It’s not my job to police other people’s work schedules, so I’ve said nothing to our manager. I’m okay with my coworker saying she’s too busy to take on extra tasks, because in that case I’d just stay later and take them on myself, but she’s not even working 40 hours per week. Is it possible for me to fix this without bringing to my manager and sounding whiny? If so, how should I approach it?

Well, you can try being firmer with your coworker: “Jane, I need to divvy this up, so I’m going to take X and you should take Y.” And then if she tells you that she doesn’t have time, you could say, “Hmmm, I won’t have time to do this either, so if you don’t either, I should go talk to (manager).”

And yes, you will probably end up needing to talk to your manager — but that’s not going to sound whiny. Part of your job is to flag it for your manager when things are impacting your work, and you especially have standing to do that here because your manager has asked you to delegate to your coworker. I’d say this to your manager: “You’ve suggested that I delegate more to Jane, but when I’ve tried to, she’s told me that she doesn’t have time to take them on. Has she by chance worked out an abbreviated schedule with you? I’ve noticed she often doesn’t work full days, but I wasn’t sure if that was something official she’d worked out with you, and I don’t want to put her in an awkward position by pushing if she has.” On the off chance that your coworker has worked out a shortened schedule, that’ll be helpful to know — but if she hasn’t, you’ll be flagging what’s happening for your manager, who will probably ask you for more information about what’s going on or start paying more attention to it herself.

“It’s soooo unfair that Jane takes long lunches” is whiny. “I’m not able to delegate work to Jane because she says she doesn’t have time to do it, but she’s also not working full hours” isn’t whiny; it’s factual information that your manager needs to have in order to oversee the workflow in her department.

3. How can ask about family leave policies while interviewing?

I’m in the process of moving back to my home state after a couple years living elsewhere, and I’ll be looking for jobs soon. This is nerve-wracking enough, as I hate job hunting, but throwing a wrench in the works is the fact that my husband and I are hoping to get pregnant this year. If I was staying at my old job, this wouldn’t be too much of a big deal, but we’ll likely be trying to get pregnant within six or seven months of me starting at a new job. I know the best option is to just wait to get pregnant, but we both think now is the right time.

How do I bring up what kinds of family leave policies are in place without raising flags with a potential employer? I know they’re technically not allowed not to hire me because they think I’m already or about to get pregnant, but if the offer gets pulled, there would be no way to know if that was the case. Do I wait to get an offer and ask explicitly then? Do I raise this at a second or third interview? Having some kind of maternity/family leave policy would make a potential job much more attractive, and if they don’t offer any kind of paid leave, that might be a deal breaker, so I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by going all the way through the process and having to pull out at the end.

Wait until the offer stage. I know it’s annoying to have to go through the whole process without knowing if there might be this deal-breaker waiting for you at the end, but that’s true with other aspects of offers too (like salary). But waiting until you have the offer, you’ll eliminate the risk of them not hiring you because of your pregnancy plans (even if only unconsciously on their part). They’re very, very unlikely to pull the offer over this — first, because pulled offers are rare in general, and second, because pulling an offer after someone asks about family leave is a really, really shady maneuver legally and most employers are going to realize that.

4. Why should managers conduct reference calls rather than HR?

What is a good argument for future managers to conduct reference checks, rather than HR?

Well, if reference checks are just being used as employment verification or rubber-stamping a hiring decision that’s basically already been made, then sure, let HR do them. But if you’re a manager who’s using them the way I’d argue they should be used — to gather information that will truly aid in your decision-making — then you want to do them yourself, because you want to be able to really probe into the areas that matter to you, hear tone of voice, and ask follow-up questions.

In fact, it’s kind of similar to the reasons that you wouldn’t delegate interviews to HR — in both cases, those conversations are a crucial part of your ability to make the right hiring decision.

5. Update: New accountant says I’m not eligible for a bonus

I am the original poster of #3 at the link above and just wanted to let everyone know how it played out. I did in fact receive a “retention” payment that started me at the three years full-time salary mark. I brought it up to the president who said, “These rules are in place to make everything even across the board on paper, but every rule has an exception, with you being the case for this one.”

To the person who said it would be better to approach my manager than the president directly, this made me laugh a little because (due to my relationship with the president) he explained absolutely everything to me and said the accountant was unaware of my situation and it will be handled correctly, blah blah. After explaining the bonus I will get, etc., he said, “Now go ask your manager so she can ask me and reiterate all of this to you so she doesn’t feel you went above her head.” Thanks for the comments and all went well and it was worth raising the question!

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. Jerry Vandesic*

    #5: You have a VERY good company president. I hope you realize how lucky you are. He’s a gem. His comment about talking to your manager was perfect.

    1. MK*

      Seriously? Because I came here to comment about how inappropriate that comment was; it smacks of condescension and almost contempt for the manager. If it was me I would fell my authority was being undermined and perhaps humiliated to find out that my own boss was belittling my knowledge and snickering about me with my subordinates. OP, I have to say it strikes me as very dysfunctional that you have a “relationship” with the president of your company that involves the two of you sharing a laugh about your manager’s ignorance behind her back. If she is incompetent or needs to be better at her job, this “great” president needs to address that, not redicule her to her employees.

      1. Sarah*

        The manager not knowing a priori about an exception (that would likely need president approval) is not incompetence. It might have been better to direct the employee to actually start with the manager in the first place, but explaining the need to go through “official” channels on what is already a done deal is important.

        If this was in a mocking or belittling tone, I agree – but if the tone was right, it is not inappropriate to point out that there is a need to complete the loop.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I didn’t love that part either. I didn’t read the president’s comment as ridiculing the manager though — I think he was just acknowledging that it’s awkward he and the OP have the sort of close relationship where the OP came to him rather than to the direct manager. But the part that rubs me the wrong way is the “we’ll keep this conversation from her” part; I’d rather he say “I’ll let your manager know we talked about this” and then go do that.

        The manager may indeed feel weird about the fact that the conversation happened without her in it, but the reality is that it did, and everyone should be up-front about that rather than hiding that from her (and if it’s a problem, the manager and the president should talk about that).

        1. Thursday*

          I’m a bit confused. Where in the letter does it say “we’ll keep this conversation from her”?

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            “Now go ask your manager so she can ask me and reiterate all of this to you so she doesn’t feel you went above her head.”

            I think it’s implied that the president is going to pretend the conversation never happened. Because otherwise… well, the OP DID go over her manager’s head, for better or worse. The manager is rightly going to feel that way… unless the president pretends this is the first he’s heard of it.

          2. A Bug!*

            It’s implied by the “so she doesn’t feel you went above her head” bit. OP did go over the manager’s head, and the only way that line makes sense is if the manager’s not supposed to know that the whole issue’s already been settled.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I read it as the president sort of saying, in a softer way, “you goofed by not asking your manager directly. I’m going to overlook it because of our great relationships, etc., but really that’s what you should have done in the first place, and now I’m going to make you go follow protocol so that your manager’s authority is recognized.”
          Sort of like making the teenager go back into the living room and pick up the coat off the floor himself.

          And I hope the OP took the lesson that these questions go FIRST to the manager.

          I don’t think it’s necessarily that the president wants to hide it–in fact, when the manager comes to him, he sounds like the kind of guy who would say, “Oh, yeah, that. Here’s the plan. In fact, Employee came to me, and I had him come to you because it’s important that he follow protocol.”

          1. Sunshine*

            That was my impression (and hope), also. And responding that way will reassure the manager that the president respects and will reinforce her authority.

      3. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, that whole exchange was a little weird. Look, I ended up despising my last manager’s very existence, but I always got along really well with her boss who’s the VP of my old division (something my manager didn’t like). VP and I share similar backgrounds, and we just have complementary working styles. However, if a situation like the one described in the letter arose in my department and I went to talk to VP about this to solve the problem, he’d call my manager in to have this discussion together. He and I had many work related (and non-work) chats independent of my boss, but something like this he would have preferred to have her in on because a) it does undermine her in a way to not include her in a personnel issue involving one of her direct reports and b) so that in the event there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding of company policy and procedure, boss could know how these things are actually handled for future reference.

        1. Nico M*

          But, the danger is the OP goes to their manager, and the manager doensnt act. Then the OP is either out of luck, or they have to go to the bigger boss which may embarass the manager.

          Its not the army, you dont work for the manager, you work for the company.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            You still need to go to the manager first. If the manager refuses to act, then you loop her boss in, preferably with her knowledge you’re going to do so. That’s a professional norm that you don’t get to opt out of unless your manager is asking you do to something illegal or unethical.

          2. MK*

            While when you are in the army, you work for your superior officer? I thought you worked for your goverment. Yes, you work for the company and so is the manager; actually the cpmpany is paying the manager a managerial salary to act as your boss, so that the president doesn’t have to waste time dealing with things like explaining your annual bonus.

            If the manager doesn’t act, the OP can take it to the president and if the manager is embarassed by that, that’s on them. Or the OP can tell the manager that they intent to take it up with the president, which will either force the manager to act or agree that this should be handled by the president dierectly.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              If I had to force my manager’s hand to act, then I wouldn’t trust that they would fairly represent my concerns, and if I already had a relationship with the president, I’d use it.k

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                That “.k” is a typo. It makes it look like I’m adding a snarky form of “okay?” to the end if my comment, but I’m not.

              2. PontoonPirate*

                Yeah, this whole scenarios is awkward for everyone, but were I in the OP’s shoes, I’d probably–reluctantly–go to the president as well. I like my boss but I don’t believe he advocates strongly for his employees at all. I think he tests the waters, hears the first bit of pushback, and then immediately assumes the answer is “nope.” But I think it’s a case of know your company, know your culture, know your relationships and know the likely outcome.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Agreed. I don’t blame the OP for going to the president, but I do think it’s not great that the president is going to hide that from the manager.

      4. LD*

        I think you may be reading into the situation things that aren’t there. Did you read the original letter? The OP has a long time relationship with the president and has been supportive of the OP for the entire time at this company. Also, I didn’t see any mention of snickering behind anyone’s back or feeling contempt for anyone. I read a factual statement of the situation and an effort by the president to ensure that the manager is involved since it is apparently comfortable and not inappropriate for the OP to speak directly to the president. As the president said, there are exceptions.

        1. LD*

          Alison makes the point more explicit about being transparent and sharing with the manager that the conversation took place.

      5. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

        I think you bundled a bit of that last bit together, MK.

        I read it as, the OP snickered, about something a commenter had said (bc it ended up being true?).
        The boss never snickered. According to the update, the boss just “explained absolutely everything”, then told OP to go about things in a way that would cause the least conflict (note: this way was NOT working the first time around).
        How is this belittling anyone’s knowledge? It’s just a sorry situation that the new accountant wasn’t aware that the policy could bend for this individual, and in this case, it was the only way to get the situation corrected to go over the new accountant’s/manager’s head.
        Btw, I would consider this a situation worth hurting a manager’s feelings to get money I felt I had earned, especially if that meant the difference between me making a bill payment or not. The relationship with the manager could always be repaired, and if not, then the manager is petty and non-professional.
        And you better believe I’d go to my boss about it, if I both felt comfortable enough with the boss and felt strongly enough that I deserved that money. Sounds like they wanted to retain OP’s employ, that’s one reason for bending the rules in the first place, and this could have been something that made OP start looking at other opportunities; even left the company.

        Also, I think good managers should be able to separate their ego and realize they make mistakes. That’s proof of security with your position.

        1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

          Damn, I had to take a delivery at work, and about 40 comments showed up

        2. MK*

          To me, this statement

          “Now go ask your manager so she can ask me and reiterate all of this to you so she doesn’t feel you went above her head.”

          is very problematic. I concede that I might be reading the tone as something it wasn’t, probably because of the OP’s earlier comment that the thought of going to the manager instead of the president made them laugh. But there is a vide of “your manager is just a middle-person who isn’t in the know” that annoys me, as well as the “let’s keep it just between the two of us to spare her feelings” thing. I don’t especially blame the OP for going straight to the president, but if they did it because they didn’t trust the manager to get them the right answer, that’s a problem in and of itself; I also note that the president doesn’t seem to even consider the manager would do nothing. But the lack of transparency is an issue: either it’s ok for employees like the OP to go over their managers’ heads, in which case the managers should be told an d not mind, or it’s not ok, in which case the president should have stressed to the OP that they are adressing the issue since it came to them, but they must tell the manager and they shouldn’t do it again in the future. If, as some commenters suggested, this was intented as agentle rebuke to the OP not to go over their manager in the future, it seems to have completely missed the mark, of the OP still thinks the suggestion of going to the manager first is funny.

          It’s possible that I am reading this as more offensive than it is or is meant to be. But I still think the relationship between the OP and the president has the potential at least to lead to major dysfunction.

    2. Marzipan*

      To me, the director’s comment about talking to the manager reads as a gentle rebuke – a sort of acknowledgement, on some level, that ‘your manager is really the person to talk to about this’. I don’t entirely understand why the OP finds it funny; from the way it’s described it sounds as though the relationships and dynamics are a bit off and skewing towards the inappropriate.

      1. Duncan*

        I read it the same way, and that the OP laughed because that was exactly what was suggested in the comments here (to approach the manager first); the President was telling OP the same thing, but also alleviating OP’s concern at the same time by reassuring the bonus would be paid. I didn’t read anything against the manager in it, more of a gentle chiding of the OP for going around the boss. I’d love to have a company President like that – very approachable, but advises of proper protocols.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That’s how I read it, as well. At first I thought maybe OP was gloating a little bit about having the relationship power with the president to go over the manager’s head, which I found a little off-putting. But on further consideration, I read the laughing part as a sort of ironic chuckle that the president sent him back through the channels that were previously recommended here in the first place.

          1. Totally Anon*

            Going totally anonymous for this. I have a little different take in that I do think the OP was gloating about their special relationship with the company president. Here is my (dysfunctional) company’s situation:
            I learned that an exempt employee (our accounting-department-of-one) was receiving what amounted to overtime payments for her time over 40 hours/week. She had gone straight to the company owner, completely bypassing our manager (the General Manager). This amounts to an approximately 23% pay increase for her at a time when the company is going through severe financial hardship. I went to our manager and laid out the business case for a raise for myself due to excessive amounts of overtime and was told not until things are better. He did not know about the accountant’s arrangement until I told him, and I brought it up because there is absolutely nothing in writing, making it look like embezzling. The accountant has also told me that she is receiving this extra pay because she is more important than I am (I am HR), since she controls the purse strings.

            I suggest that the OP tread very lightly regarding this seemingly special relationship with the president. The president did you a favor by straightening out the pay situation. Leave it at that and go through your manager in the future, as the president has told you to do.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That is truly awful, that the exempt employee is getting basically under-the-table (?) overtime, while you are working at least as long and hard without any similar compensation. What a morale killer!

        2. TootsNYC*


          And I have a feeling that this president knows the manager well enough that he’s comfortable she’ll think just as he does, and bring the query to the president.

          I think the president might very well say, “Oh, yeah, he came to me about that, and I told him what we’d do, but I made him come to you because really, he should have.”

          As that manager, I’d be comfortable–good to know my own boss will value the same employees, will advocate for them, is open to talking with them. And it’s even better to know that, because I ALSO know that my boss recognizes where my authority is.
          And I’d probably also feel that if this employee had been an “iffy” sort of employee instead of someone we both knew we valued, the president would probably have just sent him to me in the first place.

          1. MK*

            Here’s the issue, though: both your scenarios assume that the president and the manager feel the same way (good or bad) about the employee. What if they don’t?

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        See, now that’s the part that stood out to me. I didn’t see anything wrong with going to the President under the circumstances, but that she “had to laugh” at the comment. It’s awesome she’s in a situation where she’s able to to directly to the President, but that it isn’t all that common, so I didn’t see what was funny.

  2. Doriana Gray*

    OP #4: Alison said, In fact, it’s kind of similar to the reasons that you wouldn’t delegate interviews to HR — in both cases, those conversations are a crucial part of your ability to make the right hiring decision.

    It’s funny because I worked at a law firm that did exactly this. I interviewed with HR and then met my supervisor briefly, and the two of them spent the rest of my interview asking me questions about my hometown (I’m not from their state), the city I went to school, and generally discussing travel. That should have been my first red flag, I know.

    Once I was hired on, I found out that any requests for transfers went through HR, who would then approve or deny said request. You never got to interview with another department’s manager, and if HR decided one department had too many people in it and another department was short staffed, they made the decision as to who to pull from the overstaffed department to place said person(s) into the understaffed department. HR determined whether or not you got raises (which rarely happened for anyone) and how much, and they had the final word on firings too. My department had an outrageous turnover rate because people who never should have been hired for the position because they were slow and/or didn’t understand legal concepts and principles were hired and couldn’t keep up.

    It was a nightmare.

    1. PeachTea*

      I agree that HR shouldn’t be that involved at a managing level, but I disagree about the final word for firings. HR should most definitely be the final word for firings. I’ve told people many, many times that they could not fire someone. Either because they didn’t have enough documentation or because it wasn’t quite a firing offense or whatever the reason. HR knows (or should know) the ins and outs of employment law. We’ve had managers come to us and say, so and so has been late five times in the last two weeks and is turning in poor work, I want to fire them and it’s the first we’ve ever heard of it. We have documentation policies for a reason. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not documented, they’re a model employee. A termination form stating multiple absences will lose me my unemployment claim if I also don’t have ducmentation of those absences.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, I wasn’t clear – I have no problem with HR being involved in this part of the process. They kind of have to be. I was just listing all the many ways HR essentially ran this particular firm, which was odd because it pretty much left management powerless to do damn near anything (and thinking back to some of the managers at that place, that may have been a good thing).

        1. Nico M*

          Its not for HR to decide if someone should be fired.

          Its for HR to decide if someone can be fired.

      2. non-profit manager*

        Not sure I agree with this. And I oversee HR functions at my organization, so I am sympathetic. HR supports the organization, not the other way around. Yeah, it would be great if all managers followed policies exactly and documented things the way we want them to. The reality is they don’t. And often times things do come up that justify firing, even though there isn’t a good paper trail. HR’s job at this point is to mitigate any fall out and fix what is possible, involving legal counsel if needed. Not stop a problem employee from being fired because there isn’t sufficient documentation.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Suddenly discovering an employee has been embezzling from your company is a fireable upon discovery type of thing, and usually, there wouldn’t be a long trail of documentation from the manager on this.

          1. Jackson*

            I would probably give a written warning first, then a firing upon a second offense, unless the embezzlement was something specifically communicated to the employee as being against company policy.

            1. Windchime*

              I’ve never heard of a company where embezzling is not against company policy. Everyone knows (or should know) that stealing money from the company is a crime, and a fireable offense. I’m guessing the whole written warning/PIP thing doesn’t apply to embezzling.

        2. HRChick*

          We had issues recently where managers were giving employees glowing reviews and then a few months later wanting to fire them for poor job performance. If that person was fired, they’d had pretty good recourse for suing us. So, we tell them “no”. Actually, we say, “Okay, well, here’s what we need from you to support firing this person.” It’s pretty much their own fault for not doing and honest review.

          1. HRChick*

            But we don’t interview candidates – the department heads do that. We just give them training on interviews and what not to say, what are good things to ask, etc.

          2. non-profit manager*

            I posted just below about a situation just like this we went through. We all expected to be sued and in fact the fired employee engaged an attorney who sent a ridiculous demand letter. The HR team worked with legal counsel to get through this. But there was no way we could have said, “No, you can’t fire this person because there isn’t enough documentation”. Our job was to cobble together what little documentation we could find and take other steps to protect the organization.

            Agree about the problems with reviews. What is funny, the employee’s manager thought he could rely on the reviews to support the firing. When I read the reviews, I saw an employee who did mostly good work, but needed to improve a few minor things – like pretty much any employee. I did not see a terribly-performing employee with horrible behavior when I read those reviews.

            I do see that we need to provide more guidance on reviews. Let managers know they are not doing anyone any favors by not doing honest reviews. And encourage managers to address problem behavior and not let it go … Sadly, managers often learn through experience.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Sounds like my manager at old old job! She used to come in daily and say “I can’t wait to fire someone” or “who can I fire” because she thought that would free up money in her budget to get her and her pet employee a raise. It ended up being me and was about five months after my glowing review, and was over a $60 shipping mistake that was a very common within the dept, it happened all the time. Then the B tried to deny my unemployment, but I won and the EDD basically told my former manager and the HR lady (who was really whimpy) they were ridiculous.

        3. PeachTea*

          Clearly if the offense is egregious, we will 100% stand behind management’s decision. I’m not talking about fraud and ’embezzling.’ But if there’s a problem employee, I need to know about that. Absences, poor work, etc… I’m sorry but if you can’t prove to me that there is a problem, how am I ever going to prove it to the unemployment board or a judge?

          Firings should never be a surprise. There should be steps taken, discussions with the employee. I’m more than happy to sit in a deposition and explain why we skipped documentation if there was an egregious offense. I don’t enjoy doing it for absences, inferior work, and other things that should have been properly documented. It not only hurts our claim, but can raise other issues of discrimination if we don’t consistently do the same thing for each employee. Requiring documentation is mitigating fallout.

      3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        This is a tangential question PeachTree, but is the main reason for the documentation policies the unemployment claims?

        I ask because at my old job I often found myself dealing with a manager who said, “it’s an at-will state, fire them” and an HR team that had a long list of documentation needs.

        1. non-profit manager*

          We just went through a situation where a “terrible” employee had to be fired. Even though the behavior had been allowed to continue for years. And even though performance reviews were mostly good. So we had no documentation to speak of.

          This employee came back with a letter from an attorney, alleging discrimination based on a protected class, as I knew this person would. Even though technically you don’t need a reason to fire when employment is at-will, the documentation protects you in cases like this. We increased the amount of severance we had offered and this person ended up signing the release.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            That’s a good point and knowing my company had some lawsuits in the early days, it makes sense why they have a policy around documentation needs.

            My boss always grumbles that “no one actually improves on a performance improvement plan” and that they are a waste of time, but HR’s documentation requirements give me time to see if the problem is a training or morale issue rather than a performance issue.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Actually, related to what non-profit manager says above, it’s more an EEOC concern. If you establish a chain of evidence based on reality, it’s easier to make the case that the person wasn’t fired because of their membership in a protected class. In many states, you can collect unemployment even if you were fired for cause, so long as the cause isn’t egregious; overall poor performance is often not enough to not have your UI charged.

    2. Beezus*

      I interviewed at a place that seemed to operate that way, once! It was so weird. HR did my phone screen and initial interview, then there was a second part where I interviewed with the hiring manager, that apparently wasn’t typical for them. The hiring manager and I knew each other distantly – we both had work history at the same large company and had crossed paths once or twice – and he insisted on meeting with me himself. The HR person was snarky about it. “Ken remembered you from ACME Teapots and insisted on meeting with you, we wouldn’t normally have him meet with a candidate at this stage of interviewing….” She made it pretty clear that Ken going maverick on her in my case was not a point in my favor, and she insisted on sitting in on that meeting. The entire experience was so. odd.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        That’s very weird. But at least that HR department did phone screens. A large portion of my job was done over the phone, and I was always amazed how terrible a lot of the people in my department were when it came to speaking to our clients that way. Had HR used that screening tool, our department probably wouldn’t have gotten so many complaints because they would have hired people with phone skills.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I guess it’s not all that uncommon for HR to be in on an interview at a smaller company? At current job, my phone screen was done by HR, as is pretty normal, and then my first interview was one of the hiring managers and HR. It didn’t strike me as all that odd, since they were both there.

    3. Mike C.*

      The real problem is that support organizations within a company need to support, not take over.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yes! I’ve seen so many people in supporting roles who don’t know what ‘support’ entails, and who act as if the priorities of their unit should trump the overall mission of the organization. In my experience, when it’s the accounting department, they tend to hamstring the organization by going into such extreme CYA mode that only the narrowest, most black-and-white interpretation of policies is allowed, and managers aren’t allowed to make common-sense exceptions. When it’s the HR department, it always seems that they overreach their legitimate authority and interpret every HR policy as saying that ultimate authority rests with them rather than with the hiring manager. I haven’t really seen power grabs that come from other organizational units; in my workplaces, it’s always been either accounting or HR.

        1. non-profit manager*

          I agree, and I oversee HR functions at my organization. I work closely with my HR team to make sure they are supporting and providing guidance on policies meant to keep us out of trouble, but not controlling. I work hard to develop policies and systems that are not burdensome to the other departments. Our accounting group (which I do not oversee, unfortunately) operates in the way you describe; you would think this was an accounting organization and everyone else is here to support them. Their policies and procedures are ridiculous and everyone here spends sooooo much time slicing and dicing expenses to fit into a silly system. I’ve never seen anything like it.

          1. MissLibby*

            If your name didn’t have “non-profit” in it, I would swear we worked in the same place! It costs me about $100 of staff time to buy a handful of boxed lunches for a meeting, ugh!

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            We’re in the same situation with our accounting department right now, and according to long-time employees, the over-the-top policies can all be traced back to one person who isn’t even here anymore.

            I’m at a university, and I worked for eight years in another college. We were a small school, so each admin worked directly with the travel office or the purchasing office and they interpreted policy to us. They made sure we were in compliance with state and university policy and that we could pass an audit, and there was always some room for interpretation for unusual situations.

            The college that I’m in now is huge, with its own internal accounting department that reviews all our travel and purchasing before sending it along to the university travel or purchasing office. They interpret everything very narrowly, and require documentation that goes waaay above and beyond what is required at the university level. We have to write explanatory text for every line item on an expense reimbursement, even when the line item is self-explanatory. It irritates the fire out of me to know that this is just their requirement, and not a real requirement of the university. Sometimes I think they just make up a bunch of unnecessarily complex rules just to justify their own existence.

          3. Kimberlee, Esq*

            With accounting, there’s often the issue that they have to document not just to the organization’s standards, but to those of an external auditor. And some auditors are more stringent than others. I’m guessing a lot of the issues at a non-profit would be that you have to cut a lot of expenses up between program, admin and fundraising for about 40 different state forms, and that is a pain. And there are a couple ways organizations can do it, but when I did bookkeeping for a nonprofit, it was splitting expenses between two different related organizations, splitting some between program and fundraising (because it could be argued that they filled both purposes, and you want to move as much from fundraising to program as you legally can), etc. It is burdensome, and it sounds like your accounting office doesn’t make it any easier, but between government(s) regulations and grant requirements, that stuff gets messy fast!

            1. non-profit manager*

              Yes, a lot of this is related to what you describe. The issue I have is the expectations of our accounting group. Much of this is complicated and difficult for accounting people to grasp, let alone non-accountants. I think they could organize their work and systems to take some of the burden off the programming staff. A significant amount of program staff time is spent on accounting tasks, much of which I think should be absorbed by accounting.

        2. TootsNYC*

          school janitors.

          Back in high school drama club, I played a teacher in a play that was set in a high school. One of the characters was a janitor who was annoyed by cleaning up after the activities of the students. One of his lines was: “This school would be a great place if it weren’t for the students and the teachers!”

          My dad was the drama coach, and he laughed hysterically every time that line came up.

          Oh, and I’ve seen lawyers overstep: “You can’t do this at all,” as opposed to “You run these risks if you do this.”

          Lily Rowan will probably remember the Nero Wolfe novel in which a character sends a book critical of Hoover to all her friends, and her lawyer tries to stop her. She and Wolfe agree that lawyers are for warning you, not controlling you.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Oh, snap! I forgot about facilities management! One of the FAMA guys told me once, “You all need to remember that all the buildings on campus actually belong to facilities, and you all occupy them at our pleasure.” We were in the middle of a building renovation and my boss was driving FAMA crazy with his demands, so they wanted to put us in our place.

      2. F.*

        And the corollary to that is that management needs to step and manage and not leave it to the HR person to do the things they don’t want to do, especially the more unpleasant tasks like workplace discipline meetings with the employee and firings. :/

      3. Artemesia*

        This. I worked in a professional setting and HR had nothing to do with hiring except for the technical details and they did provide candidates for AA positions and such. But all professional hiring had nothing to do with HR except for finalizing paperwork. I am gobsmacked that a law firm would have HR do the hiring of lawyers. I know lots of lawyers and none of them hire that way. I know that the big tech companies do their hiring by the managers working with the people e.g. it is possible to get several offers from different departments at google because final offers come from specific managers needing to fill out teams. Where people who won’t be working with the candidate do the hiring how could you have anything but disaster?

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I’m not sure if they followed the same hiring procedures with the lawyers that they did with us operations staff (there were about 600 of us to the 90 attorneys when I started), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. This place was dysfunctional from top to bottom, and yet they didn’t understand why we never made any money and had to keep laying people off all the time.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Oh my, decided who got raises and how much? That’s so not right, it should be up to the employees’ managers. I could see some guidance around budget, but not any final say.

  3. Doriana Gray*

    OP #1: Wanting to have your own work space and identity is okay. You’re not a bad sister if you tell her that and ask (and yes, ask, not tell, because your sister is an adult who can ultimately do what she wants) that she not apply for the position. Impress upon her that seeing each other every day when there’s no buffer between the two of you in the form of other coworkers could seriously strain your personal relationship. If your sister’s having a rough day at work and she needs to vent, who is she going to vent to – you? What if you’re the problem? And also tell her what you told Alison – you don’t want people associating her work with yours. It puts you in an awkward position, and could put both of you at risk if something goes wrong.

    1. Myrin*

      100% agreed. I’m very close to my sister and our relationship is awesome but this sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    2. Kyrielle*

      The other thing that might affect her is this – imagine she takes the job and it goes perfectly well, nothing goes wrong.

      If this is a small industry or rare degree, if word gets around at all, how many people will assume that a glowing reference for her from this place is there because you’re her sister and a) the manager doesn’t want to irritate you or b) you covered for her when she was there?

      She won’t (nor will you entirely, actually) always be seen as standing on her own merits out of this one, *even if she is*.

      And…I have no idea if this would be the case anyway, but as long as both of you are in this department, neither of you have a promotional path toward management (if either of you want it) that doesn’t involve leaving the department at a minimum, and possibly the company.

    3. Nother Name*

      This is why my company has a policy about relatives. People who are related can work here, but they cannot manage one another or both report to the same person. I think it’s a good policy. (Especially since they used to have a policy that married couples couldn’t work at the company.)

      Funnily, my sister and I did both work consecutively at the same place, but the policy was that relatives couldn’t work there concurrently (local library – they didn’t want to be charged with nepotism on the taxpayers’ dime – because everyone wants those 10 hour/week minimum wage jobs). I love my sister, and she is an extremely competent person, but I would never want to work in the same department with her.

    4. lawsuited*

      My sister and I have happily worked together in the past, and I would happily work with her again. But that’s largely because I already know she’s a hard worker like me and we are very good at keeping each other accountable. BUT, if I were in this situation (and I’ve been in similar situation with friends) I’d make it clear that my boss needs to hire her because he thinks she’s the best person, saying something like “Look, obviously I like my sister as a person, and I’m not aware of any issues with her work, but I can’t vouch that she’ll be the right fit for this job or this workplace. I’m not going to be managing her performance or anything else if she works here, so you need to hire her only if you’re sure she’s the right person for the job.”

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Totally. It’s almost like a conflict of interest type situation. A lot of companies won’t hire family members to work in the same dept. let alone be the only two in the dept. for all the reasons Alison says.

      1. Paquita*

        We have sisters in my department. Different areas though. We also have several couples and one mother/daughter but they are in totally different departments.

  4. Jeanne*

    I could never work full time with my sister. I believe there are very few people who could, especially in a tiny department. I think it’s time to sit down and have an honest conversation with your sister. Tell her what you said here about her strengths and be open about your concerns. After that conversation, you may both have a little more insight as to whether you could work full time together year-round.

    1. JessaB*

      Even if you could work with your sister, some day that department might be more than two people and it’s going to be an issue. It’s all what the Catholic Church refers to as “the near occasion of sin,” it doesn’t matter if you do all the right things, sooner or later someone is going to decide something unfair is happening. In a giant department with teams and you’re on two different teams and don’t sit together sure, but in a very small company as that company grows, it just feels like a bad idea. I agree with Alison. This is not the time to be working together.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Oh man, I didn’t even think about adding the third person.

        It’s hard enough to join an existing two-person team (whether the members get along well or poorly), but to do it when they’re related? *Anything* that seemed to exclude the new person might be blamed on the relationship.

    2. AnonInSC*

      I can’t believe the manager would consider hiring the sister in this context at all. I wouldn’t. It’s not that I’m opposed to family members working together at all – but in this particular case there’s no way in heck I’d do it. Particularly with other options available.

    3. Jennifer*

      I would not want to hire relatives in the same business. However, if their degree is “really rare,” I wonder if there’s not a whole lot of jobs out there for the sister if they do something rare.

      But overall, wouldn’t the boss realize that the OP is super biased one way or the other and try to uh, take her out of the decision making or something?

      1. INFJ*

        I had the same thought: if the degree is rare, perhaps her skills will be in high demand and she could (relatively) easily find work elsewhere…. But it could also be that the jobs are rare, too.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I definitely couldn’t work directly with my sister. We get along great as long as we can leave each other’s company when we’ve had enough of one another’s irritating differences, but we tend to become pretty fed up with one another when there’s prolonged exposure with no chance of retreat. Nobody can get under my skin like she can, and the same seems to be true for her of me. I can’t imagine if we had to sit next to each other all day long sharing a job. Ack!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Me either! I’ve really had to fight with myself internally, because we’ve had customer service openings here that would be perfect for her and would pay her way more than she’s been making in recent years. However, I know she can be flakey. As soon as she starts dating someone with a little money, she quits, or she thinks of a way to go out on disability for “stress” or whatever. I really wish she wasn’t like this, but she’s very opportunistic like that.

    5. Kristina L*

      I do work with my brother, and it’s worked well, but part of the reason it works is that we have similar work ethics and get along.

  5. anonypoo*

    #2: do you have the type of job that can’t be done outside the office? i am definitely in the office closer to 7hrs than 8, but i put in at least an hour or two every night at home for work that requires more focus. (i’m more of a night owl to begin with, and definitely not a fan of our open office setup…) if she’s getting her work done as promised and her workload is representative of a full work week, she might not be lying about her capacity.

    also, how new is she? if she’s still learning the job, what takes you 30min might take her 90, whether that’s due to lack of training, having to look up all the processes every time, or just not knowing some undocumented efficient tricks you’ve picked up over time. maybe a more productive conversation would revolve around “how much of your time are your current projects taking up?” if you have wildly different estimates for the same tasks, that is a different problem also worth solving.

    of course, this is all hugely biased, because i generally hate being in the office and would get so mad if someone ever tracked my time and called me out on it. if i’m getting a full week of work done and attending my meetings, what does it matter *when* i do the work?

    1. JessaB*

      Yeh, I’m not sure I’d mention how often the OP sees the other worker in the office. I’d just go about it being “she says she has no time,” in which case the manager can decide that yes she has no time and re-allocate the work, or waitaminnit, she should have time, lemme watch her and see what’s up. Because as you said, what the OP sees is not necessarily what is really going on.

      Although I do kind of think that if someone has an odd schedule, whilst the reasons for it are private, the fact that they’re only supposed to be there from let’s say 9 am to 2pm or something, should be told to people. It really messes with morale if it looks like someone is getting unusual treatment. Just saying to the group, “Going forward if you need help be aware that Jane works 9am to 2pm and ask Johnna if you need something after 2pm” is really useful.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s exactly what I was coming to the comments to say, JessaB. The OP might be better off sticking to the workload issue, since working in the workday/schedule issue feels forced to me. And I’m often the first one to say that informing your manager about something that affects your work is your duty, not “tattling”, but I also think many people will have trouble not letting their resentment creep in if they stray from THEIR workload to make any kind of assumptions about their coworkers. If the manager has already proven to be willingly oblivious to problems, then that might be a better case in which to bring up the coworker’s schedule, IMO. And that could be the case here, but it’s hard to tell.

    2. OP #2*

      I suppose it’s possible, albeit unlikely, that she’s working from home. In this office, it is somewhat frowned upon to work from home, and I would like to think that it would at least put told to the group or put on that person’s schedule in case someone comes looking for them, because someone lo0king for this person would come to me and ask.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If someone came looking for a coworker who, to me, appeared to be shirking and skipping out early, I’d probably say “Alice isn’t here? Are you sure? Maybe [manager] knows.” or “I saw them leaving earlier, I don’t know if they’re coming back or working remotely or not. Maybe [manager] knows.”

        Because despite the duty to delegate assignments, you’re not responsible for them.

        Which brings me to my burning question: does your manager expect you to assign work to your junior peer, or did she just just kind of hand you a pile and say something closer to “you two work it out”? To me, the former means you can tell them “You are taking these, and I’m taking these. If you have an issue with the workload, talk to [manager].”, while the latter means the manager is trying to get out of managing, and you may need to go back to them and point out that, since you don’t have the authority to tell Alice to do this task or that task, you are left with too many tasks. Manager can then either give you that authority or…well, actually manage Alice.

        1. OP #2*

          I have been explicitly asked to give assignments to my peer. We have job-specific projects which come in about once per week (and typically take about 1-2 months at 20% effort to finish), and I have been assigned some projects outside of that scope. My manager told me to give the coworker a larger load of the job-specific projects so that I can focus on the larger, outside projects. However, you are correct in that I have no title or actual delegation authority to make this happen! I wish she would have had this conversation with both me and the coworker, instead of just me.

          1. F.*

            No wonder your coworker is pushing back! I would, too, if my peer was coming to me and (seemingly) dumping routine grunt work on me so they could work on larger projects (which probably get more recognition). Your manager needs to sit down with both of you and make the expectations clear. I think there will be a lot less resentment and more cooperation in the long run that way. As for the appearance of your coworker shirking. That is not your business. You are not their manager or even supervisor. Let your manager handle it; they may very well be aware of what is going on already.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yeah, I have to agree here. The manager risks poisoning the working relationships between their team members.

            2. Sarah*

              Agree. It would be easy to misread this situation.

              In fact, as a young woman, I was explicitly mentored to know when and how to push back when peers tried to dump busywork on me, rather than to always “help”. When you are new and possibly not super busy, it is not necessarily appropriate to push back. But if she doesn’t know that your manager set it up this way, she could be misreading this completely, and it isn’t either of your fault.

            3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Not only would I be upset that a peer was trying to give me her work, I’d be even more pissed if that peer then complained I’m not around.

              Manager has to talk to the other coworker and set expectations on the delegation. This is a fustercluck in the making.

            4. AnonInSC*

              Add me to the chorus. I’d be pushing back on you, as well, thinking you were trying to dump your work on me. Your manager needs to step up and manager coworker’s time and make it clear that you DO have the authority to assign work.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            It sounds like, if she was that specific, they expect you to tell your coworker “This is what we [meaning you and the manager] need you to work on, while I’m working on X.” If she protests at all, I would refer her to the manager. Since you’re delegating, I’d also check in with her on how her assigned projects are going, because finding out weeks or months later that they all just weren’t worked on at all could look bad for both of you, but the appearance and the checking in depend a lot on the nature of the industry and the tasks. The alternative is to wait for things to slide and your manager to notice, if your team/industry generally works on low-pressure, long-term things very independently.

          3. Anonymous Educator*

            This still seems like lazy managing to me. At the very least your manager should say with your co-worker present, “OP #2, I want you and Co-Worker to take care of these projects. OP #2, you decide how much of this you want Co-Worker to take on.” The key part here is your co-worker being present when this conversation happens (or Cc’ed on the email if it’s by email). Otherwise, it would just seem to your co-worker as if you’re trying to pull rank when you’re both the same rank.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              I agree with the lazy managing.

              As I was working to get a Lead Teapot Polisher position authorized for a stellar employee, I decided to have her assign Teapots to the team as a learning exercise and to give her more responsibility. After talking to the employee in our one-on-one, I then announced it to the team in a meeting and allowed them to ask questions.

              Everyone was okay with the change and genuinely excited for their coworker. And when there occasional hiccups, they felt comfortable working it out with her rather than coming to me.

              I can’t imagine how different it would have gone if she had just gone around putting tea pots on everyone’s desk.

          4. Stranger than fiction*

            In that case, I would bring up the hours issue too. If not, tt seems like manager may be the type to just take the “shes’ too busy” at face value and not investigate if in fact she’s turning in a 40-hr workload.

          5. Artemesia*

            I don’t see how this works unless you raise the issue of her hours with him. If he is unaware of this then he is managing poorly and it does make sense to ask if she has negotiated limited hours or something but you cannot win here if he is unaware she is working part time. Heck I might go so far as to ask if a temp can be hired periodically since Meretricia is working part time and there isn’t enough manpower to get the job done. I don’t know why people are counseling keeping this a secret — being tactful as Alison suggests by asking if she has negotiated a part time schedule is better than whining about it — but ask about it you should.

      2. TootsNYC*

        For the -most part-, people who are coming in an hour late aren’t working from home.

        For most gigs, that hour isn’t long enough to do much of substance. Especially that frequently.

  6. hbc*

    OP1: Leaving aside the emotions, it seems like this would be a logistical problem. Can they afford to have both of you out when there’s a family vacation? Both of you out unplanned because of a death in the family? Both of you taking FCL because of an ill relative? If there were even one other person in your department, it might be manageable, but there are going to be problems even if you two are the best coworkers ever.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Excellent point. I see the OP’s response below, and while I get what she’s saying, you raise some serious problems I’d have with this arrangement if I was the employer. There are going to be times when the two of them need to be out together, and since the field is so small, there probably won’t be any temps that can come in and help. The client’s deadlines will potentially be missed if they’re away for an extended period of time.

    2. AFT123*

      I used to work on the same team as my brother, and we shared several accounts. This was a problem at times for us as well.

  7. Op #1*

    Hi thanks for the comments, I guess I really didn’t explain how rare this degree was. Only ten people with this degree will graduate this year, there’s only one undergraduate school with this degree and training in the US. My sister just happens to be one of them. If we wanted to hire someone with experience beyond school, we would have to steal them from another company. Even if we hired someone from a related field it would likely be at least 2 years of training before the person’s work would even be presentable to a client and there is a lot of critical industry knowledge that they would need to learn. Unfortunately, we have been so busy that I don’t know when I’ll have time to properly train someone, let alone teach them the finicky software. We’re so busy that I’ve been working 11 hour days while being sick for the last week. We can outsource work when I need a vacation, even weeks at time, just need to plan it ahead of time. I hope we hire soon, as I’m going to get burnt out before the end of our busy season.

    1. Dangerfield5*

      I’m really curious about what the degree or even the field is. But I assume with it being that rare, giving clues could easily out yourself!

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ah, this explains the “it was always going to be someone from my alma mater in the first place” part, which sounded a little strange to me. I can understand feeling that you know so many incredibly talented people who would be perfect for the job, I often feel that way, but I know that there are millions of people I don’t know, some of whom might be as good or better. But your explanation makes sense, although you might want to be careful about how you say it around people who don’t know your industry and/or your alma mater.

      1. Question Mark*

        Yes. Agree 100%. This comment rubbed me wrong too and I came to ask for clarity.

      2. Camellia*

        This is the opposite of one job I worked, where I discovered that the developer with whom I was working was actually a nuclear astrophysicist! When I asked him what he was doing working IT in Podunktown he replied that that there are only so many jobs in that field and he liked to feed and clothe his family so, here he was.

    3. Meg Murry*

      FWIW, I work in a field where there are only 2 colleges in the US offering a degree specifically related to the field, and each only graduates a handful each year. Because of that, most people working in our field don’t have the specific college training, but rather a more general degree and some on the job training. In my experience though, the difference between a new college graduate with the specific training (Chocolate Teapot Engineering) vs a new graduate without the training but rather just from subset of STEM degrees is only about 6 months to 1 year, because all employees have a breaking in and training period. And often, a person with the general STEM degree but 2-5 years work experience in a tangential field came up to speed faster than the new graduates with Chocolate Teapot Engineering degrees, because they already had worked out the typical kinks that come along with new college graduates learning how professional environments work.

      This also means we “steal people from other companies” regularly in my industry. I think OP sees that as super negative, but unless there is some other kind of barrier (no other related companies on her side of the country so it would require major logistics and relocation, or other companies have major unbreakable non-competes, for instance), recruiting people from competitors is actually really common, and not “stealing” if the other people want to leave. I’d be willing to bet if OP contacted her alma mater alumni, there would be a few who have been out in the field that might be ready to leave their current positions and willing to discuss this opportunity to work at OP’s company.

      I get the sense from this letter that OP feels like her sister is really the best/only option for her, and I wanted to point out that it’s really not. It might be the easiest for her boss (oh look, a person with the right degree that is probably similar to OP right here in front of us!) in the short term, but that doesn’t make it the best long term option.

      And please, definitely discourage your sister from applying if you revert to your worst teenage selves when stressed. I could never work with my sister, because when we start to disagree, we quickly backslide and become like whiny teenaged brats again, and I never would want my coworkers to see me like that (I have to go out to the car to have phone calls with her if we’re in a stressful situation or make a point not to pick up when she calls and I’m at work because I don’t want coworkers to hear. 95% of the time my sister and I have a good relationship, but the other 5% is ugly). I work with a father-son pair, and it is similar – most of the time it is fine, but when they disagree, their rational colleague-style discussion very quickly escalates to “stubborn father arguing with no-it-all teenage son” because they each know exactly which buttons to push, and it makes me think less of both of them.

      1. OP #1*

        Thanks for your comment, as for the stealing perception, my manager doesn’t want to get in a “bidding war” (his words) with another company. I personally have already been contacted a couple of times to see if I’d jump ship to another company, despite my only being at this position for only a year. So I know it does happen.

        There are other candidates, but in a field this small, we all get wined and dined by multiple companies. I just haven’t talked about them because they weren’t the source of the dilemma.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Ah, sounds like your manager may have gotten burned by a candidate going between 2 companies or one that took a counteroffer in the past. Which sucks, but doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try again to get good candidates.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What would your manager do if your sister weren’t an option? Presumably he’d still have some set of options, and that’s what he needs to do here.

        3. Artemesia*

          ah yes the ‘bidding war’ concept. We should never pay people in this country high salaries so we should essentially conspire with other similar companies to keep wages down. This is why highly specialized advanced software developers make far less than they should; I think there are law suits about this as there should be.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And wouldn’t stealing someone from another company mean there’s an opening at that other company for your sister?

        Also, stealing someone from another company is how it’s done! There’s NOTHING bad about that.
        It’s not even stealing; it’s hiring or recruiting.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Exactly. Unless you are engaged in some kind of nefarious practice like breaking in to your competitors to steal their org charts and contact information, or physically kidnapping people out of a competitors parking lot, there is nothing underhanded about saying “hey person who currently works at a competitor, would you be interested in interviewing in a position with us?” The person has the free will to say “sure, I’ll interview with you, here’s my resume” or “nope, no thanks”

    4. pnw*

      I worked with my sister for 23 years, the first 10 in the same small (7 person) department. We never had problems and I enjoyed every day that we worked together. We ended up in different departments because we weren’t allowed to move into a management position while we worked together.

  8. Alis*

    I used to work in HR and I *hated* doing reference checks. I had to ask canned questions, regardless of a candidate’s experience (or lack therof), based on a position that I had no firsthand knowledge of besides a job description. One of the many reasons I chose a different profession.

  9. PontoonPirate*

    #2: Has anyone explained to your coworker that you’re delegating tasks to her on your manager’s direction and authority? It might help your case to have a friendly clarifying conversation. I would feel puzzled and fairly irritated if my coworker–who would be senior to me only by dint of time in position in this case–started handing out tasks to me without this context. I’d still do them, and raise it with my manager later, but your coworker may be operating under some false assumptions.

    I agree there is an issue here, but it may be one of miscommunicated expectations. Her overall work ethic is related, but I think it is really a separate problem.

    If all of this has been explained to her, then of course the original issue still stands.

    1. OP #2*

      That’s an excellent point. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been assigned other tasks, but I haven’t had a sit-down conversation to discuss it and give her the opportunity to ask questions, which I can somewhat answer (the projects are “secret,” so only basic info can be given). I agree that this information might make her more amenable to taking on the tasks, as it could feel like *I’m* the one slacking by giving a bunch of the everyday tasks to her.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I was wondering about laying out each of your projects and bringing that to the manager, so you can clearly say, “Jane says she’s too busy, but she has 8 small projects while I have 5 big projects AND 5 small ones, so I really can’t take on these other ones.” But I wonder if that would also help in working with Jane — assuming she knows that either she does the tasks or you do them.

      2. Mike C.*

        Why didn’t your manager just say something from the beginning and leave you out of it? Is this just a normal thing where you are? I would be really weirded out if a coworker started assigning me work.

        1. Sadsack*

          I think your question still applies even in light of OP’s above remarks. Why is it left to OP to have this conversation? I’d expect the manager to explain the work arrangement directly to the coworker. What if she has questions, such as what she can do to start getting higher level assignments?

      3. Murphy*

        Or that your cherry-picking the cool stuff and giving her the more mundane. That’s obviously not what’s happening here, but if I were in your coworker’s shoes I’d be miffed. I think this is an area where your manager needs to be clear about why things are functioning the way they are, because it’s fairly non-standard and at least one key person is out of the loop.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, I’d hate that as the new person, too. In one department I was one of two admins at the same level. I was new, and the other admin had been there for less than a year (maybe eight months or so). When the senior admin told us to choose how we’d split our tasks, the other admin immediately grabbed all the cool or high-profile work and left me with all the mundane or tedious tasks. I felt like I was too new to really understand what all the job encompassed, so I wasn’t in a position to argue about it. I could have rehashed it all with her later, but I didn’t end up staying there long enough for it to matter.

      4. TootsNYC*

        Your manager, her boss, is the one who needs to make it clear that you have the authority to decide her workload. I feel like you’re way too “out on your own” here.

        1. OP #2*

          Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate the feedback and will discuss this with my manager at our next one-on-one. I think I’ll avoid discussing co-worker’s hours for now and instead focus on the amount of workload we each have and how helpful it would be for our manager to explicitly state to both of us whether and what delegation authority people are given.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Oh, also–I wouldn’t say that -you- will got to the manager to say, “Jane doesn’t have time.” Jane should be the one to talk to the manager.

            so, “Well, Jane, Manager wanted me to pass this task to you, so if you don’t have time to do it, please work with Manager to figure out what to do.”

            As a manager, I often have a vague sense of how much time people have and what they’re working on. It’s usually pretty accurate–and in those instances where the evidence/work getting done is not matching up with my expectations, I investigate.
            Sometimes I find out I’m inaccurate, but usually it’s something else.

            I need that info–but I would actually be OK w/ it coming from the person who’s pushing back against the work.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Oh, meant to say–I think that’s a pretty good first tactic.

            And maybe ask him what to do when either of you fears they won’t be able to accomplish the work–do you each go to him individually? Does Coworker come to you, and you to him? Do you stay late to pick up work Coworker can’t do during the workday, or does Coworker stay late for that?

          3. myswtghst*

            I think this is absolutely the right first step – mention to your manager that you’ve been struggling a bit with delegating tasks to Jane because she pushes back, and that you think it would be helpful for your manager to ensure Jane understands you have the authority to assign projects to her. Once your manager (hopefully) has this conversation with Jane, I’d agree with the posters who suggested you have a conversation with her to give her a bit more background on how you’re delegating projects, as well.

            Also, during your one-on-one, I’d mention that you want to know how your manager wants you to handle it when Jane does push back – here you can give the example of her saying she doesn’t have time – so you know if you should talk to manager, if you should direct Jane to talk to manager, or what.

            Good luck!

  10. Puffy*

    I worked with my younger sister once in the same department and it was great – especially considering the fact that we do not get along and she is a less than perfect employee. There was one incident where she had been subordinate to a supervisor and the supervisor was making comments at me and giving me dirty looks – that was handled with a quick conversation with the manager that just because I am related to her it doesn’t mean that I am associated with her – at work we are just 2 people with the same last name, end of story.

    It is easy to say from a perspective from your sister being hired that it would be best for her to not work in a 2 person department because of potential implications, but what about from the younger sisters perspective? Is it fair that because your sister works at an organization/department that you are automatically blacklisted for the opening? Why should her career potentially suffer because of fear from the older sister? What if she is really the best candidate for the position, do you go with someone less qualified and hurt the organization at the same time?

    Just imagine looking at a reject pile where a 1-2 word explanation is used to describe why the rejection occurred… you expect to see words like ‘inexperienced’ or ‘poor fit’ but not ‘Jane’s sister’ as a valid reason.

    The more I think about this, the more it angers me. There is a clear conflict of interest here because you have a sister in the pool of candidates, the conflict can be seen to goes both ways – either you want your sister to be hired and let that influence your decision or you don’t want her to be hired – either way you are not going to treat all candidates equal, to you ANY other candidate will be a better candidate. Have you thought of the ethics if YOU were the only applying to an organization and it was your sister whispering in their ear to not hire you JUST because that you are her sister and things could get sticky?

    All of this can be resolved with a simple adult conversation with management, if she does somehow get the position then you all just sit down and set out expectations – like you don’t want your performance to be linked and that you’ll both view each other as coworkers rather than sisters.

    1. Op #1*

      Puffy, I am really sorry this angers you. I actually do think she would be a very good candidate and has some skills/talent in an area I don’t that my employers have asked for, and I can’t provide. I’m trying to be objective. As far as my influence goes it’s just, this work is quality, this work is not. I do not have final say, thank goodness. So I have decided to let my manager decide, and not tell manager he should not hire her. It’s his decision. To be fair our company isn’t small, I just have the smallest department. Half of the people in our departments never work in teams with people in those own department, mine is one of them. So while we’re a department we work independently and on separate projects. For the departments with multiple people, our GM devides work bases on work load and experience with project.

      1. FD*

        I think that your plan is a good one. If she does end up getting hired, there are ways you can minimize the impact too! If she does get hired, I would probably think about talking to her about your concerns. Maybe something like, “Jane, I’m excited you’re joining the team. I know how talented you are, and I know they hired you because you were the best fit. Because we’re sisters and on the same team, though, we’ll need to do a little bit of extra work to make sure people see us as professional. I’d like to ask that when we’re at work, we act like coworkers, which means I don’t want to talk about events at home or other family matters. If people try to pass messages to you through me, I might ask them to talk to you directly. Does that seem like a reasonable plan?”

        Alison’s recent post about having work relationships will probably be relevant to you, too, if you didn’t already see it.

      2. pnw*

        When my sister was interviewing for a position in my department I stayed completely away from the process except for telling my supervisor one time that my sister was a smart, capable woman. Working with my sister was great!

      3. Andrea*

        Honestly OP#1, I don’t think you should leave this completely up to your manager. I think it’s very important for you to figure out if you even WANT to work with your sister, and if the answer to that is no, you need to tell your manager.

        A lot of people in the comments here have already pointed out why it raises concerns, but I’ll add one more, which is that no matter how qualified and awesome at her job your sister is, the two of you operating as your own department is going to come across with the flavor of nepotism no matter what. Other people are not going to see the list of people you interviewed, or the ways your sister outshined them, they are going to assume that you hired your sister BECAUSE she is your sister. It won’t matter that she’s perfectly qualified for the position, or that she’s really skilled and personable, or anything else. They will absolutely assume that her relationship with you was one of the reasons she was hired, and that will reflect poorly on both of you.

        And frankly, they’d be right! There is just no way for you to be objective about assessing her candidacy. You have way more information about your sister than you’ll ever have for any other candidate. The skills you mentioned that are in an area you don’t have is just one example — you’re going to have a lifetime’s worth of experience with your sister to evaluate how she handles herself under pressure, her integrity, her preferred working habits, and a plethora of other stuff that you won’t know about the other candidates, who might be just as good or better. Even if your sister is amazing at absolutely everything, there is just no way to be fair when you compare her to lesser known candidates, no matter how thorough the interview process.

        Even your boss probably can’t be objective because they’ll unconsciously extrapolate a lot of the things they like about you to your sister, and your relationship implies that you’re vouching for her stability to a much higher degree than is usual with professional references. Normally, that’s why companies like references from employees, but I just don’t see how your boss could objectively assess how much weight to give that here.

        I actually have a lot of sympathy for you, because I once worked with a best friend, and the level of trust implicit in that kind of relationship really does add a lot of richness to your work, so I understand the appeal of working with your sister. But for what it’s worth, the relationship I had was one that developed on the job, so I think you should consider that you don’t need to hire your sister to foster that kind of close working relationship.

        Don’t take yourself out of this hiring decision. Think about what you want, and then talk to your boss. If you still think you could work with your sister, you should take yourself completely out of the hiring process for all candidates. If not, discourage your sister from applying in the first place, and talk to your boss about all the reasons commenters here think it’s risky.

    2. neverjaunty*

      AAM’s response explained all the reasons it’s a bad idea. It isn’t “unfair” or “blacklisting” for the company to decide that the problems of hiring two siblings in the same department outweigh the benefits of hiring the new person. Are their situations, like yours, where it has worked? Sure, but “it worked this one time” isn’t a rebuttal; there are situations where people are supervised by a spouse that have worked out fine, but most of the time, there are potential serious problems that make it a poor risk.

      It’s great that you and your sister worked well together. I don’t see why that should translate into scolding the LW.

    3. F.*

      It is actually quite common, especially in larger companies, for there to be a policy that prohibits close relatives from working in the same department or the same managerial chain. I guess you could call is “blacklisting”, but the policies exist for the very reasons that Alison pointed out.

      1. Analyst*

        Exactly this. It’s to prevent collusion. My husband and I work in the same small industry and are both achieving a specific accreditation that pretty much ensures that we won’t be working at the same company ever, until we eventually open our own firm.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s pretty normal for companies to have policies against hiring relatives or spouses in the same department, especially on a two-person team, because of the various problems it can cause, some of which I talked about in the post.

    5. LD*

      What you are describing it pretty common and it is seen as a good policy to NOT hire relatives. In small towns, it might not be as possible because so many people have long histories together, married each other or each other’s siblings, etc., but in most companies there is the concern of nepotism and it is a common policy not to place relatives on the same team or the same department.

  11. Annie Moose*

    #1 is interesting to me, because I actually currently work on a team with two brothers. It’s larger than OP1’s team–five of us plus our manager–and the two of them are pretty different in appearance and personality, so a lot of people outside our department don’t initially even realize they’re related, they just think it’s a coincidence they have the same last name. They keep things professional and I’ve never known them to bring personal stuff into work, but I can definitely see how if a team was just the two of them, it could change the dynamic. As it is today, there’s other people around to serve as a buffer and sounding boards, so it’s not just them and only them with no escape from each other.

    Frankly I don’t think I could work with my sister… I love her to death, but the two of us are pretty good on getting on each other’s nerves if we don’t have “me time”, so spending every single work day with her would probably not work out well for either of us. Let’s put it this way… our relationship as sisters improved immeasurably when we stopped living in the same house. If we had a different dynamic, maybe I could work on the same team as her, maybe I could even manage it if it was just the two of us–but we just don’t have that kind of relationship!

    1. NJ Anon*

      I always say I couldn’t work with my sister for the opposite reason. We would laugh and talk all day!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My sister and I would laugh and talk all day, and then, occasionally, we would get fed up with each other to the point that we would unable to stand another minute of interaction. When we’re at home and that happens, we just lay off seeing one another for a few days. At work, I guess we’d do the “shun/unshun” thing like Dwight on The Office and interact only minimally and about work things.

    2. myswtghst*

      “the two of them are pretty different in appearance and personality, so a lot of people outside our department don’t initially even realize they’re related”

      So, funny story – my brother and I went to the same university and work for the same company (in completely different departments / roles). Since we look very different (he is very tall and very blonde, I am average height and have very dark hair), when we do attend events or meetings together and people notice we have the same last name, we usually get asked if we’re married, which is a whole different bucket of awkward.

      I’m also totally with your last paragraph – I’m very close to my brother, and grateful we get to have lunch most days since we do work on the same campus, but I’m also very grateful our work rarely overlaps. We’re remarkably close, but we can only spend so much time together before we need time apart.

  12. newworldofwork*

    #3: family leave is part of a benefit package, so asking about it at the time of an offer is perfectly appropriate IMHO. We have had people turn down jobs because of some issue with benefits—cost of insurance, what the insurance covers, amount of PTO granted, etc–so you aren’t the only one for whom non salaried compensation means a lot.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I’m pretty sure at my job, you don’t get paid maternity leave until you’ve been here a year, so that would be important to know!

      1. regina phalange*

        I think a year is pretty standard. Unfortunately several of my friends stayed at jobs they hated because they were pregnant and didn’t want to lose paid leave.

        1. Deb*

          Yes, definitely wait to ask until the offer stage. Family/medical leave is just like any other benefit – you likely wouldn’t ask for the details of a company’s health insurance policy or retirement policy until that stage either, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ultimately turn down an offer because the salary and/or benefits package doesn’t meet your needs.

          One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is you don’t need to tell them why you care so much about the family/medical leave policy, and then you don’t have to worry about an offer being pulled because you want to try to get pregnant (even though having the offer pulled is unlikely anyways, due to the reasons Alison gave). In other words, you don’t need to — and, I would argue, should not — say, “My husband and I are planning to get pregnant in the next year, so therefore I am interested in learning about your family/medical leave benefits.”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Agreed–there’s no need to tell them why. Plus, you might not get pregnant in the next year. Sometimes it takes a while. Or you might decide to put it off a little longer for some reason that isn’t apparent now.

            1. Artemesia*

              And you are not pointedly asking about maternity leave, you are asking in great detail about all of the benefits because you need to know about all of their vacation, health insurance, sick leave, extended leave etc policies as part of evaluating an offer.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I’ve had people come back and ask for more money because their benefits costs would go up with coming to us.

      I do think it’s pretty common to want to look at your entire package.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Yeah, I’d frame it as wanting to know about the benefits package as a whole. I won’t necessarily drill down specifically to the leave policies (and I wouldn’t tell someone I was planning to become pregnant soon because it can be a shorter/longer process than you originally think it will be). If they said something vague like “oh, yeah, we have 401(k) and typical health insurance,” I’d ask to see the specifics for everything.

  13. Preggers*

    #3 I was in the same boat. At the time of the offer I asked for benefits information before accepting. Any leave information should be included with the benefits information. They did not have paid leave so I told them the benefits were not inline with my expectations and was able to negotiate a much larger salary (so we could save on our own for the unpaid leave). But life happens and 6 months turned into 2 years and we are finally expecting.

    1. regina phalange*

      I live in California and, while I don’t have kids, I am pretty sure the state law here is pretty strict and companies have to offer some sort of paid leave (if you have worked there for a year). I guess I’d know more if I planned on having kids but the general point is that my state (and maybe others?) have at least minimums that employers have to offer when it comes to mat leave.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I haven’t had kids for a couple decades but all I got was the standard disability pay for (I think) 10 weeks. Maybe some companies are stepping up and supplementing that now.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I was going to suggest OP start by asking about benefits in general (because things like how much the health insurance costs and the deductible are also important for any employee, but especially one who is thinking of starting a family soon) and not get into the details of maternity leave only.

      And as Preggers brought up – in the long run, OP is better off with a higher salary as long as she at least has job-protected leave, even if it isn’t paid leave, and since she isn’t pregnant yet, she could also look into buying a third party short-term disability package. It might make for some lean times, but getting 5%-10% more starting salary will more than make up for not getting paid leave for 12%-25% of one year in the course of 3-5 years, and possibly over OP’s whole career.

      The thing that’s harder to figure out from the outside is how much taking the leave will affect OP’s career prospects. I’ve worked a few places that had really generous leave policies on the books (both maternity and paternity), but it was a badge of honor NOT to take the leave and people that did take leave were see as “less committed” and were passed up for good projects or promotion opportunities. I always laugh when I see a former employer on a “top family friendly” companies list because of the official policies they have on the books, knowing how badly employees who took advantage of those policies were treated, at least in my department. If OP has any contacts at potential employers (friends of friends, etc) see would do well to feel them out by asking about the overall work environment. Looking for signs like women in higher positions with pictures of their kids in their office can sometimes also be a subtle clue that a company is the kind of place people with kids choose to stay at.

      1. OP #3*

        I hadn’t thought about the disability insurance, that’s a really good idea.
        And yeah, your last point is what I’m really worried about. That’s hard to figure out from the outside and I think that’s what’s at the heart of my worry. I really ant to get back to work once we’ve had a kid, and I REALLY don’t want to be looking right after a pregnancy.

    3. OP #3*

      First off, congrats on your pregnancy!
      And yeah, I know it may take longer than I expect to get knocked up (here’s hoping it’s fast, obviously) but I think you and the other commentors are making good points. I guess I had sort of stressed myself out about asking about it? Because there are SO MANY stories out there about women being subtly punished for taking leave or being denied a job because of their family plans.

  14. Evy*

    Quick question on reference check with a snapshot of my work experience-
    Past work- 3 years as Role A. Enjoyed this work.
    Recent work- 2 years as Role B. Didn’t like the work.
    Currently I am out of job and looking for Role A again. For reference check I am giving people with whom I worked with in Role A. Is it going to be a red flag that I am not naming anyone from my recent company (role B) for reference check? If so, any advise on what I can do?
    P.S- I am not sure I will get good referrals for my work in Role B. My colleagues agreed to give me good referral but I dunno if they have changed their mind since.

    1. Judy*

      I’d suggest asking this in the open thread at 11am (Eastern US time), a little less than 2 hours from now.

  15. NicoleK*

    #5 One typically goes to their manager for questions about salary, raises, and bonuses. When one side consciously steps the manager, it’s usually one of 3 things:
    1. one thinks manager doesn’t know the answer
    2. one wants a different answer than the one manager will give
    3. one doesn’t respect the manager

    1. Chriama*

      I think that’s a specificly uncharitable interpretation. What about:

      4) one knows that their manager isn’t a strong advocate for them and they want to make sure they make their case to the real decision-making party.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Exactly. The manager has likely earned the disrespect, but it still falls under “Doesn’t respect the manager”.

    2. Andrea*

      Hmm. I agree with you that this is usually the case, but I don’t think this strictly applies in smaller orgs where casual contact with people like the CEO is super common. A lot of questions people have for their managers — especially around things like this! — are often things the direct manager is going to have to ask about anyway. I could absolutely see myself asking the CEO about a bonus policy at the water cooler. I definitely wouldn’t LOBBY for one in that kind of situation, but with a question like this I don’t think it’s weird for OP#5 to explain why she’s asking, and for the CEO to immediately reassure her it can be addressed. Should this have been something she goes to her manager for? Absolutely, but I don’t think its inappropriate to raise in passing with someone higher up that you have a good relationship with and just happen to see first. Context and relationships matter.

  16. Liza*

    #4: It’s also useful to a manager to ask the references questions like “What should I know about this person in order to manage them effectively?” (which I got from a resource Alison linked once–I think it was the Management Center’s hiring resources website).

  17. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I would both love and hate to work closely with my sister. Love, because she’s the best – and super talented and hard working. Hate, because she would, without a doubt, show me up. I’d have to up my game, and I’m satisfied (as is my employer) as it stands now.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ha, me too. My sister is very good at what she does (and I’m proud of her) but I feel as though I’m meh no matter how hard I work. It’s bad enough at family gatherings–she has a cool job and I just have…..a job. Nobody ever asks me about work and when they do, I have nothing to say. I would feel even more inadequate if we worked in the same place.

  18. INFJ*

    #1 I agree with Alison that your sister being in the same department as you will make it difficult for her and you to establish separate identities. In addition, the fact that she is STARTING in the same department as you makes it even more complicated. I used to work in the same department as my sister. (She was there first, then I was hired.) The staff we were supporting would always compare us and try to pit us against each other. They were doing it in a playful way, but it really got under my sister’s skin. Their behavior showed that they didn’t think of us on separate terms.

    On the flip side, I have also worked in the same department as my mother, but we each had worked in separate departments for YEARS before, so we were able to establish our separate identities and work styles well in advance. We each had established our own personalities and specialties; nobody would dream of coming to me for X, with X being my mom’s area of expertise, just like they wouldn’t go to her for Y, with Y being my area. I really think that lead in time apart was the key to success.

    Another really important part of Alison’s answer that I can attest to firsthand is not being able to stay out of each other’s beefs with coworkers. You may THINK you can be impartial, but I guarantee the first time someone does something shady to your sister, you won’t be able to look at them the same again. And because you’re related and know each other so well, you are going to be the first one she goes to to vent, and vice versa. Trust me, I’ve been there!

    I know it seems like this would be a good opportunity for your sister, and that she would most likely be hired, but please encourage her to look elsewhere!

  19. TootsNYC*

    My sister feels miffed that a chunk of her work wasn’t used, but in all honesty, this salesperson wasn’t willing to try clearly communicate with us and the client and that affected the outcome. I did explain to my sister that was the case, and I often do work that isn’t used and it’s just part of this industry.

    This is the part that worries me.

    She groused, and you felt obligated to Explain the World to her.
    Either because you feel responsible for her happiness, you felt she was blaming you for things, you felt obligated to teach or “raise” her, or some other thing.

    It’s a very common dynamic, both for older siblings AND for more-experienced colleagues.

    Combing the two of those could be really bad for your relationship. If she gets hired, it’s something to really watch out for–especially on your part. Because I get the feeling that this urge would be really strong for you.

    You will have trouble not feeling responsible for her happiness at work, and she will have trouble not asking you to feel responsible for her happiness.
    If this gets out of hand, you will feel pressured and she will feel resentful.

    I’m a big sister, and it is HARD HARD HARD to not act like The Knowledgeable One Imparting My Wisdom to the Youngster. I make a very conscious effort. And we don’t even live in the same state!

  20. TootsNYC*

    #4: HR conducting reference checks
    Heck, I’ve been in situations in which I don’t want HR to screen resumes!
    Only a few times have I worked w/ an HR rep that I felt would exercise judgment similar to mine in deciding which to put in the short stack.

  21. Lalaith*

    Wow. I was thinking of asking almost the same question as #3. I’d like to expand it, if I may: Does anyone have good questions to ask to figure out how family-friendly a company really is? Like someone said above, they could have decent policies on the books, but subtly (or not-so-subtly) punish a person for actually trying to use the benefits they offer. And I’d like to know about work-life balance for after maternity leave, too. As a woman in a tech field, especially, I worry about long hours and being shut out of interesting projects when I become a mother.

    1. OP #3*

      YES THIS. Someone mentioned this upthread, and that’s a big component I left out of the question. It’s all well and good if they’ve got TECHNICALLY good policies, but if I come back to work and I get worse projects, don’t get put up for promotions etc., it’s not really family friendly at all

      1. TootsNYC*

        I don’t know how you find that out from the people who are interviewing you.
        I think you need to find that out from people who actually work there. Not sure how you do that–LinkedIn, maybe.

        1. Tepid Tea Water*

          I remember someone mentioning in a previous thread looking for yellow flags in interviews.

          If asked why the previous person left and the response was something akin to people having other obligations it could be read as the other person had trouble with the overtime interfering with their life.

          I can’t remember where the discussion was or what else was involved though.

  22. Dr*

    Related to #1
    Interestingly enough, almost my entire family (mom’s side, dad’s side, and stepdad’s side) either works or has worked at the same company. I’m talking grandmother, mom, dad, stepdad, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins; just about everyone. Most are spread out among different departments and even different buildings, but there are a few occasions where 1 family is under another. Not sure if any are direct reports. Seems to have worked out well enough so far, though I’ll admit it’s definitely a rarity and I agree it’s probably not best to mix work and family.

  23. Van Wilder*

    #3 – I don’t know what your field is but if you’re applying to any large companies (Fortune 500 / US News top employers types) you may be able to google the company and find some general information on the type of family leave benefits they have.

    1. OP #3*

      I’m a reporter, and there’s a little bit of information about maternity policies at some of the bigger corporate papers, but not very much. And for the smaller local papers, which is where I really want to work there’s … nada.

  24. Duncan from Vetter*

    #1 – I don’t think that family relations should be mixed with work and the idea of working with a sister, as appealing as it may sound, it can lead to a very unpleasant situation. Just think about the stressful scenarios when deadlines need to be met, work that needs to be done and the way they influence your mood. The best piece of advice is to stay away from all this drama.

  25. HR Empress*

    #3. The FMLA is a federal statute which requires organizations with 50+ employees to offer Job protected leave for up to 12 weeks in a 12 month period. The employee has to have worked for the employer for one year, have worked 1250 hours and work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.

    The law requires only job protection with the returning employee coming back to the EXACT same job. Most employers require employees to use PTO/SICK time concurrently and or allow STD (if available) in order for the employee to be pAid for all or a portion of the time they are not working.

    My advice is to apply to employers with more than 50 employees and wait to get pregnant until the birth of the child is after you have worked one year and 1250 hours. Your job will be legally protected and you may have enough PTO saved to at least have a portion paid.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just one correction there — FMLA actually doesn’t require that you be returned to the exact same job, just an “equivalent job.” This is what the Department of Labor says: “The employee is not guaranteed the actual job held prior to the leave. An equivalent job means a job that is virtually identical to the original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions (including shift and location).”

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