my new employee applied for another job and I’m on the search committee, and 4 other questions

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

1. My new employee applied for another job, and I’m on the search committee

I’m a director at a large public institution and a relatively new manager. I have one direct report, an exec admin/receptionist, and several indirect/part-time reports. My employee was hired a little over two months ago after the person in the role took another position at our institution. It hasn’t been the smoothest transition, as she’s needed more coaching in the role than I expected based on her experience, but overall I think it’s going okay.

Yesterday a close colleague in our office let me know that she’s the hiring authority for a position outside our office but still part of our department. My employee has applied for this position, perhaps not realizing that it is part of the department she’s in and I’d be likely to find out. Also, the hiring authority has now asked me to serve on the search committee for the position, so my employee will eventually realize that I know she applied for the position when she sees me attending the interviews. Interviews that will happen in our office’s conference room, and as the receptionist she’ll be expected to greet the interviewees when they arrive, for a position she applied for!

My instinct is to have a difficult conversation with her where I tell her I know about her application for the other position and ask her if she’s unhappy in her current role, what appeals to her about the other position, and so on. Part of me wishes she had just come to me in the first place, but I don’t know how supportive I would have been in this case because she hasn’t proven herself fully capable in her current role yet, so I don’t think she’s ready for the promotion and additional responsibilities that would come with the other position. I know part of being a good manager is supporting employees in their professional development, even if that means they need to leave, but we’re not there yet.

How should I handle this? It’s making me question my employee’s commitment that she applied for a new position so soon, and question her judgment that she either didn’t realize the other position is part of our department (something I would expect her to know) or didn’t care about the optics.

Ooooh, yeah, that’s not great. It’s certainly possible that she’s realizing this role isn’t a great fit for her, in which case it’s perfectly understandable that she’s looking at other jobs, but it’s not great that she didn’t realize or didn’t care that you would know about her application.

You might as well be straightforward with her about it, since she’s going to figure it out at some point anyway. I’d say something like this: “I’m not sure if you know that I’m on the search committee for the X role, and they’re actually part of our department. I learned that you’d applied for the job over there. I didn’t realize that you were thinking about moving on — can we talk about what’s going on?”

One thing to keep in mind: If she’s not thriving in the role, it’s a good thing that she realizes that and is taking steps to leave. You want someone in that job who’s great at it, and if that’s not her, don’t go into this conversation with the goal of convincing her to stay. This other role sounds like it’s not the right match either (and it’s totally fair for you to share that assessment with your colleagues on the hiring committee), but the whole situation could be a blessing in disguise if it makes it easier for the two of you to talk candidly about what makes sense from here.

2. My employer runs a weird promotion

My organization runs an annual promotion once a year (for the last seven years) where employees are required to wear a small, circular, bright yellow smiley face pin on their uniform.

Once a week, a random name is drawn and someone from the upper management team seeks out that person to see if they are wearing their pin. If they are, then they receive a small bonus on their next paycheck, and their picture is taken and posted to the employee Facebook page. If the employee is not wearing their pin, they are made to tear their bonus certificate in half, make a frowny face, and pose with the torn certificate for the same Facebook page.

Personally, I find the promotion demoralizing for several reasons. I do not think that bonuses should be rewarded on such a random basis with nothing to do with your performance, not all employees are eligible to win if their schedule doesn’t sync up with the name drawing time, and I personally would be humiliated to lose out on a bonus and have it plastered for all my coworkers to see. I am high performer at my organization, and generally speaking support my workplace culture and help to promote it.

Am I seeing a problem where there really isn’t one? If this is a problem, what is a respectful way to bring it up without seeming like I’m challenging the workplace culture? If I ever find myself on the receiving end of the frowny face picture, is there a way I can refuse to participate without rocking the boat?

I’m stumped: Why do they care if you’re wearing these pins or not? Is it linked to anything, or are these just random pins that they’re inexplicably rewarding you for wearing?

Unless there’s something I’m missing here, I’d just look at it as a mildly annoying workplace game. These aren’t performance bonuses; they’re more like small rewards earned through a game. I’m assuming that the frowny photos of pin-less people with torn certificates aren’t truly intended to shame but are being done in (an attempt at) good fun, although maybe that attempt is falling flat.

In any case, if you really hate it, I don’t see any reason you can’t speak to someone in charge of this and say something like, “Can you help me understand the intent of the pin program? What’s the thinking behind wanting us to wear the pins in the first place, and for making people pose with torn certificates if they’re not?” … followed by, “To be honest, it really bugs me because of X, Y, and Z. Would you ever consider getting input from the staff on how they feel about it, and maybe reconsidering it if others feel like I do?”

3. I was responsible for finding my own maternity leave coverage

My company provides three months of paid maternity leave. For my first maternity leave, my manager, Jane, identified two people on my team who had capacity to cover my work while I was out. In the years between my first pregnancy and my second, Jane left and Fergus was hired as our new manager. This is Fergus’s first management position, and my second maternity leave was the first leave of absence to come up since he took the position. I started to offer some suggestions for who might cover my work during my maternity leave, but he told me that making sure my work was covered was entirely my responsibility. I pushed back mildly, but he was unmoved. I now know that he was under the mistaken impression that one of my colleagues identified her own coverage during her maternity leave (just before he started).

I have good relationships with my coworkers and they were very kind and mostly willing to help, so I did find people to take my work. I still think that my manager should be responsible for the team’s workload and covering leaves of absence, as he should know who has capacity to take on additional work and he has the authority to assign work (and I don’t). I found it troubling that I had to go around cajoling people into taking my work and that providing coverage for my leave ended up being a personal favor to me. (When coverage is needed for tasks that come up during vacations, it does makes sense to me that we figure that out among ourselves, as it is a smaller request and everyone will eventually need vacation coverage, so there’s plenty of opportunity to pay back the favor around the team.)

I can’t tell if I’m grating against this just because Jane handled it differently or if this really was a lapse in management. Is it usual for people to have to figure out on their own who will cover their work while they are on leave? Also, I am now back in the office and have been asked to provide general written feedback for Fergus. Should I mention this?

Yeah, you shouldn’t be responsible for finding your own maternity leave coverage. You might be pulled into it, in that your manager might ask you for recommendations or might ask you to talk to person X about whether they could take on project Y … but ultimately it’s your manager’s responsibility to ensure there’s coverage. After all, what if everyone you talked to turned you down? Would you be held responsible for work not getting done while you were out? That’s not feasible. (There’s a big exception: If you’re pretty senior — say, running a department — it’s assumed you’ll handle this on your own and that you have the authority to delegate work as needed.)

I don’t know what the context is for the written feedback you’ve been asked to provide, but it’s certainly a reasonable thing to give feedback on in general.

4. Do I have to wait until someone comes back to the office to take my lunch break?

We typically don’t receive unexpected visitors in our office and are flexible on lunch. But we rarely happen to be out all at the same time. In cases where we are, I’ll just have lunch at my desk or wait, out of courtesy for my coworkers.

Today I have an important personal appointment on my lunch break. If no one is back before I need to leave, is it okay to lock up and go? Several of my coworkers are running way overtime with no appointments on their calendar. I’m the admin, so I feel obligated to stay, but I feel like canceling my appointment doesn’t seem very fair.In the past it was okay to lock up the office, but we have a fairly new boss and I’m not sure what his take is on this since it never came up.

In most offices, no, it wouldn’t be okay to lock up and leave the office empty unless you specifically cleared it with your boss first. But a better way to do it is, on a day that you know you need to leave at a specific time, talk to the relevant coworkers beforehand and ask them to coordinate with you. As in: “I need to leave exactly at 1:30 today for a doctor’s appointment. I know you’re sometimes at lunch then. Could you plan around that today so that someone is here when I leave?”

5. How do I ask my remote boss to talk about my performance?

This may just be a case of my needing to grow a spine, but long story short: I’ve been with my current company for two years now, with no word of when or if I’ll have a performance review or be considered for a raise, and don’t know quite how to raise the issue. Our company handbook says reviews are conducted annually and all raises are tied to performance, so there’s a written policy in place … it just looks like no one’s remembered to follow it in my case.

I work remotely and have never met my boss (though we email and speak by phone occasionally), so it’s not a matter of just popping by their office to ask. Any suggestions for how to ask when we might talk about how I’m doing and what I should be working on if I’d like to be promoted from eventually?

Send your boss an email and say this: “I’m hoping we could set up some time for a phone call in the next few weeks to talk about how things are going. I haven’t had a formal performance review, and I’d like to get your feedback on my work and talk about my professional goals.”

Or hell, you could just say this: “I realized that I haven’t had a performance review in the two years that I’ve been here. Should I? And if not, could we have an informal version of that conversation, to talk about how things are going?”

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Junior Dev*

    I don’t see #2 as just a game. It sounds humiliating. Being forced to tear up a certificate as punishment? Being required to have your photo put on social media? It would be a lot less weird if they just said “every year in July you need to wear a smiley face pin to work.” Everything about this sounds like a bizzare power trip.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      It does. Ironically the symbol sounds like one that’s been used for a mental health campaign.

    2. paul*

      yeah, posting it publicly like that is just a jerk move. That’s where the letter’s description goes from mildly annoying to actually pissing me off. What sort of company thinks that’s a good thing? OP, that sucks, sorry you’re having to deal with it.

      1. Bostonian*

        I actually got to that point in the letter and said out loud; “hooooolyyyy shiiiii….” Not getting a bonus because of something as trivial as wearing a pin is silly enough, but making the employee TEAR UP the check and then have it documented on the internet? That’s all kinds of WTF.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Almost makes me think they’d be pissed if everyone wore theirs and got the bonus, because, you know, then that’s no fun (to whoever came up w this)

    3. Aphrodite*

      It does to me too. Remember that person who wrote in about people in her/his office being forced to wear dunce caps? This sounds oddly close to that. What is the point of humiliating people on FB? If I as a customer or potential customer saw a company doing that I’d blast them.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m also wondering how people react to this on the Facebook page. I’m having trouble reading how customers could think this was a good thing. Isn’t it more the kind of thing that ends up in negative news story?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The OP said “the employee Facebook page,” which I think means a closed Facebook group for employees (although I could be wrong about that).

        1. ThirdShiftMonster*

          OP number 2 here,

          Alison is correct. The facebook page is private for employees.

        2. Liane*

          Private or not, couldn’t someone report them to FB for using the company page for bullying and/or posting pictures without the subjects’ permission?

            1. Emi.*

              I mean, someone could always report them, but I don’t think it would be against Facebook’s rules. (And even if it were … I once reported a comment advocating the mass killing of babies with microcephaly, and they said “This doesn’t violate our community standards, but we’re sorry you feel bad,” so.)

              1. Emily*

                I reported a photo of a man posing with large knives next to a nude woman hog-tied on a table with an apple in her mouth. Apparently since there were no nipples or vagina visible in the woman’s pose this did not violate Facebook’s community standards either.

                1. Agile Phalanges*

                  Meanwhile, a picture of my horse’s neck and ears with mountains in the background got removed seconds after I posted it. I re-posted it in the comments of a separate post I did about it getting taken down, and the best my friends list can figure, the neck of the horse, and the way the sun reflected off her hair, was phallic. There was literally NOTHING else in the photo that was even remotely questionable. Ridiculous.

              2. designbot*

                yeah, I regularly get friend requests by people whose entire page is beyond violent. The profile pic is the barrel of a gun pointed at the camera, the background pick is them with guns in a threatening pose, on and on every single thing is an implied threat with no content beyond that. I continue to report them as the pages seemed designed entirely as threats not even as a legitimate page, but facebook doesn’t care.

            2. Allison*

              I doubt they have a say in the matter. If you refuse, you could probably be written up for insubordination or something.

              1. Not Yet Looking*

                I’d still refuse. Sadly, workplace bullying/shaming is only illegal if it can be tied to protected-class abuse, but I’d go all the way to the CEO, then quit, before I sacrificed my integrity for someone else’s power trip. This might be why I never joined the military…

          1. Roscoe*

            Again, this is an example of the term bullying being thrown around too much. They pose for the pics and know they are going up there. That is not bullying.

            1. AMPG*

              But how much actual leeway do they have to say no? The OP is a little unclear on that point, but if it’s not optional, it becomes bullying, because someone with more power is using that power to humiliate an underling.

                1. Cercis*

                  Coercion is a form of bullying. As is blackmail, intimidation, actual physical harm, put-downs, teasing (in its extreme forms) and many other things. Bullying is an umbrella term.

                2. Jaguar*

                  I would argue that coercion is method you can use when bullying, but not a specific type of bullying. Governments, for instance, have been coercive but it strikes me as misleading at best – not to mention underselling the problem – to call that bullying.

                  The point of bullying is to establish dominance. Your employer is already dominant over you and a dumb pin-wearing initiative is hardly an attempt to maintain or further that dominance.

            2. Not Yet Looking*

              If you are told you MUST pose for a shaming photo, it absolutely is bullying. In college, they call it hazing, and some folks there also don’t think it’s a problem despite how amazingly problematic this sort of attitude is.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I agree. This doesn’t sound like a bad joke—it sounds like they know that posting photos like this would feel like public humiliation, and they want the fear of that humiliation to serve as an additional motivator for employees who aren’t wearing the smiley face pin. Regardless, the whole concept sounds pretty demeaning.(Does the employer’s name rhyme with Tallmart, by any chance?)

      Alison’s advice is of course much more constructive/helpful for figuring out how to deal with (what I think is) a pretty crappy practice, but I think OP’s reaction is dead on the money.

      1. Liane*

        “(Does the employer’s name rhyme with Tallmart, by any chance?)”
        Uh, actually I worked for the rhyming company and there’s no requirement to wear pins other than your nametag. (Although some of the pins from vendors touting products were cool enough we wanted to wear them.) And the few managers I had who were Sucky Jerks (like OP’s managers), pulled their Glassbowl Tricks all on their own.

        1. NLMC*

          Yep, and when I worked there, no way they were handing out random bonuses daily for a month.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I asked mostly because they won their trademark lawsuit late last year (they had suspended use of the Smiley while litigation was pending) and had required employees in many stores to start wearing it as part of a promotional effort saying “Smiley’s back.” No word on bonuses, of course—I thought it might be a stretch. I promise I wasn’t just pulling the idea from any assumptions re: the company. :)

      2. Turquoise Cow*

        Glad I wasn’t the first one who thought that about the company.

        I didn’t work for them, but I spent many years in retail where managers and corporate seemed determined to humiliate their employees as much as possible.

        1. DaisyC*

          My thought too!! “I do want to express myself okay? and I don’t need 37 pieces of flair to do it”

          1. KarenT*

            Besides hilarity, that whole scene is actually a really good illustration of management not being clear about expectations. I reference it all the time! If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, make it the new minimum!

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Right? Now I’m living through a situation where the new payroll person sends reminders for timesheets on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday when they’re actually due on Monday at 9:00 am. If Monday at 9:00 am is too late, make them due Friday at 5:00 pm. And don’t send me three reminders.

            2. Megan Johnson*

              I had a manager who had this sort of idiotic concern. We had a limit of something like 3 call-outs in a 3 month period or something like that, and if you went over that you’d get a verbal warning, written warning, second written warning, etc. He pushed to make it so that you’d be warned/punished for approaching the limit, in which case… isn’t there now a new limit? But he just didn’t get that.

          2. DrPeteLoomis*

            I know I’m grabbing the wheel and veering us more off topic here, but Jennifer Aniston’s delivery in that scene is so perfect. “This is me! Expressing! MY-self!” has become a part of my vernacular.

    6. JamieS*

      Agreed. If my workplace were to pull this stunt I can’t envision myself having a remotely good reaction to it.

    7. Feo Takahari*

      #2: I don’t think you should ever mandate that an employee, student, or other subject of your authority MUST do something unless you’re willing to discipline them for not doing it. I can easily see myself refusing to tear the certificate in half and pose for a photo with it, and I think it would be ridiculous (probable, but ridiculous) to write me up or terminate me for not doing it.

      1. Havarti*

        Or if they’re the sort that would terminate me for it, they can take a pic of me flipping them the double birdy for posterity. :P

        1. The Southern Gothic*

          +2 (one for each) birds would be the go-to response, along with the frowny or the “I’m over this” face.

    8. ThirdShiftMonster*

      OP number 2 here,
      I don’t view it as a power trip. I think the promotion is done with good intentions, but the point of it, to me at least, is lost in translation. I too would prefer to see the pin become a permanent part of the work attire, instead of putting it away for a year and hoping to find it when the time comes around again. Also, I can’t speak for anyone who has had their picture on the facebook page, but personally, the thought makes me cringe.

    9. nnn*

      Ugh, I’d hate that because, even if I am wearing a pin, I don’t want my photo posted on facebook (not even in a private group.) Would you still get your bonus if you don’t want your photo taken?

    10. NCKat*

      I so agree with you – I’m cringing at the idea of this. I’d force myself to wear the pin but I’d be dying inside while doing it.

    11. Kathleen Adams*

      I don’t think it sounds humiliating. I just think it sounds…well…stupid. And pointless.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          I didn’t say it wasn’t humiliating. All I said is that *I* wouldn’t find it humiliating. I freely concede that other people might feel differently.

          But what it definitely is, is stupid and pointless.

      1. Howdy Do*

        Whoa people are very uptight about what amounts to, as Alison described, a silly game where you might win some money! It sounds like the photo of the “loser” tearing up the check is also just silly, not actual humiliation (unless the LW is leaving out a part where people are really made to feel legitimately bad but if they are tearing up a check and fake frowning it doesn’t sound very serious.) It’s dumb, sure, but maybe everyone else just views it as dumb fun and possible extra income for basically doing nothing instead of something more nefarious.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Well, it’s meant to be silly, sounds like Op presumes, but this could be embarrassing to a lot of people and humiliating to some.

          1. OP #2*

            OP 2 here,

            Yes, it would be to me which is a reason I wrote in. I think I understand a way to tactfully decline to have my picture taken in this situation after reading Alison’s response and other’s here.

    12. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I just don’t see this as a big deal. Stupid, yes. But it’s an employee FB page that is private, just for employees, so nothing public. It’s a silly picture of you on the company intranet if you’re not wearing a pin, and a random small bonus and a picture of you on the intranet if you are wearing the pin. That a company would have a stupid rule or silly promotion or annoying procedure isn’t really surprising/rare, and I can’t find it in me to get worked up over this one.

    13. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, I missed the social media part of it. That’s crossing the line.

  2. all aboard the anon train*

    Regarding #3, I always thought it was standard for the employee to have to find coverage when they’re out of office, whether for a one day or two week vacation, extended medical or personal leave, or maternity/paternity leave. That’s the way it’s been in every office I’ve worked at. Whenever I’ve requested any type of time off, I have to also say who I found to cover and it’s always been my responsibility.

    Is this standard or just industry/department/individual specific? Because if my managers over the years should have been handling it for all these years instead of telling me to find coverage for when I’m out, I’m going to be pretty annoyed. Especially at my current boss who threw a fit when I went on vacation recently and when I had medical leave last year and made me jump through hoops about coverage.

    1. Observer*

      Any time your boss throws a fit about medical leave, that’s a sign that something is not right.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Well, several things aren’t right at my company. But at least the fit was more him panicking about work not getting done. It was a lot of “I hope your procedure goes well and you’re okay but omg what if there’s a issue with a project and everyone is swamped and can’t handle it” panic, which isn’t the worst, but still isn’t great.

        I’m mostly now annoyed at all the times at different companies where I’ve had to call in sick that morning and then had to send emails out asking people to cover for me (they’ve never been jobs where someone needs to be on staff at all time).

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          That sounds awful.

          I will tell my manager if any cover is needed when I call in sick (some of my work needs covering and some doesn’t) but it’s then not my problem to find the cover. They can also look on my calendar if needed.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Do you mind sharing your (broad) industry? That sounds like a really unusual set-up.

          1. all aboard the anon train*


            But like I stated in a comment below, I asked about this on social media to if other people knew about this, and while some said their managers did the coverage, I had people in higher ed administration, TV, finance, law, and tech/start-ups all say they have to find their own coverage, too.

            1. Librarian of the North*

              I’ve only ever experienced this in retail and only when calling in sick or if the schedule was already posted and you needed the day off. Maternity leave, extended medical leave, vacations etc you may be involved in the conversation but I’ve never heard of having to find your own coverage for these things.

              1. Liane*

                Yes, it is a Retail Thing.
                If you request off before the deadline (usually 1 to 3 weeks before that week you’re asking for time off, depending on the company), your job is done once you submit the request.

                If it is after the deadline you have to find someone to trade shifts. I have never worked places that require you to find coverage if you are calling in sick on the day, although I have heard it happens.

              2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

                Same — I had to find my own coverage when I worked in retail, but not when I was a teacher and not now in my current higher ed job.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I love your user name. Admiral Jole wasn’t the usual wild ride, but it felt really satisfying to wrap things up for her in a happy direction.

              3. LBK*

                Yeah, I experienced it in retail but in my office job now I’m only expected to find my own coverage insofar as making sure someone’s crosstrained on the stuff that needs to be covered while I’m out and letting them know that they’ll need to do it for me, and even then that’s usually all done in coordination with my manager.

                1. Koko*

                  Similar where I work. I suppose officially I’m the one reaching out to coworkers to tell them what to cover while I’m out, and it’s phrased as a question (“can you…while I’m away?”) but in reality it would be completely unacceptable to say no to the request without offering an alternative, because you were cross-trained on that task for this exact reason, and the person doing the requesting has the implicit backing of the department head to reassign their work to people who’ve been cross-trained on it. It helps that we have a generally positive and collaborative culture and as OP said, we all take vacation so we all know the favor will be returned to us when we need it, so it’s never really an issue.

                  If you aren’t prepared to cover the work in general, then you raise the issue at the time they try to cross-train you – “I don’t think I’m actually best suited to this/I’m not sure I would normally have enough room on my plate to absorb this daily task more than one day a week, so I could only partially cover when you’re out for longer” or whatever.

                  If someone is prepared to do the task generally but it’s a problem this time because their workload is unusually heavy, it would be typical for them to work with the vacationer to figure out an alternative solution, suggesting others who might be able to cover, offering to train one of their own reports on the task, offering partial coverage, or even things like clearing with the department head that they’ll work a bit of overtime during that period in exchange for a free day off or late start. We’re all salaried and have a good amount of PTO, but our dept head is pretty good about not making us work significant overtime as a routine thing and giving us reward incentives when it’s needed.

              4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Same—I’ve only experienced this in retail, food service, and now that I think of it, when I was on work-study or had other campus non-temp jobs when I was a student.

                But I’ve never heard of this policy/practice at any desk job I’ve had.

              5. ZK*

                Even when I worked in retail, it was never a thing where I had to find coverage if I was sick or on vacation or just needed an extra day off. Scheduling is the manager’s job and frankly, that kind of scrambling is above most retail workers’ pay grade.

                Then again, my last retail manager got mad at me because I wouldn’t answer calls on vacation (the one time I did it was, “Oh my gosh, did you order paper because we just ran out!!!” My answer was, “You mean the two huge boxes on the back counter that were obviously (not) hidden from you?” After that, I stopped answering the phone.).

              6. Not Yet Looking*

                I’ve also only experienced it in retail. The technical exception is, we have specific backup/coverage arrangements in our department due to limited logins-per-client, and I try to coordinate with the people I back up when planning vacations. However, there have been times where both myself and my backup have non-movable plans, and it is our manager’s job to find a workaround in those cases. We’ve always been able to make something work out, and noone has died if something had to be delayed a few days. :)

            2. Enya*

              I also work in publishing (not in the US) and have never had to arrange coverage for maternity leave (and I get almost a year of paid maternity leave), sick days or vacation days. My manager arranges coverage. That’s part of a managers job. The thought of running around begging my coworkers to take over my job makes my head hurt.

              1. Howdy Do*

                Do you live somewhere there is a temp worker set up to cover for maternity leave? I’ve heard that’s common in a lot of places with good maternity leave and it makes so much sense and really helps with easily getting the needed coverage while someone is out for a while.

            3. Sam*

              I’ve worked in higher ed admin at several universities, and I would find this expectation to be extremely odd. There are certain positions where I can imagine it might make sense, and there are lots of dysfunctional university offices out there that might expect it even if it doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think it’s the norm.

              1. fposte*

                I was about to say that it is, actually; it just depends on where you are in academics, I think. The weirdness of academic hierarchies means that you get to that “pretty senior” status Alison mentions very quickly.

            4. K.*

              I worked in publishing for years and this is the first I’ve heard of having to find one’s own coverage in that industry. A good friend of mine is still in the industry (we worked for rival major houses) and didn’t have to either; when she had her child she just took maternity leave and her work wash shuffled around to the rest of her team.

            5. Anna*

              I wonder if it’s just because there hasn’t been collective push back. I mean, each industry is different, but I feel like in all industries the expectation is that managers are in charge of making sure work gets done and that includes making sure there’s coverage.

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s so strange to me. I’ve worked in higher ed and in law, and in neither was it normal to arrange your own coverage (unless you’re so high up that it would be strange for someone else to allocate your work load, like if you were dean or a partner). Of course, in law there are outlier employers who are insane, but the overwhelming norm that I’ve seen in BigLaw, plaintiff-side firms, firms of 7+, legal academia, and nonprofits (again, with 7+ employees) has been that your manager arranges your coverage. You certainly help them understand your workload and deadlines, but they arrange coverage.

            7. EmmBee*

              I work in publishing and just came back from my second maternity leave. I helped my boss to sort out my coverage (I have a big team), but no, it’s absolutely not my responsibility to beg for coverage from people. Sorry you had to do that.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m picturing:
        “Bob had a stroke last night! He’s in a coma.”
        “Did he find coverage for all his assignments before he lost consciousness?”

        1. Lora*

          I know! I had a manager throw a hissyfit once because I didn’t show up for work and didn’t call in. Another manager said, wait and let’s find out what happened. I was in the hospital, on a back board and unable to move, getting X-rayed and MRI’ed after a nasty fall. But at least that manager had decency enough to be ashamed.

          What the heck, someone calls out sick, I can take 10 minutes to send an email to a couple of departments who might be able to spare someone for a few tasks. It won’t kill me.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m in another country, but that doesn’t sound great especially with the medical leave.

      Where I work, I find people to cover some shift-based work when I take paid holiday. If I call in sick it’s categorically not my problem. If I were to go on maternity leave they’d hire someone to cover my job.

      I’m curious about the written feedback mentioned at the end and the context for it!

    3. The IT Manager*

      That’s odd. For maternity leave which will run 2-3 months it should definitely be up to the boss making the decision to assign a person or several persons significant additional duties on top their normal workload. Tasks may have to be prioritize to allow the least critical ones to be late or lapse.

      For shorter absences, it may be up to you to find someone to fill in on the critical tasks because you know what must be done, what can wait, and what you can get ahead on.

      When you’re sick, that sucks to scramble to find someone to fill in but you might be the only one who knows what needs to be done that day. If I were really sick I’d just tell the boss that someone needs to cancel my meeting or run it for me or complete the weekly updat for me.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        The thing is, I’e never worked in jobs where there was anything critical due that I couldn’t get done before/after shorter absences or that couldn’t wait for the next day if I was out sick. I’ve never had maternity leave, but it’s always been standard at all the companies I’ve worked at for the person going on maternity/paternity leave to find coverage.

        I’m just baffled by the whole idea of coverage being a manager’s responsibility since that’s never been my experience and from asking around on social media just now, it seems pretty common for a lot of my friends to have to find their own coverage, too, and they work in a variety of industries. Which is why I’m so surprised by it apparently being a known thing.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          In my workplace, you’d definitely be involved in the process, but wouldn’t have the authority to assign work to a coworker. So you’d sit down with your supervisor, and figure out what needed to be covered, and who could cover different things, and then your supervisor would go and talk to the potential substitutes and their managers, to see if they are able to do it. When admins go on leave, we’ll get an email saying when they’ll be out, and who to go to for for various tasks in their absence.

          Some things I would arrange personally. Say I organize a weekly teapot design discussion group; if I were going on leave, I’d either find someone willing to take it over, or it would go on hiatus. But for more formal or vital duties, I wouldn’t have the authority to make decisions about who was responsible for what in my absence.

          1. Koko*

            Yeah, basically at my workplace you take ownership of your work so you do all the actual work involved of figuring out who to give what to and contacting them and giving them any instructions or supporting documentation they need, but it’s all done with implicit backing from the department head and saying “no” to a colleague without a good reason would likely be viewed as insubordination. We all understand that our job descriptions include cross-training to provide coverage for other team members and we’re nearly as obligated to do that as we are to do our daily stuff (with the only difference being if there really isn’t enough time, your own daily stuff takes priority). I’ve actually never seen anyone refuse to take on the tasks they were asked to take on and legitimately can’t imagine it in my mind without hearing a record scratch.

        2. aebhel*

          I’ve gone out on maternity leave, and I’m about to go out again for my second child. I was definitely involved in finding coverage for all my tasks–and I’ll probably be more involved now, since my current manager is new. Generally speaking, I have a better idea of what day-to-day work needs to get done on what schedule than my boss does, and a better idea of who is going to be capable of taking over various tasks. But making sure there’s coverage while someone is out is ultimately the boss’s responsibility. If it’s a vacation request, they can deny it if they can’t find adequate coverage (although this has happened very rarely at my workplace); if someone is out sick or on extended leave… well, that’s kinda the boss’s problem. That’s why they get paid more.

        3. Kyrielle*

          And I’ve never worked in a place where coverage – even for a vacation! – was the employee’s responsibility. It was my job for expected time off to try to have things wrapped up when I said I would, and to have info sitting ready for the person my boss assigned. For sick days, either the work waited, or my boss found someone to pick it up.

        4. JB (not in Houston)*

          I’m baffled by the idea of it *not* being the manager’s responsibility because as an employee you often won’t have the authority to make your coworkers cover for you. So then if nobody agrees, you either your work doesn’t get done while you’re out on maternity leave, or your don’t get to take maternity leave. Plus, what if the person who agrees to cover is the person who is least capable of taking on extra work? Or someone who your boss had, unbeknownst to you, planned to assign to a big project while you’re going to be out?

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What you’re describing does not sound standard to me, although perhaps it varies by industry? Retail and food service seem to be exceptions (which is still problematic), but otherwise, in every job I’ve had it’s management’s responsibility to determine coverage for family/medical/pregnancy/parental leave. Even my high-level bosses—i.e., one step below the CEO/ED—are not required to find their own coverage for extended medical or pregnancy/parental leave. They can be required to provide background information/materials for the person covering them, but they’re not expected to find their own coverage.

      1. doreen*

        I think it varies not only by industry , but also by what “coverage” means. Management positions at my employer can essentially be split in two – there’s the part of the job that can only be done by someone with the title “teapot manager” (which has to do with the authority to make certain decisions) and there’s the part of the job that doesn’t actually require that title (things like writing reports, making sure that there is coverage for the subordinate positions , dealing with the landlord) and it’s not uncommon for different people to cover the two parts. For a planned , relatively short leave ( 6 or 8 weeks), I would be expected to ask one of my peers to cover the part that requires the title and assign one or more of my direct reports to cover the rest. It works, but I suspect that is because the only reason people do not agree to cover is if they will be on leave , and therefore you never end up with “no one will agree to cover for me”. For leaves longer than 6 or 8 weeks, my manager will set up a rotation for my peers to cover.

      2. I woke up like this*

        I don’t even know if retail and food service are relevant to the conversation. I’ve never had or heard of a retail or food service position that offered extended time off for parental or medical leave. I think people are thinking of “I’ll be out for 2 days, so Fergus will cover my shift.” And not, “I’ll be out for 3 months, and X will cover my shifts and my projects and my sales goals and my…”

        1. Observer*

          They may not offer it, but FMLA does apply to retail and food service – and the bigger chains DEFINITELY are covered.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          All aboard the anon train mentioned short term absences, which is why I brought it up. But FMLA exists for retail employees and some larger restaurants/bars, and I’ve seen people take that leave, usually for non-pregnancy/parental leave reasons. But depending on the employer, they were slightly more involved in the coverage-finding part of the conversation than what I’ve seen in other jobs/industries.

    5. Bea*

      My boss wanted one of my reports to go to an off-site event and came directly to me to schedule it because I’m her manager. It’s managements responsibility to do scheduling in an office environment, especially for medical leave! This isn’t the retail or the service industry where people “cover” your shift or you lose your job.

    6. babblemouth*

      I think there’s a difference between leaving for three days for a short holiday (where you’d pick days you know nothing urgent will come up), leaving for three weeks (where you wrap up lose ends and ask Fergus if you can put his name in your out-of-office auto reply for emergencies), and leaving for 3 months (you need a full time person to cover for you). The first two are fairly reasonable for a boss to ask you to figure out on your own (though the company needs to make a genuine effort to free up your time, otherwise you’re not really getting your guaranteed time off), the last one isn’t.

      1. Awesome*

        Yeah, you might need to hire extra staff to cover for maternity leave; heck, you might need to hire a temp to help out if someone goes on holiday for more than a week.

    7. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      This can be done correctly, and is pretty much done successfully at Wakeens, if there are adequate resources. My direct reports always arrange their own coverage, even for medical leaves (with maternity as an exception) . They have great sense about what needs to be covered and what can be left until they get back, whom the right person is to ask, and they get cooperation back from their co-workers. If they run into a challenge with a specific job duty, they ask for management help. It’s so much a non-issue.

      Maternity or an extended leave to the length of maternity, I can’t think how that could be done without management taking the lead, unless the person didn’t have a very busy job . (Although our reps do it mostly on their own. Since the covering rep gets commission on the new orders generated, it’s an opportunity all around that makes cooperation pretty easy to get. ) Besides reps, we usually have to move people around to fill a maternity long gap.

      Point is, it *can* work in the right atmosphere. Management isn’t abandoning responsibility, but more empowering people to make their own choices, and then ready to fill in whatever gaps can’t be arranged.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        To give an example of what I mean about adequate resources, we’re big on cross-training as a practice at Wakeens (after many years bit because we weren’t big about it). So if your job includes being the person who processes same day invoices and credit card payments for business customers who need that done immediately, you don’t go on a four day holiday without designating the person who will cover that and communicating to our reps who is doing the job. You also know the other parts of your job that can wait until you get back.

        The key here is having choices and an atmosphere of ownership and cooperation.

        1. Aunt Margie at Work*

          There’s also the benefit of having enough people. If Wakeen is available, I’ll just contact Joeahquin

      2. fposte*

        I don’t know how we define “lead” in a maternity leave situation; it’s a working-together thing. I don’t have a situation where I have people who can just cover, so I need to go over the work, discuss who could take it, discuss what could get back burnered, etc. I wouldn’t require a co-worker to directly assign work to a same-level co-worker–I’d do that–but I’m fine with her assigning it to a lower-level co-worker who also works for me as long as we’ve discussed that that’s going to happen.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          I think our record is having to move four people, Betty covers Wilma’s job, Barney covers Betty, Fred cover Barney, Pebbles covers Fred – although not 100%, some people retaining some of their original job duties. That was an interesting one to figure out. We needed a football play diagram.

          1. fposte*

            Sounds like an organ donation chain.

            I’ve only straight out moved a person when a staff member actually quit unexpectedly; usually it’s more like me picking up 50% of the tasks, 25% being assigned to other coworkers, and 25% just getting left to stew in their own juice for the duration.

            1. Chinook*

              It actually makes sense for some roles, though. When I was a receptionist, I could be called in to cover for one of the Admins if they were gone for a week because I knew the company and what each department does and getting me up to speed would be much quicker than getting a temp ready. In turn, the temp agency had a qualified group of people who were more than capable of covering reception and they had me there for backup if they had questions.

              So, if you know you can always cover A’s position and A is flexible to handle B, C and D’s positions and B is trained as the backup for E and F, then moving A to cover B while B covers E’s vacation and hiring a temp to cover for A is the logical backup plan.

    8. Jenny*

      It is also stupid for a number of reasons. A few my coworkers who had babies recently had to go on parental leave a month or more early because of complications. Of course it wasn’t a good idea to have them find coverage, our manager did it. I can’t imagine how anyone should say my coworker needs to find coverage from the NICU because his son showed up two month early. That is just cruelty.

    9. Thlayli*

      In my industry (engineering/project management) it would be courteous to arrange someone else to organise your work when off sick. whenever I’ve rung in sick I’ve always emailed or verbally updated on the status of my projects and who would have enough knowledge of them to progreSs anything too urgent to wait till I’m better. But that was an obligation I put on myself as a professional with high standards for myself. Plenty of other people would just call in sick and let the manager deal wth the fallout without any guidance. I just wanted to make sure stuff was done properly while I was out.

    10. Rookie Manager*

      Late yesterday one of my team was signed off work for several weeks. I asked her if there was anything immediate I needed to cover and spent this morning delegating her work round the team. I feel it would be appaling management behaviour if I made her, so ill a doctor has recommended no work for over a month, arrange that cover herself.

      My MiL used to only be allowed time off if her ‘partner’ (employees were paired up and worked opposite shifts) agreed to cover her work and vice versa. Effectively this meant neither of them got their paid holidays as they had to work that time as double shifts while there partner was off. They were prevented from using their benefits package. Also because of these double shifts MiL felt guilty taking too many days together as it would be exhausting for her colleague. I never liked this way of working at all. In fact it was one of the reasons she retired early.

    11. AnotherAlison*

      I never leave the office, so I don’t know how it works here. . .ha!

      More seriously, my work is project based and how coverage is handled depends on your role and how long you’ll be out. For maternity leave, it would be normal for your manager to arrange for coverage, and for you to coordinate directly with your team to make sure everyone knew the status of your work, where to find things, etc.

      For me, as a project manager, if I’m out for a day or a week, I have to arrange with my project team and project sponsor to cover my role while I’m gone. My manager would barely know I’m gone.

    12. mugsy523*

      I guess I can sort of understand where an employee may have input into who can perform certain tasks if someone is going to be out on any type of leave. “Fergus used to process these TPS reports, so he can handle that for a the time being, while Wakeen use to coordinate the monthly staff call, so we’ll pass that off onto him.”

      This premise isn’t terrible and it’s fine if you have the notice/time to coordinate that, such as with maternity leave, but what about emergencies that occur that have no warning? People get hurt, have heart attacks, have family members who need to be taken care of and a manager would be responsible for ensuring business continuity.

      Can you imagine if someone’s spouse is life-threateningly ill and the manager is calling the employee stating “we can’t start the weekly staff meeting without your report and it’s your responsibility to do it or find coverage?”

    13. Backroads*

      Well, what happens if she couldn’t find coverage? Just not have the baby? I believe in most cases it’s the company’s job to find someone to do their work.

      1. doreen*

        I mention in another comment that I am generally expected to find my own coverage. I don’t really understand why people are the making the leap from “you’re expected to find your own coverage” to “you’re expected to find your own coverage with no exceptions , even if your absence was unexpected or had to begin unexpectedly early and if no one will agree to cover for you you can’t take the leave and we will hold you responsible if your work isn’t done while you’re out “. It’s like there’s no middle ground where reasonable employers can expect you to find your own coverage and your manager steps in when that’s not possible. (which is what would happen at my job). Sure, not all managers are reasonable- but they aren’t all unreasonable, either.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, it’s not that big a deal here to at least manage the need for your own coverage. I think a lot it may depends on how many co-workers people have that do similar work, too; we can’t just move somebody over in our office, so the person who knows the jigsaw the best to some extent has to direct the piecing together.

    14. Nervous Accountant*

      Wow I am SO surprised reading most of these comments that it’s so common to find your own coverage.

      I can’t imagine having to do that where I work. If anyone calls out sick, appointments are transferred to other people who are available, and when we go on vacation we’re just expected to take care of anything urgent before we leave. We do have points of contact set up in our auto email messages, but they’re our support team who are supposed to help with work.

      1. Been there*

        I’m kind of surprised that everyone isn’t finding their own coverage to some extent.

        I’ve always told my teams that it’s their responsibility to make sure their critical work is covered if they are going to take scheduled time off, this includes making sure there is enough coverage of coworkers (the old team I managed had 5 people that performed variations of the same job. The rule was no more than 2 people off at a time under normal circumstances, more were allowed if the third person demonstrated the two left were ok with it and the work was covered. The advantage for the team was they could figure out their vacations and time off and not have to wait for approval from me (I would approve in the system, but they knew I didn’t pay attention to the dates because they had already worked it out). The team loved this. They worked things out very well if there was a conflict and I don’t think I ever had to say no to the 3rd person off request. It also meant I didn’t care if someone took a late notice day or afternoon off. I always knew that before they took off they would have gotten everything covered.

        For longer leaves, medical and such. Managers work with the employee that will be going out to come up with a transition list. Both work together to figure out what coverage makes sense and who the backups are. The employee going on leave is then responsible for any training and transition that needs to happen.

        For a sudden illness or leave that would take an employee out for anything over a couple of days. The manager would find coverage.

        I guess the difference is on the teams I manage and work with is that if an employee is going to be out for an extended period, it’s assumed that coworkers will be picking up the additional work. So it’s not a question of IF… but a question of WHAT. This is a little different that the OPs situation who had to go around asking coworkers to take on responsibilities. In my department it’s just expected that the work gets shared, so it’s more like telling the coworkers “Hey while I’m out I need you to cover the TPS reports and the Teapot Design Meetings, I’ll start inviting you now so you are caught up before I leave” From the covering employees perspective they know that when they are told someone will be out for an extended time, their first question is “So when are you going to start transitioning the stuff you need me to do?”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think some of this is confusing because folks are also talking about different kinds and lengths of leave (e.g., out a day or two, vacation, 1-2 weeks for surgery, parental leave). Focusing on the core issue OP raised—maternity leave—it sounds really unusual to me that non-high-level people are individually responsible for coverage during that time. And by coverage, I mean asking coworkers to cover and assigning tasks to coworkers. (I think it’s very normal to be asked to wrap certain items up, provide transitional or written guidance while out, reschedule non-urgent items, train whoever is covering you, and to identify tasks and offer suggestions on who may be able to take those tasks to your manager—but I don’t think if any of those tasks as “coverage”.)

        Clearly it must be happening, based on these comments, but I keep wondering if we’re all talking about the same kind of leave and if we’re using “coverage” the same way.

        1. tigerlily*

          Agreed, those can be very different situations. If I call out sick for a day or two, no coverage is needed. If I go on vacation for a week or two, the rest of the admin team will work out their schedules so there’s always office coverage and maybe one or two time sensitive tasks will be appointed to one of them – the rest will just wait until I get back. But if I’m out three months on maternity leave, my office would have to hire a temp.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          I had the exact same thoughts. We’re talking about different lengths of leave, and different ideas of what “coverage” means, and different ideas of what it means to be expected to find coverage.

    15. Turquoise Cow*

      I was out of work for medical reasons twice.

      The first time was unexpected, and my coworkers and manager muddled through. Although I was the only person who did my specific job, there were others who had similar jobs with different areas of expertise. (Think chocolate teapots vs. peppermint teapots. Similar, but different.)

      The second time was for non emergency but still medically necessary surgery, and I think I had a month or so notice. I knew several months beforehand that I’d have the surgery, just not the specific date or how long I’d be out or anything like that. My manager and I worked together to find coverage for the time I’d be out. He and a few other people made suggestions and I worked to get those people up to speed beforehand. This was all helped by the fact that the company was either about to or had just declared bankruptcy, so work was slowing down compared to my previous level of work, but the procedure was basically the same. I did what I could to work ahead before leaving.

      I imagine something similar would happen for maternity leave, since it’s not usually a sudden event. I’ve known people who ended up having to start leave earlier, so plans weren’t yet set in stone. Best not to leave that to the last minute, just in case! It’s also a good idea to have a certain amount of cross-training, just in case, as an old boss of mine used to say, “you get hit by a beer truck tomorrow.” Or win the lotto if you prefer to be more optimistic. In practice, it was never as good as he wanted.

    16. Just Another Techie*

      IME, colleagues and I have always had to find our own coverage for vacations or other “fun” things. But medical or parental leave, my manager has figured out coverage.

    17. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m an attorney and we basically have to find our own coverage. Essentially, there are some cases that are just mine so no one else would know what needs to be done on them while I’m out. For vacations, I basically work extra before and after to make sure I hit my deadlines. For sick leave, I’ll try to get extensions from the opposing party if it will screw up a deadline. For a really long leave, like maternity leave, my cases might be reassigned so I guess my manager would do that. For something shorter, like a surgery where I was out a week or two, I would just assign the tasks that needed to be completed to someone else in my firm. We are essentially all lateral to each other but we can all ask for help and it would be really weird to say no. We don’t really ask so much as tell – Joe, I need you to do x for me while I’m out next week.”

    18. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I have to plan for being out, such as completing anything deadline specific that would be due while I was out assuming it can be done in advance. But that’s for a few days to a week for vacation. If it’s just a sick day(s), my work sits until I return. If I were going to be out for an extended LOA, it would be the manager that would need to say who was going to take on my tasks. I don’t have any authority to assign new tasks to my coworkers.

    19. HR in the city*

      No that’s not really how it is supposed to work. I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a discussion with your manager saying Oh Fergus has done this in the past or Jane has done this and have a discussion with your manager about what work must get done and what can wait while you are gone but like Alison said ultimately it is up to the manager to cover work. This is true regardless of the type of leave- vacation, maternity, and medical. I was recently out on medical leave for sinus surgery and because of the time of year it was I talked to my backup to see if she was able to actual do backup for me while I was gone. I was only gone for a week but during that week there was two things that had to be done so I checked first with her in case I had to speak with my manager about someone else doing it. I can’t ultimately decide who does the work but my boss has assigned back-ups for people in our office so if that has to be deviated from than she has to do it.

    20. LCL*

      Never in my work group. In other groups where the workers have more of a choice in their assignments, the end result is bitter fights over jobs and grievances filed and trashed working relationships and calls to HR and allegations of every kind of discrimination and and and…

      People are very capable of finding their own coverage. But their solutions won’t always be what management wants. If Fergus continues to do this it will bite him, eventually.

    21. JC*

      I manage a research group, and if someone was on medical/maternity leave I absolutely would not expect them or even want them to find their own coverage for their projects, at least laterally. They don’t have a sense of other people’s workloads the way that I do and also don’t have the authority to assign work to others like I do. There are exceptions when it comes to delegating some aspects of a project to lower-level people–so for example, I would expect a researcher to say that they’d have a research assistant keep track of X and a contractor that they manage keep track of Y while they’re out, if those are reasonable tasks for those people and if they have the lead time to make those assignments. But I would not want or expect them to delegate sideways to other researchers at the same level as them.

      Since I am more senior, I would come up with a proposal for my own coverage plan if I was going to be out for an extended period and wouldn’t be too miffed if my boss thought that finding my own coverage was my problem. But that’s only because of my role and authority in the organization. If some of that involved delegating sideways, I’d definitely run it by my boss and might have him do the asking.

    22. Friday*

      For my first mat leave, I was a middle manager of a small department. My responsibilities were:

      1. Documented and wrote manuals for all the tasks that I personally did.
      2. Wrote up the timeline of my department – when things had to happen by me/by others.
      3. Heavily weighed in on who should do what when I was out.

      My boss’ responsibilities were:

      1. Took my suggestions into consideration on who should do which of my tasks and decided responsibilities.
      2. Worked with me and other managers on getting people trained on my tasks.
      3. Managed my direct reports while I was out.
      4. Made sure everything got done.

      For my next mat leave I am an individual contributor, but it will be a similar process just without the direct reports. My boss will ultimately decide who will do which of my critical tasks when I’m out and I will be responsible for writing up how to do them and training people. It’s my boss’ responsibility to make sure they get done when I am out, not mine.

    23. Sara without an H*

      I’ve been surprised at the number of people in this thread who agreed with you. While I could see asking an employee to arrange coverage if they wanted a personal business day on short notice, it makes no sense for major medical: “If you can’t find somebody to cover for you while you have chemo, you’ll just have to stay and die at your desk.”?????

      I work in higher education (libraries). The usual practice I’m familiar with has been that the manager and the employee collaborate to figure out what essentials need to be covered during the leave, then the manager does what’s necessary to arrange coverage. When one of my staff took maternity leave last year, she developed a list of what was essential and what tasks could be suspended until she got back. We cross-trained other staff for a couple of things, put other things on hold, and hired a temp for a few months.

      This works best, of course, for the kind of leave that is scheduled in advance. If somebody is hauled away to the emergency room, the manager will have to make some decisions about getting other staff to pick up slack for essential functions, and just let less critical things go for a while.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        I work in higher ed too. In my department, it’s expected that if you know you’re going to be out, you have to find coverage yourself. I recently lost a family member (it was very sudden) and had to miss five days of work to attend the funeral out of state. Fortunately I’ve helped a coworker out when he’s been on vacation so he was happy to return the favor and cover my emails and voicemails, but if I’d had events scheduled, it would have been much more difficult.

        My boss works remotely and is very hands-off, so I don’t get the impression that she would have been very helpful if I’d reached out to her. She never offered to help me find coverage.

    24. Cyrus*

      “Find their own coverage” is vague.

      At every job I’ve ever had, before I left on a vacation, I gave my supervisor an email update about the status of all my projects. At my current job, there’s really no question about who fills in for me. My job basically has two halves. One half can wait for me to get back, and the other is shared with only one other person, so she just gets that status update with my manager. At my previous job, I had more peers and it wouldn’t be reasonable to give one of them my entire workload. So my projects would usually get assigned to different people and I’d meet with them about it before I left. Officially, my boss gave them the assignments. Unofficially, I could usually make recommendations and they were usually accepted. I usually had a pretty good idea of who else on our team was good at what. Especially for my last year or so at that job, when I was basically just as experienced as my manager.

      So is that finding my own coverage? You might say so because I produced their name and met with them to get them up to speed. However, my supervisor had the final say on it. If I had just happened to not make the recommendations, they would have made the decision on their own, and if there was a problem it wouldn’t have been my fault just because I was gone. And the discussion about people filling in for me happens right before I go – depends on the job, but not more than let’s say a week in advance – and has nothing to do with getting the vacation approved or not.

      My title at both jobs was technical writer, BTW, since you say you’re in publishing.

    25. Managing to get by*

      About a third of my direct reports are support staff, like skilled admins. We have a couple of supervisors who will funnel work from one team to another if the support person is out, as the supervisors know which people have capacity that day. We also have 2 people assigned each day, on a rotating basis, to pick up overflow work and the supervisors coordinate that. The supervisors, with manager assistance if needed, coordinate coverage when support staff are out. The support staff are responsible for notifying the consultants they support as well as the supervisors when they will be out.

      The other 2/3 of my reports are consultants. They have their own book of business and they handle the direct client work with little direct supervision. I help them with planning, strategy, goal setting, negotiations and escalated service problems but they are responsible for most of the service and day-to-day issues along with delegating work to the support staff. The consultants are responsible for arranging coverage for their clients if they are out of the office. If it is just a day or two, they may leave the support person’s name on their email and voice mail, and another consultant or two will be identified to the support person as their contact for any problem that comes up that they cannot easily handle. For absences longer than a couple of days, another consultant is usually specifically assigned.

      I have one consultant out on an extended, planned leave. Consultant was responsible for finding coverage for their clients and sitting down with the covering consultants prior to going out on leave to fill them in on details. They also notified the clients and introduced the covering consultants. This consultant came to me with recommendations of who would cover what, we reviewed that and I made a couple modifications and then I sent a “thank you for helping” email out to the list, showing that management expected them to participate in coverage.

      I don’t have enough in-depth knowledge on every one of their clients nor enough capacity to do the parceling out of work for the consultants. They are professionals who take ownership of their work and make pretty good (low six figures) compensation, I don’t have any problem with giving them a relatively high level of responsibility.

      The support staff get to go home in the evening and not think about work, and go out on vacation or leave and not worry about coverage and their compensation reflects that too.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 It would indeed be good if she realised the fit wasn’t right and took steps to leave but it sounds like she’s actually angling for a promotion she’s not ready for. I have known people who think they are doing well even while being coached for poor performance due to a lack of self awareness. I think that might be helpful to figure out – is she trying to move on from a job where she’s a poor fit or just lacking in self awareness?

    1. MillersSpring*

      OP#1: Why is the employee able to apply for a different role internally after only two months in her current job?? That’s crazy. Most organizations require employees to wait 12 months before applying for anything internally.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think MillersSpring is asking about whether OP has a policy/practice about internal hiring, though. I’m not sure the existence of such a thing changes the advice, but it is kind of curious (although who knows with governmental/civil service positions).

          1. MillersSpring*

            Right, I was wondering if the whole situation might be moot, because the employee shouldn’t have applied in the first place.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            But even if there’s a policy, that isn’t going to stop someone trying to apply if they don’t know about it.

            1. MillersSpring*

              Actually the policy could have been applied via an automated system such as Taleo, or the application could have flagged by whomever in HR was reviewing them.

            2. kittymommy*

              Yeah at my place you might be able to physically submit an application, but it will automatically be rejected. In order to circumvent that, someone has to override the system.

            3. LBK*

              I don’t believe we have a systematic way of preventing it here, but HR will definitely check how long you’ve been in your role and stop you from moving forward in the process without manager approval.

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        My question as well. At my company, when you apply for an internal position, current manager has to sign off on the application. My supervisor never refused, always wished me luck. It’s just a protocol to keep everyone in the loop so this weirdness doesn’t happen

      2. Nacho*

        Right. Mine is 6 months for similar roles/straight up promotions, 12 for anything lateral or diagonal.

        1. doreen*

          I read it that she may not know it’s the same department, not that she might not realize it’s the same institution. But even if there is a policy regarding internal promotions, that doesn’t mean HR is going to flag those applications and take them out of the pool. That happens to me all the time at my government job (where applications for internal posting consist of an emailed resume to the hiring office.) I will get a resume from someone who clearly does not meet the requirements ( they are still on probation, or they have transferred within the last year, or they don’t have the required experience) and HR’s response is always “Interview her, and we’ll deal with that if you select her”. Because apparently their time is more valuable than mine – or hers.

          1. Aunt Margie at Work*

            So WHAT is their job in the process? If they aren’t going to vet, why…
            I feel your your pain!

            1. doreen*

              Their part in the process is post-selection. Although some of that ( like checking for disciplinary issues that preclude a promotion or transfer) would save me time if it was done prior to the interview process. It saves them time if they only have to do their piece for the selected candidate rather than every applicant.

      3. OP#1*

        OP#1 here. I agree it’s a bit crazy, but our institution is both huge and silo-ed, and as far as I know, there’s no policy preventing us from applying for other positions in any time frame. There’s also a prevailing attitude (which is mostly accurate) that the only way to get a promotion or raise is to move to other offices and departments, so it’s not uncommon to find people moving around every few years, especially at the admin level. But definitely not after just 2 months!

        1. Another person*

          What did she do before this? She might have seen this job as a foot in the door and have been angling for a job more in line with her skill set all along. It’s in poor taste to try to move up so soon though. It’s worth talking to her if it seems clear already the job she has is not the job she wants.

          1. OP#1*

            She’s an experienced exec admin, but her current position requires more reception and general admin work for a few people rather than focusing on one exec, which is a little unusual and may just not be what she wants. That said, the new position is actually quite similar: supporting two different teams on separate floors of the same building. So while it may be true that she’s not in the job she wants, this other position wouldn’t be substantively different in duties. I’m so grateful for all the feedback here on my question!

        2. Blue*

          My institution is generally similar, and staff who leave their positions are often going elsewhere on campus. But your situation is exactly why I’ve been hesitant to apply for other positions on campus – even if no one in my office was on the committee, inevitably they would know someone who was. Before I left my last job (at a different uni), I was upfront about the fact that I was looking, and it bit me in the butt. I’m trying to avoid that this time around…

      4. nnn*

        Inspired by this comment, it occurs to me that if it’s an internal position and an internal employee who does not have enough experience is able to apply for it and get past the initial resume screening, the job posting or prerequisites or job description might not be written as well as they should. be

    2. AnotherAlison*

      To me, it sounds like she may just be naive. She took the job that was available when she hired in, and now something better is available and she wants that. She may not know office norms are to not request a transfer or promotion so quickly.

      I made several department transfers in my 12 years with my current company. Even if your boss isn’t on the search committee, the other department manager will tell them you applied, even if they don’t interview you or offer you the position. It’s best to discuss it with your manager.

  4. Observer*

    #2 You definitely should bring this up. It’s a problem in any case. In addition, I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think I’d want to defend a lawsuit from someone who had problems with her maternity (or other FMLA covered) leave because of coverage issues.

    1. paul*

      I wouldn’t be at all shocked if the place is too small for FMLA to apply. It seems like the sort of thing that happens in smaller businesses.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      How would there be anything legal here? Nobody said she couldn’t take FMLA or maternity leave. Fergus was directing what actions the OP should take while she was still on the clock (spending her time finding people to cover for her). Nothing more than a sub par management decision.

      1. Snowglobe*

        FMLA requires that the employee’s job performance can’t be negatively impacted because they take leave. If they took leave under FMLA and did not successfully arrange coverage before leaving and the manager gave the employee a negative performance review (or other sanctions) because of that – that would likely be a violation of FMLA.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          Well if, but none of that happened and there’s no threats of something bad happening in the letter so the hypothetical is several leaps beyond anything we have here.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            I’m typically all for “please don’t jump to legal conclusions,” but I have to agree with the broad proposition that it’s not wise to make employees jump through hoops when it comes to FMLA. Assuming it applies, of course, it seems implied in the letter that the OP could suffer negative consequences if she’d been unable to provide coverage.

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, that’s what I’m getting at. The boss said “this is your responsibility” and cut her off. The implication is that she needs to do it, and if she doesn’t she’s going to be at fault.

              I could easily see an argument that someone would get dinged for this and that’s a problem. But also an argument that this has the effect of discouraging people from taking legally protected leave.

              Would they win? I have no idea. But would it be a headache? I’m betting yes.

  5. Close Bracket*

    > I don’t know how supportive I would have been

    And now you know why she didn’t come to you.

    1. paul*

      Well, from the letter they really shouldn’t be. She’s angling for a promotion after a whopping two months, during which she hasn’t performed well.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that’s not a thing you can do and expect support from your boss. It’s really an unfair comment; please be constructive in your responses to letter-writers here.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s not fair or kind. I think the LW sounds really considerate and level-headed. She mentions supporting professional development – but just isn’t supportive of an internal promotion for someone being coached due to poor performance. And she wrote to AAM rather than flying off the handle.

    3. Mookie*

      Well, sure, the employee appears to know, as Alison suggests, she’s not performing well where she is. As for the LW, yes, managers rarely support a promotion to a position with duties not commensurate with an applicant’s known abilities, so the subterfuge (if applying for another departmental role is that) will be for naught.

      1. designbot*

        I wonder if the employee actually knows she’s not performing well where she is, or if she might be chalking it up to a bad fit with the boss. If her interpretation is that she’s performing fine and OP just doesn’t like her, then it would make sense for her to try to make a lateral move. Not saying that OP’s evaluation isn’t an accurate one, just that people interpret feedback differently and are generally poor at admitting when they are the problem.

    4. Lora*

      Even if she didn’t feel she could talk to OP, she could have talked to OP’s boss. It’s not nice to do an end-run, but if you’re planning to get out of the job, you might as well end-run. I know my boss doesn’t have time or energy to closely supervise all his direct reports, and sometimes the first time he’s heard of trouble is when someone has done an end-run after other people have already left the department or HR has told him there’s a complaint.

      Larger companies do track how many people leave (whether transfer or quit or got fired by) individual managers. They compare those numbers to other managers in the company and benchmark against the industry. High turnover in a department will trigger an HR investigation into why that happens – maybe it’s salaries not being up to par, maybe it’s a manager’s horrible personality, maybe it’s a lack of management skills, but they will find out and it goes on the metrics that determine your bonus.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Or they just get promoted, as one infamous a-hole my BF worked for did. (and it wasn’t just his assessment, several coworkers left after him because of this guy and they’re all still friends). Yet he still went from director to vp. Go figure

    5. OP#1*

      OP#1 here. Thank you to everyone chiming in that this isn’t a kind or helpful comment, but let me clarify what I mean by “supportive.” Had she come to me before applying, which I think would have been the more professional act, I would not have discouraged her from applying outright (because I’m not a jerk!), but I might have shared what I know about the position — namely, that they’re looking for someone with more experience at our institution, experience she doesn’t have yet. If she still chose to apply knowing that she doesn’t really fit the qualifications, that’s up to her. I would not have, say, put in a good word for her with the hiring authority, which is something I would have done for someone more qualified who had outgrown her current position and was looking for a promotion that I couldn’t provide.

      1. MillersSpring*

        If it was me, I would have told her that when starting a new office job, she needs to commit to staying in it for a year–bloom where you’re planted–because the team is investing time and resources to train her and get her up to speed.

    6. Snark*

      Given that the employee hasn’t been performing as expected in her current position and the new one involves a promotion and additional responsibility, I don’t think that’s a fair or constructive comment. A struggling new employee angling for a promotion after two months doesn’t really merit support even from the kindest, fluffiest boss.

  6. paul*

    #4 (lunch timing issues): It sucks, but yeah, this is the sort of thing you really need to directly ask your boss about. Some places it absolutely is fine, other’s it isn’t. It sounds like you wrote this the day of, so hopefully it worked out.

    I’m in a job were coverage is essential and if people have lunchtime appointments we hash it out amongst ourselves-shift lunches around, make sure we have at least one person at the office, make very sure we’re back on time (we generally are anyway, since this is a job where having people there at set times matters) etc. It’s a bit of work and depends on everyone not being jerks, but it works OK for us.

    1. Admin Girl*

      I planned to forego my appointment, but thankfully, it worked out like magic. A co-worker walked in just in the nick of time!

      I’m wondering if being an admin come with the responsibility of foregoing my breaks? I’m not new to this (10+ years in), but I guess the dynamics here were excellent in the past. When our new boss came on, some of my co-workers stopped using their calendars or giving me a heads-up when they leave. Others don’t show up regularly or sneak out the back. I have access to everyone’s schedule so I usually work around it, but I’m finding it difficult to continue doing so. It’s also never been a real issue until now and I’m afraid it’s becoming a regular thing. I don’t know how to address it with my boss or if it’s something I just need to deal with as part of my admin job. My boss sees this but has a timid demeanor and just chuckles and shrugs his shoulders.

      1. Eve*

        Im wondering why you are having such an issue just having a conversation with coworker’s about needed to leave occasionally at a specific time? Most people are reasonable about this and being an admin does not mean you have to have be silent about it.

        1. paul*

          Yeah, exactly. I can’t really speak for what’s normal for someone whose entire job is administrative assistant/office administrator (we all kind of pitch in and handle bits and pieces, rather than havea dedicated person). But I don’t *think* your role should mean you have to cancel your appointments, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve talked with your coworkers or boss about it and, well, you need to. They’re not going to know, and you’ve mentioned calendar use isn’t the best so who knows if they’ve checked the calendar, even if they’ve put someone up? Email or speak with them the day before/morning of and say “Hey, I have an appointment at X, can I get a commitment from one of you to be here in time for me to leave”.

          If anyone remembers the ask vs guess thing from a week or two (abouts?) ago…this is a pretty perfect example of when asking is definitely the right course of action.

      2. hbc*

        Well, if your boss is timid, that can kind of work in your favor. “When I have an appointment next time, I’ll make sure I’ve got commitment from one coworker to be in the office.” If you think it’s likely that someone will fail to show up, you can give your backup plan of locking the office and leaving.

        Forgoing breaks is not usually an admin responsibility. Taking them at awkward, unusual, or unpredictable times is pretty common, but you shouldn’t need to be chained to your desk for eight hours.

      3. Tyche*

        I think you should address the problem with your boss now, before it becomes a habit. My colleagues and I have a flexible lunch break, but we organize it from week to week so there is always someone at the office, and if there are emergencies we help each other, modifying our plans.

      4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        If this is the new status quo, could you talk to your coworkers and organize schedules when you have appointments? Something like, “Jane and Wakeen, on Tuesday I have an appointment at 1:30. Could one of you come back from lunch at 1:15 so there is coverage?”

        I’d also consider making appointments in the less popular lunch hours (11-12, 1-2), since you will have better odds that the other employees will agree to coverage.

      5. mugsy523*

        Maybe you can also make a habit of having a recurring “out of office” appointment day/time that you can arrange with your team? For example, every Thursday at 1PM-2PM, your team mates know you need to step away from the office. Establish the routine, even if it just means you’re leaving the building to sit on a park bench. That way, you can reasonably expect that when you need to make appointments, you can schedule it at that time.

        You deserve a daily lunch break. You shouldn’t be expected to be stuck at your desk during a presumably un-paid lunch break. That’s not fair, plus, it helps with stress serves as a mental refresher to step away from the desk and work for a brief period daily.

      6. Michelle*

        No, being an admin does not mean you should forego your breaks. I’ve been an admin for 15 +years. I would have a chat with the boss and ask if we could go back to using our calendars so that I get a notification when people are going to be out so I can plan my schedule. I usually try to plan around the manager’s schedule, but when I need to be off/run out for something important, I add it to the calendar, copy my boss and send an email to those who will cover when I need to be out of the office, whether it’s an appointment, vacation, sick time, etc.

        1. another admin*

          Same here. If people not using their calendars (when it was previously the norm to do so) was making my life difficult, I would talk to my boss about it.

          I generally only schedule stuff for my boss, not other employees, so I only have access to a couple of people’s calendars, but we do have a shared “Out of office” calendar that people are expected to use for planned OOO days/times. One of its purposes is so that I know when people won’t be available for a meeting or a demo or a trip.

      7. Smiling*

        Being an admin never means forgoing breaks that are allotted to you. Depending on company culture, it often means having to have a degree of flexibility and patience that surpasses anyone else in the company, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take a lunch break (away from your desk) or go to the loo, or whatever else it is you may need.

        We have a team of 3 admins (of which I am one) who share phone/receptionist duties. We stagger our lunch breaks so that someone is always in the office. Being the senior-most admin I’m usually always wrapped up in something and thus let everyone start lunch before me. Unfortunately that also means that if someone is late starting or coming back, or if one or both of the other admins are out that day, my lunch schedule isn’t what I would want it to be. Plus, when you’re hour past your lunch break and haven’t had anything to eat in 6 hours, you’re getting kind of hungry and cranky.

        In those cases I’ve learned to talk to the boss, asking for a dispensation from the office rule. It’s never not been granted. Plus, if I know I have a can’t miss appointment that day, I have to speak up in advance to make sure I get out in time.

        With your boss, just make sure you are being direct and not timid yourself. Firmly explain how the lack of regularity in your coworkers’ schedules is affecting your ability to take a break and ask him what can be done to make sure you take your lunch breaks on time.

      8. nonymous*

        depending on where/how you are employed, you may be entitled to an unpaid bone-fide meal break after working a certain number of hours. I use the term “bone-fide” to indicate that you are not expected to perform any duties – even the passive one of sitting at your desk – during this time.

        The point being that while flexibility is expected/appreciated in certain situations, the behavior you are proposing – to skip your meal break – may expose your company to DOL violations at the state or federal level. Your manager (with support from HR) should be enforcing company policies that reflect these legal expectations, and if they aren’t actively performing this duty it is in the best interest of the company that you bring this up with them. The vagueness regarding how to coordinate for this appointment is one example that you at least (and possibly others at the company) don’t have a good handle on the company’s meal/break policy. It is very reasonable to ask for clarification.

      9. Stranger than fiction*

        No, this is definitely not an Admin thing. It’s a small office not a lot of managing going on thing. I’m an Admin and if I have an appointment my managers don’t even blink and stay to cover if need be.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, my first step here would be to check with the new boss – something like “Since we have pretty low visitor traffic, Jane used to be okay with me locking up and leaving the desk vacant if I needed to go out for an appointment and there wasn’t anyone around to cover me. Are you okay with me continuing to handle it that way?”

      1. Admin Girl*

        Thank you for your suggestion, I like how it is a short but clear and respectful way of addressing the issue.

        I was worried about coming off as trying to take advantage of my new boss and shirk responsibility. Although admin is part of my official title, my prior boss and job description made it a point that I am to support the managers in limited technical capacity while everyone does their own administrative tasks. It seems silly now that I think of it and read the other comments, but I wanted to be sure whether or not foregoing breaks was an unspoken rule that automatically came with the title. These kinds of unfair expectations were implied in my past admin positions.

        1. LBK*

          That makes sense. I think it’s pretty normal when you have manager turnover to have some direct conversations about what expectations your new boss. If you do it the right way, I don’t think it will come off like you’re trying to take advantage of him – if anything, it can look like a good, proactive conversation about how things should work going forward, understanding that they might change rather than just blindly going forward with how they used to be.

          My one tip would be to have that conversation in a vacuum, so to speak – that is, do it separate of any particular incident, in advance of the next time you need to go out. If you do it as you’re about to run out the door, it can come with a bit of that “Oh, well *Jane* always let me do that, so I thought it was still okay” air that you’re trying to avoid. One of the most annoying things as a new manager is employees who continually fall back on the “Old Manager did it that way” excuse.

    3. Liz2*

      My magic trick is to eat lunch early and almost always at my desk. Not only am I hungry early, but it means when everyone else is out at normal time, they know they can find me and fill in. And for the 5% of the time I do have to be out or just want to take a break, I’ve built up a cache of goodwill and coverage is easy.

  7. Bea*

    When breaks are flexible, that’s when you have to speak up and tell the office “hey guys, I have to be gone at 1:30 today because of an appointment”, kind of like calling dibs on that slot so everyone can work around the gap. You cannot have that quiet “wait and see” kind of mentality or you will be walked all over and never get your breaks in!

  8. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Is it possible that the employee views the other position as a transfer and not a wholly new job searching process? “Hmmm, this position isn’t working out so well, but since I’m already working for the larger company, I’ll try to move into this other role that just opened up.” After all, she landed her current job after her predecessor took a different job at the same company. She has bungled it a bit but you might want to factor it into how you approach her about this. It’s not unheard of to bounce around departments when you’re still new to a company, and she might have misjudged whether it’s something that’s done at your company, based on the person who had her job before her.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I wondered about that, that maybe she is aware it is the same organisation but doesn’t see it in the same way as looking for a new external job, more as finding a better fit within the existing employer’s structure.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I think she doesn’t realize that this would be a promotion. With only two months in a large company, how much can she really know about the different jobs there? And I don’t think it’s all that outrageous that she didn’t realize it’s the same department, especially if it’s not in the same building. She’s only been there two months. I know it took me many months to figure out what each department does, where it is, how it interacts with others, etc. (And even after three years I still need to ask sometimes.)

      My feeling is that she knows this position isn’t working out and wants to try and get out before she’s on a PIP or terminated. And it’s a good thing if she does know it, because it makes the manager’s job easier to manager her out.

      1. Snark*

        But they have to realize that trying to transfer after two months looks awful. Even if you didn’t think it was the same department or building, even if you thought it was just a transfer, doing it without approaching your current boss and so soon after being hired is not playing the game right.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          OP did state outright in her letter that she wouldn’t have been supportive of the job swap. OP has her own reasons for that based on her view of the employee’s work and her knowledge of the status of the job being applied for, but if I was unhappy in my current position, applied for a new one, and had the sense that my current manager wasn’t supportive of my interest in finding a new position within the company, I probably wouldn’t have looped her in.

          1. nonymous*

            that’s fine, but I have never worked at an org where it wasn’t policy for people to sit in their current position for 1 year before transfers can kick in. heck, in my current job it’s a BigDeal (requiring signatures in multiple states) if I get a promotion within 6mos of getting a raise.

    3. Lehigh*

      I agree this could be the case. In addition, if she did happen to know it was in the same department, she might have thought she didn’t need to notify you because she assumed you would see her application. It depends on the set-up of your company, but if I applied to another job in my department I wouldn’t feel I needed to discuss it first with my director…because my application would be going to her.

    4. Not in US*

      I agree with this. Here’s the other thing to think about – just because it’s technically a promotion doesn’t mean she was wrong to apply for it (although she went about it wrong) if it’s not a significant promotion. We had a situation here where someone who had been on contract for a while in several positions that naturally ended at the end of her last contract she took a position to cover a Mat Leave admin role (1 year contract). Honestly, I don’t think she was very good at the job. Circumstances within the department changed and a new contract became available – she moved to the new position that is actually a promotion (still on contract but expected to be hired full time in the next few months) and she’s really good a it. She was just not a great admin assistant – she’s much better in her coordinator role. So sometimes moving to something that is a “promotion” is actually appropriate.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yes, I was also going to raise that — some people are better at “higher-level” work, and it’s a bummer that they have to slog through being bad at an entry-level job to get there.

      2. Snark*

        I think she was wrong to apply for it, because new employees with performance issues are not candidates for promotion or transfer, at least not without some serious conversations with their boss. If this had all been prefaced by “I realize I’m struggling in this role and I would like to discuss taking [other position] with you, because I think I would be better suited to it for reasons X, Y, and Z.”

      3. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Yes – this so much! Its basically a question I’ve wanted to ask in the Fri open threads for a while. How do you ask for a “promotion” when you’re not a rockstar in your current role, but know that you would excel in a role one step up (with very different responsibities/structure)?

        I’m in that position right now. I’m an admin, but I do half admin work and half specialized work. I never wanted to do admin work, but its the only thing I could find graduating into the recesions and I am good at it (I’m just not a rock star at it). I love the specialized work that I do, and I SO BADLY want to be promoted into a role that focuses only on the specialized work, but I feel like I’ll never be considered for it b/c I’m not perfect at the (seen as) easier/lower level of responsibility admin work. Its just really frustrating.

        For this particular situation – applying after two months (without a convo with the OP about fit issues) is probably poor form. However, I do think it would be a huge kindness if the OP gave some thought to the admin/receptionist’s actual strengths and weaknesses, particularly if this other role requires a different skillset than admin/reception work and maybe keep that in mind when having this difficult conversation.

      4. Cercis*

        I do not have the skills to be an admin assistant. It’s been floated to me a couple of times as a way to “get my foot in the door” at a particular employer. But I’ve tried to be an admin in the past and just know that it’s not suited to my temperament, personality and skillset. It’s also below my level of experience and I was pretty sure that I’d end up doing the job for which I should have been hired without the commensurate pay and that I’d end up really resentful. I’ve had a job in the past where I was hired below my skill level and encouraged to take on additional tasks at the higher level and then when that position came available was passed over because they knew they could rely on me to continue to be a team player (and to my shame, I did stick it out for a while even though I felt used).

        In general, though, I stick with “it would not be a good showcase of what I can do and if I were judged by my ability to be an admin you’d never hire or promote me.” Unless people have done the job, they have no idea just how skilled you actually have to be. And since they don’t realize it, most people don’t hire well and then continue to think poorly of admins.

    5. LBK*

      This might be different outside of retail but in my experience the process of a transfer is completely different from applying for an internal role; when I transferred stores I didn’t go through a formal hiring and interview process, I just spoke to my potential new manager at the store I wanted to transfer to, he got in touch with my current manager pretty much just gave a “yup, he’s competent” approval, and then I was transferred. I think it would be pretty hard to confuse the two processes – if you’re submitting an application and being interviewed, you’re not transferring.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        It depends on a lot of contextual information we don’t have, but I think we have to factor in that the employee’s predecessor did something similar and OP apparently doesn’t view that negatively. If you were in a role that didn’t suit you and you knew that the person who held it before you had found a new job within the same company, you might come to the conclusion that it was an acceptable thing to do.

        1. LBK*

          I think that would be a pretty naive assessment of the situation – not all internal job changes are equal, and I don’t see anything to indicate that the predecessor had been doing poorly in the role or that she’d been there for such a short time, which are extremely relevant factors.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            I don’t think it would necessarily be naive, but the whole point of the problem is that this employee isn’t all that clued-in to her job or the company she works for.

            I’m not presenting my thoughts as logical conclusions in 100% of this employee’s actions. I’m saying, “I think it’s reasonable that she might have been having X thought process while applying for the other job.” Not every neutral explanation of someone else’s reasoning is an endorsement of said reasoning.

            1. LBK*

              Right, I get that, and I’m saying that while believable that that would be her thought process, that still wouldn’t really be a defensible line of thinking, which is what I thought your original comment at the top of the thread was trying to argue. Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

              FWIW, I don’t think this is a job-specific thing, either – I think it’s a pretty universal professional standard that you don’t start looking for a new job 2 months in unless things are really going south.

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                And things are going south, to the extent that OP isn’t supportive of this employee making a move that she was supportive of the previous admin making.

                I don’t mean to cast aspersions on OP, but I think she should consider that she hasn’t been hiding her disappointment in this employee all that well. I’m not saying she’s been mean to her, just that the employee can see the writing on the wall and didn’t see the harm in making a desperate move, if she’s going to be let go either way. Why not take a chance and apply for the new job? She’s leaving the admin position anyway.

                1. LBK*

                  It doesn’t sound like the OP is planning to fire her in the next 2 days, so I don’t think things are so bad that she needs to be attempting to conduct secret jobs searches. If it’s so clear that this isn’t going to work out, I think it’s a lot more professional to have a frank conversation about it rather than the awkward one they’re going to have to have now.

  9. MommyMD*

    Applying for another position is not inherently wrong, even if it is with the same employer. I don’t think it should be held against her and she has no obligation to inform anyone.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s kind of tone-deaf in a lot of workplaces and many have policies on this.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Looking for a promotion after 2 months when you’re not preforming well isn’t a great look.

      I’ve applied for a couple of jobs internally at and although, I never went to my boss in advance but as soon as I was invited for an interview I let them know I’d applied before they heard it from anyone else.

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        That is strange to me. As I wrote above, my place requires current manager sign off on internal applications.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I think that might be company or industry specific. It has never been a policy at anyplace I have worked and only one friend (federal law enforcement) has had that policy at her job. Everyone else I know just worries that their boss will find out that they applied before they are ready to tell them

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, my company only requires that you tell your current manager if you make it to the interview stage, not before you can even apply (which makes sense to me, because no need to rock the boat for a job you don’t even have a shot at getting).

          2. Perse's Mom*

            I’m in an insurance-related field. The managers in my company, at least, are notified if an application is submitted internally to another position.

        2. Stop That Goat*

          I worked at one company who required current manager approval to apply for positions regardless of how long you’ve been with the company. It raised an issue with that particular manager who wasn’t a fan of letting go of people. I eventually left the company (for quite a hefty raise and promotion) when she wouldn’t sign off on applying outside the department.

        3. Transferred!*

          Same! I had to ask permission from my manager before applying to the open, internal position. Thankfully he was supportive and I got the job!

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          The letter says:

          I don’t think she’s ready for the promotion and additional responsibilities that would come with the other position

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s an assumption–the person on the search committee is going to have a pretty clear idea of where the job fits in the hierarchy.

              1. fposte*

                I thought MommyMD was saying it was the OP’s assumption, but you’re right it could be read either way.

          2. Snark*

            That’s OP’s – the supervisor’s – direct assessment. Don’t second-guess letter writers.

        2. OP#1*

          OP#1 here. For what it’s worth, the new position is exempt, which is clearly stated in the job posting, while the employee’s current position is non-exempt. At my institution, exempt staff have greater flexibility with their schedules and accrue more leave time, so even if the salary is similar (and it would be), the new position is a promotion in title and benefits. It’s possible that the employee doesn’t understand that distinction and simply saw another position that she’d be better suited for.

      2. Roscoe*

        It’s not clear that she (employee) knew it was a promotion or even in the same department. There are some jobs that, on paper, would seem like its just a lateral move. So I can see feeling like you aren’t doing great at your job, but you like the organization, so maybe I’ll try to see if I can do better at this other thing.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Applying to transfer internally, regardless of whether it’s a promotion, is highly unusual after two months. At the very least, I’d expect an employee who wanted to do that to talk to her manager and give her a heads up — “Hey, I know this isn’t ideal, but I saw a role posted at my level that’s a better fit for my experience and I’d like to be considered.”

    3. Jenny*

      I think you.articulated what bothered me, it comes across as a little punishing and I don’t think that is fair. If she was truly unsuited for the role having the hirer point that out thing, but having her current boss do it comes across as a little more threatening. Whether she is suited to the role she applied for is an issue with that job, not her current one.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        In this case her current boss *is* one of the people hiring for the position, so to me it would seem odd for anyone else to talk to her first.

    4. Nox*

      Yeah, at my company we keep internal applicants confidential so that situations like this don’t occur because oftentimes we have found low performers are low performers because of who they report to vs what they are doing. So we keep it on the DL to fairly give people a chance to demonstrate they can do the job.

      Some of our best supervisors and managers were not great in the lower level roles but found their niche doing other things .

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I really love this mentality! It’s nice to know this exists out there in the world.

      2. AMPG*

        That suggests a fairly big unresolved problem within your company, though. You shouldn’t have so many situations where managers are keeping employees from performing to their potential that you have to develop an official workaround.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I don’t think this necessarily means that there are a bunch of objectively bad managers running around this company. I think it means that they realize that fit – in terms of work styles/approach btwn a manager and subordinate is very delicate situation and one that can be pretty hard to gauge in the interview process. A subordinate might flourish under one manager and flounder under another, but both managers could be objectively good managers.

          If the per centage of new hires that end up needing to be reassigned to meet their full potential is on the large side, then perhaps more thought should be put towards the hiring process. However if Nox is saying that *of the low performers* (not new-hires as a whole) a high per centage go on to do well under a different manager – well I think that’s a great approach.

          Obviously this is coming from the dirty lense of a personal experience – I went through a really stressful situation due to poor fit with a manager.

          1. AMPG*

            Of course, but I’ve been in this exact situation as a manager and having my subordinate reassigned was a mutual and transparent process. It’s only a problem if the manager has too fragile of an ego to accept that they’re a bad fit to supervise a certain person.

    5. fposte*

      I don’t think it should be held against her either, nor do I think she had to inform her current employer that she’s looking. That part of it isn’t a big deal. Nor, really, is the fact that the OP found out.

      Here’s the tricky part: the OP has an employee who’s already struggling somewhat in her job and is quite possibly unhappy. The OP is involved with hiring for a new position for which this employee will quite likely be rejected. The OP then has to work with a struggling employee who probably isn’t going to be any happier for getting turned down by a search committee including the OP.

      In a perfect world you’d step down from the search committee, but those are such a pain to pull together that that’s not realistic. What you absolutely have to do is, as Alison says, have a candid conversation with your employee about how to handle the situation, what your involvement in the search means, and what opportunities you foresee for her if she is looking to move because she’s unhappy. I think it’s fine to say “If you think another job here would be a better fit, I absolutely support you looking for another place and can help you by x, y, and z.” But especially with such huge resentment bait sitting there, it has to be out in the open.

      1. Murphy*

        I don’t think she had to inform her employer that she was looking for another position either, but the fact that it’s within her own department is what’s weird. It would be one thing if the OP found out about it because she was friends with a hiring manager at another organization. But to apply for another job within your own department without talking to anybody about it, especially when you’re so new, is really weird.

        1. fposte*

          We have several jobs where it would be easy not to know they were within the same department; some of them have been over a hundred miles away. I think in a big institution the difference between “office” and “department” can be huge, and you often know the first but not the second.

          1. Murphy*

            We do too, so I get that. I’m taking OP at her word that in this case it’s something that the employee should know.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, here’s how I break it down. I read the OP as saying basically that it’s understandable that she didn’t know but it’s not exactly diligent or sharp of her not to realize it. If so, to me it’s not so much weird as lackluster. If she did know and thought that the OP wouldn’t find out, that speaks even more poorly to her penetration. If she did this knowingly and figured it was easier than telling the OP, that’s straight up mishandling.

              The action is pretty much the same regardless of which, but it might affect how much I wanted her to find another job.

        2. motherofdragons*

          “But to apply for another job within your own department without talking to anybody about it, especially when you’re so new, is really weird.”

          Could you say a little more about why you think it’s weird to apply for an in-department job without first telling your manager? I feel pretty strongly that employees shouldn’t need to (or feel they need to) let their manager know they apply for a new job, regardless of where it is. When an interview is offered, that’s when I think is a good time to give them a heads up. For me, that comes down to confidentiality for the applicant. I expect that when I apply to a job, the only people who need to know and should know are HR and the hiring manager; that’s it. It should be up to me to tell my current manager if I want to, but it shouldn’t be an expectation, nor do I think the Hiring Manager should be able to tell my manager that I applied. Is this a common expectation/practice among managers in the same department, though? I just can’t think of a good reason that Hiring Manager would go to Current Manager and say “Hey, your employee submitted an application for my position.” Is it just an FYI? Is it meant to prompt a conversation with the employee about what’s going wrong? I’m seeing this perspective called “tone deaf” and am having trouble figuring out why.

          (To clarify, I’m not talking about places where notification to your manager is required, like some posters have shared happens in their workplaces.)

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I know the OP doesn’t work here, but my company actually requires you to fill out a “request for transfer” form if you want to apply for another internal position. Part of that form is getting a signature from your current manager, which has pros and cons. It’s definitely better for the company, but it can be good from the candidate’s perspective. . .if you knew you had to tell your boss you were looking to transfer 2 months in, you would either rethink that or realize you had to have some performance / job satisfaction conversations with your manager first.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, like you I can see pros and cons. We don’t require managerial approval for a request for transfer, and I know we’ve gotten good people from other departments we probably wouldn’t have if that was required.

      3. OP#1*

        OP#1 here. This is really helpful, fposte, and you’re exactly right about what’s so tricky here. I don’t hold the fact that she applied to this other job against her (as I said elsewhere, job-hopping at my institution is pretty common) but the fact that she’s already applying after just 2 months means that I need to have a conversation with her to see if she’s unhappy in her position or simply saw another opportunity that was too good to pass up. I really like your script about supporting her to find another position if that’s what she wants.

        1. fposte*

          I mean, the easiest thing for you right now is if she knocks it out of the park and gets the other job, so that’s not hard to support. It doesn’t sound like that’s likely, though, so I think it’ll be easier for both of you to cope if you can get the awkward right out in the open.

        2. Twig*

          Is there a chance that she applied before she got her current job? You say that it’s only been a couple of months.

          (For context, I work at a state university where hiring can move at a fairly slow pace)

          1. Aunt Margie at Work*

            How crazy would that be? Totally plausible possibility. LW should check the application date. All this extra thinking could be moot.

          2. Delta Delta*

            This crossed my mind right away when I read this letter. I wondered if there were a number of positions open and she applied for multiples, but due to timing was hired at the current job before the interview at the second was scheduled.

    6. Snark*

      It’s not inherently wrong, but in context – struggling, new, no conversation with boss – I think it should be held against her. It’s just not a good look.

      1. Stop That Goat*

        OR she realizes that this position isn’t a good fit or she isn’t a fan of her current manager (sorry OP) and is taking steps to change the situation.

        That’s pretty normal.

  10. cncx*

    i realize this might not be the case for OP 1 but being a receptionist and exec assistant are different skill sets from other even front facing or other desk/admin jobs. i know that when i was a senior executive assistant, i struggled (mainly with the “anticipation” and “mind-reading” parts of the job), but now in a more basic admin role where i do department admin rather than manager admin i am thriving. is it really that the other job is based on the same skill set as OP’s current job? What i am trying to say is that sometimes someone can struggle or need coaching in one role and be absolutely fine in a seemingly related role.

  11. ..Kat..*

    Having lunch at your desk in case someone stops in needing assistance doesn’t sound like a lunch break to me. Should this writer be paid for this time?

    1. Aunt Margie at Work*

      Definitely. And as I read her comment that the boss “shrugs and laughs” when she tells him other people are affecting her breaks as well, I thought she needs to talk to him. She needs to say that she is required to take breaks and lunch and if she misses them, she will have to charge. Ask how he wants to approve the overtime going forward or should she just lock up the office and leave? Your choice, supervisor

  12. David St. Hubbins*

    #2 – This would piss me off so much. I would just refuse to play along. Screw your stupid pin and keep your damn bonus!!

    On a totally unrelated note, why am I still at the bottom of the corporate ladder?

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Ha, made me laugh out loud.

      I am VERY fortunate to have a culture match for my absolute zero tolerance for playing stupid games, otherwise I’d be taking your order for fries today. :D

    2. Falling Diphthong*


      I always ponder this when people say that when they are cast on some reality show (like The Amazing Race), they will be unreactive slabs who refused to play along with any of the producer shenanigans meant to create emotional drama. Because that’s what casting directors look for.

        1. Emi.*

          It’s definitely also engineered! I knew a guy in highschool whose family had been on a reality show that got canceled mid-season because the whole cast was too kind and polite to each other.

        2. LBK*

          I watch Big Brother obsessively and I’ve come to realize how much of the drama is concocted purely through the sound. A pretty normal conversation can come off so much more intense when you put tense music behind it and add a little sting after every sentence.

        3. Antilles*

          Quite a bit of it. The producers often like to have a good guy/bad guy narrative, so they’ll edit things into seeming like a much bigger blow-up.
          Imagine you’re eating lunch together and someone knocks over your drink and you’re angry at him. He apologizes a little, buys you a new drink and it blows over in like five minutes. But if they’re trying to create drama, they remove the apology part, splice in a smash cut flashback of two weeks ago when he cursed you out as a joke after you beat him in a video game, toss in a short clip of your video confessional about “man, that Johnny can really get on my nerves sometime”.
          So what the viewer actually sees is him knocking over your drink, then your resulting anger, then him cursing you out, then your confessional about him being irritating…with no time references, so it seems like this has all happened over the course of a day* rather than being two normal human interactions over the course of a month.
          *Interesting side note: Many shows actually are pretty particular on how much you can change your appearance specifically so they can do this – whereas if your hair was drastically different, it would clue the viewers in on the time gap.

          1. Cercis*

            I remember watching a show about editing those shows. This was back when they livestreamed the house (don’t remember which house) so people could actually see what happened and then compare it to the edited version. Apparently there was a situation where one person was describing an argument he had and he quoted the person he was arguing with, using the racist language the person used. It was clear to the folks watching the livestreaming that he was absolutely quoting someone else and that he was extremely offended by the language, and in fact, the language was the reason for the fight. But the editors edited out all the leading conversation and made it sound like it was this person saying these racist things and that it was his opinion. They justified it by saying “well, he DID say those things, maybe he regrets it, but they were his own words, we didn’t put words in his mouth.”

      1. aebhel*

        I really wish more casting directors WOULD look for people like that. Some reality shows just exist for the drama, but some have interesting premises that are utterly ruined by stupid interpersonal shenanigans. One of the things I always really respected about Mythbusters is that the hosts refused to play along with creating artificial drama, and I think the show was much better for it.

        I am probably not the intended audience for most reality TV, though.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I love The Great British Baking Show for all the things that are anathema to most reality TV: No villains. No chance to gain an advantage or to screw someone else over. The drama comes from whether your mirror glaze pours correctly, and I wish other contests I more mildly like (Amazing Race and Top Chef) had the confidence to let everything arise from the challenges and not try to add unneeded globs of screw-your-competition, hate-on-the-villain opportunities.

          1. Nanc*

            Oh how we love GBBO in my house! They are so politely competitive yet never hesitate to help when someone needs an extra set of hands to get the cake on the stand. And the commiseration when one’s tart has the dreaded soggy bottom. We actually have weekly viewing parties . . .

            Erm, bringing this back around to topic: If you want to randomly reward your employees, reward them! If they are screwing up, coach them. Yeesh, who comes up with these ideas?

      2. LBK*

        There’s a guy on this season of Big Brother who’s like that and I find it hilarious. One challenge involved everyone putting their hands in the mouth of a big snake statue and everyone else was giving these dramatic reactions about how scary the snake was, and his confessional was just “Yeah, I saw the snake, I didn’t care.”

          1. LBK*

            I’m out of town and away from internet access this weekend, but I’ll totally be in for that next Saturday :)

    3. Squeeble*

      Ha, yeah, I wonder how mgmt would react if the staff just politely refused to go along with the game. Small bonuses are nice, but the part that would freak me out the most is having my picture taken for the corporate social media. No thank you.

  13. NYC Weez*

    #1: Is there any chance that the employee applied for the position externally, prior to taking the role with your team? I know at our company, hiring moves at a glacial pace–they often keep the listing open for at least a month and then HR has to do an initial screening, so it can be 2-3 months before the candidates get their first contact, especially if a hiring manager has a busy schedule.

    1. kittymommy*

      That’s a good point I hadn’t thought of. If the op hasn’t received the actual application, just verbal notification, she may not be aware of when the application was submitted.

    2. Purplesaurus*

      I wondered that too, but I think OP’s colleague would have said so if it were the case

    3. hermit crab*

      This was my thought as well. Several months after starting at my current company, I got a callback for a position at a different organization that I’d completely forgotten I’d applied to. It’s not like people formally withdraw their candidacy for jobs that they applied to, but never heard back from.

    4. Anonygoose*

      Yeah, this was my thought as well – before I got my current job at a large university, I think I applied for 10-15 jobs here. I still don’t know how these things go behind the scenes in HR, but I was getting standard ‘rejection’ emails for various roles 4-5 months after starting my current role. Things move slooooooooooooowly. Especially in higher Ed, if that’s where the OP works (that was my impression).

    5. OP#1*

      OP#1 here. That could indeed be possible at my institution, but I know for a fact that is not the case for this position. The position was posted three weeks ago, and she applied a little over a week ago. Since I’m on the search committee, I can see the date and time stamps for when applications were submitted.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Oh geez, that just feels wrong unless the description somehow matches her perfectly and she would think it’d be much more suitable. Otherwise it feels like a foot in the door power move type thing to me which could be so bridge burning even if it wasn’t in your current department

  14. Letting Go Shortly After Hire*

    In #1 Alison touches on helping the new hire transition out of a role that’s not a good fit. I hope this isn’t a hijack, but I’m in that position now, except we’re firing the new hire. She’s been here a month and it’s just clearly not a good fit. She could be mediocre with a LOT of coaching but I don’t think she could ever be good. Logically, I think we’re doing the right thing, but the other part of me feels guilty for not giving her more time to improve. It sucks. Has anyone been in this position?

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That seems like a great question for the Open Thread which will go up in a couple of hours!

    2. OP#1*

      OP#1 here. I think deep down this is what I’m actually concerned about. My employee hasn’t been performing well, and I dread having to terminate her before her 6-month probation period ends, but her applying for another position actually opens up the possibility for us to have that difficult conversation sooner and maybe we’re more in agreement than I realized. Still, one month is pretty quick — how long are you willing to work with her for improvement? For me it’s a relief to know I have the six months for coaching or making that hard decision. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    3. CMDRBNA*

      That’s a really tough position to be in, but I think in the interests of doing right by your hire, you should take a hard look at your onboarding and training process. You mentioned below she’s also on a 6-month probationary period – I think a month really is too soon to pull the trigger unless you’ve seen something really egregious.

      Did she start at a particularly busy time? Are the people who are supposed to be training her really training her? I don’t think a month is really long enough to even get a solid grip on a company’s processes, especially if your onboarding/training process isn’t very formal. Are her managers always ‘too busy’ to meet with her?

      Case in point: about 3 years ago I worked for a company that hired for the position that I directly reported to. They hired my new manager about 2 weeks before our massive Annual Convention, so no one had the time to meet with her and we also had zero orientation or onboarding processes. The third week of her employment was our Convention, and our boss fired her the week after because she “wasn’t good fit” because she hadn’t gone to a particular reception at Convention that she likely didn’t know she needed to go to.

      Maybe she ultimately wouldn’t have worked out in that job, but I think that was VERY unfair to her. She was never given any coaching and our manager was the classic “too busy” manager who never met with her employees.

      I just started a new job, and unfortunately I’m in the same position as this poor woman. The organization chose to onboard me a week before their conference. NO ONE has time to show me anything, tasks have been very ad hoc, and I’m really not sure what I’m actually responsible for. I have been doing as much as I can on my own steam, but without any oversight, I can’t make much headway. I’m hoping the organization takes that into account and that things improve, but they pushed for a start date before their convention knowing they’d be bringing on a new hire at their busiest time.

      I personally think you should take a clear-eyed look at your training and onboarding process, make your expectations crystal clear, and give her a clear timeline to accomplish those tasks. And if you have any of those “too busy to manage” managers, try to address that issue.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s actually kinder to do it now, when she can leave the one-month position off her resume, than in six months, when it will be much harder for her to do that. If you know she’s not what you need in the rule, do her the service of letting her know now.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        I hadn’t thought about the resume angle that way – I can definitely see why that would be better!

        Do you think companies that do this have any sort of obligation to their hire (I’m talking hires who weren’t the right fit, not someone who did something egregious or misrepresented themselves or similar)? I guess I am looking at it through the filter of it having happened to someone I knew. I personally think that knowing what a good fit for the company would be AND being able to effectively communicate that to candidates/screen candidates who are good fits is the responsibility of the company.

        My point is that if the OP knows the candidate isn’t a good fit (and it sounds like the candidate knows it too), that’s one thing, but I do think that anyone reading this who is in a similar position as the OP should take a look at their companies’ policies and see if that’s setting up new hires for success or failure. We kept seeing a common thread at my last organization that you were expected to sink or swim, so we saw a lot of people flame out quickly because they never got training or the oversight they needed during those first few weeks/months on the job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Obligation to the person who was just the wrong hire: Severance. But more broadly, yeah, I think whenever a hire goes wrong, you want to reflect on why and if there were things you could have done differently in the process.

  15. Murphy*

    #3 Yeah, that doesn’t sound right at all…I recently returned from maternity leave. I gave my boss a list of tasks that would need to be covered in my absence. I gave him some suggestions for who would be good at covering for it when he asked. But on the whole, we discussed it at our next team meeting, and two managers assigned people tasks. I was responsible for bringing them up to speed, which is reasonable, but not for getting them to agree to do my work in the first place.

    1. HisGirlFriday*

      This was how it worked during my mat leave last year. I identified a list of tasks that needed to be done, suggested someone who could do them, my boss and I worked through who would do what, and then I trained people to do things while I was gone.

  16. Murphy*

    #4 If the office is in danger of being left empty, there definitely needs to be some coordination around lunches in your office. And not just when you have an appointment, but on a day to day basis.

  17. Roscoe*

    #2 is one of those that seems just like harmless fun. It’s basically a raffle, but you have to be wearing a certain thing to win. Even the “frown” pictures don’t seem like that big of a deal. That said, if you really don’t like it, I don’t see a problem with you (or others) saying you want to be taken out of it. That way you’ll never have to wear the pin, and never have to have the frowny pictures taken. Of course this also means you aren’t eligible for the prize, but if you dislike it that much, you should be willing to give up that eligibility.

  18. LiveAndLetDie*

    Re: #1, I’ve had this happen to me a few times — I supervise the entry-level part-timers at my company, and we have a strong “hire from within” ethic. I’ve had part-timers apply for open positions higher up in the organization before their 90-day review before! The majority of the time, it’s someone seeing a higher pay rate on the listing and leaping at the bigger paycheck without considering that they had yet to prove themselves in their own role, but there have been one or two times that someone with applicable experience just happened to come in a few weeks before a role they were exceptionally well-suited for opened up. OP, if the role fits the employee more than the one they’re currently in, I would encourage them to take it. From your letter it sounds like this is not the case, so you may need to have a conversation with the employee about fit in the role they’re currently in, because they’re not likely to get the position they’ve applied for. I wish you luck!

    #2 sounds mortifying and pointless. Also, pins can damage clothing. I would be annoyed by the mere notion of being forced to wear one.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      #2 sounds mortifying and pointless. Also, pins can damage clothing. I would be annoyed by the mere notion of being forced to wear one.

      They’re wearing uniforms. It’s still mortifying and pointless, but at least it’s not damaging their personal clothing.

      1. OP #2*

        OP # 2

        The “uniforms” vary. For example, I wear personal business attire, but some employees where a provided uniform.

  19. AMT*

    Somewhat off-topic, but we’ve had a bunch of letters lately that either have replies from the LW in the comments, or that are interesting enough that we’re all hoping for replies. Can we come up with a unique word for LWs to include in their comments? “LW” and “OP” are used in so many words, and people often use them to refer to the LW in their own comments. Could we make an informal rule that if you’re the OP, you have to put an unusual word like “pyroclastic” or “argle-bargle” in your comment so we can Ctrl-F it easily?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’m guessing that there’s no easy way for Alison to do that, since folks don’t register for the site. Besides, it would be easier to do a Ctrl-F to find the LW!

        (I co-sign this request! I know Alison has said before that she’s worried that making these kinds of requests of LW would turn them off; I’d love to try it and see if it has any kind of effect. Not everyone will do it, but it would be great if more did! Just asking them to use “Letter Writer” as a part of their username on that post would be hugely helpful.)

        1. Bostonian*

          I think you’re right. If I remember correctly, Alison has mentioned that this would be too time-consuming to patrol herself, and would be too discouraging/dictatorial to make rules for OPs who comment on their letters.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no way for me to have OPs’ replies show up in a different color (but I agree it would be great if there were).

      Most people aren’t comment-section people (which it’s easy to forget when you are a commenter), so it’s already a big ask when I ask people to engage in the comment section. I don’t want to add another barrier to them doing it by giving them instructions to follow about how to do it; I think it will feel either fussy or onerous to a lot of people.

      1. league*

        One thing that would be great is if you, Alison, could make a note at the bottom of a post when an OP has replied, and include the name they’re posting under. I know this would be additional work for you, so not sure if it’s an option, but I would love it!

      2. tigerStripes*

        Sometimes the OP might appreciate being easy to find so that people can see what they have to say. It can be difficult finding what the OP says when there’s a lot of posts.

        One thing though, we’d want to not use the OP’s posting name much, so we could find the actual OP.

        Maybe a suggestion “If you’re the OP, and you want to comment on your letter, and you want to be easier to find, comment with a Name of “Actual OP” or “Actual OP 1, etc.”

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      “OP” is used in a lot of words, but I don’t think that “LW” is? Anyway, you can search on “LW ” or ” LW” (notice the space) also.

      1. AMT*

        “Always” is a pretty common word, and searching “LW” with a space tends to turn op comments referring to the LW, not the LW’s comments. If they just put “LW” in the name box, searching it with a space before or after won’t find their comment. Try it with your own username.

        1. Typhon Worker Bee*

          Hitting CTRL-F on most browsers should give you a Search for Whole Words Only (or similar) option. So you can search for LW using Whole Words and find only instances of LW, not things like “always”.

        2. Emi.*

          The always/LW is why I have a . in my name (especially since one of the first posts I commented on was about menstrual euphEMIsms).

  20. Promotion but no base raise*

    First time commenter so not sure if this is on topic for this post…

    I got a promotion (XX to Sr XX). With this new promotion, I got 30% of my salary in RSUs and a good bonus. But my base salary didn’t change. So no base raise at all. This is after previous year of 2.8% raise.

    My manager said they looked at the market and I’m in range, and in half in the upper half of the range. I do not doubt this. I also came into this role with a higher salary than for my title.

    I got a really good review – I was rated a 1 out of 3 in Potential and a high 2 out of 4 in Performance. And according to company comp guidelines on the intranet, this combination can get a 0% to 4% raise. For context, I’m at a big tech company that is doing well, but not like a Google or a Facebook.

    I told my manager I’m very excited about the new opportunity, I’d like to digest the information, and we’ll tak again in a week when he gets back from conference.

    So my question – what is the best way to negotiate this raise, and what is the phrasing that is helpful? I have an excellent relationship with my manager and I like my job a lot, and I am excited about my future at this company. I am dissapointed I got no raise despite a promotion and a very strong rating.
    Sent from my iPhone

    1. LBK*

      This is a little off topic for this post but if you can wait another 45 minutes or so, the weekly work open thread should be up and you can ask your question there.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      Yes, as LBK says – Fridays have an Open Thread that’s posted (at some point, usually relatively early) for Work related questions.

      If you’ve emailed Alison about the specific question already, she prefers it not be repeated in an Open Thread, but if you just want an opinion from your fellow commenters about it, the Friday Open Thread is where it belongs for maximum response.

      (And Saturdays has the Open Thread for non-work stuff.)

  21. Dr. Ruthless*

    Smiley Face pin reminds me of the worst-conceived promotion they ever did at my job, which was a retail lingerie store.

    The company wanted us to open credit cards, and this was one of the most important metrics for employees. They had a promotion one day where management put a few dollars into a kitty, and for every credit card anyone opened, an additional dollar would be added. At the end of the day, each card you’d opened would get you a raffle ticket, and the winner of the drawing would get the pot of money (which wound up being, I don’t know…$20-40?)

    So far so good. The problem was that they had a literal stack of one dollar bills, and whoever had opened a credit card most recently WORE them pinned to her blazer. Of course, customers ask why you’re wearing money, and you can’t tell them (we’re trying to convince y’all to open high-interest credit cards. Can I interest you in one?). When I was wearing it, someone asked me, and I told them it was my birthday (wearing money on your birthday was an inexplicable local tradition). They wished me happy birthday and moved on. Of course, when that same person spotted me later, I was no longer wearing this stack of cash–someone else was. The customer asked me about it and I said it was her birthday, too.

    1. Bostonian*

      Nobody thought it might be a bad idea for employees at a lingerie store to WEAR dollar bills? Oh my! Sounds like you handled it the best you could!

  22. Roscoe*

    One thing that keeps me coming back to this board is the differences of opinion I see that I would never expect. Like it would never occur to me how bad people would take things like #2. I can see everyone not loving it, but I couldn’t possibly forsee taking the time to write in about it, and also how many people have such strong reactions. As someone who is the de-facto social chair at my company, it definitely opens my eyes to how different people may receive what many others would consider harmless fun.

    1. LBK*

      I actually kind of agree on this. At worst it sounds like something dumb but meant to be in good fun – I’m a little surprised at just how seriously some of the reactions are. I’m not huge on these kinds of workplace games either but it seems harmless, especially when to “win” all you have to do is put on a pin. A lot less egregious than if they were forcing you to…I dunno, do impromptu karaoke or something.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        I don’t think it’s outrageous, but if I worked there I think I would be annoyed by the shamey photo part of it. If only because it seems illogical–if the idea is to improve office morale, what purpose is served by embarrassing people for not wearing a pin?

        1. LBK*

          I don’t think it’s meant to be like the shackles, putting you up in front of the whole village to be shamed and have tomatoes thrown at you. I’d imagine it’s meant to be more of a goofy, hammy “aw shucks, I got caught without my pin!” photo. It’s only as serious as you take it.

          1. oranges & lemons*

            Yeah, I realize it’s a pretty petty thing to get bugged by in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately how most people respond to it probably depends on how they feel about the company culture in general. It just feels like a bit of a ham-handed attempt to generate office camaraderie so it makes me wonder if they might not be great at this stuff in general.

        1. LBK*

          I dunno, to me it feels like there must be better things to spend your energy getting mad about.

      1. Fleeb*

        I initially thought pictures were being posted to a public company page, hence my initial outrage. A private page is completely different (not outrage worthy), but the practice still seems somewhat infantilizing.

    2. AMPG*

      I think the ability to opt-out is a huge part of how strong a reaction is. I think there are plenty of people who are always up for some dumb fun, and even more people who aren’t interested but have no problem with whatever is cooked up as long as they don’t feel like they have to be a part of it if they don’t want to. Then there are some people who will be angry that it’s even an option, but there’s nothing really to be done about those people – it’s just not a great cultural fit for them. But you can move a LOT of people from category #2 into category #3 by making an event or activity actually or apparently mandatory.

      1. LBK*

        I agree for things that are more of an imposition, but the “opting in” in this case is something so simple that I don’t see why you wouldn’t just wear the pin, other than some principled stand about not wanting to participate in mandatory fun.

        1. Nanani*

          But it’s NOT opting in, is the whole point. People who don’t participate get shamed, and the random nature of the drawings just adds this icky feeling to the whole thing.

          1. LBK*

            I still don’t see what’s so hard about just wearing a pin. If you don’t want to get shamed…just put on the pin.

            There are a great many embarrassing things companies have forced employees to do in the name of “fun”. This doesn’t strike me as one of them.

            1. MyFakeNameIsLaura*

              The point is that maybe there shouldn’t be shaming in the workplace by leadership and management for any reason? You’re basically saying shame is an acceptable motivator in the workplace (for morale, money, etc) and other people disagree.

    3. Kate*

      I agree. I find it really interesting to see the kinds of things people really dislike in these threads. Like, I actually really enjoy going out to eat with colleagues on business trips because I get to know them better, but at least a few people have written in trying to get out of that, so I guess not everyone feels that way. With this one though, I’m a lot more outraged that not everyone is eligible. I’d be really peeved if my colleagues were getting bonuses just for wearing a stupid pin, and I was missing out because I don’t work when the names are drawn. But then, I’m very monetarily motivated, so I’d be like Brian and his 37 pieces of flair if it put more money in my bank account.

    4. Jaguar*

      I hate it when my employer tries to be my mandatory friend and do “friend” stuff (so, wearing pins or company potlucks or after-work sports team or weekend adventures or whatever). I just suck it up, but it’s also something that I look forward to not having to do when I no longer work there, and the weight of each contributes to the negatives about a job. When the negatives outweigh the positives, I start actively looking.

    5. Toph*

      The reason I don’t see it as harmless (and I definitely don’t see it as fun) is there’s no way to opt out. If it is truly just a silly game, not a real, sincere work thing, then if you didn’t want to play you’d just not wear the pin and not be able to win. But since there’s a loser’s photo op, it implies even if you just don’t want to bother, you’re still in it. Then you called out for not participating. It’s inherent to the rules. If there were some sort of sign-up, and then it only applied to people who said they were playing, then the loser photo-op is harmless because people knew they were playing and it means they got caught out and didn’t win (but were in theory trying to win). So it’s more of an “oops” thing. If you don’t do it because you don’t want to but they’re still going to force your photo on the web, that’s a one-way ticket to nopesville for me.

    6. OP #2*

      OP # 2

      It was actually a difficult decision to write in. I was a little surprised myself to receive Alison’s response. However, it has been vindicating to see that other people view the promotion strange and not really beneficial. My purpose in writing in was two-fold. One to try and understand the reasoning behind the promotion and if I was overreacting. Alison’s viewpoint puts it into a better perspective as a “game” rather than in incentive. Secondly, I was really unsure how to approach the subject with my manager tactfully. Alison’s advice on that seems reasonable, so I think I will approach it as she recommended.

      Honestly, I can live with the promotion. I’m not sure how it would go over if I politely decline to have my picture taken (I’m sure it would raise some eyebrows) but, I don’t think it would hurt me professionally if I address it the way Alison suggested.

      It certainly is interesting to see how other people see it, and getting differing opinions on this particular situation has helped me better understand it, and how to view similar situations in the future.

      1. Anti-Shame Crusader*

        I don’t think you’re overreacting at all. I’ve had to shut down “shame as a motivational tactic” in places I worked before, and I think it’s interesting how many of the comments boil down to either:
        1. I would be humiliated by this.
        2. This isn’t a big deal. You shouldn’t feel humiliated.
        Generally, telling other people how to feel about something is ineffective (at best). Certainly, not everyone has a problem with it, but whenever an employer is considering mandatory policies, they should pay attention to all individuals, not just the majority opinion. Otherwise there are a lot of troubling implications for harassment and discrimination. It would be wonderful if some of the people posting about how this isn’t a big deal would take others at face value when they say it makes them uncomfortable. The dynamic of “it doesn’t bother me, therefore it shouldn’t bother you” is exactly the same thinking that leads to hostile work environments, and worse.

  23. MissDisplaced*

    My employer runs a weird promotion:
    I simply don’t get this at all, unless the original smiley pins actually MEANT something (like customer service, helping people, etc.) or is part of the corporate logo/image or something.
    And it’s simply terrible to tie this do a cash bonus and shame others for not wearing their “flair.”

  24. OP #3*

    Thank you very much for answering my question! Your response is a helpful reality check, and it has been so interesting reading the other commenter’s experiences as well. (FWIW, I’m also in publishing.)

    I believe that if I had not been able to find coverage, my manager would have done it reluctantly and it would would have reflected poorly on me. Fortunately, my coworkers ably handled everything while I was out, but I am not sure who would have been held responsible if they hadn’t. (I am an individual contributor.)

    In our annual review process, a subset of reports are asked to provide feedback for their managers, so that’s what I’m being asked for now.

  25. nonymous*

    re: #4, is there a community in/out whiteboard? I’ve worked in a place where we needed to have 24hr coverage, even during breaks and if we faced a scenario such as OP the logistics would be as simple as noting that she is leaving promptly at X time right when her shift starts (or even as she leaves the previous day). Then it’s the responsibility of anyone who indicates their lunch breaks after her that *their* meal period doesn’t leave the floor uncovered. As long as this isn’t abused (Fergis always takes a 1hr lunch break just as urgent reports come in!) it’s a good system that balances business needs and flexibility.

  26. Willow Sunstar*

    #2 reminds me of the Office Space movie where she has to wear all the flair pins.

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