candidate lied about the dates of a job, ex-mentee still brings me all her questions, and more

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

1. Candidate lied about the dates of a job

I know you say that you can leave short jobs off resumes. But I have an applicant who left a short job off their employment application and changed the dates on their prior position to hide that time gap. (That is, on the application, Present Job starts in April while Past Job 2 ends in April. But Past Job 2 actually ended in January, and Omitted Job was from January through April.)

I’m asking the applicant for an explanation and I’m trying to get in touch with the applicant’s supervisor from Omitted Job, but I’m very uneasy about the judgment that the applicant showed in misrepresenting their employment dates regardless. Should I even proceed with this applicant’s candidacy?

It’s fine to leave a job off a resume; resumes aren’t required to be comprehensive accounts of everything a person has ever done. So if that was all this was, I’d tell you not to penalize the person at all. But they lied about how long they were employed somewhere, presumably in an attempt to mislead you. That’s not okay, it’s an enormous red flag about their integrity, and it should be an immediate deal-breaker. (The only exception to that would be if found out there was an innocent explanation, but I’m hard-pressed to think of what one could be.)

2. My ex-mentee still comes to me with all of her questions

I work in a fast-paced company in a role that usually starts out as a contract to hire position. During your time as a contract worker, you get a mentor who is there to answer questions and help you with your first few clients. About nine months ago, I signed up to be a mentor to incoming contract workers because a) I genuinely enjoy training people and b) it’s part of building social capital and moving up in the company. Most days it’s fun and super rewarding.

My first mentee, Jane, was absolutely wonderful. I gave her a lot of 1:1 attention even though it was during our busy season and we were working crazy hours to finish our work each week. She passed her contract time with flying colors and now works full-time on a different team than I do but in the same role. We have a very nice relationship.

I now have another mentee. She hasn’t picked up our process as quickly so she needs a ton of extra time going over basics. And we don’t have as many people as we should have right now, so we are slammed with work.

My problem is that Jane keeps coming back to me for help with her clients. This in general isn’t a huge problem. We have a highly collaborative culture and it’s natural to go to someone and say, “Hey, have you had a client that needed X or Y before? How do you do that?” Part of our job is that we are expected to be helpful to everyone — you get branded as unhelpful if you aren’t.

But I am still the first person she reaches out to if she has any questions at all. And while she’s welcome to reach out to me from time to time, she’s been full-time for several months now and should be leveraging her own team for most of her day-to-day items, and the little time I have not assisting my own clients should be going to my current mentee. Jane has told me that she’s had a hard time connecting with her new team, which I get. I was like that when I first came on full-time, but I was also given a new mentor on my new team and told to integrate and start building relationships. I tried nudging her in that direction — I suggested she ask her manager for a mentor on her team and find what each of her team member’s strengths were, so when she had questions in those areas, she could use that as a bridge to get assistance and build relationships.

So far nothing has changed, and we’re approaching one of the busiest times of the year. Do I suck it up and just deal with the extra time drain? Is there a polite way to say “your own team should be your first resource now” without being branded as an unhelpful associate or risking my relationship with her?

Can you look at explaining this to Jane as your final act as her mentor? You could say, “Now that you’re a few months into your new role, this is the end of our mentoring time together! You should ask Cressida for a mentor on your team, and I need to focus my mentoring time on Lavinia. So I can’t be your first point of contact for questions anymore; your new mentor and your team should be that. But let’s make sure we still connect from time to time!”

Then if nothing changes, be direct: “This is the kind of thing you should check with your own team for! If you’re having trouble doing that, should we talk about what obstacles you’re encountering and come up with a plan to get past them?” (That’s still mentoring, yes, but it’s with the specific purpose of moving her off your mentoring plate — and makes it clear that’s the end game. But you’re still being helpful and not shutting her down completely.)

Once you successfully finish this transition, make a point of reaching out to her now and then so that it’s clear you still want a relationship with her — it’s just changing to a new type of interaction than what it was previously.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Will my manager care if I don’t give him a holiday gift this year?

In the past few months, I happened upon an older post of yours about gift giving at the office. I did not know one shouldn’t gift up! Thanks for telling me. But here is my dilemma.

My first year on the job (two years ago), I gave my manager a card at Thanksgiving because I was truly grateful for the job, and the holiday had me in the thankful spirit. I had been unemployed for several months before getting hired. I gave a gift certificate to one of my manager’s favorite restaurants. At Christmas, my coworker and I each got a gift from our manager.

Last year, I wanted to give the same gift card but at Christmas. This time I asked my coworker if she wanted to chip in because I didn’t want to not include her (which I now realize is rude — asking people for money). So, last year’s was from both of us.

Anyway, this year, I really hate my job. I don’t want to give a gift, plus now I know I shouldn’t have done so in the first place. Will my manager think I don’t like him if he doesn’t get a gift this year? Should I email him around the holidays and tell him I learned I shouldn’t gift up, so not to expect anything this year?

I wouldn’t announce it to him. I’d just … not give the gift. You might also mention your changed thinking to your coworker in case she’s feeling pressure to do a gift herself.

However, when you’re trying to move away from a gift-giving tradition, one way to ease the transition is to bring in food for your whole team instead. If you bring in a box of muffins or chocolate (something homemade or store-bought; either is fine) and tell people it’s a holiday gift for the team, that can be a comfortable middle ground so there’s not such a stark difference with last year. And then you can keep doing that in future years if you enjoy it, or you can do nothing once you’ve had your Baked Goods Transition Year.

4. Should I tell my company that my resignation-causing move might not happen?

I’ve worked at my company for more than three years. Two Fridays ago, I gave my four weeks’ notice in order to join my partner as he studies abroad. Both of us have been excitedly planning this move for months. However, my partner’s parents have been experiencing simultaneous (unrelated) health issues this year, and as we approach our departure date they are worsening. Their issues are very scary but non-life-threatening. As a result, my partner is feeling increasing internal pressure to defer his schooling by one year in order to take care of them.

This experience has been painful and whiplash-inducing, to say the least. We are just starting to sort through the many complications (and occasional upsides) caused by this potential delay. However, we won’t know until quite close to our departure date — maybe less than a week out — if his parents’ condition is stable enough to travel as planned. I had hoped that our move would lead to more diverse professional experience on my end, but if it’s not happening I would be willing to continue in my current job for another year. (It seems impractical to search for a job if I know I’m moving in a year, not to mention overwhelming at this point.) No one in my professional life knows about this yet.

I stated in my resignation letter that I would be willing to work remotely on a contractual basis to complete essential tasks and train my replacement. My manager has excitedly taken me up on this offer, so I am confident that I could successfully rescind my resignation if need be. However, the question for now is, should I tell my company about “Schrödinger’s move” or only bring it up if we decide to stay (which could potentially happen after my notice period ends)? If so, how do I phrase it without creating false expectations?

Since your manager sounds like she’d like you to stay, can you just be straightforward with her about what’s happening? You could explain things are up in the air and say, “We likely won’t know until very close to (date) whether we’ll actually move or not. If we don’t, I would love to stay on here. I hate to ask you to keep things in limbo for me that long, but if it did turn out that we’re staying put, is that an option you’d be open to?”

Definitely ask it now rather than waiting, because otherwise it might be harder for her to agree — especially if your company is further down to the path toward hiring your replacement at that point.

5. Can a manager take away overtime work?

I have a friend whose manager has been micromanaging, pushy, and borderline abusive for the three years they’ve worked with him. They haven’t been willing to go to HR, since the first step would be guided mediation and they suspect he would retaliate (with plausible deniability) after that. Their overall boss refuses to get involved in any employee issues, so asking her to step in isn’t an option.

But last week, their office had a major event which they worked hard on, putting off all other tasks (by request) in the weeks leading up. The final night before the event, there was still a little work that needed to be done, so their manager approved them for a few hours of overtime. They stayed late for about two hours to finish getting the event ready. The next day, after the event had opened, their manager sent them home two hours early in order to avoid having to pay the overtime, which he had already approved.

My instinct is that this will be technically legal, whether or not the overtime approval was in writing, because most of the time, the answer to “Can an employer really do that?” is “Yes, even if it’s a jerk move.” But I wanted to check, just in case this is something my friend can actually push back on.

It’s legal, and it’s actually fairly common! Frequently if someone who’s overtime-eligible needs to work extra hours during one part of the week, their employer will adjust their hours later in the week so that they’re not going over 40 hours total (the limit before overtime needs to be paid). I … don’t think that’s particularly outrageous, unless the only reason they stayed late was because they thought they’d be paid at the higher overtime rate for those hours. If they’d otherwise have declined to work late, then this is messed up — but it sounds like they likely wouldn’t have had that choice anyway.

If their boss did deliberately mislead them, that’s a real crap move. But if he just realized the next day that their workload didn’t require them to stay the whole day and he could balance the week that way, this is pretty normal.

{ 43 comments… read them below }

    1. Heidi*

      I love how this is now a thing on AAM. What I love about it was that the letter and the response were so short, but the comments just blew up like a volcano of hilarity.

      1. Candi*

        I love that another letter writer made it even better when they brought in “on a scale of 1 to cheap ass rolls”. (“employer wouldn’t give me paid time off for Covid, my job won’t let me quit, and more”)

        I actually used almost that phrasing when I asked Alison about an associate’s (dad’s friend) emailed-to-everyone-in-contacts message about why he got fired from his job, along with “is this as bananacrackers as I think?” (Yes, yes it was.)

        (I know the guy doesn’t read AAM, because he would have had a new job lined up before he made his stand against his company’s mandatory “mask or vax” policy.)

    2. Needs Caffeine*

      I’ve been seeing this reference everywhere, but I must have missed the letter. Does anyone have a link?

  1. SG*

    Regarding LW5, wouldn’t the legality depend on the state? In California, any hours past 8 are overtime, but other states don’t have the same laws.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      California does indeed have overtime kick in after 8 hours in one day (as opposed to over 40 hours in a week in most of the rest of the country), but from the context of the letter, it doesn’t sound like they’re in a state that does that — since if they were, sending them home early the next day wouldn’t make any difference.

      What the LW is concerned about is the hours being adjusted to avoid going into overtime territory.

    2. Lurker Brown*

      In Nevada if you make less than 1.5 times minimum wage, you get overtime after 8 hours in a day. As a bookkeeper who does payroll, I am astounded at how many people don’t know overtime rules. Employers included. In fact, I am constantly educating my clients (employers) about most payroll rules.

  2. Not always right*

    I worked for a company whose policy was that OT would not be paid if there was a holiday during the 40 hour pay period or if a sick or vacation day was used. In other words, you had to actually work the full 40 hours. Fair enough; however, they would deliberately have us work OT only on weeks with a holiday, thus avoiding having to pay time and a half. I always thought that was a crappy policy. Also,unless you took a vacation day before a holiday, if you didn’t work a full eight hours you would not get holiday pay, and you would get docked if you left early. The managers were salaried and always wanted to close early. For some reason, it didn’t compute with them why no one wanted to leave early. Not sure how legal that was, but three months after I left, they filed.for bankruptcy and closed for good

    1. PollyQ*

      It is legal, since you’re only entitled to OT if you’ve actualy worked more than 40 hours in a week*, not just gotten 40 hours of pay from vacation, holiday, or sick time. But agreed that it’s a pretty crappy way to treat your employees.

      * except in CA, as noted above

  3. John Smith*

    Just an aside on #5 letter. In the UK, removing overtime could be seen as a breach of contract, even if it wasn’t a part of the employment contract to begin with, as contracts can be formed by custom and practice (it’s been a while since I read contract law so things might have changed but I think it’s still the case.
    Even so, theory and practice are very different). Is there no similar provision in US law?

    1. PollyQ*

      Most US employees don’t have formal contracts. IANAL, but I suppose if the employees could somehow prove that the extra hours were promised to be paid as OT, but then their other weekly hours were reduced, they might have some kind of claim. And a manager saying, “I’ve asked, and you’re approved for overtime” might conceivably qualify. The problem is, no one’s going to file a lawsuit or even a DOL complaint over 2 hours of overtime pay.

      1. Candi*

        Which they were probably counting on.

        Nowadays, you can file online, so if you’re bored and feeling ebil, it’s entirely possible to file a complaint with the DOL, particularly since you don’t have to be currently employed to file the complaints -it just has to be within the deadline. (Which has probably passed for LW5.)

        1. PollyQ*

          I wonder if the DOL would do anything. The basic fact that the employees didn’t work more than 40 hours in a week so they didn’t get overtime might mean that it’s outside their bailiwick.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Telling an employee you’ll need them to work 2 hours of overtime one week and then deciding the next day you don’t isn’t going to be a legal issue in the US, assuming there wasn’t a binding contract promising it, which there almost certainly wasn’t.

  4. LW5*

    Yeah I was certainly feeling deliberately mislead but it’s possible the only reason I feel this way is the longstanding history of manipulation and lying he’s done in other arenas, and it’s in some ways reassuring to know that this one specific instance is not in isolation a huge issue.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve worked for generally good companies who would have hourly employees take off early/not work a scheduled day to avoid overtime.

      I used to work on a helpdesk where we had to provide coverage Monday through Saturday. But we didn’t need as many people on Saturdays, so we rotated (it worked out to about 1 Saturday a month). If you worked on Saturday, you got one day off the following week to avoid going into overtime. (Our payroll ran Saturday through Friday, so that was the period they looked at to figure out how many hours you’d worked.) Of course, we were also told this was a requirement during the interview/job offer stage so no one was surprised by it.

    2. middle name danger*

      This has happened to my roommate multiple times – they’re lied to about being approved for OT to get them to stay late on a stressful shift, then made to leave early the next day to avoid paying that “approved” OT pay. Now they ask specifically if they are going to have to leave early another day or if staying late will be extra hours on top of their normal 40, paid at time and a half.

  5. agnes*

    #5 your friends are fortunate that the business sent them home early. My husband’s boss made them take several hours off in the MIDDLE of their shift to avoid paying overtime for staying late the day before. That was really crappy! Many of the employees live too far away to go home and so what do you do with a unplanned 3 hour break in the middle of an 8 hour shift? They worked 2, off 3, had to return to end the day with 3 hours. Really really POOR management.

    1. BethDH*

      Wow. That takes some insane levels of thinking of people as infinitely configurable “resources” to even consider.

  6. Early Riser*

    Did anyone else read “guided mediation” as “guided meditation” and get super confused? Or just me?

    1. Camellia*

      Yes! I didn’t see your comment before I posted mine below, I just read the letter, waited until I stopped laughing, then immediately posted. Probably will be the best part of my day!

  7. CatPerson*

    LW3, I feel for you. This is why I have always hated Boss’s Day. I once had a boss who was evil, I truly loathed him. And having to stand in his office with other co-workers with a card and gift was the worst thing I ever had to do in my career.

  8. Manager Mom*

    LW4–If I were a manager I would be thrilled if one of my better employees might be willing to rescind their resignation. If you are concerned about a last-minute decision to actually leave would be a problem for your employer, would you be able to have your partner go first and follow them in a few weeks? I hope it all works out for you both.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks so much for the reply! I ended up speaking to my manager before this letter was published, approaching the conversation in a similar way to Alison’s advice. It all worked out for the best – my partner’s parents are slowly on the mend and we were able to travel as planned! I am also working remotely for the company, which is nice.

  9. James*

    #5: This is actually considered one of the better perks of the company I work for. If we work our 80 hours in two weeks, we can take the rest of the time off without using PTO. I’ve seen people with five-day-long weekends that way, enough time to do a fairly significant trip, again without touching PTO. The nature of certain roles in the company means that they almost always work overtime (10 hour days are industry standard). Those roles are almost always the most junior people, and this flexibility and semi-off-the-books vacation time is a way for the company to give back a little.

    If my company stopped letting us do this there’d be a revolt.

    That said, what your friend’s manager did was crappy. What a good manager would do–what a descent human would do–is say “I know we’re going to work late today, so I’m going to give you a part-day Friday to make up for it.” Be up front about it. To approve overtime and then disallow it is a jerk move. The only excuse I can see is if it came from higher up–margins weren’t good this quarter, need to tighten up the labor, that sort of thing–but even then the manager should have known about it in advance.

    #2: I’m….sort of guilty of that myself. I still go to my first mentor in the company when I have questions. (In my defense, he’s been a mentor in several roles, and it’s turning into more of a “two colleagues helping each other out” situation, with him reaching out to me as much as I reach out to him.) It’s not that I don’t leverage my own team–it’s that sometimes he knows how to find stuff and the rest of my team doesn’t.

    I wonder if that’s what’s going on here. Your mentee may be looking to her team first, and failing to find an answer, so she turns to the one person she knows can help. It may be worth looking at her team and seeing if her team is actually providing her the support she obviously needs. If not, you can hardly blame her for coming to someone outside the team for help!

  10. photon*

    LW2 – Are you working from home, and are you generally quick to respond?

    It’s very easy for people to get in a habit of reaching out to whoever is most responsive to their queries. In addition to what Alison suggests above, you could also try slowing down your responsiveness. Your obligation to your team & current mentee & balancing your own workload is greater than your obligation to your former mentee.

    Let questions hang, perhaps even let them be re-raised before you respond. Then nudge the mentee to ask someone on their own team (“Hey, I can’t help with this right now, why don’t you ask X on your team?”). Then do the coaching on how to ask.

    Make the gap between the steps bigger over time.

  11. Dwight Schrute*

    I could totally see myself being the mentee in number 2! I would need someone to clearly tell me to move on because otherwise I would assume it was fine to continue asking them for help and would consider them to be my mentor still. They may also not be getting good answers from their team so they come to you for help

  12. A Library Person*

    I have some sympathy for the mentee in letter #2, and I think the advice to clarify the relationship is spot on. I can definitely understand hearing “we have a mentorship program, here’s your mentor” and assuming they could be a go-to person for questions indefinitely. Mentorship seems to encompass everything from the time-limited process described here to a potentially life-long relationship.

  13. House Tyrell*

    LW5- I actually prefer just getting to come in late or leave early another day in the week if I work an hour or two OT one day. If I worked more OT I would probably just want the money though. My manager at least tells us in advance that we can come in late or leave early after working OT one day so we can plan for that which is nicer than having it sprung on you but it’s not outrageous.

  14. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I have nuked all comments on letter #1 and closed the comments.

    Per the commenting rules, commenters need to take LWs at their word and believe that they know what they’re talking about. LWs know the facts of their situations better than we do, particularly when they confirm them in the comments.

    It’s incredibly frustrating for people to write in about a situation looking for advice, only to get a barrage of comments questioning how they could possibly know the basic facts of their own situation. It’s fine to point out that there might be alternative explanations for something. It’s not okay to insist your speculation is definitely fact. It’s not okay to treat a LW as if they must answer all your questions to your satisfaction before you will believe them. Refrains of “Are you sure? Did you really do due diligence? Tell us exactly what you did. Okay, but are you sure? And if you are, can really ever be TRULY sure?” are exhausting and frustrating and unhelpful to people writing in for advice.

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