deli meats and working lunches, internal candidates need not apply, and more

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

1. Pregnancy, deli meats, and working lunches

I just found out I’m pregnant, and I’m really excited and happy about it. I have told my direct supervisor, who is very supportive, and we have a great parental leave policy. But for a number of reasons (it’s still very early, there are some potential risks, I’m not quite ready yet) I am not sharing the news with my coworkers and would prefer not to until I am much further along. I’m not showing and not getting sick at work, so there is no way they would know.

My question is around working lunches. Frequently, we have business meetings that either run through lunch or start / end with lunch, and the usual fare is sandwiches and chips. I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches, but hey, free food and networking, so I always eat them. Now, though, my doctor has said I should avoid deli meats due to the risk of listeria. How do I handle this? For the start or end with lunch options, I could always duck out and get my own, but I will miss out on valuable networking and “shop talk” over lunch. For the meetings that go through lunch, there really isn’t time to go get food on my own. Is my best option to bring my own? What do I say to coworkers, who will inevitably ask since this is an abrupt change in habit for me? Also, it would be hard to say I’m going vegetarian or trying to eat healthy salads only. Due to mild nausea, bread, crackers, and a few proteins like chicken are the only things I eat right now (veggies are out).

(Side note – I know that the deli meat / listeria thing is controversial for some, and many women eat sandwiches and are fine. For me, I’m not a huge fan to start, and other than this one issue it doesn’t impact my life, so I would rather just avoid deli meat at my doctors request.)

Can you talk to whoever’s in charge of food for these meetings and just ask that they include a sandwich that you could eat? You don’t need to cite the pregnancy; you could just matter-of-factly say that you’re dealing with some diet changes, could they please get you X, thanks. It’s pretty reasonable to ask the person in charge of ordering food to order something that you can eat. The more matter-of-fact you are about it, the better.

If for some reason talking to that person directly doesn’t make sense, I’d explain what’s up to your manager, since she already knows about your pregnancy, and ask her her support in broadening what’s being offered, without tying it to you. (If it’s all deli meat sandwiches, you’re probably not the only one who would appreciate other options.)

If you don’t like either of those options, you could also just bring your own food and if anyone questions it, say something vague like “I’m experimenting with some diet changes, nothing too interesting” or “I’m on a major crackers binge” or whatever you feel like saying. Again, the more matter-of-fact you are about it, the less people will pry.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Internal candidates need not apply

I work at a small, struggling nonprofit whose board recently abruptly fired our executive director with basically no transition plan in place. Although I spent two years working very, very hard, doing the jobs of two people to keep the place open, I have been told by the board that I need not apply for the interim executive director position, that external candidates will only be considered. This despite the fact that our personnel manual explicitly says that all open positions must be advertised internally first.

I am angry, resentful, bitter, and hurt that the organization I have given basically everything to for the past five years is so dismissive of me as an asset and an advocate to return us to solvency. I also found out we won’t even be getting paid on time (this has been a recurring theme) and to me, the message from the board of directors is “we will be happy to let you work even harder with no title change, no raise, no support, and no chance for advancement.” In other words, “we invite you to continue being exploited. Thank you for all your hard work.” What should I do?

Well, you could job search.

The decision to look only at outside candidates for an ED role could be sensible, if the board specifically wants to go in a different direction than what the organization has been doing (and the firing of the old ED might indicate exactly that). Or they could want someone with skills and experience that no one on the current staff has (also very possible when it comes to an ED role). So I’d try not to be too irked by that element of it — but certainly if you’re not getting paid on time and you’re unhappy and you don’t feel you’re being paid appropriately or given the resources to do your job, you should look at other jobs. Any one of those would be a reason to find something else and leave — taken altogether, they’re a screaming neon sign telling you to.

3. Should I try to set up meetings with prospective coworkers when applying at a new company?

My wife and I are relocating from Seattle to Phoenix. She has already found and started a new job, and, although I still work in the Seattle area, I am fervently looking for a new job in Phoenix. At my current employer, whenever an employee was applying for an internal transfer or promotion, one thing that was expected was for you as the employee to interview your next potential boss, the person leaving the position for which you are applying, coworkers of that position, and anyone else with knowledge about the position, thus giving you pertinent knowledge of the applied for position prior to an internal interview.

Although I have searched, I cannot find any articles addressing this when a person is applying to another company. For example, I will be applying for a manager position at a municipal government this week, and I wanted to try to set up a meeting with the potential future boss, the outgoing or interim manager, and maybe a subordinate to find out some details like what is going well, what needs to be fixed, why is the position available, etc.

Is this practice I am describing frowned upon or not encouraged (my prior industry was law enforcement and that is not the new industry in which I trying to get a job)? Even if the potential future boss says he or she cannot speak with me as he or she is part of the decision-making process, would I garner any points for trying? I am talking about trying this very soon after applying, especially to maybe help get an interview.

Nope, that’s absolutely not a thing you do when applying from outside the company — and definitely not before they’ve invited you to interview. You’ll look like you’re overstepping and trying to use their employees’ time inappropriately (in part because they may not even be interested in your candidacy, and in part because even if they are, they’re going to want to structure the hiring process themselves, not have you try to do it yourself). Do not do this.

4. Does this email from an employer mean I’m being rejected?

I got the following note after an interview. Does it mean I am out? I thought the interview was short but good. How should I respond? I have never received a response to a thank-you note. This is from the CEO:

“Thank you very much for your email. It was a real pleasure speaking with you today. I appreciate your enthusiasm and desire to help us make an impact. We will be in touch with you soon, but no matter how it works out you have my thanks for taking the time to come meet with me and for your passion for what we do.”

Nope, it means that they’ll be in touch soon and appreciate you coming in.

Employers, for the most part, don’t speak in coded messages about this kind of thing. If they were ready to reject you, they’d just reject you.

I know it’s tempting to try to read into stuff like this, but it will do you no favors. Take it at face value and believe that all it means it what it says.

If this was a response to your thank-you, don’t respond at all — you thanked them, they responded, and that’s the end of this particular exchange. If this wasn’t a response to anything you sent, then just reply with something like, “I really enjoyed talking with you as well and appreciated your time. Looking forward to hearing back from you.” Or, if you haven’t already sent a thank-you, now is the time to respond with the kind of thing that would normally have gone in that. (Keep in mind that post-interview thank-you’s should really be less about thanking and more about following up on the conversation you had in an interview. More on that here.)

5. Does management experience have to be current?

I work part-time as a Teapot Painting Assistant under a full-time Teapot Painter, and am currently job-searching for a Teapot Painter position of my very own. In my current role, my boss and I jointly supervise a few Teapot Cleaners, which I’ve been identifying as supervisory experience in my resumes and cover letters. I’m going to be relocating for various reasons in a couple of months, and if I can’t find a Painter position before that relocation, I may need to take another Assistant position to fill the gap.

Do hiring managers expect to see unbroken chains of supervisory work when they look at a prospective candidate? In other words, if I say “I have X years of supervisory experience,” and then the hiring manager looks at my resume and sees that that experience was at a prior job, would that reflect poorly on me? (I realize the answer to this probably varies by profession and position, but can you give a general sense of the expectations here?)

No, generally speaking, your management experience doesn’t need to be unbroken, and it’s fine to say “I have X years of doing Y” when it’s from a prior job. That said, depending on the job and what they’re looking for, recency could matter. If I’m hiring for a job where I really care about management experience, experience from 10 years ago isn’t going to be as compelling as something more recent. But if you’ve managed teams in the past for some reasonable amount of time (i.e., not six months) and just haven’t done it in a couple of years, that’s not really an issue.

For what it’s worth, “jointly supervising” people always raises some skepticism for me, and if I see that on a resume, I’m going to want to know details — which elements of managing people were you doing, and were there some that you weren’t doing? Generally if management experience is a key qualification for a role, I want you have done all the parts of managing people, not just some of them, so that’s potentially an issue, depending on how that job worked.

{ 177 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    #4 sounds like a boiler plate copy-and-paste generic follow-up email that basically means “it could work out… or it might not.” I didn’t see rejection in there at all.

    1. CM*

      Boilerplate, really? It sounded like a very nice and encouraging response to me. I normally don’t respond at all to thank-you notes. I would feel really good about receiving this. Of course, I agree that the OP can’t read into it either way, but at least I would interpret it as “we like you” rather than “we thought you were terrible.”

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        Eh…I’ve had colleagues tell me that my generic cut-and-paste thank you email response is “too encouraging” and it sounds about the same as this.

        I think it’s a question of style rather than a positive or negative indicator.

        1. Megs*

          I agree. It’s very nicely worded, but it’s easy enough to be nice to everyone, especially if you’re a business you want your applicants to be support and feel good about. I wouldn’t assume this is personalized or to read into it in any way.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, boilerplate. No reasonable person is going to send a follow-up email to an interviewee that said “we thought you were terrible.” I used to work in admission (in several different schools), and every rejection letter / email we sent said some version of how great the student’s application was but the pool was competitive. In many cases, this was true, but no matter how terrible your application was, we weren’t going to say, “Sorry, your application was terrible.”

    2. TootsNYC*

      It might or might not be boilerplate.

      I think it means that the field is really tough, and that the OP made a good impression as a nice person. And it means the interviewer is a nice person.

      And that’s all it means.

      1. Rita*


        #4 was my question. Thank you everyone for the feeedback.

        My interview was on Friday and the CEO replied to my thank you with this reply over the weekend. I am applying as his executive assistant. HR called me this morning and asked me to complete some additiinal testing. I think thats a good sign. I always write thank you notes and have never received a reply. I have also never had an interview be so short. It’s hard not to read into all these little signs.

        1. TootsNYC*

          oooh, fingers crossed!

          it is hard to read into this sort of thing, isn’t it?. But the CEO is trying to say to you, “don’t read too much into this.”

  2. Teapot Food Safety*

    Regarding deli meats: The (one) good thing about Listeria is it’s easy to kill, and doesn’t leave any toxins behind unlike staph/ clostridium spp. If you have a microwave handy, you can pop the meat in there until the meat reaches a temp of 165 and it will be safe!

    1. Graciosa*

      I hadn’t heard much about this, but is it only an issue with meat?

      The solution that came to me was to ask for a cheese sandwich from the deli, but I’m not sure if that addresses whatever the possible problem is.

      1. Teapot Food Safety*

        It is a problem with any processed food that is sold as RTE (ready to eat), and not heated to an internal temp of 165 before eating. A few dozen people have died in the past 2 years from contaminated produce (tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe), ice cream (Blue Bell), candied apples, and unpasteurized milk. There is a huge recall out now for frozen veggies.

        Hard cheeses are typically too dry to support listeria growth. But let’s say the deli uses the same slicer for meat and for cheese, or for hard and semi-soft cheeses– your slices can become contaminated.

        Listeria is really ubiquitous, very hardy, and likes to form biofilms. It thrives in cool dark places where most bacteria fear to tread!

        1. Mookie*

          Listeria is really ubiquitous, very hardy, and likes to form biofilms. It thrives in cool dark places where most bacteria fear to tread!

          Damn, the way you describe it makes me want to be listeria when I grow up. Why are the bad ones always so cool?

          1. Teapot Food Safety*

            Haha the more you learn about Listeria the more you respect it. It’s pretty bad-ass as far as bacteria go.

        2. Overeducated*

          That’s what gets me about the pregnancy restrictions. Nobody says not to eat cantelope, peaches, spinach, or any other fresh produce (except sprouts), but while I was pregnant there were listeria outbreaks and recalls for those, not meats. Another friend who is a microbiologist said she would not eat any bagged salads because she thought they were highest risk. I guess you just have to pay attention.

          1. Scotty_Smalls*

            I think it’s also a cost risk analysis. While fresh produce could have listeria, the benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh the risk. Whereas deli meats are not a necessary part of a healthy diet and so the risk is avoidable. But I agree, being aware of outbreaks is important.

            1. Cat*

              I think that’s a very individual analysis. People have lots of reasons to want to eat cold deli meats for one reason or another, regardless of whether they’re part of a “healthy diet,” and for some, the cost-benefit analysis comes down on the side of eating them.

              1. Overeducated*

                I agree. I think a blanket prohibition on deli meats vs. no warning about fresh produce is as much cultural as nutritional, given that the actual risk of getting listeria from fresh produce is so much higher (in terms of number of people who get sick each year). Also, you *can* have a healthy diet without the most common fruit and vegetable carriers, or eat frozen and canned stuff. We just don’t like or value that kind of diet, so we (as a population) are more willing to accept a higher level of risk.

              2. NK*

                Avoiding deli meats has been a huge pain in my pregnancy. Protein is really important in pregnancy, and when eating out (which is sometimes unavoidable), deli meat sandwiches are typically the most convenient and healthy option available – not to mention relatively low-cost. So yes, they’re not necessary, and I have avoided them for the most part, but often for a less-healthy alternative which makes me question if it’s all worth it.

          2. Violet Fox*

            They’re also culturally linked. I’ve lived in the US and Northern Europe, and the restrictions I’ve seen from pregnant friends has varried a lot by where I’ve lived.

            1. Anon For This*

              THANK YOU for bringing this up. People think these sorts of recommendations are objective and boy are they not.

          3. fposte*

            The leading food safety attorney has a short list of stuff he’ll never eat, and that includes bagged salads and precut fruit.

            1. Megs*

              I was *literally* sticking a piece of pre-cut fruit in my face as I read this comment. Le sigh.

          4. Jeanne*

            It is easier to wash produce than it is to wash deli meats. As an immunocompromised person, I never eat raw fruits and vegetables without knowing how they were washed.

    2. Nella*

      I faced the same problem with the list they gave me of all the foods I wasn’t supposed to eat when pregnant. I used common sense when following it. This equated to minimizing mostly raw cheeses and dry or cold smoked deli meats, bit ate just about everyone else. My reasoning for that stems from the fact that other cultures eat these products during pregnancy with any increase risk or harm being reported.

      The one thing that I avoided was eating for 2. For the first bit of your pregnancy you need no more than a 1-2 hundred extra calories. Take cuea from your body and eat healthy, but don’t change your diet drastically.

      1. Copper Boom*

        I also had issues with work lunches while pregnant. I was usually able to find a tuna or egg salad sandwich that worked fine. If you find yourself stuck in that situation, maybe they’ll have one of those?

        1. Foxtrot*

          I thought the mercury in fish, especially large fish like tuna, was really bad for pregnant women?

          1. Murphy*

            It’s really bad in the white albacore tuna, but the smaller skipjack tuna (which is what the more common deli tuna often is) is fine a few times a week.

            Tuna and egg salad were my go tos when I was pregnant and we were having a work lunch.

          2. Just Another Techie*

            The latest guidance is that warning pregnant people about specific types of fish just makes everyone panic and not eat any fish at all which is bad because there are vitamins and minerals that you really need. Since the average American isn’t in danger of consuming enough predator fish for mercury poisoning to be a real concern, doctors have pulled back on warning pregnant people off fish, and in fact, encourage it now.

          3. Ghost Town*

            I was pregnant in 2014, and the tune guidelines I was given was basically not more than two cans in one week’s time of the chunk light. No more than one can/week of the albacore. If memory serves, that is.

      2. PollyQ*

        I forget where I heard this, but someone once said “yeah, you’re eating for two, but one of them’s really really small.”

      3. em*

        I highly recommend “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster for all your pregnancy freak-outs. My spouse calls it the “Calm the F Down” book :D

        1. Jubilance*

          Ditto! I love that the author dives into the studies behind all those “warnings” to get to the truth behind those rules. IIRC, she did note that the Listeria risk was enough for the deli meat guidance to be true, but she also noted all the Listeria outbreaks on produce.

        2. Juli G.*

          I recommend this too. I have some anxiety issues and this book really helped me assess risk.

        3. Mona Lisa*

          Yes, I absolutely loved that book. It confirmed a lot of what I already suspected (that pretty much everything is fine in moderation) and gave me the evidence I needed to make decisions for myself.

        4. Dang*

          I REALLY wish I’d known about this one earlier in my dear friend’s pregnancy! She has been insufferable and I get it, but it has driven me crazy enough to distance myself a bit and I feel guilty about it but… I needed to stay saane?

    3. Purple Dragon*

      I thought it was because of the sulfates (or whatever) that they use to cure deli meat. At least that’s why my SIL told me when she was pregnant.

      OP – I’m pescatarian (vegetarian+seafood) so I understand not having something to eat at a work lunch. Could you bring in your own sandwich ? It’s boring but it’s what I used to do, either that or protein balls that I make (yum). Now we have a C level that’s full on vego so there’s always something I can eat :)

      1. Mike C.*

        No, it’s the Listeria. It causes spontaneous miscarriages in pregnant women and is very easy to pass around.

        1. Al*

          Nope, the sulfates are a thing you’re also told to avoid. So even if you’re heating the lunch meat or hot dogs, they tell you to only have them in small quantities.
          (Source – currently pregnant and was given those instructions)

          1. the_scientist*

            But listeria is also an issue with deli meats and soft cheeses, and is one of the reasons pregnant women are told to avoid these things.

          2. Mike C.*

            (Source – currently pregnant and was given those instructions)

            Really? Do you think I’m just making this up?

            Here’s my source – I was a lead QA at a major food safety laboratory covering such things as meats, nuts and leafy greens. This is the same place that Chipotle consulted with after having six major incidents in as many months.

            I’m certainly not going to argue against another expert, but ignoring Listeria is not a good idea.

            1. Cat*

              Lysteria is one of the reasons for the warning but plenty of pregnant women choose to eat cold deli meats while pregnant and their doctors encourage that. It’s a choice and women get to make it for themselves after considering the actual risk.

              The sulfates are another thing doctors may warn about, which ditto.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                I think it’s the “nope” at the start of the sentence. It took me a third re-read (after you pointed out the also) to figure out she wasn’t saying Listeria is not an issue.

                1. boop*

                  Mike said “no” first, as if her experience of being warned of sulfates was somehow incorrect.

                2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  I get that…but I was just explaining that others had misread it as well.

    4. Jo*

      If the sandwiches are ready made though, any listeria could have transferred into the bread. Also, it’s probably just as obvious to pop out of a networking lunch to start nuking parts of your sandwiches ;) But probably a good tip if you are at home and love deli meat! :)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        The health warnings I have heard are no pate, lightly cooked eggs and soft cheese like brie.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Soft cheese is actually generally ok if it’s made with pasteurized milk – which is virtually all cheese sold in the US due to FDA regulations. Not sure about other countries.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, with a pre-made sandwich I would microwave the whole thing, not just the lunchmeat (at home you could microwave just the lunchmeat before making the sandwich).

        If the sandwiches are meat+cheese, you could probably play this off as wanting the cheese melted, or “the conference rooms are always freezing, I just wanted something warm for lunch today”.

    5. Jennifer Pinnick*

      OP here. Microwave is a very good idea an timely- I have another lunch today! I might be able to change the menu to add a grilled chicken sandwich for future but it is too late for today. Thanks for the tip!

      1. the_scientist*

        Does your company not provide options for vegetarians at these meetings? I have never eaten deli meats- they make me gag just thinking about them, frankly, and I usually opt for the vegetarian option…..unfortunately, though, a lot of times there will be like, 1 vegetarian sandwich for the whole group. If I’m being asked for my preferences for a “boxed lunch” I always indicate that I am vegetarian because I know that the non-veg option is cold cuts. I would maybe contact the person who organizes the meetings and orders the food and just say that you need a vegetarian option. They shouldn’t question that.

        1. Mae*

          Ugh. I hate deli meats, too. I get that they’re cheap, abundant, and convenient to serve in bulk, but I’d always be the “high maintenance” one and request some options with grilled chicken or hummus. I feel as though offices should accommodate a wider range of preferences anyway. I agree to contact the person directly who’s in charge. No one, pregnant or not, should have to suffer through soggy wraps dripping in mayo, iceberg lettuce, and “meat.”

        2. Mephyle*

          This for me, too. I’m vegetarian but even pre-vegetarian I hated both deli meats, and sandwiches made from regular sliced bread. In OP’s situation, I would have been bringing my own lunch from the start. If that wasn’t possible because these lunches aren’t predictable, I would always keep a couple of protein bars in my purse. I think it wouldn’t stand out if she started doing that now, if the vegetarian option in these lunches doesn’t work out.

          1. Jill*

            For me it was the ever present pile of “treats” that I had to abstain from due to gestational diabetes. I’d always demure with, “No you go ahead and enjoy them” but that wouldn’t work with a sandwich. Also, due to the diabetes, I formed the habit of carrying around protein bars and trail mixes loaded with nuts. It’s amazing how full you can feel on a handful of nuts and people will barely notice you nibbling at them or even tossing back a handful when everyone around you is tossing back the chips.

            Do the sandwiches come from a national chain? My doc advised that the chain places like a Subway have so much turnover of product that the likelihood of Lysteria is close to zilch. If that puts your mind at ease…

            And I wholeheartedly agree with others on the pregnancy freak-outs. Trust you own body and your own health history and chuck all the scary stories you’ll read online.

      2. NolongerMsCleo*

        First, congrats on your pregnancy, I hope it goes really well!
        I could have written this exact letter last year. I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches but have a lot of working lunches that are usually Jason’s Deli or something similar. I just threw them in the microwave if I couldn’t find chicken or something along those lines.
        The weirdest part though, as much as I dislike sandwiches, I craved them during my pregnancy. Maybe it because they were “forbidden.”
        Take care of yourself and that precious little one!

        1. Murphy*

          We stopped for a salami-filled sandwich on the way home from the hospital with our baby. I’d been craving one for months.

          It tasted so, so good.

          1. IvyGirl*

            I made my husband go get me a foot-long Italian hoagie with jalapeno kettle chips and a huge Diet Coke for post-delivery. I ate the whole thing AND the dinner the hospital gave me.

            Given that I hadn’t eaten since Sunday evening, and my child wan’t born until Tuesday afternoon, I figured I deserved it. And that I was craving deli/hoagies for my entire pregnancy.

            1. Artemesia*

              You are so lucky — I went 56 hours without food when I delivered my first at 7:30 PM — the hospital didn’t feed me till breakfast. I thought I’d starve.

      3. Infinity*

        I think the grilled chicken, tuna, or chicken salad sandwiches are all good options–if that’s the only form of food they provide (sandwich). Salads are a good go-to and what I did for similar situations while pregnant. Places that provide sandwiches probably do salads too, and I can’t imagine you’d be the only one to welcome a less carb-loaded option. I bet you can even make it a last minute addition if you speak with who ever is ordering. Most people who’ve been managing events where lunches are provided don’t think twice about requests like these, they just want to get the lunches ordered. I imagine most people aren’t going to bat an eye at any of the choices you make, including not eating at lunch if it’s a true networking thing. Good luck and congratulations!

      4. IvyGirl*

        That’s what I did for my first trimester when I wasn’t announcing to the world. I would grab a ham & cheese and nuke it for about 30-45 seconds, with the caveat that I really loved hot ham&cheese sandwiches.

      5. Jeanne*

        I would just bring my own lunch with other things (not a sandwich) and say you’re tired of lunch meat. I would be sick of it after frequent work lunches.

    6. Sally-O*

      #1 – You should just bring your own lunch. It won’t be that weird. If people ask, you could say that your spouse/mom/roommate is on a cooking kick and so you’re bringing the leftovers for lunch.

      1. Sally-O*

        Or just don’t eat at lunchtime. Bring your own food and nibble before and after. If you’re walking around networking, will people even notice/care that you aren’t simultaneously eating?

        1. Katniss*

          She did mention that there are times where she wouldn’t have time to eat otherwise.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, especially since it’s Monday, I think “I forgot we had this lunch today when I got up this morning and I didn’t want this delicious food to go to waste” would be a valid way to swing it. As would “The conference room is always so chilly, I was in the mood for something warm.”

      3. AMG*

        1. Deli meats give me heartburn.
        2. I am trying to watch my sodium.
        3. Found this fantastic new chicken breast/Turkey/roast beef and I’m addicted!
        4. I like my own cooking better.
        5. I like chipotle mayo/pumpernickel bread/munster cheese so I just make my own.
        6. Something didn’t agree with me last time so I just brought my own.

    7. BananaPants*

      Yes, my doctor told me if I needed to eat deli meat, to nuke the meat until steaming. I didn’t find that too appetizing, so I basically skipped deli meat for the duration. I’m not much of a fan to begin with, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. My employer’s sandwich options include a grilled veggie sandwich and tuna salad, so I just opted for one of those or a salad when we had work lunches.

    8. Artemesia*

      Listeria is catastrophic if you are pregnant. I would not want to make a fuss or try to get other things from the caterer since if there were a problem, it could also involve cross contamination. I’d bring cheese and crackers, or yogurt or something and just eat it and if anyone asked, just go with a vague ‘Oh, I love crackers and cheese for lunch.’ or ‘I am cutting back a bit so it is yogurt for me.’

      I can guarantee if any requests are made for different foods at lunch and particularly it gets discussed with the boss, that the word will be out tomorrow about the pregnancy. Any special request will just raise the visibility of the choice.

  3. Panda Bandit*

    #2 – I’m sorry they won’t consider you for the position you want, but your workplace is a sinking ship. Grab a lifeboat and row it to a company that will pay you on time, and appreciate you, and reward you for all your hard work.

    1. Graciosa*

      I agree that it’s definitely time to go.

      The board does overrule manuals, however, in case it ever comes up again, so there’s not too much point in getting hung up on that. What I do think is a bigger problem is not getting paid on time – that is HUGE unless your landlord or mortgage company have worked something out with your employer so that they don’t need to be paid unless you have been.

      The whole thing reeks of desperate decision making, which is both the reason you need to get out immediately and the reason you cannot afford to make the same mistake yourself. Anger – even righteous anger – can short circuit some of your higher brain functions just as much as fear does. Set your anger aside enough to manage your exit in a way that maximizes your own benefit.

      Assume the doors will be shut when you come to work one day, so remove anything you own and care about from the office (including work computers). Line up your references and polish your resume. Keep behaving with the utmost professionalism while you’re there – people do remember how you conducted yourself on your way out, and you want to build your personal reputation here regardless of what the board is doing.

      Use every contact you have to find a new position that suits you, then hand in your notice, work it like the professional you are, and wipe your feet on the way out the door.

      Good luck.

      1. Seal*

        +1 to this. Ten years ago I was in a similar situation. Despite the fact I was the one who kept our department running for years and was more than qualified to apply for my boss’s job when he got promoted, I was explicitly told not to because they never considered internal candidates regardless of their qualifications. Although I nearly walked out on the spot, I managed to check my anger long enough to consider my options; the best one was to suck it up and plan my exit strategy. So I started applying and interviewing and got an offer for a job nearly identical to the one my current employer refused to consider me for. I gave ample notice, tied up as many projects as I could, left explicit instructions for those projects I couldn’t finish, and left.

        While it was difficult, I made a point of being as professional as possible my last few months on a job I now hated. By the time I left, many people elsewhere in the organization knew what had happened and were quite sympathetic, particularly since the person they hired as department head had already proven to be a mistake. I still see some of those people at conferences and meetings ten years after the fact and they still comment on how badly I was treated at the time and how well I conducted myself despite having every reason not to – you’d be surprised what people remember.

        1. Rebel Yellow*

          Meaning remove stuff from the work computers if it’s yours and you want to retain access to it. Not remove the work computers themselves, obviously.

          1. Numm Numm*

            Sadly there are people out there that actually take work laptops home with them and would keep it if their employment terminated…. I think there has actually been submissions in the past where this very thing was questioned.

            1. Rebel Yellow*

              That may well be. I see no reason to assume that was the advice Graciosa was offering, however!

          2. Graciosa*

            Yes – everything you OWN and care about was intended to apply to everything in the sentence (including stuff on work computers). I was emphatically not suggesting anyone steal, and I am sorry if the phrasing gave the wrong impression.

            I don’t keep much in the way of personal stuff on my work computer – I would say nothing but there are some professional association emails (training information) and the photo I use for my desktop, all of which I also already have elsewhere.

            I am unusually rigid about maintaining a separation between my work and personal computers, but I tossed in the reference to computers after remembering that not everyone is quite so careful about this.

            If the company goes under, the employees will lose access to the computers permanently and without notice (I used to work in bankruptcy). I am amazed at how many people keep irreplaceable personal files on their work computers – this is incredibly risky, and I was hoping to warn the OP in time to avoid disaster by moving any of her own personal files.

            1. Mona Lisa*

              I, too, don’t keep too much personal information on my work computer, but at the last couple of places I’ve worked, I’ve copied over documents or design projects in which I played a large role so that I have samples of my work over time. The documents have also been helpful in giving me a jumping off point in creating similar guides at different organizations.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                We had a huge debate at work over whether or not saving your novel on a flash drive or google drive would be enough to circumvent intellectually property clauses if the company could prove you wrote on company property.

                Nothing really at odds, just bar room debates.

                1. Graciosa*

                  The last few companies I worked for actually specified that anything made using company assets (the computer in this case) belonged to them.

                  Thus my rigidity in carrying my personal computer on business trips in case I want to work on my novel –


                2. neverjaunty*

                  What companies claim is the law, and what actually is the law, are often two very different things, of course.

              2. Solidus Pilcrow*

                Assuming you can write to a flash drive. I’ve worked in places where any external storage was disabled, file sharing web sites/cloud services were blocked, and WiFi was actively blocked within the building (instead of WiFi repeaters, they installed signal dampers) for data security reasons. The only way to get a file out was to email it to a personal account (but you couldn’t check that account from work because all third-party email clients were also blocked). I imagine in some other places with even more locked down security you might not even be able to do that.

                All in all, best to keep private/personal stuff off your work devices as much as possible.

        2. Tia*

          I read this as remove anything you care about from work computers, not remove work computers

      2. Purple Jello*

        People definitely remember how you acted, especially in situations like this. Your reputation for professionalism when treated poorly will follow you for decades. While you may feel the urge to make it difficult for your current employer, everyone there is watching you, and you never know when one of them may be in a situation to help or hurt your employment opporunities – or know someone else who can.

      3. Artemesia*

        Really important advice. And download any work products you want for a portfolio. I know someone who was recently let go from a sinking ship and now doesn’t have access to the work she did and needs to be able to present.

        The first time they pay late is the moment if you haven’t already to have the resume polished and the strategy in hand. The handwriting is on the wall.

    2. Torrance*

      Exactly. This organisation is breaking its own rules (re: advertising internally), seems to be technically insolvent at the moment, can’t pay its employees on time, and is exploiting employee goodwill. Does the OP really want to be ED, especially after seeing how they treated the last one? (I mean, they may have had legitimate issues with the ED but the OP doesn’t mention them and, considering the lack of transition plan, it doesn’t sound like it was handled well at all.) I don’t want to be crass or cliche in saying ‘bullet dodged’ because an ED job comes with great pay and upward mobility but this is a ‘small, struggling nonprofit’ with numerous issues. Sometimes you can’t save an organisation from itself. Being the ED who goes down with the ship is noble but could be a career-killer.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        They’re not necessarily breaking their own rules; hiring an ED is usually very different than other staff hiring. (For one thing, the board hires the ED, whereas other hiring should be done by the ED or other staff members.) It’s very likely that none of the current staff members are qualified to be the new ED (simply because it’s a very different skill set than most other staff positions), and if that’s the case, the board is right to not just go through the motions of pretending they’re seriously considering internal candidates (although they should have explained that more clearly).

      2. Observer*

        I have to agree with Allison. While there are a lot of good reasons to get out, this is not one of them.

        The fact that there was such an abrupt separation may be because the Board are jerks, but it could be because of something major on the part of the ED, in which case it makes even more sense that they are looking for someone from outside to come in and clean house. I’ve seen this happen more than once (one time high profile enough to make the news. It nearly destroyed a not struggling organization.)

        1. Sarahnova*


          OP#2, I wonder if your general (and natural) sense of resentment at your current working situation is being projected onto the question of the ED role? I agree with Alison; either they have specific (and probably good) reasons for wanting an experienced external ED to come in, or they know already that nobody internally has the skills to step up. Or both is not unlikely. Either way, the ED role is probably an exception to the “internal advertising” rule at the best of times – and these do not appear to be the best of times.

          More importantly, why do you want this role? It’s going to be a nightmare of impossible responsibility, the company already can’t pay you properly, and they may well be circling the drain. If I had to guess, I’d say that what you really want is the company to show that they’ve appreciated your work and your time, and the tangible sign you’ve seized on is the offer of the ED job. But while I totally understand that, I think you may have to make your peace with the fact that that validation is never coming – not from the board, anyway.

          I think it’s time to start salvaging what you can. Start a job hunt. If you’re working silly hours or taking on too much responsibility, stop. Not to make a point, but for your own health and dignity. You can no longer do all this, period – what would the board like you to prioritise? Get out with your sanity and self-respect intact – I think that’s all there is left to preserve.

          1. Gaara*

            Yeah, I can’t help think, look at those bitches eating crackers. It’s time to get out.

        2. LBK*

          Moreover, I don’t think you really want someone as high up as the ED lingering around after they know they’re being fired. I can’t envision a situation in which an ED doesn’t just get immediately canned once it’s decided that they should go, and I think it’s very hard to put any plans in place to smooth that transition over without potentially alerting the ED to what’s coming. My understanding is also that a non-profit board doesn’t typically have much oversight to the day-to-day workings of the organization, so it’s not really within their purview to proactively decide how they want to divvy up the ED’s old responsibilities. I guess I’m a bit confused as to what the OP envisions a transition plan would look like in this case.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Alison’s point is what I assumed even before reading her “I’ve bee there” answer.

        Executive Director is not just another job. It’s the whole organization!

        And especially if the organization is struggling, were I a stakeholder, I’d be furious at the idea that they’d promote from within. The board dumped the previous director because the organization was floundering. How much of that was the ED’s fault? I want someone to lead the organization who doesn’t have all the baggage, bad habits and now-rejected outlook–because if things go on as they are, the organization will founder.

    3. Joseph*

      This, right here. You need to get out as quickly as you can arrange it.

      First and foremost, the company isn’t paying your salaries. You have to be very deep in the red before “let’s not pay our people and just pray they stick around” sounds like a good choice. Not paying employees is a serious, almost irreparable breach of the employer/employee relationship – not a step that you take lightly.

      Secondly, the new outside ED they hire is going to come in with brand new eyes and a new vision. And rightly so, given the apparent issues – your company sounds like it’s desperate enough (again, not paying employees) to need a massive rebuild rather than minor changes. So you very well might be looking for something new (not of your own choice) in a few months anyways.

    4. GreenTeaPot*

      OP No 2, leaving is your best option. Any NPO that ignores bylaws and established procedures is indeed a sinking ship. If only for diplomatic reasons, the board should seriously consider current employees. They might be surprised what they find internally.

      It’s no fun to be the outsider hired to deal with employees who are bitter because they were not considered. Been there.

  4. Lady Cop*

    #3 Wow…I didn’t know Seattle was so different. Completely not the norm for law enforcement in my neck of the woods. Consider the fact you don’t want to do all of that a blessing.

    1. Ambarish Sridharanarayanan*

      Eh, I’m in Seattle, and no one does that at my company. This has nothing to do with Seattle and everything to do with OP’s company.

    2. Meg Murry*

      That kind of thing doesn’t seem like the norm anywhere I’ve ever worked either.

      However, OP can still do his homework on the community where he is applying, especially since it’s local government and lots of things are public records or in the papers. Especially if it’s a smaller municipality (as opposed to Phoenix proper), he should see if he can find a local newspaper online, the city’s website, etc. Reading the news stories (I’d think the police blotter and the opinion pages would be important as well as the headline news) could give OP a good feel as to if there are any current events he should know about in the area and would be dealing with in the new position. While calling up the potential new boss and co-workers wouldn’t be appropriate, googling him/her would be. Working OP’s network would also be good – is there anyone he’s worked with in the past that has moved to the area and could give him the overall impression of the municipality and any insider knowledge? For instance, are there currently lots of tensions between law enforcement and the community that he would be involved in? Are they going through a budget crunch and cutting safety service jobs? Is there a major meth problem in the community causing a backlog in the court system? Etc, etc. My husband is involved in municipal government and he can always tell which candidates have done their homework and learned about the current going’s on in the community vs the people that just seem to be coming in to the interviews cold.

      Also, I’m assuming OP is aware of this, but generally hiring for municipalities is part of the public record, and so the interview committee may call people at his current position earlier than they might in the private sector, or the list of candidates may even be part of official meeting minutes or reported in the local paper. Probably not until finalists are selected, but it can happen. I’m assuming OP’s bosses know about his wife’s new job and that OP is looking to move to the Phoenix area, but if not OP should probably tell them sooner rather than later.

      1. Fcastle*

        Thanks for the comments and interesting that no one has the same internal application expectations that my agency does. We have had candidates specifically not get positions because the did not speak with anyone in the areas they were applying. It is often even a question during the internal interview process! Good to know that this is not the norm out there as that is what I would have done as it has been my standard for the last 20 years.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I can see some true value in that procedure. And it might be the thing to do once you DO get a job, even if it’s only an informal process over the first few weeks after you’re on board.

          Smart of you to check your standard, and to listen to that “little voice.”

          I will say I have done less elaborate versions of this through networking–tried to find someone at the new place who would speak with me candidly. For my current job, I called a friend to talk about the opening, and she said, “Ooh, one of my freelancers works there once a month–I’ll ask her!” And I got inside info that way.

        2. Meg Murry*

          But you wouldn’t have held an external candidate to those expectations, right? Or would you have expected them to also try to track someone down to talk to them about the position before even applying or interviewing?

          The norms for internal applicants are often very different than external applicants.

  5. snuck*

    #2, what a hard place to have to sit right now… How challenging this must feel.

    I agree with Alison, there could be a few things at play here – the board wants a different direction, or skillset in the new ED. Or the board has looked already at the existing staff and decided that they won’t hire someone into the ED role, so there’s no point advertising. Your suggested third alternative – that they plan to just work you hard and take advantage – could be the truth, but if they value you then this is a short sighted plan.

    Can you chat to someone on the board and get a feeling for how they see this playing out? Raise the question about more staff to offload some of your work onto? Highlight why you deserve a pay rise? Do you want to keep working in this role for these people?

    1. ginger ale for all*

      I’m not sure that a pay raise would be anything to inquire about if they cannot meet the payroll in a consistent and timely manner.

      1. snuck*

        The OP is unhappy with their current pay rate… I guess it would depend on why they are not meeting payroll – if it’s because the funds aren’t there then how will they pay a new ED too? Or is it process issues etc?

        My questions are more for the OP to think through… maybe they will help with the decision making process?

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          eh…not meeting payroll is generally more than a process issue. It’s a huge issue to not pay your employees on time.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    #3, if your current employer encourages this kind of thing, my guess is that it’s because they are already committed to your job satisfaction. They don’t want you to make an internal move, then realize you wish you’d stayed put. They care about you whether you move to a new role or not. Outside employers aren’t concerned about your job satisfaction unless they hire you, though. They have nothing to gain by letting candidates have extensive pre-interview conversations with lots of people, and they have a lot to lose. Imagine if 50 people applied for a job and they all wanted to have a conversation with their potential future boss before even having an interview – even if each conversation was only 10 minutes, that would still be an entire workday and then some!

    If they’re interested in you based on your résumé and cover letter, the interview will be your chance to ask questions. If you still have unanswered questions when you’re offered a job, you can ask for further conversation then to resolve those questions. But you only get to ask that once they’ve decided you’re worth that time.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also–with the internal process, it benefits the company greatly. Even those people who don’t get the job will find out a lot more about how the company works, feel more connected to their coworkers, etc. It’s a great knowledge-sharing tactic!

      Also, for a lot of internal candidates, there may be a little bit of weeding out anyway; internal candidates may be discouraged from applying (either formally, bcs of a clear ranking system, or informally), and so the only people left are people who absolutely would get an interview simply by virtue of being a qualified insider. Letting them find out more detail, and then seeing how they use that detail, would tell you a huge amount about them.

      I could see a company do something like this with people after the first round of weeding. But before they’ve ever met you, it’s just too time-consuming and intrusive.

  7. PeachTea*

    It blows my mind how many “oh and I don’t get paid on time” stories there are! We had one day where our bank for some reason decided not to deposit checks until 10am on payday instead of 8am like usual. I swear every single manager in our organization called me because all of their employees had called them. All over a two hour difference! Actually just routinely being paid late? No. Nah. Absolutely not. I’d be out the moment I found a new job.

    1. Calliope~*

      Our non-profit agency had an issue with the payroll company not issuing the expenses one week and the company had hand cut checks couriered to us that day; we’re across the entire state, so this was not an insignificant expense! I can’t imagine worrying if my company couldn’t make payroll!

      OP2- you need to get your resume in order and get out!

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I’m that person that calls when my expense check is late, and the one time it was, I made it clear to my employer that if they wanted me to travel I too needed one of those shiny company credit cards.

    2. Random Lurker*

      +1 . I guess we all have our own thresholds for the amount of crap we deal with at work. Often times, I read a letter, and feel that it is so minor that I wish it was all I was dealing with. But obviously, for the OP, it’s pretty bad. Then I see the “don’t get paid on time” letters, and I can’t even. If I was even 1 day late on a single paycheck, I would be looking. No exceptions. Do not mess with my money. It is, after all, the only reason I am there.

    3. Ms. Didymus*

      Seriously. You do not mess with my pay. Ever. Never. Not even a little. I worked, therefore, you pay me. On time. Every time. In the correct amount. That is our agreement.

    4. LBK*

      Totally agreed. I guess by the time you’ve decided to write a letter to AAM it’s probably been going on for so long that it seems like the status quo, but I’d be livid the first time I didn’t get paid in a timely manner and I’d be banging on the door of every member of the board if I had to. That’s absolutely a hill to die on – what are they going to do, fire you? At least then you don’t have any obligation to come into the office; I can not get paid just fine sitting at home on the couch.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        When you don’t have any other prospects, it can be tempting to believe the “we’ll have the money to pay you next week” lines you tend to get in these situations. It took me three months of almost no pay to get out of my non-paying job… but when I finally realized I’d probably never get the money, I quit with no notice and nothing lined up, because, as LBK said, I could get paid nothing just fine sitting at home.

    5. (different) Rebecca*

      Once my paycheck bounced. I swear, they were *flabbergasted* when I quit…

      1. Violet Fox*

        Back when the last tech bubble was bursting, I worked for a startup that payed us all late, and then had serious trouble paying us. The boss was actually shocked when I took a job in the public sector when this started happening, and have been there ever since.

        The company was bought up and dissolved a few months after I left.

    6. K.*

      My former employer switched payroll systems and the one they switched to crashed the first time they used it, which meant that half the company (something like 1800 people) didn’t get paid one Friday. They worked through the weekend to resolve it by Monday and I think they covered peoples’ overdraft fees, but it was a colossal shit storm – HR had a line of furious people waiting outside the office.

      I had a contract job through an agency where the boss was late approving my hours once – she “didn’t get around to approving them.” I called the agency like “Yeah: no” on Friday morning when I saw that I hadn’t been paid, and to their credit, I don’t know what the agency said to the boss but I was paid on time from then on. (I was paid on Monday of the following week, and then every Friday afterward.) You pay people when you say you’re going to, in the amount you’ve agreed to, period. No discussions.

    7. TootsNYC*

      This is such a huge issue that it’s even addressed in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:13)! Yaweh is giving instructions to His people as they enter a new land–a big, long list, punctuated by the authoritative, “I am the Lord your God!” thunderings every couple of verses. It’s grouped with defrauding and robbing!

      (I know I’ve mentioned this before)
      Leviticus 19: 13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.'”

      The idea is, the moment the worker has finished working, that’s not your money anymore; it’s hers!

      And state labor departments take this sort of stuff pretty seriously as well. (though NYState, for example, gives them 7 days from when your workweek ends)

    8. Bowserkitty*

      I started as a temp at OldJob to get in my foot in the door. For some reason, temps were not allowed to enroll in direct deposit and I had problems receiving my paycheck two or three times within the first few months working there! I couldn’t believe how lackadaisical Payroll acted about it – while I agree it was a problem with my postman once (and that was dealt with separately) it felt like in general the company didn’t give a crap, but I can’t say the same for my bills. (x_x) After the third time it happened they finally agreed to quietly make an exception for me and enroll me in direct deposit.

      About a year or two after I made permanent status they finally made DD available to ALL employees, regardless of status.

    9. blink*

      I think this is a thing where (often small) businesses get away with crazy stuff by exploiting employees who don’t have a lot of options (or are guilted by commitment to their cause, or to their workplace “family.”) I have worked at more than one place where this was habitual: a lot of the time the workers putting up with it are living on the razor’s edge already and can’t afford to give up on the hope of that money coming, which they (we) definitely won’t get if they (we) quit. Jam tomorrow &c.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Oh yes, very much this. My non-paying job was at a small business run by an expert manipulator and gaslighter who was constantly going on about how “nice” and “ethical” he was, and told me when I quit that he’d been doing me a favor because I wasn’t good enough to get a job anywhere else.

  8. Mando Diao*

    OP1: Congrats on the pregnancy! As far as the meat goes, just say, “I’m not in the mood for meat today. Is there anything else?” or, “We have it a lot and I’m kind of sick of it.” It’s a quirk of social mores that, “Nah, I just don’t want it/don’t like it” raises fewer objections than claims of an allergy, diet choice, or health issue.

    1. Dangerfield*

      Agreed. I’m not pregnant and nobody’s ever thought anything of me turning down our office’s ubiquitous sandwich buffet because I can’t stand to look at another mediocre sandwich, let alone eat one. Just not fancying it that day is a perfectly good reason everyone will accept.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, I like the “We have it a lot and I’m kind of sick of it. Can we try pizza or XX instead for a change?”
      Either that or 1. Eat before the meeting or 2. Pack your own and cite whatever reason seems simplest. Sick of sandwiches, prefer a salad, etc.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      When I was pregnant I simply said that I was trying to cut down on processed meats. No one batted an eye or connected it to a possible pregnancy. There’s a lot of reasons to cut down on processed meats.

    4. Joseph*

      I wouldn’t say it raises objections per se, it’s more that people will ask follow-up questions out of concern about your health (allergies, health issue) or curiosity (diet choice).

    5. Anna*

      This whole listeria discussion might be just the ammunition I need to get one our sites to stop serving Subway sandwiches at outreach events.

  9. Hornswoggler*

    OP No. 2. I was in a similar position some years ago. (Quite a lot of years ago.) I applied for the leadership role and was interviewed, and they hired someone else. Quite honestly, I think they only interviewed me because it would have pissed me off if they hadn’t, and they never had any intention of giving me the job. That was in one way quite nice of them but it didn’t get us any further for’arder, and I left quite soon anyway.

    The thing about non-profits is that they get used to their staff being dedicated and passionate about what they’re doing and start to take it for granted. The atmosphere is often friendlier and less formal than in for-profits. I think this generates a slightly to casual attitude to situations like yours where someone is clearly not being sufficiently rewarded for keeping the company’s nuts out of the fire.

    I would certainly follow Alison’s advice to start looking elsewhere.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I definitely agree that the OP should start looking, as there are a lot of red flags.

      However, I have consulted with a lot of non-profits that are struggling because they don’t bring in new people – especially when they need to completely flip the way they have been operating.

  10. Catabodua*

    For the business lunch question – keep a stash of Lean Cuisines or a pasta thing (Barilla has one that can stay in a desk drawer) for those days.

    Not the best food, but it’ll keep you from having to run out unexpectedly.

    1. OpheliaInWaders*

      Just a sidenote that, if you’re worried about listeria, you should make SURE to heat any frozen/prepared dish to 165F throughout–so that means stirring partway through microwaving. Deli meats are a listeria concern, but listeria thrives even when frozen, so getting the whole thing above 165F is important (as the massive frozen veggie recall illustrates).

  11. Alice*

    Re #4 and “secret codes” – I take your point that hiring managers don’t intend to mislead, but I think people here are pretty familiar with language that requires some, well, contextualization.
    “We’ll be in touch in two weeks” (if everything runs according to plan.)
    “We’ll be in touch” (if we decide to move forward with your candidacy.)
    “You’ll use this office” (if you are the person who is hired.)
    I think it would be so easy for hiring managers to use more accurate language – “we expect the process to take at least two weeks” and “you would use this office,” etc. I think this kind of experience might explain why the OP is trying to read the tea leaves with this message. OP4, good luck!

    1. Liane*

      Alison had a piece recently on what hiring managers mean when they say XYZ and what job seekers think they mean.

    2. Sarahnova*

      In an ideal world, sure, I think they would use more clear language (or rather, language which specifically acknowledges that things could go either way, but 1) watching their language that closely is going to make most people feel awkward and stilted in conversation, and slips are inevitable; 2) human nature being what it is, some candidates will apply a “wishful thinking” filter anyway.

      All job candidates really need to remember is that they should assume they haven’t got a job once their application/interview is done, and continue to move forward with other options – and that an offer or a rejection are usually both fairly unambiguous, so you should never read the tea-leaves or try to interpret “hints”.

    3. LBK*

      See, you say that, but I think people will always read into everything they hear in a hiring process, regardless of the phrasing. “We expect the process to take at least two weeks” still sets some kind of timeline that opens a candidate up to start worrying if they haven’t heard by then. “You would use this office” could easily carry the subtext of “…if you were hired, but you weren’t, so you won’t.”

      Job hunting is stressful. The brain of someone who’s job hunting is constantly trying to interpret every piece of info it gets in an attempt to ease the uncertainty. It’s not worth hiring managers policing their language so carefully when ultimately the only way to assuage a job hunter’s crazybrain is for the candidate to just assume they didn’t get the job as soon as the interview is over, move on and allow themselves to be pleasantly surprised if the process goes forward.

      1. Overeducated*

        Haha, I had an interviewer come right out and say, “We expect to make a decision in two weeks, so if you haven’t heard from us in three weeks, then you can start to worry. Of course, sometimes we make an offer to our first choice candidate and don’t get back to the others until that’s finalized so then it can take a while.”

        That was a little over three weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing…but I’ve also had three other offers and accepted one since, so I’m not actually worried. (Haven’t written to them to withdraw formally because I’m afraid it would come off arrogant and presumptuous, since their silence implies I’m not their first pick, but maybe I’m overthinking it. Dunno.)

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I once was chastised for not “formally wothdrawing” from a position I had applied for six months earlier!

        2. Uyulala*

          I’d recommend withdrawing just to be helpful to them. They may even be trying to secure a special pay for you or just have other delays.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I would never be going to bat for special pay for a candidate without having first ascertained that they’re still interested! That’s a huge investment (mentally, emotionally, politically), and I’d be checking on the candidate’s continuing interest.

          2. Sarahnova*

            Eh, I think if you literally haven’t communicated in months – particularly if you’ve never responded to the candidate’s application at all! – you only have yourself to blame if the candidate has mysteriously not intuited that they should wait for you.

            Sending a follow-up email of “oh wait, nevermind” to an application that you’ve never actually had a response to strikes me as a touch tone-deaf/presumptuous.

        3. LBK*

          I think if you just state in a matter-of-fact way that you got offered another opportunity that you’ve decided to take, that doesn’t come off as presumptuous. While it’s true that you might not really be in the running anymore, it could also be taking so long because you’re neck-in-neck with another candidate and they’re having trouble choosing between the two of you.

  12. em*

    OP#1 – Saying you’re on a crackers kick probably isn’t the best way to avoid your coworkers speculating that you’re pregnant :)
    When I was pregnant, I had to explain why I suddenly went from mainlining any sort of caffeine I could get my hands on to drinking caffeine-free cola. I told my coworkers that my spouse was worried about my caffeine intake (true!) and that I’d promised him to cut it down. It worked and the only one who claimed to have guessed my pregnant status was the person I ran into while buying emergency saltines at the convenience store.
    You could always pull out a bag of grapes/applesauce/pasta salad and claim that you were trying to eat healthier either for your own sake, at the behest of a loved one, or to encourage a loved one to eat healthier too (a we’ll do this together thing). You’ll probably have long announced before this happens but there will likely come a time in your pregnancy that you’ll need those sorts of snacks (coughmealscough) stashed in your bag to pull out when you suddenly get ravenously hungry and this is good practice to get in the habit of carrying them around.
    Congrats and good luck!

    1. Heather*

      Indeed, a heart condition can require you to give up caffeine, so there are health reasons!

  13. Observer*

    OP #2 I feel for you. Starting to look for another job makes a lot of sense if the organization is having trouble making payroll, is underpaying staff, and is understaffed, and had to get rid of the ED so abruptly. At best, this is a troubled organization that may or may not survive the year.

    But you need to realize two things. The first is that the abrupt hiring is a bad sign, but it does not necessarily mean that it was the wrong thing for the Board to do. If, for instance they found out that he’s been skimming the cash receipts for the last 3 years, there was absolutely NO choice. Stuff like that happens, and Boards generally don’t share that information, even internally, if they can help it.

    The second thing is that there may very well be excellent reasons why they are not looking internally. I’m sure that you have been a hard and dedicated worker, but being an ED is very different even from running a department. So, it’s not so clear that you would necessarily have the skills needed. And, the fact that you talk about being “an advocate for bringing the organization back to solvency” seems to speak to that disconnect. What the organization needs is not an advocate, but someone who can come up with a plan and execute. Now, I don’t want to pick to hard on wording choices, but it’s all we have to go on, and it just sounds off.

    As others have pointed out, being angry or bitter can lead to lapses of judgement that could hurt you. So, try to keep calm, and find yourself a job you can be happy in.

    1. Overeducated*

      Looking externally may also be a bit of a Hail Mary – “clearly if we had someone who could fix our Giant Problems already they would’ve done it – let’s try something completely different and see if that works!” Think about the high-profile examples of troubled corporations bringing in new CEOs to great fanfare as a way of making a statement that they need to turn around. It doesn’t always work but it’s a sort of cliched desperate measure. I know it’s impossible not to take this personally, OP, given how much of your hard work and organizational knowledge you’ve put into this place, but that would be my read.

  14. Not Karen*

    #1 You’re telling me they don’t already have a vegetarian option? I used to have a working lunch that served sandwiches and I don’t like deli meats either, so I always ate the vegetarian sandwich.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But she says veggies aren’t an option (due to nausea, I think).

      I’d bring your own lunch, and if anyone says anything, shrug and say “had a lot of sandwiches lately, I’m kind of tired of them.” Although you might be surprised at how few people notice or care.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          True, but if she also can’t have cheese, what vegetarian option is a sandwich place likely to provide?

  15. Numm Numm*

    OP1: I would never second glance someone that munches on their own lunch despite there being free food available. I think the trick would be to bring in super healthy foods, even if it is just carrots and dip or an apple. Most people won’t ask why you are eating veggies instead of sandwiches… unless you are trying to hide the food and make yourself super conspicuous, but if they do you can always just say that you are tired of those sandwiches.

    If you are still hoping for free food (which everyone constantly hopes for in an office) then I would stage any requests for changes around preferences. Simply go to the food organizer and explain that you are getting sick of the same sandwiches always being offered and that you’d appreciate a fruit/veggie tray or even cheese and crackers in addition to the regular arrangements. That way there is a chance they will accommodate you without having to reveal more than you are comfortable with.

    If you do bring your own food I would just avoid the dreaded crackers… I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone asked if they were pregnant because a coworker seen them suddenly munching on crackers from their drawer. Every pregnant coworker I’ve worked with has always foreshadowed the pregnancy announcement with eating crackers.

    1. Sibley*

      I bring my lunch to work almost every single day – and I don’t have access to a fridge. Totally doable, and it’s a lot cheaper than eating out!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I eat crackers all the time–way more than I probably should, LOL. But what I bring to work is rye crisp or flatbread or something like that, with tuna and egg. That wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

  16. techfool*

    no 2, sometimes they prefer to keep you in your current position if you do it well and above-and-beyond.
    No good deed goes unpunished!

  17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – yeah, a lot of employers have a “no internal promote” plan because their thinking is “Sally is our best teapot engineer, we can’t promote her, let’s hold her back, and go the the street.” It’s rather demented.

    This policy usually backfires. Unless the goal is to churn staff, they end up having to not just fill the higher slot, but others below it – and the new ED walks in with a disgruntled staff.

    I can recall a post a few years ago – where a manager of a non-profit said she couldn’t promote from within because, golly gee whiz, in three-five years, she never saw anyone who was promotable in her office.

    I called equine excrement on her because if she had been the boss for five years – and this were true – she was either hiring the wrong people for all those years, or she wasn’t adequately preparing her staff for their next steps.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s very different for an ED position. It’s extremely likely that no one on the current staff is qualified to be ED, which means running the organization, being its public face, and doing loads of fundraising. It’s really common to need to hire from the outside for that position.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Oh, I don’t disagree that it sometimes is the case, especially for an ED slot. It just brought up the issue of the non-profit office manager who said in her five years she had never seen anyone promotable in her office.

        There also may be the situation where someone is an acting ED, or performing all the functions of an acting ED, and is being passed over. But most likely for an ED, that isn’t the case.

        And if a place has a lot of trouble making payroll – don’t walk. RUN.

  18. HRish Dude*

    #2 – If you’re not getting paid on time, that’s not an organization you want to be in charge of. If you get that job, then the pay issue becomes your issue.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, but generally, management ALWAYS get paid. That’s their reward for getting up and crying poverty and begging employees to accept their plight. There are rewards for crocodile tears.

  19. Alternative*

    I would love to see “thank you notes” topic revisited here sometime. That post is from 2012 – are the expectations still that same? I am curious what percentage of candidates send a thank you email after interviewing, and whether it is a deal breaker to the hiring manager. I just can’t seem to write something that “furthers the conversation” without sounding hopelessly forced and cheesy. So, I absolutely dread sending thank you notes after an interview.

  20. GovExec*

    OP#3, I’m the CAO of a municipal government and Alison nailed the advice for you. Our time as government managers is really stretched and very valuable (your taxp dollars are paying for it!) I don’t know many folks who have time for unsolicited meetings with potentially interested applicants.

    Now what it sounds like is that you’re looking for some business intelligence that you can use to get a leg up in the hiring process. And I like that. But you can’t take the easy way and ask the hiring manager to give you the answers–you’ve got to find them for yourself. Review the last few years’ budget documents (the introductory “budget message” will give you a lot of the information you’re looking for). Mine the organization’s website for strategic plans, annual reports, council reports etc. Look for Facebook groups that yak about local government issues. Most communities have at least one “opposition” group online. Their complaints are often biased, but provide good intel on the pulse of the community.

    Unlike other sectors, in muni government, if we’re doing our jobs relatively well, everything you’re trying to find out is online somewhere. And we’re much more likely to hire someone who shows the initiative and skill to find it. Good luck!

    1. Fcastle*

      Thanks for the reply, GovExec. I have been doing some of what you suggest as well but will add in the FB groups – good tip!

  21. Heather*

    #1, sandwiches were the hardest food to avoid when I was pregnant! What else are we supposed to eat when we’re out and about?

    I agree with asking to mix it up and order food from different places. Or ask for the sandwich organizer to order something you can eat like PB&J. Or bring your own food (“Darn! I brought leftovers that I really wanted to eat!”). Or bring a big smoothie and say you’re having a liquid lunch today (smoothies were great when I was first pregnant).

    Hopefully there won’t be too many occasions you have to deal with this, and hopefully no one will even notice. And if you have to tell, it’s not the end of the world, people will understand. I had to tell a coworker/friend much earlier than I told my boss, because not drinking when we were hanging out was a dead giveaway.

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