I don’t want to talk shop outside of work, a weird firing, and more

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

1. I don’t want to talk shop when I run into a coworker outside of work

I have a coworker who I am sharing a few really challenging, long-term projects with. They’re great to work with and we’re getting a lot done.

Only problem is that we live in the same part of town and frequently bump into each other on the way in — which in of itself is fine but they often immediately start talking about work, including ideas they’ve just had and are expecting my opinion on.

I do care about my work and I am often thinking about it out of hours, but I don’t really trust my own analytical skills while I’m still digesting my breakfast and finishing my coffee and don’t have all the relevant info in front of me. It’s making me feel bad that I’m not ready to dive in immediately when they apparently are.

I know I could just say, “Oh, I don’t feel up to talking shop right now,” but I’m worried I’ll be shutting down their enthusiasm and i really don’t want to come across as saying “we should work less hard.” Any way I can navigate this?

No reasonable person will think you’re saying “we should work less hard” just because you’re not prepared to talk about work when they bump into you at a coffeeshop. Particularly reasonable people may even feel a little bad about not respecting your off hours.

It’s fine to be someone who’s up for talking about work whenever the opportunity arises. But politeness and consideration for others require being attuned to cues that someone else may not be in the mood — and not judging them for it.

I would say this: “Do you mind if we wait until we’re both in the office? I’m not in work mode yet!”

That way you’re not explicitly saying “I don’t want to talk about work if I’m not on the clock.” You’re just pointing out that most of us have work modes and non-work-modes, and you’re in the latter.

2. My company fired me in a weird way

Two weeks ago, I was told that my job was not going to keep me past my 90-day probation. They told me I could work for the two weeks, get a paycheck, and they wouldn’t record that I got fired. They even told me I could use them as a reference and, if I did, to tell them what I said so they could corroborate it. The other strange part was I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone (clients or coworkers) I was leaving. They told two people who would be covering my duties and that was it.

Today was the first day I am not working. One of my coworkers reached out via Facebook to say they heard I left and then asked if I wasn’t happy or just found a better opportunity. So basically my old job lied to my coworkers about the nature of my departure. I guess my question is, why would they do all of this? As much as it was very nice of them to allow me to work and make some money, it doesn’t make sense to me. Especially if all of a sudden I was “making too many mistakes” that I was never warned of until my termination. People close to me think it’s sketchy. I’m just curious about why this scenario would occur. My manager chalked it up to my CEO’s “Christian nature.”

It sounds like a place that’s uncomfortable firing people and thinks it’s nicer for everyone to handle it like they did. It probably feels less adversarial to them this way, and they’re hoping you’ll walk away feeling better than if they did a more traditional firing, and they’re hoping it will be less jarring to your coworkers too. (They apparently didn’t count on the possibility that you and your coworkers might still talk.)

Ideally they would have talked to you earlier about whatever problems they were seeing, but it’s also true that sometimes it’s really clear in someone’s first couple of months that they’re not going to work out, regardless of any coaching they get, and some companies figure this is what probationary periods are for. It also wouldn’t be surprising if a company that’s deeply uncomfortable with honest messaging around firing also isn’t comfortable talking to people about performance problems.

The thing that’s most troubling to me is that they told you to tell them what you tell future employers “so they can corroborate it.” If they’re offering to lie for you, that’s sketchy and it’s likely a reflection of how important it is to them to feel “nice” in this situation, even if it means being dishonest.

3. How can my resume show I’m a fast learner?

I’ve been looking for a job for several months now with little success in getting any interviews. I think I need to change my resume a bit, but I’m not exactly sure how. I worked as a quality assurance tester for about a year and a half, and I’m not sure how to list accomplishments for it. Sure, in an interview I could mention the things I’m proud of, but they seem like such strange things to put in a resume.

For example, the first week on the job (after training) I ran six times as many test cases per day as each of the other four people who were hired into the same role. (In fact, I was doing so many that my boss accused me of having someone else do my work for me.) Another example is that I learn things incredibly fast, and all of my coworkers took notice of this fact and complimented me on it regularly. But anyone can write “fast learner” under their skills whether it’s true or not. Given that I have less than two years of full-time experience, I feel like my strength is that pretty much anything that is not already listed on my resume can easily be learned on the job. Is there really a way to say or show that on a resume?

Yes! How did being a fast learner play out objectively? For example, did you continue running test cases faster than everyone else? If so, you can include something like “processed X% more test cases than other testers each month” or “fastest test case processor on team of 12” or “known as fastest test case processor on team of 12.”

And you could use that anecdote about your boss in your cover letter — as in, “I picked up the job so quickly that after my first week my boss asked if someone else was processing test cases for me — and was surprised it was just me.”

If you can, make sure it’s not just about how fast you learn. Fast learning is great, but ideally you’d also talk about the differences once everyone else was trained too, since a few weeks of being ahead of everyone else won’t be as compelling as standing out from the pack longer-term.

4. Applying at a company that fired me 10 years ago

I was let go from my very first job, just about ten years ago. I admit it was mostly my fault – I was coasting, and when a new supervisor came in I failed to get with the program. Apparently everything had gotten very lax before I ever got there, and the more exacting expectations were based on what should have been going on in the first place. I was very fortunate to get other work in the same field, and I have a lot more experience now, as well as hindsight of how badly I screwed up back then.

My current job is ending soon, so I have been job searching – and found a position at the same place as my first job, with similar job description. I would love to work there again if I can, but how do I go about it? Should I leave it off the resume, and only mention if they bring it up? Should I include it on the resume? Should I bring up my previous experience in the cover letter? Should I just not even try?

Well … the deck is stacked against you, but you can give it a try and see what happens. You might be marked as not eligible for rehire in their system, or there might be people there who remember the previous situation and aren’t up for giving you another chance. (Unless you have a really stellar track record now, I probably wouldn’t be up for considering you this time around, assuming there were other good candidates who didn’t have that spotty track record with us.)

If you apply, you definitely should include your previous job there on your resume. It’s in your best interests for that to be known from the beginning and not seem like something you tried to hide. The worst-case scenario you want to avoid is that no one involved in hiring remembers you, you get hired, and on your first day some higher-up says, “Isn’t that Jane who we fired for poor performance some years back? How did she get rehired?” … and then you have a strike against you in people’s minds from the start and they may even be looking for ways to let you go. If it’s going to be an issue for you to return, it’s better to find that out right away.

5. Paid time off when an office closes for weather

Our company announced on the previous day that they might close at noon the following day due to a hurricane. In fact, they did close the office at noon. Those employees that did come in until noon were not docked four hours of PTO. Salary employees who did not come in put in for four hours of PTO being that the closed at noon but were docked for a full eight hours of PTO. Is this legal?

Yes. It’s also not terribly uncommon. It’s similar to what you see around around the holidays — for example, a company says it might close early the day before Christmas, then does, but still charges people who were out the whole day a full day of PTO. The idea is that if you planned to take the full day off, you got the benefit of planning for the full day off, whereas people who came to work had to plan to be there the whole day.

More on weather closings here.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #1: “coffee doesn’t hit me until I get through the door…how ‘bout that sportsball game last night?”

    “Could we save it until we get in? Still gearing up… crazy weather we’re having, right??”

    “I need a few min to get ramped up – that sounds interesting though! Let’s tag up at 10 ::exit left::”

    1. Hmm*

      I second these suggestions. Saying something like “ramping up” or “gearing up” makes it even more explicit that you aren’t opposed to thinking about work in off moments, but that it’s morning and you’re still warming up.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I thought the point about having the info was good too – “That’s interesting, let me check the (info) and get back to you. Lovely/horrible weather, isn’t it?”

    2. Non-profiteer*

      I’d love to talk about this once I’ve had my coffee in the office.

      I use cliched jokes about coffee and caffeine so often.

    3. Jane of all Trades*

      I think if you’re worried about stifling their enthusiasm you could also try:
      “This sounds (great/interesting/like something we should consider in more detail), let’s set aside some time on Monday (or whenever you’ll want to talk during work time) to talk about it.”

      1. Rosaline Montague*

        Yes, and definitely have a small talk topic ready after you set the “I’m not in work mode yet” boundary. It could be this person only feels comfortable talking about work with you, so saying “I love this coffee shop, do you have any others in our neighborhood you like?” or the like will smooth over and give them a graceful next step.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Agreed. I admit, I sometimes fall back on shop talk with colleagues, just because I don’t know them well enough to have an idea of what else they’d like to talk about. Be prepared to help steer the conversation.

    4. cmcinnyc*

      There are three people from my office who I often see on my commute. We either pretend not to see each other, or nod/smile but don’t sit together/engage. We make sure not to walk the same route to work. When we get there, we put on our coworker hats and engage as if we hadn’t already commuted in within a few feet of each other. If I have to sit with one of them or engage on the commute, I (and they) keep it very light: weather, hey I heard you got a dog, etc. It’s Ms. LET’S TALK ABOUT WORK! who is making this weird, not the OP.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t think the OP is saying it’s weird; they’re saying they’d rather not spend their morning talking shop. I mean, it’s a lot weirder to me that you and your coworkers make such an effort to avoid one another, much less avoid talking about work.

    5. TootsNYC*

      also, “I can’t really focus on work stuff right now–and I know I won’t remember it. Can we revisit in the office?”

      You aren’t doing anybody any favors by listening to their great idea with less than your normal attention.

  2. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #2 I wonder if your company prefaced this conversation (maybe only in their own minds) as “this mutually isn’t working out, you’re still in your probation, let’s call it.”

    That makes the rest of the narrative more sensical. I.e.: you weren’t “fired” because that would mean it was for cause, they just didn’t see it working out and wanted it presented as a “mutual” decision so that you could save face. They then also let you lead the narrative with coworkers that way.

    The only weird thing is the reference note, because it would be odd to include a <3mo role on your resume, but I could see them thinking “if you tell a company that *you* realized it wasn’t a good fit” or “you tell them you got another offer that was too good to pass up” or “you had a family issue that meant you couldn’t stay in the role” that they were trying to be nice about letting you craft the “polite” narrative about why you left.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was wondering this, as well. It sounds like the company may be thinking of this as a “decline to renew” situation, as opposed to a “firing.” The practical effect may feel the same for OP, but it does change the framing, including for any references.

      1. Les*

        I was wondering if the company realised they didn’t have funding to continue the position, but didn’t want to call it a lay-off.
        The part I find slightly worrisome is the comment on the “Christian nature” of the CEO. Is there a reason religion could be a factor?

        1. MK*

          If religion was a factor, they would probably not mention this. I think it’s just a way of saying that the CEO is being kind.

        2. Jay*

          This was my take as well.
          They suddenly didn’t have a position there for you to fill and were embarrassed by it. The strange rigamarole they put you through was an attempt to save face and/or soften the blow. That’s how one of the great many short term jobs I worked when I was younger ended. They used much the same wording, if I remember correctly.

          1. another scientist*

            that’s what I thought, too. The company might have lost a big client or be otherwise in financial trouble, but they don’t want staff or the public to know about it.

        3. Jax*

          I think the reference to the CEO’s “Chritian nature” in this context is to the company not firing the OP, letting the OP choose how and whether to frame the departure, and letting the OP use the employer as a reference.

        4. Elizabeth*

          I’ve come around to the consensus view that “Christian” was an unfortunate synonym for “charitable,” but I first read it in a much worse way.

          I worried that the firing out of nowhere was because someone higher up had an issue with the OP that they couldn’t disclose, and for some reason the comment inappropriately highlighting the boss’s religion made me think of the cases where women are fired because their male boss is attracted to them and finds that threatening to his values/integrity/family.

          1. Odd Termination OP*

            Oh I don’t think it’s as sinister as that! The organization is a very Christian one in general. I knew that when hired and I was told I didn’t have to be Christian (I’m non practicing Catholic) but to be respectful of it. Which I definitely was! I think my manager was just saying it like that cause well it’s true

            1. JSPA*

              My first thought was that it could be code for, they’re not happy with you being either non-Christian or non-practicing, or they think that you’re LGBT and have issues with that, or they’re not comfortable with social media posts that you’ve made (or that someone they confuse with you has made). The dual outcome: they were paying lip service to you not having to be Christian…or they find all kinds of things disrespectful (that either aren’t, or aren’t currently)…but they’re too savvy to say so directly, and they prefer a combined CYA for themselves and a good reference for you, than coming right out and saying any of the above. (Given that some of it would violate federal antidiscrimination law, they’re smart not to get specific?)

          2. Allypopx*

            I had this same first reaction and read it as “we’re letting you go at the end of your probation while we legally can without penalty and don’t want our shitty practices to be public, so we’ll go with whatever narrative you create to keep you from telling people we fired you for being [protected class].”

          3. ladycrim*

            Whereas my first thought was that OP was fired because they were LGBTQ/a single parent/living with their partner but unmarried/etc, and management didn’t want to come out and say that.

            1. Odd Termination OP*

              I’m in a long distance relationship with a man and I’m a woman. I am very supportive of the LQBTQ+ community but that type of thing has never come up at work. So I’m not sure if they just new I wasn’t Christian (non practicing Catholic) and took issues with it. I’m just not sure if that’s it though

          4. Kathleen_A*

            I just interpreted it as “really, really, really averse to conflict of any sort.” :-) And it appears I was more or less right.

    2. Mookie*

      Well, they didn’t “let” her lead the narrative, and it’s a narrative of their own making and for their own convenience. They told her that she shouldn’t tell anyone she was as leaving or why during those last two weeks, gave away her duties without explanation, and then apparently told her co-workers she left, rather than was not-renewed. They don’t appear to have asked the LW if she wanted to treat like this a mutual decision or her own entirely. Maybe she wouldn’t have.

      Also, I don’t actually see this employee as being shy about terminations or unable to communicate them directly, at least to the employee herself. They told her she was leaving; that’s very direct. No doubt they’ll fire people in future under similar circumstances. And that manner of doing so is self-serving, not avoidant. They just don’t want their employees to know who they fire, why, and how often they are doing so under the cover of someone “resigning.” That is not for the good of the employees, departing or staying, and it misleads the current ones into thinking their employers don’t actually use a probationary period as they should, to direct poorly-matched new hires to leave when necessary. That sort of misleading behavior lends itself to toxicity. I actually would want to know that my manager will use probationary periods judiciously, and actively protect my team from underperformers. That’s not because I’d want to laugh at the misfortune of someone being asked to leave, but because I want my managers to use good judgment and not fiddle with the truth to protect someone’s feelings. Not doing this in public, making it a private matter, like it’s something shameful, would make me wary of how professional and transparent they’ll be in the future.

      1. Jax*

        So, are you advocating that someone in their probationary period who maybe is a great person but clearly isn’t right for the job be marched out of the office in front of everyone? Told behind closed doors YOU’RE FIRED!!? People are let go on probationary periods … oh whatever.

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I think it’s not about being let go in a public and shaming manner. But being honest about the probation period not working out. To people calling for references, to coworkers and to the employee. In the right context.

      2. Odd Termination OP*

        I’m definitely used to in my previous job for a much more open and honest approach to what’s going on. We were told when people were fired, left of their own free will, or other scenarios. I just assumed that when I left that they would tell the truth to at least my coworkers but clearly they didn’t. I assume they told my clients a similar story. I felt terrible not being allowed to at least tell my clients I was leaving and someone else would be taking over. Especially since the person taking over knew what was going on.

        1. Assistant to the Regional Manager*

          Every job I’ve had, we were just told that someone has left. We could usually figure out if they were fired because it was sudden, there weren’t good-bye lunches, they didn’t mention a new job, etc. But we were never told so and so was fired. I don’t think this is as unusual or dishonest as you find it.

      3. hbc*

        I think some fiddling or obfuscating is common—so common that most people see through it. When we send out the announcement that Jane is moving on to other things, Jane has never mentioned being unhappy, and it’s right around that probationary period, everyone assumes that we decided Jane wasn’t a keeper. If Jane actually chose to move on, we’d probably be saying, “We’re disappointed she left, but she [found a place closer to home/went back to her old field/found an offer that she couldn’t pass up.]” Absent those details, people are going to assume termination.

        But I definitely would give side-eye to an employer who went past careful wording and created a work of fiction.

    3. Hello gorgeous!*

      My take on this might be more of a zebra rather than horses — but could it be that they wanted to hire someone else for the position, someone who was not available when the job was first filled 3 months previously? Not a performance issue, but maybe an issue of wanting a different performaer?

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      That was my thought on the reference thing as well – not really a lie but simply affirming the OP’s spin on the separation such as poor fit. Don’t want the OP to tell potential employer that separation was due to “untenable commute” and OldJob to say “Yeah they left due to a family emergency we unfortunately couldn’t accommodate”.

        1. Odd Termination OP*

          Definitely not interested in lying. I’m just saying it wasn’t a right fit for me and the industry in the long run isn’t one I want to stay in. Which is very true. I won’t be delving into that industry again.

    5. Odd Termination OP*

      They definitely I think in their minds had a more prefaced conversation because when I asked for further information on why exactly I was being asked to leave (wanted to figure out if it something I need to specifically work on for the future) they just wouldn’t elaborate and said well we told you about mistakes. They never did they said they reminded me to “pay attention to the details” and I told them that gave no indication I was doing well since it was always followed up with “but there’s a learning curve in the industry.” My point to them was I was told in all my probationary performance reviews that I was excelling and picking things up faster than the schedule they mapped out. I’m just ultimately telling employers that the job wasn’t a good fit for me (which is true).

      1. Jen*

        I don’t know if it relates to your situation at all, but the “Christian Nature” comment reminds me of an odd firing of my own. It came out in casual conversation at work one day that I had engaged in a common, legal, but considered-unacceptable-by-some-religions activity on the weekend. Unbeknownst to me, the business owners are of that religion. Just when I thought we were building rapport, over the course of the next week, their demeanor toward me changed completely, and I was let go pretty rapidly for “repeated mistakes” (that were never communicated) shortly thereafter. But with the promise of a good reference and a “it just wasn’t working out.” I heard later from a former colleague who said the owners heard I did “thing X” and fired me because they don’t agree with that as a lifestyle choice, and didn’t feel they could trust people who do that (it’s not a protected activity, so no illegal discrimination). So for your own peace of mind, perhaps they were very eager to be accommodating because they were letting you go for sketchy reasons that had more to do with them hiring/firing for their religious filters rather than your work.

        1. Odd Termination OP*

          That’s what a few people close to me were concerned about. At work I’m always on my best behavior and don’t talk about anything I don’t think would be liked by those of a more conservative faith but if they saw my social media or something because I do quite dark makeup not at work and would be considered “goth” which often translates poorly to “devil worshipper.” Nothing I have on my social media is illegal or shameful so I don’t hide it but I made sure my makeup was more conservative if I even wore it. But it’s something that has crossed my mind.

        2. Marthooh*

          A “common, legal, but considered-unacceptable-by-some-religions activity on the weekend.”

          Could it be… Sunday travelling?!? *Clutches pearls.*

            1. Odd Termination OP*

              At least I know it wasn’t because I enjoy alcohol on the weekends because they all enjoy alcohol fairly regularly lol

          1. Jen*

            The activity was…. drinking alcohol! My days!
            Conversation went to what everyone had done on the weekend, and I said I went out with friends on the Saturday, and then spent Sunday feeling a bit sorry for myself because I’d had a few too many. Keeping in mind I’d worked there for months, and had never talked about alcohol before (I don’t drink much, so it didn’t come up), so it wasn’t like this was a habit!
            Apparently drinking is a no-go with them, and I think because I’d worked for another local teetotaller (who gave zero cares what I did outside work time, and gave me a glowing recommendation), they assumed I fit that particular mold, and were scandalized when they learned I didn’t!

            1. Jen*

              Though now I wish I were suspected of witchcraft or devil worship, because that would’ve been FAR more entertaining!

              1. Odd Termination OP*

                Lol I don’t necessarily think that’s the case since my social media is fairly difficult to find since my full name isn’t on it. But if that was the reasoning then that really isn’t a place I’d want to work for anyways! That’s awful though that you were technically fired for drinking a bit in your off hours. How awful

                1. Alice*

                  Isn’t it great that *drinking alcohol* is unethical, but *lying* about the “repeated mistakes” is not?

                2. Indigo a la mode*

                  Responding to Alice –

                  To paraphrase Homer Simpson: It’s called a double standard – one of the bedrocks of high-horsing.

    6. Kaitlyn*

      There are also some companies who will revolving-door low-skills jobs because it’s easier and cheaper to spend 45 minutes “training” someone to stock shelves than it is to pay benefits or insurance or any other job perks. They can still advertise that they offer those perks, and then just…don’t.

      1. Odd Termination OP*

        I would say this isn’t a lower level skills job. It was fairly intensive and I can’t imagine they make it a habit to have that position be rolling application.

      2. Chaordic One*

        Well, even mid-level jobs that require basic computer literacy and fairly involved training involving what the company does. Certain customer service and marketing jobs for example. (During the recession there were a lot of such jobs that paid just above minimum wage.)

    7. TootsNYC*

      right–they may be thinking less “if you tell them you have good attention to detail, we’ll agree, even though you made a lot of mistakes” and more “tell us what excuse you give for having left, and we’ll give that too.” I don’t think that’s a horrible dishonesty.

      And they may have good feelings about your work ethic, reliability, etc.–all things that an employer with slightly different needs will care about.

      It sounds like they DID give the OP some level of feedback—where did “making too many mistakes” come from? It sounds like it came too late for the OP to change anything, but there IS some feedback that could be useful in order to avoid those kinds of tasks, or those kinds of mistakes, in the future.

      1. Odd Termination OP*

        They didn’t elaborate on what the mistakes were so I just haven’t the faintest idea. The way my job worked it definitely would have affected what was going on greatly if there were too many mistakes and I had no negative feedback before that meeting. The one time they said things weren’t right was via email to a coworker and I and she and I both were able to show that we did not screw up and what they were now asking for was not what they had been asking for so they needed to clarify. My coworker is still very much employed. Making too many mistakes isn’t helpful feedback to me since they couldn’t tell me in what way so I could improve especially in future positions.

    8. Artemesia*

      It may be useful to not have to admit to being fired later in your job interviews and with a short stint, you could also leave it off your resume or spin it as a short term contract job.

      The only real issue that could bite you is if you want to claim unemployment benefits.

      1. Odd Termination OP*

        Yeah that’s the part that bothers me because it doesn’t seem I can claim unemployment. However I’m hoping to have a new job quite quickly since over the last couple of weeks I’ve had quite a few job interviews!

          1. Odd Termination OP*

            They said they weren’t going to mark anywhere that I had been let go. I took that to meant that it would imply that I left of my own accord so I wouldn’t be able to claim benefits

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nope! Unemployment doesn’t care if you agree on a cover story with the employer; they care about what really happened. Explain you were told they were letting you go, and you should be eligible.

              1. Odd Termination OP*

                Oh I was worried it would affect future employment because I thought they spoke with my old employer. I didn’t then want them to list me as fired. That’s really good to know! Thank you

              2. Leek*

                It sounds to me like the employer doesn’t want OP to claim unemployment and they are agreeing to not tell future employers that OP was fired if OP agrees not to claim unemployment. If OP claims unemployment, wouldn’t the employer be informed? If so, they may be upset enough to go back on their agreement not to tell future employers that they fired OP.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t think so — it’s not uncommon at all for employers to agree on a softer cover story (“mutually bad fit” or so forth) while still understanding that of course you’re going to claim unemployment if you need it. They fired her, and she doesn’t give up her right to unemployment just because they’re using softer messaging.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Odd OP Did you sign any kind of separation agreement, or did your employer ask you to submit a resignation letter?

                  @Alison but is it legal for an employer to negotiate a separation where in exchange for agreeing to a soft cover story on why an employee leaves (bad fit, family issues) the employee agrees to submit a resignation letter and not claim unemployment?

  3. Elle*

    LW3, not a great look to call your coworkers “girls” even though you’re faster than they are. Based on the description of your job, they’re adult women and this comes off as really patronizing.

  4. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #3 I would use things like “ramped up to full workload 40% faster than other trainees” “finished training and took on full workload 3 months before other associates” etc,

    Then, at interviews or in your cover letter use language like “I have a track record of quick learning and fast ramp-up, as you see with my experience in….”

    1. Artemesia*

      And the cover letter is the spot for the anecdote about being asked if someone else was doing some of your tests because you ramped up so much more quickly than most do. That is a quite vivid anecdote.

      1. Sally*

        And you may want to emphasize that your work was accurate. I had a couple of temp jobs back in the day where I thought speed was most important. Turns out I was wrong, and I had to re-do the work I had already done because I didn’t do it exactly as they wanted. I have learned my lesson.

    2. Jadelyn*

      “I would use things like “ramped up to full workload 40% faster than other trainees” “finished training and took on full workload 3 months before other associates””

      This is almost exactly how I used to phrase it on my resume. I’d had a call center job where I blasted through the training material and they allowed me out onto the floor to take calls, unsupervised, a week ahead of the rest of the class. My resume, back when I was still listing that position, said something like “completed training early and was allowed to begin taking calls a week ahead of the rest of my training class.” You’re not saying “I learn things quickly!”, you’re giving a concrete example of what you’ve been able to accomplish because of how quickly you’ve learned things.

    3. A*

      Exactly. Especially since the OP is so early on in their career. Many people are fast learners…until they aren’t. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and two years in the OP has barely begun to scratch the surface. When I’m interviewing potential hires I like to see quantifications when it comes to broad skill sets (fast learner, adaptable, thinking outside of the box etc.).

  5. JamieS*

    I know it’s common but that PTO logic is ridiculous. There are very few things, if any, a person can plan on 24 hour’s notice, possibly less, that can’t be planned the same day. Actually out of all the possible plans someone can make for a PTO day there aren’t many that can’t be arranged for same day.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s about planning per se. In the holiday context, it’s about being able to sleep in, not drag yourself into work, and knowing you have the enjoyment of the whole day off. You asked to take the whole day off; they’re giving you the whole day off, with the corresponding PTO deduction. I wouldn’t do it that way, but that’s what the reasoning is. (It’s different with a hurricane, where I imagine some people didn’t come in because of worries about the weather.)

      1. Mockingjay*

        As someone who just dealt with Hurricane Dorian, I can tell you that many factors play into how a company handles weather closings, including PTO usage. My company has a policy similar to OP 5. If you planned vacation during the storm, you took a full day of PTO. Otherwise you could telework as much as practicable – at least until the power went out. I ended up working part of the day and took leave for the rest. Half our employees were in mandatory evacuation zones and had to take leave while they fled, until they arrived at a place where they could telework. (We’re fortunate that nearly all of our employees can work remotely.)

        I’ve learned over the years to reserve a day or two of PTO balance in case of inclement weather, much the same as school districts build make-up days into their calendars. I have if I need it; if not, then I can use it for an actual day off.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I was working a job once when we had a major snow storm that shut down most of the city for a day. The first day the entire office closed and everyone was given a free PTO day. The next two days the office was open but only asked people to come in if it was safe for them to do so. Many people were still stuck in their homes due to road closures, or having to dig them selves out. People who didn’t come in the next two days again were given two free PTO days. People who came in during those two days were given a set bonus per day. For me that was more than a normally made in a day, so I ended up making >2x my normal pay rate for those two days.

          The caveat was that anyone who had previously requested any of those days off were charged full day(s) of PTO.

          To me this seemed like a fair way to do it.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            It reminds me of the parable of the workers where in the beginning of the day the owner goes out and hires day laborers for a days wages, all fair and good. Then again the owner goes out and hires guys around lunch. Then again he hires a few more guys at just about the end of the day.

            They all come to settle up and are all paid a days wage regardless of how long they worked. And the first crew gets all upset that they didn’t make more than the guys who were only there for a few hours. The owner point out that what they received was fair, they agreed to work for that amount and it was a standard amount and if the owner wants to pay the other guys the same that doesn’t make what they received unfair.

            I think that if the employee was unable to be back at work after their scheduled PTO because of trouble traveling that it would probably be good of them to give them an extra day or if they came home to a burst water pipe or something that was weather related that would require them to deal with. Otherwise you got what you asked for, which is generally considered fair treatment.

            1. JamieS*

              Yes it does make it unfair. If $X is the pay for 2 hours and someone is also being paid $X for 8 hours the owner, who has more control over pay rate, was acting in bad faith by knowingly underpaying the first guys.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with @JaimeS on this one. To put in in modern context if the market rate salary is $50k for a computer engineer, and an employer hires Person A (with xyz qualification) at $75k so above average, but then hires Person B with same exact qualifications as Person A at $100k, most people would think it was unfair.

              Or Person A and Person B with the same exact qualifications are hired at $75k, but Person A is required to work full time (50 hrs), but Person B is only required to work part-time (25 hrs) most people would think that it was unfair.

              This is how employers get away with wage discrimination based on protected characteristics. Employees in a protected class might be happy with the pay they are getting until they learn that the white male employee doing the same work next to them is making 50% more than they are.

        2. TiffanyAching*

          I like my company’s weather-related (or other) closure policy. Basically, if the reason you’re not at work is because we as a University are closed, then we pay you your regular wages for that time. If the reason you’re not at work/telecommuting is because you “chose” not to come in (sickness, weather, vacation, whatever), but the University is still open for business, then you need to use your PTO. I realize not all of those are an actual choice not to go to work, but it boils down to “can’t work because work is closed” vs. “not working for Reasons.”

          1. Aitch Arr*

            Hopefully they don’t charge PTO when people are telecommuting? I understand the point you were trying to make though. :)

      2. Sally*

        Alison, you wouldn’t do it this way because it might be demoralizing? Or another reason? How would you do it?

      3. JamieS*

        Your answer as it reads is the logic is they have the benefit of planning the full day off. That’s ridiculous logic more often than not because in the end it ends up with some employees having more time off even though everyone would’ve had that day (or half day or whatever) off so there’s no harm in just calling it a wash. This current point about I guess peace of mind and sleeping in isn’t a big enough benefit to justify having less PTO than people without the advanced notice.

    2. Avasarala*

      I agree, the idea that a company would make employees use PTO for this is very strange to me (not US). It’s not the employee’s fault they can’t work, it’s the company’s for choosing to close (or an act of dog, in the case of weather). I don’t think it’s fair to count it as “hours that should be worked, therefore must use PTO” any more than it’s fair to make people use PTO for weekends or holidays.

      And if you are going to say that people have to use PTO for weather closings/etc., then at least make it fair. If you close after noon, then make everyone use PTO for it, not just people who saw a hurricane coming and “planned” to not try to risk it and instead took a day off in advance. It’s not like they got any “benefit” of “planning to be out the whole day.”

      I think it also takes advantage of employees’ time in a way that employees don’t get to use on the employer. If you feel sick and decide not to go in, it’s 1 day of PTO, but if you go in and end up taking the afternoon off, you don’t get charged PTO at all–does anyone have a system like this??

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        As someone who has lived in the middle of tornado alley (Oklahoma), there is definitely a benefit to being out all day when bad weather is forecast. You are able to stay safe at home and prepare whatever you need, and don’t need to be out driving in whatever weather is so bad that your work has actually decided to close. People that actually have to come in at times like that should get some benefit and I am perfectly fine with extra PTO hours being that benefit.

        1. Avasarala*

          Oh I see, so use PTO as a carrot to encourage people to come in despite bad weather?

          Don’t you think that would cause MORE people to go out in bad weather if the downside is costing them PTO? As in, my office hasn’t decided to close yet, so I’m going to risk the roads so I can save my PTO (for vacations, illness, whatever). I think it pits safety vs. PTO, which yes there are times employees can judge it for themselves, but if the company has decided to close, then they’re making that judgment that it’s not safe, aren’t they?

          Personally I don’t think “being safely off the roads in dangerous weather” is only a “benefit” in an evolutionary sense, not the sense of “benefit we offer workers like tuition reimbursement and retirement plans.” And I think the carrot to reward workers that do have to come in should be something that doesn’t penalize others who choose to stay home for their and others’ safety.

          1. Avasarala*

            By the way I say this as someone who has observed that when there is a typhoon warning, people often don’t choose to leave early if their office doesn’t close, even if the office “encourages” them to take PTO/flex time. You bump up against cultural expectations and it ends up that as transportation gets delayed/affected by the weather, you have more and more people trying to use it, and eventually getting stranded in unsafe places like station platforms, taxi stands, open roads, sidewalks, etc.

            I know I’m not in the US so my perspective is different perhaps but I really believe that if it’s a worker safety issue caused by weather, companies have an obligation to consider workers’ safety and not penalize them for staying home/leaving early. Especially when we’re talking about regular office grunts, not emergency staff.

            1. WS*

              Also not in the US, but I agree – when there’s a disaster warning current, non-emergency staff should be encouraged to stay home. Keep the roads clear for the emergency staff! Because I live in a rural area, this does generally happen, because a huge number of people here are involved in emergency work as volunteers of one kind or another anyway. The one time I can remember when a boss didn’t let a (non-essential) employee go fight a major fire, the boss was absolutely pilloried.

            2. Goldfinch*

              companies have an obligation to consider workers’ safety and not penalize them for staying home/leaving early

              Agreed. I am the reason my last company got more serious about this issue–several years ago, there was a (predicted) blizzard that started in the late morning. By the time the company stopped dragging its feet and officially sent us all home, the drifting was severe, and I didn’t make it home. I ended up stranded, walking several miles to an ambulance barracks, and sleeping on their cement floor.

              While my boss was calling my (dead) cell phone to ask why I wasn’t there the next morning, I was being driven by a municipal employee back to my car and spent most of the day shoveling it out. By the time I rolled into my driveway and was able to use my landline, boss was spitting fire. His tune quickly changed when I informed him that I had just gotten home from the previous day’s work. Word got around the company, and all of a sudden they started taking winter weather seriously.

              1. roisin54*

                YIKES indeed. I’ve never had anything that dramatic happen, but it can work pretty much the same at my job. They are really inconsistent about weather emergency closings. I’ve had all of the following happen: don’t close at all, announce closing minutes before my shift starts and I’m already there, announce closing halfway through the day when the storm has been going on for several hours already, announce closing the day before, and announce closing minutes before I was going to leave my apartment to head in. And according to our union contract we’re supposed to get comp time for working during an officially declared snow emergency, but we have to fight for it every damn time.

              2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                I had an employee years ago who worked a very early AM shift. He called into the 24-hour desk at work to ask if the building was open and was told yes, report in for your shift. He walked to work in a blizzard, wading through two foot high drifts of snow, during whiteout conditions with lightning. He was nearly hit by a snowplow (who told him to get off the road) and a light rail train that was plowing the tracks (who also told him to get off the road.)

                When he arrived at work, he found work closed.

                He called out during the next blizzard and got slammed for being a “diva.”

                Meanwhile, one of my coworkers mentioned she’d been trapped at work during an ice storm when the ice got so bad she couldn’t walk across the parking lot to her car, and another had to go to a homeless shelter after his shift because the entire city had shut down and he couldn’t go home. But we had to be open, because we might have a customer.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  At OldJob, the weather was going to be so bad that the city was advising people not to travel on the roads. But it was end of month or something like that, so the company offered to pay for a hotel close by (this was downtown area) to the accounting department so they could walk to work the next day and get everything closed. I’m sure they also had a nice meal on the company as well as extra pay (the company was pretty generous in this regard).

                  My other job, I believe when they sent us home for snow days, we still got paid the full day as hourly employees.

          2. KAZ2Y5*

            Well, I don’t see it as penalizing those who chose to stay home all day (after all, they knew before they asked off that they would have to use a full day’s PTO for it) but giving something extra to those who did come in.
            And it’s totally fair to make employees use PTO for holidays if that is how their PTO system is set up. I work in the medical field and it does me no good to say that Christmas is a paid holiday and then make me work it. I have PTO hours to cover any holiday I am lucky enough not to work, and if I do have to work I still have the PTO hours to use later.

            1. EPLawyer*

              This is where I land. If the day was previously scheduled off, you knew you were losing the vacation/PTO day. But for everyone else, they should not lose the PTO because of things others, or Mother Nature, decided.

            2. Avasarala*

              I mean, sure it’s fair if they say it’s fair… I still don’t think it’s fair though. As EPLawyer says, “they should not lose the PTO because of things others, or Mother Nature, decided”–why does this apply to only people who planned to work? The reasoning is the same IMO.

          3. Mockingjay*

            During natural disasters and severe weather, local governments in the US can order a state of emergency, including mandatory evacuations. The state of emergency means that people are not permitted on the roads. Even if your company tells you to come in, legally you are required to comply with the governor’s order. Essential personnel – hospital, police, fire, utility workers – are exempted from the order.

            Most of us in the US who live in areas affected by these kinds of emergencies plan for it. Local companies also plan for it. My company is a small business and does pretty well at accommodating employees through telework, making up hours, etc. so use of leave is minimized. But as a small company, they cannot afford to pay everyone when no work is occurring during a bad storm.

          4. Samwise*

            Yeah, it drives me crazy when the governor says, stay off the roads because it’s unsafe and because you will be in the way of first responders, but the university says, classes cancelled but we’re *open* so if you can’t/don’t come in to work, you have to use a day of annual leave. (State university, too.) I now have lots of leave, although I don’t like to use it unless I *choose* too, but at one time I did not due to a family member’s illness. There were times I ended up with LOP — or I ignored the governor and drove to work.

        2. Mary*

          >> People that actually have to come in at times like that should get some benefit and I am perfectly fine with extra PTO hours being that benefit.

          That doesn’t make sense to me at all. If it’s the kind of severe weather where people are being advised to stay at home, then the company should be offering incentives to stay at home, not to come in to work! Otherwise the employers is basically offering people an incentive to put themselves in harm’s way and potentially creating more work for the emergency services.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            You say thus as if mist businesses care about those things.

            I agree with you, but the reality is that the US is a work, work, work culture.

            I mean look at OP 1…afraid to not engage in work talk in a coffee shop while off the clock because it might look like they aren’t working hard enough.

            It’s banana crackers…

          2. Samwise*

            Emergency services (= state and local govt) costs are not a direct cost to the business (maybe in the future taxes will go up and that will cost the business but it may not happen and it won’t be that much $ for any individual business).

            Injured employees is a cost to the business but the possibility that it won’t happen may be sufficient for the business to find it worth the possible cost.

            Often the weather is bad or predicted to be bad, but any individual employee may judge that it’s safe enough for them to go to work.

        3. noahwynn*

          I lived in Oklahoma through college and cannot imagine not going into work because of forecast weather. Tornadoes (unlike hurricanes) are not known days in advance and you don’t really get time to prepare. I can see delaying an hour waiting for thunderstorms to clear or waiting out bad weather at the office until you feel comfortable leaving, but not taking a whole day off.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Ah but this is the US.

        “The business of America is business.”
        -President Calvin Coolidge

        Employees are little more than serfs.
        That should give you insight to what we really value here. It sure as hell isn’t the actual people doing the work. It’s getting the most money and keeping it no matter who gets screwed in the process.

            1. Leek*

              Agreed. There are certainly things that can be improved about how employment works in the US, but it isn’t the hellscape that some commenters around here make it sound like. Also, there are aspects of employment in the US that are actually better than employment in Europe.

              1. pleaset*

                “there are aspects of employment in the US that are actually better than employment in Europe.”

                Such as?

                1. Agnes*

                  Generally things are more flexible. That often works against employees, but not always, particularly when you’re above the bottom level. For Europe, figure every complaint you have about bureaucracy in the US and multiply by about three.

                2. Leek*

                  Higher salaries for similar work, lower taxes, lower unemployment, more opportunities (both in terms of advancement and the variety of jobs available), more flexibility in general (at will employment goes both ways).

                  Obviously, these factors depend on location, education, and industry and I do think the US government should be doing more to support people at the lower end of the economic spectrum, but a lot of Americans (including me) would rather have this stuff than more vacation days and an employment contract.

              2. Mary*

                Can’t speak for the rest of Europe, but it would be incredibly unusual in the UK for an applicant to be able to schedule a job interview at a convenient time for themselves. So there’s that.

              3. londonedit*

                Mary – not in my UK experience. I mean, yes, it would be unusual to respond to an interview invitation with ‘I’m only free at 10.30am, you’ll have to interview me then or not at all’, or for an employer to bend over backwards to accommodate a candidate’s schedule, but for every job interview I’ve had, it’s been a ‘We would like to invite you in to interview; we currently have slots available at 10.30am, 1pm or 3.30pm on the 23rd, or 11am, 2pm and 3.30pm on the 24th. Please confirm which time and date are best for you’.

              4. SarahTheEntwife*

                @londonedit – that’s usually how things work in the US as well, at least for mid-level jobs (entry-level tends to be more “you will show up at 9:30 on Tuesday and be grateful for it” and with higher-level stuff there’s a bit more courting and bending over backward to get the rockstar candidate in). Maybe the differences are more field-specific?

        1. Avasarala*

          FWIW my country is also known for overwork, but different businesses handle things differently everywhere.

      3. Asenath*

        A similar thing happens with my employer, once a year. We’re supposed to work Christmas Eve. Every Christmas Eve, there’s a “surprise” announcement about mid-morning that we’ll be closed for the rest of the day (following certain holiday celebrations which aren’t compulsory. I’ve never gone to them). If we’ve taken Christmas Eve as an annual leave day, we have to take a full day. People don’t complain much – in general, our leave provisions are more generous than most (I’m in Canada; so, probably not more generous than European provisions!), so it seems like a minor point. Weather is a bit different. We cannot lose leave if the workplace is closed due to weather. Since we often have bad weather, most employers are pretty experienced at weather closures, and have policies in place. I know how and when my employer will communicate to workers and everyone else when they’re closing, when they’re re-opening, and when they’re going to make a further announcement around 11 AM for the afternoon hours. I don’t have to commute far now; at a previous job, I had generally left for work by the time their announcement was made. But in general, weather closures are handled well by my employer.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Myfirst job was similar. The owners would typically give us permission to leave early on the last working day beforeChristmas, but if you hadbokked that day it counted as a full day. Part of the rationale was that it was not a guaraneted holiday and that the time you got to go would be dependent on what needed soing. If you booked the day off you got to plan waht you were doing and could arrange to do last minute shopping / travel whatever.

          getting the ‘free’ time was a lso a perk for those who did come in on a day when lots of people might want to be off, so it was a bit of a sweetener for those who had asked and beenturned down (becuae there were already too many people off) or who had chosen to stand back and let others bookthe time off.

        2. paperpusher*

          My office is the same (not surprisingly, I’m also in Canada). I don’t mind using a full day of vacation for Christmas Eve because it allows me to be out of town for the week of Christmas. But I also don’t mind coming back to town for New Year’s Eve because I know they’ll do the same thing, and it is nice to have some “free” time off.

          I’ve never been forced to use vacation leave for weather-related closures. (Even when, like on Monday of this week, I went to the beach for the day after finding out we were closed due to a hurricane-related power outage!) That has been the case everywhere I’ve worked. Of course, you don’t get extra time off if you were already scheduled to be off that day.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I’m the same. I was off during the big eastern power outage in 2003/2004, and got charged PTO for the day I was off, but was off for another 4 days without being charged PTO.

            And I’m happy to take a full day PTO for Christmas Eve, because I want the full day off – even though I could show up in the morning and leave after an hour or two.

          2. Tigger*

            It’s funny to me that our Canadian Offices don’t have Christmas Eve off, but you get Boxing Day so it evens out I guess

        3. The Other Dawn*

          Same here with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. 99% of the time it will be announced that the company is closing several hours early. Since I know I’ll be out early, I don’t bother taking any PTO time on those days. I’m fine with going in and getting out early. Why waste the PTO when I’ll be working a half day anyway? Once in a great while I’ll take the whole day if I have family coming in or something.

        4. pleaset*

          My organization has pulled that on me. Sometimes I’ve left, sometimes I’ve told my manager – sorry, I can’t leave now, too busy and this wasn’t planned.

          Our CEO gave us some specific extra time off this summer, announcing it in a staff meeting. I said in the meeting “That’s a nice intention, but I’ve got a lot to do here these next few weeks and wish I had time off at another time of year when I need it. That would be far more valuable to me.” Not much more I could say than that. So it was nearly useless for me.

          1. Banana Bread Breakfast*

            If they’re offering, presumably they’re okay with the inevitable delay to workflow they surely must expect across the organization? Take your time off!!

            1. pleaset*

              Thanks for the suggestion – but really we’re not. Time off at the fairly last minutes means I have to do more work later.

        5. Third or Nothing!*

          We have a similar policy. This year we’re working Christmas Eve and taking the 25th and 26th off (I guess they didn’t want to work a random half day on Monday then have 2 days off). I have a ridiculous amount of PTO left to use before the end of the year, so I put in for the 23rd and 24th. I’ll lose a half day of PTO when they announce they’re closing the office at noon on the 24th, but it’s worth it to have that super long weekend with my family.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Right. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. A lot of times when I was going out of town, I’d take, say, the M-W of Thanksgiving week off. But if I didn’t plan to be out of town, I would just work through Wednesday, knowing that it was 90% likely the boss would just say “let’s take off at 2:00 today” or even at lunch time. It was a nice little benefit, but I don’t see that it should benefit the person who decided to use PTO for those three days.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I think it depends a bit on the severity of the warning. If the relevant government agency is issuing dvice that people oughtnot to travel, then I thin kthe company shouldnot be asking anyone to comein.
        However, if it is less severe and the company is saying in effect “we may have to close early if this gets worse” then I don’t think it is unreasonable to deal with it in the way the LWs company has.

        (We don’t have hurruicanes etc here (UK) but last winter when we had snow, we had one day wehre we didn’t close the office but a lot of people didn’t come in. We did not make those who didn’t come in take it as PTO or unpaid leave but we did give those who did come in, an extra day in lieu. However, this is in a scenario where most people could have come in safely with a bit of planning –

        1. Asenath*

          When I was working in a more rural area, we had a kind of catch-22. The place I worked then had weather closures at the discretion of certain managerial people at each location, and in addition, closure was automatic when the roads were officially closed. The Department of Highways said they didn’t have the authority to close roads, but maybe the police did. The police said they couldn’t officially close roads, but they could and did announce from time to time that they advised people to stay off the roads. So, officially, the roads were never closed, and we never were excused from turning up to work because the roads were bad! Unofficially, the strength of the wording of the advice from the police gave some indication of how bad things were – and if the Department of Highways announced that they were removing their equipment from the roads, conditions were REALLY bad and no one in their right mind would be driving except for drivers of emergency vehicles trying to reach extreme emergencies – but the roads still weren’t officially closed!

          So it was always up to the senior staff on site to decide. One person, unfortunately before my time, was said to be nicknamed “Two-Flake Jones” because he closed the place down when he saw two flakes of snow. They were reasonable enough in my time – although I drove through some bad conditions sometimes before I heard the announcement on my car radio. I only had to abandon my car in a snowdrift once. Everyone commuted to my location, and they did cut your pay if you didn’t show up on a day they didn’t close, however bad the weather was in the community you were commuting from.

          I like cities, and living in nice central locations that don’t require much commuting and aren’t on the bottom of the priority list for snow clearing, and working for an employer with a more generous view of snow closures. And I don’t have to drive!

      5. CheeryO*

        Strongly disagree, as someone in a super snowy area where this happens maybe once a year on average. Some people will always show up, regardless of the weather, and they shouldn’t be penalized for the office closing when they’re already at work. Just like if the bosses decide to let people go an hour early on Christmas Eve, I shouldn’t get an hour of PTO back just because I wasn’t in the office to take advantage of it.

      6. Librarian1*

        I don’t agree with this. There are plenty of situations where it isn’t the employee’s fault that they couldn’t come to work (illness, injury, kid gets sick, car won’t start, pipe bursts, etc.) where the employee is still charged PTO. I don’t think this is really different.

    3. doreen*

      It’s not about exactly about planning activities, it’s about knowing you’re off. The places where this is an issue typically don’t actually set an early closing time in advance for either holidays or weather – you get dismissed at 1 pm on Christmas Eve but you don’t know until 1 pm and you could have ended up working until 5. If I took PTO for the whole day on Christmas Eve, I can plan to sleep late, do some last-minute shopping, start cooking, get a head start on traveling. whatever. If I didn’t take PTO , I have to plan all of those things around working until 5 and I might not be able to move them around if I suddenly leave work early – I won’t be able to change my flight from 7 pm to 3 pm if I find out at 1pm that I can leave now, and if I did my baking on Dec 23 in anticipation of working till 5pm on the 24, it’s done already.

      I’m not sure there’s any way to work out PTO/office closings to everyone’s satisfaction. I work for a state agency , and we rarely close for weather. Typically, at some point after the fact a decision will be made that people who take unscheduled leave get credited back, while those with pre-planned leave don’t. I know someone who complained because she was on a two-week vacation and didn’t get that day credited although the weather had absolutely nothing to do with her being out. Another time, my agency closed due to bad weather on a Tuesday. I had an employee who was outraged- the people who didn’t come in to work on Tuesday didn’t have to use their PTO. But Tuesday was her scheduled day off and she felt she should be credited with an extra day of leave because “otherwise they get more time off than me”.

      1. Boooo capitalism*

        It’s amazing to me how capitalism has tricked people into thinking so many things that are only to their benefit actually are for our good, really. Ie this willingly sacrificing benefits (paid time off that can’t be used for actual time away from an actually working office) and things like personal use of devices, which I remember Alison saying something to the effect of “well if you don’t incur any *extra* cost, they shouldn’t have to pay you to use your resource.” – Uh, no. If you want me to do something for my job, YOU provide it.

          1. Boooo capitalism*

            Just to make sure I wasn’t falsely remembering I did a quick search and it looks like I read it in a post from 2011 about employers paying phone bills, so not a recent opinion by any means. But the gist of the post was “if you’re not going over what would already be your bill it’s fine” and in the comments clarified

            “I’m asking “what costs are you incurring as a result of this?” and you’re asking “how much money is the company saving as a result of this (not having to buy me a business cell, or whatever)?” Both are reasonable ways to approach it.”

            Just an approach I disagree with, although I recognize I might be in the minority. I don’t work in the for-profit sector and have a pretty defensive streak about separation between personal and professional.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re right! My apologies. 2011 me…

              Actually, now that I think about it, I may have said that even more recently about phones in particular, because phones are particularly weird in that a lot of people don’t want to have to carry a second phone for work. (Although I’m increasingly opposed to ever using your personal phone for work, given the problems that can lead to.) I will mull.

              1. Boooo capitalism*

                For the record I’ve always appreciated that you tend to point out “it SHOULDN’T be this way, but I’m going to offer advice based on the fact that it is,” an attitude I take towards a lot of things in life too. And also resources like this site are very valuable to people who grew up without many direct role models in non-labor roles (myself included) to help us learn professional norms (fair or not fair as they may be)

                Just to counteract what may have seemed like a nag in my earlier comment mentioning you!

              2. A*

                I’d love to see an updated opinion post on this topic! This is something I’ve changed my thoughts on over time as well. Largely because of the different role cell phones play in our lives now versus prior to smart phones / in their infancy.

        1. doreen*

          What’s kind of amazing to me is that people don’t consider long-term consequences – a business that gets too much pushback about charging people for a whole day of PTO on 12/24 when they end up closing at 1 pm can solve their problem very easily by eliminating the early closing in the future. Who does that benefit? And if my employer gets too much pushback about deciding after the fact that people don’t need to use their leave if they had an unscheduled absence due to bad weather , they simply won’t credit back any leave taken on a day when the office was open. No one benefits there either.

          1. Boooo capitalism*

            “a business that gets too much pushback about charging people for a whole day of PTO on 12/24 when they end up closing at 1 pm can solve their problem very easily by eliminating the early closing in the future. ”

            I mean, this really just supports my booo capitalism attitude. Why do we have to passively accept the bone they throw us because if we point it it’s not the right size bone, they’ll just take it away? Why is it okay for them to take it away? This is why workers have to advocate for themselves. History has proven its much easier for employers to just pretend theres not humans behind their workforce if we don’t speak out.

      2. Samwise*

        I had a job some years ago where the supervisor would send everyone home midday on the day before a holiday, and then will stay til 5, because their supervisor would not allow the office to be closed.

        1. Anchee*

          That’s a really kind thing to do and is generally very appreciated by direct reports in places that can’t just “close”.

          In my previous life on the operations side of the newspaper business another manager and I would take turns being the person to stay on so we could send our staff home early prior to a holiday. Or occasionally a team member would volunteer to stay and we’d let them take some flex time later. It worked well and fostered a lot of goodwill.

      3. Avasarala*

        Again though, I’ve never seen this work in the employee’s favor. If I decide to take tomorrow afternoon off, I charge it to my PTO. If I decide at 1pm that day to take the afternoon off, I have to charge that time to my PTO. The company got the “benefit” of “knowing I would be working” during that time, so shouldn’t I not have to use PTO for it?

        It’s like flex time for salaried workers where if you work overtime you’re not paid for it, but you’re deducted if your hours are less than 40 for the week. This is apparently legal even though “flex time” only benefits the employer.

        I think the only fair way to do this is that if the employee decides to leave, charge them PTO. If the employer decides to close and send everyone home, don’t charge them (and either it’s paid leave for everyone or unpaid for everyone, and people can choose to use PTO if they want to be paid). Don’t do it based on “when” the decision was made, but “by whom.”

        After all in your example if that employee had decided to cancel her time off and come back for that one day, she wouldn’t have been able to work because the office was closed. So I think it’s fair to question why she is being charged an extra day of leave than everyone else.

      4. JamieS*

        We’re not talking about a special circumstances like Christmas Eve or some other holiday where it’s foreseeable people will need advanced notice for things they normally wouldn’t need advanced time for such as cooking a meal. We’re talking about someone taking off on a normal Tuesday and being charged PTO when it winds up everyone got that Tuesday off anyway. It’s especially galling to me because it sounds like a lot of people took the day off because of the weather and are essentially being penalized. As opposed to someone taking a personal day which is more what you described.

        When someone takes PTO and the office is open there’s cost to the company in terms of losing man-power, work being delayed, etc. When everyone gets the time off there’s no additional cost to the company by someone taking those hours off in advance so there’s no real harm in just letting that day be a wash.

        If it were something like someone taking 2 weeks off and one of those days the office happens to close then I can see the logic behind having the employee take all 2 weeks as PTO because the company has to plan around the entire 2 weeks not just a singular day so there’s still a cost. Although even then I don’t think it’d be wrong to not charge the day just more reasonable if it were charged.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      Two years ago my city was underwater because of Hurricane Harvey. Almost no one could get to the office. Well, unfortunately for all of us, the owners of the company could, they live only couple blocks away.
      Since the company was technically open, everyone who could not make it, either had to use PTO, or if they didn’t have any (they are also PTO cheap, surprise!) had to go without pay. Yes, salaried folks too. And for us, very minimal work can be done remotely – not due to the nature of the job, but due to company inefficiency.
      So that fostered a lot of goodwill feelings /s.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Too add couple things – this made people to spend over 4 hours in traffic every day just to get to the office (the city was basically cut in half by the flooding), in order to get paid.
        In contrast, my previous employer (large multi-national), paid to people who had to miss work due to Hurricane Ike, provided hot breakfasts for the first 3 weeks after (people were without power for weeks), and gave all kinds of accommodations. That place was constantly ranked one of the top 40 places to work in the region.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        A woman I’m kind of friendly with works for a company that pays a portion of her rent if she lives within a specific radius of the office. I lived in New York City when I met her. When Hurricane Sandy hit, she and many of her co-workers had absolutely no problem getting into work because hey, they could all walk! She simply could not understand why the traffic and transit problems that ensued were such a huuuuuge and giant deal because people should ALL live within walking distance of their offices, dontcha know! She offered this opinion during a party at my home (to which a lot of people very kindly schlepped in from Brooklyn) and I believe our friendship fizzled right then and there. To this day, she is the only person to whom I would love to say, on a regular basis, “Check your privilege.”

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I can sort of see it in your example? But in Houston majority of people do not live anywhere close to their offices, plus, after 3 days and 50″ or rain most roads were literally inpassable.
          Yet, the owners had this “but I made it here, why can’t you, what, you house has no roof? That’s sucks, but why aren’t you at work?” attitude.
          People quit afterwords.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            That was my point. :) Perhaps I should have added a sarcasm tag! My point was that in NYC, a lot of people do not live within walking distance of their jobs, so the issues with transit were a massive deal. And this person simply did not get it, because she has the same mentality as your bosses.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              Got it!
              I also had customers asking how come we haven’t shipped their orders yet.
              1. Have you seen the news?
              2. Well, my warehouse is under water, so your product might be slightly wet, is it OK with you?

      3. Avasarala*

        Good point! It is unnecessarily harsh and often coincides with other anti-employee or ungenerous policies.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I think it’s also, “we’re giving you this time off [weather or early closing] as a kindness. It’s not an official part of your compensation the way time-off is. And you don’t get to use my kindness against me by trying to translate it into compensation.”

      it’s kind of like, you give your friend’s kid a drum set because his dad died and you want to help him in some way. Then he decides he doesn’t need it anymore, and he tries to sell it back to you.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        It’s only kindness when it’s done as kindness and not as “I can’t make you come in because it’s literally impossible, fine, guess I won’t fire you.”
        The same owner was really peeved when the building lost power and they were told they had to pay us for that day, since we were “able and willing to work”, vs the other day around.

      2. JamieS*

        It’s not “using it against them”, which is a very odd and adversarial way to think about it, to not be charged for a day the office is closed.. At most it’s moving the PTO day the employee would normally be charged for to another day same as everyone else who didn’t take off in advance. Also it’s not really a “kindness”. For profit companies aren’t selfless charities, they do things that will ultimately benefit them. Some of those things just happen to also benefit their employees as well.

        As for your drum example, which isn’t really a good analogy since it’s a gift and not the cost for a service received like employee compensation is, the kid has every right to sell the drum set that he now owns. Unless the original gift-giver is somehow being forced to buy it back or the kid lied to get the drum set or some other nefarious act occurred the kid isn’t taking advantage of anyone.

  6. HA2*

    #2 – it’s a little weird, but it’s in your favor. You don’t have to say that you were fired, and they’ll back you up on that. If you include the role on your resume and are asked about it, you can say something about how it mutually turned out to be a bad fit, or something.

    Maybe they do it this way because in the probationary period, they’re letting themselves be more lax with not keeping people on? Like, if someone’s fired outside of the probationary period, they might have to have a good reason, and document why, and have gone through a PIP, and so on. Whereas in the probationary period, they’re willing to let people go without giving them second chances, since they figure they haven’t invested much in them yet. So they don’t want to say people were fired “for cause” if they’re not putting in the work to justify the cause internally.

    #4 – depends on a few things. First is the turnover rate. In some places, 10 years is a super long time, there’s going to have been a lot of turnover, and so nobody’s going to remember much about you besides what the company records say. Second is the actual reason you were fired. If it was something about performance, people might be open to evidence that you will do better now; especially if there’s an easy way in the interview to assess whether you’ve improved. On the other hand, if it was something about ethics, or about not getting along with people (character), or other soft skills that can’t be tested in an interview, then they might think it’s a huge risk to rehire you without knowing you’ve resolved the issues.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting in an application. It’s possible that your application will get tossed immediately, but that can happen for a myriad of reasons to any application at any company, so why not try?

    If you apply, you should definitely write a cover letter that emphasizes your growth over the last 10 years. You don’t have to explicitly say “here’s how I’ve resolved the issues I had the last time I worked here”, but you want the cover letter to give off the impression that you’re a lot better than you were 10 years ago.

    1. tamarack & fireweed*

      I was thinking the same on #4. In a previous job, there was so much turnover and change over the last 10 years that “having been dismissed 10 years ago” would not have precluded giving a candidate a chance if it was for someone with a skillset the company was actively looking out for. (Maybe less for a position with a glut of well-qualified applicants, where even one strike against you could have been one too many.) Also, the people in charge didn’t have a high opinion of the people in charge back then. OTOH, if this is in a very stable organization with robust processes your chances would probably take a hit.

      I also agree with emphasizing growth and demonstrating maturity and self-awareness in your cover letter. Without saying it explicitly you want to get across that you weren’t quite a fully mature professional 10 years ago, but you are now. Don’t set high hopes onto the application, but it can’t hurt to throw your hat in.

      1. Washi*

        I agree with all of this, and I think the fact that the OP was likely quite young (“my very first job”) will work in her favor. Not that it definitely won’t be a problem, but I do think it’s worth applying.

        The only other thing I would say for the OP is to make sure you’ve thought carefully about not just what work tasks you weren’t succeeding in, but what was your attitude like at the time? Someone who was pleasant to work with, took feedback well, but wasn’t meeting work targets will be remembered very differently from someone who was openly resentful of being asked to do more. If your attitude was lacking (not saying it was! But it’s a common issue) I think you need to be ready to talk about that and show that you’ve learned how to handle things more professionally since.

      2. Anonym*

        My very large employer only keeps records up to 7 years. In some places there are laws that dictate how long records can be kept (or must be). Someone coming back at 10 years functionally has a clean slate.

        1. Jadelyn*

          This. Alison mentioned that OP might be marked as ineligible for rehire in their systems, but that will depend ENTIRELY on what systems they use and how long they’ve used those systems. If they’ve changed their HRIS in the past 10 years, eligibility for rehire might not be one of the flags that got imported across between the old system and the new system, or they might not have opted to bring in their termed EEs at all (since most HRIS’s, you pay on a per-record basis, so terminated EEs count toward your bill as well as active EEs).

          At my org, we’ve only got two people in HR who’s been here longer than 5 years, our former EE files get sent to deep storage after 3 years, and we went through a pretty messy HRIS migration a few years ago on top of it. So someone who was gone 10 years ago who applied would, as you say, basically have a clean slate. No one remembers them, their file is lost to the depths of some warehouse where we’d have to pay to get it back out, and their termination details wouldn’t have come across in the migration.

    2. Odd Termination OP*

      It’s definitely in my favor and I was already saying it just isn’t a right fit in the interviews I’ve had over the two week period. Just thought it was odd and various people in my life also thought it was odd. I was curious to see if it was just we had never encountered this professionally yet or if it wasn’t in the norm

  7. Zombie Unicorn*

    #3 It’s great that you’re thinking about this and recognising that it’s better to avoid those subjective claims.

    However, I would just be a bit careful about highlighting your speed of working – make sure you only mention it if it seems relevant to the role. Working quickly can be great, but in some jobs working very fast can mean you’re rushing and not prioritising or not paying attention to detail. So depending on the job, it might be good to elaborate a bit and also mention things like accuracy. Otherwise someone might read this as ‘rushed through test cases’.

    It really depends on the job. But doing tasks quickly may not be your best selling point, especially if you don’t qualify it with other information.

    1. Psyche*

      I was thinking the same thing! If I saw a resume or cover letter highlighting how fast they were, I would be worried that they valued speed over quality and were doing sloppy work.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Especially in quality testing, where taking the time to notice and investigate results that are outliers or seem to be a variant from the norm can be incredibly important (depending on the thing being tested). Someone running 40 test-to-failure sets who doesn’t notice that 10 of them returned results outside the expected parameters isn’t a more valuable employee than someone who runs 30 and takes the time to make sure the results are consistent.

      2. Door Guy*

        Accuracy is huge. I’ve worked with “look how fast I am” coworkers and the ones that were legitimately speedy were so because they knew the job inside and out, backwards and forwards, and knew exactly how to optimize what they were doing. A select few did pick that up quickly, but in most cases every worker who tried to be “fast” only succeeded in making more work as we had to correct things that were missed, or done only partially.

        I always remind my new hires that I don’t expect them to be an all-star right out of the gate, I expect them to take their time and learn how to do it right, and speed will (typically) come naturally as they get better at their job.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Make sure you list your accuracy too. Not just “Did testing 40% faster than my peers” but “tested 40% faster with X amount of accuracy” if your accuracy rate was at least average and definitely if it was above average.

      As others said, its not about how fast you are, it’s how accurate you are. Doesn’t matter if you are the fastest if all has to be redone by someone else because its wrong.

  8. Zombie Unicorn*

    #5 I know it’s frustrating not being able to use your PTO the way you want, but it’s not being docked – you’ve been able to take the time, so you’ve used it.

    1. German Girl*

      I think it very much depends on how much PTO you get.

      I get 0.5 per month per workday so 12*0.5*5=30 a year for a full-time job, so I don’t mind having to spend 5-10 of them when we close for the holidays and similar occasions. For example, German unification day, a federal holiday, is a thursday this year and the company expects that most people will want to take the friday off, so to make it easier for everyone involved and avoid disputes over who gets to take PTO and who has to cover the day they made the friday a mandatory PTO day for everyone. Of course whether that’s possible is very much dependent on what your company actually does, but it works for mine. These mandatory PTO days are announced at the beginning of the year so everybody has time to plan.

      I also know some companies (Volkswagen being one of them) who will put almost all staff on mandatory PTO for three weeks in the summer and one week over Christmas break – but then people still have two weeks of PTO left to do with as they please, so I think it’s reasonable and makes it much easier to schedule so much PTO.

      But if I only had 10 days a year, I’d hate to not have full control over them.

  9. rudster*

    Probably whoever told the LW that was simply using it as a synonym for ‘kind/compassionate’ and not in an explicitly religious sense.
    LW should also check whether ‘not being fired’ will affect her eligibility for unemployment compensation, though I suspect she might not be in the US. “Probationary periods” are more common in other countries, where some provisions/protections of the employment agreement may not come into full effect for a brief initial term, after which it becomes much more difficult to dismiss an employee. In the US’ at-will system, a “probationary period” is largely pointless since anyone can be terminated at any time for any legal reason.

    1. LGC*

      Well…legally, you’re right. But I think even in the US, a LOT of companies require more formal processes once you’ve passed probation (for example, progressive discipline) for termination outside of layoffs. It sounds like that’s what happened with LW2, where they got let go before they were made a full employee.

      (I also suspect LW2 is inexperienced in the workforce, based on the question. Like a lot of other people, 90% of the setup didn’t seem that odd to me – except for running what they say in interviews through them first.)

      1. Odd Termination OP*

        Hi I’m the OP! When I say Christian nature I do actually mean Christian. The company I worked for was very openly Christian. The job was by no means my first but the first outside of a long stint with another company who handles terminations vastly differently and also has a longer probationary period! I’m just not quite used to this level of secrecy. People knew when people were asked to leave or if they were mutual or etc.

        1. LGC*

          Ah, I missed that on the first pass! But…I actually don’t think it’s a Christian thing.

          I don’t think they handled your termination well at all, by the way. (I’m using “termination” instead of “firing” because the latter term is loaded.) But it didn’t seem overly unusual to me, just like they were trying to make themselves feel better about it.

  10. RUKiddingMe*

    OP1 it’s really ok to not want to work all the time, 24/7. It’s really ok to not want to “talk shop” when you’re not actually in “the shop.”

    Even if you are salaried it’s ok to have a personal life that does not include diving into work discussions off the clock just because you happen to run into a coworker.

    It’s not about working “less hard” it’s about having a life where you work in order to live, not the other way around.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. And I don’t think it’s necessary to need to make up some silly comeback for why they don’t want to talk about work outside of work. Yes I think about work stuff when I’m home, but I don’t want to…my time is my time, and it’s okay to tell your colleague that you simply don’t want to discuss it outside of the office. If they take that as “work less hard” then that’s on them and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

      1. MissBliss*

        Except that there is something that can be done about it– a friendly response, like one of the ones Alison or LarsTheRealGirl suggested, gently letting the colleague that OP has to work with closely on challenging projects know “I need my coffee.”

        1. Banana Bread Breakfast*

          I used to work somewhere with awful personal / professional separation (for no reason I might add, it was not a deadline based job nor did anyone’s lives depend on working overtime) and a coworker at one point repeatedly contacted me on a day off – first by my personal cell phone, then email, then text, multiple times each method just to tell me something work related. It was not something I needed to know on a day off, and even if I did know, there was nothing I would or even could I wanted to do about it until the next time I worked.

          I told them not aggressively but squarely “Unless it is something that requires I call in or come in on a day off [essentially nothing in my field] I do not want or need to be contacted outside of the office.” The coworker accepted it and we got over the possibly awkward sternness of it in about 20 seconds. There’s nothing rude about advocating for yourself.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I never said nothing can be done about it. I was referring to their possible reaction – “If they take that as “work less hard” then that’s on them and there’s really nothing you can do about it.” You can’t control how others react to a legitimate boundary.

  11. LGC*

    LW1: you SHOULD feel free to “shut down their enthusiasm!” At least, in my opinion anyway. But I don’t know, I’m REALLY into boundaries right now.

    Okay, so, seriously. I’m not sure what you do, but I think that in most jobs it’s reasonable to not always be “on.” At the minimum, you’re allowed to say, “let me get back to you on that when we’re in the office.” Repeat as needed.

    Also, maybe I’m reading into this, but it seems like you’re judging yourself for not wanting to talk shop on your commute, and that you should be able or willing to think about work on command. You seem…pretty much fine. You have a reasonable boundary between work and the rest of your life. It’s not a big deal, at least to me.

    (I relate to your coworker though! I tend to think my best when I’m on the train. I’ve probably annoyed my own mother a bit because I’m a pivot table nerd (she also does analytics). I’m trying to put in better boundaries for myself, though.)

  12. Thankful for AAM*

    OP#1 I’d be that person talking about work at inappropriate times. Work would be my default small talk. It would help me to hear what you said in your letter, “I do better with this stuff when I’m at work and have all the relevant info in front of me.”

    1. Door Guy*

      I do it too. I’m getting better now that I’ve changed jobs and my work/life balance has improved. It’s hard to talk about other things when you work 12+ hours a day 6 days a week.

      I hung out with a coworker a few times at a previous job and the moment something work related came out of my mouth he shut it down with a “I don’t talk about work outside of work”. Changed topics and still had a good time.

  13. Bagpuss*

    OP#1 – I agree with Alison and all of the other commenters saying it is entirely reasonable to not want to talk about work when you are not at work.
    Another thing to conside ris whether there are any aspects of your job which are confidential or potentially sensitve, as that can add another reason why it is not OK to talk about it when you are out in public.

    But even of that isn’t the case, it’s entirely reasonable and appropriate to say “Lets not talk shop – but I’d be happy to discuss this with you whjen we’re both back in the office and have access to any relevant documetns and notes / have access to the file”

    Since it is one coworker that is doing this a lot, I thnk you can also have a conversation ith them where you say something along the lines of “I’ve notices that you often bring up work-related ideads and suggestions when we bump into each other around town. It’sreally important to be able to levae work behind when I am not in the office, it means I come back fresher and work more effectively, so I would really appreiacate it if you don’t bring up work projects when we bmp into each other – I’m not in ‘work mode’ in those situations. “

    1. nonymous*

      What has worked for me is also expressing a bit of positivity for the other person’s efforts and/or being specific about when you will talk next. So if coworker is going on about all her new ideas, something like “I think this is a great line of thought! Let’s work it out in detail after staff meeting Monday so we can be sure to get details tracked in Project Management tool. ” And then change the topic.

  14. just trying to help*

    #1 – I’ve been in this situation. Steer the conversation to a topic outside of work (e.g., plans for the weekend, concerts, sports, etc) and tell the person “let’s pick up that topic on Monday, OK?”. Ask them what their plans are during the off hours as well – most people like to talk about themselves and take the cue.

  15. S-Mart*

    OP1, depending on the nature of your work and where exactly you’re bumping into coworker, something along the lines of “let’s wait to discuss this until we’re away from being overheard by people who haven’t signed an NDA” could work (could be phrased better – but my own coffee is still kicking in). Personally I don’t mind talking work outside the building on occasion, but I have to be much more careful what I talk about so that nonpublic information isn’t potentially out there.

  16. Sienna*

    #1 – Is your work proprietary in any way? I’ve been on projects where the work was highly proprietary, or had very sensitive aspects to them, and when I bumped into a coworker at say, the local deli at lunch and they launched into Sensitive Work Project #1 and Proprietary Project #2 I’ve cut them off with “we should discuss this further in the office. How about after lunch, say 1pm?” Reminding them to not discuss project details out in the general public might deter them from doing it further. But again, only if your work is sensitive. Which, one could argue in a way, depending on how competitive their industry is.

  17. TheTomatoInUrFruitSalad*

    #5 makes me realize how lucky I am to work in an office that, when they decide to close early, emails the whole office and suggests that people with PTO modify their leave request so it’s not the full day. That with an already generous leave policy and not tracking sick time makes taking time off a lot less stressful.

    1. Door Guy*

      I worked at a place that would get creative with how they applied your PTO in a good way. They’d play with the schedule (you had to have requests in before it was made for the next month) to get you maximum days off for minimum PTO usage (we were salary). Was able to stretch 3 days of PTO into a 4 day weekend, a 5 day weekend, and another 4 day weekend.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah…if someone is on PTO on a disaster day that we close down for weather, we toss their PTO form and just mark them down as paid since everyone else is being paid.

      But I also lobbied for the use of PTO in hour increments because ef taking 4 hours at a time and also the fact that lots of time people leave for an appointment and drop off those 4 hours. Only to readily make up an hour or two with their other 4 days. I’m not charging them 4 hours flat, I’m charging them for actual time out of office and helping them squirrel it away for that rainy day that may come up.

  18. Jamie*

    Just a thought OP 1, you may be doing your co-worker a favor by not wanting to talk about work.

    I don’t run into co-workers outside of work, but if I did I’d be the one mentioning something work related because it’s my comfort zone. For me work talk is the only thing that keeps social awkwardness at bay and it’s something I really have to watch even with people in my personal life who couldn’t care less about my job.

    Yes, I am a lot of fun at parties!

    But yeah – it’s definitely not a big deal to shut it down nicely and I’m one of those people who would feel bad for starting it and definitely take the cue to stop.

    1. Cranky Neighbot*

      Me too. :) I am perhaps not great at small talk and I’ll just grasp for the most obvious thing we have in common, which is work. Just change the subject to something you’d rather talk about. Isn’t the new seasonal coffee at this shop great?

  19. CupcakeCounter*

    At the coffee shop: Hold up your hand with a dazed look on your face. “Whoa…you just scrambled my brain! Not firing on all cylinders yet due to a coffee shortage in my veins. Hold that thought and I will stop by your deck once I can comprehend words that aren’t coffee or caffeine.”

    Grocery Store: “Can you shoot me that in an email? I’ll never remember the full gist of the idea right now and it sounds like something we should definitely discuss in more detail at work tomorrow. I’ll throw a meeting on our calendar for after lunch so I have time to read through your idea and see how it fits with what we’ve already done.”

    Restaurant/bar: “No worky with winey.”

    Actually your best bet is to just bring it up WHILE at work and say that you really try to disconnect from work while out and about town and since they usually have really great ideas that require some thought and analysis it makes it hard to prevent work from creeping in on the off time.

  20. Sr QA Engineer*

    LW3: From the perspective of a midcareer software QA professional, just executing on test cases is kind of the bare minimum of what constitutes QA, and if I were interviewing you, praising yourself for speed is an orange flag for me, or at least a dead giveaway that you’re pretty junior. Quick learning in this field often means demonstrating knowledge of the product at a level that allows you to contribute solid test cases, consult on the architecture of your test suite (not necessarily the technical architecture but how test cases are recorded and organized), enter bug reports that may be more gray-area and are taken seriously (“this button placement is bad UX” as opposed to “clicking this button crashes the program”), or building a reputation as a subject-matter expert on your team or other teams.

    Additionally, highlighting the effectiveness of your bug communication and advocacy is to your benefit – how long after you put in reports are they resolved? Are you able to follow up with the production team? Do they reach out to you for questions or are your reports thorough enough they don’t need to? Have you helped create documentation of any kind? These also show quick learning, thoroughness, and adaptability.

    QA is a great field to be in but a lot of the skills that benefit it the most ARE soft skills that are harder to demonstrate on a resume. I had a lot of the same issues as you starting out. Emphasizing my communication and critical thinking have served me the best in interviews, as well as having a few stories in my back pocket about weird or counterintuitive bugs I investigated successfully – those stories demonstrate the ability to rapidly learn the landscape of a product, the logic behind it, and the scope of the issue, which is where quick learning in QA is the most important.

    1. Jamie*

      Funny how we read the letters from our own fields – as a QA professional in manufacturing I read QA tester as testing parts…test cases for UL certification, etc. In which case the measurable of how quickly the NCF is resolved can never be a testers KPI as that’s entirely out of their hands. Ditto documentation.

      I kind of wish I’d gone into software QA back in the day (was IT before QA) – a little jealous.

      1. Sr QA Engineer*

        Ha, yeah, I actually went back to add the clarification that I’m in software because it’s such a different world! If OP is in manufacturing they should ignore basically everything I said, and same with game QA to a certain extent.

        Frankly I hate KPIs as applied to testers in general because I’ve yet to find one that accurately assesses skill at the role; they almost always speak more accurately to something out of QA’s hands or incentivize poor testing practices.

  21. a clockwork lemon*

    LW2 – This doesn’t actually read as that strange to me; my partner actually had a similar experience in his first job (working as a public defender). It ultimately wasn’t a good fit for a number of reasons, and he was let go a few days before his probation was set to end. My partner’s probationary period was six months, so there were things he’d done and skills he’d picked up during that time period and wanted to include on his resume, and his supervisors did a similar thing. He came up with his own narrative for why he left when probation ended, got to include his brief stint as a public defender on his resume, and his supervisors weren’t stuck trying to figure out a way to say “he’s a good attorney who’s not very good at this particular niche practice.”

    It sounds like something similar happened to you, and they’re asking you to let them know what you plan to tell people in interviews so that they can say “yup, LW worked here and ultimately we agreed when they felt that X, Y, and Z made it a poor fit for a long-term job.” All that said, for 90 days it’s probably not worth putting the job on your resume unless there’s a very compelling reason.

    1. Odd Termination OP*

      I’m coming to learn this is a much more common practice than I thought. I think I learned some fairly valuable skills in my three months there so I don’t want to not include it. I also don’t want to lie on my resume and say I wasn’t employed for three months. I’ve already had some interviews and I just said that I think the industry that job was in wasn’t the right fit for me (which is very true. I’m aware I won’t take another job in that industry)

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Fair enough, so if you need it, I hope you can agree on the wording. But just to clarify, it’s actually not “lying” to leave a three-month job off your resume. Now, if someone asks you “What were you doing during those three months?” it would be lying to say “Nothing” or “Working on my master’s” or “taking care of my grandmother.” But almost certainly no one will ask because three months isn’t very long in resume time.

        1. valentine*

          I also don’t want to lie on my resume and say I wasn’t employed for three months.
          You’ll want to include it if asked for a full and complete work history. Leaving it off your résumé is fine, though, especially if you only want to mention the skills, which you can list separately.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Resumes aren’t an all inclusive list of every job held. So please don’t think leaving it off would be lying if you had wanted to try to bury that 3 months.

    2. londonedit*

      I had a similar thing, back in the mists of time. I’d jumped out of one frying pan into a job that turned out to be nothing like I’d expected, and it didn’t go well. I’m in the UK, where you can only be fired for doing something pretty awful, or for being appallingly bad at your job with a lot of evidence and procedure to back that up, and consequently people know that if you have ‘fired from a job’ in your history, it’s going to look like serious business. So, one day after a few months in the job my boss called me into her office and asked me how everything was going. I said ‘Er…well…’ and she said ‘It’s not great, is it?’ From there we had quite a candid conversation about how I totally hated the job and they really didn’t think I was working out either, my boss said OK, well if you’d like to resign then we’ll pay you a month’s salary as a goodwill gesture, and there we go. I got out, they got rid of me, and I’d resigned instead of being fired. I think we all knew we were at fault in some way – I should have spoken up, they should have been clear on what they wanted, there was some other situational stuff that wasn’t ideal. So me agreeing to bugger off was the best course of action all round.

      1. Odd Termination OP*

        I mean ultimately I think it’s for the best because I was aware that a few things as a whole about the company and work culture didn’t sit well with me. It was an interesting learning experience but it’s time to go

  22. voyager1*

    LW4: Depending in what you were fired for, there is a chance you are still eligible to be rehired. My experience is with big banks mostly, but to be fired and ineligible for rehire you have to do something pretty bad. With many of the tellers, having drawers that were short, would do it.

    A funny example one CSR in a call center that I worked with changed a customer’s name on a credit card so when it was reissued it had something inappropriate. To be fair the customer was a total B but you can’t change names to reflect that on accounts.

    I say go ahead and apply, what are you out other then time.

    1. Clisby*

      Agreed. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get the job. You definitely won’t get it if you don’t apply.

  23. k*

    The “fast learner” answer is interesting, because this is one of my strengths, but the ways in which I’ve demonstrated it can be interpreted in ways that reflect poorly on me. What do you do if that’s the case?

    For instance, a recent project of mine required me to use a programming language that I had never used before, and to have one month to finish. I picked up enough of it to finish the project, and it turned out well. But the obvious question becomes “well, why did you take on this project with a programming language you didn’t know?”, to which the answer is “I didn’t mention the fact that I didn’t know it.” So while this is fairly concrete evidence of my being a fast learner, it also involves my, if not lying exactly, omitting an important part of the truth.

    1. Jady*

      The answer to “why did you take on this project with a programming language you didn’t know?” is “I was confident I could do so and finish in time. I was successful in doing so, and I enjoyed the challenge and the change to learn new skills.”

      This isn’t a bad thing. It shows skill and initiative, and you should absolute be proud of that. It’s a big deal to pick up a programming language that fast and show quality results for it.

      If you had your choice of languages and picked one you didn’t know, you might add in why you thought one language would be more beneficial than the other, but lots of times the tools required or provided don’t give you the options.

    2. anonagain*

      “But the obvious question becomes “well, why did you take on this project with a programming language you didn’t know?””

      Is that the obvious question? I wouldn’t have thought so.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. I usually assume that project-based work involves some element of assignment. Even volunteering to do something comes from a place of, “This needs to get done,” so someone has to do it. I appreciate it when people meet challenges by learning what they need to know to do a project, because, as stated above, that shows initiative and intellectual curiosity as well as a willingness to get the job done even if it’s challenging.

        Full disclosure: one of my current workplace pet peeves is, “I don’t know how to do that so I’m not going to try.” I hear that way too much.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t have many projects where someone asks me “hey do you know this?” before tossing it at me. So I’m baffled at the idea it looks bad because you should have made it known you had to go self teach yourself a new language to do a project.

      The problem is only if you took it and failed at it because you decided to fumble through it without the ability to figure the language out.

      It doesn’t look bad at all. Unless it’s the norm to only accept projects based on absolute knowledge of the language involved.

  24. Fabulous*

    #4 – Regardless of the turnover rate (as other people have mentioned) I’d still apply again, and definitely mention your first go-around in your cover letter explaining how you’ve grown. Maybe something like this:

    “I had the pleasure of working at Llama, Inc. ten years ago as my first job out of college, and I jump at the chance to return. I have grown exponentially as a professional Llama Wrangler since my last stint and can’t wait to bring my newfound skills and enthusiasm to this role. I have learned many things upon parting ways, including the importance of X and Y. Please extend me the opportunity to prove my abilities and passion for your company.”

    1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      This, also if you know anyone still in the company, it might be worth contacting them for a reconnect/networking lunch/conversation. I don’t have the social skills to give a suggestion on how it would go, but the goal would be to feel out how the place is doing, and admitting that you made mistakes while you were there. That way if asked they might be able to give a more positive reference.

  25. RussianInTexas*

    OP2, one thing that stuck out for me was the company did not notify the clients that you were leaving. This is terrible. Ask me how I know.
    I am in customer support. My coworker, a peer, left two weeks ago. My company (small manufacturer/distributor) had no transition plan, they did not ask her (she left on good terms, was relocating) to notify the customers, they claim there is no way to monitor her e-mails, nor there is a way to set an automatic response redirecting their e-mails to someone else (me).
    So now I get angry calls from customers that their orders apparently gone to a black hole. I was yelled at on the phone by two separate people yesterday, and they 100% had a reason to be upset with the company. *
    *doesn’t mean I enjoy being yelled at.

    1. Odd Termination OP*

      Thankfully at least we all were required to have all of our info easily accessible so the emails being sent to me can still be accessed. They said they would just tell my clients Monday (that just passed) that I left. I know I would still feel some type of way as a client if the person I was working closely with didn’t tell me they were leaving.

  26. RussianInTexas*

    OP:5, re: hurricane.
    Two years ago my city was underwater because of Hurricane Harvey. Almost no one could get to the office. Well, unfortunately for all of us, the owners of the company could, they live only couple blocks away.
    Since the company was technically open, everyone who could not make it, either had to use PTO, or if they didn’t have any (they are also PTO cheap, surprise!) had to go without pay. Yes, salaried folks too. And for us, very minimal work can be done remotely – not due to the nature of the job, but due to company inefficiency.
    So that fostered a lot of goodwill feelings /s.

  27. The Photographer's Husband*

    OP #3, coming from a QA background as well, I’d definitely want to temper your ‘I’m a fast tester’ bullet point with something about the quality of your work. I’ve interviewed and overseen plenty of fast testers, but if they’re not catching defects, then that’s worse than being slow and more thorough.

    If you still have the data around your test runs, can you look up how many defects you found compared to your team? What level of severity they were? Did you collaborate with the developers to resolve them? Did you make suggestions about UX or UI as you were testing, or did you take initiative to test and report defects outside of your original requirements and test cases?

    Those are all things I’d be interested in hearing as an interviewer.

  28. Jady*


    I work in software QA too. I’ve interviewed a lot of people and seen a lot of resumes. Couple of tips:

    Speed is great but actually means little on a resume (in my opinion). A person can walk through test steps really fast, but not actually provide any value because they’re taking shortcuts or not investigating other suspicious things they notice along the way. If I were your boss, my question wouldn’t be “is someone else doing your work” it would be “are you actually testing anything or just going through the motions”.

    For a manual tester, your effectiveness is the important part. I’d rather have someone execute 1 test per day and finds 5 (real) bugs, vs someone who executes 10 and misses 1 bug. Do you have anything valuable to list on this? Did you find X% more issues than others?

    Being a fast learner is great, how did this help you do your job better? Were you able to develop new test cases because you identified areas lacking? Were you able to make existing test cases more efficient? Did you find ways to speed up the testing process without sacrificing quality? Were your test cases maintainable long-term?

    Did you utilize any tools or automation? What kinds of testing have you done (SQL, API, blackbox, whitebox, etc)?

  29. Applesauced*

    PTO around the holidays – the certainty of having the day off means using PTO, that’s fine.
    I take issue with companies forcing PTO use when it’s unsafe (like a state of emergency) or impossible due to weather. That seems kind of like a d*ck move.

  30. Tortuga Jones*

    LW1, you’ve gotten a lot of good scripts for how to divert this person’s constant work conversations! I just wanted to add a note to the conversation. Are you making yourself available to have these types of open idea conversations with your coworker at work? It’s possible that she’s approaching you about these things outside the office because time at work is taken up with day to day tasks and she can’t find an opening for a deeper discussion. This is assuming that having these types of big picture/idea conversations is part of your work, but if they are you might want to double-check that you are finding places in your schedule to talk about them with her.
    Otherwise, proceed with the diversion tactics recommended here!

  31. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    #2 When the former coworker reached out did they say the company specifically said you “quit,” or was it more an announcement that “OP is no longer with us” vague type of language and the coworkers are making assumptions. My organization never says “quit” or “fired” in an announcement… just “no longer here, so-and-so will be the interim contact person” because that’s the important part to the coworkers and clients and isn’t a lie. I imagine that when they offered to go along with anything you say, they meant more in the general sense and not an elaborate detailed explanation like family emergency: if you say that you were laid off (or quit) they won’t out you as being fired. That seems like a normal thing to offer.

    1. Odd Termination OP*

      She asked me did I leave because I wasn’t happy or did I get a better opportunity. So not sure if they said I left of my own accord or just said I left in general with no implications of a “termination” on their end. I mean I’m sure they meant they would just corroborate that I left of my own volition since I wasn’t going to craft an elaborate excuse. I’ve just been saying the company and I weren’t a good fit!

  32. Banker chick*

    Re: closing early for weather/holidays. At my company, if THEY decide to close early, start late or close entirely, if you made it to work(or in the case of closing all day- were scheduled to work-no planned PTO or regular day off) you would get paid for the full day scheduled without having to use PTO. Some would whine why should they use a full day PTO when everyone else didn’t. As mentioned the people with the day off already weren’t under the same stress as everyone else. They KNEW they could sleep in or not have to dig their car out or whatever. So I think it is entirely fair. One day a blizzard hit on my regular day off. And we closed. My Dh wanted to know if I would get paid and did it understand why I wouldn’t. It certainly didn’t bother me and I was glad for my coworkers. But I didn’t have to deal with the stress they did, wondering if I would have to go in.

    For Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve , we always close a couple hours early. And, so long as you work those days, you get paid for the couple hours we leave early. If you are on PTO, you get charged full day PTO. Some people want to whine about that and are told if they want to work those days, they will get the extra hours. It is a perk for people working those days. But some people just don’t get it.

  33. Noah*

    It seems very odd that a company can charge you PTO during a period of time that they would not allow you to work.

    If they can do this, why can’t they say: “We’re going to be closed next Tuesday, and you are all going to have to take a day of PTO. Cheers.”

  34. Some dude on the Internet*

    Re. no. 4:

    Every company has different policies, but simply being let go does not put one on a hiring blacklist. Unless you were fired for cause, then there’s a good chance that you’re eligible for rehire. Even if they did mark you as non-rehireable, I highly doubt it would be permanent. Companies are aware that people do change.

    1. Courageous cat*

      I mean, outside of a layoff, how often is one fired not for cause? It certainly sounds like “fired for cause” is likely to be the case here.

      1. Some dude on the Internet*

        From what I gather, “fired for cause” usually means you were let go for serious misconduct. If you were let go because you didn’t do your job well enough, then you’re more likely to be rehireable.

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