coworker keeps burping loudly, company canceled my interview, and more

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

1. Coworker keeps burping loudly and it’s disgusting

My department (all analytics) is pretty quiet. Most of the floor is waist-high cubes (i.e., no privacy), so we’re all fairly considerate of each other: earbuds for music, taking personal calls out to the stairwell, etc.

There’s a line of small offices – with doors – down one side of the room. Our new IT help-desk guy has been installed in one of the offices. In most ways he’s a huge improvement over the last couple of help-deskers we’ve had: reasonably friendly, seems to know what he’s doing, gets things done. We know he has a hearing impairment and so we make allowances for his loud phone voice (although we know more than we’d care to about his finances and his wife’s health).

The problem? He belches. Daily. Horrid, long, loud, disgusting belches. Even with his office door closed, some days it’s downright nauseating.

I don’t know how to approach him about it. His supervisor is in a different building altogether. Our HR “department” is one over-worked person who mostly deals with hiring and benefits. I don’t want to be a jerk about it, but it’s actually getting disruptive and something’s got to change. Any ideas?

It’s possible that it’s a medical problem, in which case there likely isn’t anything that he can do about it. But it might not be medical at all and you don’t need to assume that it is without first talking to him. I’d say it this way: “Hey, I don’t know if you realize that when you burp, we can hear it out here. It’s pretty distracting! Anything you can do to control it or at least keep it quieter?”

2. Did I do something to cause this company to cancel my interview?

I’ve been interviewing with a startup for the past two weeks. I first completed a phone interview, and then a multi-part take-home assessment that I spent roughly six hours working on. The day after submitting my assessment, the hiring manager responded, saying that she was impressed with my thoughtful answers, and asked if I would be available to come in for an in-person interview this week. I responded enthusiastically and gave my availability. However, I didn’t hear back from them for three days, so I sent a follow-up to ensure that they had received my availability. This afternoon I received this reply:

“Thank you so much for getting back to me, and let me apologize for the delayed response on my end. We actually just finalized our hiring model for the rest of the year, and aren’t looking for immediate hires at the moment. But as you can tell, we’re growing quickly and would very much like to stay in touch as more roles are defined in the coming months. We expect to have additional openings in early 2017, and will be in touch then. Please keep us updated on your career and plans, and we will do the same. In the meantime, wishing you the very best.”

Should I take this at face value or is it possible that I did something to dissuade them from going through with the interview? They seemed really interested in me up until this point, and I was very surprised to get this message. Why would they move forward with two steps without knowing for sure that they were hiring for the role? Any insight to give me some peace of mind would be much appreciated!

Nope, I’d take it at face value. Sometimes things change for reasons that wouldn’t be at all obvious to on the outside as a candidate — for example, a budget is cut, a program is changed, someone resigns who they didn’t expect to resign and now that team is being reconfigured, or various internal priorities shift.

Employers are very, very comfortable rejecting people; they do it all the time. If they’d just decided they weren’t interested in you, they wouldn’t have given you such strong encouragement to stay in touch and talk with them in the future.

3. My old employer mentioned me coming back but hasn’t followed up

About six months ago, I left a job and team that I LOVED for two reasons: 1) I had just closed on a house and felt I needed a higher income for more financial security and 2) I had spent five of almost seven professional years working at my undergraduate alma mater (my previous job was at a university) and wanted to see what else was out there.” My new job pays a lot more, but I went from having my own office to sitting in a cubicle and spending most of my time holed up working independently on projects, which bores me almost to tears. I have decided that, even though there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the new job, it’s not right for me and I need a change. So, I’ve started casually (and strategically) looking for my next move.

About a week and a half ago, I returned to my alma mater (and former place of employment) for an alumni event and ran into some of the executive-level leaders at the university who essentially said to me, “Please tell me you hate your new job and would like to come back!” I told them I would be interested in coming back if the right position were available and was told that they were cooking up a new leadership position and had me in mind, specifically. Needless to say, I was very excited by this! So, the next day, I sent a follow-up email saying it was good to see them and I would be very interested in continuing the conversation about this possible new role. It’s been a week and a half and I have gotten zero responses. Do I need to wait longer? Should I send another follow-up message, and if so, what should I say? I would think that, if they were so excited to talk to me about returning, they would reply to my email.

I’d give it another couple of weeks. They should have replied to your email with something but they also might be in the very early stages of whatever they’re planning, and might have nothing to report yet. (It drives me crazy when people don’t just reply and say that, but some people wait to reply until they have an update to give.)

Meanwhile, continue the search you were doing before. If you get to the point where you’re interviewing seriously with other companies, contact them again and say, “I’m talking to a few other companies, but I’d be far more interested in returning to work with you than in accepting another job. Can you give me a sense of your timeline for hiring for the new position you mentioned, or even how likely it is? I don’t want to accept something else before talking with you if there might be a match there.”

4. Manager asks the reason why I’m not available to cover someone else’s shift

I have an issue with one of my managers who is VERY nosy. I call in to tell her I can’t take someone’s shift, and she asks me specifically why I can’t go. Is she allowed to do that? Can I respectfully tell her it’s none of her business or it’s personal?

Yes, she’s allowed to ask that. But you can certainly answer with something vague. I wouldn’t say “it’s none of your business” — even though it’s not — because that’s pretty adversarial and is unlikely to be good for the relationship. You’re better off with answers like “I have a family commitment I can’t break” or “I have plans I’m not able to move.” If she asks what those plans are, you could then say, “I’d rather not share the details. I’m sorry I can’t help out, but it’s not possible that day.”

5. What kind of severance package should I try to negotiate?

I’ve just been informed today that my company can no longer afford to keep my position. It is a small company without a real process for making decisions and without anyone in a position of really knowing what industry standards and norms are in regards to severance. In the past, they have basically just thrown out a number to see if the person would accept.

I would like some advice on what to look for in a separation package. Off the top of my head I think of x number of weeks salary (though I’m not sure what the standard would be) and extension of health insurance coverage. I am trying to takes much emotion out of it as possible but its still a difficult situation and I don’t want to overlook anything. Are there any other factors I should be taking into consideration? If they give me an offer and I try to negotiate, do I run the risk of them pulling the offer all together?

Severance really varies from company to company, but a lot of companies use a formula of one to two weeks of pay for every year you worked there. You could negotiate whether you receive it as a lump sum or spread out the way you’d receive it if it were a continuation of your salary (the latter may make it easier for them to extend the time period in which they’re paying for health insurance). You should also ask for payment of any unused vacation time, and if you have any currently unreimbursed business expenses, make sure those are included in your agreement too.

It’s extremely unlikely that they’d pull a severance offer if you try to negotiate it. They may say no, but it would be really unusual for them to pull it.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #4 – This was really helpful. Our garbage management hasn’t asked me why I can’t cover shifts yet (which are open because they can’t be arsed to hire enough people) but they have asked other employees. I’d been mulling over how to diplomatically say “none of your business”. Thank you!

    1. Cryptic Critter*

      My response has always been “unfortunately I can’t, but thanks for offering me the extra work.” in a cheerful tone. If the manager keeps asking I redirect them by suggesting they ask another employee. I’ve only had to say “No is a complete sentence.” once. Nosy managers are the worst, but I’ve also reminded them I contracted with them to work specified hours that we both agreed to on hiring. Barring a real emergency ( someones hospitalization, death in family) in which case of course I’d pitch in, I stick to that. It keeps life simple.

    2. Steve Pye*

      One of the best answers I feel as though I’ve been able to give in response to this when asked, was both a very clear personal message, and a strong sense of business ethic. I had a manager who used to ask me this kind of thing frequently, and one day I was quite annoyed at being asked–somewhat jovially, but for this manager he was also a little bit serious in his tone–“what are you doing that could possibly be more important than your work?” But rather than lashing out, which is what I wanted to do, I somehow mustered up the courage to calmly, but *very* firmly say, “I have a commitment that I’ve already made, and it’s not my practice to break my commitments or my word just because something new came up, especially if it’s not an emergency. What’s more important than my work? My integrity to the people I commit to–at work, and anywhere else. And I would hope that that integrity is one of the reasons you value me being here in the first place.”

  2. Julia Barton*

    #1 – Any suggestions for a next step when I’ve already done as advised here, and the co-worker replies that there’s no health problem (as a matter of fact, she takes pride in the fact that she’s “healthy as a horse”), but that she’s completely unable to stifle her burps and it would cause her great discomfort to do so? By the way, this burper is on the front lines of meeting clients and partners at our small nonprofit, and our executive director has privately commented several times that he hates the burping. However, to my knowledge, he’s taken no steps to address it.

    1. Myrin*

      She could at least cover her mouth with her hands which doesn’t usually involve “great discomfort” (I’m not sure I’m 100% buying that, by the way – if there’s nothing medical involved with the burps, she should be able to stifle them at least to some extent). I think you could say something along those lines but really, if the executive director is her boss/supervisor and he hates it just as much as the rest of you, it’s really on him to address it.

      1. MK*

        My sister has this issue: she sometimes burps really loudly and can’t stop or stifle them without almost choking herself (and the sight of a petite young woman emitting sounds one would expect from a lumberjack can be hilarious and gross at the same time). But it is an occasional thing, usually after a heavy meal, not several times a day. While there might not be a medical condition per se, there might be something going on, possibly to do with diet. But I really can’t imagine having that conversation without awkwardness.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, that’s actually something I would call “medical” to some extent (I totally get why you say it isn’t medical per se, though) and I actually have a similar issue; it’s reflux-related and happens extremely rarely (I burp rarely in general) but when it does, it hurts my throat and cuts off my air supply for a short time if I try to stifle it. However, in all these cases it’s still absolutely doable to cover your mouth, especially when people have actually already talked to you about it!

        2. Misc*

          there might be something going on, possibly to do with diet.

          People with IBS/intolerance/etc issues can end up with an awful lot of gas even when they’re eating perfectly normal, non-gassy food (because food = bacteria feeding frenzy = gas), and there’s only two ways that can go. So yeah, there might be a specific thing setting it off.

          I don’t burp much, fortunately, but I *definitely* cannot stop it. It’s like a hiccup or a sneeze – even if I feel it coming, I pretty much just have to ride it out.

        3. snuck*

          Sure… but she says there isn’t… then there isn’t.

          Or she doesn’t want to discuss it, which is fine… Heaven knows I don’t want the sordid gory details… but she could also just say “I have a thing that causes this … I’m trying to manage it but sometimes it gets around me” and she’s then covered.

          I REALLY don’t want to discuss the ins and outs of other people’s digetstive tracts!

    2. snuck*

      Why not next time they do it say “Gosh! That was loud… are you ok?” and if they reply they are fine then follow up with “Oh, great, glad you are fine, can you not do that around me then thanks!” and know that they are aware of the social norm so just pigs.

      If they keep it up, then you could address it the same way you would dressing inappropriately – it’s not like it’s the nebulous body odour, it’s already out, in the open, and known. So a manager could say “Ethel, I expect professional behaviour from you, and this includes not burping, if you can’t manage that please help me to understand what is involved so we can find a way to address the issue together.” This is not arbitrary, it’s common decency, customer facing or not…

      1. Artemesia*

        I dont believe that most people who do this could not do it relatively quietly if they choose. Some people have a habit of swallowing air and burping loudly — it is a habit of self stim like thumb sucking or fingernail biting. It is possible to expel air relatively quietly — most people do it. Her manager should make the expectation clear

        1. Lance*

          That’s what I was thinking; either it’s something in the diet, and/or a conscious habit they’ve developed to let it out whenever their body seems to feel like it. Either way, yeah, there’s definitely means for her to quiet it down.

      2. Stardust*

        Thank you for the wording. I like that way of phrasing it.

        As someone who burps (loudly) at times when I’m home, I would say I do have ability to stifle it or avoid it around others. Somehow I don’t burp loudly around coworkers or other people. Now I don’t have a particular medical reason that I’m aware of; sometimes I have issues with acid reflux. If I were burping loudly at work and didn’t realize it, I really would much rather that someone said something to me! I can’t imagine that I do that without thinking but if I would rather know so I could so something about it than not know that it was bothering others.

      3. Mookie*

        I kind of feel that there is a special stigma associated with belching and burping that doesn’t apply to other, equally loud, equally distracting sounds (the sibilance of a sneeze, the diaphragm-boom of a deep cough). Somehow, even at a distance, it has an aura of poor hygiene, awakens in listeners a revulsion on par with a fart, which makes us especially averse to hearing it. But just as people with a cold or allergies are expected to manage, as best as they’re able, loud and involuntary bodily functions, it’s up to us to manage our reactions accordingly and accept that in life, sometimes you hear and see people behaving in ways you find indecorous but otherwise harmless.

        As for LW 1’s belcher, in particular, if loud conversations are understandable with this person, belches probably ought to be, too (although loud belchers can still feel the force of the belch even if they can’t hear how loudly it projects outwards). I do like snuck’s script, though, for introducing a particularly awkward topic with grace and discretion and no unsolicited medical advice.

        1. Vicki*

          Well, belches tend to be longer than sneezes, more frequent, controllable (few people can sneeze at will; food related is easier to fix than allergies), and, then, of course, sneezes don’t smell bad.

          A small dulcet burp followed by “excuse me” is on the order of a sneeze.
          Constant belching loudly is not.

      1. Hotel GM Guy*

        That was weird, my keyboard spazzed out. What I was trying to say:

        She should probably stop drinking soda at work. The way to stop burping to to drink water, coffee, tea… anything without bubbles. Sometimes you just have to address hygiene issues head on.

        I have a maintenance guy that has absolutely terrible BO. I’ve brought it up with him, and the solution we found was for him to start showing both before and after work, and to use different undershirts and wash his 5 uniforms every week, Basic stuff, right? Well it’s his first time living away from home and apparently he was coddled by mommy up until his mid-20’s. He had gone weeks without doing laundry because it’s not something he had to do before (weird).

        1. the gold digger*

          My cousin’s husband and his sister grew up with servants. When the sister married, she and her new husband did not have servants. They were renting an apartment. After a few weeks (months? I don’t know how long it would take to get to this point, as I have never encountered this in my life), the sister called the apartment manager, panicked. Something was wrong with the bathtub!

          The manager came up, looked at the tub, looked at the massive ring around the tub, and asked the sister, “When was the last time you cleaned the tub?”

          “Cleaned the tub?” the sister replied. She had no idea tubs needed to be cleaned. She had never done it in her life.

          1. Kit*

            I recently had a massive leak in my apartment, right in the middle of the unit. My ceiling was torn apart to look for the burst pipe, but none was found. They searched for leaks by testing every plumping fixture in my upstairs neighbour’s unit, no luck. The next time the leak started, I called and they entered the guy’s unit, to find the bathroom floor carpeted with saturated towels. He didn’t know the shower curtain liner went inside the shower, and was worried about getting the curtain wet. So he just let all the water out on the floor. Some people don’t know the most basic things

            1. Wendy Darling*

              One day in my last apartment I heard a splashing sound and went into the bathroom to find water pouring from the extractor fan. I called emergency maintenance, left a message, and then ran upstairs to ask my upstairs neighbors if the bathroom was flooding.

              Nope, just one of them taking a shower. Which apparently got things wet enough for a good quart of water to come out of my bathroom ceiling.

            2. Natalie*

              That happened to me when I was a kid – I grew up in a house with just a tub, no shower, and the first time I showered by myself at my grandmother’s house I put the liner on the outside. Cue kitchen ceiling leak.

          2. snuck*

            When at uni we had a student from rural India arrive. She had servants at home (and moved into collegiate accommodation where dinner was served, but breakfast and lunch was self serve)… and had never had a shower, used a flush toilet or encountered hot and cold taps. She literally had someone who would prepare a basin of water for her to wash her hands in after going to the toilet, and prepare her a glass of water if she needed it. She arrived late at night and was mystified when offered a ramen cup as a snack…

            Needless to say we quickly spoke to the program head and moved her to a homestay family that was prepared to help her speed up to the western lifestyle.

    3. Bonky*

      Ugh – I feel for you, but I also feel for her. I’m pregnant right now, and in the first trimester, before I was able to tell colleagues about it, a particularly horrible side-effect was painful, sonorous, lengthy belches. I was genuinely unable to do anything about it, and had to run to the bathroom when I felt one coming on (they were accompanied by morning sickness too – the first trimester is the worst). I do not drink soda and I eat healthily. Happily, in my case, the problem is getting much less bad as the pregnancy progresses.

      I have a male friend who has similar issues. His doctors have found nothing wrong: but to his mind, it’s still a health problem (it’s painful, embarrassing and upsetting). The doctor agrees. This is not usual; I wonder if it could be suggested gently to your colleague that this may be a sign that something is wrong with her stomach, or in her diet, and that she ought to get checked out?

    4. Candi*

      100% serious here: Does he have frequent heartburn, two or three times a week at least?

      Both I and a friend had severe stomach problems related to stomach issues, an early symptom of which was severe and frequent heartburn.

      She developed it first, and it took over a year to find a medication regime that treated her symptoms. Some of her symptoms, starting about six-seven months in, were extreme belching, nausea, and more severe issues.

      I had suffered bad heartburn for a couple of years, and had just begun developing frequent burping when I finally got to see a doctor again for anything other then emergencies. (LONG story.) My doctor did a full wellness check, during which the heartburn issue came up, as an offhand comment appended to my answer to a question. He just about jumped in his chair and a few questions later had prescribed generic Zantec.

      More recently, I was back to suffering very bad heartbun… and severe, almost uncontrollable belching part of the day, usually on an empty stomach. A switch to generic Prilosec fixed that right up (and handled a few other digestive issues that had made themselves known).

      The point being that unusual belching may be related to a distinct medical issue, even if the cause hasn’t been nailed down -and that it may not even be diagnosed, because they may not have even thought to bring it up to their doctor.

      1. Candi*

        PS: Just remembered:

        If #1 LW’s coworker, or anyone else, says it’s just a little heartburn -frequent and severe reflux can lead to an increased risk of a little thing called esophageal cancer. So it really is kinda important to get it under control, regardless if the docs can pin down the root cause.

  3. SusanIvanova*

    #2: “Why would they move forward with two steps without knowing for sure that they were hiring for the role?”

    Because sometimes you get right up to the point of making an offer and then upper management says “sorry, you just lost that position”. I’ve been on the interviewing side of that far too often, especially for positions that take a long time to fill.

    1. MillersSpring*

      Exactly this. As a hiring manager, I’ve been at the stage of interviewing candidates as well as the stage of reviewing resumes, only to have the position canceled each time. Sometimes it’s a company-wide hiring freeze to get through the next financial quarter or just tightening the belt on one or two departments. Really sucks for the candidates.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Samesies. There can be a significant delay between when you stop having the money for a role and when you actually *know* that you no longer have the money for that role. There’s just a lot of moving pieces. I work at a media company, and in addition to that, things just change very quickly; a month ago, we thought using this money to get a few writers was the best thing. Then, someone you hired 2 weeks ago makes a great case that you need to expand their department by 3 people and that makes sense, so you change direction. It sucks in a lot of ways, but we also would not be as successful as we are if we weren’t agile, so it comes with the territory.

    3. R*

      #2 here! Thanks for the insight. Definitely sounds frustrating for both the applicant AND hiring manager.

      1. Brett*

        With startups, sometimes they begin a hiring cycle based on potential investment. They can go to their potential investors and say, “These are the people we have lined up and their skills sets. If we had this funding, we could hire them and get to market/increase our revenue/increase our velocity this much faster because these people would be on our team.”
        When the potential investment does not come through or is delayed, or they miss revenue targets, or some other financial hit happens, they have to leave the people they wanted to hire on the table. I would consider it a plus in their favor that they did informed you the hiring model had changed and did not drag out the process. (Would have been better if they were proactive about it, but they still were immediately responsive and informed you quickly.)

        If I were you, I would pay attention to this part: “Please keep us updated on your career and plans, and we will do the same.”
        Do that. Keep them updated on what you are doing and your continued interest and they will probably share more detail of their hiring plans and keep you in the loop. Talent is a huge issue for startups and the successful ones will handle this well.

    4. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      I was coming here to say this as well. I’ve been on the interviewer side and had the funding for a position pushed out by a quarter. Definitely keep in touch with them!

  4. Cat steals keyboard*

    #2 It sounds like they’ve had some kind of financial hit. I’m sorry you spent so long on this and got nowhere, but it definitely does sound like the problem is at their end.

    #3 I’m not sure when the new academic year starts over there but the people I know working in higher education in the UK barely have time to breathe during the enrolment period as they have so much to sort out. Late September and early October are completely frantic. At this time of year you probably need to be patient, but obviously you work in this field and I don’t so apologies if I’m off-base.

    1. Pedro*

      Hi, #3 here! Thanks for the comment. I think you are right about it being a busy time, but I’ve worked with the people in question before, and was hoping to at least get an acknowledgement of my message. I guess I will have to practice patience (my least prominent virtue)!

  5. Newish Reader*

    #3: people can be very well-intentioned but also be premature in discussing possible new jobs. Almost 2 years ago, when Imwas bored in my job, I was approached about a potential new internal position that people thought I would be great for. It even went as far as me meeting with the manager to talk through the particulars of the job. And while having that position created would be extremely beneficial to that department, it still hasn’t materialized.

    So I completely agree with Alison to not stop your job search. While waiting for that potential new job to materialize, I was approached to fill a vacant position in another department. Because the new job didn’t have a time frame for hiring, I agreed to fill the vacancy and have been very happy there. After just over a year in the position I was promoted. It’s good that I didn’t wait for the new job since it still hasn’t been created.

    1. Pedro*

      I think you’re right, and thanks for the comment. This has happened to me before, and a similar situation to you. I wouldn’t make any big decisions without having something in writing, too, whether it’s a timeline or whatnot. I know the position they discussed with me is in the early stages, but I guess I was hoping to at least get a “it was good to see you, too, and we’ll be in touch!” email in response!

    2. Cath in Canada*

      Yes, this has happened to me twice, too. The first time, I had to reluctantly leave for a new job about 6 months before my old employer managed to finalize the details of the new job that would have been mine. (My contract, which was tied to my work permit, was expiring and couldn’t be extended, so I needed the new job in order to retain my immigration status). A year into that new job, my manager started talking about creating a new role for me, but I ended up (non-reluctantly) leaving about 10 months later for a job that was very similar to the one the first employer was trying to create for me.

  6. Jessica*

    For #3, what’s the potential impact on her resume of returning to her old employer after 6 months at a new job? It seems like it could make it harder for her to get hired by someone else down the road — wouldn’t they be worried she’d do the same thing again?

    1. Pedro*

      Hi…”she” is actually a “he” (I’m #3). I spent five years at my previous employer, so I guess I am not too concerned about a six-month stint on my resume. Throughout my experience, I’ve served on several search committees inside and outside of higher education, and it doesn’t seem that a one-time six-month stint somewhere raises a lot of eyebrows as long as there is some other solid work history surrounding it. I could be wrong and would welcome the perspectives of those who do a lot more hiring. Education is kind of unique from the private sector, too.

      1. Jessica*

        Female pronouns are the default around here!
        I agree that one 6-month stint isn’t cause for concern — I just wonder if going back to to your old employer would make it look like you didn’t want to work anywhere else. But that’s thinking waaaay far down the road and probably not something that would actually be a hindrance in a future job search, but I could see it being a question in an interview.

    2. Bellatrix*

      And what plays in the OP’s favour is the fact that she won’t be coming back to her old position, but to a more senior title and job duties. So it should be quite easy to explain away in an interview.

  7. Pedro*

    #3 here — Thanks, Alison! This is great advice, and what I was leaning toward already. I thought it couldn’t hurt to get another perspective, so I’m glad that I’m on the right track. I live in a very rural part of the country, so jobs that are up my alley are few and far between. I’m prepared to spend a while looking for the right next move.

    1. H.C.*

      I would also consider the possibility that your ex-colleagues words may just be another way of saying “we miss you” w/o really meaning that there’s a vacancy or new position for your return. At one of my former workplaces, I know that phrase gets thrown out a lot with our more well-liked ex-colleagues who have moved on.

      But in any case, best of luck in your job search – at your old workplace or elsewhere.

      1. Pedro*

        Well, firstly, these were not my “colleagues,” per se, as they were two of the folks in very upper leadership at the university. And, secondly, one of them then gave me details of a position they were putting together and for which they had me in mind. If not for those details, I might be inclined to agree that it was just superficial “we miss you” talk. It wouldn’t make sense (to me, at least), that they would go to those lengths if it weren’t genuine.

  8. Jen*

    Severance is so tricky. I work for a company that does re orgs and layoffs regularly. They’ve been sued several times for various layoffs/firings. They have a pretty generous sev policy with a pretty strict non compete/non sue contract. It primarily goes by level/role, then may add in time for longevity. Managers get 3 months, directors get 6, VPs get a year, SVPs and above get 12-18 months. Everyone gets an extension of healthcare for a full year.

    Below managers, I’m not sure- they are typically not as affected by these types of layoffs and probably get something like 6 weeks on average.

    1. Audiophile*

      Severance is tricky, I was able to negotiate for my health benefits and pay as well. I’m glad I did, because while I had found a job the time my last paycheck was due, I hadn’t started getting paid by the new job yet. This provided a good buffer.

    2. edj3*

      Piling on for the severance is tricky bit.

      One company offered two weeks for every year worked with a maximum of a year of severance. I would have loved that package but didn’t get laid off. One company offered two weeks regardless of the length of time you’d worked there; I did work there and did get laid off so that was a little painful.

  9. eplawyer*

    What is it with the start up and homework for interviews? 6 hours on a take home assessment is a bit much. Maybe they don’t have the budget to review all those responses to applications.

    1. Voluptuousfire*

      My thoughts are that since they’re small and have to “run lean,” essentially test driving a candidate before they take them on is crucial (in their mindset). They have less capital to play with the short term and I also think it shows how game you are. If you’re not fully invested (pardon the pun), then you may not be a good fit for company culture. It’s a justification of how far you’ll go, I think.

      A few of the start ups I interviewed with required some sort of homework assignment. Luckily they weren’t bad.

    2. Eric*

      I (software engineer) have seen the pre-interview quiz a few times. It’s usually not a 6 hour commitment, and the company usually makes it clear that you’re not expected to build a production quality solution to the problem. Usually it’s more like an hour of time.

      The logic behind it is that there are a lot of applicants who don’t actually have programming skills, and the test is a decent way of evaluating who you’re going to bring on site you don’t have to meet face to face, saving the applicant PTO and saving them and the interviewer time.

      I am personally cynical about it (and most things relating to “startup culture”) but I can agree with the reasoning somewhat. I’ve heard stories of some companies using it to get free work by coding part of their product, and I can believe that.

      I think I was subject to it once! The company was talking about how their product would completely revolutionize the entire world, they would be the next Apple, and all this overly idealistic stuff. Then they sent off a tech quiz which they said was HUGE and IMPORTANT and would take at least a week, with very very specific requirements about what language, database, etc. you had to use. It was ultra suspect and I politely excused myself from the candidate pool.

    3. heatherskib*

      it’s not just with start ups. I recently interviewed for a couple positions in public service- 1 required a practice presentation including slides, 2 others required 1-2 hour long skills tests.

    4. Kat*

      I’m a web developer and I’ve had to do homework for jobs a few times. Sometimes it’s just a short coding test, I guess to weed out the people who are really not cut out for the job of programming. In one case I was asked to build a small part of their product. It was explicitly stated that they were going to implement this code and I was paid freelance rates for the time I spent on it. I didn’t get the job but I did get a cool $350!

  10. ThePM*

    Re: the burping colleague.

    I’m sure that it just sucks to listen to that. I can absolutely understand. Let me give you a little perspective on this from a ‘burper’.

    I have a form of acid reflux, and the burping is a horrible, horrible side effect. I’m about under 5 feet, female, a professional, and the polite-est person you’ve ever met. The burping that (repetitively) comes after a meal – I’ve been weaned off of the medication due to concerns over long-term side effects – is awful. It doesn’t matter what I eat – it happens regardless (I had cheerios and almond milk this morning, and the burping is awful) although I try to avoid acidic foods. After I eat, my stomach feels super hard (all the acid/gastric build up), and there’s no release other than burping. The sound when I burp, is not a typical burp – and it doesn’t feel like one either. It general, even if I cover my mouth, keep it shut, try to be quiet, etc., you may hear the frat-boy-est, lengthiest burp of your life. I do all of those things as it’s a) gross b) totally embarrassing (thankfully, I generally work at home) but you could conceivably hear it in the next room in a quiet office. It will sound gutteral. There is NOTHING I can do about it. I just give thanks it’s not coming out the other end :-)

    Now, when I’ve been around other people – I explain, laugh it off, etc., and am generally totally mortified. I bet that person is too.

    I’m sure that doesn’t make it any better for you, but wanted to offer the perspective of someone who is absolutely mortified about it – it is a medical condition in my case.

    1. Jadyn*

      May I just say – I find Cheerios are the worst. They might *seem* like a food that wouldn’t have that effect. I don’t burp much but Cheerios always makes me do so and I so hate that particular burp that I have given them up. My SO still eats and loves Honey Nut Cheerios and is also affected by them and those are the *worst* burps – I am all ‘stay away from me!’ with those. Possibly not a helpful observation but just letting you know Cheerios are not innocent. They are the (burping) devil.

  11. oh123*

    for #2: maybe all they really wanted from you was the “multi-part take-home assessment that [you] spent roughly six hours working on”, which seems a bit excessive to me, to ask for from an applicant.

    1. Bellatrix*

      Well, I also think it’s excessive to require from an applicant, but we don’t know how the assessment was set. The company might have envisaged a candidate getting that done in an hour so – hence their surprise at how detailed the OP’s workproduct was.

  12. TheBeetsMotel*

    #4: Is this retail? If so, I’d not be surprised if your manager gets a lot of call-outs and gets frustrated both with vague call-outs, and vague can’t-do-it responses to requests for coverage.

    That doesn’t make it necessary to give reasons as to why you can’t cover a shift. Your personal life is your own; you don’t need to present your reasons for saying no for your employer’s inspection. That’s an invasion of privacy I wouldn’t be willing to allow – if it’s a no, it’s a no; you don’t need to say why.

    That being said, if you ALWAYS say no, you might have to deal with being scheduled fewer hours, not moving up as rapidly or being labelled “not a team player”. Only you can decide if your job and position are worth that risk. And if you never say yes, don’t be surprised if co-workers don’t leap to help you if YOU have to call out.

    1. Technical Editor & Resume Reviewer*

      Can confirm your last paragraph. Was fired from a coffee shop position after about 6 weeks of working there because I refused a last-minute Saturday shift and was deemed “not a team player.” If I had been given a few days’ instead of few hours’ notice it might have been different. It was my second job so I wasn’t too upset, but it seemed unfair at the time.

  13. TJ*

    #1: You say he’s hearing-impaired, so maybe he really doesn’t realize you’d be able to hear it from your desks. It’s definitely an awkward conversation to have, but if the burping is distracting, it’s worth asking him if he’ll try to contain it. He might even be thankful that you’re saving him from embarrassment in the future.

  14. insert pun here*

    #3 — hiring processes in academia are slooooow, especially for non entry level positions. Add in creating a new position and… well, the good news is, you may not have to worry about having a short stint at your current job on your resume.

  15. Linguist Curmudgeon*

    As someone with painful, uncontrollable burps, the best mitigation is probably a hand over the mouth.

  16. Matt*

    I have a burping coworker, sitting opposide of me in our office … I’m sure it’s medical, he’s having quite a lot of medical issues, so basically I feel sorry for him – but the problem is not so much the sound, it’s the smell … it’s not always the case, but when I notice one of his burps, I’m as far as holding my breath because quite probably during the next seconds a cloud of his gastric gas will hit my face. It always gets worse in the afternoon, then I can tell what he’s had for lunch because the whole office smells like it. I’m glad he’s telecommuting two days a week – those are the ones I enjoy fresh air and breathing freely …

  17. Not really a newish lurker anymore...*

    “Employers are very, very comfortable rejecting people; they do it all the time. If they’d just decided they weren’t interested in you, they wouldn’t have given you such strong encouragement to stay in touch and talk with them in the future.”

    That’s good to hear. My spouse made it to the final round of a position he was very interested in and the rejection letter said they were going to definitely keep him in mind for future openings.

  18. Brogrammer*

    Re: burps – I don’t burp because of a health condition, but I have a tendency to swallow air when eating and drinking, so burping is inevitable (I spend a lot of my day on calls, so I drink a lot). And I burp loudly no matter what I do – even if I keep my mouth completely closed, the sound just comes out my nose. I know it’s gross, but short of leaving the room every time I need to burp, there’s nothing I can do. Sorry OP, you might be SOL on this one.

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