5 more updates from letter-writers on how things turned out

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are five more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. How can I completely disconnect from a difficult former boss?

I wanted to give you an update on the situation with my former boss, “Marsha,” who had an injury that affected her work and her relationship with me, and her attempts to reconnect after being let go. After you published my letter, I didn’t have any contact from Marsha and thus, no reason to practice the excellent suggestions from you and your commenters. And unfortunately, now, I won’t need to. Barely a month after you published my letter, my now-boss quietly told me and his other direct report, who had also worked with Marsha, that she had already been let go from her new job at the institution related to ours.

I feel terribly for Marsha, and I genuinely hope that she gets the help I think she needs to help her with the issues that have led to her burning so many bridges. Some of your commenters picked up on things I didn’t go into in great depth, like some narcissistic traits and other potential mental health concerns, which I think are fairly accurate assessments (though obviously, this is some armchair psychiatry here and I’m not remotely qualified to pin any diagnosis on her).

I’m sorry I wasn’t interacting in the comments as much as I would have liked to be – some other stuff blew up for me at about the same time – but I want to thank everyone for their thoughts, especially on how chronic and/or unmanaged pain can affect a person. This was clearly part of the equation here, but I do think that it exacerbated some of Marsha’s existing issues. I am relieved that I no longer have to worry how I handle any interactions with Marsha from now on, but more than that, I really hope that Marsha is able to find a way to be happy and generally okay.

2. Are you obligated to support your friends’ businesses?

I wrote in asking people’s opinions on my friend posting about her MLM business on Facebook. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that the commenters here also found it off-putting. I have since caught up with the friend in person and I’m happy to say she didn’t push the topic. She does continue to post about her products fairly often though. Unfortunately I have another friend who does the same, and in fact is now creating nightly live Facebook videos to showcase her MLM business (hers is food related, like spices and dip mixes. She posts a live feed every night of herself cooking dinner!)

So while these posts can be quite annoying, I tend to just scroll past them or when necessary unfollow! I only hope that someone who posts similar updates stumbles across the original comments section and realised how people really feel about constant MLM status updates!

3. I haven’t told my employer I don’t have a car

That entire situation turned out to be a big mess. I was going to approach my boss about it, but just before I was going to do it, the coworker I carpool with offhandedly mentioned my lack of a car in front of them, not realizing the full situation. The next few days were uncomfortable because my boss and his wife (who runs the company with him) were particularly standoffish. I had access to his emails as part of my job and I was responsible for reading them all and organizing them for him; one day I stumbled upon some emails that basically indicated they were seeking to replace me. Later that evening, I tried to sign into my work email and found that my password had even been changed on me. It became clear that they were trying to pull a fast one on me.

The next morning, they told me that “It wasn’t a good fit.” They said that as the executive assistant, I was expected to run errands and my lack of a car was a deal-breaker; I told them that it was not in the job description they had provided, and therefore it wasn’t reasonable to expect that, nor was it adequate grounds to dismiss me. They even said if I had to pick up my boss’ dry cleaning at 2am, I would have to do it.

I tried to negotiate a parting salary with them because I was aware of labor laws in my state and wanted to also just make things difficult for them. (Not nice, but if they were firing me, it didn’t really matter to me.) They tried to skirt around labor laws and tell me my final check would be mailed to me, but that is illegal in my state unless they obtained written consent from me (of course, they didn’t). I confronted them with this and they just didn’t believe me. My boss didn’t do any of this discussion; he let his wife do all the talking. She said she was trained in HR and knew the laws (clearly not; I had researched them that evening just to be 100% sure).

Needless to say, that job was a disaster. I later found out that they fired my replacement, too. They just don’t seem to understand what they’re doing and how to realistically lay out expectations. Thankfully the end of that job led me to another one with a supportive boss, collaborative co-workers, better pay and benefits, and a great company culture. Joke’s on them too because with the extra money I earned from the new job, I bought a car and now don’t have to worry about that scenario again. It all seemed to work out in the end.

TLDR: I was going to take your advice but got thwarted; eventually I was let go but it turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me professionally.

4. Am I being frozen out by the company I used to intern at? (#2 at the link)

It turned out that I was overthinking the situation, but I now have the impression that the company’s HR department is slightly dysfunctional. After I didn’t get the job, they asked me to come back for an interview for another position–this time to replace one of my former coworkers who was leaving. I was thrilled, and the interview went really well, but weeks went by and the position was taken off the website and seemingly no one was hired.

After the fact, I learned that they had decided to promote the employee who was leaving rather than hire someone new. The salaries in this industry can be a bit stagnant so it is likely my former coworker was frustrated after working for years without an increase/promotion. I understand wanting to keep an experienced employee, but I wish they had offered to promote her before interviewing candidates. The entire situation left me feeling strung along, and I haven’t been applying to any open positions since. I am up for a position at a competitor so here’s to hoping that works out. Thanks for the advice!

5. We all have to reapply for our jobs, and I’m worried about stealing a job from a coworker (#4 at the link)

I ended up applying for both jobs. The interviews for each of them went extremely well, and because our interviews are conducted using a scoring system (I know, it’s terrible), I was offered both of the positions I applied for!

I accepted the offer for the job I had been acting in for the past few months, and my old job ended up going to a different internal candidate. It all worked out for my coworker though, who accepted a position at an organization we work very closely with. I couldn’t be happier in my new position, but unfortunately it is still a contract and I will have to interview for my own job again in 6 months. I’ll have another full year of experience by then though, and I’m hoping that next year my job is made permanent.

Thanks again for encouraging me to apply for both positions! It certainly saved me a lot of stress during the hiring process.

{ 128 comments… read them below }

  1. cary thomson*

    Ok as a former HR Manager I’ll admit I’m bristling at the suggestion in letter 4 that the HR department is dysfunctional. I really doubt it was HRs decision to just promote the employee. They usually don’t have that authority. It’s way more likely that it was the hiring manager who made the decision.

    1. Bonky*

      I’m a hiring manager, and I hear you. My reading of what happened here is that the job was opened up for interview, and that the internal candidate was considered strongest; not that HR somehow muffed things.

      That said, whenever we’re hiring, our organisation is scrupulous about sending rejection emails to everybody who applied and didn’t get the role. It’d have been nice if the organisation #4 was applying to could have done the same. It’s just rude not to – and sending out a form email to candidates is really not a huge burden on HR.

      1. Colette*

        It diesnt sound like their was an internal candidate. A was leaving, so they started hiring to replace her, but ended up convincing her to stay by giving her a promotion.

        1. designbot*

          Right but they likely needed to see a few candidates to realize how valuable A was and make the decision that they needed to make something happen to try to keep her.

    2. Zahra*

      I don’t know. It seems like a classic counter-offer move. And counter-offers are often about what the employee asked for previously and found elsewhere. And then someone wakes up and does what should have been done months or years ago: give a deserved raise or promotion.

      When a company routinely does counter-offers, isn’t HR involved in that?

      1. Czhorat*

        The applicant from outside might never know what happened. I’ll say that in my industry I’ve sometimes gotten formal rejections, sometimes silence. There will be plenty of occasions in which you feel like a good fit and -for whatever reason – someone else is perceived as a better one. You were right in one thing: it’s easy to over think it. You should resist the temptation; that way lies madness.

      2. MsCHX*

        Not as you may think. Probably from a budgetary perspective…but HR certainly doesn’t decide who gets promoted in most orgs.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Yeah, ours works to make sure the new salary is in line with the budget, but they have no say in promotions beyond that.

      3. INTP*

        Usually the manager is the one who decides to make a counter-offer, while HR handles the paperwork. The budget for the offer is determined differently in different orgs, so HR might possibly have a say in what can be offered, or the employee’s department might handle it entirely, or HR has a set of guidelines given to them.

    3. # 4*

      # 4 here, I have other reasons to suspect some dysfunctionality, but I’ll admit that most of it stems from a lack of courtesy. I interviewed with the company for 3 different positions and was never formally rejected. This is a small industry in which building relationships is vital. Everyone knows everyone. I’ve been hired by their competitor (I got the job, yay!) and I would hesitate to do business with them in the future because of the way they treated me.

  2. Jeanne*

    #5, I’m glad you are happy but boo to your company for making you continue to reapply for your job. It’s a waste of time and money for the bosses who do the interviews. They know if they like your work or not and should be allowed to just make a decision. And if they like you but bring in outside candidates, that’s plain wrong. I truly hope you get made permanent in 6 months.

  3. Honeybee*

    OP #3, I don’t think it’s being difficult to try to negotiate a severance and making sure that you get your final paycheck when you’re supposed to! But it’s great that you moved on and seem to be in a much better position for you!

  4. Mookie*

    Echoing Honeybee, LW 3. Congratulations on the new position and the transportation. And good on you for advocating for and protecting yourself. The situation was something they created and they weren’t operating in good faith, both when they hired you and when they decided to let you go. Good luck!

  5. Myrin*

    Reading #3, I’m immediately reminded of another boss we know of who expected his employees to drive around for him in the middle of the night…

    1. MK*

      To be fair, no one actually asked the OP to do that, just offered it as an example. Sounds to me the employer messed up in not mentioning that having a car was a requirement, and then, instead of owning up to their mistake and seeing how it could be handled, they blamed the employee and behaved punitively.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep. That’s what my friends and I call “doubling down on stupid”, when it’s blindingly obvious you’re wrong, so you just get louder and more belligerent because you have no valid argument.

        1. Czhorat*

          It makes me curious about the nature of the errands; I’m not comfortable having an employee run personal errands, or running them as an employee. “Get my dry cleaning” is working for Fergus, not Fergus Teapots, Inc.

          1. the gold digger*

            Really? The VP where I worked once had no problems at all having the two women who were supposed to be the admins for the entire department do things like make his haircut appointments, take his car in to get the oil changed, and other personal tasks. What that meant for the rest of us was there was nobody to help us do things like print and collate presentations or order office supplies.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think it really depends on the nature of the position. As noted below, it’s generally inappropriate to ask an EA to do someone’s personal errands unless that work was communicated during in the hiring process, and those errands are def within the scope of a PA’s work. But I’ve seen c-level execs and local government officials lose their jobs over using EAs or departmental admins this way b/c it was seen as misappropriating the company/government’s resources.

          2. many bells down*

            I worked as an Administrative/Personal assistant and I did personal errands for my boss all the time. Like Golddigger says: take his car for maintenance/car washes, picking things up from stores, etc. Once he had me take his teenage daughter out shopping for some books she needed. But he never called me to do these things outside of my work hours. I don’t even know where you’d find a dry cleaner that’s open at 2am!

            1. miss_chevious*

              Yeah, it varies a LOT by the role and job description. At my former law firm we were expected to use the assistants this way, because every minute we were handling our own dry cleaning, etc., was a minute we weren’t billing. Like your role, it was only during business hours, though.

          3. Desdemona*

            I think part of an executive assistant’s job is to reduce non-work related demands on the boss’ time. If the boss is worrying about figuring out how to pick up her dry cleaning or playing phone tag with the dentist, then her attention isn’t on work.

            1. Salyan*

              No, that’s a personal assistant, not an executive assistant. The EA’s job is to reduce work-related demands on the boss’ time by handling little things (like writing letters, or managing the calendar) herself.

          4. Artemesia*

            Small family owned businesses totally blur those lines and can do so and C suite executives in major corporations usually have personal assistants precisely to free them up from mundane personal tasks like getting their dry cleaning, arranging their travel etc etc. The idea is that the work they are doing is too important for them to have to do the kinds of chores that we mere mortals do. A relative of mine got so used to having a personal assistant that when he retired he retained the services of his personally.

          5. Elizabeth West*

            That’s fine for a personal assistant, but not for a regular admin, even if (s)he’s your admin. It’s one reason I have no desire to become an EA. I keep hearing stories about too many non-business tasks. I’m not Pepper Potts and I don’t want to be.

          6. catsAreCool*

            I wouldn’t be comfortable having an employee going through all my e-mail, even though my work e-mail isn’t particularly private.

            1. Marisol*

              There comes a point when executives with a lot of responsibility just can’t manage their own stuff by themselves, even their personal estate stuff. I think it takes getting used to for most people but there is a threshold you cross where you kind of have no choice. And it’s once the line is crossed psychologically that the exec gets overly reliant on the help.

          7. Milton Waddams*

            For some folks, “executive assistant” is a polite way to say “nanny for work”. They do the same sort of things as the home nanny, but in a work environment. So instead of doing the washing they pick up the dry cleaning. Instead of doing the cooking, they manage the catering. Instead of helping the kids with their homework because the parents don’t have the time, they help junior staff with whatever they want to bug the executive about.

            Not saying this is a healthy attitude, but it’s not an uncommon one, especially if they grew up in a household with a housekeeper, nanny, cook, or other service staff.

            1. Marisol*

              I am an executive assistant and I really have no problem doing personal-type chores. I get paid the same, my day ends at five, and no one’s abusive to me. If I make some dinner reservations or drop my boss’s shoes off at the shoe repair, as long as it’s on the company dime, I’m perfectly content.

      2. fposte*

        And the only thing in there that might have been illegal was the plan to mail the paycheck, but I’m glad the OP stood up for herself.

      3. INTP*

        It sounds similar in that the situation came up in both cases by a manager trying to demonstrate their power, though. Both were making a point that they could force their employees to do something ridiculous involving middle-of-the-night errands, one just did it by actually ordering her to do it and the other by just saying he could (and could fire someone for theoretically being unable to handle a request that will never happen).

  6. Huh*

    I’m wondering if the LW was clearly expected to have car but neglected to mention this during the recruitment process. Otherwise it seems weird she would try and hide this by using Uber at her own cost and not mention it to her boss.

    It certainly sounds like your boss was being unreasonable about a number of things. However if you lied on your job application and pretended you had a car, of course your boss would be unimpressed and look to replace you.

    Of course, if I interpreted this incorrectly and the need for car was not mentioned at all during recruitment then your boss is completely in the wrong.

    1. Mookie*

      The LW discussed that in the thread below the original post:

      I scoured my job offer and their solicitation to get me to interview and they didn’t say anything [about owning transportation or running errands]. Otherwise I would have said something sooner.

      1. Liane*

        And it is reiterated in this update, where she writes that she pointed out to her bosses that this was not mentioned in the job description.

    2. Emma*

      Eh, I’ve met a fair few people, including one previous boss of mine, who just assume that everyone has a car and a cell phone. I nearly got let go from a library job (that, to be clear, did not require me to drive people or things anywhere) because I was late once in several years of working there, thanks to one bus just not showing up, and my boss made it clear that the reason my job was on the line was not me being tardy once, but that she was sure I was lying about not having a car. I found out later she kept asking other staff members if they’d ever spotted me driving or seen what kind of car I had. (She was kind of … off.)

      This is all a longwinded way of saying that a lot of people don’t think they need to be clear about car ownership, because they think their clear expectation is just plain standard.

        1. Emma*

          Yeah, I don’t know what her deal was. This was the same boss who’d go through a section after we’d shelved books there, toss whole shelves of books on the floor, then write us up for not having noticed that books were on the floor when we were shelving stuff. I mean, we couldn’t have gotten the book carts down there without noticing if the books had actually been on the floor before.

          She was really weird, really off, didn’t seem to want to be there, and was very unsubtle about all her … I don’t even know if they were deliberate enough to be called plans, really. I have no idea why she ever even applied for the job given that she seemed to be actively sabotaging everyone she managed.

          In retrospect, her issues with my lack of car were one of her less strange issues.

        2. Milton Waddams*

          It’s cultural, unfortunately. In places where the auto companies have established a firm “car culture”, not owning a car is seen at the same level as not owning clothes; something that sounds shocking and fantastical in a way where lying seems like the most reasonable explanation. It is very difficult to get people immersed in that culture to see that not owning a car, especially if it isn’t due to disability, is not an indicator that you are an unreliable arrested development case who never grew up or some kind of criminal who has had their license revoked.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            That’s really … Painting with a broad brush. I’m from Los Angeles, was carless on and off for five years, and was never treated like a liar or expected to own a vehicle for jobs that didn’t list it as a requirement.

            At the time I was doing temp work (admin and secretarial mostly).

      1. designbot*

        yeah I ran into this in an internship once. I had a car but it was a lemon so I wound up taking the bus a lot. Having a car wasn’t a stated requirement of the job so I didn’t think twice about it–if my car wasn’t working I found another way to work, that was all. When my boss found out I wasn’t able to run his errands (he legit asked me to pick up lemon flavored ice cubes at the grocery store once) in my own car, he started making me drive his very fancy expensive car, which it seemed like we were both really uncomfortable with.
        This is to say that sometimes in the interview stage nobody says you need a car but once you start doing the job it becomes clear that was the boss’s expectation all along and you try to figure out how to adapt.

    3. David S.*

      A lot of times the only question actually asked is “Do you have reliable transportation?” That’s supposed to be code for a car but there are plenty of people who can reliably get somewhere on time using a variety of other methods.

      1. BTW*

        I would think public transportation would be way more reliable than a personal vehicle. Especially an older vehicle. Mine is brand new but I’m still in the shop once a month for the mandatory service appointments to keep my warranty up-to-date which has made me late on more than one occasion. (My work/hours are flexible though so it’s a non-issue)

        When I originally applied for my job it specifically asked if I work in that city because if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have been considered. I live a little over a half hour away in the country, and commute to the nearby city. It’s just the reality of my situation and it’s a small sacrifice to pay for the peace and quiet I get out here. I was able to track down the name of the GM/hiring manager and sent her a separate email advising them that I had successfully held countless jobs in the city (pretty much my entire adult life) with near-perfect attendance records. Rain, snow blizzard or shine! They said if it weren’t for that email, they wouldn’t have brought me in.

        1. fposte*

          In some urban areas, public transportation is more reliable. Once you get in less dense areas–or have to configure a journey that involves connecting two different transport systems–it becomes less reliable.

          (Mandatory service every month? What are you driving, a Lotus?)

          1. cary thomson*

            Yep. In Vancouver it’s often less stressful to transit that drive. Especially if your heading down town or going to UBC.

            That said once I had to drop the toddler off at daycare before going to work transit started to suck. Especially when he starts asking to get out of his stroller on the bus.

          2. Salyan*

            Yup. Even at that, a personal vehicle doesn’t always cut it. I was late to two events and missed a third this week because my car wouldn’t start (old battery, -24C). If I didn’t live close enough to work to walk, I would have been seriously late to work twice as well.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Depends on where you live. Even in a huge city with a very extensive public transport infrastructure, sh!t happens. Trains get held up, buses break down, detours happen, etc. Some places are better than others.

          Personally, I’d prefer to use public transport and save my car for personal trips, but we just don’t have anything where I live besides buses that take forever and don’t run all the time. A good transport system is on my list of requirements for anyplace I might want to move, because at some point, I figure I won’t be able to drive anymore but I’m never going to be able to retire.

        3. TL -*

          Eh, when I drove to work in Texas it was way more reliable than the public transit in Boston. Mind you, in Texas I had a reverse commute, but my car’s maintenance was very easily taken care on the weekends and I’ve only left it overnight in the shop once or twice. I was never late to work due to traffic and I always knew when traffic would be bad going into the city beforehand.

          The red line, on the other hand, makes me late at least 1x every quarter.

      2. designbot*

        In LA that’s what people ask when you list an orange county or valley address for a mid-city or westside job. What they really want to say is “Isn’t this just too far for you to come every day? Are you going to quit two months in because you can’t stand the commute, or be late every day because you can’t get out of bed early enough?” But all they’re allowed to ask is, “Do you have reliable transportation?”

      3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        That’s because requiring a car, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification of the position* (and most of these examples are, well, not) can be seen as potential discrimination and an EEOC violation. I had a manager once who wanted to put it in a job posting, and when I asked why she said that travel to places without public transport was sometimes required. This was for a job in a major city where it is quite common for people to not have a car (and in many cases, a driver’s license), and that we could not require it for an executive assistant because he or she might have to travel somewhere a few times a year.

        *If you do outside sales, or fieldwork, for example, this would be – though many companies of any size require only a driver’s license, not a car, and provide a shared company car for these purposes, as it reduces insurance liability. Though a small employer might not have those resources. Also they should be reimbursing mileage in this case, too, but that’s not a requirement.

        Addendum on * – this is also true of job postings that “require” a degree for a position that could feasibly be done by someone without said degree … this is harder to prove intent, but that can also be seen as an EEOC violation. Anything that disproportionately affects a protected class (and said protected classes are more likely to, say, have less education, or not own a vehicle, etc.) is taboo.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Should have kept scrolling, I see this is already covered below by Alison and others. :)

    4. blackcat*

      I think it’s pretty common for people in certain areas to just assume everyone has a car. Where I live now, no one is surprised that my husband and I have a one-car household. It’s normal. There’s good public transit.

      When we lived in the south, everyone was SHOCKED! SHOCKED! We lived downtown-ish in a city and picked an apartment based on the fact that he could walk to work and there were things like a grocery store/pharmacy within walking distance, too. People had super weird reactions to him saying “Sure, I can come over once my wife is back with the car.” It just wasn’t on people’s radars that he could not have a car, and even friends and family were weirdly judgmental about it.

      So I very, very easily believe that the boss/hiring manager didn’t even think to say in the job requirements or interview that the job required a car. It *is* weird that the OP started taking Uber, but it’s not at all weird to me that she suddenly found herself in a job that required a car without warning.

      1. paul*

        yep. My current job never mentioned having a car, but when I was filling out new hire paperwork (and this was 6-8 years ago), they included “proof of car insurance” on the forms they wanted me to bring in.

      2. Artemesia*

        We had the precise same experience in a big southern city as we only had one car for many years. He could walk or bus to work and I did the kid related errands on my way to work.

      3. cary thomson*

        I once had a conversation with a colleague from Kentucky and I completely blew her mind when I said I took the bus to work. Might as well if told her I flew. Good thing I didn’t tell her I used to bike to work before I got to pregnant and barfy.

        1. Jools*

          I’m also in Vancouver, and had a similar conversation with a colleague in Tennessee. We’d had a perishable shipment held up in customs getting to us, and she asked why someone couldn’t just drive out to the depot to pick it up, instead of waiting for delivery the next day. There was a moment of stunned silence when I responded that no one in the lab owned a car.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Also in Vancouver and car drivers are definitely in the minority in my office too, although nowadays a lot of people have car share memberships so you can always go and jump in a zip car if you need to.

            1. the_scientist*

              Car share memberships are fantastic. I’m in Toronto so it’s not unusual for people to not own a car or to not drive to work. We are a one-car household but I have a couple of different carsharing memberships and they are 100% worth the money. Also, they help build your insurance record!

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Yeah, I’m thinking of getting one soon. Such a fantastic idea. One day last week I was waiting to cross a major intersection, and noticed that every single car stopped at the red light was a car share vehicle!

                My boss is in a boat share co-op, which is an even better idea!

        2. LA*

          In fairness, in large parts of the south, there just ISN’T any public transportation. Let alone reliable public transportation. And the majority of southern cities aren’t very walkable/bikeable, either. People are surprised other people don’t have cars not because of some moral judgement they’re making, but because there’s often no other option where they come from.

          I would LOVE to have and use reliable public transportation. But it just isn’t there for me to use.

      4. tink*

        We live in a place with good public transit and people are still constantly surprised that my partner doesn’t have a driver’s license or know how to drive a car. We’ve got one car and can’t afford a major fix or replace if something happened, so teaching him how to drive is waaaaaay off in the distance.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is heaven living in a place with good transportation. We retired from a big southern city with very little transport to a big northern city with excellent public transport. We kept one car, but use it rarely and when it gives up the ghost we are probably done. We could certainly rent for the trip use we get with it and take a cab on other occasions when the bus or subway won’t do; I am sure that would add up to less than it costs us to insure, maintain and garage the car in the big city.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      In the original post, it’s pretty clear that she was never told she would need a car and then kept getting asked to run car-requiring errands (I get the impression that this is a “other duties as required” sort of assistant job where it certainly might require running errands off-site but if the job description doesn’t explicitly say that, you need to tell people at the interview).

      1. Michelenyc*

        The only thing I think the OP could have differently is the few times she was asked to run errands for her boss would have been the perfect opportunity to have the car conversation. The employer was obviously in the wrong for not bringing it up in the interview or job posting but as someone said above a lot of people just assume people have cars. People are shocked when I tell them I haven’t driven in 7 years. I do know quite a few EA’s that run personal errands for their boss but always during business hours and nothing weird.

    6. INTP*

      In the end, they fired her for not having a car, so maybe she just intuitively suspected that admitting she had no car would be a Big Deal? She did specify that there was no indication she’d be expected to have one, she was just trying to hold onto her job once she got it.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s really important to give OP’s the benefit of the doubt, especially since OP noted that there was no requirement re: having a car in the original job posting, and she also clarified that in the comments to her original post that there was no discussion of the necessity of a car at any time. It also doesn’t sound to me like she used Uber to hide that she didn’t have a car—it sounded like she was trying to complete job tasks/errands in a timely manner.

      OP#3, I’m sorry you had to go through such a crap experience at old job, but I am so happy that you found a place that’s better for you on every level. Congratulations!!

    8. Marisol*

      It doesn’t sound like she lied, but using Uber secretively does sound a tiny bit fishy to me. I could see an employer having some concerns after learning this. Ideally, the LW would have had a high level of professionalism in every other respect, and the employer, on learning of her predicament, could have given her some latitude and told her she needed to have a car within an agreed-upon time frame, but the way this scenario played out makes me think both parties shared culpability.

  7. Zip Silver*

    LW#3 seems like they were in the wrong all the way around, especially because she was covering it up with Uber.

    1. Audiophile*

      I just re-read the original letter. It sounded like the employee wasn’t expecting the job to require a car, thus she was using other means of transportation to get to work. However, when she was asked to run errands that would have been the best time to speak up and say “I don’t have a car.”

      From my own personal experience, I’ve been asked in interviews if I have reliable transportation. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I specifically owned a car, although I do.

      In a previous job, someone who didn’t have car was hired for shift work and a job that involved some driving. As he started arriving late, I asked “did anyone ask this guy if he had a car?” I was told, yes they asked. Well, it turned out they’d asked if he had a drivers license, which he he did. However, he didn’t own a car (didn’t need to where he lived) and didn’t drive enough to safely operate a vehicle. All that’s to say I can see how this kind of thing can get out of hand.

      1. Czhorat*

        To be fair, the OP didn’t do themselves any favors here; when asked the first time, “I didn’t drive to work today” works have been an acceptable answer. They created an expectation that they’d do this sort of thing and *never* came clean that they did not have a car. In addition to all the silliness. E employer’s part, the OP was caught in a lie. That’s never a good thing.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But why does it matter? What did she have to “come clean” about? She didn’t lie, she just realized after some time in her job that her bosses had made an erroneous assumption, and then she tried to figure out the best way to correct it.

      2. MsCHX*

        Because smart interviewers know it’s illegal to specifically ask if someone has a car. You can ask if they have reliable transportation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to clarify, it’s not illegal to ask about a car. It could be used as evidence of discrimination if it ends up having a disparate impact on candidates of a particular race, age, religion, etc. But the act of asking isn’t illegal.

          1. MsCHX*

            I will use my 15 years of HR experience and formally disagree. Ask an employment law attorney.

            Do NOT ask your interviewees if they have a car. Asking about reliable transportation is fine.

            1. INTP*

              Asking about a car isn’t illegal, per se. It is just heavily advised against for legal reasons, because if there is no reason that the position has to require a car, asking could be used against the company as evidence of intent to discriminate against populations less likely to own cars. It’s like asking for pictures of candidates, no specific law against it but if there is not some compelling reason to do it, it’s likely to hurt you in court.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not illegal. Employment attorneys often suggest not asking it for the reason I wrote above, but there is no law against it.

              It’s similar to asking about age or kids or religion — you shouldn’t do it because it can contribute to an impression that you’re illegally discriminating, but the act of asking is not itself illegal.

            3. JB (not in Houston)*

              I will use my law degree and years of practice experience to formally disagree. I don’t know what country you are in, or if you’re in the US, I don’t know what state. So I suppose it’s *possible* that where you are, asking about car ownership is illegal. But unless there’s some weird state law about it where you live, no, it’s not illegal to ask if an applicant has a car. As Alison says, employment lawyers often tell clients not to ask about it, for the reasons she has mentioned.

            4. TL -*

              I’ve been asked in several jobs because the one jobs literally require me to have a car. Not reliably get places, but transport things in specific time frames.

            5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I advise nonprofits on employment law issues, and I agree with JB and Alison—it is not inherently illegal (under federal law) to ask or require someone to have a car when hiring for the reasons others have provided.

              Nonetheless, because car ownership proxies for other characteristics that lend may lend themselves towards unlawful disparate impacts on the basis of a protected class identity, it is a best practice to only ask if someone has a car and/or valid drivers license if those criteria are essential to performance of core job functions. That was not the case here, even if OP#3’s ex-bosses thought it was necessary to have a car to run 2am errands and whatever other nonsense they conjured up.

              1. Emma*

                Yeah, I’m a little disturbed by the idea that not immediately telling everyone I work with that I don’t own a car is somehow lying, or that it’s somehow the OP’s fault for not “coming clean,” as if not having a car is some huge sin.

          2. Artemesia*

            If the job involves running errands with a car, I would think it is a legitimate job requirement regardless of those other factors. Even a person with a disability that prohibits driving cna’t make the case they should be hired as a truck driver — if driving is part of the job then that isn’t the job for them.

        2. paul*

          Can’t you ask if it’s an actual bona fide requirement though, for transportation issues? Say I have an office outside of the (rather sad) bus routes in our area, and employees are required to regularly drive to and from functions during hours when our mass transit is not operating?

          1. MsCHX*

            A position that requires driving will end up with a whole different set of requirements including checking driving records, verifying car insurance, etc.

            1. TL -*

              I work for a social sports league. They ask if you have a car because you need to transport sporting equipment, trophies, and t-shirts. They don’t run any checks on driving records, car insurance, ect…; they just make it very clear that it’s impossible to do the work without reliable access to a vehicle. I really don’t think they’re running afoul of any laws here.

          2. designbot*

            Then I’d think it’s best to describe the duties involved and say, because of this we’ve generally found it works best if the person in this position has a car at their disposal during the workday—does any of this sound like a problem for you? That way it doesn’t seem like it’s coming out of left field or like it’s a stand-in for a question that’s really about class issues but really gets at the root of the thing.

    2. Vin Packer*

      What is up with these comments? We’re going to criticize LWs who send in (happy!) updates now? Why?

      1. No, please*

        I’m a little bothered by this too. Maybe I’m just sensitive to this issue in particular, but sheesh. If a company wants an employee to drive around for them they should make that clear in the interviews. I’ve never liked employers expecting you to use your personal car for errands on a regular basis.

        1. Emma*

          Yeah. I really hate the notion that having a car is some kind of default requirement. If it’s a requirement, tell me, don’t assume – and don’t look down your nose at me because I get on fine without one.

          I have the same issue with cellphones, actually. Especially now that so many people assume cellphone = smartphone.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          When I was in college, I worked for an attorney. I had a car, but it was in my mom and dad’s names because I didn’t have any credit yet. I used the car for work exactly one time (I had to drive to the federal courthouse to file some papers; it was a half-hour drive from the office), and my mother went ballistic on me. She is of the opinion that people should NEVER use their personal vehicles for work. Now that I am older and have more work experience, I know it’s not uncommon to use a personal vehicle for work errands, but to my mother, it’s something that is just not done.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        YES. I’m disturbed that folks are accusing Op#3 of lying or “covering up” that she didn’t have a car when it’s frankly completely unrelated to her update. There’s no indication that she did any such thing (other than trying to figure out how to explain this to her bosses when it became clear they thought she had a car when she didn’t).

        If we’re nasty to LWs who have taken the time to participate in the original post and then to update, then others won’t do so in the future for fear of being personally judged, attacked or maligned.

    3. INTP*

      I disagree, I get the sense that coming clean sooner would have just gotten the OP fired sooner. The company is in the wrong for not specifying early on that a car was expected, the OP was just trying to hold onto a job that she wouldn’t have taken if she had been informed properly.

      I do agree that in general it would be best to come out and say you don’t have a car the first time it comes up. My read on this situation, though, is that the OP wasn’t fired for lying (which wouldn’t make sense anyways, her lies only hurt herself – it’s not like she was getting mileage reimbursements or anything), she was fired for not having a car. Nothing she could have done would have prevented that.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I agree with INTP. The LW didn’t know that owning a car was expected.

        I also think the boss is a bully.

    4. SarcasticFringehead*

      I think it was less “covering it up” with Uber than not feeling comfortable saying no to her boss at the time of each errand request, getting it done however she needed to, & hoping it didn’t come up again. It’s not a perfect response, but as others have mentioned, she might have picked up on a vibe that her boss wouldn’t want to hear it anyway.

  8. Czhorat*

    Op#4 – I feel your pain, but it isn’t about you. They might have had a very legit search to find the best candidate – internal or external. Sometimes you are the best candidate, sometimes you aren’t. All you can do is move on and just keep looking.

    1. # 4*

      #4 Thank you. I hold no resentment toward the people involved. Just a little disappointed that they operate within a system that isn’t really courteous toward candidates. Even a form rejection would have been fine. I got the job I was up for though, and I’m really happy there!

      1. Colette*

        Many, many hiring processes aren’t courteous to candidates – usually due to the fact that the people doing the hiring have other things they need to handle that are higher priority in the short term and decisions being made at multiple levels. It’s not usually a sign that they don’t want to treat people well. If you rule out every company that doesn’t get back to you, you may need to start your own business as you’ll run out of potential employers in a hurry.

        1. # 4*

          Yeah, they failed to get back to me for three separate interviews. That’s beyond a lack of courtesy. It’s seeing me as a number instead of a person. And you’re forgetting that they knew me already. I was already on a friendly terms with these people.

          1. # 4*

            I should also bring up that the industry is a connections based industry. In order for the company to succeed they need to be courteous to people. I was hired by a different company, and I can already tell that what they did was not standard practice for the industry

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Not getting back to you isn’t very courteous, but you seem to be making a bigger deal out of it than it is. It’s not “seeing you as a number instead of a person.” It’s just . . . not getting back to you.

        2. justcourt*

          I get not responding to all applicants, but it seems weird/rude not to respond to candidates you actually interviewed.

          1. M from NY*

            I think this is the detail many are overlooking. Not responding to every applicant is different than not responding to an applicant you actually interviewed. The latter should at least get a “thank you for your time we’re advancing with another” form letter.

            1. JessaB*

              Exactly, if the person took the time to come in and interview and do whatever was needed to possibly get the job, they deserve a “sorry we picked someone else.” We’re not talking 500 people here most places if they interview pick less than ten people. It’s not a hardship to send ten “sorry” emails or letters. Seriously. Especially if you potentially like the candidate and you just had someone better. You don’t want to treat them badly because you might want to hire them in the future.

            2. designbot*

              Especially if the candidate has followed up with you by phone or email, signaling that they’re still interested. I can see getting distracted by deadlines etc. and when you come up for air realizing it’s been a month and you never followed up–in that case if I hadn’t heard from the candidate I would likely not do anything assuming that they weren’t interested at that point either, but if I’d heard from them I’d send them an email.

  9. Czhorat*

    OP#2 – this is why everyone hates MLM. Also, no matter what recruiters say, MLM is not “your friend’s business”. They’ve bought into somebody else’s business – and a shady one at that. It’s pretty much a pyramid scheme with spices.

    1. paul*

      My social media has gotten immensely better since I started unfollowing or unfriending anyone that post about MLM crap.

    2. INTP*

      My experience with MLM is that within a year of someone starting, one of three things will happen…
      -They’ll fail to make any money and have long forgotten the whole ordeal
      -They’ll make some money but become a person that you don’t want to be friends with anyways
      -One in a hundred, if that, will be successful enough to make money without harassing their friends for sales

      Regardless of what happens, in a year or so, it won’t matter whether you patronized your friend’s “business” or not. So I have a rule to not engage about MLMs at all. No facebook comments, no party attendance, I just pretend it’s not happening.

    3. Artemesia*

      I hate MLMs with the fire of a thousand suns and NEVER go to sales parties or discuss becoming downlines or whatever other crap people are pushing BUT I don’t mind people advertising their MLM business on facebook. If I can read all those self pitying posts about how heartless I am for scrolling past the exploitive picture of a disabled child without saying amen, then I can scroll past an ad for soap.

      1. Jayn*

        I think it’s also that social media is part of promoting your business these days, and someone running a small operation might neglect to separate it from their personal social media. I have three people on my feed who do regular advertising, and the one doing MLM is the least prolific of them.

    4. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

      It bothers me every time I see a post from an MLM participant trying to siphon off goodwill toward small/local businesses. Tagging their stuff with “#smallbusinesssaturday” and things like that—really off-putting.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, I’m not bothered by people on FB posting about their MLM so much as them pulling this crap. I mean, I can hide their posts pretty easily, but I hate how they twist things around to market themselves. Like, half the craft shows in my area are not actually craft shows, but are populated by booths of MLM sellers, and it’s pretty disheartening to go looking in good faith for actual crafts and find that shit – and of course none of the shows that do this tell you, and many charge entry fees.

  10. Joseph*

    #3: I tried to negotiate a parting salary with them because I was aware of labor laws in my state and wanted to also just make things difficult for them. (Not nice, but if they were firing me, it didn’t really matter to me.)
    I wouldn’t use the phrase “not nice”. A company letting you go is a financial and business transaction, just like buying a car. Your goal is to get the best deal you can on the way out the door. This doesn’t mean you act like an unprofessional jerk (your reputation has a lot of value!), but it *does* mean that you shouldn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about asking for favors, using your knowledge of labor laws, or filing for unemployment.
    Those labor laws are there for a reason. In particular, I have zero doubt that “the post office” would have “accidentally lost” your final check if you’d allowed them to mail it.

    1. A Person*

      This is important. I have very few doubts that a previous company I worked for considers me a traitor and various other nasty invectives because I ended up siccing the Labour Board on them to get my final wages. They completely lost sight of the fact I was doing it because they owed me money. Money they had, had been formally requested in writing, and had the means to get to me. They had the nerve to lie about my working hours to the labour board. It took being threatened with full investigation to get them to cough up. That place was a complete dysfunction junction with plenty of beehives to go with it.

  11. NoMoreMrFixit*

    For #5 I’m curious why an interview scoring system is considered terrible. To explain why I’m asking, I’m currently back in school majoring in HR and am finishing up a course in Recruitment. The last month was spent covering interview scoring and why it’s so important. This is the first time I’ve heard an opposing view and would like to learn more.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think scoring is inherently bad, but it can lead to overly rigid hiring (e.g. This person scores low because they don’t have the right degree, even though they’ve been doing this job successfully for ten years) and lack of flexibility (this person scored highest in the questions we asked so we have to hire them, even though they frivolously sued their last company and cursed out the receptionist while waiting for the interview; this candidate said something we want to delve into more but we can’t ask about it because it doesn’t fit into our scoring).

      1. JessaB*

        Regarding cussing out the receptionist, that kinda thing should be part of the points and a big one “Is polite to people around the office” should be worth points or at least be minus like 100 points if the answer is no. There should be a few line items that are absolute deal breakers. If you fail on even one of items 30-35 you are off our list. Points should be used to rank people against each other not to justify hiring someone completely unsuitable. Also there should be a line item for extra things (maybe up to 5 points for things not considered.)

    2. INTP*

      I think that the things that are really important to making a good hiring decision are difficult to quantify. The weight of each factor is likely to be pretty arbitrary, not a real reflection of the worth of it. And you can’t really write a spreadsheet to tally someone’s score for every category. Like personality fit – you’re going to get a better read from a person with good people skills making a subjective judgment than from a tally of points from responses to questions.

      Using a score sheet during the interview as a note-taking strategy might be helpful, especially to keep the interviewer aware of objective information if they struggle with being too subjective when it isn’t called for. But I don’t think you can write a scoring algorithm that’s going to be more accurate than a person with good hiring judgment.

      1. NoMoreMrFixit*

        Thanks for the responses. Unfortunately I don’t know anybody working in HR to turn to for these sort of questions so I really appreciate the folks here being so friendly!

    3. Artemesia*

      It is bad because satisficing and ticking boxes doesn’t get you better employees than a more wholistic approach to interviewing. The one with the most points may not be the best candidate. I always used a loose structured interview shared by the people doing the hiring and some structure is useful when comparing notes, but the final decision is an art. I realize that this makes discrimination more possible which is why people use scoring systems — but it also makes hiring good people possible. I prefer to work on making sure the hiring pool is diverse and we don’t discriminate rather than making the process too rigid.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I’d say the other side based on personal experience. Usually what happens is that candidates cluster around the numbers. You’ll get a few (1-3) candidates that cluster at the very top. Then you’ll get a gap, then a cluster of scores for good candidates. Then a smaller gap. Then you’ll get a string of increasingly lower scores. Then a gap. Then a cluster of no-never candidates.
        It makes it easy to see the stellar and good candidates.
        There is still room for arguing which is “best”.
        As you’ve said, it’s important that the scoring mechanism truly looks for what is needed. Something shouldn’t be required when it is a nice to have. It helps if things are scored on a 1-5 or 1-10 basis rather than a yes/no basis. That gives people with partial experience lots of cumulative points and they can still end up fairly high on the scoreboard.

        1. Artemesia*

          We used a common frame and scoring in the phone screen and you are right — last time we did this, we had two who were clearly tops and we wanted to interview, 2 who were ‘possible’ but we didn’t want to interview unless the first two declined and two whom we would not have hired under any circumstances. They all looked rather similar on paper. As long as scoring is a way to narrow it down, it can be useful — it is when you have to hire the top scorer that it gets to be a problem.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes, the scoring system shouldn’t be the hiring tool. It should be the weed it out so we can interview the top people tool.

Comments are closed.