former boss wants me to lie to a reference, the expectations when you have a work phone, and more

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

1. My former boss wants me to tell a reference that I was HIS manager

I got a text from a former manager today. He was my boss at the company I worked at for three months last year before I was laid off. I have stayed on good terms with this manager and let him know I am happy to be a reference for him, but today he texted me and told me he’d listed me as HIS manager when applying for a new position. I was a receptionist and he was the head of business development at the company where we worked together. He is the one who hired me and let me go.

He apparently left shortly after I did and is not on good terms with any of the other (very few, it’s a tiny company) people who were still working there when he left, so I understand using me as a reference, but I wasn’t his manager and would have no idea what to say! Also, he did not ask me about this but informed me. The text makes it clear that “manager” was not a typo. What on earth would I say if I get a call about this? I’m not going to claim I am the owner of that business and I don’t have enough high-level experience to fake it even if I were comfortable doing so. I have not responded to his text. Should I just ignore this and hope nothing happens?

People are so weird. It’s in no way okay for him to ask this of you, and it’s especially bizarre that he thought he could get you to do it without even talking to you about it. I’d reply to the text and say this: “I’d be glad to talk to them about you, but of course I can’t say that I was your manager since I wasn’t!”

That’s kinder than ignoring the text altogether. Telling him directly that you won’t do what he’s asking allows him to short-circuit this lie before it’s too far gone for him to do anything about it.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. What are the expectations when you have a work phone?

I began my first job out of school this past August working in IT for a design/retail company. I support updates for one of our internal systems used only by our corporate employees, who primarily only use it during normal 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. business hours. Now that our new fiscal year is coming up, my manager has decided that she would like me to have a work phone. Several of the people in my department (including my manager) have work phones and are on call in case any system updates we make fail or the system crashes. My role, however, is primarily business-oriented, meaning that I don’t have any kind of technical computer skills (yet) and would be mostly useless even if something did go wrong with the system.

What are the standard expectations when an employer gives an employee a work phone? Does this mean I will have to check emails every morning/evening/weekend? Will I have to be available for calls on my paid time off? Will I now be expected to work on projects when I am not in the office, since there would be no reason otherwise for me to be connected to email when I’m not there?

It totally varies. Some people have business phones just for very rare emergencies, and others have them because they’re expected to be available around the clock, and there are all kinds of variations in between. The best thing you can do here is to ask your manager, since she can tell you what her expectations are for what it will mean. Say this: “I haven’t typically had to be contacted outside of normal work hours. Does the phone indicate that you expect that will change? And are there things I should know about differences in expectations for my availability?”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m worried I might cry when my manager gives me feedback

Within the past year, for some reason, I’ve started crying very easily. It’s not just when bad things happen; I start tearing up when I’m happy, or sometimes for no reason at all (e.g. when reading an uninteresting piece of legislation for work). It’s weird, and I’ll bring it up at my next medical appointment. I’ve had a weird year medically, and it’s probably part of that.

Luckily, it hasn’t happened in any meetings/when anyone from my work group is around. However, I’m concerned it will happen at an inopportune time. I love that my manager gives frequent, candid feedback, and I don’t want her to stop because she thinks I can’t emotionally handle it. If it happens, is it okay to just say “I promise I’m fine, my face just does this occasionally and I’m working on getting it under control”? And as a manager, would it change how you view your employee (since crying is usually associated with, you know, emotions)?

We’re just talking tearing up, not full-on crying right? Assuming so, yeah, I’d just say, “Please ignore this, it’s a recent thing that’s been happening and I’m working on getting it under control” — and I would also add, “I really appreciate getting candid feedback, so thank you for this and I definitely want to keep hearing.” That last part is important, because it’s probably going to make your manager a lot more comfortable.

If you handle it like that, most managers are going to be just fine with it, assuming that it stays occasional and not every time she talks to you.

4. What’s the deal with probationary periods?

I have been job searching for about six months and recently a potential employer reached out to me for an interview. During the interview they mentioned that they treat the first three months as an assessment/probationary period. At the time I didn’t really ask for any real explanation, but now I’m curious what it actually means. Does that mean they can fire a person easily or just that they realize a person is going through a learning phase? Should I ask anything specific in follow up? Lastly, if they do offer me the position, what information should I look over before accepting (aside from health coverage)? Is there anything specific that I should look for?

It’s really, really common in the U.S. for employers to have probationary periods (anywhere from three months to a year, but three or six months is probably the most common). Generally it just means that if it’s not working out, they can fire you during that period without being bound to whatever normal disciplinary procedures they normally use. No law requires employers to warn you before firing you at any time, but a lot of employers have internal policies that commit to warning people, putting them on improvement plans, etc. The idea with a probationary period is that they’re exempting themselves from doing that, so they can let someone go more quickly if it’s clear early on that it’s not the right fit.

I don’t think you need to follow up on this in any way since it’s such a common policy, but you should definitely read over everything they give you to make sure that you’re clear on how their policies work.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Uyulala*

    #4 – in my experience, a probation period also means you don’t start being eligible for the employer’s health insurance until after that period of time too.

    1. Amber*

      My dad has a probation period at his current job and it almost means annual reviews are based on the date he was no longer probationary.

    2. Jeanne*

      Maybe yes, maybe no. I would ask about health insurance. But also for details of how they usually handle the probation. How often do you get feedback in those 90 days? What training is in place? I’d probably have a couple other questions that would be more job specific.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had the same experience as Uyulala until my first post-grad-school jobs, where my employer covered my health benefits during the probationary period, but did not provide employer contributions to retirement or allow me to cash out PTO until after probation (the latter seemed fair to me—I could take sick leave, although I hadn’t accrued much, but not vacation).

      My impression is that tying benefits to post-probationary-period employment varies widely by employer, sector, and region. The same seems to go for performance reviews; I had a 3-month probationary period and a 6-month performance review, and the review definitely included work from the full six months (3 probationary, 3 non-probationary). I have no idea how or whether the timing of health benefits interacts with the ACA.

      OP#4, if the potential employer hasn’t been clear about those issues (benefits, performance review), you could certainly ask about those, or ask if they can refer you to a policy they’d be willing to share, at the offer stage. You can certainly ask before the offer stage, but depending on how many people they’re interviewing, etc., it would probably go over better if your bring it up in the context of offer/acceptance negotiations. (But I could be wrong and defer to others on timing!)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree, ask about it at the offer stage. My last job didn’t allow PTO during the first three months of employment unless it was a prearranged vacation that was discussed before an offer was accepted. They did at least allow new employees an extended carryover period for PTO in the following year, so if OP finds out that there’s a no-PTO policy during the probation period, I’d try to negotiate a longer carryover if that’s not already part of the deal.

    4. JHS*

      That’s true, but it depends on how long the period is. Under the Affordable Care Act (as it stands now at least), employers must cover employees (and eligible dependents) for health insurance by 90 days. So if the probationary period is longer than 90 days and they don’t cover until after, that is now a problem under the law.

  2. Lisa*

    #3 I have this happen sometimes even when things aren’t emotional. I usually just say it’s allergies or that my eyes water when the air is dry. As long as you’re not sobbing eye watering can be explained away.

    1. Not Karen*

      Apparently even sobbing can be explained away. Long story short, one time in class I was so upset by the professor that I was practically sobbing all through class, and at the end of the class the professor casually asked me if I had allergies.

      1. Jeanne*

        I had an allergy day like that at work once. I used to have terrible hay fever. That day tears were just streaming down my cheeks even though I wasn’t sad. I ended up going home early but everyone understood when I said why I was crying. (But I wish it were ok to have emotions, too.)

    2. Another Lisa*

      Me too! I tear up really easily (sappy commercials, reading about someone who experienced an emergency, etc) and it doesn’t mean I’m sad or upset. It happened once when I was getting feedback from my boss and I just asked her to ignore it and continue, which she did. I think I just said that I tear up easily and wasn’t actually upset.

      At other times I will claim it’s allergies because that’s an easy explanation.

    3. Not Rebee*

      This definitely is me too. I have always had a difficult time with tearing up when confronted with authority figures who aren’t too pleased with me (except when they are my own parents, of course haha), and have had some fun times getting feedback (which was really important and that I appreciated) and discussing very frustrating issues. One thing I will say – if you are having work frustrations and you think it may turn into a large conversation with your manager later, try and bring it up while it is still small and there is less frustrated emotion attached to it. This doesn’t work if your manager is the one initiating the conversation, but at least it’ll maybe circumvent some of the rest of it. As for the last time I ended up (not sobbing or fully crying but definitely a persistent and annoying eye-water) in this situation I just told my boss that I just happened to be crying and that she was not actually making me cry and that I would appreciate it if she would just ignore that part of the conversation. I just broke in with that once she was obviously trying to make it clear that I wasn’t in trouble (trying to get me to stop crying), and she seemed to just let it go (after handing me the Kleenex box). I think it’s easy to get caught up in being mortified to be crying and actually make things worse, but I think if you’re up front about assuring everyone that you appreciate the feedback and would like to proceed (while ignoring your face) it’s not as big of a deal as you’d think.

  3. Leah*

    #1 This is a good reason to have your resume on LinkedIn or Dice or something like that. If your resume and your connections are publicly posted everything’s out in the open and it’s harder for anyone to fudge the truth. When I was a hiring manager I operated on the assumption that if your resume wasn’t online it was full of baloney. I started this practice after seeing resumes from former coworkers that I knew were full of inaccuracies and fabrications. It made me wonder how many of the other ones I was seeing were accurate.

    1. Jeanne*

      That seems like an odd criterion. If my resume is on Linkedin it’s all true but if not I’m a liar? I guess it’s your choice as a hiring manager but it seems it would skew your hiring.

      Anyway, it’s not really OP’s problem if her old manager lies. It’s only her problem that she is responsible for her own lies. I think she should respond by saying “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to help you. I am not willing to pretend to be your former manager. Best of luck.”

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wow, that worries me—my resume isn’t publicly available online (although I have a LinkedIn account that provides a very high-level overview), and I bet there are lots of people like me who aren’t dishonest but also see no point in posting a public resume. If a resume is supposed to be tailored to each employer, I can’t imagine how a public resume or CV-style document would be helpful to me or a future employer.

      It’s absolutely your prerogative to hire as you wish, and maybe the norms are different in our sectors, but I would bet that the same people who lie on their job-app resumes are lying on LinkedIn, too, and I’m not convinced that your connections will out you for misrepresentations. I could be wrong, but my impression is that the majority of job applicants don’t outright lie (as opposed to embellishing) the way OP#1 has described. And even if they did, in a case where someone lies about the job title/role of a recommender, I’m not convinced the public resume rule would address the fact that the applicant is a wingnut.

      1. Anon3*

        Agreed. In addition, it seems posting your resume online allows for others who have no clue how to write a resume, to just copy yours. I don’t do it.

        1. Candi*

          It certainly happened to Alison enough after she posted that ‘perfect resume’ example! (At least four times and counting. One by a ‘professional’ resume help service.)

    3. Joan Callamezzo*

      But how many letter-writers and commenters here have asked about friends, colleagues or former colleagues who have misrepresented their titles or experience on LinkedIn? It’s hardly the be-all end-all of factual references.

      1. Liane*

        Agreed. Linked In makes many claims about its usefulness, but as far as I know, “We fact check all resumes and fix/remove all false/exaggerated/unverifiable information” isn’t one of them. Same for other online sites.

    4. NicoleK*

      That’s not always a good operating assumption. I knew an individual who posted her resume on her Linked page and completely embellished her skills and experience. If she did something once or twice, it was listed as experienced in so and so.

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL I know of a quirky ‘actor’ personality whose bio reads about his hardscrabble upbringing in the mean streets of New York. I know he went to high school in a large southern city with my son, so I have always wondered if that hardscrabble NYC upbringing was a vacation with his aunt or something. (or maybe he only went to HS in large southern city for a few years — but I am dubious about the sturm and drang of his life)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Not to derail, but I had a classmate who grew up in a super posh (and very segregated and white) neighborhood within a racially diverse city that had extremely impoverished neighborhoods, too. He very misleadingly would tell people he grew up in “West [City Name]” because the posh neighborhood is technically toward the west (it has a completely different name than a rough and tumble neighborhood with the name “West [City Name]”). When I asked him follow up questions it became clear that he’d been lying to try to establish street cred working with low-income communities of color to score an internship/job with a super elite nonprofit. (He ended up being a better human being post-college.)

          To bring it full circle, I figured out he’d been lying (or at least severely misrepresenting the truth) by asking follow up questions. As Marzipan notes, you can often suss out material misrepresentations through a thoughtful interview process, and that is probably more effective than checking someone’s LinkedIn profile.

    5. Marzipan*

      From a hiring point of view, I don’t think that’s a helpful assumption. People may or may not choose to make information about themselves available online, for all kinds of reasons; and the information they make available may or may not be accurate – the act of putting it there doesn’t make it true. Operating along these lines would, for example, strike out as ‘full of baloney’ the applications of abuse victims who keep a low profile to avoid being tracked down, while not actually helping to work out which applicants with an online profile have a truthful one. I’d have thought a better approach, once it became apparent that applicants could be padding their skills and experience, would be to explore those things with them in more detail through the interview process to gain a clearer understanding of their abilities.

    6. Mookie*

      Yeah, I also find this an unreliable metric for gauging a candidate’s honesty about their work history and experience. What you’re suggesting is that misrepresentations in a resumé posted publicly can be regulated out because co-workers or former managers regularly inspect former colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles for lies and are willing, by unspecified means, to “out” these people as liars (to hiring managers? to whom?). Most people do not have time for that, and are only involved in the hiring and screening process when contacted as references. Likewise, some pathological liars can be shameless and worry very little about being caught out.

      You say you’ve seen former co-workers misrepresent their work experience; what did you about that that suggests this process works?

    7. Mina*

      What people post in LinkedIn isn’t necessarily truthful. For example, someone stating that they were “Director of Business Development” (which implies that the person was head of a department or team) when their title was really “Business Development Director” (not head of a department or team-that was just a title the company had for salespeople). Some people do lie like that on LinkedIn.

    8. AdAgencyChick*

      Your whole resume? My LinkedIn profile lists only companies and job titles, not accomplishments. Publicly naming what I’ve done at work in some cases would run afoul of client confidentiality agreements, so I don’t do it. Hiring managers and recruiters who find me through LinkedIn can always ask me for my full resume, but I’m not going to post it online.

      I agree with the other replies above, too.

    9. OP1*

      I had not thought of that actually! My LinkedIn profile definitely includes my most recent positions and experience, and since it’s truthful, it definitely reflects that I was a receptionist at this particular company. If, for some reason, my former boss’ prospective employers ever looked me up, they would very quickly see that I was not in an authority position at that company. I wonder why he didn’t think of that, but then again neither did I until right now :)

    10. Candi*

      What if the person is still in the process of filling in LinkedIn when they interview? That’s where I’m at now.

  4. Annie Mouse*

    #4 I know things are quite different in the UK but we have probationary periods over here too. Our notice periods tend to be 4 weeks as a minimum, written into the contract, and a similar amount of notice from the employer for letting you go in most circumstances. The probationary period usually means you can leave without that four weeks notice (ie, I’m not coming in tomorrow) and the employer can give you less notice of being let go (don’t come back tomorrow).

    1. caledonia*

      When I have looked at my contracts, my probationary notice period has been 1 week’s notice instead of the 4.

      Generally speaking, it’s difficult to fire people in the UK after the probation period is up, from my experience.

      1. Annie Mouse*

        I think it varies between companies, I know at my old job there was someone who was gradually building up a list of problems people had with him and then eventually capped it off with a stupid act in front of the boss and was told not to bother coming back. After probabtion it’s possible but not easy.

    2. JM in England*

      I’ve just successfully completed the probation period at my current job. Like Annie Mouse, was on one week’s notice during that time. However, I decided to treat the probabation the same as an interview as in I used the time to determine whether the job & company culture was a mutual fit.

    3. Schmooples and the Binkie-Boo*

      Whereas I’m in a probation period which has reduced my notice period to four weeks on either side.

  5. Central Perk Regular*

    #2 – At my old job, I was given a company paid cell phone because I worked in PR and it was expected that I would sometimes get calls from the media regarding my client. My old employer also told me that the phone was considered a benefit and that I could drop my current cell phone/plan and use work phone as my primary.

    It turned out to be a huge mess. They eventually began to monitor my usage during non-work hours and question me about it. Things eventually got so bad that I got my own cell phone and didnt tell them. (I was heavily job searching anyway by that point and knew I would be leaving sooner rather than later and would need my own source of communication.)

    It was such a dysfunctional place in general, and this was just one of the many boundaries they crossed. Now, I decline any company-provided cell phones because of this experience. Luckily, I now work for a company that is really good about leaving people alone during off-work hours.

    1. JHS*

      That’s like my nightmare! At my current job (which I’m leaving shortly), everyone uses the company phone for work and personal and it’s always made me so uncomfortable that I kept my personal phone. I only use my work phone for work email and my personal phone for work calls. Maybe not the best system and everyone makes fun of me for having two phones, but the scenario you describe makes me feel justified. At my new job, I was going to just use the company phone as I have been feeling ridiculous and now I’m not so sure!

      1. Moose Engineer*

        Op#2 it could be that your boss wants you reachable during the day if you are not at your desk. Also it might be a budget thing where they are just getting enough company phones for headcount. Discuss with your boss the expectations of being reached which might change as your job changes.
        As others have said keep two phones and don’t use your work phone as a personal phone. You don’t want to have your Mom called you in the middle of a meeting while you are also waiting for the customer to call. Also you don’t have to worry about losing all your phone numbers when you leave.
        On the flip side don’t use a personal phone as a work number. People will abuse this knowledge. If the company wants to reach you after hours they can provide a phone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In some cases companies don’t want employees giving out their phone numbers to customers/clients. The phones are just for employees/management to easily stay in touch during the day. A friend thought he would make an exception to this rule and yep, it became everything one would think. He never gave out his phone number to a non-employee again.
          The company never abused the phone to call all hours of the day and night, so the company cell idea worked out fine.

          1. copy run start*

            I *67 everyone I call with my work phone unless they reject blocked calls for that very reason.

        2. Anon13*

          I wish I’d read this comment before I gave my co-workers my personal cell phone number. I actually have a company phone, but it’s old and doesn’t hold charge well, so I gave two of the people with whom I work my personal cell phone number to reach me in the case of an emergency, in case they weren’t able to reach me on my company phone. I had last week off (and I get very little PTO to begin with, 2 weeks all year, to include vacation and sick time), and they called me three times with absolute non-emergencies. Of course, I answered, thinking each time that it might actually be an emergency. I’m not making the same mistake at my next job!

        3. OP #2*

          That’s a great point. I’ve noticed that my manager (and other employees) tend to use their work phones during the day so they can be texted/contacted if they’re not at their desks or in front of their computers. I’m going to discuss the expectations with her in depth once the new year hits.

          Also, I didn’t mention it in the original letter, but my manager did give me the option to merge my work phone into my personal phone. I initially declined when she told me this and plan to decline again if it comes up for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned.

          Thanks for the great advice, Moose Engineer! I love being able to get other peoples’ opinions on this who have more experience.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, this was my experience, too. My employer had two options: either they would provide a company-owned cell phone (for work only), or you could accept a stipend to offset the costs of using your personal cell phone for work. If you chose the latter, embedded in the stipend agreement was a clause saying they could review your phone’s activity at any time, which I thought was a sneaky provision to slip in there. Because of that clause, plus having a client who was a walking sexual harassment lawsuit, I opted for a company-owned work phone and maintained my private cell phone plan.

        Carrying two phones and all the accessories was a massive pain, but it was the lesser of evils for me. So my recommendation to folks who take company-owned phones is: (1) don’t drop your personal cell plan, and keep your personal cell; (2) don’t do anything non-work related on the company phone.

        1. Jernej*

          There’s also the option of getting one of the phones that can take two SIM cards so you don’t carry two phones and still keep things isolated.

      3. copy run start*

        NO… keep your numbers separate!

        Phone numbers have a way of getting into people’s hands. Much better that they have a work number than your personal number. My work cell phone is powered off when I’m on vacation (and the voicemail says as much and how to get someone if you do need help).

        Plus it’s a lot easier to break away if you just turn in your work phone when you leave the company. I’d much rather deal with two phones at times. And my company has also said that you can’t use certain apps on your work phone due to privacy and tracking concerns. (I get that because we deal with a lot of confidential stuff, but at least I have full freedom with my phone.)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      NewExjob gave company cell phones, but everybody had their own phone as well. They didn’t use the company phones for personal stuff, usually. They just carried two. I would not give up my own phone for exactly the reasons you stated here–plus, if you leave or lose the phone, they can wipe it and all your personal stuff is gone.

    3. OP #2*

      Thank you all so, so much for sharing your experiences with work phones! It’s helpful to hear the different ways this could go, since I’m so new to the whole thing.

      In another comment, I mentioned my manager gave me the option to merge my work phone into my personal phone. But as most people have hinted at in their comments, I think it’s going to be best to keep everything from the work phone as separate as possible from my personal life.

  6. hbc*

    OP3: If you’re like me and you can’t talk about the tears without your voic shaking or making it worse, say something beforehand. “Hey, FYI, I’m having this medical thing where I’m tearing up pretty much at random. I’m getting it checked out, but I didn’t want you to think it means anything if you see me crying when we talk or I’m reading the company newsletter.”

  7. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 2, the majority of my colleagues don’t have work phones. The nature of the work our charity does means all management levels are all over the place so phones are needed if they’re elsewhere. It may be different for you, but your job may include a lot of time away from the desk during work hours.

  8. Pudding*

    #4- I’ve always seen probationary periods as a legal loophole. I’m not sure how far this extends but here it covers the employers butt if it isn’t working. Here when someone gets fired (excluding laid off) the employer needs to pay reasonable wages (usually 2 weeks or the length of notice required by the employee when quitting) unless there is just cause. So even though the boss has every right to fire someone, a reason has to be provides if they don’t want to be on the hook to pay additional wages or give advance notice of the firing. The probationary period is seen as a way to easily fire someone immediately without having to provide any kind of reason and not pay them in lieu of notice. It also is blanket protection against minorities and the disabled since no reason needs to be provided… many claim discrimination but get shot down in court if it is in the first 3 months (unless the boss was stupid enough to give a discriminatory reason on firing).

    Here it also protects the employee as well. For areas/contracts where the employee is legally bound to provide reasonable notice, they are free to qiut on the spot without legal action during a probationary period since BOTH sides are bound to the same period of what is deemed to be the required notice period.

  9. Bolt*

    3: I would talk to your employer SOONER rather than later!

    If you only tell them it is medical when you are tearing up (and potentially start crying as you are rambling to explain it) it will likely be seen as an excuse or even manipulative.

    I was in a meeting once where the other woman was getting teary and I immediately judged her as being manipulative/unstable.

    1. fposte*

      That seems an extreme response in your part, though. People do tear up unexpectedly while being perfectly stable.

    2. Oryx*

      Crying is often an automatic internal response to external factors. I was known as a cry-baby in school but it wasn’t something I could control — it just happened and it still does happen. It’s not me trying to manipulate anything and I’m very stable, I just have a tendency to tear up in certain situations.

      1. Another Lisa*

        Me too! Plus, I can’t cry on command, so I couldn’t use it to be manipulative if I wanted too. It’s actually the lack of control of the tearing up that’s so frustrating.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s worth reexamining your assumption that if a woman is teary she’s manipulative or unstable.

      Further, OP#3 should be able to talk to her boss about it without having to talk to all her coworkers as a prophylactic against inappropriate and gender-laden stereotypes.

    4. Observer*

      Wow! That’s a really judgemental attitude. Considering that it’s also totally not based in anything factual, it’s probably not useful to you , either.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If a man cried would he be manipulative and unstable also?

      Sometimes life issues or health issues can leave us teary-eyed or even weeping. And this can be beyond our control. If you have not experienced that, then you are very fortunate, however, many of us at some point in life do experience this.

    6. Candi*

      I tear up as a stress reaction. It’s damn near reflexive. (My sister and daughter also do it.) It’s as manipulative as sneezing in a dusty room. Keeping the conversation chill helps stop it. Reacting negatively can make it worse.

  10. Jen*

    OP 2: understand your company’s overall policies on phones, too (in addition to your managers expectations). I worked for a large fortune 100 company that was fine with you using the company cell as a work cell, or paying for your personal cell if you installed company software on it, but in either case the company had tracking and utilization software they monitored. Most everyone that worked in IT had two phone- personal and work- which told me everything I needed to know about how they used the software.

    1. NicoleK*

      Excellent point! I was issued a company cell phone at my new job and was told I could use the work phone as my personal phone. As silly as it sounds sometimes, I prefer to carry two phones and keep my personal stuff separate from work.

    2. OP #2*

      That’s a great point. As far as I can tell, I don’t think there’s any kind of use tracking in the employees’ work phones, but I could be wrong. I plan on keeping them separate if I can to avoid muddying the waters and making it more difficult to disconnect from work.

  11. Hannah*

    #4: My SO is currently applying for a job where the first 3 months will be probationary. It’s not something I have seen advertised before in our field (software) but I think it’s an interesting idea. I think it would be a slightly uncomfortable first 3 months on the job as the employee, but it’s promising that the employer is selective about who they hire. Sometimes it becomes clear quickly that someone is not working out, and I like the idea that they won’t just stick it out with an obvious bad fit. Hopefully this policy means you get to work with a talented team with a good culture.

  12. Sideshow Starlet*

    I’d be interested in knowing what OP 1’s manager was like as a boss. Did this come out of the blue because former manager was desperate, or was the boss always a little whack-a-doodle-doo?

    1. OP1*

      So, at the time I thought he was a great manager. The owner of the business had a lot of…interesting ideas and expectations, many of them not particularly realistic (everyone who worked there should be able to do 50-100 cold sales calls a day in addition to our existing tasks, and this came out of the blue) but my impression of this manager was that he was being the best buffer that he could between the owner of the business and the other employees. When I got laid off I actually really respected the way he handled it. I would sometimes get texts that were not inappropriate but just personal, like involving this person’s family or what he was doing that weekend that would make me wonder “Why am I receiving this?” since were not friends outside of work, but I can be kind of weird about workplace/friendship boundaries so maybe that’s something that would only be odd to me.

      It’s mostly been since we both stopped working at the company that things seemed weird to me. Like the a text that addresses me in an oddly familiar way that was never part of our interactions before, a lot of follow-up and direction on the way I should handle a reference call if I get one, or something like telling me I was listed as a manager or (more recently) a peer. I get a message or text like this every few months.

  13. Creag an Tuire*

    OP #2: If you’re in the IT department you may already know if this rings true, but the organizations I’ve worked for that insist everyone have a work phone also had strict data-retention policies (think public records laws and/or lawsuit discovery policies) and the expectation was that you never, ever use your personal devices for work. So in that respect it may be an attempt to protect the worker (and the company).

    I’ll echo the “never let them talk you into using a work phone as a personal device”, though. The courts have ruled repeatedly that you have zero expectation of privacy on a company phone, since it’s their property.

    1. OP #2*

      That’s a great point. I’m not sure if that’s the case for me, since the information I handle doesn’t normally have anything to do with sensitive records (unless we’re working with our designers on something), but it’s something I’ll definitely keep in mind.

      And I totally get what you mean with the privacy on work devices (which is zero). It freaks me out to think they could go through all my browser history (not that I do anything crazy on my personal computer, but still…), so I don’t plan on using the work phone for anything beyond work-related topics, like you mentioned.

  14. Observer*

    There are some good reasons to have a work phone, and some not so good reasons. So, you need to find out what the expectations are. We have at least one position, where, if the person had refused the phone she would not have gotten the job.

    On the other hand, we do have some pretty clear policies on when / where it’s appropriate to call people who are on vacation or after hours. We do have occasions where people are inconsiderate about this, but it’s never been from top level staff. And, I’ve advised anyone who is concerned about this to literally shut off the the phone (or put it on silent – not even vibrate – outside of appropriate call hours.) There are a number of us who DO email at odd hours. But, the clear expectation is that people get to answer during the next business day, not that night, etc.

    The bottom line is that all of us who want and use the flexibility that comes with flex-time understand that we can’t impose OUR flexible schedules on people who want to work 9-5 (or whatever their workday looks like). So, if you won’t get bent out of shape that I emailed you at 1:00am, I won’t get bent out of shape that you responded the next day at 11:00 am.

  15. hayling*

    I’m glad OP#4 asked about probationary periods, because I think some people misunderstand them. We had this employee who was let go after about 6 weeks because she was really not good at her job (it was inside sales and she couldn’t even properly transfer a call). I ended up consoling her in the bathroom after she was fired, and she was very upset because she thought that the 90-day probationary period meant that she had up to 90 days to get up to speed and couldn’t be fired during that time because she was still learning.

  16. TwoFishBlueFish*

    #3 Do get your eyes checked out if this happens all the time. I have blocked tear ducts which will require a. Surgery to correct, so I perpetually look like I’m crying when I’m not. It doesn’t affect my vision, but it’s super annoying.

  17. Cyril Figgis*

    #2 If you work at a decent sized company, there is probably a written policy for work phones. Read it and follow it. If there isn’t one, I suggest emailing your boss a summary of what you understand of the rules and expectations. Having something in writing can make it easier to spot and correct misunderstandings.

    #3 It sounds like you have a good relationship with your manager. I suggest leveraging that; if you feel comfortable, be a little open about the root cause. You might try saying something like, “As you know, I’ve had a weird year medically. The latest is that my eyes seem to misinterpret my emotions. It’s really annoying, but don’t read too much into it.”

    #4 I think every company I’ve worked for has had a 3-6 month probationary period when first hired. As AAM wrote, it usually just means that you aren’t entitled to the full process that goes into normal terminations. In some companies, the initial probation period may also include limitations about some benefits, particularly paid time off. Since they were so explicit about it, you may want to double-check when important benefits like health insurance become available. That should be a very normal question for any HR rep or hiring manager.

  18. Suburban Gal*

    In regards to probationary periods (#4), I could never understand that coming from an at-will state where I or the employer can terminate employment at any time and for any reason. Therefore, probationary periods seem kind of pointless to me.

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