the job changed after I accepted the offer, should managers pitch in when there’s a tight work deadline, and more

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

1. I accepted a job offer and then they added more responsibility to the job — but not more pay

I recently have been interviewing for accounting positions outside of my organization and landed a job with a small marketing firm. Yay! I got the verbal offer over the phone and accepted after negotiating a bit. Then new job asked if they could call to check some details on my offer letter, which ended up being that they decided the assistant will be reporting to me instead of my new boss and so they were also changing my title to include the word “manager.”

Of course I was thrilled, as I’m pretty young in my career. I did ask for more money because of these changes and was told that it wasn’t possible, but there is great potential for a significant raise later on. It is a great opportunity for me and I accepted regardless. I’ve flagged this in my mind as something a little off, as it is an increase in title and responsibility without an increase in pay.

I know it’s a flag, but what color do you think it is? Yellow, orange, bright fire engine red?

It’s somewhere between orange and red. They added a major new responsibility to the job after you’d already accepted the offer and when you combine that with their refusal to adjust the salary accordingly, it’s not great. Even then, it would have been far more reasonable if they’d come to you and said, “We’ve realized this person needs to manage the assistant and we’re re-conceiving the role as accounting manager. We can’t bump up the salary, though, and we understand those are different terms than you’d agreed to. Does it still make sense for you, given that change?” But slipping it in like it’s not a big deal — “just some details on the offer letter”? That’s the issue.

If you did a good amount of due diligence on this company — enough to feel reasonably confident that it’s a good culture, reasonable management, realistic expectations, etc. — then this might end up being fine. And it could be a good opportunity to move up faster than you otherwise would have. But if you didn’t do that due diligence, then you have more cause to worry about whether this red flag is signaling something important to you.

2. Should a manager help out when there’s a tight work deadline?

On a recent Friday, my manager called most of our team (four out of five people) into her office at 11:30 a.m. to let us know that we were just handed a huge project that needed to get done by the end of the day. We were given very little direction as to HOW to do this project, so we had to spend time figuring it out first, leaving us with about three to four hours to get the work done.

We divided the work into four parts. Our manager left our fifth team member out because it “wasn’t really his job” (but really, it was none of our jobs; the person whose job it was was on a plane for a business trip). When he found out what was going on, he volunteered to help, so that eased the burden of work a little. We were able to finish in time, but it was very tight and very stressful, and it delayed some other important deadlines.

But what really surprised me was that our manager did absolutely nothing to help. Another person to divide the work by would have been tremendously helpful. I understand that she may have had other priorities that day, but she didn’t even say, “I wish I could help, but…” I tend to believe that when you’re short-staffed and/or it’s all-hands-on-deck, it’s the manager’s job to step in and help as much as possible. Am I off-base? What should a manager’s responsibility be in this type of situation? (To be fair, the following Monday she brought in donuts to thank us, but I would have much rather had her actual help than a ring of fried dough three days later.)

It depends very much on the manager’s job.

If it’s more of a lower-level, line-management job, then yes, it often makes sense for a manager to step in and help in situations like these.

But in contexts where the manager is senior/skilled/highly paid/has her own important priorities to focus on, it often doesn’t make business sense for her to spend a day working on lower-level work, and that would actually be the exact wrong decision for her to make, from a resource-management perspective.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Change in benefits is costing me $10,000

Last year my company was purchased by a much larger one, and starting in January we changed health coverage from our old one to the one this new owner uses. We had very little information made available about the new options, but I chose the one that provided the most coverage, because I have a physical condition that causes chronic pain and, without regular care, could leave me permanently disabled.

I spoke to the insurers and did some math, and found that the cost of just maintaining the level of care I got in 2016 could cost me more than $10,000 more than I was paying last year, on top of higher premiums. I can’t possibly stress how much I can’t afford that; I’m under 30 and just starting to have some financial security. There wasn’t a better plan available, and I couldn’t have afforded to purchase on the exchange. Our HR department is one person who has seemed sympathetic but not really able to help at all. Is there anything I should say to my boss? Can I ask for a raise to cover the new costs? I’m looking for another job, but I’d rather stay where I am if I can.

Ugh, I’m sorry. There may or may not be anything they’re willing to do, but it’s reasonable to bring the problem to the attention of your boss, especially since it’s something you’re willing to leave the job over. You could say it this way: “The change in our health insurance is going to cost me more than $10,000 just to maintain the level of care that I had last year, on top of higher premiums. I’m obviously extremely upset about this, and trying to figure out if there’s any way I can make this work financially. I couldn’t have taken the job initially if these had been the terms at the time. Is there anything the company might be able to do to help make this workable for me?”

If it’s been about a year since you had a raise and your performance has been good, you could also say, “I was planning to talk to you soon about my salary since I think I’m contributing at a higher level since it was last set, and maybe this would be a good time for us to talk about that.”

4. What questions should I ask at an interview for the job I used to have?

I covered a position for a little longer than six months while a coworker was on maternity leave, completed the assignment, got her back up to speed, and went back to my old job. Three weeks later she resigned.

So the great news is that I have a really good shot at this job. I rewrote my resume and tailored a cover letter for the situation. What’s stumping me I this: What kind of questions should I ask at the interview? I know the person doing the hiring; he was my manager for the temporary assignment and not only was he great to work with, he also did some mentoring work with me. I know the HR person, heck, I know what the position requires, what basic success looks like in it, and the culture of the company I work for. What could I ask that wouldn’t sound presumptuous? I don’t want to sound like I think the position is mine already, but most of the standard “impress the interviewer” questions don’t apply here.

First, a quibble: Your goal when asking questions at an interview really isn’t to impress the interviewer; it should be to get the information you need to figure out if this is a job you want. (You don’t want to ask questions that reflect poorly on you, of course — more coming on that later today — but your first consideration should be what you actually need to know.)

In this case, it sounds like you might already know that you want the job, since you’ve been doing it. But surely there are still things you’re wondering about! For example, you could ask whether there are things that you should know about the role that are different from when you were covering it on a shorter-term basis, longer-term goals that you might not have known about when you were just filling in, and whether there are changes they hope the new person will make or areas they hope the person will particularly focus on.

5. My boss told me not to assign our intern work — but has given him zero work to do

I work for a very small company (seven people) and we hire interns every few months. I don’t actually have any management status in my position, but because these interns sit next to me, it’s been continually and unofficially expected that I’m supposed to act as their supervisor.

The issue arises from the fact that my unofficial supervision is never and has never been discussed. The most recent intern was delegated no work by any of the people who run the company, so I took it upon myself to assign him work, which was not commented on by anyone.

After a few weeks of this, I arranged for the intern to spend maybe 15 minutes with a colleague checking out a kind of software that is deeply relevant to his chosen field. I didn’t think it was a big deal or anything to mention to my superiors since they had displayed, like, zero interest in him or what he was doing and had assigned him no work. My boss found out about it and freaked out and wouldn’t “let him” check out the software. Boss told me that he delegates work to the intern, not me, and now I’m just confused.

I do not feel comfortable approaching the bosses about this issue since they have demonstrated consistently awful or non-existent management during the time I’ve been with the company. Not to mention communications skills so poor I’m constantly being accused of not doing things I did in fact do in a timely fashion.

Following the freak-out, the boss did not display any new interest in the intern. Things simply went on as before. How am I supposed to “unofficially” supervise someone when it’s subject to random freak-outs followed by no interest without overstepping boundaries I’m apparently not aware of? They couldn’t even remember his name for the first week! I just want to make sure this intern has a valuable experience.

You can’t unofficially supervise people when you can’t delegate work to them and they have no other work for you to oversee. You didn’t say what makes you think you’re supposed to be unofficially supervising them — has your boss told you that or is it more of an unspoken assumption? If the former, go to your boss and ask for clarification on exactly what that should entail. If it’s more of a vibe that you’ve picked up than an explicit instruction, I’d either ignore said vibe (and thus liberate yourself from this odd unspoken expectation) or just ask about it directly, as in, “I get the sense that I should be providing the interns with some supervision. Is that correct, and if so, can we talk about what that should look like?”

But it’s not your responsibility to ensure that this intern has a good experience. Be kind to him and offer whatever mentorship you can, certainly, but you can’t be responsible for something that you haven’t been given the tools to do.

{ 162 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne*

    #2, I have to wonder how important the project was to your company and to your manager’s reputation. What would have happened if you had not met the deadline? If it was that important and had to be done exactly on time, I think he should have helped for at least part of the time. However, my attitude is probably colored by a boss who asked me to stay late regularly to finish and never worked a minute past 4pm himself. (He was a line boss, one step up from a peon.) This may be more big picture for you. Is he usually doing what he can to make your job doable, to give you a chance to succeed or is it usually work projects like this where you almost can’t get it done and could get some serious blame? If he’s usually a good boss, try to let it go.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I would get clarity with your boss, ASAP. I’m generally suspicious of when folks become “unofficial” intern supervisors. Worst case, that’s not how your boss wants you to spend your time, and you can run into miscommunications like the one you described. Best case, having you “unofficially” supervise folks without a clear conversation about authority/scope of supervision puts you in a difficult position, but it can also take your focus away from your official work with no real “benefit” to your professional development or political capital with your boss. Are you getting this vibe from your boss, or from the interns? Because if it’s the latter, it’s ok to be kind to them without going so far as to take responsibility for their learning experience/training.

    I’m also a little sensitive when I see these kinds of dynamics because “unofficial” supervision expectations often fall on young employees, stifle their development, and give them know professional payoff. While I think it’s important to “pay it forward,” it’s not worth doing unless your boss is aware, has told you to take that role officially, and will factor your supervision responsibilities into your overall workload and performance review.

    1. Unofficial Official*

      Ugh, yes. My boss plopped some extra desks in my work area(I share with two others employees) and stuck some interns in there with us three years ago (we went from 3 desks to 7). They are supposed to have supervision from the most senior staff- but he is part time and takes 6+ weeks of vacation a year. They are given work, but it is work they can’t do without a lot of help in the early stage. As the most experienced staff in the room, they come to me. My boss has decided I am great at ‘helping’ with the interns, so it at least known I do this, but I am not a manager and have no power really. I was trying to leverage this into a promotion, but I’ve been denied it. Now I am quitting shortly because I am tired of having a manager’s responsibilities (I get blamed if the interns mess up) and none of the pay and benefits. Add in that my manager is gone every Friday, as are all the other managers (who are part time), I end up supervising other employees as well. I can’t wait to be gone.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, I’m so sorry OP. But I’m glad that you’re transitioning. It sounds like current job is mess, and the situations you’re describing would have made me endlessly frustrated, too.

    2. Venus Supreme*

      OldJob made me the unofficial intern supervisor (including attending intern fairs to scout out new interns– it was delegated to me because I’m “young and don’t have real family on the weekends”) and I wound up supervising at least 4 interns at a time. I ended up with this role because 1) I inherited this from the person in the previous position, 2) I was the most outgoing out of the other employees so I was usually the first to say hello to the poor interns, and 3) situations like the one described above– everyone else would be too busy to interview the interns so I was left spearheading this. Half the interns were older than me.

      I agree with Princess Consuela Banana Hammock– it impedes professional work development, particularly when it’s not an explicit job role. Some days I spent more time finding stuff for these interns to do and making sure they were satisfied than working on my own tasks. It’s incredibly unfair to stick a task like this on the young employee, particularly without any conversation about it (like OP’s case).

      I ended up running for the hills and discouraging people from applying to that organization for an internship…

      1. D.A.R.N.*

        “don’t have real family”

        Excuse me while my head explodes. I’m so glad you’re out of there!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Venus, are you my life twin? I had an employer who would constantly send me and my colleague all over the state because we were single, young women who “didn’t have family obligations”—nevermind that we both had family obligations, just not with respect to children. But the young guy with the least seniority who would normally be asked to chip in? He has a long-term girlfriend, so he can’t be expected to work weekend, evening, and remote events. I ended up intentionally placing a lot of intern candidates with other, less asinine, organizations.

        (I have an entirely separate rant about the amount of “unofficial but mandatory” outreach they made me do as the token person of color in my department, but I’ll refrain.)

  3. Jeanne*

    #3, I am so sorry this is happening to you. I think you should bring it to the attention of your boss and HR. I don’t know if they can help you but if they don’t hear anything they can’t possibly make changes. I have a chronic illness too and it can be hard to talk about it at work, even in generalities. Phrase it as you having the issue and you suspect you’re not the only one since many people have a chronic illness or a family member with one. Tell them you’re disappointed that this has been the result of the merger because you like your job but you’re frustrated and a bit panicked. I hope you can get the help you need.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Absolutely what Jeanne said. And I have to wonder, if this is happening to you, how many other employees is it happening to? In the current climate of healthcare uncertainty, employer sponsored plans are a huge deal and a HUGE deciding factor for most people when accepting or declining an offer or deciding to stay with an employer. If there is a financial impact, even if substantially less than your $10k impact, with other plan options, it may be worth mentioning (probably only to HR) that you may not be the only one that is suffering financial hardship and all that infers. Depending upon your industry and location, your company may find it more cost effective to revisit the health care option rather than lose a significant chunk of their workforce over this issue. I know many experienced professionals (aged 50+) that would have no issue walking over this sort of thing. Health care is simply too important, whether or not you have a chronic condition, but especially when you do. Best of luck, OP!

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I know this isn’t an impossibility by a long shot, but it’s not very impressive that a “much larger” company would have such a cr*ptastic health plan. They need to shop around, stat. The LW can’t be the only one who is struggling.

      1. fposte*

        It’s not necessarily a craptastic plan overall, though; it’s often the outliers that get really nailed under plans, so it depends on where the cost difference comes from. If it’s “the new insurance doesn’t cover regular specialist visits” then it’s bad; if it’s a single expensive drug that the new insurance will only cover an alternative for, that’s bad for a few outliers but not necessarily a bad plan across the board.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            See my post below about looking into the drug company’s cost share programs. We pay exactly $0 of our max out of pocket each year, thanks to my husband’s expensive MS medication. Novartis pays that for us- all we end up paying for medical every year is the premiums.

        1. Kasia*

          Agreed. I have a good plan, but I have to pay 25% of “specialty generics”. Fortunately, I don’t need it often, but Enoxaparin is something like $50 a day for me, so if I had to take it all the time, it would be really difficult. My old plan was $10 for 30 day supply of all generics.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, we have a great plan too, but something just happened where the threshold fir whay constituted a “large group ” just changed and we are now “small group” again. The only thing thay really changed for me was a couple of out prescriptions were no longer on the formulary. One went up significantly. But for some of my coworkers the impact was more significant.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        It may not actually be craptastic. Our Out of Pocket costs (technically) have risen by that much + when my husband changed jobs (because of a long term condition) simply because we went from an HMO from the company most known to provide them, and most known for their suckitude, to a more “traditional” 80/20 plan, that doesn’t suck at all- I don’t even need pre-approval for ANYTHING, or referrals to specialists, as long as I’m in network- just because now we have to pay for prescriptions instead of a flat copay, until we reach our deductibles, instead of a flat copay (and our HMO’s copay was already $45!)

      3. Sas*

        I am more with you on this one. It is unlikely that person is the only one struggling. I mean, healthcare in the news. Aam’s advice to say something to someone, that might not change your situation but it is part of the big conversation. You could (should) be a part of that.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        My biggest question here is why weren’t they given the breakdown of costs? How can their employees possibly make an informed decision without that?

        1. OP3*

          YES, I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO KNOW WHY WE WERE NOT GIVEN A COMPLETE COST BREAKDOWN. I’m unhappy about that too, but regardless, I chose the plan with the most comprehensive coverage of the available plans, so it’s unlikely that the breakdown would have made a difference — it would only have given me more time to know about the costs.

      5. Anonyby*

        I can completely believe it. My company got bought out by a big company with a very recognizable name (though we kept our name), and we had to transition all of our HR practices to match theirs, including using their HR software and their health insurance. And the health insurance they have sucks. (Not quite as bad as my friend who works for a tech temp company, but still bad.)

    3. Is it Performance Art*

      I agree. Chances are you aren’t the only one. And if I were a manager in that company, I would want to know. If people are faced with much higher healthcare expenses, some are going to try to find new jobs. That kind of turnover is not something a manager wants, and if they can’t do anything about it, they’re probably at least going to want to be aware of the issue.

  4. Michael*

    #2: I think that it’s a mistake for both manager and reports to assume that the manager is removed enough that not helping in a critical situation requires no explanation.

    In order for a department to function well, managers need to illuminate how they spend their day and how it’s beneficial to the team. This can be done in moments, as the “I’d love to help, but…” example from the OP shows.

    The lack of communication plus leaving the 5th team member out when they shouldn’t shows that, regardless of the manager’s day-to-day priorities, they don’t understand the team they manage. At minimum they are doing a bad job managing perception.

    1. Artemesia*

      When you expect people to leap up to get a task out of their normal workload done for an important deadline, EVERYONE needs to be on deck and especially the boss. The boss may have something more important to do — and can make that clear but so often he isn’t but is in his office checking his fantasy baseball plays.

      I have a couple of times needed to mobilize everyone in sight for a menial but necessary task to meet a deadline; some of them were not even my reports but borrowed from other offices. You can bet, I sat in the middle of the assembly line getting it done along with everyone else dragooned to work on the project.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s really so, so context-dependent. There are some situations where that makes sense, and some where it doesn’t. I don’t want to encourage people to think it’s an across-the-board “good managers do this,” because it’s not — in many cases, good managers need to spend their time on other things (and would be making the wrong call if they didn’t).

        In this case, the project got done that day — with some stress, yes, but sometimes that’s what it takes to meet a last-minute deadline. It’s entirely possible that the manager made the right call in focusing on something else high-priority that day.

        1. Drew*

          For instance, if the project was a last-minute emergency, the manager could very well have been on the phone with a client or supervisor trying to smooth things over or ask for an extension for some or all of the deliverable or just explain that his team is going to be letting everything else slide until next week.

          Yes, it would have been nice to have that communicated, but I’m guessing in that circumstance the manager is so busy trying to find someone who can help ease the pressure that they aren’t thinking about taking a minute to pee, much less explain what they’re doing to the people who have to complete the work if he can’t pull off a minor miracle.

            1. ExcitedAndTerrified*

              Exactly so, especially in smaller offices. For instance, I report to the head of administrative services at my current job, which means I’m functionally reporting to a generic office manager, a person who focuses on scheduling coverage, ordering supplies, and things of that nature. Nice enough person, but my actual job is public facing computer training and prototyping assistance.

              I need my manager to know they CAN’T assist, even when I seem swamped, because any attempt by them to do so is going to at least triple the amount of time it takes for something to actually get done, due to them not having the right skills, or actually render the getting of something done impossible, because they have taken a machine I needed access to offline (through damage or use).

              Now if I can just figure out a way to teach said manager that…

            2. fposte*

              And a lot of units don’t have single-deliverable workflows; other deadlines have to get met and budgets handled and proposals developed. (Even in places that do handle one project at a time, there’s usually a fair amount of managerial admin necessary.)

            3. LBK*

              Yeah, exactly – last-minute emergency stuff gets brought to me specifically because I have the day-to-day expertise that the big boss doesn’t (and shouldn’t need to) have. It’s hard to say without more info about the OP’s specific project and what the manager’s involvement could have been, but honestly my boss getting involved in a big issue for anything but high-level judgment calls would just bog things down more than be helpful.

              1. Anon13*

                Yep. I sometimes wish my boss would be less-involved when last-minute issues arise. Often, taking the time to explain to him how we do things makes it take longer. (To be clear, I have no issue explaining it if he wants to know, I’d just rather ensure it gets done by the deadline first, then go back and explain to him why I did things the way I did.)

                1. Koko*

                  Yes! I see how busy my boss is, which means a lot of me being good at my job is related to knowing how to work around his workload and flow: when to save up non-urgent requests so that I’m not constantly interrupting him, and how to make sure he sees something urgent when I need him to. When he decides to come down to the conference room top help sort petitions, I know he is doing it because he’s such a nice guy and wants to be a team player, but I honestly think to myself, “He surely has more important things he could be doing with his time…” Especially if I’m waiting for him to approve a deliverable that I sent him earlier. Anyone can sort petitions but he’s the only one who can sign off on my work.

        2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          Yeah, we do this at Wakeen’s to a literal fault, and it is something that we’ve been addressing in our management meetings.

          We are always “all hands on deck” , managers always roll up their sleeves and jump in, and, we take it to a fault. I spent 2 1/2 work days last week covering something that I just shouldn’t have been spending 2 1/2 days on at the same time one of my managers was spending a good chunk of time covering something she shouldn’t have been doing either. Managers tend to always assign themselves the most odious work, too.

          Manager’s meetings are taking on a recovery group air as we’re trying to help each other get past this. It’s not easy because this is dyed into the fabric of our culture but, yep, you can take it to a fault.

          1. New Bee*

            This is the culture at my job too, and it often backfires because while all hands are on deck the work that managers should be focusing on become a “group brainstorm”, and none of the higher-level strategic planning that would actually make our jobs easier gets done.

              1. NW Mossy*

                This has absolutely happened at my org, and it’s surprising how quickly an “I’ll just pitch in a little” manager can end up strangling the growth of their part of the organization. The manager doesn’t develop skills they need to succeed (such as how to successfully campaign for additional resources!), their directs don’t get the delegations that will help them further their careers, and the objectives of the team start resting on the increasingly wobbly foundation of a manager having spare capacity. No bueno.

                1. Koko*

                  Yes! When something super urgent pops up on short notice, my first expectation is that she’ll put in overtime to complete it (this of course happens infrequently and was communicated before hiring her as an occasional necessity). If she won’t be able to finish it even with overtime or has a prior commitment outside of work that she can’t move to put in the time, my next solution is to figure out if anything she’s working on can be pushed back, given to someone else, or jettisoned as less mission-critical than whatever I’d not be doing if I had to step in.

                  If none of those are options, then I’ll step in to help her. It so rarely gets to that point that if it started happening regularly I would be talking to my own managers about hiring another person or readjusting expectations for my team. In fact, so far I’ve only had to do this when she’s been out on or about to go out on leave, because I treat employee leave as sacrosanct at her job band and would rather take on overtime myself or let a small task get skipped one week than make an employee work on her vacation who isn’t being paid commensurately with that expectation.

        3. Any Moose*

          This. I often have deadlines that my boss couldn’t help me with if our lives depended on it. She’ll say “what can I do to help?” In my head I reply “absolutely nothing.” She has no idea how to do my job. I know it and she knows it so her offers ring hollow. But I don’t expect or want her help anyway.

          1. Dani X*

            My boss says that too. And I usually tell him “nothing” or “make sure so and so knows what is going on”. I figure that he isn’t asking if he can jump in and do the work – I think he wants to make sure other people don’t bug me and are okay with their stuff being pushed off when it is an issue.

          2. Silver Radicand*

            As a manager sometimes in that situation, I have sometimes been asked to run interference for an employee so they aren’t disturbed or handle some other unrelated task that the employee usually handles so they can focus on the deadline task. Those are valid things to put forth and may be among the things your manager is wondering about.
            (Alternatively, this may not apply and if not, bummer!)

        4. Joseph*

          in many cases, good managers need to spend their time on other things (and would be making the wrong call if they didn’t)
          In fact, in many cases when an urgent, drop-everything project comes in, a manager is best served *not* being in the weeds with you. Why? Because suddenly the work that the other four of you were planning on doing is not getting done. So your manager needs to figure out how to rearrange schedules for next week to catch up, he needs to make sure that nothing else time-sensitive is getting missed, he needs to talk to other clients to let them know there might be a bit of delay, and so on.
          Or he could be doing other time-sensitive things which aren’t remotely related to the project, but cannot be moved. Client X sent you a last minute emergency…but that doesn’t mean your manager can bail out on his conference call with Client A, reviewing the invoice for Client B, or finalizing the also-due-today report for Client C.
          Really, it comes down to what else he’s doing. If he’s doing low priority/easily moved tasks or is sitting in his office reading sports news, then yeah, he should be all over helping you out. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons why helping you on a task (which, for the record, *was* completed on time) may not be the best use of his time.

        5. Another Lawyer*

          100%. I often end up on higher-level not-my-job-during-slower-period projects because we’re a small team that serves a large org and my boss is often put on an emergency 911 right now matter, which leaves the rest of us to pick up other work.

          I don’t necessarily know what he’s working on, but my assumption is that if I’m on something that needs to be done end of day/week, it’s because he’s on something else.

      2. Tau*

        This really does depend on the job. For mine, I really really wish my senior coworker would not jump in and try to do my tasks, because he doesn’t have quite the understanding he thinks he does and loves circumventing processes in a way he really shouldn’t. The last time he tried to help, I ended up zipping around like a scalded cat afterwards trying to get everything into order. It would have probably been less work and definitely less stress for me to do it myself.

      3. fposte*

        But I bet you didn’t expect your dean to help grade when papers came in for a big intro class at the end of the year and had to be graded for people to graduate, even if the schedules got messed up due to weather or professorial illness. It’s not always the way things work.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      What stood out for me was the fact there was no instruction on how to proceed with the project, so time had to be spent first working out what needed to be done, before going ahead. Perhaps this was something the absent team member was able to assist with, but it would take more than a doughnut to shake off the annoyance.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Some projects are like that. Some jobs have a lot of ambiguity to them and part of the job is figuring things out. The people it was assigned to may have been perfectly competent to figure it out and the manager may have had good reason to be confident in them (and it sounds like they were, since it got done on time).

        1. LarsTheRealGirl*

          THIS. I often get questions from my employees like “well how should I build this file” or “how would I find that information” and a lot of times the answer is “that IS the project – it will take me just as much time and effort as it will take you. I need you to think through the requirements and figure out a path forward. You’re a professional and I trust you to use your best judgement in this situation.”

          Also, all for chipping in during “hey, we need to take a whole day and archive files” or “we’re moving this weekend, all hands on deck” but part of your manager’s role is to make the decision of “x work task should take 4 people to meet by deadline. I want person 5 working on y, and I need to do reporting for b so 1, 2, 3, 4: you’re up!” I would actually be a little upset as a manager that I had given 5 a different priority and that she was then pulled into this project without a discussion about resources.

          In this scenario, it sounds like this work was completed during the course of a regular work day, so I don’t see how it’s different from any other day – just that your focus was on a different, and maybe more demanding project. I don’t see this as an “all hands on deck” situation – just 4 hands on deck for a project – and you got it done – so your manager was correct, no? Story is different if you had to stay late and manager left, for example.

          1. LW2*

            LW2 here. Well, we did have to stay about an hour late to get it all done. Our manager even said at the start of it, “I honestly don’t know how long this is going to take, but it needs to get done today.” So I totally get your point, but I think this situation falls into the former category in your examples (i.e., “we need to take a whole day and do X” rather than “this task should take 4 people to finish”).

            P.S. I posted more details about the project below if you’re curious.

        2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          And, another we at Wakeen’s have done to a literal fault. Managers always felt obligated to supply clear direction on anything we assigned, way past the point of productivity (but not quite reaching micro managing).

          Fortunately, we’ve been in recovery on this one for awhile. We’re much more likely to say “here’s the thing that needs to be accomplished, sort how you think best/let me know how you think this is best sorted”. I’d say it’s been a few years now and the improvement has been dramatic, raising up an entire “generation” of employees who can sort for themselves.

        3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          In my world, this is MOST pr0jects. Maybe in some fields where all tasks are clearly delineated, this would be a reasonable expectation, but for my world….if you’re looking for instructions on how to proceed and aren’t expecting to spend time at first working out what needs to be done, you’re not actually doing your job. I’m kind of flabbergasted that having to do those things would create annoyance.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            This is so much my bf’s headache right now. Nearly everyone he works with sits around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, where in his experience, part of the job is figuring sh$& out.

      2. fposte*

        I’m another who thinks that’s acceptable and pretty common, and actually pretty valuable for the staff. Working out what needs to be done is part of my expectation for my staff, and that’s how they get ownership and project-handling skills. If there was some ridiculously quick shortcut the manager overlooked, like “We did this two years ago and it’s in the manual,” then yeah, she blew it, but otherwise my job is approve or tweak the staff workplan and to help when they get stuck.

        The higher you go, the less people are going to tell you what to do when they throw you a deadline.

        1. Koko*

          > The higher you go, the less people are going to tell you what to do when they throw you a deadline.

          Exactly. It’s a tougher job but it’s more rewarding, to me. I have big goals I’m working towards and I like that I get to decide how to reach them. I can always go to my boss as a sounding board, or report back if the goal has become impossible within our existing constraints, but I get to choose how I spend my time as long as I hit my targets. If there are multiple equally valid ways to get something done, I get to choose the one that appeals to me most to spend my time working on. It’s a really nice perk to have some control over your own day-to-day work.

      3. LW2*

        LW2 here.

        Yeah, in this case, there wasn’t much anyone could do about that. I made a more detailed comment below, but basically, we were working within a new vendor’s system that none of us had been properly trained on. So the project wasn’t “We need to figure out how to move from X to Y during this next quarter.” It was “How the hell does this system work? Okay, now do a very tedious task within it for the next few hours.”

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            Yeah this was the sort of thing, before recovery, I would have plunged straight into myself, and now, I’ve a team of “We got it!” people I work with who become the subject matter experts, not me.

            That’s the healthy choice for our org.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I agree with you in general, but I’ve worked at at places where the manager was brought in to just manage and has no idea how to do the actual work.

    4. LW2*

      LW2 here.

      A little more context on the work itself: We have a new sales and distribution vendor, and they needed a bunch of information, both qualitative and quantitative, on our products. The information was going to flow out to sales reps the following Monday, so it was vital it get done that Friday or our products would not be represented by our reps. (There was bad communication from the vendor, which is why the deadline was so urgent.) Because the vendor is new, none of us had been properly trained in their database. It wasn’t “skilled” work that our manager wouldn’t have been able to do or that would have slowed us down. It was basically copying and pasting info from our database into theirs on ~100 products. And most of us did have to stay about an hour late to get it all done in time.

      Also, I do admit that I don’t know what my manager’s workload was that day. I sit right outside her office, and I didn’t see or hear anything that was a higher priority… but that’s just my perception. I could be way off. I think part of my frustration in this situation is that this manager tends to be a bit of a micromanager. She wants to approve every little thing everyone on the team does—which DOES slow us down and make us less efficient—yet, when it’s “all hands on deck,” she’s nowhere to be found.

      Thanks to everyone for your comments. It’s helpful to see different perspectives on how managers should function in these types of situations. I still lean toward thinking managers should try to help out when possible in urgent situations (or at the very least explain why they can’t), but I understand how that isn’t always practical or realistic.

  5. RKB*

    Ooooh, #2 is tough. I’m of the mindset that managers should pitch in wherever possible. However, I work at a place where supervisors are supposed to work a shift on deck every week, and mine won’t. It’s beyond frustrating knowing you have a lineup down the door and your manager won’t help out, so I sympathize.

    But — it’s possible what your boss had to do in lieu of helping you was more important, and you aren’t privy to that info because she doesn’t report to you, unfortunately. Although an explanation would be nice, it doesn’t always work out that way.

    1. SophieChotek*

      I agree. After reading above comments, I am starting to have a better sense of when there are instances when managers really should not step in because they slow the process down.

      But like RKB I come from my retail/service job and it is frustrating when you have a line out the door, the customers are leaving, people complain to your face about how slow you are being, and you know your manager is in the back answering emails or puttering around with next week’s schedule. (Not that we don’t want to know when we work next week, too…but at this moment…we need some help here…)

      1. Anon13*

        I’ve worked a ton in retail in the past, and I agree, it’s definitely an industry where managers should pitch in on the floor when necessary, especially because it ebbs and flows – unless you’ve put it off until the last minute, there will be time to work on that schedule in two hours, when it’s less busy.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to be clear, it’s not always just because they’d slow the process down. Sometimes, sure, but sometimes it’s that it really just wouldn’t make sense. As fposte wrote, the higher you go, the more this is just how it works.

        1. Christine*

          We each of a system of how we do things, that we use to track where we are at the stage of whatever project. Another sets of hands can be more disruptive then help. Or showing someone the steps can cause a further delay in meeting the deadline.

      3. Artemesia*

        I remember sitting in a restaurant once for lunch where clearly one or two staff had not shown up and a couple of people were struggling to serve everyone and things were way behind and people were getting angry. And there in a center booth sat the manager and his friend having lunch. Operations run like that deserve to fail.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          And that is one industry where managers are absolutely required to be on the floor pitching in.

      4. TheBeetsMotel*

        In a former (retail) life, I actually marched into Store Manager’s office and told him that I refused to bust my ass any more while my “manager” skulked around at the back of the department, hiding from customers and doing literally nothing. Can’t quite believe I was that ballsy, but I had Had. Enough. of this woman waltzing around, taking the entire week to do “paperwork ” and the schedule and wanting nothing to do with getting into the thick of it, while my happy minimum-wage ass was killing itself trying to be 4 people at once. (To be clear, this wasn’t me misreading the role of a dept. manager; other managers before her got stuck in with customers and the day-to-day; doing so was a well-understood requirement of the job)

        Store Manager actually did listen, surprisingly, although Manager didn’t last too long after that, as it was made clear to her that management of her department involved hands-on grunt work, with customers; not just paperwork.

    2. FishCakesHurrah*

      My best managers were always involved in last-minute emergency situations. They might not have been doing the grunt work like the rest of the team, but we knew that they were working to ensure the project would be completed. Even if they were out of town or in meetings they’d still check in periodically. Sounds like #2’s manager could communicate more with their team.

  6. Susan*

    #2 – I think this is something that varies from one company to the next. In some places, managers doing (or helping with) the work of their subordinates is just not done. In a union environment, a manager can actually get in big trouble for doing the work of union employees. In some cases, managers are not capable of doing the work of their subordinates because they may not have the necessary training/certifications or background knowledge. Where I work, managers (even those managing non-union employees) are trained always to stay in their roles as managers. That said, it is unusual that the manager didn’t make herself available to answer questions or provide guidance on the project, because that usually is within a manager’s purview.

  7. Djuna*

    #4 Alison’s advice, as ever, is solid. I was in a similar position to you a couple of years back, and my interview was shorter and less formal than any other I’ve had. It took all of 20 minutes.

    The other difference from previous interviews was that I was asked what I’d enjoyed most while in the role, and what I’d found less enjoyable. I think that was partly to confirm I had thought this through as something I wanted to do long term, and partly to give me an opening to ask about things I wasn’t so sure about – the type of questions Alison suggested.

    In my case, I had been covering x,y and z and was interested in knowing if that would change. I also wanted to check if there was anything I could have done differently/better while I was covering the role. That was it from my side.

    I hope your interview goes as well as mine did, best of luck to you!

  8. Former Computer Professional*

    I’m going to jump into the bandwagon for #2. I understand that it’s not always possible for a manager to pitch in in an urgent situation. But it can be a real morale booster if the manager does.

    Ages ago I worked for a Teapot Support department. It was a 24×7 operation but our heaviest demands were during the day, so from 8-5 we usually had 8 people on duty, and even then we were run ragged.

    The boss was a bit of an ogre. He would hold us to very high standards and could be ruthless if they weren’t met. But the flip side is that he would defend us to complaints.

    One Friday the Assistant Boss was out for a family emergency. Normally no big deal, but then two people called in sick with the flu we were all passing back and forth. When Boss started getting complaints he came down to see what was wrong, and when he saw us all scrambling like mad -and- short staffed, he immediately jumped in, despite only being able to take the simplest requests. When -his- boss found him to bitch about something due, Boss told him he’d have it within 24 hours. And then Boss came in on Saturday to get his own work done.

    Yeah, Boss could have refused to help saying that his boss needed something by EOB, and that would have made sense in context. But I have to say that Ogre Boss’ reputation went way up with us after that. Sort of a “He’s an ogre, but he’s OUR ogre.”

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      I agree that this kind of assist can be a huge morale booster for staff. At ExJob our director would rarely take some kind of work from clinical staff if everyone’s heads were on fire during a shift; often she’d send an email about how workers were costing money by leaving late, and leave right in the middle of a crisis without saying a word to anyone. If she had really shown up, even once in a while, for one of those big moments where things were hitting the fan, her reputation with the staff would have seriously improved.

      1. Former Computer Professional*

        Yes. I think the large part of the reason we became more tolerant of the Ogre Boss behavior was the knowledge that in a fire he’d have our backs.

  9. rudster*

    Re. LW 5, is the intern unpaid? I thought it was illegal to have unpaid interns doing “real” work. They’re supposed to shadowing and learning about the job; the company isn’t supposed to assign them any work it would otherwise have to pay someone to do, however low-level. I suspect these rules are widely disregarded, though.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Those rules are indeed widely disregarded, but they also don’t apply in many cases to nonprofits and government. Plus, of course, many, many internships are in fact paid. Since we have no reason to assume that this internship is unpaid or illegal, let’s assume for the sake of the letter that they’re not issues here.

      1. krysb*

        A majority of internships are paid, actually – I believe they make up over 60% now. Unpaid internship rules don’t apply to the nonprofit and government sectors because people can legally volunteer in those sectors. It’s not so in the for-profit sector. I’m sure many companies follow the DOL guidelines for legal unpaid internships, but I’ve never personally heard of one. (In fact, in my area, law firms are some of the worst offenders.)

  10. hbc*

    #2: I’ve got to agree with the “it depends” view. I chip in a lot on the smaller stuff and get my hands dirty (literally), but often when I’m dumping a problem like this on someone, I 1) trust them to get the job done without my help and 2) have my own part of this to deal with, whether it’s a higher level part of the current issue or fixing whatever caused it so we don’t have this happen again in a month.

    If your manager is generally a hard worker who doesn’t show signs of being “above” the work you do, I wouldn’t assume she was just back at her desk dinking around with less important matters.

  11. Mila*

    Even if the interns are being paid at least minimum wage, therefore making this behavior towards them legal, it may be good to pipe in and mention that the company needs to step it up for the interns or risk being black balled. (If they’re unpaid and your company is not exempt from the rules, I would strongly encourage you to report the program, or to subtly encourage the interns to do so themselves.)
    Student interns often report back to their school or advisers on the quality of their internship programs, even for paid ones. They also talk to other students, and grew up in the Yelp era, so they’d be totally fine with leaving reviews that completely trash your company’s internship program on, glassdoor, mashable, NACE, and social media.
    Sure, you may end up getting a few applicants desperate for any sort of internship, but the company will quickly find a drop in the quality and quantity of interns if word gets around that their program is 1) worthless to students, 2) actively bans them from learning pertinent, readily available, software, and 3) is run by unreasonable managers who ‘freak out’.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Yeah, but it’s the OP who wrote in, and Alison’s advice to OP is correct – s/he should back way off these interns unless it’s explicit in their job that they should be managing them. Unfortunately, OP isn’t earning any gold stars by stepping up here, it’s actually the opposite. And perhaps the boss feels that there’s something more important OP should be working on (you never want your boss to notice that you have time on your hands). It *does* stink to see interns mismanaged, but this is not OP’s circus to deal with.

  12. Chriama*

    #1 – Maybe I’m just super cynical , but “great” opportunity for a “significant raise” sounds like something you tell someone when you’re blowing smoke up their rear end. Being a manager is not easy, as many letters on this site have clearly demonstrated. So this is a significant increase in responsibility, for no additional pay. And apparently even though they can’t afford to pay what this position is worth now, they’ll be able to later? Why? How? OP, I would go into this expecting to leave in 1-2 years and get paid fairly somewhere else. It might be less irksome to think of how they’re blatantly using you for cheap labor if you constantly remind yourself that you’re also using them to get the work experience to get paid what you’re worth.

    1. Mookie*

      On top of that, are the “opportunities” going to be applied to the “management” position you’ve been hired into, or are they available with a promotion? Likewise, LW1, what does someone in comparable role make at other similarly-sized companies? How much less was your offer?

      1. Liane*

        In case it hasn’t been brought up already, if you decide to take the job after all, get the future raise in writing/email & as specific as possible.

        And Mookie has a great point about what the “opportunities” are:
        “In 6 months we’re opening a Teapot Maven position, which would bring your pay to $X if you get it” vs
        “In 6 months, we’ll revisit and if you’re doing a great job, we’ll talk about more money/perks then” vs
        “In 6 months your salary will be raised to $X”

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. Anytime you get that kind of answer, question why they’re so confident in being able to pay way more money later when they can’t scrounge up a little bit more now. It sounds an awful lot like someone who borrows money and can always “totally pay you back plus a lot!!!!” in two weeks when they get paid.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I too am cynical and everything you’ve said is right on point. I’d try to make it 2 years, if possible, and then look to move on with “manager” on your resume.

      1. always in email jail*

        Agreed. It sounds like the type of place that is going to continue to dump more and more responsibility on you without compensating you. If you’re in a position to, take the job, suck it up, and move on after 18-24 months with supervisory experience (if you don’t already have it).

    4. Temperance*

      Here’s my .02:

      I was told the same at my current job, and they delivered. I received a 10k raise this summer, and another 10k on 1/2. So yes, it can happen.

      1. Chriama*

        Can you tell us more about your situation? I think hearing your experience will help OP move forward. Had you been working with this company before the promise, and if not, what made you trust what they had to say? Also, what sort of agreement was in place for your raise? Was it in writing? With your manager or with HR, etc? Basically, what advice would you give OP to protect herself and increase the odds of the company following through with their promise?

    5. LBK*

      Agreed. Telling someone they’re going to be responsible for a direct report isn’t just a slight shift in job responsibilities, it’s completely changing the job. Being a manager is something many people take great consideration in deciding to do (and something many people ultimately decide they have no interest in).

      Even more bizarre to me is that you should be hiring completely differently if you’re looking for a manager vs individual contributor. I’d be very wary that you won’t get the support you’ll need as a new manager, because it seems like they’re treating management as something you can be casually thrown into (and doesn’t necessarily speak well of them as managers, either).

      1. Chriama*

        Yeah I was thinking the same thing, but I also know that many places don’t have any sort of manager training and maybe think of being a manager as just a natural progression after being an SME for many years. It’s not unusual and wouldn’t be red flag in and of itself.

        1. LBK*

          It’s definitely not unusual, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go along with it, for the sake of yourself or your employees. I’d wager 80%+ of the crappy, ineffective managers we hear about on AAM are people who got thrust into management without the right training or qualifications. It certainly does happen all the time that the star employee gets made into a manager even though those jobs require very different skills, and it’s very frequently how bad managers get made.

          In short, not unusual doesn’t necessarily mean something you should want to sign yourself up for.

    6. Artemesia*

      This. From day one I would be strategizing about how to build my managerial skills and credentials with an eye to that resume I am keeping up to date as I scan for new jobs. By one year, I would be aggressively searching unless the ‘substantial raise’ came through. And I would definitely at the 6 mos mark sit down with the boss, outline my achievements and work and ask for that raise.

      Maybe it isn’t bait and switch but it sure sounds like it. If they can’t pay you what you are worth now, there is no reason to think they will in the future.

  13. Thomas E*

    In #2’s case the answer really depends on things we don’t know, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a manager not to help when business priority demands they spend time elsewhere.

    It really depends on your sense of them built up over time – do you like working with them? Are they a good manager or a bad one?

    The amber flag for me isn’t that they chose not to help out it is that there doesn’t seem to be adequate coverage in this case.

    As a general rule it is bad business not to have a backup plan for surprise employee absence.

  14. Thomas E*

    #5, given that you’ve been told not to assign work to them… You aren’t their supervisor and shouldn’t take that responsibly on.

    My advice is to cover your own back. I would send an email every day to your supervisor saying what you have done, explaining what you plan to do the next day, and asking if they are happy with your plans or want you to take a different approach.

    Given you work in an environment with bad management and you can’t change this you have to decide if you can be happy with this, and if you are take steps to mitigate the risk.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d be sending the interns to the boss’s to ask for work every time they wandered by bored and without work.

  15. Lori*

    #5, I would tell the manager that the interns seem to come to you for their questions since you sit close by. Then ask the manager what they wish for you to tell them when they do so (direct them to someone else, contact someone to find out the answer, tell them to go back to the desk and get to work, etc.). If the answer from the manager is one that is more supervisory (like find them someone to do, etc.) then you are being assigned directly the supervisor role. It would be nice if this is the case to have the manager formally put this into your role’s job description as well.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      This is a nice solution. Sometimes taking on the role of managing the interns can be an experience-builder for you / nice solution for everybody – but in this case it seems to be annoying OPs boss. So your best bet is to mentally un-assign yourself from this task and wait for further instructions. I like the suggestion above to address it more formally.

  16. Colette*

    #5 – Since the boss has explicitly told you he will delegate work to the intern, you can encourage the intern to ask the boss for work, and perhaps coach her on how to do so professionally.

    1. SittingDuck*

      This – perhaps the boss wants the interns to ask for work from him.

      It sounds like you just have taken it upon yourself to assign the interns work, no one ever asked you to, you just feel bad for them – but this is not your job.

      I would encourage the interns to stick up for themselves and approach the boss about work. Taking initiative is a big part of learning about the working environment, and perhaps your boss is wanting these interns to take that initiative, or to show interest in certain parts of the company and then he will give them work. Its not the best system of doing things – but might be what he’s trying to do?

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        It is really hard, just personally, to see ambitious interns learning nothing and getting nothing out of the experience. I think we’ve all had bad internships ourselves and resolved to do better for others. This is a good approach for the OP to at least feel like they’re doing *something* to help. But clearly they need to step off and not assume they’re the “unofficial intern supervisor” even if they do sit nearby.

  17. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – Agree with Alison. It isn’t necessarily that you shouldn’t take the job at all, if the way it’s presented to you now still seems like a step upward from where you’re at, but I’m very skeptical of “great opportunity for large raises later on” and you should be too. Any time someone is promising that they’ll totally have the money… later… you should be asking yourself (and probably them too) how it works that they’re expecting such a rise in revenue.

    I think my favorite financial principle applies here: “Money now is worth more than money later.”

  18. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2, It sounds like your team was able to accomplish the goal by the end of business. There are a lot of reasons why the manager might not get involved. Perhaps this was a test run to see if the team could handle these types of projects independently. Maybe the boss would have swooped in and helped if she saw you floundering. Or maybe your boss should have helped and just punted. It’s tough to tell without more info, so advice is probably going to be all over the place on this one.

    But honestly, put this one in the win column. Your team came together and accomplished a significant project under a tight deadline. Good job!

    As for my team, we have a limited number of workstations. When we have crunch time, it’s impossible for me to hop on a workstation, because they’re already all covered by my team members who are much more competent at the workstations than I am. As a manager, the way I can be most helpful is to set clear priorities and then go to the stakeholders and provide political cover for delaying lower priority projects. And then cover any ancillary tasks that pop up.

    1. LW2*

      LW2 here.

      Thanks—you’re right that I should just chalk this up to a win. If you’re curious for more context, I posted more about the project above.

  19. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#1, Been there, done that. Didn’t get the raise.

    Don’t get paid in promises. It’s OK to get paid in experience, but be aware that you’re unlikely to get paid what you’re worth until you move to a new company after you have experience. Even if you get a raise, it’s likely to be a couple extra % on your base salary, which is unlikely to ever bridge the gap to the higher paid role.

    1. always in email jail*

      Been there, done that, didn’t get the raise as well. They had me cover my boss’ work when she quit. They left it vacant for 1.5 years to “give me the experience” so they could “give me the job”. Never happened. My coworker quit, and when I expressed concern that I was covering my boss’ work and my coworker’s work and MY work, they made me the supervisor of the vacant position to “give me recruiting experience”. Still no raise. I brushed up my resume, took the supervisory experience and ran.
      tl;dr you’re probably never getting the raise. If it’s worth it, take the job and the supervisory experience that comes with it, and start planning to exit within about 2 years.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      BTDT myself. I turned the job down. My reasoning was that if they are going to play those sort of games before hiring me then what are they going to pull once I’m onboard? Of course there was no increase in salary offered to reflect the greater job responsibilities. Turned it down and told them why. They didn’t like hearing it.

      Good thing I walked away. Couple of years later they were in the news as part of an investigation into financial misbehaviour.

    3. Eric*

      Yeah. Been there, done that.

      I would pass on the offer. I’m a very cynical person, though. My perspective is that if your future employer is going to mislead you or change things for opaque reasons before you start the job, how can you trust them to not do it again, when you’re working for them and have less power?

  20. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I feel for the interns in this situation. Imagine being an intern with nothing to do and a boss who won’t give you anything to do. It’s a waste of time for them, especially if it’s meant to be part of a university/higher ed requirement or class. And I feel badly for the LW, who is apparently trying to make a good experience for the intern. I suppose LW can encourage the intern to speak to the boss to look for assignments. Maybe phrase it like, “I know I sit close to you, but you should really go to Big Boss for assignments.”

    1. LBK*

      Yes and no – sometimes the reason you hire an intern and not a FTE is that you need someone to do random menial tasks as they arise and at other times you just don’t have much for them to do. Is the intern going to the boss and asking what they can help with, or has the OP intervened too quickly for the intern to be taking the initiative here?

      It sounds like they really don’t intend to have him working on higher level work that might be done with the system the OP was showing him. I’d just kind of keep out of it and focus on your own work; it seems to have been made clear that it’s not your responsibility to manage him, which might result in him being bored with nothing to do but it’s not your call, especially if you’re doing stuff purely for his benefit and not because you just have work you need help with.

      1. Anna*

        That’s not why you should bring on an intern. An internship is meant to get some experience and help with projects; not so that you have someone on deck constantly in case something comes up that you can’t get to.

        1. LBK*

          IMO the main experience you’re meant to gain from an internship is learning to do boring, tedious, low-level work with a smile on your face. Sometimes that includes not having a whole lot to do and finding ways to keep yourself busy.

          And it’s not about stuff you “can’t get to” per se – it’s things that FTEs shouldn’t be dedicating their time to. We have our current intern doing some backed up filing that hasn’t been critical enough to pull anyone off of their other work but that needs to be done at some point. I only meant it in terms of the OP, because IMO she should only be assigning stuff to the intern if it’s something she actually needs help with (like the filing project I mentioned).

  21. Backroads*

    #3 I would bring up the cost. They might not know. My school switched insurance plans last year, promised to make it as gentle as possible… and really followed through on it. Good, very affordable insurance. Hopefully your company will rise to the occasion.

  22. krysb*

    #5. Is this a paid internship or an unpaid internship? If it’s paid, yeah, the intern should work. If it’s unpaid, your boss may be complying with DOL regulations, which are:

    1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
    2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
    3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
    5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
    6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I don’t see why we need to start giving advice on such an entirely separate issue from the letter – there is literally zero in the letter to suggest that the internship violates federal law.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Aaaaaannnnnnd I need more coffee, as you are not telling the OP that the internship violates the law, but that perhaps there are bigger picture reasons for the lack of work. (Poorly implemented reasons, sure, but reasons.)

        Need more coffee.

  23. Erska*

    #3 Oh … oh my goodness.

    I complain about many things, but living in Canada will never be one of them.
    I offer nothing except my sympathy and wishes for the best.

    1. Susie*

      You obviously aren’t an indigenous person. Canada is far from a good place to live for many people. The current leader lied about the changes he was going to make, he is no different from anyone else. Indigenous people often get subpar or non-existent health care, they often have to be air-vaced hours away or they have to pay. If you believe the Canadian health care system is good, you are very privileged and/or naive.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I realize that socialized medicine is imperfect and that Canada has its share of social problems and a sad history of mistreatment of indigenous people – but as an American, there is still a lot to admire, namely that nobody will go bankrupt trying to survive or die because they can’t afford care.

        Are there other problems in Canada and with your healthcare system? Of course. Doesn’t mean the comparison is invalid.

        1. Susie*

          Two children who lived on the reserve I grew up on died from a cancer that most children survive, because they were not able to access care in time. The rate of death for illness among Indigenous people for illnesses that non Indigenous survive is astronomical. My uncle had to pay to have hundreds each month to have his medication flown to the reserve because it doesn’t have road access all year round.

          Not everyone has access to healthcare and it is not free for everyone.

        2. fposte*

          Though I got curious and I found a WHO ranking of world health care systems. It’s oldish, from 2000, but it ranked 190 countries’ health systems on several points; Canada was 30th, and the US was 37th. So maybe the differences aren’t that big in global terms. (France was first, btw; Myanmar last.)

  24. Jessesgirl72*

    Op3: Are you on any medications to manage your condition? If so, look to see if the drug maker has a cost sharing program. My husband has MS, and when he changed jobs, we went from a plan where we just had to pay the usual flat copay for his medications, to one where we had to pay 100% until we made one deductible threshold, then 20% until we made his max out-of-pocket of $12,000. Which we’d hit after 4 months… (MS drugs are really expensive!) But his neurologist told us about the drug company’s cost sharing program. They pay 100% until we reach the deductible- not just for the drugs, but they’d pay for any exams and tests. We didn’t know at the time, but most makers of drugs for long-term conditions like that have similar programs. You are eligible for them, as long as you *aren’t* on Medicare/Medicaid (due to federal laws) but there are no income or other restrictions.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t still talk to your boss and try to get the plan changed, but if you can’t talk them into it, this is one way you might be able to still get and afford the care you need without changing jobs.

    1. OP3*

      In my case it’s not medications, but a recurring treatment. My insurer considers it a short-term need and limits me to a 90-day window for it; I need it year-round, and would have to pay out of pocket for the other nine months of treatment.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Oh, that genuinely sucks. :( I know people who have run up against that one before. Can you appeal the decision? Sometimes (rarely, I admit) you can get an exception made if you can prove that you actually need it year round.

        You also should see if the treatment facility will work with you. The price they charge in insurance company is very often more than they will charge someone who has to pay out of pocket.

        1. OP3*

          I’m in the process of appealing, but it’s a long, long, long process — one that the insurer is likely to delay as much as possible, while my condition continues to decline. It’s all extremely frustrating and exhausting, which, of course, exacerbates my chronic pain.

  25. Sansa*

    I work in an union environment. Even if managers know and understand how to do the work, they cannot pitch in or jump in to help under any circumstances. There would be big trouble if a manager did non-union work.

  26. Channel Z*

    #2. There may additional background to this story, but based on this alone the manager was likely busy with her own stuff, and it was a crunch that took her off guard and gave short shrift to her explanations. She brought the donuts in the next working day, not letting appreciation be forgotten over the weekend. A lazy self serving manager would not have bothered at all.

  27. Gaia*

    As a manager, I tend to not step in to most work I give my team. There are three main reasons for this:

    1. I’m not very good at what they are good at. They are amazingly good at their job. That is why hired them. But we have very different skill sets. When I do step in, I often end up creating more work or slowly down the process by asking questions.

    2. My job involves work on an incredibly sensitive project. This is a highly valued project at my company (for context, we’re spending roughly 3x our annual operations costs on this one project). Me missing a deadline or misreading (or not reading) a critical email related to this project because I was doing my team’s work would not be well received. And…

    3. I have faith in my team. If I didn’t think they could do it, I wouldn’t have handed it off to them.

    Now, I’ve worked in retail and other jobs were I absolutely would have stepped in to help. But it is important to remember that this is very much based on context. Many jobs are setup in a way that it makes no sense for a manager to step in. It isn’t because they think the work is beneath them or they don’t want to help, it is because their job is different and it doesn’t make sense for them to ‘help.’

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Agree. The only thing I would add is that if the OP came away feeling aggrieved, maybe the manager could work on communicating with her team so that people aren’t feeling ill used. “I’ve got to focus on X other project today, so I’m assigning this to the four of you and I have faith in your ability to get it done” might have gone over better for OP.

      1. fposte*

        I think if you have a staff accustomed to working independently you have to avoid being condescending, though; there are last-minute things I might have to throw to my staff where it would be weird for me to explain that I wasn’t doing them.

        Tbh, I can’t quite figure out the OP’s workplace culture. If it’s the kind of place where the staff is expected to take independent responsibility all the time, this would have come up before and the manager’s response would be unremarkable. If the manager usually pitches in, I would think this would have been noted as an exception. Maybe the OP is new, or new enough that this is the first short-deadline project she’s faced there?

        1. LW2*

          LW2 here.

          I’ve been here for two years, and under this manager for one. The individuals in my department are very silo’ed in our duties. Person A does task X, Person B does task Y, etc. with very little overlap. So yes, it’s rare that we are asked to all work on the same thing to meet a short deadline— though there are plenty of short deadlines within our personal spheres of influence.

          Also, our manager generally wants to approve everything we do, so she’s very involved in our day-to-day work (more so than I personally think she should be, but that’s how she manages). And, honestly, I think that’s what irked me the most about this situation. She wants to be involved in even the smallest tasks I do… but when something big and urgent comes up that requires all of us to work together, she’s completely hands-off when we could have actually used her help.

  28. Sarah*

    OP#3 — I would check and see if you’ve gotten some bad information here. The maximum out-of-pocket cost for 2017 plans is a little over $7000 (not including premiums) for individual plans, so even if you somehow paid zero health costs outside of your premiums last year, it seems like the most your cost could go up this year is $7000. It may be there’s some unusual situation here that makes this not the case for you, but I would at least try to get more information before you talk to your boss.

    1. fposte*

      Unfortunately, the out of pocket limit applies only to co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles; it doesn’t apply to services your plan straight out doesn’t cover.

    2. OP3*

      In this case, it’s a recurring treatment that my insurer considers a short-term treatment that, for me, is a long-term need. My options are “don’t do it” — likely to lead, eventually, to much more severe problems — or “pay out of pocket.” According to my insurer, it’s not medically necessary, ergo, doesn’t count as a medical expense.

      1. A Day at the Zoo*

        Did you appeal the insurance company/administrator’s decision? The first answer is generally no, but you are entitled to multiple levels of appeals. Work with your provider to see if she will assist in writing up why you need to have the care year round — you may have circumstances beyond the norm that make the care eligible for coverage. Second, does your company have an EAP? EAPs often have claim advocates that will assist in navigating the medical/insurance system. Some companies offer benefit help lines which may have the same service — much more likely in a larger company than a small one. Too often employees will accept no as no, when there may be some wiggle room based on your actual health situation. Good luck.

        1. OP3*

          I’m in the process of appealing, with my doctor on my side, but it’s a monthslong process — and meanwhile, I’m not getting treatment because of the costs, leading to a decline in my condition. It’s an urgent situation that the insurer has every incentive to delay. We don’t have an EAP.

  29. Crazy Canuck*

    #1 – Maybe it’s the cynical in me, but I would be very wary whenever a job is changed so the word manager is in it. IME, when they make you a manager out of the blue it is to make you an exempt employee so that they don’t have to pay you overtime. If they will bait and switch you on the title, what makes you think they won’t bait and switch your salary?

  30. Tammy*

    For #2, I’m a bit unclear on whether this was really an “all hands on deck” situation, or just an urgent project. If the former, there can also sometimes be a middle ground between “manager rolls up her sleeves and pitches in” and “manager doesn’t involve herself at all”. In my current role, my team has had “all hands on deck” situations that I (because of limitations of technical knowledge, systems access permissions, process constraints, other workload, etc.) couldn’t have dived right into helping with even if I’d wanted to. So instead, I made myself extra visible (as much as my schedule allowed) to let my team know I was there with them. I supplied donuts and lunch, and brought around the snack cart so people who were up to their eyeballs in work were being fed. I was more than usually visible just being in my team’s space, cheering on victories, asking “what can I do to keep the rest of the world out of your hair so you can focus on solving the problem?”

    Sometimes the way managers help out in a crisis isn’t by pitching in to do the work, but rather, by running interference so the people who CAN do the work are free to do it.

  31. SarahKay*

    OP#4 I’ve been in your position, interviewing for a job I’d already covered most of, with three interviewers, all of whom I already worked with. I was slightly taken aback when I got in there and they basically said, “So, we already know you, and your background. Let’s talk about your capabilities, and how you’d handle the following situations.” I’d been mentally geared up for five minutes or so of comparatively gentle chat about my personal history, and instead was thrown straight in at the deep end. If you’re making similar assumptions to mine, it’s probably worth being prepared for the fact that you may also find yourself in the metaphorical deep end sooner than expected.

    1. calonkat*

      Alison’s comments on the job possibly changing is very, very good advice.
      My current position is one example. The person before me had been in the position for many years. Software was designed around her preferences! Management wanted changes, but waited until she retired, and now the position is radically different, software will be standardized (eventually), and experience doing it the “traditional” way would not have helped me very much. Familiarity with the company, with the terminology, with applicable laws, those carry over.
      So just be prepared for changes, and be eager to be a part of them! The company now knows your work, and can easily see how you fit the current position. If they are planning changes, they need to see how you will fit the redesigned position as well.

  32. Girasol*

    #2 I remember on my first job an end-of-fiscal-year crunch in which we were working late on a Saturday – usually not a workday – to get product out the door to meet quotas. The boss’s boss came in when he could have stayed home. His senior managing skills weren’t needed but he pitched in with the work. He wasn’t skilled on assembling product so he stayed out of the assembly people’s way. All he could do was the lowest job of all, material handling. But he worked hard with a smile and made the event a sort of pep rally, keeping everyone’s spirits up. I don’t think a manager should have to do that but I believe the best will. He was one of the best managers I ever knew.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know I’m saying this all over this thread, but it’s really important: It’s not true that the best managers do this across the board. It’s true in some cases with some types of work … and it wouldn’t make sense at all in other cases with other types of jobs, and could even be the mark of a bad manager.

      I’m being a broken record on this because if people (especially junior people) come away believing that good managers universally should do this, it can lead them to the wrong judgments in the future.

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        +1. And honestly while it’s nice to have a bit of a pep rally, your manager may as well get on with their own job.

      2. New Bee*

        For the record, I think your chiming in totally makes sense–so many people (me included) use or refer people to the archives, and having accurate information and context lends credibility to the whole site. It’s the same reason I appreciate the updates.

  33. Zip Silver*

    #3) on the bright side, health insurance is likely about to get cheaper, to pre-ACA levels, so it’ll only be a year of scrapping by. If your company can’t give you a raise, then short term might mean a part time job, and medium term might mean looking for a different full time job.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      I think its foolish to count on the situation getting better next year, and assume either the same or worse and act accordingly. Which probably does include looking for supplemental income or a job with a better health plan.

    2. OP3*

      Regardless of whether insurance is going to become cheaper, which seems somewhat dubious, a part-time job would not be a very feasible solution for me — chronic pain is exacerbated by exhaustion, and rest is not just a pleasant thing for me, it’s critical to maintaining my health. Since I’m already forgoing treatments that I can’t afford, causing my condition to decline, adding 10-15 hours to my workweek is going to accelerate that decline, so even if it made treatments affordable, it would cause even greater problems. When I had some emergency expenses last year I got a second job for a few months, and then spent the following six months trying to undo the damage that had done to my health.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Would something like driving Uber/Favor be feasible? It’s super low impact and you’re sitting most of the time. Plus you pick your hours.

        1. OP3*

          Quite the opposite — sitting exacerbates the condition, and regardless, I don’t own a car. But thank you for the thought.

      2. seejay*

        Nevermind the fact that the answer to “my health insurance is getting screwed up because of my job” shouldn’t be “get a second or third job part time job to supplement it”. :| That’s terrible advice, especially for someone with a chronic pain problem. ><

    3. Lea*

      Unlikely, since under the ACA the increase was much less than in the previous years. Without it, health care will almost certainly go way up.

  34. Steve*

    #3, I’m a similar age to you, and I can tell you from my experience, health insurance is tricky. I’m wondering for your cheaper plan what your max out of pocket would be if you you had that plan. I doubt it would be overy 5k, maybe even much less. So there is some math to do.

    1. OP3*

      The point is moot on the cheaper plan — I’m locked into the plan that I selected for 2017. In this case, the out-of-pocket costs are also moot, as I require a treatment that my insurance considers short-term. The out-of-pocket limitation doesn’t apply to services that the insurer considers elective, whether or not they actually are in practical terms.

  35. LENEL*

    Thank you OP4 for asking this question and Alison for answering!
    I am in a similar position having applied recently for a promotion in my team where I have been ‘holding the fort’ on an equivalent vacancy to my position, and in this time taking on more and more of the responsibilities of my senior colleague over this time too. Senior colleague has since retired and I have applied for his job.
    In addition to ‘will-I-get-an-interview’ jitters and imposter syndrome (and as an antidote to them) I’ve been trying to develop in my head some things to ask about the job showing critical thinking about the position. Re-framing this part of the interview in my head has really, really helped me, thank you Alison.
    Wishing you all the very best in your interview OP, I hope it goes excellently.

  36. Letter Writer #5*

    LW #5 here:

    In regards to whether or not this interns unpaid employment is legal – it is.

    As to why I think I’m supposed to supervise him – I’ve done it before with other interns and no one’s ever said anything :/ I started doing it because when the intern would ask the boss(s) for work they would say they’re “too busy”.

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