HR stole my parking space, and 3 more updates

Lots of short updates from letter-writers who had their letters answered here in the past —

1. HR stole my parking space (#2 at the link)

There was some fantastic advice from yourself and the AAM community and I would like to thank you all.

I have had a handful of informal conversations with my department managers and immediate colleagues, but aside from some head shaking and amazement that anyone would even do that, nothing has really happened. The person who assigns spots has said that they will be reshuffled ‘soon’ anyway, so this may become a complete non-issue.

I guess this is just one of those things, but I’ve certainly been a lot more questioning of anything I now receive from our HR team.

2. Coworkers keep trying to get me to do things that aren’t my job

Thank you and the other readers for your insights. Unfortunately, things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. As a reminder, I wrote in asking how to handle constant demands to work on projects that should have been handled by someone else.

I think I mentioned in the comments that, while I had my supervisor’s backing, I wasn’t sure if she would be supported by upper management. This turned out to be the case. My supervisor was fired out of the blue this week and they canceled 90% of my projects (it feels like my department has been quietly eliminated). I was immediately reassigned to work with the designers on whatever they see fit, though I’m not officially part of their department. It’s obvious they don’t see value in my profession, and view my role as some kind of administrative jack of all trades. This has been a wake up call, and I’m seeking a new job that will let me do work that’s in my field.

3. How should I tell my remote team that I just got engaged? (#4 at the link)

As I mentioned in the comments, I had asked my boss for some advice and she said I should just send a group email – so I did. Everyone on my team was uniformly excited. I opted to include a picture of the ring because it is an antique and came with a good story, and several coworkers commented that they enjoyed seeing the ring. So it all worked out.

As an aside, another team member had her first baby two days after I sent my email, and there were lots of updates about the delivery, pictures of the baby, etc. Another coworker got a new grandchild last month, and we also got updates about the delivery and pictures of the baby. Putting all that into context, I am glad I sent an email – we obviously have a team that shares life events, and I think it would have been marked as unusual for me to not share. Lots of commenters were saying that they wouldn’t ever share that kind of personal info, so lesson learned: every workplace has its own dynamic and when in doubt, ask for advice from someone in the know.

4. Bankruptcy cooties (#5 at the link)

I submitted a question back in June 2014 about “bankruptcy cooties,” or the stigma attached to being part of a sinking ship while in an administrative role. I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner! My busy season just wrapped up.

The scope of my job search needed to widen a bit, and the whole process turned out to be way bumpier than I had anticipated. I exercised my common sense when answering screening questions on online applications, but the thing that kept getting in my way was how to answer “Would you be rehired by his employer?” In a perfect world, absolutely. In this world, ruled by physics, capitalism, and bankruptcy court, I understand this to be probing around whether or not I burnt bridges or was terminated for cause. I chose to say “yes” to the spirit of the question: my work is solid, my reviews were consistently positive, and I had the references to corroborate.

I experienced two absolutely absurd moments while interviewing. The first involved an overzealous HR rep who had a hard time understanding that being unable to return to my now-defunct employer was not a reflection of my abilities. Honestly, it was a circular, uphill battle of a conversation. After twenty minutes, he decided the correct answer to being eligible for rehire was “no,” because I could not return as an employee, and I was gently removed from consideration.

The second strange experience was with someone who was vaguely familiar with my old employer, and had come to some pretty bold conclusions herself about the situation leading up to the closure. Five minutes into the interview, once she had determined my work history, she directed the conversation into why the company had failed. The next half hour was then spent with her pitching methods to keep the company operational (decisions way out of my control at any part of my tenure) and questioning how my involvement led to the demise. She was pretty eager to carry on, but I opted to politely end the conversation. Not half an hour later I received a rejection email identifying my “troubled work history” as the reason my candidacy was rejected.

There’s a happy conclusion to this story, thankfully: I’m just over a year into a decent-paying entry level position in an area I’m excited to be working in. A client from the defunct company referred me, and the entire hiring process- with sensible people!- was a breeze. While it was disappointing not to be hired by those other employers, I’m able to see just how irrational and ridiculous their behaviour was in the hiring stage alone. To any readers moving on from a bankrupt employer- unless you’re Bernie Madoff, don’t accept responsibility for things outside your control. It’s a blessing to not be working for dysfunctional groups like that.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. You see that?! - They throwing cars! How can I not?!*

    #4. There is a C-level exec at my F10 company who appears to think similar the interviewer at the 2nd company. In his eyes everyone is responsible for the growth and stability of the company (which is true to some extent). He looses me when his messaging makes it appear that everyone (no matter rank) holds the same level of accountability when things go south. That just isn’t accurate when lots of decisions are made above folks pay scale that they cannot influence.

    Unless LW4 for a major key contributor I think it is a leap to assign the former company’s issues to him/her. Bullet dodged since they may have held you to that same standard once hired.

    1. esra*

      To me, that’s someone who either got in at a higher level through some privilege, or has long forgotten what it’s like on the lower rungs. They’re so used to people listening to them and valuing their input that they have no idea what it’s like to have zero impact.

    2. Pwyll*

      These are the same people who, if your company takes a turn for the worse, would be the first to give you a list of reasons why they don’t handle accounting/finance/production/etc. and so the failure of the company was clearly not in their wheelhouse.

    3. Ros*

      Oooh, I’m pretty sure I’ve met that guy.

      “No one is getting a raise this year because the company is showing a deficit! EVERYONE is responsible for this, so total freeze until the solution is rectified! ”

      Yeah. It is. Because you, and the other 2 VPs, chose to invest in buying up 6 new companies right before year-end, thus making it appear that, on paper, there is a deficit. However, my department was showing a 40% increase in profitability. But no raises, you see. Because we’re all responsible. Equally.

      Surprise: I found a new job shortly after.

      1. Leetaann*

        And yet, somehow, when the company is doing well, still no raises. Gotta think of the shareholders! Grr

      2. BananaPants*

        Even better is “pay freeze for everyone” while the managers and execs still get 5- and 6-figure incentive compensation. Who’s responsible for a financial downturn, again?

        1. Jessica*

          That was one thing I really appreciated about my employer when we were going through a rough period. The first year there was a bonus freeze, it only affected directors and above. The second year, it did affect everyone. Eventually, the company pulled out of it and bonuses were reinstated. I don’t know quite how to phrase it without saying that I’m glad the managerial bonuses were cut–but yes, usually you see the rank and file take the hit while managerial compensation is preserved in the name of “retaining talent”. It just showed that the company believed that the managerial levels were more responsible for delivering results and therefore should have experience the consequences before their reports did. I appreciated that a lot.

    4. RVA Cat*

      That’s literally like holding a private to the same level of responsibility as a general or the president for losing a war….

    5. Beezus*

      I’m just imagining the kind of audacity I’d have to act with, to uphold that kind of responsibility. I mean, if I’m personally equally responsible for my company’s results as people in the C-suite, then I should be questioning decisions made by people above me, and countermanding directions that don’t appear to make good business sense from where I sit, with the limited information I have. And since everyone is equally responsible, they should all be doing the same. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? Nothing would get done!

      1. Jadelyn*

        Good point, lol. I think I’ll just go start scouting for potential merger partners on my own, negotiate that, sign off on it, and then present it to the C-suite as a done deal – let’s see how well that goes over!

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, believe me, I have now worked for 2 company that have gone bankrupt and belly up.
      In both cases, I had absolutely nothing to do with the finances of the company. As if!
      I would be absolutely pissed if any interviewer inferred had.

    7. KarenD*

      Our company didn’t go bankrupt, but it did go through some notorious-in-our-industry litigation and an abrupt change of ownership, which resulted in layoffs.

      So a lot of my recent former colleagues were pounding the pavement looking for work to keep their families afloat. It was heartbreaking to hear that several got called in for interviews or scheduled for phoners just so people at other companies could pump them for inside dirt about the dramatic upheaval, most of which occurred in offices far, far away involving people who never knew any of our names. (It was heartbreaking because in our industry, being called to interview in-person usually means you’ve got the job unless you really blow it.)

    8. SusanIvanova*

      I worked at one startup where the stock price had peaked just after the IPO and headed steadily downwards thereafter. I had one co-worker who truly believed the options we got about 2 years into the decline were “incentive” – if we worked really hard, the stock price would go up! As if anyone at our level could do anything to affect it one way or the other.

  2. Ann O'Nemity*

    I just read that only 55% of Americans aren’t taking all their paid vacation. What about you all? Do you take all your time? Why or why not?

  3. 2 Cents*

    #1 — Those HR people are still jerks.

    #2 — Sorry it’s become worse, but at least you’re looking for a new gig. Hope one comes soon!

    #3 — Congrats!

    #4 — HR 1 is ridiculous and stupid. While that might not have been reflective of his whole organization, whoever put him in charge of such matters certainly has bad judgement. And HR 2 sounds like someone thinks she’s never had a bad idea in her life or a problem she couldn’t solve. Sounds like you ended up where you were meant to be!

  4. Sharon*

    Re #1: [quote]The person who assigns spots has said that they will be reshuffled ‘soon’ anyway, so this may become a complete non-issue.[/quote]

    I wouldn’t count on it. I re-read the original thread, and those HR people stole your space because they didn’t like the ones assigned to them. I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again. (Possibly/probably to someone else, but still…) They really need a talking-to.

    1. AMG*

      This. Don’t expect that reshuffling. And if it does, I guarantee those same HR people will still have awesome parking spots. Man, it would suck if someone dropped their thumbtacks all over that parking space. Don’t do it. I’m just saying, if someone did, their name would be Karma.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. These HR pukes need to be fired or brought to heel by the COO and CEO. The behavior is outrageous and especially coming from HR which is supposed to be particularly punctilious about rules, norms, fairness etc. Without this being dealt with, this will continue and get worse. I would assume they are unethical in other ways as well and ethics is their business role.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Sadly, people like these are an all-too-common Dark Side of HR. For every conscientious, ethical, scrupulous HR professional who does their best to care for and support the employees in their charge, there’s jackasses like these ones who see their position as authority rather than responsibility and use it as a license to do whatever they want because who’s going to stop the HR person?

          And I agree…if they’re fine with overriding procedure for their own convenience in this way, who’s to say that they’re not fine with overriding procedure for their own convenience on big, important stuff, like payroll, benefits, etc.?

          1. KarenD*

            Yep. The “who tickets the cop?” mentality.

            Thank goodness we don’t have that here. Not only is our HR head utterly scrupulous, she is dead serious about confidentiality. And the first thing our CEO did when he got here was take the sign off his own dedicated parking space :) He parks in the lot with the peons now, and even there I’ve never seen him parked in the closest spots.

            Leaders set the tone!

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I wouldn’t count on it either. Inertia is an amazing thing. They have a temporary solution that works so the likelihood of an update is small. And using the word “soon” Vs a date is a classic way to get someone off your back.
      You and your coworkers need to push back a little more than informally. Self dealing from HR is a real ethics violation.

  5. Persephone Mulberry*

    After twenty minutes, he decided the correct answer to being eligible for rehire was “no,” because I could not return as an employee

    Whaaaa…???!?!??? I seriously cannot with this guy.

    1. Milton Waddams*

      This is a principal-agent problem, and partially explains why working for one troubled company often only leads to work for other troubled companies, as each round through makes you appear to be a riskier and riskier hire.

      HR is likely in a position where they will be blamed for passing along a bad hire but receive no reward for passing along an especially good hire; as such, it is not in their best interests to use independent judgment to find the best candidates, it is in their best interests to find the candidates that appear safest on paper, so that if they do turn out to be bad, the blame is deflected.

      Obviously this attitude is bad for the company in the long-run, but when a company is large enough, the interests of the owner (the principal) and the interests of any employee (the agent) diverge.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This is how you end up with mediocre employees. Many of the best and brightest come with a few quirks that most managers wouldn’t mind, but the HR person isn’t willing to risk.

    2. Julia*

      It’s like when on MakeUpAlley when people say no to “would buy again” because “it lasts forever!”, completely missing the point.

  6. Artemesia*

    #4 wouldn’t you just say the company closed and would that really lead to assumptions you had a troubled work history? This just wows me. I totally don’t get it. Companies go out of business all the time; I have never heard of anyone being considered unemployable because their former company was out of business.

    1. AMG*

      IKR? I lost my job at Arthur Anderson because of the Enron thing, and there was another scandal in my city with another client at the same time that didn’t get as much press. I didn’t get a single question about my role in it –because there were 35,000 people working at that company for pity’s sake.

      1. Rafe*

        I worked for a famous photography company that went bankrupt and never, ever did anyone even blink an eye (much less hold it personally against me, or as a failure on my part, and of course I was nowhere near any kind of top management level). I mean it’s breathtaking, really.

      2. MashaKasha*

        My first few jobs here were at small startup companies, during a period when my industry went through a boom, then a bust, then a boom again. I don’t even know if my first three employers are still in business. Many of my friends worked for the same company, that its 25-year-old CEO/owner had founded on his parents’ money and then ran it into the ground less than a year later. None of mine, or my friends’ later employers have ever questioned our role in whatever happened to those companies, or referred to that as our “troubled work history” (WHAAAA?) Having worked for a company that no longer exists is such a normal thing in my field, it blows my mind that someone can think otherwise. What planet are these people from?

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I had the same thing–I was asked why I left that job and when I said the business closed, nobody questioned it. Of course, most of the people I talked to then didn’t give any indication that they were stupid enough to think a receptionist was in any way responsible for that!

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Exactly Elizabeth. I’ve worked for two companies like that. I just say they closed/went out of business.
        Of course you can’t be eligible for rehire as there IS no company to rehire you. (Can’t believe that guy).

        1. JessaB*

          Or maybe the answer should be “Of course I’d be eligible for re-hire. The company however is closed. If somehow they reopened, I’m sure I’d be welcome back.”

    3. Jadelyn*

      Besides which, CEOs who bail on failing companies (or go down with the ship, whichever) can still get hired elsewhere, so why the hell would your line employees, who bear so much less responsibility on an individual level, be held MORE responsible than the organization’s leadership??

      1. Milton Waddams*

        It’s just part of hiring culture. It’s sort of like how a bad reference is almost always assumed to be the fault of the employee receiving it, rather than the business giving it, unless the industry is small enough that the business has notoriety.

        I think maybe business owners just assume that other business owners are as collected and with it as they themselves are, even if their own business success depends on other business owners not being that way. :-)

    4. Patrick*

      Agreed, this update plus the original letter together made me wonder if something else was at play, or if OP was dwelling on it in a way that was making interviewers grill her about it. Bad jobs are like bad exes, no matter how bad it was if you keep bringing it up you’ll look like the crazy one.

      No company I’ve worked for had any sort of policy like this, although I will say one thing that might explain this (dumb IMO) stance. Having worked with people whose only previous experience was at failed/failing companies, a lot of the time you’re dealing with someone who has to start back at square one or close to it, or who has picked up bad habits from a bad office culture. But that’s a risk you take with any new hire really.

      Regardless, glad to hear it all worked out for OP.

  7. Adam V*

    #1 – what the hell. I would totally drive in early one day so I could take my rightful spot, and then when the offender came to ask me to move, I would walk with them down to the office of the spot-assigner and watch them be told flat-out “stop parking in someone else’s space”.

    I would then follow up with an email to them (cc the spot-assigner, and maybe one of those managers who was shaking their head) saying “I’m glad we’re all on the same page regarding that spot actually being assigned to me, and your spot being down the road.”

    1. Artemesia*

      So this. I have to assume that this entire company is deeply corrupt if this response would not be a winning play. How has that HR employee not been fired?

    2. AnonT*

      I think part of the original problem was that the spot-assigner (or someone they worked very closely with, and possibly were friendly with) was also the spot-stealer. Which honestly gives it a whole new level of inappropriate.

  8. NJ Anon*

    #1 Just because of the injustice and for fun. I would wait until they leave for the day, park my car in MY Spot and arrange for a ride home and back the next day and watch them squirm.

  9. befuddled*

    #4 – I had the reverse of this. A local company went bankrupt and we had a director who wanted to hire their program and project managers without any interviews because that company ‘was known for their program management’. I’m afraid my first thought was how good could their program management be if they went bankrupt?

    I knew many of their PMs. Some were excellent, some average. Just like any other company. We did hire a couple – but still followed the normak hiring process, including interviews.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      But why would you think that? Most companies go bankrupt from the top down.
      It is almost always mismanagement by the CEO, President CFO or some such, making risky deals, or overspending, most of which the average employee has no input or control over.

      I’ve had the owner of one of my companies blow 100k on his own personal pet projects, in spite of the advice of his financial team. Needless to say, we were out of business the next year.

      1. befuddled*

        It was a consulting firm and they always made a big deal that following their proprietary methodologies would make a business successful. And my thought was a reaction to our director idolizing the failed company. I certainly wouldn’t think that any individual pm was responsible for the failure. But did wonder if their methodology was all that great.

  10. Chaordic One*

    #1 At my last job there was a small parking lot (without assigned spaces), but most of us had to park on the street and since it was o’t in a busy business area it was usually O.K. Anyway, shortly before I was let go I drove up to where I usually park on a side street to find that the head of HR had parked her Prius in way that it took up two parking spaces. So I drove up and yelled at her as she was walking away from her car, “Hey, Linda! Why are you taking up two parking spaces!” She went back and moved her car to make room for me to park my car behind hers.

    #2 This seems to be an especially bad problem at companies that claim to have great customer service. Multiple somebodies screw up, and then they aren’t there to deal with and fix their mistakes and falls on someone like the hapless OP to try to make things right, even though they didn’t cause the problem and they have their own work to do, which sometimes doesn’t get done because you’re so busy fixing other people’s mistakes. It is really a sign of poor management and I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve done the right thing in going to your supervisor, but that doesn’t seem to have helped improve the situation. Good luck in your job search.

    #4 I had a job at a small independent retail business that went bankrupt. It started having problems after the recession started in 2008 and just couldn’t pull out of it. (I think they might still be going if they hadn’t made some really boneheaded operational moves.) However, in interviews I usually just say that weren’t able to survive the recession without saying anything about the owners and everyone has been satisfied with that explanation.

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