how to turn down networking requests, company takes credit for our social events, and more

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

1. How to turn down networking requests

Today I received two networking messages, to which I’m not sure how to respond. The first I received via a former classmate from college introducing me to a grad school friend of hers. The second a cold email from someone with no connection to my personal email address. Both emails are asking for informational interviews as they are applying for an open position on my team. I honestly don’t have a lot of time right now — I’m managing several projects as well as my team and I am a new mom. I know I should write these folks back, but I’m worried it’s going to come off cold and blunt for me to go “sorry, can’t. Oh, btw you’re overqualified for the position” (no, that’s not what I’d actually write, but it’s what I WANT to write). What would your suggestion be to help redirect these job seekers?

If they have a current job application with you, they’re not asking for informational interviews; they’re asking for actual interviews, even though they’re using different terminology to try to distract you from that fact. I’d just say this: “I see that you’ve applied for the position. We’ve found that the best way to get to know people and explore things on both sides is to use the formal hiring process we’ve set up, but of course I’ll be glad to talk further if we move forward.”

If this were truly a request for an informational interview, you could still decline. In that case, you could say something like, “I wish I could help, but the reality is that my schedule is packed right now, and I need to turn down some requests in order to be able to ever see my family” or “Unfortunately, my schedule is really packed right now, so I’m not able to meet, but I’d be glad to answer a quick question or two by email if that would help.”

2. Company is taking credit for the events my coworkers and I organize outside of work

I’ve been working at my current company for just over a year, and although I really enjoy the work I do and the people I work with, I have a bit of a problem with corporate culture. I work in a creative field, and while there are certainly exceptions, many creative agencies pride themselves on their corporate culture. Great corporate culture is often balanced out by crunch times and long hours, but I love the work I do and am happy to put up with crunch times and longer hours as long as I enjoy coming in to work every day.

When I took this job, they acknowledged that they had a lot to do regarding corporate culture, but mentioned that they had just hired a director whose main focus would be to improve the company culture and work on implementing new programs (work from home! giving back through volunteering! etc. etc.). I took this as a good sign and took the job.

It’s been a year now and there hasn’t been any change in the corporate culture – none of the promised new initiatives have passed muster and I would argue that it has gotten worse.

To counter this, my coworkers and I have decided to organize our own events, outside of work and with our own money, because we get along well and like working together. I honestly don’t mind that we have to do this on our own and have a lot of fun when we go out together, but I recently learned that when recruiting new employees, management has been using our gatherings as examples of how great our corporate culture is and that the company is committed to culture and culture events.

Are the gatherings we are organizing culture events? Can we push back against management using our independently organized events as recruiting tools? Should we stop holding these events? Do you have any recommendations for helping to foster company culture with management?

That’s annoying. That said, “our employees regularly organize events together outside of work” actually is something about the culture, and you can’t really insist that your company not mention it. You can, however, say, “We started organizing these events because we really wanted them and the company wasn’t doing them. Since it sounds like you do see them as valuable, can we turn the organizing responsibility over to (insert name of logical person here) or otherwise have the company take these over?”

If you wanted to push it further, you could say, “We were actually really disappointed that we had to organize these on our own, especially since we were told that new culture initiatives were a priority for the company when Jane’s role was created. That’s still something many of us would like to see. Could we get an update about how those plans are going?”

As for changing the culture more broadly … it’s unlikely. You have a large degree of control over the type of relationships you have with each other, but beyond that, you really need buy-in from the top and it doesn’t sound like that’s there.

3. My boss wants me to travel with her

I am a special needs PCA for a child. His mother, my boss, is telling me that a month from now she is planning on going back to her home state to visit her sick father, and she would like me to go to help her with her children because her husband cannot go. I’ve been working with her for four years now and I told her that I do not like to travel because I am claustrophobic and get motion sick easily. I will get motion sick just driving 20 minutes away to the grocery store. So how could I deal with nine hours in a van with a dog and four screaming children, and while being in heavy traffic? Not only that, but I would be staying at her vacation/childhood home, with no private room of my own. I work Monday through Friday and I work 40 hours a week, sometimes maybe even more and the only time I get to rest is on the weekends, but at the time I am always on the go with cleaning my house and taking care of errands that I put off for the week. I am her only employee so she relies heavily on me and I get so tired and burned out, but she doesn’t see it and always pressures me to work.

How can I tell her that I would like to take that time to rest up and focus on myself, without her getting mad like she always does whenever I tell her no?

Be clear and firm and say no: “I’m not able to accompany you on your trip. I have commitments here at home and it’s not possible for me to go.” If she keeps pushing you after that, then say, “As I’ve said, I will not be going on the trip.” And if necessary, you can add, “I’m uncomfortable with you pressuring me to change my answer. I’m not able to go, and we can’t keep trying to revisit it.” (In fact, I’d like to see you being even firmer about it — something like “I need you to stop pressuring me to work when I’ve told you I’m not available” — but I realize that when you’re working in someone’s home, dynamics can be weird.)

It sounds like this is part of a pattern — she frequently gets angry when you tell you that you can’t work extra hours — and so you also probably need to have a big-picture conversation about that. Frankly, you may need to decide if you want to continue working for her under these conditions; if you think you’d be able to easily get other work, you should consider taking a pretty hard line with her about this (“in order for me to continue on, I need you to stop doing XYZ”).

Also, if you work through an agency, you could talk to your agency and ask for their help in managing this.

4. Should being an acting manager go on my resume?

I’m part of a team of six, and one of us is the supervisor. The rest of us are at the same level. Since I’ve been at this job (1.5 years), my supervisor has gone away for three-week periods on three separate occasions. He asked me to act as supervisor during that time. That involves me serving as the point of contact between our team and the rest of the firm, delegating any work, making sure deadlines are met, etc. These were always expected to be quiet periods but something always inevitably came up–often many things did–but I successfully resolved any issues each time. Is this resume-worthy or not? And if yes, how do I phrase it?

Yes. “Served as acting supervisor in manager’s absence, including X, Y, and Z.”

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Chocolate Coffeepot*

    #3: Depending on what illness the sick father has, it may not be healthy for him to be around the children anyway. It’s not really relevant to how you deal with your boss, of course, but it’s the first thing that popped in my head when I read your second sentence.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, and we’ve had questions like this before. If I remember correctly, she’s only responsible for that one child, not the others.

      I don’t know why she wants to drag all her kids with her anyway–isn’t there someone who can come help out the dad and then the OP continues to assist with the special needs child? She’s probably going to be very busy helping out with her father. I think it’s a bad idea for them to go at all.

      1. Rana*

        She might want her children – and herself – to have time with their grandfather before he dies. While she’s being unreasonably demanding of the OP in terms of the logistics of this, the impulse behind visit itself makes sense to me.

  2. Elder Dog*

    Alison I think you missed something big here.

    If the company wants to use these events in their recruiting and hiring efforts, they need to PAY for them.
    Otherwise tell the company not to be telling other people they’ll be included in your private events that you pay for.
    Phooey on suggesting the company appoint somebody to organize them. They need to pony up if they’re benefiting.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It didn’t sound to me like the company was promising other people they could attend. (If I’m reading that wrong, OP, let me know — because it would be very reasonable to tell them to cut that out.)

      But I read it as more like their interviewers are saying to a candidate in an interview, “Yes, people here get along really well — for example, a bunch of employees organize events together outside of work.” That’s true and there’s no reasonable way to insist that they not say that.

      Re: “phooey on suggesting the company appoint somebody to organize them”: company organizing them = company paying.

      1. Fried Eggs*

        I read this as the company saying something like “We have a bowling team and a group that goes to art films together after work” without making it clear that the employees organized these events on their own.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Me too.

          I do think the OP has a case for going to management and asking them to fund some of these activities. “We came up with these events, and we know our bowling team/wine-tasting club/etc. is being used to recruit candidates. We think it would be fair if the agency gave us a budget to use for these activities.”

          1. Rafe*

            That seems … odd to me. My company has lots of people who wind up doing all sorts of wonderful things together outside of work. And, our company literally advertises in job openings the work-life balance and company culture. While I’ve never heard of the company in some way taking credit for the outside events employees organize, if someone were to mention that this goes on — well, it’s true. That doesn’t mean the company should start paying for our personal tickets to Hamilton.

            1. neverjaunty*

              That also doesn’t mean the company should start telling new hires they get to go with you to Hamilton.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, that’s the key — are they mentioning that this goes on (which is accurate) or are they implying that these events are open to anyone who wants to attend (which wouldn’t be okay)? I read it as the first, but I’d love clarification from the OP!

            3. AdAgencyChick*

              I’m totally reading this with jaded ad-agency lenses. (Especially since OP says she works for a creative agency.) It would not at all surprise me if what OP means is that the company is telling people, “Come work for us! We have a bowling team, movie nights, and a trivia team!” That is, strongly implying that these are company-organized events, or at least events that the new hires can expect to be able to join in on. (Which, depending on OP and her workmates’ willingness, maybe they can. But the agency still shouldn’t be acting like it’s a benefit unless they’re willing to pay for it.)

              If all they’re saying is “we have a strong workplace culture, and many of our employees choose to socialize outside of work, like going bowling,” then I wouldn’t ask for funding.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                If they’re saying the first one to me and I were a candidate, I absolutely would assume they’re company-sponsored, company-paid events. If the latter, then I’d just think it was the employees (though I might not want to work with people who expect me to hang out with them after work too).

                1. snuck*

                  I feel that if it’s the former… and then you get the company to start paying for stuff… the fun could fall out of it all. Suddenly it’s got to be organised by someone, invite everyone, an acceptable activity with no risks blah blah blah.

                  If it’s the latter, and people hanging out because your company is doing a good job of finding employees who fit well together… then just enjoy the bonus that your company does that. And if they want to point to it and say “we do this well… see!” then so be it.

          2. Julie*

            Yeah, ask for some sponsorship. They don’t have to pay for the whole event. The conversation can be light and pleasant: “We heard you like our events so much you’re promoting them to potential hires! Any chance you can help out by paying for (bar snacks, rock climbing, escape room) for our next outing?”

        2. MK*

          It could be, but “using our gatherings as examples of how great our corporate culture is” reads more like Alison’s interpretation to me. Though I don’t suppose the OP can know exactly how this is presented to candidates.

  3. snuck*

    #3… It’s more than having other commitments… it’s about you being able to be a high quality carer for her children – you need to not be burnt out so you can be the best you can with them.

    “I can’t come, I understand and value the trust you place in me, and I really like your children. I have other commitments outside of our scheduled work hours that I cannot change. I was planning to chat to you about finding a relief or overtime person, who can offer after hours and holiday support – would this be a good time to explore that?”

    1. MK*

      But that’s really not the OP’s bussiness to “explore”. She needs to get her boss to accept that she isn’t regularly available beyond her normal 40 hours/week; after that, the boss needs to figure out a plan on her own, if she needs more help. I don’t think it would be wise for the OP to present this as an issue the both have to deal with, when it’s solely her employer’s responsibility.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed. The boss could hire a relief person or ask a friend or do the care herself – that’s up to her. The only responsibility the OP has is to be clear about what she can or cannot do.

      2. snuck*

        Agree completely… it’s the boss’ job to explore… maybe change the wording of the end then to “This sounds like a good chance for you to explore a relief person”… to make it clearer.

        (And I can understand where the parent is coming from… when you find someone you can trust with your kids, particularly special needs ones… you want to grab on for grim life… but you also want them to be healthy, happy, stick around and so on. The OP needs to explore that with the employer so that there’s room for the work relationship to stay healthy.)

          1. snuck*

            I’m not sure where I got “grab on for grim life”for … it just makes sense to me.

            Reality is that living with two small children who are intense, unusual, and have different needs to the mainstream community has meant that I have taken my pre-mummy dark humour, and twisted it. (One son is autistic, both sons have sensory issues that are polar opposites, and second son has severe Apraxia. Oh. And both are highly gifted, possibly profoundly gifted – which has legs on it, trust me… it does. Grim. Fun. Hilarious. Crazy. Maddening. Exhausting.)

            Mothers are supposed to be sunshine, lollipops and kisses. Reality is it’s bloody hard work, and the wine memes are in full swing for a reason. It’s a grim, relentless life, with many small and wonderful joys in it, and there’s a reason the book “Go the F… to Sleep” has such social resonance. Now if someone would write “Get the F off the kitchen bench, I mean it!” I’d be happy. Hahahaha.

    2. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Well also, the OP is a PSA for -one- child, not a nanny for four children. I would not be surprised to learn that her regular duties often include the other children, but this is a completely different job being proposed. A sick father will need a lot of care and the OP will likely be responsible for all the kids (and the dog) all the time. And no private retreat either.

      1. April*

        You are correct, I’m provide services for one child, but I always seem to end up with the other 3 while she runs errands, and I don’t get paid for it anymore. Because their military services had cut back on respite hours. But it seems like everytime I turn around mom had left to run an errand and leaves the kids in my dare. So I immediately had a “no” set on my tongue when she asked me to accompany her to see her sick father and her step family. I would like to take that opportunity to stay home and take care of my self for a few days, not use it to chase around her children for a week and then have to go right back to work on Monday right after we leave her home state on Sunday.

        1. snuck*

          Are you in a private care arrangement, or via an agency/third party employer. If it’s the latter then it’s easy… tell them you aren’t available for the shifts interstate and let them deal with it.

          But it sounds like this isn’t the case. You are completely, utterly within your rights to not want to go, not have to go. Alison had a post recently (last six months?) with a similar issue – a person who was a carer to a disabled child and the employer was demanding they work extra hours, look after extra children etc. I can’t find it to link it to you sorry… Maybe someone else can?

          Is this a job you want? If you find the relationship between you and the parent is getting twitchy already is it time to start looking for something different? Or can you salvage this, bring it back to the agreed hours and duties, in a carefully considered way. I get two hours of care a week for my son, and will admit I regularly dump my second son on the carer so I can get stuff done… Her role is to interact with Son 1, but Son 2 wants to be part of everything, so she gets them both. I don’t leave them alone for the duration though, I’m in another room, and it’s only two hours… I do take time to read and have a cuppa, but it’s supposed to be MY respite… as much as my son’s social interaction time. We have an understanding if Son 2 is being a handful or not gelling that it’s my responsibility to entertain him… If I felt that the relationship was going sour, that the carer wasn’t happy etc… then I’d want to get it back on track, or would understand if the carer moved onto something else.

          Maybe your employer isn’t a very understanding person. Forty hours a week is full time care basically… are the rest of the kids not in school? Are you a carer or a nanny? I don’t know how your system works (I’m in Australia) but to get 40hrs a week here the disabled child would have to be seriously high risk, self/other harming, extremely significantly challenged AND have high medical needs. Virtually no one has full time carers here, so if this is a funded role through any organisation then I’d take it back to them and let them handle it… if it’s a privately paid (by the family direct to you) then …. it sounds like this is the terms of the job – looking after whoever whenever etc… is it worth it to you.

          Sounds tough. Hard work! People who care deeply and well like you do are saints… It’s exhausting and challenging and amazing work.

          1. April*

            I’m actually a care giver and the other children are now homeschooled, because mom wanted to spend more time with her children as she claims, but she still doesn’t do that, because she’s too busy worried about herself and helping friends instead of being a mom

            1. Zillah*

              Wait, are you in part responsible for homeschooling them as well??

              OP, your initial letter seems like the tip of the iceberg. I think you should probably start looking for a new job.

              1. April*

                Oh no! I do not homeschool the others, mom takes care of that. I just have to provide care for her oldest, and make sure he is safe. But she often leaves the others with me when she wants to grocery shop, go To church, go to women’s group meetings, visit or deliever something to a friend, etc., at that point I had all 4 of the kids and when she is late she expects me to “get dinner started” and make sure the kids are getting ready for bed or packing lunch for the next day.

                1. Zillah*

                  That sounds terrible. It seems like you’re being expected to function as a nanny at least some of the time as well, which is absurd. I’d start job searching.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  She’s overreaching. You were hired to provide assistance to ONE child. If you’re helping with the others, then you need to be paid for that.

                  If you’re not with an agency, maybe someone who is could give you some advice on how to handle this. Because that’s totally not right.

                3. Rana*

                  I agree. I assume (hope?) you have a contract with her that spells out your duties, your pay, your right to time off, etc.? If not, you need one. If you have one, you need to sit down with her and point out where she’s breaking it. (It might be worth explaining how much more the extra care is worth, for example.)

            2. snuck*

              I suspected you would answer with homeschooling. Sigh. (As a part time homeschooler I get it… you never get a break… not on the days they are home, but part of the whole deal is that you actually get to mix up how the house works and it actually becomes easier in many areas if you just get the flow and mutual respect thing right. But that means you take the kids WITH you to church, to visit friends, to grocery shops, it’s part of the deal.)

              It sounds like your employer has slipped into a mental headspace that you are there so you can help, with anything. If their eldest child needs such full time care then there really shouldn’t be distractions from that… if it’s funded by a program. If they fund it privately… To be honest I’d quietly use their interstate travel time to interview with some agencies and see if you can find another role. One with more structure, protection and support. Explain you can’t give references until a job is in the offering (follow all the advice here, and assume the family you work for now will be particularly difficult to extract yourself from, unless you are 100% positive they will release you cheerfully), and consider agency or similar work for a while. It means you won’t have to deal with the overtime, with the weekend requests etc in the same way – you can say “no, my agency doesn’t allow me to go into overtime” and be done with it.

              1. April*

                I know for a fact that they would not happily let me go, I had a job interview for a 2nd job once and mom got pissed, because she thought I was leaving, at that point I didn’t plan on leaving, I just needed a 2nd job to help with bills and get a car so that I wouldn’t havent walk to work daily. Which has become an issue because I walk across an interstate of busy traffic and it’s dangerous and frustrating, when I take the bus, it’s always late and mom flips out that I’m not on time to get her child off the bus even though she is right there in the house. (Which I know it is my responsibility to get to work on time, so I don’t make excuses for it.) But she has told me multiply times, that if I were to get another job, she would be upset. But at some point she will have to get over it and accept it, because working under her conditions and having to play Maid and Caregiver are drawing a very thin line.

                1. Rana*

                  Let her be upset. This is your life, not hers. You are not an indentured servant; you are a free agent, and you are allowed to leave when your work conditions are damaging your life.

            1. Searching*

              Ashley and April sound like the same person – so many similarities in their stories….

              1. blackcat*

                I actually just think this kind of thing is super common for people in OPs position.

                It’s been my experience as a tutor that some people have very few boundaries when it comes to domestic employees. I’ve had clients who want me to watch their younger child while I tutor the older one. Or who ask me to stay later and “help” around the house. They get one “that’s not possible” and then I’m out. When I tutored, I only worked for people who treated me like a professional.

                April, drawing up a list of duties you will do would be helpful. But yeah, you need a new job.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  Yes, I have noticed that a not insignificant number of people hire a domestic-care specialist (tutor, nanny, cleaner, whatever) and then expect them to act as what used to be called a maid-of-all-work. Deeply unfair but sadly common.

                2. Searching*

                  Oh, I don’t doubt that it’s super common, unfortunately. I was just struck by the similarities between these two particular stories – caring for the oldest of 4 (who is male), military family, 3 youngest kids are home-schooled.

                  That doesn’t take away from the fact that April/Ashley needs a new job. Her employer is absolutely taking advantage of her.

                3. AnonT*

                  @Turtle Candle: I have never heard of this trend before, and I find it rather distressing. I wonder if there’s some kind of logic behind requesting additional work, or if people just assume a “you work for me, you do what I tell you” kind of attitude about it.

                4. blackcat*

                  @AnonT, I think it is “you work for me, do what I tell you” most of the time.

                  I’m just surprised I got it as a very high end tutor. My lowest rates were $80/hr, with some clients paying $120/hr (I charged more depending on needs/level/if the kid was a pain). You would think if someone was paying me that much to tutor their child, they’d want me to actually tutor their child! Hiring a sitter would be WAY cheaper.

                5. Turtle Candle*

                  I think it’s partly “you work for me so you do what I tell you,” partly that people seem to have a harder time with boundaries when the worker is in their house, and partly a sense that “oh it’s just a little thing.” To use a much less serious example, when I was a teenager and babysitting, sometimes people would ask me to do certain small things–move the wet clothes over to the dryer, say–“while you’re here,” because I think they figured, well, I’m here anyway, it’ll just take 5 minutes, etc. For good clients, I’d just go ahead and do it, but some clients would creep that up and up with more and more “while you’re here can you do X, it won’t take but a minute” requests, until they were essentially giving me a chore list on top of the usual watch the kids/warm up their dinner/get them to bed. I don’t think any of them set out to take advantage of me, it was just that the things that seemed small were not so small once they started adding up. It never started with the chore list, it just… built. (Because the money was mostly fun money for me and not a necessity, those were the clients who I tended to stop accepting jobs from.)

        2. Artemesia*

          It is very hard for people to find good caregivers for disabled kids. You can almost certainly find work with someone who respects your as a person and your time. It is not unusual for people who do your work to be heavily exploited and this is a classic example. Your employer has already mission creeped you by sticking you with the other kids without compensation; that was probably where to draw the line — no baby sitting without additional compensation. Now it is the norm; I’d be thinking about how to dial that back. ” My job is to see to Timmy’s needs and that is demanding; the occasional brief baby sitting of the other kids while you did a short errand was something I thought I could roll with but it has evolved into me being responsible for the other kids frequently and I can’t do that going forward (add without additional compensation if you would be willing to do it with more money.)

          The trip ought to be a firm line. All the kids. No private room. This is assuming you are the Cinderella daughter who can be commanded to be a servant to the family 24/7. It is totally outrageous.

          But the trip should also trigger either a look for another position that treats you well or a commitment to renegotiate your current situation since you are not happy with the conditions. (and who would be?)

          1. April*

            Agreed, I don’t think it is fair, I’ve denied this trip multiple times, and each year she brings it up, and always suggest that I go. I would get paid my normal pay rate, no extra cash, and have to sleep in the living room, with the child (who sleeps on the couch) I was definetly not sold into the idea, and especially because the family has a bedtime 8:30-9pm. You could cross that out right there.

            1. snuck*

              Normal pay? As in … 40hr week, no extra compensation… and make you sit in the car with them?

              And in the living room?

              HELL NO. I mean… I can understand if they were flying you to the Bahamas and saying you’d work your normal hours and the rest of the time here’s your own hotel room, you are off the clock…

              But this situation? So what are you going to do between 5pm and 9am? In the same living room with them? Power down, take your battery out and boot up again in the morning? You aren’t a robot!

            2. April*

              My sentiments exactly. I get paid 11.70/hr, and I guess she would still have my on the clock until 9pm when I usually clock out, and then “share the living room.” with her son, wake up in the morning start my day, and clock in my normal hours of 2:30pm-9pm. But of course she probably would have me working hours before that, with no relaxation or personal time for myself, claiming “she would take it easy on me.” I said no, and of course she told me to “just think about it.” But my No means no and I refuse to go on “vacation” with them when I know she is gonna expect me to still help with her children smh.

              1. Rana*

                You might want to go over to Captain Awkward and read some of the posts about boundary setting, especially the ones with difficult people.

                How are you phrasing your refusals? I am pretty sure she’s the sort of person to ignore even a firm one, but being painfully blunt might check her at least a bit.

                “Employer, I have told you several times now that I am not going on this trip. There is nothing more for me to “think about.” You need to figure out how to handle this trip without me, because I am not going.”

                1. snuck*

                  And start making all sorts of glorious (but changeable) plans for the days they are gone and your vacation time :)

              2. Cheesehead*

                I think this is the time for the incredulous “Why would I want to do that?” (No privacy, no down time, no extra pay?) Of course, I realize that with this mom, you’d probably have to resort to the “No, REALLY, WHYYYYYY would I want to do that? Are you insane????”

                Stand strong, OP.

    3. April*

      As my employer, it is her job to explore other options, in case of things like this. She even mentioned hiring someone else, but “does not have the time.” Or feels that they wouldn’t take the job because they wouldn’t be needed on a regular. So she pushes it to the side, and expects me to put on my superwoman cape and work really hard to take care of her child(ren). Not really paying too much attention, or caring how I feel, when I say “I’m not feeling well, or I’m tired.” She brushes it off, and keep going about her day. Hell she’s even had the audacity to tell me one day, that I should just charge my family for when they need my services on the weekends, and maybe they would back off and stop asking for my help, with babysitting my niece and nephews, or helping with a family event; because those should be the days I should rest, because she need me to be healthy and well rested to care for her child(ren) during the week. I was livid. She didn’t care about me enjoying my weekend with my family. She just wanted me to rest up so I can play mommy to all of her kids, while she run around doing God knows what on the weekdays, and call herself busy.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Your employer is a jerk and is not going to chance. AAM’s advice is great short term, but you need to find a new employer.

          1. April*

            Yes, I am. I’ve been looking for other jobs, where the parents are more flexible, and only wants someone for that certain child, while they tend to the others, buts it’s so hard to find here. Because they all want to dump every child in your lap so they can live their lives.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Grr, that makes me furious. THEY get to have kids? And they can’t even spend two minutes with them and dump them on people/overload their special needs kid’s caregiver? You’re there to HELP them, not do their job for them. I am so angry for you right now, April. Stupid, stupid people.

              I realize parents of the special needs kids (and the other kids) need breaks, but that’s just ridiculous.

      2. Artemesia*

        Find a new job. The demand that you accompany her, watch all the kids, have no private space, be on 24/7 during that stressful trip is ample evidence that she needs a personal slave and will make you one.

        I was suggesting pushing back above but I doubt she will ‘get it.’ If you don’t want to quit then tell her you are responsible for the one child, cannot take on baby sitting the others in the future and that she will need to make relief arrangements.

      3. Temperance*

        Wait … does this woman have a job? Or are you caretaking her kid/s while she’s home?

        1. April*

          She is a stay at home mom, and she homeschools the other 3 children. While the one I provide care for is in public school

          1. snuck*

            Are you at school with the one in public school as a carer there?

            Or are you at home basically being a home support…. because that would change things in my mind. If the person you are caring for isn’t in your direct care for those six hours a day then… I guess they are saying “when son X is home he’s your priority, otherwise you are a family carer”

            1. April*

              I’m actually home until her son comes from school, and then I work for about 7 hours in the evening, assisting him with his therapies, exercise, feeding and bathing, and putting him to bed before leaving, but mom expects me to clean the house and the mess he family has made throughout the day, once I clock in, and I don’t do it. When I first started working there I got yelled at for basically doing my job (taking care of the kid) and mom wanted me to do household chores as well as my job, and when I started doing the chores(at that time not knowing I wasn’t supposed to be doing them) then kid had a fall accident and Dad got upset and told me I was supposed to be looking out for him, not doing other things, and that’s when things got confusing, and they expected me to do both, care for their child and help around the house.

              1. snuck*

                Sounds like you need to have a conversation with both wife and husband at the same time and get it straight… And bring up extra duties, pressure to work additional hours and the expectations for trips.

                But I’d also be looking for another job.

      4. blackcat*

        You know, it sounds like this work relationship is so far gone, you should start looking for other employment.

        In the mean time, you can stop telling her what you do when you’re not working. Be super vague. Don’t let her know you take care of nieces & nephews. Don’t let her know about family events. Just say “plans.”

        You’ll both be better off if you can find a new family to work for and set boundaries from the get go:
        1) No weeks over 40 hours (or, if you are ok with some weeks over 40, make sure you’re getting overtime pay)
        2) No trips
        3) No care for X many children in addition to the one you are hired (I realize that 1 extra kid is WAY different than 3 extra)
        & any other boundaries that make sense.

        1. eplawyer*

          I wouldn’t even say “plans.” The job is 40 hours per week. If asked for anything beyond that, the answer is No. No explanation needed.

        2. Green*

          We had someone else in a childcare position on here too, and the issue was a trip. It sounds like there do need to be clear expectations when you agree to work for someone regarding the feasibility of trips. At your next job definitely negotiate those things when they’re still a hypothetical: “While I don’t generally travel, I may be able to do some trips on an ad hoc basis provided I receive a private room, meals, travel pay, and an evening off during trips of 3 days or longer.” That way they can build them into their budget/planning/expectations.

      5. college employee*

        I think that you may be running into the same problem that many people run into. We will bad about softening our “no” by giving reasons for saying “no.” And people like your employer take advantage of this. We (and I am guilty of this) must remember that “no” is a complete sentence. For this little trip, tell her “no.” and give her no excuses because she will argue against your excuses.

        One thing that might help is do you have a contract? And if you have a contract, does your contract spell out the terms of your employment? If you are not in a position where you can immediately quit, you should refuse to do anything that you are not contracted to do. No more free labor.

        1. April*

          No, I don’t have a contract with her, but I will have to get one drawn up. She oversteps boundaries entirely too much, and even expects me to vacuum and mop her floors (she lives in a 2 story home), while she takes the 3 younger children on errands with her. I drew the line multiple times and I even demanded that she makes the children take care of cleaning behind themselves and doing chores, they are between the ages of 6-14. I should not have to take care of them as well as providing care for her special needs 18 yr old.

    4. April*

      As my employer, it is her job to explore other options, in case of things like this. She even mentioned hiring someone else, but “does not have the time.” Or feels that they wouldn’t take the job because they wouldn’t be needed on a regular. So she pushes it to the side, and expects me to put on my superwoman cape and work really hard to take care of her child(ren). Not really paying too much attention, or caring how I feel, when I say “I’m not feeling well, or I’m tired.” She brushes it off, and keep going about her day. Hell she’s even had the audacity to tell me one day, that I should just charge my family for when they need my services on the weekends, and maybe they would back off and stop asking for my help, with babysitting my niece and nephews, or helping with a family event; because those should be the days I should rest, because she need me to be healthy and well rested to care for her child(ren) during the week. I was livid. She didn’t care about me enjoying my weekend with my family. She just wanted me to rest up so I can play mommy to all of her kids, while she run around doing God knows what on the weekdays, and call herself busy.

      1. Julie*

        Sounds like you need to move on, frankly.
        If you don’t want her telling you how to manage your weekends, stop telling her about them. If she’s overworking you by for example leaving you with all 4 kids, focus on the specifics of the job in your discussions, not how you’re feeling because of your personal life. She’s not a caring person who’s going to take your hints so you need to go with the firm, polite and consistent message AAM suggested.

        1. ZenJen*

          THIS X infinity!!! OP needs to set boundaries ASAP, and remember that this is a job. do NOT give toxic employer any info that allows them to have input and opinions on that they’ll twist against you. if these boundaries are not written out in a contract, they need to be!

          and, OP, update your resume and find a new job–this toxic woman won’t change.

      2. PollyQ*

        Hell she’s even had the audacity to tell me one day, that I should just charge my family for when they need my services on the weekends, and maybe they would back off and stop asking for my help, with babysitting my niece and nephews, or helping with a family event; because those should be the days I should rest, because she need me to be healthy and well rested to care for her child(ren) during the week.

        Well, that’s just crazy talk. You definitely need to find a new job, because nothing you say is going to get through to her. Good luck!

  4. Snowglobe*

    #2 – The way the OP described “corporate culture” sounded a little strange to me. Every company has a “culture”, which is just the way people interact with one another and how business gets done. The culture in the OP’s company is that people work long and hard, but are friendly with one another and socialize outside the office. In a way the company is responsible for that – it’s probably the long hours working together that fosters such friendships. Benefits and programs like working from home or volunteering may influence culture, but that’s not what corporate culture is. So if you speak up about this issue, I would suggest just focusing on the programs that were supposed to be implemented, and leave “corporate culture” out of the discussion.

  5. Artemesia*

    The informational interview question made me laugh. If they are applicants then they are not informational interviewing and Alison gave the perfect response. I really dislike people I don’t know trying to circumvent the interview process with bogus strategies like this. When I was hiring I would have total strangers who wanted to come and ‘discuss the position with you to see if it is something I would be interested in.’ It wasn’t that complicated a position, they just wanted to interview with the hiring manager without being invited to do so. I fielded a few questions about pay which I had not been allowed to put into the ad; I was happy to chat with highly qualified people about what our limitations were (we wanted incredible experience, academic credentials and ability to bridge two fields but only wanted to pay a fraction of what that was worth — fun hiring and often successful usually with people who already had a pension or were retiring from lucrative positions and wanted a second career for a few years) This did turn many fine candidates away but that was fair enough.

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      This is OP1… so there was part of my letter that Alison left out in part because I asked her to deidentify it a bit, but the main thing here is that the two folks who wrote me are clearly overqualified for the position and won’t be considered (they both have higher degrees which would qualify them for the next rung on the career ladder from the positions we’re hiring for, and for parity sake we don’t hire someone with a higher degree at a lower rung). I don’t think they realize this and would like to tell them as much, but don’t want to end up getting into a back and forth with them on this…

      1. Julie*

        Ignore the cold email, that’s to be expected. For the friend of a friend, a quick informal email to let them know the reality would take less time than writing this letter did. If you aren’t comfortable making contact directly for whatever reason, just let your friend know and she can relay the message.

      2. Zillah*

        I think you’re better off not getting into it at all, and just referring them to the formal hiring process. Explaining your reasoning requires more effort from you and IMO increases the risk of them continuing to engage (e.g., “but I’m looking for this job, I’m not overqualified!”), particularly since they’ve already shown themselves to push widely accepted boundaries in one regard. Even if you don’t respond to any follow ups, it’s not a headache you should have to deal with.

      3. ZenJen*

        their qualifications wouldn’t matter to me–maybe they really need a job or they just want in at your company. regardless, they are still trying to circumvent the formal hiring process, and that would annoy me. I’d simply tell them that they’ll be contacted by HR if they are moving forward in the hiring process.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The overqualified thing doesn’t change the answer at all, to me — you can still decline to meet by steering them to your formal process. But if you do want to let them know that, then just make this email their rejection: “Thanks so much for reaching out. I took a a look at your application and don’t think it’s quite the right fit — it’s a fairly junior position and we’re found that successful candidates come in with a bachelors or lower rather than a PhD. But I really appreciate your interest and wish you all the best in your search.”

        If they push back on that, you can just be prepared to respond, “I don’t think it’s the right match, but good luck in your search.”

        1. Julie*

          To me this wording (“quite the right fit”, “fairly” junior, etc) still leaves room for an eager (desperate) applicant to think they can argue their case. If OP’s company won’t hire someone with an advanced degree for that position, ever, that’s actually valuable information for the job seeker.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m not terribly concerned if they try to argue it — that’s when you respond back with “I’m sorry, but it’s not the right match.” Reasonable people do not continue on after that, so if they do, it’s fine to ignore or shut them down more tersely.

            That said, if the company absolutely will not hire someone with advanced degrees for this role, I agree she should just tell them that. Often it’s more nuanced than that, so I try to avoid absolutes in these messages (in part so that you don’t set up a Situation if you do end up hiring someone with their same degree but who was better for other reasons).

      5. TootsNYC*

        I would email back, “Sorry, I don’t have time to meet or exchange emails. I’m sure your interviewer will be able to answer all your questions.” Maybe add, “Good luck.”

        I think both those people are too far away from you to warrant any of your time and attention.

        I saw your comment about knowing that they’re overqualified, and being torn between telling them, and avoiding getting into it. I vote for “avoid getting into it.” Treat these like the telemarketing calls they pretty much are.

        The MOST I would say is that you could respond to the former classmate and say, “I won’t have time to meet with your friend or even to exchange emails. I can tell you that the interviewers are not calling in people they think are overqualified–and she falls in that category.” So, you pass on this information to the one person who has a call on your time and energy. Let her deal with the back-and-forth.”

        1. Green*

          Applicants would take your suggested language as “I scored an interview!” but the reality is that they will likely not be considered at all.

          1. TootsNYC*

            So tweak that; my biggest point is to be straightforward and say, “I don’t have time to respond; you’ll have to get your information from the usual channels.”

      6. Rana*

        I’d just focus on saying that you’re not available.

        I say this as someone who tried to change careers and kept running up against the overqualified yet underexperienced thing. It’s not actually helpful information to know that even entry level jobs are out of reach. It’s just frustrating.

  6. Agnes*

    #3 – As much as possible, I would avoid comments like, “I would like to take that time to rest up and focus on myself,” which honestly isn’t your employer’s business or problem. Try to keep the relationship professional (I realize lines get a bit blurred in a caring job.) When you discuss this sort of thing, keep it as cut and dried and straightforward as possible: you were hired to watch Suzie for 40 hrs a week, in an “outpatient” situation; this is a substantially different job (more than 40 hrs/week, 4 children, round-the-clock, live-in situation), which you are not prepared to do. Basically the same advice as anyone else who found that the parameters of their job had shifted radically to something they disliked, for essentially less pay.
    Good home health aides are in great demand; it doesn’t seem likely you would have problems finding another position if necessary.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Totally agree. Use wording like “I’m not available to work over 40 hours a week or to travel.” Period, end of story, no details to argue with. If she pushes and wants to know why: “That’s the amount of work time I have available, and I’d like to stick to the agreement we made at the start about my hours.”

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wouldn’t say “I’d like to” with this woman. I’d say, “I have to” or “I need to,” or even just, “That was the agreement we made at the start.” or “I’m not changing the agreement…”

        You need absolutely the stiffest barrier you can find with someone like this.

        1. AnonT*

          Agreed – anything that smacks of opinion or preference will probably be an opening to argument. The last thing you want here is to have this person arguing about how you should want/like/prefer something just because she finds it convenient.

          (Also, OP, it would not surprise me in the least if she tries to hardcore guilt you into doing it somehow. If she does, please remember that in the end, caring for her children is her responsibility, not yours. It sounds like she is trying to pass off big chunks of this responsibility to you without your agreement, which isn’t right.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            Also remember–you absolutely have the upper hand.

            What’s she going to do if you say no? Are there lots of people who will take your job?

            Just be cheerful and blithe. “No, I won’t be going on that trip. I’ll see you when you get back.” Get your bag, and leave the house.

            Cut the conversation short by leaving it.

  7. Absentor*

    #2 This doesn’t seem like an opportunity for pushing back to me, as that could potentially create negativity where you really want something positive to happen.

    You could go to this Director of Better Culture and offer to help build programming in line with these new company goals. Cite the things you are involved with as your resume for this sort of role.

    Alternately, you might consider that in involving the company with the initiatives you have helped to build, they might step in and alter them in a way you don’t like. So if you are enjoying the activities as they are, you might want to leave them as peripheral to work. This gives you the freedom to invite others along who don’t work where you do, and it allows people to continue with the activities even if they leave the company.

    Additionally, the fact that your outside efforts are being used as a company selling point may mean that your work is being noticed. It may also mean that the company attracts employees who share your values, which could be a good thing.

    1. Artemesia*

      I really agree with this. Anything that comes across as you whining about them using your initiatives to advertise will come across as petty and greatly damage your reputation. If you go there have a strategy that is a win for you. i.e. we can see that these activities make the company more attractive to future employees, how can I help the company support some of these types of efforts. Or something. No complaints but use as a positive bit of leverage to take it where you want to go. No, then you should fund parties or events, but more like this shows how well this benefits the company can the company sponsor some similar future events. Anything that comes off like your letter i.e. complaining and whining because the company ‘takes advantage’ of your social initiatives will damage you — but it could be a rung on ladder upward if played right.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Additionally, the fact that your outside efforts are being used as a company selling point may mean that your work is being noticed. It may also mean that the company attracts employees who share your values, which could be a good thing.

      One thing about corporate culture–it doesn’t ALL come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up–certainly the most noticeable part of it does.
      I’ve worked at places with meh benefits where it was a joy to come to work every day. And I’ve worked at places w/ great benefits, etc., where it was torture. Those were all way more affected by the people on the ground.

      I would say, start using this to get a little funding, maybe some cooperation in terms of letting you send group emails or put up posters. And stick with that, because you never know what they’ll mess up.

  8. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I have mixed feelings about this one.

    I do think that substantive experience in these types of roles is a good precursor to true managerial responsibility, but covering for someone on vacation is something I would view as borderline in terms of being resume-worthy. It’s pretty routine for the cover-while-the-manager-is-out responsibility to rotate among the senior people in my company – or routinely go to the same person if there’s really only one at that level – but we wouldn’t typically include this as an actual accomplishment on our resumes. It’s more the kind of thing mentioned in examples during an interview.

    If there was an actual accomplishment during this time, that would be different. “Saved a key account by responding to customer’s new teapot requirements with new design, advertising campaign, and retooling for production in less than two weeks during manager’s absence,” is an accomplishment. Just covering the role temporarily without clear accomplishments – not so much in my mind.

    I would recommend continuing to think about how your actual accomplishments can be used to showcase your value in your resume, keeping in mind that it is a marketing document. Seriously consider what will make the overall strongest impression of you as a candidate. If you’ve accomplished a lot, the waterline for inclusion in your resume will be higher, but this kind of thing could help out early in your career if your resume isn’t as strong as you would like.

    Good luck.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I agree with this. I remember when I was a junior engineer during my managers absence. On the 2nd day they cancelled the entire program and everyone needed new jobs! I worked with my senior management to find new jobs for everyone, including leads for my manager.
      So yes for crisis situations, meh for others.

  9. MsChanandlerBong*

    I just need to vent about the neighbor and his habit of feeding 14 stray cats. Now, I LOVE cats (I have five of them), but these feral cats are spraying my patio door, pooping on my mother-in-law’s front porch (she lives down the street from us), and generally being a nuisance. The local rescue group tried to reason with the neighbor and tell him he’s not really helping the cats by dumping six cups of dry food on the sidewalk every day, but he won’t listen. Almost every one of the cats has runny eyes, some kind of paw injury, scratches from fighting with the others, etc. On top of all that, the dry food buffet has attracted a flock of pigeons. The cats don’t bother the pigeons since they have all the dry food they could ever want, so when you come into our cul-de-sac, all you see is 14 cats, about 20 pigeons, and a chihuahua sitting around (the chihuahua lives a few houses down, but his owners don’t keep him on a leash).

  10. CC*

    #3: You should stand your ground and stick to your pre-set hours. There are a couple of things I wanted to say:

    1) “Help her with the children.” I often work alongside PCA’s in the homes (I also work for a healthcare agency that employs them), and your only responsibility should be toward the special needs child. You are NOT responsible for cleaning their house or caring for the other children, and you shouldn’t be expected to do so. Talk to you agency if you work for one and set clear boundaries with parents regarding this. You should not be treated as a family nanny or a maid.
    2) You definitely do not have to go out of town. Stand your ground of this. Again, if you work for an agency or get paid through the child’s insurance, this may not even be possible due to insurance rules. (Even if it is, however, you do not have to go, and shouldn’t let them pressure you into doing so.)

    1. CC*

      Also, if you work through an agency, she is NOT your boss. Either way, however, she sounds like a horrible woman and you should look for a different family to work for ASAP.

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