my managers are disrespectful to people, my company wants to do group interviews, and more

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

1. How can I tell my managers they’re disrespectful to people?

I have two managers — a founder and a managing director at a small nonprofit — who frequently talk to the staff in ways that are demeaning and disrespectful. This has a ripple effect of an already chaotic office feeling incredibly toxic.

As the chief of staff, I have tried to talk to them about how they talk to people may affect how people respond, but the general reaction has been to justify their own frustrations as inherently more true and valuable and to say that if people aren’t ok with it then maybe they should leave. “Working here is a privilege” was the final note of our last meeting.

How do you try to make people take some amount of personal responsibility for toxicity? All of the systems and protocols in the world will not matter if they do not understand that their actions and words have repercussions. There are myriad other problems here — a lack of strategy and vision, inconsistent expectations and systems, and so much more — but the undercurrent of cruelty in the way the management talks to staff feels the hardest to problem-solve. Any suggestions?

You’re not going to be able to solve that. I’ve been in your shoes, and I understand the temptation to think that if you can just find the right words and the right way to frame this, you’ll get through to them, but it’s highly unlikely to happen. The subject line of your email to me was “managing up to cruel bosses.” This isn’t the case of a leader who’s great in all other ways but has one blind spot and would be open to feedback and differing viewpoints. This is about people who you can see are cruel and who are running an office that’s toxic in myriad ways, think working for them is a privilege (!), have no strategy or vision, apparently don’t know how to manage or care to learn, are actively disrespectful and unkind to people, and shut you down when you attempted to bring a legitimate problem to their attention.

You’re in a role where your job is to make the organization run smoothly, and you’ll never be able to do that successfully with these two people running it. You will always be fighting this battle and cleaning up the damage they cause. The only way to solve this for yourself is by leaving. (I suspect you might be reluctant to do that because you feel like it’s valuable to be a go-between between them and the staff, but the details in your message indicate that it’s not enough to truly solve any of it.)

Read an update to this letter

2. My company wants to do group interviews

The company I work for wants to start interviewing people in a cattle call format in order to interview people in groups rather than individually. For those who stay for the whole presentation, they do get an individual interview afterwards, but since they have to sit through the presentation and also wait for others to get their personal interview, they can be in our office for hours. To make matters worse, the person who is doing these seminars seems to think that we’ve got people clamoring to work here and so his sales pitch is more of “do you have what it takes to work here?” than “let’s see if this is the right fit.” This is drastically different from our previous interviewing process which was much more personal and started with a short phone interview before even taking up someone’s time with a face-to-face.

Senior management isn’t interested in changing their mind. They want to stick with these seminars, as that is what they did back in the 90’s and it was highly successful back then. What is your opinion on seminar-style interviews in general? I would also be interested in whether or not any other companies are doing interviewing this way. I am in a management position and some of these people that would be hired would be working directly for me so I have a lot of interest in giving applicants a good interviewing experience.

It’s a terrible idea. When your interviewing practices strongly resemble the interviews for door-to-door knife sales, you’re doing something wrong.

Candidates with options are going to opt out. It’s disrespectful of their time, and they’re likely to figure they’ve walked into a cattle call for a shady sales job and or a multi-level marketing scheme (based both on the process and on the “do you have what it takes to work here?” vibe).

You do sometimes see group interviews, but they tend to be at the sort of companies I described above, or for retail jobs, or at organizations that really, really don’t know how to hire.

You can try making these points and arguing that you’re the one who’s responsible for ensuring that your team is well-staffed and effective. But if you can’t talk them out of it, you might be stuck waiting until they’ve been doing it for a while and then pointing to the impact it’s presumably going to be having on your ability to hire strong candidates.

3. I’ve met the whole firm and still can’t get concrete details on an offer

I’ve worked for a long time for a very small boutique company dealing with accounting/investments/etc. I am the only employee and love my boss and my job (although higher pay and benefits would be nice). In the spirit of making sure I’m making the best choice for my career, I have looked at other positions to get figure out if I am being paid fairly. (My job description is very unique and there are no apples-to-apples comps.)

I met the partner of a financial firm two years ago through a mutual friend. Since then, we have proceeded to meet almost annually to “catch up.” Without fail, he brings other employees or team members from his firm to our breakfast meetings without letting me know in advance. Throughout our chats he says, “I’m trying to get her to come and work for us but haven’t had much luck.” I’ve said that I’m not ready to leave my current firm. We keep doing this dance, and while the position seems interesting, I don’t see the point of all these conversations that offer nothing concrete. I cancelled our breakfast meeting today due to a cold and also because I didnt see the point in schlepping downtown for another chat session. He asked me to meet via video conference and again, there were two other people in the meeting — one partner and one other relatively new employee. I said that we should talk about an overall package going forward. I engage in small talk with everyone and the video conference ends. Within the hour, I get a calendar request for yet another breakfast meeting with the same partner and his German counterpart. How do I get down to business with this guy? I don’t need to tour their offices or see their snack carts or hear about their philanthropic endeavors. I know the company and can research all that on my own. What I want is for him to tell him how much he is willing to offer to get me to consider making the switch.

That does sound like a very long dance.

How about just being straight with him? You could say, “Bob, I’m grateful for your interest in me. I think I’ve got the information about your firm that I need. If you’re serious about offering me a role, are you at the point where you’re ready to write up an offer with specifics that I can look at? Or is there additional information you’re looking for from me?” (It’s possible that he sees these meetings as partially interviews for his benefit and that he’s not fully sold yet — although it doesn’t really sound that way. Who knows. But it’s worth asking.)

Alternately, if you have a number in mind that would get you to leave your firm, you could say, “I want to be straight with you — I wouldn’t leave my current job for less than $X. Is that something you could meet on your side?”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. As a salaried employee, shouldn’t I be paid when our company closes for a week?

I am a salaried employee at my company, paid bi-weekly so my annual is split into 26 portions. Pretty standard stuff. Our industry is typically pretty dead in December, so last year the company decided to shut down the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and we could either use vacation time or take it unpaid. They announced this in September and apologized for coming up with it so late in the year after many people may have used their time, but basically, tough luck. I was one of the ones who had no time left and had to take it as unpaid. They are doing the same thing this year, and will likely continue to do so.

While it’s nice to have that time off, it occurred to me that as a salaried employee I shouldn’t have to use vacation time in order to be paid, should I? If my salary is divided into equal amounts then I should be covered if the company has a planned shutdown. The way I see it, if I use vacation time or go unpaid, then the company is shorting me a week’s pay and if I must do one of those two options, then they should recalculate my bi-weekly pay to spread that week out over the year. Am I thinking right or is there something I’m missing here?

They’re allowed to do this. It’s not particularly cool of them to give you such late notice so that you can’t plan your vacation time usage accordingly, but it’s legal.

Salary doesn’t really mean “we’ll pay you this much for a year of work, even if there are weeks when you don’t work at all.” In a situation like this, it really means “we’ll pay you X amount per week.” It’s true that exempt employees can’t usually have their pay docked, but federal law does allow employers not to pay exempt workers for any week in which they perform no work, as would be the case here. (But it does have to be a full  week; the law requires that exempt employees be paid their full salary for any week in which they perform any work.)

5. Should I ask for money to train my replacement after I’m gone?

I’m about to resign from my job at a theater in a major U.S. city. They have a habit of taking three to six months to fill positions after they are vacant, even if employees give a month or more notice (it’s common to stay through a production run and a sizeable percent in the field give more than two weeks’ notice) with the intent to assist with hiring/training a new hire. The theater also asks former employees to come back and help train the new employees.

A former colleague, someone who arguably was the best I’ve seen at preparing for their departure and had all of their ducks in a row when they left, came back for a meeting and got pressed into a full days’ work (eight hours, not training the new hire). No compensation is offered. What are training expectations? Is it appropriate for me to ask for compensation (I may have to take time off from another job)?

You really don’t need to do this at all if you don’t want to. It’s not typical in most jobs to come back to train after you’re gone, and even if it’s typical in yours, it should be fine to explain that your new work schedule doesn’t allow it. And unless you really want to, you definitely shouldn’t take time off from your new job to come back and do it. (Even if you do want to, I might argue that you shouldn’t, since employers generally don’t love new hires taking time off right at the start.)

But if you get asked to do it and you’re willing to, you absolutely should be paid for that time. You can make that clear by saying in response to the request, “Now that I’m off the payroll, how will that work? Will you pay me my old rate as an independent contractor, or put me back on payroll for one day?” If they say they don’t normally pay for this, then you can say, “I’d be glad to answer a couple of questions over the phone if you need me to, but my schedule is so crammed that I can’t come in and do actual work without being paid.” And if they’re not a nonprofit, they’d be required by law to pay you, so you could say, “We’re actually required by law to pay people for doing work and could get in trouble if we don’t.”

{ 263 comments… read them below }

  1. K. A.*

    #2: The only group interviews I’ve ever been invited to have been scams. After 2 such interviews early in my career, I now automatically opt out of those even if I have no other prospects.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—cattle call interviews like this sound notoriously like MLM hiring (or auditions, but I think those are distinct from OP’s situation), which often function as pyramid schemes. It would be a red flag for anyone who is competent and has the opportunity to access other jobs.

      1. AKchic*

        I did a cattle-call for retail once. I was 16 and pregnant, and it was the holiday season. Funny how everyone who stayed and wasn’t pregnant was hired, but I wasn’t, but I was 16 and really wasn’t in a position to argue it.

        I did a cattle-call for an office position for a vacuum company. Yeah… it was a bait and switch. “You gotta know the product!” and I sat through 20 hours of education on their entire vacuum and air filter lines. I asked multiple times if I even GOT the office position and was told every candidate had to go through the training. I asked about being PAID for this training. Had to sell a system to get paid. Excuse me?! No. Absolutely not. I was required by ATAP to accept any job that was offered to me. I was led to believe this “training” was required because I had gotten the job of office assistant. Now you’re telling me this 20 hours of “training” is for a sales position that I didn’t apply for, and I won’t get paid for it (which I have to pay for daycare for, btw) and I am losing out on 20 hours of actual job-searching time, plus I have to actually hawk a $2000 vacuum to a random stranger in order to get paid for this training? Oh, I can sell to family? How nice. My family is broke, otherwise I wouldn’t be on ATAP right now. I need a job. Not a MLM scam.
        There were three of us from the same ATAP case worker in that “orientation” who had all applied for the same position.
        Luckily the case worker didn’t penalize any of us for wasting our time, and put a notification out for everyone to avoid the company.
        And no, none of us got paid for our “training”.

        Never again will I sit through a cattle-call. My time is valuable and I have more respect for myself and my talents. If you want my skill, you will respect my skill.

        1. GreenDoor*

          That is a really craptacular thing to do to applicants that have benefit requirements like yours. That’s blatently trying to take advantage of the downtrodden. Awful! I’m glad your caseworker didn’t penalize you!

          1. AKchic*

            It was the beginning of the recession, but Alaska hadn’t hit it’s recession yet (for financial stuff, we always trail behind). I had closed my online business and was just getting back into the job market. I ended up finding work about a month later and stayed there for 8 years before moving to my current position (I’ve been here two years).

            Between that place and my mother and first stepfather’s issue with the well-known 90’s hit of *cough*not-gonna-say-it*cough* (that one pinnacle of pyramid schemes that is still around!) that ultimately helped put my first stepfather into his grave (he literally stopped buying insulin so he could buy more product to make “goal” because he was determined to level up and be a “success” – he died instead), and I absolutely refuse all MLMs. My loathing of them is um… clinical? Borderline obsessive? Somewhere along those lines.

    2. LarsTheRealGirl*

      I’ve had it for retail jobs in high school. They basically hire seasonally and 90% of those who showed up were hired.

      In a professional environment, I would walk out. No question.

      1. Another lawyer*

        Same – I was hired at the Gap this way for Christmas season employment in college, which was fine because they also hired 90% of people and it was at max an hour long engagement.

        And anything like this happening in a remotely professional context, I would walk out as well.

        1. Leave Law!*

          Group interviews are common at some consulting firms, and I-banks tend to have “interview day” (which is not necessarily a group interview — although it can be — but is one day on which all candidates get interviewed en masse).

          I did one for a law firm and liked it a lot better than traditional law firm interviews.

      2. That Would be a Good Band Name*

        My kid had an interview like that this summer for a local theme park and they hire almost everyone in the interview. Also maybe lasted an hour.

        I’ve only been to one group interview as an adult and it was a scam.

          1. Emily K*

            Yeah, you don’t need to be super thorough about hiring when you plan to lay off most of the hires in a couple of months regardless of how well they do because the business won’t need them. Easier to lay off the underperformers en masse on the back 9 than try to screen them out on the front 9.

      3. Dove*

        The call center I worked for *sort of* hired like this. They’d have potential hires come in in large batches, but people would get individually interviewed. (The interviews were pretty brief, though – maybe five minutes each. I spent more time filling out the actual application than I did talking to the manager who hired me.)

        I definitely worried, when I showed up and saw the large group of people waiting to be interviewed, that I’d ended up answering an ad for an MLM, though.

    3. Thornus67*

      I’ve had two group interviews. One was for a door to door salesman scam. The other was for a low level retail position (I think there were eight of us, and three were later hired).

      I would not take any professional job which asks for a group interview seriously or worth my time.

      1. jb*

        Exactly. Group interviews are bad not because of any inherent qualities, but because, as a practice associated with crappy jobs/employers, they will make your company look bad.

        1. Emily Spinach*

          I think they’re also bad on their own: they show a lack of respect for the candidate’s time and the specific qualifications they bring to the role. Group interviews are associated with scammy and entry level work that some companies who need to hire quickly will hire almost anyone to do, but that’s because it’s about efficiency, not finding a good qualification match between candidate and position.

        2. JHunz*

          The inherent qualities of a group interview make it nearly impossible to get in-depth with questions for the company, which makes it a much less suitable interview if you’re trying to figure out if the company is right for you. Of course, if they’re offering a group interview, they probably aren’t.

          1. Annoyed*

            Also, I’m not really into discussing my personal and professional stuff in front of *everyone else* trying to get said job.

        3. Genny*

          Group interviews indicate the company sees the hiring process as a one-way street: they get to evaluate you, but you don’t get to evaluate them. That’s a terrible way to hire good candidates who will stick around for a while.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        I understand this mindset because it is often the case that it’s a scam. BUT there are some reputable door to door jobs for huge, well established, internationally recognized companies. They’re not pyramid or MLM, just door to door. I work for one, although not in door to door sales. They do group interviews and then a one on one but the whole process takes no more than an hour.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I had one for a seasonal inventory job as a teen – they administered a basic test to make sure you could do the work, and pretty much hired everyone who passed.

      But if I encountered this in a professional job, I’d take it as a scam warning and decline to participate.

    5. Lumen*

      I’ve only been in two group interviews.

      One was for temporary holiday workers at Build-A-Bear. I think they would interview maybe 8-10 people at a time like this, rather than ‘everyone who applied’. But it was retail. And not even permanent. So it was fine.

      The other was a true cattle-call. It was at the peak of the recession, and it was shady AF. Some chiropractor had decided to put out an ad for a receptionist with super vague job duties, and turned out he wanted someone to also to all the marketing for his business, including cold-calling. Again: for a chiropractor. Cold sales calls.

      I mean… what?

      One of the ‘tests’ to see if the 40 or so people who came to the ‘interview’ was to take a stack of forms out into the neighborhood and walk up to strangers to get them to give us their contact information, and whoever got the most filled out would essentially ‘move on to the next round’.

      Again: this was during the peak of the recession. Dozens of people showed up to this. They flooded out of the office and I watched as some immediately started running up to strangers. Others sat down and opened their phones and started filling out the forms with their contacts’ information. I saw a few who looked baffled and upset and knew that, like me, they were desperate for a paycheck.

      I’m proud to say that I took the huge stack of papers this guy had printed off, dropped them into the nearest bin, and got back on the bus to go home.

      Cattle call group interviews are shady, manipulative, and unprofessional.

      1. Ginger Blue*

        I went to a nearly identical group interview at a chiropractic office for a receptionist job. They laid out all of their insane obligations then had everyone bow their heads and close their eyes and if anyone wasn’t up to the challenge they could go quietly without being noticed. I got out of there as quickly as possible.

        1. NerdyKris*

          Oh that’s such a creepy tactic. It wasn’t to let people save face, it was to put the idea in their head that it’s shameful to not continue with the interview.

          1. NerdyKris*

            Sorry to reply to my own comment, but like that Simpsons episode with the cult where they shined the spotlight on anyone getting up to leave so they’d sit back down in embarrassment.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Wonder if this is the same chiropractor I visited when I was looking for a new one. He has a big fancy operation going with dangerous-looking machines that massage people’s backs. He took me into an office and tried to hard-sell promises perfect health if I pay him thousands, completely ignoring my knowledge of my own life and body and that I only wanted a back adjustment.
        I ended up staying with the chiro I had even though she doesn’t work Friday or Saturday, is an hour away, and sometimes tries to upsell me. It could be so much worse!

      3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        I went on one of these too! It was a receptionist/office manager position for some kind of “wellness” center, I think they did chiropractic, but also some other things, can’t recall what. There were about 20 of us interviewing. We watched a video about how you can heal yourself with thoughts and God (calling into question what, exactly, the clinic was supposed to provide), and then asked us questions like “your phone is ringing and a client is standing at your desk and your boss needs something, what do you do?” It was MAJORLY cringey at all times. Oh and we took a “quiz” on the video also and interviewed us individually based on our results. At this point, they revealed that the $13-15/hour wage actually topped out at $10/hr. I laughed in the interviewers’ faces and left.

    6. terminally dull*

      I went to one for a call center that was a cross between an open house and a group interview. It worked fine – they were honest about hours, weekends, and pay. If you were still interested you filled out an application and then they’d call you or not. It was a nice place to work.

    7. Daria Grace*

      I’ve been to one I’m fairly certain wasn’t a scam, but that was for a graduate program which around here tend do tend to have extensive, convoluted recruitment processes. The seminar actually did end up being an interesting introduction to their industry

    8. Wasabi*

      I had a group interview this summer. I’m in my 40s and hear what ppl are saying re scam jobs (yep, went to a couple of such “interviews” in the early 90s recession), but this was for a large retailer with many stores in my area that has a good reputation. The interview groups were not massive (~5 ppl) and there were not many questions. I wondered how they could gauge who to hire with so few questions, but maybe bec it is retail it is a lot about first impressions. I got the job and then did 2.5 days of paid training, and I think for this company it actually kind of worked – anyone I talked to in training seemed on the ball and personable, which this job requires. However, we start as casuals (no guaranteed hours, but must have a particular availability), which is v likely why they do not make a huge time investment interviewing one by one.

      1. I See Real People*

        My son went through two interviews with “some sort of fruit company” with five people and then four. He wasn’t called back to a third. He kind of laughed and said it was like being on American Idol or something.

    9. Dill Pickle*

      Back in the late ’90s, I applied for a job at Fannie Mae. I was invited in to take a test. There were at least 100 people also taking the test. Based on test results, people would be invited back for an interview (I was not). I think it took a half day. I’m pretty sure they served breakfast and snacks. But I was in grad school and only working part time back then, so it was doable. Also, my boss at my part time job was the one who turned me on to the job announcement, I applied for the entry-level professional program and she had applied for the mid-level professional program (she didn’t get to the invited in to take a test step of the process).

    10. Kheldarson*

      Retail loves group interviews when they’re doing store set ups. That’s how I got my jobs at Wal-Mart and Cabela’s. But even those were more “we’re filtering a lot of people through at the same time so you’ll have a one-on-one but you’re jumping tables and others are doing the same.” It’s good for jobs where first impression personality is more important than skill.

    11. Gregor*

      Yup, I distinctly remember going to a Cutco ‘interview’. I was so naive. I was in college looking for jobs, not experienced in job searching so I wasn’t familiar with MLM schemes. –

    12. Persimmons*

      I’ve had four group interviews, and only one of those was not an MLM or a retail/seasonal job.

      A sole practitioner of pseudo-medical procedures was hiring for office staff. I was referred by a friend who was a patient and who swore he was legit, despite my skepticism. What I had thought was going to be a solo interview was instead a roomful of people watching a PowerPoint about how his field was Totally Legit and Definitely Not Bunk. That was followed by directed breathing exercises and a rambling narrative about how he needed a large office staff since he had to leave early four days a week to take his seven children to church.

      Apparently the rubber I left behind while squealing out of the parking lot wasn’t clear enough, because I dodged his follow-up phone calls for two weeks.

      TL;DR: LW2, nobody with any sense is going to think your company is legit if they do this.

      1. boo bot*

        Nothing inspires confidence like emphatic, specific denials when nobody asked…

        “Hi, I’m Al, and everyone who tells you I was behind the Teapot Dome scandal is a liar. Welcome to the interview!”

        1. AKchic*

          But really, that is my best introductory line.

          “Hi, I’m AKchic, and whatever you’ve heard about me is probably right, but I’ll deny it anyway.”

    13. KarenK*

      It’s also very common in post-graduate medical education. In one of my fellowship programs, we interview up to six per day. Our Internal medicine program interviews 9 or 10 per day. It is just not feasible to do individual interviews, as our interviewers are all physicians. It’s tough enough freeing them up for 5 mornings, let alone 30!

      1. Antilles*

        That’s interesting. I think that highlights the real key here is the industry norms – if it’s normal in the industry, then you can get away with it…but in most professional jobs, it’s so far from the usual that most good candidates are going to walk out on the spot.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I was thinking of cattle insemination. There are a narrow range of jobs where that’s what the job entails and there’s nothing out of the ordinary and you just do it. (See also “Your office is full of bees…. but it’s an apiary, so that’s expected.”) But for most jobs, if you try to make people do that they are not going to think “Well, it’s a privilege to work here, after all.” It only works as a bar to clear if you’re selecting for desperation.

    14. Sharkie*

      I have had 2 group interviews and I actually really liked one! Granted it was for a membership services position with a professional sports team so take that with a grain of salt. The first round was a phone interview, and you then moved on to the group interview to see how well you clicked with your fellow interviewees and how well you handled getting your point across in a room full of people. It was a more relaxed setting and prepared me for the job.
      The other group interview was to sell Aflac and it was the worst experience ever. I walked out halfway through the slide show and was still offered the position.

      1. many bells down*

        I had one for a drama teacher position. It made sense that it was a group interview, because they had us do improv together! It was actually a lot of fun, even though that job ghosted me later.

        1. Sharkie*

          Honestly I think it was because I was the only one who looked and acted the part. The girl sitting next to me was high on something ( no judgement but it was 2PM on a Wednesday) and another showed up in stripper heels (they were cool shoes just not interview shoes). The guys wore jeans and ratty t-shirts. It was a nightmare.

    15. boop the first*

      I only ever experienced one group interview and it was for retail and I didn’t know how they were supposed to work… They let a group of us (maybe eleven?) into a room, made us watch a cringy customer service video, and after the video they said “Any questions?”

      A few kids asked some basic questions about shifts or what-not, and then we were all told to go home and wait for a callback. I didn’t get a callback and was just really confused by the whole thing. If all they wanted was to collect more resumes, why make us watch a boring video in a dark room for 20 minutes? There was no interview segment at all.

      Even door-to-door knife sales had one-on-one interviews.

      1. Calpurrnia*

        This sounds so much like the group interview I did for a position at an Apple Store. Talk about cult indoctrination, jeez.

    16. argyle sweatpants*

      Flight attendant interviews work this way, too (or at least they did when I was going through them).

    17. Kay*

      I’ve had heaps of group interviews for law firms and consultancy firms in the form of assessment sessions where they give you an assignment to see how you work in a group. But the only group interviews asking normal questions have been in retail.

    18. Jesmlet*

      I’ve done one of these before but it was for an investment management company notoriously known as a bit of a cult. It’s one of those all about culture organizations but as soon as you see the video or any group of current employees, you realize that means they only hire narcissistic assholes who like berating people and are for the most part white males. After that, even if the company was offering me a 7 figure salary, I’d still turn down a group interview.

    19. Kate R*

      I went on an interview much like the one that the OP describes for a government agency, not a scam or retail job. I think the crux of the issue is exactly this: “the person who is doing these seminars seems to think that we’ve got people clamoring to work here.” It seems weird to then have a presentation to show how awesome the company is and how it only takes the best of the best (which is also what my prospective company did), but maybe they think people will self-select out then. Admittedly, I only applied because they did have a cool reputation, and I thought getting an interview would be an experience in itself. So maybe OP’s management isn’t off-base with people “clamoring” to work there? The actual interview part was individualized, which is why this didn’t weird me out too much. It was frustrating to have to block out a whole day for it though since like the OP said, we had to wait for everyone else to do their interviews, and because I was considered local (I lived an hour away), they didn’t pay for any travel expenses or lunch. Also, it kind of seemed like the interviewers just downloaded questions off the Internet rather than tailoring them to the position, but I digress. I’ll also add that before even getting to the group interview stage, I had to send in a resume, cover letter, and writing sample AND take an aptitude test. So I don’t think it’s a necessarily a sign of a scam since this was a legit organization, but they definitely thought they were so great that prospective employees would be willing to put up with anything. And I guess I did, but I still took a job elsewhere.

    20. Katastrophreak*

      I’ve had two group interviews.

      1 – I had just lost my first job ever and got invited to a sales interview. It was door-to-door knife sales. Nope, thanks, I’m not working on commission on $50 knives when the average annual take home is, well, approximately that. I’ll starve.

      2 – last year, when I was laid off. Resume was up on all the sites, two weeks before the new year. Got a call about a customer service position supporting a big-name labor union. Pay is less than what I used to make, but… *big name* labor union? This is worth my time. I go in… to find out it’s supplemental life insurance sales on commission. 2 hour PowerPoint on deck. Walked out with another guy who was told something completely different and was looking to get out of pharmaceutical sales, but “not that bad”. Got called twice asking if I was interested in supplemental life insurance.

      1. Andrew*

        ZOMG, I did this. The recruiting was all very secretive about what exactly we were going to do; the cattle call herd was culled three times over the course of a few hours, and each time a select group of us was invited to proceed to the next room. The FINAL interview was one-on-one, and that’s where they guy tells me, a sweaty 19-year-old home for the summer from college, that this is about selling knives door to door.

        It’s one of two times I ever excused myself from an interview to use the washroom, and then fled the building.

        1. a username*

          As a woman, if I went to an interview like that “secretive about what we were going to do, “herd culled a few times over the course of a few hours,” I would start wondering if I’d wandered into an interview for illegal sex work.

          The “Danger!” part of my brain would be all lit up.

    21. TechServLib*

      I did a group interview for retail where about 30 of us sat in a circle and answered questions, then they asked us go out into the store and pick up clothes and accessories to create an outfit, which we then had to “sell” to the interviewer. Seemed a little gimmicky, but ok, I was down. Then they told us we had 5 minutes to do this. As you can imagine, 30 people desperate for a job running through a store, fighting each other for shirts and shoes and necklaces (it was a fairly small place, the kind with not many items and only has a few of each thing) caused a fair bit of mayhem.
      After we presented our outfits to the interviewer, she tried to convince us each to buy the outfit we’d picked. I was holding a $200 dress with $150 shoes and about $100 worth of jewelry (all ridiculously out of my budget, but average price for the store), so I said something about how I looked forward to being able to buy it in the future. Out of 30 people, the 3 who turned around and bought the outfit they’d picked before they left the store were hired on the spot. It really felt like a scam, where if I’d spent $450 on clothes I couldn’t afford, I would’ve gotten the job.
      So in my experience, group interviews, even in retail, are still scams.

      1. Genny*

        Wow, that sounds exactly like a reality show challenge from something like America’s Next Top Model. Any time your hiring process looks like a reality TV show challenge, you need to rethink your process.

    22. Chinookwind*

      I have been to one group interview that wasn’t a scam but there was a specific reason for it. It was to take part in an 8 month exchange program (Canada World Youth) where we would be living in community for part of it as well as among another culture. They told us during this interview that they wanted to see how we worked with others we barely knew at completing tasks and emphasized that it is better for us to “be ourselves” as “faking it” would either lead to an exhausting stint of playing a part for those 8 months or our personalities not being conducive to succeeding in the program, requiring us to be sent home early. I actually took that advice to heart for every interview I ever went on after.

      Part of the day long interview was they gave us food for lunch, access to a kitchen and watched how we dealt with making lunch that all of us could eat. They also pulled us individually out throughout the day for the individual interviews. I was accepted into the program and can see why it was useful to see interviewees in such a setting because we really did rely on working as a group for us to succeed and “fit” was very important. But, for your average job, it would be ridiculous.

      1. Elahian*

        There was a letter a few years ago from someone who interviewed at a nonprofit that required them to cook dinner. This doesn’t sound different!

        I think “be yourself” is about the most stupid and trite advice anyone can given an applicant. We all have multiple “selves” and they can change based on who you’re interacting with.

    23. iwouldlikeacookie*

      I had a group interview (6 candidates) for a summer internship at a non-profit. We were each asked to answer the same questions, and then we each picked a question out of a hat and answered it on our own. Then part of the group interview was a simulated “how well can you work with others” scenario with the other candidates where we had to come up with a solution to a problem. The format worked really well both for the interviewers (they saved some time, culled down to 2 candidates, were able to real-time see how people work together) and for the candidates (we were able to see who we were up against but also show off any collaborative skills, which were necessary for the job). I was later called back for a follow up interview (myself and 3 interviewers) and got the job!

    24. Annoyed*


      I would (and have) simply walked out the second I knew it wasn’t going to be a private (me and reps of thr company) interview.

      Even when I had limited prospects and badly needed work, except fir the very first time it happened (becsuse I didn’t know what they were doing…) I just nope(d) right out the door.

    25. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Well, this is timely. I just turned down a group interview for a nonprofit, because I had applied for a position with them BEFORE and done the group interview. Ready? Get the popcorn!

      It was for a national-level director position. Yes. I was in a room with about forty other people (some of whom I knew, so I knew they were seasoned professionals like me) , and the first thing we had to do was watch a fifteen-minute video of how great the first Director was, (the one being replaced, because he was moving on with his super awesome life). They interviewed him, showed us his graduation picture, showed him singing with this wife… yeah.

      Then, we were divided into groups of three and had to ask each other questions FROM A LIST THEY GAVE US, such as: “What kind of neighborhood did you grow up in?” We were “graded” on our answers by a bunch of assistants marching importantly around with their clipboards, eavesdropping and taking notes. I talked to the colleagues I knew about it afterward, and they found it as demoralizing and bizarre as I did. None of us were hired — they had to open a second round of applications.

      I went ahead and applied to this other position (regional-level Director), because I thought that perhaps they’d learned not to do that anymore. They hadn’t. I declined the group interview and told hiring manager exactly why.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m sure I’m adding to the Alison chorus, but you cannot change this situation. I’ve worked at a Toxic Job where 3 of the 4 managers on our nonprofit team were abusive, exploitative, straight up shady (i.e., defrauded the employer), sexist and racist, gaslighty, and deviously underhanded. At some point, literally every employee appealed to the Exec Director for intervention. Nothing ever changed. Instead, talented employees would throw themselves against the wall of abuse over and over until they finally gave up all hope and left. Management was not concerned with their inability to retain women and POC (and all intersections thereof) staff.

    I really wanted to be able to try to nudge folks into a kinder, and frankly more effective, mindset. I’m a little Pollyanna-ish, and I always want to hope for the best. At a place like your employer, it will never work—there is no hope to be had. The only person you can control/influence is yourself, and nothing you do will change your managers’ abuse. Staying won’t change their cruelty. All you can do is leave, and when other job-seekers ask you if they should apply, let them know why you left.

    1. MK*

      I would argue that even trying to act as a buffer between abusive management and the employees is not only useless, but harmful. Employees are coned into staying longer, since at least one manager is good and has their backs, so it’s not that bad… except it is. And the abusive managers are able to avoid many consequences of their bad behaviour, because their is a person running behind them picking up the pieces.

      This kind of managing up works if you have an essentially well-meaning person with an abrasive personality who genuinely doesn’t understand how they are coming across and that others mind their behaviour. Not people who know and simply don’t care.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I agree. You think that at least there’s one good manager so there’s hope for employees. But that one good manager can only do so much. The good manager will burn out trying to do their job and keep everyone happy. They’ll either leave or become one of the bad ones because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Then you have no good managers, the employees wise up and get out of there.

      2. Smithy*

        Completely agree with this. Very few people take a job with the ambition to be looking for a new after a short tenure. And for those who do make it to the year, two year mark and evaluate whether they can last longer – that one good manager or buffer may convince them to hold out a little longer. This can put them in the place of job hunting when they really are at the end of their rope and perhaps don’t have the reserve to evaluate potential employers thoroughly and wait for a good new position.

        This isn’t a criticism of the OP in this environment – but perhaps should the OP start to feel more junior staff rebuffing her, that may be why.

        1. OP #1*

          Hi – OP here. Junior staff is very aware of how the management works and even if I wanted to it would be impossible to be a buffer to them – everyone reports directly to these two. They are all very much on my side but we have all realized it’s essentially a lost cause.

      3. boo bot*

        Seconded. Staying and trying to appease the boss or ameliorate the effects of their behavior only serves to normalize it. The buffer people aren’t helping the people below them, they’re helping the boss to continue the abusive behavior, as MK says, with even fewer consequences.

        What actually helps is standing up to the behavior, exposing it, and/or leaving. It might not have an impact on the bosses (who will just turn on you) but it has an impact on everyone else. When one person says, “This is unacceptable,” it allows other people to say it, too.

      1. MLB*

        I had one of those at my last job. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. 4 of us left the team in a 6 month period and still nothing was changed.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I had a boss like that (who also would deny your funding to speak at conferences then go behind your back and call the organizers to say you were unavailable but he’d be happy to speak in your place). He never changed.

    2. Exterminating HR*

      I came here to say the same thing. You cannot change them. I spent 9 years in a similar culture and found either new upper managers took on the negative/casty culture or crumbled like a wet noodle. I couldn’t continue to be the only person championing the employees if the owners didn’t care.

      1. MTinEurope*

        While I agree with what others wrote and sometimes the situation is just bad and you need to leave – but what if your job is trying to resolve the issue? Or how do you counter the argument – the grass is always greener?

        I’ve work in many non-profits and many have the same issue just in a different shade (often they are violators of their own causes). How do we try to improve performance? I usually draw a line and when I reach my limit of either what I can do or what I can tolerate, I leave…but like the other poster, I am also wondering at times if I could have done more to manage up.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If it’s your job, then they have to give you the tools to do your job. Like the person who asked for team bonding activities on a tiny budget for a company doing layoffs and salary cutting–no amount of bean bag tosses are going to fix morale in that situation.

          This sounds less the grass is greener than the “Oh, they all do that” myth–where people eventually move to a non-toxic job and discover that was just a parable designed to keep them from ever asking for anything different. (Obviously this can be taken too far and you get people who expect a job that is all fun all the time. But what you’re describing sounds like the other end of that.)

        2. Lora*

          If your job is “trying to change your actual line management who you also report to,” and you are not a professional psychologist / psychiatrist whose job is literally to change people’s behavior AND your bosses have not been ordered explicitly that if they fail to change their behavior within X time frame they will be fired, do not pass Go do not collect $200…you are nearly guaranteed to fail at that job.

          Even so, most places where I’ve seen senior management told, “do X or you’re fired,” senior management still doesn’t do X and either gets fired or gets demoted or gets shuffled to another department. And they are absolutely surprised and shocked when it happens, too, despite having been explicitly told what would happen.

        3. Smithy*

          For those moments, I’d say this is where the benefit of building and keeping a professional network is important. It’s critical to help keep in check the positives even in a bad situation and also to gain clarity that “not everywhere does X”.

          For better or worse, nonprofits have all sorts of bad management – and having a gut check on the larger landscape is important. I left a place that was toxic, but for Director roles was notorious for overpaying. Therefore for people at that pay level, it helped to keep in perspective that why they might not be leaving wasn’t because they felt Sr. Leadership wasn’t problematic but rather that to replicate that salary could easily be very difficult. And require a lot more work.

          Having other people in your field but outside where you has been critical for me to assess my nonprofit climate but also why it isn’t (or is) specifically working for me – but also potentially not as toxic for another coworker.

          1. Just Tired*

            I second having a network. I have always left my positions in good standing with executive leadership, and know a lot of people in town. When I needed to leave a position ASAP and find something else, someone had my back. And FYI, I am a very introverted introvert. Even those of us who would prefer to be hermits can put together a good professional network.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think anyone who counters with “the grass is always greener” when you have known toxicity that affects morale is someone who isn’t trying to resolve the issue. They’ve accepted their toxicity with the extremely lame excuse that everyone else is always toxic. That’s simply not true.

          Nonprofits often run into dysfunctionality because they’re systematically underbounded, and imo, because they don’t adequately invest in management training or development. Oftentimes people who are excellent programs folks get promoted with little support or guidance.

          But that’s fundamentally different than a toxic nonprofit. I’ve found that nonprofit dysfunction is guided by the Anna Karenina principle: Every dysfunctional nonprofit is dysfunctional in its own way. If you think of dysfunction as a spectrum, with Toxic being at one extreme, many nonprofits are closer to “slightly to moderately dysfunctional.”

          But if they’re toxic at the top, there’s very little you can do to manage up—you need either the Board to intervene (very rare), or for top management to be responsive to feedback. In most Toxic organizations, that’s not the case. I struggled with leaving a Toxic Job that was mission aligned, but extremely abusive. It took me years to recalibrate—it felt a lot like leaving an abusive relationship, and it was difficult for me to stop blaming myself for not “trying harder.” I think all of this is part of the toxicity.

        5. Just Tired*

          I’ve worked in nonprofits since 1996. The places I worked that functioned had a highly empathetic executive leader who surrounded herself with more of the same. Sadly, only 1/3 of my workplaces have featured such a leader. Culture and environment are dictated from the top down, even if it’s people in middle-management who are the problems. An executive leader paying attention will see that the people they depend on aren’t doing their jobs and are harming the organization and will remove those people – or better yet, those people never get hired in the first place.

          I’ve tried “managing up”: modeling the behavior that I’ve seen bring success and retain employees, trying to explain to high-ups why their efforts are not bringing the results they want. And if you’re up against some folks with narcissistic tendencies, it’s like bashing your head against the wall. The other employees love you, even the jerks may love you because you contribute to good outcomes, but they don’t understand that they are the problem, and even telling them to their faces will often not work. Not too long ago I had a job I loved at an organization about which I was deeply passionate. The CEO was a nightmare. She hated the way “Millennials” operated (I am not a Millennial myself, I just understand that different people have different ways of achieving success; I also don’t believe an entire generation of people can be generalized), she loved getting into shouting matches with people (it seemed she didn’t respect you until you yelled back), and even when she admitted she had handled things badly, she would revert to the bad behavior after a matter of days. I spent TWO YEARS acting as a buffer, trying to manage up, and trying to keep her toxicity away from the fabulous people who worked there. I finally burned out. I quit, but it’s taken me nearly a year to achieve equilibrium again. And while I find it difficult to not step in and try to help people who are having a bad time in a similar situation, I know I’m probably just going to be disappointed again and again.

          At that job, I wasn’t the only person who left. After I resigned, and another employee accused the CEO of creating a hostile work environment, she suddenly announced that she was resigning to “travel around the world.” I happen to know that she didn’t intend to retire for another few years, so I found the timing very suspicious. The board took the last remaining long-term (more than a year) employee to lunch and told her that the CEO had been on a PIP for almost 2 years. TWO YEARS. So I have no doubt she was asked to leave. But until they were willing to do that, and it took four employees quitting in a year’s time (we had fewer than 10 total), and one program closing due to her inattention, to finally make them move.

          TL;DR – consider very, very carefully before trying to manage up. I know from experience that it’s at best a 50-50 shot at success.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      The thing is, you cannot MAKE anyone do anything, especially anything they don’t want to do. Even if you were were their boss, all you could do is offer them a choice: shape up or be fired. You cannot force people to see the error of their ways, they have to realize it for themselves. I know it’s tempting to try, especially if you yourself are a decent person, because if it were you, of course you would want to know so that you could change! But they are obviously perfectly happy with this arrangement (it’s a privilege to work here! what BS) and they’re really going to have to fall hard if they’re going to learn their lesson. If they learn it at all. Many people don’t.

      Leave. Let them fail. If they’re as bad as all that, there’s no reason they deserve to succeed and you holding back the flood gates, as it were, for the rest of the staff is doing nobody any good, least of all yourself. You deserve better than to work for these egomaniacs.

    4. LKW*

      I’ve told this story before but I think it apt here as well. I worked for a very short time in a very toxic environment. Absolutely egregious behavior. For profit. Small company. Insane owner.

      The staff treated the receptionist as their personal punching bag. I asked her why she stayed and she definitely had some Stockholm Syndrome going on: “Well I’ve been here so long.” “They helped me financially when I got my teeth fixed.” blah blah blah.

      They had some younger guys in their 20’s, for some this was their first office job. One of them started in on the receptionist, behaving similarly to the more senior guys. I pulled him aside and told him very clearly “This may be the culture of this office, where you feel you can say whatever you want, however you want to the receptionist. I get it. But if you ever decide to leave here and go play with the big boys, I warn you now, this behavior is not acceptable. You will get called into HR. Your job will be at risk. You are not allowed to treat people as disrespectfully as you are allowed to here, so don’t get used to it.”

      He looked at me like a deer in the headlights but he needed to know what worked at that crazy ass office of 20 people would never fly in an organization of hundreds if not thousands. Ever.

      I have no respect for people who can’t manage a minimum of respect, especially for people lower on the ladder.

    5. Random Thought*

      +1 In Old Job my boss was being actively coached on “soft skills” because she was often short, abrasive, rude, disrespectful (and it was being addressed because she did it to her peers as well as to staff). My boss confided in me on more than one occasion that she felt the coaching was unfair/she felt she was being targeted/she was no worse than anyone else (not true)/etc. People can’t change unless and until they want to change. If they’re at “it’s a privilege to work here” level, your best bet is to be honest with the people you’re protecting that this IS part of the job at your organization, is not going to change (at least in the immediate future), and that it should fairly factor into whether people want to continue working there. Not that you want to push your good people out, but people will weigh the pros and cons of any job, and this should be on the list. Putting yourself in the middle can be really draining too, so I think it’s fair to ask yourself whether you are comfortable continuing to be the buffer long term, knowing that the problem is not likely to get better in the near future.

      1. OP #1*

        They’ve said lines similar to “it’s a privilege to work here” and “if you aren’t on board maybe you should go” in all-staff meetings. No one is disillusioned, both fortunately and unfortunately.

  3. Phil*

    LW2 Oh! Well, if it was successful in the 90s, it MUST be successful now! Nothing changes that much in a QUARTER OF A CENTURY! WTF, management?

    1. Sherm*

      And even back then I doubt they were as successful as they thought they were. Most people who opt out are just going to quietly do so, and the potential employer will never be aware.

      1. Antilles*

        Honestly, even if this strategy was successful in the 90’s, that doesn’t really mean much to me. Everybody was making money in the 1990’s. “We made a profit during one of the biggest boom periods in US history!” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
        The *real* question should be how well this strategy worked in, say, 2002 or 2009. Show me a strategy that helped you make money or hold steady during an economic recession, then I’ll be impressed.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        I agree. It’s doubtful that the group interviews were “highly successful” in the 1990s. Although I’m sure that TPTB have convinced themselves that it was the case.

      1. Doctor Schmoctor*

        I saw a T-shirt the other day that says “I still think 1990 was 10 years ago.”

        And by “the other day” I mean “about 10 years ago”

    2. LQ*

      Yeah, if you think that success in the 90s means success now, well then I’m really glad you do the kind of interview I can run screaming and flailing my arms over my head from.

  4. Greg NY*

    #4: This is an oft-misunderstood part of being exempt. While the law can be fairly complicated, the crux of it is that as opposed to being paid for every hour you work (and none that you don’t work) as is the case with hourly workers, you are paid if you do any work, no matter how much or how little. But this is measured one week at a time, not the entire year. If you work half days for a week, you are paid a full salary, if you work 12 hour days for a week, you are paid the same salary. But if you don’t work at all for a full week, you don’t have to be paid for that week. Companies can get around this by closing for full weeks at a time, and this is a common thing among employers that close the entire business for maintenance or for the owner’s vacation. Good employers will pay employees for that week, but it isn’t often done.

    There are other major loopholes in the law for exempt workers, although I won’t bother to explain them all right now. But suffice it to say that in reality, it isn’t as rosy in most workplaces as it might appear under the law. Like many other aspects of US labor law, the law regarding exempt workers is pretty weak.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      My impression is that it’s fairly common for small and mid-sized employers to require exempt employees to take the last two weeks of December off, often by using vacation days or unpaid leave. My experience is very skewed by having been in nonprofits for so long, but except for when I worked for large nonprofits (50+ staff, multiple offices), I was always required to take unpaid leave or use my vacation/PTO for the end of December when the office would fully close down.

      1. peachie*

        I had no idea this was so common. I knew I was lucky to land two jobs in a row that had paid leave between Christmas and New Year’s (probably because they both deal with higher education and it didn’t/doesn’t make sense to stay open when the schools are closed), but I’d be so mad if I had to either use PTO or take unpaid leave. Especially since (a) many people only get 10-15 days paid leave starting out, so that’s 30-50% of your leave spoken for; and (b) if you partake in December-holiday gift-giving, this is often the time of year when money is tightest.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I totally agree that it’s asinine and people should just pay people when the office is closed because of the goodwill it would engender (plus, it just seems more fair/kind/rational).

        2. JustaTech*

          For a while mine *advertised* that paid week off on their Jobs page. (And left it up after they stopped doing it, but every time they have done it, it’s been very popular.)

      2. Justme, The OG*

        My employer is closed those weeks and all but two days are considered holidays. But we know well ahead of time that we’ll need two vacation days. Also, I have not ever heard of anywhere else closing for those two weeks and not covering at least most of it, that’s just absurd. It assures that people cannot take off any other time of the year unless the vacation package is extremely generous.

      3. bonkerballs*

        That’s funny, that’s the exact opposite of my experience in nonprofts. Not only was the office definitely not closed the last two weeks of December, more often than not we were open on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

    2. Dragoning*

      I can see why the OP is annoyed, though. They were promised X amount a year, but they are actually being given the lower amount Y because of the unpaid week that was never part of the original negotiations.

      It might be worth a conversation about how this has changed their compensation, but I suspect OP will get nowhere.

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        I think it’s definitely worth a conversation.

        Legally, what they’re doing is okay, but that doesn’t mean LW can’t go to management and say:

        “When I was hired, the agreement was that I would be paid $x/year. That was the amount of money that I’ve expected and been counting/budgeted on. By forcing me to take this week unpaid, you’ve made a bad-faith change to our agreement – at Christmas time, no less, where it’s a bigger burden to go unpaid for a week. What can we do to true up my salary for this?”

        May not get anywhere, but it’s very worthwhile to have the conversation to express your discontent with the plan and pushback on a crappy practice.

        1. BF50*

          Frankly, a lot of companies institute this type of policy as a way of cutting costs without having layoffs.

          Instead they are reducing workers salaries by 4%, without having to actually reduce their salaries.

          It’s actually fairly common in the tech companies in my area, to the point that I’ve had several engineer friends express shock that I do have to work the week of Christmas. Meanwhile I was shocked that they were either using all their vacation for that or taking it unpaid.

      2. Greg NY*

        If money is the main issue, it’s a definite frustration, although if they were planning on taking off the week of Christmas (their children are out of school), it may not end up a big deal.

        But if money isn’t the thing they’re most worried about, this can actually end up being an opportunity for them to get some more time off. There was a post I replied to last week about taking unpaid time, and it’s a hard sell at some employers. Here, they can get the week of Christmas off and have their PTO to use earlier in the year or at some point in the next year provided it can be rolled over.

        As always, this is a matter of knowing your own priorities and needs and how your employer matches up with those priorities and needs.

        1. Dragoning*

          Well, given that the first year it was implemented, they had already used up their PTO and had no intentions to take the week off, it doesn’t sound like it’s the case that they planned to take it off at all.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        Had a job that made the decision mid year that everyone had to use 3 days to cover between Christmas and New Year. They apologised for late notice and offered the option of borrowing from upcoming year. Still not great, but a bit better. (UK so exempt not relevant.)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Also needed a skeleton staff, which was volunteers. Most people had planned a holiday then anyway though, and I think it worked out that anyone who wanted could get the skeleton slot. WFH could be negotiated with direct manager if appropriate.

        2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Our office does that yearly, and there are rumblings that, given that the existence of Christmas is hardly a surprise, they should decide how many days they’re taking in January, so we don’t end up borrowing from next year again, and is it really fair to make us take it as holiday when we literally can’t work it etcetera. *UK.)

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah, once it was established we’d be doing that, borrowing wasn’t really allowed for the following years. I’ve got into the habit of adding them to holiday booking system as soon as poss in January, so i know how much I have!

            I guess the other argument could just as easily be made for Bank Holidays? Bearing in mind most companies count them towards the 28 day/year statutory minimum holidays?

    3. KHB*

      Is “full week” here necessarily defined as a calendar week (Sunday to Saturday), or do employers have the option of defining it differently (and changing the definition from year to year)? Because when Christmas is on, say, a Wednesday (as it will be next year), the week from Christmas to New Year’s goes from Wednesday to Wednesday. If they still expect to be open on December 23-24 and January 2-3, then you’re performing some work during both of those weeks, so it seems like you’d have to be paid in full for both of them. Or no?

      1. doreen*

        The workweek can be defined by the employer and can be changed if the change is intended to be permanent – a yearly change to avoid payment for a shutdown week might not fly if someone complains because after two or three changes, it starts to look like the change was only intended to last a year.

      2. Greg NY*

        It’s like the rounding of time clocks. The rounding procedure can change (e.g. if a new computer system was bought), but it has to be a permanent change, not something to satisfy the whims of the employer.

    4. Smarty Boots*

      The State University I work at does this. They are stealing our time. I don’t go on vacation over winter break. So this makes me angry every single year. But at least we know three years in advance that it is coming and can plan accordingly.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      The only times where I’ve heard of people being paid when there was no work going on were in relation to education. Some teachers have the option of spreading out their year to cover the summer months when they’re not working – but this is because they get paid less during the year when they are working, and because this is built into their contracts and planned for in the beginning, and obviously they know they’ll be off for the summer.

      My mom works for a school bus company and they are on ten-month contracts similar to the teachers, but they don’t have the option of spreading out their pay. Thankfully there are enough summer runs that those who want to work in the summer can often find work, but fewer than in the rest of the year.

      My old company declared bankruptcy and sent out what they called WARN notices. We were informed that our positions were being eliminated as of (date) and we’d get severance after that point (1 year of employment = 1 week severance), but we had to come into the office and “work” until our separation date. There was not really any actual work to do, so we were technically getting paid for not working – most of us brought in tablets and read or watched streaming tv/movies during this time – but we did have to go to the office and if there were minor tasks that came up we were expected to deal with them, so the company considered it working. (Near the end we were allowed to “work” from home a few days, but this consisted, for me, of accessing the email program on my laptop and going about my business). This was obviously a special circumstance.

      1. doreen*

        I’ve heard of jobs where people are paid for week-long shutdowns- but it’s sort of a “six of one , half dozen of the other” situation” . Because they don’t get the same amount of PTO that similar jobs without a shutdown get- the paid shutdowns are instead of PTO. For example, I worked at a trade school right out of college. There was no long summer break, but there was a week off at Christmas and another week between the spring and summer quarters. Everyone got paid for those weeks, even people who started in November- but it was also the only full-time job I’ve ever had that only provided five days vacation for the first few years.

    6. madhatter*

      Wouldn’t the “ready, willing and able to work” clause for exempt employees come in here? Per the APA : “An exempt employee is not paid on a salary basis if deductions from the employee’s full salary are made for absences caused by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business. So long as the employee is ready, willing, and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” I feel like this would be the same as when an employer is closed for a hurricane or a snowstorm, exempt employees need to be paid for that time as well as long as the employer is closed and the employee would otherwise be ready, willing and able to come into work.

  5. Greg NY*

    #1: I’ll be even more broad than Alison. You aren’t going to change someone who’s in charge unless they are open to change. Managers should do what’s best for the organization and their team, not just what’s best for themselves, but the reality is different most of the time. You will be wasting energy to try to get this to stop, and you are best off looking for a new job.

    1. EPLawyer*

      These folks have indicated in every single way they can – they do not want to change. They flat out told you who they are. Believe them.

      You can’t change their behavior. You can only change your reaction to it. Right now, your reaction is to try to get them to soften up. Your new response is to begin job hunting.

    2. LQ*

      I’d say even if they wanted to change it is extremely difficult to get something like this to change for multiple people in a way that doesn’t fall backward pretty drastically. And these two have clearly indicated that they have no interest, desire, or will to change. That is impossible to do when you don’t have the authority to fire them. (If you had the authority, I’d say fire them.)

  6. Op#3*

    OP for #3. I reached out to my contact at the firm and asked him to have his HR company prepare a comp package for me to review in advance of our next meeting. I will let you know if he gets back to me.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I hope your contact does exactly that, OP, but even if the worst happens and she does not you will know and can stop wasting your time.

      1. PABJ*

        I’m actually a little confused as to what OP 3 wants here. From their perspective, I can see it feeling like you’re wasting their time. You’ve specifically told them you’re not interested in working there, yet you continue to meet with them and act like you are. In that situation, I’m not sure what I would do either as the person trying to recruit you.

        1. MK*

          My guess is that the OP and the company are simply not on the same page. I get the sense that the OP thinks she is being actively headhunted and thus frustrated that the company isn’t coming to the point, while the company took her “I’m not ready to leave my current firm” at face value and is looking at these meetings as networking, in a “let’s keep in touch with this interesting potential employee, in case she starts jobsearching and we might want her” way.

          This kind of networking is fairly common in some fields and it’s also how some (irrepressibly social) people operate: they keep in colse touch with dozens of people with no particular goal in mind. A darker side of this might be that they are picking the OP’s brain during these meetings; I would be vigilant about not ending up inadvertantly providing free quasi-consultations.

          1. Kes*

            This is how I read it also – OP is frustrated they aren’t coming to specifics, but what they’ve heard is that she isn’t interested, so they’re still trying to convince her. I think she needs to be a bit clearer that she is interested now, but needs details of the position before she can commit.

          2. Free now (and forever)*

            ^^^This.^^^Years ago (in the late 80’s), I lost my job as a real estate attorney when the real estate market basically collapsed in our area. I had an interview with a real estate law firm where several of the partners took me out to lunch. About half way through the interview, I realized that the interview was more about the procedures in my last job than about my skills and abilities. And no, I never heard back from them about the job.

          3. irritable vowel*

            I agree with your last assessment – I’m getting the sense that this company is either getting free consultation from the OP or (even darker) is using these meetings in the hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. OP, I think you need to stop having these meetings – it’s gone on for way too long. If they don’t get back to your request with a specific offer, it’s time to part ways with them.

        2. LarsTheRealGirl*

          LW says she met this manager 2 years ago and has met with him “almost annually” so…twice? That hardly seems like anyone is slow or wasting time – just typical networking meetings at very spaced out intervals. Meeting with a possible company/boss a couple of times in 2 years is hardly out of the norm.

        3. snowglobe*

          I suspect the other firm doesn’t actually have any openings right now, but they want to keep in touch with the OP so if they do have anything open up they can reach out quickly with an offer. I think it’s pretty common in some industries, including finance, to have a number of candidates pre-vetted so that you can hire quickly when necessary.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes. I agree with MK’s take–this is networking with someone you might like to hire if the right position opens up at your company.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I admit to being slightly confused. When he says that he’s trying to get you to come work for him, have you ever said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were offering! Let’s talk specifics,” or anything like that? It sounds like your relationship is cordial enough where you can do that. I can completely see how the two of you aren’t on the same page. While I think asking for a comp package might get you some information, I think you’ve missed a step– you don’t know if a job is really on the table (or do you?) or what that might entail.

      1. OP#3*

        Thanks for the great comments folks. I initially said I wasn’t interested because at the time I wasn’t. I haven’t initiated contact with this guy over this time – he has. Over several meetings/emails since I’ve said I would be interested in looking at a complete package and “this sounds interesting.” It’s silly for me to say yes without knowing the compensation being offered. MK – you’re correct. There have been times where they ask technical questions which I don’t fully answer because again, I’m not getting paid. While we do have a cordial relationship, I’m not going to talk about compensation at these meetings because each time he brings another partner or another new person I haven’t met to “convince me to come join them.” Hoping my email to him would be clear enough. The position he wants me for is one that will be newly formed with me as the head of the team. Thanks for the good feedback guys.

        1. Empty Sky*

          If you get along reasonably well, then you could possibly raise it humorously while keeping it low pressure. The next time he says in front of one of his colleagues that he’s trying to get you to come and work for them, address them with “He’s been saying that to me for years now, but do you know he’s never actually made me an offer?” (Said with a grin, and a suitably lighthearted/bantering tone of voice).

  7. Tink*

    LW 2: the only times I’ve done anything resembling group interviews were A) job fairs, B) national hiring day for a large grocer, and C) a group test for a library position with hundreds of applicants. None of them were actually group interviews, although the job fair came closest and actually made me feel a bit like cattle. I don’t think your company is going to get or retain quality talent this way, and I hope they realize it soon.

    1. Liane*

      Even the hiring days done by the Big Grocery Chain where my kids work aren’t group interviews. Applicants walk in between X and Y o’clock, fill out an application if they didn’t do the online version, and then have an individual interview with a manager or HR.

    2. atexit8*

      No cattle call for retail.

      Kohl’s was opening a new store.
      I applied.
      My interview was a one-on-one with a manager at an existing store.

      First day of orientation was a “cattle call” but that is to be expected.

    3. tangerineRose*

      I had something like a group interview for a fast food job when I was in college, but it wasn’t so much an interview as “write down what times you’re available”. I think they hired everyone and then fired people who didn’t work out.

  8. WS*

    OP #2 I had a boss who wanted to hire people this way but it turned out that what he really wanted was to give a big speech about the company, our goals, what we wanted from employees etc. to a captive audience. His genius admin assistant persuaded him to instead record a speech and put it on the company website, to which we linked all applicants upon acknowledgement of their application. We posted had a transcript for accessibility reasons, but also so that people could just read the details instead of watching the whole thing.

    I don’t know if your bosses can be fobbed off like that, but it was a neat way to avoid the cattle call interview for professional healthcare positions.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Oh wow, that is genius. He got his ego boost and applicants got a good sense of the working environment. That’s an excellent solution.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      I should suggest that to my husband. His boss (the ceo of a growing startup) has a habit of bringing people in for “interviews”, and then literally spending 90% of an hour talking about the company philosophy, his vision, what makes them different from similar companies, etc. It’s not a surprise to me when he makes bad hiring decisions based on how they react to his speech.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Oy. Interviewers are supposed to ASK QUESTIONS. Maybe he should put his time into an inspirational YT video? He could get it so perfect!

  9. Grand Mouse*

    #2- Even when I was desperate if someone brought me in for a group interview and was going on about if I had what it takes I would just go “no” and leave

    For #1, call me naive, but I thought people ran nonprofits because they wanted to better the world some way? Doesn’t their behavior go against that?

    1. Airy*

      Although not the majority, the nonprofit world can attract a few very difficult personalities, including “I am going to solve the problems because I Know Best. About everything. Everyone else is lazy, dumb and so rude” and “I care so passionately about this cause! No one else cares about it enough or in the correct way! The answer is to berate them.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, there are as many jerks in nonprofits as in any other workplace. People are complicated! You can genuinely care about (changing immigration policy/expanding voting rights/protecting animals/having cleaner water/expanding educational opportunities for kids/or whatever the cause might be) and still be an asshole, or terrible with people, or whatever the problem may be.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The kind of people who work at nonprofits are the same as the rest of society—some are excellent, some are average, and some are truly awful. I think anyone who’s worked in nonprofits for awhile could regale you with stories of the hypocrisy of their organization’s employment/management practices versus its stated mission. (Which is not to say all NPOs are this way—there are many that are run in professional and thoughtful contexts that incorporate their mission into their behavior.)

    4. Nobody Special*

      Ditto to other comments and my experience at a NO with some similarities here was that “it’s a privilege to work here” meant we had a really important mission with folks who really needed us.. some of the nasty attitude suggested that the lower rank workers didn’t care enough or weren’t dedicated enough…. of course it’s still terrible management and lack of humanity.

    5. MK*

      “Some way” being the operative phrase. People at non-profits want to promote a specific cause that they believe will make the world better (ideally, there are hypocrites there as everywhere). Often they don’t actually care about the world as a whole, or get tunnel-vision about how their specific cause is more important than anything.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      better the world

      Ask me about the local office of a national civil rights organization that engaged in illegal age discrimination in hiring, twice in the five years when I was working/volunteering with them.

    7. Nom Nom*

      It’s also true that what used to be non profits (in the strictest sense) now include wealthy people / organisations jumping on the bandwagon and looking for major tax breaks unfortunately. There are a myriad of investigations which have turned up non profits which were essentially a tax haven and the sector is not what it used to be. If anyone plans on going to work for a non profit (for the right reasons and always for less pay), check their financial statements (10-25% absolute max on administration and the rest for their cause etc), and especially check what they have actually delivered compared to their stated goals. If they haven’t filed or aren’t transparent then run. Even if they have the best of intentions and aren’t up on their financial transparency, there’s a good chance they don’t have the skillset to actually deliver their stated goals and working there will be problematic to say the least. Worst case, they have no intention to deliver anything other than financial benefit to themselves while crying poor. The legislation in this area hugely needs tightening but as long as so many politicians are getting tax relief this way unlikely any time soon. It really makes me bristle as so many good causes and people trying to do the right thing get tarnished by the greedy.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I actually think the worst personality issues show up in the most mission-driven organizations, and I’m guessing that’s true in the for-profit world as well. People who are so passionate about The Work and so convinced they are the ones who know how to Make Things Better can really lose sight of the individual people they are working with and the idea that they, too, might care about what they are doing. I agree about folks not having the skillset, especially true in a nonprofit that had some early success and grew too fast — again, much like in the for-profit world.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I always remember the job in Canada (at a for-profit) that rejected someone because she wanted to know the salary range before coming in for a second interview, and they wanted passionate people unconcerned with such minutia. The job concerned writing online takeout menus.

          I like my steamed dumplings as much as the next person, but…

      2. pleaset*

        I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but not the emphasis on low administrative costs (10%-25%). Low administrative spending contributes to nonprofits underpay and have bad management.

        90% of funding going to the cause? In a lot of areas of nonprofit work that means you are not going to be able to afford decent pay, proper HR, and staff development. It’ll be hard to have the skills to make a big impact.

        Of course no good organization should be spending the majority of it’s funding on admin, but the range you mentioned starts really low and ends a bit lot. I’d rather work for and fund an org with 35% admin and big impact than 15% admin and poor impact.

        1. Ali G*

          Those numbers don’t really reflect reality anyway, because NPs break up salary and apply it to the mission for reporting purposes. So let’s say I make $50k at a NP – and my job is recruit volunteers for events. If I spend 90% of my time recruiting volunteers and running events, and basically “doing my job to further the mission” then 90% of my salary will be allocated to programs and mission, and 10% as overhead/admin.
          That’s a simplified case, but it’s just to point out that a NP could actually show 90% of money goes to the mission, but that doesn’t mean that they are only paying workers with 10% of the budget.

        2. peachie*

          Agreed. Operating costs that seem very low might even be a yellow flag to me–not a definite no, but something to look into, as I’d be worried that “but the cause!” would be used to justify low pay, long hours, etc. Spending on administration is not a bad thing! (I do think this can be conflated with the issue of nonprofit CEOs who make way too much money, which itself can be a conflation of “CEOs who ACTUALLY make way too much money” and “CEOs who make 6 figures, which I think is too much in any case [even if that amount is significantly lower than the for-profit equivalent/if it’s in a high COL area/etc.].” )

        3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Yes, this. With the exception of the far ends of the curve, administrative costs aren’t a great indicator of non-profit excellence. They’re a good indicator of how the organization groups its costs and assigns central functions. (Or completely fails to assign them.)

          If you want rule of thumb metrics, I’d go with executive compensation, but even there you’d need to control for sector and regional norms. Really, I’d say focus on those performance metrics and ask around the community.

      3. Social Entrepreneur*

        Nonprofits have always included wealthy people or organizations; they have the time and/or resources to dedicate. The majority of social entrepreneurs believe in their mission, not to create tax havens. In the US all nonprofits who receive donations over $25K must file a 990 and other financials just like other tax entities and can be accessed via GuideStar. Most people forget that nonprofits are first and foremost businesses. NPOs can have a profit and should; they happen to not be taxed on profits tied to their mission. NPOs can be small to large orgs, the NFL is an NPO and most hospitals are as well.

        Dysfunction starts in NPOs because of the 25% max overhead. Overhead is not an indication of mission impact. But what happens you have employees who deeply believe in the mission but are paid less and less over time so they don’t realize their value. Or they are asked to do more and more and they ultimately burn out. What if the org needs a new roof? or a new computer system? or oil for heat? Most donors don’t want to give to any of these items because 1) they aren’t sexy 2) they might be close to this 25% overhead and that is an easy demarcation line. But if the NPO had a new computer system with training, they would have more time for their mission. Do you want a hospital wondering if they should put on a new roof or are worried about if they can afford any staff? Do you think the NFL worries about overhead? So why can’t a small, local rec center do the same thing?

        As a conscientious donor do your due diligence, much like an interview or dating. The first thing is volunteer. No money involved only time. Get the financials, review them. Talk with other volunteers, staff, and/or board members and research the impact on community and if their mission and programs are aligned. Nonprofits tend to chase donor and grant money so mission creep is an issue. If you still have questions talk with the executive director. At any time during this process you can decline giving a donation until you are ready.

        To learn more about the The Overhead Myth here is the website and check out Dan Pallotta’s TED talk, The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong.

      4. InternWrangler*

        I have to disagree with the 10 – 25% max on administration. I would be concerned about an organization’s sustainability with very low overhead. If you look at the Nonprofit Quarterly, there are some great articles on the Overhead myth.
        Secondly, not all nonprofits pay less. There are high quality nonprofits that pay market rate salaries and that follow good human resources practices.
        The nonprofit sector contributes to the overall economy. It is larger than the airline industry in the United States. That is not to say there aren’t challenges. See the National Imperative, a report put together by the American Public Human Services Association and the Alliance for Families.

    8. NW Mossy*

      Nonprofits can be very similar to start-ups and small businesses in that all three can struggle to have professional, polished management.

      And if you think about it, it makes sense. They get started by people who are particularly passionate and skilled in a particular focus area, be it rescue dogs, an app to monitor houseplants, or a dental office. They are almost never started by people whose primary skill set is being an excellent manager and/or organizational leader.

      As a result, you get these little shops where the mission is really important, but the person in charge may have little to no gift for how to fulfill that mission by leveraging the talents and skills of others. Sometimes people figure it out well enough as they go, and sometimes they recognize that it’s not their gift and hire for it instead. But another subset never quite realizes that effective management is necessary for an organization to grow and thrive, so they don’t take any steps to make it happen and then wonder why every day is like rowing upstream.

    9. Dr. Pepper*

      You would think so, but alas the nonprofit sector, as many have pointed out, is just as diverse and full of jerks as the rest of society at large. You can be incredibly driven to further your cause and be a complete butthole to everyone you work with. It’d be great if only nice people worked in the nonprofit sector, or any sector, but that is not the case.

      I would argue that you are more likely to meet a certain *type* of jerk, the type who believes so fervently in their cause that having interests and a life outside of that cause is tantamount to heresy. What do you mean you need to attend your sister’s wedding?? We need to crank out a million Save the Llamas fliers! Don’t you CARE about the llamas?!?!

    10. OP #1*

      There are many (many) reasons that nonprofits become dysfunctional quickly but one of them is founders who start an organization because they want to better the world but don’t actually want to run a business. There’s a tendency to bank on the mission as being reason enough to work somewhere. That seems to be a key element of what’s happening here – the founder started the organization because they saw a problem they wanted to solve, not because they wanted to lead a company and in many ways they have no interest in running a company. Neither manager wants to manage, they want to do the kinds of work they want to do. But they also won’t relinquish any control. It’s a lot of snake eating it’s tail.

  10. designbot*

    #4: If you weren’t planning on taking the week off and your job is one that could be done remotely, maybe you could offer to work that week without the office opening? I’ve worked at places that allowed this, and frankly it can be a dream to be able to just plow through some work with nobody bothering me.

    1. ZucchiniBikini*

      Yes, my spouse does this. His workplace closes for the three working days between Christmas and New Year (here in Australia we get Christmas Day, 26 December and 1 January as public holidays, and if they fall on a weekend, the next weekday is granted as the public holiday instead). He always works those days and uses the opportunity to do a bunch of system updates and upgrades that are hard to do when everyone is on the network (he is a Sys Admin). He LOVES it – gets heaps of work done in an empty office where he can play his music while he works, no distractions from emerging staff issues. He takes a week off later in January instead so I can go to my client sites while the kids are off school (our kids get the whole of January off – summer here!)

      It suits us because I am a freelancer who predominantly works for tertiary education providers and government, all of which shut down from Christmas Eve til 2 January, so I can’t work at that time even if I wanted to.

    2. MLB*

      I’m guessing that wouldn’t be an option as the company is trying to save money. So they either take PTO (which is figured in as part of their salary) or don’t get paid at all.

  11. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    #2: I’m going to a group interview today and I think in this case it’s perfectly reasonable to have a group interview: it’s a short-time temp job where they need up to ten people, and they need them fast. Also the job doesn’t require that many specific skills or previous experience. In this situation, I understand that nobody has time to do individual interviews for tens of people in a week, and the group interview is probably enough to pick the right people for the job.

    For any other kind of scenario I don’t really like group interviews. OP#2:s workplace seems to want to do them in all cases, even if they only need one person and there’s plenty of time. That’s weird. In particular, having the candidates wait for individual interviews after the group session is ridiculous.

  12. Myrin*

    #1, ugh, I have one of those at my part-time job. Which is at a drugstore. Which has customers. Who are people you really shouldn’t be disrespectful to. But the vice manager doles out disrespect at everyone equally, be it employees or customers, because she can, apparently.

    I honestly don’t know what’s up with that – I’ve been trying to figure it out basically since I started working there (February) and I can’t quite get it. Because… my boss herself is amazing. She’s kind, helpful, hard-working, no-nonsense, organised, upbeat, everything, but for some reason, she doesn’t keep her second-in-command in check. I don’t think she’s conflict-averse – I’ve seen her be quite stern with other coworkers and the way she shut down two wannabe shoplifters two months ago was beautiful. But for some reason, despite numerous complaints about second-in-command (who has been here thirteen years and has apparently bullied literally everyone who started after that), she won’t do anything about her.

    Like. I can weirdly say that if you look at just the words second-in-command says, they’re usually completely fine. In fact, due to a strange mix of shuffling-of-duties and an illness of two separate colleagues, I wasn’t ever properly trained in my job and second-in-command’s comments were actually cumulatively the thing that helped me most with getting a hang of it. But damn if they didn’t also make me feel shitty and like a complete loser (which is highly unusual for me). She just has this tone about her and this attitude of being better than anyone and it clearly shows, even if she uses all the right words in the right order.

    And like, I don’t wish a prolapsed disc on anyone, but she’s been out with it for the last nine weeks and there’s been an extremely noticeable difference within the whole shop. I talked to another coworker about it two weeks or so ago and she said that shortly before second-in-command became ill, boss apparently reprimanded her because of the way she talks to people. Since I haven’t interacted with her since, I can’t tell if it’s had any effect (although she was in the shop recently and couldn’t even be bothered to greet me while walking directly past me so who even knows), but when I’ve only acted as a spectator before because I was so new, I will now bring any incidents directly to my boss and see how she reacts because I’m certainly not going to take the nastiness.

    I’m in luck in that I’m only there twice a week, I don’t work with second-in-command unless she approaches me about something, and I love all my other coworkers and the work itself, so I can escape from her awfulness pretty easily, but for a case like OP’s, where it’s both the founder (!) and a managing director being like this, I really don’t see any hope beyond leaving for yourself (which is a shame if you like the work and the people!).

    1. Julia*

      My guess is that she has something on the boss, or is someone’s relative. German drugstores aren’t the government where people are super hard to fire, so I can’t think of any other reason.
      Being rude to customers should be reprimanded, but I’ve had plenty of sales people be extremely rude to me in Germany (I probably feel it extra strongly because I usually visit from Japan, where sales people are super polite and often fake-compliment you) so I’m not sure that’s even a fireable offense.

      I had a boss who was abrasive (the only woman I know who was actually abrasive, not just called that by men who didn’t like the way she acted) to people whose help she needed. Like, she wanted the bus schedule of an international school in town, one where none of our organisation’s children went, so we weren’t their customers, and sent them an email that was not just hard to understand because she severely overestimated her English level, but also really rude, and ended with “I expect your answer by X date”. (This is not a phrase you can politely use in her native language either.) She then told me to pester the people at the school for an answer, so I had to call, apologize for the rude email my boss sent, and ask if someone would mind helping me out with that info. Since it was summer, they hadn’t finalized the schedule yet, but I knew my boss wouldn’t accept that, so I told the nice lady on the phone that I may end up having to call her every day if my boss asked me to, and she said she would tell my boss I had been calling every day and just send me the information when she got it. Unfortunately, things didn’t always work out that nicely. :/

      1. MK*

        “Rude” can be relative. I have often heard that U.S. Americans find the servers in my country rude (or at least not friendly enough); then I went to the U.S. and found the servers’ friendliness fake and borderline annoying and occasionaly embarassing/degrading. I assume it has to do with how much their income depends on tips and the culture in general.

        Myrin, you say that the words the second-in-command are fine, so I assume it’s the tone/context that makes them rude? It’s possible that customers don’t really care all that much, or even notice particularly, as long as their job gets done and they are not actually insulted. A lot of people, myself included, don’t really care that much about everyday professional interactions being super warm and friendly, as long as they are civil.

        1. Julia*

          I’m German, so I know that’s considered rude in Germany. Using the familiar form without permission is rude, as is acting like the customer is bothering you.

        2. Myrin*

          Totally possible, although I have witnessed two interactions myself where customers where visibly taken aback by her demeanour, but I don’t know how representative that is of how she comes across in general (my sister reports she was very grumpy to her when she wanted to ask something, and even though she’s admittedly biased from what I’ve told her, she told me pretty objectively how second-in-command reacted and… yikes).

          (As an aside, I’ve never been to the US but I hear what you’re saying quite a lot and would really love to experience it myself, especially as someone from a country often viewed as, well, let’s say “curt” in general.)

          Yeah, it’s her tone (mostly). She always sounds visibly annoyed, often complete with eyerolls and sighs, very clearly enjoys putting others in their place, and is just a generally super condescending person. (And my personal big pet peeve with her is that as soon as you’re somewhere in her line of sight, she observes every little thing you do and jumps at every opportunity to gripe at you. It’s aggravating.)

          1. Julia*

            Yeah, customers anywhere in the world probably don’t love staff rolling their eyes at them. I’m afraid that as long as no one complains, there’s not a lot you can do, and people might not complain because they’re kind of used to staff at other stores acting like that. :(

            1. MK*

              A lot of people prefer to quietly take their custom elsewhere than complain, especially in small stores where, for all they know, the rude person is the onwer.

              1. Julia*

                A lot of people do, but if it’s a small town and the store is the only drug store, they can’t do that – Myrin, do you have any competitors close by?
                Plus a lot of Germans aren’t shy about making complaints.

                1. Myrin*

                  It’s not a small store, actually, it’s a… well, not nation-wide chain, but one in my half of the country as well as Austria and Switzerland (and FWIW, her nametag says that she’s only second in command, although I guess most people don’t read that closely).

                  And there are, actually! Let’s say we’re a Rossmann (we aren’t, but imagine), there’s a dm for your special Drogerie-related wishes in the industrial area five minutes (by car) away, as well as a Netto and a Depot literally on either side of us.

                  (And tell me about it. As I said, this is a great place to work and the customers seem to appreciate that, but at my sister’s supermarket, oh my. She says she gets at least two customer complaints about her horrible boss per week, but sadly her grandboss is just as incompetent and doesn’t care. D:)

      2. Myrin*

        It’s honestly the great mystery of this job and I’m adamant about solving it. I don’t think it’s either of the things you mention; in fact, when I talked to the other coworker I mentioned, it seemed that boss somehow thinks she has to… witness second-in-command’s behaviour herself to be able to do something about it (like, something drastic; I know that she’s talked to her about it before)? As I said, I really like my boss, but I honestly think this is a problem with her not being as strict and assertive as she should be (which, again, strange, as she doesn’t seem conflict-avoidant in other areas).

        (As an aside, government or not, I’ve always been under the impression that it’s super hard to fire here in general? And by that I mean I googled the reasons that allow you to fire someone sometime last year and there weren’t that many, and certainly not ones that boil down to “sie vermiest einem den Tag und keiner will mit ihr arbeiten”.)

        1. MK*

          I am not famliar with german labor law, but in most jurisdiction with strong labor rights it’s not hard to fire someone without cause, just expensive. If an employee has been working there for years, their severance could be a pretty large sum.

          1. Myrin*

            The severance thing is completely possible, I’ve never thought of that before! I’m woefully uneducated on this topic other than some googling sessions; that’s why I always wish there was a German AAM, a site I knew was trustworthy, because, I mean, I could look at the actual laws but ugh, that’s a lot of text to filter through.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          I would imagine that either your boss doesn’t actually see anything all that wrong with what her second in command is doing or doesn’t think it’s a big enough deal to expend energy to fix it. Or she might not know how and has decided to ignore it. If the second in command is using all the right words but only her tone is the problem, that can be tricky to address because then you’re getting into subjective territory. What constitutes “proper” tone? It might seem obvious, but actually try to explain it to someone who doesn’t understand and you’ll find yourself in difficulties. A family member of mine is quite tone deaf. As in, they hear your words just fine but your tone of voice means very little to them, and conversely, they often come across as condescending and patronizing when they didn’t actually mean anything of the kind because they don’t know to modulate their own tone of voice. Explaining why something they said came across as cruel is an exercise in frustration.

          I have no idea what’s going on with your boss and her second in command, but this is something to think about. Your boss may not really hear the second in command’s tone the same way as many other people do, or the second in command may not realize (or care) how she comes across to others and your boss may have given up on trying to correct it. There may be a personal element involved. Who knows?

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            > Explaining why something they said came across as cruel is an exercise in frustration.

            The thing is, they don’t have to understand WHY. They only have to believe that it’s true. This worked for me earlier in life when my undiagnosed ADHD led to me being snippy with friends. It was nice to learn that part of the issue was brainweasels (that’s the WHY), but ultimately I had to train myself to react to people differently. After awhile of getting different reactions from people, the WHY made itself clear.

            So, if they’re willing to make the attempt, you can just demonstrate WHEN they are affecting people. “This is the kind of thing I’m talking about”. You can also demonstrate how the same words can sound very different (this is a great acting class exercise). Your family member may actually have some brainweasels getting in the way but they can still learn IF they think it’s valuable. And telling them that “people won’t think you’re mad at them anymore” might be a good motivation.

            (And if they’re very resistant to how “people” feel, you can make it very personal. “I sometimes think you’re mad at me when you say that you’re not and it makes me not want to spend time with you. I’d like to help you understand how you’re affecting me that way so we can stop it happening.”)

  13. Steve*

    For #5, this is one of those rare times you can say “You’re actually required by law to pay people for doing work and could get in trouble if you don’t.”

  14. Woodswoman*

    #5: It’s not okay for your employer to exploit former employees by having them come back to train their successors months later for free, simply because that’s what they’ve always done. That’s outrageous.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      It’s amazing how often employers try this. The solution I’ve heard is to say your contracting fee is three times your previous hourly rate (or more, if you had a really low hourly rate). They’ll either stop bothering you or agree to pay it.

      1. LKW*

        My dad was an attorney and when everyone and their child had cell phones he repeatedly communicated his “evening rate” (2x) and “weekend rate” (3x). Most clients realized they didn’t need him to be on call 24 hours to settle their divorces or real estate cases.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Heh, nice. And good point about people realising they don’t need that problem solved in that instant. I’ve heard of that happening as well: “Oh, I guess it can wait till Monday.” Monday rolls around, client has either forgotten all about the problem or decided it’s not that urgent.

    2. Nonny*

      As bad as nonprofits are for underpaying because they count on people loving the world/believing in the mission, arts nonprofits are ten billion times worse. There is SO much pressure in the theatre to seem like a team player at all times, especially because actual paying jobs are so scarce, and everyone in a given town almost certainly knows each other.

      1. Funfetti*

        A very sad +1

        I just left a non-profit arts job in academia. I was doing three jobs and got to train 3 different people. Granted I was still employed but that’s because they forced the work onto other people. Of course what I do is extremely specialized. I gave three weeks notice and there was this expectation of I was going to leave everything perfectly – but training folks with no background was rough ontop of trying to get everything done (because why burn a bridge). I’m technically unemployed now – trying to start my own business – but I’m already dreading texts of “please help!” because they know I’m not “really” working… I did already turn contract work down prior to leaving…here’s hoping I’m just left alone.

    3. StressedButOkay*

      I almost, accidentally got roped into this by my former employer. A few months after I left, I stopped by the office to say hello as I was in the area that day. After some chitchat and catching up, the person who replaced me had a question, which I answered. And then another, which I answered. And then wanted me to double check some work.

      It was already early afternoon and what they wanted me to look at could take hours. In front of my former manager, I basically said “I’d be happy to do some consulting or further training, if that’s what’s needed, but we would need to work out when, where and how much I would get paid. Today’s just a social call but if my presence is really needed, we can try to work something out.”

      Needless to say, that put a stop to it (as I had been hoping!). So, #5, you are not obligated to do this! If they won’t pay you, shrug and walk away.

      1. Chriama*

        I really like your response. And it seems you caught it before it went too far. I imagine that the coworker in OP’s post was led down a rabbit trail of “just one more” question that extended out to a full day. O she realized 10 minutes into a task that it was going to take a while, and felt too awkward to stop.

        1. OP #5 in theater*

          This is exactly what happened to my former coworker when she came for a meeting (unrelated to training the new hire). She did one thing that needed assistance, then another, and on it went.

          I like your response. Thanks.

        2. Scullery Wench*

          I find it is always useful to frame things beforehand, or as soon as you get that dreadful sense of going down a rabbit hole: “Wow, it’s already been an hour. Hey, let’s take a second and make a plan. How much more time do you think you need right now?” (It’s never outrageous — it’s death by a thousand nibbles, but usually not intended to stretch out that long.) Then you say, “Okay, a half hour it is, but I’ll be leaving at 2pm on the dot. If you need more time, we’ll set up a consulting appointment, okay? Great!”

    4. OP #5*

      Thanks for the reply. I fear (I’m not 100% sure) that this is something that is done in a number of theaters, at least in my town. I also think, due to the intimate relationships between theaters and employees among theaters, that if theater employees are going from one theater to another, it is seen to be ok to go back to employer #1 to help them out with training. Theater employees have odd schedules and therefore it makes it somewhat easy to visit employer #1 during a time that works and they feel as if they don’t have to offer compensation because you may not be taking time off from employer #2.

    5. bonkerballs*

      Agreed. I love the last place I worked, and happily came back to train someone because the initial person they hired to replace me and who I had trained suddenly crapped out. But they reinstated me into payroll and made sure to pay me for every minute I was there, plus gave me a generous giftcard as a thank you for doing the training on a weekend. They did not take my help for granted at all and because of that I’ve also been willing to stop by and help out a time or two since then during their busiest periods.

  15. AcademiaNut*

    For LW #4, I think there is a subtle but important distinction between the first and second year they did this (ethically, not legally).

    The first year they told employees 2/3 of the way through the year that the last week of December would be unpaid. The OP had used up all her PTO by that point, and therefore had to accept getting one week’s less pay for the year. That’s a pretty crappy thing to do to your employees, even if it is legal.

    The second year they knew in advance that they were expected to use a week of PTO at the end of the year, but had the option to take it unpaid. Therefore, they were able to get get a full year’s salary. That’s possibly annoying, but not uncommon in a lot of jobs.

    However, looking at the calendar, in December 2017 the time between Christmas and New Year’s happened to be a full week. This year it’s not – the 24 and the 31st are Mondays. So this year it would only be legal if they had the 31st as a stat holiday, rather than an unpaid day off, and took off the 24th.

    1. doreen*

      That’s going to depend on workweeks , though. My workweek runs from 12:00 Thursday to 23:59 pm the next Wednesday. An employer with that workweek could not have closed from Christmas to New Year’s last year without paying the exempt employees – but they would be able to do it in some other year. Given that a workweek can start/end any day or time ( 12:01pm Friday to noon the next Friday is common for 9/80 workweeks) I’m pretty sure there are some that would work in two consecutive years.

    2. Smarty Boots*

      And also on whether the company closes just on the holidays, or for the whole holiday week.

      OP, does your PTO roll over? That is, if you’re saving PTO for the holiday closing, but then the office is open and you have to work, if PTO doesn’t roll over you’re screwed out of those PTO days.

  16. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#2 – Something else you can try is reminding management that we have the internet today. This is the kind of scenario that will have people running to Glassdoor to warn people to stay away. Word gets around fast. I’ve seen quite a few social media posts that warn people about shady companies and business practices in forums that had nothing to do with employment. I’m glad you realise this isn’t a good idea and hope you can get them to change their minds.

  17. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #1 Unfortunately, you must find another job. I was in a similar position with a toxic workplace. The manager’s favourite line was to tell people they were only there because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else. As a result there was a very high level of staff turnover which was never addressed by his managers. Once you leave and can look back it will be easy to see how much the management gas lit you into believing that rudeness is the way to manage.

  18. LGC*

    When your interviewing practices strongly resemble the interviews for door-to-door knife sales, you’re doing something wrong.

    Dang, Alison, that’s a deep Cutco.

    But also – I’m actually really surprised by LW2! Alison did reference this, but this really does sound like a MLM-type pitch. But…from what LW2 wrote about their current hiring process, they seem like a regular professional job. Have you pointed out that they’ve basically adopted Herbalife’s hiring practices? That might snap them back to their senses.

    On the other hand, this is pinging me enough that I want to tell LW2 to look at the job postings for her company. If the phrase “business opportunity” appears anywhere in them, she should run screaming for the exits. (At least, in my opinion.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I really think there’s something to the idea upthread that sometimes a manager REALLY wants to give a motivational speech, and people looking for a job are the only ones willing to spend half a day listening to it.

  19. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1, when I hear “it’s a privilege to work here” (or its counterpart, “nobody here is indispensable”), I think about looking at my parachute. If I were you, I’d keep my resume polished and my bank account ready for the day when the founder or managing director decide that they’d rather not have you around.

  20. The Doctor*


    You don’t have to tell them that they’re being disrespectful. The very fact that they’re being disrespectful means that they already know AND that they have consciously chosen that approach.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Not necessarily, though it’s moot if they don’t care to hear feedback or change. Occasionally “bad bosses” write here to AAM, and it’s always apparent that they just don’t see anything wrong or unreasonable about what they’re doing until Alison + hordes of commenters respond, “No, this is actually horrible.” They’re not “choosing” to be disrespectful, they’ve convinced they’re fine and the other person/people are wrong. At least for me, this bears out IRL too. I’ve been close to people who have behaved like world-class glassbowls, but contextually it became clear that they honestly didn’t see anything bad about how they were behaving – they thought they were reasonable and whoever was upset with them was the bad guy.

      So the bosses in this situation probably figure their behaviour is completely fine, but if they’re not willing to hear any feedback about it, their response ultimately ends up being true – people can deal with it or leave.

    2. OP #1*

      I really can’t tell. I think there is a certain amount of willful ignorance about how the way they talk corresponds with the ways people react to them. I think on some level they know they’re being rude but they also truly believe that it’s warranted and the correct way to respond.

  21. Thankful for AAM*

    Cattle call interviews are the way my son got his first teen job working at a local amusement center.

    That plus the scams, I’d run from an interview like that unless I was unemployed. But I would only be going for the entertainment value. I’d only take a job like that if I were pretty desperate.

    I know lots of really well qualified and great folks are unemployed, but this process seems designed to select for those who are the opposite of qualified.

  22. ronda*

    LW #2 — I had a group interview like you describe for the railroad. Old company, union, very good benefits (rr has their own SS system)
    I dont think it was a scam. They brought in 6 candidates for 1 position. They had 2 panel interview for you to attend with 6 interviewers each. I was not the chosen one, so I don’t know a ton more about them.
    The HR person did have the attitude of it is a privledge to work here.

    There was a lot of waiting for the 2 interviews and it was a weird situation to sit there with the other candidates.
    I am also not a big fan of so many people in a panel interview.
    They didnt seem to be able to give a very clear explanation of where exactly the job would fit in the organization.
    I got the impression they wanted to have everyone involved in the decision making and that they wanted to conserve the 12 interviewers time and have it all in one day.
    It was also about 4 months between resume submission and interview, so not very fast movers on hiring.

  23. SLR*

    I used to work for a major world-wide company in their call center. We did cattle-call style recruitment events for what was ultimately a first round interview. We did a phone screen & at that time if they met certain criteria we’d invite them in for the ‘info session & 1st interview’. The difference was that we were VERY clear that it could take a while as it depended on how many other candidates showed up for the session. When I finished the phone screen & invited candidates, I straight up told them, prepare for this to take at least 2-3 hours, possibly more. The info session lasted about an hour & 15 minutes. That included lots of questions from candidates, filling out applications & paperwork. Their 1:1 interview usually lasted about 40 minutes. This worked well for call center hiring; we wanted to have full orientation classes rather than make 2 or 3 candidates wait until there was a ‘full class’. We hired almost 1000 people in the year & a half I was there.

  24. Delta Delta*

    I went on a group interview once. It ended up being for a PIRG chapter, which, if I had known then that PIRGs can do really good work, I might have stayed. Instead, it was really disorganized and felt mildly dangerous. I left my part of the interview by saying, “yeah, if I’m interested I’ll call.” I didn’t call. This was maybe 15-20 years ago and I still feel a little weirded out by the whole process.

    That said, I think if it had been more organized and put together in a way that made clear what the organization was about and what the individual jobs were, it might not have rubbed me the wrong way. There were about 6 of us there and I think they needed to hire about 10 people so it seemed like an efficient way to talk to everyone at once.

    1. Ali G*

      You dodged a bullet. I got sucked into a PIRG interview and after talking to us for 10-15 min, they put us in cars and drove us into the suburbs, dropped us off, and said I’ll pick you up at 5. I was completely unprepared (it was in Philly, so I thought I would be working in an office) – wrong shoes, no food or water. This was before cell phones. I lasted one day and only went back to pick up my paycheck for the day I worked.

  25. kitryan*

    LW 5 – I worked at a LORT B theater as an assistant shop manager and when I left I was asked to train my replacement for a couple days at the start of the next season, about 2 months after my departure, and my boss, the shop manager, never for a moment considered *not* paying me. Same thing for when more training and a review of the replacement’s work turned out to be needed 3 months after that. If this theater works like most, they should have a set up in place to pay contractors/overhire for such short terms.
    However, if you do go back and are getting paid (as you should be), make sure that your deductions, insurance, and withholding are as you would want them as a contractor, since they’ll have you set up as a full time person and will need to change your status. For example, they shouldn’t deduct as they might have previously for things like healthcare or a transit plan as you wouldn’t be contributing regularly or eligible for those benefits any longer.
    Also, get clear goals from them, a clear timeline, and set realistic expectations with them on what you’ll be able to get accomplished in that time. For example, if they can only afford one day, think through what only you can teach, how much of it you can fit in a day, and what the replacement already needs to know to make that work. If you’re going to be teaching them how to use the spreadsheet you created to track your department’s expenses, then the new person needs to be set up on their computer/log ins already. Ideally you’d come in after the new person has done all the generic new person stuff.
    Just because you’re working in the arts doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid. Working for free is not something a good theater should ask of you – at least not until ‘exposure’ and ‘artistic fulfillment’ are acceptable currency with your landlord and the grocery store.

    1. OP #5 in theater*

      This is very helpful, thank you. Unfortunately, without giving myself away, our theater does operate a bit differently in terms of pay (our casting director also is a photographer and takes photos for our shows, but they refuse to pay this person a 1099 for photography because they pay them as a W2 for their casting). I’ll have to see how this plays out overall.

  26. Jubilance*

    As someone who survived a short stint as a Cutco “salesperson”, I’d immediately get up and walk out if I went to an interview and saw it was a group presentation. Even the most basic, lowest level retail jobs give individual interviews that are actual interviews and not sales pitches.

    1. Anonymous Reply*

      My son works at Walmart and he got an individual interview. It was on Memorial Day 2 years ago, but it was individual!

  27. CMart*

    For LW #2 in particular I agree with all of the advice and the condemnation of that type of interview. Showing up to essentially a sales pitch for the company and then interviewing those who “actually sit through the presentation” just screams MLM/scam job no one who isn’t completely desperate or naive would take.

    But I think I’m confused about “group interviews” in general. I think the interview process for my current role was a group interview process but it wasn’t shady or weird or cattle-call-y like everyone else is describing. It was for a competitive entry level (post-college) finance/accounting role, and it was a couple days of events + interviews. A cocktail mixer the night before. A morning of testing (case study and basic skills) in a room with the other applicants with bagels and coffee, and then a couple rounds of individual panel-style interviews, after which you got to go home.

    So that’s what’s in my mind when I hear “group interview” and I don’t feel that’s terribly egregious. I enjoyed getting a dinner and breakfast out of the experience, if nothing else! Are the group interviews being conducted/considered by other companies different?

    1. LQ*

      To me simply a place that expected me to spend all day with them, dinner and breakfast and cocktails, is a place I do not want to work at. I have a job and other things to do. Assuming I can take all that time to be with them in their process is not respectful of my time and, to me at least, would indicate a place I do NOT want to work because if they have a cocktail mixer before I’m hired, it’ll be passing around a flask at 3 am with other coworkers desperately trying to get things done at the office still after I’m hired.

  28. Lauren*

    Good article,I had one for a seasonal inventory job as a teen – they administered a basic test to make sure you could do the work, and pretty much hired everyone who passed.

  29. Rivakonneva*

    OP #4, I work in academia and this is normal. We close from Dec. 24th – Jan 2nd every year, and I have to take vacation or unpaid time. Many of the other state colleges/universities do it as well, with the same requirements. I look on it as the price I pay to work at a place with fairly good job security and no pressure to play the ‘publish or perish’ game.

  30. Trek*

    OP#2 Are you and the other applicants expected to cook them dinner as well? I have flashbacks to an earlier letter submitted where applicants were required to make dinner after an all day ‘interview’. Run for the hills is the best advice I can offer.

  31. Abe Froman*

    When I saw a link in question 2, I knew what it was without clicking. Definitely scared me off any group interviews.

  32. Marie the Chef*

    Can someone answer a question about this line: “the law requires that exempt employees be paid their full salary for any week in which they perform any work.”

    I’m being moved from full-time, salaried exempt to part-time, hourly, non-exempt but the timing is weird. I’ll have one day that I’m salaried, the next day a half day that I’m hourly, and then I’m on vacation for a week (we don’t accrue vacation, it’s always just been take what you need and been paid for the time). Am I supposed to be paid for a full week of my salaried hours for that week? I’m betting they wouldn’t know this and when told would change the last day that I’m salaried.

    1. Paige*

      I would think that it only applies to time you are officially salaried and employed as such. When exempt employees leave their jobs on the last day of a month when it falls on a Monday-Thursday, they don’t get paid for the rest of that week because after that point, they’re *not* salaried. Due to the change in employment status, the law probably no longer applies because you’re no longer exempt.

  33. Michaela Westen*

    #2 – once when I was working full-time I was considering a second part-time job for extra money.
    There was an ad for part-time evening office work near where I lived. I went to an interview and it turned out to be a group thing. It was to sell real estate, I think, or something similar (not something you could carry door-to-door), and the man giving the presentation was expecting 24/7 this-is-your-whole-life commitment.
    I spoke up and said I was looking for part-time work like in the ad. I thought there had been a mistake – either I was in the wrong room, or they were.
    The man who was doing the presentation got all offended and told me to leave! Like it was my fault for not understanding the misleading ad or wanting to do his bidding.
    So yes, this interview format is not good.

  34. Stephanie*

    #4: My company does this for the week of 4th of July. I think it was just recently they started allowing people to work in the office that week instead of taking vacation. But the plants (I work in automotive) actually shut down, so people are stuck taking vacation if they can’t find somewhere else to work.

  35. LadyPhoenix*

    Op #1:
    “If people aren’t ok with it then maybe they should leave.”
    In that case, bye Felicia.

    Abusers always have the “get out” option because they think people won’t take them.
    Abusive Boy/Girlfriend: “Well maybe we should break up”
    Abusive Friend: “Maybe you’re bot my friend”
    Abusive Conpany: “If you don’t like it, you can leave”

    They then expect their victims to see this ultimatum and back down, and then nlame them for staying because—well—“I warned you, what did you think would happen?” Is their mindset.

    Don’t fall for it. The moment you hand this place your 2 weeks notice, all shit will hit the fan. They will backpeddel, claim they will be nicer, promise you a raise/promotion,
    Etc etc etc. they might claim you can’t leave because blah blah blah bullshit reason. They might even physically keep you from leaving.

    And that is when you pull out that famous line from “Labyrinth”: “You have no power over me.”

    Abusers can’t and won’t change unless they want to change.

  36. McWhadden*

    Re #4 this is just an evil practice. It is absolutely horrible to potentially not pay people around CHRISTMAS when they are potentially spending more than usual. And vacation time isn’t really a benefit if you are forced to use it at a certain time. Especially if you only get two weeks, which is the norm, and one has mandatory use or go unpaid.
    It may be legal but it is morally bankrupt.

  37. Candy*

    I work for a university that closes from Dec 25-Jan 1st too but we’re paid that week like normal. It’s a nice little perk that some years they let us all out early on the 24th too. Note that this is in Canada and we’re unionized. If the university is closed temporarily for reasons beyond the control of the employees (environmental conditions, utility disruptions, road conditions, acts of God, etc) then employees receive their salary as normal during the closure. As it’s the company’s decision to close it doesn’t make sense that salaried employees scheduled and willing to work should be penalized for that.

  38. LKW*

    LW#2 – I think you have a couple of options:

    1. Hone in on Allison’s statement regarding who’s going to put up with such a format. The best and brightest have options and unless the package offered is head and shoulders above market, there is limited value in making people feel like this is “Survivor: Job Interview”. They’re going to opt out pretty quickly leaving you with Team B (or C or D). So what’s the goal – tushes or best tushes? My time is valuable. If you want me to spend the day sitting around waiting on you… when I could be doing something productive… it shows me you have limited respect for my skills or my time. That’s not a good impression.

    2. Get some metrics around filling positions, performance of recent hires and retention of recent hires. Put this in your back pocket. If you are able to hire the same number of people in a shorter time, but the attrition rate rises… do you continue the approach to find talent? Where is the financial break point – where you’re spending more money to replace people than find the right people first time? Businesses care about money. If you have to go through this process 4x a year to maintain staff – at a higher cost to the business (6 people get interviewed per interview x 4 people conducting interviews x 4 times a year is almost 100 hours of interview time)

  39. Kelly*

    OP#4: I just had the same situation come up at my work as well. Mandatory xmas week PTO. I don’t take time off that week, and I’m heading to Scotland for a 2 week trip at the end of January, so I’m being judicious about time off. There’s nothing I can do but take the time my company is mandating. With you in solidarity of the suckiness.


  40. OP #1*

    Hi everyone – OP #1 here. Alison suggested that maybe I wasn’t prepared to leave, but actually this was more of a hail Mary before making real moves – I wanted to make sure that I had tried everything I could before leaving and needed confirmation that it is as hopeless as I suspected it was. Our staff is incredible and I wish that there was a way I could see things changing but it’s become increasingly clear that it’s not possible. Everyone has one foot out the door and/or is being pushed out. In one conversation, after being told that if people were unhappy they should leave, I asked what the plan is if they did – which got a scoff and said, we’ll hire new people, no big deal. When I asked what would happen if they didn’t, I was told people would start being fired.

    It’s very disappointing – I want this organization to thrive. But that’s not going to happen unless one or both of them leaves so in the meantime the rest of us will.

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      Ugh. Manager like this should be served a beaping plate of dog turd sandwiches.
      These people will work people to the bone and then toss then out like trash.

      You sure you don’t work at Big Bang Burger?
      (Points if you get the reference)

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      OP#1, yep, leaving does seem the best and logical course of action. When I read “Working here is a privilege”, I practically did a spit-take. That one sentence says it all. I’ve had employers behave as if they felt that way and indirectly message this sentiment (like, you are lucky to work here because this company is the best, most awesome place ever), but never had an employer come right out and say it. Sheesh.

      Guess what happens when those same companies suffer a major business set-back, and the employees start leaving in droves? The sudden realization that the company isn’t hot-shiz comes thundering home to the management, and there aren’t enough employees to cover the critical work. Oopsie.

    3. Somniloquist*

      “We’ll hire new people, no big deal”.
      I really hope that you live in an area with a low unemployment rate. I’ve wanted to see managers like this hoisted by their own petard on this idea since so many of us had to stay in crappy jobs with this mindset in the recession.

  41. AKchic*

    OP1 – I think you need to leave and stop being the buffer.
    The longer you stay, the longer your employees stay. They stay for you. They stick around for you. The subject themselves to further abuse… for you. It’s kind of like an abused mom and adult teenage kids living with an abusive father/grandparent combo.
    Father/grandmother can totally support themselves. The 18-19 year old teens know this. The adult-teens know they can support themselves if they leave. However, they don’t want to leave because they don’t want to leave “Mom” (you, OP1) to the abuses, nor to each of them individually wish to leave the other “siblings” (coworkers) to the continued abuse.
    You, as “Mom” (sorry if I am assuming gender here, I am using the “Mom” label because you are nurturing the workers and continuing to act as an abuse buffer and smooth things over, as a nurturing “mom” caregiver/caretaker would), aren’t leaving because you are sheltering your “children” (the employees).

    It needs to stop. You need to stop saving these bosses from their own bullying behavior. From themselves in general. Let them sink or swim. Let the employees decide whether or not they want to continue dealing with the poor treatment and abuse without your buffering. Why do you want to continue being the buffer? This isn’t healthy and it isn’t normal business. It is an unhealthy *family* dynamic.
    Find a better job and set a good example for your employees. They’re going to walk away anyway. Might as well lead by example.

  42. counting the days*

    #4, If the “week” between x-mas and new year falls into two different work weeks, then OP WOULD have performed work in each of those weeks and SHOULD have been paid. Yes?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! (To be clear, the employer can set whatever 7-day period they want as their work week — it doesn’t have to be Sun-Sat — but they can’t change to get out of paying people.)

  43. Chaordic One*

    OP1, I’m afraid that Alison is right about the situation with your bosses. They just don’t get it. Sometimes it is because they’ve come from a place of privilege. Sometimes its because they’ve risen up through the ranks on the basis of hard work and a bit of luck, and then they’ve forgotten their roots. Even when a nonprofit has a great mission statement and manages to actually do significant good work, the means don’t justify the ends and the workers shouldn’t have to put up with the disrespect.

    OP2, you are right to be concerned about this. It gives your employer a really bad first impression and it will be filtering out a lot of qualified good workers. With the job market tightening up, this is not a good time to do something like this.

    I’ve had mixed results going to group interviews. Many years ago I went to one for a “Marketing Assistant” that turned out to be selling perfume in shopping center parking lots. No! I’ve also had several group interviews for seasonal jobs with the U.S. Federal Government (Post Office and IRS) that were legitimate and reasonably good jobs. (Great pay, but awful hours, mandatory overtime when needed, having hours cut and even being let go when things were slow.)

  44. HermioneMe*

    I once went on a group interview for a resort/casino in Las Vegas, where I live. I had not worked in this industry before. The group interview had about 25 participants – but not just for the HR position for which I had applied; it was for all positions they had open. Spent several hours doing “group” participation activities; also had to answer “what would you do in this situation questions” (the questions were random ones pulled from a deck of cards, so no question was specific to the position for which you had applied). Then had to wait for over an hour for my individual interview. In that interview, I was told “while your qualifications are excellent, we have to offer this position to staff at all our multiple locations first, even if they don’t have HR experience.” WTF? Then why bring people in to interview from outside the company? I left very disgusted and angry.

  45. crookedfinger*

    LOL I actually went to one of those door-to-door knife sales group interviews and I was thinking of it the whole time I was reading that letter!

Comments are closed.