a terrible student worker asked me for a reference, coworkers send social texts throughout the night, and more

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

1. A terrible student worker asked me for a reference

I have received a reference request from another university for one of our former work studies. I had told this student that I was not hiring her back because she wasn’t reliable. She would cancel her shifts at the last minute, not making an effort to find a replacement. We had a list of duties that they are responsible to do during their working hours, and then they are free to work on school work. She wouldn’t do anything unless I told her to. She had good attendance the first year I had her, but wasn’t motivated and had to be reminded constantly. The last semester she worked, she was terrible.

She turned around and used me for a reference where the employer sends you a form asking you to fill out an online form. I have completely ignored both emails because I cannot give her a good reference. I’m stumped by the fact that she thought I would be a good reference, and I was never contacted by her asking to be a reference.

How do other supervisors handle reference checks for employees that you’ll never rehire, etc.? I’m in shock that she thought I would give her a good reference after the talk I gave her. Do students feel that as an university employee that she’s obligated to be given a good or marginal reference?

You have a few options: continue to ignore the reference requests (which sends its own kind of message, although it’s at least somewhat open to interpretation), fill out the reference request honestly (that’s certainly what the employer sending it is hoping you’ll do), or reach out to the past employee and explain to her that you’re not able to serve as a reference for her (and why) and suggest she find someone else.

At a minimum, I would do the last one because it’ll be useful for her to hear that her actions have consequences (and it’s a kindness to let her know not to try to use you as a reference in the future). I think there’s also real value in providing honest references, so that’s something to consider too — although with work-study jobs, it’s possible that the school doesn’t want you actually torpedoing students’ chances of finding work, so that may not be the right option here (in other contexts, though, that caution wouldn’t apply).

As for why people list references from jobs where they didn’t exactly shine … some of it — maybe most of it — is simple naivete. And some of it is obliviousness, in that they don’t realize just how crappy their performance was. (In fact, one question to ask yourself is how direct you were with her about your concerns with her work. Did you tell her clearly and directly that you had serious problems with her work? If not, she may not even realize it.)

2. My coworkers send social texts throughout the night

My boss and coworkers send large, ongoing group texts several nights a week. Often, it starts with an innocuous update like “I’ll be late tomorrow because of X, thanks for your support!” but it keeps going for hours. The constant updates are driving me crazy, because I expect that if I get a text from my boss or coworkers, it’s about something urgent, and everything else can wait until the morning. Often boss and coworkers are texting each other back and forth on this group text until 10 p.m. (when my husband and I are in bed!), and I don’t know how to respond to it. I usually send one text back to let them know I received the message and then completely ignore the rest of them, but honestly I’d prefer not to answer at all unless it’s an emergency. By the time these texts start, I’ve already driven my commute, decompressed from work, and am trying to detach from the day, and these texts do not help with that process!

How should I handle this? I don’t want to come across as a party-pooper or non-social (I’ve very social during work hours with my coworkers when time allows for it), but is there a nice way to say “sorry guys, I appreciate the sentiments but I just saw you all day and I need a break”?

Some phones will let you mute the whole conversation; I’d make that your go-to strategy if your phone has that functionality. But you could also say, “Hey, I’m finding that getting texts throughout the evening is making it hard to disconnect from work and some are coming in after I’m already in bed. Can we try to pull back on them, or at least not send them to the whole group?” The fact that you’re very social during the day means you don’t have to worry as much about this coming across as chilly (not that it should regardless, but in reality it otherwise could).

3. Religious headscarfs in job interviews

I cover my hair for religious reasons, either with a scarf or a hat, usually coordinated with my outfit. I began doing this after I got married and was already employed. Now I’m job hunting, and this will be my first time interviewing with a headcovering. Should I wear a headscarf, since that looks more overtly religious? Should it be black, or can it be another color or a pattern? I know the goal of getting dressed for interviews is to not stand out, but it feels kind of unavoidable. I don’t need to address it with the interviewer, right?

You definitely don’t need to address it with the interviewer, and I don’t think you need to change the type of scarfs you’re wearing to black or other neutrals if you don’t want to. (The photo you sent me along in this email had one that was brightly colored but looked great.)

I’d stick with scarfs over hats, though, as people are more likely to recognize them as a religious head covering (whereas a hat may appear to just be a fashion choice, which normally wouldn’t be a thing you’d do for an interview).

4. Interviewing right after dental surgery

Thanks to your amazing advice, I have two in-person interviews this week. Yay! Unfortunately, I had periodontal surgery late last week. As a result, I have black stitches in my gums, and when I smile, it looks like I have spinach in my teeth. I also am talking a little weirdly, and my cheek is slightly swollen and looks bruised.

I asked my friend and my mom for their honest assessment – are the stitches noticeable? They confirmed that it looks like I have spinach or kale in my teeth.

There’s no way that I can change my interview dates, so I’m wondering if I should say something to my interviewers? If so, what should I say? I don’t want them to think I’m a mess!

Yes! Just say “I’m so sorry, I just had dental surgery and there are some unpleasant-looking black stitches in my gums right now. Terrible timing!” They’ll understand, and that will much better than letting them just wonder what on earth is going on in your mouth.

5. We’re required to submit time sheets before the end of the pay period

My current workplace has really odd practices around submitting time sheets, and I don’t think they are legal.

I am required to submit my timesheet at noon every Thursday for the pay period ending on the following Sunday. Part of my work requires me to respond to state governments during their legislative sessions—this means my schedule can be all over the place, no matter how well I plan or manage my time. To correct the timesheet, I have to submit a revised timesheet the following Monday at 9 a.m. This spring, I had to do this almost every week.

After submitting corrections every week for several weeks, my HR director told me I could just add the additional hours worked to the time sheet for the following pay period. Obviously this has impact on overtime pay.

This week, I was informed by my direct supervisor that the HR director had him correct my timesheet for the previous week because I recored arriving at 9 a.m. on two days that I actually arrived at 9:30 a.m. I recorded my time this way so I could add hours I worked the previous week without saying I worked so many hours in any one day that I had to clock out for a second lunch. Is any of this actually legal?

They can have you do your time sheets however they want (including having you submit revisions a few days later or even making you submit it at precisely 1:02 a.m. every Wednesday) as long as your actual pay for that pay period reflects the number of hours you worked in that pay period, including any overtime. That’s the part that the law cares about.

That means that they cannot have you move hours to the next pay period if they results in your check for this pay period being lower. (This all assumes that you’re non-exempt. If you’re exempt, paying you overtime is optional and thus they can do it however they want.)

{ 422 comments… read them below }

  1. CJ*

    #1: Sure the student used you as a reference? I’ve had a number of situations where I’ve been called by an employer asking for a ‘reference’. When I expressed curiosity that I was on the reference list, I’d hear, “Oh, no, we try to talk to some of their previous supervisors too.” This includes one of those online forms you mention.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this case they have her email address so I’m assuming it’s more likely that she was listed by the student, but it’s certainly not impossible.

      1. ZombieDefender*

        Sometimes it’s unavoidable if you really want the job. For some on-line forms, they won’t let you continue without filling out all of the cells. I’ve definitely had forms requesting a former (and sometimes current!) supervisor’s name, e-mail, and phone number in the work history section of the form. If they aren’t filled out, you can’t submit the application.

        I’m not sure I would bother applying to a job that required that if I had the student in question’s work history though.

        1. mander*

          I’ve run into this problem of them asking specifically for a certain person, and being basically forced to list that person if I wanted the job despite knowing that they would not be a good reference or would refuse to do it. (For me, it was my PhD supervisor who was dead set against me having any kind of part-time or seasonal work despite the fact that I didn’t have enough money to do my research properly). In practice that meant withdrawing from that job application.

        2. Always Anon*

          I’ve run into this problem. You have to provide the name and contact information for every supervisor you’ve ever had at any job your list (former and current). And I know many organizations use them as a references, even if they aren’t specifically listed as a references.

          1. LabTech*

            Same here. I hate being required to give all of my former bosses names and contact information. If a prospective employer is going to contact someone, I need to know beforehand so I can tell them, but I can’t inform them every time I fill out one of these applications.

              1. Maria*

                I hear you. I was a part of massive layoffs at my last two jobs. There’s nobody left at either company who would even recognize my name.

                1. Chaordic One*

                  I have kept in touch pretty much all of my former bosses, even those who no longer work where I was employed. I usually end up filling out the application and where it asks for the former supervisor’s contact information, instead of putting in the phone number and/or email address of where we worked together, I put in the person’s current phone number and current address.

                  But, yeah, it’s kind of awkward. Sometimes the person doing the background check thinks it’s weird, but sometimes they don’t even notice that the former supervisor no longer works at my former place of employment.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I hate that too. Especially when they aren’t at the company anymore. I used to list them with “no longer there” appended, but now I don’t bother. If the company I’m applying to is going to force me to fill that out, let them call and find out on their own.

            2. Captain Radish*

              While I was doing my current job search I hated to fill those out too.

              “So, would you rather have my current manager who I really don’t want to know I am job hunting or my prior manager who I unloaded on after I quit?”

              Fortunately for me I found out my old job had gotten bought out by some other company and everyone there was fired. It made it a lot easier on me.

            3. welcome to the panopticon world*

              I apply to 3-5 jobs A DAY. I need a new job and I do not know what else to do. I apply for anything I’m qualified for that pays a decent wage. I use headhunters and online listings. I generally make it pretty far in the process. I would have loved any of the jobs I interviewed for. I have always been very passionate about not starving to death. The problem is that my references and former supervisors HATE how frequently they are contacted. Old school bosses especially don’t really understand applicant tracking systems and that I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE about listing their contact details. I cannot list the job if I do not input that information. If I don’t list the job, I will not get the new job because I have a gap on my resume. If I check “No” based solely on former employer preference, I will be rejected right away. I have a former supervisor who passed away. The person who holds the position now (and has the same phone #) low key hates me because he is called so frequently for references. I have tried listing the HR number instead, hoping perhaps they will explain Dead Boss is dead. Instead they connect the reference seeker with Program Manger I Have Never Met.

              Even for the people who volunteered to be my references are at the end of their ropes. I have been contacted with messages that say “I am happy to help you succeed and offered to be reference, but you need to accept an offer soon or remove me from your references.” In 2016, the only way to remove someone from your references is to leave the job off the resume.

              (For the record, I would have accepted any offer. I would have taken a pay cut to get into a company that offers raises and promotions. I would sell my soul if it meant I could have a new job. I would literally do anything to stop job hunting.)

          2. i did not realize i had so many feelings on this issue*

            I’m an early Millennial, so I have never experienced offline jobseeking. I’m not sure I have ever seen an application system that didn’t require email addresses for all former supervisors in the past 10 years. Many specify that it must be your direct supervisor or department head. I’ve also had well over a dozen reference checks where they did not contact the (appropriate) references I provided and prepped to expect contact. They did, however, call random employers from 8 years ago where no one remembers me or was taken off guard and didn’t know what to say.

            I think that the reference process is deeply tied to misplaced personal bias and should be replaced with background checks. Or a mixture of supplied (yet appropriate) references and a background check. You need to know if someone has been convicted of a crime they did not self-report. You need to know if someone has open warrants or a history of abuse. You need to confirm that the person in front of you is the real John Personman. Truthfully, I’m not sure if a former supervisor’s abstract recollection means *anything.* It shouldn’t surprise you that many, many people are racist in ways that you would need to spend time with them to see. Even more have bad memories or are bad at sounding enthusiastic.

            Something I feel to be true from what I’ve witnessed is that the reference seeking process is the structure that holds up the “glass ceiling.” References become increasingly important as you transition from rank-and-file positions to management. A manager being unconsciously biased against women can ruin a woman’s career, even if she did an objectively good job. With my own eyes, I have seen my boss give amazing references for men he does not really remember, who were objectively terrible at their jobs. In turn, I have seen my boss give horrible references for women that I can tell immediately he is confusing with a completely different woman. I am considered the MVP almost universally by the staff at my organization. However, my performance review from this man could be submitted as a work of fiction to the Man Booker prize. He rarely says anything about my workproduct, but he writes at length about how I spend “forever in the bathroom.” I tried to ask what he meant by that and he went on a rant that implied that he did not believe menstruation is real. I am terrified as I search for a new job that someone will call him instead of the other manager at my workplace, who supports me and encouraged me to use her as a reference. I am not her direct report, however, so where the job application demands details for a supervisor, it would be unethical to list her instead of him. I am the person who quietly generates and executes 95% of his workproduct on his behalf, but all a reference checker would hear is that I am unfocused at work (because sometimes I have to go pee.)

            As a culture, we are trained to give men the benefit of the doubt and hold women to an impossible, if not completely imagined, standard. I mean, look at Hilary Clinton. She is objectively extremely good at her job. And yet, people scream that she’s not qualified and base their opinion on their recollection of the sound of her voice. There is also a heavy tax on competency. What if the manager is bad at the job and their negative opinion of you comes from you being *good* at the job? Could you imagine what it would be like if Toby needed a reference from Michael Scott (The Office)? Even if you did not do a good job at a position, what if you learned from your mistakes? What if you were going through some sort of personal crisis or illness? What if it was a profoundly toxic work culture? A person should not be judged on a bad year. Moreover, with the absurdity of reference checking, you should not be held back in your career because you had a bad year, 5 years ago.

            Back to this letter: someone being a horrible student worker does not have any bearing on their abilities as a worker. It means they were in college and didn’t think of it as a real job. Sometimes someone being bad at their low wage student worker job just means they were completely focused on academics. A student who is a total F-up their last semester of school might actually be demonstrating *good* time management skills by prioritizing their senior project. For someone that young, refusing to be a reference is essentially torpedoing their chance of getting any job. Even if they did list you, you might be the only supervisor they ever had. You effectively are saying “You couldn’t manage your time well at 20 and congrats now you get to live in poverty for what could be the rest of your life.” I have given positive-ish mostly neutral references for many bad student workers who have gone on to excel greatly in their chosen careers. They just needed a chance to show what they can do when they do not also have school obligations. They just needed a chance to show what they could do when money has meaning to them. They just needed a chance, period.

            TL;DR: You don’t have to worry about being responsible about the apocalypse because you gave a positive-ish recommendation for a young person who would be working an entry-level job anyway.

            1. LabTech*

              I don’t have much to add, but just wanted to say I read and agree with this. Any slip ups or bad bosses in the past 12 years of employment means you can’t list your past three managers as references (figuring 3 years/job, and assuming your current supervisor isn’t a reference). It makes it so much harder to get employment when recovering from a bad situation.

      2. Doe-eyed*

        Also if she’s in academia and this hirer is One of Those People (that always wants to talk to your last supervisor) it’s pretty easy to look up email addresses. Most colleges have a public directory of all employees.

      3. Murphy*

        Often in in job forms when listing previous employment, there is a required spot for your previous superrvisor. It’s happened to me tons of times, so it can be unavoidable.

        1. Friday Night Job apps*

          I got an e-mail last week from a former supervisor yesterday telling me that they had been contacted for a reference (and telling me he was happy to do it). He wasn’t on the list of references that I provided because I have more recent references that better describe my ability to do the job I’m applying for , but I did mention working for him as part of the interview. It was easy for them to find his e-mail and so they did without mentioning it to me at all.

          1. OhNo*

            That seems problematic. I would hope (despite having personal evidence to the contrary) that they would at least let you know that they were going to contact people off your reference list. At least then you’d be able to give some context for whatever the non-reference person says.

          2. DoDah*

            This happened to me when I was job-hunting about a year-and-change ago. I think they got his info via researching LinkedIn and Googling. He called me to let he know–but I was pretty taken aback. I found it to be fairly invasive.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, that’s a good point.

          I’m less bothered by the fact that the student listed the OP without contacting her than some people are (I think it’s actually not all that uncommon for people to list references without giving them a heads-up, especially when they’re early-career and don’t realize they should) and I don’t find that in and of itself a horrible outrage.

    2. Mona Lisa*

      This is what I was wondering, too. There are many on-line applications that require you to put in your previous supervisor’s information in addition to the name of the company and job title. Usually I see a box where I can check whether or not I want that person to be contacted, but I could easily imagine there are applications where this isn’t the case.

      1. OhNo*

        If it’s that kind of form, then not checking the box saying it’s okay to contact them can often dump you out of the running and get you an auto-reject. Why companies do it that way I don’t know, but that’s happened to me more than once.

        1. Anxa*


          A good friend of mine was poisoned at their their job. It’s a job hazard, but the company was pretty blase about it and not only hadn’t had the best protocols in place to prevent it, but failed to address the problem. Friend tipped off OSHA and quit.

          She cannot wait until that job is 10 years behind her so she doesn’t have to list it on some of the applications (I’ve seen many where you only have to list the past 10 years of work history). She now says they can be contacted to avoid the suspected auto-rejects, but it’s so awkward.

          1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

            Yeah, I have one ex-boss I last saw in court (I was subpoenad as a witness at his assault trial), another to whom I quit in a fury without notice because I hadn’t been paid in weeks, and another who fired me after a dispute with my coworker who told me I was too emotional to do my job because I was a woman, at which point I did have an emotional breakdown (I cried, angrily explained the situation, and threatened a lawsuit). I hate and dread job searching.

    3. Owl*

      Yeah, I’m running into this myself. I was fired from my last job, so I’m not going to offer up my supervisor as a reference. But he said that he would give me a “neutral, not negative” reference to anyone who called (I think he liked me personally, just not my work) so I’ve been clicking the “yes you can contact this person” box on online applications, because I figure it looks super shady otherwise. Should I in fact be saying that he *cannot* be contacted?

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        I would have a trusted friend call him, posing as a reference-checker. That way you can determine what to do. But you’re right, it usually does look strange if you mark that he cannot be contacted.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      That’s what I was thinking- that she’s just filling out apps or forms asking for previous supervisors’ contact info.

    5. stevenz*

      I applied for a job and was asked to provide references. After he hired me, the boss told me that he didn’t call any of them but used their names as clues to who else he could call about me. Of course, he knew everybody so that wasn’t hard for him to do. I thought it was pretty clever. (He was the best boss I ever had.)

  2. Bibliovore*

    I can understand now how any negative conversation with a “not meeting expectations” student can be spun positively in their mind. I was in the midst of firing one who was marginal the previous semester – yes there were weekly one-on-ones as well as written communication. The last straw was leaving 2 hours early before the 4th of July, no showing that Friday and sending a really strange email that it was her mom’s fault that she wasn’t showing up, 1/2 hour into her next shift. Somewhere in the giving the bad news, I said that we didn’t have the budget to spend on someone who wasn’t dependable. She spun in his mind that she was getting let go because of lack of funding. She asked that she be considered for future positions when we had the money. Good thing I had a witness or I would’t have believed it.

    1. Is it Performance Art*

      When I was in grad school we had an intern who was horrible. This was a biology lab and after three weeks, we really couldn’t have him doing much work in the lab because a) he kept creating safety problems b) he would decide our protocols were wrong and do something different and mess up experiments while running through reagents c) his technique was slipshod so we were worried he was ruining reagents by mishandling them d) he wasn’t careful and we couldn’t guarantee he’d wear gloves while racking pipette tips e) he kept leaving stuff in other labs’ space. We had multiple talks about safety and coming to us if he had questions about protocols but there wasn’t much improvement and his internship would probably have ended before the firing process would be completed so we didn’t go to HR. We were very clear with him that we weren’t giving him lab work because he wasn’t capable of doing it safely. We ended up giving his work to the work study student.
      Early in the spring semester, he emailed us asking for a recommendation for medical school (due in three weeks) and oh yeah, he’d applied for a job at a lab at our university and could we put in a good word for him. My boss was out of town for the week, so he didn’t respond and so the intern left daily voicemails. When that didn’t get any results, he emailed me to tell me to get my boss to fill out the recommendation. And to tell me to let my boss know that it should be his top priority. When we did get around to it, the only thing positive thing we could say was that he showed up on time. And we were terrified of the thought of him becoming a doctor. He seemed truly shocked that we didn’t see how incredibly awesome he was.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        I totally get that this intern crossed lines and sucked at his job, but did anyone draw a hard line with him before he left and say that his internship was very unsuccessful and why? Or that no one would be supporting his candidacy for a job there?

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          IIPA wrote:

          We were very clear with him that we weren’t giving him lab work because he wasn’t capable of doing it safely.

          That reads like a hard, bright line was drawn.

    2. Honeybee*

      Yeah, I’ve had these experiences with students in college. Particularly normally high-achieving students, a lot of them have always been praised for their work, so they kind of don’t get it the first time they get negative feedback. At first I started off being a bit softer with them when giving negative feedback, but I quickly learned I had to be blunt with a lot of students because they literally didn’t understand that I was criticizing their work unless I was blunt.

      1. FD*

        I have to say, this is interesting to me, because I had the opposite reaction–I was horribly oversensitive to criticism when I entered the work world! Something like “Hey, next time you clean the bathroom, remember to check the paper towel dispenser is full” would become this horrible black mark on my record in my mind that meant I was doomed to be fired in short order.

        1. Karo*

          It’s the whole Dunning-Kruger effect. The worse you are at something the more likely you are to rate yourself as being awesome at it, in part because you don’t know that there’s so much that you don’t know. So people who are better at a subject, or more conscientious, are more likely to recognize that they have room to grow. Meanwhile, people who stink think they’re just as good as everyone else, if not better.

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I failed an internship because my manager didn’t give me any feedback until she submitted my evaluation to my advisor. So all the things I did wrong, I never heard about until I read the eval. I cried a lot.

        In retrospect I realize she may have tried to give me feedback and I didn’t get it, but it was such a shock when the official notice came in, and some of what was in there she acknowledged that she hadn’t addressed with me. It tanked my GPA and ruined my self confidence, and it took me a long time in the workforce to recover from feeling incompetent and afraid that I sucked and nobody was telling me.

        All that to say–when managing students it’s really, really important to deliver feedback and MAKE SURE THEY UNDERSTAND. And hopefully give them time to correct.

        1. Talvi*

          The TA evaluations at my university are actually designed to avoid this – an instructor cannot give their TA a very low score on the eval unless they had at least one meeting with the student earlier in the term to address the problem (and if nothing changed then they were free to give a bad eval).

      3. Lemon Zinger*

        I gave campus tours in college, and was always praised highly by other team members and on evaluations by the people who went on my tours. My junior year, the boss’s boss took a dislike to me and tried to intimidate/bully me. Fortunately I stood my ground, and managed to avoid him until he was fired.

      4. slappu*

        As a recent grad I appreciate when people are blunt – like really blunt. My first supervisor sugar coated every criticism. To me everything sounded like a joke or a minor suggestion, not her giving me critical feedback to be taken seriously. As a result I wouldn’t correct my behavior/actions and they seen this as me being willfully disrespectful and disobedient.

        After a year I got called into the office and torn apart, I left that day crying because I instantly went from perceiving myself as a top performer at work to being useless. They wrote me up and told me that I blatantly ignored the several warnings I had been given – but to me they weren’t communicated bluntly enough because they were treating me with kid gloves.

        I recognize today that I did things wrong and should’ve taken every comment seriously (even if they laughed when saying it), but I still feel very upset that they did me such a disservice by not making it clear when I was being ‘spoken to’ about problems.

        They recently provided a reference to my new boss and called me unprofessional and undeserving of the position I was applying for.

    3. Alix*

      I know for a while I kept using a not-so-great reference (I wasn’t horrible at the job, just very mediocre) because a) I didn’t have other people I could use, especially when places mandated three professional references and b) for a long, long time I thought your professional references were only ever supposed to be your actual direct managers as of the point you were last employed there, so if (as in my case) you’d been hired under one manager who you’d worked well with and she was later replaced by someone you didn’t work so well under, you had to give the latter as your reference and not the former.

      Then again, it took me kind of a long time to wrap my head around the concept of resumes (and references) as marketing documents and not as some strict dry factual accounting of your educational and work history. I still get the heebie-jeebies when I leave off the bad job I quit three months in, or when I give someone my better references, like I’m going to get called out for being deceptive or something.

    4. hbc*

      I fired a guy, citing a few of the things he didn’t get done that I had explicitly put a time-table against. (I wasn’t piling on, he asked me for examples.) These weren’t hard things–one of them was a weekly update on his progress against the to-do list, which I reminded him about both the first and second week, and he only responded the first week with a partial update.

      So I clearly laid out how he didn’t meet expectations. He went straight out of that meeting and told one of his direct reports that he was fired because I thought she could do his job and he was redundant. Well, yeah, if you do so little of your job, it’s not hard to find someone who can cover it. At least I haven’t had a recommendation request so far.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m a conscientious person, and I cannot understand how people are so clueless about their own performance. Let’s say you have a senior employee in your department (30-yr experience type at the highest pay grade) who roles in at 7:59 am, is walking out the door at 5:01 pm, and spends a third of the day on the phone with family, another third of the day chatting up coworkers, tells you [daily] during working meetings “sorry his mind is wandering, he didn’t get any sleep and he’s just fried.” How does that happen? Do people think that no one notices?

        1. OhNo*

          It can actually be hard for some people to see trends in their own behavior. You get people that think, “Man, I’m just really tired today, maybe I’ll take it easy” and don’t realize that they’ve been ‘taking it easy’ every day for the last three months.

          Detailed, honest time reporting can help some people spot these trends (it sure helped me), but only if they’re being 100% honest and genuinely want to improve.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes! I had someone who, when they were on, was a really good employee; but, when they were off, were a huge liability and, frankly, very rude to other members of the team. We raised the issue of consistency of work performance several times, citing examples of things that had gone well and behavior we wanted to see continue at all times as well as things that were not to happen again… and, they just did not get it. At all.

          2. Liz*

            Heh, when I broke my foot recently, I just had no energy whatsoever. My job doesn’t involve much running around, but I looked up and realised I’d just spent an entire month in a daze, doing the absolute bare minimum.

            Luckily, my employers were very understanding.

        2. Bend & Snap*

          I don’t think working your exact hours in the office is a reflection on work ethic. I work 9 on the nose to 5 on the nose in the office. My work is done well and on time and I do work outside of business hours when needed.

          One of the reasons I took this job is for work/life balance, and there is no shame in working my exact hours. I would hate for one of my coworkers to assume I’m not productive because of the time they see me in the office.

          The other stuff is problematic, yes, but I hate seeing coming in and leaving on time as a sign of slackitude.

            1. Anna*

              Same here. I can flex my hours a little, but I’m not getting to my office much before 8 or sticking around much after 5. I don’t get the implied “you’re lazy for not coming in early and staying late” in the original comment.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                It’s a senior level, salaried job where the expected hours are not 40 hrs per week (explained more below). Additionally, I feel like there’s an unwritten rule that if you’re seriously off task a lot during the day, and there is work to do, you should stay a little late. He’s working <8 hr per day. In my industry, it's unusual for a senior person to NOT either stay late or come in before 7 am.

                I'm not at all annoyed at the hourly people who are strict 8-5'ers (unless they are coming in at 8 and sitting down to work at 9). That's how their positions are structured. Even junior salaried people are expected to carry less of the departmental load.

                I'm really not a rigid butt-in-chair person, but this person also isn't someone working after hours at home, which is also unfortunately common for people at his level.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I agree. The hours are what they are for a reason; people shouldn’t be penalized for essentially just doing what they’re told.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yep. Everyone here pretty much just works their regular shift/hours and not much over 40. Plus, we all hear stories here so often of people putting in mega long hours for optics, but in reality are goofing off most the day and then getting some work done the last few hours they’re there.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            I would say it’s culture-specific, and there are many scenarios in which this wouldn’t bother me. I’m talking about this specific department and this specific role.

            1. If you are junior, fine. He’s senior, salaried, and the expectation is not 40 hrs/week. It’s >40..
            2. It’s fine if you are slow. He is not slow, and is leaving with tasks undone. He told our manager yesterday (Wednesday) that he could not prepare a 2-slide presentation on Very Basic Topic for MONDAY because he was “too busy” yet he doesn’t work 30 seconds over 8 hr/day and is off task when he is here.
            3. If he took care of his morning coffee, chit chat, and computer boot up on his time, like everyone else.

            I’m not even saying the person needs to work 45 or 50 hrs a week, but my mother taught me as a 15 year old that you were paid to be at your station working when you were on the clock. Coming in 10 minutes early and leaving 10 minutes late buys some grace for being off task. Even a strict 8-5 wouldn’t bother me if things were done, I suppose. It’s the whole package.

    5. TheCupcakeCounter*

      This isn’t just with students either. My husband had to fire two guys this week who had a combined total of 34 years of experience at his company (and it was neither of their first jobs). When the hammer finally fell one of the guys was shocked. He stared at my husband but don’t want to lose my job – I’ve been here 20 years shouldn’t that count for something? His reply was that his experience and longevity with the company was why he wasn’t fired two years ago when his bad attitude first became a serious issue (major shift at the company around that time so benefit of the doubt that the guy just didn’t handle changes and a youngish manager that well). My husband and this guy’s direct supervisor had weekly meeting with this guy going on a year now and had to bring in HR about 6 months ago. Somehow this guy didn’t think they would actually get rid of him even though he made racist comments in a mandatory staff training as well as calling the company owners cheap tightwads (training was paid and a very nice lunch was provided since it was not optional) since he didn’t get a bonus or raise that year (again…see weekly meeting and PIP type program).

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Thanks for throwing this in here; I know a lot of these kind of stories are more common to students, college interns, and people new to the work force, but I think it’s good to remind people that any age group or level of employment is going to have their fair share of clueless folks (and every group is going to have kick-butt awesome workers too!).

      2. Shocked*

        You basically described my husband when he got fired… he was completely ‘blindsided’ by the whole thing but I later found out that he had been denied a raise twice, given mandatory job re-training, sensitivity training, written up several times, given a final written warning, and was required to complete weekly reports to send to head office on his performance improvement efforts.

        I was more shocked that he didn’t see it coming because I would’ve had my desk packed up and resumes flying after my second write up. He seemed to think his boss was more of a friend who was just going through the motions that corporate required him to do and didn’t think termination would ever happen.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I hope you told her that you were, unfortunately, unable to consider her for future positions because the issue was not the money but rather her poor performance and not the job itself that made her employment a bad value for the organizational spend.

      I have experienced this many times, but, in my case, it was because the old HR director used very mushy language on terminations. She thought she was being clear, and she thought her careful phrasing was forestalling lawsuits. From my perspective, particularly given the lengthy documentation and protracted correction time most people were offered, it would have been far better to just say, “Six months ago, we told you that your productivity needed to be at X level. You were asked to do A, B, and C to reach that level. You did A but not B or C, and your productivity is still low. We discussed this again three months ago, and again last month. This month’s productivity stats show no improvement, and we cannot continue your employment. Your last day will be Y.” She wanted to dance around it, which struck me as far more ambiguous and risky.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I agree with you, mostly because I have seen people get those kinds of clear warnings and still be shocked (SHOCKED!) when they are actually fired for poor performance. It actually happened with the first person I had to fire as well, even though I had laid out clear, measurable steps for her to improve her performance and she was obviously not meeting the requirements.

        From my experience, it seems like the best you can do as the manager is clearly articulate a) that there is a performance issue, b) what the specific issues are, and (if appropriate) c) that, should the issues continue, the person’s employment with the organization will be terminated. Even when you do that, there will still be people who don’t hear it, but at least then you know you delivered the message without any ambiguity.

        Like others have mentioned, as a student/new to the workforce employee I would have taken Bibliovore’s comment as a clear criticism of my work quality, but I can also easily see how that message got lost in the employee’s interpretation after some of the performance discussions I’ve had. Obviously, everyone does not hear feedback the same way I do!

    7. Security SemiPro*

      I’m in this process with a staff member right now, their last day is tomorrow.

      They would be shocked when I pointed out poor performance, insisting that they had done everything at a high or reasonable level of quality. I’d pull up notes documenting how literally less than half of what was assigned had gotten done, and that half was done late or by someone else. The response was “But I did the important things!” work deemed unimportant? Showing up in the office, showing up to meetings, showing up on time, writing things down, answering emails, projects that were too big, projects that were too small…

      I’m pretty sure they are convinced that I have a vendetta against them for an unfathomable reason rather than try to accept that they haven’t done reliable, quality work for months.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I got the “important stuff” argument once! I had someone lose the only copy of an important piece of one of their projects once, and, when we sat down to discuss it, seriously told me that no one had told them NOT to do that or that they had to maintain custody of all pieces of the project until the final product was turned over to the client. And they had done some well on other pieces of the project, that this massive failure wasn’t as massive as we thought it was. As their direct supervisor told me, “I had no idea I had to tell someone that. It’s so fundamental that, no, I probably didn’t say explicitly, ‘Hey, don’t lose only copy of the client’s work!’ Because who does that?!?!?”

    8. Ralph S. Mouse*

      She asked that she be considered for future positions when we had the money.

      I believe what I just did is known colloquially as a “sporfle.”

  3. Mando Diao*

    OP1: It’s somewhat standard in professor contracts that they have to write letters of reference when asked. It’s not something they can really say no to, though it’s implied that a student wouldn’t ask for a reference if he or she didn’t do well in the class. A lot of profs either have standard letters they give to everyone, or they ask students to write their own letters to be signed if everything seems to be in order. I’m not stating that this is true for every school, and throw in whatever caveats will spare me the back-and-forth debating, but it’s possible that the student didn’t realize that things are different with non-prof employers at a college.

    1. Artemesia*

      Interesting. when I was an academic we were expected to write references, but there was never any notion that you were required to write them for poor students or student workers who were not dependable.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think it’s a pretty standard expectation, for anyone the professor supervises, but not for random students you had in a class and spoke to once.

        Even if it’s in the contract, though, you can tell the student “I’ll write a reference for you if you want, but I can’t write you a good one” and let them decide if they want it. If a university actually requires you to write lying reference letters, there will definitely be some deep level of dysfunction outside of that specific issue.

        1. Mando Diao*

          I’ve seen it spelled out in some contracts that it’s required to give a reference when asked, probably as a reaction to ivory tower profs not answering their emails and then dragging their heels when kids have deadlines to meet. (I can’t say it’s true across the board, but I’ve seen it.) It’s a reference more along the line of “This student took my class in Fall ’12 and did okay-fine-well,” just enough to get into a mid-level grad program or to provide a secondary job reference when the kid doesn’t have a lot of experience yet. Since this student is applying for a job at another school, it makes sense that OP was on the reference list, especially if the student feels reasonably sure that OP would actually respond to the request. I’m frankly a little bit surprised at OP’s shock at being listed as a reference for a job application at a university. The student probably doesn’t realize how bad her performance was, but OP is a very natural choice for a reference given the situation.

          But to get back to the point, since OP works at a university, it’s possible that the student feels confident that OP won’t say no to the letter request. My mind went there because even now, thesis advisors and repeat professors are on my go-to list for when applications require multiple references. Professors are easier to track down than managers from small businesses that shut down 5 years ago.

          1. Ccccccc...*

            I’d be interested to know where you saw such clauses – I have never, ever heard of such a thing (academic here) being expected either informally or required formally. Furthermore, the contracts I’ve signed fairly much only mention appointment rank, salary, course load, and start date.

            Maybe this is true outside the US, but in academic culture in the States, it’s well-understood that while, yes, writing recommendations is a part of the job, professors have full discretion in accepting or refusing to issue them — the understanding being that one does agree to write a recommendation if it won’t be strong. I would not have agreed to write a letter for a grad program acceptance if all I could say was “student did okay.” It does student no good at all.

            1. themmases*

              Yeah, I have never heard of such a thing either.

              Also as a student I have never been aware of the specific terms of my professors’ employment contracts– why would I be? So even if there were such a clause, it would be moot.

              Every letter I or someone I know has asked for, we *asked* with the understanding the person could say no. I think students realize staff and faculty at a university want them to go on and do well so they’re likely to help, but that’s a far cry from believing they have to do so or even that they definitely will.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        I went to a small liberal arts university. Professors could turn down references at their leisure, but I think most students were smart enough to only ask if the faculty member liked them and their work! My thesis advisor wrote a wonderful reference for me when I applied to grad school, and I wrote him a reference when he applied for tenure.

    2. chocolate lover*

      Interesting, I haven’t heard that before. I wonder why that is?

      I know faculty at my university have refused to write letters for students, and I’ve personally refused to give employment references (though more because I didn’t know the student well enough to judge, not because there was an actual problem.) I tell my students not to assume someone will be a reference or write a recommendation, they have to ask. None of my students have ever acted like they thought I HAD to give them a reference.

      1. Elysian*

        I once had a professor refuse to write me a reference because he had already written what he felt was his quota of references that year, and didn’t want to “diminish the quality” of his references by writing them for too many people. I felt like that was crap. I’m pretty sure he would have been well within his rights to tell me no if I had been a bad student or something, but the “I will only write 3 a year” seemed like BS to me. Administration knew about this philosophy and just kind of shrugged about it when I told them I was having a hard time getting reference letters out of people.

        1. UnCivilServant*

          How would the employer even know he’s written a single other reference unless everyone was applying for the same job at the same company.

          It sounds like he was just being lazy. My second inclination is that his references weren’t worth the paper they were printed on (especially if they were merely digital), and he knew it.

        2. blackcat*

          Well, “I will only write 3 a year” isn’t reasonable. But, “I will only write 15 a year, first come first serve.” really isn’t unreasonable. Or “I don’t write recommendations if the request comes after X date” is also reasonable. Even when you’re practiced at it, a good recommendation letter takes a little while to write. At a large university, certain professors can get 30+ requests a year, and it’s totally reasonable for them to decline a fairly large portion of those.

          1. Anna*

            This I can get. It’s the “diminished quality” that is stupid. Your references are not diamonds. You cannot flood the market with them.

        3. Ccccccc...*

          “How would the employer even know he’s written a single other reference unless everyone was applying for the same job at the same company.”

          I believe Elysian is referring to academic references here – it fits more within the norms of academic culture. For instance, if a student were applying to grad school or – much more likely – a PhD candidate applying to a faculty position (or competitive grant), Fancy BigName Scholar’s reasoning is that recommending too many candidates dilutes the potency of his endorsement.

          This is because: 1) one should only write a recommendation if it’s strong and 2) academia relies heavily on reputation and expertise within specialized sub-fields. So if Fancy BigName Scholar writes a great letter recommending Candidate 1 for Prestigious Position, it means a lot. But if FBNS endorses Candidates 2 through 20 in the same warm-to-glowing terms, well, then the recommendations mean less, because those 20 candidates *in the same field* are not likely to be equally star-material.
          Ergo: Write letters sparingly.

          To clarify, this is NOT the way the majority of professors operate. But if FBNS is famous and influential enough to have won the MacArthur and / or Nobel, well… no one is going to discipline for that (even while recognizing it’s unsound).

          1. Ccccccc...*

            Oooops, I said “his” endorsement, which is awful (though I don’t know of many women who’d pull this). FBNS is just as likely a “her”! Mea culpa.

          2. MK*

            OK, but the way to do this is not a first-come-first-served method (which is sort of implied by saying there is a quota); it’s to determine how many letters they are willing to write, say 5, and then decide who the top 5 students are, so that they can recommend them, should they ask, and refuse everyone else.

            1. Anna*

              Precisely! You can’t diminish the quality of something that doesn’t seem to have value anyway. Shouldn’t you only write recommendations for students you actually believe will do well in grad school or in whatever program?

            2. Ccccccc...*

              Yes, I agree with both of you. That explanation is odd; perhaps the prof simply meant it as a convoluted refusal? Not great, either way.

          3. Elysian*

            Different field but same idea, yeah. There is a small universe of prestigious positions that get a TON of applicants, usually the same applicants, and he didn’t want his name showing up more than so many times. I still felt it was bizarre, and it left me in a bind because he was one of the professors I had worked with most closely on a number of things. He had even written me a recommendation the year before, but then he wouldn’t write one for me the next year because I had asked him after he hit his
            “quota.” My next application set was on a different cycle than the ones other people were applying for, so I was “late” in asking compared to them. It was stupid.

    3. Sparrow*

      I think it’s more likely that the student didn’t realize they could (and should) curate their reference list – especially if they don’t have much work experience and don’t have many people to choose from. I also find that a lot of the college students I work with don’t actually think about the purpose of references or recommendation letters. It’s more of a “I need to check this box” kind of thing rather than, “Who knows me well and can speak positively and in detail about my strengths and past experience?” I’m an administrator who knows them only in a personal capacity, so I often find myself explaining to students that can’t actually speak to the things that either a employer or graduate program really want to know. Most of them haven’t really considered that, and those that have and ask anyway are generally low on options because of limited experience.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      It is definitely expected that writing letters of recommendation is part of the professor’s job, but professors can (and do) absolutely say “no”. Because one is a professor does not obligate that person to write any and all letters of recommendation when asked, and most professors (in my experience and observation) won’t simply write one because it’s “part of the job.” They’ll refuse on a variety of grounds (student didn’t give enough time, student wasn’t a good performer in class, student didn’t meet a prior grade threshold to request a recommendation, they don’t think the student’s work in lab/research/whatever was good, student was always late/unreliable, student wasn’t actually in their class, they’re not qualified to comment on qualities/experience relevant to the thing the student is applying for, student didn’t work well with others, etc.). Many faculty will push back on student requests if the student is a marginal or weak performer (and they should). I coach students to ask–and listen to the answer–whether the prof or other recommender is “able to write a strong/supportive letter of recommendation” to XYZ. If the answer is “no” or there is other hesitation/reluctance/attempts to divert student to other faculty, then thank that person for their time and MOVE ON because that person is *at best* ambivalent about recommending you.

      Standard letters that profs give everyone (and I have seen those) are obvious boiler-plate and do the student very little–if any–good. Even if nothing overtly negative is said, if the student was a high performer, the prof would and should have had something more compelling to say, otherwise it’s damning with faint praise. And if you push a professor to write a letter of recommendation, then you’re likely to wind up with something that doesn’t help your application in the slightest.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, this. A friend of mine straight up told a student that he couldn’t write a good recommendation. Student had gotten a D, after cheating on a major assignment. Student didn’t show up to class, but did show up to office hours to complain about his grades all the time. Student insisted on a recommendation.

        The recommendation consisted of “I confirm that Student took class Y with me in Fall 2012. I advised him I could not write a positive recommendation for him for medical school based on his work in that course. He requested I submit a letter regardless.”

        I am quite sure that Student did not go to medical school.

      2. Artemesia*

        I always advised students to make the request in writing to me or others and to identify the particulars of the job if it were a job, and to indicate something important they had done in the class, or in independent research or on other jobs or activities so that the letter could be personalized. when you have hundreds of students over a couple year period, you may have a vague positive memory of the student, but unless it was someone who actually was a grad assistant, you are unlikely to remember that they led this team, or did that fabulous research paper or whatever. Vague doesn’t help so it is up to the student to provide fodder to make the letter distinctive.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Are adjuncts bound by the same rules? I suppose they have a contract as well, but just for that semester .

      1. Ccccccc...*

        Well, that contractual rule doesn’t actually exist, at least in the US. So, there’s that.

        Furthermore, the sad reality of the academic hierarchy means that a letter from an adjunct will carry far, far less weight (or none at all) than than of a tenured or tenure-track professor. As a visiting professor (which is not adjunct, but not tenure-track), I always explained to my students that they’d be better off asking permanent faculty for recommendations, esp. those in their major or those for in whose courses they’d performed best.

        If they still wanted one from me and I had something good to say about them, I’d gladly write one. But ethically, I wanted them to make informed choices.

        1. UnCivilServant*

          Is this for applying to jobs within academia? I don’t know about anyone else, but my experience in college was that the more tenured the professor, the less useful they were, and people who were genuinely interested in learning the subject sought out the adjuncts. So, as someone outside of academia, I’d eight the word of a adjunct higher than that of a tenured full professor, or tenure track assistant prof.

          But that was based on my experience as a student where the permanant faculty were utterly disinterested in teaching and struck me as more of an impediment to the operation of an educational institute as a result (they were the only ones where the students routinely had to remind them that they had class, and this indifference was a trait shared across the tenured faculty).

          1. Ccccccc...*

            Yes, this is for jobs within academia – very different professional culture.

            From what you describe, it sounds like you attended a research university, where faculty are expected to – and rated on – their scholarship first and foremost. At some institutions, that can make it hard for them to also attend to teaching (some places insist on teaching as well as research excellence).

            These are definitely the faculty you need supporting you in an academic job search. A letter by no means guarantees a job – not even close-. But a middling to poor letter means that candidate gets nowhere at all.

        2. Artemesia*

          For grad school or academic hiring, particularly for academic hiring, you need very strong letters from important people. There are so few academic jobs that they tend to go to the proteges of major researchers. It is very hard to get an academic appointment if you come from a weak program or don’t have the backing of important people in the field. It is not easy even if you have those things.

          1. Marcela*

            Yeah. This infuriates me, since all other times the American academia is always boasting about how great this meritocratic system is. And no, it is not. It is more important how famous the name of the university in your degree and the name of your PhD advisor are, than your publication list or achievements.

      2. blackcat*

        Adjuncts are paid ONLY to teach a particular class. They are not paid for ANYTHING else.

        Many adjuncts will refused to write recommendations, for good reason. Their pay already often comes out to minimum wage or below if you look at the hours they spend working. This depends WILDLY on the institution, but $1,400 per 3 credit hour semester long class isn’t that unusual. $4k/per class is on the higher end of normal, with $8-10k/class paid by the wealthiest institutions in high cost of living areas (such as Harvard) in high demand fields.

        At least one friend who is a unionized adjunct has it written into her contract that she cannot ever be required to write recommendations.

        So do not ask an adjunct for a letter.

        1. fposte*

          There’s some variance in a professional program, though–adjuncts are professionals with connections in the field, so their recommendations have high potential value, and they do write them.

          1. OhNo*

            Seconding this. I work at a school that focuses on professional programs, with a staff that is almost entirely adjuncts, and I have almost never heard of one of them refusing a reference request.

            The difference, though, is that at the school I work for, many adjuncts in professional programs either have a full-time career in the field, or they are retired and teaching for extra income. I’m sure it would be different if they were trying to live solely off their teaching income.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I guess it depends on the person. My BIL is an adjunct and I know he willingly writes recommendation letters.

        3. Anxa*

          Another reason why exploiting contingent faculty hurts students. Adjuncts have their place, but when the department chair is the only full-time faculty member students are at a disadvantage.

          How much would it suck to have the majority of your instructors unable to help you because they aren’t allowed to or are stretched so thin?

        4. Renee*

          I think this may be because of where we live, but my husband is an adjunct at two different schools and makes very respectable money doing it (with the option to make more by taking on a weekly lab or two). I imagine he might balk at writing a letter for someone not doing well, but he very willingly writes letters otherwise. I hear all of these horror stories about adjunct jobs, which makes me think things are extremely different in other parts of the country.

          1. Anxa*

            I think it does vary by field and area.

            My friend is adjuncting and leaves her apartment at around 7am and gets home at 7pm most days, then eats and does grading/lesson planning/etc. until it’s time for bed, and makes 24K in a low COL area. Which wouldn’t seem so bad except for the student loans and time spent studying.

            Another does alright adjuncting and working at a grocery store, but is nervous because of the student debt. He had anticipated a higher salary when they graduated, and while he can pay his bills alright the student loans aren’t budging. And, of course, no public service loan forgiveness because not he’s not full-time.

            Meanwhile yet another friend I know is making bank adjuncting on the side two nights a week after her regular job.

    6. WellRed*

      It’s not necessarily a professor, though. Could be working in the University bookstore or passing out towels in the gym.

  4. Seal*

    #1 – Why not tell the truth about this student when asked for a reference? At the very least, you can say that the student didn’t as if she could list you as a reference or notify you that you might be contacted; that alone can speak volumes. I once interviewed a young woman who looked great on paper and did well in our face to face interview; in fact, she was our top candidate. But when we checked her references, her current supervisor stated that this woman had not asked if she could use her and then proceeded to rip her to shreds. Obviously, we didn’t hire her.

    1. Zillah*

      Her current supervisor? I hope you checked other references, too – it’s not super uncommon for current supervisors to give poor references that aren’t really accurate, and if she knew you’d be calling her current supervisor, one would think she’d have told them.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Exactly. There was probably a reason she didn’t tell her current supervisor like, say, not wanting to lose the current job. Some supervisors/managers take it as a personal affront when you start job searching and then do petty retaliatory things to torpedo the candidate’s chances. I’d take a current supervisor’s reference, good or bad, with a grain of salt.

          1. Seal*

            To clarify – we only contact the references the applicant gives us. The applicant listed her current supervisor as one of her references, which implies that we had permission to contact that person. It may well be that the applicant didn’t think her current supervisor would take exception to being listed as a reference or that she thought she had to list her current supervisor as a reference or that she didn’t realize her supervisor wouldn’t say nice things about her. But the bottom line is that the reference the applicant GAVE US PERMISSION TO CONTACT couldn’t say anything nice about her. That’s why we didn’t hire her.

            1. DoDah*

              You were very clear, Seal. More and more I’m finding everyone likes to pile on everyone for everything…

              1. Zillah*

                Or some of weren’t as clear as you were and apparently misunderstood. Ascribing malice whenever people have a difference of opinion is its own problem.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Well, congrats. Calling the current supervisor might have caused that applicant to get fired.

      1. UnCivilServant*

        If the applicant listed the current supervisor as a reference, it would not be an unreasonable inferrance that it was all right to contact said individual. The error was on the part of the applicant, and Seal did nothing wrong, or even out of the ordinary.

        1. themmases*

          No, it’s quite unreasonable. Many people supply information about their current job and supervisor because they have to to fill or an online form, or because they didn’t realize they didn’t have to.

          It’s never reasonable to just assume you can contact someone’s current employer about their job search– you need to ask. There are plenty of ways to get that contact information that don’t imply permission or that only mean a naïve applicant didn’t realize they could withhold permission. The alternative is to endanger someone’s job because you made an assumption.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think UnCivilServant’s point was that we don’t know if the applicant listed the supervisor on her own list of references that she handed to the interviewer or whether it was a form that forced the info.

            1. Seal*

              The applicant listed her current supervisor on her own; our online application system does not force that information. As stated above, the application listed her current supervisor as one of her three references, identified her as such, and explicitly stated that we had permission to contact her (something our system DOES force applicants to do with their references). If we second guessed every reference an applicant listed, we’d never be able to hire anyone.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, that’s totally reasonable. If someone is on the reference list the applicant drew up and gave you, of course you have their permission to contact those people.

              2. OlympiasEpiriot*

                Thank you for the clarification. I do wonder, though, if the other references were good (which you don’t mention, one way or the other, so I’m assuming), she seemed good in the interview, and her resume and skills were appropriate, what it was about the current supervisor’s excoriation that made you cut her off the list. Somewhere on this site, I’ve read at least one letter about a supervisor lying about not being asked and supervisors who seemed pleased to be asked to be a reference by someone who thought they had a decent experience who then only had bad things to say.

                I can easily imagine a current supervisor being vindictive if they are of that character type.

                1. Seal*

                  As stated below, the other references were OK but not glowing – certainly not good enough to offset what we heard from her current supervisor or make us think that the supervisor was an anomaly.

                2. Christopher Tracy*

                  @ Seal Thanks for the clarification, and that makes sense that if the other references were just “meh” about her and then current sup was full on negative, that would tip the scale to the NO side of the hiring decision.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I would be so livid if someone called my supervisor without my permission. I have a good relationship with her, But I certainly don’t want her to know if I am interviewing. I’d love to know why you did this. For all you know, the supervisor you called is an abusive jerk and you not only missed out on a great hire, you could have absolutely ruined her career at her current job.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Yikes, sorry, I think I misread the comment! It seems like she DID list the supervisor as a reference, but without the supervisor’s knowledge. I thought I read that she didn’t list the supervisor anywhere. Apologies to Seal!

        1. OhNo*

          I misread it the first time, too.

          If she did list this supervisor as a reference… yikes, that was clearly not well thought out on her part. I wonder if the other references had similar opinions of the candidate?

          1. Seal*

            The other references were OK but not glowing – certainly not good enough to offset what we heard from her current supervisor or make us think that the supervisor was an anomaly.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I wish there were a way for people to share personal stories like yours here without getting jumped on by commenters who don’t have all the details. I have to think it doesn’t exactly encourage sharing in the future.

              This is really directed to everyone else, I guess, and is more of a request not to leap to worst-case assumptions.

              1. Seal*

                Had I used the phrase “previous supervisor” instead of “current supervisor”, I suspect my comment wouldn’t have generated nearly as much discussion. I will say, it’s been interesting to see how people read and interpret comments.

              2. Ultraviolet*

                For whatever it’s worth, observing this behavior has definitely discouraged me from sharing. It just doesn’t seem worth it. No idea what the solution is though. I wish we would more often ask clarifying questions when we believe a comment/story to paint the person who posted it in a very bad light.

  5. Kate*

    #1 – Another reason the student may have used the OP as a reference is that she doesn’t have much of a work history and just assumed she needs to put down her previous supervisors without regard to the fact that people can actually give you a bad reference. I have actually known people who thought as long as you show up, the boss will give a good reference. So I especially like Allison’s suggestion of correcting this notion for her. Based on the on-the-job feedback you’ve already provided her, I wouldn’t be shocked if she didn’t make an effort in selecting appropriate references either.

    1. Meagain*

      I recently had an application in which one of my references HAD to be my last supervisor.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s terrible. Don’t they realize that plenty of people have good reasons for not letting their current employer know they’re job searching? It’s perfectly likely, of course, that they do know and just don’t care, but that doesn’t make it any less of a scumbag move.

      2. Anxa*

        Wow, I haven’t seen that. I have seen where you must list the contact info (and are auto-rejected if you don’t let them contact them). But I haven’t seen the more explicit version of this.

    2. Alix*

      Or you’re like I was, and you know damn good and well you won’t get a good reference, but still feel like you’re obligated to list them anyway. Blew my mind when I realized that, in most cases, I can choose my references.

  6. Al Lo*

    I saw the headline “throughout the night,” which I know is Alison’s interpretation of the email, and then it made me smile when I read the email about texts at 10 PM. I assumed it would be about texts coming in the middle of the night. When I was a teenager, 9 or 10 was the cut off that my parents imposed as the polite social time to not call my friends on their family line, and in my house now as an adult (albeit a household of artists with weird body rhythms and work schedules), 10 PM is a pretty standard dinner time for us.

    I often have to stop myself from texting people late at night. I assume that if you were asleep or you don’t want to get my text, your phone is on do not disturb or otherwise muted. However, a few months ago I texted my dad with some random observation at 3 AM, and it woke him up and he texted me back. Not my intention! I expected him to get it when he got up for work at 5:30, and to text me back, which I would see when I got up for work at 10 AM. Whoops.

    Anyway, all that to say that while I try to be cognizant of it, I would not think texting at 10 PM would be anywhere near too late to be polite. I understand wanting to decompress from work, but if the social aspect of it carries on, that seems like a pretty standard and socially acceptable time to wind down for the evening.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m probably as night owl as they come (I’m typically not asleep until well past 3 a.m.) but I don’t think texting people after 9 p.m. is really okay unless the person has explicitly told you it’s okay to do … and I definitely don’t think it’s okay to text coworkers throughout the evening, again unless you’ve explicitly been invited to. For one thing, they’re coworkers and many people want to unwind and not think about work once they’re home. For another, it really can be disruptive to people whose phone will beep (but who want to keep it on for other purposes).

      The key, I think, is whether or not the person has given you the clear go-ahead.

      1. Al Lo*

        Oh, totally. I was mostly responding to my read that it seems like the work and social lines seem blurred for others in the group chat. I would consider 10 a pretty reasonable cut off for friends. Unless, of course, I see them active on Facebook and liking my post about the Gilmore Girls revival release date. Then I might text them at midnight. ;)

        (Tangentially, I’m waiting for a response on an audition which I know was decided tonight. It’s killing me not to text a colleague who was on the panel and ask him what the results were. I think I’ll have to wait until tomorrow, though. I am so not going to sleep tonight.)

        1. Marillenbaum*

          It is acceptable to text about the Gilmore Girls revival any time of the day or night. How else would we know if Amy Schumer would want to be friends with us? Or if Al’s Pancake World delivers?

      2. the_scientist*

        This is so interesting to me! I’m pretty against calls after 9 p.m. (what my parents told me was the polite cut-off time) but I get texts at all hours and I’ve never seen it as rude. I guess I just don’t see texting as a time-sensitive form of communication? I also see it as if you don’t want to be disturbed by texts, you can mitigate that by not leaving your phone next to your bed, and by putting it on DND (mine is on DND from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. except for emergency numbers).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My thinking is that some people don’t want to put their phone on DND in case of an emergency, but they also don’t want to be woken up by a social text. I’m curious to know, though, if this is an outdated way of looking at it.

          1. UnCivilServant*

            It is far from outdated in the circles I run in. It is, in fact, the default assumption. There are appologies passed around for disturbing people at 8:30 at night because production was down. (didn’t stop the contact as that counted as a ‘work emergency’)

          2. Karo*

            I think it’s still a current way of thinking, but it’s starting to get phased out. On iPhones, at least, there are a lot of ways to ignore people (muting the conversation and setting do not disturb) and it’s pretty easy to set exceptions to do not disturb – I have mine set to turn on/off at a given time, to allow texts/calls from all of my favorites (the only people who would call with emergencies), and to allow the third call from a given number through. The last is really key in terms of an emergency.

            As for texts – I think a lot of it is the difference between light sleepers and heavy sleepers. I sleep like the dead; I’ve never been woken up by a text and it never occurs to me that someone else may be woken by it. So, unless it’s someone that I’ve spoken to about being woken by texts, it doesn’t occur to me NOT to send them until it’s too late.

          3. Kyrielle*

            No, I agree with you. I want to be able to hear phone calls, texts, and my alarm, and I assume only important phone calls and texts will be sent.

            I’ve had to give up and set my phone to go do-not-disturb anyway, because I am putting my kids to bed at 7:30 and people are quite comfortable texting then (nor do I think it’s unreasonable at that hour – except that it’s not helpful for me). By 9, _I_ am in bed unless the day is going badly, and I’m busy as heck so I can get to bed otherwise. I don’t want texts or calls unless it’s something I really really need to know.

            Texts, to me, are semi-synchronous – they call for a quick but not strictly immediate response. They’re a little less urgent than a call, but leave them until morning? No way. That’s what email or Facebook messages are for – things you see when you go check them, not things that pop in and alert you that they are there.

          4. A Non E. Mouse*

            I leave my phone on (work might legitimately need me at 3am), and I also use my phone as my alarm clock. It’s on, volume up, all night.

            If you text me at 3am you better need one of my kidneys, part of my liver or a server *only I* can fix needs immediate attention.

          5. LawLady*

            Well, the DND setting (at least on iPhones) has exceptions for that reason. When mine’s on DND, my fiancé and my mom can call and it’ll ring, but other texts/calls/emails get muted until the AM.

              1. Kyrielle*

                And plenty of people still don’t have phones that do it. I have a fairly new one that does, and I love it, but I know people who are still using flip phones or older or cheaper smart phones. And people who have limited texting in their plan – though they’d have an easy out to ask to be excluded from the social chit-chat.

                1. OhNo*

                  Actually, even most old flip phones have some flexibility in their settings. I have an old flip phone (that I first got on 2009, so it’s definitely on the outdated end of the spectrum), and I can set different rings/vibrations for different people, as well as turning all text sounds off while leaving call sounds on. When I know my friends are likely to text me or respond to my texts after I’ve gone to bed, I just turn the sound off for texts and leave the ringer on so emergency calls would still wake me up.

                  If that’s an option, OP, I highly recommend it. It’s a pretty quick and painless way to reduce the number of interruptions you get from them without having to try and convince them to change their behavior.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              I have mine set so that all calls are blocked, but if there’s a second call from the same number within five minutes, the second call goes through. I switched it to this mode from the “calls from certain numbers always go through” mode after getting a 3 am pocket dial from my husband, who was away camping and rolled onto his phone in the night!

          6. Trig*

            My sister, a doctor, lives in a time zone three hours earlier than the rest of the family. We have a family chat convo and she recently chewed us out for chatting at 8 am our time, which is when I’ll often see her texts from the night before, so feel inclined to answer them.

            She can’t mute her phone for work reasons; beeps on her phone at 5 am are usually her getting called in to the hospital or clinic for an emergency. And, exactly like you said, she doesn’t want to mute US in case of an actual emergency. So I don’t think this is entirely outdated in some circles (AKA paranoid type A doctors).

            I’ve tried to be thoughtful about not sending morning texts to her, but I might suggest that she see if she can mute BBM during those hours. If we had an actual emergency, we have multiple non-chat ways to contact her, so that shouldn’t be a concern.

            As for me, I don’t bring my phone into the bedroom, so I’m not likely to be woken up by social texts. I have an alarm clock to wake me up. If it’s an emergency and I’m not answering my cell (it’s usually on mute anyway), I have a landline. I’m on the almost-too-old end of being a millenial, so I don’t think it’s a generational thing.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Why not set up a separate family chat channel to be used for those hours when the usual participants can’t participate? If you all have smartphones, then an app like Skype or GroupMe may work better than texts – she can set “Night Owls” to do not disturb and read it later.

          7. Lady Blerd*

            It’s funny how society has evolved in the last decade or even in the last five years. I used to hate getting texts after 10pm or in the middle of the night and I didn’t send any out. Now it will depend on who I’m texting but I’ve sent some to my friends at 10:30pm.

            I do have the DND function on from 11pm until 7am, in fact it’s sort of my de facto alarm on weekends when notifications start again (except for Facebook’s Messenger app that completely ignores it but luckily I almost never get anything during that time). My DND lets phone calls go through, something I discovered when a real life emergency situation happened.

            Finally, I use the delay function for text messages when I’m up very late because I assume not everyone has the DND function.

          8. Bend & Snap*

            This is me, although I have separate phones for work and personal. When my daughter is with her dad I don’t like to silence my phone, but I have friends who apparently can’t tell time, so a LOT of them are on permanent mute for waking me up late at night or early in the morning with texts.

          9. Stranger than fiction*

            Yes, exactly. I keep my phone near me and on vibrate because I have a kid w medical issues so she can text me during the night if she needs me. If it just kept buzzing because a group of coworkers (or friends) were goofing around, I’d be pissed.

          10. Angela*

            I do not call or text anyone after 830-9pm. Several people that I text wake up very easily and go to bed very, very early as they have to wake up quite early for work. Also, I don’t put my phone on DND at night because of emergencies. What happens when you only allow certain numbers to ring through and then someone you would take a call from has to call from a different number? I figure if someone is calling/texting me after I’ve gone to bed that I NEED that info at that time. Otherwise, it’s just rude.

          11. TheSnarkyB*

            I think it’s an outdated way of thinking. Not because it’s so ridiculous or out there, but because I’ve never heard this conversation happen among friends, in the way that other debates do. (I’m 26, for reference) I think I instinctively wouldn’t text someone after like, 12:30 or 1am, even if I know they’re not a night owl. I also don’t see it as a time sensitive form of communication, but I see how that could differ among friend groups. Like, I wouldn’t text after 1am just in case, but I wouldn’t call after 9pm or so. Definitely going to bring it up at happy hour this week to see what others think!

          12. SL #2*

            My phone is nearly always in DND mode after 10 pm and I start sending texts from my computer instead (thanks, Apple!). There’s a setting on iPhone DND modes where if someone calls twice withing 3 minutes, the 2nd call will play the ringtone. If it’s an emergency and I don’t pick up, I fully expect you to call me again immediately after or send me a text instead, and if it’s not an emergency, then they’ll leave a voicemail and everything’s fine and I’ll get back to them in the morning.

          13. Op#2*

            Op#2 here. Thanks for all of the comments everyone! I don’t like to keep my phone on silent or airplane mode in case of a true emergency, but I didn’t know that I could put a group text on DND, so that was my immediate first step today, and I’m hoping that will help resolve the issue.

        2. Mabel*

          That’s not always possible. I have my phone on DND (with an exceptions list), but my ex has to leave her phone on in case her elderly father needs to reach her. I found this out when I texted her at 11:00 p.m. expecting the notification sound to not be heard by her until the next morning.

        3. CMart*

          Yes! “Do Not Disturb” is my favorite feature on my phone, especially now that I’m going to bed at 9pm and even the vibration text notification will wake me up. Texts/calls from my nearest and dearest will still come through, but my buddy who will machine gun message me at 3am with his thoughts about the prior day’s affairs is nice and silent and just waiting for me when I get up a couple hours later.

          1. Windchime*

            I didn’t realize that texts could be set up like calls on DND. Like others, I have an iPhone and love the DND feature. Only calls from my favorites (mostly family) can come through during my DND period. I would love it if I could do texts the same way — I’ll have to see if I can figure that out.

            1. ReluctantBizOwner*

              You can do it three ways: from the slide-up menu at the bottom, which silences calls and texts, or you can open up texts from particular people, click on details, and do not disturb can be set there. Works for groups messages too. I have my group text for my business perpetually on DND, because most of it is unimportant chatter, and comes all at hours.

              I love that feature. A godsend, for others and for me. I wake easily and am like an angry grizzly bear when woken.

      3. MashaKasha*

        A late-evening text from a coworker would scare me, because I would immediately assume that there’s a work emergency and I need to log into work asap and work on it. Now that I think of it, that’s actually a good reason why they may not want to overdo it on social interactions with the team late at night – by the time an actual emergency occurs, people will ignore the texts about it, assuming it’s just another junky text about nothing from a coworker.

        1. Op#2*

          Yes. This is why I don’t like getting texts from co-workers…I assume if you are contacting me outside of work hours on my personal device, it can’t wait until tomorrow.

      4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Huh! This feels like an area with unsettled norms (texting times).

        I’m an Old (or at least, not a Young), and I don’t text heavily (and never text colleagues, unless it’s to say that I’m running late to a meeting or something), so this is not really an issue for me. But it would not occur to me to avoid texting during certain times of the day or night. I assume that if people don’t want to hear text notifications they have them turned off (likewise with email notifications).

        1. UnCivilServant*

          I have always operated under the presumption that if it’s not okay to call, it’s not okay to text.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Whereas I’ve operated with the understanding that texts, by their nature, can be reviewed and responded to when the recipient chooses, so the time it is sent doesn’t matter.

            1. Angela*

              That would seem to apply to email more than a text. Generally speaking, my group uses texts as something that we need a quick reply on. But maybe we’re in the minority. (All late 30s/early 40s, just for reference.)

            2. SL #2*

              This is how I view them, but all my friends also use DND and I’m the night owl of the group who also lives on the west coast, so 12 am texts from me aren’t uncommon, but they’ll respond to me at 5 am (their 8 am) the next day.

      5. Lisa*

        I follow the guidelines of whether or not a person has given me the go-ahead to call/text them at random hours, combined with good-ol common sense. For instance, one of my best friends is a married man, so there’s just an implied “no calling after 9pm unless it’s life-or-death”…but I generally don’t even call him after he gets off work, because that’s family time. Plus, I can literally talk to him all day while he’s at work, so there’s no reason for me to be calling him late anyway. If there’s something one of us really needs to talk about, we’ll call no matter the hour. If there’s something that’s weighing on our minds but doesn’t require immediate response, we’ll text at any hour, and the other will respond when they see it. My other best friend is a single female, so we’ll literally text around the clock. If the recipient is asleep, we answer whenever we wake up…usually with a “what the hell were you doing awake at 4:47am dude?” As for the people I work with, we all generally know what time everyone starts being unavailable, so we don’t call/text after those times unless it’s important. That said, it’s not unusual for a few of us to be on the phone until 3 or 4am. However, we’re business partners, not coworkers (in the traditional sense), so there’s a different dynamic in play.

        I leave my phone on all the time (it usually can’t wake me up anyway), so I don’t mind it going off in the middle of the night. However, those rare nights I don’t want to be disturbed, I just put it on silent…and hope tonight’s not the night someone needs to reach me!

    2. Honeybee*

      I feel like a cranky old bird, but I usually go to bed around 11 pm. A text at 10 pm is too late for me, lol. Then again, I put my phone on DND between 10 pm and 7 am.

      1. Al Lo*

        And on the flip side, people who call me before 9:30 am are calling at the crack of dawn. I know I can’t really get mad, but it bugs that societal norms are so skewed against night owls. The number of dining options really decreases after 10 pm!

          1. Hillary*

            I’m laughing a bit because I have the opposite problem. I start work around 7:30 central and most days am a little peeved that I can’t start calling my vendors in the pacific time zone until 9:00 my time. :-)

        1. Alix*

          it bugs that societal norms are so skewed against night owls.

          Hell, one of my personal pet peeves is that my favorite museums close at 5:30 pm. I am getting up at that time, usually. And then I am falling asleep around when they open! Aargh.

          As for phone calls, I am of the opinion that I should only ever be actually phoned if something is on fire or someone is bleeding, and then why the hell are you calling me and not emergency services? But I am kind of notorious for hating the telephone.

          1. Al Lo*

            I kno, right?! On weekends, we often miss everything, because cultural institutions and brunch providers run on schedules that just don’t work for us!

          2. Olive Hornby*

            Yes! The museum thing is truly the worst. A few museums around me have evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays, which is great (and allows you to avoid large tourist families/school groups) but it’s not nearly common enough.

        2. T3k*

          As someone who had a flip phone with no DND option up until 2 years ago, and loathes getting woken up by family texts at 7am, you can bet your ass the first thing I did when I got my smartphone was to set DND until 10am (with exceptions from those who I knew would only text/call in an emergency and not over a baby pic, grrrr)

        3. Lisa*

          “The number of dining options really decreases after 10 pm!”

          Gah! This sooooooooo sticks in my craw!

      2. LQ*

        HA! I’m often in bed at 10, in the winter, sometimes by 8. Because if there is no sun my body has checked out.

        I don’t DND my phone but if I start getting coworkers texting me past 7 pm I will. And I’ll DND it from 7-7.

    3. UnCivilServant*

      I assume that if you were asleep or you don’t want to get my text, your phone is on do not disturb or otherwise muted.

      In my family, the phones are left on ane noisy throughout the night in case of emergency. Our standard is “If you’re calling/texting at 3am, it’s got to be about someone going to the hospital or something of equal import.” We turn off the ringer at work, but give out the work number for emergencies that happen during the day.

      1. Sarianna*

        FWIW, at least on my (Android 6.x) phone, there’s a contact group setting for priority people, and the Do Not Disturb setting allows those calls/texts to ring normally, while still keeping it silent for other callers/texters. :)

        1. Gaia*

          There is also a setting that will override the DND setting if someone calls or texts more than a certain number of times in a certain timeframe.

          FWIW, if any is calling or texting me after 10pm it had better be an emergency. I get up really early and I am in bed by 10pm – I don’t want to be bothered by nonsense.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I would not assume everyone has taken the time to figure out the “do not disturb” feature so I still think it’s impolite text or email during normal sleeping hours.

      If it’s an only phone people may want to keep it on for emergencies not realizing that you can whitelist some phone calls through it multiple calls from one number will come through. Other people may not even realize do not disturb features exist.

      1. ceiswyn*

        And a whitelist won’t necessarily allow all emergency calls through. Someone who’s just been in a car accident might need to borrow someone else’s phone to make the call, for example.

        1. CMart*

          Yikes, I hadn’t even thought of that.

          BRB, adding my sister and best friend’s husbands to the whitelist.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Even that may not do it – if an accident damages phones in the car, they may have to borrow a stranger’s phone to call.

            If your phone has the ability, adding a “second call from same number in X minutes rings through anyway” to it might help with that.

            1. A Non E. Mouse*

              Even that may not do it – if an accident damages phones in the car, they may have to borrow a stranger’s phone to call.

              So much this. The call to my MIL that my FIL was actively dying didn’t come from a close family member, it came from a second cousin who happened to be working that shift in the ER when he came in. What if her phone had been DND’d except for close family?

              It’s really beyond the pale to expect people to DND their phones because someone rude might text at 3am. They could quite literally miss a phone call about a dying or dead relative.

              1. C Average*

                This. I’ve twice gotten middle-of-the-night calls from my stepkids that concerned life-threatening situations, and I shudder to think of what might have happened if I didn’t sleep with my phone near the bed and the ringer on. No one wants to think about these calls, but they do happen. If you have people in your life who depend on you in any way, you want to be within their reach.

                I would be really annoyed if people I know from work or hang out with socially texted me at all hours of the day and night with conversations that only peripherally concerned me. I wouldn’t be shy about telling them so, either. “Hey, all you night owls? I’m a lark. Unless someone or something is literally on fire, I do not want to hear from you between 9 pm and 6 am. So if you’re starting one of your marathon multiple-recipient text threads, please do me a favor and just leave me off the big thread and shoot me a separate text.”

      2. CanadianKat*

        Calling should be limited to decent hours.
        Texting is supposed to be “instant” communication, so it’s presumed that the person may get it right away, – so that should be limited to decent hours.

        Not so with emails! Emails were designed to be quick, but not necessarily instantaneous. There’s nothing wrong with sending an email in the middle of the night, if that’s when you happen to compose it. The expectation is that the recipient will read it when it is convenient for them (or during business hours, for business emails). If somebody chooses to receive audible email notifications on their phone and have the phone on and near them throughout the night, I think it’s their problem. They should figure out how to turn off the feature, or the phone, etc.

        Otherwise, if I happen to have a brilliant idea at 3 a.m. and want the other person to read it first thing in the morning (but not interrupt their sleep, breakfast, etc.), am I supposed to guess what their morning routine is and set an alarm for that time (even if I expected to sleep until 10 am that day)?

        “Let’s see, he comes in at 9 a.m., but I’ve seen emails from him at 7, so he might be awake by 7, but I want him to get it asap, so maybe I can wake him up at 6:30? on the other hand, I know he was working late last night, so maybe he’ll sleep until 7:30.” That would be crazy.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      9pm should be the limit unless it’s someone you are very close to and know their habits. I’m an early bird and wouldn’t dream of texting someone a random thought when I’m awake at 4:30 am (mainly because I know lots of people keep their phone on their nightstand…)

    6. TheCupcakeCounter*

      My husband and I don’t have a landline (didn’t even put in the wiring when we built the house) and now he is on call 24/7. Since we don’t have a backup landline my cell is his backup number so neither of us can shut them off at night (and I do get calls when he leaves his phone in the basement or forgets to charge it). I once had a crazy former co-worker text me starting around 2:30am – approximately 15 LONG texts over 20 minutes or so – and I was usually at work around 7am so definately too late for me. I do have my phone on vibrate but I’m a light sleeper so the buzz of it against my nightstand combined with the lit up screen always wakes me up. After a few came through I texted her back that I was sleeping and to stop. She had the nerve to tell me I was rude for not turning off my phone and kept texting. The next morning I explained the backup phone situation and told her that if she needed to vent or rant she could email me since I have my phone set up to require me to call up the emails as opposed to a push notification. Same thing happened the next 3 nights (texts) so I told her to stop or I would block her number. I blocked it and several days later I got a truly nasty email from her so blocked her phone and email and disconnected from her on LinkedIn. She did the same thing to another coworker (my best friend) so she had to do the same thing. And now I do have a DND setting on my phone so only phone calls come through after a certain time on work nights.
      I did check once a few weeks later to see what (if anything) she sent after I cut contact and what I saw was a bit freaky. I have no doubt I did the right thing.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      No, I don’t put my phone on mute–what if there is an emergency? My family wouldn’t call me in the middle of the night for any other reason, and they don’t text late either.

      In the OP’s I would say something as Alison suggested, and then if it didn’t stop, I’d set the conversations to Ignore or something, if possible. Or, if I had a husband, he could leave his phone on in case of emergency and we could mute mine.

    8. Lemon Zinger*

      My boss sent two emails last night: one at 2:30 a.m. and the other at 5:40 a.m. She is why I schedule my iPhone to go into “Do Not Disturb” mode from 10-7 every night.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        I should clarify that the phone will still ring if a family member calls me. But my boss’s texts and emails are NOT important, and I do not need them to interrupt my sleep.

  7. CEO Cat*

    #4 -re: dental surgery/interview

    Don’t fret over your appearance. As a former interviewer/HR director and current CEO, if someone still showed up to the interview in that condition to an interview, I would be impressed with their dedication and work ethic. Considering I took three weeks off for having my wisdom teeth out where I couldn’t work at all, I admire you for going into a job interview at all

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Three weeks?? Did you have a bad experience with your wisdom teeth? I got mine out in May and only missed three days of work.

      1. Anonyby*

        Wow! Three weeks sounds crazy to me, but it’s amazing.

        When I had my wisdom teeth out, I was working at an amusement park as a ride operator. I called in sick the day of the surgery (and got a note from the office so that it wouldn’t count against me). The day following the surgery was my ONE scheduled day off that week. The following day I was back at work. The first couple of days back I insisted on only operating rides where we had a pre-recorded spiel, to minimize how much I had to talk.

      2. CEO Cat*

        Yes I did. Unfortunately I have lupus and when I went back to work, which is physical labor, I almost passed out at work.

        1. CEO Cat*

          Almost everyone I know was back to normal within a few days except one but she had a dry socket on the other tooth she had pulled.

  8. Random Lurker*

    #2: I really feel your pain. I have an employee with serious boundary issues and texts me at inappropriate times, sometimes at 10pm, sometimes at 4am. Very rarely is it urgent, or even appropriate messages for your boss in the first place (think very social things like here’s what I had for dinner, look at what my wife just bought) This will be a YMMV situation, but I’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work (speaking to him, mentioning it in a performance review, not engaging in the text). What seems to put an end to a conversation is a fairly short, blunt message: “I’m in bed right now. I’ll discuss with you tomorrow” or “I’m spending time with my family now. I’ll look at this tomorrow during work hours”. I’m clear that I am doing something personal, implying that he’s interfering with that, but I don’t close the door on whatever it is he contacted me about. I do deal with slightly hurt feelings when I do this, so proceed with caution.

    Good luck. I know how annoying this is, especially being in a job where after hours calls are often legitimate and expected. It becomes essential to filter out the noise.

    1. Joseph*

      In your case, I could definitely see where it’d get annoying, but from the OP’s letter, it’s not clear whether the simple strategies have been tried, so there’s no need to go super-blunt.

      Really, the solution for OP here is a simple one:
      1.) Either mute the conversation (you still get the texts, just no notifications) as Alison suggests or go into your phone’s settings and turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature which comes on automatically during certain hours.
      2.) Tell co-workers that if (and only if) it’s an emergency, they can reach you by directly calling. Given that the point of these texts is a group social interaction, I doubt that OP has to worry about someone stretching the definition of “emergency” in this situation.

  9. regina phalange*

    #4 – I had a Skype interview right after having a nose job and had a brace over my nose and two black eyes. I said I had just had sinus surgery and maybe I wasn’t fooling anyone but apologized up front and it wasn’t a big deal.

    1. Pwyll*

      I once interviewed a woman whose face was badly bruised and beaten up. The first words out of her mouth were “Please excuse my appearance, I was in a car accident last week. I promise it looks a lot worse than it actually is.”

      We hired her. She was great. Not a big deal at all, and nothing to be embarrassed about.

      1. Tammy*

        I once interviewed someone whose first words in a Skype interview were “please excuse my appearance – I was hit by a taxi when I was riding my bike home to call you”. Talk about determination – and we hired him, and he was great.

        1. Pwyll*

          Ugh, I have so many stories about hiring. I also once interviewed someone who was almost sexually assaulted in the elevator of our building (dude followed her in, hit elevator stop and jumped on her). We called the police, she insisted on still doing the interview, they never found the guy but we hired her and she was great.

          1. Serin*

            I would have to be really desperate for a job to agree to come back every day to the building I was assaulted in.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I admit, that might throw me as well–but I would figure the chances of it happening again were slim. I would, however, ask about their building security protocol in the interview!

              1. Pwyll*

                Yeah, our storefront level was under construction at the time, so there wasn’t any security. It was lunchtime so the construction site she walked into appeared abandoned. She actually was rescued by a bunch of construction workers. Well, and she was carrying mace. It was a very rough neighborhood.

  10. LoV*

    Re #1: It’s possible she thought that the references wouldn’t get checked. Not every place is diligent during the hiring process and if you’re an unreliable employee, it’s possible you’d just gamble that your references won’t get checked.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s a really good point. Especially when you’re new to the workforce, it’s easy to be less clear on the difference between a reference and simply listing your previous supervisor to confirm dates worked.

        1. Anxa*

          Especially is you have a shorter timeline of experience. I think it’s fairly common that official policy is to only confirm employment. I can see how this would be considered to be universal out of naivety.

  11. Wesley Long*

    #2 – Look into Slack – http://www.Slack.com. It’s perfect for this kind of asynchronous group communication. It has a smartphone client, and notifications can be shut off easily. I rolled this out for my team, then a client wanted us to be part of their channel, and I ended up rolling it out for the entire company. It’s a different model for communicating. It worked very well for us, but of course it’s subjective to your company’s culture.

    1. SirTechSpec*

      I also came here to recommend Slack. Specifically, it has different “channels” of communication, so you could turn off notifications on the “fun” channel entirely, while still choosing to get them if someone messages you directly, talks in the “important” channel, says certain keywords in any channel, etc.

      1. SirTechSpec*

        That gives you an easy out, then – “hey gang, could we agree to keep social conversations to the fun channel on Slack, and save texting for urgent matters? I go to bed early, so I like to keep my phone notifications to a minimum at night.” That’s more detail than you should really have to give to get people to respect a request like this, but may help provide context so people know you’re not just brushing them off.

    1. Anon for this one*

      It wouldn’t be a big deal, at least here in the Northeast. I just assume that if a woman is wearing a headscarf or hijab, she’s covering for religious reasons. My personal opinion on religious headcoverings has nothing to do with figuring out if she’d be a good candidate for a job.

      I heard about a situation a few years ago in our finance department with a male candidate who refused to shake hands with a female interviewer on religious grounds and also said he could not work for a female manager or ever be in a meeting with only a female colleague. We didn’t end up hiring him for that and other reasons.

      1. Susan C.*

        Did the handshake thing count against him? I mean, the ‘no female manager’ clause would indeed be prohibitive, but I’ve seen a few people (although all women) make the not shaking hands across gender lines work with very little friction.

        1. Anon for this one*

          The hiring manager was female (which he must have been unaware of). The department is around 2/3 female and several of his interview panel – both men and women – were concerned that he would not be able to work well with female colleagues.

          I got this second hand but according to a friend in the department, he extended his hand to shake with the men in the room, but when the women got up to shake hands he left them hanging and said that touching them would be disrespectful to his wife. I think the consensus was that it was fine to have a religious restriction like that, but he needed a more professional way of communicating it to the panel.

          1. OhNo*

            Yeah, that phrasing would be… not great. I can see why they had concerns about his ability to work with female colleagues.

            For the OP, it might be worth having a few phrases in your back pocket just in case somebody asks about the scarf. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about having to invent a response in the moment. I know having a few stock phrases makes situations like that less stressful for me, even if it never actually comes up.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yeah, it’s easy to accommodate religions prohibitions against touching (in office jobs, at least; I have no experience with other types of work).

          1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

            If I followed a religion that said I could only shake fellow women’s hands but not men and I wanted to work like a worker in the working world, then I’d probably white-lie that I can’t shake ANYONE’s hand, male or female, so as to not be rude.

      2. Gaia*

        Unless his job required him to shake hands with people I’d be fine with him not shaking a woman’s hand but not working for a female manager or having a meeting with a woman? Nope.

        1. LBK*

          The “no female manager” one raises an eyebrow for me. I can at least get the justification for not wanting to touch or be alone with another woman if you have a very strict idea of respect for your wife/marriage, but I’m puzzled by how working for a woman would violate that. Seems more just straight up sexist to me – like he couldn’t allow a woman to be above him.

          Either way, it seems prohibitively difficult to accommodate – if a woman is running the department already they sure as hell aren’t gonna fire her to take this guy on, and it would be annoying as hell to have to bring in a male chaperone any time he needs to have a one-on-one with a coworker who happens to be female.

          1. the gold digger*

            One of the logic questions on the GMAT had a condition – you were trying to load people in canoes based on certain constraints – that “Bob cannot work with women.” I spent way too much time fuming about having to accommodate Bob and his idiocy.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              I’m dying to know, what was the right answer? (Never took the GMAT, is there a right answer to this???)


              I can’t….I just can’t. I had a male coworker, religious and wouldn’t shake hands. Not a big deal. I’m Muslim and we have the same prohibitions too of not shaking hands. BUT not willing to work with the opposite gender, that’s in the vein of taking religion to extremes. That’s severely limiting and it makes my skin crawl.

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            I suppose that if your manager is a woman, and you are not allowed to be alone with a woman who is not your wife for any reason… that would make having one-on-ones or annual reviews difficult. Hard to know for sure if this is sexism or not but it does feel like it.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, I guess I can see the angle that it’s a more specific spinoff of the “no one-on-one meetings with women” because you’d assume that you would have to meeting alone with your manager often, and that many of those would be meetings where you wouldn’t want/be able to bring in another person. It just feels so blatantly sexist to me the way it’s phrased.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                I wonder what the exact nature of never being alone with a woman who is not your wife is? I mean, I’ve been in some offices that had meeting rooms that were either all glass or had more than one wall that was glass. If the door was closed, but anyone walking by could see in because it was a fishbowl, does that count as alone?

                I have never understood this. You are responsible for your own thoughts. If merely being alone with a woman causes you to think or feel things that you think are not appropriate, that’s not her fault. You can exercise your own free will to resist temptation, self-control so that you don’t lose it or go against your values.

                1. Random Citizen*

                  In a lot of cases, I think that avoiding being alone with a person of the opposite sex is as much about reputation as it is dealing with temptation. I had a pastor once who refused to ever be alone with a woman – no one-on-one meetings, no riding in a vehicle. People thought it was super weird at first, but, especially since he was a pastor, he wanted to avoid the slightest hint of impropriety or anyone’s ability to say that he did or said something inappropriate while alone with a woman. Making it a blanket rule helped avoid messy judgement calls or people taking it personally.

          3. Chinook*

            “but I’m puzzled by how working for a woman would violate that. Seems more just straight up sexist to me – like he couldn’t allow a woman to be above him.”

            Exactly. My response would probably be something like “I am not a woman, I am your coworker” because gender is irrelevant to doing our jobs.

        2. Security SemiPro*

          This. The ‘hand on heart and little bow’ bit that replaces handshaking works fine as a respectful, professional greeting. Don’t make a huge deal of it, just do it. No job should demand that you touch people you don’t want to (or be touched by.)

          Not able to work for a female manager? Not able to have meetings? That’s a no go.

      3. ceiswyn*

        We had a similar situation here.

        There was a lot of agonising over whether not hiring him would count as discrimination on the grounds of religion, but he would have been working for a woman, so…

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t think anyone could call it discrimination if he openly admits he couldn’t perform a major function of the job (i.e., working for the person who supervises him.) If he didn’t come out and say it, and you had to assume it based on what you knew about his religion, that would be a lot trickier.

          1. OhNo*

            Is that one of those cases where you can ask in general terms without running afoul of discrimination laws?

            I’m thinking if a similar situation with disability – I know interviewers are allowed to ask if you can perform the essential functions of the job with appropriate accommodations (or something like that – my phrasing may be off). Is there some similar phrase that interviewers could use for religious restrictions?

        2. Pineapple Incident*

          That’s the thing- there’s no reasonable accommodation for the job available in that case, unless you want to restructure a hierarchy just to hire this person.

      4. Chinook*

        ” I just assume that if a woman is wearing a headscarf or hijab, she’s covering for religious reasons.”

        Ditto up here in Alberta. A hat would be considered a fashion statement and, unless it was Stampede time, I would be wondering why you didn’t remove it when you entered the building (I still wonder that during Stampede but most folk don’t realize you should take a cowboy hats off inside too).

      5. Lemon Zinger*

        Ugh, yeah, that wouldn’t fly in my office. Women run this show, for the most part!

    2. Anon Moose*

      Well, its not to a lot of people, and it shouldn’t be, as exposing your hair is not an essential function for most professional jobs. Not to say discrimination is not possible, but that wasn’t what the letter was worrying about- it was more about whether she should adjust the scarf to fit professional norms. Plus, if an employer made a big deal about it a. they would open themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit and b. a person who wears a headscarf would not want to work for them.

  12. Milton Waddams*

    #1: Keep in mind you may be sinking her career before it has started. A bad reference in a tight job market can have almost as much negative impact as a criminal record — I’ve personally known people who have had jobs pulled at the last moment for a single bad reference, even if there was no secondary candidate lined up — companies preferred to hire nobody rather than someone with ambiguous references.

    1. Myrin*

      So you’re saying that the OP should lie about what a bad worker the student was? And, I mean, the student could have decided to not be an irresponsible and unreliable worker, which is not what she chose to do, so this really is on her.

      1. Raine*

        Well for one thing it was a work-study job which the student did for years. (It’s unclear how many years, but it wasn’t short term.) Also, one of the gripes is that she didn’t find replacements when calling out. I don’t know. The letter seemed a little harsh.

        1. OhNo*

          I disagree. Work-study jobs are no different than regular jobs when it comes to expectations for behavior. It might be understood that the students don’t have much work experience, but that’s no reason to put up with them basically not doing their job. And I feel like not getting a replacement – if getting a replacement is known procedure for missing a shift – is a legitimate gripe.

          I say all of this as a former work-study student, by the way. I spent all four years of undergrad working different work study jobs, and the expectations the OP describes were bare minimum for all of them.

          1. the gold digger*

            Exactly. I worked as a lifeguard and a swimming teacher in the summers in high school and in college. During the school year, I waited tables at the faculty club. I showed up to work on time and did my job without having to be told every single detail or counseled. (Except for that time that all the waiters and waitresses started doing crossword puzzles and we were ignoring the professors and staff, who were desperately waving their water glasses in the air for refills. That’s when our boss told us to get off our butts and do our jobs.)(Nope. We did not work for tips.)

            Just because someone is only 18 does not mean she should not be expected to do her job properly.

          2. Lemon Zinger*

            Well said! Work study jobs ARE real jobs. It doesn’t matter that the program is government-run. My work study position launched me into my current field, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities and experiences I had as an undergrad.

            There were students I knew who were truly awful at their jobs, and our bosses went through a very fair process before firing them (if it came to that).

      2. Milton Waddams*

        They should simply put their decision in a larger context, sort of like when deciding to press charges when a teen is caught shoplifting.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      On the other hand, it’s often better for a business (and their employees) to hire nobody than to hire someone whose job performance and work ethic is best described as terrible. The OP could choose silence – refusing to do anything more than confirm reference dates, and saying that she really isn’t able to say anything more. But I don’t think she should deliberately lie and give a positive reference, encouraging another university to hire someone that the OP refused to rehire because of poor job performance.

      And given that this sounds like a student work/study position, the student has the option of leaving the job off their resume altogether, without producing a weird employment gap. It’s not as good as having job experience during school, but it’s better than a bad reference.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Hiring nobody is rarely better for the business. It is usually part of a principal-agent problem, where what is best for the employee (avoiding blame for potential bad hires) is put above business needs (having the hiring team make an independent assessment of candidates and filling the role). In those cases, senior management needs to restructure hiring to allow staff to use their own judgment; if they are punished for bad hires but not rewarded for good hires, they will always default to hiring for safety first, with not hiring anybody being one of the safest choices.

        I’m certainly not encouraging lying — however, there are often multiple ways to view a given set of events.

        I’m not certain this is for another work-study — many students’ first jobs now are in academia, because that is what a work-study position with their school best qualifies them for.

        1. FD*

          I really disagree. A bad employee is often far more destructive than having an empty spot. If you haven’t already, you will eventually work with somebody who’s incompetent enough that it’d be easier to do the job without them. Moreover, if management fails to discipline them, it causes a major loss of morale and will cause good employees to leave.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            There’s an easy solution to incompetence called training. There’s an even easier solution called appropriate employee placement.These are both rather basic managerial skills, quick and inexpensive — a good manager is not afraid to use them.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But it doesn’t make sense to invest significant time and energy into training a bad employee when there are plentiful good employees available. And not everyone is trainable for everything, particularly in the amount of time most managers have available.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                This is disposable thinking.

                It depends on the idea that there is a never-ending supply of better employees rolling into town from — somewhere. A magical place with a huge surplus of fantastic pre-trained and well-mannered employees that just can’t find work and have come to your town to solve all your problems, the mirror opposite to the magical place where all bad employees go to get work from employers who for some reason don’t care about any of the things which made those employees unemployable in their own town. I guess they’re not getting shipments of fantastic employees from the first place, eh? :-)

                1. FD*

                  Hang on, though–you can’t have it both ways.

                  Your initial statement was that in a tight job market, one bad reference can sink a career because even lower-tier jobs may be highly competitive. This assumes a situation where there are substantially more people looking for a job than there are jobs. Assuming a normal distribution, about 50% of those people would be above the average quality level.

                  Now you’re saying that there isn’t a large pool of employees and you can’t just get rid of a poor employee and hire a better one. If your initial statement is true (which I also believe is faulty, as stated below), then they certainly could do that, because there would be a large supply.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s not disposable thinking. It’s about hiring the best person to do the job, which is what hiring managers should always be doing. You’re painting this as a choice between magical unicorns and terrible employees, but that’s not the choice. There are usually plenty of good, solid employees around, and it makes sense for employers to prefer to hire those.

                3. Milton Waddams*

                  “Now you’re saying that there isn’t a large pool of employees and you can’t just get rid of a poor employee and hire a better one. ”

                  I think maybe you are misunderstanding FD — one is related to the other. Because employers believe that there is an infinite supply of better employees, it seems reasonable to cycle through employees indefinitely hunting for purple squirrels.

                  While you can try to constantly cycle out employees, eventually you will reach a hard limit; there are only so many employees available, and given that most employers are unwilling to pay for relocation expenses, that hard limit is likely much closer than most realize.

                  Also, it’s not like the rejected employees will sink into the ether — they will simply continue to pile up on your doorstep until they are placed in employment –there’s no magical land of misfit employees where they can go to be out of your hair. There are no magical career fields full of employers excited to hire other fields’ rejects.

                4. Milton Waddams*

                  I’m not separating the world into terrible employees and unicorns — to be frank, most of the “unicorns” I’ve met are really just last year’s terrible employees with a new spit-shine and maybe a settled defamation lawsuit or two.

                  I’m saying that there is a pie-in-the-sky expectation that there will always be a better, less risky employee coming down the pipeline — that simply isn’t so. It’s part of a hiring manager dreamland where doing their job well is risk-free, more like foraging for wild berries in a land of plenty than coaxing crops out of the hard earth.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author
                  I just don’t think that’s accurate. People don’t want to hire bad employees because they’re bad employees. The majority of people out there are not bad employees, and employers are not dealing with a land of scarcity or constantly chasing a dream of a mythical better employee. They just don’t want to hire bad ones.

                  It’s like saying “you need to be willing to date jerks because this isn’t a magical land of well-mannered partners where there will always be a better partner out there for you.”

                6. Milton Waddams*

                  It looks like we may be forced to agree to disagree. I consider “you need to be willing to date jerks because this isn’t a magical land of well-mannered partners where there will always be a better partner out there for you.” to be good advice — I’ve followed it myself. In my experience, lasting relationships, professional or otherwise, are grown rather than found.

    3. Rubyrose*

      No, she sunk her own career by acting as she did even after receiving feedback. And has she really started her career? She has applied to a job at another university, perhaps another work study job? I also have to wonder how successful a student she was, given her lack of motivation.

      It would be a kindness to reach out to her to give her direction one last time that her behavior needs changing. But I don’t think it is required. My guess is that a lot of people in many areas of her life have been cutting her a lot of slack, under the premise that she is young and a student. Perhaps it is reality time, time to grow up. Sometimes you have to let people fail in order for them to learn. She is young and can turn this around without it permanently ruining her life.

      1. BRR*

        Bingo. The things that the student was doing poorly at aren’t advanced concepts.

        And to Milton, I think the lw asking about it IS trying to save the student. Giving a bad (and accurate) reference would be the honest thing to do but te lw didn’t do that. By not answering they are probably helping the student as much as they can.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        If she was really struggling academically, her work study award would probably have been revoked.

      3. Milton Waddams*

        In a risk-averse environment, allowing people to fail removes the chance for recovery. This can get pretty extreme in some regions — in New York City, they had to make a law stating that it was illegal to refuse to hire the unemployed. This became a huge trend because, the rationale went, if they were employable, they’d already be employed. It was only after massive protests and a court order that it was finally determined that — yes, that was actually permanently removing the unemployed from the workforce. Less extreme versions of this selection process are very common in hiring now; there is less room for mistakes than there were in the past. For a person with no work history to fall back on, an early slip-up can permanently change the arc of their career.

    4. Oryx*

      No, the student did this to herself. It’s not on the OP to lie and provide a positive review just because of the job market.

    5. FD*

      Actions sometimes have consequences. In this case, the student worker continued to behave poorly, despite being warned repeatedly. That may have the consequence of not getting a job as good as she wants. That does suck, but the truth is, you earn great jobs by being a great worker.

      The good news for this student, though, is that she’s young and has lots of time to correct this mistake! She may end up taking a less good job at first, but with future experience under her belt, she’ll be able to wipe out the impact of this mistake and probably leave this job entirely off her resume.

      1. Kate*

        +1 – Yup! Being irresponsible as a student will not sink your career. The student hasn’t even started her career yet. She might have a harder time getting that first job (though possibly with some feedback, she might go seek out people who CAN give her a positive reference), but with each new job comes an opportunity to improve.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        The less good jobs are just as competitive as the good jobs, keep in mind. It’s not like the boom years, when employers struggled to fill roles; depending on her field, that future experience may never arrive.

        1. FD*

          Assuming a tight job market, the best jobs will still have more competition than the not good jobs.

          It’s certainly true that many areas are still struggling, but the US unemployment rate is down substantially, down to the rate of early 2008, and lower than it was for the entire period of 1975-1995, when a lot of our parents were looking for jobs. I don’t want to trivialize the human element involved, because you’re right, in some areas it may mean working food service or other jobs that are hard work and fairly low pay. The thing is though, this person already had some major advantages–she was able to go through university, and was offered a work study job. Unfortunately, she didn’t take full advantage of the job and won’t get a good reference.

          But past performance does tend to be a good predictor of future performance, so it’s realistic for jobs to look to past references for an indicator of how their work will be treated.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            Why would food service be any more interested in hiring someone with bad references than any other job? There’s sort of this assumption that there’s some Never Never Land out there where all the employees nobody wants can go — it simply isn’t so.

            1. FD*

              A lot of them don’t check references–which I know because I’ve done ten years in food service, hotels, and a call center, none of which bothered. Most of them hire a lot of people regularly due to high labor needs and comparatively high turnover and they very rarely have an HR person at all, so it’s often not worth the time to check references. In addition, those kinds of places have a fairly low training investment–in my last couple of years in food service, when I trained new employees a lot, I could teach someone everything they needed to know in about two weeks. Compare that to a more complex job, which in my experience, will usually take about two months, so there’s a higher cost to the business if it’s a bad fit.

    6. Marillenbaum*

      I don’t quite agree with this. If a company is willing to pull an offer without a backup candidate over a single iffy reference (not shining, rather than “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!” bad), then I’m not sure that’s a company that makes good hiring choices. Besides, why is OP’s student more deserving of that job than other young people who have managed to do good work in their student jobs?

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        “Besides, why is OP’s student more deserving of that job than other young people who have managed to do good work in their student jobs?”

        THIS +1000. This person could puff up her resume with this experience, and if the company hiring her doesn’t get accurate references or doesn’t do the due diligence of collecting them at all, she could wind up getting the job over someone with a much better work ethic and habits but who has less concrete experience.

        Work study is an opportunity to showcase your talent, learn new skills, and have work contacts who can speak well of you- hell, any job is! This student clearly blew it.

      2. Anxa*

        That’s a great point, as many students who are really dedicated to their jobs (work-study or otherwise) have sacrificed grades for their jobs and are less likely to get to the reference checking point as a high GPA or spotless academic record may be a requirement for so many jobs.

      3. Milton Waddams*

        Generally the result of hiring for safety is a huge number of mediocre candidates. However, it takes a lot of mediocre candidates to stop the momentum of a large company, which means the practice can last for quite some time before there is any financial squeeze.

    7. Observer*

      So, what exactly is the OP supposed to do? Keep in mind, as others have noted, that the issues the OP noted are things that are not advanced concepts that you can;t expect kids from this, that or the there background to know. The best the OP can do for this young person is to ignore the request and let the student know.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Ask some questions. Apparently she was motivated at first, but then slowly lost her motivation — why? Was it something about the workplace? With her canceled shifts, what was going on? Was there a problem in her academic or personal life?

        How did she see the work? For instance, I’ve had jobs where “she wouldn’t do anything unless I told her to” would have been seen by management as the desired employee behavior; was there a difference in expectations?

        Does she realize the seriousness of a bad reference? Many people are not taught about how much weight they can carry in professional careers.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, the OP mentions this- she apparently DID discuss this with the employee. In any case, at this point, she only know what she knows. Are you seriously suggesting that she lie about this?

    8. CMT*

      That is absolutely not OP’s problem, though. To suggest that employers have this responsibility to all of their previous employees — even bad ones — is ridiculous.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        When individuals can’t see their actions as part of a larger whole, you end up with all sorts of larger issues. As I mentioned above, when the hip new trend in New York City became to refuse to hire the unemployed, because if they were employable they’d already be employed, a lot of the pushback from individual HR folks was that it wasn’t their problem to figure out what would happen to these employees, even as every other HR person in the area adopted the same practice. This lead to protests and legislation, formally banning the practice, because individuals were unable to see the forest beyond their own tree, or to recognize the impact of their individual actions on their larger region.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            I don’t see how — there isn’t a magical country named NotMyProblemia where candidates that nobody wants can go to have all their problems solved. :-) If they aren’t inside working for either you or your neighbor, they’re outside on your doorstep waiting for a job. There’s really no other places for them to be. So when you make it harder for them to find work, you bring the problem of their unemployment on yourself.

            1. Observer*

              Except that this is a very different issue. On the one hand, automatically filtering out any person who is unemployed does NOTHING to help a company who is looking to hire, and may even harm them. On the other, actually evaluating unemployed people like all others poses no burden on the prospective employer.

              Also, the fundamental assumption of this filter is inaccurate, unfair, and unhelpful to anyone. So, it makes sense to push back.

        1. FD*

          But that’s a different situation. In one case, you’re talking about refusing to consider anyone who is unemployed, irrespective of the reason. This reason may not have anything to do with what they did or how they behaved–a company may have closed, and everyone got laid off for example. In this case, you’re talking about considering what a person actually did in future decisions.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            It’s the same in that there is no obvious path towards a solution. If nobody hires people with bad references, there will be no future opportunities to create good references. If nobody hires the unemployed, there will be no future opportunities to become employed.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              People with bad references get hired by lower-quality employers (who often don’t check references or don’t do it thoroughly). That’s the price of building a crappy job history — it limits your options to less desirable employers. But you can use those less desirable opportunities to build up a stronger job history if you’re motivated to.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                Who are these employers who don’t care about whether an employee will cancel shifts without notice? They’re certainly not in retail or food service! If anything, they are concentrated in high-level salaried work.

                If there are plenty of eligible candidates for specialized positions, why would there be any shortage of candidates for less skilled positions?

                The idea that there is some happy place where problem candidates go if you ignore them is a myth — plain and simple. If you want them off your doorstep, someone has to hire them, and for that to happen there has to be a concrete path forward.

                1. Observer*

                  The path forward is poorer jobs, or jobs where coverage is less important, etc.

                  In any case, if someone is not responsible it’s NOT the job of the person who got burned by it, to expend time and effort to make lemonade out of lemons for the person who burned them.

                2. Observer*

                  I would also point out that closing a door on someone for reasons that are both irrelevant to their capacity and out of their control is very, very different than closing a door on someone because of their bad behavior.

                  In other words, even if the bad reference truly was something of a career ender, it would still not be the original employer’s responsibility to make an extra effort to avoid it, much less lying about it, because it’s not related to either the old or prospective employer doing something unfair or irrational.

  13. anon again*

    #5: I would think that any adjustments made in the next pay period would need to account for appropriate OT. Where I work, we have a system where the adjustments on the next timesheet are clearly noted that the time was actually worked in the prior pay period and which of those hours resulted in more than 40 hours worked so it can be paid at the overtime rate. We don’t just add the time to a day in the new pay period.

    Personally, I would continue to submit corrected time sheets on Mondays. There’s no reason why you should have to wait an additional pay period for your accurate pay. Most states have regulations as to the timeframe for when you are supposed to receive your pay after the pay period ends.

    1. Joseph*

      Yeah, the way to go here is just to submit corrected timesheets on Monday.

      You do NOT want to get into the practice of moving hours between pay periods. If you ever get audited by the state, that’s the sort of thing that could get the company (and you personally) in trouble. Most state governments have very strict rules on timesheets due to potential fraud; it’s likely they have an explicit rule against this kind of thing.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, I spend a lot of time telling the non-exempt employees that their time has to be accurate and complete. Our state has really specific time-recording rules, and they have to be paid fully and completely, including OT, for all time worked. Sometimes, employees feel like they are helping the organization out by not claiming OT, but it’s a real liability.

    2. Pwyll*

      One of the first things I advocated for in a small business was to shift our timesheet practices to pay in arrears. (AKA, your timesheet submitted Thursday was for last week’s hours, and will be paid next Thursday). It was a rough first month during the transition, but goodness does it fix these problems.

      Of course, many employers do this specifically to illegally mess around with overtime, so may be hesitant to change it for that reason.

      1. Pwyll*

        To clarify: employees still got paid on time, we just shifted when the reporting was due.

    3. Bob Barker*

      The “submit a timesheet before you even know what hours you’ll be working” thing described by the OP is exactly how my workplace does it (possibly it IS my workplace — exact same timing). And I’ve always done corrected timesheets on Monday. Not only do they accurately reflect when unexpected overtime was worked, they also accurately reflect the hassle of same, because the correx have to go through my supervisor’s explicit okay and then go to HR.

      I do sometimes rearrange hours within a week, i.e. if I’ve taken a day off and then get asked to do 30 minutes of remote work, I usually claim that work on the following day, because the system throws an error when you work on a day off. (Because the system is human, unlike some people who call their employees on their day off!) But it’s just a bad practice to get into, not reporting your OT as soon as it happens.

  14. Cas*

    re: #3, I’m a bit curious about the unanswered part of the question. Should she stick with scarves because they are more obviously religious or would a hat be ok? What about partial hair coverings?

    I have a friend who wears headscarves to fly in because the airport security are more respectful of the religious issue when it’s a scarf. If it’s a hat or a partial covering, they don’t really believe her and she has to push very hard to either not remove her head covering or remove it in a private room.

    If anyone’s an expert here, I’d love to hear about which scarves/tichels/wraps/etc are most appropriate at work.

    1. Dangerfield*

      Yes, I was wondering about that. I felt like a headscarf, as the more overtly religious headcovering, would be better because it removes any doubt that someone might just have worn a hat to an interview. But I live somewhere where scarves are by far the most common religious headcovering, so perhaps it reads differently somewhere that hats are more common.

    2. Colette*

      I’d go with the scarf. With a hat, I wouldn’t think religious head covering, I’d wonder why she’s wearing a hat indoors.

        1. fposte*

          Can’t see the second one, but the first one is pretty beanie-esque to me and wouldn’t signify religious motivation. (In fact, it looks more like the old-school beanies than what people usually call beanies do.)

        2. Pwyll*

          Yeah, that doesn’t look religious to me, and in my conservative industry would be considered inappropriate.

        3. Chinook*

          “Everyone recognises a hijab and it’s no problem, but not headcoverings for other religions.”

          Around hear we have Hutterites and White Russians where the women wear kerchiefs (though I don’t know if it is for religious reasons) and it is also considered a non-issue. I think the rule of thumb now is that, if it can’t be easily removed, then it should remain on. So turbans, head scarves and kerchiefs (which are usually pinned in) are okay but hats which can be put on in one movement need to be removed.

      1. 12345678910112 do do do*

        Yes, I would wonder why she’s wearing a hat indoors. I would also add that a brightly colored scarf would come off better to me than a black one, but I can’t quite pin down why. Maybe black reads as “widow” or “parochial school nun,” while colorful reads as “I’m religious but I’m fun!”

        1. BananaPants*

          I have a female colleague from Egypt who wears hijabs and scarves made of gorgeous materials that coordinate beautifully with her outfits. I seriously envy her ability to match head covering with clothing.

          I have a friend who converted to a sect of Islam as an adult and wears only a black hijab. It’s fine, of course, and it’s her choice – but it just seems a little dull.

          1. Bob Barker*

            So many variations! There’s a woman I used to see on my morning commute, whom I noticed because she wore niqab — everything but the eyes covered. (It’s pretty uncommon here, compared to just the headscarf, or headscarf + abaya/long coat/shawl.) Most mornings, she wore seafoam green, on everything but her eyes. Not patterned or matchy, just all the same fabric and same color: seafoam green.

            Why seafoam green? I have no idea! Maybe it was her signature color. Maybe there’s a country-of-origin where that is The Thing One Does. Anyway, it was a nice shade of green.

        2. Jayn*

          I think I agree with you. Black is such a basic color for accessories (and a bit somber to boot) so it would just read as “I’m wearing this for religious reasons”, where other colors or designs would signal that’s it’s been worked into her personal style and makes it feel more like a fashion choice.

        3. Partly Cloudy*

          Your last sentence made me giggle. :)

          There’s also a world of options between bright colors and black. Depending on the rest of the outfit, she could do dove gray, pastel colors, off-white….

      2. Pwyll*

        Was coming to say this. I think I’d be concerned about someone wearing a hat unless I was clear it was religious. But a headscarf? No problem at all.

    3. FD*

      I agree, I was surprised that part wasn’t addressed! I feel like a scarf would be better because it would read as more obviously religious.

      Although here the scarf serves a religious purpose, I also think from a fashion point of view, you can treat it like an accessory–i.e. it would look normal to wear a colored scarf with a suit and blouse, as long as the pattern isn’t too distracting and doesn’t clash with the blouse pattern.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I’m genuinely curious about what a hat option would be. I don’t live in a very diverse area, and the handful of women I worked with who wore a head covering wore a scarf. I also live where there are Amish and Mennonite women who wear bonnets, which I guess I would call a hat, but I’ve never encountered women of these faiths in the workplace.

      1. Jilly*

        Just a hat that covers your hair. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an observant Muslim woman wearing a hat in lieu of a scarf, but I’ve definitely seen observant Jewish women wearing hats – generally speaking they would be of soft material. (I lived in Palestine for 3 years so walking around Jerusalem, I’ve seen a pretty full range of ways that religious individuals dress). I’ll link to something in a reply post.

        1. Chinook*

          I think if you are covering all/most of your hair, though, it signals it is more than a fashion accessory. A giant snood would be less eyebrow raising than a fascinator, for example.

      2. mskyle*

        A lot of the Orthodox Jewish women wear in my area just wear hats. Floppy berets and snood-ish things are probably the most common, but I see women in just any old kind of hat that you’d get at Macy’s or whatever.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Hm. When I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of Orthodox Jewish women (in the US), most of my neighbors wore wigs, not hats or scarves.

          1. Observer*

            Go to Williamsburg. You’ll see lot of wigs. And you’ll also see lots women in headscarves – or wig AND hat / scarf.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        Thanks Jilly and mskyle. That makes sense. I did not think about the Orthodox Jewish women. It’s definitely a small population where I live. (I can also see how this would work for other faiths.)

        With those types of hats, I think I might assume it was worn for religious reasons if someone was otherwise conservatively dressed, but if the person is wearing a trendy outfit, I may not make that association.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t know about Mennonites, but you probably wouldn’t see Amish people working in an office–I don’t think many of the Amish sects, even the more liberal ones, permit use of computers. They’re still pretty iffy about landlines, even. The bonnets and hats the men and women wear are quite distinctive across the board. I’ve had Amish neighbors near where I live now, and I’ve been to Lancaster County in PA and elsewhere, and they all look pretty much the same.

        I’ve never seen any Muslim women wearing hats. Older Catholic ladies sometimes wear scarves or mantillas but only in church–I saw that a lot as a child, and my mum had some mantillas. She went to convent school for a while.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoops, I didn’t mean to let the hat part go unanswered. I just added that to the answer in the post. (My thinking is to stick with the scarf, since it’s more clearly a religious head covering, whereas a head may appear to be a fashion choice and out of place for an interview).

      1. Karo*

        I agree – there was a Jeopardy! contestant within the last year or so that was wearing a cloche hat. I remember both my husband and I trying to figure out why she was wearing a hat, and then they actually addressed that it was for religious reasons during the interview portion. A headscarf, on the other hand, is so ingrained as being religious that I wouldn’t question it. (I’d probably assume the wrong religion, but I’d still assume that it’s religious.)

    6. Marillenbaum*

      Airport security being respectful of religious headcoverings? I want to live in that world.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I can see where this is true… All non-religious head coverings have to come off. If you’re wearing a hat and you say “I can’t take it off because of religious reasons” they might think you’re lying/being difficult/trying to get away with someone. Even if a baseball cap meets the letter of the religious law, it doesn’t look religious to an outside observer. If you’re wearing a scarf they probably will believe you that its a religious thing… although they still might not be very nice/respectful about the inspection.
          Of course, it isn’t TSA’s job to pass judgment on what meets the burden of proof for religiousity. But that’s a whole other problem.

      1. Cam*

        I wear a headscarf and I have never had much of a problem with TSA. I get asked to pat down my head sometimes and then they wave their magic wand over it to see if there’s explosive dust on my hands (or whatever, I’m not clear on what they’re doing), but that’s the extent of it. Now going through customs, on the other hand, THAT can be a nightmare, even though I am a US citizen.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          My hands were checked for explosive dust (or whatever) for the first time when I traveled about a month ago. On our departure, my boyfriend and I were both checked but on the way back, they only checked him. Go figure.

      2. Loose Seal*

        I know I’m a day late here but it sure didn’t help raise cultural awareness when this season’s Orange is the New Black had the only woman in the prison with a headscarf use it to smuggle in a contraband cellphone. My first thought was WTF, OitNB writers! Get out of your insular world and meet some real people, not stereotypes!

    7. Dynamic Beige*

      Should she stick with scarves because they are more obviously religious

      I would say she should wear what she would normally wear on a day to work. If that is a brightly-coloured scarf, then that. Because someone wearing a head scarf in the Islamic fashion would say to me “I am observant.” While that wouldn’t bother me, there are some people out there who it would really bother and it would be better for the OP if she allows those people to show themselves so that she can know who to avoid.

      Because cancer patients also wear scarves. My gran used to wear scarves to keep her hair in place when she went to the grocery store. Head scarves are a fashion item in the black community see: Erika Badu. Also, what’s happening to this woman… http://hellogiggles.com/womans-racist-misogynistic-dress-code/ But they are all a different style than the Islamic style.

  15. Feo Takahari*

    What if a late-night text is important for the next day? There have been a couple of times I didn’t realize until late at night that I was more ill than I thought. Is it better to send out an “I can’t make my shift tomorrow” text at that time, or to wait until the morning?

    1. Colette*

      I think it really depends on the job. If you’re not there, do they need to call someone else in to cover for you? If so, a text to your manager is the way to go.

    2. Newish Reader*

      That’s a great question to ask your supervisor before it needs to occur. Each situation and supervisor has a different preference for notification of time away from work. It’s good to know ahead of time how your supervisor wants to be notified so you can follow that guidance should you need to.

  16. Manager*

    OP #1: The rule of thumb at my institution is that we don’t give references for student assistants. That said, if the student was stellar, I would explain this to the caller (I’ve never done one via a form) and mention that I would be happy to give a personal reference. This would suffice. In the instances that a poor employee tried using me as a reference, I would transfer the request to the Financial Aid office, and they would provide only job title, duties, and dates of employment. If transferring the request to FA isn’t an option, maybe just provide dates of employment, title, and job responsibilities.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, I’m shocked. I consider giving references for students moving on to be one of the most important things I can do for them. I can’t imagine a school forbidding that, and I’m glad you’re willing to personally work around it if asked.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, wow. At the very least that’s something the student employees need to know before they accept the job (so they can decline the offer and go work somewhere more reasonable).

      2. Liz in a Library*

        Yeah, I’m not in a position where I manage student workers these days, but when I was I (and the whole department) was thrilled when I could offer a positive reference. IMO, the most useful thing a manager can give a student employee is an introduction to a professional work environment and it’s norms and assistance in hunting for their first full-time job (assuming in both cases of course that they don’t already have these things).

    2. Ankle Grooni*

      That’s true. In higher education, we have to abide by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which prevents offices from providing personally identifiable information on our students without signed permission. Student employment is considered part of the academic record and (as a rule of thumb at my place) we do not provide any information whatsoever without signed consent. Not even dates/title.

      I caution student employee supervisors to send all requests for references to HR in order to avoid any possible violations to FERPA. If a student asks a supervisor to write a letter of recommendation, that is different. The student has given permission to the supervisor to write the letter.

      1. Talvi*

        So what would happen if the student contacted their supervisor ahead of time asking if they’d be willing to serve as a reference? Would that not be considered giving permission?

        1. Ankle Grooni*

          A student employee can ask a supervisor to be a personal reference or write a letter of recommendation. That’s fine. But in my place, a supervisor has to forward all requests for employment verification and unauthorized reference requests to HR (i.e., the student did not speak to the supervisor about giving a reference). And we only give out the basic information.

  17. Catalin*

    RE the midnight (except actually 10 p.m.) texts: I had a similar problem with texts and emails coming in while I was trying to sleep, especially from my father in a very different time zone. I set my phone to a ‘priority’ setting and programmed it not to make any noise except my alarm from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. It’s been a great way to keep those pings from waking me up.

  18. Art_ticulate*

    #5: I worked for city government for six years, and this was how we did our time sheets. I was hourly, and we turned in our time sheets on Wednesdays, two days before the end of the pay period. If I ended up working more hours than I thought I would, they got added to the next time sheet with a note on the time sheet that said “additional x hours from previous pay period” and your time card got attached as proof. Since those hours were worked in the previous two weeks, they didn’t count as overtime. As far as I know, that was completely legal and very common in government work. If it’s not, someone owes me some back pay!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Government exempts itself from its own rules on all kinds of things and this may be one of them, but at least for private employers, most states require that people be paid within X days/weeks of performing the work … so if that put you outside of that time limit, that would be illegal.

      1. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

        It is possible that adding the hours to the next week would still fall within the time limit for paying especially if you were paid weekly.

      2. Art_ticulate*

        I mean, it’s completely possible that it was actually illegal and I never knew. I never thought to question it. Although, thinking back now, I do wonder about my hours after the new Healthcare laws kicked in. I was part time, but had been allowed to work full time hours until the ACA. After that, I was limited to 29 (the cutoff for benefits), but my job often required more. I’d do the same thing and shuffle the hours over 29 to the next pay period, with my supervisor and director’s knowledge. Now that I’m writing this out, it seems really shady, huh? Government, man.

    2. Cassie*

      I work for a state university. Back when we were on a monthly pay schedule, our timesheets were due by about the 3rd week of the month. If you did end up working overtime after the timesheet was submitted, we would just notate the following month’s timesheet for additional hours and those additional hours *would* be paid as overtime. Regular hours and overtime hours are coded differently on the payroll system.

      I would assume the additional hours still do count as overtime (at least in California?) because in that particular week, you did work over 40 hours.

  19. ItsaMe*

    I had a similar experience with a reference. I was a trainer at a call center and had an employee who disappeared one day without contacting me again. The rest of the class told me that she’d had a family emergency and needed to leave the country urgently which I could understand, but she should have at least called or emailed me her resignation. Then about 6 months later I received an online form to provide a reference for her. I decided to just ignore the request because I couldn’t speak for her but maybe she’s been a more consistent employee in the past and another reference could speak to that.

  20. irene*


    Do I understand correctly?
    1. HR Director said “these Monday-corrected time sheets are annoying, just add your hours to the following week”
    2. You did that
    3. HR Director said “why are there extra hours this week? I’m not paying you for that”

    Did you say that’s what the extra time was for? Did the HR Director just decide not to pay you, or what? Because wow.

    For several years, I had to submit my time sheet on Thursday night or Friday morning, but I worked on Saturday and Sunday as my regular shift. I had to work a minimum of hours each day that never varied, but the amount of time I needed before or after might – so maybe it would be 7.5 one week and 6.5 the next. My manager said to just assume I would work the average, but really I ended up never coming in early, and often made the security guards stay a little late with me if I accidentally overslept or something, so that I would be working exactly 7 hours.

    Last year we switched to a Sat-Fri time period, which is a little better, except that it’s very strange to have your workweek bisected by the timesheet week, especially when Friday is the usual day for overtime (if there is any) and you have to figure out where to scale back elsewhere that week. :/

    I just got promoted last week to salary exempt, so I don’t have to worry about timesheets until December. It will be a nice break! (Though I’m still informally tracking my time, so I don’t lose the habit.)

  21. dear liza dear liza*

    OP#1: I think it can be a mixture of things Allison and other commenters have said: lack of other supervisors to put down; the hope that nobody really gives bad references; naivete. I had a temp employee at our library who was very unreliable. She had just gotten her MLS and this was her first professional opportunity. When I spoke with her about her behavior negatively impacting her chances at future positions at our library, she blew it off, saying she was thinking of moving to a new field. About a year later, she decided she wanted to return to librarianship and asked me to be a reference because I was all she had, library-wise. I gently replied that I could not give her a positive reference, and wished her luck. We’re still friendly acquaintances, but she’s never repeated the reference request.

  22. Jo*

    Ok I hate to be “that guy,” but I can no longer read this site on my iphone due to these annoying redirect links. Anyone with a solution? I love killing my productivity at work reading this site :-) hehe

    1. UnCivilServant*

      I can no longer read this site on my iphone

      There’s your problem. :D Perhaps a different type of technology?

      (Note: I pick on apple products because the company’s ‘walled garden’ philosophy makes them all but useless in my line of work. It’s all in jest)

    2. fposte*

      You can report ad issues in the link above the comment box–they shouldn’t be doing that, so if you tell Alison which ad it is she can probably fix it.

      1. mskyle*

        When I read on my phone I often get redirected and can’t get back to the site, and I don’t necessarily see the ad (or it’s just a popup with a button, which I am obviously not going to click). It’s hard to report it, because I don’t know what the ad is and I can’t get back to the site. :/

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unfortunately it comes in waves — there’s been a new wave of it the last few days and my ad network is working on it. I’m sorry it’s happening! (Please do use the ad report form linked above the comments though; I’m trying to keep these reports out of the comments, and the form collects all the info I need. Thanks!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh! But for anyone who’s encountering this, this will very often fix it:

        Change your cookie settings
        1. Click Settings
        2. Select Safari
        3. Scroll down and click “Block Cookies”
        4. Select “Allow for Current Website Only”

        Clear all website data
        1. Double-click your home button and close Safari
        2. Go to Settings
        3. Select Safari
        4. Scroll down and click “Clear History and Website Data”
        – Note: This will close all of your Safari browser windows

  23. Lily in NYC*

    An admin we hired was fired for not admitting in her application that she had been arrested for employment fraud (also says a lot about our crappy internal recruiter who obviously didn’t do the required background check – it’s the first thing you see when you google her name). She used me as a reference without asking me and gave temp agencies my cell phone number. I was not happy – I didn’t respond to any of the calls or texts and just forwarded everything to the recruiter and let her deal with her own mistake.

    1. Mel*

      Employment fraud? Arrested? why would you ask about or hold an arrest (not a conviction) against someone? There are all sorts of bogus arrests that happen.

    2. Not Karen*

      “The fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he engaged in criminal conduct. Therefore, an individual’s arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to take a negative employment action (e.g., not hiring, firing or suspending an applicant or employee).” — EEOC (link to follow)

        1. Annie Moose*

          Lily’s comment seems to say that the employee wasn’t fired because of the arrest, but rather because she failed to disclose the arrest.

          1. Anon Moose*

            She shouldn’t have had to disclose the arrest! You don’t have to disclose arrests when there is no conviction!

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Unfortunately, I gather that this varies by state. (IANAL, JAFE.)

              I agree with your first sentence, though.

              1. doreen*

                Even in states where you don’t generally have to disclose arrests without a conviction, there are exceptions. In my state, employers cannot ask about past arrests that did not result in a conviction. ( they can ask about pending ones) However, there are exceptions if another law permits or requires such inquiries – for example for jobs as police or peace officers or that require a handgun permit. And about that EEOC link- if you click ” What You Should Know About the EEOC and Arrest and Conviction Records” you get a page that says this :
                “1) Does this Guidance prohibit employers from obtaining and using criminal background reports about job applicants or employees?

                No. The EEOC does not have the authority to prohibit employers from obtaining or using arrest or conviction records. The EEOC simply seeks to ensure that such information is not used in a discriminatory way.

          2. Not Karen*

            So if I fail to disclose that I’ve never been arrested, I could get fired to?

            Frankly I don’t see the difference.

    3. Anon Moose*

      That’s really crappy and quite possibly against the law. Do you mean arrested or convicted? Even job applications where they still have “the box” that you have to check often say “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” So if it was just an arrest and not proven then why would she have had to disclose it? You can’t use the fact that someone was arrested or charged for a crime but was not convicted as a reason to not hire or fire them. There is such a thing as innocent until proven guilty. That is why people have to jump through hoops to get arrest records expunged- because employers use them improperly.

  24. OlympiasEpiriot*

    2. I’d get really annoyed if I became part of some round-robin of social stuff from work mates when I’m not on the clock. Particular coworker with whom I chose to engage on something for some reason? That’s fine, but it is also limited and we can tell each other ‘right, thanks, off to bed.’ (Like someone just quit and one of us knows information…this becomes a big deal at my company.) I have a work phone that I generally turn off when I leave UNLESS I’m running a job with swing or night shifts. I try to go to bed by 9 since sleeping in for me is 6:30 am. Sometimes I race home and get in bed right away for a disco nap as I’m heading out for some particular DJ’s set at midnight. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably be muting everything. Seriously, what are you going to do differently if someone’s going to be late to the office the next day?

    3. I’d go for the headscarf. If someone reacts badly to it, that’s definitely telling you something about **them**.

    4. Good luck on the interview!

    5. Seems weird, I’d rather stick to the revising-on-Monday method.

    1. C Average*

      I have never heard the phrase “disco nap,” but I love it and wish I had an excuse to use it!

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I’m dating myself , but, yeah, disco naps are great. I am very lucky that I can make myself fall asleep pretty much any time, anywhere. They are handy for any kind of late-at-night event, including lunar eclipses visible only at 2 am.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          I’m so jealous. I can nap (over the weekend) if I’m tired, but I can’t just make myself fall asleep. I wish I could, for those eclipses and meteor showers and late-starting fun. NYE is always tough because if I start the party too early, I won’t last, but if I end up on the couch, I’ll fall asleep way too early.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Actually a “disco nap” sounds anything but relaxing! All that pounding beat, swirling lights and funky outfits, I’d never be able to drop off and I can sleep pretty much anywhere :P

  25. oldfashionedlovesong*

    3. I agree with other commenters that a scarf is a better option than a hat, just because a hat isn’t obviously a religious article and people would just be wondering why you’re wearing a hat indoors. Another style option that would look really nice with interview clothes and still has that religious connotation is a turban-style headscarf. Some of my most stylish hijabi friends wear turban-style and they look super chic and professional. It’s all down to personal preference since obviously its a more form-fitting option than your traditional headscarf, and fit (fitted versus relaxed) plays into modesty preferences for some people. As far as colours and patterns, again I think black comes off as the most conservative option, but turban-style also looks gorgeous when coordinated to your interview outfit in a neutral or pop of colour. Good luck!

  26. SJ*

    I’m using #1 to write about something I really, really can’t wait until the open thread to get opinions about. A potential new employer has been calling my references over the past few days about a job I really want. My manager, who loves me, knew I was job searching and agreed to be one of my references. When my potential boss spoke to my manager on the phone this morning, he straight-up told her that he’d be making a counter-offer to whatever they offered, if they decide to make me an offer.

    I’m really, really pissed about this. What if my potential employer walks away because they don’t want to get involved in a messing bidding war — one that isn’t even going to happen, because there’s no way I’d take a counter offer? How did my manager think for a second that it was his place to say something like that? I’m really steamed and now freaking out that I might lose this opportunity. What should I do?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do want to ask that you keep this for tomorrow’s open thread, because I try to keep stuff on-topic here (otherwise it will blow up the thread).

      1. SJ*

        I totally get it. I found all of this out while I had this page open and I had a panicked moment. I’m going to take a walk and cool off. Thanks :)

  27. Stephanie (HR)*

    #5 – one additional note, if you are in a state like CO or CA (other states may apply as well, but I’m not sure), your DAILY hours matter as well, as there are daily overtime hours. In these cases, accurately recording the amount of time you worked per day is necessary, and moving those hours to another day is problematic. I recommend that you stick to your revisions every week, and just make them part of your regular week. Putting time in the next week (or day in some cases) or the next pay period has legal consequences, like affecting your overtime calculations and changing the length of time it takes you to be paid for those hours (which may matter, again depending on which state you are in.) If they balk at so many revisions, simply explain that wage and hour laws prohibit moving time worked in one week to another, and you’re worried about the legal consequences of doing so. Their payroll specialist can back you up on this if they know what they are doing.

  28. C Average*

    Can I just say that people like this student worker are exactly why the feedback sandwich (and similar attempting-to-be-positive-about-negative-things approaches to management) really need to go?

    If you’re young, naive, a little dense, or all of those things, it’s not going to sink in that you’re a bad employee unless someone either fires you or tells you that you’re a bad employee (and what distinguishes a bad employee from a good employee). Although the impulse to be kind and to soften the blow comes from a good place, it prevents the employee from learning and growing in the experience. Student work is exactly where this kind of learning should be taking place. Students with no prior work experience tend to frame work the way they frame school, I think: so long as people are sometimes saying nice things about them and they’re still getting a paycheck, they’re probably doing fine. The occasional constructive comment scans like a grammar correction on a B paper: nothing much to worry about, I’m basically a good student.

    I thank my lucky stars that my first boss was a grumpy old man. I didn’t pick up anything in the way of soft skills from him, it’s true, but I was never in any doubt about whether he was happy with me as an employee or not.

  29. Bossy Magoo*

    #4: Years ago I had an interview scheduled and I lost my voice the day before the interview. I said, “I’m so sorry, I lost my voice. I don’t usually sound like this!” and partway through the interview (during which I was really struggling to talk — it was making me out of breath trying so hard to get a voice out!) I said, “Are you even able to hear me? I can’t hear myself.” The interviewer laughed and said, “I can hear you enough, you’re doing fine”

    And I got the job. :)

  30. Matilda*

    OP #1, I coordinate teen volunteers and have had some excellent volunteers that I’ve been happy and excited to provide a reference for. However, recently I had a volunteer ask me to be a reference (at least she asked) and I had to tell her that I could verify she volunteered, but there had been an incident with her sister (who also volunteered) signing in for each other for a shift (so they got credit for two shifts, but only worked one – I did talk to them about that, and while I let them continue volunteering that session I let them know if it happened again not only would they be done for the session but they would not be asked to return for another. Unfortunately, she turned in her application before I got back to her. The kicker is that it was for a position at the library where I work and the current HR person had also worked with this volunteer and was surprised when she saw me down as a reference. The volunteer did not get an interview…

    1. Observer*

      Didn’t you mention this particular pair a few weeks ago? I was wondering what happened with them. It’s a bit scary that they don’t realize that you wuold never be a good reference for them.

  31. CA_Anon*

    To question #3- I’ve interviewed and hired employees that wear head scarfs (IT field). It is a non-issue (or it should be). I honestly can’t remember what anyone wore to the interview, but day to day the employees we hired that wear head scarfs usually coordinated with their outfits- some days bright or patterned, other days more neutral. I think a lot of head scarfs use beautiful fabric, colors, and patterns. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what our employees choose.

  32. #1 OP*

    #1 OP . A terrible student worker asked me for a reference
    Everyone has given some great advise. The e-mails with the reference documentation was a couple of weeks ago, and I chose to ignore them. I did have a talk with her that I was not rehiring her for the upcoming semester (last year) because of her unreliability, not showing up on time, and not working her schedule. Her response was “that’s ok I’m transferring to another university. Maybe I should have gone into more detail, but I was so relieved to get rid of her. That was during the Spring 2015 semester.

    The university does not have a policy in place regarding references for work studies. I have had some outstanding work studies over the years and I have been quite happy to write a letter of reference for a graduate program or a job. I think what surprised me was the lack of contact, otherwise I would have told her what I would say in a reference.

  33. Bee Eye LL*

    #4 – I had an interview once the day before I had surgery to get my wisdom teeth removed. One of them had abscessed and that morning I woke up with a sharp pain resonating through my jaw. I mentioned it in the interview because I was grinding my teeth the whole time to help with the pain. I didn’t get the job, unfortunately. I probably came off like a weirdo because I surely was quite visibly uncomfortable the whole time. In hindsight, I should have cancelled the interview.

    1. OP #4*

      That’s a shame, but luckily, I’m not in too much pain, so I think it’s a good idea to keep the interviews.

  34. Maria*

    I honestly expected the background/reference check process to change after 2008. Many companies let go of a significant percentage of their workforce, so tracking down an old supervisor is like solving Lemarchand’s box. Are job applicants supposed to stalk their former managers, to ensure that these draconian form fields can be completed? Are the people doing these reference checks going to try to find that manager, and call her at her new company?

  35. OP #4*

    Wow, it’s great to know that others don’t think the dental surgery is a deal breaker. Whew, what a relief. The first interview went well – they just laughed good-naturedly, and despite some physical pain, I think I aced it! Now the question is…do I want the job if they offer it to me? :)

    Thanks for all your support, and for the great advice Alison! I’m off to my second interview now.

  36. stevenz*

    #3. Since the scarf is part of who you are you shouldn’t worry about wearing it to an interview. After all, you will wear it on the job once you’re hired. I don’t know where you live, but head scarves are becoming very common where there is a sizable Asian population and a lot of people would barely notice. That’s certainly the case in New Zealand where I am. (Americans may not be so understanding…) . It may be inappropriate to say this, but I think head scarves are really quite attractive.

  37. Anne*

    For # 2. My team uses Hubgets – see http://www.hubgets.com and ever since we’ve implemented it, I can focus on doing my job and still be able to communicate with my colleagues. Before, it was a nightmare with all the notifications in and out all day long, very distracting to the point I became frustrated. When management decided to do something about this situation, they tested several apps and chose Hubgets. It lets you set up your presence and decide when and if you want to receive notifications. This special setting makes it check if you are in the app or in a different browser window or if you are on the phone and doesn’t disturb you if you are busy. Afterwards, when you have time, you can check all the messages you received – direct, in group chats or those your colleagues posted on the team board.

    For me, life at work became much better with this tweak and somehow it also improved the way we communicate as a team.

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