my coworker got a raise to motivate him to show up to work, when religion limits an employee’s availability, and more

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

1. My coworker got a raise and promotion “to motivate him to show up to work”

An coworker in my department was given a promotion and pay raise. It was puzzling because many of my colleagues — including me — were aware that he had been ignoring emails, calling out sick, and generally causing our VP a lot of headaches. Our VP had gone as far as to solicit advice from others on the team on how to get this employee to do his work.

When told about this promotion and raise, I asked our VP if something had changed in this employee’s demeanor or work production since we last spoke. No, nothing had changed. He stated that the only way he thought he could motivate the employee to consistently show up to work and respond to emails was by giving him more money and a better title.

My initial reaction was anger. I had to fight for an overdue promotion and pay raise for six months. And it resulted in only a half-step up in both areas. Lower-level employees on our team have worked tirelessly and have asked for a raise or promotion and gotten the canned response, “it is hard to get pay increases approved.”

I did not say anything at the time because I didn’t want to spout off out of frustration. But as a leader in the organization, is there anything I can or should do to help my boss see that rewarding an employee for lack of performance will cause a serious fracture on our team?

If you have a good relationship with your boss and he’s reasonably open to feedback, you could say, “I want to be transparent with you that I’m pretty taken aback that I had to fight for six months for a raise and promotion, despite excellent feedback on my work, and you’ve now shared that Fergus got a raise and promotion essentially as a response to being a poor performer. I’m not asking you to justify your decisions about another employee to me, but because we have a good relationship, I wanted to be up-front with you about the impact it’s having on my morale and the rest of the team, since you’ve previously talked with all of us about the problems with Fergus.”

But really, you have a pretty terrible VP — someone who’s not only not willing to deal forthrightly with a low performer (and who apparently resorts to asking other people for ideas on getting him to do his job, which is ridiculous), but who will reward the wrong people for the wrong reasons. That’s a serious enough issue with his judgment and management instincts that even if you get through to him on this issue, I’m not hopeful about what it means for his management of your department in general.

2. When religion limits an employee’s availability

How can a manager support and provide opportunities for employees whose religious practices limit their ability to participate in workplace and professional opportunities?

To be specific, my employee, “Kate,” is a very devout Seventh Day Adventist. This means that she does not work on Saturdays, under any circumstances (including work travel). That is fine! We can easily adjust her schedule to accommodate this. However, it means she ends up missing out on things that only occur on Saturdays.

Our organization is public-oriented and sometimes provides special family-oriented programs on Saturdays. We also participate in local festivals and parades – typically on Saturdays. These are fun events, and she is visibly disappointed to be excluded (sometimes disengaging from the planning process). Additionally, in my industry, it is not uncommon for conferences to spill over onto Saturdays. Most recently, she was unable to participate in an industry leadership program because it ran Thursday through Saturday, and attendance for the entire duration was mandatory.

She’s a good employee and I want to provide opportunities for her. I don’t want her to be excluded one the basis of her religious practice, but I’m not sure what I can do in these situations. Thoughts?

If there are ways to do some of these events on days that aren’t Saturday, that would be a kind and thoughtful gesture. But it sounds like Saturdays are the logical days for some of this (programs for the public, etc.) and that a lot of it is outside of your control (like local festivals and the leadership program that you weren’t in charge of). If nothing else, though, you could say to Kate, “I want to let you know that I’m looking out for things we can do on days other than Saturdays so that you can be involved” so that she knows it’s something you’re aware of and thinking about — and then of course follow through in really doing that.

But I think this is something where a reasonable person would appreciate any efforts you made to accommodate her but also wouldn’t hold it against you if it didn’t easily work out.

It would be different if you had your choice of any day of the week and still continued to schedule everything on Saturdays, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to attend … but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case.

3. Did my boss overshare my personal information to the board?

I’ve worked for a small nonprofit since I graduated last year. I’m young and this is my first “real job.” Unfortunately, six months into my time here, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We are a very small office, with eight paid staff including me. I openly shared my situation with my coworkers, supervisor, and our executive director. I did this because we all get along relatively well and I knew their support would be very beneficial during this time.

Because at the time I was only part-time and had not been there for long, I did not have enough vacation time to cover how long I needed to be out for surgery and recovery. I ended up just taking unpaid time off and applying for short-term disability. But then my executive director told me he would need to tell the board about my cancer so they could approve my unpaid time off. I felt uncomfortable with this, especially since we do not have the best relationship with the board. I asked my supervisor about this and she said that it was normal. After he told the board, I was surprised to realize that no one from the board reached out to me. When a coworker’s mother had passed away the board had sent her a kind but professional email expressing their condolences. It feels weird to me that the board knows this very personal thing about me and yet I have not received any acknowledgement from them.

Am I overreacting? Did my director overstep any boundaries in telling the board? Am I wrong for thinking that someone from the board should have reached out to me?

It’s weird that the board is involved in day-to-day management decisions like approving unpaid time off (that should be your executive director’s purview), but often boards for small organizations are more involved than they’re really supposed to be. But yeah, if you have a board that approves stuff like that, then it’s not inappropriate that your ED told them the situation. It’s akin to a boss filling in her own boss when she needs approval for something (as the board is the ED’s boss).

I wouldn’t have expected anyone from the board to reach out to you, especially since you didn’t tell them directly (and note that you were already feeling weird about them knowing, after all), so I’d try not to be bothered by that part of it.

4. I’ve been out of work for years after my partner tried to kill me

I have been out of steady work since 2011, when my then-boyfriend tried to beat me to death. I’ve spent the intervening years dealing with hospitals and police and domestic violence court and more police (he stalked me) as well as crippling physical side effects. I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and am trying to get back into the workforce.

I have been working intermittently as a freelancer, but I don’t know how to explain the large gap in my steady employment to potential employers. I have a phone interview tomorrow and already having anxiety attacks; I can’t really say, “My ex tried to beat me to death, then stalked me for years, so I’ve been dealing with that” even though that’s the truth.

I could have gotten disability in 2011, but I’d rather work. Any advice about how to explain the gap would be appreciated. I don’t want to say “health reasons” because that implies I might be too ill to work in the future; I don’t want to say “My ex tried to beat me to death and I’ve been dealing with that” for all of the obvious reasons.

I would go with “I was dealing with a health issue that has since been resolved.” It’s accurate, it doesn’t give away more than you want, it indicates that it’s now in the past, and interviewers won’t probe for more. It’s a handy phrase.

Good luck!

5. Do I look to employers like I’m just following my husband?

I’m currently in the process of job hunting again due to a move to another state, but I’m getting a little worried about the interview process. The move is due to my husband’s acceptance into a PhD program, and this isn’t the first time we’ve moved due to his schooling.

The first time was when we were engaged, and he was accepted into a masters program. When I began interviewing in our new city, I was often asked what brought me to the area. For the first couple of interviews, I just plainly said that my fiance was attending the local university for his masters program. I noticed right away that this sparked concern, as it would lead to follow-up questions to our longevity in the area, what his plans after graduation were, etc. I quickly learned to assure the interviewers that the plan was to stay in the area after he graduated as long as I had a career there (which obviously is something he and I had spoken about, including our multitudes of other options), which seemed to calm most hiring managers.

I’ve been with my current company for two years now (we did end up sticking around the area post-graduation due to this job), but when we decided my husband would apply to PhD programs, I said I’d be happy to move wherever he got in. It’s a family decision that I don’t feel the need to qualify, but it boils down to the fact that I don’t exactly love my current job, but I do love the field and would be happy to continue working within it somewhere else – which is fairly easy to do. And so, we’re moving!

But I know that once we’re in this new city and I get the chance to interview, the question will again come up about why I’ve relocated. I don’t want to look like someone who just follows her husband around with no regard to her career, or like someone who isn’t committed to a company. Do I come across as a special brand of job hopper?

Generally in this situation employers’ concern is going to be about your longevity in the area, not about the reasons for that longevity. They’re less likely to care that you’re following your husband now and in the past and more likely to care about whether you’ll follow him somewhere else in the near future. So you just need to focus on sounding confident and excited about being in the new area for a solid chunk of time. Given the length of PhD programs, you should be able to confidently say something like, “We’d love to stay in this area permanently because we love X and Y, but I can say with confidence that at a minimum we’ll be here for the next eight years.”

{ 265 comments… read them below }

  1. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #1, I knew a manager in another division at my company who was contemplating doing the same thing your VP did to one of her problem employees. Luckily, upper management in her division finally fired the woman for a serious, but non-performance-related reason involving a weapon before this manager could officially tank the morale of the rest of her reports and piss off the other people in the unit who didn’t report to her, but had to deal with her employee’s laziness and incompetence on a regular basis. If something like that happened where I am, I’d be looking for another internal opportunity because I could not work for someone who rewards mediocrity. I mean, as a high performer, how do you see something like that and keep the motivation to do good work? Why bother if it doesn’t mean anything?

    Your VP screwed up here, but he can rectify this mistake by demoting this person the next time he screws up (because he will) and cutting off all raises for him going forward.

    1. Former Invoice Girl*

      >this manager could officially tank the morale of the rest of her reports and piss off the other people in the unit who didn’t report to her, but had to deal with her employee’s laziness and incompetence on a regular basis.

      I don’t see how it could have resulted in anything else, to be honest. (But maybe I’m pessimistic and some of you have stories like this where things actually changed for the better.)

    2. catsAreCool*

      It’s bad enough when companies let poor performers stay w/o doing much about it for years. Rewarding bad work with more pay/title is way over the top.

    3. Cassie*

      There was a similar situation in the regional/pre-professional ballet company I was in – one girl who had potential but lacked work ethic (didn’t come to class regularly, didn’t try her best) was cast as the second cast lead in a couple of pieces. The directors wanted to challenge her and see if she rose to the occasion.

      She didn’t – she ended up skipping more classes, being unprepared for rehearsal, etc. She ended up quitting. Luckily for the directors, there was already other dancers cast as the first cast leads. Otherwise, it would have been a disaster (not having an understudy, having to teach someone last minute, etc).

  2. Ever and Anon*

    LW1, is the employee actually a poor performer, or does he have a poor attendance record? Those two are correlated, but not synonymous.

    What if the employee is very talented, and a class above anything your company could afford otherwise? Does your company skimp on his kind of talent? What if his work earned the company a disproportionately large chunk of revenue (which incidentally goes to pay the others too)? Without that context, one cannot be 100% sure.

    Or your VP has a pathological fear of firing people.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I would say someone who ignores emails, constantly calls out, and is just generally a pain in the ass is a poor performer. But that’s looking at this situation through my workplace lens where not answering emails could lose us clients and never being at work would mean dumping an inordinate amount of work on other people who already have a full plate of their own – but I know this kind of thing varies.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Yeah, it really does depend on the office. I have a colleague in our sales department who spends all day watching videos on YouTube, shows up late and leaves early – but through family connections brings in about €1.5 million in revenues every year. Doesn’t do any work really, but no way he’d ever get fired. ‘High performer’ might not be the right word, but ‘great results’…well, yeah.

        This is obviously similar to Ever and Anon’s “What if his work earned the company a disproportionately large chunk of revenue” and in that case, if our bosses felt that my colleague was looking around at alternative employers…well, I could see him picking up a payrise too!

        That said, I think it’s more likely that this letter refers to a low performer and the VP is just afraid of conflict…

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh, I don’t think the guy in this letter is bringing in big bucks. I think that the OP would probably notice that. High sellers, client favourites, the person with that magic touch that keeps the assembly line going, they can get away with a lot when they’re not actively selling, glad handing clients, fixing that one error that would shut the place down for days. On the other hand, those people are usually pretty well known. It’s kinda obvious why they’re being given favours.

          1. Beezus*

            Not everyone has the right visibility to determine that, though, and a lot of early career people haven’t learned that it’s a thing, or struggle with feeling that it’s unfair.

            I work with a lot of people whose jobs involve dealing with emergent situations on a shift schedule, so arriving at a certain time, responding almost immediately to emails, and being available by cell outside of work is really critical for them. Some of them have a hard time understanding why someone might be highly valued and considered promotable in a completely different role even though they might roll in at 8:15 now and then, or might take more than an hour to respond to an email, or might not answer their work cell while on vacation. I’m not saying this is necessarily the case with the OP’s coworker, I’m just pointing out that sometimes the manager deciding to keep or promote someone is looking through a different lens than someone on the outside of that decision.

        2. Joseph*

          That isn’t the case here based on what the VP said to OP. The VP said that it was to motivate him. If there actually *was* a legitimate reason, the VP would have simply referenced his great sales numbers (or whatever) to justify the raise.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Right. This is not a lateral thinking puzzle where the goal is to come up with some reason the VP acted correctly.

    2. OP #1*

      I am the OP for #1. Lots of questions to answer here! I will start with this one.

      Everyone from the admin assistant to the Directors have been asked by the VP on how we can motivate our colleague to commit to minimum performance standards. The amount of work shirked by this individual leaves many of his peers (and even folks that don’t work in the dept) holding the bag. It is accurate to say that he is responsible for a specialized role. It is inaccurate to say his talent or skills are not replaceable, as many of us have had to step in and learn software on the fly to cover in his absence or neglect. He is a pleasant person who everyone enjoys having around in a social setting, but not as a member of our team in the workplace.

      1. Tammy*

        how we can motivate our colleague to commit to minimum performance standards

        Telling him he’ll be fired if he doesn’t meet them is the usual strategy… ;-)

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this is…. basic? Obviously the idea that if he won’t do his job, he will be replaced by somebody who will, has not been communicated.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          By saying in his annual review “What are your future goals with our organisation? Because I have to say that if you wish to be achieve that promotion/raise, you will have to improve on X, Y, and Z. Given your current performance, I cannot even recommend a cost of living raise at this time. But we can develop a training programme/set some goals in the short-term and revisit that in # of months if you hit those targets.”

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            The worst part is that by giving this tool a raise, the company has now made it harder to fire him! Because now if his manager decides to impose consequences and start him on a PIP, he may cry discrimination of some kind — after all, how can his performance be bad if he just got a raise?

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, this was sort of my question reading the letter – did he used to be a good employee whose interest has waned as he’s plateaued in the role? Is he still actually doing good work when he shows up? I still don’t necessarily agree that paying him off is the right approach here (if he’s beyond the role at this point it probably makes sense to discuss a transition plan for him) but if he has or still is providing something of value to the company, I can at least see the line of reasoning of trying to re-engage him with better compensation.

  3. Ann Marie*

    I do public program planning in a community with lots of strong religious communities with differening schedules – is it possible to engage the employee by having her help identify a market for a program on a different day? the program/s may have to be infrequent to produce a big enough audience to be sustainable but especially for cultural events she’s probably not the only person who is busy on Saturdays

    1. Overeducated*

      Yes, this! I live in a big city and a lot of parades, festivals, and public events occur on Sundays or both weekend days. There are other religious groups that worship on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as non-churchgoers.

      1. Ann Marie*

        Yes! I also worry a lot about families where the parents work on weekends – this makes it so much harder to participate in the shared parts of community and reinforces a service industry vs. other people divide which I think often results in reinforcing economic culutral stereotypes. My commute responded very well when we started offering programs on Sunday and on long weekends when there were lots of families who stayed in town but were able to come to the drop in cultural programs for a time with thier family

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

          This is an amazing point. (Speaking as someone who sometimes works weekend shifts and has worked nights or evenings in the past, there really need to be more social and cultural resources for people who work “nonstandard” shifts. I don’t work full weekends, but if I did….)

          1. Ann Marie*

            It was a really interesting transition in our town! My coworkers didn’t agree with me offering programs on holiday weekends because “everyone is out of town” it took a couple years of packed programs and positive visitor feedback and now the whole team is on board even if they still have trouble remembering that there are people without government hours and salaries :)

  4. Artemesia*

    I think ‘a health issue that has been resolved’ sounds like a chronic illness like cancer rather than healed injuries which are less ominous for future reliability. IN the OP’s situation, I’d be inclined to say something about suffering some serious injuries which are thankfully healed and you are ready to continue to work. Of course that depends on the ability to gracefully deflect discussing details.

    1. Jeanne*

      I suppose you could say injuries from an accident but that I think is more likely to lead to follow up questions. A health issue that has been resolved is general terminology that will not be turned into cancer. Say it calmly and confidently and add that you’re ready to get back to work.

      1. ECB~*

        “I suffered a serious injury that took some time to recover from, but I’m completely recovered now.” Any follow-up questions regarding the nature of the injury (which I would consider quite rude to ask or be asked) would be answered with a smile and “I am completely recovered now, thank you for asking.” Do not lie, but I certainly would not go into the details.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          I like ECB’s response, especially the one to deflect any follow-up questions (which I agree would be rude and intrusive, though in accordance with human nature). My first thought on reading Alison’s suggestion was ‘they’ll all think she had cancer’.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. Health issue that caused such a long break from work will be read as cancer or mental illness neither of which will increase the odds the employer will want to take the risk. For a woman a caretaker family role is also an option for accounting for a break in employment that is less likely to be penalized.

    2. JessaB*

      I’d also be careful if the incident would show up if you’re Googled. I agree with “injuries that have been healed,” working better than “health issues,” because the latter does parse as something that could come back, etc.

      1. Dare*

        I worry about that for when I want to make a career move, because it’s very easy to find out what happened to me.

      2. the OP*

        It would definitely show up in a google search. I’ve been doing outreach for DV, in print and TV and volunteerism, and I have a unique name. Thank you for your response.

    3. BananaPants*

      I agree, I’d go with “serious injuries that have fully healed” rather than “a health issue”. A “health issue” severe enough to cause someone to not work for 5 years would cause most people to jump to cancer as the likely reason, and some may wonder if it was going to pose reliability issues down the line if it recurred. If they push for the nature of the injuries (which would be rude), just smile and say something vague like, “It took some time to heal and rehabilitate, but I’m fully healed and ready to get back to work.”

      If thinking about addressing this in the phone interview is causing panic attacks, I strongly suggest rehearsing this in front of a mirror if necessary so that you don’t break down or freak out during the interview if it comes up.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Something that’s easy to do in a phone interview is write down exactly what you want to say, including a response to any prodding for further information.

    4. Manders*

      I actually wouldn’t use language about injuries in this specific case, because very few injuries will take someone out of work for 5 years but leave them able to return to the same kind of job they used to do. If I heard someone explaining a 5 year gap in a resume with injuries or an accident, I’d worry that it might be something like a serious brain injury, which can have lifelong effects on someone’s ability to work, or something chronic like a spinal injury that may take the employee out of work again. It might also encourage the interviewer to Google the LW, because accidents that severe tend to make the news.

      For 6 month or 1 year gap, an explanation about injuries or an accident wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But I wouldn’t use it to explain a 5 year gap, especially since the language about health issues is closer to the truth and doesn’t really imply anything chronic.

      1. MarketingLady PA*

        Well, I do hope you at least recognize that acting on your worries is illegal discrimination against someone you assume has a disability.

      2. Megs*

        Does the fact that the OP has some freelancing experience in that time negate some of that concern? Not to mention that physical therapy can be pretty rough and take a long time, and maybe they just wanted to take it easy on an insurance payment for a while while freelancing. Not that any of this needs to be said, but I’m just not sure an employer would necessarily be as concerned about the length of time as you think.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Oh, insurance, this! Yeah, if I were in some kind of accident and got a little bit of money after all my healing, I would totally take a little time and enjoy it. (That’s not what happened, but people fill in their own blanks, and that’s a natural one.)

      3. sunny-dee*

        I’d actually be not quite as worried? Maybe it’s me. If I heard serious injury, I’d be thinking probably multiple surgeries with recovery times, probably rehab and therapy, then probably just some “me time” to get back to normal because long-term recovery is exhausting. Five years both is and isn’t a long time; it really can go quickly when your focus is on something else.

      4. RVA Cat*

        The OP could also say “and a difficult family situation that has also resolved” – most people would probably go to caregiver responsibilities, say to an elderly parent who has since died, and would not want to press further.

        After being hired, I would make sure security, and probably her boss and HR, know about the stalking so that her ex is banned from the premises and they call the police if he ever appears.

        1. Cajun2core*

          I like this one and the “health issues in the family” one below. It avoids both the “cancer” and “brain/spine injury” that have been mentioned as things people would think.

          1. Consider*

            Well… It’s important to consider that OP might actually have suffered some brain or spine injuries. The extent of their injuries is none of our business, but the description makes it sound possible (especially head trauma). If that’s the case, they could still need long-term accommodations for it, no?

    5. Jerry Vandesic*

      I think it is better to mention “health issues in my family” and keep away from specifics.

    6. neverjaunty*

      If she’s gracefully deflecting details, why be specific about a “serious injury”, which has the additional problem of being somewhat specific about the nature of the problem? There can be all kinds of reasons that people have “health” issues, but people generally don’t deflect questions when the injury is “I got hit by a drunk driver” or “it was a terrible ski accident”.

      1. RVA Cat*

        One thing I think we’re dancing around here is that she shouldn’t have to deflect it, the abuse was no more her fault than the person being hit by a drunk driver or having the ski accident. Yet our society isn’t there yet – imagine someone blaming the car-wreck victim for driving at 2 am when the bars let out?

        OP, you have overcome so much and I am sending you many Jedi hugs…

        1. JPlummer*

          Amen! All of the verbal contortions being suggested here are reinforcing the idea that domestic abuse is some kind of shameful secret that has to be disguised as a vague medical condition. Taking time to remove and heal oneself from an abusive situation, and possibly deal with the justice system, is a reasonable way to explain a gap in work history, even a lengthy one. I would look favorably on someone strong enough to do that.

          1. neverjaunty*

            No, we’re reinforcing the idea that the OP doesn’t wish to discuss a very traumatic part of her life with a near-stranger to explain a resume gap.

            And wow, nice shaming the OP by implying that she isn’t “strong” enough to earn your favor by being more forward than she’s comfortable with.

            1. JPlummer*

              As someone said in a movie once, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

              What I said, or intended to say, was that I would look favorably on someone strong enough to put her life back together after going through what the OP did. Talking about it to a near stranger is absolutely NOT what makes her strong; it’s her determination to reclaim her life that does. Obviously how OP decides to handle this is up to her. People bring their entire, complicated selves and histories into an interview. Sometimes the easiest way through a tough question about a gap on one’s resume is to walk right into it.

            2. the OP*

              Just to clarify: I don’t want to want to talk about being beaten by an ex when trying to get a job, and was looking for a way to explain my spotty employment since in job interviews.

              I don’t feel shamed by anyone here.

      2. m3ggus*

        Oh, and absolutely do not lie about what the issue was, i.e. don’t say it was a terrible accident when it was a traumatic experience. Really, details/explanation aren’t necessary. If you lie and end up getting the job, you run the risk of it being exposed as a lie.

    7. Jeanne*

      I’m very disheartened by this thread. It must be nice to never have a serious illness and need time off from work. But all the assumptions here seem to be that the person will let you down because they needed time off. You know that any of your employees could be sick or in an accident at any time. Or it could happen to you. How do you want to be treated? Work on those biases. Why do you jump to cancer or brain injury? Why does it matter what the disease was? Cancer is not contagious in the workplace. Do the right thing and stop assuming the worst.

    8. m3ggus*

      I’d say just the opposite, actually. “A health issue that has been resolved” is succinct and to the point, while “Suffering more serious injuries” raises questions of potential chronic effects due to expressed “seriousness”.

      This has been an issue of mine as well, as I myself have been on disability for several years due to PTSD, but am now looking to return to full-time work. I’ve not worked a full-time, regular job since 2012, but I have done some part time & contract work. Initially I was doing as you suggested but wasn’t getting many responses. When I simplified it to (essentially) “I’ve been working freelance/part-time while recovering from a health issue. It’s been resolved and I’m now looking to return to full-time work.”, I started getting way more responses, have been on several interviews, and even had an offer (which I sadly had to decline). I had a great series of interviews with a company in the last couple weeks and am expecting a response early next week.

  5. Observer*

    #2 – depending on where you are located, it’s quite possible that you should consider having at least some of your family oriented events on Sunday. It’s not just considerate to your employee, it may be important to your potential constituency. If there is a significant population of Orthodox Jews or Christian sects like the 7th Day Adventists (They are not the only ones), having these events only on Saturday excludes them.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Or just people who aren’t all that religious and treat Sunday like nothing more than the other half of the weekend!

    2. BananaPants*

      I don’t think OP2’s organization is necessarily running the events – it sounds more like they’re staffing a table or tent at larger community events. Like, we went to a car show recently and the YMCA, the local hospital, several medical and dental practices, the police Explorers, several local restaurants, a couple of churches, etc. all had tables there with information and activities for the kids.

      We go to a lot of community events and the majority do seem to be held on Saturday, although some are on both weekend days. It might be nice to find some Sunday events if they’re available in the area and let this employee take the lead on those.

      1. Bwmn*

        This is what I had in mind. It may also be the basis that the primary community the organization serves/reaches is most accessible on Saturdays we well.

        That all being said, I think the issues around leadership training and conferences – that the organization has more of a standing to say “I want this employee to attend all days but Saturday”. Provided this isn’t accreditation for state licensure, the organization – much more so that the conference/training host is in a position to say “you can leave Friday night”. I think the organization should stand up for the employee and say that the employee needs to leave for religious reasons and push on what other alternatives are possible.

        1. irritable vowel*

          I agree there should definitely be some pushback to the conference organizers who mandate attendance on all days if one of them is Saturday. That’s really exclusionary against anyone whose religion observes Saturday as a holy day.

      2. Observer*

        It looks like they are doing both running their own events and taking part in events run by other organizations. I was addressing the ones that the organization itself holds.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, I was wondering along those lines — why not have some community events on a Sunday? They could do one as a test to see how/if attendance changes. For no religious reason, I would be just as glad to have my weekend work on a Sunday, myself.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Yes. There probably isn’t much the LW can do about community events, but if weekend events are never Sundays there really needs to be an event-specific reason for that. Otherwise the message is exclusionary.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m honestly not so sure that there needs to be an event-specific reason for Saturday scheduling for each event, just because of one person having a religious restriction. I also can imagine a scenario where having many Sunday events would also be exclusionary. I’m an ex-evangelical, and many Protestants (and Catholics, I think?) follow the restriction against working on Sundays. You could be excluding many more people.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, first, it’s not about ‘one person’; it’s also about the participants who might not be able to or willing to attend an event on Saturday. And if events are only scheduled on Saturdays to avoid excluding evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics, the message is that only some people’s holy days (i.e. those of the mainstream Christian majority) are worthy of respect.

          By “event-specific” I mean that of course if the event is intended for a group where Sunday would be a no-go, then it needs to be on Saturday. But barring that, making sure events are never on Sundays but maybe Saturdays is not a good look absent a concrete reason.

        2. Ann Marie*

          Our town is 95% Christian, with many many stores without Sunday hours and we still have packed events on Sundays even though for many years it was believed that it wouldn’t work because of the Christians – it often takes time to build an audience and it requires the program planners to be open to different cultures like the OP is – that kind of openness and willingness to ask questions about inclusion means that people can start speaking up because they feel safe that there is time to develop the inclusion practices

  6. Tau*

    OP #5, I’m not sure I’d use language quite as strong as Alison’s (since you never know what will happen – people can realise a PhD wasn’t for them and quit early, supervisors can move universities, etc.) but her point does stand. Of course an employer will worry if you tell them you’re moving for your partner’s Master’s, since most Master’s are only a year and the question at the top of their mind will be “so what happens once it’s done?” PhDs take much longer, definitely in the US but even in the UK my program was 3.5 years on paper (and a bunch of people *coughcough* needed longer, never to mention that that wasn’t counting the submission->viva->revision->final submission period). I doubt it’ll raise the same sort of red flags, and it should be pretty easy to reassure them that even with the PhD alone you plan on sticking around the area for quite some time.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Agreed. We relocated so my partner could start a PhD program, and “start a PhD program” is shorthand for, “We’ll be here for at least 4 years and probably way longer.” I didn’t do too much interviewing (I brought my then-job with me), but when I did, our reasons for moving didn’t hurt me at all.

    2. Eddie Turr*

      Most master’s programs in the U.S. take about two years, but that’s still a relatively short time to be in a job that isn’t entry-level or high-turnover by deisgn. PhDs, though, have a way of taking freaking forever.

    3. Koko*

      In the U.S. I would expect that someone entering a PhD program with a MA in hand would finish in something closer to 4 years than 8. If you enter a PhD with a BA and bust your ass you can finish in 5 years, but 6 is very common. Having your MA already completed will shave roughly 2 years off that estimate.

      And if the husband is planning on an academic career, that will almost undoubtedly be followed by immediately relocating for a 2-year post-doc.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yes, but she doesn’t have to go into that much detail. :) No one needs to know if her husband has an MA, and at the start of a doctoral program, going into academia (and thus doing a post-doc) isn’t yet a given.

      2. Vics*

        This depends completely on the field, as well as numerous other factors. In my field finish a PhD in 5 years is nonexistent and in 6 years very uncommon, whether or not you already have a MA. Post-docs also vary greatly depending on field; they’re only starting to occur in my field, and even then only 1-year post-docs.

      3. Ccccccc...*

        “Having your MA already completed will shave roughly 2 years off that estimate.”
        Whether an MA counts for credit really varies tremendously by program, and even if it did, it might cut out a course or two, but never as much as two years. PhD programs typically want candidates to master the department’s own curriculum or at least the disciplinary norms, and there’s no way of assessing that with an outside MA.

        Without getting into specifics and numbers, wouldn’t “we moved for family reasons and expect to stay several years” cover it?

    4. Always Anon*

      I also think some of this is the way you handle it in interviews. I’ve interviewed a couple of trailing spouses and both of them came across as very bitter that their career had been impacted. They didn’t get the job because of their attitude not because they couldn’t commit to the rest of their life with the organization.

      I also think some of this is going to depend on how senior you are in your career. If you are more junior or even mid-level most employers aren’t going to expect you to stick around for more than 3-5 years anyway.

      1. Marcela*

        I am a trailing wife, and let me tell you, life can be very hard. It’s not only about careers, it’s about moving a life to other place, in my case every 5 years. Having said that, life in academia is not really one person career, but two, and I’ve seen it destroy marriages when both partners can’t agree about the future. Science, or academia, is a really poor master and it asks the best effort from us. Of course, you shouldn’t hire somebody with bad attitude, but sometimes I wonder if there is something more difficult than this, for I have to agree that whatever we do, somebody is going to be unhappy and perhaps we can’t even get any stability in a very, very long time.

        1. Kira*

          This is a helpful perspective. I’m in the same boat as OP #5, facing our second move. My spouse entered a PhD program on the other side of the country, and I gladly followed thinking it would be a 5-year stint and then we could move home.

          I was maybe too open in my interviews about the reasons why I moved out here and how long we expected to stay. My employer never forgot and sometimes treated me as the one-who-is-going-to-leave-soon. Like OP, my spouse and I discussed it and said we were willing to stay if I had a great job. But as we got to the end of the PhD, my career took back seat again. Now he’s considering postdocs, and those can be very short term! I don’t want to move again, just for a couple of years. I want to stay in one job for 3+ years.

          1. OP#5*

            Good luck to you as well navigating this process we’ve found ourselves in! After reading a few of the comments here, I’m realizing this may be a more difficult thing than I initially imagined it to be.

            1. Rana*

              The trailing spouse thing was a big part of why I started freelancing initially, even though I was also employed during each move period. I wanted something that I could do which was not dependent on physical location. If I have access to wi-fi, I can work anywhere. So even though my in-person resume is crappy, I can at least point to the freelance work as something I’ve stuck with. It also helps to be consistent in your own career path. Hopping between different kinds of part-time work doesn’t look as good as if you did similar work each time you moved and gained useful experience each time.

  7. HardwoodFloors*

    I don’t understand lw #5 being told to say the couple is planning on being there eight years. If someone has a master’s it should be about 4 more years or so.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think that’s Alison’s guess.

      If it’s a full time PhD in the US, after a full Masters, and he has funding (or is supported by the OP), it should be nominally four years, maybe a bit longer to finish writing up. If they’re in a program that provides no funding, so that they need to work a significant job to support themselves, it could take much longer.

      This is a definitely a problem for following spouses, though. I don’t know what the field is, but in mine it’s typical to do undergrad (4 years), move, do a combined masters and PhD (4-6 years), move, do a first postdoc (2-4 years), move, do a second postdoc (2-4 years), move, if you’re lucky, get a tenure track or otherwise permanent job, if you’re not, maybe another temporary position or two in between.

      That makes pursuing a focussed career pretty much impossible for a following spouse, particularly if any of the moves are international.

      I have friends who are on their third third or fourth post-PhD position, who have changed *countries* at each stage post undergrad, who still aren’t in permanent positions, and whose wives are getting very, very tired of the whole process.

      1. Tau*

        The changing countries thing is very common; my dad’s an academic and I consider myself to be quite lucky to have gotten away with just two countries and three moves during my childhood (even if all three were trans-Atlantic.) I had a friend in high school who’d lived in the US, the UK, France and Germany by the time she was fifteen, and I’m not sure her parents had landed permanent positions then. And my mother definitely made significant career sacrifices.

        Of course, we’ve got no idea what OP’s long-term plans are, if OP’s husband even wants to stay in academia, what they’ve discussed, etc. But this is definitely something to be aware of.

      2. blackcat*

        “I have friends who are on their third third or fourth post-PhD position, who have changed *countries* at each stage post undergrad, who still aren’t in permanent positions, and whose wives are getting very, very tired of the whole process.”

        And this has been described as one of the main things that causes women to leave academia at much higher rates than men. Women are less likely to have partners who will do all of the moves (and basically hold off on having a career). Women with PhDs are FAR more likely to be partnered to other PhDs.

        The current structure that basically requires people to move every 2 years for a large chunk of their 20s and 30s is awful.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yes, you’ll note I specified “husband” rather than spouse. I know of lots of trailing wives, a fair number of long distance relationships, a few cases where people have both compromised, but no trailing husbands.

          In my field, women overwhelmingly marry men in the same field (as I did). Like, to the extent that I have to think really hard to come up with more than two or three women I know who are in the field, are married or seriously partnered, but not to someone in the same field.

          1. alter_ego*

            I actually do know a couple of trailing husbands! It’s the nature of my industry, which is male dominated, but doesn’t required a PhD, and my company, which is apparently willing to help sponsor people, but three of my coworkers are following their wives for either their PhD or post-doc work to other countries.

            Which is not to say that it isn’t overwhelmingly common to be the other way around. In fact, it’s notable that I know so many because of how rare it really is. But hopefully it does mean things might be changing.

          2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

            I am a trailing husband. My wife has a PhD but I do not. I have been very lucky with jobs. We got married just as she was finishing up her PhD and she only had one PostDoc before she got a faculty position.

            Sorry, I can’t be of more help to the OP.

        2. Manders*

          My future fiancé left academia because I put my foot down and refused to be a trailing spouse. I know quite a few women who left really good jobs and permanently damaged their careers to follow academic husbands and I refused to go down that road.

          He’s got a great job with all of the teaching opportunities and none of the research stress now, making way more than he would if he’d stayed on the academic path. But the pressure to do what his advisor told him to do and leave me behind was intense.

          1. Artemesia*

            My husband followed me, but we could only do it once, so it meant I was stuck with my first job and meant while I could do well, I could not become the star I might have been if I could have moved. It totally trashed his career to move once and he had to start over and make the best of it where we were, so both our careers suffered. It was our deal and he never complained although I felt guilty about it. We both had good careers, I had a measure of national visibility in my field, we both made a lot less money than we could have if he had stayed where he began or I had been able to take the job offers to move my career forward. Two careers can be hard to manage; our priority was ultimately work/life balance and affording each of us a chance to do what we wanted to do. We have no regrets.

            1. Manders*

              I did move for him once, when he was entering his MA program, and he ended up going into a PhD program later at the same university. But I was fresh out of college then, without much work history, and the area we moved to had a very strong job market. It was when he was then asked to move to an area without employment opportunities for me that I put my foot down (and, as I recall, you gave me some good advice on an open thread then!).

              The nutty thing about his department was that they both took it for granted that women would be trailing spouses of their students, and expected those spouses to be the breadwinners while their students made way less than minimum wage. You can have a trailing spouse whose rocky career path is made up for by the main income earner, or you can have a breadwinner who builds up a good income to support a spouse who’s a student, but you can’t have both those things in one person.

              1. Anxa*

                “The nutty thing about his department was that they both took it for granted that women would be trailing spouses of their students, and expected those spouses to be the breadwinners while their students made way less than minimum wage.”

                Well, you can have them in one person sometimes.

                Quite a SOs of the people I know in PhD programs are nurses whose careers may not be progressing as quickly as they otherwise would have, but who are making so much money it barely matters.

                But overall, yeah there is this strange expectation that your SO will support you and be the primary earner but your career has to come first. That’s actually how I’ve brought some of my concerns up to my PhD SO, that I wouldn’t mind giving up on a trying to start a career so much if I knew we could live on salary. Science and academia are kind of the worst of both worlds there.

                My SO and I lived on one master’s salary for a while and it wasn’t easy. Doctorate level pay here wasn’t so bad; it cleared 20K take home pay in a low COL city.

            2. Dorothy Lawyer*

              This is nice to hear that neither of you have regrets – you’re still married, so that’s what’s important. Good for you for doing what was right for your lives, not just your careers.

          2. CanadianKat*

            My now-ex-husband left academia for this same reason. Though I didn’t exactly put my foot down, – it was more an implied, but definitely understood, condition of our having a relationship in the first place.

            That was also why I quit my fully-funded Stanford PhD program after completing a Masters. It was in a field with few practical applications outside academia, and I wanted to settle down in my hometown after graduation, rather than roaming the world like a tumbleweed.

      3. Ccccccc...*

        A 4-year PhD is exceedingly rare, and definitely so in the humanities and social sciences – the average is at least 5: 2 years for coursework, 1 for exams and dissertation prospectus, 2 for research and writing. And that’s the optimistic timetable. More often, it’s 5-7y ears, sometimes 8.

    2. mander*

      It really depends on the field, how your PhD program is structured, funding, whether or not you are continuing with the same program, all sorts of things.

      For instance, my MA is from a place that doesn’t do PhDs in my field. When I decided to go for a PhD I ended up going to the UK because at my first choice school in the US I would have had to start all over again with four years of coursework — basically another MA — even though I had just completed an MA in the same field elsewhere. In the UK I was able to jump straight into research and didn’t have to do any coursework at all.

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, PhD programs vary widely. In my discipline, 5-6 years would be on the faster side, even if you came in with a Master’s. But as someone who bailed on a PhD program several years in and who made three significant moves cross-country in about 7 years, I’d be hesitant about giving such a strongly worded commitment.

        If it’s true, you could say something like, “My fiancee is starting a PhD program here, but one of the reasons he settled on this program was the fact that both of us like X and Y about the location and it’s a place we can see ourselves long-term.” Otherwise, I think some combination of “PhD program” and “the foreseeable future” will assure them that you’re not going to skip out in a year or two.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, I was a literature major, and when I was looking into graduate schools, the MA track was 1 year and the PhD track was almost always 3 years, and you could go straight into the PhD track.

          But, even still, 3-4 years in one job is long enough; if the OP has been staying in jobs for 2-3 years, it’s not really like job-hopping. She’s staying a pretty normal amount of time.

        2. SophieChotek*

          +1 to what Sparrow said
          In my discipline, an M.A. was usually 2 (if you were fast, but most people took 2.5-3, with writing a thesis) and then most people went to a different program to get a Ph.D., and had to do another 2-4 years of coursework, so yeah, 5-6 years was normal. (5 was fast, 6 was normal, 7-8 on the long side.)

        3. neverjaunty*

          I really like this phrasing. It’s honest and it very strongly sends the message that you are making a joint decision to settle down, rather than your commitment to the job being secondary to following your husband around.

        4. Anxa*

          Yep, my partner just finished a PhD after a masters in a feeder field, but since it was interdisciplinary he had two years of coursework to do from the beginning. So it took about 5 years between coursework, fieldwork, analysis and writing.

        5. OP#5*

          This is great! This sounds just the kind of wording I was searching for but couldn’t come up with myself. It happens to be true, which helps :)
          We both said that he wouldn’t accept an offer from a program if we didn’t love the location. In fact. he only applied to programs we mutually agreed upon in order to save ourselves a situation where we felt stuck.
          Thank you for the advice!

  8. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP 1 – is Fergus a white male by any chance? Are the workers waiting for promotions not?

    Even if not, in your shoes I’d be fuming.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Asking whether racism and/or sexism may be playing a role is not racist or sexist.

        1. Myrin*

          For real. My initial reaction to that comment was “Sigh, not that again”. We had far too many derailing discussions of that kind in recent threads.

      2. Dana*

        Can you explain what you think is racist/sexist about suggesting that someone consider whether racism and/or sexism might play a role in inequal treatment of employees? I’m not seeing it.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Uh, no. Raising the possibility that sexism and racism are at play in a situation is not itself sexist or racist.

        1. fposte*

          I think there less dismissive ways to raise the possibility, though, and it would be helpful if it was linked to advice about what the OP should do if that’s the case.

          1. neverjaunty*

            The same thing the OP should do now (look for another position), except skipping the step where she talks to the VP to see if this is salvageable.

            1. fposte*

              Just because the person it’s happening to is white and male, though? I don’t think that’s a reason not to push back–if anything, that’s more of a reason to.

      4. CMT*

        Pointing out racism or sexism (or situations in which they commonly occur) does not make one racist or sexist!

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      There is nothing in the letter to suggest that gender or race have played a part in the promotion decision, but lets not get side tracked debating that, as it’s not what the OP is asking about.

      1. Mookie*

        I sort of feel it’s worth the LW’s time, anyway–but probably away from this thread–to consider that as one of several possible factors influencing the VP’s decision. Can the LW advance in that environment? It’d be good for them to know if they plan to stay, and it’d be equally helpful to know whether employees they’re managing and/or mentoring will get a fair shake there. It would be very frustrating to train and advocate on behalf of someone who has no chance to advance because of company- or department-wide problems.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          It’s obvious from the letter the VP isn’t the best and promotion decisions aren’t made on merit at least in some circumstances so I agree the OP should think over whether or not they want to stay in that environment but for all we know the OP is a white man, so talking about racism and sexism is nothing but speculation that distracts from the main point of the letter, which is about the use of pay rises and promotions as a motivational tool rather than a reward for high performers.

          1. Mookie*

            Agreed. As I say, it’s something for the LW to consider outside of this specific discussion.

          2. LBK*

            Yeah, I agree, there’s a lot of other explanations available here, especially since I can’t imagine he’s literally the only white male at the company (which he’d have to be if he’s the only one getting raises/promotions and we’re asserting that it’s based on race/gender).

      2. Artemesia*

        It is ALWAYS a relevant question in these situations. It is at the core of very very many unfair management decisions.

        1. LBK*

          I think it’s a factor in a lot of cases, but I think “at the core of very very many” is a little hyperbolic. There’s plenty of jerks out there whose jerkiness may incorporate sexism but isn’t driven solely by it – some people are just jerks.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes, and there are also many people who, whether or not they are jerks or openly and consciously bigoted, give Fergus the raise over Jane because “he has a family to raise”. Or who pass on hiring Wakeen because of “culture fit” and then can’t figure out why people complain about the company’s complete lack of diversity.

            It doesn’t seem to be a factor for this OP at all, but Artemisia is not being hyperbolic by pointing out that yes, this is still a thing in 2016.

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          It would be a relevant question if the OP had mentioned the race or gender of the people involved at the moment it is unfounded speculation that’s distracting from the OP’s actual question.

          There have been other letters where race and gender have been a core part of the question such as the dumb ass who forwarded a racist meme to their co-workers and the manager who freaked out about a box of tampons / sanity towels.

          I’m all for discussing these issues where they are relevant to the letter, just in this case it seems to be irrelevant.

        3. Roscoe*

          The problem with that logic is that just about every question that comes up on here that something may be unfair is met with “Is that person a white male” (or some variation of that). It really isn’t a productive thing in a lot of cases because it is just bringing up things that may have nothing to do with anything. It also goes on the assumption that anyone asking this question is female or a minority.

    2. Mookie*

      (Like the username a lot! I often wonder what happened to her after she ran away with Rik Mayall. Hopefully they’re still cross-dressing.)

    3. Sarah*

      Personally- I was thinking he might be Peter Gibbons. The VPs name might be Bon, and OP might work for Initech. It’s really scary to know how much truth there was to Office Space. Sigh.

    4. F.*

      Actually, the person in our office who got two highly undeserved bonuses as incentive to get her to do her job was a female person of color. The company owner was afraid she would sue us if we fired her. About a year later, after continued worsening performance, saner heads finally prevailed, and she was fired. Despite threats to sue us, nothing came of it.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      The OP said upthread that Fergus is a nice guy–I think the VP is just conflict-averse and maybe he feels sorry for him or something and doesn’t want to fire him.

      It’s a bad manager move, but not necessarily a sexist or racist one.

  9. Rubyrose*

    #1 – does the VP have any children? If so and he used the same approach with them, I’ll bet they are a mess. In any event, does not sound like a situation to stay in.

  10. Rubyrose*

    #5 – sounds like the same problem that military spouses have. I wonder if there are any of them reading this and how they handle it.

    1. Bridget*

      I’m a military spouse and I actually asked below for recommendations on how to handle this. I’ve only had two jobs since he’s been in, and they knew both times before they hired me, but both were/are in the much-more-military-friendly southern US. We’re hoping to head back north for our next duty station and who knows what the attitude toward military spouses will be then. =\

      1. CMT*

        I didn’t realize certain areas of the country were more “military friendly” than others. I wonder if that’s because bases in the south might be in less densely populated areas, so the concentration of military and military families is higher relative to a bigger city?

      2. bridget*

        Hi Bridget – Looks like I’ll have to make my username here more specific in the future! -bridget

    2. Reverend(ish)*

      It’s a tough situation. As a military spouse pursuing a residency in counseling and then hopefully starting my phd in religion and psychology, this comment section is a summary of my adult working life. AAM is right on here. Just stress your own career interests and goals while also emphasizing the length of time it takes to complete a phd. It’s a balancing act. For my last interview (which I just heard back that I got the job), when asked about what caused me to move to my current city, I said something like the following: “my husband and I were assigned here for aminimum of x years by the military, and I am incredibly excited because relocating to this city has allowed me to the opportunity to apply to this residency program.” Once they learned we would be here for more than a year or two, and that I genuinely wanted the job, that seemed to settle nerves and dispel any notions of “the trailing wife”

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Military spouse here. The hardest hurdle is getting a call for an interview–if you can play the positives of your experience like flexibility, adaptability, quick study, and so on, it can really help. But lots of places hate hiring spouses regardless because they’re not interested in hiring again every couple of years. It’s hard, but not impossible .

    4. K130*

      I’m a military spouse also. It is hard moving every three years to maintain upward career progression. The military has a number of programs to help spouses find work and most places we relocate to have a large military community, so employers usually understand what’s entailed in hiring a military spouse.

      1. Chinook*

        I was a military spouse and now a national police force spouse and, in both cases, didn’t have access to support for job hunting when we moved every 1.5 years. Honestly, Alisons’s advice is spot on. I was always up front about my work history and those willing to interview me often tried to scope out how long I would be there. I would truthfully answer that I hope to be there a while and point out, if pushed, that no employee can see into the future. I would also highlight my ability to adapt to new workplace cultures and that I am willing to do what it takes for them to take a chance on me.

        Considering I have had my current job for 3+ years (and DH is looking to apply to a local force so we NEVER HAVE TO MOVE AGAIN and maybe learn what happens you come to the end of a mortgage term) and numerous other stints of 1.5 t 3 years in different industries, I know it can work.

    5. Tess McGill*

      Military spouse here, for 24 years. Shortest stay at one place: 18 months. Longest stay at one place: 3-1/2 years. We have moved 12 times in those 24 years. I agree with a previous poster that it all depends on how well you handle the interview. The interview questions can sometimes be a minefield, but if you navigate properly, you’ll be fine. For me, it was all about attitude and making it clear to the potential employer that I wanted to be there, working for them. Yes, some states are more military friendly than others. I’m lucky that I have a very portable career, but it was easier to find employment in Georgia (three times), Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia (twice) than it was in Pennsylvania. I also didn’t have a problem finding employment in Kansas. I chose not to work while stationed overseas. Most employers I’ve found simply want to hear that you’ll be around for at least 2 years. Interestingly, I’ve never made use of any of the employment programs offered to spouses, made available for the first time after 9/11. As a military spouse of a career service member, there is that unwritten rule that the service member’s career comes first, and I never had an issue with that. When it was time to go, it was time to go. I’ve never once considered my life hard by any stretch of the imagination. I have enjoyed the adventure tremendously. Best of luck to OP#5.

    6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I am a military parent. My daughter and her husband were both officers, but she resigned her commission and “retired” when they wed, because you can’t have a family easily if BOTH of you are in. You could be assigned different places.

      She had a career change – now in the health care world. If her husband were transferred, her job is portable enough, she could get employment anywhere.

      As far as the area being “military friendly” — nearly anyplace that has facilities is “military friendly”, whatever that means.

      However, the military CAN and is a transient world. So, yes, for something like management – they might be reluctant to bring someone in if the significant other is military, and could be reassigned at any time.

  11. nofelix*

    #2 – You said the employee disengages from the planning process for events she cannot attend. Whether she’s sulking or just uninterested, this isn’t okay and her manager needs to let her know.

    Seventh Day Adventists can’t work on the sabbath, but helping members of the community is allowed. Maybe some of these events are doable for her after all.

    1. Mando Diao*

      I noticed that as well. It’s one thing for her to skip the events themselves (provided that her absence isn’t putting a strain on the other employees, who are sacrificing their weekends for these events), but she still has to do her share of the planning. Don’t let her trick you into think that’s somehow an acceptable accommodation of her religion.

      1. Temperance*


        I used to work with someone who received a lot of religious accommodations (including getting the early schedule every day, which we were told was Not Possible, Under Any Circumstances) that … were amazingly not tied to her faith at all. She went to Kingdom Hall twice per week, and liked to get there early, so she received a permanent schedule change. When I requested the other days of the week as my early leave days, I was denied, and my coworker was given the benefit of an early departure/adjusted schedule every day.

        Since she didn’t celebrate holidays, she made it a “thing” where she wouldn’t tell our clients that we were closing, even though she was the receptionist.

    2. Mike C.*

      Seventh Day Adventists can’t work on the sabbath, but helping members of the community is allowed.

      Going into what is and isn’t allowed is not the sort of distinction a manager outside of the religion should be trying to make. Those sorts of interpretations vary from church to church and individual to individual.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. Way out of line to the point of possible illegality for a manager to argue the work implications of the employee’s faith.

      2. Kira*

        I also think that if other coworkers are going to these events as part of their job, it would be tricky for this employee to come help on Saturday but not be doing it for work (assuming non-exempt). In non-profits, the line between work and helping people can be nonexistent.

    3. Megs*

      I agree with your first point, but your second point makes it sound like you think she should be taking part in these events as a volunteer, which is definitely Not something her employer should be suggesting at all. If she wanted to volunteer with the community on the Sabbath, that’s totally up to her, and probably shouldn’t be at events she’d otherwise be working anyhow for fair labor reasons.

    4. Observer*

      Please don’t decide for someone else what their religious obligations are. These are clearly events she WANTS to attend, so I would expect that she’s looked into whether they are doable for her. “helping the community” may not be a blanket exemption for everything.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I agree that its not up to a manager or anyone else to determine religious obligations and be accommodating.

        But as with everything else I would think that the fact that she disengages and doesn’t help with planning – if it’s a core function of her job – could end up being the bigger issue than whether or not she actually attends these events.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          Clarifying here:
          *it’s not up to a manger to determine religion obligations
          *it IS up to the manager to be accomodating

  12. Fish Microwaer*

    OP#1 I have a similar situation at my office. A new starter who has not been fully trained has been allowed to work from home (allowed to others when fully trained and after at least 6 months) , gets to cherry pick her assignments and has been given some project work that longer term , good perfomers had expressed interest in. Our job is very boring and any little project to break the monotony would be a real treat. Morale is tanking because of how this employee is treated. She doesn’t have to do the lowly but necessary parts of the job and it falls to those of us who are overloaded with work to do thes parts of her job. We are gov so we all get paid the same. I am so angry I fear for my health.

    1. JessaB*

      Are you sure this person may not have an accommodation about working at home? I know someone who is a newer employee and who is on the list to work at home (probably near the bottom,) but due to an ADA accommodation (building is huge and he can’t walk well, etc.) is being moved to the top of the work at home list. It may stink, but it may actually end up reasonable if you knew why they were sent home. This doesn’t address them not doing all their job (unless that’s also part of the agreement) but still.

      1. Fish Microwaer*

        It’s possible. However, the fact that she has not received all the training is the real issue. If she was able to do the whole job from home like our other remote workers that would be different. She makes a lot of mistakes that we have to rectify because there is no mechanism to use it as a teaching opportunity because she is remote.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          My area does a lot of WFH, we use business video chat/screen share options if there’s a remote teaching need. You could bring up a potential need for the organization to have that flexibility to stay connected.

          1. Fish Microwaer*

            That’s a good idea, but I doubt they would want to spend money on the technology, being gov and all. She was in the office every day for the project work, seemingly without issue.

            1. LQ*

              I know that sounds fancy but if you are government big enough to have an IT department I’ll bet you already have the tech.

              If it is a laptop they have chances are good it comes with a camera baked in. And if you have Lync aka skype for business you have screen sharing. And if you don’t skype is free and can do screen share (so can google hangouts but I like skype’s way better). So a phone call or a skype call or a skype chat and a screen share with an old fashioned phone call are all possible. Even for government.

            2. Kira*

              I use free screen share options. I think you’re more likely to run into red tape about using the website/software than price issues. Government offices I worked with weren’t allowed to click Dropbox links I sent them, when our files were too big for email.

              1. Fish Microwaer*

                Yes, security and confidentiality are big issues with our work. There are certain documents that the remote workers have to email to the office for forwarding.

      2. Fish Microwaer*

        I should add that I am not interested in working from home. I don’t have the space and I am happy to go to the office.

  13. Furiosa*

    Hey OP #3, I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer 6 months into my first job after graduation! Yay? It was super weird to be navigating my first professional experience and then be like, “Oh sorry, all of a sudden I can’t concentrate on work because I’m busy freaking out about cancer and also I need three weeks off.” I hope you’ve got a good support team around you and are able to be really nice to yourself and practice good self care during your treatment. Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone!

    1. OP #3*

      Yeah it’s been crazy enough just trying to navigate being a young professional. But the cancer diagnoses adds a whole new level of craziness! My family and friends have been an amazing support, and even my coworkers. I hope all is well for you too!

  14. INTP*

    #5: I wonder if there is a wording that doesn’t let on that the OP’s husband is in academia? Academia is like the military, relocation is a job requirement period, the spouse usually follows and there is no way to convince someone you’re in the area long term unless he’s reached a tenured professor status. Even PhD students often spend a year away from campus for research.

    If the PhD should be on the longer end, like seven more years, I’d specify that. Or if he plans to work in industry afterwards and work is available in your area, specify that. But otherwise, I wonder if OP can phrase it like she moved a couple of times for her husbands career without specifying that it was for schooling.

    1. AMT*

      Yes, I wonder if it’d be sufficient to say, “I moved here for my husband’s job, and we’re planning to stay here long-term.”

      1. fposte*

        That makes sense to me too. Unless I’m missing something, the OP’s history hasn’t been particularly checkered–the one move for the master’s allowed her to stay two years at that job, and now she’s looking for another.

      2. themmases*

        I am a PhD student and that is what I would do.

        Also unless you are on a fellowship or paying for it yourself (never pay for it yourself! but I know people do that), PhD students are university employees. And just like with any other job, we only have a ballpark estimate of how long we will be here. :)

  15. Roscoe*

    #1 While I get your frustration, this isn’t really any of your business why your co-worker is getting a raise. I’d go so far as to say it was inappropriate for you to even ask your boss about this. I’m not sure how you know, but I just can’t see going to my boss and asking why one of my co-workers got something I didn’t. Again, I see your frustration, but it just seems out of line. If you do feel the need to discuss this with him, Alison’s wording is good. But I just don’t see how you come off looking good by doing so.

    #4 It seems you want it both ways here. You didn’t want him to tell them, but then he did and you are mad that they didn’t contact you? Put it this way, I recently found out about a medical condition a friend has. That friend didn’t tell me, so while I’m here for that friend, I’m not going to reach out. When it comes to health things, people really don’t want to over step, even if its just a small note.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      A promotion might well be public knowledge, that doesn’t seem strange. I was thinking that it seemed inappropriate for the OP to ask about the coworker’s performance, and MUCH more inappropriate for the VP to respond frankly.

      Regardless, it’s psychologically unrealistic to act like everyone else’s morale won’t be affected by a low-performing coworker receiving things they were denied. I’m not going to want to work at a place where my good performance isn’t rewarded while others’ bad performance is. Someone who has their coworkers’ and their organization’s back might well raise this issue.

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure, the promotion is probably public knowledge, but the OP seems very upset about the money moreso than the title change. Now again, I’m not sure how their structure works, so the amount of added responsibility may be negligible. But going to ask about someone else’s paycheck just doesn’t seem appropriate to me. And yes, it was also inappropriate for the VP to respond frankly.

        I guess I just think its a lot easier to just worry about yourself and advocate for yourself on your merits, not based on what someone else does or doesn’t do. So unless it is a job like sales where everyone’s performance is visible to everyone else, its not worth stressing over. I have no problem with someone saying “Based on these factors and what I have contributed, I deserve a raise. It’s completely different to say “Based on these factors and what he has contributed, John didn’t deserve the raise you already gave him”

        Here is what it really comes down to. The opinion of OP really doesn’t matter. The opinion of the VP which does matter, was that giving this person a raise was the right call for them.

        1. Temperance*

          I really disagree with this. OP has received the message loud and clear that her consistent strong performance and dedication are worth jack to the company. Seeing a total slacker get rewarded while she has to fight to advocate for deserved raises and title changes really sucks.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think this just goes back to the old saying that “You can’t control someone’s actions, but you can control how you react to that”. The raise was given out already. So she is well within her right to leave if she wants. But I just don’t see it as ever appropriate to bring up what someone else makes and essentially argue that they don’t deserve it.

            1. Tomato Frog*

              Arguing that the other person doesn’t deserve the money isn’t the only aspect of this, though, and the OP doesn’t have to frame it that way. What the OP can say the VP is “You’re sending a message to your employees that tells them you don’t value their hard work.”

              But I’m not entirely sold on the idea that it’s never appropriate to say “Why is that person getting paid more than me for worse/less/the same work?” I feel like being able to make comparisons to other people in your field, in your company, are sort of essential in the fight for equal pay.

              1. anony*

                If you feel that you’ve delivered good work, have a good rapport with co-workers and otherwise all things are equal with similar co-workers and then you find out just how much more she is being paid than you, rather than let it tank your productivity, I think it is fair to bring it up to your manager and make a discreet inquiry. I know for a fact that my administrative co-worker who had the same job and job description as I did (there four teams divided into two groups of two and we each had two) must have negotiated a higher starting salary than I did but the discrepancy was large enough for me to ask about it as she actually was not as high performing as I was…and I fixed her mistakes and had higher education than her (and in those days, that meant something). My first manager shrugged his shoulders then I changed managers. She brought it to HR. Then I changed manager again (this was a common thing in this firm) and he finally gave me the news that I was getting a pay increase that was more in line with the job.

            2. neverjaunty*

              You seem to be confusing that old saying with “and if you are treated unfairly and badly by others, just shut up and do nothing.” Which isn’t really an effective career strategy.

              The VP is very publicly sending a message that good performers and a sound work ethic will not be rewarded, but acting out will be.

              1. Allison*

                Right. I think that old saying is meant to discourage people from lashing out and overreacting to little things, and encouraging people to not let minor slights get to them. It doesn’t mean you should accept poor treatment with a smile. We’re human, after all.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Right. And in the workplace, accepting poor treatment here means tolerating a work environment where one’s hard work and value to the company are not appropriately recognized and compensated.

                  Anyone who thinks “MYOB” is always the right career move ought to think about Lily Ledbetter.

        2. Michelle*

          The VP was the asking other people for advice on how to get the employee to show up and do his work and then explained why he gave him a promotion and raise, so the VP made issue public knowledge when he cose that course of action. If a VP cannot handle an employee performance issue on his own without seeking advice and basically bribing a employee to do the work he was hired for then maybe VP is not the best role for that person.

          I wholeheartedly agree with Temperance. Seeing a total slacker get rewarded when you have to fight for deserved raises and title changes sucks and lowers employee morale.

          1. Liz*

            The VP was the asking other people for advice on how to get the employee to show up and do his work

            To me, this is key. The OP didn’t just bring up the issue out of nowhere; the VP made it everyone’s business by doing this.

        3. Observer*

          Normally, I would agree with you. But, there are some exceptions, and this is one of them. The OP was told something, and then saw that something apparently very different happened. It’s legitimate to question it. Also, the OP *did* try the kind of advocacy you recommend, which is what normally makes sense. Yet, it didn’t work. Again, it’s reasonable to question why.

          The OP essentially asked “What will it take to get a raise and promotion here?” It’s a very reasonable question. It’s not the OP’s fault that the VP came back with an utterly ridiculous answer. When the VP essentially answers “Slacking off”, you can’t criticize the OP for noticing the problem or being frustrated.

    2. OP #1*

      On a regular day I would agree 100% with you, Roscoe. It is simply unprofessional to get involved in another team member’s performance. However, this was a very public situation, which had me on the fence about whether or not I should speak up. Would I look equally unprofessional by saying something? Thanks for your feedback — it is appreciated!

      1. neverjaunty*

        But this isn’t “getting involved in another team member’s performance”. This is getting involved in how your company treats YOU.
        Right now, your company is telling you that it will reward problem employees but not good ones; that it will lie about budgetary issues to avoid giving you a raise it can somehow afford to give Fergus; and it will tolerate bad managers and terrible morale.

        Framing this as a MYOB issue is not only wrong; it’s practically gaslighting.

        1. Roscoe*

          Its not gaslighting, its people above you making salary decisions you don’t agree with. So even if I do think someone is a crappy employee, telling my boss that they are “wrong” to give them more money isn’t the way to go about it. Again, go ahead and advocate for yourself, but bringing up other peoples shortcomings (in your opinion that really doesn’t matter) looks petty to me.

          1. neverjaunty*

            This is not a situation of “how come Fergus gets to come in five minutes late”, which would be petty. This is a situation where there is openly disparate treatment and the company is being disingenuous about the reasons for its actions.

            And yes, it is gaslighting to frame this as an issue of “mind your own work” and “don’t be petty”.

            1. Kira*

              I think asking any question like “How come Jane…?” could be framed better. Maybe “I know Jane got XYZ. I’d be interested in XYZ, what can I do to get that/could I be eligible for that opportunity in the future?” In this case, it would be especially pointed. “Fergus got a promotion and raise. I’d like to know what I can do to be more like Fergus and get a promotion and raise in the future.”

              1. neverjaunty*

                But OP already tried to present the case for a raise for her and was told there simply wasn’t a budget. She also was flatly told exactly why Fergus got the promotion and raise: as a bribe to make him behave better. So she doesn’t need to ask why he got promoted and nobody else did. She also knows that “oh, we’d looooove to pay you more but budget” is a lie.

            2. Roscoe*

              Ok, well apparently people can now define gaslighting anyway they want. But yes, my salary is my business. I would not be happy to know that my co-workers were going to our boss to discuss it because in their mind I don’t deserve what I’m making. So, morale issues aside, its not really your business.

              As Kira said below, framing it as “How can I get X also” definitely is the better way to go about it, because you are making it about you, not the other person

              1. Temperance*

                I really disagree with this. Secrecy about these things is what enables sexist salary differences to flourish.

                1. Roscoe*

                  Possibly. Or you just don’t want people to know things that are private. I don’t support gender based pay discrepancy. I also don’t think my salary should be known. I understand there are certain jobs (government for example) that make things public. But working for a private entity, I wouldn’t like that. Even just among my co-workers. Do I want the accounting department to know how much more or less I make than them? No.

      2. Mustache Cat*

        This VP was actively canvassing everyone’s opinions before he ever took action. I think that gives you the right to speak up as long as you’re professional about it.

        By the way, since you’re here: when this VP initially asked for your opinion (aka before the promotion), what did you tell him?

    3. Natalie*

      Blink and you’ll miss it, but it sounds like the LW is also in management: “But as a leader in the organization, is there anything I can or should do”

      1. Roscoe*

        I read that and I was a bit confused as well. If it was her subordinate and the VP gave the raise, I would see this much differently. But if they are on the same level, I think its a bit different.

        1. OP #1*

          Great questions all around.

          The VP runs a dept that branches into two sub-departments (I am blanking on what else to call them, apologies for likely making up a word here). I run one sub-department and have two direct reports.

          The other sub-division does not have a Director. All of those employees report directly to the VP. So the employee who received a raise and promotion works in another area and reports directly to the VP.

          I was not asked if the employee should be promoted. I was asked a few times (both privately and in group settings) how to encourage the employee to show up to work and perform his job while he was at work. I suggested that the VP have a one-on-one discussion with him about his performance to find out if something was causing the performance issues and take it from there. When the VP told me about the promotion and pay raise, it seemed natural for me to ask what happened since this had been an ongoing conversation for months.

          I really appreciate everyone’s opinion. I wrote this question because I wanted to hear from many perspectives. Thank you again!

        2. CMT*

          But LW has an obligation to her staff, right? And presumably seeing this will make their morale just as low.

    4. the OP*

      I’m #4, I don’t know how to explain to potential employers why I have had a large gap in my employment. The ex is not involved in any future employment. He has been completely cut out of my life after years of legal issues as a result of his beating and stalking me. I couldn’t work. I’ve been out of work for years, and it’s something I have to explain. This is a concern going forward, not something he already interfered with. (He did enough of that.)

  16. Cochrane*

    LW1: sounds like you’ve got the “maverick manager” who does the opposite of what they’re supposed to do, thinking that it makes them freethinking geniuses.

    “Hey, Fergus isn’t pulling his weight? He must be bored! Here’s a title and a raise!”

        1. Windchime*

          Or the scary mailroom guy who worked in Elaine’s office and got promoted because he was so weird.

  17. Jessie*

    OP #1: There would be one possible reasonable explanation (depending on your line of work) and that is the employee in question is particularly skilled in a high-need area and his value in that outweighs his current work ethic. They might be concerned that his current attitude reflects a desire to leave the company in the near future and the promotion is the carrot to get him to stay and work harder.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Except for the part where the VP was soliciting others for tips on how to get Fergus to do his job? We have plenty of information here to suggest that this isn’t a situation where Fergus is, unknown to the OP, a superstar.

    2. OP #1*

      NeverJaunty is correct. Work product is a day late and a dollar short on his best day. I have a bad feeling that the VP does not want to have a difficult discussion and is hoping this will magically change everything. But, I am strongly considering taking Alison’s advice and speaking to him to see if he enlightens me. He has no requirement to give me his thought process, but considering how loose-lipped he is, he just might!

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Coworker Coffeecup, named for what I’d have to drink to top his output in addition to my own, would’ve seen a raise as justifying his inflated opinion of himself. When I’d waited two weeks for him to write some Windows code – I’m a Mac dev, but my Mac code couldn’t move forward until I knew what was going on with the Windows side – and then ended up doing it myself with the help of Google and my extremely rusty OS/2 skills, I told my manager I would never work with him again. My manager said his response to this was to be disappointed that he “wouldn’t get to use his Windows skills”! Some people just cannot be reached.

        By the time he was fired everyone had refused to work with him, and the only things he got assigned were trivial things we could easily live without.

  18. Bridget*

    For #5 — how do you recommend answering this as a military spouse? I was lucky in that my current job is very military friendly and the fact that I’m a military spouse may have even made them like me MORE, not less, but I realize that won’t always be the case. But there’s no way to answer that question, really, without saying “my husband is about to be stationed at Fort X.” He’s a dentist so we’re pretty stable in that there’s not a huge chance we’re going to have to up and move at a moment’s notice, but still the max I could probably commit to being in a place is three years and we don’t really have the option of saying we plan to stay there longer. And of course I don’t want to spring it on them after they hire me but I don’t want them to not hire me because of it. Any thoughts?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’d say that as a military spouse, you are probably going to be moving to places where companies are used to hiring military spouses and understand that time frames are limited by nature. I actually preferred military spouses in OldJob because even though they might leave in 3 years, I knew that I’d have a great employee for 3 years.

      1. Bridget*

        Thanks! That’s good to know. I always worry about what people will think about military spouses because while I think a lot of people feel the way you do, I think there are plenty of others who abide more by the “dependapotamus” stereotype and would assume a military spouse wouldn’t actually be interested in working hard for them.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          And I’ll throw this out there. Since you’ll be on or near a base, check out which colleges have staff on those bases. Many (also OldJob) have a presence on military bases or just outside the gates. We had people that popped around in the same role at multiple bases as their spouses got moved. Former military and military spouses were the top of our list for preferred hires.

          1. Nicole*

            I worked at a college near a base and we had lots of great military spouses in staff positions. This is in the Pacific Northwest, which I’m only mentioning since there was a concern somewhere about being in the north as a military spouse. I’m not one, so I can’t say whether my coworkers experienced that other places, but I never caught any hint of concerns about it in our workplace.

    2. Reverend(ish)*

      Hey fellow military spouse! I’ve actually interviewed a few places and it has never even come up, so I just don’t bring it up. If they do ask, I just emphasize that we are stationed at Fort X for z years and then switch back to my career goals, interests, talents. That has worked for me the best.

      1. Bridget*

        I don’t think I’ve interviewed anywhere yet where the question “so what brings you here” hasn’t come up; my resume is so scattered location-wise that they almost HAVE to ask. I wish it wouldn’t come up but when I have jobs/college from three different states in five years…it comes up. But you’re right, redirecting after giving a simple answer seems like a good way to go.

        1. Reverend(ish)*

          Ah, I had that up until our last station, then I got to go back and work where I worked in grad school but at a higher level. That really saved me because it made my resume had 3 degrees from 3 schools in three states then started moving all over with the husband. Come to think of it, I also started writing a quick one sentence mention plus redirect in my cover letter, so that might be mitigating the in person question. Any chance your skill set fits in with an in demand job with the government? You can use spouse preference, bypass this issue, and even potentially carry your job with you from Fort A to Fort where-in-the-heck-are-they-assigning-us-now.

    3. CAA*

      Does the type of work you do allow you to work remotely, and if not, could you look for something that does? I have a military spouse on my team and he’s just recently moved overseas with his wife, and is working from there. This is the third location they’ve been in since I’ve been managing him (he was remote when we hired him). I have had to ask him to adjust his work schedule so there’s some overlap with everyone else’s day, but that’s the only issue we’ve had.

      I also worked with a military spouse when I was at a large multinational company with many branch offices. Our company had always been willing to let her transfer to another branch as long as there was an opening for her role there.

      1. Bridget*

        Not currently–I’m a catering director at a country club and those are the types of jobs I plan to look for, but I’m always open to things where I can work remotely. Event planning just doesn’t work with that, unfortunately =P

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Oooff. I would be pissed too. That’s just…sadly par for the course is most companies. If you have a relationship with VP that you can bring that up, I’d do what AAM says. If not, and probably anyway, I’d find a way to move out of the company. Nothing good will come of that VP.

    #2-It sounds like you are being considerate and that’s nice of you. And anything you can do to have events on other days, I’m sure your employee will appreciate. I will say that I was concerned by the comment that she essentially checks out on the planning process of events because she’s bummed that she can’t go. I’d address that. And, let’s be honest, unless you are getting some sort of certificate that actually means something you can always leave a conference early.

  20. Bwmn*

    LW #2 – While I think the community events situation may just be beyond your control, I think that trainings and conferences are an opportunity for you/Kate’s manager to really step up and push on training organizers for an accommodation. A number of conferences and trainings that I’ve been to over the years have people dip out on the last day, and if the concern is the organizers really refusing to provide a certificate of completion maybe there are other alternatives or webinars that can be viewed in place of attendance on Saturday.

    Another thing for your organization to consider is when someone says “Saturday attendance is mandatory” – if all that means is that Kate doesn’t get a certificate of completion – then your organization can waive that a sign of successful completion. I get that the idea is for complete attendance, but if there truly aren’t cost effective alternative trainings – then I do think that the organization itself can tell the training “this attendee has to leave before Saturday”.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think that’s particularly realistic. Unless the OP’s company is huge and accounts for a significant part of the seminar’s participants, the organisers won’t change their schedule to accommodate them; for the majority of people having their employees be gone on Friday and Saturday is less disruptive than on two successive working days. Nor is it very reasonable for the company to pay for the employee to receive incomplete training.

      1. themmases*

        I think Bwmn is saying that the meeting organizers should help Kate get the last day’s information and a certificate of completion some other way. They didn’t suggest that OP try get and entire conference rescheduled.

        1. Bwmn*

          Yes, my thinking comes from what themmases said. If this is fairly straight forward leadership training and the choices of courses comes from thinking that includes whether the course is well taught and feasible – the certificate of completion that will only come after “mandatory attendance” – that certificate isn’t really worth that much. Being there for 2 of three days (especially if the Saturday is only a half day which is also often the case) will still likely have a lot of use for Kate, even if there’s no way to access the Saturday information.

          I’ve never been to a conference or training that went into Saturday where there weren’t people who left before the Saturday for one reason or another. If Kate’s registration is paid, this is far more about how the organization wants to react to “this training continues onto Saturday”. I think that from a development/educational standpoint it is important to push to see if information can be accessed. But as a learning opportunity, this is a care for the organization to not fret about “wasting money” on one attendee not making it to the certificate portion of the conference.

          If this is a genuine accreditation/liscensure issue – I’m 100% positive there are religious exception work arounds. But if this is just the organization being tight about not letting an employee attend because she can’t be their Saturday – this is something that the organization can be flexible with.

      2. Always Anon*

        I agree. I work for an organization that plans all sorts of conferences and events, and we typically get at least 5-10 requests to move part or all of the conference for a variety of religious, personal, cultural reasons. The answer is always no. Once the dates are published they are published, and we won’t convenience the majority of attendees (of which there can be anywhere from 100 to several thousand).

        1. Bwmn*

          This isn’t about changing dates – but rather finding a work around (i.e. can you please let Kate see the presentations from Saturday the next week via webinars or some such) or the organization just letting Kate’s absence on the last day slide.

          Sure it may mean paying the full attendance fee, but if an employee committed to attending all three days got sick on the last day and didn’t go – that’s just something that happens. The organization can value paying for Kate to attend the conferences with the knowledge that she won’t be there all three days. This is something that lots of organizations do for all sorts of reasons – religious or not.

    2. themmases*

      I agree. This is definitely something the OP should contact meeting organizers about and emphasize that it’s a religious accommodation.

      They could also consider that certificates of completion for a lot of training courses are really not worth much– even if the content is quite worthwhile. Even for trainings that I’ve occasionally considered CV-worthy, I have no idea where the certificate of completion is and no one has ever wanted to see it. Ultimately no one can force Kate to stay in town and attend another day of this training. If she’ll get 90% of the content during the week and the certificate from this training isn’t exactly going up on her wall, she should feel free to register and just not attend Saturday.

      IME organizations put up these “no exceptions” policies to head off frivolous or special requests from people who really could have worked it out on their own. It doesn’t mean they’re really not going to accommodate a religious observance or a family or health emergency, unless they want to be bleeding attendees and organizations willing to send people in the future.

      1. Bwmn*

        Yes, in my mind if this is a case where attendance is “mandatory” in regards to getting a certificate of completion – the organization can both testify that not getting the certificate is ok and be willing to confirm to future employers that Kate attended X training (in the very unique reference check situation where that is cared about).

        There’s a conference I regularly attend that sometimes ends on Saturday, sometimes Friday. When it ends on Saturday – everyone still pays the full conference fee, and easily half of all attendees leave before Saturday. Sure, it’s not that the learning and networking chances on Saturday can’t be had – but it’s also not the end of the world if you leave before.

        I also think that this is a really easy way for the organization to accommodate the employee rather than trying to arrange their own events on a Sunday. Depending who the organization serves and in what part of the country, moving events to Sunday may not be relevant or helpful for their constituents. Letting Kate attend conferences for half or 2/3’s of the time is far more within the organization’s capacity.

      2. Kira*

        I assumed “attendance is mandatory” meant that they won’t give you a discount rate if you only attend the first few days?

  21. OlympiasEpiriot*

    #4. That’s a lot to have gone through. Best of luck and congratulations on getting back to the point where you can work.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, OP #4, please don’t take the lack of arguing about AAM’s response to you as a sign of disinterest! Best of luck to you and so glad you are moving past that terrible situation.

  22. Sunshine Brite*

    OP4: So glad you recovered!

    Recovery is such a process. It’s not relevant to you any longer it seems, but I just wanted to let people know that in most places you CAN work and get disability – it’s encouraged to have people take baby steps back into the workforce when able. In MN, our Medicaid program, Medical Assistance has an MA-Employed Persons with Disabilities sub-program for people who work a small amount. It allows some additional assets to build up so people can have a bridge off disability as they work more.

  23. Alton*

    The only way #1 might seem more fair to me is if he was a good performer who was struggling with attendance because he couldn’t afford transportation or medical treatment or something. But even then, I don’t think it would be a fair precedent to give raises and promotions out of compassion but make it unreasonably hard for anyone else to get them based on merit.

  24. WhiteBear*

    #2.) For the leadership program that required mandatory attendance for Thursday through Saturday, maybe next time an event like this comes up (though I know it’s not completely in your control), you could reach out to the organizers and explain you have one employee who is really looking forward to the program but for religious reasons/special circumstances won’t be able to attend the Saturday portion, but is still very excited to be there. You never know, they might be willing to make an exception, especially if its for a protected reason (and if they don’t want to appear insensitive for denying the accommodation).

  25. OFA*

    The head honcho at my previous job was notorious for treating the poor performers really well by giving them unearned promotions,being a lot nicer to them and making up excuses for why they were bad at their jobs. She would treat the high performers like trash by constantly throwing us under the bus to the higher ups, yelling at us constantly, and giving us paltry raises (1%)when she confessed that she could’ve given us more. That office had such high turnaround. In a 10 person office, 5 people left in a 2 month window. I always thought the crazy boss’ master plan was to surround herself with imbeciles so that she could look good to her bosses but she often had to pick up a lot of extra work so it seemed like a weird plan to me. Eventually I stopped busting my butt and only did just enough to squeak by.I’m glad I’m out of that loony bin. I guess this method of “management” is a lot common than I used to think. Though in my case, I really think that my manager was an evil mastermind instead of clueless.

    1. Fish Microwaer*

      Surrounding yourself with imbeciles is never going to make you look good. Most management wisdom I have read suggests that you should surround yourself with the best possible staff.

    2. Cassie*

      One of my bosses was a little like this – the poor performers tended to be the louder ones (i.e. squeaky wheel) and I think he thought that if he treated them extra nice and bended to their whims, they’d behave better and perform better. Meanwhile, the high performers kept their heads down and did their work so he didn’t “have to” cater to them.

      It’s amazing that some people think like this – that if you just give them what they want, they’ll be better. It doesn’t work with bullies, it doesn’t work with children, and it doesn’t work with (intentionally) poor performers!

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      ” I always thought the crazy boss’ master plan was to surround herself with imbeciles so that she could look good to her bosses..”

      I worked for a large company, where those who worked in field offices in clerical positions were hired based on their lack of qualifications… it was amazing.

      It is more common than you think. If a company is tolerant of high turnover, they actually think (and I am not making this up) that this is effective. You keep pay levels low, your employees are always on edge, and you maintain complete control of your office.

      What they DON’T think about is the actual high costs of turnover, and the inefficiencies that come with it.

  26. themmases*

    Wow. I will be thinking of letter writers 3 and 4 today. I wish them both a full recovery, and all the best in their careers and otherwise.

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yes to all this! OP3 and OP4, I hope things get easier for you both from now on. Please come back and let us know how you’re doing!

    2. OP #3*

      Thank you for the kind words! Things are still crazy but I’m able to lead a somewhat normal professional and personal life.

  27. animaniactoo*

    OP1, you’re a credit. I would not have been able to stop myself.

    [mouth open, gaping] “Damn! If it’d known it was that easy, I’d have done it that way instead of busting my ass for 2 years and then fighting another 6 months to get my own raise and promotion!”

  28. Pam Adams*

    I’ve worked for jerk managers like that too, I quickly moved myself to the overnight shift, so the lazy ones couldn’t affect me.

  29. Lucky*

    #4, I’m here to echo some of the other posts — my fingers are crossed for you to have a great interview & get a job offer.

  30. INFJ*

    #5 whatever response/script you decide to go with, make sure to emphasize your interest in/commitment to your current industry. My department recently interviewed several candidates for a position, and one of the candidates had a situation similar to yours. Some people were concerned that she wasn’t applying because she really wanted THIS JOB, but rather because she had to find A JOB due to moving for her husband’s job.

    1. OP#5*

      This is good to remember. I certainly do try to come across that way, especially now that I AM in a specific industry rather than searching around for something/anything that will grant me gainful employment. I appreciate the advice!

  31. boop*

    For some reason I can’t feel sympathy for the situation in #2. She needs Saturday off and the company is accommodating without complaint. Maybe it’s because I’ve only had crappy jobs, but that’s already a pretty good deal. Now she wants them to accommodate her again by moving the event dates? It’s pretty normal to miss YEARS of festivals, holidays, Sunday mornings, social events, whatever due to mandatory schedules. Though I bet lots of her coworkers would jump at the opportunity to have the conference end on a friday so they can have saturdays off (like her), so that could work out fine for everyone.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not seeing anything in the OP’s post to suggest the employee has requested that event dates be moved–it’s the OP who’s trying to find ways to accommodate a good employee who’d like to be involved.

    2. neverjaunty*

      The company doesn’t get a gold star for doing what it’s already supposed to do, I hope?

  32. Bob*

    For #1, I have had situations in the past where an employee wasn’t cutting it so I changed their duties. Maybe everyone in the department does X, Y and X but the employee can only do X well. I have changed their duties so X-related stuff gets shifted to her and she gets considerably less of Y and Z. It still pisses people off and comes across as unfair but I’ll do it if the person is a generally good employee otherwise. But I would never literally promote and/or give a pay raise to a poor performing employee as that sets a horrible precedent. Salary information (which I realize is legal to discuss) is usually kept quiet but somehow it never is when problem employees are involved.

  33. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – the ONLY time I would do that – is if an employee “tanked” because he/she was unfairly passed over – or, someone with lesser qualifications was hired over him/her. I was in a place where we had that happen – a gentleman was doing a job very well – in fact, outstandingly so, as “associate junior teapot designer” – then, they hired someone with NO experience or skills as “senior teapot designer” and he had to train her.

    This would prompt from someone like me “OK, what the hell is up with this? What do I have to do to get that title and the pay?” … and continue working , but set a short deadline for a (tangible) response.

    #2 – was this NOT discussed when the individual was hired? In my world = IS/IT , it is often necessary to take night and weekend emergency calls — and to be available (occasionally) on weekends for major projects, conversions, and so forth as the systems usually can’t be taken out of service during the business day.

    And although reasonable accommodation must be factored in, if the person is unavailable to do the job – I would think that can present a legitimate obstacle to hiring.

  34. Mr. Mike*

    Not that I was ever a management extrodenaire, but I once ‘promoted’ a problem employee which somehow created the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. He was the graveyard shift (security) for a particular facililty and I started getting reports that he was sleeping on the job and missing work etc., so I did a little follow up and caught him napping at his post one night. Instead of just firing him, I wanted to see if this could be turned around so I called him into my office (he didn’t know I caught him sleeping) talked about the importance of the contract and asked him if he thought he would be up to being the ‘Third Shift Supervisor” even though there would be no pay raise (nor anyone to supervise for that matter). He readily agreed and very quickly did a 180, becoming one of the better employees I supervised, i.e. never late, no more sleeping on the job, started attending staff meetings (which was never required of him). It was an interesting experience. I recall it did cause some rumblings from other staff members, but that didn’t last long, especially when they ‘found out’ there was no other compensation.

    1. nofelix*

      This sounds less like a promotion than just finding a schedule that fit better with the employee’s life.

  35. Cassie*

    OP # 1 – maybe your VP subscribes to the Elaine Benes staff performance management principle? :)

  36. CBH*

    OP2 – Was the Saturday schedule ever discussed during the interview?

    I don’t know legally how to approach this but it seems like in a PR situation the weekends would be automatic. I’m not saying for someone to give up their religious beliefs by any means. But for example when interviewed was the employee made aware of the weekend schedule? This isn’t an equal comparison but I keep thinking if a job required heavy lifting, during the interview the interviewee would be asked, can you lift 50 lbs of boxes. Both situations touch on personal situations but both need to be addressed to get the job done.

  37. Professor Ronny*

    “We’d love to stay in this area permanently because we love X and Y, but I can say with confidence that at a minimum we’ll be here for the next eight years.”

    It is very, very rare for a Ph.D. program to take eight years these days. The only exception might be sciences with postdoc work. When I was in a Ph.D. program (back in the dark ages) the average was 3-4 years. I’m hearing it’s increased but more along the 5-6 year timeline. I quickly looked at a few programs and none of them allow you to take eight years. It’s done or out before then.

    (The reason, many students go on the teach ABD (all but dissertation) and the teaching overwhelms the dissertation. The shorter deadline keeps these ABD teachers mind on finishing the dissertation.)

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