my manager only invited one of us to her wedding, difficult boss wants to sit in on team interviews, and more

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

1. My manager invited one of us to her wedding, but not the rest of us

So I found out recently on Facebook (by happenstance though a mutual friend’s post) that my boss, Mary, invited one of my coworkers, Elle, to her wedding.

For context — I and about 10 other people, including Elle, share the same job title. Mary is our department’s head. The three of us have been working together for the same amount of time since I was at the company before either Mary or Elle. Elle and I were actually charged with organizing Mary’s surprise shower just before the wedding, and most people we work with contributed (it’s common practice in my office to have events like this, whether the gifts are going up or down).

I’m hurt because I wasn’t aware that Mary and Elle had a closer relationship than anyone else in our department since we are close in age and I generally feel well connected to them. I’m assuming they may have spent more time together outside of work than with me and did so discreetly. I actually assumed that Mary wouldn’t socialize outside of work with those of us she supervises since her boundaries are so strong at work. But Elle and others and I have socialized occasionally.

I am trying to just understand that people have relationships with each other and it doesn’t really impact my work or shouldn’t impact my feelings about Mary and Elle. I don’t think saying something to either of them would accomplish anything or improve my feelings, which are my problem to deal with. So I guess I’m just wanting to know, is this uncool in general or am I oversensitive?

It’s a little uncool. Managers have a higher level of obligation than other people not to appear to play favorites, because it can make people wonder whether they’re being fair in things like work assignments, recognition, raises, professional development opportunities, access, etc. Because of that, Mary should have invited everyone she manages or no one (preferably no one, to preserve professional boundaries and not make people feel obligated to attend and/or send a gift).

So yeah, it’s a little weird. Not outrageous levels of weird, but less than ideal, and I’d have told Mary not to do it. But since she’s done it and you’re the one asking for advice, I’d say to just write it off to “some people find themselves clicking unusually well with certain people, and managers don’t always think about the weirdness this can cause when they show it” and try not to be bothered by it.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Our difficult boss wants to sit in on team interviews

My small department is hiring for an open position. Typically our boss interviews candidates on-one-one and then the rest of us do a team interview without the boss. My coworkers and I expected that we’d be able to give candidates a heads-up about the difficult boss/environment during those team interviews.

Knowing this, my coworkers and I used your articles (herehereherehere) to communicate outside of work hours to find neutral wording to use and brainstormed answers to questions the candidates may ask us in order to be honest but professional. We all felt confident about what we were going to say.

Yet, today we were told that our boss is going to be in the team interviews in addition to doing the solo interviews. We do not know what to do. It feels dangerous to stick to the plan, and irresponsible if nothing is said. It also means that we may once again find someone who is going to leave soon because they are not able to deal with a difficult environment and management style. Just to know, is it typical for bosses to sit in on team interviews as well as have individual interviews? 

Practices vary, but in general it’s better for a manager not to sit in this type of team interview. Having the boss not there means candidates may feel more comfortable asking questions they don’t want to ask in front of the boss — and sometimes will reveal things about themselves that they wouldn’t reveal in front of the main interviewer, so it’s beneficial for a few different reasons.

You could try saying this to your boss: “Would you be open to having us do these interviews on our own? Having you sitting in might mean that candidates are still on their best behavior, whereas if it’s just us, we might see different sides of candidates that would be useful input to have in the selection process.”

If that doesn’t work, you could also give candidates your card and tell them they’re welcome to contact you directly “if you want to talk further with a team member.”

3. Interviewer asked me about other candidates

I work at a marketing agency where 8-10 of us in the department are individually responsible for client workloads. Recently, our team lead moved on to another job, leaving our department head (let’s call him Tom) to interview internal candidates to fill her spot. I applied and interviewed for it, but I’m still digesting one specific part of my conversation with Tom. It came towards the end, when he asked: “Who from the team do you feel would be the best fit and who you could get along with if you weren’t selected for the position?”

I was taken a little aback. I felt like he was trying to tell me that I wasn’t getting the job (otherwise, why would he ask the question?) while at the same time trying to get me to endorse a competing candidate. For some background, Tom works remotely, so it’s possible (probable?) that he felt this was his best way to get insight into the group dynamic – I’m not sure I’d agree with it, but it’d be understandable. I’ll also grant that it’s nice of him to consider my feelings if I’m not the right fit. Still, while I can handle rejection, raising the hypothetical of me not getting the job in that particular fashion, at that particular point in the process, seemed a bit tacky. For what it’s worth, I played it conservatively but honestly and said this (paraphrasing here): “I feel I have a good rapport within the team and get along well with everyone, but given the mostly independent nature of our current roles (we don’t collaborate much aside from occasionally bouncing ideas off one another, and most of our other interactions tend to be about stuff outside of work), it’s tough for me to say with much confidence.”

What do you make of the question and my response? Should I have “endorsed” another team member, even if the basis for it would’ve been shaky? What would be a good way to handle such a question in the future? Again, I’m glad that that Tom values my opinion, but I just question the professionalism and tact of it all.

I think you’re misreading the question, or at least reading too much into it. I don’t think he was trying to signal to you that you’re not getting the job (that would be a really weird way of doing that). I think he was trying to get a sense of your insight into group dynamics and the strengths and weaknesses of others on the team — which is an important thing for a team lead to have. He may also have just been genuinely interested in your thoughts on the hiring decision, aside from your own personal stake in it. That’s a good thing; it’s smart for him to gather input from the team before he makes his decision, and he shouldn’t leave your input out just because you’re also a candidate.

4. I got a reference request for someone I barely know

I received an email through LinkedIn from a total stranger asking to connect “regarding the time spent working with Samantha at Teapots Inc.” and if I was open to providing a reference, to please message her back so we could schedule some time to speak.

Well, I had to wrack my brain because a) I didn’t work with Samantha and b) I didn’t even *remember* Samantha working at Teapots Inc. I pulled up her profile on Facebook and saw that we had eight mutual connections, and I was finally able to put a face to the name and vaguely remember her wandering around the company, but I never had any direct interactions with her and there’s no way I could provide a reference for her at all. I discussed it with another coworker (I still work at Teapots, Samantha doesn’t anymore, hence the reference request) and my coworker remembers her, but like me, didn’t work with her. She’s pretty sure Samantha wouldn’t have put me down as a reference at all, so our best guess is that this LinkedIn person (at a company that’s looking to hire her) just went through everyone random people that worked at Teapots Inc and started messaging some of us to ask us to be references (I just checked and I’m not even directly connected to Samantha, I’m listed as a second connection through mutual connections!)

Is this the new normal or am I rightly miffed/bent out of shape to have a stranger messaging me to be a reference for someone I barely knew at my current company? (I get that I’m also a little high-strung and easily miffed at things, but that’s another issue)

It’s not uncommon for reference-checkers to reach out to people not on a candidate’s reference list, but generally they’d do that with people they know worked closely with the person — not just take a scattershot approach to anyone who’s ever maybe worked with them. So yeah, this reference-checker sounds a little off.

I don’t think there’s any reason for you to be miffed though. You can just write back and say “sorry, it was a big company and I never worked with her.”

5. Taking a week off before the office is closed for a week

I am a full-time salaried employee. I have 15 vacation days per year. My HR guy is pissed at me because our office is closed at Christmas, for a week, so I asked to use five vacation days the week before that so I could take a longer vacation. I will be reachable the entire time I’m away. Am I missing something? Is there some level of integrity I’m lacking for doing this?

What? No, that’s a totally normal thing to do.

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding #5, taking vacation during this time is normal, and don’t let your HR guy (or anyone else) guilt you into doing otherwise.

    The only thing I would object to is your defending this by pointing out that you will be reachable the entire time you’re away.

    If you’re on call, you’re not truly on vacation.

    I understand that it can be necessary to be available for certain positions which are either very high level or essential (in a way that makes it reasonable not to have a backup who can cover for you).

    Otherwise, I would argue that you should take your vacation without making yourself available during what is supposed to be your time off.

    1. FiveByFive*

      Well this sort of depends. If the week off is a nice perk that is being offered by management (which is something I sure would like to have!), and it’s a known thing that the week leading up to it will be very hectic for everyone trying to wrap things up, then OP might be ducking out at a bad time.

      As far as someone arguing that they shouldn’t be reachable during vacation, I don’t know about that one either. You don’t have to be “very high level” as you mention, to be needed in some situations. To me, if my company can do just fine in my absence, that’s when I would start to worry.

      1. neverjaunty*

        While your first paragraph is absolutely true, the person who’s being snippy isn’t the OP’s manager or co-workers; it’s HR.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Eh, there are a bunch of reasons why that might be, including that it’s a small shop and the HR person knows this will create a crunch, or maybe the manager IS pissed but OP hasn’t noticed, maybe only a limited number of people can take that particular week off and OP isn’t seen as being the right person to allow, etc. I don’t think the fact that it is HR and not the manager has to be important in this situation.

          1. Anna*

            It’s not really HR’s job to be worried about productivity, though. That isn’t in their purview at all (or if it is, it would be really weird). Even in a small shop where people know what’s going on and where, if the OP’s manager is cool with it, the HR person has no business being miffed about it.

      2. BRR*

        My first thought was the same as your first paragraph. That would be the exception. It’s definitely possible the hr guy just has a mindset that anything over a week is a lot to take off or it somehow feels personal to him that the week off that was already given is not enough for the lw or something like that. Which is of course ridiculous if that’s the case.

        I disagree with your last sentence. I get what you’re saying but I think a company should be able to operate without certain people while they’re away because there is hopefully planning before hand. Its not the same as just suddenly being gone for a week and everything runs smoothly.

      3. Christopher Tracy*

        To me, if my company can do just fine in my absence, that’s when I would start to worry.

        And see, I’d be worried if my company fell apart in my absence. Putting aside the fact that I work for a multi-billion dollar company with 5,000+ employees and focusing solely on my own little division of 70, if the division’s work came to a grinding halt every time I took PTO to recharge from the grind of my position (my job function is notorious for being one to cause burnout, so I take a lot of PTO these days), that would signal that either my coworkers are incompetent or we’re severely understaffed at my level, neither of which is a good thing.

        1. Joseph*

          I don’t even think company size matters here – unless your company is literally a one-man operation (e.g., freelancer), people should be able to take time off without everything stopping.
          Especially for a situation like this – it’s a pre-planned absence with plenty of notice at a time of year (holidays) when workload will likely be lighter than normal anyways since some of your clients may also be taking extended vacations. This is literally the easiest conceivable scenario for a company to address. If your office can’t handle this, what’s going to happen when there’s an unplanned absence like the flu or a family emergency?

            1. Mona Lisa*

              My first boss used to say “win the lottery” instead of “getting hit by a bus” or “passing away.” It put a much more positive spin on someone’s possible departure!

              1. BananaPants*

                A manager of mine tried that and had a room full of engineers expounding on how the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math, so he stopped and we’re back to “getting hit by a bus”.

                There is a guy in my organization who was literally hit by a bus. He was out for 3-4 months before returning and the place still ran without him.

                1. JanetM*

                  I tell people the reason I try to document everything I do is that I am living proof that anyone can be hit by a truck (I was out for about a month, and only able to work part time for a few weeks after that).

              2. FiveWheels*

                Running joke in my department is if I break a leg someone will carry me upstairs, if I die they’ll start having seances, and if I’m rendered unconscious but still alive they’ll panic.

                At least I hope it’s a joke..

              3. SarahTheEntwife*

                For a while the shorthand in my workplace was “hit by a bus in Tahiti”, afters somehow combining “hit by a bus” and “won the lottery and moved to Tahiti”.

            2. UrbanGardener*

              Which is exactly what my department is going through! My boss died, and she was very paranoid and secretive about everything involving budgeting (and everything in general), so we cannot figure out how much money we have left in certain categories, because she moved money around a lot from one category (like travel) to another (like supplies). And her manager was very surprised we couldn’t find info.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                Ugh…I went through something similar. Nothing like trying to wade through and figure out stuff that should be documented and common knowledge.

            3. Joseph*

              My last company always used to say “getting run over in the parking lot by a truck backing up” for these sorts of preparedness discussions. It was creepily specific enough that I still have no idea if it was a reference to an actual event or if it was just one of those sarcastic jokes that caught on.

            4. Moonsaults*

              I saw this happen when my boss developed early onset Alzehimer’s. I got “some of it” but even in that situation, I was able to piece everything else together and make the stupid place limp along for long enough (years) to get it sold to someone who could piece that mess back together.

              Now when I’m setting up offices, I tell everyone about that situation and how we have to put everything in place that nobody is ever irreplaceable. People walk out on jobs all the time and you cannot be left to crumble.

          1. FiveByFive*

            Who said anything about everything stopping or the office can’t handle things? If an emergency happens that I can fix with a five minute phone call, rather than having coworkers spend hours trying to figure it out, wouldn’t the phone call make more sense? I don’t know where the “hit by a bus” scenarios are coming from.

        2. Mona Lisa*

          Exactly. A company should be able to continue functioning with one of its parts gone. I remember my first boss emphasizing the value of cross-training because we were a small university department of four. If one of us won the lottery and didn’t come back to work the next day, how would our admissions keep or student support keep functioning until we could get another person into that role? If a company isn’t thinking about what it would look like and how other employees will manage with a person gone for a few days to a few months, then that’s problematic.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Sure, but there’s a lot of middle ground between falling apart vs. they wouldn’t even notice I was gone.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Yes, but the comment was that she would be worried if her company could do just fine without her – they should be able to get along just fine without her or anyone else for that matter is what the rest of us were saying, even if the examples got a little hyperbolic or extreme.

      4. PK*

        I’m on-call 24-7 and have to use special passes in order to not be on-call while I’m on vacation. It’s an unfortunate part of the job and gets particularly aggravating when I receive more PTO than passes each year.

      5. Koko*

        ” You don’t have to be “very high level” as you mention, to be wanted in some situations.”

        FTFY ;)

        People need to eat and breathe because otherwise they would die. The mortgage/rent needs to get paid because otherwise you would lose your home. The marketing manager does not need to be available to do media outreach in the wake of a major news event. It would be great for the company if she was, but no one is going to lose their job or their health or their life savings if she’s unavailable for two weeks.

        Employers can sometimes be very guilty of representing their “wants” as “needs.”

        I would turn your last sentence around: If your company can’t handle your absence for 2 weeks, I would start to worry because what are they going to do when you come down with pneumonia or get hit by a bus and end up in a hospital bed for a week, unable to work? What are they going to do when you quit? Hiring someone new before your 2 weeks is up is unlikely. What they’ll do is make do until you’re back or until they have a new person in your role. Because making do is an option, it’s just not one the employer loves. Doesn’t mean they need you there 52 weeks a year, though.

        1. Kyrielle*

          This! At my last job I was very senior and a huge knowledge bank. At my current job I’m not there yet, but I am doing valuable work, I think.

          I never, ever want to be irreplaceable at work. I’ve done something wrong in helping my team if I am, and especialyl if I knowingly let it stand.

          If I’m going to be anything, I want to be _invaluable_. It’d be nice if, after I’m gone for a week or two, they’re very appreciative when I’m back. But they should be able to function when I’m not here. (And I think working toward that goal actually makes you a more valuable employee, because it also pushes you to help your coworkers’ mastery.)

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            And being irreplaceable at work can also lead to problems later on like, say, if you want to transfer to another department for a promotion or even a lateral move. Your manager may very well block it if they believe you’re too valuable in the role you’re in to let you go. This is happening to my mom right now (and happened to me at Evil Law Firm until I threatened to quit), and it’s terrible to watch.

      6. michelenyc*

        I agree with your first paragraph. My old company did the whole week between Christmad & New Year closure thing and taking the week off before or after was frowned upon. The time leading up to the closure was always extremely busy with bookings, ordering samples, merchant meetings, and lots of late nights. We all tried our best to have everything done by that Thursday so fingers crossed you could actually get out on Friday but some times it just wasn’t possible.

      7. Finman*

        Maybe they are ducking out because he knows the duck clubs likes to meet more before Christmas.

      8. Newby*

        It is very weird to be upset about a vacation request. If it is truly a bad time for the company, they can deny the request, but the OP has every right to ask.

        1. Allison*

          Exactly what I was going to say. It’s normal to want time off around that time of year, and it’s not ridiculous to ask for it. If the HR person feels OP needs to be there that week, either because they need all hands on deck or because too many people have already asked for that time, they can deny the request and calmly explain why, but getting angry isn’t a reasonable reaction.

          1. Gaara*

            Yeah. If it’s a bad time, they should communicate that. That should be the end of it — but being upset about the request is very weird!

      9. Workfromhome*

        I always say that if I am so indispensable that my employer cannot survive one week without being able to contact me that I’m not being paid nearly enough for a person that’s so incredibly needed. :-)

    2. Jeanne*

      I’m unclear why HR is mad. Is OP’s manager ok with the request? Then take your vacation and don’t worry about it. It’s not like you found some amazing loophole to exploit that no one ever thought of.

      1. Bwmn*

        Based on my HR, being irritated about something like this doesn’t surprise me. For a while, our office had a very odd “kind of off” from Christmas to New Years break. And by “kind of off” it really fluctuated from department to department regarding whether people did or didn’t need to show up and if so how much. It was a wildly unfair system, but it was also treated as a massive perk – and in that same way HR saw people who took off time before or after that time as not appreciating or taking advantage of the “gifted” time off.

        To be honest, the main take away from the experience was just about how our HR functions. That practice at our office was eventually changed to everyone getting 5 extra vacation days – but it also clearly indicated that “gifted” days off (like the Friday before Labor Day weekend) were viewed very differently by HR than benefit vacation days. Not something I saw as normal or good, but definitely good information to have around our HR team.

      2. baseballfan*

        Agree. HR shouldn’t concern themselves with the timing of someone’s PTO that’s authorized by their manager.

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          Sometimes there are blanket company policies that HR is charged with enforcing, like no vacations during peak season or seniority determines the order in which people get to pick which vacation weeks they want.

          (But even if something like that was going on with OP’s workplace, HR should be mad at the manager that inappropriately okayed the vacation, not the OP.)

    3. MashaKasha*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t open that door either. This cannot be a mission-critical time for the company if they’re completely shut down the week after. So, by telling them that she’ll be reachable, OP is basically telling them it’s OK to contact her during her vacation with requests that can wait another week or two.

      At OldJob, we’ve had an overzealous team leader contact a team member on vacation with the request to log in and make changes to A, B, and C immediately. No one had even told her the team member would be reachable; she just happened to have that person’s cell number. Luckily, the team member was a contractor who was paid by the hour. She checked with the team’s manager, who was properly horrified, told her not to log into work, and had a talk with the team lead. But generally, some people will bug their team members with non-urgent requests on vacation, for no reason other than that they can.

      1. Marcela*

        Ugh, yes to your last sentence. My supervisor is on holidays now, and last week we had some sort of emergency where we suspected the software was messing up with our experimental results. I started looking around, when my boss came and asked me if calling my supervisor would help. “I don’t think it would”, I said, “because this code is in a language he doesn’t know, and at the most he would have just an idea about what it does, but not how to modify it, which is what we need”. “Well”, replied my boss, “call him anyway. He is not doing anything, he is in the beach drinking margaritas”. Properly horrified, I said, “precisely that’s why I’m not going to call him unless I am sure we need to”. Yesterday it was confirm that software is not the culprit of the results we have seen, so there was no need to call my supervisor. I am very unimpressed with the willingness of my boss to call someone on vacation just because he can. Academia people can be like that and it is very annoying.

        1. Bob Barker*

          Yuuup. Academics often don’t have any work/life balance themselves, so struggle with the idea that other people need it (and deserve it).

        2. neverjaunty*

          WTF. The guy might actually be doing something that isn’t work so it doesn’t matter?!

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        “This cannot be a mission-critical time for the company if they’re completely shut down the week after.”

        I agree with your overall point, but this pretty much exactly describes how the academic library I work at operates. We’re going full-tilt-no-vacation-allowed until the end of fall-semester finals, then we sometimes have a couple of light days depending on when Christmas falls but then we’re closed entirely until New Years.

    4. My 2 Cents*

      My office closes the last week of the year and nearly EVERYONE takes an extra week off to make it two full weeks, it’s so common. This year I happen to not be but am taking Monday off and asked my boss if that’s okay and he said “NO ONE WILL BE HERE, there is no problem with you being gone for one day.”, that’s how absurd it was for me to worry about being gone that week.

  2. Seal*

    #5 – Our entire campus is closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I plan to take the week before Christmas AND the week after New Year’s off with my boss’s blessing. I’m also salaried and a department head; no one’s questioning my integrity for taking time off around the holidays. Your HR person is nuts.

  3. LW #4*

    Update from today about the LinkedIn HR reference person: I had my coworker come running up to me all excited with the IT guy in tow and said “you two have something hilarious in common!” Turns out he got messaged by the same HR person about Samantha and wanted to chat about being a reference.

    IT guy started two weeks before Samantha resigned. He only knew her name from shutting down her email account when she left.

    So yeah, this HR person is carpet-bombing my company to find references for Samantha. And we’re not that big, maybe a hundred people? We just worked across two floors and in completely separate departments and had totally different jobs and didn’t interact at all since we had no reason to.

    (The miffed/bent out of shape thing is mainly because I tend to be a little defensive and high-strung when it comes to random people/strangers contacting me out of the blue online due to some, ahem, questionable and scary interactions in the past so I knee-jerk react first. I initially was mad because I suspected Samantha of putting my name down as a reference without asking me, then when that didn’t seem feasible, my brain went to a more sinister/scary corner, which I’m aware is an over-reaction, but unfortunately a defense mechanism from past experiences that I’m working on so I stop freaking out first.)

    1. Purple Dragon*

      Hi LW – thanks for the update. Would it be possible through linkedin to let Samantha know this is happening ? If I were here I’d appreciate the heads up.

      What a weird way to get references. Maybe they’re hoping someone will say “I’m not the best person – speak to xxx – here’s their details”.

      1. LW #4*

        I contacted one of my coworkers that’s friends with Samantha, apparently she’s aware of it and is kind of “oh well, nothing I can do about it so I’m just going to let it happen”. I was kind of weirded out by the reaction, especially since this could lead the HR person to someone who might say something nasty. I know I didn’t and wouldn’t, but I know I didn’t appreciate the blind contact like that, and there’s other unsavory people in the company that probably wouldn’t respond as politely as I (or the IT guy) did.

        I don’t know how desperate she is for the job, but I think I’d be withdrawing from there pretty fast for sketchy hiring practices.

        1. Aurion*

          This is so weird. You’d think the sheer effort it would take to hunt down and speak to everyone who has met Samantha professionally would dissuade this HR person. Seriously, who has that kind of time?

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I don’t think they’re putting any effort in it, or it wouldn’t be so scattershot. They’re just going through everyone who shows up on the Linked In connections.

        2. Greg*

          well if she asks them not to do it then the same hr person may take offense and she could lose out on the job. The job could be good aside from the crappy hr person.

          1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

            In Samantha’s shoes, I might send a message like this to the HR person “I’ve heard through former coworkers that you have been trying to reach references at ExCompany. I’m happy to put you in touch directly with some people I worked with closely to save you the time if you would prefer.” But yeah, with a job on the line, I wouldn’t outright tell them to stop – for all you know it’s a great company that has just one weird person.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              Exactly. And her reaction sounds somewhat reasonable to me because there really isn’t much she can do about it. If the recruiter’s going to be a weirdo, she’s going to be a weirdo. Expecting Samantha to withdraw her candidacy over something someone whom she may not even wind up interacting much with once hired did is unreasonable. The hiring manager and the rest of the team may be perfectly normal, and this may be a fantastic career opportunity, which is something OP wouldn’t know from the outside.

            2. ScarletInTheLibrary*

              I wonder if Samantha did put her manager’s name and either 1) said manager left, 2) manager hinted at something that is causing HR person to investigate further, 3) or this HR person thinks you can get better information from colleagues.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                Maybe they are looking to speak with someone she didn’t get along with! Per the question earlier this week.

                1. Whats In A Name*

                  I had this exact same thought! Maybe Samantha was the interviewee who wrote in earlier this week!

            3. Pwyll*

              Hmm, I’m not even sure that I’d do that. Trying to put myself into the shoes of a recruiter who would find this to be an acceptable way to do things (it’s hard!): if the candidate came back to me and said that, I’d be curious how they found out, given the people I’ve contacted have all said they didn’t work with her. Or something.

              I’d pretty much just chalk this up to a weird recruiter and be sure to consider it if I see any other warning signs with the company.

              1. LW #4*

                That’s kind of my gut feeling on this. It might be a good job, but it feels like if this is how they’re going about with the hiring, it feels like it’s a big warning sign that they’re not really all there as a company. I could be really wrong and way off base and maybe it’s just the HR person that’s off like this, but it’d give me pause for sure.

        3. Anon 2*

          Samantha’s in between a rock and a hard place here.

          She’s not giving your name (or other former co-workers names) as references, and she can’t control what an HR person does. She has to be careful not to offend HR and the hiring manager, even if she knows what they are doing isn’t for the best.

          I do think this sort of thing is going to become more common. I think some hiring managers/HR employee’s will think contacting former co-workers will get them the real read on the potential employee. When the reality is they could be reaching out to people who like you are unfamiliar with the applicants work, or worse have an ax to grind with the applicant.

        4. CMT*

          Well what would you have Samantha do about it? I don’t think any of this behavior is as objectionable as you think it is. Weird, yes, but not terrible.

    2. Lia*

      Wow, if it wasn’t through LinkedIn, I’d think you worked with a former supervisor of mine. She was fond of the carpet-bomb for references approach and one time called more than THIRTY people for references on one candidate — basically, everyone who worked at the last three places that the candidate did, at the same times. Not surprisingly, she was let go for being inefficient at her job…

      1. LW #4*

        I wound up blocking the HR person on LinkedIn. I found her practices distasteful and I’d rather not have her contact me for anything in the future. I know it’s unlikely it’ll happen again, but just in case.

  4. Brett*

    #5 If it was so important to have people there the week before shutting down, then why are they shutting down? What you are doing is normal.

    1. Edith*

      I agree that it’s completely reasonable for OP to have a week off before the holiday, but I don’t follow your logic. They’re shutting down because it’s the holidays, and people need to be there the week before they shut down because they’ll be open that week. The fact that they won’t be open one week has no bearing on whether or not it’s reasonable for OP to take off a different week (which it is).

    2. Alton*

      In some fields, the amount of work that needs to be done can vary depending on the time of year. A lot of schools are busy during final exams but then have very little that needs to be done over winter break, for example.

      Even if it’s not a field like that, a lot of companies are capable of shutting down for a week if they want to, but that doesn’t mean they can just shut down at any time without pre-planning, or that they don’t need their employees to be present as a rule.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Right, I think this is pretty common at schools and universities — final exams end on, say, December 15, then there’s a week where everyone is super-busy with their end-of-semester business (grading, processing graduations, etc.), then winter break starts and the whole place shuts down for two weeks.

    3. MK*

      I don’t see why it would be odd to have a PTO-ban on the time period immediately before the company closes down for a week; presumably they want to tie up loose ends and do some things in advance, so that they won’t return to deal with a huge backlog. It would be reasonable, in my opinion, if the OP’s request was denied because they need everyone to be there at that time.

      The weird part is that there isn’t such a ban (presumably it’s not needed) and the OP’s boss apparently raised no objections, but HR objects to this because…. eh, it’s not fair?

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      My company does a week shut down every year and the week before and after is well known as all-hands-on-deck. To have a company close for a week, you have to prepare before and then work to catch up after. I don’t find it odd that vacation before and after wouldn’t be allowed. But I do find it odd that HR is the one complaining and not the manager. If the manager is ok, then HR shouldn’t have a problem.

  5. Cat steals keyboard*

    #3 I read this as the interviewer wanting to make a decision everyone is happy with and so asking a question that perhaps didn’t belong in an interview but isn’t tacky. I think you might be misreading/overthinking it.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I actually don’t even see a problem with the question being brought up in the interview – at what other point would he have the opportunity to broach that topic that wouldn’t seem equally weird to the OP? I agree with Alison that this question was posed to gauge team dynamics (managers aren’t always aware of what’s going on with the people they supervise, especially if the team is relatively drama free) and with you that he may be trying to get a sense of who he could promote that everyone would be okay with so as not to disrupt said dynamics.

  6. Brooke*

    Where I work, a lot of people try to take the week preceding Christmas off, so to be fair it’s become a bit of a rotating privilege that no one can assume they are entitled to.

    1. mskyle*

      Yeah, this was the case with my previous job – we were closed between Christmas and New Years. EVERYONE wanted to take off the week before, AND people were terrible at managing their vacation time so generally multiple people had “use it or lose it” time at the end of the calendar year.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Just about everybody *can* take off those weeks where I work, because all of our clients do, too. It’s busy up until then with people wanting to get invoices in this year, but abruptly stops two years before the year end.

      Even when there are things going on, generally they don’t include the holidays, or only one or two people are needed for each holiday. Somebody goes on call and we are basically covered.

    3. Anna*

      Yeah, but the OP is wondering if the HR person’s reaction indicates they did something wrong by requesting the time off. They did not. If the HR person is annoyed because so many people have requested the time off, then that’s not on the OP and it’s unfair for the HR person to be a jerk about it to the OP. Especially when the message is a really easy, “There were a lot of requests for that week and I’m not sure we can accommodate them all. Let me check and I’ll let you know.”

  7. Billy*

    For #3, it’s a pretty typical question when you have to promote someone from within a group you don’t know much about. The question he would really like to ask but apparently couldn’t find good wording for is “Who should I absolutely *not* promote?”

    I suppose it is kind of a weird situation. You are a candidate for a job undergoing an interview — but you are also a member of a team who will have a new boss. Feedback from both perspectives is needed.

    For #4, I get weird / goofy requests from LinkedIn people all the time. I’m anti-social enough to just ignore them.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      You are a candidate for a job undergoing an interview — but you are also a member of a team who will have a new boss. Feedback from both perspectives is needed.

      Yup, this.

    2. Sophie Winston*

      “Who should I absolutely *not* promote?”

      This is what I thought he was probably trying to get at too. This would be useful for two reasons. Is there someone coworkers wouldn’t be willing to work for that would cause more turnover he has to deal with? And the LWs ability to articulate her concerns about that individual professionally and diplomatically, perhaps even with suggestions about how she’d manage them, would be good insight into her management skills.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I suppose it is kind of a weird situation. You are a candidate for a job undergoing an interview — but you are also a member of a team who will have a new boss. Feedback from both perspectives is needed.

      I hope he’s also asking people who *didn’t* apply for the job.

    4. LW #4*

      I wound up blocking the woman who contacted me on LinkedIn for the reference, not because I’m anti-social (well I kind of am) but because I was annoyed at her sketchy reference tactics. I doubt I’ll ever be applying at the same company (there’s a lot of options around me, I have no need to ever apply there) and if she tries to contact me again for a blind reference, she won’t be able to.

      I’m a fan of the ability to block people that annoy me.

      1. #3 OP*

        Thanks for the feedback, everyone! In hindsight, it does look like I was more guarded/self-preserving in my approach than was necessary. It just felt like an odd question to ask, even considering the circumstances. Guess I’ll know for next time!

        1. LeRainDrop*

          I would have named a co-worker and described their strengths. It’s important for a team lead to have good working relationships with their team, to understand the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, and to support their team when asked by higher level management. It would have reflected better on you to have praised a colleague.

  8. Marina*

    #1 – I would bet five dollars Elle invited herself to the wedding, or assumed she was invited and Mary felt too awkward to tell her she wasn’t.

    1. Articulated Joints*

      That seems like a very odd supposition to make. Do you have any reason to think that’s more likely than them actually being more friendly than the OP realised?

      1. Anna*

        I have known someone who did that with our supervisor at a previous job. The self-invited person offered it up as wedding day help and she’ll take care of weird last minute things. So as bizarre as it sounds, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      I think it’s more likely the boss and co-worker are friendlier than people realize. I suppose it’s possible the co-worker invited herself but that seems unlikely to me.

    3. assistant director of retail teapot sales*

      I think it is possible that Elle and Mary’s significant others may know each other already, or that they knew each other before they worked together. either way- weddings are full of drama- there is a huge cost associated with them, so i disagree with the all or none stance. I’m counting on people to be adults, and understand that weddings are expensive, and that no hard feelings are intended. After my own office arranged a surprise shower for me (after i repeatedly said i did not want one because only one of my co-workers was invited to the wedding (we knew each other before she started working) – it was awkward and uncomfortable, and full of good intentions. after the fact (and before i even got married) people were sniping about how they hadn’t gotten their thank you cards yet. *eye roll. so i don’t regret only inviting one coworker- for this very reason. the poster should try not to take it personally- it rarely is when it comes to a wedding

      1. MK*

        Adults understand that weddings are expensive; that’s why, when you invite someone to yours, they draw the perfectly logical conclusion that you must be pretty close to them. And if you are the boss, that can be very problematic.

        The OP isn’t upset about not being invited to the wedding, or thinks it’s not “fair” that her coworker got invited. She feels awkward because she realised that her boss and one of her coworkers are apparently pretty close, much closer than they seemed to be at the office.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          But we don’t know that the OP has been invited. Their SO might have been invited, and the OP is their +1. There’s just too much that is unknown to spend time worrying about this.

          1. nonegiven*

            Or she might have been related to the SO or a close friend of that family. Usually both sides get a number of people they can invite, it isn’t only up to the bride. No, we can’t invite your college roommate because he is dating my direct report?

    4. Whats In A Name*

      I also think it’s possible Mary is clueless. We had a manager once (not dept. head level, but senior) talk to all of us in the dept. about her wedding, up to asking about colors, etc. and then only invited only me because our boyfriends were on the same adult league baseball team. Lots of people were hurt by it and she never made the connection of why, especially b/c I would have likely been invited if we didn’t work together. Perception rules the world, but this nothing to get too upset over, there could be other circumstances.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        And I don’t mean clueless in the idiot sense of clueless. I mean she invited Elle because of some other connection and didn’t think about the work side of things.

    5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I had the same thought. And I’m not sure if the etiquette is different for work showers as opposed to other bridal showers, but generally I thought if someone is invited to a shower they are supposed to be invited to the wedding.

      1. fposte*

        I think work showers get a pass on that because the wedding inviters often don’t have control over who comes to those.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          That makes sense. I could see someone not realizing that and making a comment to the bride along the lines of looking forward to their wedding and the bride just inviting that coworker to avoid having to say they weren’t inviting work people.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Totally different for work showers, at least where I’ve worked. I’m sure it varies by workplace, but here’s it’s more of a “yay, our coworker is getting married!” excuse to have cake, and while there is usually some sort of group gift arranged it’s not nearly so much about either presents or close-friend-bonding-time as a friends-shower would be.

    6. Emily*

      I used to work for a small team of six individuals. Three of us, all in our early 20s, happened to be getting married within a 3 month time span. One of our coworkers, a 60-some year old man, emailed all three of us telling us how he would love to go to our wedding if we would have him & his wife there. He then listed his address, and requested a link to our registries. My other two coworkers used the excuse of getting married out of state for not inviting him. I however was getting married locally, and felt like I had to invite him, so I did. Sure enough, he and his wife came, took pictures, and got my husband and I gifts off of our registry.

    7. LW #1*

      Yeah, that’s not likely actually BUT I can totally imagine that happening in other settings I’ve worked or with other bosses!!

  9. Greg*

    is it possible that in letter 1 they know each other outside of work and keep it professional on the clock? they could be real friends.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, my guess is that they’ve had an outside friendship and they’ve been successful at hiding it up until now. I get that you have to set strict boundaries when you’re the boss, but I also think it would suck to have someone that you consider a close friend not be able to share in a special day with you like your wedding without also having to invite your whole department, which obviously adds a lot of expense and takes up space from others you might be closer to if you’re having a small ceremony. I think generally, a wedding gets a pass because that’s one day where it’s really just about you – it should be one of the few times in your life that even as a manager, you shouldn’t be expected to balance it with the business’s needs.

      I also think that if up until now the OP had no clue they were close, either by how they interact or how the boss treats the employee in work terms (ie showing signs of favoritism), then she should just let it go. Even this instance was pure chance that the OP saw a picture on Facebook via a mutual friend – it’s not like they were discussing the wedding in the office. I know Alison usually takes a hard line on boss/employee friendships because it’s just too easy for it to appear (or actually be) inappropriate, but this one seems to be as good at separating work and personal relationships as it gets.

      Maybe keep an eye out to see if there’s impropriety occurring that you didn’t notice before…but on the flipside, also don’t start reading into any good thing that happens to your coworker as pure nepotism if you wouldn’t have wondered if it was nepotism before.

      1. Sami*

        It would be a much different situation if everyone was invited except one or two people. That’s much more problematic than inviting only one person.

    2. Kate*

      Or they’re connected in another way, Elle is dating Mary’s new husband’s cousin or something. There are dozens of possibilities here.

    3. paul*

      That’s how it read to me. If it’s professional enough that no one even noticed it, and the only way *this* got back to the office was a 3rd part…just let it go.

    4. LW #1*

      Yeah so Ellie and I met Mary when Mary was hired as our direct supervisor (maybe 3 years ago), she was later promoted to our department head. I’m guessing now knowing the wedding thing that they’ve gotten close outside of work. That’s the thing that is a little hard to swallow for me, since IMO that’s a line Mary shouldn’t necessarily have crossed. It’s just odd that somehow it developed in a way where they are that close and Mary isn’t that close with others of us, because we all genuinely like her/each other. It could be too that Mary didn’t want hurt feelings of picking and choosing more people from our department but if she had to pick one picked Ellie. I dunno, I’m not too worked up about it after a little bit of time passed – even though I found out this week Ellie got a promotion to that supervisor role!

      1. Important Moi*

        I just wanted to add, I’ve had a similar experience. My boss invited 2 co-workers to her son’s wedding. I was not. I found out accidentally – a co-worker told me (assuming I’d been invited too?). Fast forward 2 years, my co-workers and boss are on the outs. My co-workers use terms like “betrayal” and “after all I’ve done for her” in reference to my boss.

        Though initially hurt, with the fallout going on now, I am glad my relationship with the boss is professional without the boundary issues.

  10. Jeanne*

    I would be completely relieved to not be invited to my boss’ wedding. Because it’s your boss, you can’t even relax and have fun. You have to behave like you are at a professional occasion. You probably won’t know more than 5 other people there. When your boss returns from her honeymoon, congratulate her, ask how her honeymoon was, and leave it at that.

    1. Lana*

      It’s a weird mix of logical/emotional for me. At my last job my boss got married and she invited two members of the team but not me or another woman. It was really uncomfortable to see all of the photos on Facebook and hear them all talk about the wedding. Logically I was relieved to not have to go to this event or worry about buying my boss a gift. I didn’t have to hang out with co-workers on a Saturday night. Logically I knew those were all good things. Emotionally it stunk to feel like an odd girl out – a very 7th grade sort of feeling. Emotionally it always stings a bit to feel left out. And if it’s a boss who can decide on projects or raises . . . the sting has another edge to it.

      1. Wedding Bells*

        I wrote to Alison last year about being invited to my boss’s wedding (our entire dept. was) and then subsequently was sent on a work trip that weekend. It was awkward to have to buy a gift for someone I don’t particularly like who knows how much I make. Another person in my dept. got married and invited everyone in our dept. except myself. That was awkward, but I was relieved to not have to buy a gift and make up an excuse for why I wasn’t going.

    2. LW #1*

      We do counseling work and our office is pretty…relaxed…to say the least. So that never even crossed my mind. But yeah, it’s not at all about I wish I went to the wedding, it’s that I feel a little distrustful about my boss’ judgment and awkward in my relationship with Ellie and with others who don’t know about her attending the wedding, since they tried pretty hard to hide it. (That’s another thing I should have mentioned, it was on FB but Ellie wasn’t tagged and didn’t post anything herself about it.) There’s a personal aspect too FOR SURE, and I’m a sensitive person, but mostly because of the work that we do I want to know that my boss’ support and guidance and supervision comes from a solid foundation and knowing she has a personal relationship with someone she supervises makes me question that alot. Which, whatever, because I can see how this wouldn’t bother some people at all and plus no one is perfect. :)

    1. Zana*

      I thought this too.

      A couple of years ago in a job, a couple of my co-workers were a bit offended/wondering if I was a ‘favourite’/spreading stuff around the work place about me because I attended our bosses (the bride) wedding and they saw me in a couple of pictures.

      The reason I was invited was actually because the groom was my cousin.

      If they had of simply asked me, I could have told them that. But nope, they jumped to all these conclusions first. It was quite annoying actually. Ugh.

      1. Pwyll*

        Ditto on this one. I have an outrageous number of cousins, and this happened between two other cousins of mine (cousin of bride worked for groom). Family is so large that the cousin had actually only ever seen boss and spouse together once prior to the wedding (though obviously knew they were dating). These things happen.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah this seems the most likely explanation to me. I grew up in a city that isn’t huge but that also isn’t that small (around 800,000 people) and probably once a year I get a text from a friend back home that they ran into my parents at a wedding. The most recent one was because my friend’s husband’s cousin was the bride and the son of my mom’s close friend was the groom.

        1. Callietwo*

          :) That seems like an enormous city to me but then that’s about 200,000 more people than live in my whole state!

      3. fposte*

        To be fair, I’m not sure there’s a way to ask “How did you get invited when I didn’t?” without being rude, or putting somebody in an awkward spot if the answer is “I dunno; maybe she just likes me better.”

        1. Anna*

          Yeah, there is no casual way to broach that subject. Just don’t…you know…start rumors about why you THINK someone was invited.

        2. LW #1*

          I’m keeping mum on telling others Ellie was invited. It feels wrong to spread the awkwardness around! And for that reason, I don’t want to comment or ask a reason, yeah. :)

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That reminds me of a history class that I took where the professor was a young doctoral candidate. One of my young male classmates was always bringing up events that they’d attended together, until the professor finally had to say, “Y’all, this is my little brother-in-law; I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about anything weird going on between him and me.”

        1. Lissa*

          Aww, this reminds me of the letter about the professor whose sister was attending the school he taught at (though not in the same classes) and people got weird ideas when they saw the two of them together! There’s even a TV Trope for it — “Relative Error”. A good lesson in the dangers of assuming!

    2. Joseph*

      Given that OP mentioned that (a) she found out through a post on a friend’s Facebook page and (b) there has been zero evidence of favoritism in the office, I think this is pretty likely, actually.

    3. BarManager*

      That was my thought as well, or perhaps the date of someone who was attending.

      Also, seems a pretty silly thing to be upset about, if they keep appropriate boundaries at work – let it be.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      This was my one of my first thoughts.

      My cousin’s fiancee worked at a company I interned at. We never told anyone and no one there knew we were about-to-become-related.

      However, she did invite all her coworkers to the wedding – they were all just really surprised when one of the interns was there too!

    5. LW #1*

      Nope, Ellie actually said at one point in planning the shower that she didn’t know him, but none of us would really. I can see why you might wonder though!

  11. Marina*

    Does LW #1 keep a running tally of invitations? I can’t understand why anyone would care about who goes to what wedding.

    1. Random Lurker*

      +1 this seems like something that’s not worth it to get hung up on. If Mary is talking about it and singling out who she invited, then she sucks.

    2. Mookie*

      No, she doesn’t keep a tally. She explained how she found out about in the first paragraph of her letter (friend-of-a-friend thing on Facebook she came across).

      1. BRR*

        Exactly. While I think the lw should let it go, Alison lists multiple reasons why managers shouldn’t appear to favor anyone via a personal relationship.

        1. Red Reader*

          Personally, I think Mary should get a little slack here because the LW found out through a game of Facebook telephone that didn’t have anything to do with work and was surprised to hear that Elle was close enough to have been invited, so it seems to me that they’re both doing a pretty good job of keeping their personal friendship out of the workplace.

          1. Roscoe*

            Exactly. I think thats why I’m having a hard time sympathizing. OP found out through a random facebook connection. Had she not come across that, she would have no problems with the manager and co-worer.

          2. Colette*

            Perhaps – or perhaps it is an issue in the workplace that hasn’t shown itself yet, or that the OP has been attributing to other factors. I don’t think it’s a reason to panic, but it’s not a unreasonable thing to care about.

      2. Roscoe*

        Yeah, but it seems to be completely professional at work. Like she seems more upset that they are closer to each other than her, not the fact that she is worried that this will affect her career.

        1. DCompliance*

          This. The focus of OP’s concern’s seem to be more about being hurt that she was not included instead of workplace favoritism affecting her career.

        2. LBK*

          Agreed – I don’t see any evidence that the OP should be worried about favoritism, and by her own words she was surprised to discover that they had a close enough relationship that Elle would be invited to the wedding, so it seems like they’ve done a good job at keeping up appearances in the office.

        3. LW #1*

          I had a hard time explaining the dynamics of our office, so it’s fair that it seems like I’m more concerned with the whole personal / friendship piece, but truly it’s not that. It’s that our boss having a Friendship with one of us changes those dynamics. Because of the work we do, our personal stuff sometimes comes into supervision and one of Mary’s biggest roles is to offer guidance on boundaries between us and others at work and us and clients and managing our own personal issues in a way that doesn’t impact others. But like, for example, Ellie has some habits that make her relationships with our clients more adversarial than they need to be and I used to think she was definitely getting coached on it (and it’s none of my business so didn’t think much of it at all) but NOW she’s just got promoted (ha!) and I’m questioning if Mary even sees it as a problem or if it’s a blindspot.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Actually, I think this wedding thing should make you trust Mary MORE.

            Because she obviously knows how to maintain boundaries -in the 0ffice-, and to keep her personal friendships from bleeding over.

            1. LW #1*

              So do you think that if you were your friend’s boss you could make objective decisions about how to handle conflicts they have with other staff or clients, what kind of work they get assigned, pay, performance reviews?? You would probably try really hard and seek support from those above you etc, etc, and I’m sure Mary will, but it’s so naive to think it’s a good idea or that it wouldn’t bleed over. (And for me, the director of our whole program is not at all helpful in managing ethical conflicts.)

      3. UrbanGardener*

        Yep! I had a boss who definitely favored one woman in our office (who did wind up going to boss’ wedding when the rest of us weren’t invited), and boss gave her a promotion without informing any of the rest of us that a position was open, so none of us had the chance to throw our hats in the ring. So blatant favoritism can be a huge problem.

      4. CMT*

        Yeah, but the LW doesn’t mention seeing any evidence of that at work. It’s something to be aware of now, but just the fact that it happened isn’t necessarily bad.

    3. A former bride*

      I don’t know, people can get hung up on these kind of things.

      I am on a team of 10 people and decided to, discreetly, invite one of my co-workers to my wedding. She let it slip after the ceremony (while I was still out on my vacation). I found out through the grapevine that two of my co-workers were offended and didn’t understand why she would be invited, and not them (hint: I am friends with the co-worker I invited outside of work, she has already met my fiancé!). At least I then understood why suddenly coming back from my honeymoon they had made a point of being particularly cold to me and it wasn’t just all in my head.

      I otherwise get along great with all of my co-workers and things went back to normal after a week or so!

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I see work showers as different set of rules.

        On a side note I have been invited to personal showers thrown by attendants or family and then not been invited to the actual wedding.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Yes—work showers are (often) almost a substitute for the wedding. Your co-workers know they may not be invited to the wedding, but they want a chance to celebrate you anyway.

    4. LW #1*

      Yikes. Harsh? LW #1 here. So thanks to those who pointed out why it might bother someone! I am a pretty reasonable person and no I had no intention of even pondering who might have been invited.

      And while I appreciate how M+ E were and are professional at work/discreet about their relationship, finding out about it is naturally going to impact me because we work super closely together and now, less than a week after I wrote Alison I found out that Ellie got a promotion and will be supervising us. So it throws shade on that.

      And despite that that is my opinion of things, I’m not exactly pulling my hair out over it.

  12. Hannah*

    “Who from the team do you feel would be the best fit and who you could get along with if you weren’t selected for the position?”

    #3: I can see why you were taken aback, I wouldn’t want to be asked that either. I would assume he asked everyone the same question. It would just bother me to think that he might be basing his decision off of other people’s opinions instead of forming his own. If you don’t get the promotion, you want to be able to trust that your boss selected the person who is strongest, not just the person who would make the least waves on the team.

    Plus, when you’re competing for a promotion, why would you want to name someone else who should get the promotion instead? Maybe he wants to know that info for the good of the team, but you presumably stand to gain more pay or better title from this promotion, so what motivation do you have to answer this question candidly? It just seems like he’s expecting you go completely compartmentalize that, which I don’t think is fair. If you weren’t in the running yourself, that would be different.

    1. Roscoe*

      Yes and no. I mean, if EVERYONE says that they could work for Jane, and EVERYONE says they’d have a difficult time woring for Karen, then I think that gives a lot of insight right there that Karen may not be the best person for the job.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      This seems like a very us-vs-them way of thinking, the kind that I wouldn’t really want to hire into management. Sometimes the best outcome for you isn’t the best outcome for the company, and someone in management needs to be able to recognize that and make similar decisions and, yes, compartmentalize. So I’d have serious concerns about someone who balked with this reasoning. Besides which, Alison describes several very good ways the head could use these answers, particularly the getting a sense of your insight. And motivation to answer candidly could be better positioning yourself the next time a promotion becomes available, improving your standing with the department head, ensuring you end up with a team lead you can respect, hell, setting a good foundation for your relationship with the next team lead. Most folks would love an opportunity to have some say in who becomes their boss.

    3. Another Academic Librarian*

      I actualy wondered if the interviewer was trying to get a sense of what the OP valued in a leader/manager. If you asked that question directly, you might get a more rehearsed or abstract answer… But asking the OP to name someone else who would do well in the position and say why would require her to express more naturally what she skills or qualities she thought were needed in the role.

    4. Kira*

      It reminded me of when political candidates have to compare themselves and their opponent, e.g. “This election is a choice. A choice between experience versus change…” It’s an opportunity to frame what the difference in your candidacy’s are and which route you represent.

    5. Independent Thinker*

      Plus, when you’re competing for a promotion, why would you want to name someone else who should get the promotion instead?

      Hmm… I see things differently — a person who would be comfortable enough to name someone else would be seen as confident and capable of providing an objective assessment of colleagues (both desirable traits in a team lead). Personally, I’d have no problem mentioning the name of a colleague I thought could do the job well if I wasn’t selected.

      Also, I don’t think the interviewer would base his/her decision on the opinion of the team, but could extract some valuable input based on what names come up (or don’t) on the answers from various team members.

      As a coincidence, today I was reading Creativity, Inc., from Ed Camull, President of Pixar Animation (highly recommended for any manager!), and he mentions how he once got a job based on his answer to a similar question. He was being interviewed for a job with Lucasfilm (from writer-director George Lucas, right after Star Was opened in theaters). The interviewer’s first question: “Who else should Lucasfilm be considering for this job?”. Camull describes his reaction: “Without hesitation, I rattled off the names of several people who were doing impressive work in a variety of technical areas. My willingness to do this reflected my worldview, forged in academia, that any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. Not to acknowledge that seemed silly. Only later would I learn that the guys at Lucasfilm had already interviewed all the people I listed and had asked them, in turn, to make similar recommendations–and not one of them had suggested any other names! To be sure, working for George Lucas was a plum job that you’d have to be crazy not to want. But to go mute, as my rivals did, when asked to evaluated the field signaled not just intense competitiveness but also lack of confidence. Soon I’d landed an interview with George himself.” He later explains that George said he was hired because of his honesty and clarity of vision.

  13. Maria*

    LW #4, Samantha needed a reference from someone who doesn’t like her. Get with the program.


    1. LW #4*

      HA, that’s what I was wondering!
      (and it’s what they’ll get if they keep pushing for it. Maybe. I don’t know… it’s quite possible that everyone liked her, I really don’t know, I didn’t know her well enough to know if she made any enemies here or not!)

  14. Roscoe*

    #1 I may be in the minority on this one, but I really think this is nothing more than hurt feelings that you should let go. You admit that she keeps very strong boundaries at work and you didn’t even know they were close. It doesn’t seem like you are feeling that your manager isn’t being fair, you just are mad you didn’t get invited to the party. Now that may be valid (even though with weddings I see it as a bit different than just a birthday party), but it still doesn’t seem to be impacting you professionally. You only even know this randomly (which I still don’t fully get, but thats not the point) from seeing it on someon else’s facebook. Yes, I get that there is the “everyone is invited or no one is invited” practice, but here it really seems that its not affecting anything except your feelings. Move on.

    1. michelenyc*

      I agree. I really think LW is being oversensitive. It’s not like Elle brought the invite to work and said look what I got. LW found it on a mutual friends FB.

    2. LBK*

      You only even know this randomly (which I still don’t fully get, but thats not the point) from seeing it on someon else’s facebook.

      Depending on people’s privacy settings, stuff can come up on your feed from people you aren’t friends with if one of your friends likes/comments on it – so if Elle posted a picture on Facebook of her at the wedding and their mutual friend liked it, it could’ve popped up in the OP’s feed.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think it’s more that you’re facing the “she likes this person better than me” because it’s right there.

    4. LW #1*

      There is a little “she likes her better than me,” of course, cause I’m only human. The boundaries thing though is probably more why I think the invite was “uncool” which I don’t think I was at all clear about in my letter, sorry. I thought she had strong boundaries, and usually does, and this made me question them because I don’t believe in our field that it’s appropriate to become “friend” friends with someone you supervise. (The code of ethics is vague about it – like, not a hard and fast rule or some HUGE issue like sleeping with a client would be, but a boundary violation. But that’s my opinion, and my judgment, and I recognize others’ vary.) It’s sort “friendly, but not friends, “in terms of how I think most supervisors are supposed to interact with those under them. So sincerely, I’m glad it was Ellie and not me attending the wedding and having that relationship!

  15. Coffee Ninja*

    I was Elle a few months ago, at my last job. My boss and I were friendly (if not actual BFFs) outside of work, and I was the only one of her direct reports invited to the wedding. I sooooo did not want to go. The whole gift giving thing was awkward, and I didn’t know very many other people there. My boss also drew me into a lot of wedding planning talk at the office, which was draining – she didn’t want to talk about it with anyone else because they weren’t invited.

    All that to say I think you should be glad you didn’t get invited :) In your shoes my main concern would be how your boss treats you and your coworkers. Does she favor Elle? Give her assignments or take her to high profile meetings because they are friends? If so, there’s a problem, but it’s a much larger scale problem than who got an invite to the wedding. (My old boss wins the inappropriate and unprofessional BFF Boss bingo, by the way. I felt so bad for my coworkers).

    1. UrbanGardener*

      I had a co-worker who was the only one invited to a former boss’ wedding, and none of us would have known if she hadn’t talked about it at the office. Awkward! But this co-worker was also given a promotion none of us knew was an option, so favoritism was a huge problem there.

    2. LW #1*

      This perspective is awesome! I don’t think Mary would ever put Ellie in uncomfortable situations in that way. That boss sounds like 100% boundary nightmare.

      And I don’t want to say she favors her since I feel I’m treated fairly, but she was definitely grooming her behind the scenes for a promotion that she is barely qualified for over the past year and I wonder a bit if she thinks she’s more ready than she is because she likes her that much. (I could be wrong, naturally, about Mary’s motivations and Ellie’s abilities.)

  16. Erin*

    #5 – Not only is that normal, but it’s October. You’re giving him *months* of advanced notice, here. Unless the holidays are usually a busy time for your industry – and I’m assuming not, or they wouldn’t be giving everyone that week off – he’s the one being weird here.

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #2: I hope you try Alison’s approach asap! And if you get a negative response from your boss, do what you can to talk to candidates on their own. I think it’s so, so important for a candidate to know what they’re getting into– I recently left a job where, looking back on the initial interviews, I ended up feeling like I got the, “this is how we want it to be” picture and nothing like the, “this is how it is”. That was partly because none of my peers interviewed me. I’d love to hear an update on this one!

  18. Meg Murry*

    The only (valid) reasons I could see for OP #5’s HR getting grumpy:
    -OP only started really recently, and doesn’t actually get to use any of those 15 vacation days in 2016 until after a certain amount of time (90 days, etc).
    -OP isn’t being clear and HR actually is her manager (in which case the manager should either approve it or not, but not get grumpy about it).
    -OP and HR report to the same manager and the manager already denied the HR person’s request but now is approving OP’s (again, HR shouldn’t be grumpy at OP about this though).
    -OP’s manager is being weak and wants HR to be the bad guy and deny OP’s request, rather than deal with it him/her shelf.
    -OP is in some kind of role where year end is critical (perhaps it’s also the end of the financial year) and it’s usually a crazy crunch time to make sure all the widgets get shipped or all the invoices get out or all the inventory gets taken, or all their clients try to get in one last visit, etc, and being down a salaried employee means they’ll have to pay for even more overtime to hourly employees.
    -OP has some kind of job duties that the HR will have to cover for while OP is out, and that screws up their long term plans.
    -OP is trying to skirt his/her own manager and ask permission from HR, when it’s not HR’s place to approve vacation requests like this.
    -OP didn’t really ask permission but rather just announced their intent to take vacation, at a company that tends toward more of a “polite ask” culture rather than an assertive “just tell” culture.
    -The company announced that no one can take vacation that week before the shutdown (or no one at OP’s level, or no one who hasn’t requested it before July, etc) and OP ignored that and is now asking for the vacation.
    -OP has some kind of project that is due by the end of the year that is going to pull everyone else’s timelines forward in order to get it done by December 16th instead of December 23. This is really common with my clients and super annoying – we’ll get a call in October or November saying “can you do moderate sized project by the end of the year?” and we’ll say “ok, no problem, we can do that in 2 months”. Then it gets delayed while the scope of the project grows, and now the customer is “going to send it to you by next week” and next thing you know, the final pieces are rolling in a couple of days before Thanksgiving so now there are only 6 weeks to do [slightly larger project]. And then in the first week of December, you get a call saying “Well, our last meeting with [marketing or some other internal or external client] before they go on vacation is December 15, so we actually need that 2 month project 2 weeks from now, oh, and marketing also wants to add [X, which sounds like not a big deal but actually doubles the amount of physical work to do]”. So if I were HR and I was working on a project with OP and had mentally blocked off that last week as a chance to get that done, I would be a bit grumpy if OP announced now that they would be out that last week – and even more so if the HR person had planned to take some time off themselves and now they would have to complete their part even earlier. I’ve had that happen too – I’d planned to take off the 2nd week of a month and then finish my part the 3rd week in order to meet the end of the month deadline, only to find out that my collaborator was taking off that third week, so now I had to do my part before the vacation instead of after it.

    NOT valid reasons, but possibilities
    -HR isn’t actually p*ssed at OP, they were just in a grumpy mood when OP talked to them and it came out that way.
    -HR doesn’t have any vacation days left and is jealous of OP. Or HR has been there longer but doesn’t get 15 days of vacation yet. Not ok reasons to treat someone badly, but not really OP’s problem either.
    -HR isn’t actually p*ssed, they just gave a short response like “Ok, fine” and OP is reading a tone into this message that wasn’t meant to be there.

    1. TootsNYC*

      how does your manager feel?

      I can see a manager saying, “If we’re all going to be out for a week, we need all hands on deck to deal w/ the extra work we’ll have to do to get ready.”

      But if the manager doesn’t care, HR shouldn’t.
      And if the company doesn’t want to have such a big gap, they can make it a company policy!

  19. Tennessee INFP*

    OP #1 – Are you sure that Mary invited Elle to the wedding and that Elle just didn’t show up on her own and assume she was invited because Mary is her boss? I’ve known a weird person or two in my life that have shown up to weddings without an invite and without realize the social norms of only going if you’re invited. They thought just because they knew the person, that was reason enough to be allowed to go.

    1. Is it Friday Yet?*

      Or perhaps they are connected for reasons other than work? Maybe Elle’s SO was the one invited?

    2. Lissa*

      I’ve heard of this and I think it might be because in some cultures/families, that’s true? It’s like a “community event”, so it’s OK to just show up, because that’s the social norms they’re used to.

  20. Callietwo*

    Regarding #3:
    I recently was interviewed for a promotion and of the questions posed to me was “How do you plan to handle the situation, should you not be who we decide to promote”. I don’t think it’s at all uncommon to ask of internal candidates at all. In my case, it was only open to internal candidates and I’d anticipated this question in some form or other and I felt answered it well.

    I start my new position on Tuesday! Do take Alison’s advice to heart, don’t read too much into the question on it’s own.

    Good luck!

  21. Tiny _Tiger*

    OP #1: I really don’t see the reason behind the hurt feelings. Maybe it’s just because I work in an office where we don’t make a practice of hanging out with coworkers or building a big sense of camaraderie, but this doesn’t seem like anything that a) you should be upset over or b) is really any of your business. From what it sounds like, there hasn’t been any mention of wedding plans or invites at work at all to begin with. You state yourself that you aren’t very close with your manager outside of work and no one besides Elle seems to be either, so why should she feel an obligation to invite you? And I saw someone else state that maybe this is a case of Elle has a connection with the groom’s family you’re unaware of? I would let this one go.

    1. LW #1*

      Thanks for commenting, I sort of said in another comment but the reason is a little bit the personal thing of me feeling left out and A LOT bit how the fact that they have a personal relationship, even though they clearly try to keep it out of the office, might impact my working life. The timing is so funny because, like I also said elsewhere, Ellie just got promoted to a position that’s been open for quite awhile and now I will report to her. Also I imagine that our field (counseling) might make a huge difference in the different perspectives.

      It’s funny to me too how comments seem to fall into the two camps but of course both sides have the same conclusion of move on/let it go. Which is definitely a good plan!!

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        Ooooh… yeah I’ll admit, her suddenly getting a promotion would give me pause as to whether their relationship outside work had anything to do with it. I mean, if you’re confident that Elle is a good worker and deserved the promotion that would alleviate any misgivings, but if she doesn’t seem to be working any harder than anyone else it would definitely rub me the wrong way.

  22. Smiling on Friday*

    #5 – My company started giving 1 1/2 weeks paid holidays between Christmas and New Years. The first year it was offered, 2 people with large vacation banks decided they wanted to extend their personal time off to 2 1/2 weeks by using vacation. (They were both in the same job role with no other backups).

    To combat it, the company issued a policy that if vacation was taken immediately before or after the holidays then the holiday pay would be lost. The only exception being illness or true emergencies.

    That policy rapidly changed to affect the entire yearly holiday policy. Now no one is allowed to take off any time the day before or the day after any holiday. For example, we have to work the day after Thanksgiving (Friday). If we want to take that Friday as a day off, you lose your holiday pay for Thanksgiving Day itself. If you have vacation time available you can use vacation time for both days, or else you have to take leave without pay.

    1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      This is really nuts to me. I’ve heard of losing holiday pay for unplanned PTO directly before or after a holiday, but not planned.

    2. Anon 2*

      That is a ridiculous policy. My office closes the week between Xmas and New Year’s. And not everyone can take time off leading up to that holiday (or directly after it), but with some communication we always make sure things are covered.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      Wow, that’s obnoxious. We had “floating holidays” that could be used for holidays that weren’t already a day off, or to extend any holidays that were.

    4. Smiling on Saturday too*

      Didn’t say I agreed with the policy. :)

      Further the company thinks that they can pay people less because they give them so much paid time off at the end of the year.

  23. Justin*

    I’ve never had a job where it was expected or required to be reachable while on vacation but I’ve had a lot of coworkers over the years explicitly state that they will or will not have “access to email” wherever they are as a way to cover for that expectation. I never say that and it’s never really come up . My workload has always been project-based so I either grind hard to get things done before I leave or I fit my vacation into the project timeline or in between projects. I just think some people are just nervous or guilty about taking time off and say that they’ll be reachable even if it wouldn’t ever really be necessary.

  24. Pari*

    Why is there an expectation that bosses do everything exactly correct with little to no room for error. The boss is a human. Humans sometimes connect better with some than others. The bosses wedding is most important to the boss and she derserves to invite whomever she wants so cut her a little slack. what’s important here is the relationship doesn’t seem to be affecting work. Besides weddings are expensive and it may be that she did want to invite more but was limited bc of cost.

    1. LW #1*

      I don’t think I have that expectation, and I’m not feeling that from the comments, but this is a column about management and work and best practices, no? So it seems natural to me that we might talk about what the best decision might have been for her and best course of action for me in dealing with it is. And btw, Alison’s answer did that which is why I love AAM!

  25. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Haven’t read through because what is with everyone dumping WORK on me today LOL, and lots of comments, but is it possible that Elle is doing something at the wedding for Mary? Maybe she makes fabulous party favors or something.

  26. Christine*

    5. Taking a week off before the office is closed for a week

    OP just ask your direct supervisor. HR isn’t the one you normally go to about vacation requests in most companies unless you report to them, or you’re new and have questions regarding leave usage, etc. HR has their own opinion and many times their response to an inquiry may be colored by that. We shut down between Christmas and New Year and we are free to take vacation on either end if we have it and our supervisor’s approve. I doubt I’ll get it this year because we’ll be doing some office moves during the period classes are not in session. Just ask.

  27. A Cita*

    #4 This is the problem with going off list–great for hiring managers, terrible for candidate and candidate’s relationship with the reference. If the reference believes that the candidate listed them without checking with them first–a natural assumption to make–they’re not going to be happy with that at all.

    We’ve had letters here from references who were not happy that candidates hadn’t checked with them first before listing them. And while the advice in today’s post suggests that hm’s go off list when they know someone who has worked closely with the candidate in the past, that hasn’t been the case in past posts giving this advice. Past advice has been: go off list, no caveats. And that’s where the misunderstanding happens (because if it’s someone you know, the conversation is different and it’s made clear that the candidate didn’t list them).

  28. Don't Cause Drama*

    #1 I was going to be written up for causing hate and discontent on my team because I invited one person from my team to my wedding but not anyone else. Except I didn’t invite her. She was my best man’s wife.
    Sometimes things aren’t what you think they are. If I was sure who caused all the drama complaining about not getting invited to my wedding, somebody would be transferring out. If you see something like this and decide to get all hurt and upset, be aware, you might be stepping on a landmine.

  29. JennyFair*

    LW#1 – At Giant Co, offices can interpret the private relationship code any way they like. One office was super duper strict, and wanted to ban employees from a manager’s wedding unless every single employee was invited. The problem was that it was a teensy wedding (maybe 50 of us? I doubt it though) in a teensy bed and breakfast and one, and only one, of the employees was a close friend of the bride (and had been since high school). So he wasn’t really a friend of the manager (who was the groom), but still had reason to be there. They finally made an exception, thankfully. But just know, it might not be your coworker’s relationship to your manager that was the reason for the invitation.

  30. TootsNYC*

    #1 the wedding:

    Here’s another “what might bhave happened” scenario:

    Maybe Elle is the only employee who said, “oh, I can’t wait till your wedding” and other “invite me!” hinting things. And Mary felt like she had to invite her, and is relieved that the rest of you didn’t push yourselves in.

  31. LW #1*

    Letter writer #1 here. Thanks to everyone who commented! SO there’s a few things that have come up a few times that I thought I could clear up:
    – their spouses don’t know each other in any special capacity and they didn’t know each other before we all worked together
    – we are in a helping profession (which actually I think I should have mentioned to Alison) so supervision/managing has some specific quirks and either way

    AND after I emailed my question things already changed lol. This week, Monday, was Mary’s first day back at work and lo and behold, it was announced Tuesday that Ellie was promoted. She is great but, objectively, not ready for a supervisory position but they’ve been trying to fill this position for almost a year with no luck and it’s not a surprise to me that the higher ups would be ok with her in the role. I’m ok with it because it’s beyond me but it will definitely affect me since now I will be reporting to Ellie before Mary. Anyway, I kept my mouth shut to my coworkers so they don’t know about the wedding thing and I think Alison’s answer is totally fair.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ooooh, see, this is exactly why what the manager did in inviting Elle was messy. Because now you have to wonder if personal friendship played any role in the promotion decision.

        1. Lissa*

          This is the problem with social media having not yet caught up with etiquette, business or personal! They probably preferred it being a secret friendship too, but all it takes is one stray picture posted on one mutual friend’s wall…I don’t really have a solution to this, and I’m not a social media hater by any means, it’s just a thing I’ve noticed, that a lot of commonly-accepted polite things stop “working” in a Facebook context. “Don’t talk about an event with people not invited to it” being a bit one.

        2. Quilter*

          My first reaction was to wonder if the promotion had already been in the works and that the manager invited Elle to the wedding with the knowledge that by the time the wedding came around, there would be a different reporting structure. Maybe it was just a case of very bad timing – the need to finalize a wedding invite list vs. the time it took to get things in place to announce a promotion.

          It may be that Elle has skills that make her a better choice for the spot and that it isn’t about friendship outside of work at all. (I understand you don’t think much of Elle, but that doesn’t mean that the decision makers see it that way.) It may be that the manager is being tasked with mentoring and grooming Elle for this position given it’s been so hard to fill and they want someone who will stick around.

          It’s also possible that favoritism came into play and I can imagine that regardless it won’t take away the sting of it, but you might leave the door open to other possibilities beyond “secret friendships” even if to just make it easier to work with Elle going forward.

          Good luck!

          1. LW #1*

            All possibilities for sure and it’s clear the promotion was coming I think. And thanks for such a thoughtful comment! Definitely a very gray issue. I do want to put it out there that I do think a lot of E. just that truly from my perspective she is not the person for the job. I like working with her, I don’t think she’ll be a disaster. So that’s why none of this is a huge, big deal. Just grating. I’m going to try really hard at focusing on my work and not the interpersonal stuff cause I don’t want a toxic workspace.

  32. Kriss*

    re: #4: several of the plants I go into do security background checks on me & they sometimes ask my references for references. the last time a background check was done on me, I had a coworker approach me in the break room to ask if I put her down as a reference & I told her “no, I would have asked your permission first”. it turned out that my reference was asked for a reference (“someone else you both work with who knows her”) & he recommended the woman because he had seen us chatting in the break room on occasion.

  33. Married to the bosses family...not really, just wondering*

    Wondering if Allison can comment on this situation where one member of a wedding party/ family/ group of friends is a manager and somehow someone they supervise is attached to the significant other of that person?

    It’s pretty obvious that you can change a personal relationship, but what if it’s family? Like what if my husband’s cousin is the bosses’ groom, and they do stuff as a family a few times a year, but the I didn’t realize this until the wedding. I know I didn’t meet all my husband’s cousins until our wedding/ their wedding, so don’t say it’s not possible. Do you drop out of family events? Is it the boss who stays home? The worker? Or can you say, we both married in to the same family, and we’ll keep it professional at work, but a few times a year we have family obligations.

    (If this is off topic, delete me, and LW #1 I understand this is not your situation, I’m just wondering.)

  34. Printer's Devil*

    LW #5, is the HR guy new? He might have come from a company with a different culture. Where I am, for example, you’re not supposed to schedule any vacation between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Personal days are permitted to be used, but you can’t string together more than two or three days in that time.)

  35. ECHM*

    #5 – Our workplace has a rule that to get paid for a holiday, you must work the day before and the day after that holiday. *sigh*

Comments are closed.