our highly-paid, overworked junior staff keep leaving just as we get them fully trained

A reader writes:

I work in an industry that is well known for long, hard hours, especially at junior levels. It’s one that has been all over the newspaper the past couple years for difficulty retaining junior professional staff and attempts to roll out more work-life balance. That said, it’s also (a) very well paid at the junior level, think 23 years old and making $275k-$200k; and (b) very competitive.

We’ve been having issues with junior staff, who each went through a rigorous interview process where the lifestyle was made clear to them (100-hour weeks, in the office every weekend, two year program), quitting after 6-9 months. That is typically just when they are getting useful in what is effectively an apprenticeship program. Some are leaving us for competitors with bigger brand names, but others are making the jump into corporate jobs, usually in finance with mid-stage start-ups. We have raised pay twice in the past six months and have been in the press for a fair bit of success lately. But we can’t do our jobs effectively without junior resources. It’s a huge amount of work to get a 23-year-old working at a professional level, and because it’s client service if they aren’t available evenings / weekends then I have to be (high level manager bringing in significant business). That’s equated to me working each of the past six weekends to try and get junior staff more time off than I ever got when I was coming up, only to have the fourth team member this year quit.

So, obviously we can’t *force* anyone to keep working, but what else can we be doing to keep people for the full two-year program? We already defer most of the comp to year-end, with some smallish amount withheld for 12-24 months. I’m thinking of something along the lines of a contract that would acknowledge that the training provided has value that must be repaid if the person doesn’t stay for 24 months. Or making the majority of the salary and bonus contingent on staying for the full 24 months (i.e., you make $10k per month before bonus, but if you leave before 24 months you must repay $6k per month). I’m sympathetic to the pleas that this job is life-consuming, but it’s ALWAYS been that way and nobody pretends otherwise during the interview process. And, again, I’m doing similar hours in my mid-40s, with a family. This isn’t a hazing process, it’s just what the job is like. Ideally it gets better, although with the junior team working less than I did it seems like that might not be the case any more.

It sounds like labor conditions have changed and your company will need to adapt.

For whatever reason, what you offered in the past was attractive enough to keep people there for the whole two years, but now it’s not. (I suspect the reasons are a combination of our current job-seeker’s market and a broader shift in what workers consider acceptable to put up with, particularly among younger workers. Both of those and especially the latter are good for society, although they’re causing pain for your company.) You’re getting people signing up thinking they can do the hours, but then realizing that 100-hour weeks are soul-crushing and seeing opportunities out there that they like better.

To keep them, you need to be able to compete with the other options they have. That doesn’t just mean money; it means lifestyle too.

You’re looking at ways to penalize them for leaving … but having exhausted, overworked people who are there only because you will bill them if they leave is a recipe for demoralized and resentful staff.

What if you hired more junior staff, had them work fewer hours each, and lowered the pay accordingly? Everyone might be happier with that in the long run. It’s more people to supervise, and that’s more work … but it’s not more work than training people who then leave just as they’re becoming useful. It would also give you a far healthier workplace and would give you access to a pool of candidates who you miss out on entirely right now because they won’t consider working those hours.

Don’t get too attached to “it’s always been this way.” It’s not serving you anymore. And lots of things were always a certain way until someone looked at them and said, “We can do this better.”

I’m frustrated that my employees don’t want to return to the office

A reader writes:

I am a single millennial living in a Manhattan apartment I share with a roommate. I don’t have any children or pets. I work at a mid-size company where most of the employees are around my age and the culture resembles a start-up. We are a very social workplace and I truly enjoy my job and my coworkers. I have an active social life outside of work as well, but I definitely get a lot of fulfillment from my career.

After a few months of lockdown with my parents in the suburbs, I moved back to NYC and have been back at the office very consistently for almost a year, working my way up to what I believe is the optimal schedule of three days in, two days at home. Our CEO, however, has been preaching “do whatever you want” and … well … I am really struggling to understand people’s attitudes towards coming back to the office. A small group of us have picked our days and come in very regularly, but everyone else tends to just come in when they feel like it, and I am starting to get incredibly frustrated. With vaccines available and precautions in place (my office requires return-to-office training and proof of vaccination in order to return, and we also contact trace), I personally feel that people are running out of excuses not to come back. I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine … so if you didn’t move outside of commuting distance and you were previously expected to come to the office five days a week, why are you acting like coming in for even one day is “too much”?

To be honest, my biggest frustration has been with my boss. I have two direct reports of my own but am not senior enough to mandate anything of them without her backing, which I don’t have. She had her first child during the pandemic and much of the childcare responsibilities fall on her, so I think that is a big reason why she hasn’t come in as much. My boss and I are very close and agree on almost everything except for this. Selfishly, I want her to come to the office so that I can spend some time with her, but I am also frustrated that she isn’t willing to give any direction to our larger team, which doesn’t allow me to set any expectations of my own reports (ideally, I would want everyone in the office three days a week). So all I can do is keep going to the office myself and hope that maybe some of my team will show up on occasion, which defeats half the purpose of being there in the first place.

While the days of being in the office full-time are over, I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture. Do others not feel the same? If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers? With lack of guidance from leadership and no authority to change the situation, what can I do to make sense of all this and stay happy at work?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

I caught my coworker masturbating at his desk

A reader writes:

I was walking past a coworker’s office one day recently and looked into his window. He had his head back and his eyes closed, mouth half open. I was going to go in and tease him about falling asleep at his desk until I noticed that his arm was pumping up and down.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that he was maturbating at his desk, but I’m about 90% sure. He saw me as I was hurrying away from his office, then left for the day about 20 minutes later (it was early in the afternoon, but also the Friday before a long weekend so not impossible that he was already planning on leaving early). We have not spoken to each other since the incident and I have no desire to confront him or discuss what I saw. (How would I even start??)

I’ve been going back and forth in my mind on how best to handle it. He doesn’t report to me, but I am higher than him in the org. We’ve been friendly up until this point and he’d even asked to transfer to my team late last year. (I turned him down because he didn’t have the right experience/qualifications, but would have been open to bringing him on in the future. Until now anyway!)

On one hand, no one was harmed. I was grossed out and it will probably take some time before I want to work with him again, but ultimately I’ll be able to work past this. He holds a key position in the org, so I also am worried about damaging our operations if I do report and he gets dismissed.

On the other hand, this is just so gross and inappropriate that I am questioning his judgment and re-evaluating every interaction we’ve had in the 3+ years we’ve been coworkers.

I’m hesitant to report to his manager or HR on what I think I saw. I don’t necessarily want him fired and I definitely don’t want to get into a he-said-she-said about this situation if it does push forward.

What would you do in this situation? I can’t prove anything and I feel conflicted about reporting.

Please report it.

This dude was masturbating in his office. His office with a window.

It’s possible that he’s exposed other people to that or will in the future, including people who have less power than you do and might not feel they can report at all, particularly considering that he’s in a key position. Think interns, cleaning people, and others who might feel they can’t speak up.

I get your concerns about damage to your operations if he gets fired, but that’s not a reason not to report it. First, what happens next isn’t your call — it’s your company’s. (Although there’s a decent chance they’re not going to go straight to firing anyway, at least if he denies it; it’s likely to get him a serious no-more-strikes-type warning unless there have been other reports about him previously.) Second, being in a key position shouldn’t allow him to commit a wildly anti-social act that makes other deeply uncomfortable without repercussions . If anything, being in a key position should make it matter more, given what it says about his judgment.

I understand your concerns about getting into a he-said, she-said situation. But you don’t need to be able to prove what you saw behind a reasonable doubt. You can say exactly what you said here: “here’s what I saw and I can’t say with 100% certainty what was happening, but this what it looked like.” (And who knows, maybe there have been other reports previously and this will clinch it. Or maybe nothing will happen because they won’t be sure but it will be the thing that gets the next report acted on.)

Report it. What happens from there is on him, not you.

my boss cried when I asked for a raise, when to tell applicants about our vaccine requirement, and more

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

1. My boss cried when I asked for a raise

I worked at an office for seven years. A few months ago, I asked for a raise. My manager said she would get back to me and I never heard anything.

A month later, the job was growing increasingly mentally and physically demanding. I came to my manager again and asked for a Monday-Thursday schedule. Again, silence. So I started seeking other jobs. When I was up-front about this with my manager, miraculously she was able to discuss my raise/better schedule with my boss the next day.

I was told no, that I couldn’t work the four days (which is a normal schedule in my profession). I was also told I couldn’t get a raise unless I worked the exact days they wanted me to and no less. My manager said my boss was “extremely hurt” by me wanting to work a more manageable schedule with better pay. So I had a meeting with my boss and she cried. She said she felt hurt I was doing this to her and I was seeming ungrateful. There were a lot of toxic things said on top of that. The following day, when I had follow-up questions about my raise (given I agreed to the days they said were a must), I was met with silence AGAIN.

I snapped. After years of being mentally abused by my manager, I wrote an immediate resignation letter and left it on my boss’s desk at the end of the day. She won’t see it until tomorrow. It’s not the way I wanted to go out. But I have a job lined up that doesn’t need her reference.

My question now is, can I block calls and texts from the office? I know when she sees I quit without notice, she will be enraged, and will reach out to belittle me and blame me for messing up her schedule and business. Can I block it all out?

You sure can.

But first I’d ask how much you care about truly burning the bridge. I know you said you don’t need your boss’s reference for the job you just accepted — but that doesn’t mean you won’t get asked for a reference from her in future searches, especially since you worked there so long. The bridge might be burned regardless of what you do now (because of the quitting without notice and also depending on what you said in the letter), but it’s possible that being willing to take a call or two from her could make it less burned than it otherwise would be. That wouldn’t mean you need to take abuse from her, but there might be something to be gained for Future You if you don’t completely block her right off the bat.

Or maybe not. You might know the reference is already a lost cause, or you might have calculated that being able to walk out and never speak to them again is worth losing the reference. That’s your call!

In any case, you can indeed block calls and texts from your office. They mistreated you and you’re not obligated to engage with them at all if you’re willing to deal with whatever the consequences are of that. (Those consequences could range from badmouthing you to others in your field to the aforementioned bad references to nothing at all. And again, you might know that she’s already going to do the first two anyway, no matter what you do next.)

2. Should I correct my chair about the low amount I’m paid?

I’m a lecturer at a university. The chair of my department is not very empathetic or encouraging, and I’ve been frustrated by some of his past actions and statements to me (nothing awful, just rather rude and unsupportive, plus I always get the semi-unspoken vibe that we should never use sick leave, though that is not the official message, of course).

At a meeting last week, he was asking us to change how we are doing something, requiring more time in the classroom. It’s not a big deal, but he was illustrating his point about how we shouldn’t complain about it by saying that even the lowest paid of us make $70 an hour when you crunch the numbers, and this particular new task is an easy way to make 70 bucks.

We make nowhere near $70 an hour. We are all notoriously underpaid, and my salary is near the bottom. I have no idea how he came up with that number, but it is dramatically wrong. I want to point this out SO BADLY. His comment irritated me, with the implication that we make plenty of money and shouldn’t complain. I really want to say “Hey, Chair, how did you get that number?” And then politely correct him.

But it doesn’t actually affect anything. It is purely because I’m irritated and want to be petty. So should I get over this, since it does me no good? (For what it’s worth, he’s only going to be chair for another year, most likely.)

I’d be awfully tempted to approach this as if there’s been a terrible mistake in your pay and you’d like to get it corrected (“you said we’re all making at least $70/hour, and that is definitely not reflected in my pay — is it possible I’m being paid incorrectly?”).

But it’s probably a better idea to simply say matter-of-factly, “You said the other day that we all make at least $70/hour and I thought you’d want to know that that’s not correct. I can’t speak for others, but I make $X/hour.” It’s not petty to point that out; you’d be doing him a favor by correcting his facts for the future.

3. Can I ask my boss to stop meeting with me about my work?

My supervisor and the manager of my department have been meeting with me monthly to as they put it help me with recommendations on how to stay organized and how to keep on top of things. This is fair but it seems like these meetings are always a list of everything I’m doing wrong and never any improvements they’ve seen. If I do something well, my supervisor actually actively minimizes it.

I don’t want to have these meetings any more because they aren’t productive and don’t motivate me to do better in any way. Is there any way possible I could ask for the meetings to stop? Things have been bad since returning from WFH and the meetings make it worse.

If they’re meeting with you monthly because they have concerns about your work, you can’t really ask for the meetings to stop; it would be like saying “stop giving me feedback about my work.”

But if they haven’t given you clear goals that they want you to be meeting — a clear picture of what your performance should look like and how that differs from your work now — you could try asking for that. You could also say that you think you’ve made improvements like XYZ and ask if that aligns with their impressions. Ultimately, though, I’d be concerned that they’re seeing serious issues that need to improve but haven’t communicated that clearly enough — so I’d want to make sure you’re all on the same page about how they view your performance overall and what that could mean for your job.

4. When should we tell job candidates about our Covid vaccine requirement?

My employer requires COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. We had 100% compliance without any medical or religious exemptions requested (although we have provisions if it does happen) and no one quitting. We are just now opening up two new positions because we are buried in work and we have been trying to figure out when to announce the vaccine requirement (in the announcement? in the first interview? later interviews? offer stage? first day of work/when you do I-9 and all that?).

In a similar vein, say we have a great candidate who isn’t vaccinated, would it make sense to tell them that by the time they start (generally two weeks from time of offer) they’ll need to show proof of a first vaccine or documentation for a religious/medical exemption or the offer is no longer available? Or should we just not even offer a position? At this time, our field isn’t hitting any pandemic-induced labor shortage and everything is about the same as pre-pandemic on that front, so ruling out unvaccinated folks would be unlikely to make the search longer or harder.

Put it in the ad. That way people know up-front and can self-select out if they’re not willing to be vaccinated — and it will likely be a draw to a lot of people who are, and who appreciate your company taking public health seriously.

I’d reiterate it when making an offer too, in the context of asking them to supply proof of vaccination or a request for an exemption as part of their new hire paperwork.

5. Can I ask for new business cards with my correct pronouns?

Ever since I was more exposed to those outside of the gender binary, I’ve been questioning my gender and I finally decided that the pronouns I’d use are she/they. I’m still unsure about if I identify as non-binary, but I feel so much better coming to terms with the pronouns I identiy with. This might sound unrelated to work, but I just wanted to add some context to my problem. I was asked to provide my pronouns for my business cards at my new job, which I said were she/they. However, when I was shown the drafts, my pronouns were listed as she/her/hers, with no mention of they/them/theirs. I really was not comfortable pushing back, so I just accepted it and now I have a bunch of business cards that list my pronouns as she/her/hers. However, as time passed I became extremely uncomfortable with only half my pronouns being present on my business card. Is it too late to ask for business cards that reflect ALL of my actual pronouns and I should just accept it? I do acknowledge that I should’ve said something at the time, but can I say something now?

Yes. Go ahead and ask. A workplace that’s including pronouns on their business cards is probably a workplace that wants people to be comfortable with the pronouns getting used for them.

Ideally you would have spoken up when you were given the proofs to review — the same way you presumably would have spoken up about any other error, like if they misspelled your name. Still, though, the fact that you didn’t isn’t reason for you to have to use cards with pronouns you’re not comfortable with.

You could say, “I apologize for not raising this earlier, but is it possible to redo my business cards with my correct pronouns, which are she/they?” Business cards really don’t cost that much, and a conscientious employer will care more about getting it right than having to redo them. (They might be a little aggravated that you didn’t say something at the proof stage, but a conscientious employer will also know this stuff can be fraught.)

my company wants me to work Halloween and I’m a Halloween fanatic

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my job for six months and everything is going really well. I like the company, the work, the boss, everything is good.

After many meetings, it was decided that a large (yearly) project is going to be processed at the end of October. We had the ability to do this during various times but heads higher than ours picked the dates. The problem here is that I’m a Halloween nut. This is the equivalent of asking Buddy the Elf to work on Christmas. I love Halloween so much that I ask during interviews if October is a busy month. I often take off the last week of October, sometimes two for Spooky Season.

My wedding anniversary is that week (we had a Halloween wedding), I carve pumpkins, drink pumpkin beer, watch horror movies (my favorite!), and set up my house for the ultimate scare for the neighborhood children. I have a gigantic Halloween tattoo on one arm. I’ve volunteered at several haunted houses and hayrides. I’m trying to paint a picture here. It may be unusual that a woman in her 40s is this crazy over what some call a kids’ holiday (with which I completely disagree), but my point is that this is important to me and has been for a long time.

I had previously put in for two PTO days before the dates for the project were decided. My team made the assumption that I am leaving town since I didn’t rescind the days (someone else had PTO and rescinded their days, stating they were going to be home). I’m not going away, but I also didn’t correct anyone’s thinking out of concern that they would ask me to do the same.

The team agreed they can manage without me and I’ve volunteered to do the heavy lifting that leads up to the end of the month. I feel that I’m pulling my weight and have put in a lot of hours and effort into this project. I’ve offered to be available the Thursday and Friday that I’m off, via phone. I said I was not available on Saturday the 30th or Sunday the 31st.

They are already talking about next year and assuming I’ll be here for the project. The problem is that I am not now nor will I EVER be available on Halloween. I understand I can’t voice it that way to my manager, but I do need to find a way (and a time) to bring this news up to her.

I’ll work Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday, my husband’s birthday, whatever. My boss and I have a great relationship. We work very well together and my review is coming up. She knows I like Halloween, but I don’t know if she understands how much.

Some may think this is a silly hill to die on and that is okay. If this becomes non-negotiable, it is something I would consider leaving a job over. We all have things that are important to us and this is one of my few deal-breakers. When I asked during the interview about October, I was told it is not as busy and that was the truth at the time. If I knew this project was going to be a yearly time-consuming October effort, I would not have taken the job.

When would be a good time to bring this up? Obviously before October of next year. I was leaning towards waiting until after I have been here a year or at least my review. I’ve held back on saying something because I understand that it looks a little silly. Maybe there is someone out there who loves Arbor Day and wants off for that every year. I’m struggling to articulate this and appreciate any input.

You sound like you’re feeling very defensive about how important Halloween is to you, but I don’t think you need to be!

You get to decide what’s important to you and what’s a deal-breaker for you. Your Halloween week sounds awesome and I can see why you don’t want to give it up. We all get to have things that are important to us that don’t line up with more mainstream observances. (Hell, I once planned an international trip around making sure I would be home for the end of Daylight Savings Time because I like that day so much.)

That said, I can see why you feel uneasy about it too. When it’s a busy time at work, people do sometimes judge the reason someone is out (“she took off for a day at the beach during our busiest time and left us scrambling short-handed” can feel different than “she’s out for emergency surgery so we’re all pitching in”).

Still, though, you get to have a thing you need to be off for. If you had a bunch of them — if you required a week off for the 4th of July and a long weekend for your birthday and a week at Halloween and you could never be disturbed on either side of Valentine’s Day — that would be unreasonable at most jobs. (It would also be fascinating, and I hope to get a letter from that person one day.) But this is one thing. And you asked about October in the interview. You should be fine.

As for when to bring it up about next year, you have a bunch of options. You could mention it at your review. You could mention it at the start of the new year, in the context of planning for the year. You could wait until you’ve been there a year if you want. Any of those are fine. I would wait at least a month or two from now, though, since the more time that has gone by since the current busy period, the less likely people are to think, “Wait, that was why she didn’t cancel her days off during our big push?” (I’m not saying they’d be right to raise their eyebrows at it, just that it’s easily avoided so you might as well.)

When you do bring it up, frame it as, “I want to bring this up before planning starts for the next X project. I try to take off time around Halloween every year — at least a couple of days but sometimes a week or two. It’s my wedding anniversary and I have a lot going on at that time of year.” If your manager seems hesitant, it’s okay to say, “It’s so important to me that I actually make a point of asking about October before accepting a job. I know you didn’t foresee this project then, but if there’s a way to make it work, I’d really like to.”

Here is a spooky thing for you.

job seekers are ghosting employers … just like employers have done to them for years

In today’s topsy-turvy job market, a strange new thing is happening: Employers are increasingly grumbling about job seekers “ghosting” them. These job candidates just don’t show up for their scheduled interviews. And in some cases, they accept a job only to disappear.

Employers don’t like this. But they’ve been doing this to workers for years, and their hand-wringing didn’t start until the tables were turned. My column for Slate today is on this turnabout — and the resulting schadenfreude. You can read it here.

my coworker is secretly living at the office

A reader writes:

I started a new job two months ago. My role is a senior one that reports directly to the CEO.

I quickly discovered that one of my coworkers — who is also a manager — is living in the office. He would technically say that he lives in his van. However, his van is always parked in the office parking garage and it is clear he uses the office for all his personal needs. I live near the office so have driven by at all hours and he is always here! He cooks all his meals in the office kitchen and has a couch in his office. He will also post a sign on his door that says “out of office” but he is actually in his office, just not working. 

I think this has gone unnoticed because most people are still working remotely, but I am coming in every day and it is very uncomfortable. Sometimes it appears he has just woken up.

I don’t want to make waves because I am so new, but I also can’t stop thinking about this. Should I tell someone or just let it go and hope leadership notices soon?

A complicating factor to note — our CEO was recently let go and we are in the middle of a huge leadership transition. The organization is very chaotic right now and there is not clear leadership.

Well, it’s possible someone in leadership knows and has okayed it. Who knows why — most obviously, of course, he could have lost his housing. Or he could have split from his partner or simply decided this was more cost-effective while no one else was coming in anyway, or who knows what.

But it’s also possible that no one knows since most of your coworkers are still working remotely. And if that’s the case, the organization really does need to know — for safety and legal reasons, if nothing else. If they rent the space, someone living there could be a violation of the terms of their lease. It could be a problem for their insurance. And if something happens to the building in the middle of the night, someone needs to know a person is in there.

If you weren’t in a very senior role, I’d tell you this is above your pay grade and, especially as a new hire, to leave it alone for now unless it were causing problems for you (like if you were running into him half-clad in the mornings or unable to use the office fridge because it was stuffed with a month of his groceries or so forth).

But you’re in a senior role that reports to the CEO. Even though there’s no clear leadership right now, is there anyone above you or in a relatively senior operations-type role? If so, it’s worth mentioning it to that person — not in a “get Bob in trouble” kind of way, but framed as, “I wasn’t sure if anyone knew about this since he and I are generally the only ones here, and it seemed like something I should mention to someone.” That’s not making waves; if they’re fine with it, they’ll let you know that … and if they’re not fine with it, they’re unlikely to shoot the messenger.

It does risk making waves for Bob, of course. But you can’t start living in your office and expect your colleagues not to mention it. That’s not to ignore that he might be in a difficult spot — but again, there are legal and safety reasons the organization needs to know he’s there.

I quit my job but they insist I have to participate in an investigation, putting Mensa on your resume, and more

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

1. I quit my job but my old boss says I have to participate in an investigation of my complaints

I just quit my job at a restaurant. I sent my manager a very respectful text the other day because I didn’t have time for a phone call and wanted him to know right away.

The problem is that now I have lots of meetings and HR involvement. The reasons I quit include sexual harassment, regular harassment, screaming, cursing, and threats from other coworkers. I informed my manager of the incidents and what had occurred when he asked why I was quitting, and he made me take a call with him and go over everything in detail.

I tried to inform him of the incidents before I left — really, I did! I went up to him the weekend they occurred and asked for five minutes of his time and he said he didn’t have any time to give me. Now he says he “needs to do his due diligence” and investigate and is forcing me to be involved in the ongoing process. He knew I wanted to discuss an HR concern with him last weekend and brushed me off until I was no longer his employee.

Honestly, at this point I just want to put it all behind me and move on. I’m traumatized enough as it is and I just want to heal and move on with my life. How in the world do I navigate this? Do I get a lawyer? Do I HAVE to be involved? I definitely don’t work there anymore, and I don’t want to be further upset and anxious. Help!

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do! You don’t work for that employer any more, and they have zero ability to command your time in any way. You’re right to point out that you tried to talk to your old boss before you resigned and he blew you off — but even if you hadn’t done that, you’d still have the right to simply quit and wash your hands of them. If you wanted to talk to them about what happened, you certainly could — but now that you’ve resigned, you have zero obligation to do it if you’d prefer not to.

If you want, you can tell him, “My schedule is fully booked and I’m not available for meetings or calls about this” or “This was something I tried to speak with you about before I left, but now that I’m gone it’s not something I’m available to keep meeting about.” Or you can simply ignore his calls if you want. If he persists, feel free to tell HR that he’s continuing to contact you when you’ve asked him to stop and they need to ensure he leaves you alone.

2. Should I put Mensa on my resume?

I have been employed in law enforcement my entire adult life, first at the local level, and now for over 25 years in federal law enforcement. Federal law enforcement has a mandatory retirement age of 57. I know that I want to continue working past that age, so as I am now in my early 50’s and eligible to retire, I am looking in private industry for positions that interest me.

Here’s a question I haven’t seen come up before: I am a member of Mensa. Do I include this in my resume or cover letter? You would think that having a high level of intelligence would be an automatic asset, but people can be weird about this. Would it be any different when dealing with a hiring manager? I know in the land of civil service it was not a factor, but can you see any benefit in private industry?

Don’t put Mensa membership on your resume — for the same reason you wouldn’t put your IQ on your resume. Hiring managers are interested in what you have actually accomplished, not what you might have the potential to accomplish, particularly when you’re many years into your career. After all, you could be brilliant but struggle with execution, follow-through, organization, dealing with other people — the list goes on — and what they really want to know is what you’ve done with your intelligence (since it’s the most reliable way of knowing what you might do with it for them).

If you want to convey that you’re smart, let it show through your your achievements. And if it doesn’t show through your achievements, then qualifying for a Mensa membership isn’t terribly relevant for hiring purposes.

It’s also likely to turn off a lot of people who will see it as a weird thing to list.

3. I’m upset that my coworker became my new boss without being interviewed

I graduated from college in 2018, and was at my previous job for a few years as a temp before being fully hired. I moved jobs and have been with my current organization since 2019, switching positions from an admin assistant to program specialist in June 2020. In that time I have received a masters of healthcare administration. In the fall of 2020, someone new joined my team after completing a fellowship program we have.

Recently my team has gone through some changes as people were promoted. My old manager moved into a senior role and we were informed that they were not backfilling her position. Two weeks later, it was announced that the person who joined in the fall of 2020 would be filling her position as she’s showed great commitment to the team. She is now my direct manager.

I’m having mixed feelings about this. No one on my team was told they were interviewing, and it seems shady she was moved right in without an interview. I know this because I was an admin assistant before, and I get all the calendar invites for our CEO who interviews EVERYONE before they are hired. Even internal promotions get interviews from him, but she did not. Am I just being emotional or do I have a right to be upset? I’m not sure as this is my first real job and I have never experienced anything like this.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with promoting an existing employee without a formal interview. Often working with and managing a person will provide a far more nuanced sense of whether they’d be right for a role than what you could get from an interview. (I’d argue it provides the best view; interviews are a distant second.) In a situation like that, there’s no requirement or expectation that you must conduct an interview, especially if it’s clear that no one else on the team would be the right pick.

If that was the situation here, then this is more an issue of messaging. It sounds like they missed an opportunity to explain why they filled the position this way and why they didn’t give anyone else the chance to throw their hat in the ring. They could have good reasons for everything they did, but if it’s leaving people feel disgruntled, they should have explained it better.

4. Asking to work from home after a colleague was hired to do the same work remotely

I was hired for a company two years ago but have been working from home for 19 months of those two years. I have proven myself over and over and have never had a performance issue or a complaint from management.

They gave us the option to work from home two days a week. Well, recently they hired an out-of-state full-time remote worker for the same job I do. We had five people quit this year and they’ve had trouble filling any of the positions which is why they hired out-of-state.

I have requested recently to my boss that I would like to work from home full-time. I haven’t heard anything back yet but I am nervous. Can they deny my remote work request? I don’t think it would be fair to deny my request but hire someone else for a full-time remote position.

Yes, they can deny your remote work request if they want to. No law requires employers to offer remote work equally, as long as they’re not offering it based on an illegal factor like race or religion. They could even have legitimate reasons for offering it to some people in a particular role but not all — like they see a work need for someone in your job to be in the office a few days a week and since it’s clearly not going to be the out-of-state hire, they’ll want it to be you.

That said, you might be able to use the out-of-state hire as a way to argue that your job doesn’t require you to be in the office. They don’t have to accept that argument, but you can certainly try. And if their recent search highlighted that they’d have a hard time replacing you with someone else local, that might help your case.

5. I was about to be offered a job and then they told me to fill out an application

I had a manager for a large corporation call me about a position they would like me to fill. It is a high-profile position that sounds really appealing, but it also comes with much more high stress than where I am now. I am currently operating independently and have really liked what I’m doing, but I have felt that this position being offered might give me more stability in the long run. We’ve talked collectively for about three hours and he told me he was ready to send me an offer. He asked what starting pay I was looking for and I told him a number equivalent to what I am making now, knowing that this is a commission-based job and the growth would be my responsibility. He said he would get that approved and follow up with me the next week.

A week later, I received an email from an HR person with a link to fill out a job application. No offer or other communication was included, just an application for the position. I am happy with where I am at and would only move positions if there was a better opportunity to grow and keep a stable book of business. This did not specify any of that or what we had discussed over the phone. The manager called me once and did not leave a message, and I called him back right away and left him a message to give me a call. That was four days ago. Am I going about this the right way not filling out the application? I wasn’t really looking to move unless this was an improvement. Am I burning a bridge by not responding to that email?

You should fill out the application since they may require it of all candidates before they’ll move you forward. If that’s the case, they should have explained that to you more explicitly, not just sent the application without comment, but it’s pretty common for HR to insist candidates fill out a full application before they can be offered a job. Partly it’s because applications often include attestations that the info you’re providing is correct, and partly it’s because it’s bad practice to hire people without ensuring you have the same basic information on them that you collect on everyone else you consider for jobs … and a large corporation is particularly unlikely to exempt you from that.

Filling out the application doesn’t say “I am interested in starting at the very beginning of your hiring process.” It’s just complying with a step they (probably) need to have completed before they can move forward.

weekend open thread – October 23-24, 2021

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Small Pleasures, by Clare Chambers. A reporter in 1950s Britain who is investigating a woman’s claim of an immaculate conception finds herself becoming personally entangled in the story.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I applied for and accepted a new position (a promotion/higher salary band) in my organization nearly 3 years ago, and almost immediately, like literally the first day, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. My manager is a chronic oversharer, a micromanager, mostly incompetent and clueless, yet thinks she’s the best. I immediately started looking to get out. I should note, I’m also one of the unlucky ones who works for an org that limits how much of a raise one can get from an internal promotion, so I was severely underpaid for this position from the start after having had a couple internal job changes/promotions prior to this one..

After idly searching — and having a couple leads that didn’t pan out — for the first year or so, of course the pandemic hit. We got sent home and my boss’s anxiety and micromanaging tendencies got even worse. I started ramping up my search, but due to hiring freezes, in the early days of the pandemic, jobs in my field weren’t getting posted.

I also started reading Ask a Manager and really worked on internalizing the advice. I revamped my resume and cover letter, managing to force myself to make it much more personalized and less generic than I had previously been using. I made sure to revise it and personalize it for every position I applied to.

This spring, job postings in my field started springing up everywhere. I had a rule — every time my boss did something nuts or incredibly frustrating, I had to apply for a job. I started getting phone screens, then interviews right away. I had a couple near misses — including an in-person interview before it really felt safe where so many red flags popped up, I was actually relieved that they completely ghosted me after the interview — but just kept plugging away.

Well, I’m thrilled to say, all your tips and advice, especially about interview prep, really paid off, because after a fast, thorough interview process that I absolutely sailed through, my last day is Friday! The new position is exactly equivalent to my current position but pays 36% (!!) more, it is fully remote, so I will not have to move to a more expensive area of the country and will have no wardrobe or commuter costs (and I will not have to return to an office I don’t feel is safe yet), and the hiring manager was absolutely excellent. My only slight qualm was they’re also hiring the person who will be my supervisor right now as well, so I did not get to meet them. I asked a million questions of the hiring manager, who will be my grandboss, about what she’s looking for in that position and felt very satisfied that she absolutely will not be hiring a micromanager. I may even get to be involved in the hiring process for the supervisor after I join the team, if they’re still looking.

Anyways, for the first time in my career, I will be above the median salary for my profession, I will be working for a dynamic, well-respected organization that has a career ladder and promotes from within, AND I get to do it all in my soft pants.

2. “I never emailed you before with a question or anything, but I wanted to say thank you. I was stuck in a pretty low paying job (GS-5, federal service) and felt like I was trapped. By reading your site and the success stories of people on it, I gained the confidence and drive to push out of where I am at and advance. The resume writing tips and cover letter advice didn’t hurt either. I now find myself with an offer letter in hand for another job starting at a 56% raise, automatically going to a total of 69% above my current salary after one year. Still federal, but in a different branch of service, doing something that aligns with my skills and experience and is something I will enjoy rather than dread.”

3.  “After nearly a year of being Covidly-unemployed, while dealing with a handful of non-Covid health crises that kept me from an active, ongoing job search, I am now happily gainfully employed at an amazing organization in a role both well-suited for my current strengths, but offers an opportunities to learn and grow in my field.

It is kind of unusual how it happened. Over the summer, I had what I thought was an amazing virtual interview with a nonprofit organization that is small but does great work. When I didn’t hear back from them during their given timeframe, I was pretty bummed (and admittedly, too afraid to reach out in case I had been wildly off-base about my perceptions of the interview). While I never heard from them again, I did hear from the woman who actually got the job. She had been tasked to interview for her replacement at another highly-respected local nonprofit (an affiliate of a larger, national, and very well-known organization) and had asked her new boss (the lady I previously interviewed with) for other top candidates they had been considering before she ultimately got the role. Apparently, I was on that list. I virtually interviewed with my predecessor, who seems amazing and I completely understand why she got the original job, and then interviewed in person with the CFO and CEO. Two weeks of background and reference checks later, I was in my new office and this wonderful organization, with a larger paycheck than I’ve ever previously received.

A month in, and so far, it seems like all you could want from a nonprofit. The culture is welcoming and passionate about the work, the CEO is an absolute inspiration, the organization truly cares about inclusion and diversity (in a very money-where-your-mouth-is-way, not just lip service), and unlike some of my jobs in the past, they actually have their crap together. Also, my predecessor is so organized, that my transition into the role has been as seamless as possible. I know the words dream job are silly, but I feel this is exactly where I want to be right now. And Alison, without your advice and guidance through the years, I know this would not have happened. Thank you so much. Yay to another Friday.”