employee insists on leaving at 5 on the dot every day, interviewing with braces, and more

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

1. My employee insists at leaving at 5 on the dot every day — and is missing deadlines

I manage a large team with a heavy workload. Most of the team members are hard working, dedicated, and open to putting in late hours (when needed) to compete tasks.

There is however one employee who leaves at 5 p.m. on the dot regardless of whether or not the job is competed. The entire team is on salary, so it’s not about the hours but about the work.

I constantly hear “I’m so busy,” yet the employee never stays late to catch up or complete the work. I’m constantly pushing back deadlines because the work doesn’t get done. I look up at 5 p.m. and she’s gone. When asked why projects aren’t completed, the reply is “I had a lot to do.” This is true but sometimes I wish I could just tell her to put in a few more hours to catch up and get the work done.

You can tell her that! If these are salaried, exempt jobs, then it’s reasonable and normal that sometimes she might need to put in a bit more work to get things done. If that were happening all the time, I’d tell you that you needed to revisit your expectations and people’s workloads. But if it’s just occasional, this is a reasonable thing to expect.

If she’s behind on her work, you absolutely can say something like, “You’ve been missing a lot of deadlines and that can’t continue. That may mean that you sometimes need to work a little longer to ensure your work gets finished. This isn’t a job where you can expect to always work precisely 40 hours. The expectation is that you’ll put in extra time if it’s needed.”

If she reacts as if you’re telling her that she’ll never have an evening free again, then say, “I don’t expect you to work late every evening, but right now you’re working exactly 9-5 every day, and that’s not working because you’re missing deadlines. I need you to put in the time that it takes to get work done without missing deadlines. If you do that and it turns out that the time required is excessive, we can certainly revisit your workload at that point — but that’s not where we are now.”

And you don’t have to push back deadlines the way you’ve been doing — if they’re important, you can hold firm and say, “This does need to be turned in by tomorrow.” And you probably need to address it as a performance problem if deadlines are still missed.

2. Rewarding admin staff with a lecture on “the meaning of gold”

I’m in the second month as manager of a well-established law firm. There are nine staff members and about the same number of attorneys. I am starting to plan the annual Administrative Assistant’s Day observance. For the past several years, the firm hosts all the administrative staff to a nice lunch at the local country club, followed by a lecture on a topic by one of the two senior partners. Previous themes have been “The Meaning of Gold,” “Passion for Excellence, ” and “Let Growth Be Your Promoter.” I’m sure it’s lovely (I’m not actually sure), but come on, who wants to hear their boss give a lecture? I have established good rapport at this point, but hesitate to suggest that the partners (who plan the presentation) take a more lighthearted approach to the celebration. I have some alternative in mind, like bring in a comedian, or watch a funny video, or almost anything else. What do you think?

That sounds kind of horrible! Very few people want to spend their lunch hour listening to their boss lecture them about “passion for excellence” or any of these other pseudo-motivational topics. This is like saying, “Happy birthday! We’ve signed you up for a presentation on timeshares.”

So yes, say something! Before you do, it could be worth getting input from the admins who are allegedly being celebrated, to find out what they’d most like. Maybe they’d love to just do the lunch, with no entertainment at all. Maybe they’d love the comedian suggestion (although it can be tricky to keep that work-appropriate). Maybe they’d prefer something else entirely, like a small bonus or the afternoon off!

(I actually think the holiday is patronizing and should be ended, but the admins and/or partners in your office may not agree.)

3. Am I abusing a vendor’s free offerings?

I work in a marketing role and there is a company that provides marketing-related software that also publishes a great deal of helpful information and tools on their blog, all of which is publicly available for free on their website. I like this company very much and, in a perfect world, would absolutely love to get my company to purchase their software. Unfortunately, their product is too expensive for my small company, the technology is more robust than we really need, and it just wouldn’t fit into our current software environment very well. I know all of this for a fact because I’ve had “test the waters” internal conversations.

I initially entertained a couple of sales calls with the company, because they very enthusiastically reached out after seeing how much I read their blog. To be honest, I felt a bit obligated because of how much I was reading and downloading their stuff. After listening to their pitch, I told them politely – on multiple occasions – why my company isn’t a good fit for their product, but that I really appreciate their content and tools. Unfortunately, they keep contacting me over and over and over again, via email, phone, social media, and any other way they can find to track me down. We’re talking a period of about five years here.

Am I committing some breach of etiquette by continuing to use their free resources, even though I know there’s likely no way my company will ever buy from them? I just got a promotional email from them with an offer to download a free e-book that would be really helpful in my work, but I don’t want to do it because I know it will spawn another round of emails, calls, etc. But I’m starting to wonder if the problem is actually me, not them. Have I been taking advantage of them?

No! They’re making this stuff available for free, and there’s no “but you have to buy from us at some point” clause in there. They know that not everyone who use their resources will become a customer, and they’re okay with that. This is a very normal model for them to use; by providing useful things for free, they know that they’ll draw in some portion of users who do end up buying, but they don’t expect that portion to be 100%. And they’re not giving away things that they secretly expect money for. (For example, I offer a free guide to preparing for a job interview, and I hope that some portion of people who read it will like it enough that that they’ll go on to buy my job-searching e-book, but the idea was never that all of them would!)

Frankly, the problem is a little on their side, in that they don’t seem to have good systems for tracking the fact that they’ve already talked to you and that you’ve turned them down multiple times. It would be fine for you to be very direct the next time they contact you and say something like, “I love your resources, but can you mark my company as not a prospect? If I ever move to a different company, I may reach out but for now my answer will always be no.”

4. Interviewing with braces

In your opinion, do interviewers judge people with adult braces? I am looking for a new job and I am about to get braces, which I have wanted ever since I was younger, I never got them as a child! I’m just nervous about how I’ll come across in an interview with a full set of braces on my teeth. I’m 24, by the way.

Don’t worry about the braces! Interviewers will notice them, yes, but that’s different than judging you for them. They’re going to understand that sometimes people do get braces when they’re older, and they’re not likely to think that you’re secretly 16 or anything like that. The only real conclusion they’ll draw is that you’re … taking care of your teeth. Which is not a bad thing.

5. Are post-interview thank-you notes going out of style?

My colleagues and I are currently searching for full-time, paid interns. These candidates are all junior/senior undergrads or recent graduates from undergrad. We’ve conducted five phone interviews and two follow up in-person interviews. Days pass, and whether from the phone interview or in-person, we haven’t received a single thank-you email. My colleagues and I are wondering if there’s a new norm when it comes to this form of following up?

No, post-interview thank-you’s are still very much a thing. But it’s never been the case that 100% of candidates send them — in my experience, it’s closer to 50-60% of candidates who send them. And in your case, you’re dealing with people who are brand new to job-searching, who are more likely to be unfamiliar with non-intuitive conventions like this one.

To be clear, thank-you notes can help a candidate when they’re especially well done (and therefore candidates who want to maximize their chances should send them), but they’ve never been obligatory. A good one can help, but the absence of one shouldn’t hurt, unless you’re in a field where they’re especially important, like fundraising, or if you already had concerns about the person’s interest level. (Unfortunately, most thank-you notes read like perfunctory form letters, which means they don’t end up being helpful in the way the sender intended.)


{ 656 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I would be seething if I were “treated” to a lunch where I then had to listen to a lecture on “the meaning of gold.” I agree that you should check with the admins, but they may also be hesitant to tell you what they’d prefer for fear of offending the senior partners. And do the senior partners really enjoy giving the presentations? Could they be forced to give them to the attorneys, instead?

    Give the admins almost anything of value (as Alison noted, a day off, a bonus) other than a lecture.

    1. Artemesia*

      I would think a very nice lunch in which they got a chance to socialize and socialize also with the bosses would be appropriate. That is what we always did. (and hope you don’t have narcissistic bosses who take the occasion to monologue about their European travel or beach houses — it happens). The lectures sound appalling. But entertainment actually sounds sort of appalling too. Just take them out for lunch and let them enjoy it.

          1. Wintermute*

            There are people that do it and do it well (Don McMillan comes to mind with his “life after death by powerpoint” and other corporate-themed humor), but you’re right, most comedy is just too taste-based and potentially sensitive to be a safe bet in the workplace.

            I think that the sole acceptable exception is humor that will be shared by everyone there because it’s rooted in what you all DO, that’s why the example I mentioned works well because it deals with powerpoint decks, especially bad ones, which is something every office worker has encountered. Bits about employee ID badges, the stress of having executives visit the office, etc. — there are common touchpoints to the office experience. The problem lies in the fact that even then humor is subjective and not everyone agrees with where the line of acceptability is when it comes to blue humor.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          I’m totally picturing that Simpsons episode where Homer does “comedy” for Mr Burns’ birthday and how horrible it is.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I attended a Secretary’s Day event at a large multinational company and the main event was a team of improvisation performers who did short office-based scenes*. I still remember that, although I have forgotten all the years of presentations from the other times.

            *A sketch about a Secretary calling a superhero to deliver Boss’s forgotten briefcase and a song made up on the spot about office equipment, for which I contributed paperclip.

            1. Katniss*

              I once attended an AmeriCorps training that hired a comedian/motivational speaker who at one point insisted the “ladies” wanted to see him take his pants off, then made as if to do so, going so far as to take off his belt.

                1. Katniss*

                  He apparently still makes the circuit as Mister Chocolate/Homeboy Goes to Harvard. I’m sure his actual life story is very inspiring but the way he talked about women was really gross back then. Maybe he’s cut that out since: this was almost a decade ago.

                2. Nonnon*

                  Between his stage names and his ‘performance’, part of me is wondering if they accidentally hired a male stripper or something…

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, I’d be seething too. It’s actually insulting, and so disrespectful, whole pretending to be nice. So they have to pretend to be appreciative of being insulted.

            It’s basically a time share bait and switch, with a giant dollop of sexist paternalistic belittling. Here’s a free lunch as thanks for all you do! But you have to pay far more than that lunch was worth by having to listen to us drone on (even more than usual) about how smart we are and how dumb and childlike you are. (Because we’re lawyers, and likely male; and you’re little girls who aren’t very smart or you’d be lawyers too. Here’s advice on how to work harder and invest in highly dubious ways!)


          2. Dust Bunny*

            No joke. Or I would suddenly have a project that could not wait and would need to work through lunch.

        2. Julia the Survivor*

          About 2 years ago I discovered a comedian I love on Netflix and watched his specials all the time. I still do, now I have some DVDs also.
          Netflix started notifying me every time they got a new comedy special.
          Most of those are horrible! I don’t know why people laugh when an angry man gets on stage and uses foul language, or when someone gets on stage and says very graphic, disgusting things about sex and/or body functions. Not to mention the ones who tell horrifying stories about very sad things.
          Even if you get a comedian who is actually funny and not icky, there’s a big variation in comedy tastes and it may not be possible to find one that pleases everyone. I would be very careful with this.

          1. Chalupa Batman*

            I have no issue with bad language or the occasional dirty joke in the right context, but I much prefer “clean” comedians for just this reason. If I know half the room is squirming, it takes the fun out of it. Comedy is so subjective that I wouldn’t even try to make it work in the workplace.

            1. Wintermute*

              To be fair, if it’s a comedy show in a big venue, people know what they’re getting when they pay the ticket price, or they kinda deserve what they get. So I enjoy some rather blue comedians but it’s their own comedy special, filmed in an upscale theater in London (as one example) everyone there is there FOR THEM, you know what you’re in for when you put down the not-insignificant ticket price. Everyone is in on the joke and you know the level of humor you should expect.

              That’s why office humor is so hard because, frankly, clean humor is rarely consistently funny to many adults, so either the comedian is trying to tiptoe up to the line without going over, and inevitably someone’s a puritan and gets offended, or they DO cross the line and a LOT of people get offended.

              I think the sole exception is office-based humor that stays rigorously clean, but is still “funny enough” to be entertaining because it draws on the shared office experience, even then, why bother with something that you’re not sure is going to land properly. You know what ALWAYS gets a huge reaction? Time off. Or money, money never fails to stick the delivery.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I’m an executive assistant and all I want is to be left alone on this stupid fake holiday. If they MUST do something, then they should do what my sister does (she lets her EA take a day off of her choosing without having to use vacation day).

    2. neverjaunty*

      “I think the associates would benefit a lot from these” is wise as long as you can be sure the associate attorneys will never find out whose idea it is.

      The type of partner who enjoys giving these lectures will have NO chill at any suggestion that he do something else, or that people are not listening in rapt appreciation. Proposing alternatives is a career-ending move. However, trying to spread the pain to the attorneys is a great tactic.

      (I mean, if by this point in their careers they can’t feign thoughtful attentiveness while listening to a pompous windbag enjoy the sound of his own voice, it’s high time they learned.)

      1. Kalamyne*

        Yeah. No doubt it’s awful, but I’d be wary of disrupting the office culture. People who think admins want to hear them talk aren’t known for being reflective.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, this seems like a bullet the lawyers should take for the staff. Admin don’t get paid enough for that.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yes! Admins to OP: “If you really want to show us appreciation, you can do it by not making us listen to this crap.”

      3. Specialk9*

        Ooh good idea. So turn it into a general lunch-and-learn rather than making being lectured at part of a reward.

        We actually do some great lunch-and-learns. Our women in leadership group does financial planning workshops that are great. Often senior managers will have a younger SME give a lunch-and-learn and chime in on questions as needed, which gives people a chance to present and establish expertise without being hung out to dry.

        Although… I suspect people so tone deaf are not likely to do a lunch-and-learn right either.

        1. AKchic*

          Generally, when you have one pontificating blowhard who insists upon the self-congratulatory verbal masturbation, it is more of a feed-and-take-heed, rather than a lunch-and-learn.

      4. RNL*

        LOLLLL. I’m an associate lawyer at a (much bigger). Making the associates go may help end these awful-sounding lectures sooner. I certainly have my avenues to make things happen, but I’m not sure even I, at my most manipulative self, could stop our managing partner from speechifying (which he does quite often, but not in quite so awful a manner as this).

    3. Where's my coffee?*

      My boss once told me to take the afternoon off and go get a pedicure, which she paid for. It was 20 years ago, but I still remember how happy it made my broke tired self.

      1. Specialk9*

        I would hate that. I don’t like people touching my feet. But I’m guessing you had talked about pedicures before, which makes that a super thoughtful gift from her.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I love this.

        Exjob gave us Visa gift cards, which I appreciated. They paid us pretty well anyway and we had fairly generous PTO for this area. I was able to get a Kindle on sale with mine. I’m always down for free shopping, or splurging on a massage.

    4. LS*

      Unfortunately, a lot of people react very badly to the idea that a bonus would be better or more appreciated than gifts or an event, even if it would be preferred by everyone who is being given the “appreciation”. I suspect you’re going to be stuck with the lunch but hopefully not the lecture.

      1. CTT*

        We have a staff appreciation lunch at the firm where I used to work, and the lunch itself was lovely, but there was a tradition where all the attorneys would line up and applaud the staff as they walked into the venue. When I was a paralegal, I found it at best condescending and at worst terrifying (like, it’s really startling to come out of an elevator and be met with 50 people applauding). I made some noises about how strange it was, but apparently the older staff really loved it and did not want to see it go, so it stayed.

        tl;dr, you can never make everyone happy and people have really varying ideas on how they want to be appreciated.

      2. Julia the Survivor*

        In my office they send us beautiful flowers, a very nice gesture which we all appreciate. I think they also try to schedule a lunch but that doesn’t always happen because mgrs are so busy. I’d be happy with just the flowers.

        When I was temping in the 90’s and under the impression regular office workers and middle managers made a lot more money than I, I would admire some beautiful knicknack on a colleague’s desk and she would say, “yes they gave us this as a gift… I’d rather have the money.”

    5. Magenta Sky*

      Makes me think of the “free” lunch that people selling timeshares will give you. Makes me think of that very much.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Not always. We’re kind of timeshare veterans, and there are ways to make a break for it and still get the promised freebie, though they still go through all the different ways you can buy in till they finally get to the ones a person could actually afford. We just keep saying no, and at some point Look Pointedly at our watches, “It’s been three hours and the prospectus said 90 minutes. We have an appointment Elsewhere in half an hour.” At that point we mention that we already have three weeks (which we have enjoyed immensely over the years) and say we don’t need any more. And then give them the Great Stone Face until they get the hint. If you’ve done timeshare presentations on the West Coast or in Las Vegas, you’ve probably met us…

    6. Snark*

      The idea of sitting through a lecture on The Meaning of Gold by my boss makes me want to cut a fool. Any fool. Doesn’t matter. Someone needs cut.

      1. boo*

        Yeah, but before you cut, please find out what the hell “The Meaning of Gold” means! Rarely am I so curious about a thing a care so little about. Is this a King Midas thing? The Golden Rule? Is it a lecture on investing in precious metals? Are the admins the “gold” of the office? Does it explain the proper times to wear shiny fabric? Is the phrase “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” in play?


        …or, perhaps, fool’s gold?…

          1. boo*

            Ha oh, how I would present! Possible lecture titles:

            “Don’t Be Fooled! 27 Ways to Tell if Your Booty is Pyrite”
            “Don’t Gild the Lily: A Horticultural Advisory”
            “Ruminations on the Growing Wealth Gap, or, Look How Much Gold I Have”
            “The Golden Ratio: Spiral Off the Pounds in 1.61803398875 Easy Steps”
            “The Golden Glow of Love: How To Murder Your Spouse With Heavy Metal Poisoning”
            “Nuts To You, William Jennings Bryan!”
            “Backed By Nothing: Delusions of Currency and the Demise of the Gold Standard”
            “Goldilocks and the Three Condescending Lectures”
            “Gold Diggers of 3933, or, Social Climbing After the Nuclear Winter”
            “Basic Alchemy (Bring Your Own Lead)”

        1. Snark*

          ……you have excavated deeply into the cacified nugget that is my heart, found a tiny wad of still-pink flesh, and made it grow two sizes, because I suddenly am filled with the same curiosity. I think it was the Ponyboy reference that did it.

        2. Teal*

          I’m guessing it’s a pep talk about “gold” performance / doing your best. A lecture on how important it is to do well at work sounds about right for this charade.

        3. oranges & lemons*

          I am also very curious. How literal is this gold? Are they just going to read out the dictionary definition??

    7. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

      God, that would be awesome if “The Meaning of Gold” lecture was just the partner reading the Wikipedia article on gold. Lecture AND comedy! Win X2!

    8. Michelle*

      I’m an admin and I hate this day. My boss always wants to take to me lunch but, it has to be another day because we have a monthly lunch and learn presentation for the general public (we work in a museum). The EDU managers always give me a nice basket with my favorite pen, snacks and a gift card/voucher for somewhere (movie tickets, dinner). But part of the “presentation” is they all come stand outside my cube and sing. I hate it but suck it up and smile because if I don’t, then I’m not “grateful” for their..thoughtfulness? I honestly think they get more out of it because they can pat themselves on the back about how nice they were to the admin. I tell them every single year thank you, it’s really not necessary, etc.

      It’s really an exhausting day that I’d rather skip. During the singing, I usually fantasize about paying the IT guys to make their computers do freaky things that day (blink, weird messages scroll across the screen, etc.) so they will be too preoccupied with “omg, the computers are failing, we are doomed” to bother with me.

      1. DivineMissL*

        I hate Admin Day too; I find it patronizing and demeaning. Not all of my supervisors remember it, though, so there’s no way to predict which one will send flowers, which one will give me a card, and which ones will (blessedly) not remember. I don’t know how to say “I don’t know if you’re planning to do something, but if you are, please don’t.” Has anyone managed to head off Admin Day stuff without looking ungrateful?

        1. Liz2*

          I get paid well and respected for my position, and it really IS a separate type of work from every other part. So it really depends on whether the effort is genuine or not. If they genuinely plan and want to do nice for me, that’s awesome.
          If they just pander and put on a show, forget it!
          I make sure it’s on all my people’s calendars though, so no excuse there.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This. As I said above, Exjob paid us well and we had good PTO, and the gift cards we got were also generous. Don’t give me stupid flowers or a $20 card to the expensive sporting goods store where I never go and where that paltry amount will just about get me a pair of socks. Just pay me more if you’re gonna do that.

      2. Rana*

        They sing to you? That is genuinely bizarre.

        What do they sing? Is it just one song, or several? Do they have music? Do they link arms and sway?

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        How’s your rapport with your local IT people? You might could make this happen…

      4. TardyTardis*

        I had a boss once who redefined the rules so we had to buy *him* lunch that day. I was not there very long, and neither was anyone else (by the time I left, his business had dwindled so far down that the only people there besides him was me and his daughter, guess who got fired! But I knew things about his daughter which meant he wouldn’t be in business much longer, and I read about the closing of his office six months later with Much Glee. Besides, I knew how much unsaleable property he had on his ledger, and it wasn’t pretty).

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      Is anyone else picturing Harry Hamlin (think that’s the characters name) from better call saul as the one giving that lecture?

    10. Anion*

      A lunch where my bosses discussed the Riddle of Steel, however, would be most welcome.

      (Anybody get that?)

    11. Suzy Q*

      As both a recipient and forced benefactor of Admin Day nonsense, add my voice to the chorus of I Hate This Day. Ditto Boss’s Day.
      Paid time off or a bonus would be most appreciated, I think.

    12. cv*

      I really disagree with the answer to #1. it sounds like OP’s company has a culture issue that she is feeding into. What if her kids have sports practice at 515?

    13. Kathie P.*

      I wrote this question. Thanks for your answers and all the feedback.I will reply here as some of the responses ran away with pedicures and comedians, which wasn’t really the point. The point was that I didn’t see how subjecting the staff to a lecture from a partner, (who lectures to them/us a lot, without the lunch provided)showed appreciation for the job the staff does. By the time the answer appeared, I had visited with a staff member about her perception, which confirmed mine, and met with the attorney personnel committee and we all agreed a nice lunch, with no program was the best solution. I too think these made up holidays are weird, but I am new in this culture and picking my issues at this point. Make sure and show gratitude to someone at home or work today! Thanks!

  2. Stellaaaaa*

    OP5: Follow-up thank you notes are a strange animal. I was never taught to write them in school, and I had to complete quite a few course units on writing a resume. My mom never told me about these notes either. I have a lot of schooling under my belt (I have a master’s degree) and interview thank yous just never came up. It’s just one of those “knowledge gap” things that you don’t know you’re missing until someone else points it out to you. Even now, in my 30s, I know a lot of people who never learned to send a note after interviewing. I’ve gotten jobs because I was the only interviewee to follow up.

    Since you’re dealing with potential interns, you’d be doing your applicants a great service if you could find a way to mention follow-up notes to them. That’s a part of the job-hunting process I really wish I’d learned about while I was still in college.

    1. One legged stray cat*

      Glad I’m not the only one. I never heard of them either till I was older and more established in my career. Honestly, it would not have occured to me since I had never heard of a company sending their interview-ies thank you notes for coming to interviews and I always saw the meeting as not a favor but an event of equal business interest of both parties. The first time I heard of them, I assumed they were from people trying to butter up the interviewer and would be annoying for the interviewer to receive, like a bribe. It was only later that I understood it to be an established custom and not really about thankfulness at all but a form of follow up.

        1. Andy*

          Same here! I was rather expecting Allison to say something about the interviewee trying to suck up after the fact or something! I’ve been in my career since 2010, currently on my 4th role in the company, and never thought to send a thank you note.
          Could be an American vs Australian culture thing though?

            1. I heart Paul Buchman*

              I’m relieved to hear this. I was wondering if I missed something obvious.

              I read Miss Manners as well and I’m always amused by how Thank You Notes are seen as the dividing line between barbarism and civilisation.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                I always feel like a monster because I don’t care about thank-you notes. I don’t care about getting them and I don’t want to send them. If someone gives me a gift I thank them sincerely when I get it. On the very rare occasion that someone sends a gift in the mail I usually thank them by whatever means of contact we typically use (phone, facebook, whatever). I don’t understand why thanking people via postal mail is apparently the cornerstone of American civilization.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Notes by hand-written postal mail was the thing when that was the usual mode of communication, since the typewriter, telephone et al hadn’t been invented. Thanks can be in person, by phone call, by email. (I admit I am in that weird situation where I send gifts to the children of someone I don’t normally communicate with otherwise; I have settled on cash as always useful.)

                  The worst example I have heard of was from Miss Manners, where one of the hosts at a shower had a stack of “Dear ____ Thank you for the _____. It is just lovely and I was so touched by your thought and care” notes which she filled out as presents were opened, and then the bride signed her way through the stack and they were distributed at the door as guests left.

                2. Mr. Rogers*

                  I have also never cared about thank you notes…. but then I read a lovely post from the author of American Housewife (a short story collection, and she is also the funniest human I’ve ever heard speak) about sending thank you notes for anything, at any time. So I recently sent a couple to colleagues who always put in the extra work to make everything go smoothly, or to make my clients look good, or to make me feel welcome, etc. She mentioned how she always takes a moment in the morning to reflect on who she’s thankful for today, and that just resonated with me so much more than the “well, I have received a gift, the ONLY way to thank them is by card.”

                3. JoJo*

                  Me neither Wendy. Okay, 100 years ago, before everyone had a telephone, that would have made sense, but what’s wrong with calling someone to thank them?

            2. Ruth (UK)*

              Ah ok. I think I actually knew that but I forgot. I was once again thinking about how I’ve never heard of them (except here) and had a vague memory that it had been explained why in a comment section but I couldn’t remember exactly why…

            3. tiffbunny*

              [Recently former] International IT recruiter here – it’s not a formalized, expected thing most places except America and India – where it’s slightly different as you’re taught to thank your recruiter/interviewers while also asking for feedback about the interview.

              After a while you can also spot the country a CV is likely to be from based on what kind of information they do or don’t include on it – such a fascinating spread of customs around hiring! It’s endlessly fascinating.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yes, I love these little bits of “Wait, doesn’t everyone do that?” When presented by someone who can grasp that even though it seems The One True Way apparently other cultures manage just fine without it.

                2. puzzld*

                  I will say the most interesting(?) thank you note I ever got was the one that arrived as the candidate was walking into my office. He’d set it up to auto deliver and some how messed up the time zone/time change… then he sat in my waiting area recalling the message over and over. Wasn’t the reason we didn’t hire, but it didn’t help his case.

            4. societalcollapse*

              I’m in the UK and I learned about them from ‘What colour is your parachute’. I didn’t realise they were so unknown here – they have always been well received when i have sent them.

              1. rich tea*

                I got one once from a candidate and was SO CONFUSED by it. I didn’t know it was a thing in the US and I had never encountered it in the UK (in 17 years of hiring people), so I had no idea what it was supposed to accomplish. It just weirded me – and the rest of the team – out.

                He didn’t get the job, though not because he sent the note.

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  That’s like how my team and I (all American) reacted when we got CVs and cover letters that included things like marital status and age. Except we had to get over acting like those were going to burn us if we touched them.

            5. Betsy*

              I wasn’t sure whether to send one after my last interview. I’m Australian, and I was a little worried about sounding saccharine or just not genuine, so I opted not to. I still ended up getting the job.

              I struggled to find any clear Australian information about whether it’s the done thing or not.

            6. Kms1025*

              I guess I have led a sheltered professional life (NOT) but I never heard of thank you notes for interviews until I started reading this blog???

              1. phyllisb*

                Same here, but I started my work life back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. However, I can see where a quick thank-you note or email can be a pleasant thing. I have reminded my adult children to send them. I agree email is probably better than snail mail because of other things mentioned: getting lost, sitting in Snail Mail Jail, ect. My son got an internship because he was the only one who send a thank-you. Thank you AMM!!! I have learned so much from your site. And I promise I have NEVER told my children to use GUMPTION!!!

            7. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Is it a thing in here in Canada? I’ve never done it or heard of it being done, but I’ve worked almost exclusively in the public sector. I vaguely remember one friend whose work has been much more on the corporate side mentioning them, so I’m not sure.

              1. Jenn*

                I think it depends on how influenced the local/regional area or company are influenced by our British roots vs American hiring practices – so it varies

              2. Kit*

                I’m Canadian, and I was always taught to call to say thank you after a week or so, but I can’t decide if that’s more of the bad advice to “follow up and show gumption” or a thank you.

                1. Nanani*

                  Definitely don’t call. Ever. Unless specifically instructed otherwise -by the person you’re thinking of calling-.

              3. HannahS*

                I think so, in some places. Public sector tend to be very strict with anti-discriminatory hiring practices, so they aren’t allowed to consider anything outside of their hiring criteria, including thank you notes. But in other contexts I’ve certainly heard of them and sent them myself, basically thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating my interest in the position. Personally, I find them a baffling waste of time, and I don’t always send them. But they’re definitely in use here, sometimes.

              4. saby*

                I also work in the public sector and I never expect thank you notes but definitely receive them when I’m hiring, for maybe a quarter of candidates rather than the 50-60% Alison mentioned, and always by email — if I got a handwritten thank you note for an interview I would think it very out of touch, and also it would be unlikely to arrive before we made our decision [insert Canada Post joke here].

                I do think they’re more common in the corporate than the public sector here. My parents both worked in industry and it was something they did so when I first started my career I was definitely under the impression that I was expected to send them after every interview. I hated doing because it felt so disingenuous and vaguely sleazy. Now I only send them when I genuinely have something I want to follow up on — as usually happens after a particularly good interview that leaves me excited about the opportunity :)

              5. Trig*

                Private sector IT in Canada here.

                The college where I got my certificate to get my job advised sending a thank-you email note (and firmly advised AGAINST actual paper notes and other ‘gumption’ things, thankfully). When I was part of a hiring committee for interns (from that same program), we did notice who sent one and who didn’t, but I don’t think it really factored into our decision. I think if we’d be undecided between two candidates and one had but one hadn’t, that could have swayed us a bit, but it wouldn’t have been super high on the list.

            8. Can’t remember my name*

              Maybe regional even in the US? I work in a Rocky Mountain State in a higher ed institution and have participated in hiring committees for many years. The number of interviews I have participated in are in the hundreds and the number of thank you notes received is one! One! It was about twelve years ago. It was a very sweet note and I was impressed with her attention to detail, but she was not at all qualified for the position. It was surprising as I had never heard of sending a thank you for an interview. And as some have already commented, this site is the first place I saw that it is an accepted practice.

              1. Specialk9*

                I really disagree with this. I feel like it’s a way to demonstrate actual interest from someone who has options and was evaluating them too (and thinks it could work), and that they’ve taken the time to absorb and reflect on alignment of the org’s goals and their own skills.

                I have manners, so I thank people in person for their time because, well, that’s a pretty low bar of politeness. I have thanked people warmly after utterly disastrous interviews when I was utterly sure I was a hells-no to them. I didn’t send a thoughtful thank-you note (if I sent a note or back-channeled a reason to the recruiter depends) though.

                But when I came out of an interview liking them and the fit, I send a thank you note – which yes is part plug, but also reflection of ‘yes I heard you, you’re not generic in my head’, and ‘this would work well because of these reasons’.

                Something like: Dear Fergus, I enjoyed talking with you about the challenges your department has been facing with the new llama management software, and how difficult it has been to make sure each llama is taken care of. I have worked with a similar software, and found that…

                1. Penny Lane*

                  “I have manners, so I thank people in person for their time because, well, that’s a pretty low bar of politeness. I have thanked people warmly after utterly disastrous interviews when I was utterly sure I was a hells-no to them. ”

                  Exactly, specialk9. I do agree that over time, it’s definitely shifted from handwritten thank you note (in the days in which snail mail was relevant) to email, but the concept of thanking someone for their time seems like basic common sense to me.

        2. MommyMD*

          I’ve never sent one in my life. Hopefully now I’ll never need to. I always thanked them at the close of the interview for their time and consideration and felt that was enough. It may be kind of job-specific. It’s really not a thing where I’ve been employed.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Aren’t you a doctor, or am I misreading the MommyMD? Who would you be interviewing with?

              1. Mrs. Fenris*

                With a hospital, or medical practice or whatever. Most doctors are not self-employed. I’m a veterinarian and I work as an employee at an animal hospital. I had to interview just like any other professional.

              2. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

                Doctors still have to interview with hospitals to work in said hospital.

      1. Rhymetime*

        I work in fundraising, where individual attention is highly valued as a sign of your ability to connect with donors. Not sending a personalized follow-up note would be a black mark in the application process. A generic thank you to everyone doesn’t make nearly as positive an impression as a note customized for each person you spoke with, addressing something that is specific to your conversation with that individual. It shows that you can be attentive.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a really good example of how specific a thoughtful follow-up contact is to certain jobs.

      2. Alston*

        I actually did get a thank you note when. I was the interviewee! I had interviewed for an internship with the symphony and I killed the interview. I also had a lot of office experience for a 19 year old.

        The director decided I had too much office experience, and decided to give the internship to someone who needed job experience more than I did. The hiring managers were sad, and mailed me a note thanking me for interviewing, and explained the decision. They also asked me to apply next year (which was nice to hear, but will I have less experience next year?)

    2. Thlayli*

      As has been noted in the comments section before they’re also very much an American thing. They would be seen as sleazy in Europe. many jobs here state “canvassing will disqualify”, so they could actually disqualify you from some jobs.

      If any of the interns are from other countries you definitely should not expect thank you notes.

      1. Anna Held*

        I’d think your percentage of notes received would go down for phone interviews vs. face to face, too. People who might know about thank you notes wouldn’t necessarily send one after a quick phone screening. Even if it’s a proper interview, not just a screening, if there’s any room for doubt (“we’d like to have a quick conversation with you” vs “this is an interview”) a young candidate might default to not sending anything.

        1. BetterInGreen*

          That’s interesting – I’m in Australia and have used them in the past when I was particularly keen on a role for which I’d interviewed.
          I’ve only ever had a positive response to them, if anecdata is worth anything.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Yes! I didn’t know they were a thing until I started reading AAM. I would call them “emotional bribe”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They’re no more an emotional bribe than a great cover letter is or a stellar answer in an interview. They’re additional data about the candidate, just like a cover letter is.

        2. Penny Lane*

          Genuinely thanking someone for taking time out of their busy day is not an “emotional bribe,” any more than having your child write a thank-you note to Aunt Mabel for the (ugly) sweater he received for his birthday is.

          1. SophieK*

            I’ve heard from several bosses that if you are a strong candidate a thank you note won’t make a difference one way or the other. And that if you were not a good fit a thank you note won’t help but will look creepy and desperate.

            I’ve had several encounters with people with gumption and they were never ever people who were being considered.

            Most of my experience is in the Seattle area, just to account for regional differences.

            1. Tax Nerd*

              This has always been my opinion – if you’re a strong candidate, it’s not needed, and if you’re a weak candidate, it won’t help.

              I’ve written some in my day, and sometimes not – mostly not. It depended on how soon they were going to decide. A couple of times, the debrief on me was scheduled for immediately after I left, so it really wasn’t going to help. Other times, I didn’t have email addresses for people, as they didn’t have cards, and someone in recruiting set it up.

              I’ve felt awkward receiving them as an interviewer. It made me feel bad that weak candidates wasted their time. And I didn’t want to respond back because I wasn’t in recruiting, or the hiring manager. I didn’t want to give them hope, or tip our hand on whether they were getting an offer.

        3. Church Lady*

          I’m old and American, so I’m genuinely shocked that sending a followup email to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration is considered sleazy, cheesy and soft bribery. I have always sent a brief note, by mail before we had email, to say thank you and restate my interest in the role. I’ve never been aware that it was a bad thing to do. Rather, I had a few interviewers early in my career tell my references that they were pleased to be acknowledged. My 21 year old daughter was praised by her interviewers for sending a thank you email within a day after meeting – they wrote back that they thought she was a class act (hired her too, and she doesn’t graduate until May). However, it’s good to know that it might not be perceived as a good thing in many environments.

          1. Snorks*

            But you’ve already thanked them at the end of the interview.
            It’s thanking them again later which can appear sleazy, etc.

      3. Specialk9*

        That’s useful to known, thanks! Tripping over unwritten rules is a hazard when going between locales, because people who have roots are very inflexible because they think they’re universal when they’re not, so people who violate those rules are Bad People (which makes sense if you have this vague idea that everyone has these rules). I’ve tripped over many an unwritten rule in my globehopping.

        I gave an explanation above of how honest aboveboard people view thank you notes (definitely NOT anything underhanded, the opposite in fact) but it’s hugely useful to know there is a tripwire there that is invisible on both sides.

    3. snarkarina*

      Yes, I never knew it was a thing until I was temping in an HR department during undergrad and noted that there was a sort of “gold star” on some of the folders for those that sent in thank you notes–no one in career services or my family had suggested this to me, and my mom was one that made me sit down on Christmas day and write thank you notes to all my relatives!

      Since then, I’ve made a point of sending them . . . although I recently interviewed for a promotion internally and one of the people on the interview team (who also happened to be my current supervisor), noted that he didn’t really care about the thank you notes and often threw them in the garbage without reading, so YMMV. (In that particular case, I left him off the list of people I was sending notes to, but still sent to the others–including the person who became my new supervisor.

      1. Specialk9*

        I got my current job at least partly because of the tailored thank-you notes I sent immediately. (Before leaving the lobby, as I waited for the car.) Every person I had interviewed with mentioned how impressed they were with my thank you note. (US based international company)

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Two of the jobs I’ve had it was specifically mentioned that they appreciated my thank you emails after the interview, so I can only assume it stood out because not everyone did it, because I’m definitely no stellar writer.

    4. One of the Annes*

      Forty-something American here. I’ve written a tailored thank you note for every interview for a professional job that I’ve ever had, and I feel like it’s served me well. As for how I knew it was a thing, every job-search advice book (all US publications) has emphasized it.

      1. the gold digger*

        My husband volunteered to help with the mock interviews at the high school in our neighborhood. I was really impressed that they had the kids write thank-you notes.

        Less impressed that none of these high-school seniors wrote in cursive.


        Get Off My Lawn

        1. Specialk9*

          Honestly that sounds fairly churlish of you.

          My brother has a physical problem that makes his handwriting awful. He has actually spec’ed out handwritten thank you note services (they exist).

          We told him most people would recognize the effort and recognition of the social norm, and not focus on the handwriting.

          Kinda disappointed in your reaction, actually.

        2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          I’m 35 and the only person my age I know who regularly writes in cursive. And that includes thank you letters.

          Why not focus on the message itself?

        3. Editor*

          Gold Digger — On the issue of cursive, I strongly disagree with you. When I was in high school at the end of the 1960s, I read an article about handwriting reform that profiled an approach to handwriting developed with some traditional italic forms (I believe Oregon eventually adopted this approach decades later). Basically, kids were taught printing, and then encouraged to develop ligatures and faster writing using the same muscle patterns required for printing. The common cursive instruction in the U.S. requires children to learn one set of muscle movements, then replace all that hard-earned mastery with an arbitrarily different set of muscle movements. It’s a waste of time that could be better spent on science education.

          I don’t want to derail the topic further, but I hope you will take some time to research and understand why more efficient handwriting is of practical value. In addition, for those worried about reading cursive, I would point out that writing styles change over time, and students can be taught how to read various forms of handwriting.

          And… I have excellent fine motor skills, but my printing is faster and clearer than my cursive. Students who lack naturally good fine motor skills shouldn’t be condemned for printing instead of using cursive. Finally, if you really want to be horrified about handwriting, read about how young students today don’t have the muscular development to hold pencils properly because they have spent so much time with screens.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            I love cursive writing and won’t apologize for it. Beautiful handwriting is a work of art. A signature cannot be printed and esigs are not universal (real estate transaction anyone?) To me this is another sign of the dumbing down of America.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              All my real estate was e-sigs for the last two houses. I can program in 6 different languages but can’t write cursive. What’s dumb is assuming an arbitrary skill in today’s world is indicative of any ones mental acuity.

        4. A Nickname for AAM*

          A lot of kids do not learn cursive any more. I found this out the hard way, when I was teaching a safety course for 16 year olds that required a “contract” from all participants, and discovered that a number of them either scribble some lines or print their name when asked for a signature.

          It just made me glad that I don’t work at a bank.

    5. Kylo Pen*

      I think of post-interview thank you notes as a chance to answer questions I whiffed the first time around. For instance, in my last job I knew I came across as less authoritative/managerial than position required (because I was PEEING MY PANTS nervous). So I wrote about my experience (albeit minimal) managing in previous jobs and used examples of when I’d had to have tough conversations about expectations, etc. It 100% is the reason I got the job. In fact, in my first few weeks my boss straight up told me she had been concerned about my ability to lead until she read my thank you note. She said my self-awareness was what won her over!

      1. Specialk9*

        In your note, did you acknowledge that your answer had been a bit weak, or just forge on like ‘you asked this question, on reflection I thought of this situation’?

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, you can and should talk to your report. Part of being a professional is getting your work done on deadline, and part of being exempt is figuring out how to organize your time to achieve those deadlines. As Alison noted, there may be a load management problem, also, but at this point, you don’t have enough data to know if your report is consistently overburdened or whether her refusal to stay past 5 is creating an artificial backlog. “I had a lot to do” is not a sufficient explanation for consistently missing deadlines.

    I worked at a job where I had to leave the office between 6–6:15 daily because of caretaking obligations, but if my work wasn’t complete, I worked from home after-hours to meet my deadline. If a partial hours-from-home situation can work, then it may be worth throwing that out there as a possible solution.

    Also, is this your employee’s first exempt job? I’ve found that sometimes folks who used to work hourly don’t realize the difference in expectations when they go exempt. It may help to reset her expectations accordingly.

    1. Sami*

      I think your last paragraph is key. Perhaps it doesn’t apply to this letter, but it’s definitely a possibility for many others.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yes. I remember being shocked when I took my first exempt job and my first review was anything but positive. My boss specifically said “this is not a nine-to-five job,” that my work was sloppy, and that I needed to stick around longer to get things done so that I wasn’t turning things in half-done. Not only had I only worked hourly jobs before, but also my parents were both government employees with set work hours, so I had no idea that “job” meant anything but “put in your set hours and go home.”

        My boss definitely should have given me negative feedback well before my review rolled around!

        For the OP, I think it’s also OK to bring in comparisons to other workers, although not by name. I’ve sometimes gotten protests from direct reports that I am asking too much of them, and my response is that, based on other writers I’ve worked with, their workload is in fact a reasonable one for someone in their position.

        1. Jesca*

          Yeah those waiting until review time to point out hugely important performance expectations drives me absolutely nuts. I see absolutely no point in waiting like that!

          1. JokersandRogues*

            I have a deal-breaker that, if this happens, i.e. something is brought up in my review 6 months later that should’ve/could’ve been addressed at the time or anytime between now and then, I start job-hunting. I’m not even going to have a discussion about it; I’ll just go. Burned once and stayed and was never allowed to forget the problem after 2 years.

            Another one is if the only criticism you can come up with is petty i.e., don’t look at your Ipad at your desk even over lunch hour because it looks bad even if you’re meeting all your deadlines. Because “someone” complained.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          In case anyone is tempted to view former hourly employees too negatively: I’m hourly and I’m *not allowed* to work overtime without prior approval. It’s not just that we’re accustomed to plugging in 40 hours and walking out–it’s that a lot of jobs very strongly discourage working more than 40 hours because they’ll have to pay us time and a half. My supervisor and I both could get in trouble if I started running over more than a few minutes here and there.

          1. Annabelle*

            Yeah, I’m also hourly and would get in a ton of trouble (along with my direct supervisor) if I did unapproved overtime. I have to check with my grand boss before staying more than 10ish minutes late.

          2. Someone else*

            Sure, but that’s not shocking if you know what it means to be an hourly employee. Likewise, if you know what exempt means, it shouldn’t be shocking that it’s less common to be quite so strict about to-the-minute since by definition, being exempt means that doesn’t matter. Certainly different offices have different cultures and I’m sure in some it’d be seen as odd to stay late to finish. The manager needs to make her expectations clear to the employee, but just because someone were discouraged from working a minute over as an hourly employee somewhere else doesn’t mean they should be assuming the same would apply in a different exempt position. It’s manager’s job to make sure the employee understands that, but I don’t think this is really a “former hourly employees” issue. It’s a knowing the difference between hourly and exempt issue.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            I think that’s what people meant – that she could have been in a hourly job previously that frowned upon overtime.
            Not that hourly made her lazy or something.

        3. Massmatt*

          Your 2nd paragraph is a big one—Managers should be giving feedback, positive and negative, regularly, not hoarding it for an annual review like a squirrel does with nuts for the winter. The annual review should not be a surprise, it should reinforce and summarize the feedback given throughout the year.

        4. Penny Lane*

          “Not only had I only worked hourly jobs before, but also my parents were both government employees with set work hours, so I had no idea that “job” meant anything but “put in your set hours and go home.”

          But certainly you knew about “on-call” professionals, right? Like obstetricians, who don’t just look at their watch and say oops, time’s up, I’m not delivering this baby? Or workers in utility companies after a storm or natural disaster? Or small business owners who are constantly hustling to figure out new ways to sell their services? I’m not doubting you, but it’s difficult to believe you hadn’t ever seen examples of people who had mindsets other than shift-worker mindsets.

          1. Kate 2*

            Obviously the first two cases you list are emergencies, the baby case is normal for doctors, who get paid exorbitantly, the second case is rare, and in the third case small business owners are working to build their OWN businesses and directly enrich themselves, which is normal. Thinking back to my hometown, not a single person I knew was salaried. Not one adult I even met once.

            1. Audenc*

              I also feel like expectations of employees’ hours have just changed dramatically in recent years.

              I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, and I had a few friends whose parents were doctors and lawyers with crazy hours. But my dad had a middle management business job that allowed him to support an upper middle class lifestyle on a single income, and he was home every day by 6:30 including commute (this was in the 90s). Sometimes he would put in a few hours on the weekends, but I’m pretty sure I currently put in more hours for a salary that barely supports myself, let alone multiple dependents.

          2. Browser*

            There’s a huge difference between being a doctor and working in an office. People are not going to draw direct comparisons between the two.

          3. Elizabeth H.*

            As Browser said, the examples you cite – doctors, utility workers, retail managers – are incredibly different contexts from an office job where you have meetings, work at a desk/computer, do paperwork, etc. I can easily see how having strong models of office jobs with a strict a 9-5 schedule would lead to misunderstanding the expectations for an exempt position that was the same type of “office job.” The idea of an exempt office job is also associated with the higher end of professional/white collar jobs, which not everyone may be familiar with due to their background.

            I’m not saying that that is the case with this employee (it sounds like she’s not especially new, and arguably she has her coworkers as models to compare her own work habits with) but that I think it’s very believable for somebody new to the work world to not understand what exempt professional jobs entail in terms of working hours.

    2. JamieS*

      Agreed to all this. The employee should be working extra hours when needed assuming it’s not excessive. However, at this point I think the root of the problem lies (lays?) more with OP than the employee. It doesn’t sound like they’ve set clear expectations for the job and may have inadvertently given the impression missing deadlines is no big deal by pushing the deadlines back and not having a “this can’t happen again” type of conversation.

      As an aside, I’m curious about OP’s comment about not being able to tell the employee she has to work more hours. Is OP in a team lead type position where they actually don’t have the authority to tell reports that or was OP under the impression managers can’t tell reports to work past 5?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think she’s saying she’s not able to — I think the line you’re referring to is “Sometimes I wish I could just tell her to put in a few more hours to catch up and get the work done.” I think the OP genuinely doesn’t realize that it’s okay for her as a manager to say “you need to work more hours.” (I could be wrong about that, but that’s my hunch. Hopefully the OP will clarify if she comments.)

        1. JamieS*

          I hope OP clarifies too. My first reaction was the same as yours but after thinking about it I started to think maybe OP meant it was a lack of authority issue. I mostly started thinking that because I’d expect a manager who thought they couldn’t ask an employee to stay late would also think employees weren’t allowed to stay late but my logic could be completely different from OP’s.

        2. hbc*

          I was thinking it was more like NYC Weez pointed out below–lots of employers expect everyone to understand that they have to work more than 40 hours a week, but a good chunk don’t like to say it out loud. It’s much more comfortable to give everyone 45 hours worth of work to do in a week and be all “We believe in work/life balance here, we just have really dedicated employees, they choose to work hard!”

          There are certain fields where it’s well-known what you’re getting into (early years of law, new doctors, etc.), but in other fields, there’s often no reason for regular 40+ hour weeks except a business decision by the company to not hire the people you need to cover it *and* to not adjust deadlines to meet actual headcount. And those companies usually don’t say anything different during the hiring process than the ones who truly expect you to average a 40 hour week.

          1. ThatGirl*

            When I first started at my current job, there was definitely dancing around the fact that they clearly expected people to work longer hours or stay late as needed. Like… you can just say “we don’t have a defined expectation beyond 40 hours but expect the work to get done”. Or “department and manager expectations play a role”. During our busy season I could easily work 50 hour weeks, but during our slow time of year, I could probably work 30 hours a week and the remainder is spent either on long-term projects or just messing around.

          2. Turquoisecow*


            Even in the same industry, or the same company, it can vary on what’s expected of exempt employees. My old job had a number of bosses. Some would complain if you left on time, some encouraged it. Some routinely worked late (and came in early), and expected their employees to do the same, and some would come by :15 minutes passed “on time” and tell me to leave.

            It’s really hard as an experienced employee to know what’s expected of you, and it’s exceptionally hard when they say “oh we don’t want you to work extra hours” but then get passive aggressively annoyed when you don’t, or tell you a year later that you’re not going to get ahead if you don’t.

      2. Sam.*

        My office has a strong emphasis on work-life balance, and leadership repeatedly tells people that they’re not expected to work beyond standard business hours, check email at home, etc. (which, by the way, is completely fine for most roles in our office). The problem is when you’re promoted into a position with more responsibility and suddenly you have a lot more to do but there’s still very much this culture that bosses cannot ask you for more hours. It’s possible that exists in OP’s office, to some extent, or that OP has just never needed to ask for it in the past and it feels weird to do so.

    3. nom de plume*

      Seconding the work from home after hours option as part of the conversation, OP. While it clearly sounds like this person is not getting the work done after she/he disappears for the day, there may be very legitimate reasons why face time after 5 pm is challenging. If she still misses deadlines after saying she/he will work remotely, then you certainly have more than solid grounds to argue she needs to stay physically in the office (and escalate this in your performance problem system).

      Framing the conversation as “the work needs to get done” versus “we need your butt in this seat until it gets done” might help to keep this person from chafing at what they might perceive as a huge lifestyle change.

      1. Alton*

        I agree. Right now, it doesn’t sound like there’s been much communication about expectations–on either side. The employee may have legitimate reasons for needing to leave when she does (such as picking up a child from daycare), and I’m not sure that just focusing on the time she leaves is the best approach unless it’s a job where it’s important for people to be physically present past 5.

        I think a better bet might be to focus on expectations and how the employee can meet them. That could mean staying late occasionally, but maybe it could also mean coming in early occasionally, doing some work at home, or working more efficiently during standard work hours.

      2. CM*

        Another option would be to suggest that they come in early if staying late is difficult due to child care, transportation or some other issue. I had some coworkers who used to come in early and leave at 4 because of bus schedules and child care. The work got done so no one cared.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, it doesn’t have to be that she stays later than 5, specifically — just that she may need to work more hours than she’s currently doing.

      4. atalanta0jess*

        THANK YOU for saying this!!! To imply that the only solution is for her to stay late is relying on a solution that just isn’t workable for everyone, and especially may not be workable for a lot of parents. One can also come in early, work through lunch, or in many jobs work from home. I feel like focusing on staying later as the solution burns working parents who have to do pick up by a certain time.

    4. Senior Payroll*

      We had several people in a team swap to the slightly more senior role when they changed the team sizes, and it also meant moving hourly to salary.

      They are still in the mindset of “I’ve done 8 hours today, so expecting me to do more is unfair…” And it’s been years! (They sit near me so I hear it a lot)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        After last week’s question about the boss being annoyed about the employee’s flexible schedule (due to childcare commitments) I wondered whether this employee has some similar requirement?

        Alternatively, if there are certain core hours everyone has to work, perhaps the employee feels that that they have done their work for the day. (Even if there are still tasks to be finished up)

        1. Kelly O*

          While I understand the bigger picture, it might be wise to find out if the employee has a care situation – child, parent, spouse, etc.

          Also being able to work remotely is becoming more and more just a part of the modern workplace. Just other ideas to consider that might help all your team.

    5. Mad Baggins*

      I was once told those exact words: “This isn’t a job where you can expect to leave at 5 on the dot every day.” This conversation was very eye-opening for me. As a young professional, I realized I had to recalibrate my expectations to my company’s, and having those expectations spelled out was refreshing, since so often those deadlines are renegotiated where the employee in question can’t see, or someone else is staying late after the employee leaves.

      But it was also frustrating because the reason I was leaving at 5 was because I was emotionally exhausted from struggling in a bad fit. I had major performance, teamwork, culture, and skill issues, and they were becoming mental/physical health issues as well. This conversation showed me A) my work-life balance ideal was nowhere near my company’s expectations, and B) my boss was never going to directly address the real issues (performance and fit), just the surface issue (leaving time). Thanks to this conversation I realized I needed to move on. In my country it is very common for companies to list the average amount of overtime per month, and I knew from this experience to check this and ask about it in interviews.

      Long story short, OP please look at the entire situation regarding your employee: why is she leaving at 5? Does she know that she is out of line with company expectations, and that she is causing trouble for others? Does she have performance/fit issues with the role, or is it an inexperience issue? How many hours of overtime should she expect to do per month/week? How will she/you know when you’ve overcorrected (ie she is working too late)? If you can answer these questions and make them explicit to your employee I think you’ll be doing both of you a favor!

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        Same – first salary job out of college my boss was very straight forward about the hours expected. He regularly hired recent grad so it came up in the 1st interview what the expectations were. Luckily my dad and husband were salaried so I knew extra work was involved with that type of role.
        It came up pretty often that first year which puzzled me because I was getting all of my work done and almost never worked less than 45 hours (usually closer to 50). After the 2 year mark when I was there before my boss and didn’t leave until after he did (layoffs and “restructuring”) I blew up at him and told him never to tell me that again. He was pretty taken aback but we had a good talk about it. He was so used to new grads or people moving from the factory area into his department that it was just automatic. No one stayed in my position longer than 18 months or so but economy + internal factors prevented me from moving on in the normal fashion so I was there longer than anyone and was used to it by then.

    6. Thlayli*

      I agree with all of your points, but especially with the “work from Home after hours” one. In my experience having this option available is often the only way parents can manage a job that needs long hours.

      It’s quite possible the employee absolutely has to pick up a child at a particular time and so NEEDS to leave at 5. In this case OP will need to give the option to bring home a laptop and complete the work after 10pm when the kids are in bed and the housework is finished, or else employee will just have to give notice.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        It’s possible that’s not an option at Ops company, or I’d think the other team members would be doing that instead of staying late. But I could be wrong.
        I just know a loy of companies still don’t have the option however popular it may be.
        Where I work, it’s only option for a couple very specific roles and it’s a hige deal. IT has to go to the employees house and set everything up, make sure they have all the proper anti virus installed, etc.

    7. Jen*

      I’d also add that you might consider wording the convo in a way that doesn’t *require* them to stay past 5, but does require that they put in the extra hours.

      It’s possible they have to leave exactly at 5 for some reason (legit or not) and by framing it as overall hours, you give them the easy option of coming early, taking a shorter lunch, or whatever, but the point of being exempt is that the work gets done.

      You may find your employee gets defensive about 5pm (bus pickup! Dog to let out! Class to attend, etc), and it’s easy to avoid that specific hurdle. Just point out that sometimes it might take more hours, and if it turns out it’s constantly more hours you can potentially revisit the workload.

      Fwiw my first *two* fulltime jobs have me enough work to fill maybe 33 hours in a week. I was making up projects to get to 5pm. Boss didn’t care and just told me I was efficient and get outta town early.

      1. Triplestep*

        This is what I was thinking – the conversation should be about overall hours that need to be worked, not *when* they are worked. Maybe the employee can come in early if she can’t stay late due to personal obligations outside of work.

        Also, I note that commenters here are assuming that remote after-hours work is possible. I know it’s hard to imagine in 2018, but not all organizations make remote work easy. In my last job I had a company laptop with all the special software I needed loaded, and the ability to log in and have access to all network files. I started my current job five months ago and have to use my personal laptop to log in remotely. Even that was a special request and once it was granted, I only got access to e-mail – which, by the way, reverts to a vanilla version of outlook (customization is not saved) each time I open it. Getting access to server files so I could actually work was *another* special request and waiting period, and I STILL do not have my special software loaded. So there’s a limit to how productive I can be remotely (just in time for a huge winter storm tomorrow.)

        The last time things were this bad was early in my career when I worked for a firm that would not allow me to stay late to work longer (even though I was exempt) unless one of the three middle managers was also staying late and could lock up. Having a key and alarm code at this 12-person firm was considered a “privilege” – something that separated the important middle managers from those lower on the totum pole. I didn’t last there long.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Not all jobs can be done remotely, either. I have to work with actual physical materials. I can’t take them home, so there is very little I can do away from my actual office.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          The last few jobs I had, remote work was definitely possible (and I know my director and VP both worked from home evenings and weekends, especially with emergencies), but the handbooks specifically state that working from home is NOT Done.

          It’s the culture. There was not much about either job that required “butts in seats,” but it’s not likely to change anytime soon without massive overhaul. A coworker of mine was able to get a medical exemption briefly. I don’t know if childcare needs would be enough to convince them, depending on how high up the ladder the employee was.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I’d be annoyed if my boss said I have to stay later and made it seem as though coming in earlier or working from home isn’t an option. I would much rather come in early than stay late. Even working from home at night wouldn’t bother me, since I don’t have to actually sit in my office.

        Of course, we have no idea of the industry or the office culture, or whether the job requires face time or not or even whether working from home is an option.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        You may find your employee gets defensive about 5pm (bus pickup! Dog to let out! Class to attend, etc), and it’s easy to avoid that specific hurdle. Just point out that sometimes it might take more hours, and if it turns out it’s constantly more hours you can potentially revisit the workload.

        I like this framing. OP, how critical is it that the extra hours are specifically put in after 5pm each workday? Is it possible for your employee to start their day earlier instead, or to have one scheduled day a week that is a workload-buster, or something else?

      4. myswtghst*

        Your first paragraph is a great way to approach this – it isn’t about staying *past 5pm*, it’s about making the time to get the work done (or potentially finding ways to do the work more efficiently) to make sure deadlines are being met. I think if OP#1 goes into the conversation focused on meeting deadlines, discusses realistically what the employee can do to make that happen and gives suggestions (including but not limited to working more hours), then makes it clear they will continue to revisit workload in the future, the conversation has a much better chance of being successful.

    8. finderskeepers*

      Given the booming economy and low unemployment, perhaps the employee does have the right expectations. A poor performance review would simply alert any savvy employee to simply look for another job that meets the expectation of leaving at 5pm.

      1. Anon with an Actual Life*

        Yep! I worked for a stuffy company at one point and got the ‘this isn’t a 9-5 job’ nonsense, four weeks into the role – fortunately I’m in the UK so I obviously had a contract that stated 9-5 so there was no real recourse when I advised that I would not be staying later than 5pm. I hated it there by the second day anyway and was already planning to leave, it just confirmed what I already felt.

        I am now both salaried and expected to live my actual life beyond contracted hours.

      2. the gold digger*

        Exactly. If you expect me to put in the hours when there is a deadline – and I will, then I expect to cut out early on the occasional Friday and not have to take PTO for it.

        1. Samata*

          yes, but it sounds like you are hitting your deadlines. Different in this case I think.

          Overall I agree with you, though – I average a 40 hour week, more if necessary to hit my targets, but also don’t need to take PTO if I have a doctors appointment or need to run an errand mid-day.

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      It seems odd to me that it didn’t even occur to Ops report to stay longer. Is she new to office work, or maybe came from an hourly environment where overtime was frowned upon? Is the rest of the team all staying past five and she doesn’t notice or…? Again, just seems odd to me. Of course, there could be a legit reason like she has to make the bus or get to daycare on time, but if that were the case, I’d think it would have been brought up. And I assume if somewhat regular overtime were part ofnthe role, Op would have told her about that during the interview.

    10. bohtie*

      Plus there can be company culture issues at play, too — almost no one at my company works more than 40 hours a week even though we’re exempt, and if we do, we get comp (PTO) time added to our bank for it. (With the caveat that you have to be asked to do it. If I just choose to stay late to finish something, I don’t get comp time for that, but if my boss tells me I need to work 50 hours instead of 40 this week, then I get 10 hours of comp time. I hope this explanation makes sense.)

      So, like, I could absolutely see a situation where the employee didn’t think about working the extra hours, and if the manager isn’t asking, it might not be happening.

  4. MegPie*

    OP 1 – I absolutely have to leave at 5 on the dot every day to pick up my kids from day care (single parent + $20 fee for every five minutes late picking them up). I’m lucky that I can and do work from home a lot, and end up working after they go to bed. Could this be the case for your employee? I’m not sure how the response would change if so, but it’s a tricky position to be in.

    1. terabitz*

      In that instance, could it perhaps be feasible if the employee either did some work from home or came into the office earlier to move around those sorts of accommodations? I definitely agree with the possibility on outside circumstances existing here, considering how we’re only seeing one side of this story.

    2. Juli G.*

      I think that’s why the performance conversation is a good one. I also have few nights I can stay late and coming in early is tricky as well. But if I was faced with missing a deadline, I’m on my laptop after my kids are down for the evening or up early on Saturday or Sunday.

      My managers have been supportive of flexibility and working parents but they aren’t okay with missing deadlines.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Coming to say this. OP seems very focused on staying late and the 5:00 issue, but in the conversation, OP would do well to consider phrasing it as putting in the time and energy, however it happens, to make the deadlines. Employee may be able to arrive earlier, skip lunch, take work home at night, and/or work on a weekend day to get everything done, and still leave at 5:00. It is very possible that all of these issues are mutually exclusive — Employee is not understanding that the deadline is nonnegotiable, Employee needs to leave at 5:00 for some very good reason, and Employee may be able to solve the problem some other way than staying until 6:30.

      1. Friday*

        Came to say this as well… I’ve got little kids so I’m a leave-at-5 person as well, but if I have work that needs to get done, first thing I do is give up my lunch, then I come in early, then I push back on meetings that aren’t critical for me to be in attendance, then I carve out weekend time, then last but not least I log back in from home on weekday evenings to make sure my deadlines are met, in that order.

    4. Just a Thought*

      This was my first thought as well. I’m on a flex schedule and I MUST leave at 4:25 to get my train and get my kids. I have zero flexibility. However, I can (and do) finish work in the evenings when I have to. I wonder if things are set up for her to be able to do that, some companies don’t have shared drives or access to documents.

      Another option would be to see if she would want to work a flex schedule. My hours are 7:30 – 4:30 (and you can see I shave 5 minutes everyday). My husband does drop off and I do pick up. It works really well for us.

    5. Nita*

      This was my thought also – could be that this employee is either a caregiver, or has one of those commutes where a five-minute delay means you have to wait 45 minutes for the next train. While none of this is OP’s problem, there may be a more productive way to address the problem than “requiring” the employee to regularly stay past five.

      First of all, there needs to be a conversation about meeting deadlines and planning ahead to make sure this happens. There’s more than one way to get there. Maybe the employee can arrange that someone else handles child care pickup one day a week, and stay really late that day. Maybe the employee can take some work home. Maybe she needs to prioritize better and be aware what can wait, and what can’t.

      It sounds like OP has already asked this employee why she keeps missing deadlines, but it may not be coming across for this employee that the deadlines are important. It may be coming across as the OP just wanting an explanation why they were missed, no big deal. If the deadlines are a big deal, OP should stop asking what happened after the fact, and make a firm statement – “You need to turn xyz in on time. Let’s figure out a way to make this happen.”

    6. JC*

      And even if the employee is not a caregiver, if it’s possible to make the emphasis on putting in the hours to get the work done vs. the time they leave the office, in my view that makes the most sense. I’m a researcher and am expected to work from the office during work hours, but I can and do get work done at home after hours. I don’t have the obligation of having to pick kids up at daycare, but sometimes I like to leave at 5:00 on the dot so that I can make an after-work fitness class on time, or simply so I can beat traffic–but to keep up with my workload, I continue to work once I’m home almost every night. I’d be really confused if my boss chose to harp on the leaving at 5:00 (when I’m not missing meetings, etc) if I was otherwise being productive. Obviously the employee in question is NOT being appropriately productive–but just something to keep in mind.

      1. Cwdoc*

        I 100% agree. If the employee were meeting deadlines and still leaving at 5, would the OP still have an issue? I would hope not. As an employee who also has to leave at 5 for childcare needs, I would hope that measurement of a good staff member is not what time they leave or get in but the products they are producing.

  5. Tex*

    The problem with thank you notes these days is that a lot of times interviews are set up by HR (so no email addresses for the hiring manager), there can be multiple rounds of interviews (lots of people met) and very rarely does an interviewer hand out a card, especially on panel interviews. It feels like the system is to purposefully shield the interviewers from any unnecessary contact by the applicant. And given the persistent badgering of a tiny minority of over-eager applicants, it seems understandable.

    1. seejay*

      My solution to that issue then is to send it to the point of contact that I do have, mention each person by name that I met with (you *should* have that written down somewhere) and ask that they forward the thank you email on to each person, indicating that you didn’t get their email address during the course of the interview (for whatever reason). Ideally the email will get forwarded through to the appropriate people.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Exactly this. Many of the “barriers” to sending a thank you to the appropriate people can be overcome relatively easily. It’s true that a note may not get passed on, but when useful, I think it’s better to send a thank you than not.

      2. lychee*

        Just curious how this would work – if you met 5 people, would you be writing 5 separate emails and forward it to the HR point of contact and ask for it to be forwarded? Or one generic one and ask that it be forwarded to the interviewers?

        1. seejay*

          I write one that goes to the point of contact and I mention all the people in it and ask that it be forwarded to them. I have no idea how it gets forwarded, if the person sends it one at a time to each, or if they send it en mass to all of them.

      3. Triplestep*

        If I couldn’t get a business card during the interview, my solution was to email the HR person who set up the interview and ask for the e-mail address of the person (or people) who interviewed me. I’ve never had a problem getting contact info this way – I expressly said it was so that I could thank them for their time.

        I’d be nervous asking someone to forward my thank you notes, especially if there’s more than one person. The notes could easily get mixed up (or not sent at all.)

        1. Ambpersand*

          As the department admin, I’ve set up interviews and had the candidate email me when they didn’t have an opportunity to get contact information/business card from an interviewer. They simply ask me to forward it on to whichever person, and I gladly do so.

          One thing that took me by (pleasant) surprise a few months ago was when I personally received a thank you note from a candidate for scheduling and coordinating the panel interviews.

      4. Oranges*

        I’ve had someone email me directly (I’m the hiring “team lead”) when their point of contact was HR. They didn’t have my company email and while it wasn’t hard to figure my email out (because logic), that action still freaked me out and made me do a hard pass on the candidate. I don’t care if that’s “unreasonable” I’m not going to be happy working with someone who would do that.

        1. Oranges*

          So please, yes, email the hiring person. I would have been 10000% okay with getting that letter if it went through the correct channels.

          1. Triplestep*

            Wait, you passed on a candidate who e-mailed you a thank you note directly? Or they e-mailed you a cover letter and resume directly? If it was the latter, I understand, but if someone met with you for an interview and then either asked HR or figured out your e-mail so that they could *thank you*, I can’t imagine why you’d pass on them for that reason alone. It’s pretty standard.

            1. Oranges*

              It was a phone interview. And it was the fact that he didn’t follow the correct channels. I hadn’t given him my email. If I don’t give you a way to directly contact me then don’t go sleuthing so you can directly contact me. Contact me via the method I give you.

      5. TassieTiger*

        I worry that that would come off as a little needy and weird. You’ve had good experiences with it though?

    2. Where's my coffee?*

      I figure the poor interviewee already had to brave the applicant tracking system, a pre-screener, a scheduler, a Byzantine parking process and a stuffy room with a bunch of harried interviewers while wearing uncomfortable interview clothes. They’ve already jumped through enough hoops for which they’re not even being paid. I don’t necessarily want to be shielded from them (well, ok, sometimes) but I definitely don’t feel they owe anyone a thank you note.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        The interviewers have taken time out of their schedules to sit down with you to interview you. Sure, it’s part of their job and the process. But at the very least you thank them for that.

        1. Doe-Eyed*

          There’s nothing wrong with a thank you note but I do find the concept that someone doing their job requires written gratitude to be weird.

        2. Where's my coffee?*

          I am usually the interviewer, not the interviewee. I think it’s a waste of time on both sides but I get that It’s A Thing to some people.

          1. Oranges*

            Thank you. I hate that it’s become yet another hoop I have to jump through to show how “pumped” I am about the opportunity of working for you. Seriously, give me pay-check, treat me like human, I good. I don’t want to drink kool-aid of any stripe.

    3. WillyNilly*

      Snail mail still exists! So long as you have a person’s name and the company name, its easy to address an envelope.
      I have always stashed a blank notecard or 3, and stamped envelopes in my bag when I interview. After the interview I sit and have a cup of coffee, dash off a thank you, and drop it in the mail same day.

      1. Jubilance*

        That won’t work for every situation. For example, I work for a company where our offices are spread over 4 different buildings, across 6 city blocks, and each building has anywhere from 14 to 56 floors. The building you interview in has no correlation to the building that your interviewer sits in. To get mail to us, you need to know the building number and a mailstop code, which isn’t readily accessible online/from Googling.

        I’ve worked at other large campuses that were similar, so I’d caution a candidate against just writing a physical note and assuming you can find the correct address online for a person at a business.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yep. I had an internal client whose office I re-designed send me a hand-written thank you card, and I did not get it for three weeks because it went to the central mail room and not my office in another building. It was such a nice gesture, and I saw her several times without mentioning it because I didn’t know it existed for three weeks!

        2. LBK*

          I mean, if you’ve had an interview, presumably you had to have the address of their actual location in order to go there for the interview…

          1. anon scientist*

            Jubilance mentioned that the interview might not take place in the building where the interviewer actually works.

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            We interview in whatever conference space is available and convenient to the majority – not where the person will be working, necessarily.

      2. Penny Lane*

        I think snail mail is a very bad idea. I don’t know any corporation these days where people routinely check their snail mail in-boxes, because so little business is conducted that way. A note could easily sit in an in-box for a week or two. This isn’t 25 years ago, where you checked your mailbox daily.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I used to do that, but our mail has been rerouted so you can’t mail anything across town in a couple of days like you used to. Now it goes far away to be sorted and then comes back. It’s stupid. Email is the way to go.

    4. CTT*

      Also for the OP, check your spam mail if you haven’t already. In addition to all the other barriers Tex pointed out, I know that a few thank you notes I sent once got caught up in the spam filter.

    5. Penny Lane*

      You solve this by asking each person at the close of your interview for their email address, and you write it down (unless they give you a card). Really. This is not rocket-science problem-solving here.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        There’s not always time. Shoot some barely leave you time to ask questions about the job.

      2. PizzaSquared*

        I don’t want to give candidates my email address. There’s a reason we have recruiters and recruiting coordinators. I interview a lot of people, and I don’t want to be fielding individual questions and requests for updates from each of them. When someone asks for my contact information during an interview, it just creates an awkward situation (typically I tell them to just go through the recruiter if they have any other questions).

    6. PizzaSquared*

      I guess I’m weird, but as a hiring manager, I kind of hate thank you notes. I can’t remember a single instance of one that made me think better of the candidate, and there have been a few which have made me think worse of them (if they come off as too needy, or reveal that they misunderstood something important in our conversation). And it’s just another item to deal with in my inbox (either electronic or physical).

      Hiring is part of my job, and I don’t need to be thanked for doing my job.

    7. Jennifer Thneed*

      I have flat-out asked people for their contact information so that I could send them a thank-you note.

      Also, a lot of my interviews end with “If you have any more questions, please contact me” and they do need to give me a way to do that.

  6. terabitz*

    OP #5, I will say that I myself have never sent a thank-you notice on interviews I’ve had, other than maybe something verbal for the positions I have been accepted at where I interviewed.

    When I interviewed at a big-box retailer one time, I didn’t think to ask for a business card or even a phone number/email address of the hiring manager, and I didn’t think I’d be able to send snail-mail either to thank them for the interview. Nonetheless, I still kinda regret it to this day because maybe I could have had a job if I did send a thank-you note.

    1. Boo Bradley*

      I’m pretty certain I got a job at a big-box retailer because the day after the interview, I drove back to the store and asked an employee to give my thank you note to the manager I’d interviewed with. It was the only way I could think to get it to him, and it had been drilled into me to send thank yous.

    1. Jennifer*

      It depends on what the company wants: to actually reward someone or to put on a show.

      Though in my industry we do absolutely nothing for anyone so….yeah.

    2. Ambpersand*

      If I have to sit through a formal lecture during my lunch hour, I better be getting a paid lunch.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      This is what we did at my old office: non-admin staff brought in breakfast (we had several really good cooks, plus Bojangles!), and then we covered the front desk for the afternoon so they got to leave at lunch.

  7. Crochet Touché*

    In my experience, always err to the side of closely proofread thank you notes. I’ve advanced in an interview process before for sending a thank you (according to the hiring manager I was the only one to send one), and I’ve lost out on a job offer for sending a thank you riddled with errors (straight out of college, and I’m still grateful to the HR person who took the time to tell me.).

    1. Jennifer*

      And this right here is why it continues. It’s an extra brownie point of well, plugging yourself (or kissing up or whatever) if you do and can be a point against you if you don’t.

      That said, I really hate doing them. I hate writing thank you notes anyway for any reason because other than “thanks for thing, it was great,” I am OUT of conversation. I don’t think any of mine have gotten me jobs and the last interview I had, the job turned out to be so bad I didn’t WANT to write one and plug my candidacy any more. And they hired their temp anyway so it didn’t matter.

      1. Gregorio*

        Although obvious, I think AAM should also caveat that if you know you bombed the interview, ain’t no thank you note going to save you from the reject pile.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          But so often people are sure they bombed the interview, and then are wrong.

          I’d alter that slightly to: If you know you wouldn’t take the job if they paid you (hah, see what I did there), then don’t send a thank you note, unless it’s also a “withdraw my candidacy” note.

    1. MK*

      That’s not necessarily true. Most companies do bombard you with solicitations in similar cases, but once you make it clear you are not immediately interested, they pull back to contacting you irregular and/or infrequent reminders.

      Also, I don’t know what form their inquiries to the OP take, but if it’s general emails, I would say it’s fine to ignore them.

    2. Marketer*

      I’m the OP, and to answer your question about the form of the solicitations, they are targeted to me rather than being generic. They use my name and clearly reference notes from the previous conversations we’ve had. I’ve been ignoring the emails and letting the calls roll to voice mail (thank you, caller ID). But the latest was a LinkedIn request that said, “We haven’t been able to get in touch with you any other way, so we figured we’d give this a shot.” I think that’s what made me wonder whether I was in violation of some vendor etiquette I wasn’t aware of.

      I’m very thankful for Alison’s advice because it made me realize I hadn’t been direct enough in previous conversations when trying to tell them my company is not going to be a fit. I think the next time they reach out I’ll use her words nearly verbatim and see if that does the trick.

      P.S. Just realized this comment originally posted further down and not in response here. Sorry!

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I had a software vendor that would not give up…for years.
        I am in a very similar situation with a very small company and limited budget. Apparently, the new sales people would see my name on the list and call. I had to get higher ups at the vendor involved. It was not nasty or confrontational, just informative. I spoke plainly that we did not have the money for the software they were selling. They finally put me on the “don’t call” list.
        Good luck.

      2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

        There was a software product that I actually was interested in, but we had just purchased a year contract with something similar. Two of their salespeople badgered me to the point that I didn’t care if their product showed up on a unicorn that dispensed free booze, I didn’t want any part of it.

        I did end up purchasing it because a personal friend of mine works on the same team and it IS a good product. I told him that if either of those people so much as sent me a thank you email, I would cancel. So far, radio silence. :)

  8. Laura H*

    Op 1, bottom line is you need to talk to that employee.

    I have a slight hard time in my hourly job- I have the opposite problem because I’ll stay past my time if I’m still helping a customer- because I want to finish with the customer or it’s diffucult to find a good, organic way to transition to a coworker (either cause they’re all busy or the task is like really simple even if it’s multifaceted.) I have been talked to several times about this, happens prolly every four months give or take- but I’ve leaned to take em as a gentle reminder and try as I move forward.

    But I do still need reminding on the concern. I’m not saying it won’t stick but you might wanna be prepared to revisit the parting punctuality issue. Good luck.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Ha, I’ve never heard “prolly” spoken, but have seen / returned it texted so much that my phone now autocorrects. (U.S. here. DC specifically.)

        Unrelated: Although, there is a British umbrella company from which I have ordered that uses the very-endearing “brolly” instead of “umbrella.” We need to adopt that in the States. (www.loveumbrellas.co.uk. Highly recommended.)

        1. Discordia Angel Jones*

          Brolly is not specific to that company! We use it for all umbrellas and it’s much more fun to say ;)

    1. Julia*

      My old workplace had all local employees as non-exempt, working until 5:15. They also required the receptionist to take calls until 5:15 (after which the system would switch to off-hours mode), so if she got a call at 5:14 she had to stay a few minutes late, which is not much, but if it happens every day, it’s hours of unpaid work a year, whereas everyone else started shutting down their computers at 5:10 and lined up in front of the clock-out device (?) by 5:13. The bus also left at 5:18 or so, and if she didn’t catch that, she missed her train and had to wait half an hour for the next (so did I).

      1. Kate 2*

        I’ve experienced this too sadly. Technically being hourly but treated as salaried and bullied into acting salaried whenever it pleased the bosses. Except of course when it would have benefited me.

        And yes, 15 minutes a day has a *huge* cumulative effect. Work late or come in early and start working by 15 minutes every day and in a week you will have worked more than an HOUR for free, in a year they will have gotten more than a full work week extra out of you for no extra compensation.

        1. A Nickname for AAM*

          Yes. I worked for a company that required everyone to come in for their hourly shifts 15 minutes early to do the transition/hand off from the previous employee. They did not pay anyone for this time, so everyone came exactly on time…and you ended up staying 15 minutes late to do the handoff anyway.

          I calculated that, at three shifts a week, they’d “stolen” about $250 from me one year…and that was the smallest instance of me being asked to work off the clock. I was asked to do WAY more for free than that.

  9. MommyMD*

    In fact, I’d think I was being punished having to sit through a lecture titled “the meaning of gold” or any other pseudo-motivational hour.

    1. CM*

      “The meaning of gold” sounds like a wealth management type thing, which makes it SO much worse than just a regular lecture from your boss, given the pay disparity between admin staff and lawyers.

      I would vote for just the lunch, and if possible a small gift card for all the admins and/or the rest of the afternoon off.

      I think as the new manager, you can draw on your outsider status and say, “At other places I’ve worked, I’ve seen…” or say, “In my experience, the admins I’ve worked with have really appreciated…”

      1. J.B.*

        Just googled it and I didn’t see the absolute “this is that book” on the 1st page, but there was some stuff about color psychology…???

      2. Jennifer*

        I thought the same thing on “gold,” like it’s even MORE insulting when you have no gold. Maybe it’s meant to be.

        1. disconnect*

          The real gold was the friends we made along the way*!

          * while being underpaid and overworked and demeaned for asking for anything more than the meagre scraps we’re constantly given

      3. Angela Ziegler*

        That was my thought too! A lecture is bad enough, but it’s even worse if the topic deals with wealth or (even figurative) riches, given the difference in pay between the speaker and the assistants!

  10. JamieS*

    I’m not sure I agree with #5. At least in terms of younger workers. Thank you notes are still very a thing that exists but it seems like they’re becoming less common for younger employees to send. Admittedly that’s purely my own impression and I have no data whatsoever to back that statement up.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is my experience as well. I still receive thank you’s from junior-level employees, but the form is different. (i.e., More emails and fewer hard copy cards—but I prefer the emails, anyway.)

        1. Mel*

          The last time I interviewed and sent a handwritten thank you, the person didn’t get it for 6 weeks. She wasn’t sure if it sat in the mail room or just took the long route via post office. I email thank yous now.

        2. ChelseaNH*

          I remember once I sent thank you cards, and they sat in the employees’ mailboxes for months. Software company — not much call to visit the mail room.

          I just emailed a thank you letter to a company — confirmation that I was still interested. I also used it to give them a little feedback about their open office plan (startup), which their HR person considers an advantage. I observed that it was a difficult environment for an introvert and I had to do some research about coping techniques; what I found seemed manageable given what I had discussed with the hiring manager. If this disqualifies me as being insufficiently engaged (something their HR person was also looking for), I’ll consider that a feature.

      2. JamieS*

        I’m open to being wrong but I don’t know if your experience can be considered representative of the norm since I’d expect most people to google their interviewer. Doing that would make it extremely easy to find that you expect a thank you since you’re literally all over the internet saying exactly that. Then again, I may just be overestimating how thoroughly applicants Google interviewers or the number of applicant who google interviewers at all.

        Even without your fame I don’t think a single interviewer’s experience can be considered a good sample. Although I would be interested in a discussion about this since I’m very curious if there’s variance in frequency between fields/industries.

        1. Where's my coffee?*

          In my experience, no one cared about thank you notes in healthcare, technology, or finance. Actually in tech they seemed more anti-note, and a handwritten card came off as pretty cringeworthy. Otoh, Fundraising-type positions notice and care from what I can see.

          Non profits and big law have all sorts of weird (to me) customs, and I’m not sure where they stand on this one.

          1. MommyMD*

            I’m in medicine and it’s not a thing anywhere I’ve worked. I’ve never sent one and have gotten every job I’ve applied for over 20 years, save one. Maybe it’s industry specific or more common in the entry level. I think in higher level fields your CV or resume is what counts.

            1. KarenK*

              I’m involved in medical education, and we receive thank you notes sometimes from people interviewed for medical school, residency, and fellowship. Many more don’t strictly do a thank you email, but do request (from me, anyway) the email addresses of the people they interviewed with. I’ve taken to including the list of names and addresses in the interview packets. Sometimes that’s just to thank the interviewers, but also to ask additional questions, if needed.

          2. Observer*

            There is a difference between finding handwritten notes odd and being anti a follow-up email. And, yes in tech a handwritten note would be odd, at best. DEFINITELY an email, if you’re going to do that.

          3. CM*

            In tech, I have both written and received thank-you emails as a matter of course. Nothing fancy, just the standard “enjoyed talking with you, very interested in the job, etc.”

            In biglaw I think thank-yous are a must. You never know what weird quirks partners have so you need to go with the highest common denominator.

          4. Macedon*

            Same. They’re very uncommon and would come off a little out of touch in my line of work (journalism). Thank you notes are too close to a PR plug for the average reporter not to cringe. And something about their unilateral nature makes them fundamentally unattractive to me.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For the record, I don’t expect a thank-you note. I find most thank-you notes to be perfunctory and bland, and thus they don’t add anything to the person’s candidacy. Occasionally a thank-you is well done and substantive, and those are helpful. I do think, though, that it’s crazy how often people want to know how to stand out in the hiring process and then balk at the idea of spending a few minutes writing a post-interview note.

          But I take your point that if anyone googles me, they’re likely to come away thinking they should send a note.

          All that said, though, I regularly talk to lots of people who hire, and my sense is that thank-you notes are still a thing they’re regularly receiving as well.

          1. JamieS*

            Now I do understand the balk because I also balked prior to reading AAM. My logic was that it was obvious I’m thankful for the opportunity to interview so a note would be unnecessarily stating the obvious and would do nothing other than cause the hiring manager (who I assumed to be a busy person) to have to do one more thing. Then again, I’d consider my job to be mostly technology so maybe Where’s my coffee? is onto something there. Out of curiosity, are the people you talk to in more creative and/or people focused fields (like writing or non-profits) or also more logic based fields?

            Also, by expect I meant it would be obvious you think a thank you note is a good thing to do not that you’d stand in the middle of a ring of fire created by setting the non-thank you note sending applicants’ resumes afire. Okay that’s an exaggeration but excellent imagery.

            1. Anna Held*

              I had NEVER heard that it’s actually a follow-up note until I read it here. It not only makes much more sense, it’s easier to write now that I know that.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          I’ve gotten thank-you notes from most of the last 5-6 interviews I’ve participated in, which were predominantly younger people. I don’t know if they’re more of an expected thing in libraries or academia?

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          The thank you notes got someone hired on my team recently. She was moving from out of state so she had two phone interviews that each had like 5 people on our end and she sent follow up emails to each person on the call personalized to something they specifically talked about. My boss was so impressed that she could even keep track of who was saying what on a call like that to manage that level of detail in her notes.

        5. Beehoppy*

          My company hires college-age interns every summer and they are being coached to send thank you notes, I don’t know if they send them via e-mail, as I’m not someone they would thank, but I do see them coming in via snail mail, and I know one university in particular even provides them branded note cards for that purpose.

        6. Thor*

          For what it’s worth, I had a manager (who I thought was really bad at hiring) who would view even the most perfunctory thank you notes as being a positive and not sending one as a negative (especially if other candidates had sent them).

    1. Helena Handbasket*

      I think the handwritten thank you note sent to the interviewer’s desk may be more obsolete now, but everyone I know working under 30 still follows up with at least an email.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I actually discourage the handwritten notes now. This is business correspondence, and it’s fine to use email! Plus, if you mail it, it may sit in someone’s rarely checked in-box for weeks before they notice it, and the hiring decision may have been made long ago.

        1. Bea*

          It also has to be entrusted to the postal service which for even local mail takes its sweet time given their adjustments in recent years. All mail in my previous town was routed to Major City even if it was local, meaning at least 3 day turn around. Then someone has to sort it and maybe it gets to the person within a week. Unlike an email while you’re still fresh in their mind.

        2. Lia*

          Good point. We get paper mail delivered maybe once a week in my office, and it’s opened before it gets to us for security reasons.

      2. Where's my coffee?*

        A thank you email makes me think nothing in particular. A thank you snail mail makes me wonder if you’re up to speed with life–like not a deal-breaker, but maybe that you’ll be a person who wastes too much time thinking about office birthday calendars and coming to talk to me about hurt feelings.

        A thank you phone call or god forbid personal visit makes me think you are a weirdo. Doubly so if food is involved.

        1. Beehoppy*

          I personally love the handwritten ones, as I’m old school like that, but it does make me sad to see them come in when I know that candidate has already been rejected.

  11. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    OP2 one solution an old employer found was to buy as many tables as needed at the Heart Association fundraiser fashion show held that day. There was a nice lunch followed by a celebrity speaker followed by the fashion show. We could stay as long as we wanted, and many left early without penalty. We are well and socialized and it benefited charity.

  12. Daffodil*

    #4, please be assured that no-one else is as conscious of your braces as you are! I’ve known adults who had them because their parents couldn’t afford them during childhood, because their parents could afford braces but picked a terrible orthodontist and now they need to fix that, because a retainer to prevent grinding knocked their teeth out of alignment, all kinds of reasons. I know it feels like a big deal (it sure felt like it to me when I had them), but it honestly isn’t. You’ll do great!

    1. Safetykats*

      My husband is 60, and gets his braces off tomorrow. We have three other adult friends who currently have braces, and until he got his he actually hadn’t noticed – which was hilarious. “Did you know Bruce has braces? When did he get braces?” “Yes, honey. Six months ago.” Truly, if you have the clear brackets, it’s likely nobody will notice.

      However – do be aware that they may make you speak a little differently for a couple of weeks after you get them. My husband developed a slight lisp, which bothered him a lot. The solution to that is just to practice talking – a lot – until you work through it. But it may make you even more self-conscious until you get past that, particularly for something like interviewing. (Our daughter, who is a dental assistant, recommended reading out loud as good practice to get rid of the lisp.)

      1. Maybe?*

        I got braces as a young adult (~20 years old), got my first two jobs with them, and have seen multiple adults since then with braces. I think it’s actually more common than you realize. I’ve neither seen nor experienced anyone holding it against a person, the most I got was just curious questions (but not from an interviewer). And, who knows, maybe your interviewer had them at one point.

      2. Future braces-wearer*

        Thanks, that’s a good tip! I was worried about a potential lisp during any interviews!

        1. Rainy*

          I had a lisp before my braces, and I still have it now to my own ears, but it’s a lot less noticeable–it’s reached the point that people who didn’t know me before the braces have no idea I ever lisped, which is nice.

          I had braces in my mid-30s and was a doctoral candidate, presenting papers and chairing panels at conferences, teaching courses, etc. No one ever mentioned it, and in fact a lot of people didn’t seem to notice I had them at all. Mine weren’t clear, either–they were gold, and I loved them so much! Like jewelry for my teeth.

          This isn’t work related, but if nobody has warned you yet, don’t ever post full face photos of yourself with your braces showing online, and if you are single and online dating, don’t mention braces or post photos of yourself that show your braces in your profile.

          (Fetishists. :( It’s super gross to be a target if it’s not something you share. I was pretty careful, but I had to find the dating profile thing out the hard way.)

      3. Terbz*

        Op #4 – I am a 25 year old with braces (and a missing tooth until the orthodontics do their magic). Safetykats makes a good point about the different way of speaking the first couple of weeks, and I would add that sometimes you may hold your mouth a little differently at first, or not be used to your lips catching. I’ve never received any comments about them!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My brother-in-law, who was the head of a small company with lots of professional socializing to do, got braces in his late 30s. It’s unusual, but not in a “what’s wrong with this person” way. Everyone knows what braces are for and that there probably is no dramatic tale of adventure lurking behind them.

    3. K.*

      I can name three people off the top of my head who got braces as adults. My mom’s best friend has them now (she’s retired though, so doesn’t have the “what will my colleagues think?” issue). A family friend told me he got braces in his first BigLaw job because he could finally afford it. He’d grown up poor and self-conscious about his crooked teeth. He was a little self-conscious about his braces because he was afraid they made him look younger (he’d skipped a grade and gone straight to law school from undergrad so he WAS younger and worried about being taken seriously), but he was more self-conscious about his crooked teeth so he went for it. And my best friend’s sister, also a lawyer, got them in her 30s. She’d had them as a kid but didn’t wear her retainers so her teeth eventually reverted (which infuriated her mother, as braces were a huge financial hardship for the family).

      Sometimes adults have braces! It’s fine.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        My mom and my kid’s best friend’s dad both have braces. My mom is nearing retirement age and my kid’s friend’s dad is in his late 40s. It’s more common now than when I was a kid with braces.

    4. Moonlight Elantra*

      Definitely! My freshman year of college, there were a BUNCH of people in my class who got braces first or second semester because they had grown up without dental insurance and could finally jump on the university’s dental plan. And then I’ve known several people about the OP’s age who got braces in their first post-college job because they could finally afford it. Braces are for real not just for kids anymore.

    5. GovSysadmin*

      I got braces in my mid-thirties because I had resisted getting them as a kid and my parents never forced the issue (which I regret in retrospect). I had them for five years, and it was never a big deal – just a “huh, you have braces?” every once in a while. I never interviewed while I had them, but it never caused me any issues at my office, other than having to schedule meetings around orthodontic appointments every four weeks.

      1. Annon for this*

        The only person who asked my why I got braces, at 40 was the family member with the worst teeth. Everyone else took it in stride. Half the people didn’t notice.
        OP – make sure you get extra wax from the office at every appointment and keep your favorite pain reliever close, if you use any. Bonus for me was the 5-10lbs I lost the first month.
        Trust me it will be worth it! I love my smile now and I have so much less food stuck in my teeth.

    6. EddieSherbert*

      +1 I know a few people who have braces at my work – and I have never been in or overheard a “judgey” conversation about it. And my only reaction is a twinge of sympathy because braces are a pain – a pain that’s worth it, but a pain nonetheless.

      (Tip from someone who had braces for 5 years: don’t even try to eat corn on the cob – just cut the corn right off the cob and save yourself a nasty experience!)

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Ditto stone fruit. Don’t eat them out of hand — cut them into halves or quarters. I learned the hard way that biting into the fruit near the pit engaged some lever-like action and one of the brackets popped right off. The orthodontist told me it was reasonably common (and how to avoid it).

    7. karenelainer*

      Yes! I did Invisalign (less visible than metal braces, but still impacts speech and the way you hold your mouth) and some people noticed, but no one thought it was weird. The issue with Invisalign and professional life is how often you have to take out the trays to eat or drink anything other than water! I have a public-facing role and found myself at several company meals or meetings where I had to discreetly take out my trays (it’s impossible — they click and there’s always a trail of spit) or decline food. The bigger inconvenience has been working in all the required teeth brushing to keep everything clean. I now brush my teeth 6-8 times a day!

      Ultimately — this is one of those things that’s only a big deal if you make it one.

      1. Poppy Weasel*

        Oh gosh, I’m currently in month 8 of a 9-10 month process of getting an implant for one of my two front teeth. I have to take my flipper out to eat (I can leave it in to drink), and it’s been tough trying to be discreet about it. And god forbid someone say something funny while I’m eating and I laugh and everyone can see the big black hole in my smile. I’ve told most people about it so it doesn’t come off as a shock, but there have been times I’ve been around clients or people I don’t know well and I just have to do my best to maneuver the situation.

        1. MissingArizona*

          My dad has a flipper cause of missing front teeth, he is suprisingly smooth about removing it. Doesn’t hurt that he has an epic Tom Selleck mustache.

    8. Triumphant Fox*

      Braces aren’t off-putting -it’s so much more about how you carry yourself. I would say that being especially conscious of the rest of your look can help give you more confidence.
      For women, think about ways to de-emphasize braces by drawing the eye elsewhere. Slicked back hair or very straight hair can make facial features more pronounced/harsher than they are with hair worn down and with a little volume. Don’t do a bright or super glossy lip (especially since lipstick can end up on the braces themselves) and instead make sure that your lashes and brows are defined (not necessarily a smoky eye, but something that darkens your eyes so that your braces don’t stand out as the only darker element [if you’re pale]). Wear something in which you feel confident – maybe that means going with something more structured than usual so that you’re projecting a “mature” image, if you’re worried about looking more juvenile.
      For men, I don’t have much advice other than brow shaping/filling and defining your eyes. Clothing is less variable for men, but projecting a sharp, clean, “mature” image would also be in men’s best interest.

  13. Where's my coffee?*

    Cover letters are great. Resumes are great. Especially when they’re PDF. But for the love of all that is holy, I wish thank you notes would cease to be a thing. I swear I get them for panels I didn’t even sit in on.

    It doesn’t influence my decision one way or another, but it’s one more dang thing in my inbox. It is right up there with handshaking on my list of useless niceties/gross-eties that Society Should Agree To Abandon.

    1. Where's my coffee?*

      Adding that cheek kissing is also one of those things. Gross. Unless you are my child, I do not want to embrace or kiss you.

      1. StevieIsWondering*

        Yes. Unless this is France, where it is considered non-creepy and totally normal, this is creepy and not normal.

    2. MommyMD*

      I agree. And I think it’s shortsighted if any employer would consider not hiring a good prospect over lack of a post-interview thank you. That comes off as self-involved to me. You said thank you at the meeting.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No sensible employer does decline to hire based on lack of the note. It’s about strengthening your candidacy by sending one, not weakening it by not. If this isn’t a thing in your field, then cool — but it’s a thing in many.

        1. JamieS*

          Starting to feel like I’m stalking you tonight but I’m not really seeing a difference between strengthening your candidacy by sending a note and weakening it by not sending one. If sending a thank you note strengthens an applicant’s candidacy wouldn’t that effectively weaken the candidacy of other similarly qualified applicants who didn’t sent a note. Seems kind of like a teacher saying they don’t count the answers a student got wrong but the answers they got right. Regardless of the internal thought process the result is the same.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I was replying to the idea of not hiring someone because they didn’t send the note, and I was saying that that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the fact that it can make a candidate stronger if they do send one and it’s done well. But a good hiring manager wouldn’t say “She was our top candidate, but now I’m not going to hire her because she didn’t send a follow-up note.”

          2. TheFutureWillBeBetter*

            From a very logical (I’ll use math) standpoint, strengthening (adding) is not the same as weakening (subtracting). Imagine a theoretical world in which we are numerically scoring interviews. The more points, the better.

            Jane has 5 points. Fergus has 1 point. Fergus sends a thank you note that’s very good. He now has 2 points. He, however, still has less points than Jane. And Jane still has five points.

            Does that make sense?

            1. Yods*

              Alternately, degree of difference between candidates aren’t really absolutes, so at best you’d have the idea that Jane has 4 more points than Fergus. Then Fergus sends a thank you note and suddenly Jane has only 3 points more than Fergus. Does it really matter if it is because Fergus went one up for sending or Jane went one down for not sending?

              Think we’re getting off topic, though.

              1. g*

                The relevance seems to be that it will strengthen your candidacy (or weaken others who haven’t provided it, you’re right they’re the same), but they wont’ be excluded from the hiring process. Imagine Fergus sends a note and there are 2 other candidates who don’t:

                Jane has 18 points and no note.
                Fergus has 14 points and sends a note +2 = 16 points.
                Brian has 15 points and no note.

                So what I think Alison is saying is that Jane is still going to be 1st choice even though she didn’t send a note. But Fergus has moved himself to 2nd place instead of being behind Brian.

                Obviously the numbers are made up and it supposes that the difference between Fergus and Brian was already small, but you never know.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  A recurring theme on this site–you never know how good the other candidates are. You’re shooting your follow-up note off into a void where it might be neutral and might be the extra little “this person pays attention to detail and follows up” that you needed. In the US, it’s unlikely to hurt. (Whereas a thank you note accompanied by a framed photograph or a chocolate bar is going to hurt 99% of the time; I’m gathering that in Australia the note itself would land as pandering.)

                2. Flinty*

                  Yeah, I think it ends up really mattering only if Jane and Fergus have the same number of points and Jane sends a fantastic thank you note and Fergus’s is bland or nonexistent. It’s super rare (I assume) that two candidates would truly be actually absolutely equal, but it’s worth sending a note just in case, since it’s so unlikely to hurt and can only help.

                3. kitryan*

                  I was involved in reviewing candidates for receptionist at my office (US law firm) and the thank you note really did change my recommendation. Of the 3 candidates they each had different pluses and minuses that mostly all balanced out but one candidate sent a note to the internal recruiter, her point of contact, via email, that expressed her continuing interest and thanked each person who had met with her by name and referenced something specific about each discussion with each person. It really showed attention to detail, accuracy (with the names and comments), and overall politeness – all stuff that was important in the position. I think it put her over the top with all of the interview team.

          3. Lars the Real Girl*

            I think the point Alison is making is that a *really good* thank you note can be beneficial, with that caveat. That means that a so-so one will probably read the same way as no note. And a poor one can actually be harmful (ie littered with mistakes or totally missing the point of a conversation point).

            So it’s not a note = +1 no note = -1.

          4. Flinty*

            I see your point, but I think the analogy to a test is also a little misleading because if you’re taking a test on like, American history, whether or not you goof off in class shouldn’t matter to your score. But when you’re interviewing for a job, everything you do is being judged, for better or for worse. It’s not just how you perform in the interview, it’s also whether your emails are decently written, if you got to the interview on time, etc. Or like that one letter, if you’re rude to the CEO’s wife on the train you might not get the job :)

            In that sense, sending a thank you note is kind of a freebie, since it’s unlikely to hurt your chances if it’s bland or if you just didn’t send one, but if it’s good, it might improve them.

            1. JamieS*

              I think you’re being a little too literal with my analogy. Thinking in terms of ranking candidates 0-10 with 10 being your ideal candidate if Jane and Sam are both at a 7 based on qualifications/interview alone and Sam sends a note that bumps her to an 8 then Jane’s candidacy is effectively weakened since hiring is in terms of comparison not absolutes.

              My point with the test analogy was that whether we think in terms of Sam being helped by sending a note or Jane being hurt by not sending one the end result is the same.

              1. Flinty*

                I think if I take you very literally we actually agree! Yes, if one candidate sends an amazing thank you note, it will bump them up, while the other candidate stays at their previous level.

                I think what I was trying to dig into though is whether that is unfair, which is the sense that I get from a lot of the comments in general. And I guess as long as the hiring manager is treating a bland thank you note the same as no thank you note (so it’s not just about checking the thank you note box) but is only swayed by an awesome note that demonstrates additional skill/gives new information, I don’t see how it is, any more than being swayed by a particularly thoughtful question a candidate asks in the “do you have any questions for me?” part of the interview.

                1. JamieS*

                  I find thank you notes pointless and somewhat indicative of putting emotion before logic. However I don’t know I’d call them unfair by themselves since my default is most everyone would be able to write a thank you note. I do think it’s a little unfair that we don’t know for sure if they’d hurt us though. I know Alison’s general stance is they can only help (I presume she’s assuming the letter is readable and not full of typos) but I also get the sense in some industries it’d be seen as a nuisance.

                  Even if it is “unfair” I don’t know that it matters in the grand scheme. There are plenty of things that give people an “unfair” advantage over others. For instance my personality is very similar to manager’s so we clicked right away during my interview. I’m sure that’s not the reason I was hired but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that helped my case. Particularly since after talking to others I found out I was hired more quickly and with less interviews than others. At least something like a thank you note is more controllable than something like your personality.

                2. vck*

                  Perhaps this should be nested differently, but: I’ve never sent a thank you note (email or otherwise) to interviewers, but I’ve been on search committees where maybe 1 in 25 people did send notes.

                  I always, however, brought a thank you card (on paper) to give to the whichever administrative assistants made my travel arrangements or were in charge of getting me from place to place.

              2. Colette*

                If you and I both have 7 apples and someone gives you another one, I haven’t been harmed by that – I still have my 7 apples – but when we compare the number of apples we have, you have more. Not sending a thank you note doesn’t harm you, but it doesn’t help you, and if you’re even with someone else, you can end up in second place if your competitor writes a thoughtful note that strengthens your candidate. But if your competitor sends a note with multiple misspellings (including the name of the company), they will lose standing and you will end up with a higher relative rank.

                1. JamieS*

                  If the determination is whoever has the most apples gets the job then yes someone giving me an apple would harm you.

    3. Tardigrade*

      My problem with thank you notes is they seem like one of those “use the proper fork” social rules that will unfairly advantage the person who knows it. I recognize that hiring is not about being fair, but I still don’t have to like it.

  14. Tony Stark*

    #3 – I manage IT at school and use freeware all the time without any intention of buying any additional products if it does what I need it to.

    As long as the stuff you’re using doesn’t prohibit its use in a corporate environment in the EULA (some tools will distinctly state they’re for personal use only), there’s no reason you can’t.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Yeah, and then when I get the inevitable followup emails and calls, call me callous, but I ignore them, especially if I’ve already communicated with someone at that company that the product they’re selling is too expensive for us and we’re not interested. I generally reply the first time with a “thanks, but no thanks. Just here for the free t-shirt.” Anything after that gets routed to my spam folder. Because as much as the salesperson would like to believe that just showing me 1 more deck of the company’s “capabilities” will change my mind, it won’t change accounting’s opinion that I have a $1k budget, but your product is $15k.

      1. Marketer*

        2 Cents – exactly! I’m the OP and that is exactly my problem. If I had unlimited budget I would snap up their software in a heartbeat because it truly is great. But the cost is approximately 5 times what my company is willing to pay, and no amount of features/functions conversations is going to convince them to free up those funds. Alison’s response made me realize I just wasn’t being candid enough in communicating that message, so I’m going to give it another shot the next time they reach out to me and see if that cuts down on the solicitations.

      2. Tony Stark*

        I hate talking to vendors, particularly when I have no intention of purchasing from them. I generally just ask reception to say I’m busy and just to email me. :P

  15. BePositive*

    #4 – if you didn’t get shortlisted and it was because of braces that is a terrible company. I know a few adults how has braces. Never held them back. I see them, I think, oh she has braces, and that’s pretty much it.

  16. Diamond*

    What on earth was ‘the meaning of gold’ lecture about? Actual gold? Being a gold employee? Something else?

        1. Where's my coffee?*

          Yes. Definitely. I actively avoid anything that is striving to be inspirational.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        A lecture about alchemy might be crazy enough to be interesting, unlike the more likely options.

    1. Helena Handbasket*

      I was thinking the same thing! I didn’t realize vague corporate inspirational jargon had transcended pithy buzzwords like “boldness” and “growth mindset” and have now reached just abstract color concepts.

    2. Bea*

      I made the mistake of googling it. It’s a terrible “empowerment” speech that I could skim just enough to get annoyed with especially the “gold is masculine energy whereas silver is feminine energy”…w.t.f.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG, please let it be a crackpot lecture on “Color Psychology.” This letter might reach peak irony if senior attorneys/partners are telling their admins to succeed in life by being more “masculine,” “abundant” and “winner-ish.”

        1. Bea*

          That’s exactly the only thing that comes up when you Google “the meaning of gold.” The Color Psychology write ups.

          They may as well give the Admins some crystals and essential oils that also will lead to wealth and prosperity with their lunches.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Ew ew ew …

        If most if the assistants are female and higher ups are mostly male (statistically likely…) a whole extra layer of ew!

      3. Pomona Sprout*

        Omg, that’s truly cringeworthy, especially the gold=masculine, silver=femine part. Urrrggghhhh

      4. Matilda Jefferies*


        OP, the more I read about this, the more I think the best way you can appreciate the AAs is to offer them all earplugs and couple of free drinks if they have to sit through these lectures!

    3. JamieS*

      I’m not sure but I imagined it went like this: “What is the meaning of gold? Gold is a chemical element with symbol Au and atomic number of 79. Now does anybody know why gold’s symbol on the periodic table is Au?” *Looks around room* “No, I’m seriously asking. Does anybody know?!”

      1. Just Employed Here*

        That’d actually be interesting, compared to what it seems to consist of (as mentioned above).

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        Especially if it ended with an investment strategy lecture for the admins about putting some funds in precious metals, and some funds in stocks versus bonds versus funds. Now, THAT? Would be worthwhile.

        1. eplawyer*

          Only if the company also invested some funds for them.

          Honestly, admin day is to honor your admins who make your life so much easier. Give them lunch and a paid afternoon off. They listen to you 364 days a year, let them have one day without your bloviating.

          As with any gift — think about what the recipient wants, not what you want.

          (sorry paralegal/legal secretary).

        1. Liane*

          But Ravenclaw gets 50 because all of them knew the actual Latin word (nominative case) is “Aurum.” Plus another 50 for knowing it is made by transmutation Lead, symbol Pb, from “Plumbum.”

          1. Never Nicky*

            Plus the 50 for knowing Plumbum is the why we call people who work with pipes, taps, water and toilets, “plumbers” because most early waterpipes were made from lead….

            1. Oranges*

              Alchemy was the precursor to chemistry I believe. They were basically going: mixing these things together does nifty* stuff. Why? What else can we mix together? Because we are all toddlers at heart and just wanna see what will happen when we do stuff.

              *Nifty but often toxic

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Gold is important because you can grind it into dust in case of a cyberman attack.

      1. LS*

        My lipstick has gold in it and I must admit the cyberman threat was part of why I bought that one in the first place…

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      There is an opening here for despair.com to expand their business model into a lecture series.

  17. wayward*

    OP1, I’m curious how her time is being used during normal work hours. Is her schedule is cluttered with low-value stuff, e.g., non-essential meetings? Are priorities clear? Does she have enough control over her schedule that she can say no to lower-priority stuff when she’s on deadline?

    1. Betsy*

      This is what happened to me, recently. I had a heavy workload and ended up working 70-80 hrs a week, because there were so many pointless meetings and required tasks taking up my standard working hours. It was frustrating because I was struggling to meet my job’s core responsibilities.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It used to be that when things got crunched, my husband’s bosses gave him permission to miss all the meetings and spend that time in the lab.

    2. Banannaise*

      I’m 100% on board this train. “My employee missed a deadline by insisting on a 40-hour week” is one thing. “My employee misses lots of deadlines by insisting on a 40-hour week” sounds like your employees are overburdened but only one of them is willing to draw a line.

      This sounds like a staffing issue, but you can probably solve for it by prioritizing effectively.

      1. Mrs B*

        I was thinking along these lines myself. I can understand needing to put in extra hours during “crunch times” periodically, but if its a regular occurence I would cry foul. The OP stated that she is able to push deadlines back, which makes me pause. I’ve worked in jobs where the TPS report had to be submitted by a certain date and there really was no way to change that without dire consequences for the company, so other duties would get pushed aside to focus on this task. After deadlines were met, there would be some down time and usually a gesture from management thanking us for putting in the extra work to get this done. Being salaried shouldn’t mean you have to work however many hours management desires, but that you can be asked to work extra hours in certain situations (for my formered salaried job it meant I had to cover when we were down staff due to call ins or unexpected termination of employment, but the understanding was that this was an occasional situation)

      2. Oranges*

        Yes! That stood out to me too. There’s occasional crunch times and those are always off set by low times. But this letter doesn’t sound like that. It sounds like one of those industries where 40+ hours a week is the norm. Or it is in this office.

        If it’s the norm in the industry I’d talk to the employee about how this is unfortunately accepted and how/what that means to the business and the paycheck and the time spent at work. Eg. I know it sucks that you have to work 40+ hours in this industry but since everyone else [suckily] does it to remain competitive either we have to also OR we have to pay our employees less.

        If that’s not the norm in your industry? Then your workplace kinda… sucks. Wait. Isn’t a right fit for this person and getting a person who doesn’t mind getting taken advantage of… wait. Is passionate about their work will be a plus.

      3. Liz*

        I agree. The reading of the manager’s perspective was a little generous, I think. First of all, if the whole team is putting in extra hours all the time to meet deadlines, that is unreasonable and unsustainable. The fact that everyone else is putting in extra hours doesn’t mean that is OK. It sounds like there is a staffing strategy problem at the root of this issue.

        If we do go with the generous reading, OP #1 needs to stop managing the employee’s schedule and instead manage their performance. It’s really tempting to blame poor performance on the number of hours an employee works, but it’s often much more complicated than that. Focusing on the number of hours they work is unlikely to result in meaningful performance improvement anyway, at least not long-term.

      4. androidqueen*

        Thank you for saying this, and I’m disappointed that this perspective is not more widely held!

        Yes, being salaried means that you may *occasionally* have to work extra hours, but if your whole team is under a “heavy workload” and you’re “constantly” having to push back deadlines to accommodate a 40 hour work week, the problem is very likely not with your employee, but with your scheduling. You say it’s about the work, not the hours, but the fact is, your employees do not owe you an unrestricted number of hours in order to get the work done.

    3. Hellanon*

      It may also be a work habits issue – how well is the employee prioritizing *how* she does the work, not just what work gets done, the ratio of useful meetings to pointless meetings, etc?

  18. One legged stray cat*

    For OP 2, those topics don’t just seem boring but seem more like training lectures than an acknowledgement of gratitude to the lower staff. It’s like sending your mom a list of how she could be a better mom for Mother’s day. Pretty much missing the point of the holiday. Really, what would be the most customary is for one lawyer to give a five minute toast thanking the staff for their hard work at the lunch. That is all that is needed. Time off and bonuses would also be appreciated, though in most jobs less common for a little known holiday. The lecture can be saved for a training/motivation meeting.

    1. Loose Seal*

      Exactly. It’s like they are saying that if you get motivated enough (by my lecture), you’ll be a bigwig like me instead of an admin. I’m surprised the admins’ eyes stay in their sockets what with all the eye-rolling they must do.

  19. Brace Face*

    OP#4 I got braces on the week after I started a new job 1 year ago. Most of my colleagues have never seen me without them, and it’s no big deal. I’ll get them off later this year and they’ll never have seen me without braces – that’ll be the bidet shock for a while.

    I’m 43, btw, and had braces as a teen. Wear your retainers FOR LIFE unless you feel like paying the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $7-8k again in a few decades!

    1. Mad Baggins*

      Ugh ok FINE /puts in retainer/ you’re right…thankscthh for the reminder I guesschhth

    2. Namast'ay in Bed*

      Throwing my hat in with the “adult braces are totally fine” crowd. My fiance had them and had no negative repercussions, most people who even noticed them were like “good for you, taking care of your teeth”. Side note: if you have to get the metal braces and not Invisaligns, you can get the brackets in white – it makes them practically invisible unless you’re super up close.

      100000000% commit to wearing your retainer when this is all done. After the first week or two you only have to wear them at night and it’s so easy to pop them in before bed and out when you brush your teeth in the morning! Such an easy way to make sure your smile stays perfect, I’m on 15+ years of wearing mine with no changes, my cousin had braces at the same time as me but didn’t wear her retainer and now has to get braces all over again.

      1. Rainy*

        I had to wear my retainers full-time for 8 months. :/ I still wear my top one every night but barely wear my bottom one because I hate it so much even when I go to bed with it in I’ll wake up and find that I took it out in the middle of the night without waking up.

        I found it in my pillowcase one time. I don’t know what was up with that.

  20. Simone R*

    I do college interviews for high schoolers, and only about 2/10 email me a thank you note afterwards. This seems like a great time to be introduced to the post interview thank you note, but it’s clearly not happening! I would imagine that it would take a while to have a high percentage of the people applying to internships be familiar with it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Because that’s not what the notes are supposed to be about. They somehow got unfortunately named, because they’re not really supposed to be about thanking anyone. They’re supposed to indicate that you went home, reflected on the interview, and decided that you’re still very interested in pursuing the position (which isn’t something that should otherwise be assumed), and they’re ideally about building on the conversation from the interview. More here:


        1. David*

          Alison, do you have a post with a few examples of what a good follow-up email might look like? Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a good example.

            1. RemoteDreams*

              I was specifically looking for them on your site last week! Luckily I did well enough on that interview to get a second (so if you could get to that within the next few days… I kid I kid :) ) but I still felt lost looking up thank-you emails. Sone “great” ones according to experts were nearly two pages long! I read your posts about them, but I still wasn’t sure the best way to really write one.

              1. RemoteDreams*

                “experts”, I mean! I honestly can’t imagine a cover letter that long ever being appropriate…

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Good idea. If people should send them, I think a few notes on how to send them would be appreciated.

          1. OtterB*

            This was a number of years ago – pre-email and pre-Internet – but I am still pleased with the followup letter I sent after one interview. The message was “I was reading the material you gave me on the plane on the way home and I realized we didn’t discuss my experience with X, which is pertinent to the job.” I included the table of contents from a report of an X project that I had been involved with (because the full report was really long). I don’t know that it was a deciding factor, but I’m certain it strengthened my candidacy. I worked there happily for 10 years.

            I also send a followup email after the interview for my current job. There, the message was “I continue to be very interested.” It was probably pretty short (can’t remember for sure at this point), but that basic message was more than fluff in this case because we’d had a frank conversation during the phone screen that the salary range for the position was low for my education and experience, and had decided it was potentially a good enough fit to continue discussion rather than either of us opting out over the difference at that early stage. They ended up offering me somewhat more than they had originally planned, which was somewhat less than I had been looking for, but it’s also true that the benefits are excellent, and I’ve never regretted accepting.

            So my experience aligns with the notion of making it a true followup, not just a perfunctory thank you.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Every interview I’ve had, I got a call from HR within a day or so where they said “yes, we’re interested, how about you?” Or “no”, but then it didn’t matter if I was.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’s a thing in the US from what I gather. If I hadn’t read this blog I’d put them in the same category as hand-delivering an application or printing on pink paper with a fancy font … stand out by being a good candidate not by gimmicks! But turns out it is actually a thing :)

      3. Simone R*

        They do thank me at the interview, and it is enough! I don’t ding them in the write up for not sending me one but I’m always impressed with the ones who do. It was more a comment to show that high schoolers are also missing out on a general knowledge of thank you note writing.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      How interesting! I worked in college admissions for three years, and I regularly got thank-you notes (either email or snail mail) from my students. I’ve actually saved a few of them from some of my favorite students (usually scholarship candidates/first-generation students) even though I work in a different field now.

  21. Bea*

    Honestly I send thank you emails for every in person interview but for a phone interview that seems too early to me.

    1. hbc*

      Yes, I would never expect one after a phone interview. A clarifying email (if you misstated something, or thought of a different example, or remember to clear up that X company now goes by Y name) where you also thank them for their time, fine.

      I feel like the managers who are *expecting* the notes are confusing them with social thank you notes and believe that they are 100% required on every occasion.

  22. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1… if their work during the hours is fine, and they’re working hard… then tbh the workload should not need unpaid overtime? If it’s a general expectation then that seems unreasonable to me. May be a cultural thing, but no, being expected to work additional unpaid hours is not a reasonable expectation to me. I expect to work what is agreed in contract unless exceptional circumstances (and yeah, probably doesn’t have a contract hence cultural…)

    (I do stay late when ness btw!)

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I could also be.picking this up wrong, but it sounds like the required flexibility is all one way? Like if she has to work til 5.30 because the work needs done, does she get to leave at 4.30 if she finishes early? ‘Cos if not, that’s taking the piss and she’s right.

      If she does get to leave early or come in late the next day if ahe has to stay late, then make that part of conversation :)

      I was once in a job which did have flexi time, then upper management decided theybdidn’t like the idea. Hours were 9-5. I regularly got in because of train times at 8.40, and there was a train left at 17.10 that I couldn’t make if I left at 1700… so I asked if I could do 0850-1650.

      No. We don’t do flexitime.

      This meant I got home more than an hour later. I explained this – “we don’t do flexitime”.

      So I didn’t do flexitime. I didn’t start til 0900 and left at 1700 on the dot.

      Current job… meh :) I’ll head off at finish time sometimes, but if in middle of train of thought will finish it, or if someone wants to chat to me at finish time or there’s something we need to do, I’ll hang about no problem. Once Big Biss found me and colleague there 2-3 hours late and asked us… “oh, we just wanted to cbeck his was all ok before we headed…”

      But it’s a two way street. If it’s all one way… nope. Not happening.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        But there’s a distinction between flextime and exempt hours. You can be an exempt employee (meaning your hours can vary but should average to full-time) and still be required to keep core business hours. And again, this labor is (theoretically) compensated by virtue of the position being classified as exempt. Usually if you’re “over hours” it’s paid out as comp time, which is also distinct from flextime.

        There are lots of exempt positions where you’re expected to keep core business hours, occasionally stay late, and can later cash out the “stay late” time if it turns out that your average hours are at or above 40. But again, this is part of the expectations of the position. It’s not about who gets the “benefit” of flexible end-of-day hours and who doesn’t. I think OP needs to recommunicate to their employee those expectations.

        Failing to meet deadlines and to work the extra hours required to make those deadlines is not a good look. And leaving promptly at 5 p.m. with unfinished work that will blow a deadline, absent other contextualizing information, also is not really accepted/normal for exempt employees. So regardless, there’s a perception and a deliverable problem that need correction.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          If you get the hours back, then that’s good :) I got impression from OP that employee had to stay until at least 5pm, which leaves a nasty taste.

          I work 0800-1630 and generally head off sometime before 1645, sometimes a bit later if I want to keep an eye on something, and don’t really keep track… sometimes a bit earlier if check with manager but that’s rarer… but that’s because it’s a two way street and there is never an expectation to stay late. If needed, it’s always phrased as “sorry to ask but…” and it will be made up to me later.

        2. Kalamet*

          I’d be interested to know whether OP has had any direct conversations with the report about missing deadlines, and what the report said. “I had a lot to do” tells me that the report views the workload as the problem, while OP’s letter shows that she thinks the hours are the problem. I understand the reality of exempt culture, but it really annoys me when “until the work gets done” is the unspoken benchmark.

          My last company was hand-wavey about how many hours were expected, but working long hours was never appreciated or compensated. I’ve never worked a job where I could leave early if everything was done. Nowadays I work eight hours, and look for companies that support that. If it takes more than that on the regular, managers should do one of two things: 1) re-evaluate the workload or 2) if it’s an industry where long hours are common / necessary, make that very clear to the employees.

          Exempt jobs have so many variations that you’re really doing a disservice to employees by not being crystal clear about hour expectations. Depending on the culture OP’s report is coming from, she may not even realize her boss is annoyed.

          1. Chatterby*

            Multiple use of the word “constantly” in LW1 were a GIANT red flag to me.
            If this were the case of, every once in a while, there is a “due tomorrow!” deadline and rather than taking an extra hour or two the night before to be sure it’s in on time, the worker goes home instead, then yes, talk to her and clarify that she needs to stay on occasion to ensure everything is done.
            If deadlines are being missed constantly, like the LW says they are, then the issue is the workload.
            Either she needs to make it extremely clear to current and new employees that over 40 hours a week is expected *and compensate accordingly*, or she seriously needs to readjust the number of projects they’re undertaking.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Maybe. But it’s also possible that this employee is inefficient and not great at the job, and that could look like this too.

              The first step is a conversation to find out what’s going on and make her expectations clearer.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        I wish that’s how it worked :( I would love to work purely “until the job is done” and I got to determine when that was! But I think flextime is more like, “if you work 40 hours, you can probably get the job done. But it might take 45. Or 50. But if you need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment or whatever that’s fine”.

        1. Kalamet*

          Yeah, in my experience exempt means “you will work 40 hours at a minimum, but probably more”. Software never really has slow periods. :/

          1. Hellanon*

            Yeah, I’m not in tech, but when I took the job I’m in my boss said, “You’re exempt, you can work 24/7 if you want.” And there are times during the year where it feels like that! But there are also times when that’s not necessary, and the company is punctilious about everyone taking vacation time, so it all works out in the wash, overall.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yes, that’s what I’ve experienced as well. The “extra hours” are exchanged for flexibility… but not fewer hours.

        3. SophieChotek*

          Yes this is my experience also. There are weeks when I have to go over, but not consistently — but its’ undertood during crunch time if I have to put in 80 hours, I do that with extra pay. But during slow times, if i need to duck out early for an appt, I an do that without PTO.

          at first my thought was employee in OP1 was not using time well or too insistent on being done by 5, but maybe has too much on their plate…

      3. Rookie Manager*

        I agree with this so much. If you want flexibility from me then I expect that back. I had a job where it was 9-5, except when we were training and I had to be in at 8, or I was delivering training in another city so effectively started work at 6:30am, or a mirriad of other reasons.

        My train got me in at either 8:20 or 8:59 so I asked if I could work 9:05 – 5:05 or perhaps take a shorter lunch*. The answer was no, I must work a strict 9-5 (apart from the 60% of times I had to be in earlier). It was one of the many frustrations that led to me getting out of there fast. Ironically my manager was packed up, coat on, ready to leave at 5 on the dot regardless of what else ws going on.

        At interview this was not a problem, once I started it became an issue.

        1. Bea*

          Omg not even flexible by 5 minutes because of a train schedule is so gross. I never thought twice about my reports who bussed in leaving 5-10 minutes early/late to accommodate their transportation and they were supporting customers, I could pick up the slack, jeez.

      4. Det. Charles Boyle*

        I totally agree with this. If the company/manager expects the employee to work late, but there’s never any accompanying flexibility on the manager’s part, then the employee is probably feeling taken advantage of and a bit disgruntled. In my previous job, I was expected to take phone calls and answer emails on the weekends and after hours and work late when needed to meet deadlines (which I did, without complaint). But there was never any “give” on my manager’s part about coming in late in the morning after I had worked until 2 a.m. to meet a deadline (I worked in proposals and these crazy hours are par for the course), or taking a “comp” day after an 80-90 hour week. When I asked about taking a “comp” day, I was told the company didn’t do that, and I could take paid leave, instead. Really? I worked until all hours to meet a deadline and I don’t receive anything in return? The raw unfairness of that drove me out of that culture and into a new, much more relaxed job.
        It’s worth taking a look at your current policies to see if this might be happening with this employee.

        1. Sci Fi IT Girl*

          Yep, in a similar boat. The story is “when we become fully staffed” which in the last 5 years happen like once for 2 weeks (between working out notice and training new people). I used to be hopeful because one boss is great though limited in what they control (pay, hiring, etc.) and the other boss is a more like Putin, brilliant, manipulative, and you get the idea. Here exempt seems to = cheaper labor even though at first is looks like ok pay. I work on call and had a rough night and wanted 4 hours to recover the next day and was told, “That’s your PTO.” So a I had a normal work day, followed by 8 hours of busting it overnight (on call you may not need to come in) then worked 12 hours the next day. And this is now the norm. I am not taking PTO to recover from hours my job requires – even if I am less than on the next day. nope nope nope. And yes, looking and finding other job options.

      5. pleaset*

        “, does she get to leave at 4.30 if she finishes early?”

        As a moderately senior exempt employee, I don’t get to “leave early” because the work is done, but can leave early for all sorts of other reasons – to run an errand, do something personal, or even just because I’m feeling beat. It’s not about what is done each day, it’s about getting the overall tasks done, being available for meetings in core business hours (or beyond if they are important!) etc. Not clock watching.

        1. MissDissplaced*

          I’m also a moderately senior exempt employee. But my hours are 8-5 no exceptions, even if I work overtime to meet a deadline or travel. Any/all time off is PTO no “comp” time.
          However, I do have work at home privledges, and my pay structure has a bonus structure, which means the hard work can pay off.
          But not all salaried workers have that!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Overtime isn’t really a thing for exempt positions, though. The rationale is that your hours will fluctuate week-to-week but will balance out when averaged over time. The fact that exempt positions may work more than 40 hours in one week doesn’t have to be negotiated in a contract—it’s inherent in the classification of the position and incorporated into the salary.

      Right now, OP has no way of knowing if their employee has too much work or if her strict refusal to work any hours above standard business hours is creating an artificial backlog of unfinished work. So this isn’t (yet) about unpaid work or insufficient staffing, but rather, failure to meet deadlines.

      1. JamieS*

        It’s expected they’ll fluctuate but average out? This is news to me. In my job we’re required to work 40 hours (42.5-45 if you include lunch time) or take PTO plus work OT as needed. Kinda annoying when working 12 hour days M-Th then still expected to take 8 hours PTO if take Friday off but thought that was the norm. Guess learn something new every day.

        1. Bea*

          It varies on employer. Mine never acknowledged my 60hr weeks because they didn’t keep track of hours just the days I missed. Or in the end the few times I came late or left early sick. Others if you told them you’d pull four 10s, they wouldn’t make you work or use PTO for Friday.

          Currently salaried employees clock in and out, they accrue comp time for over 40 and under 40 means we use that unless it’s a scheduled vacation day or they’re out of comp time.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s the “legal” rationale, anyway—that it should even out within the week or over a relatively short period (e.g., over 2-3 weeks) :)

          In some jobs the expectation is just more than 40 hours as the default, and theoretically that’s offset by salary (e.g., that’s very much the norm in my profession, but also for senior leadership regardless of sector). But I think this is also why there’s so much classification error—the reality is that a lot of employers are trying to underpay for overloaded hours or to get out of paying OT by classifying non-exempt positions as exempt.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s just not how many exempt jobs work. In many fields, it’s understood that sometimes you may need to work more than 40 hours a week. In sane fields it won’t be 70 hours a week, but 42 or 45? In many fields, that’s very normal and not considered a problem. Or your workload might fluctuate; you might have a busy season where longer hours are expected and you know you’re signing up for that going in.

      With exempt jobs, you’re being paid to get the job done, not by the hour; that’s the whole point. (Your mention of contracts makes me think you might not be in the U.S. though.)

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        If it fluctuates and sometimes you work less, that’s reasonable… but expecting 42-45 hours every week is taking unfair advantage of someone and suggests employer is squeezing a bit more work in than they should.

        You’re right, not US :) and here, except under some specific exceptions, it’s illegal to work more than 48 hours/week.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not taking advantage of someone if the hours are understood going in and the person is compensated appropriately. There’s nothing magical about the number 40 that makes anything over it never okay. But I suspect this may be cultural.

          1. Blossom*

            I do think this is… well, not cultural, rather geographical, as for example countries in the European Union follow the Working Time Directive which limits the hours of work. I’m in the UK and my employment contracts have all specified either 35 or 37.5 hours a week, excluding lunch. So the UK Alison (if we had such a thing) would be giving very different advice. I mean, I will stay late occasionally, if I need to finish something (or get absorbed in what I’m doing). But I’ll generally balance that out by leaving early or having a long lunch another day. There is no point me working consistently long hours, as my health suffers and I then need to take sick days. Plus, it gives the employer unrealistic expectations which is unhelpful for them, too. At least, that’s my take on the issue from my country.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Even in the UK it varies. There are lots of salaried jobs where you are expected to manage your workload and time, and if that means that you sometimes stay late, then you sometimes stay late, and don’t expect to get that time back. Every contract I have ever had has said something such as ‘normal work hours are 9 – 5 ,’ but also has mention of other hours as needed.
              My experience is that it tends to depend on the job – for instance, secretarial, admin and people in other support roles would normally work set hours and if they are asked to work late, would normally get time off in lieu, mare senior staff normally don’t get TOIL .

              OP#1 – I agree that it is reasonable to have a conversation with your report – be clear about the expectations for meeting deadlines etc.. It may be worth suggesting other options, such as coming in earlier or taking a shorter lunch, as well as staying late if necessary. I’d also talk more generally about expectations in relation to work load – check what she thinks are the reasons for her to miss deadlines etc. It is possible that she either is, or thinks she is, being expected to do more than is realistic and if so, she could benefit from input from you, either to address any genuine issues or provide additional training, or to manage her expectations about what is, or isn’t, a realistic expectation.

              1. EleonoraUK*

                Agreed – I wouldn’t expect TOIL for the occasional bit of staying late (which I do).

                I think the difference is, if I found out it physically wasn’t possible to get the job done from 9 – 5, and I realistically had to be there 9 to at least 6 every single day, I wouldn’t be happy. That’s not what the contract said – other hours as needed is one thing, but that suggests it is infrequent/as a consequence of unforeseen circumstances, not the standard actual workload.

                Now, if the OP’s employee is taking longer to get the job done than her peers/previous people int he role, that’s the thing the OP would want to address in my mind, not the leaving at 5.

            2. Immy*

              I’m in the UK and for literally every job I’ve ever had I’ve had to sign a waiver saying I’ll happily work over the hours prescribed by the working time directive and that’s perfectly legal here

              1. Bagpuss*

                It’s not legal.

                It’s legal to work over the 48 hours per week if you have signed a waiver, but you can’t be made to sign, and if you refuse, or withdraw your consent, it is automatically unfair if you are then dismissed. (with no requirement for any minimum employment period)

                I think they are also not supposed to ask you to sign a waiver within your first month as an employee but am not sure whether that’s a legal requirement or simply good practice.

            3. Media Monkey*

              this isn’t my experience of working in the UK. Just about everyone i know in a salary/ career type role (not meaning to be rude, but trying to get close to a comparison with my understanding of an exempt employee in the US) would stay late at least a couple of hours a week (either in the office or working additional hours at home). most new contracts will include you opting out of the Working Time Directive. i tend not to stay late as i have a long commute but i am generally in at least 20 minutes early and work through lunch almost every day so that i can leave on time.

              1. Media Monkey*

                oh and i meant to add, this is never or rarely paid back in terms of leaving early the next day, however you would expect flexibility for doctors appts and the like.

              2. Blossom*

                Yeah, I’m in a salaried professional role and, like I said, will stay late now and then – I’m certainly not jumping out of my seat at 5 every day – but I wouldn’t expect to regularly work several hours a week extra.
                Interesting a few people saying they’ve signed a waiver to opt out of the WTD – didn’t know this was a thing, but perhaps my sector is more invested in work-life balance than others.

            4. Uncertain*

              This was precisely my reaction. My working week is 37.5 hours. I understand that, on occasion, I might need to work late because a deadline needs to be met (I work in software), but even then that’ll probably amount to a few hours here and there. If it was happening more than once a month, and there were otherwise no concerns being reported about my work, I’d be concerned that I was being given too much work to do in the time I’m paid for – that’s a management failure, not an employee failure.

              It’s always seemed bizarre to me that some companies have an expectation that their employees will work extra hours without extra compensation, and that so many people are seemingly ok with this. I work for payment, not out of the goodness of my heart!

          2. NYC Weez*

            I think the mutual understanding is the key point, and in my experience, employers are very reluctant to say up front “Salaried with the expectation you will work 50 hours a week.” I tend to work late 2-3 days a week right now, but my managers don’t see that as optimal, and are trying to staff up so that working late is something that happens maybe 2-3 times a quarter (or less). I’ve also worked for jobs that said my hours were 40/week, but in reality expected 70-80. If I’d known up front that they expected twice as many hours, I would have negotiated a higher salary.

            OP#1, before you talk to your employee, really take a look at how often you expect employees to stay late, as well as how you present the hours to new hires. I don’t think it’s fair to negotiate a 40 hour/week salary, then turn around and ding an employee for not wanting to consistently work 50 hours for that same pay. And it’s really easy for it to start out with needing extra hours once…then again…and then before you know it there’s always a need.

            If you are expecting too much from employees, as a manager, it’s worth trying to make a business case for additional support, or to look at prioritizing work and turning down some assignments, or to see if there are simplifications that can be made to help all of your employees be more productive. If you do have reasonable expectations, then sure, talk to your employee about what she is expected to deliver. But be fair with those expectations before you chat with her. Just because salaried employees should expect to occasionally work a little late occasionally doesn’t mean that you should be relying on those extra hours regularly.

            1. Kalamet*

              You make a good point with the salary. This is really why hour expectations for exempt have to be clear up front – some interviews you can’t tell how many hours people work, or whether they have to be plugged in nights and weekends, whether there are core hours. I’m going to have different salary expectations for a job that is 40 hours a week vs. 50.

              1. Betsy*

                Yeah, it would be great if there was a little more transparency about these things. I do my best to be open and honest in job interviews, so it would be nice employers did the same.

            2. Genny*

              I wholeheartedly agree with this. I think it’s really crappy that you hire someone to work 40 hours a week and then assume that they’ll put in an extra 5-15 hours of “unpaid” OT. There’s a reason lawyers make so much money; it’s because the expectation of long hours is built into that field, so everyone knows what they’re getting into and can negotiate accordingly. For most regular office jobs though, there’s a general cultural expectation of 40 hours, with the understanding that you may need to put in an extra hour here of there. If you want me to work more than that, you need to make that clear up front so I can negotiate a salary that accurately reflects the actual amount of work I do.

              LW1, before talking to the employee, evaluate what you actually need from this position. How often are you asking people to stay late? Do you need to hire more people? Are there pointless meetings or other low priority things you can remove from their plates? Are people being given realistic deadlines to begin with? Are you putting in as many hours “OT” as your employees (because there’s nothing more demoralizing than being told you have to stay late and watching your boss waltz out of the office at 5pm everyday)? Are people who stay late given comp time or is it all give on their side and take on the company’s side?

          3. EleonoraUK*

            I think it likely is cultural, in the sense that most contracts in the UK (for example) will indicate expected working hours.

            As such, if the company knows full well you’d be working 45 hours more weeks, I’d be pretty annoyed if I’d gone in with a contract that indicated 40 hours a week. That’s not to say I wouldn’t stay past 5 and do a bit extra when needed (and I do), but if the standard is really 45 hours, it feels like the contract should stipulate that.

    4. JamieS*

      Looking at exempt American jobs I think it’s better to think in terms of compensation rather than whether someone works OT. I work OT quite a bit and my work weeks averaged out is definitely more than 40 hours but that’s understood going in and I’m paid more because of that than I would be at a similar job where only 40 hours are expected. So basically the ‘OT pay’ is factored into my salary.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        In Japan it’s common to get “minashi zangyo (estimated overtime)” pay, which is a uniform overtime payment regardless of whether or not any overtime is worked (usually additional overtime pay kicks in after a certain number, like 60, hours of overtime per month). It sounds similar to what you are describing: basically that overtime is factored into salary.

        This system has been criticized because often the “estimated overtime” only amounts to the equivalent of like, 1 hour overtime, whether an employee works 0 hours or 30 hours overtime. So it’s basically a way of skirting around overtime laws and sends a strong message that “it is assumed that you will work overtime” which makes it hard for employees to push back and set a healthy work-life balance.

        I wonder if there are similar criticisms of this idea in the US?

        (Name is link to comparison of how companies monitor/compensate overtime in the US/Japan, though it talks about service/free overtime, not what I mentioned here.)

        1. Julia*

          Do not get me started on work-life-balance in Japan. My husband (Japanese) is non-exempt but I can count the times he came home without working overtime on one hand. And they somehow manage to only pay for 60% of his overtime on top of an already meager salary.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            Nah I’m right there with you, I’m not going to argue it’s great here. I know (esp in Japan) overtime is not always a choice but I was wondering how the concept of “overtime pay is factored into salary” affects motivation to stay late and get $$$/leave early and have a healthy balance.

            I used to get paid 1 hr’s pay for minashi zangyo, and an extra 3,000 yen if I worked before 7 or after 10 at all. So I’d get an extra 6,000 (about 60 USD) whether I worked 6:59-10:01 or 5:30-2AM. Definitely motivated me to leave as early as possible, but since it’s often not possible, I felt really demoralized because it was like the company was getting out of paying me for going the extra mile. Now I get paid per hour of overtime, and the amount is significantly more. I feel much better about staying late since the company has put a monetary value on my extra effort!

        2. TL -*

          It depends on the field but generally no.
          For instance, BigLaw you work crazy hours for crazy good money, usually to pay off student debt.
          Academia, crazy hours for low pay but with the expectation that your publications/references will open the doors so that your next position will just line up for you until you’re looking for tenure-track.
          Doctors, crazy hours for decent pay as part of your training; necessary to see cases through from start to finish.
          So in a lot of fields, the hours are a trade off for a specific reward and the expectation is that you will get to a point where you are stable enough to not need what the overtime will get you.

          1. Betsy*

            I disagree with the comment about academia. The expectation about your references opening up doors is the same as in any other job. And generally, you’re either tenure-track really early on, or you don’t get it at all. You don’t just sit around until you one day feel like you want to apply for a tenure-track job.

            1. TL -*

              In my field people often go tech-grad school-postdoc-(postdoc 2 maybe)-tenure track/staff scientist/industry. And many grad school/postdoc/staff scientists positions are filled by people being put in touch with each other.
              An extreme example, when my last boss closed his lab, only one person had to apply for more than one position, out of around 40. Everyone else was just put in contact with the right people and given offers.

          2. DataQueen*

            I like this breakdown by field. I would also add that in many interchangable professional businesses (i work in marketing, but i see this with my friends in finance, PR, publishing, all sorts of businesses) you put in the long hours and extra work to get ahead, with the expectation that it will pay off and you’ll have that large salary and flexibility in the long run. When I was 25 and at a manager level, I was here til 7 or 8 every night, and many Saturdays. Heck, at 22 I was working pretty much 24/7 –
            i used to take my laptop and 2 cell phones out with me on Friday nights, just in case something came up. Now, I’m at a Director level, and I work mainly 40 hour weeks, but sometimes 30 and sometimes 50. But I’m at the level where i’m trusted with my workload and my schedule, so I don’t need permission to duck out for a personal appointment in the middle of the day. This year, i’m even taking the elusive 3-week vacation that I could never have imagined i’d be able to take a few years ago. But that’s because I’ve earned that flexibility through years of hard work.

            On the flip side, I have some employees who have no interest in advancing beyond their current level, and so the motivation to work more than the minimum isn’t there. I have to accept that. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to push them to put in extra hours when something needs to get done, but I’m conscious that sometimes, that’s not going to help get the work done – they’ll just be pissed they’re here – and I’d rather give the assignment to someone who wants to prove themselves. I don’t dock your performance review for your reluctance to put in extra work, but it’s certainly not pushing you to the top of the promotions list.

            1. The Curator*

              I just looked at the last three weeks’ calendar. I average about 64 hours. This is teaching, research, class prep, lecture, prep, writing for publication, reference, and managing staff. This does not include committee meetings, mentoring, fundraising, and relationship building as I did very little of that the past three weeks.

              I do have flex time, my butt does not have to be in a seat except for classes and meetings.
              My pay is below average for associate. My health benefits are great.
              I knew what I was getting into.
              I am sure if I did not work this much, that I would not be tenured.

            2. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

              I go up for tenure in 3 years so we’ll see if I need to eat my words, but I do not work every waking second. I work probably 50 hours/week during the academic year; I do not work on nights or weekends (with limited exceptions, when necessary or by choice – e.g., I got access to a mountain cabin for a weekend and was super excited to go hide away in the woods and write for a few days). I take actual breaks during winter/summer/spring breaks, and I work more like 35 hours/week during the summer.

              I’m productive with my scholarship. I’m a dedicated mentor and teacher. My service obligations get met. And my evaluations have been consistently stellar. (I am not at a top R1, but the expectations for tenure where I am are rigorous, and reviews suggest I am on-track to meet them.)

              Academia can be brutal, but I also think there is a culture of poor boundary-setting and voluntary overwork. I’ve made a conscious decision to push back against it, personally, and have found I am able to have a much more reasonable life than most people told me would be possible.

              1. The Curator*

                I see your point. Yes, I am at an R1 and I did go up early. And I do try to get a better work/life balance. AAM helps. The good news is that I do love my work, my colleagues, and students. I feel fortunate to have this position.
                I don’t mean to imply that any less would mean that an academic is not dedicated or excel at their work.

                I am the manager of a department therefore have administrative and budgetary responsibilities that most academics do not. I am also in the part of my life/career that I have opportunities for national service.

        3. Nanani*

          Spent many years working overtime – and THIS. Plus the deeply DEEPLY ingrained “face time” work culture means you have people literally sitting at their desks just reading the newspaper or something, until the boss leaves, because leaving before the boss is not. done. Even if your work, is.

          I do not work in Japan anymore.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            Such truth. I have a cushy desk job and after skyping with my US equivalent who was working from home, I asked if I could maybe take an early skype call from home? “No, sorry, we don’t have that system in place.”

            (On the other hand I basically can’t be fired unless I murder someone, so that’s nice!)

      2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I really think this is key. When I take an exempt job – I understand that I am accepting payment for getting the job done as a whole (rather than per hour that I work), however – to judge what is a fair salary I need to know approximately how long it will take to get this job done/generally what hours would be needed to accomplish this job. There are tons of different ways these expectations can be explained, but it needs to be reasonably accurate to the situation.

        I’m going to expect a very different salary for a job that will most likely require a net average of 60hrs per week, vs one that requires 40hrs per week (however those hours are distributed/fluctuate – weekly, monthly, one insanely busy period per year, etc.).

        It’s not fair to describe a role and a culture to me that leads me believe that the role will require a net average of 45hrs of week, and I accept a salary based on that understanding, but then turn around tell me that I should be (or ding me for not) working late so often that my net average is 60hrs a week.

    5. P to the A*

      By the own admission of the first letter writer, the employee does a lot of work while being there. If this is true, the deadlines are dictated and not negotiated and the deadlines have to (and I quote) “constantly” be pushed back, then the problem is not with the employee. It’s with the deadlines. The employee is right not to go down that slippery slope.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Well, of course deadlines are “dictated and not negotiated.” I can’t tell my client that the project I promised her on April 1 is now going to be April 15 because my employee needs to go home at 5 pm or the world will implode.

    1. Lynca*

      Where I work you bank them if you don’t take them during the work week you earn them. We’re also encouraged to take them before using allotted personal leave/sick leave.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Exactly this. I had a former boss who would grumble about people leaving exactly at 5:00. But he never offered any flexibility the other way.

      You can’t reasonably expect people to only ever freely give their time and never get anything back. You either have to return the favor by letting them leave early when it’s not the busy day/week/month, or you gotta pay them for the time. It doesn’t have to be a formal bank or policy. Just treat people like professionals.

  23. SettaStone*

    OP #1: I’m the kind of employee who will leave at 5 on the dot – salaried or no. I will stay back IF I CAN, but I have a life outside of work and no job is going to take that away from. If deadlines are nearing, I’ll work around my schedule, working from home later, but no way am I giving up what little time I have on this Earth constantly for some job. It’s unpopular, by the looks of it, but I don’t care. My partner is expected to work of extra hours a lot in his salaried job and it’s driving him (and I) both a bit crazy. He’s job hunting as I write. Thankfully now I have my own business and can work around my other commitments and extra work is done at MY pace for Me. It’s the best! Life’s too short to spend at work.

    1. Matt*

      I second this.

      Also, for me it makes a big difference if it is about meeting a deadline and therefore having to put in some extra hours (it being under my control when and how I do this), or if it’s exactly about “staying late today”. I have flextime, and once I was on a project where the customer would regularly put in “testing sessions” late in the afternoon/evening after their regular hours, and they expected to have their developers “butt in the seat” to immediately correct blocking errors. Often enough I heard in the morning standup meeting: “… ah yes, they’re testing again today after 5 pm, we’ve told them that you’d be on call”. (“On call” meant “butt in seat” back then since no remote work possibilities existed.) I strongly pushed back on this since I have a private life and must at least be able to plan when I will be able to leave. I’ll stay late if possible, but I need at least some advanced notice if this happens.

    2. Myrin*

      I mean, I am pretty much exactly like you describe yourself, too (which is personal but certainly also cultural – my country’s culture tends to skew heavily towards that attitude in general but I only really realised that because I’ve heard many a foreigner comment on it).

      However, I think your mentioning of “if I can” and “constantly” is key to Alison’s advice here and the two of you aren’t actually that far apart in opinion and action. She acknowledges very clearly that, if the employee stayed late every day and still wouldn’t meet her deadlines, the deadlines and workload would need to be revisited (and maybe the employee’s competence as well). She also says that OP shouldn’t demand her employee stay late every evening (yet some commenters react like she did); I don’t think it’s extremely horrible if OP expects the employee to stay half an hour late twice a week for two weeks to catch up on her work, though. I’m inferring from your comment that you do stay back if there’s a need for it and that’s all the advice asks for, really.

    3. CM*

      I think that’s fine as a lifestyle choice, but it means certain kinds of jobs won’t be a good fit for you. (And luckily, you’ve found the perfect boss!) Expectations need to be clear on both sides, but it can be awkward for both sides too — for the employer to say outright, “I expect you to work as many hours as necessary but I won’t pay you any more,” and for the employee to say, “I’m leaving at 5, I don’t care if my work’s not done.”

      On my most recent round of job interviews, a couple of years ago, work-life balance was a key factor for me in finding a new job. A lot of interviewers were unhappy when I asked what hours people typically worked (literally, I didn’t mention work-life balance or anything, just asked what hours people typically worked) and emphatically told me that this is NOT a 9-to-5 job. I was a little surprised at how often I got that response, but I’m glad they were honest about that.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This. All of the above may be true, but then this job may not be right for this employee. Schmendolyn is well within her rights to leave her time-sensitive work undone because she needs to get to her pottery class on time, but then Schmendolyn shouldn’t be surprised if her job takes that into account at layoff time … or next week when Boss sits Schmendolyn down for a very serious talk.

        I don’t mean that in a snarky manner, either. Everyone SHOULD be able to make a good living and have a good life, but at the same time, you’re not entitled to everything you want exactly the way you want it. If work-life balance is critical to you, I support you, but you then likely need to choose your job accordingly or make some sacrifices elsewhere; you don’t always get to just take a job that’s a bad fit and mold it to your liking.

        1. KHB*

          I mean, it’s not crazy for Schmendolyn to want to sign up for a Wednesday night pottery class without having to worry that she’ll have to keep missing it due to work assignments. And at most reasonable employers, I think she’d be able to make that work, even with one of those “occasionally requires extra hours” positions. If she’s facing a Thursday morning deadline, for example, she could stay late on Tuesday, or come in early on Wednesday, to get herself to the point where she can have the project finished by 5-on-the-dot on Wednesday.

          Now, if she’s repeatedly learning at noon on Wednesday that she has a ten-hour project to do by first thing Thursday morning (so that she has pretty much no choice but to stay late on Wednesday), that’s different. Having frequent last-minute work assignments like that, which take priority over any personal plans you may have made, is almost like being on-call 24/7. Employers who require that should (1) make it very clear up front so people who aren’t right for the position can self-select out, and (2) be willing to pay accordingly.

          But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on with OP1. It sounds like the deadline-missing employee has some flexibility in exactly which extra hours she works to meet her deadlines – but that she does need to work SOME extra hours.

              1. Data Lady*

                For Schmendolyn to treat her Wednesday night pottery class as a something that justifies a hard stop for work, especially if it means she has to leave at 5 and no one else on the team is doing that.

                It might sound uncompromising, but sometimes it’s easier to have a huge buffer between work and when your personal life starts, so that you don’t have to have discussions about making arrangements to leave at a certain time. If that means that you’re effectively leaving every weeknight free for work, then so be it.

                1. KHB*

                  The letter doesn’t say that nobody else on the team is doing that. It says they’re “open to putting in late hours (when needed) to complete tasks,” which is perfectly consistent with what I described (i.e., blocking out one or two nights a week for personal activities and scheduling work around them).

                  Maybe I’ve been unusually lucky, but none of the places I’ve ever worked have had a problem with anyone saying “I’m unavailable to work past 5:00 on Wednesdays for anything short of a building-on-fire emergency.” (If it were “I’m unavailable to work outside of 9-5 M-F ever,” that would be another matter, and I think that’s an important distinction.)

    4. Anon with an Actual Life*

      Preach it! My wage slavery is NOT my choice and sure as hell not my priority. Dreaming of the day I can be self-employed.

      1. LBK*

        I never really understand this sentiment – do you think running your own business will be *less* work or require fewer hours than working for someone else? Or does the freedom of self-determination outweigh the likelihood that you’ll have to put in far more effort to be successful when self-employed, at least initially?

        I’ve never heard anyone who started their own business and said it was easy. Every startup story is about endless grueling work for years just to turn a profit, never mind establish long-term success.

        1. Penny Lane*

          +1, LBK. It’s so easy to say you’re a “wage slave” when you’re not actually doing the work of finding the clients and creating the business opportunities. If you have that 9-5 and not a minute later mindset, chances are you aren’t ever going to be valuable enough to clients that you’ll develop any kind of book of business you can then take with you when you leave.

          I think it is delusional to think that running your own business is less work. Unless maybe you are working for what they used to call pin money — excess money because your spouse makes it all and your money is for funsies.

        2. Teapot PM*

          Yep. The idea that you won’t be working crazy hours is self employed makes me chuckle. My husband owned his own business for 20 years. It means you get to work ALL sorts of hours. Plus the evening hours I worked on the books to support the business in addition to my full time job.

          He sold the business and is now an employee. This is the slow time in the industry. That means as employee he actually gets paid this time of year, as the business owner he never got paid this time of year.

          He has way less work and stress as the employee rather than the business owner

      2. Nanani*

        Self employed person here. There is a very big difference between working eleventy hours a day because you’re deciding to, and having someone else press that expectation on you.

        I can decide to take Thursday off and work Saturday, or sleep in and work late, or whatever – as long as my clients get their work returned on time, the actual hours are my business alone. It’s nice.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          This is one of the main reasons I went back to working freelance after quitting my last job (which I quit, ironically and in good measure, due to lack of work-life balance).

          I’ve had to pull all-nighters or cancel appointments every now and then in exchange for doing something today or taking a day off after delivering a project, but it’s entirely different when I *choose* to do it than when someone else expects me to be okay with getting less sleep or cancelling plans because that’s just the way the job is.

          Furthermore, if one of my clients decides to ask me to work on something when I’m swamped, or decides to change a due date on me, I have a lot more flexibility to say “I can’t do right now, sorry” or “Yeah, but I charge X more for urgent projects/adjusting a due date” working on my own than in an office.

    5. LBK*

      I think there’s a way to balance it – sure, I’m expected to work late when it’s needed, but in return I get flexibility when I need it, and being willing to put in the extra hours when it’s necessary is part of what’s gotten me a series of good raises and promotions that allow me to afford the kind of lifestyle I want to have outside of work. If I were having to put in 60 hours every week all year maybe that would be a different story, but 45-50 hours for a few months of the year when it’s really busy? That’s totally worth me being in my 20s and able to comfortably afford to travel around Europe, go on cruises, see Broadway shows, eat at fancy restaurants and do everything else I enjoy. I don’t think I’m going to look back at my life and regret putting in those extra hours at work, because those are part of what got me to the place that I could have the experiences I’ll enjoy looking back on. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me; it’s a trade off I’m willing to make.

      1. Data Lady*

        Putting in the extra hours when necessary was something I used to and continue to do – in my 20s, it was something that was really integral to helping me progress in my career. The tricky part, though, was that there wasn’t a lot of predictability to when those extra hours would be, so it made it pretty difficult to have scheduled commitments after work…so flexibility wasn’t really a two-way street. I gave up being able to make plans on weeknights, but it was because I felt the trade-off was worth it for my career.

        I think this is easier for people who have people in their lives that can respect that they’re not going to get to weekday dinners at 6pm, or who are willing to let their relationships fall to the wayside. I can see how this would be trickier for people whose partners, etc. for whom 9-5 always means 9-5.

      2. JamieS*

        This is where I’m at as well. Given the choice I’d rather work 60 hours during my busy season and be able to afford the things I enjoy than work 40 hours at a much lower salary and have to make sacrifices. Although the caveat to that is I can work remote so I’m able to leave the office at 5 then remote in later and work a few hours. If I had to be butt in seat 12 hours/day I might have a different opinion.

    6. Sunshine*

      This is me. I don’t mind long hours but after seeing I worked more hours than my co-workers, had more tasks to do, asked for more help, even suggested a bunch of ideas to get my work done, and asked to be able to flex my hours, I was told no. My supervisor wants everyone to help everyone with their job tasks and fails to major see that we all have different tasks to do. So now I’ll leave in the dot if I’m able.
      Is it going to hurt my career? Probably. I’m working on my master’s degree so I can’t afford to stay over at work or else my school work suffers. But I also acknowledge that my supervisor is refusing to manage our tasks better.

  24. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4… might help to consider that while they are obviously hoping for more sales… they are also interested in people using their product and getting their name known as one of the go-to solutions. And feedback from free users is just as valuable as any other. So no need to feel bad about using their free stuff :)

  25. Steph*

    OP5: I had never heard ignorance thank you notes for interviews until a year ago when I started reading this blog. This could largely be cause a) I am Australian and we don’t seem to do notes for anything as much as Americans do and b) I am a nurse in the public heath sector and the contacts we have when we actually apply for the job a often quite removed from the people we end up interviewing with, and the entire rigmarole is so regulated and policy/procedure-followy it would be odd to send anything like that.
    I find the notion a bit weird, myself, especially the fact that it could make a difference to their future employment with that company. What is wrong with a sincere “Thank you for your time and consideration” at the end of the interview?

    1. Steph*

      I don’t know how “of” became “ignorance”, but let’s pretend it didn’t. Thanks!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thank you for your follow on note.

        (Seriously, Allison has a good example upthread: In an interview that didn’t go spectacularly off the rails you end with ‘Thank you for your time and consideration” regardless of your deep inner feelings. The follow on note is a chance to suggest that the interview increased your interest in the job. In the US, where they are fairly typical, a well-crafted one might tilt things toward you in a tie with another candidate–because well-executed follow-through is probably a plus in the job.)

    2. Scarlettnz*

      I’m from New Zealand (with a large portion of my adult life spent in both Australia and the UK) and I’d never heard of thank you notes after interviews either – until I started reading AAM.

    3. Thlayli*

      There was a thread a while ago about cultural differences, and as I recall thank you notes seem to be very American (possibly Canadian as well I don’t recall). But outside of North America it seems they are a definite no-no.

      1. Aud*

        As a Canadian (in my fourties ) I can say the first I ever heard about thank you notes for job interviews was on this blog. To me they seem like a very American thing.

        Although I was raised by two European immigrants, so maybe that also skews my understanding of these things. I was raised that the only things you sent than you notes for were wedding and baby gifts and presents sent to you. If you received them in person a verbal thank you was enough.

        1. Data Lady*

          I’m Canadian and in my 30s, and they’re pretty standard in the parts of Canada I’ve worked in. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I learned to send post-interview thank-yous when in university.

  26. Domodossola*

    OP1.. No, no, no. What’s with this reply? I agree with other commenters: if an employee cannot meet deadlines wuthin working hours possibilities are 1 – he/she is not skilled enough or 2 – deadlines are not set properly. Anyway you cannot expect people to work extra hours (especially if it is for free): they have a life which is important and affecting their performance and happiness within organisation. They have been offered money in exchange for a given amount of hours of committed work, after that time they are free to have other things to do and if deadlines are not reasonable that’s not their fault. Instead of looking to other employees staying late, maybe management should look at how it is possible that employees cannot complete tasks within their official hours.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s not how exempt jobs work. They’re not for a specific official number of hours. Hourly, non-exempt jobs are; exempt jobs are not. I see from your IP that you’re in Spain; this is probably a cultural difference. (I think the majority of commenters on this one so far aren’t in the U.S., which makes sense since it went up at midnight east coast time and is now 3 a.m.)

      1. Kiwi*

        Does that mean you’re answering these posts at 3am your time? If so, that’s way beyond the call of duty!

        For salaried people here in NZ, the hours of work tends to increase with the level of responsibility. Most of my team only does 40 hours, but a few of the most senior do more.

      2. Mary*

        In my country we have salaried and waged staff. Salaried paid so much per month and waged paid so much per hour. So if waged go over their hours they get overtime and if salaried go over their hours they get nothing. I am salaried and in a management position but my contract of work clearly states the number of hours per week I work. So I have an official number of hours per week that the company are paying me to work. I can of course go over and to progress in my career I do make an extra effort. But I have some salaried staff reporting to me who never stay late to meet a deadline. To them work life balance is way more important than overworking to meet a deadline set by the company they work for.

        1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

          It’s the same in the US – except we use odd terminology. (And don’t really standardize pay periods – my mom is exempt (salary) and paid weekly, I’m non-exempt (hourly) and paid biweekly. We’re both office workers.)

          As for the last sentence – I have two minds about this. On one hand, I agree that work/life balance is important and you shouldn’t be a slave to your job. On the other hand, at any job you’re expected to provide deliverables in a set time period. The issue with OP1’s employee isn’t that she’s leaving at 5, it’s that she’s not completing her work in a timely manner.

          In which case, I’d really try to figure out whether the employee is actually busy…or just “busy” (that is, is she managing her time effectively, and is her time being managed effectively from above?). It also sounds like the culture is to work lots of hours at OP1’s office, which…doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time but to each their own.

          Basically, OP1 should focus less on the leaving at 5 than on the production. And while I don’t expect people to be slaves to their jobs, they still need to perform or be set up to perform to expectations.

          1. Kate*

            “Basically, OP1 should focus less on the leaving at 5 than on the production.”

            I’m so glad someone said this. The employee may have a reason for needing to leave at 5 every day (child care, for instance), but the point is that she’s missing deadlines, and that’s not OK. I do think it’s worth the OP taking a look at whether the workload expectations are reasonable for her staff. Like, is everyone always working late to get stuff done? Because I think that would be a problem. But if the employee is a the only one missing deadlines because she’s working by the clock, that needs to be pointed out. If there is some reason that the employee needs to leave exactly at 5 on the dot, I wonder if they can work out some work-from-home solution for her evenings. Again, I don’t think that should be an expectation every night, but as Alison mentioned somewhere else in her comments, salaried employees really are paid to get the work done and not just to work a specific number of hours. So not completing the work should be the focus of this discussion because the OP likely wouldn’t take issue with the employee leaving at 5 every day if the work was getting done.

          2. DataQueen*

            Busy vs. “busy” is huge. I hate micromanaging, but I had an employee who kept saying they were overwhelmed and couldn’t do the tasks I asked of them – I asked what they were working on and they constantly said “stuff for you”. So i finally asked her to fill out a time sheet, and turns out she was doing a ton of busy work and offline tracking of things that her previous boss had always asked for… and she had assumed I was just looking at it. I never asked for it, I never needed it, but she kept doing it, and was overwhelmed because she was still doing the things he asked for in addition to my assignments. TL:DR; Find out what busy means!

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Oh, no! I’m so glad y’all were able to get that sorted, because that is quite a miscommunication.

      3. Genny*

        I don’t think this is an entirely a fair characterization. There are some fields where you go into it knowing there will be extended hours (law, medicine, anything to do with taxes during tax season, etc.), and the pay in those fields generally reflects that. However, in the U.S. it is generally assumed that most jobs are for 40 hours/week, and the salary offered is commensurate with that expectation.

        If you know you have the type of business where people need to consistently work more than 40 hours, you need to be up front about that in the hiring process and ensure you’re paying for that time. It’s not okay to pay people for 40 hour weeks and then expect them to work 50 hour weeks simply because they’re salaried. Either hire more people so that people don’t have to work that long or raise your employees’ wages so they’re being accurately paid for the work they provide.

    2. Betsy*

      Yeah, I agree with this one. I will do extra work if it’s needed, however I think an employer pays for a certain amount of time and you work that in exchange. You are exchanging work for cash. You’re not exchanging your life for the right to work.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, while I do agree “overtime” (not really OT since they’re salaried) once in awhile is okay, overall I didn’t love the response. I would suggest more of a legitimate conversation with your employee, OP.

      Is there a reason this employee has to leave at 5pm? Is she picking up a kid from childcare? Or even a dog from doggy daycare (you get charged if you’re late for that!)? Can the employee get more than one day’s notice (and definitely don’t tell them the ‘day of’!) if they have to stay later than 5? Does the OP know when the employee comes in every morning? I am a morning person; so I typically get into the office by or before 7am. My manager and coworkers normally show up around 9am; I don’t at all feel guilty leaving before them.

  27. cncx*

    RE OP 1, i have a coworker with a crappy commute which is only mitigated by leaving at five on the dot. leaving at five versus five thiry or six means a faster train and a seat on aforesaid train. However, this person also will do stuff like get on the vpn after dinner and kids are in bed. I think OP1’s employee may have valid reasons for wanting to bail promptly daily like childcare or commute traffic. If that’s the case, make sure the person has the setup (laptop, vpn connection) to sign on a bit in the evenings to make deadlines. my point is, it is possible to do both (employee still leave asap, employee still put in time to make deadlines). i feel like we don’t know ebough about the employee’s reasons, which may make sense in context.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      +1 thanks for mentioning this! I also was surprised there was no mention of “why” the employee is in a hurry to leave – and I think OP definitely should put the effort in to talk to their employee about it before jumping right into “you have to stay late.”

      I mentioned it above, but I normally come in early for my office. My manager and I typically only overlap for about 6 hours a day.

      And if I have extra work, I come in even EARLIER – it just works better for me (I already leave earlier than my partner, and get home earlier. No kids, but we have a dog whose doggy daycare only always him to be there for X hours a day before you get charged. Partner drops off and I pick up.)!

    2. Data Lady*

      Childcare is one thing, but commute traffic…I honestly don’t think a lot of managers will be sympathetic to that, especially in light of task completion issues. That’ll just look like asking for special treatment, EVEN IF they’re also making arrangements to work from home.

      1. Data Lady*

        Not only that, but in many places where I’ve worked, a manager’s rebuttal to that request would include something to the effect of “everyone else manages to make their life work within these constraints, why can’t you?”

        1. tangerineRose*

          And that is probably the reason that going back home after work tends to be subject to traffic jams of one kind or another.

      2. AudreyParker*

        I think maybe it depends on where you work (and what area you live in) and what your job duties are. I’ve been in multiple environments were people were allowed to adjust their schedules due to commute issues. But people knew what their standard hours were, and it’s not like they were working 5 hour days – we just had core hours, and the nightmare-commuters would make themselves contactable and available to work from home at other times if schedule/work duties required (and adjust overall hours accordingly). There may be industries where it’s not a thing, but in my experience tech-related companies where people regularly telecommute or have conference calls are pretty receptive. Last job, several people left at 4pm for this reason, while others of us would be there until 7. The key would be not to just assume this was ok without making arrangements with your boss.

  28. Andi*

    #5 it’s been mentioned in the past that thank you notes and follow ups are very much a US thing, but I wonder if anyone has an explanation as to why that’s the case. Do American hiring managers need more reassurances (or buttering up even?) than those outside the US? I personally wish they weren’t the norm, but maybe I’m culturally out of step.

    Is that reflective of the way business is conducted overall in the US vs other countries?

    1. Thlayli*

      European here, been in business meetings in America, and on holidays / visiting friends there also. In general I find Americans are more effusive in praise and thanks (both genuine and insincere) than Europeans are. So possibly it’s related to that.

    2. London Bookworm*

      I think you’re reading a bit too much into it. Different practices have simply evolved over time, and once a convention is established, it can become expected, but that doesn’t necessarily say much about the specific individuals involved.

      For example, I find that in my work in the UK people are much more formal over e-mail, whereas in the US, people were more conversational over e-mail. But in person my UK coworkers aren’t more stuffy or formal, it’s just the expected norm.

      1. Betsy*

        I disagree. I think, while Australian and US culture are very similar overall, there are minor differences. There are differences between Australian and UK culture as well. US hospitality norms tend towards very effusive and when I was in the US it even seemed like members of the general public were much more up for a chat too.

        A key difference between Australian and US culture, however, is that Australian culture is like Scandinavian cultures in that it’s extremely important not to be seen to be bragging, so the whole follow-up email could come across as intrusive and slightly arrogant. I heard an American sociology lecturer give a talk on this once, and she said that in the US you’re expected to be a bit more self-promoting and it’s more acceptable to say good things about yourself.

        Sure there will be specific individuals who will go against the overall trends, but I think there are minor cultural differences between Anglosphere countries.

        1. TL -*

          Uh, I’m an American living in New Zealand who just got back from 2 months working in Sydney. I’d classify many of the cultural differences as major.

          1. Betsy*

            I think there are differences, but I’m an Australian working in Thailand, so the difference between Australia and the UK or US seem minor only in comparison to what sometimes seem like incommensurable differences between Australian and Thai working culture. I’m really not trying to downplay them, though, my response was to the person who was claiming that workplaces practices such as thank you notes aren’t influenced by cultural differences above.

            1. TL -*

              Thailand and Australia are hugely different but that doesn’t make the USA and Australia mostly similar with minor differences.
              But yes, cultural differences play a lot into what is normal about job hunting and what is outre.

        2. London Bookworm*

          No one is arguing that the US and the UK have identical cultures. As you can see from the context, I’m responding to a comment suggesting that US managers need “more buttering up”. This reads to me like it’s inserting a personal judgment (and frankly, not a flattering one) onto individuals who are just acting within the norms of their particular culture. I don’t think American managers are say, less confident in their power, than British managers and therefore need reassurance – it’s just a different cultural norm. Thank you notes can be a bit arbitrary, but all cultures have slightly arbitrary rules and conventions that they follow.

          It’s to a candidate’s detriment to view all these practices through such a negative lens.

        3. An Underemployed Millennial*

          Really?! The only Australian I’ve really gotten to know was a guy I dated and I decided I was no longer interested because every time he opened his mouth it was to brag about how smart he was. Maybe that’s why he moved to America and was going after American girls…lol

    3. fposte*

      I think you’re starting with a negative assumption that’s coloring your view. Here’s a different take: candidates are desperate to get communication opportunities with the hiring manager, and the US affords candidates one more opportunity to expand on their suitability for the job following the interview.

  29. Boris*

    OP3, you may not be able to persuade anyone in your current job to use their software, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do so in your next job. It’s in their interests to keep you on side. I wouldn’t feel any guilt about continuing to use their free products.

    1. CM*

      Also, you can tell them that while their current products are too expensive for your company and more robust than needed, that you would be interested in reevaluating if they come out with a slimmed down budget version.

  30. I Love Thank You notes*

    At former-job, where I was included on the interviewing team, I found thank you notes to be so helpful! We would typically interview 3-5 people for a given position, and having a written note in their own voice to refer to really helped differentiate the candidates when we finally did the round robin. I am in an industry where most people have the same degree, and may have worked in the same companies, or on the same types of products, and skews heavily male, so the candidates tended to blur together a little.

  31. KHB*

    Q1: Something that might help would be to say a few words about why the deadlines are what they are, and what happens if they’re missed. Sometimes when the entire focus is on you versus the deadline, it can all start to seem a bit pointless and arbitrary, and people figure that they’ve missed deadlines before and the world didn’t end, so what’s the big deal if they miss one more? But each missed deadline actually does cause problems somewhere (at least if the deadlines have been set in a sensible way in the first place).

    I had a situation a while back where members of my team were being lackadaisical about deadlines and were taking long lunches despite being past due on assignments. It turned out that unbeknownst to them (and unbeknownst to me until I looked into it), when we missed our deadlines, it meant that Lucinda and Jane down the hall had to do their part of the job on a compressed timeline to make up for it, which was making their lives a lot more stressful – to the point where they were even cancelling planned time off to catch up on work.

    So I sat everyone down and said look, I know we all have things going on in our lives outside of work, but so do Lucinda and Jane, and we’ve been making their lives miserable. So you are responsible for doing whatever it takes – whether it’s coming in early, working through lunch, or staying late – to stick to the schedule that was set at the beginning of the project.

    (I wish I could say I had a happy ending to report, but the situation didn’t fully resolve until the worst offender quit. But I think the rest of the team benefited a lot from the expectations check.)

    1. Thlayli*

      “I love deadlines. I love the swooshing noise they make as they go rushing by.” – Douglas Adams

      It does seem that the deadlines are somewhat arbitrary in this case since OP says she keeps moving them – in which case this may be simply an issue of OP and her report just not being very good at estimating how long it will take to do things in the first place.

      1. EB*

        That’s the impression I got, too. I think KHB is right that the best approach is to explain why the deadlines are what they are. At least for me, I’m the type of person that needs to understand the whole context of where I fit into a certain process. If I don’t have a complete understanding and something seems unimportant then I’m not about to stay for hours after work finishing it for no apparent reason.

        That might sound bad from the outside, but I’ve been in my role for five years so I can typically spot when something is more flexible than is presented– I’ll communicate and arrive at mutually agreed-upon adjusted deadlines. Of course, this drives my boss insane, but then again she’s very much on team “butts in seats for 60 hours a week for optics reasons” I had a bit of panic reading OP1’s letter and hope it is true that it’s only occasional overtime and not really a completely different set of unofficial hours like my boss expects (the latest comment I got was that she’s apparently upset that I get in to work on time but not BEFORE her… ??).

        1. KHB*

          I think a key part of the story here is that everyone else on OP’s team is willing to do what it takes for them to get the work done on time. That suggests that OP’s expectations aren’t ridiculously out of line. So if, after a conversation about expectations, it turns out that the Deadline Misser can’t get the required amount of work done in the hours that she’s willing or able to work, then it may be that she’s just not the right fit for this job.

  32. Not Today Satan*

    I hate thank you notes. Even when done “well” like Alison advises, they just seem like groveling. It’s weird how even people who emphasize that interviewing is a two way street wherein both parties are supposed to impress each other still think only the interviewee needs to write this additional note. No one expects the interviewer to write an equivalent note affirming interest in the person’s candidacy. Plus, as someone else has already noted, the interviewee has already jumped through so many hoops to even get to the interview stage (applications, time off from work, getting a suit dry-cleaned, etc.). Why one more?

    I’ve interviewed/hired and I don’t care about thank you notes at all. If anything they make me cringe.

    1. fposte*

      Is it just the “thank you” terminology that makes people resist this one so hard? I don’t write my applicants a cover letter, either, but I still expect one.

    2. CM*

      I don’t think of it as jumping through a hoop. If I have a networking lunch with somebody I’ll send them a note the next day saying, “Hey, enjoyed catching up, here’s a link to the article we talked about, look forward to talking again soon.” (And I receive notes like this too, so it’s not just me being weird.) I think post-interview thank-yous are basically the same thing. Just a note acknowledging that someone spent their time on you and you appreciated the conversation.

      1. AudreyParker*

        Agreed – not sending one feels like you’re taking that person’s time and interest for granted, or just weren’t that into the conversation. If you actually want the job, I’d think you’d want to send a “relationship maintaining” signal, in addition to just reinforcing the value of the conversation. I hate writing them, but I don’t see them as some kind of indicator of weakness – and why shouldn’t I be glad I was given the time? If they hadn’t interviewed me, I’d theoretically have been disappointed they hadn’t. Maybe the key is people looking at them as purely “thank you, oh powerful one, for speaking to little me!” notes rather than something that can be done even when on equal footing…

    3. STG*

      Not a fan either. It feels like it just reinforces the notion that hiring is one way and the applicant should be thankful that they were even given the time in the first place.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      It actually would be kind of nice if it became common for the interviewer to write a corresponding note, indicating whether you got the job or not. That’s where the balance should lie, so that if you don’t get the job, you don’t figure it out by never hearing anything.

    5. JR*

      In my experiences both a candidate and a hiring manager, while the interviewee initiates the thank you note, it’s really common (though of course not universal) for the interviewer to write back in kind, thanking the interviewee for taking the time, coming in, etc.

  33. A 40-Something With Braces*

    LW #4, as another adult with braces, a few tips:

    Don’t wear your rubber bands during the interview. You can go without them for a few hours without setting back your treatment plan, and bands tend to collect saliva/gunk that looks stringy when you speak. It’s distracting and unpleasant.

    Keep wax on hand. You never know when something will shift and start cutting into your gums, and talking around a painful mouthful of blood is not a good look.

    Keep soft picks (I like GUM brand) on hand for quick touch-ups in the bathroom mirror, and be particularly conscious in lunch interviews of what you order. Avoid anything with “bits” like pepper, parsley, oregano, etc.

    Use products designed for dry mouth right before the interview, such as gum or mouthwash. Speaking with braces dries me out so much that my lips start to stick to the brackets. In this vein, be conscious of your breath. Dry mouth can lead to foul odor. Also in this vein, have lip balm on hand. The dryness spreads, and the corners of my mouth split open constantly.

    Be prepared for splitting headaches. I’d rather go through childbirth again than re-do having braces.

    1. Future braces-wearer*

      Thanks for the tips!
      I’m worried about the pain yes, but quite frankly I am hoping my fabulous post-brace confidence will be worth the struggle…

      1. Stan*

        It’ll be worth it! The best tip I got was to take ibuprofen 20-30 minutes before my appointment time and then do regular low doses for the first 24-48 hours. Staying on top of the pain made it much more manageable than when I did braces the first time in high school. (Also, dental technology has changed quite a bit in 20 years. My orthodontist was using a different type of wire that allowed him to make adjustments closer together — 2-3 weeks instead of 4-6 — with much less pain.)

      2. A 40-Something With Braces*

        My teeth are particularly stubborn and unwilling to move, per my ortho, so it’s possible my pain is abnormally high. In fact, my complexion is a disaster because I’ve had to give up my Clarisonic during braces. The vibration on my face was excruciating.

      3. Alton*

        It’s hard to predict. I never had much pain, except when a wire would poke me. Also, I had a couple brackets with little “hooks” to attach rubber bands to, and while the hooks weren’t sharp or anything, they irritated the inside of my lip at first.

        One tip: when using wax, it helps a lot to break off a piece and run it under warm water for a few seconds before putting it in your mouth. That’ll make it more pliable, and you can mold it around the bracket or wire that’s causing trouble.

      4. Guitar Hero*

        I never thought the pain was that bad. Schedule your adjustments for Fridays whenever possible so you can have the weekend to eat ice cream and recover.

        My favorite part of braces though was getting them off… your teeth feel so slippery and weird on your tongue. It’s awesome.

      5. Rainy*

        It varies so much across people and what’s being done that you may well have very little pain. My ortho was using strong wires and frequent adjustments to widen my upper arch really significantly, despite my age (he said that if I’d been in my teens, even late teens, he would have tried a palate expander because my upper arch was so compressed), and I had a lot of pain, mainly because my teeth ended up moving super fast. He was the only one in town who would do my braces without surgery on both mandibles.

        Allow me to recommend rum. ;)

        Also, I get compliments on my smile all the time. Best money I’ve ever spent on myself.

  34. Katie the Fed*

    OP #1 – is there some reason she HAS to leave at 5? Like daycare pickup? It might be worth knowing this so you can help come up with a solution. Ideally she’d either work from home later or maybe put in a few hours on the weekend, but there might be some compelling reason she has to leave. I’m going back to work in a few weeks and I have to leave by 4:15 or be late for daycare pickup which closes at 5.

  35. Lauren K Milligan*

    OP 3, the trade-off for using their online freebies is that you’ll keep getting sales calls. Honestly, there’s no benefit to the company doing what Alison said, by removing you. First, any good sales person knows that it takes a bunch of ‘no’ responses to get to a yes, and second, “your software is great but I’m too small of a company” is probably a common blow-off objection that they overcome with other companies every day. There’s always a chance (in their eyes) that you’ll suddenly become a good prospect. If you don’t want the calls anymore, stop using their material but understand that a few sales calls or emails is the current market price of those materials.

    1. Marketer*

      Hi Lauren, I’m the OP and I definitely get what you’re saying. As a marketer myself, I know that they’re trying to uncover sales leads by offering these free tools. And if they reached out every 12 months or even 6 months, I’d understand. Things do change, after all, and they never know whether something that wasn’t possible before may be possible now. But where I struggle is knowing that within 24 hours of me downloading a piece of content I will get an email, then a phone call, then another email, then at least one more phone call…and so on for a period of about two weeks. Really, that feels excessive to me and it’s what made me wonder if I was violating some kind of etiquette I wasn’t aware of.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        Can you download with your browser in incognito mode, or give a dummy e-mail address if they require one? That may help.

      2. Bea*

        Nope. You are a-okay. They’re just on an aggressive sales team. Stay polite and keep saying no. You’re doing everything right.

        I’ve been battling sales calls for years and they’ve got their pitches and quotas to meet. I just keep smiling and saying no thanks. Then one day they may walk into a “sure okay let’s do this ”

        That happened with a carrier service years ago. I rushed them out the door until they came in the day I was fed up with our previous vendor. Magic.

      3. Lauren K Milligan*

        I agree that they are really aggressive. It might not matter, because you’re already in their system, but I wonder if putting a wrong phone number, and an email address that you rarely use will send them in the wrong direction? If they only work off of the contact info you give when you download the docs, that might cut down on their ability to get to you.

    2. Lilly*

      A counterpoint from someone in B2B SaaS sales ad/analytics consulting – it’s actually in their best interests to mark her as a non-prospect if they’re using any sort of leadscoring algorithm, especially one using machine learning.

      We come up against this a lot: the most efficient way to generate more sales is usually not to get more prospects, but find the best prospects and optimize the conversion rates down through each sales stage. So knowing she’s at a company that’s too small is actually a really valuable signal to apply, and one that we use a lot.

      For these types of sales, we don’t mind the ‘freeloader’ problem of people liking and engaging with the content, that’s great for brand awareness and potential sales down the line! But for actually scoring and routing appropriate sales to salespeople, we need to know when the mark’s not quite right and why. It’s a slightly counterintuitive aspect of this form of marketing.

  36. Roscoe*

    I’m kind of torn on #1. I agree that in a salaried position, it is usually assumed that there will be some late nights. At the same time, as someone who does leave at 5pm every day (usually on the dot), I’d be wary of requiring that. Maybe start by having a frank discussion about her workload and how she is managing her time. Often, saying an extra hour or 2 doesn’t really make people more productive, it just lets them spread out the time they are actually working. Trust me, I get more done than many of my co-workers, yet they probably put in more hours than I do. However, they waste a lot of their work time chatting with others in the kitchen and things of that nature.

    So my point is that I think looking at her leaving at her scheduled time isn’t really the problem, its the lack of getting work done. Address that. Sure, you can say that staying late MAY BE something that has to be done, but its possible there are other options to look at first

  37. Bowl of Oranges*

    OP #3 – Don’t feel bad! You’re not a great fit for them right now and that’s ok. They’re a marketing company and they’re going to understand that not everyone who uses their resources is going to be a perfect match. Just tell them you don’t have the budget and you aren’t going to have the budget for it anytime soon. Ask if they can mark you as not a fit in their CRM. This is ok to do, and if anything will be more helpful to them – they won’t be wasting their time (or yours) reaching out to you. If you HAVE done that, and they continue to contact you, just ignore it.

    Do they have a free plan you can use? Also, have you actually talked to anyone about their prices (I totally understand if you don’t even want to start that conversation)? The marketing system we use has their prices listed on their website, but after talking to someone there, I found out those prices aren’t set in stone. We were able to negotiate a discount. I may be wrong, but I have a suspicion it’s the same company you’re talking about.

    1. Bowl of Oranges*

      Just re-read your question and saw you have told them multiple times that you’re not a good fit. Sorry! If you’ve already clearly explained this to them multiple times (and that you won’t ever be a good fit), then they should’ve marked you as such by now. Just ignore sales pitches moving forward (it’s still totally ok to use their free resources!).

  38. Boredatwork*

    OP #1 –

    We are expected to work a lot of uncompensated overtime in my job, that’s just the way it is. I’m very well compensated and while I don’t like overtime, I’m okay with it. My boss does an excellent job communicating when overtime is expected and how much. Like from XX date expect to work 50+ hours until the project is completed. YY day is a hard deadline, cannot be extended and Saturdays/Sundays may be necessary. I find the transparency helpful.

    She may need you to be direct about expectations. If she continues to miss important deadlines without communicating, you may have to start having more of a hands on status update type relationship.

  39. FD*

    #1- If it were me, for this role, I would focus less on the leaving at 5 and more on the deadlines. For instance, if the employee was leaving at 5 on the dot every day but hitting every deadline, it wouldn’t be a problem, correct? Moreover, if she was staying late and not hitting her deadlines, that would be as much of an issue, I imagine.

    So really, I think the conversation is two fold. One, the conversation about deadlines, and two, a conversation about expectations in general. The second part might be something like:

    “In general, part of being a salaried worker means that the whole team pulls together to get the job done. Sometimes that might mean working longer hours when the team is on a deadline. We have some flexibility–Jane prefers to come in early when no one is around and Rob likes to take some work home on the weekend. But it’s expected that you hold up your part of projects, even if that means working more than 40 hours some weeks. Can you commit to that going forward?”

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      I like this. I think it should be framed primarily from a “missing deadlines/workload management” perspective instead of a “leaving at 5” perspective. As other people commented, there may be an obligation that the employee leaves at 5 for, so it might help to talk about expectations and consequences for completing/not completing work on time.

  40. Yetanotherjennifer*

    OP 3, why don’t you use a different email address to download the freebies? It sounds like this company is going above and beyond to get a sale. Sending lots of sales messages to the email address is fine. Tracking you down on Facebook is excessive. A generic gmail address won’t have a company or person to track down and should limit the sales contact. If you can’t check those accounts from work you could set up an auto forward to your work email so you still have access to the download links.

    1. Marketer*

      Hi there, I’m the OP and would you believe I’ve already tried this and they STILL tracked me down? I have no idea how! They are nothing if not persistent.

  41. Dark Heart Manager*

    Has OP#1 ever asked the employee why she must leave at 5pm and not just accepted “I have a lot to do” as an answer? Does she have to pick a kid up from daycare? Care for an elderly parent every night? If so, how about suggesting she take some of the work home or do it on the weekends?

    Course, if she’s just a slacker and she’s not bound by a day care or hospice schedule, it might be time for her to find something else to do that’s less demanding of her time.

    1. CM*

      But I think this is skipping a step. There may be reasons the employee needs to leave at 5, but that doesn’t explain why she thinks it’s acceptable to miss deadlines. First, the manager needs to set expectations — it’s expected that you won’t work a strict 9-5 and that you’ll put in extra hours as needed to get things done. Others on the team do that. Missing deadlines is not acceptable. Next, they can have a conversation — why hasn’t the employee been meeting deadlines? There could be lots of reasons — for example, the employee didn’t realize it was a big deal, the employee has stuff going on in their personal life, the deadlines are unreasonable. Then they come up with a plan to resolve the issue and a timeframe to check in on progress.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        OP1’s employee may think it’s okay to miss deadlines because OP1 keeps moving them. I used to work for a manager with a lackadaisical attitude toward deadlines. She’d hear “X has to be done by the 23rd of the month”, think “that’s practically the end of the month”, then tell herself that “I have until the end of the month to do X.” If the employee knows that the deadline will be moved if she misses it, what incentive is there to get her part done by the deadline?

    2. Anon with an Actual Life*

      Employers are not entitled to their employees time beyond their contracted hours – it doesn’t matter if what she has to do is pick up a child or dance around her living room to Wham, employers don’t get a damn say in it. OP1’s employee is smart to keep it vague, and it implies (confirms) that the company has nonsense expectations so she knows to protect herself.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I assume you’re not in the U.S., because we don’t generally have “contracted hours here.” Assuming you’re in another country, you’re using a different model than the American one (and the one that my answer was based on).

        1. Emily*

          I think the other problem here is that it’s difficult to get an accurate handle of what the hours will actually be when taking a new (exempt) position. My husband took a new job in September and was told “it’s not a 9-5 job, but you will have flex time and you can work remotely on occiasion if necessary”. The trouble is, what they actually expect is 48 hour weeks, and if you or a kid is sick and you need to stay home for a few hours (still working a 40 hour week) they aren’t super flexible. He was also told during negotiations “they’d be setting up 401ks in the new year” and it was strongly implied there would be room for rapid career advancement in terms of raises. Neither of those things have materilialized- so the salary he negotiated means he ended up working for slightly less money than his old job and 25% more hours. So, there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism to hold employers to the deal they sell potential employees on… and you can’t necessarily get an accurate read of what “it’s not a 9-5” job means when you are negotiating.

          1. Bea*

            Sadly many places do this. They paint being exempt as a great flexible idea that is glorious for both parties. Then it turns out they just want unlimited hours from certain employees. I just escaped that hell.

  42. Data Lady*

    I’ll need braces and surgery as an early 30-something, and it’s got me pretty worried about how this will impact my career. Not only the time off needed for adjustment appointments and surgery, but the perception of adult braces as being a weird and self-indulgent thing to invest in at an age where most women are starting to build their families. Because my parents couldn’t afford braces when I was a kid, I’m kind of worried that having braces as an adult “outs” me as not being truly middle/upper-middle-class, which I’m worried will hurt people’s perception of my fit. This is constantly on my mind and makes me wonder if it’s worth it.

    1. Stan*

      Don’t worry! I just finished a run of adult braces that included wisdom teeth removal and ended with two surgeries to replace missing lateral incisors. I had traditional bracket/wire braces for 18 months and then Invisalign style retainers while the surgeries were completed. During that time, I changed careers with no issue. The only time anyone said anything was an interviewer briefly commiserating about her time with adult braces. We had both done braces as teenagers and again as adults.

    2. A 40-Something With Braces*

      I have braces now because my childhood dentist was an idiot who wrongly claimed I didn’t need them. My teeth have worn down unevenly to the point that I’m running out of enamel in some places. My orthodontist was astonished to hear this, and was actually considering calling the dentist until I explained that he was retired.

      So, it isn’t necessarily a class marker, though I understand why people might see it that way.

    3. Kelly L.*

      FWIW, I’ve long felt that my teeth still being crooked marked me as lower-class, so at least braces are temporary and you come out the other side with straight ones!

      1. Data Lady*

        Well, the thing is that I have the kind of straight teeth that look naturally straight rather than perfectly orthodontically-assisted straight – braces and surgery are for bite, breathing, and RBF issues that have been bothering me for a long time. So my teeth as they are don’t necessarily prevent me from passing, but I’ve certainly run into people close to me thinking it’s weird that my parents didn’t get the issue fixed when I was a kid (check your privilege, folks).

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m not getting the phrase “adult braces”. Pretty sure they’re the exact same actual bits of metal?

      I had braces in my very early teens, and then again (because the underlying problem that caused the misalignment hadn’t been addressed) again in my late 20’s. I was an adult person who wore braces. (As an aside: they made me look younger, which was exacerbated by my name, which is incredibly common with women 10 years younger than I am. And I was working retail jobs. Fun times.)

      Are there orthodontic practices now that specialize in adult patients? Is that what’s going on? I admit, I had that second set back in the late 1980’s, and all the reclining seats in the office were on the short side…

      1. Data Lady*

        There are some ortho practices that are a bit more adult-oriented, and do things like have evening/weekend hours to accommodate working adults who can’t just swan off for adjustment appointments all the time without damaging their professional reputation.

        But yeah, while adults have braces, it’s not a typical adult life-course thing to do and that can trigger all sorts of nonsense in people’s brains, especially if you look younger to begin with or haven’t otherwise done adult life-course things like getting married, buying a house, or having kids. It just makes it a little bit harder to establish your credibility in a professional environment.

      2. A 40-Something With Braces*

        Well, as an adult, your growth plates are no longer pliable, so teeth move slower and more painfully. Adults also tend to have different issues to work around, such as possible implants/bridges/other repair work, and more general wear and tear on the teeth.

        An ortho that doesn’t often deal with adults may not be as well versed in adult issues.

  43. Jady*


    I have worked in a high demand field for about 10 years now, across multiple companies, so I know my perception may be skewed due to the norms in my field. This will probably create a lot of objections.

    My opinion is – if your people have to work more than 8 hours a day once or twice a month, you’ve got a workload/resource problem that you need to fix.

    The culture in my industry is that work/life balance is more and more important and I support that. Additional hours has been a factor in why I’ve left jobs in the past. And I get the impression (perhaps wrongly?) from the post that excessive hours are typical for your employees.

    I think this kind of culture is becoming more dominant – some fields slower than others of course. But it’s something that needs to be considered objectively. Why do your people have to work late? How often is this happening? Could you be offering comp time off or generous vacation to balance the extra hours?

    And as others have mentioned – when those (hopefully rare) times do occur where more hours are needed – be as flexible about it as you can. Everyone has different needs and schedules. Some people may have kids to pickup, some may have sick family, some may have after-work classes to attend, and even some people even have mental needs (anxiety, depression, etc) that mean just getting out of the office.

    Whenever possible, let people choose how to put in those hours. Weekends, nights, early mornings, working through lunch, etc.

  44. thesoundofmusic*

    I am a baby boomer and have worked full time since 1976. Things have changed. If you look at hiring patterns in the US, companies have been cutting staff AND increasing productivity. How do they do that? By having existing employees work more. They have also framed the conversation this way–now you are a “professional” employee, or an “exempt” employee and therefore it is expected that a big part of what that means is to work more hours for your company.

    It hasn’t always been the norm that exempt, or professional employees were expected to regularly work a lot of additional hours to do their basic jobs. Companies have increased their bottom lines by cutting staff, increasing workloads, and changing the cultural expectations in the workplace. That’s a big way they have improved profitability.

    I am not saying that a professional employee should not sometimes have to work additional hours to complete their work. But most employee surveys show that the number of hours employees are regularly working (or expected to work) to do their jobs has increased over the past 20 years or more. Who benefits? Salaries certainly haven’t increased commensurately.

    It won’t be until employees push back that things will change. I think the trend in the younger generation to question the assumption of how much people are regularly expected to work is a good one. We baby boomers never did. Employers should be able to explain their thinking and the way they decide how and when to hire more people.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am fortunate to be non-exempt, so at least I get OT pay if I work a lot of hours. But I’ve been working so much that I am making mistakes left and right. Not company/career-ruining mistakes (e.g. typos in an email), but they’re mistakes I wouldn’t make if my brain didn’t feel like a piece of moldy old cantaloupe.

      1. Manders*

        Yes, that’s my problem too–I’m willing to keep my butt in the chair for longer, but I have a job that requires meticulous attention to detail, and pretty soon after crossing the 40-hour mark my ability to do that kind of work drops off. I’m in my first ever salaried job now, and I often work through lunch just because I like getting ahead, but regularly staying late wouldn’t actually improve my productivity.

        1. Jady*

          I have a job that requires that meticulous attention to detail too, and I can’t even make it 40 hours. In an 8-hour day, putting in 6 of that level of detail is a really good day for me.

          I’d actually be a more productive employee working 30 hours a week instead of 40. I spend too much time having to re-check my work because I know I’ve missed things, just out of pure mental exhaustion.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        Agreed! This morning I needed to do some complex math that isn’t normally part of my work, and the never-ending phone calls and e-mails made it nearly impossible. I can be constantly available or I can do detail work: pick one.

      3. Kate 2*

        Yes, it amazes me how companies refuse to accept this, but the human brain has a limit. Study after study has proven that AFTER 40 hours productivity DECREASES. Companies are paying the same amount for less work.

        1. Kate 2*

          ETA: If you are hourly that is. If you are salaried they are still getting more work out of you for the same price. s/Hurray capitalism!/s

  45. Bookworm*

    #4: Don’t worry about it. Do understand your discomfort but your story reminded me of a high school classmate who had braces back when we were in elementary school and then again in HS. We ended up chatting about it for some reason and she said that her teeth began shifting again. She said her options were the braces or surgery to *crack open the roof of her mouth so her jaw could be shifted* and she said she’d much rather wear the braces again.

    #5: They haven’t gone out of style but I’m old enough to still remember being given (this was around my college graduation) advice that EITHER email or hand-written letters were acceptable as thank you notes. I switched to solely email not long after finding the effort of hand-writing not really worth it (it didn’t get me the job!) and have heard that some people have apparently never heard of this etiquette. I’m not sure if it’s a norms have moved on, but more of younger people not getting enough career training/advice.

  46. Hiring Mgr*

    What IS the meaning of gold anyway?? Whatever it is, I can’t imagine ever wanting to deliver or listen to a lecture on that subject, especially on my “day”!

  47. JDtoBE*

    I’m an admin assistant and find the day patronizing and unnecessary. Would it be rude or inappropriate to ask for a day off then? The whole concept of it makes me cringe and I would rather not participate. However, last year, I was caught unawares and was given some gifts from supervisors. I don’t want to be rude but I truly just don’t enjoy the day.

    1. Sci Fi IT Girl*

      IMO, take it off so you can enjoy a day off – just put it in as a PTO request. Some folks here take of Valentine’s Day or other days off for the same reasons: they don’t like the holiday / concept / attention. I recommend though giving enough notice like any PTO day though because you might have a boss trying to be nice and make plans from a good intent who is then wondering where their employee is.

  48. Irene Adler*

    To OP #3- as a way of paying them back for the free software, maybe you can post some on-line reviews of the vendor or the vendor’s products?

  49. MsChanandlerBong*

    #2 reminds me of the time we were trying to figure out how to entice people to sign up for/attend a webinar we were hosting. The invitees are independent contractors, and the webinar was to answer questions and go over company policies, but it wasn’t mandatory. My suggestion was to give everyone who attended an extra $5 or $10 on their next payment. What my boss ended up doing was offering everyone a free copy of the book he wrote. It’s not that he’s a bad writer or that his book is no good, but when you offer something like that, you’re taking a big chance on assuming that a majority of invitees are going to be interested in a book on that particular topic. You’re also assuming that they would all want to read a book vs. listen to an audiobook or watch a video. IMO, even if you don’t need extra money, at least you can use $5 in whatever way you want.

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    On thank you notes..As a candidate, I have always emailed quick thank yous after an interview, just as a formality because it’s pretty easy and quick to do so. But as an interviewer, I don’t really care one way or another whether, or how often, the candidate follows up. But YMMV in this kind of thing…I certainly wouldn’t send or expect to receive anything handwritten though–no time for that.

  51. Nancy*

    OP #3 – Keep using their stuff and then politely let them know you are not a good fit for their product. Sales people – especially software sales – have metrics they need to hit every single day for calls, emails, etc. Also – accounts get reassigned all the time or employees get promoted, quit, etc, so the new sales person for your account probably doesn’t know about the past conversations, and even if they did – they would probably still reach out to you just to hit their daily call/email number.

  52. Sara without an H*

    OP#1, it looks to me as though you have trained your employee to look on deadlines as optional. After all, if you can push the deadline back whenever she has trouble meeting one, how important can it be?

    As a couple of commenters have mentioned upstream, the leaving at 5:00 really isn’t the issue, it’s that your employee isn’t delivering work when it’s due. You need to do some investigation here: why is it happening? Is somebody else not sending her work that she needs to get her piece done? Is it a training issue? Does she have trouble setting priorities?

    Depending on what you find out here, you may want to take a look at workload and workflow for your team in general. That your team is willing to put in extra hours is commendable, but not if those extra hours are required because of bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and time wasters.

  53. Joielle*

    OP #4 – This is maybe off-topic, but on the subject of other fabulous braces-wearing adults, look up Olga Koda. She’s an amazing Russian pole dancer and just got braces recently, and she is rocking them with all her usual confidence! Totally not weird. Don’t worry about it.

    (In case anyone is curious – I do pole fitness as a hobby and follow a lot of dancers on Instagram for inspiration, which is why I know the dental goings-on of Russian pole dancers!)

  54. Libby*

    If #3 is the company I’m thinking of, I used to be in the same situation and one day the sales rep told me that I was “stringing him along.” So when we finally got the money to invest in one of these systems, we went with a competitor.

    Maybe ask them if they ever have any plans to create a lower cost product with fewer features, and if they ever do to contact you then? Otherwise, just keep telling them it’s not in the budget – and hopefully you won’t deal with a pushy jerk like I did.

    1. Marketer*

      Hi Libby, I’m the OP and wow, I can’t believe the person you spoke with was so rude. That’s the part I don’t understand. Pushy sales tactics are such a turn off that when and if you are in a position to purchase their product, you’ll remember that behavior and go with a competitor!

  55. Action Heroine*

    So…I am a (very, very amateur) comedian. While the material I do is 100% inappropriate for a corporate setting, I will say that there are comics who do (and even specialize in) clean, corporate-appropriate comedy. They are out there, it just takes some due diligence to find them. That being said, corporate comics will always be a better fit for larger dinner crowds than small, intimate lunch crowds. Plus, the vast majority of people who do standup have day jobs because the last thing comedy is is lucrative, so an affordable act might not even be available midday.

    A nice lunch followed by the afternoon off (or the option to take a half day at an approved future date) would be my preference.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know about the U.S., but I know this is a standard kind of gig in the UK for comedians, even pretty big name comedians. Corporate awards dinners are especially likely places.

  56. Sci Fi IT Girl*

    On the opposite side of OP #1 question – for those of you who are not-hourly (me too), how do you decide when the requests or need of the work to stay late, work more than 40 hours is becoming extreme? How do you as the employee judge that limit when at times the expectations is work long and hard? Who defines “at times”? When does it become too much / taking advantage of the idea of salaried?

    For those of you as supervisors of salaried folks – when is it enough or too much and how do you as the boss define that for you folks? (If this should wait for Friday please delete and I will post then.)

    1. Manders*

      Ooh, this is a tricky one because it really does vary so much depending on the industry, company, and even the individual boss.

      For me, it’s a pretty clear warning sign when I start to experience mental fatigue that I can’t bounce back from after getting a full night’s sleep or a weekend off. That kind of burnout builds up over time, and eventually if I keep up those hours I’m actually getting less done than I would during a 40-hour week of solid focus. I’m also pretty protective of my hobby and exercise time–I need those things in order to keep my energy and focus up, so at a certain point, cutting out leisure time won’t actually make me more productive.

      I should note that I have a job with some deadlines, plus a lot of “it would be nice if this got done”-style projects. There would never be a point where my work is “done” because part of my job is coming up with new projects for myself.

    2. CC*

      I’ve gotten better over time at asking my manager about this–“Will do! Do you need this tonight? Or is first thing in the morning okay?” “I have a commitment tonight but can reschedule if it it’s urgent… [only say this when you really can/are okay with rescheduling]” Etc. Ideally a manager will be clear about deadlines and when something must be done THAT NIGHT but it can never hurt to clear expectations up on your own.

      Also, there are natural ebbs and flows to most people’s time and energy–maybe you are in the groove one night with no plans so you stay a little later, or another night you HAVE to leave half an hour early because of an appointment–remember that this stuff tends to balance out in the end and not feel too guilty if some nights you’re clocking out right at 5. I used to stay at my job just…to stay there, and it was really a waste of my time.

  57. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Thank you notes? Meh. I’m in corporate staffing and am somewhat immune to thank you notes, and also their absence. For our individual contributor and middle manager roles, notes seem to be a big gray area. Some hiring managers and recruiters put a lot of emphasis on them, and they will factor it into their decision. Others couldn’t care less about a note.

    For what it’s worth, with Director-level and above hiring, I get and am copied in on thank you notes all the time. They haven’t changed my recommendations or any hiring manager decisions at all, and aren’t mentioned in our candidate reviews.

    The point I’m trying to make, as near as I can tell, is that a note can’t hurt, and it COULD help if the hiring manager is on the fence. I can’t recall a time in 30 plus years when a note helped, but that’s me. It sure won’t change a hiring manager’s mind if you aren’t what s/he is looking for, or if your interview was a bust.

  58. Manager-at-Large*

    For #1 – My questions and comments are around the deadlines, who sets them and if they are reasonable.
    For example: if task A will take 24 hours of work and I give it to Fergus at 8 AM on Wednesday with a deadline of 5 PM on Friday – there is no slack and no chance for any other project for Fergus in that time, presuming my estimate is correct. If I wait until Wednesday noon to give Fergus the task with the same deadline – it’s going to be missed without late hours on the clock.

    So – when you look at addressing Jane’s tendency to not work over hours and missing deadlines you (or her manager) need to consider if she is getting tasks in a timeline manner that are doable within normal working hours with reasonable deadlines. What other responsibilities does Jane have that might take time out of her 8 hour day and do the deadlines and expectations accomodate those other projects?

    The answers to these questions will color the conversation with Jane. If it needs to be “this is life at Hurry-Up Teapots – we get routinely get tasks on deadline without enough time in the normal day to complete them – we all work over to make it happen”, that’s one thing. If it is “Jane, you are getting projects in plenty of time to complete them in normal working hours but you are missing deadlines. This is not acceptable – you need to either work faster or put in extra time to make your deadlines”.

  59. Marketer*

    I’m the OP, and to answer your question about the form of the solicitations, they are targeted to me rather than being generic. They use my name and clearly reference notes from the previous conversations we’ve had. I’ve been ignoring the emails and letting the calls roll to voice mail (thank you, caller ID). But the latest was a LinkedIn request that said, “We haven’t been able to get in touch with you any other way, so we figured we’d give this a shot.” I think that’s what made me wonder whether I was in violation of some vendor etiquette I wasn’t aware of.

    I’m very thankful for Alison’s advice because it made me realize I hadn’t been direct enough in previous conversations when trying to tell them my company is not going to be a fit. I think the next time they reach out I’ll use her words nearly verbatim and see if that does the trick.

    1. Lilly*

      I hope it does do the trick! FWIW, I work for a consulting firm on the other side of that equation (we help people advertise/sell/track/analyze software for B2B/SaaS). We love people like you.
      You’ve got a great impression of the software and know the use-case well, and you’re keeping up with changes to it by reading the blog. Some of these sales cycles are years long, and we’d rather you get use out of the content and keep that software in mind than stop reading the blog/using the materials/sharing the really good things.
      That said, I used to build tech stacks and do procurements and the sales emails and calls and messages can get really, really annoying – almost especially because they get so personal? Firmness will help, good luck!

    2. Steph*

      Hi Marketer, I work in sales and started out at a company that uses a lot of the tactics that you mention as a way to get a meeting with someone.

      When I was at that company, I was an entry level sales employee, so my sole job was to schedule a meeting for the account manager. I was told to send generic emails and customized emails, send resources for them to download (to see if they are opening my emails and reading them), leave voicemails, call and not leave a voicemail, reach out via linkedin, etc. My job depended on the number of meetings that I could schedule for my account manager and not on whether or not the meeting resulted in a closed sale. (I was given bonuses based upon whether or not the meeting resulted in a sale, but whether or not I was good at my job depended on the number of meetings I scheduled).

      And, I would reach out until I got a “no.” Not getting an answer would mean my bosses would expect me to continue reaching out. However, even after I got a no, that person got put back into my pipeline after 6-8 months since things could have changed. So, that probably explains why you’ve been getting as many outreaches as you have, and why they continue even after you tell them “no.”

      Btw, I think I may be familiar with the company you’re referencing here since I started out using their email tracking software for free (and continue to use the free version), and have come to love the company’s many resources for sales teams and marketers. I would read a lot of what they write and incorporate it into how I reached out to people as well.

      I wouldn’t worry about continuing to use their free resources because that’s how they get the word out about their company. If you love what they do, go ahead and tell people about them, but don’t feel obligated to do so. If they send you something custom to download, feel free to use that as well, since that’s something they’ve decided to make public as well.

      And, if you want to do a good deed, take the meeting with the person who reaches out, especially if that person is reaching out to schedule a meeting for someone else. They are probably evaluated by how many meetings they set up, and you can help a fresh, young college grad in their first job hit their goals earlier.

  60. KR*

    Hi OP1… If it turns out your employee has a hard stop at 5 for communte reasons or childcare pickups or whatever, can you offer working from home options or them being able to come in earlier in the morning so they still get to leave at 5 on the dot?

  61. LizB*

    OP #4, unless you are very clearly three eight-year-olds in a trench coat, no manager will judge you for having braces. :)

  62. Domodossola*

    OP1.. I agree with other commenters: if an employee cannot meet deadlines wuthin working hours possibilities are 1 – he/she is not skilled enough or 2 – deadlines are not set properly. I am always doing extra hours and I am not happy about it, but I have to because my contract is being renewed every 6 months. It is tiring and frustrating. Anyway you cannot expect people to work extra hours (especially if it is for free): they have a life which is important and affecting their performance and happiness within organisation. They have been offered money in exchange for a given amount of hours of committed work, after that time they are free to have other things to do and if deadlines are not reasonable that’s not their fault. Instead of looking to other employees staying late, maybe management should look at how it is possible that employees cannot complete tasks within their official hours.

  63. Lady Phoenix*

    I’ll add a caveat to #4. People won’t mind braces… so long as they and the teeth are clean. Make sure to get rid of all food traces via flossing and mouthwash. Plus, I remember there was a wave you put on braves to keep them from rubbing on your gums. If that is still a thing, make sure that stuff isn’t visible either.

    Also, avoid oreos—and cheetos. It never comes off, no matter how delicious they are.

  64. Formerly Arlington*

    Re: #3–I worked for years at a start up where we couldn’t afford to work with certain marketing vendors, then when our company was acquired, got promoted to a role within the parent company and did have a budget. Those vendors I’d admired from afar now count us among their clients. You never know when you might be at a different organization with more of a budget, so the vendors are not being hurt by allowing you to take advantage of their free materials!

  65. Thor*

    For what it’s worth, I had a manager (who I thought was really bad at hiring) who would view even the most perfunctory thank you notes as being a positive and not sending one as a negative (especially if other candidates had sent them).

  66. AudreyParker*

    #1 I worked in an environment like this once – we’d have some pretty significant deadlines, and some people who were project leads and exempt would be walking out the door on the dot, regardless of what was outstanding or when it was due. Meanwhile, others of us would be desperately trying to make the deadlines and work around the absence of the ostensible lead, since no one really enforced the idea that deliverables > hours, especially when you are theoretically the shepherd of the project. The clock-watchers seemed to be people relatively new to the workforce &/or unfamiliar with a deadline- and client-driven environment (or at least I gave them that benefit of the doubt). That’s when I realized that a lot of things I took for granted as obvious about expected work ethic were possibly not so obvious to people new to the workplace, or at least to this type of workplace – you are absolutely doing no one any favors by letting this kind of thing slide. I gave up many weekends in this service, and however happy those people were about leaving “on time” every day, I was 10x less happy having my end of things totally screwed up until we sorted this out.

    #2 When I was an admin, I and some others would occasionally receive flowers for AA day (not handed to me, just delivered). I always found it kind of humiliating, partly because the culture there already set us apart from everyone else like we were incapable of doing anything other than that job, and it seems like a holdover from Secretary’s Day. It’s not like there was a Project Manager’s Day (well, maybe there is now?) At any rate, just seemed like it was condescending. If anything, I’d have preferred a gift card or time off, or yes, lunch with my colleagues. “Motivational” speech from higher-ups would have just fomented mutiny!

    #6 I’m not at all new to the workplace (in the US), and I feel like it’s always been emphasized that thank you notes are important both to indicate continued interest and as an opportunity to either reiterate something key from the interview or introduce new info that might strengthen your candidacy. Feels like not sending one means you were less than impressed after meeting with them. I totally despise having to write notes because I can never write one that doesn’t sound stupid to me, but they do seem like a good tool for relationship-building and follow up. I’d be pretty jazzed if it really were ok not to go through this step, but not sure I can train myself to be comfortable not closing the loop!

    1. AudreyParker*

      re: #1 I’ll add that in this instance, there wasn’t a specific reason why people had to get out the door, it was obvious they just figured things would sort themselves out. Other people who had other obligations and understood they might still have work to be done would leave when they had to but make it clear how they were reachable later in the day, work from home etc. This was totally NOT an issue. It’s not about what time people were walking out the door, it’s about not acknowledging a deadline and what’s needed to meet it, and meeting your responsibilities to achieve that. If it’s an ongoing problem that someone needs to work late more than occasionally to do this, then there needs to be a conversation about deadlines & workload, but just ignoring deadlines because you’ve been there for 8 hours is not ok.

  67. Blue Eagle*

    A while ago one of the candidates for a job I was hiring for was from out of state and was #1 of the top three. My boss held it against you if the candidate did not accept your job offer and I was uncertain if she would accept and move to our area (we did not provide assistance for the level of this position) so I was reluctant to offer her the job. I was about ready to offer it to the #2 candidate and that same day received her thank you note that stressed her enthusiasm for the job and that she was ready to move.

    Thanks to her thank you note – she got the job! And was a great employee. Needless to say I am a firm proponent of thank you notes (but no need to send them to everyone you interview with, only the hiring manager and possibly the main HR contact).

  68. sssssssssss*

    Didn’t read all the comments yet about OP#1 but…if you, as the employee leaving at five on the dot everyday, know that you aren’t going to meet your deadline, isn’t it your responsibility to let your manager know, in advance, so that changes and planning can be made? Some deadlines are flexible and some are not.

    If I’m running behind on a project, I let the manager know.

    To me, that’s as big an issue as the leaving at five. Why isn’t she taking ownership of her work instead of saying “I was too busy.” Say that too often and you’ll soon find yourself on a PIP tracking all that you do.

  69. DJ*

    LW with employee leaving at 5pm. Do you know if there is a reason why ie having to get back to a child care centre or ditto for a relative they care for. Could it be their last bus leaves their local station by a certain time leaving them stranded. Also are YOU flexible about employees having time off during 9-5 without docking their pay or leave? Two way street!!

  70. tangerineRose*

    Before I started reading AAM, I had no idea that job seekers should send thank you letters. I do that now, of course.

  71. kimpossible*

    FWIW, sorry if I missed someone else saying this up-thread, but not all salaried workers are exempt. I am salaried, non-exempt, so if I work more than 40 hrs a week, I’m technically eligible for overtime. But, it’s a pain in the behind to fill out and submit the timesheets, and when I do have to stay later, it’s never more than 15-20 minutes, which makes the whole exercise not worth it.

    That being said, the vast majority of the time, I am making a beeline for the door at 5 pm on the nose.

  72. Not Rebee*

    I read a tumblr post the other day full of people who had no idea they were supposed to send thank you notes after interviews, and who were then panicking about how to send them (mail, fax, email). Given that it’s tumblr, it’s safe to assume these are people more likely to be the same age as the LW’s interns and not 10+ year professionals, so I was pretty alarmed that this was not standard knowledge. My high school went over interview skills, writing a resume, and other things of that nature (although you did have to elect to take the class it was covered in). Not everything taught in it was 100% correct and some of it was fairly outdated, but at the very least basic expectations (dress nice for interviews, shake people’s hands, resume and cover letter, and thank you notes) was covered so that this stuff didn’t blind side me. I have elected not to send thank you notes for jobs I knew I didn’t want after the first round of interviews (hoping it might tip the scales and prevent me from moving forward with the interview process) but I’ve always known it was expected.

  73. Senior Hire*

    Re: #5: I stopped sending thank-you notes when employers began demanding free work as part of the interview process. Seemed a bit backward to me.

  74. mountainshadows299*

    Ugh… LW#2’s story reminds me of something that happened not long ago at our non-profit. Basically, the newly hired Project Manager was asked to be on our “wellness committee,” and for one of our company wide meetings, he was asked to talk onstage. Bad bad move. He basically tried to lead a “guided meditation” to reduce stress, and, under the guise of being funny told all of us, who are overworked and underpaid case managers/social workers with super high caseloads, that we just needed to stop being so stressed out. He literally quoted Sartre, saying that “hell is other people,” and that we needed to stop focusing on the bad stuff *FOR OUR HEALTH*. (All the while not realizing that our jobs are filled with day to day bad stuff, high responsibility, high caseloads, and very very little pay- Would if we could buddy!) It was so tone deaf. And yes, hell is other people, but not the people he’s thinking of…

  75. Beeblebrox*

    OP#1: Despite generally agreeing with AAM, let me say, on behalf of all the exempt over-worked employees out there: Good for that 5pm-exiter! I am so sick of the mountains of work, enough for two people, and the silly expectation that I will get it done in reasonable hours, coupled with the meaningless work-life balance cheering! I wish I had the guts to just walk out at 5 pm. Even at 50 hours a week, I am always behind.

  76. Lady at Liberty*

    OP #1, maybe your employee is not in my former shoes, but double-check that they are, in fact, salaried.

    At my last job, I was transferred from one department to another, but remained hourly. Everyone else in the new department was salaried. My new manager used to bristle at me working to the clock, even though I explained repeatedly that I was on hourly wage, company policy was to discourage OT (as in “you can’t work OT without previous managerial approval and HR will look at you funny for doing it”), and our makeup policy was designed to wring as much free time out of employees as possible. (5-minute lateness grace period… but after that, time was docked in 15-minute increments and could only be made up in half-hour blocks. In an area served by one extremely unreliable bus line that on a good day runs every 20 minutes.) I told him I would be better able to come in early/stay late/cut lunch short if I were on straight salary, but either he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to HR about making that change.

  77. Ginger*

    Luckily, I’m not required to sit through any lecture, and I *am* compensated well and I work in a place that *does* value all of the people year-round. I’m one of a dozen or so admins (all women, naturally), and most of them (many have been here longer and are older than me – I’m at almost two years and I’m nearly 37) LOOOOOOOVE being treated to lunch on Admin’s Day, which is just a luncheon catered in, nothing super fancy. They make a big deal, and send each other happy emails, and go ga-ga over it. HR usually says something appreciative, a small gift like a mug is handed out, etc.

    But I still HATE it. I find it trivializing and patronizing, much like in Alison’s earlier post (https://www.askamanager.org/2015/04/its-time-to-end-secretaries-day.html) – I do my job well and I’m paid well for it. That’s plenty. I don’t need a special day recognizing me/my work. We don’t have appreciation luncheons for people in any other positions. I’m generally antisocial and introverted to begin with, and would just rather sit at my desk and eat my lunch in peace. I abhor attention of any kind, really, which makes this all the more difficult.

    My problem is that I don’t know how to go against the crowd on this. Last year I tried to just not go, and they came to my office and literally dragged me away by the arm. My direct boss has put the day on her calendar, so I think she’s planning something. How do I politely tell her, “Thanks but I’m good, really.” I can absolutely just call in sick, or pre-take a vacation day, but I agree that it should be ended at large.

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