surprise interview projects, turning down optional training, and more

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

1. Surprise interview projects with a tight turnaround time

On Monday mid-morning I had a preliminary phone interview. It went well and I felt good about it. I sent a short follow-up email that afternoon to thank them. I didn’t hear back, but I have learned from this helpful column to just keep applying and focus on the next application or interview.

I don’t use the Mail app on my phone, so when I want to check my email, I log into it. Saturday morning at around 10 am (the same week as the interview), I saw I had an email from the company. It was sent at 6 pm on Friday evening. It said they wanted to move forward with my application and sent me a not insignificant nor small project to be completed within 36 hours from Friday at 6 pm.

This has happened to me a few times recently from legitimate, established organizations. But I was not told at any point during the interview that a test or project would be sent and would needto be completed on a short turn-around.

This project entails more than two hours of work, and that is if I rush it. I felt conflicted, resentful, and caught off-guard, in particular because it was a holiday weekend and I had a lot of other stuff (not even fun stuff, but personal stuff and other job applications) to do. I could do better work on the project if I had more time and more of a heads-up. I would have probably checked my email earlier than 10 am had I been told to be on the lookout for the project and known it needed to be completed in a short amount of time.

This has happened to me three times now and they are not positions that require writing under a deadline. I wanted to ask what you thought, as I am trying to gauge what is reasonable.

Nope, this is unreasonable. Sending someone an email on Friday night and expecting 36-hour turnaround time is absurd — on a holiday weekend, no less! Although the same would be true on any day. If someone doesn’t know to look out for the email, they may not even see it until 24 hours or more into the 36-hour deadline, and they may have other things going on that make that timeline difficult or impossible.

If an employer wants to give a timed test, they should set it up in advance so the applicant knows it’s coming and can leave room in their schedule for it.

It would have been reasonable for you to reply, “I am fully booked up for the holiday weekend but would be glad to complete this or another exercise next week. Please let me know the timeframe ahead of time so that I can make sure there’s room cleared in my schedule.” A reasonable employer will work with you on that once you point out their error (and should have the sense to realize they messed up); an unreasonable one may not, but it’s worth screening those out if you have the luxury of doing that.

2. I heard my former star employee isn’t working out at his new job

I have 10+ years experience in a niche market. I worked at one company for 10 years and after a leadership change, I recently left to take a similar role at a larger, more well-established organization. One of my former employees, Adam, left about six months before I did. He had started at an entry-level job with me and after a year we promoted him slightly into a different role, so he no longer reported to me. When he left, he moved to a slightly higher role at a similar organization.

Due to it being a small, niche industry, I ran into Adam’s new boss at an industry event a few weeks ago. I expected to hear that they were so excited to have Adam on the team, but instead I heard that they were having problems with him and the new boss implied that he was on a performance plan. This was shocking to me. Adam was a rising star at my organization, which is why he was promoted so quickly.

I’m so thrown by this news. I’m planning to reach out to Adam this week to check in. We were very friendly and I believe Adam views me as a mentor. Assuming there is room for me to mentor Adam, what advice would you have for me? Not knowing the details, I’m wondering how much of this is a culture or personality mismatch and how much is Adam not being ready for the move into a bigger organization. What, if anything, should a former boss do when you hear that one of your star employees isn’t working out at a job you felt they would be great at?

There’s not really much for you to do. It could be that Adam’s skills aren’t a good match with the needs of the new job, or the new team/organization are poorly managed and haven’t set Adam up for success, or something new that you don’t know about is affecting Adam’s performance at work, or all sorts of other things. Adam’s new boss being so forthcoming with the details reflects badly on the boss (that’s not the kind of thing you gossip about or share with someone who doesn’t need to know) and indicates the issue might be at least partially on their side. But ultimately this isn’t really yours to sort out.

You can definitely reach out to Adam and ask how things are going. If it seems like he’d welcome advice or a sounding board, you can offer to talk with him. But it’s also possible that he prefers to handle it on his own (or at least doesn’t want to loop in a previous manager) and that’s okay too.

3. Submitting for mileage reimbursement when I drive an electric car

I work for a nonprofit and regularly drive to meetings at other nonprofit offices. I submit for mileage reimbursement and am paid at the federal mileage reimbursement rate.

I recently bought an electric vehicle and my cost to drive is significantly lower now, probably about a third of what it previously was. Is it ethically wrong for me to request mileage reimbursement since it’s much more than it actually costs me to drive? Also, since my coworkers know I have an electric vehicle, are the optics bad if I request reimbursement?

The mileage reimbursement rate isn’t just supposed to reimburse you for gas; it’s also supposed to cover wear and tear on your vehicle. If your company hasn’t established a separate rate for electric vehicles, it’s fair to continue submitting at the rate that’s been set up for you to use until/unless they change that.

If it’ll bring you peace of mind, you can always confirm that with your manager.

4. How to turn down optional training that won’t be useful to me

I am currently finding myself in a time-consuming training program that has very little to do with my job. My boss, who is pretty hands-off and has little to do with our day-to-day work (which is a whole separate issue), asked everyone on our small team if we wanted to sign up for the training and, despite knowing it would have very little relevance to my job or interests, I agreed because I thought it would look bad to turn down an opportunity. This has happened in the past as well, and I end up finding the training a waste of time.

Obviously if I am directly assigned training or told that they really need me to take it on, I will. But when it’s presented more as an opportunity that I can turn down, is it appropriate to do so? And how can I do it without seeming like I’m not interested in learning/growing or not a team player?

Yes! Often training opportunities are made widely available with the assumption that they’re truly “take it or leave it” and with no pressure to take it. The easiest way to turn something down that doesn’t seem useful to your work is to cite more pressing priorities — “I’m going to be focusing on clearing out our backlog of X this quarter so I’ll pass on this one.” Or, assuming you have a reasonable manager, it could make sense to say “I rarely use Program X anymore; we’ve moved all our stuff over to Program Y” (re: a training on Program X) or “This looks more like an intro class, but I’d be interested in a higher-level course on X if you come across one” or “It looks interesting but probably not aligned enough with my goals for this quarter” or anything else that is true for you.

5. Fired weeks after the end of an evaluation period

My brother has been unemployed after not meeting the requirements of a performance improvement plan. The strange thing for me is that his termination wasn’t at the day specified on the performance improvement plan, but instead it was a couple of weeks later. Is there a reason why, without any official extensions, a company doesn’t always meet on the exact date specified on the performance improvement plan paperwork? I would imagine that if they literally planned that day when writing the plan, they would have fully prepared for whatever scenario occurs on the end date.

It’s not unusual. There could be all kinds of reasons for it: a decision-maker was out or had more pressing stuff they needed to deal with, the person in HR who manages terminations was away, they had some legal question they wanted advice on, etc. The date is mostly to let the person know how long they have before their performance will be assessed and a decision made (so they don’t assume they have months when they only have weeks, for example). It’s not great to let it drag out without any communication, if indeed there wasn’t any; ideally his manager would have updated him that they planned to meet on X date. But the delay itself isn’t terribly odd.

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW2: That manager’s willingness to gossip so freely about a subordinate’s PIP would give me serious doubts about the manager’s judgment, professionalism and discretion. It would also make me wonder if his subordinates’ workplace difficulties reflected more on him than on them.

    1. lyonite*

      Aside from that, I think if I was struggling in a new position, I might be happy to hear from a well-liked former manager, but I would be mortified to learn they were reaching out because they had heard about my problems. If you can connect in a casual, let’s-just-catch-up way, I think that would be the best, even if all you do for them is to provide a sanity check that yes, they were successful in the past, and people still think well of them.

      1. Karia*

        Yes to both these points. It would be mortifying, and no decent or competent manager would gossip to (what sounds like) a professional acquaintance about specific staff performance issues like this.

      2. Maggie*

        +1 to reaching out ‘randomly’ just to say you were thinking of them and let’s catch up. It’s always helpful to hear someone thought well of you in the past and still does.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        If I were struggling with a new role, I would feel so much worse if a former manager contacted me – without my asking or giving any context – to mentor me or give advice.

        I know people in the same industry or function talk to each other about their teams and so on, but knowing people were talking about my performance issues behind my back would be beyond embarrassing.

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        And that, yes, you still are a good reference in case the person decides to move on from a job mismatch

      5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        This is such a good point. I’m about to leave a role that wasn’t a good fit for a number of reasons and really left me questioning my abilities – my confidence has been shredded after just a few months. I called my old boss to talk it through with her and hearing her tell me (and then text me later, so I can read it again and again) how highly she thinks of me and how talented she thinks I am was really powerful in giving me the confidence to find something better.

      6. Ellie*

        Agreed, keep it casual, and don’t let him know his privacy has been violated.

        On another note – are you in a position to offer him his old job back? Its worth considering, for a rising star…

    2. MK*

      I think that’s a bit of an overreaction. For me it would very much depend what kind of relationship the OP has with the new boss and what exactly he said, and also if he was a reference. If this person had never seen the OP in his life and started babbling about how Adam sucks and might be fired, sure, that’s inappropriate. But if they already were professional aquaintances and the OP had served as a reference for Adam, I don’t think it’s gossip to say “Hey, that employee you recommended? Didn’t work out that well”.

      1. Suzie SW*

        I wonder about their relationship as well. If they’re close, this could be a nudge to suggest, “this isn’t working out, but if he’s a great fit for you, maybe you can provide him a soft place to land at your new company. Hard to say the intentions from the letter.

      2. WellRed*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t outright assume this is “gossip.” They are colleagues in a niche industry discussing someone’s work, not their heroin habit.

      3. Observer*

        For me it would very much depend what kind of relationship the OP has with the new boss and what exactly he said, and also if he was a reference. If this person had never seen the OP in his life and started babbling about how Adam sucks and might be fired, sure, that’s inappropriate. But if they already were professional aquaintances and the OP had served as a reference for Adam, I don’t think it’s gossip to say “Hey, that employee you recommended? Didn’t work out that well”

        To an extent true. But also, apparently not really relevant. The way the OP describes their encounter does not speak to a long standing actual (professional) relationship. Nor is there any indication that the OP was a reference – which is not surprising, since Adam didn’t go to the new job from the OP’s department, although he did go there from the OP’s company.

        Which is to say, that even if what the new boss had to say would have been appropriate in some circumstances it doesn’t sound like the OP’s relationship here is anything close to what would be necessary.

        1. I Am Not a Lawyer*

          Actually the OP doesn’t really say anything at all about the new boss. Which could mean that you’re correct and they were relative strangers. Or it could mean that there was a longstanding relationship and OP didn’t mention it because that’s not the focus of the letter. It doesn’t say anything, one way or the other.

      4. Allonge*

        Or if it was OP asking about how Adam is doing or not. I have a few dear acquaintances who seem to have ‘ask questions’ as a default mode. It’s still not awesome to answer in detail, but the picture is different, you know?

  2. MishenNikara*

    1: I once had someone for a job do a first call (so not even an interview) for a job I had applied for. They woke me up with it giving me about 15 or so minutes (maybe 30 it was a couple years ago) to go get my PC turned on and answer assessment questions they emailed me. I got it done, but needless to say being blindsided with it wasn’t a fun experience

    1. Gato Blanco*

      Okay, so it’s not just me thinking hiring managers are keeping crazy hours and asking for unreasonable deadlines! I recently interviewed for a job, and the manager asked for references. Standard enough. He called one of my references at 6:55 AM! We are all in the same time zone, so it was not a matter of time changes.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        That’s just rude. Don’t call someone of whom you are asking a favor (which is what it is, when the hiring manager asks a reference to provide feedback) outside of regular business hours. I can maaaybe see calling at 8am, but honestly I think 9am is the earliest it should be.

        1. Delightful Daisy*

          Not knowing if this is the context or not, but our agency (state government) starts generally at 7:30. It wouldn’t seem out of the norm to me to receive/make a phone call at 8:00 a.m. I try to remember to be cognizant of the fact that we generally have an earlier start time but sometimes you just forget it when it’s your own norm. I would never call someone before 8:00 so not defending that time at all.

      2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        This is why I attach hours to call any references I give. Whatcha NOT gonna do is interrupt my lovely references with out of time calls. It gives unreasonable expectations vibes to me.

    2. Cthandhs*

      I got asked to do a skills test on a Friday before a 3 day weekend. The test was only about an hour, but it was covering a 700 page document that I hadn’t read in 7 years. So there went that weekend… And I didn’t even get the job!

  3. Cautionary tail*

    O3 mileage reimbursement. The reimbursement, in addition to fuel, covers insurance, car payments, wear and tear and more – all the expenses that the company would ncur if it was their property A colleague used their own car to drive to a company meeting and got a flat tire from driving over a nail. The expense report for a new tire was rejected because that was part of the mileage reimbursement. So bank that money because you may need it to cover your expenses.

      1. Lynn*

        Agreed. I bill the same mileage-my company uses the federal reimbursement rate-whether I am in our PHEV (plug-in hybrid), on my motorcycle or in our truck. I do really well on mileage in the car (especially if the trip is within the electric range so that I don’t use the gas engine) and almost as well on the motorcycle. Much less true on the truck. But the reimbursement doesn’t depend on what I am driving or the overall costs thereof.

    1. PollyQ*

      People are already driving cars with a wide range of costs anyway. My car, despite being elderly, still gets 30mpg freeway. Some people’s vehicles only get half that. Older cars have higher maintenance costs than new ones, generally speaking, as do luxury vehicles vs. mid-range ones. Creating a formula that takes into account all the variations would be a PITA, so companies (and the IRS) just set one rate for simplicity’s sake.

      1. Shiba Dad*

        Presumably the lower fuel cost for an EV is already factored in to the reimbursement rate.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          I definitely would not presume that – EVs are still so uncommon in the US, and most employers just use federal mileage reimbursement rates. Unless OP lives in California I would presume that EVs have not been considered at all when reimbursement rates were set.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            My guess is there is a bit of a teeny, tiny positive nudge towards EVs by not making a separate mileage reimbursement rate for them. It is a small benefit of switching

            1. quill*

              My guess is it’s far too complicated to build reimbursement in for a variety of cars, so they took some sort of average at one point and based reimbursement o nthat.

        2. Fluffy Fish*

          Probably not significantly if at all. The IRS calculates one flat rate for reimbursement for business purposes for cars, vans, pickups and panel trucks.

          They state “The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.” The primary vehicles on the road are regular old gas so that will be the primary influencer of the rate.

      2. The OTHER Other.*

        This; it’s called “mileage reimbursement” not “payment for gas” for a reason. EV’s are not free to operate, and there are many car expenses that have nothing to do with gas. Every vehicle, whether gas or electric, has a finite amount it can be driven before it is no longer cost effective to maintain. Mileage is payment for the rundown of that finite amount.

        1. truesaer*

          Most EVs are above average in cost, meaning they will be above average in depreciation. So at the moment I see no issue at all even without the cost of gas being a factor. (And incidentally, the cost of electricity has been rising quickly due to the increased cost of natural gas many power plants use, so there are inflationary pressures even on EV drivers)

          There are a few very inexpensive EVs but then again you could also be driving a beater or a very inexpensive and fuel efficient gas car. I agree with the others, there is one IRS rate for every vehicle and it’s not meant to be ‘fair,’ only to represent an average cost across a fleet of widely different vehicles.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        Yes, I came here to say the same thing. If you take a business trip in an F-150, and I take the same trip in an Impreza, the mileage reimbursement is going to feel more generous for me than for you. (This is good, I suspect; on the margin, it encourages people to travel for work in more fuel-efficient vehicles.)

    2. fluffy*

      Also, while electric cars have a much lower cost of maintenance as well as fueling (pretty much all you need to maintain on them is tires and brakes, and the brakes not even that much since they lean much more heavily on regenerative braking systems), in some areas they have much higher insurance rates and even registration fees; for example, here in Washington State an EV costs something like $225/year more to register with the theory that it offsets the loss of gas tax, regardless of how much gas is actually being offset. So if you don’t drive a whole lot, the overall price per mile on an EV can actually be quite a bit higher than on an internal-combustion vehicle.

    3. MK*

      Yes, I think mileage reimbursement is a bit like per diems. They don’t want to be bothered to handle expenses one item at the time, so they give a lump sum.

    4. Phryne*

      Might be less common in e.g. most parts of the US, but where I live, travel reimbursement is for travel no matter how you do it. So car, bicycle, train, bus. Doesn’t matter how you travel, you get an amount for the distance (measured by quickest by car route) and it is up to you how to spend it.
      (As this is the Netherlands, if you live less than 10 km away, you don’t get travel reimbursement at all, you are supposed to come by bicycle. My work tries to discourage people to come by car at all, so parking at the campus costs money and you can get discounts on (electric) bicycles and public transport passes.)

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        Genuinely curious – if your primary transportation is bicycle, what do you do on bad weather days? (Asking because I live in the Central US and we get so many severe storms this time of year)

        1. BethDH*

          Can’t speak for the Netherlands, but when I lived in Portland even in the 80s people commuted by bike through the rainy dark winter. They planned to do it, so they had bike lights and warm enough rain gear, and a fair number of employers had things like covered bike storage and a place to change.
          That said, we just didn’t have storms there like we have in other parts of the country. I would not have biked in the south through one of the thunderstorms with flash flooding, but of course those tend to happen at certain times of day and are fairly short.

        2. Miette*

          I once traveled to Delft, Netherlands for business, and during a snow storm folks were biking before, during, and after.

          1. After 33 years ...*

            How much snow constitutes a snow storm in Delft?
            I ask, as the annual accumulation for Delft of 5.5 cm would be routinely exceeded on a daily basis here.

            1. Miette*

              LOL. I’d say there was finally about 5-ish cm? Enough that it needed shoveling, and it was also very cold. This was easily 12 years ago, and people kept saying that it was very rare. As a native northeastern US person, I wasn’t much bothered, but seeing folks riding in it on bicycles was what keeps it in my memory.

          2. Allonge*

            Partly because in the Netherlands snow often means unreliable public transportation (I have seen trains cancelled for an inch of snow).

            People who bike in most cases have rain gear and snow is cleared off the bike paths first (it feels like). If people cannot bike then we are in trouble. But rain or cold is not a thing that stops biking.

            1. Lady_Lessa*

              That level of cancelling reminds me of the Southern part of the US. We don’t have either the equipment nor the experience with it. Not to mention, it is frequently on top of ice.

              1. After 33 years ...*

                On the other hand, when the temperature here exceeds 25 C (77 F), I would need to send all my staff home due to the excessive heat.

        3. Phryne*

          Circumstances here are radically different on many levels to the US. There are very very extensive separate safe bike roads. The climate here is incredibly temperate, both very low or high temperatures are uncommon and we don’t have tornadoes and such. The Netherlands are small and flat, so generally short distances and level roads.
          But yea, good rain gear, lots of condition training paddling against heady winds, and count on getting wet every now and then. Personally I draw the line at snow and slippery conditions, but that literally happens no more than a few days every few years or so. Then I take the bus/tramway or I walk (it’s about 6 km, so 20 mins by bicycle in good circumstances. Due to how the lines run, by public transport takes me at least double) And some Dutch are just stupid. I’ve seen people cycling in a minus 10 Celsius cold snap. I think that is ridiculous, but each to their own.

          1. Sasha*

            As long as it isn’t icy, cold is fine. Warm gloves (I use my ski gloves), neoprene shoe covers, waterproof jacket and over trousers that block the wind, and thermals underneath. If people can cross country ski in -10, they can cycle.

            I do agree that ice, wet leaves etc are risky – I had my back wheel slide out from under me on a wet manhole cover once and that was terrifying (I slide across the road under a fortunately stationary truck). But the weather itself is fine.

            1. Phryne*

              Sure, with the right gear it is possible! But the ones I saw just got on the bike in the jeans they happened to wear like any other Monday. People who go on skiing holidays abroad might have some decent cold weather gear, but many do not because you would generally not need it here and even if they do I wonder how many would bother putting it on at home.

        4. hamsterpants*

          I bike commuted for a while and the answer is that you can still ride through rain, but snow gets dicey. You can get a special bike for snow if it’s common in your area.

          1. Venus*

            Fat bikes (big tires) only work well when the snow is packed down a bit. For cycling in a couple feet of fresh fluff there are no good options and probably best to walk the bike. Icy conditions require studded bike tires.

          2. PeanutButter*

            When I was car-free I skied in during a -22F stretch of days. I made all my shifts, while my auto-bound co-workers (even those who lived closer than I did) were generally quite late or had to call out. Those of us who commuted by bicycle mostly just added some extra minutes for removing layers during inclement weather. As I always said to people who expressed disbelief that humans can, in fact, get wet and not melt, “I’m not made of sugar!”

        5. bamcheeks*

          get wet!

          (UK based, and if we have the kind of bad weather which is worse than “spend £30 on gloves and/or get changed when you get to work”– snow and/or severe storms and flooding– public transport is disrupted and driving isn’t recommended. There have been plenty of days where I’ve been at work because I cycle half an hour but colleagues who drive from outside the city where it’s heavier snow haven’t been able to come in.)

        6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Other end of the spectrum, but when I worked in an office I used to bike in Phoenix, AZ summers and the occasional monsoon. It wasn’t fun but it was doable if you had proper sun protection and were well hydrated. Monsoons were trickier because of the dust storms, winds, and the fact that they were really unpredictable. I ended up walking my through insane winds more than once

          1. Lou*

            I used to bike commute in Tucson! We’d actually hose ourselves down before we left in the summer, would be totally dry by the time we arrived!!! Great personal air conditioner.

          2. Middle Aged IT Guy*

            I spent a summer biking 7.5 miles each way to work in Tucson, when I was 18. On a record-hot day I decided to bike home anyway, in 112° weather, ran out of water a half-mile from home, and was in very bad shape by the time I wobbled into my parents’ driveway: not heatstroke, but heat exhaustion, which sucked.

            I was really fit by the end of the summer, though!

        7. Emmy Noether*

          I live in Germany and don’t own a car, my primary transportation is biking (I own an electric cargo bike for child transport needs). Pretty much the only conditions I won’t bike in are icy roads or thunderstorms or hailstorms (we don’t get tornados or hurricanes). Conditions that are kinda scary in a car as well. I’ll do normal rain with head-to-toe raingear, and I also do snow or very cold weather. If the rain is predicted to be short, I’ll wait it out.

          If biking isn’t possible, there’s always public transit (taking the bike on board), walking, or if all else fails, taxi. I’ve never had to do the latter in 8 car-less years.

        8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          er, we don’t get that kind of “severe weather” in Europe!
          I remember a piece by Bill Bryson, mocking weather reports in the UK, basically telling us Brits that no, a “snowdrift” is not 3 inches of snow, it’s something you lose your car in till the end of winter.

      2. Antilles*

        That’s an interesting comparison. That’s not anything I’ve ever seen or even heard about here in the US. My experience (both personal and from what I’ve heard/read from others) is that the standard here is basically:
        -The mileage reimbursement applies if and only if you drive your own vehicle.
        -If you drive a company vehicle, the company covers vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance, etc. Maybe you have to track the mileage in some way on a mileage log or whatever, but you’re not getting any actual money for the trip.
        -If you ride a bus or train or taxi/Uber, you submit the direct cost of the ticket and get reimbursed for exactly that cost.
        -I’m not sure what they’d do if you biked for your business travel rather than driving because most US cities are sufficiently spread out that biking for business travel isn’t really a viable option simply due to the time wasted. If I had to guess, I’d expect that they’d treat it as a personal vehicle and reimburse it like a car, but if it took significantly longer than driving, you’d probably get some side-eye or a firm chat about “why didn’t you just drive or Uber, the client’s office should only have been 20 minutes drive one-way rather than the hour-plus it took you to bike there”.

        1. Phryne*

          Travelling during work time is different yes. The law here states that if you need a car to do your work, the employer has to provide it and all the cost goes to them. But that only applies to usage during the execution of work, not traveling to and from work. Employers can provide lease plans if lots of driving is common.
          But due to the layout of old European cities and towns with medieval street plans and high traffic/population density, cycling can be much faster than going by car when travelling within an urban area. It certainly is where I live.

        2. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Whether the mileage rate applies to bikes is a fun enough question I had to look it up. Note: I’m not a tax lawyer, and I haven’t looked at case law. But:

          It looks like the IRS rules only allow reimbursement for motorized vehicles. The information on the IRS web site refers to “cars” and “automobiles.” The section of the regulations allowing mileage rates for vehicle expenses (26 CFR 1.274-5(j)(2), for lawyers playing at home) refers to “vehicles,” which are defined as “any motorized wheeled vehicle manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways.” (26 CFR 1.274-5(l) & 26 CFR 1.61-21(e)(2)). So regular bikes don’t count—but motorcycles probably would.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              Just guessing, but the sticking point might be “manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways.” But I bet there’s some old case law somewhere on whether, say, a moped is a “vehicle.”

              1. Antilles*

                I looked up the moped question because I was curious. At least in my state, the line is set at 28 mph. If your moped or scooter can’t go that fast, it’s not a “motorized vehicle” by legal definition; if it can, then it’s a motorized vehicle.

                Why 28 mph? I couldn’t find any real explanation of that. I’d guess that it was chosen as being a number close enough to the ‘typical’ city speed limit of 35 mph that you’re not actively holding up traffic, but that’s just a guess.

          1. Lynn*

            I can’t say with any certainty that my employer got it right, but for whatever value it has, my employer has always paid out my mileage based on the same rate when riding a motorcycle as driving a car/pickup.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In France there was a bid to get compensation for bicycles too, because the same stuff about wear and tear etc. still apply, and electric bikes obviously use electricity. This was basically to encourage people to cycle to work.
        It fell through though.

    5. Talia*

      Isn’t it very expensive to replace the battery on an electric car (compared to a battery on standard car)? If so, I assume that’s part of what the mileage needs to cover – I assume greater mileage means it will fail sooner (by which I mean in 10 years not 20 not that it needs doing regularly).

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I keep rereading the 10 years or 20 years statement. Is it comparing EV to gas cars?

          1. All The Words*

            I have a 2003 Prius. A hybrid vehicle. There’s a standard battery, which needs replacing about every 4 years, and the regenerative batteries (whatever they’re called). Those are the expensive ones. They haven’t needed replacing yet.

          2. Dino*

            EV batteries last much much longer than ICE batteries but are also very expensive to replace. So yeah you save on gas costs but when it’s time to replace your EV battery, you’ll be glad you claimed reimbursement for the times you used it for work. Every little bit helps.

            1. ToTiredToThink*

              I’m glad others mentioned the replacement battery costs. This is the reason to claim the mileage and not even worry about talking to the manager. If LW3 is only driving for work a couple of times a year – ok, I can see not bothering, but if they are doing so monthly or even weekly, they can take that reimbursement and put it into a savings account for car maintenance.

            2. All The Words*

              Totally agreed. Our EV batteries have lasted way longer than predicted so we’ve been lucky. Absolutely claim the full reimbursement.

            3. Model 3*

              You don’t ‘replace’ your ev batteries??? I have a Tesla – and plan on the batteries lasting at least to 300,000 miles – I will be ready for a new car by then.

          3. Accountant*

            I think they were just using 10 and 20 as an illustration, not intending to make a factual statement about how long car batteries of any kind last. That is, driving an electric vehicle presumably causes the battery to wear out, so you might have to replace it sooner than someone driving less. And in the context of “electric vehicle”, sooner is measured in years rather than days or months.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        From a quick Google search:

        “Back in 2019, Elon Musk said that replacing battery modules only costs between $5,000 and $7,000. Each Tesla model uses between four and five battery modules per vehicle, meaning a complete replacement will set you back between $20,000 and $35,000.”

        So basically, changing the batteries can cost more than purchasing a new car.

        1. Model 3*

          I have a model 3 Tesla and do not ever plan to change the batteries. The batteries are expected to last up to 300,000 miles and I don’t keep cars with that many miles. I don’t know why people always think this? My son has a 2013 model S with over 100,000 miles and it’s still going strong.

    6. Just J.*

      The mileage reimbursement rate is set yearly by the IRS. It is not an arbitrary thing determined by your employer. As Cautionary tail pointed out, it is considered a legitimate business expense, and would be taken by your employer if you were driving a company vehicle.

      Look at it as a gift from the US government and expense it.

      1. Miette*

        I would also like to point out that your company is writing off these mileage reimbursements, so that money isn’t coming from them out of a sense of goodness or responsibility, so keep that in mind.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          The LW’s employer is a non-profit, though, so they don’t pay taxes. But I don’t know enough about non-profit accounting to know if there are other advantages to the standard IRS mileage rate than the tax deduction.

        2. Accountant*

          Non profit aside, it’s irrelevant since companies aren’t required to reimburse mileage (outside of CA or a contract stating otherwise). If a company was looking at the purely cheapest option, no reimbursement saves them 100% of the cost compared to saving some percentage of the cost on their taxes.

          In general, companies reimburse mileage for the same reason they give any other benefit – it’s enough of an industry standard that not doing so impacts their hiring and retention.

      2. LW#1*

        I have tried to clear that up but also said in my letter that I didn’t hear back from them (meaning throughout the week when I frequently check my email).

    7. pbnj*

      I also thought it was supposed to consider depreciation of the car, since adding miles generally decreases the value of the car.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Yes! A car that costs $40k new and drives for 150,000 miles comes to $0.26/mile.

      2. baseballfan*

        This is what I was coming in to say. Depreciation is basically the cost of the vehicle recovered over its useful life. The above comment is a good example. So a more expensive vehicle (which EVs frequently are) costs more to drive over the time that you own it. If the day to day cost of fuel (or lack of fuel) is less, that all evens out. But overall the mileage rate is the same regardless of type or age of vehicle.

    8. I edit everything*

      And, in the case of an EV, your higher electric bill from recharging it.

      1. raktajino*

        A full charge for me–adding 200+ miles–costs me $5-8. It’s not a huge difference. But charging at pay stations, which you might need to do if you’re traveling for work, can cost a LOT more than that. And every full cycle of the EV battery is wear and tear more than simply filling the gas tank would be.

    9. Esmeralda*

      And it’s not like the mileage reimbursement covers the true cost of using your car.

      The last time I had a job that required me to drive around a lot, I used a company car. A gas guzzling, early 1980s behemoth that was hellacious to park. My VW bug sat in the parking lot, not getting flats or fender-benders. It was actually an office requirement — I believe for insurance reasons.

    10. B Wayne*

      Besides the obvious wear and tear and charging does cost money, I am sure electric vehicles depreciate in value as the mileage increases just like a “normal” vehicle. So…all those added, extra miles are actually dinging your resale value of your electric vehicle. So take the money and set aside enough for emergency expenses, like ruined flat tire replacement.

    11. learnedthehardway*

      Not to mention that even an electric vehicle still has energy needs – and energy (no matter what source) costs money. You might not be paying at the fuel pump, but you are paying for electricity.

    12. TootsNYC*

      I came to point out the part of that reimbursement is to cover the purchase price of your car (because they didn’t have to buy it). An electric vehicle is much more expensive. So…

        1. Lynn*

          Same here. Our PHEV (Honda Clarity-a plug in hybrid rather than a full electric) was $35k (before taking into account the tax credits-federal and state). That purchase price wasn’t significantly higher than a similarly equipped ICE car. And when the tax breaks we were able to take advantage of are taken into account, it was probably actually cheaper, net, than a typical car. And that is even including the cost of a level 2 charger and the wiring to the garage so that we could charge faster.

    13. Free Meerkats*

      Yes, my PHEV uses a lot less fuel. But it was significantly more expensive to buy than an equivalent IC vehicle. It also costs more to insure and to license ($225 electric surcharge), since it’s heavy, it will go through tires faster. I take my federal reimbursement rate mileage gladly.

  4. PollyQ*

    #1 — I am dismayed to learn that multiple employers are doing this, because it sounds like total BS. I guess if you’re job-hunting and this is a new normal (if not the new normal), you have the choice of checking your email every 6-12 hours to see if you’ve gotten one of these pleasant surprises, or you can use it to filter out employers who are clearly demonstrating how bad they are at communicating and how little respect they have for employees’ free time. I’d be mighty tempted to take option 2 and reply, “I’m so sorry I missed this email. Unfortunately, I am not available to work on that assignment on such short notice, so please remove me from consideration.” Obviously, not everyone has that flexibility while they’re job-hunting, but this is something I’d love to see get nipped in the bud.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, this is pretty appalling to me. There’s a lot of red flags here. First off, emailing a job candidate at 6pm on a Friday does’t look great. Expecting someone to work over the weekend on something related to a job application- also not looking great. Lastly, not giving an indication that this was part of their process is not a good sign. I might not pull out of the pool over this, but I would be seriously concerned about how they would treat me as an employee if this is how they treat candidates.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        More specifically, I might give candidates a time period that *included* a weekend to complete a request, because they might not have time during the week, but that’s different from surprising them on Friday at 6 with a 36- hour deadline.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I’m guessing they only got 36 hours because it was a holiday weekend and no one would be in to check the results on Monday. I’ll bet they usually only give 48 hours and think they’re doing candidates a favor by sending it for the weekend.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          It also means that someone there is expecting the completed responses on a weekend and will likely work on evaluating them… Not a good showing.

          Any kind of work test should be scheduled in agreement with the candidate – the employer should never expect that a candidate is just going to be available during a given 36h period. *Especially* not for a holiday weekend!

      2. NYWeasel*

        No excuses for the ridiculous turnaround time—we give candidates a minimum of 7 days for a quick task that should take no more time than the usual interview prep (it’s more like a very targeted question than a task). But a 6pm email on Friday isn’t unusual because we’re a global company and our HR screeners are located on the west coast while we’re hiring for the east coast.

        1. Observer*

          In most cases, I would agree with you on the issue of WHEN the email got sent. But when you combine it with the fact that the timeframe is based on the time that the email got sent, that becomes a problem. “Please have this by next Wednesday” (assuming that there is a decent time allotted, regardless) is very different “We’re starting the clock based on a time that is definitely after normal business hours in your locality.”

          1. AnotherLibrarian*

            Right, part of the point I was trying to get at was that these things are cumulative- short turn around, emailing on the weekend (and it is your candidates weekend, even if you’re in a different time zone), and not giving a heads up this would be happening all paint a picture. I think when we job hunt, we so badly want the job (or a job) that its super easy to convince ourselves that “this one thing is fine” and ignore the pattern. I’ve done that and regretted it.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, but you would hopefully write to the candidates: “We give you a test that we expect will take you ~2h [or whatever] to complete, and to make sure you can find a suitable time, we give you 7 days starting Friday [date] 6 pm [time zone]. If this is not suitable, please let us know so that we can find a time period that works for you [yadda yadda]”. And avoid the Friday to be that of a public holiday weekend or major religious holiday in whatever the main jurisdictions and cultural areas are that you recruit in.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        What’s wrong with emailing a job candidate at 6pm on a Friday? (assuming you’re not giving them a timed assignment starting at the time the email was sent, or telling them they have an interview on Monday)

        1. Sloanicota*

          It sends the message that you expect your employees and this candidate to attend to non-urgent work matters outside of working hours.

          1. Other Alice*

            It doesn’t. It only sends the message that HR or the hiring manager are working at 6pm on a Friday (which may be earlier in the day for them if they’re in a different time zone or working flex hours). As long as there is no expectation of an immediate reply, or a timed assignment, I don’t see any difference between sending the email on Friday afternoon late versus Monday morning early.

            1. The OTHER Other*

              But a 36 hour deadline was given at 6PM Friday of a holiday weekend. You are trying to separate the “6PM Friday email” from the rest of the context which is what is making it awful. Telling someone on Friday evening to get something done by 6AM Sunday is awful, especially considering they’re not even an employee yet. What kind of demands is this company going to make once you’re their employee?

          2. NYWeasel*

            Or, it’s working hours where the person who sent it lives and they manage communications across multiple time zones and just send things out on their schedule, not the candidate’s.

            Don’t get me wrong—I fully agree that a Monday am deliverable over a weekend with no notice is ridiculous, but not the time when the email was sent.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              It’s not even a monday deliverable – 36 hours from friday evening means its a sunday at 6 a.m. deliverable, which is the cherry on this ridiculous sundae.

            2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              It might be–if they sent it at 6PM on the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend from the same time zone, I would very much consider that a data point. No one at my workplace is doing non-emergency work late on a Friday of a holiday weekend.

          3. hamsterpants*

            I never understand how some people object to emails being sent at unusual hours. The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I never even look at when an e-mail was sent unless they say “I need it by tomorrow”

            2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              Eh, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. When someone sends you an email saying they need something in 36 hours, it’s not asynchronous. Sometimes there is a cultural expectation of responding to emails ASAP and waiting til Monday would be a bad look.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Many people don’t check email regularly on weekends. And the weekend starts Friday evening.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Right, which is why expecting a 36-hour turnaround is bad. But sending it Friday is not inherently a problem as long as they aren’t demanding a quick response!

            1. Gothic Bee*

              I mean, I feel like it’s different when we’re talking about an email sent to a job candidate though. Like if my boss or a colleague emails me at 6pm on a Friday and I’ve left for the day, I don’t care I can just reply next time I’m at work. But if a potential employer emails me at 6pm on a Friday there is some extra pressure. A lot of people, especially those who need a job because they’re currently out of work, will feel obligated to respond over the weekend rather than wait until the start of the next work week.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Nobody is saying it’s bad to send an email on Friday evening. We’re saying it’s bad to send an email on Friday evening, *when there’s a Sunday morning deadline in that email*.
              Although I would say that if you send your employee an email on Friday evening to say that you’re going to have to have a difficult conversation on Monday morning, that really sucks because you’re basically ruining your employee’s weekend. So it can be bad to email on a Friday evening.
              Actually I think the only way it’s OK is if you preface the email with, “just sending this before I forget, no need to reply until Monday”.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m always surprised by the Correct Timing Of The Sending Of The Emails tangents, as in my role this doesn’t matter at all, and reflects either “When I finished my part of the thing and handed it off” or “When I thought of the question that you can answer.”

          As far as I’m concerned the bad thing in this letter was a surprise timed assignment starting at the time it was sent. And that would be bad anytime, due to the surprise aspect–it’s not like 9 a.m. Monday or 3:30 p.m. Wednesday would be better. It should be innocuous to send an email at 6 p.m Friday that says “Dear Opie, We would like to move your application to the next stage, which is a timed sample assignment that should take about 2-4 hours to complete. You will have 24 hours from the time it’s assigned. Let us know a good time for this in the next week or two.” With the expectation that Opie might be traveling on the long weekend and get back to them on Tuesday evening.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Or the not mentioning in the phone interview that it was being sent at all. That is what bothers me the most about this situation

          2. KRM*

            Yes! It doesn’t matter WHEN the email was sent as a general rule. It’s a problem in this case because they sent an email at a time most people would be understood to be not working (they should be aware of the candidates time zone) and started the clock ticking on a pretty arbitrary deadline. Over a (holiday) weekend. That’s the problem. An email at 6 on Friday that said “the next step in our interview process is Task A that should take between 2-3 hours to complete. You will have X hours to submit after we assign the task. Please let us know the best time for you to receive the task.” is 100% fine. What they actually did is a giant flashing red flag that you should avoid this particular job.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes, whatever the time, the candidate has a life and can’t be expected to just drop everything to fit the test in.

          3. Esmeralda*


            I have colleagues that get all heated up because their students email them at 2 am. “Why are they emailing me then? I’m not reading email at 2 am, I’m asleep!” and on and on.

            Dude. What difference does it make when they emailed you? Read it after you get to work, respond within an appropriate time frame.

            It’s not like students are getting upset that we aren’t immediately responding to late night or weekend emails. They understand how email works. My experience is that they often start by apologizing:” sorry to send this so late” or “I know it’s Sunday, but I needed to let you know…”

            Sometimes I think these colleagues are just looking for reasons to complain about students. Or just need to bitch about something, anything.

            1. HiHello*

              There was a story on Reddit where a freshman was upset that a TA wasn’t responding within few min over the weekend. He blasted her phone on a Saturday night and wanted to bring it up with the higher ups, saying she wasn’t available enough. That was crazy to me.

            2. Zudz*

              Part of the issue is general hustle culture. People sending e-mails at 2:00 AM (who are not students) are often doing it to appear to be working! Working so much! All of the time! And if you let that go on consistently, it becomes a standard.

              Person A sends e-mails at 2:00 AM. And sometimes they get praised for those things. Should I also be sending e-mails at 2:00 AM? Signs are pointing to yes!

              Students are a little different. They’re obviously not on a professional schedule, or adhering to professional norms (unless they’re student-workers, or interns). But coworkers, or (even worse) bosses /should/ be mindful of what their timestamps convey. It’s not value neutral for the boss to send an e-mail at 11:00 PM to the team.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I cannot picture anyone at my work praising someone for sending an email at 2 a.m. I have sent a 2 a.m. email because I was annoyingly wide awake for some reason, and so figured I’d knock off that one correction and send it off, and then I wouldn’t have to deal with it the next day.

                I think such places exist. But for a lot of people, working with colleagues across time zones, or flexing your attention however works for you, is normal.

        4. AnotherLibrarian*

          It sends a message you potentially expect people to be looking at their emails 6pm on Friday. Given the content of the email (a project with a deadline), then it really highlights that expectation. By itself (one email at 6pm Friday), it is not a big deal. What I was trying to get at with my comment (and clearly I did a poor job, because people are latching onto that Friday comment) is that these things are sometimes cumulative.

          1. Anonymouse*

            It’s worse than that.
            Companies are at their best behavior when dealing with applicants.
            This is the best they are going to be.
            Working there will be far far worse.

        5. umami*

          I was curious about this as well. I have definitely sent emails a bit later on a Friday than intended, but assumed getting positive feedback over the weekend would be better than waiting to hear on Monday. If the next round required some level of project/presentation, and little notice is given, it’s because I want to see what a candidate can do quickly because we have last-minute projects come up often (nature of the business). I’m not interested in what they would accomplish if they had a week to do it. In this case, it’s not clear that they were being given 36 hours, just that the due date was 36 hours later. I’ve literally never seen a timed assignment that was calculated out by hours, so I admittedly am assuming they were told to submit it by EOB on Monday, not ’36 hours from the time of this email’. It definitely is an odd approach, though, but for some fields it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            But I assume you let the candidates know in advance that this is what will happen?
            I have been sent a test, at about 3pm, requiring me to respond by 9pm the same day. Well, I was at work, and after work I was picking my young children up from school and dealing with homework and baths and cooking dinner, and I would barely have a moment to myself before 9pm. It didn’t matter in that it was for a course that I didn’t actually want to take, but had I wanted to take that course I’d have been totally bummed.

        6. tamarack and fireweed*

          If it’s *just* an informational email with no expectation of action to be taken by the candidate before, say, the following Tuesday, it’s mostly ok, though it can communicate that people who work there are overworked. (Depends on time zones of course. If I work in Europe and my correspondent is in the US, then an email that arrives at 6 pm Friday afternoon was sent mid-day, which is totally fine in itself.)

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            BTW, I frequently set emails I send after Friday ~5 pm my time to send at 8 am Monday morning. Especially the ones I send to our graduate students and other people junior to me. But also to my boss and people senior to me….

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The not making it clear up front that there is a exercise as part of the process is what bugs me the most, followed closely by the really short turnaround time they gave.

        For reference, spouse is in a very niche industry that always includes an exercise as part of the process – but builds that exercise into an interview (not legal, but all day interviews are the norm here), and they tell you to come prepared for XY task that you will be given three hours to complete.

        1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          My spouse works in one where as part of the interview process you have to turn around an eight page paper in a week. But….its late in the interview process and the whole process is explained up front – by the time you are writing the paper, you are two months past your initial screen with a recruiter. You then get feedback on the paper and the final interview is presenting and defending it. Its a lengthy, stressful, time consuming process, but its a difficult job that’s highly compensated and high profile.

          In the time since he’s been hired he’s sat on the interview panel for others – and has watched people who plagiarized their papers, people who when it got to the defense point had obviously had someone else write the paper, and someone who produced a paper that looked like it had been written over the course of a caffeine filled college all-nighter. And they are flexible – if you say “I can’t get it done that fast because its a busy personal/work week” they’ll give you more time. So its been a very good screening mechanism.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – with spouse’s industry only the top three candidates are brought in for the full interview, but more than that are screened via phone call(s) prior the the interview. There is no surprise about the test and it’s requirements.

      5. quill*

        Expecting a two hour assignment out of a candidate: Not good
        Not telling them about it during the interview: bad
        Emailing days later: bad
        expecting a 1.5 day turnaround time: bad
        On a weekend: worse
        on a holiday weekend: even worse!

    2. anonymous73*

      Even when job hunting after I lost my job in 2020, I wasn’t checking my email after hours or over the weekend. And the expectation that people would be is unreasonable and a giant flashing red flag.

      1. The OTHER Other.*

        I agree, ambushing an applicant with a surprise project that will take hours of work over a holiday weekend seems like an indicator that this job expects you to be working, or at least available, 24/7. There are jobs like that, but it doesn’t sound as though this is one of them.

        That being said, it seems weird to me that the LW said they interviewed on Monday, and “didn’t hear back” so mentally moved on, then checked their email for the first time on the following Saturday. That’s a long time to go without checking email when you are job hunting and expecting to hear back on an interview.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I don’t think they checked for the first time since the Monday interview. They probably checked often Tuesday and Wednesday, then decided not to obsess (“mentally move on”) and went back to their usual checking rythm, which is once to twice a day or whatever. They didn’t check Friday after 6 until the next morning, which isn’t long.

          1. LW#1*

            LW#1 here:

            To clarify, I did check my email throughout the week. I meant to say I had last checked it around 5pm on Friday and then didn’t check it until 10am on Saturday. Since it was a holiday weekend, I was trying to take a bit of an e-mail break.

            1. umami*

              I was wondering where the holiday part came in, I had to re-read your letter repeatedly before I caught it! That definitely makes sense. But how did they expect you to submit something on Sunday during a holiday weekend?

        2. quill*

          If you check once a day, but during working hours, you will probably miss a friday 6 pm email.

          1. LW#1*

            As it seems unclear from a lot of comments, please note I check my email many times a day and throughout that week. I last checked it at 5pm on Friday before the holiday weekend and then again on Saturday at 10am.

          2. Observer*

            True. Which is very reasonable. What is NOT reasonable is expecting people to respond immediately to emails sent outside of normal business hours.

      2. Anonanon*

        On the other hand, when job hunting while in a job, I would not tend to check my personal email until I got home in the evening, i.e. after hours and on the weekend (was just in this situation recently, and they would email me in the morning and I would get back to them in the evening, because I (try to) focus on work when I’m at work).

        So to me (as already has been stated by several others), the issue is not in the timing of the email per se, but in the unannounced, timed assignment with a rather short turnaround.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This. Job hunting is stressful. The best way to deal with the stress is to treat it like an hourly job and shut down after working hours.

    3. Beth*

      Checking email 10 am on the Saturday of a holiday weekend sounds more than reasonable to me, and I would not want to work for any employer who had a problem with it.

      The company should have sent that email at 8 am on the first workday after the weekend, not 6 pm on Friday.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Agree. I don’t really like to read the comments implying that OP should have checked/should put email on her phone, or that people just have to send emails whenever they’re working rather than schedule-sending them for the receiver’s general business hours. I work late at night on weekends (I freelance) but I always schedule-send for Monday because I think it would be weird to get a work email at midnight on a Saturday.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t really like to read the comments implying that OP should have checked/should put email on her phone

          Totally agree.

          or that people just have to send emails whenever they’re working rather than schedule-sending them for the receiver’s general business hours.

          Totally disagree with this. In my experience, the people who object to emails at the “wrong” time have some pretty unreasonable expectations in other ways. In this particular case it IS a definitely problem for lots of reasons, most importantly because the time requires that someone be checking their emails all the time. But there are often good reasons to NOT try to schedule your emails around that you think about the other person’s schedule. And with very rare exceptions, there are no really good reasons to schedule emails outside of personal preference.

          To be clear – I don’t look differently at someone who makes sure to schedule their emails for typical work hours. In fact, I might not even notice the time stamp (in either direction). I just don’t want someone to cause a problem because someone else had the temerity to send an email outside of typical business hours.

          1. IL JimP*

            to me email implies you’re not looking for an immediate reply, I always assume that there is a 1-2 day window on checking email when I send it

    4. kiki*

      I’m in software development and it’s weirdly common. When I’ve encountered it, the most gracious explanation is that the company is disorganized and meant to communicate earlier that this assignment would be coming. Often, though, it’s a decision made by a relatively obligation-less tech bro who doesn’t see the big deal in doing a little unexpected work on a weekend. It can be a red flag about future expectations and if I move forward, I’d want to talk about that with the hiring team in depth.

      1. LW#1*

        Hi all,

        I am LW#1. Thank you all for your comments on not just my own letter, but on other letters over time. They have provided me much insight. Also I want to thank Alison for publishing my letter and her response.

        I mentioned the time (6pm on a Friday and 10am on a Saturday) because the email stipulated that the timed project’s deadline was 36 hours from 6pm. Also my Monday mid-morning phone interview was with HR and more of a preliminary screening and barely 30 minutes, if that.

        While I do usually check my email before 10am, the HR interviewer had specifically said to me she would get back to me after the holiday weekend after she spoke with the hiring manager, the person whom I would report to. There was no mention of a project as a second step.

        In short, the 6pm time stamp alone is not problematic; it was the fact (confirmed again by them) that the deadline of the project was 36 hours from 6pm Friday. I have had other interviews where they have given me a heads up about looking for an email about a project. While I do usually check my email before 10am on the weekend, that week was particularly long and rough and I wanted to try to take a breather. In addition, I think it also speaks to job interview tests and projects—specifically the amount of time that is required—that I believe has been covered here and also here:

        Perhaps I should consider putting an automated away message on my email for holiday weekends moving forward. I have been trying to create as much balance as I can during the stressful past few years and taking a break from email on weekends and long holiday weekends is one way I set a boundary.

        Perhaps this experience is an anomaly (I hope!) but I wrote in to ask about it because I felt that given all of the above, the expectations were a bit of a tall order in this particular instance.

        What are your approaches to checking work emails on the weekend if you WFH or have a remote job?

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I work from home at a remote job and I don’t look at my work emails after I sign off on Friday until I sign back in on Monday.

          1. That's Amore*

            Same. I also pause my Slack notifications for the weekend so nothing shows up on my phone. If there’s an “emergency,” my boss can text me.

          1. LW#1*

            That is what I do and have done as well. I guess it makes me rethink about expectations and boundaries in WFH and the ongoing pandemic as a job applicant.

            1. kiki*

              I think there are certainly some people and businesses who expect folks to be continuously present and responding to emails, but it’s not the default expectation in most industries. If you’re able to be selective about jobs you’ll take, I wouldn’t change your email boundaries at all. There is some chance an employer will be put off by you not completing an assessment last minute over a holiday weekend, but I think that employer would also be miserable to work for.

              I don’t know what industry you’re in, but I think some employers have yet to shift back from post-recession norms about job-hunting. I think for a long time employers could say “jump” and expect candidates to ask “how high?” That’s changed in the last few years in a lot of industries but I don’t think all employers have made the necessary adjustments yet.

              1. LW#1*

                Thank you for your thoughtful response as well as your insights. I appreciate them!

              2. umami*

                My field is like that, in that I handle time-sensitive items regularly, but I still don’t check my emails constantly after hours. My boss knows that if he needs to reach me urgently or needs an immediate response, he can text me to then ask me to call him or to check my email.

        2. umami*

          Thanks for the added details, that is pretty insane for any hiring manager to expect a 36-hour turnaround from a Friday 6 pm email. I don’t think I would have done anything differently in your situation! When I’ve given short turnaround interview assignments, if I did happen to send it out on a Friday late, I would assume the email was being read on Monday, and any deadline would be with that expectation, not the time of the actual email.

          1. LW#1*

            Thaank you for response. They definitely wanted it done by Sunday at 6am (was later confirmed). So it was not a case of 36 hours from when you read and open the email, but 36 hours from when they sent it—if that helps add context.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          I’m terrible and see my work emails on my phone. I do my best not to look too much during weekends. But yeah, scientist in academia – my work-life balance sucks. On the other hand, if I want to goof off Friday afternoon (after my 3 pm meeting) it’s fine since I’ll work at least a few hours during the weekend. Sometimes it’s also that there is a great day for field work and I just decide to check some of my field sites during a weekend… I do my best not to respond outside hours and use the email scheduling feature.

  5. Ina Lummick*

    OP#3 HMRC (equivalent to the IRS in the UK) sets the minimum business reimbursement for EVs as £0.04 per mile compared to ICE (petrol/diesel) as £0.45 per mile. (The different is so big because HMRC doesn’t consider electricity to be a fuel type, while I’ve seen petrol prices to be ~$8.70/USgal here…)

    While there will be some wear and tear, it’s not as much as ICE, eg: my car’s done just over 35k miles and it still has the OG brake pads, because EVs use them a lot less (regen is used mostly and the real brakes aren’t applied until the end/suddenly) but I had a much harder time finding someone who’d insure me for the vehicle…

    Federally or at your state level, there might be some guidance already, I know my partner’s org had to add in a reimbursement for EVs on their finance software.

    1. JSPA*

      This is nonsense, considering the eventual cost of battery replacement (unless they subsidize battery replacement, and commit to doing so 7-10 years in advance).

      Heck, even for a hybrid, battery replacement ran me $4000 back in ~2010 (yes, I was a very early adopter, 2001).

      Tesla currently quotes around $14,000.00 for battery replacement.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      HMRC’s minimum requirement for tax doesn’t mean that’s what all companies or even government agencies actually set though. I work in U.K. govt and we get 40p a mile – and they don’t ask or apparently care what type of car it is (that is to say they do record details of the vehicle including make and model so they could probably tell, but a different rate is not payable). The rate was comparable (allowing for inflation) back when I actually worked for HMRC.
      I do wonder whether tax rates are just that, the tax payable, though, as opposed to what the business pays the employee as expenses.
      But it’s irrelevant anyway as OP is clear they don’t have a separate policy for electric cars in her company.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Sorry I wasn’t v clear – I meant I wonder if what Ina is talking about is tax rates payable to tax man, not expenses payable to the employee, so it’s not as weird as it evidently sounds to JSPA (it’s the tax man getting less from EVs not the employee getting less)

        1. Ina Lummick*

          I was talking about mileage rates as expenses – apparently looks like I got that wrong – that 4p rate is for company cars not EVs. Private owned cars still get the normal 45p/mile rate like other types of cars.

    3. Adereterial*

      The lower rate for EVs only applies to company cars where the employee claims back fuel costs – privately owned EVs can still claim the same rate as petrol/diesel cars – 45p per mile for the first 10,000 per year, 25p thereafter, with appropriate passenger supplements where these apply.

  6. Karia*

    LW2: There are a lot of reasons why Adam may be not working out and about half of them are Adam. If you want to help him, help him find another job.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      It’s worth pointing out that Adam has neither spoke to the OP about the issues he’s having not asked for her help so helping him find a new job is a massive overreach.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      It’s worth pointing out that Adam has neither spoke to the OP about the issues he’s having not asked for her help so helping him find a new job is a massive overreach.

    3. Kristi*

      Adam has not indicated that he wants another job, nor has he contacted the OP to as for advice or help. Doing anything more than reaching out to ASK how things are going, at the very most, would be a massive over-step and deeply inappropriate.

      OP believes Adam considers them a mentor, but if that’s the case Adam can reach out and ask for support. Until he does, there’s nothing more for OP to do here.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Adam may also very reasonably prefer to retain OP as a unreservedly positive reference, and not have OP’s perspective tainted by what happened at a future job! I know I would.

        1. Mockingjay*


          OP2 herself admits she doesn’t really know what’s going on, whether it’s Adam, the boss, or the environment. In any case, she can only be a reference for his past performance. Please don’t accidently tank the reference: “he was great while working for me, but [I heard] there were problems when he moved to Next Job.” (Not that OP would do this, but best intentions over Adam’s career could be misconstrued.)

          My advice is to wait and let Adam sort it out himself. His job, his life.

        2. ferrina*

          Yes! This was the first thing that leapt to my mind- I would be mortified if a former manager and reference heard that I was doing a bad job (whether or not I was doing a bad job). I would be terrified that it would jeopardize future references.

      2. Yep*

        Exactly. Adam may not think of you as a mentor or want your help. I had a guy who was past retirement age and had, at one time, been really big in our field. I worked with him for a two months in a very limited capacity. I went on to be very successful in the field. He used to go around telling people he was my mentor(he actually told someone once, “I taught her everything she knows”). It was always awkward when people would ask me about him and how he was doing. I’m kind of straightforward though, and just told them the truth: that I’d only worked with him about 60 days, we rarely overlapped and I barely knew the guy. And then I’d mention my ACTUAL mentor.

  7. Everdene*

    LW#3, I’m in exactly the same position including working for a non-profit. As the mileage allowance covers everything I decided just to put in my expense report as normal. My fuel costs have obviously gone down a lot but my car payments have gone up – I figure it all balances in the end. If/when the rules change I will change my approach according.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      And please correct me if I’m wrong here, but there is the cost of charging your vehicle at home, too, correct? So your energy costs may be going up, just not at the gas station.

      All that to say, take the mileage reimbursement. It is “mileage” versus “fuel” reimbursement after all.

      1. Beany*

        Well yes, but that’s the “about a third of what it previously was” OP’s referring to. I’ve had an EV for the past ~5 years. Our domestic electricity bill went up noticeably, but our gasoline bill went down a lot more.

        1. OP#3*

          Based on the EV calculators I’ve checked, I’ll spend about $500 a year in increased electricity at home compared to about $2,500 a year in gas costs I used to pay.

          1. Phony Genius*

            How does that work out when you factor in the cost difference of buying the EV in the first place?

            1. Lynn*

              I can’t speak for the OP, but our PHEV was not significantly more expensive than an equivalent ICE vehicle, once we took into account the tax credit for purchasing the PHEV. YMMV on that, of course, depending on your tax situation and where the credits stand now (I haven’t followed them to see if they have changed since I don’t need them right now). And that certainly depends on what vehicle you got (we bought a Honda Clarity and have been very happy with it).

        2. Model 3*

          I live in the Northwest with low cost hydro power and my monthly bill went up $30 a month. A lot less than what I was spending on gas.

    2. Beth*

      Exactly. Electric cars (and hybrids) don’t necessarily reduce the costs of using a car; they just rearrange the furniture, so to speak.

      As a very early adopter of hybrid car technology, I had difficulty getting people to understand that the main point was not to lower my driving costs, but to reduce my environmental footprint. As it happened, my total costs did go down eventually — but that was because the car was newer, more reliable, and required far less maintenance than traditional cars, especially as it began to age. In the first three years, the costs just about broke even with non-hybrid cars.

      And yes, I claimed full mileage allowances when applicable.

  8. pcake*

    LW2, years ago my husband worked in a depart with abusive, demanding and unreasonable management. There was a guy there who was their worst, sort of craziest employee. He’d write rude things about the manager where it could be found, was always late, broke things (not on purpose – out of frustration) and when he quit, he did something that could have caused them to sue him for damages. In between that, he was generally erratic and odd.

    About two later, my husband went to an interview at a company in a similar industry. The owner proudly introduced my husband to his star worker, and it was that same guy – the worse worker above. It turned out that under good management, he was highly functional, helpful with others in similar jobs, always on time, courteous and professional.

    Some people do great with good management and poorly with poor or horrible management. The fact his current manager told you this stuff doesn’t make me think he’s a good manager – he sure doesn’t respect people’s privacy, in any event.

    1. MK*

      Ok, but employees aren’t tools without agency. The kind of behaviour you describe isn’t just about “doing poorly under bad management”. There are many reasons why Adam might not be doing great.

    2. Johanna Cabal*

      Sometimes a particular job or position isn’t the right one for a person, even in the same industry. I used to hire for a very fast-paced company and if you were someone who liked to go at your own pace and spend hours revising your work, it wouldn’t wasn’t the best role. Generally, staff with those tendencies left to go to jobs better suited for that kind of work.

    3. anonymous73*

      Acting like a toddler at work is not “doing poorly under bad management”.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my favorite AaM letters was from a guy who had butted heads with management and couldn’t get promoted, though he was one of their best workers and they had him doing a lot of the training. Alison pointed out that he wasn’t going to get promoted here, no matter how righter than right he was, but I think people expected him to stay there and try to wear them down.

      In the update he’d taken her advice, gone to a new company, and without the history and baggage they were delighted to promote him.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That sounds more like the employee got some kind of outside help – therapy, counseling, change in personal circumstances aside from the job…something. That’s not just a management change.

      1. RC+Rascal*

        Agreed. The only time in adulthood I have ever seen anyone make a radical change for the better is because there was an underlying medical issue that was resolved.

        1. quill*

          People tend to change pretty slowly unless the motivation for their actions can be completely resolved.

          Sometimes removing someone from a very terrible situation can make that difference, coupled with some sort of readjustment period.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes, agreed. People don’t tend to go from being “erratic and odd” to not just because they have a new manager at work.

      3. kiki*

        I agree that it’s likely that outside help or a few years of maturity and reflection played a big role, but this made me think of that past AAM letter where an employee bit somebody. Terrible environments can have shockingly large impact on employee behavior. That’s why my first advice to anyone in a toxic workplace is to get out as fast as feasible– sometimes it seems like you can change the environment, but it’s more likely the environment will change you.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “Everyone thinks it’s normal for our office that I bit the office manager” was one of the more unexpected updates.

      4. ferrina*

        If the employee was younger, it may have been the management. Having a manager that actually provides transparency and reasonable expectations can be so empowering. Simply having a manager that you respect after having a terrible manager, then having that manager say “I need you to do X instead of Y” can bring very quick results. (caveat: results will vary wildly, and if you’re breaking stuff out of frustration, definitely start with the therapy/full medical workup and don’t wait for a good manager to see if that resolves it)

    6. Zephy*

      Point of order: breaking things out of frustration IS doing it on purpose. Adults have choices about how to respond to feelings.

      1. Boof*

        Yes and no – there’s intentionally breaking something vs pounding something in frustration you think can take it and it doesn’t – yeah my partner has anger issues and it seems like splitting hairs because yeah they really shouldn’t be doing it at all but how to address it is really quite different

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I really don’t see the difference. Both can be very frightening to people around you, which is why neither are good things to be doing.

  9. LDN Layabout*

    For #LW4 it sounds like it was a general offer for your team that training is available vs. a direct offer to you so you can also just…not speak up about it, unless your boss asks directly.

    I’ve been reasonably lucky to be in training rich environments the past few jobs and most places really won’t expect you to do everything, especially if there’s no job relevance.

    Even if it is relevant, pushing back if you won’t be using those skills soon is also a valid reason in a lot of places e.g. there’s a specific coding language course I will be taking at some point, but not until I’m put on a project using that language.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes I often send around information on training to my team. I don’t expect them all to do it. It’s for information in case they’re interested. If I want a particular person to do specific training I discuss it with them individually. Otherwise it’s fine to do it or not.

  10. Hiring Mgr*

    I agree of course that a 36 hour turnaround from Friday night at 6 is absurd, but in general if you’re worried about missing job related messages you may want to install the mail app on your phone for convenience sake, at least while you’re job searching

    1. Maggie*

      I think a lot of people think you have to get alerts if you have the mail app. I have it on my phone but I don’t have any alerts! I just check it when I want. The turnaround time is not acceptable from the letter, but I do think it’s “the norm” that job searchers check email daily (although it still sounds like OP did this!)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        *nods* I have email, but it doesn’t do anything to alert me other than add a little “1” or “3” to the mail icon. (After I disabled the alert feature.)

        For me, one of the reasons to get a smart phone was that I sometimes found myself in situations where I was away from home (e.g. child’s sports thing) and wanted to look something up in an email.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep I have my (personal, not work) email accounts available on my phone, but I’ve turned off notifications and have also set it so that the app doesn’t check for new mail in the background – it only checks when I actually open the app. So I don’t even get a little number on the app icon, I have to actually open the app and then it’ll update my inbox and show me how many new emails I have. It’s really useful being able to access email on my phone (I don’t use my work computer at weekends and my personal laptop is ancient, plus it’s useful for when I’m out and about or travelling) but I don’t want notifications popping up all the time.

        2. Dino*

          I can’t even handle seeing the 1 or whatever number. I’m an inbox zero person and I can’t not check it if I see it.

            1. pancakes*

              It seems like the problem in these scenarios, to the extent there is one, is unchecked obsessiveness, not email apps.

              1. quill*

                Yeah, but the solution to handling that obsessiveness is to not fuel it via having an email app.

          1. Elder Millennial*

            I have my email on my phone, but I don’t have any notifications turned on. I can just check it when I need to. No beeps, no red dots, no numbers, nothing.

            1. londonedit*

              I wrote a longer reply which hasn’t appeared (not sure what I said to get it stuck in moderation!) but I’ve disabled push notifications/background app activity for the email app on my phone, so the only time it checks for emails is when I open the app myself. So I don’t get any notifications at all, not even the red dot/number on the app icon. I only have my personal email on my phone, I don’t check work email outside of working hours, but I don’t want a notification every time something comes in.

              1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                Plus, all that background checking just sucks your battery dry for no good reason. (I have notifications but no beeps and no background sync.)

          2. Accountant*

            You can turn those off too – they’re called badge notifications and they’re just as customizable as any other notifications. In the iPhone’s native mail app you can even modify badge notifications per email address, so you could have them off for your work email and on for your personal email, for example.

          3. Observer*

            I can’t even handle seeing the 1 or whatever number. I’m an inbox zero person and I can’t not check it if I see it.

            That’s not “inbox zero” that’s obsessive*. But, more importantly for you, if you need to be able to get email when you are not in the office, you can also disable the counter on the icon. You can do it universally or just for email.

            *I don’t mean this in a diagnostic way, but colloquially.

            1. Dino*

              It’s not obsessive, I just don’t like having things on my mental to-do list and would rather deal with things as they pop up. I also don’t like working off the clock, so I don’t see not having work email on my phone as a negative.

              I don’t appreciate being labeled as “obsessive” for having a preference about my email, which doesn’t hurt anyone. Whether or not you intend it as diagnosing it’s still rather rude.

      2. Yorick*

        There’s no reason to think LW doesn’t check email daily. The email came in on Friday at 6pm and she saw it on Saturday at 10am.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I know that is super not at all the point of the letter but I found that kind of baffling tbh. It’s hard to imagine not being able to pull up my email in an instant theses days. And I rarely use it for communication myself, but I might need to pull up like tickets to a show from my inbox or something!

      1. Myrin*

        As soon as I got to that part of the letter, I knew there would be comments telling OP to change this habit of hers or exclaiming “How is that even possible?” or similar. And while Hiring Mgr’s original point is valid in general, OP doesn’t say anywhere that she’s “worried about missing job related messages” so the whole train of thought is moot, anyway (for OP, that is; I guess there might be people reading who keep missing messages and somehow never think to install email on their mobile? Maybe?).

      2. Beany*

        I work at a Federal government agency, and all work e-mail has to be on a government-supplied (or at least controlled) device. This suits me fine, as the government hasn’t bought me a phone, and my personal phone *can’t* get work mail.

      3. kiki*

        I have a similar MO about email to LW and it’s intentional. When I have something on my phone and I can just pull it up, I do. And my emails never stop. There is always something. To give my brain a break, I check my personal email every morning at the same time. I respond and make to-do lists with action items. That way, once I finish my to-do list in the evening, the rest of the night is for me and I’m not being pulled into whatever email thing is happening.

        1. LW#1*

          Hi kiki,

          LW#1 here. Your approach mirrors my own. It may not be for everyone, but between my current job and applying for others, I find that my approach to email works well for efficiency, productivity and sanity. I completely understand and respect that people have different mindsets, approaches and ways to manage email accounts. I do use Mail app or turn it on if I am travelling for work or another instance where I need to pull something up quickly. But I also try to protect my mental health and stress levels on weekend nights and weekends as best I can.

          I appreciate this website so much and it is such an invaluable resource. Wishing all success in their current and future job endeavors.

    3. LW#1*

      LW#1 here:

      I think the Mail app works well for many people—notifications on or off, push or not. For my own productivity, efficiency and sanity as an employee, job applicant and person, I have found a system that works well for myself.

      I am a prompt email responder and I also believe in trying to minimize being tied to email/my phone whenever possible.

      I don’t think my letter alluded to any personal concerns over missing job related messages, but in the event it did, that is not an issue I personally struggle with.

      As for the Mail app, I use it when I travel for work, but I also remain diligent about what is pressing v matters that fall under a false sense of urgency.

      I think what is ultimately important is what works best for the individual in managing their work/email responsibilities and also, on the weekends, a peace of mind.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I have notifications on my phone for my work email, but not for the email that I would give potential employers.
      And I wouldn’t see it at 6pm on a Friday because I’m usually in the swimming-pool at that point. And then I’d be too exhausted from working then swimming to look at it properly that evening, and it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t give it a proper look before maybe 10am Saturday, like OP. Just before heading out to the market, after which I’d be taking the dog to the park. So I might have a couple of hours in the afternoon, but I’ll probably be busy seeing friends Saturday night.
      People have lives, and employers need to remember this.

  11. Don't Call Me Shirley*

    I have been called for a position I am the technical interviewer for. Basically my job for a different team, only contract instead of employee.

    I was… Really? I have my current job on LinkedIn. Maybe they had a 2 year old resume on file? But hadn’t called me when I was actually looking…

    1. ArtK*

      Many of the recruiters on LinkedIn just do a keyword search and SPAM anyone who has a match; they don’t bother to spend the time looking at the profile. I’ve had recruiters approach me for a “building engineer” (maintenance) when I’m a software engineer.

  12. Jzilbeck*

    Regarding LW5, how does one move forward after being let go due to failed PIP? I fully understand not badmouthing the former employer (thanks to reading this blog) and taking ownership of mistakes if asked about what happened, but do you mark the job on your resume with an end date? Leave it as a current position (My guess is don’t do this)? I assume there are readers on this site who have successfully moved on to new jobs after finding themselves in a similar situation as LW’s brother. How did you do it?

    1. ecnaseener*

      Search this site for “everything you need to know about getting fired” – it has answers to all those questions. (But no, don’t misrepresent it as current!)

      1. Jzilbeck*

        I perused through the different resources….all valuable for sure! Was just curious how others approached their job searches in failed PIP aftermath — explaining your situation to potential references, maintaining reasonable expectations of new job searching (while preserving your sanity and dignity), etc.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      My partner moved on after basically being fired (though no pip)—his job search took a lot longer and he had to look at a lower pay scale/less responsibility than he’d been receiving, but finally he got his foot in the door somewhere and ended up being successful in his new role, thanks in part to some habits he changed/developed as a result of the firing.

  13. Hiring Mgr*

    Depending on the relationship between the LW and the new boss, and exactly what was said, i don’t think it’s that outrageous that they were honest about Adam’s struggles. Again, depending on how well they know each other I wouldn’t necessarily consider it gossip… (don’t ask if you don’t want to hear!)

    We don’t know WHY Adam is having difficulty, but I don’t think we can say “new boss is terrible” without more info.

    Either way a check in note with Adam might be welcome

    1. ecnaseener*

      I don’t follow “don’t ask if you don’t want to hear” as a reason not to call this gossip. People want to hear gossip all the time – the fact that someone asked doesn’t mean it’s not gossip. The responsibility is on the person divulging information not to divulge it, not the person asking.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I think for me the gossip part would depend on exactly what was said and also how well OP and new boss know each other, not who brought it up first.

        On the other hand, according to that Sapiens book gossip helped save our species, so maybe gossip just needs a better PR campaign

        1. ecnaseener*

          Sure, I didn’t disagree with that part. I disagreed with that one specific parenthetical of yours.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Also generally, in the US at least, polite questions are a pretty normal form of small talk where one person asks “how is X going” and the other person is expected to generally say something like “oh it’s fine, how is Y.” Not to spill all of their guts about X in great detail. Hearing someone is working with a person you know, it is extremely normal to respond with “Oh, I used to work with Adam, how is he doing there?” without expecting the response to include details about his PIP…

        1. ecnaseener*

          Exactly! You shouldn’t ask about something you know is sensitive/private, but LW in this case presumably just asked how things were going and it’s super weird to put it on them with “don’t ask if you don’t want to know.”

          (For that matter, the letter doesn’t even say they did ask. People bend over backwards to blame LWs for the weirdest things sometimes.)

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          I wasn’t blaming LW for anything… that was my point, there might be nothing to blame anyone for. Sometimes it’s ok to have those sorts of conversations, depending on the relationship

          1. ecnaseener*

            Ok, for future reference when you say “don’t X if you don’t want Y to happen”…that’s going to come across as blaming the person.

    2. QuickerBooks*

      I noticed OP mentioned a time or two the “niche” nature of the industry. I am imagining something like a theatre troupe or a small-batch brewer or something like that. So the question to me isn’t so much “is it gossip”–it clearly is–the question is how much gossip is normal for this industry? There are industries for which this sort of gossip is not only normal, it’s actually the only way anybody finds out about anything.

    3. Observer*

      don’t ask if you don’t want to hear!

      What does that have to do with anything? The issue here is not the the OP’s pure ears were burned by hearing nasty things. Or that they heard something legitimately upsetting. In fact it has nothing to do with the what the OP experienced.

      The problem is that regardless of what the OP said / asked, it seems like the new boss shared waaay too much information. Just because someone asked, doesn’t require them to share this much.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        That’s why I was saying it depends on the relationship b/t OP and new boss. For me that would determine how much info is too much. I don’t think it’s so black and white without knowing the specifics to say whether it’s an overstep or not.

        But also you’re right, the don’t ask part was irrelevant

  14. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, they’re screening for desperation with this tactic.

    That can be inadvertent. It’s possible Alison’s polite email would make someone say “Oh. Doi. Got so heads-down in stuff I didn’t realize we hadn’t set this up.” Or “See?!! See Bradley?!! This is not a market in which we can pull that nonsense; I told you this would lose us good people who actually have jobs and demands on their time!!!”

  15. Johanna Cabal*

    LW2: I feel for Adam. In 2009, I took a legal assistant-type position at a small company because it was the only place that hired me after a layoff early that year. In hindsight, I really should not have taken it (outside my expertise, lower-level than my previous one, etc.). After three months, I was rightly fired.

    After a few months of unemployment, I took a different job where I excelled and was later promoted.

    Not long after my promotion, I ran into the HR manager who’d actually escorted me out from Three Month Job. He asked me how I was doing and (perhaps I was a bit gloat-y) I told him about getting promoted at my new job. To his credit, he congratulated me but I could see that he hadn’t expected that answer!

    Lesson: Not all jobs and companies are equal. Not everyone will excel at every job.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      Yes, sometimes people are just bad fits for particular jobs, and sometimes getting fired can be a wake-up call to make changes to become a better employee.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        Indeed. I was involved in hiring and firing once I was promoted. For everyone we fired, I secretly hoped that they moved on to positions and roles that better suited them. It wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs and most of us were victims of the ’08-’09 recession.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I was a reference once, for someone hired to a company I was consulting with, and to my surprise, the person was fired six months later. It turned out that they were simply not a fit for the way the other firm wanted things done. The hiring manager figured that since I was a great fit with them and that I had worked with the person before, the new hire would be amazing for them. I figured that since I knew the person was great at their function and that I liked the company, that they would be a great fit and happy, and the candidate figured that since they liked the company and role and since I said good things about the company and hiring manager, that it would be a great fit on their side.

      We were ALL wrong. Turned out the new hire was great at his function, but not in the way the company needed it.

    3. kiki*

      I think there’s a commonly held idea that being a good employee is an inherent trait about a person and would apply to that person in every job. But it’s not true! Every job is different and people have different talents that make them better suited for certain things.

  16. Fallen Star*

    I’ve been considered both the rock star and the problem who needs to be managed out while in the same department doing the same job. The difference was 100% the manager. It’s bad when they don’t know how to manage in general; worse when they don’t know how to do the job and expect you to do it the unrealistic, unworkable way it goes in their heads.

    But worst of all is a boss that plays favorites. Then it doesn’t matter if you are a star or not – if boss or the favorite don’t smile on you, you might as well pack up and leave before the toxicity of the office warps your thinking about yourself.

    1. Fallen Star*

      Check in on Adam. Especially if you know somewhere he might be better appreciated.

    2. Leandra*

      Yes. When a job has you hating the person you see in the mirror, it’s time to leave.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My colleague was the ToxicBoss1’s Golden Girl and I was the Mean Girl because I didn’t stay late to finish stuff up.
      Then ToxicBoss2 bought him out and he looked at productivity rather than hours, and suddenly I was the Golden Girl and my colleague didn’t even get put on the emailing list, her return from maternity leave was not announced (so PMs didn’t send her any work until I wrote to ask why) and she was generally given pretty shoddy treatment. Weird.

  17. Be kind, rewind*

    OP2: If you do reach out to Adam, don’t take it personal if he isn’t forthright about what’s going on at the new job. Especially now that he can’t use this job as a reference, he’s going to need more than ever to preserve you as a future reference, so he may be reluctant to admit things aren’t working out.

  18. anonymous73*

    #1 to me this would be a giant red flag to withdraw from consideration. I’m not sure what type of role you’re looking for, but a project that takes at least 2 hours of my time seems unreasonable after a quick phone screen. Maybe once you’ve gotten past a first round of interviews, but before that I wouldn’t waste my time. And to send it without any warning? Nope. I would have responded that you weren’t told that a project with a timeline was being sent, and that you would not be able to complete it within the given time frame. Then see how they respond. But honestly I would be hesitant to move forward with a company who thinks it’s okay to spring this on someone with no warning, especially at this stage in the hiring process.
    #2 no longer your circus or your monkey. If he reaches out to you for advice, then by all means mentor him. But this is no longer your problem to solve.
    #4 if your manager is a reasonable human, optics aren’t an issue. A reasonable manager would rather their employees focus on their work if an optional training class is going to be a waste of their time.

    1. Miette*

      IRT #1: Yes, this! If you’d gone through more than a phone screen, MAYBE they’d earn the benefit of a little bit of doubt. I mean, I’d still send them an email similar to Alison’s, but possible a kinder/more engaged-sounding one than they deserved. But this was after a phone screen? No way, man! This means they’re wasting the time of how many other candidates, not to mention the time of whomever has to review the submissions. It doesn’t give me good feeling about how they treat their employees if their hiring process is like this. Run, don’t walk, OP.

      1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        I don’t think it’s a glaring red flag — but it is rather thoughtless considering the holiday. Tests are fairly normal in some fields, and if it’s a “take home” test, they usually like you to have them back in 2-3 days. If onsite testing, generally expect 2-4 hours, give or take.

        My guess is the person sending it out did not consider the time fell over the weekend (probably standard boilerplate email), and they only really expected it back on Tuesday or Wednesday after the holiday. But still, they should’ve given a heads up on the call that the test was expected and that is bad communication in general.

        1. Observer*

          My guess is the person sending it out did not consider the time fell over the weekend (probably standard boilerplate email), and they only really expected it back on Tuesday or Wednesday after the holiday.

          That is a glaring red flag right there. The holiday weekend is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind that the emails was Friday evening meant “Get this done by Sunday Morning.” Not realizing that is a very bad sign.

        2. anonymous73*

          Sending a take home test…not an issue.
          Sending a take home test after a phone screen that requires 2+ hours of work…unusual.
          Sending a take home test without letting an applicant know they are sending it…red flag.
          Sending a take home test AFTER HOURS without letting an applicant know they are sending it AND expecting it to be done over the weekend (ESPECIALLY a holiday weekend)…GLARING red flag.

          1. LW#1*

            LW#1 here:

            Just wanted to thank you all for your responses and for seeing how all the cumulative factors made me feel it was a tall order.

  19. Oakwood*

    The coding assignment is actually a desperation detector. They want to see how many hoops you’ll jump through should they hire you.

    The alternative is they are just dense. Six PM Friday on a holiday weekend. How could they not realize many people make travel plans over long weekends?

    I keep several sample applications in my Github repository. When I get asked to perform a sample project I refer them there.

    It’s common to hear stories of someone who did a sample project, business analysis, or graphic design work for an “job interview” only to find out later the company was using their work in production.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      When I was younger I was trying to get into freelance translation. One agency I signed up with asked me to translate a 1000-word article for free as a “test”, and then once I was “hired”, they sent me one 200-word assignment every few weeks. I’ve always regretted falling for that one.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        The norm in translation is no more than 300 words for a test. I used to send several tests, each about 100 words, and let the candidates choose which tests they wanted to do.

        And I don’t see anything wrong with an agency that sends you a small assignment every few weeks. Of course you can’t live off that, but you need to work with a good dozen agencies.
        If they really liked your work, they’d have sent you more. As it is, they probably felt your translations were OK, and kept sending projects from their same end client, but your work wasn’t good enough to consider you for others.
        Or maybe they didn’t have all that much work in your language pair. Whatever the reason, it’s really not anything to get worked up about.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I shall offer up an innocuous possibility: Normally they give people a heads up and ask them to give a time to start that works for them, and most people choose Friday evening, and the harried interviewer didn’t realize that they hadn’t done this step with OP yet.

      I don’t think it’s likely. But it’s not impossible, and probably worth a polite email a la Alison’s example in which you refuse, but in terms that suggest some minor wire crossing as to timing must have happened rather than that you are now convinced that they are all doinks. Leave it in their court as to whether they say “Goodness, so sorry, I thought we’d set that up–yes, next Wednesday evening will work” or “We’re looking for fast-paced self-starters who have no life outside of work, and you don’t seem desperate enough.”

      1. Student*

        I understand the thought process of “Reach out and be factual about not being able/willing to do this. Maybe they’ll see reason” per AAM’s recommendation.

        I do not understand the thought process of coming up with an excuse, based on exactly nothing in the actual letter, to completely pardon the hiring company for their bad behavior and put all the onus back on the OP. Why go so far out of your way to excuse and protect corporate misbehavior? Why are you so averse to someone saying no to a ridiculous request that you felt a need to come up with a comforting lie to explain away the company’s bad behavior?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Undoubtedly because I am secretly employed by All The Corporations to explain away any silly thing they do.

          One of the most useful features of the blog, I’ve found, is that someone will describe a very odd thing, and after several mystified comments someone will come up with “If you have X enabled in Office, it could result in this” or “This sounds like a phishing scheme from someone who is not your professional contact” and so on.

          Both in and outside of work, I’ve observed that a baseline “your (ridiculous and unreasonable) action must be due to some understandable event, so I’ll let you explain” leads to better outcomes than an antagonistic starting point. And the 1 in 10 times that there was a reasonable explanation, you aren’t sitting there with egg on your face muttering about how this isn’t your fault because you didn’t know Seraphina’s mother had died.

  20. silverpie*

    A 36- hour turnaround time, from 6pm Friday evening… that puts the deadline at 6am Sunday morning! Someone here (maybe multiple someones) is not thinking straight…

    And yes, the standard IRS mileage rate includes depreciation. In fact, if a company uses standard mileage for its owned vehicles, it has to take part of that amount off the car’s basis when it disposes of the car.

  21. Lacey*

    LW 2: There’s no way for you to know from one conversation – but I’d guess there’s some sort of bad management or a terrible skills and/or culture mismatch.

    The is based only on my own experience leaving a job where I was, not a rockstar, definitely just a highly skilled curmudgeon. But still, quite good at what I did.

    I went to a job where they treated me like a child, refused to tell me project details, got mad at me for not having them, hovered over me while I worked bc I couldn’t read their minds, then got angry I wasn’t skilled in an area they knew I didn’t have any experience with.

    I was fired for being super incompetent.

    Then I got hired by a different company, one that more or less trusts that I’m a professional adult who knows how to do her job.

    Magically, I’m highly skilled again.

    The best thing you can do is just be a good reference when your former employee inevitably ask for a reference in 2-6 months.

  22. Churlish Gambino*

    LW1, the turnaround time from this particular company is unreasonable for sure, but if this is now the third time this has happened, I really would consider installing a mail app on your phone. You don’t have to have notifications on if that’s the biggest concern (you can also set notifications to stop during certain hours!), but it’s generally expected that job candidates are checking their email pretty frequently and responding promptly when necessary. I know when I was job-searching that I was watching my inbox and spam folders like a hawk.

    Obviously everyone has different approaches and philosophies toward email — and really, no amount of email checking is going to solve a truly unreasonable ask/turnaround time — but since you seem to be applying in an industry that evidently has test assignments involved with tight turnarounds as a trend, I think your own approach to email is worth re-examining.

    1. Observer*

      but it’s generally expected that job candidates are checking their email pretty frequently and responding promptly when necessary.

      Including evenings and multiple times during the weekend? No wonder companies are having a hard time hiring!

      1. Churlish Gambino*

        If an email is sent at 6PM local time on a Friday or anytime during the weekend, the general expectation is that you respond on Monday, the next business day. I guess I assumed incorrectly that that went without saying.

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah. When I was a job seeker I might have replied over the weekend, because that was convenient to me, but I certainly would expect that they weren’t opening it until Monday and therefore there’s no rush.

          It’s certainly absurd that they would give a project to be completed over the weekend with no warning.

      2. kiki*

        No wonder companies are having a hard time hiring!

        I do always wonder about companies who talk about how difficult hiring is and how employees are ghosting them mid-process. How many employees who ghost were hit with unreasonable requests like this?

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      This is not on the OP. She is checking her email regularly. The email was sent at 6 on Friday and she checked her email on Saturday morning. I would not expect to receive an email that late on a Friday, especially if it was a holiday weekend. If there was an email to be sent on Friday it should have been an invite to do the project, asking for when they could send the information to her, and the timeline for the project.

      This is totally unreasonable, especially since they sent it at the end of the day. That means even if she saw the email right away she may not have had the bandwidth to start it right away. After all, it was 6 pm on Friday, presumably, she was tired from work and would have needed to wait until the next day. So lets say she starts the project the next day at 8 am she’s already lost 14 hours out of the 36.

      I don’t know if this is some sort of trend that’s happening in OP’s field or what but she should NOT have to check her email after 6 on a friday for a job.

      1. Churlish Gambino*

        and really, no amount of email checking is going to solve a truly unreasonable ask/turnaround time

        Did you just skip over that part of my post for fun or…?

        1. kiki*

          I’m having a bit of a hard time understanding why you recommend LW1 should change their email checking habits then? This request was unreasonable and it sounds like the other requests were very similar, so I’m guessing also unreasonable. It seems like LW is checking their email somewhat frequently*, just not on their phone and therefore not getting push notifications as emails come in. The crux of the issue is that these employers aren’t giving any heads-up to expect any sort of test. Even if LW were to have read the email immediately, that doesn’t mean she actually has free time to complete this assignment in the timeframe allowed. There is nothing stopping these companies from giving advance notice about an assignment at the end of the phone screen.

          * I’m guessing that because they checked their email on Saturday and they were looking for a response email from the company throughout the week.

        2. LW#1*

          Hi all,

          I want to say that as a job hunter, employee and as an adult, I do check my email very frequently. I last checked it at 5pm on Friday and then didn’t check it until 10am on Saturday. I do usually check my email more often and earlier than 10am. Also the project was due at 6am on Sunday morning.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            That sounds reasonable to me, LW #1. Don’t let churlish comments wreck your confidence.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I don’t think you should install notifications just because potential employers can’t be bothered to let you know that they’ll be sending a test. Even if you get the email immediately, it’s still rude because they didn’t let you know beforehand, and it may still be impossible to do the test because you have a life.
      I think I would make a mental note to always ask what the next step will be, whether there are tests etc.

  23. Oakwood*

    re: mileage,

    The alternative is to track every expense on your car and pro-rate it based on the number of company miles. This will quickly become a big headache for you and the company.

    The cost per mile includes a lot more than just the fuel you use. You’d have to include things like car washes and prorate the cost (how much of the car needing cleaning was due to work driving and how much was due to your driving). Tires, fluid changes, brakes, and yes even the eventual battery replacement will all need to be calculated and prorated.

    Do your company a favor. Just take the standard mileage reimbursement. It was created by the IRS to allow companies to avoid the headaches you are about to cause.

  24. Dax*

    LW2: *Please* do not tell Adam that you had a discussion about his performance with his new boss! That is so inappropriate, and would probably be humiliating and anxiety-inducing for him. At most, you could check in to generally ask how he’s doing, but if he doesn’t bring up the performance issues, you shouldn’t. If it was me, I wouldn’t even tell him I met the new boss. If you care about him, do not take the chance of embarrassing him on top of his current struggles.

    Now, if you have an open role in your current organization where he would thrive, and you want to reach out to him with an opportunity, that would be helpful. Otherwise, there’s just no benefit to him.

  25. Generic Name*

    LW 4: there are optional training opportunities sent out to my group fairly frequently, and I basically never sign up for them. Like you, they are rarely worth my time. (I have 15 years of experience and the training is aimed at junior level people) I just don’t sign up for the classes. My boss understands why.

    1. Generic Name*

      I guess I forgot to include any advice. If you are concerned about optics, you could bring it up to your boss why you won’t take trainings that aren’t useful to you. You might use the discussion to talk about what trainings you would want to take.

  26. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    Re #5: I have a staff member on a PIP now and Covid has made a debacle of the thing for day 1. First, I told the staff member the PIP was coming; I sent the draft plan to HR which had told me to expect a 48-hour turnaround, but my HR contact and their manager went down with Covid; with all the delays this caused it ended up being almost 4 weeks between when I told my staff member the PIP was on its way and when it was actually delivered, and there was nothing I could do or say. Now the PIP is supposed to end in a little over a week and it’s the staff member who has Covid; I’ve been talking to my HR person about extending the plan but it’s hard to determine a fair amount of time. Also, my manager is on vacation. So, the best laid plans and all — we want to make things as smooth and predictable and even as compassionate as possible when dealing with PIPs, but my group and HR are both made of people, and unpredictable things happen to people. :/

    1. Antilles*

      How firm is your HR on PIPs/process in general?
      I’ve always treated PIPs as more of a clear path to keep things from dragging on indefinitely rather than the exact end date of the PIP being a firm “yes/no”. If the employee flounders for the next 2 months, it doesn’t matter that it’s theoretically a three-month PIP; if the PIP ends on May 31st but we can’t process the paperwork till June 7th, it’s still tied into the “did not meet requirements of the PIP” even though you technically survived the target date.

  27. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    1. Surprise interview projects with a tight turnaround time
    I also find this an unreasonable request just before a long holiday weekend.
    The only exception might be if you were applying for a PR Comms type role where having to respond quickly is the norm for the job. I have no issue with writing tests or other tests (if part of the job), but not deployed like this.

    And please people, really CONSIDER if such tests and test projects are really necessary!
    I get that sometimes with creative you want to be sure the person can really do what they say. But make these short and reasonable tests a candidate can complete in less that 2 hours and give people advance notice. People really shouldn’t have to test for 4-6 hours to get a job.

    1. LW#1*

      LW#1 here:

      Thanks so much for your comment and I concur

      Also I think of time-money-energy as part of an equilateral triangle and finite resources, just as a general rule of thumb, for all parties involved.

    2. umami*

      Heh, this is my field, which is exactly the kind of test we do for high-level positions, we want to assess candidates’ ability to think and respond quickly. I’ve had people say they do crisis communications ‘all the time’ but then when you design an assessment, they fail miserably.

      1. LW#1*

        For crisis communications, I can see why a quick response is necessary. May I ask if for that field (I’m not in nor was this job in that field) if high-level job applicants/candidates are given a heads up about keeping an eye open for an interview test? Even if it s a general hint or more specific timeframe, I am curious (I mean this genuinely and kindly) about that. Or is it more of a case that applicants at that level in that field know this and therefore check their emails (ie less of a time lapse than my own 5pm-10am)?

      2. kiki*

        Do y’all send surprise tests like this with a time limit? How do you balance that folks may be working hectic hours at their existing job? I wonder about that because there are times where I’m swamped at work and working both early and late and all that jazz. If I were to suddenly receive a test to complete in 36 hours, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

  28. I Don’t Know It All*

    LW2 – not every job is a good fit for every employee. Even when they’ve been a rock star and stay in the same industry. I took a job at a competing organization. I had been at my previous organization for a decade and I had been promoted four times. However, culturally they were just different. And while I was never endanger of being put on a PIP I knew it wasn’t working it as I had hoped. The people were great, but culturally it wasn’t a good fit. I left after a couple of years and changed careers.

    I think it’s great for your to reach out to former employee, although I agree with others to approach it as a catch up and see if he confides in your about any struggles he may be having. It’s also a great time to let him know it’s okay if this job isn’t the best fit and to start looking for something else. Some jobs just don’t work out, even though the employee may be great and the employer may be great.

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      I’m actually in the same position as you described in your first paragraph. Moved on to a supplier firm after being a rockstar at my old company. I’m doing okay and my manager has reassured me but it’s not going the way I’d hoped (way too many roadblocks for 100-person company). At this point, I’m cutting my losses and moving on.

  29. TiredAmoeba*

    LW1, remember when the company asked you what kind of vehicle you drove so they could adjust your reimbursement rate accordingly? Trucks and SUVs get a higher rate and sedans and compact cars get less. You don’t remember that part? Exactly. The company reimburses a flat rate to all employees regardless of their actual cost.

  30. TheNeedForSpeed*

    If the training is video based online, a helpful tip is to use your browser to speed it up. If the video does not have a playback speed option, your browser can usually force it to play at different speeds by:
    Press “F12” and select the “Console”
    Type in “document.querySelector(‘video’).playbackRate = X;” except for “X” put in the rate you want (1.0 is normal, 2.0 is 2x, you can use any decimal you want).
    Press “enter”.
    It should change to the faster speed.

    This also works for audio only files, typically you change “(‘video’)” to “(‘audio’)” in the above.

    I have found this very useful in trainings and seminars where the people talk painfully slow. Listening at 1.5x-2x makes it bearable.

    Just don’t do this in Missouri…the governor there will say you are a hacker mastermind criminal…. ::laugh::

  31. fifteen minutes of indiscriminate screeching*

    LW1: Yeah this is ridiculous. In my industry coding exercises are basically to be expected for any position and every single one of them I’ve done (with one exception) has given me at least a week to turn it in. I had one where they gave me 12 hours to give it back after receipt of the assignment, which was its own ridiculous exercise (it took every single minute of that 12 hours too…) especially because i was working almost every single day at that point, but at least they let me choose the time to receive it.

    1. LW#1*

      LW#1 here:

      Thank you for your comment. I have had other jobs do the same as you describe, i.e. the deadline is from the time you (the applicant) receive it. And usually I am further along in the interview process and also have a general heads up. Also it usually is sent during the work week. Those factors to me seem more reasonable. But 12 hours is definitely tight regardless!

  32. Purple Cat*

    LW1 – The company is totally out of line with their request and turnaround time. (well, I guess mostly with the turnaround time. The general request seems to be “normal”). I am surprised that you are actively job seeking and only checking your email once a week. 24-hr response times to emails feels “expected” for me in terms of reaching out responding / setting a time to interview, etc. More time is expected for the actual decision-making process.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      where are you getting that she is checking her email only once a week?? Her interview was on Monday. She sent the thank you email on Monday.

      The email from the company was sent at 6pm on Friday. She checked her email at 10 am on Saturday morning. This was all in the same week.

      In fact I would say she is reading her emails at least daily because after she sent the follow up email on Monday she says “I didn’t hear back”. This means that she checks her email regularly.

      1. LW#1*


        I confirm all of these facts. The last time I had checked my email, which I check throughout the days and weeks, was 5pm that Friday. Because it was a holiday weekend and I had a lot of personal responsibilities to attend to that evening and the following Saturday morning, I checked it at 10am.

        And yes, the “I didn’t hear back” was meant to infer I checked my email many times daily throughout that week and heard nothing from the potential employer.

    2. kiki*

      They didn’t say or imply they check their email once a week, just that they don’t use email on their phone so they’re not getting push notifications as emails come in. And even for the late Friday email on a holiday weekend, they checked it the next morning. I feel like LW’s email habits are fine.

  33. binge eating cereal*

    LW2, definitely follow Alison’s advice and reach out to Adam. You don’t have to mention the intel you have from his boss, but just talking with you, knowing that you think highly of him could do him a world of good. I was about a year into a new position that was going horribly (not on a PIP -my boss thought I hung the moon, but the position certainly wasn’t panning out how I’d planned), and talking to my old boss did wonders for my confidence and assertiveness in making changes I needed to make in the office.

  34. Office Lobster DJ*

    I wonder if the problem is that LW#5’s brother thought he was safe once End Date came and went, only to be smacked in the face a few weeks later. Obviously, good practice would have been that management was clear and communicative that their expectations weren’t being met, but who knows.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Yes, I also wondered if this were the source of the question. It’s not odd or unusual for the specific date to pass for one reason or another, but it is sucky practice to not make clear that the PIP is not over until the meeting that announces its outcome occurs. So if they made it sound like if the date passes and you’re not let go, you’ve improved enough, that sucks and they should’ve been clearer.

  35. Minerva*

    LW1: To be honest, if a company emailed me at 6PM on a Friday on a holiday weekend to complete a project within 36 hours I would withdraw from the process unless they apologized for the mistake or clarified they intended you to work during normal business hours (assuming weekend work is not normal business hours.) If it was not an error you getting a pretty big red flag about their culture.

  36. louvella*

    I once got an assignment that I was supposed to complete before an interview 24 hours before with interview, with no warning. I told them I had plans that evening and wouldn’t be able to do it. Did the interview anyway and they offered me the job, but honestly my annoyance at the whole thing was one factor in me turning it down.

  37. Cute Li'l UFO*

    LW 1: Once I applied to a role with a subscription box company (think clothes) and on a long holiday weekend got an email to complete the test within 48 hours of receipt. I got the email around noon on a Friday and something just felt so off about it. Every other interview for a position that required a design test that I have ever taken didn’t just dump it in my inbox and call it done. I was more than a little ticked and it felt like they might have sent them en masse knowing that candidates would likely miss the email or self-select out.

    I had active applications and interviews elsewhere, but even if I didn’t I felt withdrawing was the right choice.

    1. LW#1*

      LW#1 here:

      I agree with you and think you made the right choice there.

      I wonder if the increased frequency of timed tests is rising due to a lot of remote/WFH and/or not fully back in the office situations. In other words, are companies screening or testing, in a way, for accountability in some way?

      I was reading on Reddit how there are many companies on a certain job search engine that rhymes with “heed” that require “personality tests”. From what I have gathered, they seem to be akin to the Barnum effect of a horoscope and offer binary answer choices. I’m not sure how effective are/haven’t seen data to back that up.

      While I understand organizations needing to whittle down an applicant pool, I have to believe there are more efficient ways to do so, such as writing a clearer and stronger job description with clearer must have requirements v. preferences. And with the advent of Applicant Tracking Systems, ATS has levers that the company can set (and that the applicants don’t see) that can search for key words and the like. Higher education job postings tend to write strong and clear job descriptions by and large in terms of laying out job duties and requirements as well as their mission statements embedded in their job postings in language that isn’t vague.

      I think a lot of job application processes could use some revisiting that would help BOTH organizations/hiring managers and job applicants to make the process more efficient for all.

      Thank you again for your comment.

      1. Eyes Kiwami*

        Where I work it is very common to have personality tests as part of the interview process. They call them “aptitude tests” or something and act as if they give the company information about what team to place you in, or how best to work with you. But the questions are always incredibly invasive (I’ve been asked about my personal relationships with my friends and family, my medical history, and more) and even the parts that could be relevant to work are so vague they can’t possibly be helpful. “When you get stressed, do you reach out for help, or try to solve the issue on your own?” Well, it depends on what the problem is, doesn’t it? “Are you a details person or a big picture person?” Again depends on the context…

        On top of that, the clever applicant is not trying to answer the questions honestly, but to present their best worker self to the company. But which is the correct answer–to seem supplicant and willing to put up with anything at the risk of seeming weak? Or to seem confident and decisive at the risk of seeming like a troublemaker? For scales of 1-5, is it better to give more extreme answers, or more neutral answers? As a result, it’s basically impossible for the company to interpret this data–either they get brutally honest answers from simple people, or they get manipulated answers from cunning people. And they can’t tell from the answers which they got. So ultimately it’s just a waste of time for everyone involved.

        1. LW#1*

          LW#1 here:

          Thank you for sharing this. I agree with you on the points you made. I find the fact that questions are asked about personal relationships and medical history to be invasive (from my civilian standpoint, at least. I have heard rumors of high-level government jobs asking questions about people, such as interviewing neighbors, but that would still seem to an anomaly in the overall job application landscape.) I also have to wonder about how such data is being used (or mined). Anyway thank you again writing.

  38. Echo*

    What would other readers say if you WERE the new boss in letter #2 and a friendly colleague came up all smiles to ask how the employee you just put on a PIP was doing at his new job? To be honest, I’d probably tell a white lie and compliment something the employee does well. I would have a harder time doing that if the employee’s issue was being rude, sexist, etc. though.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, the new boss was very indiscreet. I can only think that maybe OP gave a glowing reference and NewBoss had been thinking “why the hell did OP give such a glowing reference, wonder if she was trying to get rid of him”. Still, the lack of discretion was terrible.

  39. JHC*

    LW1: In addition to the general quick turnaround/holiday weekend issues Alison and other commenters have raised, this also strikes me as opening up the company to claims of religious discrimination. A Jewish applicant who observes an electronics blackout during Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) would not even see an email sent at 6PM Friday until at least 24 of the 36 hours had passed.

    1. Observer*

      It gets worse – even if they did see it because Sabbath starts late (as happens in the summer) they still would not be able to do anything with it, because it’s not just an electronics blackout. It’s all work, so there is no way to do a project of that sort over that 24 hour period.

  40. Elizabeth West*

    I’ve applied for admin jobs where they want me to take a short skills assessment with things like scheduling, data validation, etc., and that’s fine. If a mini-project takes more than an hour or two tops, or it has nothing to do with the job (i.e. a personality test or one of those math/logic assessment things that’s 150 questions long), I ‘m going to side-eye that pretty hard.

    I didn’t mind doing a test edit for Exjob—it was only two pages and obviously something they weren’t going to use. But I also have a rule that I don’t do full-on spec work. That’s what portfolios are for. Even the $10-a-piece content writing job I had paid me for the test article.

    If you’re going to make people do actual work when considering them for a job, PAY THEM.

  41. No More Candidate Assignments*

    At the end of a year, I applied for a job that had an assignment (a very THOROUGH data spreadsheet). No notice was given during the 3 part interview process where I told them I currently had a temporary essential worker job that had long hours. I managed to submit it with the limited free time I had. I receive this as a reply:

    “Thanks so much for submitting your assignment. For the second part of this exercise, I have attached additional instructions for further proofreading and fact-checking. Please send this back by 12/24.”

    That’s right! An second part that was given to me with only 72 hours notice and due on Christmas Eve so that they could review it when they got back from holiday break. I didn’t end up getting the job and it ended up being a blessing. Anything that requires an extensive assignment, especially when you can submit an existing sample, is a red flag.

  42. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    #1: Even if it hadn’t been a holiday weekend, or any weekend, 36 hours starting at 6 pm. is less usable time, for most people, than 36 hours starting at 6 a.m. would be. People need to sleep, and a lot more people sleep at night than in the middle of the day.

    Maybe the timing was careless, but I suspect someone at the hiring company thinks they’ll learn something by seeing how late at night candidates stay up in order to meet that 6 a.m. deadline. The holiday weekend might not have been deliberate, but Friday happens every week, and 3 a.m. comes around every day.

  43. Curmudgeon in California*

    #1: That is horribly disrespectful! A take home test/project to be done over a holiday weekend? The assumptions that implies are awful! Seriously, they assumed you had no life, no family, no plans, no travel, but were hanging on your email over a long weekend waiting for them to send you a project without even being warned it was coming!

    I would write them back and tell them that due to established personal plans over the long weekend you were not going to complete their surprise project, and to please remove you from consideration.

    If that’s how they treat your weekend time when you are interviewing, how would they treat it as an employee?

    #3: Electricity has a cost too. Where I live has some of the highest power rates in the nation, even though it’s a temperate climate. Plus, batteries wear out, tires wear out, fluids need changed and insurance needs to be paid for. The mileage rate for reimbursement is supposed to help cover all of that.

    If anyone gives you flack about getting your mileage reimbursed for an electric car, point out that you still have to pay for power, tires, oil changes and insurance.

  44. Anony445*

    2. I heard my former star employee isn’t working out at his new job

    I can relate to Adam. I went from all-star voted MVP at my old job at a small to mid-level company and then left for a similar role at a multinational company and felt like I took a step backwards and wasn’t the all-star people saw me as. Looking back, I felt it had to do with a bit of the fact that I started remotely and didn’t get that in-person meet and greet, training and partly bc I wasn’t really setup for success bc they didn’t know how to bring someone onboard remotely, and partly bc it was a much larger company and the culture was just so much different.

    I looked up to my old boss a lot at my previous job and I know that if he reached out to me, I would definitely appreciate his concern bc sometimes it’s hard to ask someone for help. It’s also nice to talk to someone who you know and worked with before when you are starting a new job and completely thrown into working with all new people. A friendly face definitely helps and and I know it would have helped me.

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