HR won’t let me see job descriptions for my staff, standing my ground on social distancing, and more

It’s five answers to five questions, plus a sixth thing. Here we go…

1. HR won’t let me see job descriptions for the people I manage

I am a new manager and am about to get a current employee reassigned to work under me. I just had a conversation with our CEO and learned that both he and my new direct report were envisioning the role very differently than I was — and I do not believe the role that they are envisioning will address the concerns that are leading to the need for this role. When I asked to see a job description, they both looked at me like I was asking something offensive. I checked in with our HR manager and she apparently has an ironclad policy that job descriptions, as part of personnel files, are totally confidential — possibly to be shared with direct supervisors on a need-to-know basis, but absolutely not to be shared more broadly than that. That’s … ridiculous, right? If we were hiring externally, this job description would be publicly accessible to candidates! Or am I actually running afoul of some legal requirement? How am I supposed to manage my team if I’m not allowed to know what their jobs are?

That is incredibly bizarre and utterly contrary to the entire point of job descriptions. (And no, there’s nothing legal that would require them to do this.) You have a job description so it’s clear what the role is all about, what the person is responsible for, and what performing the job successfully looks like. If you as the manager aren’t allowed access to that information, how you supposed to manage anyone? Do you just guess at what their role is supposed to entail? How do you ensure you and the employee are on the same page?

It’s incredibly weird. I’d ask the HR person to explain the rationale for keeping you in the dark about the role you’re supposed to be managing. And since she said it’s on a need-to-know basis for managers, say that you have a strong need to know, since you need to ensure the role is being constructed correctly to align with your needs, know how the job is being communicated to the person who will fill it, and assign work and measure performance once it’s filled.

But something is very, very, weird here, and I suspect it’s some strain of HR incompetence.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My company offered me a remote position months ago and now they’re pulling the offer

I work out of a specific office for a large international company. In January, my partner accepted a job (that will start in July) in a different state. I let my manager know the situation right away so we could discuss and prepare for me to leave. I was a bit nervous, but felt reasonably certain it would be fine telling them so far in advance. And my manager actually offered me a new remote position with the company! Awesome! I accepted it and we planned for me to transition roles starting June 1st (but then we all ended up working from home due to COVID-19, so I started pieces of the new role early).

This week my manager suddenly lets me know that they just talked to HR about my move and apparently the company is not set up in the state I am moving to, so I cannot legally work for them from that state right now. HR is going to “look into what it would take and get back to me.”

So now what? Can I get unemployment if they retract the offer for the remote position? Is it likely to all work out and I can keep my job (but honestly I’m not inclined to trust them anymore even if it does!)? I am job hunting now, but I’m so mad about the whole thing! I could have spent the past four months job hunting! I took on personal risk by telling them about the move *months* in advance, and they are just telling me this now … when the move is practically here … and half the country is shut down due to COVID-19.

Your manager never should have made that offer without clearing it with HR. I’m guessing she, like may people, didn’t realize it can be complicated to let an employee work from a state where the company isn’t already set up to do business. But it can! In particular, it can create “nexus” for the company in that state, which can require them to charge sales tax to customers there, as well as pay taxes to that state. They’d also need to get set up to pay workers comp insurance in the new state, plus figure out and comply with a whole new state’s employment laws, which could be much more restrictive than the ones they’re subject to currently.

But you weren’t wrong to rely on your manager’s offer, and you’re now in a crappy situation because of her. I would explain to her and HR that you’re now in a bind because you relied on their offer in January, and ask that they help you mitigate the effects of that — at a minimum by getting you a final decision quickly (although don’t push for it so quickly that it’s easiest for them to just say no), but frankly I’d also like to see some severance if this doesn’t work out, given the circumstances. (That might not be realistic, though, depending on how your company is doing right now.)

If they don’t ultimately come through, you should go ahead and file for unemployment once your work ends; whether you’ll get it isn’t certain (and may depend your state), but there’s enough of a chance that it’s worth a shot.

3. Standing my ground on social distancing

I intern over the summer in a very rural area, working in agriculture. I already catch some flack for being a woman (almost everyone I work with is a man, and every single farmer or rancher I’ve ever met is a man), for going to school in New York City (“you’re a long way from home, city girl!”), and for being allergic to half the plants in the state (my sneezes can be heard across a field if I forget to take my allergy meds). I’m pretty good at deflecting these comments or sometimes just giving people a look that conveys “I didn’t care about your opinion before, and I care about it even less now”. In a professional way, of course, and only for the most extreme cases.

But the state I’ll be working in is in the news right now for refusing to adopt stay-at-home orders or mandate face masks in public. I’ll be working from home for the most part, but there will be times when I’m out on a site visit. My fear is that I’ll be wearing a mask and no one else will be, and that my supervisor or my clients will see this as a “crazy city folk” thing and make comments about it. Or that I’ll be expected to shake hands like there isn’t a pandemic going on.

I’m just an intern and I try really hard to adapt to the practices of my workplace and surroundings instead of assuming my way is right, but Alison. My way is DEFINITELY right this time. I start in a couple weeks and maybe I’m worrying about this for nothing, but do you have any scripts I can use to defend my choice to keep myself and others safe?

P.S. I brought this worry up to my dad, who is similar to the people I work with, and he said I should suck it up and shake hands, soooooo I’m not totally making this up.

If you don’t care about making a broader point and just want a quick, practical route to the outcome you need, one option is to say, “I live with someone who’s high-risk so I’m being very careful.” Giving you grief for being cautious about a loved one is such a dick move that a lot of people will leave it there.

Otherwise, I’d just cheerfully and matter-of-factly say, “I have a lot of reasons to be careful. But I’m glad to see you — I wanted to ask you about (subject change).”

4. Can I ask that an underperforming coworker not be placed on important work?

We rely on a support team for handling customer issues. One long-time support team member has serious performance issues: ignoring high priority cases, downplaying priority to make her numbers look better, lots of work time spent online shopping (1-2 hours a day), ignoring any communication from coworkers she has a grudge against for years (literally), and outright lying about impediments from other teams to customers (e.g., stating “waiting on team X” when team X responded hours earlier with next steps). Beyond all that, she is simply not skilled at resolving cases in a timely, professional manner.

If one of her cases is escalated, the support manager will reassign it to a different team member (usually one with a fraction of her experience, which is telling). If it is very high profile, he reassigns it to himself and resolves the issue quickly and professionally. He is aware that she is a problematic employee, but our company as a whole rarely fires employees — especially not long-timers. The rest of this department is acceptable to exceptional.

Can I ask that she not be assigned/allowed work from high profile customers or in high impact areas? If so — how? If not, what else can I do? These issues make her team, my team, and the company look bad. It’s hard to have productive conversations about long-term goals with customers that are (very rightly) frustrated with poor support for critical issues.

If you’re in charge of a team that relies on her work, you can indeed request that she not be allowed to work on particular cases and you can explain why. If her manager is declining to actually manage her (including firing her if warranted, which it sounds like it is), you should do as much as you can to make that his problem, not yours — which includes refusing to allow her to work on important cases, reporting every problem she causes to him and asking him to resolve it, and eventually escalating above his head if the issues continue.

If you’re not a manager yourself, you probably lack the standing to do this, but you can nudge your manager to take these actions.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Should I include an interim director job on my resume if I didn’t get the director job?

I’m the associate director of a university office, and served as interim director for about six months when my previous boss left. I interviewed for the director position but didn’t get it. I genuinely have no hard feelings about it. The person they hired had more experience than me and is an awesome boss. (Plus, while serving as interim director I realized I really disliked a lot of the director functions — meetings with other higher ups, internal politics, etc. My current position is very project-based and my schedule is pretty open, which I greatly prefer to back-to-back meetings.)

Should include the interim director stint on my resume, given that I didn’t get the job? I don’t think it looks noteworthy or impressive to have served as interim director and then not been hired for the job. I suppose it does show that I was trusted to keep things running, and I did get positive feedback from my grandboss throughout, but it just doesn’t seem like it should go on my resume since I wasn’t hired. Am I right in my thinking?

Nope, you should include it on your resume. It shows you earned additional responsibility, and lots of people who serve in interim roles don’t go on to the permanent role — not because they suck but because they didn’t want it, or the employer was always going to look for a different profile of candidate, or so forth. It’s still impressive that you were selected for it and handled the job for six months (presuming you kept things running reasonably well — if things went to hell during that stint, I’d leave it off).

6. New guidance about employees who decline to come back to work for employers with Cares Act loans

Last week, I printed a letter from someone whose employees didn’t want to return to work because they were earning more on unemployment. She was concerned because the terms of her Cares Act loan required her to maintain her previous headcount in order to have the loan forgiven.

This week, the federal government issued new guidance on exactly this issue, saying it will issue an interim final rule “excluding laid-off employees whom the borrower offered to rehire (for the same salary/wages and same number of hours) from the CARES Act’s loan forgiveness reduction calculation. … To qualify for this exception, the borrower must have made a good faith, written offer of rehire, and the employee’s rejection of that offer must be documented by the borrower. Employees and employers should be aware that employees who reject offers of re-employment may forfeit eligibility for continued unemployment compensation.”

{ 294 comments… read them below }

  1. Phil*

    LW3: I bet she’s moving right here to the Great State Of California, which scares the beejeezes out of many employers.

    1. Raine*

      Any state in which your company has not previously done work in can get complicated with taxes, unemployment insurance, and personnel laws. That doesn’t factor in any county- or city-mandated policies. It’s not just California.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This, so, so much. My HR and finance departments are reasonable, solution-oriented people, and there are just some states that are too much of a hassle to deal with from a return-on-investment perspective (ironically, CA not one of them – they are A-OK) to be able to hire people that work in them directly. It is not a conspiracy, it’s that, if we have no business need for someone to work from State Z, then it’s not worth the paperwork, costs, and liability.

      2. Theatre Person*

        Right, but they had five months to get that set up if they were willing to. So it’s odd to me they’d wait this long to suddenly say no. Unless the boss just completely failed to realize that was a thing, sprung it on the business this late and got a rude awakening which screwed over OP.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I’m guessing the boss didn’t realize this could be a problem and just found out about it from HR.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          “Unless the boss just completely failed to realize that was a thing, sprung it on the business this late and got a rude awakening which screwed over OP.”

          Possible and even likelier if the company has remote workers in other states that don’t go to a dedicated company office, especially if wfh remote is typical for workers who aren’t at the main office. It’s a little bit of a red flag that the boss didn’t mention it to HR until so late (there’s always paperwork to file when you move, even if you’re just transferring from Chain Bookstore location in State A to Chain Bookstore location in State B), I’d be concerned about other decisions he might make without doing necessary research.

          1. JSPA*

            Could even be that they had a couple of people there, cut them loose or had them quit, and noticed the resulting cost-savings. I wonder if OP might find it worthwhile to maintain two residences…so far as I know, you only strictly MUST reside at your primary at least one week a year?

      3. MrsCHX*

        It’s not that much work. It does cost money though and some time.

        You have to apply to do business in that state, set up a SIT account (state income tax) and SUI (State unemployment insurance) account (sometimes they’re intertwined) and alert your payroll processor.

        I will admit that our little trio – me (HR), the tax accountant and the legal admin get annoyed when management is all, oh we hired someone! They’re in XX state. And we go cross-eyed and gripe…and start the process. :)

      1. Bob Dole*

        Are there specific problems out of state companies have with someone who works from Oklahoma? I was considering applying for a company in Texas and remaining in Oklahoma but didn’t realize there might be issues.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      A friend mentioned that if someone wanted to start a small business in CA then they needed several hundred permits to get up and running. I thought NY was bad…..

      1. Ellen N.*

        Your friend was exaggerating. I’ve lived in California all my life. I’ve helped people start small businesses. Although California is known for its regulatory environment, you don’t need several hundred permits.

      2. Ann Cognito*

        I incorporated last year in CA, and while I’m a small entity, and no doubt there’s more paperwork involved if you’re larger, it was very straightforward. I spent some money on an attorney to make sure it was all done right, but it really wasn’t a big deal.

      3. JSPA*

        Uh, no.

        Either it’s some very unusual small business with a ton of arcane requirements and permitting (which might be just as onerous elsewhere) or they’re doing something funky for the site which in turn happens to require zoning exemptions, variances for encroachment, safety permits unique to the situation, non-standard utility hookups etc.

        But you can create an LLC or partnership and hire 4 people using the same small number of documents as in any other state I know of. Not sure how that scales up, e.g. if your buddy’s name happens to be Elon; but I can attest to the smallest scale of small business there.

    3. hbc*

      We had a year and half worth of headaches getting a sales rep in Utah. It was our first out-of-state hire, so I don’t know if it was Utah being difficult, our payroll company being less proactive/helpful than expected, or our HR being inept. (I have my suspicions.) I could easily see a manager at our company who wasn’t aware of the headache being all “Sure, you can be an effective remote employee” and HR making them backtrack.

      1. MeanieNini*

        This can absolutely be a nightmare for HR. Some states have traps that are just too easy to fall into and the employer ends up with fines. We unfortunately found this out the hard way when allowing an employee to move from state to another. We knew the state she was moving to was going to be more difficult but we had no idea some of the little things that aren’t on any outline or checklist for being an employer in that state that can get you. I’m the sole HR rep at our company and I spend countless hours a month (even more right now) trying to manage employees in 9 states.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t think you mean #3, since I read your reply and thought “what, California isn’t into social distancing?” ;-)

    5. What the What*

      I’m an accountant, and I initially thought: No big deal!

      And then… except if it’s California. Or New York. Or Ohio. Or Pittsburgh. I have one client who has been trying to get a Kansas City, MO withholding tax number for the ONE employee that lives there (and doesn’t work there).

      The problem they have from a legal perspective, is that the employee has already worked there for a short period of time. You can’t say “OOPS NEVERMIND LET’S PRETEND THAT NEVER HAPPENED!” It did happen. They have to report those wages accurately.

        1. JSPA*

          I will vouch that PA taxes are bizarre by any standard but their own. Not more difficult, just completely different.

    6. sunny-dee*

      This happened to me when I moved from Montana to Oklahoma, from a company based in North Carolina. I ultimately ended up having to move to Texas.

    7. Gaia*

      Had this issue moving employees to Oklahoma, Missouri, New York, Montana, Washington, and Ohio.

    8. BrotherFlounder*

      It could even be something as simple as an issue with a payroll company contract as opposed to the complexities of state laws. I’ve seen several that require the employer to notify the payroll company of all states that employees are located in and agree not to do business in new states without giving the payroll company notice of that.

      1. It's mce w*

        It can happen. I’m from CT and I freelanced for a company in Texas. They had to end my contract because they would have had to pay CT business taxes.

    9. Reluctant Manager*

      We had a hard time in Indiana. Not only did we have to establish nexus, but we needed to have some kind of official business representative in the state instead of just our worker.

  2. Just Lurking*

    About that CARES Act guidance authentic bottom: how would the employer/borrower document the employee’s rejection of the offer? Couldn’t the employee just not respond? Is the a time frame for which a lack of response is formally interpreted as a rejection? I’m just thinking that someone making more money through unemployment might do that as a stall tactic.

      1. wendelenn*

        It’s the newest song in the style of Baby Got Back or All About That Bass!

    1. Darren*

      I don’t know if you can stall very long, they would presumably try to call and pin you down, and if you become impossible to contact directly they would contact the unemployment office and make a note with them they offered you work but you did not reply.

      I assume unemployment would then contact you to get your reply so they can remove you from their books one way or the other. If you didn’t reply to them to explain a good enough reason to reject that offer they’d be stopping your payments at that point so contact will be made about that offer shortly thereafter.

      I would expect perhaps 1-2 weeks max for a company to get through the cycle. Less if you answer the phone, or respond to an email.

      1. Mt*

        I would think this. The employer would both contact the employee and the unemployment office at the same time. Most states require recertification of unemployment benefits every so often, some weekly.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        They can also send a certified letter (you have to sign for those) offering employment and stating if you don’t contact them to accept the job by [date], they’ll consider that your refusal. This is how a local company does it when someone no-shows for work because they don’t want to pay unemployment (the number of times this has cancelled the health insurance of someone who was in the ICU and hadn’t been able to call work yet is more times than you would assume.)

        1. JSPA*

          which should be a warning, especially now, that “unless prevented by documented medical crisis” would be an important (and humane) exception to add.

    2. Amaranth*

      The most cautious way to handle it would probably be to send the offer certified mail and indicate a deadline for response.

      1. CL Cox*

        This. Even an email with their response would work. But if you go the verbal route, follow up with a certified letter that states your offer and your understanding that they are refusing. You may need it not only for any CARES questions, but also for the unemployment office, if your employee tries to claim you never made the offer.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      Docusign would be perfect for something like this as it’s completely touch less and it shows you when a document has been opened and viewed which *should* provide the documentation you need. I also like Amarath’s suggestion of certified mail.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. And it would be easier to get that signed document over to the unemployment office too since you could just send it electronically.

    4. Anononon*

      I think the important thing to prove will be that you made the offer. Either the employee then starts working again or not. If they’re still not employed, well, then they didn’t accept.

    5. Gatomon*

      IANAL, but I’d probably include some line in the offer like, “please respond by COB on X, failure to respond prior to that date will be considered a rejection of this job offer.” And then if employees reject or fail or respond in the timeframe, they are reported to UI.

      It may actually take a while for it to shake out given the overloaded system, but UI will investigate and talk to the employers and employees to find out what happened, and if the employee continued to certify they were eligible* after refusing the job and received benefits, they would likely have to pay them back. Potentially with penalties, I think in my state there’s a three year window where they can go back and audit your claim.

      *IIRC in my state there’s a specific question about whether you’ve refused work or offers of work on the weekly certification, and if you say yes there’s an explanation box but it flags the claim. So I’m imagining someone lying and ticking “no” on that box.

    6. gsa*

      In this case I think I would consult a lawyer.

      I have searched the Internet looking for this information and cannot find anything definitive.

  3. Retail not Retail*

    LW2 – as of right now we are expected to wear masks when working close together, near people, and any time we go in an animal barn. Not an empty enclosure we’re cleaning thank goodness. I’ve even seen an animal person clean up his yard and lose the mask because of the heat.

    All that is to say, embrace allergies when asked about the mask. Keep your hands filthy with agricultural work – i got out of a handshake last year with our president that way ha.

    None of us are practicing correct mask procedure so I just look at it as a combination of security theater and allergy mitigation. We had a mild winter yuck.

    I say wear a mask and maintain distance consistently and they’ll get over it.

    1. Artemesia*

      The real problem of course is that her mask doesn’t protect her — it protects them and if they are contagious they not wearing masks will mean she gets infected regardless of her own mask.

    2. Ag Intern*

      Ooooh, good call with the allergies! Although, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not looking forward to reconciling the sneezing issue with the nose-covered issue.

      I’m not actually involved in the labor, I help design small-scale infrastructure on farms and ranches, but maybe I’ll just stick my hands in the first patch of cleanish mud I see ;))

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        I’ve started carrying a spare cloth mask as well as a handkerchief because allergy sneezes in a cloth mask can be unbearably wet and gross. You may go through three or more a day depending on how sneezy you are and how much time you have to spend around other people. Stock up.

        1. Sara without an H*

          I keep a spare mask and a pair of nitrile gloves in a zip-lock baggie in my purse at all times now. So I always have backup in case of sneezes (I, too, have rotten allergies) or in case I have to handle something gross.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          I am battling with allergies and I keep a tissue lining my mask on bad days and switch it out as necessary. Obviously I change masks too, but not after every sneeze.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            This is a really good tip! I bet you could use coffee filters in a similar way if the nearby stores are out of tissues and the prices online are kind of a lot (yo).

        3. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I have allergies too and I wait till I’m outside away from people and take my mask off to blow my nose. I guess I’m lucky, I get more of a runny nose then sneezing.

        4. Tidewater 4-1009*

          If you’re not near people, you could take your mask off to sneeze, covering it with your arm like you normally do.

        5. Queer Earthling*

          On the rare occasion I have to go out, despite my horrible allergies, I take a dayquil right before. It stems the sneezes for a few hours. YMMV, though, and also, it’s probably not great to take cold medicine when you don’t have a cold, but…

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Claritin (pills) and Flonaze (nasal spray) are both generic and otc now. I alternate them both through allergy season and neither make me sleepy but ymmv because I think they both have warnings on the bottles about effecting people differently.

        6. Curmudgeon in California*

          The nice thing about a well made mask is that it helps reduce the pollen that you breathe in. This helps with the allergies. If people get shirty, tell them that you found that it helps with your allergies.

          Regarding shaking hands, go ahead and shake. Carry hand sanitizer, get your hands dirty right after, and use the hand sanitizer. Just don’t touch your face before you get a chance to clean your hands. Disposable wipes are useful too.

          I can only do about an hour or two in a mask before it gets too wet from my breathing and I need to change it. Make sure you have lots of masks, change them often, wash them at the end of the day.

      2. Retail not Retail*

        Oh yeah sneezing with the mask on suuuuuucks. But if you’re inside you can be better at taking it off than me because i’m outside. I have had coughing fits inside it – it’s not even allergen proof!

        We were doing something yesterday but I can’t remember what and a mulch chip flew and hit my partner smack on his mask.

        I think the normalizing of masks is important. Back away from close people, wear your mask, and don’t apologize or call attention. Just do it.

      3. Erin from Extension*

        Ag Intern, if you haven’t done this already or if someone else hasn’t recommended it yet, I recommend reaching out to that state’s Extension office associated with its land-grant university. Extension Educators navigate these types of challenges all the time and would be more than happy to give you personalized advice for the community that you’re working with!

        1. Ag Intern*

          I totally forgot about the Extension office!! I had the great joy of attending a workshop at the local Extension’s research plots last year (I asked SO many questions. I should have studied agriculture.) and I didn’t even think to consult them about this. Thanks for the tip!

      4. Iris Eyes*

        Even something like treating it like an experiment since you had to have one in the Big City anyway. Maybe something like “In Big City you can’t get into the grocery store without one so I got used to it and now I figure I might give it a try and see if it helps me out with all the dang sneezing.”

        You could also go the humor route with “I’m wearing this for your protection, never know what I might have picked up in the Big City. If you start craving sushi (or other Big City thing) its already too late for you. *chuckle”

        1. Retail not Retail*

          This anon needs to do my summer internship because it was in a state with forest fires and so the last month of my time there was under a cloud of ash.

          If only we were so mask obsessed in 2017. Perfect excuse

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I originally bought my first cloth masks for use when the California wildfires were burning. They has filter pockets if I needed extra filtration.

            Now I make my own (and give masks away to delivery people and friends).

    3. the once and future grantwriter*

      Hey LW3! I feel you! I’m also a younger woman working in agriculture (although the area where I work, though pretty rural, is fortunately not quite as gender-segregated in ag careers as where you’ve been working — around here it’s a male-dominated industry, but there’s definitely a growing minority of female farmers in the area.)

      I think Alison’s script is a good one! If you get pushback, I would just offer a bland comment along the lines of ‘better safe than sorry’ and refuse to either back down or get drawn into an argument about it until they give up. If they really press, you can always also highlight that you’re coming in from out of town/NYC/the biggest nearby city so you don’t really know what you might have picked up and you want to protect the farmer/their family/their workers. (And since you’re coming from offsite to give recommendations about infrastructure, it sounds like you have a perfect built-in excuse: all you have to do is say ‘well, enough about all that, let’s go check out your fencing/barn/irrigation/etc’ — in my experience, as much as farmers love to chat, if they’re bringing in an off-farm expert to consult, the last thing they can afford to do is waste that expert’s time.)

      FWIW, if you are going to any livestock operations, even if the farmers/ranchers you work with are subscribed to ‘coronavirus is a scam to make Trump lose reelection’ narrative, they probably have a much better understanding than the average American of biosecurity protocols due to African swine flu and other virulent livestock diseases. You can always frame it as ‘hey, I see this as African swine flu for people. I’m not doing anything to protect the health of my family that you wouldn’t do to protect the health of your livestock.’

  4. Anon for remote location*

    It is a major issue for a company to open up a location, which they effectively have to do for a remote employee, in a new state. I’d suggest looking to see if there are any workarounds at all. For example, could you live on the border of one state and rent a room or workspace in another state that is already set up? I know of cases where a company has refused to open up in a new state, and those states were not California.

    I’m sure some people use a pro forma address in a certain state and never actually live or work there, but that could have serious consequences, I suspect, if you ever wanted to get workers compensation or unemployment insurance, or even when it comes to paying state taxes.

    I may have missed this, but is the husband’s job at all location-flexible, especially now?

    1. Greg*

      I’m also wondering if turning into a contractor would solve this issue for the writer. It would mean a pile more paperwork, and figuring out billing and taxes, but if the choice is that or not have a job…

      I’m not an expert by any stretch, but I think that if you go this route, you incorporate as an S-Corp, and the S-Corp is bound by whatever laws of the state you’re living in as an employer of one. Your client – your old employer – contracts with the S-Corp to do the job you’re currently doing, and that provides a layer of insulation. It requires a lot of dominoes to line up, and it might not be the way you want your career to go, but it might be worth a shot.

      1. HMM*

        To be a contractor requires fulfilling a specific set of criteria (even more so if they’re based in California with the passage of AB5). To make that happen would likely need a significant retooling of the job description and salary. But perhaps that might be the preferable administrative burden to registering in a new state and the employee is a highly regarded contributor they’d like to keep in some capacity.

        1. MK*

          Becoming a contractor may well mean a lot of trouble for the OP as well; they might be better off just searching for a new job.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Right. As a freelancer I have no benefits through any of my clients (so you’re losing all PTO, insurance, any other perks). I also pay taxes quarterly, not yearly, in advance and I pay the employer portion of payroll taxes in addition to personal income taxes (this is how contractors pay “double taxes”). If you go from employee to contractor, you should have your salary increased to balance out the increased tax burden you’ll be taking on and the loss of compensation in benefits.

            There’s also a good chance you’ll still be treated like an employee by the company, even though you’re a contractor, with things like your schedule and flexibility. This is somewhere between illegal and awkward, depending on the specifics.

            Tl;dr: It’s a lot of effort for the OP just to keep a job they seem fairly disenchanted with after their boss’ oversight in this situation. I can see using it to negotiate back to the original offer of remote work if they really want to keep you but if that’s true you shouldn’t have to negotiate this hard.

        2. doreen*

          Depends on the job – certain jobs don’t need a whole lot of retooling. For example, salespeople can be either employees or independent contractors – those at my husband’s job are salaried employees in the state where the business is located, but those in other states are independent contractors and paid strictly by commission. The differences between mostly have to do with the level of control the company has over their work and their work schedules. ( almost none for the ICs)

      2. LW2 on the move*

        We do have one remote “employee” (in a different department than me, but that we work with regularly) who lives in the state I’m moving to – I talked to her and learned that she is actually a contractor (which I didn’t realize. She’s been with the company for years; almost as long as me!).

        But it made talking to her really helpful :) and I have decided that I really don’t want to become a contractor if I have any other options. The benefits at my job are absolutely amazing (including access to amazing/pricey products that I use daily at cost) while the pay is on the low end; I’d lose the benefits becoming a contractor and I can’t imagine they’d pay me enough to make up for that.

        1. MCL*

          However, you might consider a contractor position as a stop gap until you can secure a new position with another employer. I’m not sure how the transition from employee to contractor works, but it might be better than no income at all unless you can negotiate a severance deal.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yes, I did that once when I moved. I was a contractor for my old job while I looked for a new job and they looked for my replacement, and amazingly, both timelines lined up great!

          2. LW2 on the move*

            Yes, that would make sense. I don’t want to become a contractor “if I have any other options” but I’m aware I might not have other options for now.

            1. Hoping for Wonder*

              I’m in CA, and work as a contractor (actually as a loan-out for my S-corp). I just took a new job and thanks to AB5, had to provide endless proof that I truly qualified for contractor status, including providing two I9s from other companies in the past year to show that my new job wasn’t my sole source of income, along with proof of my advertising my services, and a bunch of other things that are just so unrelated to my field of work (I’m a screenwriter.) So just be aware there are a lot of hoops to jump through if California is your state.

  5. HMM*

    Re: LW2

    This is so unfortunate, I’m sorry you’re in this bind. I think Alison’s assessment of why this happened is entirely correct – I’ve had managers do this to me then just say “figure it out” in the few days before the employee moves. A completely preventable situation.

    I would actually go to HR now and see if there’s any way you can still go. When we’ve been in this scenario, we’ve allowed the employee to move even if all the ducks aren’t lined up in a row. We manage the tax implications through retroactive amendments. Let me be clear: it is entirely a hassle administratively and HR might say it’s just not worth it. (In one of our cases, it really wasn’t. We let someone move, made all the appropriate arrangements to file and be compliant in their new state, then the employee quit four months after moving. That was a tough one to swallow even though, of course, the employee could leave as they please.) But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

    1. Amaranth*

      I’m curious if they’d agree to bring on LW as a contractor, which shouldn’t have any issues regarding location.

      1. CL Cox*

        Not for the company, but it’s a lot of work for the OP initially: setting up a contract, ensuring self-employment taxes are paid, etc. For the company, there’s going to be a loss of some control (primarily around work hours, job description, and the like). Once that is all in place, though, it would be pretty smooth sailing. Filing taxes as a contractor requires a couple of extra forms, but it’s not too onerous and you could always use an accountant or tax preparer for the first year and then file on your own after that.

        1. Jules*

          I am an independent contractor and it’s really not a lot of work. You can use simple contracts from the internet, but more often, my clients provide one they like to use. A quick conversation with a decent lawyer will tell you what you need in there and what to look out for. And the taxes aren’t much more complicated than if you’re employed. Keep track of expenses, have your accountant send you the quarterly estimates, and send in your checks. When I started, everyone made it out to be a huge deal and I want people to know with resources available online and a decent accountant, it’s rather simple.

          1. Yorick*

            I think most people don’t really have an accountant though, and someone working in an office may not have a super high salary that lets them afford one.

      2. Reluctant Manager*

        That depends on the state. I’m not an expert, but when we looked into that question for CA last year, it appeared that having a contractor in the state would establish nexus. (There’s a Supreme Court case–South Dakota v. Wayfair–that may make all this moot, but in the meantime, having to set up and pay sales takes on all business in CA could be horribly expensive.)

  6. Daffy Duck*

    Ag intern – As a rural resident of one of those states you mention, don’t worry about wearing a mask and not shaking hands! When I went into town last week well over 75% of people were wearing masks. These states may not have official stay-at-home orders or laws mandating face masks but the state government is strongly suggesting masks and other social distancing measures, many businesses are closed (by state government order), and travel (especially for folks from out of state) is limited. I’ve been wearing a mask since it was first suggested by the CDC and no one has commented. If someone asks just respond with “We are supposed to wear one” – you don’t need to say if this requirement is from your boss, the CDC, or your mom.

    The best thing you can do is act like face masks and social distancing is normal. The worst is to go in with an attitude of “I’m going to teach these backward people how to do it right.” Many of the rural residents I know have at least one college degree; that lady selling vegetables at the Farmer’s Market has a PhD in Chemistry and retired early from a national company. Don’t judge everyone by the broad brush painted by national news.

    1. River Song*

      I live in one, too, and I was going to say the same thing! There are plenty of ‘this is overblown’ attitudes, but the majority of people are wearing masks, and those who don’t aren’t giving those that do a hard time. Everybody is staying 6 feet apart. There are always jerks out there, but most people respect your right to protect yourself, even if they feel its unneccessary

      1. Anon for this one*

        Ditto and ditto. Yes, there are people in my state who literally make the news for being stupid re: coronavirus and masks and such. But there are lots of us who are quietly doing the right thing.

      2. Amy Sly*

        Granted, I tend to note all the people who are wearing their masks wrong. If you aren’t going to actually put it over your nose, all you’re doing is making yourself uncomfortable. In which case, you might as well take it off instead of pointlessly going through the motions.

      3. LJay*

        I also think that the internet and even media can paint a picture that is different than real life.

        I live in a large city. If you read my city’s subreddit, you would think that the overwhelming majority here felt that masks were not needed and that the virus is a hoax. There was media coverage of a protest happening in the city center. There were a couple large parties that were busted up.

        However, when I go out to the grocery store and walk my dog, almost everyone is wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. My apartment building has required social distancing and mask wearing, all stores that are open have required social distancing and mask wearing. And I haven’t seen anyone make a scene or be non-compliant.

        I work in a much smaller city, one that is reopening everything right now including restaurant dining rooms, etc. However, everyone I speak to at work is still planning on being cautious, continuing to do take out only rather than eating out, etc.

        That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions. But the people following the guidelines far outnumber those who are not, even though you might not think that was the case just by looking at the internet or a quick pass of news stories.

        1. Happy*

          That’s awesome that that’s the case where you live. Hopefully that will be the case for the OP. But it’s not true everywhere, though.

      4. AIM*

        I feel like this must vary wildly region-by-region– I just did a major cross-country move and no one but the employees were masking at the majority of the locations I stopped in at for gas/bathroom breaks (and not even the employees in some locations), much less respecting the 6ft distancing recommendations. I diligently masked for all stops myself, but I did get some weird looks.

    2. Ag Intern*

      (I liked your nickname so much I borrowed it!)
      Thank you so much for this info!! Most of my worry was due to just Not Knowing what it would be like — no eyes on the ground so to speak. I was in the same state (different office) last year, but I’m not close enough with any of my former coworkers to be comfortable asking them what it’s like out there.

      And I totally get what you mean in your second paragraph, and I’m definitely not trying to go in with that approach. I’m actually from a relatively rural area and my family is from deep Appalachia (I just go to school in the city!) and it drives me wild when people I know from school make assumptions about my family or the communities I care about.

      Again, I really, really appreciate your perspective and will go in mask held high!

      1. Former Southerner*

        If I recall my beloved relatives correctly, allergies should be all the explanation you’d need for a mask. For anything else, the statement, “my momma’d whip me with a skillet if I took a risk with my life before arranging grandkids for her,” should be enough explanation (and true, within social allowances for hyperbole) for a nod of sympathy acknowledging anything up to and including a biohazard suit. The people who’d give you trouble after that would need to be shutdown some other way eventually.

        1. It's All Elementary*

          “my momma’d whip me with a skillet if I took a risk with my life before arranging grandkids for her,”

          Love it!

          1. PhyllisB*

            I’d whip mine with a skillet if they took risks that left me to have raise the grandchildren!! (I have six, and I’m too old for that now!!) :-)

        2. Rachel in NYC*


          (+1 was not enough for “my momma’d whip me with a skillet if I took a risk with my life before arranging grandkids for her”)

        3. Amanda*

          “my momma’d whip me with a skillet if I took a risk with my life before arranging grandkids for her”

          I LOVE this! It will now be my all purpose phrase for all the dumb stuff my friends want me to try with them!

      2. Amy Sly*

        Another thing to keep in mind (which I hope you already know) is that professional agriculture is a field that takes health and PPE seriously. The folks who work with any kind of factory livestock are always in masks, gloves, and the like to prevent infections to the animals. If you want antibiotic-free meat, then you have to keep the bacteria away from the animals, after all! And of course, no one in their right mind wants to inhale the guano, dung, and dust — bird fancier’s lung, anyone?

        This is obviously less important for crop agriculture, but again, the kind of professional farmers you’re most likely to run across as an intern are unlikely to think much of insisting on proper sanitation because even with crops, there are many times where one has to protect themselves from dust and the produce from contamination by using PPE.

        1. anonaccountant*

          I second this! The use of quarantine and PPE is so incredibly common in the animal agriculture world, and many ag professionals are over-educated for the work they’re actually doing, so there’s a good science knowledge base there. I think the people employed in agriculture take this much more seriously in part because you have to have an understanding of disease to work around animals. All the farmers/ranchers/various other ag professionals I know are being responsible. It’s the crazy old dude in the grocery store licking his fingers while he flips through his cash and tells the clerk that it’s a hoax who you should be worried about. Every small town has a couple of those.

          The people whose opinions you care about won’t think you’re over-reacting.

        2. Daffy Duck*

          Absolutely! Transfer of disease is a BIG issue in animal ag. Complete change of clothing, shoes, gloves, etc between farms (or coming back from town) is our normal way of life. Local memes about COVID-19 start “Pretend you are at a livestock show…”

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        Just be totally normal and very slightly confused if anyone challenges you around the mask or gloves. Also! If you are sneezy, line your mask with a nice soft tissue… saves grossness, I promise.

        Then if someone really has a go, just go with Amy’s ”oh I have reason to be extremely careful!”

      4. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

        Hi Ag Intern! I feel like you have tons of great advice and encouragement here, so I was reluctant to add my $.02 , but here goes: I have encountered similar attitudes from people and have found that often what underlies them is a suspicion about you – that you’re not rural, that you’re not male, and that you’re not (typically) as old as they are, and that you think you are BETTER THAN THEM. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing – for some – reinforces your “otherness,” giving rise to those comments. Not to mention that mask-wearing has unfortunately become a political statement for a lot of folks. Some people are going to assume that if you are doing the thing that they are not doing, that you hold them in contempt. So the teasing/criticism/challenging they give you is a way to assert their own superiority over you.

        One of the reasons why Alison’s advice is so perfect is because it acknowledges your “difference” – you’re wearing a mask – as being something that’s specific to your choices without apology. It doesn’t communicate that you are judging them for not doing so, but it also doesn’t concede that they may be right about judging YOU for YOUR choices. Saying that you are taking every precaution for a loved one or for your own (unstated) reasons is the perfect way to deflect their implied criticism, while also making it clear that you are not there to preach at them for their choices.

        With that, one of the things that has worked really well for me is to combing the reason for what you are doing with a little light flattery to the person who was criticizing you in the first place. “Oh, I’m an intern (or “I’m new at this”), so of course I’ve got to be super-aware of best practices for agriculture visits. When I’m as experienced as you I’m sure I can take it easier!” “I have to see multiple sites over the course of the (day/week/year), and not all of them are necessarily going to be as top-shape as yours. I plan for the worst possibilities!” “Since I’m the outsider here, I just want to make sure I have as little impact on your operations as possible!” All of these deflect, and simultaneously build up, the person questioning you. That approach may also work for you in non-mask-wearing situations, like the comments on your gender, big-city background, allergies, or otherwise.

        And if that seems passively-agressively-manipulative, you are 100% correct. I grew up in the south. :)

        Best of luck to you!

    3. NerdyPrettyThings*

      Ag Intern, don’t be surprised if you experience the total opposite problem from what you’re expecting. I live in a rural area in a southern state. My nearest neighbor is half a mile away, and I am surrounded by cotton. If someone from NYC came into my town of 1200 right now, she’d be treated like Typhoid Mary. I’m talking pitchforks and torches (only slightly metaphorically). As Daffy said, most of us are taking this pretty seriously, even though our state officials aren’t forcing us to.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Amen. Given how low infection rates are in rural areas, someone from New York City is more likely to be spreading than receiving Covid. And frankly, I’d use that excuse if anyone does give you a hard time about it.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        I was actually wondering that. (Or if Ag Intern could use that to explain why they’re wearing a mask if no one else- since I’m in school in NYC, to keep everyone here safe blah blah blah- even though they’d be way outside the transmittal period)

    4. Bluegrassand bourbon*

      I am in rural Kentucky. Over 75% of people out and about are wearing masks. About 25% are wearing gloves. The idiots who don’t are getting greeting like Typhoid Mary.

      I have seen more than one Maga hat wearing person in a mask.

      Yes, there are the people who get crazy about anyone telling them what to do. But they are in every state.

      1. Bluegrassand bourbon*

        Ps currently sitting at Kroger waiting for my click list order. There is a dude wearing a mask sitting in a truck waiting for his order…

      2. Amethyst Anne*

        Southcentral KY is the same about wearing masks and minimum 6 feet distancing. Three days ago, I went into a convenience store when I had trouble with the gas pump. I looked around and noticed mostly everybody wearing masks. I had forgotten mine and quickly put my non-dominant hand over my mouth & nose, took several more steps back, asked my question, and then went outside.

      3. bkanon*

        Very rural Ohio here. One person maskless in the local Walmart this past week and he was getting loaaaads of dirty looks. My county has had four cases total. We’re taking it seriously.

        1. KaciHall*

          Semi rural Indiana (but I live in the county seat, so we’re technically a ‘city’.) I have a few masks I alternate between. Last trip to the dollar store (which was oddly the best place for me to get a few things, including toilet paper) I was the only person in the store wearing a mask, besides the employees who had it pulled before their noses. And I got to get glared at by a customer who was telling the cashier how he refused to go to Menards or Costco since they’re requiring masks, and unless you have the n95 masks it just makes you sicker.

          I wish my area was taking it seriously. But we’ve only had one major breakout at a nursing home (a block away from my house!) and 2 off the sixty positive cases have died, and the prevailing attitude seems to be that we’re all going to catch it so preventative measures are stupid and pointless and no one is going to die.

      4. Queer Earthling*

        Rural SC and yeah, people are pretty serious about masks around here. (Still in a delightfully Southern/rural way, though. I’ve been noticing a lot of cloth masks in camo print, or John Deere tractors. :D)

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Sometimes you can get John Deere print cotton at, and make your own. Hit up your network – probably someone sews.

            I tend to make stuff with smileys, cats, ravens or wolves, or even abstract florals. I have six partially finished sitting on the sewing table.

    5. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. I, too, live in a state that didn’t impose a stay-at-home order, probably because our geography makes such a rule totally unenforceable. Yet masks and social distancing are common, and many businesses are requiring them.

      Oh, and Ag Intern — given that the demographics in a lot of small towns skew older, you may find more people wearing masks than you anticipate.

    6. Kimmybear*

      And the other side of this is that I live in an urban/suburban area and see plenty of people not wearing masks or social distancing. My neighbor actually had a Derby Day party last weekend! Yet my parents in a small town were the first people I know outside of a major outbreak area to say “Stay home and cancel everything.”

      1. Mid*

        Same. In my urban city area, way too many people aren’t wearing masks and are still gathering. We just started requiring masks in public this week, and people are MAD about it. They also seem to think that if you’re on a trail, germs don’t count so you don’t need a mask. It’s very frustrating.

    7. Anonymous Elephant*

      Hey Ag Intern… you know how after a tornado, the news always finds the lady with her hair in curlers, missing teeth, fuzzy slippers, and a bathrobe or the guy in a stained tank shirt (usually called a wife-beater but ick, what a name!), holding a beer, with heavy accents acting like they are on drugs while being interviewed? Well, that’s also who they are finding on social media and COVID-19 broadcasts. I’m in a rural ag area and even the people who personally believe businesses should be reopened and this whole lockdown was ridiculous are taking precautions when it comes to their crops and animals.

  7. MJ*

    I bet there aren’t any job descriptions and that HR says they are personal because they don’t want to be found out as having bad records.

    1. CL Cox*

      That was my first thought as well. Push on it and, if there aren’t any official ones, work with your manager/department head to develop them. You can ask for input from the people currently holding the roles, but ultimately, unless there is an employment contract that spells out the duties, an employer can change job descriptions/duties any time they want (especially in an at-will state).

    2. Sharikacat*

      If there are job descriptions, then my guess is that they are trying to get people to do things unreasonably above and beyond the original description. While most descriptions include phrases such as “and other tasks as necessary,” there is a reasonable limit to what tasks someone should be doing for what they are being paid. The receptionist should not be told to do the website maintenance for receptionist pay simply because they have some existing skills the company is leveraging.

    3. Bluegrassand bourbon*

      Why is HR writing a job description without input from the manager? DH is a corporate VP. He or one of his direct reports are the ones who wrote the requirements and submit to HR for massaging before publishing. It’s not something HR does in a vacuum. Honestly, it’s not something that should be driven by HR. Their role should be ensuring what the manger says they need gets translated in manner that is legal and in line w company values.

      I’d be asking how these are all formulated. What’s the process?

      1. LJay*


        Having HR write the job descriptions sounds like a nightmare to me, since they don’t know what the needs of the job actually are.

        At my company the department writes the job descriptions. And then HR looks at them to verify that everything is above-board, polishes some language and adds in the necessary EEO language or other company-wide language as necessary, etc. And then the department signs them off before they are posted.

    4. Boomerang Girl*

      My interpretation was more that the HR person was incompetent and confusing need to know restrictions on salary bands and individual salaries for people in those roles with job descriptions.

      However, more than a decade ago, an outside consultant company did an assessment of positions at my employer and recommended pay bands. My boss wrote the position description for my team (it was before I joined) but left the company before the assessment was completed. I was surprised at the low banding of one of my direct reports and asked to see the job description. I wanted to ensure that it accurately reflected what she was doing or that I held her accountable for what she was being paid to do and not significantly more. The HR leader responsible for the work refused to share it with me (and also insulted my intelligence), claiming that the job description was confidential and that I wouldn’t be able to understand it anyway. There was never anything done to ensure performance appraisals aligned with these job descriptions, so I think my associate (and probably others) was treated unfairly. I wonder if this situation is similar.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        The manager should have access to salary information for her own employee, and salary bands should be something published to everyone. I work at an enormous employer and anyone can see salary bands here. But I do know some companies are a bit sketchier and don’t want their employees to know.

    5. irene adler*

      My thought as well. Can’t show what ya don’t have.

      I wonder if they even thought to save the job ad for each position when they hired.

      1. Resting easier now*

        In old job we were supposed to get rid of all position announcements x years after the search, including specific job descriptions. There were generic position descriptions on file organization-wide for each of the types of positions, but many departments had some specific things unique to the department in the advertisements.
        It was up to employees to save a copy, and I always offered the advertised position description to them upon hire and suggested they keep it at home (because I’ve seen a lot of ‘out of position’ work asked of employees).

    6. Rob aka Mediancat*

      What concerns me most about this is that the new employee may be being told their job is one thing when the supervisor actually needs something else, which can only lead to difficulties down the road, both from people who are understandably annoyed and neither one of whom actually caused the problem.

      1. irene adler*

        Yep! A whole lot of ugly would be avoided if they establish job descriptions and all are apprised of them.

        And, savvy job candidates will no doubt see a red flag when they determine that the managers are not in agreement regarding the job description. This company is not doing itself any favors by being secretive about the job descriptions.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yup. We have a group that seems to spend more time arguing about whose job it is to do X (rather than just doing it), and the job descriptions are how we ended up solving for that.

          Maybe I’m just not very imaginative, but I don’t know how you do performance reviews with no job description. I mean, my entire onboarding, training, and review process is based on job descriptions and people knowing what they say. And, far beyond just being able to see them, I actually wrote (or substantially rewrote most of them.

    7. pancakes*

      They’re outing themselves as bumbling fools with this nonsensical response, though.

    8. Reluctant Manager*

      I’ve worked some places where that would be true. My first company, though generally had their shit together impeccably, but one of the entry-level professionals had to get job descriptions from a friend in HR on an “I could get fired for sharing this” basis. It was completely bizarre. (The path to promotion and success was completely obscure as well; in retrospect, it was very much based on secret handshakes, which in a way was in keeping with the industry.)

    9. SusanIvanova*

      I worked at a place where someone upstream from the hiring manager was changing the job requirements from “must be able to write code that uses interesting math” to “must have a PhD in interesting math.”

      We didn’t know it all the time, all we knew was we kept getting candidates who thought that coding was something that was delegated to grad students. We didn’t need someone who could do the theory; we had that covered. (There are practical PhDs. We never saw any.)

      They weren’t keeping the job descriptions secret, it just took a while for the manager to decide to double-check exactly what was on the job board.

  8. Princess Deviant*

    I can’t believe they won’t let you see the job descriptions! That’s totally absurd. How are you meant to manage those people?

    Were there no descriptions attached to the job listings? Could you go back to see if they’re public that way?

    We have our job descriptions on our intranet so everyone can see them.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      We have our job descriptions on our intranet so everyone can see them.

      This doesn’t help you, I realise! I just meant that it’s open and explicit – as it should be.

    2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      It’s so utterly baffling that I can’t help but wonder what their definition of a “job description” is. Are they confusing it with an employment contract, or something else confidential? Have they weirdly merged everything together in one document and that’s why OP isn’t allowed to view it..? Just, huh..?!

      1. Rebecca*

        Even if it was somehow on the same piece of paper with confidential information, HR could provide a redacted copy, even if they had to black out the info with a marker, and make another copy to hide any possible offending words sneaking through. I bet this HR dept would enjoy that.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Right! I was going to joke that this HR person must have formerly worked at the CIA.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Hrnngghhkkk! (that’s the graceful sound of my snicker)

          I’m reminded of the person who handled most of the HR functions at a smallish company I used to work for, and I’m picturing her frothing out over wielding The All Powerful Sharpie Of Denial. She was also both highly secretive and inept, though that is a whole other story.

      2. doreen*

        I had a fairly long conversation once with someone, and it turned out when I referred to “job description” they thought I was talking about “performance evaluation” because that was the only description of their job they had ever seen. Which would be in a personnel file and somewhat confidential – I wonder if that’s the HR incompetence , not having a job description that exists outside of someone’s evaluation.

        1. snowglobe*

          That makes only slightly more sense. A manager should still have access to prior performance evaluations, if only so they know if a certain issue has been addressed before. (I think I recall a prior letter in which a new manager had to start a PIP as if it was a brand new issue, even though a prior manager had already coached the employee on the same issue, because there was no documentation.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      So how are people evaluated if no one knows what they do?

      OP, I hate saying this because it sounds like worry-wart stuff, but watch your back at this place. If they do not understand this basic concept then what else don’t they understand?

      Next step: Your department needs X so you are given a person who will do Y. You try to point this out logically and your points are met with an artificial barrier, “Job descriptions are a Big Secret!”. This effectively puts some stumbling blocks in allowing you to do your job. I have to ask, why did the old manager leave???? You can’t get next to the heart of the matter because you have to stand around and debate with them over releasing job descriptions. How do they hire people without describing the job??? This is absurd.

      When some thing so basic is made inaccessible (such as job descriptions in your setting) I see that as a yellow light. I mean, watch to see what else is going on. For example, is your department budget kept a secret also? (Yeah, I have seen that one. There were two sets of books. One showed the manager was failing and the other book showed what was really happening and the manager was actually doing okay. They only showed the manager the failing reports.)

      I spent a decade arguing over basic things like this. I know first hand that employers can make things ten times more difficult than need be. I made a huge mistake staying there. I learned how to argue well and not too much else because just getting basics in place zapped all my energy. The company was hugely behind the times with the technology, tools to do the job were sparse and tools got “lost” all the time. At one point the employees brought in their own TP. Yeah, constant battles on the most basic levels.

      Eyes wide open here, OP. This is a pretty basic thing to know. The fact that they don’t know can telegraph that there is a bumpy road ahead.

      I suggest you use some of Alison’s material here or in her books to show them how job descriptions are used in the real world.

      1. snowglobe*

        A company that is secretive about basic things like that is going to have a lot of other issues. I’d call it a flashing red warning light with loud klaxons, and start polishing my resume.

        1. Wintermute*

          I’m with you on this one. It reminds me of a joke in this humor book that’s a fake travel guide, “the regime is so known for oppression that they not only have secret police, but a secret fire brigade and secret paramedics as well”

      2. EPLawyer*

        That’s what got me. It’s not just HR. Her boss and the new report (!) have different ideas of what the job should be. Why is the new report deciding what her job should be? I can see the Boss saying nope we are hiring for Y even if you need X. But to circumvent the manager and go right to the direct report with the job description is odd.

        When LW pushed on this, they knew they had to cover so Big Boss told HR not to release it. To the manager. Then HR fumbled it with a “we only release to managers on a need to know basis.” Umm, LW is the manager AND needs to know. I don’t think HR knows what “needs to know” really means.

        In short, this place is not well run. Keep your eyes out for bees and RUN when you can.

        1. WellRed*

          I think the company is ridiculous, but it’s not a brand new hire, they are reassigning an employee, so if that employee has been there a while, or has some clout (or is just a PITA they are shuffling), letting them have input is not as crazy. The crazy part is not letting the manager in on it.

          1. TechWorker*

            To be fair though there’s no indication that the CEO refuses to discuss how they see the role, just that there’s no formal job description? OP says they are new to management and maybe most companies work exactly how Alison/this blog in general seems to envisage (eg manager has final sat on what happens on their team) but there are also definitely companies where a CEO or second line manager would be able to override the managers opinion pretty easily. It could be the person moving teams is particularly good at x or has clout or particular experience s.t. it’s in the interests of the company to define their role differently to how OP is envisioning.

            Tbh I am also a newish manager and if I was told my team was gaining say a senior tech lead and I was like right so their role is going to be to maintain the servers right because that’s what the team needs most… then yeah my manager would be like ‘um, no’. A bit of a ramble but I guess what I’m saying is not everyone could or should fit every slot – if OP is concerned about this new role not being actually what the team needs it’s probably more productive to discuss that with the CEO taking a view of the team as a whole and what’s missing rather than trying to shoehorn the person into the role they are imagining.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I mean, OP asked the CEO and the direct report what the job description was and they were both really surprised she did that, so? I don’t think OP is out of line for wanting someone who can do the job they’re hiring for, that has nothing to do with making “everyone fit every slot.” It almost sounds like the CEO wants to move his buddy to this new role (for whatever reason) and they’re trying to change the job description to fit what this guy can actually do.

              And also the constant fuckery of job titles not always translating from company to company. Like I worked at a place where I was chatting with the tech guys and one of them says he’s the lead sysadmin so I’m like Okay cool so you handle infosec and systems access and stuff like that right? and he’s like Nope I’m the one who physically wires the hardware, keeps the server room going and checks on cables when a computer stops working.

        2. Barbara in Swampeast*

          The CEO says the job is something different from what you need, you lose. You are not going to win this. Start looking for another job.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I am so utterly baffled as well! Are they conflating “job description” with “job offer letter” or something (for the record, supervisors should also know how much employees make)?? Job descriptions are a two way communication device! They exist to help managers and employees understand job expectations!

      My boss actually has us rewrite our job descriptions every year. Then we meet to discuss them and compare to last year’s descriptions. It helps us realize where we’ve fallen into patterns that aren’t really what we set out to do with our time, and to identify gaps within the team.
      Maybe you can have the team do that?

      1. HR Jeanne*

        This. Your HR person is wrong. If you are not able to get job descriptions, just write them yourself, share with your manager, and move forward. I have been in HR for years and don’t write job descriptions. Managers send them to me and I may make some tweaks, but they are responsible for the content. Write your own job descriptions for your department and use them until someone in HR makes some damn sense.

      2. Cascadia*

        Yes, for our annual performance reviews we are sent our job descriptions along with review questions. One of the questions is: Should anything be added to or taken away from your job description? Your supervisor gets the same question and your job description, and it’s part of the review every year to discuss this question and if any changes need to be made. OP’s HR is totally bonkers here.

    5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I worked somewhere with the opposite policy. If you had an employee who was struggling with job performance, you had to retrain them on their job description and have them sign a new copy of it (even if it was the same exact description they signed on Day 1 of being hired.)

      If the thing they were underperforming on wasn’t explicitly included in the job description, then you had to work around that with counseling and mass e-mails of new rules, before you could so much as give them a warning.

      We had a lot of dud employees, and struggled with hiring because the job descriptions HR posted focused on HR policies and procedures instead of core job duties.

    6. lawfirmstaffer*

      At my firm employees aren’t allowed to see their job descriptions (or at least in my office – my understanding is it varies by state), which is strange and frustrating to people, but at least managers can see them and they are reviewed and updated.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I’m genuinely curious, what’s their reasoning for that?

        And how do they handle job postings and performance evaluations?

        1. lawfirmstaffer*

          Postings have job descriptions. You just don’t have access to it once you’ve started the job. It’s never been an issue in performance evaluations I’ve received or given so maybe that’s not a widespread issue.
          I don’t know the reasoning, but it’s a large, multinational law firm that generally has very employee-friendly policies.

      2. LJay*

        WTF is the point of a job description if the person who has the job isn’t allowed to see it?

        What do they put in job postings?

      3. Coder von Frankenstein*

        The only thing more insane than hiding the job description from the manager who is tasked with seeing that the job gets done, is hiding it from the employee who is tasked with actually doing it.

      4. TiffIf*

        I once worked in a place that didn’t have specific job descriptions, but a few years in I was asked to write a job description for my position so they could have it the next time they needed to hire (this was a on-campus student job at my university–the original description in the job posting that I applied for was pretty generic).

        I should clarify–there weren’t descriptions for the particular office I was in–the university as a general rule did have job descriptions–though some of the student positions like mine were probably more generic.

  9. Letter #2 -- I've been in that position*

    A few years ago, I was working for a company in North Carolina and wanted to move to Nebraska for personal reasons, but my company didn’t have a presence in Nebraska.

    Like Alison said, they couldn’t let me work remotely in that situation, so they set up a presence in Nebraska and then it was okay and I was able to move and continue working. I don’t know the legal term, if it was just a DBA Doing Business As, or if it was more complicated, but it is possible. It does cost some money and take some legal work so it’s not an automatic thing nor something they’d do for just anyone, but if you’re valuable maybe they will. I’d certainly point out that you acted in good faith so maybe they should do this to fix their mistake. It takes some work to set up, especially if they’ve never done it before, but after that it’s no big deal.

    Another option I looked into but didn’t have to do myself is that you can incorporate yourself as a business in the new state and have your company hire you as a subcontractor or whatever legal/business arrangement works out best for them. That’s not ideal because you’ll have to get that all set up, legally comply with taxes and such, and provide your own benefits, but at least you can keep your job, although in disguise.

    1. LW2 on the move*

      Oh wow. I’m not sure if those are options I’m interested in pursuing, but I will look into them; I have never heard of a DBA.

      1. RG2*

        I’ve done this for employees in a bunch of states and it’s a massive pain for a small business. You need to register with the new state as having employees, which usually involves the Secretary of State, the state DoL, the unemployment insurance office, tax/revenue department, and a couple other offices, all of which require annual filings at minimum and all of which vary dramatically by state. Sometimes you have to use the employee’s home address as your business location, unless you’re renting them an office, if the state doesn’t allow PO boxes, etc. It’s costly on both a set up and ongoing basis. You have to keep track of that state’s labor laws and how they may create liability/issues across your business (don’t get me started on California), and that’s before you get into the sales tax and actual business content issues above. Our country is NOT set up for a workforce that telecommutes across state lines and it’s a huge national issue that definitely impedes economic growth and employee freedom to move around. I wish more people understood it!

        Just wanted to throw a flag on this that you’ll either need to actually set up your own company (which can be incredibly complicated from an insurance/liability standpoint) or the job will need to change such that you can legitimately be classified as an independent contractor. Issues like liability insurance, workers comp, payroll tax, etc, exist for a reason.

        1. LW2 on the move*

          Yikes! I think more than anything, I’m getting a lot of confirmation that job hunting is the right call here… and becoming a contractor *might* work in the meantime.

          I suppose that’s what I was expecting, but I was still hoping it might work out. I’d rather be prepared for the “worst case” though!

    2. Coder von Frankenstein*

      “Another option I looked into but didn’t have to do myself is that you can incorporate yourself as a business in the new state and have your company hire you as a subcontractor or whatever legal/business arrangement works out best for them.”

      I would want a lawyer to take a close look at any such setup. From everything I’ve seen (most of it on this site), filing a bunch of paperwork cannot make you an independent contractor. The tests for whether you are an independent contractor or an employee are based on your actual working arrangements.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I think they’re talking about setting up your own business as an independent contractor. I know a lot of contractors will incorporate as an S-corp or a sole prop because there are some tax and legal benefits to the individual vs working as a contractor with no formal business (I think?).

        It varies by state whether this is required (many, if not most, states do not require you to formally incorporate if you’re working as a single employee (of yourself) and won’t have customers in your place of business). If you’re making jewelry in your home and selling it online: cool. If you’re making jewelry in your home and selling it at a local craft fair: cool. If you’re making jewelry in your home and using your garage as an impromptu shop where customers can browse your creations during set hours: Yikes, that’s liability city.

  10. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    Thanks for the answer to LW 2. When my partner moved across state lines many years ago, their company first said they could work remotely and then abruptly pulled the plug shortly after they moved. The company was an abysmally terrible and abusive place, and we were actually kind of surprised they were willing to let go someone who had tolerated their abusive terribleness (not quite realizing from inside it just how bad it was). Maybe the “nexus in a new state” thing was the reason.

    LW 2, I wish you the best of luck finding a new employer that’s more competent.

    1. LW2 on the move*

      Thanks! We really are very lucky in that we could get by even if I lose this job, but it’s definitely a huge bummer if it goes that direction. I am job hunting and hoping for the best!

  11. Kiitemso*

    #1 is really strange. Maybe HR thinks job descriptions include confidential information? But surely even salary information would be open to the manager of said person, even though it’s not open knowledge to the whole organization.

    Seems incompetent for sure.

    1. Rexish*

      My theory is that in the “other tasks” section has something totally innapropriate and/or borderline illegal that they have been asking employees to do and now they don’t want anybody to find out. I’ve been out of Office for so long that this is the only source of Office dramatics so one can hope :D

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        My theory is that they have a misguided understanding of what HR is and what it means to have responsibility.

        They know, for example, that a lot of high profile positions deal with confidential information. So now they’re manufacturing confidential information. Not necessarily in a malicious way, just in an inept way.

        It reminds me of when I was little and my sister and I would try to come up with secrets so we could have something to whisper about in a secret language.

        Cute for kids, not for grown-ups.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I mean, we get a lot of people on here howling about HIPAA and the ADA when the information is not remotely relevant to HIPAA or the ADA, so it makes sense that some HR people would also share those misconceptions.

    2. PNW Dweller*

      HR is strange but CEO and transferred employee have a different vision than the manager. This is odd. LW 1, do you report to the CEO? I would think a conversation needs to be had with your direct supervisor to understand your role better. And clear up the reasoning you aren’t allowed to view the job description. My fear, and I hope I’m way off base, is that the job description may impact the future of your job.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yeah, this is where my conspiracy-brain went, along with thinking maybe HR was instructed by the CEO to not give the information to LW1 (whether it’s actually going to impact LW1’s job directly or just because the CEO wants to push the transfer through for some reason despite the transferred employee not actually qualifying) or this is one of those companies that don’t have job descriptions and HR is trying to cover that because it seems like a bad way to work (because it is).

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would chalk it up to HR incompetence if they were the only ones refusing and thinking the request was odd, but the CEO is in agreement with HR. This whole thing smells fishy to me…what exactly are they trying to hide?

  12. Snuck*


    Can you say something like “Dear Manager of Jane, I’m finding we’re under pressure at the moment, and don’t have time to support the extra requests that often come from Jane’s work. Can you please help us out by only assigning work for Jane that is simple and straight forward, so we’re not having to pick up the extra load. For example can High Profile Client Teapot Makers Inc, and complicated clients like Kettles R Us please be assigned to someone else, as we really cannot afford to have this work delayed with them in our current environment”


    “Hi Jane’s Manager, we’re revising our workflow, and have found that Jane does good work on the clients that are small to medium base income, but the very large clients she seems to prioritise differently. Can we please refocus Jane back to those accounts she feels confident and does better in, and let’s have Wakeen pick up the large clients for now. Maybe in time as Jane rebuilds her confidence we could try her back on the high value accounts again when she is ready. “

    1. LW #4*

      LW4 here
      Thank you for the scripts! The first one describes the situation quite well: my team is unable to handle resulting extra requests for assistance.

      I’ve been handling this on a case-by-case basis with her manager, either with timeline communication (“we will be unable to assist with case Z until next week due to case X and Y”) or requesting escalation due to customer impact (which means he will be directly involved), but it sounds I need to have a more direct conversation.

      I’m not a personnel manager, but I do lead a team and have a sufficient working relationship with the her manager to bring it up myself — and a high up manager in my department has also expressed concerns with increased workload.

      It’s been an issue for years but became more noticeable because a coworker who picked up WAY too much of her slack for a few ywars recently left the company. Now it’s falling to my team (and others).

      I feared it would be gossipy/trashtalking/petty to bring up her extreme snubbing and seeming lack of work ethic, and your scripts were very matter-of-fact and focused on the concrete impact to my team rather than my perceptions of her actions or incidents I witnessed in the past when I worked with her more directly.

      Thank you again!

      1. LW #4*

        A variation on the second might work: she *does* have an expertise that applies only to certain customers.

        If she only works with those customers, she won’t have a full load, but if the company wants to keep on an employee that isn’t able to perform the full job, might as well only limit it to what she can work on instead of having to pass off work to be redone after she makes a negative first impression.

        If I sound pessimistic about the prospects of improvement: she’s acted like this for over 5 years. I got used to her compensating co-worker and it was a wake up call when they left that yes, it’s really was and is that bad.

        1. EPLawyer*

          that’s why it lasted for so long. everyone worked around her to do their jobs. It is not gossipy etc to raise issues that affect your work. As long as you keep it work focused. This is how it impacts us. Not any extraneous stuff like she won’t talk to coworkers she is mad at. Unless it impacts workflow, not your problem. Bet you dollars to donuts the covering employee left because they were sick of having an increased workload while Jane got away with what she did.

          Have the larger conversation with her manager since you have that ability. But also push the problem right back on to the manager. Escalate everything you safely can. Once they keep falling in the missing stair, they will fix it.

          1. LW #4*

            I definitely am going to do more of “making it her manager’s problem” as both Alison and yourself recommended. Honestly, if she stays on with her bad attitude and poor quality work but he removes the impact it has on my team, that’s his choice and would be an acceptable outcome.

            I only started “making it his problem” about 8 months ago and somewhat tentatively, but looking back, it works whenever I do it.

            Having reminders about what IS my business and what isn’t helps: if she was online shopping for 2 hours and getting her work done, I would care 0% about that habit.

            She does ignore urgent work communication — she hasn’t responded to an email or IM from me in three years, though she may initiate an email to my whole team. I started Cc’ing the manager and while she still doesn’t respond, the problem is resolved (either he responds or she does the work required without responding) and he can clearly see her lack of response.

            (If you’re wondering what I did to get the silent treatment, it was to post an internal-only reply to “waiting on team X” with a note that said “response from team X below” + a copy of the email chain” —- and including an email chain is considered standard for reporting internal communication. Before that day we had a friendly working relationship).

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              As part of escalating the problem back to the manager, don’t be afraid to include the parts about having to deal with irate customers tired of the mistakes. “Manager, Please see attached ticket 12345. Jane misidentified the severity and as a result, the shipment to Teapot Domes was delayed. This is the third time this has happened and I spent a good portion of the day talking to our contact there. They are extremely unhappy and mentioned possibly looking for another spout distributor. Moving forward, can we please ensure Jane does not cover Teapot Dome orders? I need to be able to promise them we have dealt with the issue and that this will not happen again.” Being able to point to how exactly this will negatively affect the bottom line, not just today, but down the road, often does help to get action taken.

              This is a bit more of an escalation than the previous scripts offered, but if things are still dicey after talking to her manager, it may be necessary.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              If you can quantify the actual dollar cost of her incompetence (customers actually lost + wasted time that could have been used for other clients) it might make a stronger impression on her manager as well as on the next higher level of management.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Exactly. It’s gossipy to say “Jane spends two hours a day shopping online.” It’s not gossipy to say “When Jane gets this kind of task, it causes X and Y on my end, and I’d like to avoid that.”

  13. Snuck*

    Neither of these are demanding Jane be performance managed (if your company won’t there’s no point demanding it!), but instead are a soft request. The first one is subtler and more temporary, the second one is more delineated and hints that Jane has to step up before she can do the high value again.

  14. PNW Dweller*

    LW 2, Allison is spot on. Your manager and maybe even your grand boss had no idea that allowing you to WFH in a different state has pretty major consequences. They set everything up without speaking to HR. Probably mentioned it in passing and were floored to learn it wasn’t the same as letting a local person WFH. I am sorry you were caught between good intentions and rule following. I wouldn’t think this is a red flag to continue working there- especially since they are looking into how to make it happen. But if you are moving to CA, it might be a hot potato. There are special designations for people practicing HR in CA. I hope it all works out for the best.

    1. LW2 on the move*

      Thanks! Alison’s reply was helpful (and explained it much better than my manager was able to). I totally could see how they made that mistake – we have offices or remote employees in at least half the states, I’d estimate, plus a dozen different countries around the world – so we all assumed it’s not a big deal.

      I don’t have a game plan yet besides submitting job applications where I can and reaching out to HR. I know I should be talking to them directly already, but I’ve been postponing it because I was nervous and just didn’t know what to say.

      1. Bluegrass and bourbon*

        Is it possible for you to consider a state adjacent to the one you were planning to move to? For example, partner has a job in Chicago but you could live in Indiana or Wisconsin instead of Illinois? If it’s even remotely possible, they may already be set up in one of those states. Or if you lived in Illinois but rented an office in Indiana?

        1. LW2 on the move*

          We are close enough to a couple borders that I could try that; it’s probably worth asking at the least! But we closed on our new house this week, so I’d have to take into consideration the cost of an office space in another state (versus trying to find a home in another state) :/

          1. Ronda*

            I think you would need to check with a tax accountant about some of this. the tax forms indicate your state of residency as the one that gets the taxes, so not certain that having an office in another state would matter. The incorporate / contractor thing might be the way to go.

            I had the same sort of thing happen to me this year. I gave them 2 months notice and they said “plan to work remotely” then a month before leaving they decide to put another employee in the position. I was pissed. I would have been fine with it if they had told me No when I gave notice, but misleading me really set me off. They wanted to offer a temporary contract position (to further help with transition), but could not get their act together on what exactly that meant and I didnt want to figure out the contractor stuff, so I said I made other plans. Now that replacement employee is out on medical leave (he was also in the hospital for a week during the transition period)…. go figure, you could have kept me as an employee working from home and it would have been just like everyone else now :) And they say I decided to leave on the termination form, so no unemployment.
            With many people it just doesnt pay to give them extra notice.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              “And they say I decided to leave on the termination form, so no unemployment.”

              You should check with someone because they don’t just get to decide that.

              If I understand this: You gave notice, they offered you remote work as a counter-offer, you accepted. Later they revoked the offer of remote employment but said they’d be willing to hire you as a contractor temporarily, you weren’t interested in being a contractor.

              They changed the terms and even though you ended up rejecting their final offer, they were going to terminate your employment status to make you a contractor instead, so that doesn’t sound like you quit to me.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Check the transportation times and costs for the partner who has the job in X place but is living in a nearby state. Even if they are WFH now, they may have to be in-office at some point. Even if their office is at the far northern reaches of Chicago (for WI) or southern end (for IN) that is a loooonnnnngggg commute, train or car. If it’s not, longer. May be similar for other places near borders and corners.

    2. TiffIf*

      I want to move to another but I’m not terribly picky as to where–I just want out of the Rockies and somewhere with more trees–so I keep looking for houses where my company already has offices (something like 14 states and 30 other countries) just so I don’t run into this issue.

  15. Prof. Space Cadet*

    Re: L.W. #5

    I agree with Alison. It’s common practice in universities for people to serve in interim roles, often with the explicit understanding that the role won’t become permanent. It happens in Academic Administration and Student Life all the time. I could see how it would feel weird if you’re in a position that’s more about internal university operations (e.g., you were Interim Director of Parking Services or Interim Director of I.T. Security), but I agree with Alison that it’s still worth including on your resume because it shows that you’re considered reliable and trustworthy.

    1. Ali G*

      Yes and I actually think it works in her favor. She can honestly say something along the lines “I was happy to step up and keep things running as the interim director, but I wasn’t interested in the position long-term. I am more interested in X and Y and that’s why I am interested in this position…”
      Prospective employers wouldn’t know she interviewed.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      +1. If I was her perspective employer, I would not assume that her interim director term was unsuccessful simply because her employer hired another director. The only potential assumption I see would be a desire for the applicant to eventually move into a director level role. So if that’s not what OP5 wants (which seems to be the case), she could stress the interim position as a reflection of expertise/trustworthiness/etc and not list any responsibilities that are limited to director-level roles and she did not enjoy.

    3. Letter Writer 5*

      Letter Writer 5 here-thank you all for the advice on how to spin it when it’s time to job hunt. I really like Ali G’s “script”-thank you again!

  16. My2Cents*

    LW1: how strange? Have you seen your own job description? I’m curious if they even keep official ones, otherwise I don’t get the secrecy. How does your organization set goals and evaluated performance if you don’t know what people are responsible for? On the other hand, I feel like as a manager, you can decide what work you assign to that employee. If he says that’s not in his job description, tell him to prove it!

    LW2: Does your company have the business set up in neighboring states? One of my coworkers had this same issue when he moved earlier this year. Luckily, the new home they purchased was near the border of two states, one our company has business in and one it doesn’t. Though he lives in the state without business-rights, he rents an office space in the other state so they could still make the move happen without changing jobs. I’m not sure if that’s a legal grey area, but if you are moving to a border-city, maybe look into it. Allison, if this is super illegal, please correct me!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Maybe you could even request your own job description, to see if their definition is the same as yours (and, um, the rest of the world) or if they’re confusing it with something else.

      1. LW #1 is bad at shutting up apparently*

        Oh, I definitely don’t have one. I was battlefield-promoted at the start of COVID-19 and am interim. I think this may be part of why HR didn’t want to give it to me, and I wouldn’t care but for the fact that the job they designed still leaves so many holes.

  17. MistOrMister*

    Re OP1….this place sounds like it could potentially he a bad employee’s dream job. How can they put anyone on a PIP if you’re not allowed to know their job description? It would play out like some bizarre comedy, telling someone they were underperforming and then insisting what you were talking about wasn’t in their job description!! It’s also weird to me that the CEO himself doesn’t think managers need to know the job descriptions of who they’re managing. How foes does a CEO not know this???

    1. Ellie*

      I’ve seen the lack of a job description used to avoid managing, not far off from how you described.

      I’ve also seen it used to increase demands unreasonably on conscientious workers.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, yep, yep. This.
        OP, not trying to be scary, but I think this is a Real Problem. I mean a deal breaker level problem. If you cannot bring this to a resolve in a short bit, get out. If you happen to notice other strange misconceptions about how things work, please consider moving on.
        What you want to watch out for is this remedial stuff where you have to teach the company the basics of, you know, how to be a company. I am saying this as a person who stayed too long at a place, doing remedial repairs that should have been widely known, understood and corrected looong before I got there. I was younger and I kept believing that they would self-correct. I could have just said that I still believed in Santa Claus, it would have been on the same par. Here we are 30 years out from that story and I hear from sources that they are still doing as they were doing.

  18. Myrin*

    #1, leaving aside the general weirdness around your company’s secrecy for just a moment, you aren’t in any kind of bind regarding your immediate situation – you say that job descriptions can “possibly to be shared with direct supervisors on a need-to-know basis” and, like Alison says, you are very much in a need-to-know situation right now. So by her own admittance, the HR manager can’t just keep this information from you unless she wants to argue that you somehow don’t need to know this.

    I do however think that even without a concrete job description in front of you, you can open discussion with your CEO once again. You have observed that this new role needs to exist in the first place because a certain “hole” needs to be filled/because your company has a need that isn’t currently being met. You can also ask your CEO why exactly he thinks this new role needs to entail the things that you hadn’t been envisioning at all – it sounds like you’re more “on the ground” and have more immediate knowledge of why this job is needed, so it really sounds like a proper discussion is in order anyway given how different your current expectations seem to be.

    1. Annony*

      I agree. Not being allowed to see the job description is weird and problematic, but the more pressing need right now is to talk to the CEO and get on the same page about the role and how it will address the current needs of the team. You don’t actually need the written job description before advocating to the CEO to include the job duties you need in the role.

  19. Ellie*


    When my company was smaller and more insular, they did the same thing. It took an external director coming in to really shake things up, but I was also able to make progress on other ??? moments with HR by reflecting back what they said + implication.

    “I cannot have an ergonomic llama brush needed for work related injury until the claim is processed in several weeks, but employees who request an ergonomic brush without a claim can get one immediately? My doctor’s note says it will cause more injury the longer we wait.”


    “If we don’t train employees on what questions are illegal during an interview, they may come up unintentionally and we could be facing a lawsuit.”

    For job descriptions, the secrecy was a combination of not having them for all jobs, not wanting to commit to one description because they liked people to wear too many hats, and HR not understanding the jobs themselves but being asked to write the descriptions.

    Getting job descriptions proposed by hiring managers and teams leads then polished by HR lead to more reasonable work expectations and clearer career paths.

    1. Kiitemso*

      Yeah, my company under our old leadership (and when we were smaller) was very similar. One of my favorite people, whose job seemed to be “help with leadership with whatever” ended up leaving because her job could be one thing one day and a hundred different things the next day, switching from very busy to almost nothing to do. The bosses would be adamant on doing a tedious administrative task themselves one day and then decide it’s her responsibility but then sometimes end up doing it themselves anyway. Very confusing. She wanted more responsibility and agency in her tasks, and she eventually got an executive assistant position in another company that provided just that.

      New CEO brought in his own people and now it’s a whole new world, we have descriptions and guidelines and everything makes more sense.

      1. Generic Name*

        I agree that a lack of job descriptions is often a symptom of a small company where people wear many hats. I started with my company nearly 10 years ago, and I don’t have an official job description, but my newer coworkers do. I’m sure if I asked, they would let me write one for myself, but it doesn’t seem necessary. But to say they are confidential is pretty bonkers..

    2. Ellie*

      Wanted to note that my company has continuously surprised me with its ability to grow (it’s almost unrecognizable from when I started 8 years go), and the only reason I stayed was *because* of that demonstrated ability to grow and permanently change.

      We’ve lost some good people over the years because they don’t want to deal with the energy suck that is fixing HR problems and small company problems (very reasonable desire!), but we’ve also kept good people on because they see the major impact they actually have.

      I guess what I’m saying here is:
      1. Has your company shown it can change?
      2. If so, do the positives for you outweigh the stress of making that change happen or waiting for other to make it happen?

  20. Anon for this*

    On #1 – my huge, multinational company doesn’t do job descriptions by default. Or rather, they do in hiring except they’re so wafty as to be near useless (eg, you certainly couldn’t use it as a statement of your actual work goals), and there *are* some descriptions of the various grades – but those are a) not generally available other than to management (??) and b) also very general, so certainly couldn’t be used to really help with what tasks are your particular responsibility or aim (though I guess it does cover the level you’re expected to be working at).

    On the whole I don’t think this is actually a major issue – managers are responsible for setting goals/priorities/making it clear what needs to happen to progress and that generally does happen.

    I would have thought you can have a conversation about what you need from this new role and point out any discrepancies with what’s been discussed without a formal job description being the starting point – even if that’s basically starting the conversation by writing out what you think the role would ideally be & going from there?

    In my companies case the only time it really seemed dysfunctional was what my current company acquired my previous company. We were all told what role we were moving to (& it was tbh accept or give notice) and weren’t given job descriptions to be able to even check whether it was reasonable. I’ve since got a promotion but I’m still a bit pissed haha, the original job grade did not remotely reflect what I was doing.

    1. Barney*

      The whole point of a job description is to make sure everyone has the same understanding about what that position does and then use that information for setting goals/priorities/making it clear what needs to happen to progress. Your solution (writing out what you think the role would ideally be) is to essentially create a new job description, so it seems like you do agree that job descriptions are actually kinda important. 

      1. TechWorker*

        The point I was actually trying to make is that it’s possible to have a conversation around the duties for the role without demanding a formal job description. It didn’t seem from the original letter like the CEO was refusing to discuss what the role is, just they have a different view of it from OP.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I like this. Taking it to its logical conclusion:

        Salary: Money
        Benefits: Some
        Qualifications: Previous experience doing stuff for a period of time.
        Educational Requirements: School

        1. Quill*

          Inevitable recruiter cold call: “We were impressed that you have a resume. Please come work as salesperson!”

      2. TechWorker*

        As I said, they do post job openings, but they are mostly marketing fluff. (‘We’re looking for someone with experience in x,y,z technologies to work on a project on this arena.. etc etc). I wouldn’t say that’s a very descriptive job description nor is it something you would be able to review against in a performance review.

        I also never said they weren’t important! I said not every company uses them formally – if I asked my manager for ‘my job description’ they wouldn’t be able to give it to me as a document because it doesn’t exist. If I said ‘can we talk about my goals for this year’ sure. I’ve never been confused about what my responsibilities are, but again that comes from managers at lower levels and at higher levels non-specific things like ‘run the project’ rather than being a set list of things anyone has written out.

        I was mostly rallying against the view that ‘all functioning companies use job descriptions and update them whenever someone’s responsibilities change’.

      3. Can't Sit Still*

        Pretty much! My job description has a vague resemblance to my actual duties and responsibilities, since it’s for everyone in my pay grade. It’s incredibly generic and it is not at all useful for actually hiring someone for a specific role. The only useful section is educational requirements, because they are very clear on whether they require an associates, bachelors or masters degree, or a PhD for each job. Sometimes, that’s the only way to tell what the actual job description is for!

        1. TechWorker*

          I would say our job ads are a combination of that very generic description + a description of what the responsibilities of what the team you’d be joining does. That doesn’t seem that weird to me but it’s also not a detailed job description and wouldn’t list specific duties/responsibilities.

  21. LGC*

    LW3: According to the news, it doesn’t sound like you’re worrying about this for nothing! (I wish this weren’t a thing, but it is.)

    Is there any way you can corral your internship supervisor into supporting you – or do you think he wouldn’t have your back? To be real, while there have been way too many high-profile incidents of people showing contempt for health orders (as in…there are incidents), from what I understand most people, no matter where they’re from and what political persuasion they’re of, have at least some respect for the health guidelines we’re under. I think it’s – sadly – pretty likely that people will be jerks to you, because a lot of people are selfish jerks. But it sounds like you feel like you’re alone in this, and you kind of need some backup in real life. (Love y’all, AAM fam, but there’s only so much we can do for LW3.)

    Also, your dad is…to use the AAM term of art, being extremely weird.

    1. Ag Intern*

      I’m pretty sure my supervisor will have my back (haven’t met him yet!) after the initial questioning phase, even if he’s not wearing a mask himself. I’m just already exasperated thinking about the possibility of defending myself over and over to each client/farmer I meet with, but the scripts Alison and the other commenters have given will definitely help with that!

      My dad is of the opinion that because I work in such a male-dominated field, I need to do what it takes to get into “the boys club,” regardless of the personal toll it takes. I’ve explained a couple times that this is how those “boys clubs” gain power, but now I just say “Well, I won’t be doing that one Dad!”

  22. Lifelong student*

    LW2- check your state law. In PA, if someone moves to follow their spouse, thereby losing their job- they are eligible for unemployment. You used partner- not spouse – so YMMV

  23. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP3, Alison’s advice is the way to go. I’ve been using it since the virus hit national news (and we’re waaaay away from China) and “quarantine” was a word you only found in history books. When my company established optional WFH I actually used the same sentence to get it approved, and I’m using it now they’re preparing for green light to reopen the offices.

    1. JSPA*

      Adding, the allergies and being from the city are, in this case, a bonus. And feel free to throw “the government” under the bus in passing, if that’s what it takes, to be treated as sane (and given space).

      “If I get a silent case of COVID, my allergy sneezing would spread it for miles. I don’t want to be that person.”

      “As bad as my allergies are, I wouldn’t even know if I got sick. So this is my best option.”

      “I could never forgive myself if [local community] ended up like [my city].”

      “I’ve been living in [city]. Covid has been bad there. The government says I’m not a risk, but you know how long it takes the government to catch up with the science! I’m being extra careful.”

  24. Nance*

    How does #1’s company even hold effective performance reviews is nobody is allowed to look at the job description? Is it weird that where I work your job description is an accurate list of your responsibilities, and reviewed at least annually by both managers and employees to make sure it’s as up to date as possible? I have literally rewritten parts of my own job description to remove outdated responsibilities and add in new responsibilities I have taken on or will be taking on in the coming year. (With manager’s approval of course.) How does one have any objective baseline for anything without a freaking job description?

    I’d imagine employees of that company also get screwed over when it comes to pay raises based on increased work responsibility. Who is keeping track? Who knows anything about anything? How do you avoid pay disparities caused by implicit bias if you don’t even have an organized way to keep track of what responsibilities people have? (I assume the easy answer is “you don’t.”)

    1. CoffeeLover*

      You’re describing a level of function that is not present in 99% of orgs. In my experience, no one ‘officially’ keeps track of anything and you have to be your own advocate to ensure you don’t get screwed (unless you have a great manager). Keeping employees in the dark is the implicit policy of some places – after all if you don’t have the information, you don’t have the power to advocate for yourself. It’s a way to underpay people and get more out of them without increasing their pay. These companies aren’t trying to be fair or to avoid salary discrepancy unfortunately because they see that doing so would harm their bottom line (which I think is misguided).

      That sounds really jaded, but it’s just how it is at a lot of companies. Sounds like you lucked out with your organization, Nance.

      1. Barney*

        You’re describing a level of function that is not present in 99% of orgs

        This is just not true. Maybe you’ve been unusually unlucky in the jobs you’ve had, but 99% of employers are not this dysfunctional.

        1. Nance*

          Yup. I realize that my current situation is better than average, but I feel like I’ve at least always had a fairly accurate and available job description in professional jobs I’ve held.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I agree, I’ve always had access to job descriptions, often on a company intranet. While I’m sure there are dysfunctional employers out there, it’s not 99%.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Wow. CoffeeLover, I think your personal experience is warping your point of view. Every place I’ve ever worked has had job descriptions, and all were public. In my current situation, job descriptions have to be reviewed for accuracy every year as part of the performance review process.

        1. TechWorker*

          Honestly I think lots of places have this information and discussions on it but just not written out formally as a ‘job description’.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          Is it really normal to go through and update your job description on an annual basis in the way described? Of course my places of employment had job descriptions, but they were never reviewed or updated. At most they were fairly generic descriptions of the general duties of the role. Not like – if you do x thing not in this description we will update your job description and compensate you for it. That level of transparency has not existed in the 5 (fortune 50) employers I’ve had.

          1. Sara without an H*

            I don’t think it’s uncommon. The idea seems to be to make sure that the job description doesn’t get out of date. Since most of the jobs in my area are pretty stable, the review takes about 5-10 minutes annually.

  25. Not So NewReader*

    OP1, I really need an update on how you are doing this this. Please let us know, when and if you can.

    1. LW #1 is bad at focusing on work given all of these delightful comments*

      There’s updates! Search “LW #1 is bad at…” for all the ways I am breaking things that probably deserve to be broken!

  26. Koala dreams*

    #1 The secret job descriptions thing is super weird. From a practical point of view, the immediately problem is that the CEO and you have different expectations of the role. It won’t be easy for the employee to be stuck in between, and it will be difficult for you to manage an employee who expected a different job and might resent the sudden change, as they would see it. You need to keep talking to the CEO and the employee to find out where the expectations differ and align them. You don’t need an official document to do that. If you would like a written record somewhere, maybe you can send emails with bullet lists as a reminder after the conversations?

  27. Miss May*

    #3: I also work in a very blue collar, farming-adjacent field of work. While I’ve definitely heard that its a “hoax” from one select person, most of my coworkers don’t say anything about others wearing masks. In particular, one manager has a wife going through chemo, so he and the colleagues he works with keep their distance and wear masks.

    The big boss has also taken to wearing a red bandanna tied around the lower half of his face (I’ll say that with his cowboy boots it does look like hes in the old west, going to rob a bank), and I think that having someone at the top following the guidelines helps.

    If all else fails, just follow Allison’s advice– after all, there are plenty of people in our lives that are high risk. Good luck!

  28. CoffeeLover*

    #1 I once had to battle HR for an org chart… that was weird but in a similar vein of HR-gone-rampant. Sometimes you just have an incompetent HR department. I doubt this will be the last time you clash with them.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This makes me wonder if the employees have descriptions of their own jobs? If not, how do they know what their jobs are?

    1. TechWorker*

      I’ll probably get flack for repeating myself on this thread.. but I’ve worked at 2 different companies in ~5 different roles, never had a job description and honestly never been confused.

      How did I know what my job was? I was, Er, told what to do & took on more responsibility over time..?

      1. Show Me the Money*

        That doesn’t mesn someone else hasn’t. Not having a written job description easily leads to confusions, apeope aren’t sure where there job ebds and another one begins.

        In the federal service, this is a non-issue as there is a broad position description for every job classification that has a narrower performance plan associated with it for specific positions falling under that description. Employess must receive both of these documents. I would be so uncomfortable knowing that my official dutues could be changed on a whim. There is so much potential for abuse

        1. Show Me the Money*

          So many apologies: “confusion, as people aren’t sure where their job ends”

  30. Morning reader*

    OP3, I think the advice for you is good but I’m a little mystified that all the farmers you know are men. In the farm families I know, the women are farmers. Perhaps if there is significant heavy work, men do more of that. Now that I think about it, all of the farmers I know directly are women. In Hawaii, Maryland, California and Illinois. Either sole proprietors or they do more of the farm operation than their husbands.
    This doesn’t help the social distance question but perhaps LW could cultivate relationships among the farm women who might be more reasonable. Or at least less inclined to macho-inspired unsafe practices.

    1. Ag Intern*

      I am also mystified! It’s possible that last summer was just a fluke and the farmers who happened to be available / request assistance were men. I even went to a day workshop for a region-specific problem held by the local university and the only women there were me and a couple of my coworkers from other offices! I am doing some research into women’s groups focused on agriculture out there, so hopefully I’ll find some support.

  31. Io*

    LW3 I don’t think they’ll give you any trouble. I cover a rural area for work. Mask use varies depending on the age group, but I’ve never seen anyone hassled over it. Same thing for not shaking hands. Just nod, and say something along the lines of, ‘I’d normally shake your hand, but with social distancing…’ The elbow touching thing would come across as strange so I wouldn’t bother with it.

    Also the people with the, ‘you’re a long way from home’ probably mean well. If you’re from a small town/rural area and you meet a new person you almost always know someone who knows them so it’s normal to run through an ‘are you related to so-and-so?’ or ‘did you go to school with so-and-so?’ and so on followed by an update on what that person is doing now. It’s seen as a little rude to just jump straight to business so they’re probably trying to show you a modified version of that courtesy.

    1. Amy Sly*

      Yep. I’d even add a clarifier that “Yeah, I’m actually from [Appalachian state]; I just go to school in NYC.”

    2. Ag Intern*

      I’m definitely going to be very matter-of-fact about it. Nothing to see here! No reason to engage in conversation about what I’m wearing!

      I definitely have noticed that initial bit of small talk. Last summer it seemed like my supervisor had gone to college with/transported cattle with/played golf with everyone we met or at least had someone in common. I guess I just don’t like the “long way from home” comment because I don’t know what to say in response?? I’ve said “haha, yeah, this is just the place that offered me the job!” “I missed seeing dirt and the sky every day!” “I got tired of taking the subway!” (that last one is exaggerated I appreciate and admire public transportation as a civil engineering major) but I never seem to totally hit the mark. I’m hoping it’s just a different type of conversation that I’ll get better at once I’ve spent more time practicing.

  32. Jedi Squirrel*

    LW #3:

    a look that conveys “I didn’t care about your opinion before, and I care about it even less now”

    Good lord, I really need a youtube video of this look. I have a thousand uses for it.

    1. Ag Intern*

      Slight frown, open eyes, approximately 5 degree head tilt (like you’re confused or not comprehending, but just a little).

      The key is to make sure there’s some vacancy in your eyes. What they (professors yelling at you in class, men telling you you only got into your school because you’re a woman, etc.) want is for you to engage with them and if you can look like you’re thinking about what to have for dinner tonight instead of getting riled up it works wonders.

  33. M. from P.*

    I think the lack of a job description is the smaller problem here.
    From your phrasing “both [the CEO] and my new direct report were envisioning the role very differently than I was” – it looks like you are in disagreement with the CEO about the scope of the role. The CEO’s vision ultimately trumps yours and unless you can convince him about yours which you can absolutely try to do, it does not really matter if you can dig up the job description or not.
    But obviously the fact that the HR is blowing you off about a simple and straightforward request is also concerning. It’s worth thinking about whether you are given enough support as a manager. Is the CEO / your own manager otherwise supportive? Does the new employee seem cooperative? I’d look at both these things to see if the situation is workable.

    1. LW #1 is bad at respecting authority*

      It is indeed a separate and important problem! Of course the CEO can have whatever vision for the role he wants, and he doesn’t have to listen to me. This is pretty solidly a situation where if we don’t fill the holes I had identified, either with this role or someone else, the organization will fail. So. Up to him. ::shrug emoji::

      1. M. from P.*

        Wait, are you the OP? I never said you were bad at respecting authority. I am firmly on your side here! It’s just that just reading your first sentence (about your CEO and employee having different expectations than you) gave me an uneasy feeling,

  34. What the What*

    The job description thing is so weird that I wonder if there was some misunderstanding that you were asking to find out their salary?

    I mean… without being able to look at a job description, your employees could just shrug and say, “Oh, that’s not my job. My job is to sit here and play video games all day and I’m doing a bang up job.” And you, as the manager, have to say, “Oh well, I guess you’re right, since I have no idea what your job is.”

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But even that is ridiculous. A manager needs to know basic things about their subordinates, and that includes job descriptions and salary. I’d love to hear HR’s explanation of WHY they’re so reluctant to give this information to OP. If you don’t know what someone is supposed to do or how much they’re making to do it, how are you effectively supposed to manage them?

  35. Jedi Squirrel*

    LW #1:

    At every company I have ever worked for, all job descriptions are available to all employees. Why wouldn’t they be? If you’re looking to hire, transfer, or get a promotion, you need to know what those duties are. It is beyond bizarre (to say nothing of mildly or wildly incompetent on HR’s part) to keep these top secret.

  36. Brett*

    I work for a large ag company (one you have definitely heard of). We even have an intern starting in a week.

    Orders from the top down are that everyone wears masks while on site or on a site visit. No one shakes hands, including sales people. To reinforce this, every single employee is being sent a set of masks that they must use while on site, with enough masks to rotate and clean them.
    As someone else mentioned above, your bigger problem might be that you are coming from NYC, which people in our area view as ground zero for the COVID outbreak. Don’t be surprised if people don’t want you to do any site visits for 14 days.

    1. Ag Intern*

      Oh, good point. I will clarify (to you and my supervisor) that my parents live in yet a third state and I’ve been here for the past two months, but it’s still more densely populated/has reported more cases than my state of employment.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    #1, the job description secrecy makes no sense at all as others have said. But I think an equally big concern is that the CEO and employee have different ideas than you about the role. Would a job description really matter in that case? (I mean would the CEO read it and then say oh yeah you’re right, never mind?)

    It just sounds like there’s a general lack of communication (to put it mildly) there!

  38. wdb*

    #5: What about interim situations where you WERE offered the job, but turned it down? I stepped into an interim team lead role (a management position) for almost a year. They were after me to accept the position permanently within a couple months of me stepping in, and I considered it strongly but ultimately it wasn’t for me. That said, it was a great opportunity to gain some management experience, and I am continuing to use the skills I learned in my current (old) role. By the end of the interim period, I had my “real” boss and my interim boss both giving me the hard sell to stay with them – a really nice bit of kudos for me!
    So how do I reflect this on my resume? I don’t want to appear to be bragging, but it would be nice to show that I have that year of management experience and did so well they wanted me to stay though ultimately I didn’t. The wording here is tricky for me and I could use some advice.

  39. fortheloveofspreadsheets*

    LW #3: If you don’t have someone at home to blame it on, you can always say you know someone who died/almost died from COVID-19 in the state you are working in, and you would never forgive yourself if you were the cause of that. It’s true, even if the person you know is because the reported cases/deaths in your state-of-work is not zero. It’s harder to be a dick to someone who is genuinely worried about others vs. themselves.

    1. Carlie*

      As someone who did have someone close to me die of it and may have another any day now, that smarts as being used for a rationale. If nothing else, that’s too much of an opening – they may ask more about it, they may try to empathize because it happened to them too… there’s a lot of conversational danger in that kind of statement. “I’d rather be safe for everyone” should be fine, and if they somehow think it’s a personal quirk, let them. Or “I’ve read accounts of what happens if you get a bad case of it, and I’d hate to be responsible for unknowingly spreading that to anyone”.

  40. not_kate_winslet*

    LW1 – that’s insane. Our HR specifically requires that our performance management / reviews reflect an employee’s work related to what is in their position description. I have literally never heard of this approach… how are you supposed to set goals and prioritize their workload if you don’t know what their job is??

  41. TootsNYC*

    re: #5, interim director

    And think how it will look if the interviewer asks, “So, you were interim director, but they hired someone else. How did that go?” and you say, “It’s been great. I think I would have done a very good job, and I was very successful in the role, but I also see why they chose the person they did. They have an experience that can take us in a new way, and they are actually a terrific boss. I’m learning a lot from them, and it’s great to be valued by them for all the institutional knowledge, and for my skills. So I’m not at all unhappy, but I have also seen that it is now very important for me to broaden my experience and my employer base.”

    You will make a great impression as a no-drama hire who understands that the company’s goals might be different from your personal ones, but that you are capable of seeing why that it, and supporting is.

    1. LW5 - So familiar*

      Excellent script – I’ve been through it and understand why the decision was made and honestly don’t have a problem with my new boss but I’m still SALTY about how it was handled, and it does not make me always speak well about the situation. I’m saving this script for future use!!!!

    2. Letter Writer 5*

      LW 5 here! That is a great script for interview time if it comes up-thank you so much, TootsNYC!

      I’m sorry your employer handled it poorly, So Familiar. Mine did a good job handling the situation, so luckily no complaints there.

  42. 867-5309*

    LW2: One solution would be to offer to work as a contract employee as a stop-gap until you find something else. This means you would be responsible for health insurance and employment tax but would let you keep your job.

    I did that initially when moving from Europe back to the United States, so the company in Europe did not need to set-up a U.S. entity before we were ready to hire here.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      You could offer, but that will still depend on the state you’re moving to. California, for example, now has crazy strict regulations defining who can and can’t be a contractor (to the point where almost no one can).

  43. LW5 - So familiar*

    Re: Letter #5 – How could you put it on your resume if you in fact did the job but were never given the interim title? When my previous department director left, I was the only one would could do 95% of the job, so I kept our department of 2 (normally 4, bad timing!) going and did both my job and the director. I was also not selected for the promotion, which I’ve mostly come to terms with, but would love to be able to list that six months on my resume because it was honestly a lot of responsibility, much of which I’ve unofficially retained. Is it something to list under my current role’s accomplishments and responsibilities?

    1. RecoveringSWO*

      Personally, I would list it as an action bullet point under your current title that included extra duties pertinent to your application, the 6 month time period, and any results/praise garnered during the time period.

      And for OP5, if she is not looking to become a director, she may also want to list the interim position as an action bullet point instead of a separately titled section to highlight how the interim stint reflects her expertise in the subject vs. highlighting having experience in a director level role.

  44. Ellen N.*

    Regarding the employee who is moving to a different state. I’ve had to deal with this when I worked in finance. I contacted the payroll company (Paychex, ADP, etc.) and had them set up the payroll in the other state. It wasn’t difficult.

  45. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Our small backwater towns DO NOT WANT outsiders more than ever because now NYC will be seen as such high exposure to the Rona.

    Also the response to “city girl” is “that’s not very gentlemanly of you to pick on a girl, bubs”.

    A lot of times you just need to throw it back at them. It’s a farm or ranch, be polite but I laughed at the idea of keeping it professional. It’s hard to be professional when you’re working land or stock. That’ll get you pegged as city more than being NYC trained.

  46. Elsie*

    #6: How does that work if you’re a high risk employee? The White House guidelines (and many states) say that high risk individuals should stay home until Phase 3. If your employer reopens as part of Phase 1, can you refuse to return until Phase 3 and continue to collect unemployment if you’re high risk?

    1. Jon*

      How is that different from the massive numbers of senior citizens who have been working at cash registers in grocery stores this whole time? I’m not being flip. Any employee can refuse to work (or to accept an offer for rehire) for any reason – because the employee is concerned about exposure, because the employee prefers the $2,400 extra a month in federal unemployment on top of state unemployment, whatever. But if you decline an offer to rehire you likely aren’t eligible for unemployment, just like if you quit. The guidance specifically is for the employers who took CARES Act loans that turn into grants but only if they maintain jobs at the same level; those employers will not be screwed over if employees decline a written offer to rehire them.

    2. gsa*

      I’ve been wondering the same. What about an exemption for people with children at home but whose childcare is not yet up and running?

  47. BlueWolf*

    Re: LW#2, I hadn’t thought of this. I’ve been thinking of asking if I could become remote permanently, so that I could move back to my home state where housing is WAY cheaper. I hadn’t though about the fact that working from home in my current state is different from moving to an entirely new state because my taxes our already withheld by my resident state either way due to reciprocity. Our headquarters is in DC, but we also have offices in NY and CA and a few other countries, so I think our HR department and payroll company probably could probably handle it?

    1. Cat lady*

      Don’t assume that! I work for a huge international org with a headquarters in DC and offices in other states. They told me I could work remotely from another state but then pulled it similar to LW1 because they don’t want to register in my new state. On the other hand my partner’s DC based org set up in our new state just for him so it really depends on how reasonable your HR is.

      1. BlueWolf*

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t move unless it was made official. Mostly it’s just wishful thinking because I’d like to eventually be able to buy a house and there’s no way I can afford one in the DC area.

  48. Claire*

    #1, maybe try avoiding the use of the term “job description” and ask the CEO and/or HR for a list of what exactly your report is responsible for doing? Which is literally a job description, but apparently HR has some weird hang-up about that term. And then if they come back with “direct report must do X, Y, and Z” and you need someone to do L, M, and N, you can go from there.

  49. BradC*

    Lots of responses to the weirdness of #1, but let me just say that whether or not you are successful in getting a copy of the “official” job description from HR (which may or many not actually exist and/or be accurate/useful), you definitely need a FUNCTIONAL/working statement that describes the role and duties this employee will be filling when he starts reporting to you.

    And no matter what the deal with HR is, that already appears to be a matter of some disagreement.

    I suggest that fighting with HR, even if you win, isn’t going to fix THAT problem, which is the larger concern here.

  50. Just another admin*

    #1 LW : is there any chance HR has combined Job description with compensation information? and hence so secretive about it? It is so very unusual but wonders never cease in the dysfunction of some companies

  51. LW #1 is bad at privacy*

    I am LW #1 with an update! I got the job description in question , with admonishment not to share it with the rest of the team. I wouldn’t anyway because it’s full of issues. I red-penned it and sent it back to my boss. They had wanted it to be finalized today – I am refusing to “sign off” but I don’t know if that actually will block the bad version from being finalized.

    To add to the dark humor of the situation:

    New Direct Report currently has direct reports that will not be moving with them to the new role. Apparently the fact that New Direct Report was being reassigned was secret, but it came up on a cross-team call where we were talking about how confused we are about who’s on which team now, and I was like “oh yeah I assume you’ve figured out who New Direct Report’s old direct reports are going to be reporting to now” and they… hadn’t? And that’s how the old direct reports found out and are rightly pretty mad, and my boss is mad at me for spilling. I am apparently VERY bad at anticipating our policies about HR privacy, possibly because they don’t make a lot of sense and I have received no training! Vetted resources for what managers are actually legally supposed to keep private are very welcome!

    1. BradC*

      Thanks for the update.

      Yeah, it is pretty typical in my experience to wait until the whole “new org chart” is figured out before any part of a restructuring/cross-team move is announced, so yeah, the fact that you’re still in the middle of hammering out all the details means you should have suspected (or asked) if the information was public.

      Not a legal issue as much as it is a courtesy to those impacted – much better to hear about the new plan instead of just hearing “we’re working on a new plan”.

    2. TechWorker*

      I don’t think there’s anything legal specifically, but I also screwed up a couple of times by assuming people had been told about team moves and they hadn’t! Assuming that stuff is confidential until it happens or you explicitly ask otherwise is safest.

      It probably is the case that your company is a bit… Er… disorganised to say the least ;) but it’s a lot worse for these reports to hear about something with the assumption they already know it vs to have it come through management at the point the information is ready to be shared.

    3. Random Commenter*

      I would guess that’s all company policy, nothing mandated legally.
      Not in the states, but the private job description sounds ridiculous to me.
      Additionally, your company’s communication skills. If they give you private information, they should state that it’s private.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This kind of weird secrecy is usually linked to companies who don’t want to be found doing shady crap. They don’t want someone knowing a job description because they can find inconstancy, they can find a lot of inequality as well.

      People who act squirrely do it because they are trying to hide their acorns haphazardly cloaked in this secrecy nonsense.

      I would just use this as marks against them, there’s no legal issues. Job descriptions are public domain. I have to hand them over if someone were to question accommodations being denied or something to prove undue hardship. It’s really to cover our asses but not at all top-secret.

  52. Honey Badger*

    If someone is offered their job back at the same salary/benefits and turns it down , they absolutely should be kicked off unemployment, no question. That’s an abuse of the system.

  53. Cat lady*

    LW #2 are you me??? I am in the almost exact same situation! I let my manager know at my 6 month check-in last year that my partner and I are consider moving to a new state in the beginning of the year. Later in the year my supervisors went to HR to see if I could work remotely (at their request not mine, even though I was excited about the opportunity). Our HR rep was nothing but incredibly positive about it and continued to assure me that it could happen for at least 6 months to a year. But then the HR rep quit and the rest of HR said it wasn’t possible even though I had already given up my apartment and signed a lease in the new city. They have extended me now till the end of June in light of COVID but I feel incredibly betrayed and that I also missed out on months of job searching time- I also wouldn’t have moved at the time I did if I didn’t think I had 6-12 months of job security. I don’t have any big answers for you but just some solidarity. I am 100% going to push for severance at the end of June and at the very least hope they will give me an extended period of health insurance coverage.

  54. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    Just came to say that this is a smart young person:

    “I’m just an intern and I try really hard to adapt to the practices of my workplace and surroundings instead of assuming my way is right, but Alison. My way is DEFINITELY right this time. “

  55. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    So, question related to letter #2 (or maybe this is better for the open thread or a question of its own? – it doesn’t apply to me personally so it would feel weird to write in properly with it):

    How does the not easy to have remote workers in different states thing work with everyone working from home due to sheltering in place? A lot of metro areas are near borders of states, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising for someone to work at a business in State A but actually live in State B. If they’re usually working in their office in State A but currently WFH in State B, does that mean the business now needs to suddenly also have a State B presence? I assume that basically every state government is too busy dealing with other stuff right now to care, but it’s not something I’ve seen discussed.

    1. Lady Heather*

      I was curious about this and tried to google – but didn’t come up with anything.
      And not just about registration, but about labour laws like overtime and minimum wage as well – if you’re a company in Nevada and you have an employee in California that asks to work from home one day a week, does that mean you owe them overtime if they work 9 hours that one day?
      If anyone knows.. please share.

  56. Rich*

    OP 5, I was in exactly this position several years ago. I was a department (front line) manager and was made interim director when the then-director left. I held the interim position for several months and applied for, but was not given the permanent job. When the permanent director came in (and inevitably reorganized) I went back to a front line management role.

    I list it on my resume as Amalgamated Teapots, 2007-2014, Manager of Tea Cozies, Interim Director of Teapots, Manager of Teapot Distribution.

    I actually think it’s one of the best things on my resume, because I’m able to list accomplishments that punch above my weight when applying for management positions (and the experience behind those accomplishments make me a better candidate and much better interviewee).

    I was recently in the running for a customer-facing management promotion at my current employer. I didn’t get the job (for valid technical reasons). When interviewed by the hiring director and their peers, I was able to make the case like this:
    “I’ve either held or reported directly to every role this position needs to interact with, and every role this position needs to influence in order to succeed. That’s put me on all sides of the problems I’ll face, as shown by solutions X, Y, and Z on my resume. I’ve already managed people in this role, so I understand performance and preparation for it in a way other candidates don’t, which gives me less ramp-up time. ”

    There’s more when I get into specifics of what I’ve done and how I work, but I lean on this _hard_. If they ask why I didn’t get the full time position, I talk them through that, but it rarely comes up. I think it’s a HUGE positive on my resume and for my candidacy.

    Make it about the job you DID and not about the job you didn’t get. It will pay big dividends.

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