Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Sat, 16 Oct 2021 04:15:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 weekend open thread – October 16-17, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-16-17-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-16-17-2021.html#comments Sat, 16 Oct 2021 04:15:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22416 This post, weekend open thread – October 16-17, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: The Husbands, by Chandler Baker. In a neighborhood of high-powered, accomplished… Continue Reading

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This post, weekend open thread – October 16-17, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: The Husbands, by Chandler Baker. In a neighborhood of high-powered, accomplished women and their extremely supportive, housework-loving husbands, all is not what it seems.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-74.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-74.html#comments Fri, 15 Oct 2021 16:00:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22435 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news! 1.  “I emailed you a few weeks ago asking for advice after I was told that I would never be promoted again even though I had just received a great 1-year review and a promotion.… Continue Reading

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This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I emailed you a few weeks ago asking for advice after I was told that I would never be promoted again even though I had just received a great 1-year review and a promotion. (Note from Alison: this exchange was unpublished.)

Well, I took your advice and went back to my boss to ask for clarification. I cited all the higher level work I had been asked to do in my current position and floated an idea for a new role that would include more higher level leadership and training work. My boss said she liked the idea and would see what she could do. Today my boss told me that she’s worked with HR to create new position for me at a higher level. This new position will involve a lot more strategy and policy work, which I love, and it comes with a 10-15% pay bump.

I’m really excited and I wanted to thank you for your advice and for encouraging me to advocate for myself. Your blog has taught me so much.”

2.  “As of December 2019, I’d been in my first job out of college for about four and half years. It had been a great place to start my career, but as often happens, things changed. My amazing boss left, and the new boss wasn’t as great. There wasn’t a path to promotion unless I was willing to move locations, and several years into the role, I wasn’t learning as much. I decided it was time to start looking.

Between December 2019 and February 2020, I had several informational interviews with people in my network. I updated my resume and LinkedIn and started reading all of your resources on writing cover letters. Plus, I had just started a new volunteering gig adjacent to the field I wanted to enter.

And then, pandemic. The job opportunities I’d been looking at disappeared, seemingly overnight, and the work my team did was severely impacted by COVID-19. While we thankfully didn’t go through any lay-offs, the company did decrease our pay 5% and delayed our bonuses.

I wasn’t confident about being able to find a new job with so much uncertainty in the world, but I kept up a light search. After applying to maybe 10 roles and not hearing anything back, I noticed that a local (huge) tech company was hiring like crazy. I asked a friend who worked there if she would refer me – I didn’t have a tech background but figured some of my skills might be transferrable. She put in the referral. From there, I had two phone interviews, followed by a full day of video interviews with several members of the team. I heavily relied on the AAM interviewing resources and of course, asked the ‘magic question’ (some version of – what distinguishes someone who is good at this role from someone who is great at it), which landed well! My (now) manager seemed impressed, and she told me that one of my (now) colleagues was really the epitome of what great looked like in the role, so I had the bonus benefit of knowing who to pay attention to. Without ever meeting anyone in person, I received an offer in June 2020 for 30% more than I was making previously, with much better opportunity for upward mobility.

I’ve been in that role now for over a year, and it’s been a great step in my career. The work is more interesting than what I did previously, I’m gaining valuable skills, and I’m (virtually) meeting a ton of great people. I’m glad I didn’t give up the search, even when things were so uncertain.”

3.  “At the end of 2019 I was the team lead of, let’s say, Teapot Refining, which includes Painters and Glazers. While I was working part-time due to family stuff we re-hired a Teapot Glazer, Jake, who had left a year before and had a similar seniority to me when he left, before I was promoted to team lead. A couple months later when I was back full-time, my boss told me he was splitting the team up into Painters, led by me, and Glazers, led by Jake, because ‘he didn’t think Jake would handle working under me well.’ (Yeah, I’m a woman.) That left me as lead for an entire one other Teapot Painter. I was not thrilled.

Review time was coming up and I asked Jake (who I got on with quite well actually) if he’d tell me what salary they’d hired him back at. Surprise, his salary was 20% higher than mine, with a promise of an additional raise in 2020 which would have put it at 27% higher. I suspect that they didn’t want him on my team because I would be seeing salary numbers at review time.

Both HR and my boss had waggled their eyebrows and indicated a big raise in the making. It turned out to be 10% more than my current salary, so they were splitting the difference. I said I didn’t think that was quite fair, given Jake’s salary for an equivalent position. There was a lot of bluster about this being the best they could do, and I shouldn’t compare myself to Jake, and there would be another raise next year, and money wasn’t everything, etc etc. I had practiced this scenario with my wife in advance and kept my cool. Indicated I would quit, because I would have! My boss said he’d get back to me.

They came up to within 3% of Jake’s current salary plus my suggestion of a guaranteed month of remote work from another country, plus a promotion plan towards Head of Teapot Refining and Packing.

We set up some goals and a timeline. 2020 rolled on, I wasn’t sure about taking on the “And Packing” part, my boss couldn’t articulate exactly what duties the position would entail while pushing me to come up with A Vision for it – it was rocky. When a headhunter dangled a pure Head of Teapot Refining position in front of me with a team size of 10+ people for a 28% higher salary, I was interested. The company culture sounded great, there were a ton of interviews, they loved me, I loved them, I accepted their offer.

The timing, though. While the interview process was happening, review time was coming up. I learned from my boss that they would offer me another raise for my core job duties (which would keep me at 3% under Jake’s 2020 salary). And that they would finalize the promotion for Head of Teapot Painting and Packing… but not Refining… and the promotion would not come with its own raise. I put in my resignation letter instead of having a review meeting. They were puzzled.

I’ve just passed three months at the new job and I couldn’t be happier. My new boss and team gave me rave reviews, the company culture is amazingly good, I am challenged and excited and still turning my computer off right after 8 hours. And it’s 100% remote!”

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open thread – October 15-16, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-15-16-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-15-16-2021.html#comments Fri, 15 Oct 2021 15:00:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22415 This post, open thread – October 15-16, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is… Continue Reading

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This post, open thread – October 15-16, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

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my friend’s work problems are stressing me out, I got accused of trash-talking a former job, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-friends-work-problems-are-stressing-me-out-i-got-accused-of-trash-talking-a-former-job-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-friends-work-problems-are-stressing-me-out-i-got-accused-of-trash-talking-a-former-job-and-more.html#comments Fri, 15 Oct 2021 04:03:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22456 This post, my friend’s work problems are stressing me out, I got accused of trash-talking a former job, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go… 1. My friend’s work problems are making me anxious I have a friend who can’t seem to hold down a job for very long before becoming very frustrated with it. Every… Continue Reading

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This post, my friend’s work problems are stressing me out, I got accused of trash-talking a former job, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My friend’s work problems are making me anxious

I have a friend who can’t seem to hold down a job for very long before becoming very frustrated with it. Every workplace has an issue: coworkers who are catty, management that isn’t supportive, information that isn’t clear, and demands that are unrealistic.

From my vantage point, they are similar and benign issues that most workplaces have and there are ways around them. But whenever I try to share thoughts like that, she gets mad at me for not being supportive. So I have been trying to just listen and let her vent.

However, now I notice that I am getting very anxious. I fear she is jeopardizing her jobs with her behavior but she doesn’t see it. She needs the job so it’s not like she is trying to sabotage them. She genuinely seems confused about why they aren’t going well and doesn’t see her own role in the difficulties.

How do I best help her here? Is it better to just be the friend who listens or should I try to help her understand the work world a little better?

It sounds like you’ve tried to help her understand what’s going on and she’s gotten angry at you. But that doesn’t mean you need to let her vent to you endlessly either; at some point it’s reasonable to say, “I support you and I know you’re struggling with this stuff, but when I’ve tried to share my thoughts on it, you’ve gotten angry. I’m at the limits of how I can help, so can we talk about stuff other than work instead?” Friendship does not require you to endlessly listen at the expense of your own peace of mind; you are allowed to set limits.

If she’s a very good friend, you could try saying, “I see this really differently than you do, and I think you’re causing problems for yourself that you don’t see. It’s making me worried for you. Would you like me to share my perspective?” But if you try it and she’s unmoved, then you’re back to the above.

Alternately, every time she complains about work, you can try saying, “So what do you think you’ll do about it?” … but if that gets you labeled as “unsupportive” as well, then you’re back to the above too.

2. My manager’s phrasing is driving me nuts

I think I may be overly sensitive on this one, but I need some perspective. My manager has recently starting messaging me saying, “Can we do X?” as a way to assign me tasks. It absolutely drives me crazy. I prefer direct communication, and would much rather she ask, “Can you do X?”

Using “we” makes me feel like she doesn’t respect my contributions and that anything I do is just something “we” have done together. Plus, I worry that the lack of clarity will cause issues down the road — I imagine a situation where she thinks she assigned me something and I think that she is working on it. I’ve started replying with “yes, I can do that” to try to get her to recognize what she is doing without raising it directly. I feel like I’m being too nit-picky with her language, but this is something that really bothers me. Is there something I can do to get her to stop?

I’d recommend trying to let it go since asking her to stop likely will come off as nit-picky and overly controlling. The part of this that you have the most control over is your reaction to it. Can you focus on trying to change that instead?

That said … are you seeing any other evidence that your boss doesn’t respect your contributions and/or takes credit for your work? If so, those are substantive issues and worth addressing (totally aside from the language issue). If you’re not seeing any signs of that and it’s really just her use of “we” that annoys you, that’s all the more reason to try to get past it. We all have annoying verbal tics.

(For the record: Managers shouldn’t do this! If she were writing to me, I’d tell her to stop doing it and to be clearer when she’s assigning work, and ask if she’s using “we” out of a discomfort with authority. But she’s not the one writing for advice.)

3. I got accused of trashing my former company

I left a niche industry over eight years ago. Very dysfunctional, small company, family-run business. I was there more than 10 years. The last several years, it was obvious my boss barely tolerated me. When I finally found a chance to move on and gave my two weeks, my boss barely spoke to me.

Years of gaslighting, inappropriate comments, intrusive questions about personal matters … on and on it went. So I left with minimal contact with ex-coworkers. There was one person I did like working with and I stayed in touch with for a while, meeting up for the occasional coffee.

This past weekend, my husband and I were in a retail establishment, and low and behold next to me waiting to be served was the owner’s son from that job. After a few pleasantries, he went off — demanding to know why I trashed his dad and the company when I left. Totally taken aback, I said, “What are you talking about?” He went off calling me a liar and said, “Oh, so everyone made that up?” I have no idea what I allegedly said, nor did he provide specifics. I’m totally baffled. Furthermore, I would hope that I would have been more professional than that because I know it’s professional suicide to trash ex-employers. I have been racking my brain and honestly nothing is coming to me that could have been construed as badmouthing. And the fact that they waited this long to call me out?

Any advice? I know for a fact It won’t do me any good to try to talk to him about it further.

Leave it alone. it doesn’t sound like there’s anything to be gained from trying to engage. Who knows what he’s talking about — maybe someone there misrepresented your actions after you left (it sounds like the sort of place where that could happen), maybe he misconstrued something he heard, maybe he completely mistook who you are and thought you’re someone else entirely. Regardless, this is someone who thinks it’s okay to confront someone in public eight years after they left a job. He’s not someone whose judgment you should put a lot of stock in.

You’re not in touch with that company anymore or even in the same industry. You don’t need to put energy into sorting out what the owner’s son thinks.

4. My employee is applying for an internal job but doesn’t know I’m on the hiring committee

One of my direct reports, Jane, has applied for an internal open position. This position is in my department but does not report to me.

The trouble is that I am on the hiring committee and I don’t believe Jane knows this. She hasn’t said anything to me about applying. She had a phone interview last week with the committee head (other members were not involved, which is standard) and it wasn’t discussed there either. When I learned Jane had applied, I offered to recuse myself from the search, but the committee head didn’t feel it was necessary.

How should I approach this with Jane, if at all? Mostly I want to spare her the experience of coming for an in-person interview and seeing her boss on the other side of the table.

She might have not mentioned to you because she didn’t think she needed to, but she could also be worried that you’d respond badly to hearing that she’s looking to move on. (Of course, she may or may not be actively looking to move on; it’s possible she’s just interested in this particular job.) So the key thing is to make it clear that you’re not upset that she applied for another job.

I’d say it this way: “I wanted to give you a heads-up that I’m on the hiring committee for the X position so I’ll be in the interviews next week. I didn’t want you to be blindsided by that! I’m excited to talk more about the role with you.” If you think she’s a good candidate, add something supportive — “I think it could be a great next step for you” or “I could see you being really good at this” or “I’d hate to lose you, but I’d be glad the company is keeping you” or whatever makes sense for the context.

If she doesn’t get the job and you’d ideally like to keep her, talk with her about whether there are ways she’d like her current job to evolve. Are there areas where she wants to develop/projects she wants to take on/etc. and are those things you can realistically offer?

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when the red flags are even more ominous than you know… https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/when-the-red-flags-are-even-more-ominous-than-you-know.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/when-the-red-flags-are-even-more-ominous-than-you-know.html#comments Thu, 14 Oct 2021 17:59:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22452 This post, when the red flags are even more ominous than you know… , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

In 2014, I received this letter. I get more mail than I can answer, and this one didn’t end up getting published. But read on, because there’s a twist coming. After following your cover letter and resume advice, I landed… Continue Reading

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This post, when the red flags are even more ominous than you know… , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

In 2014, I received this letter. I get more mail than I can answer, and this one didn’t end up getting published. But read on, because there’s a twist coming.

After following your cover letter and resume advice, I landed an interview for a position I would love to have. It is similar to my current work but would allow me to be more proactive and have greater ownership over the work.

My issue is with the prospective company’s hiring practices. I would like to question them in the interview to gain some insight in their company culture and structure, but I don’t want to come across as overly critical. After two in-person interviews, one phone interview and one skype interview, the company is flying me out to their headquarters in California to interview with an unnamed “panel” (the actual job is in Arizona.) The scheduler keeps moving my interview date every few days and it’s been pushed back 6 times now, including 3 plane tickets. I’m also concerned that they don’t trust their Arizona team with this hire, when it seems from the conversations I’ve had, I would have little interaction with the California team. How do I approach the question of the constant rescheduling and the trust issues? Or do you think that both are non-issues?

Back to 2021. The writer of this letter recently emailed me about something else and included this note:

I noticed a question I submitted back in 2014 about some warning signs from an interview process I was embedded with at the time — and it was for a position at THERANOS! It was the craziest, most disorganized, lengthy hiring process I’ve ever experienced. I’m really thankful I didn’t pass the final interview.

I asked the letter-writer if she’d share more details and she obliged:

I had completely forgotten that I reached out for advice, and reading it over now with SO much hindsight, I should have said “no thank you” based on their constant rescheduling! It was an incredibly stressful process because I would schedule a day off from work to fly to California, and then have to reach back out to my supervisor and change the request- six times. A total red flag for my current job, but they didn’t seem to notice. At the time, Theranos had JUST emerged to the national scene and were in Walgreens test stores in Arizona, with a full board of directors including several high-profile military leaders, so I thought it would be a good opportunity and there was only glowing, credible press about their mission and future. They provided a voucher to go through the nanotainer collection process at a local Walgreens, but I didn’t have a chance — and I’m glad now since it’s been revealed that false positives were abundant in their testing.

On the interview day, I flew to Palo Alto into the last step of a three-month process (my fifth interview), and they had this weird stipulation that if you took a taxi, you wouldn’t be reimbursed for travel, only if you took public transportation or rental car/shuttle service — but with the timing of landing to interview time (they determined both), there was no time for any of the reimbursable options. The building was super secure and I had to wait in a stark lobby behind multiple security doors for at least an hour, but that was actually the fun part of the day, chatting about the Chicago Bulls with the security guards. When someone finally arrived, I was led to a smaller lobby, where, after another half hour (now 1.5 hours later than originally scheduled), I had an extremely abrupt, short, cold interview with one person from HR. We didn’t vibe at all, so I wasn’t shocked that I didn’t get the job, but I WAS surprised that after all of the effort on both of our sides, I received a generic email form letter signed “Kind Regards, Theranos Human Resources.”

Another part of the interview process that I’ll never forget was the Skype interview with Sunny Balwani. He looked absolutely miserable, stressed, and rushed. Like he had been sleeping at his desk for weeks and was just absolutely hating that he had to talk with me. I’ve heard in the meantime that Elizabeth Holmes’ defense was going to portray him as a conniving Svengali, which didn’t match at all what I saw back then!

My lesson learned from this experience was that red flags are called red for a reason, and I just kept ignoring them. Rescheduling an out-of-state interview six times to meet with one person should have clued me in that this would not be a great place to work! I think we all make excuses because we’re so wrapped up in the process and start imagining ourselves out of our current situation without detecting dysfunction in the future opportunity. I’m glad I was spared that job, because a year and a half later, the Wall Street Journal started exposing the company, ultimately leading to them liquidating. But boy, that year and a half would be full of stories I’d never forget, probably!!

I want to just give 2014 me a hug that she was trying SO HARD to impress people at this incredibly dysfunctional, toxic workplace.

But three companies later, I am happy and well-adjusted. Thanks again for all your great advice over the years!

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update: how much of a red flag is it if a job candidate was fired twice previously? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-how-much-of-a-red-flag-is-it-if-a-job-candidate-was-fired-twice-previously.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-how-much-of-a-red-flag-is-it-if-a-job-candidate-was-fired-twice-previously.html#comments Thu, 14 Oct 2021 16:29:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22437 This post, update: how much of a red flag is it if a job candidate was fired twice previously? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer asked about a job candidate who had been fired twice previously? Here’s the update. I wrote in about six months about a job candidate who was fired twice previously, and my uncertainty about whether to move them… Continue Reading

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This post, update: how much of a red flag is it if a job candidate was fired twice previously? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer asked about a job candidate who had been fired twice previously? Here’s the update.

I wrote in about six months about a job candidate who was fired twice previously, and my uncertainty about whether to move them forward in the process. As I said in the update in the comments section, I did end up interviewing the candidate again, but I felt like they weren’t quite the right fit for what I needed.

In the end, I went with the candidate who had been my top choice from the first round of interviews. She started a few months ago, and she is an absolute dream. Conscientious, diplomatic, flexible, really open to feedback, willing to ask questions until she understands something and then able to apply that knowledge and work independently much faster than I would have anticipated. We have a really complicated bureaucracy and I never expect anyone to really know what they’re doing for months, but she’s already figured out how to get stuff done that I didn’t even know could get done. It took her a bit to trust me when I said I was very open to her improving systems as we went, but now that she both trusts me and trusts herself to understand the systems, she’s making really helpful improvements. She is also doing such a conscientious job at one of her data entry tasks that upper management commented on how much easier it is to run reports now, because they don’t have to do the same extensive data clean-up that used to be required. I feel like she’s regularly trying to figure out how to make other team members’ jobs easier, while still being clear about her own boundaries, and it’s just really helping the team function amazingly well overall.

I really appreciated the comments on my original letter reminding me (and the commenters!) that I wasn’t hiring in a vacuum and that I had to compare the candidates to each other. I definitely want to continue giving candidates a fair shot and not make assumptions about their backgrounds, but I’m also glad that I learned I can trust my instincts, too. And I’m so grateful for this website and your book, Alison. My reports have all recently said how much they appreciate my management style (one of them described it as “laidback but with high standards”) and I know I owe a lot of that to you! Thank you so much.

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what should I bring to the office now that we’re going back? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-should-i-bring-to-the-office-now-that-were-going-back.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-should-i-bring-to-the-office-now-that-were-going-back.html#comments Thu, 14 Oct 2021 14:59:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22429 This post, what should I bring to the office now that we’re going back? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: I graduated in May 2020 and started my job fully remote. I luckily have a really great group of coworkers who made a huge effort to include me in the… Continue Reading

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This post, what should I bring to the office now that we’re going back? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I graduated in May 2020 and started my job fully remote. I luckily have a really great group of coworkers who made a huge effort to include me in the broader office even while virtual and I really love the work so far. But we are now slowly starting to work from the office on a hybrid schedule and I realized I have no idea what do with an office and desk! I had internship experiences in college, but not in an office environment, and the office is currently undergoing a lot of restructuring, so there actually aren’t many folks fully settled into their desk space currently to base my set-up on.

We have shared offices (I’ll be in an office of three) with individual desks and some built-in cabinets.

This feels silly to ask, but what sort of things should I keep at my office? What supplies should I bring versus ask for the office to order for me? What kind of decoration is appropriate? Do I need to keep any additional clothes at the office in case of emergency? I feel a little lost and embarrassed to ask my coworkers, so I thought maybe you or the fine readers of Ask A Manager may have some advice!

Readers, have at it in the comments!

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boss says we can’t share our lunches, employee fell for a scam, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/boss-says-we-cant-share-our-lunches-employee-fell-for-a-scam-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/boss-says-we-cant-share-our-lunches-employee-fell-for-a-scam-and-more.html#comments Thu, 14 Oct 2021 04:03:01 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22454 This post, boss says we can’t share our lunches, employee fell for a scam, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Our boss told us we can’t share lunches with each other I have been having lunch with some of my coworkers for over four years. Sometimes we bring food and… Continue Reading

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This post, boss says we can’t share our lunches, employee fell for a scam, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Our boss told us we can’t share lunches with each other

I have been having lunch with some of my coworkers for over four years. Sometimes we bring food and share it among us. Last month, my boss told me and everyone else that we had lunch with that we can no longer share our food with each other. Apparently, someone who does not eat with us complained about us having lunch together and sharing our meals with each other. My boss said that it was favoritism because we were not inviting everyone else in the department to eat with us and share our food with them. So basically, we can’t bring our own food and share it with my closest friends at work because we are showing favoritism by not inviting the whole department to eat with and not sharing our food with them.

That is ridiculous. You are adults, not children, and you should be able to share your food with whoever you damn well want.

Obviously, if you were ostentatiously making a point of excluding one particular person, that would be jerkish and your boss should tell you to stop being an ass. But a small group of coworkers sharing lunch is not a big deal, and your boss appears to believe he’s running a kindergarten.

I don’t know if it’s a battle you feel like fighting or not, but you’d be on solid ground in saying, “This is our lunch break, when we’re on our own time. We’re not trying to be exclusionary, but we’re all adults here and we think it’s up to us who we share our own food with.”

Otherwise, you might consider leaving the office for your lunches.

2. My employee fell for a scam

I run a small retail business and while I was out this afternoon, someone came in and scammed one of my employees into giving him $300 in cash from the register. He told my employee that I was buying some furniture from him and we had spoken about, so she handed him the cash, then realized what she’d done and called me.

How do I proceed from here? I know that confidence tricksters are professionals, but handing over $300 without checking with the boss — I’m good at telling my team when changes are happening and would never ask anyone other than me to pay someone — seems like a big lapse in judgment. That is not an insignificant sum to the business — it’s an average day’s takings.

Any advice on how to handle this with this employee would be appreciated.

The business should cover the expense, just like you would if she made a totally different type of error in her work that cost you money. Absorbing the cost of errors is part of the cost of doing business. You shouldn’t ask an employee to pay for something that happened while they were performing their job in good faith.

But take this as impetus to train all your staff on spotting scams and handling similar situations that could come up in the future.

3. How can we be fair without being rigid?

I’m involved in a formal business coaching agreement with a husband and wife team that own a business near mine. They also happen to be close personal friends, so I know quite a bit about the business, and THEIR business. The business they own is a national franchise of a home services trade.

The question in front of us right now is: how do we accommodate the technicians (employees, not independent contractors) who need flexibility in start times due to circumstances beyond their control, while still maintaining standards and a sense of fairness among all the employees (particularly the other technicians)? Some are single parents, some of them have children whose schools have different start times, sometimes all of them are dealing with the variable of which schools are open in-person and which ones have closed due to exposure or quarantine-style restrictions? (Meaning, the need for flexibility exists for each individual tech, not just from tech to tech.) Explicitly, 7:45 am is considered “on time,” but one or two cannot arrive before 8:30 am without serious disruption to their family obligations. How can they enforce rules around tardiness, provide the needed flexibility, and still maintain a sense of fairness?

Four general principles:

* Strive to give people the maximum amount of flexibility you can without harm to the business’s operations. Stay away from rules that exist for rules’ sake.

* Spend some time figuring out where you can and can’t be flexible. Maybe start times aren’t a big deal. Maybe they are. Maybe you can accommodate a couple of people coming in late, but not everyone doing that. Figure out where the lines are, and communicate them openly and directly with your team. If there are some things you definitely can’t accommodate or can’t accommodate more than rarely, be up-front about those.

* If someone’s flexibility means that other employees get stuck with more work or less desirable work, make sure you recognize that in tangible ways (like money, extra time off, accommodating other things that are important to that person, or whatever makes sense for the context).

* Make sure that your flexibility isn’t limited to parents; non-parents generally have obligations in their lives that also matter. Make sure you don’t set up a parent/non-parent divide on your team. At the same time, though, the reality is that parents are operating under a uniquely crappy set of circumstances right now, and it’s okay to recognize that as long as you’re not ignoring non-parents’ realities too.

4. Should I mention I’m trans when interviewing?

After many years with my employer, I’ve decided to look for another situation. I am a management professional in a progressive city in a progressive region—which is great because I am transgender, and job hunting as a trans person is beyond stressful in any area. I’m very fortunate that I am far enough along in my transition that I’m clocked reliably as male 100% of the time. It would never come up in conversation with coworkers if I didn’t make a point to be open about it. Which I am. I have gotten reasonably deft at finding appropriate ways to disclose this information at what I consider to be the right time depending on the person.

Should I tell prospective employers that I am transgender during the application phase? My partner thinks I should because it could be an advantage to my prospects due to interest in hiring diversity. I don’t think it is appropriate—it’s not relevant to my profession, and as a hiring manager, I find it problematic when someone discloses a protected status before they’ve been hired (after all, one may never know why they didn’t get the job). Also, I already feel uncomfortable with the obvious male privilege I am afforded on a daily basis. I don’t feel right trying to game the system further.

I could find a way to work this information into an interview as a “gauging the culture” question. Should I?

Legally, employers can’t consider it (even in your favor) when deciding whether or not to hire you. In reality, though, employers consider illegal factors all the time, consciously or not. And given that trans people face discrimination more often than they face positive bias in hiring, it’s at least as likely to hurt you as to help you.

But there’s potentially value in that, if it helps you screen out bigoted employers. If you have the luxury of being at least somewhat choosy in your search, it can make a lot of sense to mention things that will help you screen out places you wouldn’t want to work. Doing it via a question about culture is a good approach so it doesn’t seem randomly shoehorned into the conversation.

5. Applying after withdrawing past applications

How many times can you continue to apply at a company after withdrawing previous applications? I’ve applied to the same company twice in the past couple of years, then I withdrew my application each time after they offered me an interview. The first time I had already accepted another job offer and I was honest about this via email; the second time I decided to stay at my then-current job, so over the phone I gave an excuse about my circumstances changing.

Now I have left my most recent job, that same company is advertising again, and I’m interested. But I’m also applying elsewhere, and if I keep withdrawing my application, I’m worried I’ll become like Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation, repeatedly letting down the accounting firm.

So, what’s the etiquette? Am I fine to keep applying to this company? Or should I start to approach this situation with more caution, in case they form a view of me as an unreliable candidate?

You’re fine applying again. The first withdrawal barely counts — there’s nothing flaky about having already accepted another job by the time they contacted you. The second time wouldn’t be remarkable on its own either; it’s only the fact that it’s the second time that could make it more of a thing of interest.

Go ahead and apply again if you want, as long as you’re sure you’d go to an interview if it’s offered (assuming, of course, that you haven’t already accepted a different job in the meantime; there’s no controlling for that).

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our head of security took upskirt photos of an intern https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/our-head-of-security-took-upskirt-photos-of-an-intern.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/our-head-of-security-took-upskirt-photos-of-an-intern.html#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2021 17:59:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22447 This post, our head of security took upskirt photos of an intern , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Curious to hear your take on a situation that came up a long time ago at a previous workplace. Shortly out of college, I got a job working for a nonprofit cultural institution that had a fair… Continue Reading

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This post, our head of security took upskirt photos of an intern , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Curious to hear your take on a situation that came up a long time ago at a previous workplace. Shortly out of college, I got a job working for a nonprofit cultural institution that had a fair share of unpaid interns working across the organization.

Our head of security had a reputation for being gross/inappropriate around women at the company, so much so that my female supervisor and head of my department both took me aside my first week to quietly warn me to “watch out for myself” around him. As this was an organization that was often open to the public, this guy managed a team of security guards as well as a fairly sophisticated video security system throughout the building/grounds. That fact was always at the back of my mind whenever I was working alone early or late — this guy that multiple female colleagues had warned me about had the ability to surveil me as I sat at my desk — which, I realize, sounds dramatic — but just wait.

One day, a teammate was in the empty lobby a few feet from the head of security and his second-in-command. An intern wearing a skirt was hanging up signs along the stairwell above, and the head of security holds out his phone with the back of it facing upwards toward the stairwell when the unmistakable click of his phone’s camera rang through the lobby loud enough for his second-in-command and my colleague to hear it and look at each other. He was taking upskirt photos of an intern and was caught in the act.

Both my teammate and the member of the security team who witnessed the event went to our head of HR to report what they had seen, and the company did … absolutely nothing. Possibly he was spoken to (I can’t say for sure), but years later the guy still has his job running the security department at the organization.

Is there any universe where retaining this guy is an okay move? Aren’t upskirt photos in the workplace with MULTIPLE witnesses grounds for an automatic fire? What gives? And what could I and/or a group of my coworkers have done to demand that this lech get canned?

WTF.

YES, this should have been an automatic firing. NO, there is no universe where retaining this guy was okay.

Of course, that assumes that this really was what it looks like — that he was indeed taking upskirt photos and not just, I don’t know, photographing the elegantly carved staircase bannisters or something, a fact that could have been easily verified by demanding to see his phone (and firing him if he refused to show the photo he’d just taken).

This would be unacceptable for anyone, but he was the head of security — a person with special access in a job that requires a high degree of trust. There should be nowhere in the cosmos where “oh, we’ll give him a warning and then set him loose among employees again” is considered a reasonable response.

That your company did nothing is … well, it’s maybe what we should expect from a company that had already continued to employ a head of security who was so known to be gross around women that multiple members of your management team warned you about him.

Whatever led to him still being around despite those complaints (hint: deeply entrenched sexism and a dismissal of women) is the same thing responsible for them keeping him on after the photo incident.

As for what you and your coworkers could have done: in theory a group of you could have demanded further action be taken. What that could have looked like in practice would depend on what you were willing to do — anything from making loud demands within the organization to being willing to quit over it to going to your board of directors to going to the media or even to funders. Sometimes those things work! Sometimes they don’t. They work more often now, but since this was years ago, it might not have worked then.

Is he still there? If so, you and your old colleagues might consider writing to the board now and sharing your experiences with him.

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my employees keep contacting me when I’m off work https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employees-keep-contacting-me-when-im-off-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employees-keep-contacting-me-when-im-off-work.html#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2021 16:29:58 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22384 This post, my employees keep contacting me when I’m off work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I manage a staff of 18 who work varying shift times. When I’m out of the office, whether that’s due to vacation, illness, or just regular days off, my staff constantly contacts me. It’s mostly questions about… Continue Reading

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This post, my employees keep contacting me when I’m off work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I manage a staff of 18 who work varying shift times. When I’m out of the office, whether that’s due to vacation, illness, or just regular days off, my staff constantly contacts me. It’s mostly questions about things that could easily be handled by someone else in the building, management or not. Sometimes it’s something urgent, but rarely ever. And sometimes it’s at all hours of the day and night, like 3 a.m. to say they can’t make it to work in the morning, when there are clear guidelines on when they should contact me in that situation, which is at the earliest 6 a.m. Or they’ll contact me about schedule changes or switches, which is something I cannot do when I’m at home.

Our work can be very stressful, and it’s important for everyone (including me) to have time to decompress. I don’t feel it’s unreasonable to ask that I’m not contacted when I’m off, especially when other management is there to address the situation. Am I being unreasonable here? Do I have to answer their texts and calls?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How can I shut down weight talk on my team?
  • Who should communicate a lay-off?
  • People who ask questions that were answered in the same email they’re replying to
  • When is a reference too old to use?
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the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/the-boss-who-fired-me-got-hired-at-my-new-job-and-shes-joking-about-how-bad-my-work-was.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/the-boss-who-fired-me-got-hired-at-my-new-job-and-shes-joking-about-how-bad-my-work-was.html#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2021 14:59:53 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22434 This post, the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: About seven years ago, I worked for Company A. I met a lot of nice folks, and there is a lot of good to be said for the company. But the actual job function I was paid… Continue Reading

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This post, the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

About seven years ago, I worked for Company A. I met a lot of nice folks, and there is a lot of good to be said for the company. But the actual job function I was paid to do I hated, and it was in an industry I came to have a dim view of. As you can probably guess, I was not very good at this job. Throw in some unpleasant things going on in my personal life at the time, and the whole situation was very bad.

Eventually my boss had to fire me, and I deserved to be fired! My boss (Jane) handled the firing with all the dignity and sensitivity that I could have hoped for. No complaints there. I took some time after the firing to really think about my life, what I wanted, and what I wanted out of work. I made some changes, and one of those was to go to work for a nonprofit that advocates on an issue I care deeply about. I am MUCH better at this job, have received a couple promotions along the way, and feel like I have the respect of my colleagues. I am in a much better place compared to where I was with Company A.

Last month my nonprofit was onboarding some new hires, and I was surprised to see Jane among them. She wanted a change, and thus went from Company A to us. She had no idea I was working here. I work on the advocacy side, she works on the financial side, but our job titles are approximately equal. We spent a few pleasant minutes catching up. I was genuinely glad to see her.

Unfortunately, things have taken a turn. I have started hearing rumors that Jane has been regaling our colleagues with stories of what a screw-up I was back at Company A. While the stories are superficially true, they lack the context I described above and do not consider my good work since then, so I find these stories both embarrassing and unfair. I have asked Jane to stop doing this, but she feels I am overreacting as it is all meant in good fun.

But I am already seeing people become a lot more particular in their dealings with me. For example, I organize several public facing events with one of my colleagues. These events have always gone well, and he has been easy to work with; he tells me what he needs, I tell him what I need, then we do what needs to be done. Lately, he has been checking, and double checking, and triple checking that I understand what is required and my progress on meeting those requirements. That never happened before Jane. And when I called him out on it, he replied that my “track record” justified his attention. I replied that my track record with him was unblemished, and he sheepishly said, “Yeah, but I hear from Jane …”

I am appreciative of how Jane treated me back in the day, so I want to cut her all the slack I can. I do not believe she is being malicious. I think she just wants to integrate herself with her new colleagues and thinks telling funny stories is a way to do so. But she has badly misjudged the effect these stories have had. Do you have any thoughts on how I can get her to stop?

WTF Jane.

Since you know her and I don’t and you don’t think she’s being malicious, I’ll try to give her that benefit of the doubt too — but this is really messed up. She’s come into a place where you’ve established a reputation for yourself and is chipping away at it in the name of … what? Entertaining her new colleagues? That’s honestly really crappy.

It would be one thing if she’d made one or two comments without realizing they could have real effects for you at work, and then stopped when you pointed it out. But you talked to her about it and she blew you off. “It’s all in good fun” is BS once the person who’s the target of the “fun” asks you to stop.

If you believe Jane is genuinely a good person and is just badly misjudging how her stories are being received, it’s worth another conversation. This time, be very explicit about the ways her stories are harming you, so that it’s clear you’re not just bristling at some teasing but are seeing concrete effects on your work. For example, you could say: “I want to ask you again to stop joking around about my work at Company A. I understand you mean it in good fun, but it is not being taken that way. I have worked hard to establish a good reputation here, but since you started sharing these stories, people have started double- and tripling-checking my work and supervising my progress on projects much more closely. I’ve asked why, and at least one person told me it’s because of what he’s heard from you. So even though you mean this to be light-hearted, people are taking it seriously and it’s harming the reputation I’ve worked to build.”

You could also say, “I had some difficult things happening in my life when I was at Company A, and I was really struggling. It’s not something I want to see turned into entertaining stories for others. It was very serious for me.”

And/or you could say, “I was so grateful to you for how you handled the ending of my employment at Company A. I felt you really cared about preserving my dignity. I’m asking you to extend that same dignity to me now.”

If Jane refuses to back off after that, she’ll be demonstrating pretty clearly that she’s not the good person you thought she was — just a bully and a jerk. Who knows why — maybe there’s stuff going on in her life now that wasn’t affecting her when you worked together the first time; I tend to think jerks often are struggling with something or other. But if she doesn’t budge after you spell it out for her, let yourself see her for who she really is right now.

If that’s the case, your best bet is to address it directly with your other coworkers. For example, with that colleague who told you that Jane’s stories made him distrust you, you could say, “You have X years of experience working with me. Do those stories reflect what you know of me? I’m asking that you trust what I’ve shown you about how I operate, not stories from years ago.”

Or: “Yep, I screwed up in a job years ago. Different job, different work, different time. Can we go on what you’ve seen from years of working with me in this job?”

Ultimately, your work will be the strongest antidote to the stories Jane is telling, but you may need to explicitly connect those dots for some of your coworkers.

But man, I do not like Jane.

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another manager complained about my employee, resigning before you’re fired, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/another-manager-complained-about-my-employee-resigning-before-youre-fired-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/another-manager-complained-about-my-employee-resigning-before-youre-fired-and-more.html#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2021 04:03:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22445 This post, another manager complained about my employee, resigning before you’re fired, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Another manager complained about my employee I work for a small company and we have a part-time student employee who reports to me. About a week ago, another manager came… Continue Reading

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This post, another manager complained about my employee, resigning before you’re fired, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Another manager complained about my employee

I work for a small company and we have a part-time student employee who reports to me. About a week ago, another manager came to me and politely asked if she could “borrow” my staff member for a small project and I agreed. I was a little disappointed when a week later, she emailed our leadership team (department heads) to complain about my staff member supposedly slacking off on the project. I asked my staff member if he was given a timeline for completing the project. He said he asked the manager and was told that it was not a high priority and he can complete “just whenever.”

I see this action as unprofessional on the part of the other manager because her email seems intended to throw my staff member under the bus when her role is to help the team complete company goals. How should I look at this situation and do I need to address this with her or my staff member?

It’s bad management and bad communication from your colleague. First, she should have given your employee a clearer sense of the expected timeline for finishing the work. Second, if she was concerned about his pace of work, she should have spoken to him and/or you. This isn’t something to email an entire leadership team about.

Speak with her directly now, say that your understanding from your employee was that he was told the project was “as time allowed,” and ask what the actual deadline is. Also, ask her to speak with you directly in the future if she has a concern about someone on your team, so that you’re in the loop and can help handle it. Feel free to say, “I was blindsided by your email about this, since I hadn’t heard anything about it and he tells me he hadn’t either.”

2. Senior execs keep using me as an advisor

I’m a mid-level professional and throughout my career have found that executives or very senior colleagues like to bounce ideas off of me for how to deal with people-related issues. For example, I once worked for an executive recruiter who would talk to me for hours about how to pitch a particular candidate or bring on a new client, and insisted that I was helping her a lot (I was 25 at the time, not sure how I was actually helping, but that was a large part of my role). Recently, I took a call from a grand-director for a group I’m temporarily working with, and he appreciated my input so much that he gave me a teamwork award through our internal kudos system (worth $500!).

So here’s my issue: my director on this project is struggling and has been calling me about how to prep for some tricky meetings, which is fine. But then a team member (Suzie) exploded on a call and announced she wanted off the project, then hung up. It was dramatic. The director called me to discuss it and wanted to just casually sideline Suzie. I pushed her to make a decision about Suzie — either implement a staffing change or keep her on the team but with a discussion around what’s up and changes that need to happen. I also mentioned that the director had made some mistakes with the team and project, and the discussion might go better if she started out by acknowledging those mistakes.

The director said yeah, that’s true, and asked me if I could be on that call with her. Um … I declined in an email a few hours later and she understood. But this is feeling inappropriate. I don’t usually work with this group and am here as a project manager, so not really involved much on the project work itself. Does that make me removed enough that I can function as a trusted advisor to someone three tiers above me? Part of me feels like this is a real skill that I should lean into, and another thinks that these are very senior level decisions way above my paygrade and I shouldn’t really be butting in. But I also know of some roles where more junior people are very trusted advisors to executives. Is that what this is? What do you think?

This happened to me throughout my career and I leaned into it because I liked doing it, found the issues interesting, and started seeing professional benefits from it. If you like it and you’re good at it, I’d keep leaning into it. The essential thing is to make sure that you set boundaries when you need to — like what you did when you said no to being on that call with Suzie (that was the right response! you didn’t belong on that call). You will sometimes find people like that exec who aren’t great at this stuff and are excited to find someone who can give them good advice, and who will then try to lean on you more than is appropriate. Without a clear sense of when to put up boundaries and say no to those requests, you can end up being asked to function with a level of authority you don’t actually have while your coworkers are rightly thinking “why the hell is Jane in this meeting?” and “isn’t Jane my peer?” and that can cause all sorts of problems. But if you stick to being a sounding board behind the scenes and you’re good at it, eventually you will probably see rewards from that, whether it’s more formal authority (and commensurate pay), a higher profile, more trust from people with influence, or so forth.

3. Could I have resigned before I got fired?

I was recently dismissed from my job after not being 100% successful with the conditions established by a PIP. In hindsight, I definitely feel like it should have been obvious to me at a point less than two weeks from the PIP’s end date that I wouldn’t have been able to succeed. If I had realized that then and given a two-week notice, do you think that the company and I would have parted on better terms? Or do you feel like, if that was only done less than two weeks before the PIP end date, they would have still terminated me, even with me opting for a better way out?

I also wonder about returning to that company in the future, in a different role. I am doing well in my new job don’t foresee leaving anytime soon. However, my industry has people frequently moving places, and there are a lot of things I do like about that company. If in the far future I see openings in another department which are closer to what I currently do, at which I’m far more successful, would I have a chance of being hired by that different department, assuming my current trend of success continues? Or would HR or the other department’s leadership not consider me, based on the circumstances of my previous dismissal?

You can nearly always resign during a PIP if you prefer to. It’s usually better for the company if you decide to (then they don’t have to fire you and usually won’t need to pay unemployment, and generally managers just prefer people to leave on their own if possible). The only exceptions would be if they uncovered something they felt they had to fire you for (like embezzlement or punching a coworker, although even then sometimes people are allowed to resign instead of being fired) or if you had a particularly horrid and vindictive manager (although if you quit before they fired you, they don’t get to undo time).

Whether a different department there would consider you in the future depends both on company and on what the performance problems were. Some companies are happy to do that; others consider anyone they fire to be ineligible for rehire. Some managers will be willing to look at what the previous issues were and decide if they think it could be a problem in the new role (for example, attitude issues or attention to detail are probably a no-go, but someone who struggled with coding applying for a job that has nothing to do with coding could be fine). It’s hard to know for sure, but you could always give it a shot down the road and see what happens.

4. Asking to WFH when it’s in my offer letter but I haven’t been doing it

I got recruited for a new opportunity with a promoted title, much higher wage, better medical benefits, more manageable workload, more in line with my professional passions … needless to say, it was an offer I could not refuse.

The one caveat of this job: it’s not primarily remote, which was a major bummer for me as I am much less stressed and more productive working at home/remotely. It’s just not a big part of their culture here, but (especially during COVID) when people do need to work from home occasionally, it’s not a big deal and is not frowned upon. I do recognize the benefits of collaborating in-person in an office. However, I did negotiate in my offer letter to include that I am permitted to work from home 1-2 days a week.

Well … I haven’t been doing that. I have been coming to the office almost every day to work. I’ve only worked from home on a handful of occasions, despite the fact that I’m allowed to do so more often. The reason being … I feel guilty! I’m one of only a few positions here that has the ability to work remotely, so I feel bad doing so when my coworkers can’t as easily.

Recently, I had an “aha” moment, courtesy of my family’s advice: “That’s not your problem. Your position can work remotely. You negotiated it in your offer letter. It’s not your fault that they can’t.” That flipped a switch in me. I DO deserve to work remotely. I’d love to do so 1-2 days a week like my offer letter states, but I don’t even know how to bring that up with my boss because I haven’t been working remotely on that schedule for the entire six months I’ve been here. Do you have any advice for how I can frame my ask? Any language you’d recommend using? I want to take advantage of what I negotiated! I’m tired of thinking I don’t deserve it.

One option is to frame it as a deliberate decision that makes you look extra conscientious — “I wanted to wait to begin the 1-2 days a week from home until I’d settled in and gotten familiar with everything. Now that I’m six months in, I’m planning to begin the remote 1-2 days/week we’d settled on when I was hired and planned to start with next Thursday at home.”

Do it now though! The longer you wait, the more risk there is of your boss feeling like it’s less what you agreed to from the start and more A Change that she wants to sign off on. I think you’re probably close to the borderline of that risk now, so don’t wait any longer!

5. Contact info for references who are retired or dead

I’m retiring from a long career as a mathematics professor and dean in higher education. In my golden years, I’d like to work part-time as an instructional assistant with students in our local public school. I have always felt that this is the place where teachers make the most difference, by setting children off on the right foot, and I want to help with that effort. These are typically part-time jobs that pay minimum wage and require no more than a high school diploma or GED.

While applying for such a job, I’m finding that they require that I list every job I have ever held (six in the past 30 years) and provide complete contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, for all supervisors I’ve ever had. Some of these people are no longer living, and many of them are retired themselves. At the same time, these fields are required, and the application system won’t let me bypass this section.

I understand and agree that it’s important to check the background and character of anyone who works with minors, and I certainly don’t think that I’m “special” and deserve to bypass the system. However, short of using a Ouija board, I have no idea how to manage this part of the process when the people they are asking me to reference aren’t available. Do you have tips?

It’s fine to just list contact information for the employer itself (like the school) rather than individual managers; they’ll be able to verify your employment by contacting the school. If you want, you can include a note like “manager now deceased” or “manager retired” so they have that context. They’ll likely still want you to provide individual references they can speak with at some point, but for this part of the process, just contact info for the school or the department you worked in should be fine.

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how do I talk to an employee about her distracting dog? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-do-i-talk-to-an-employee-about-her-distracting-dog.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-do-i-talk-to-an-employee-about-her-distracting-dog.html#comments Tue, 12 Oct 2021 17:59:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22433 This post, how do I talk to an employee about her distracting dog? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I know you’ve answered many letters over the years about poorly behaved dogs in the workplace. I’m wondering if you can provide some guidance on how to have a conversation with an employee about their dog’s bad… Continue Reading

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This post, how do I talk to an employee about her distracting dog? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I know you’ve answered many letters over the years about poorly behaved dogs in the workplace. I’m wondering if you can provide some guidance on how to have a conversation with an employee about their dog’s bad behavior.

Our organization hired a new executive director (Mary) in February. During this time, we were all working remotely. When we returned to in-person work, Mary announced that our office would be dog-friendly. Mary has a small elderly dog with separation anxiety who comes to work daily. At least two other colleagues now bring their dogs each day. One of the dogs is large and poorly behaved (we’ll call him Max). He barks and growls as people walk past, and often lunges at my window when he’s outside (I guess he’s trying to get back in the building?). When this happens, the dog’s owner (we’ll call her April) often playfully scolds him.

April adopted Max during the pandemic and because they’ve never spent much time apart, Max has separation anxiety. This is even evident in the office — his behavior seems to escalate when he’s left alone in April’s office (which is often).

I love dogs! I get along well with Max and April. I also have a dog (who stays home during the day) and a small child, so I’m very adept at tuning out these distractions. However, not everyone in our small office is able to ignore Max’s behavior and I’ve noticed some of my direct reports are becoming increasingly agitated.

April does not report to me. Her manager is brand new (both to the position and to managing) and I sense April’s manager is either indifferent to Max’s behavior, or she just doesn’t know how to address the behavior with April.

While I don’t have standing to change the dog policy, I do need to address Max’s impact on my team’s morale. Do I have standing to have a conversation with April about this? If so, what do I say?

Ideally this would get addressed organization-wide because (a) it’s an organization issue and (b) it’s likely to come up with other dogs in the future.

Frankly, it’s ridiculous for an office to implement a dog-friendly policy without any rules for it! Dog-friendly policies can work, but only when they’re accompanied by clear rules that specify what behavior isn’t okay (like excessive barking, damaging property, roaming unattended, or being aggressive toward humans or other dogs) and what happens if those rules are violated (generally, that’s that the dog can’t come to the office anymore), as well as a clear understanding that (a) bringing dogs to work is a privilege that can be revoked at any time and (b) will indeed be revoked if the dogs’ need and the human employees’ needs are in conflict … which includes everything from allergies to dog phobias to ability to focus.

What these rules are grounded in is the principle that people’s ability to do their jobs trumps people’s desire to bring dogs to work.

So ideally you’d raise the issue with whoever has the power to implement and enforce a better policy on dogs in the office.

But if that’s not a good option for some reason, you certainly have standing to talk directly with April and/or her manager.

I’d start with April herself unless you have a reason not to (like if she’s defensive or you have a terrible relationship). Say something like, “I know you’re working with Max on his separation anxiety. My team is having a lot of trouble focusing when he barks and growls or lunges at windows when he’s outside. Can you be more active about minimizing the disruption it’s having on people nearby?”

If that doesn’t work, talk with April’s manager and explain the problem. Say you’ve already spoken with April directly but Max is continuing to make it hard for your team to focus.

And if that doesn’t work, at that point it’s time to suggest that Max isn’t well-suited for the office (at least not now — maybe he could be if his behavior changes down the road). But if you’re doing that, it’ll be easier to do it in the context of setting up office-wide rules for dogs, which brings us back to: your office really needs a more formal plan. You don’t have standing to change that on your own, but as a manager of a team being impacted, you do have standing to ask for it to be addressed.

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what do I do about work if my kids are sent home to quarantine? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-do-i-do-about-work-if-my-kids-are-sent-home-to-quarantine.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-do-i-do-about-work-if-my-kids-are-sent-home-to-quarantine.html#comments Tue, 12 Oct 2021 16:29:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22431 This post, what do I do about work if my kids are sent home to quarantine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: After most of us being remote since March 2020 due to Covid, my office is now bringing everyone back a minimum of three days a week, with a clear preference for us to be there more than… Continue Reading

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This post, what do I do about work if my kids are sent home to quarantine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

After most of us being remote since March 2020 due to Covid, my office is now bringing everyone back a minimum of three days a week, with a clear preference for us to be there more than that. But I have two school-aged kids and every time they have a potential Covid exposure at school, they’ll be sent home for two weeks. They’re not old enough to stay by themselves, so my partner or I will need to stay home with them every time it happens. And I doubt this will just happen once. We could be looking at this happening regularly all winter.

How are parents of young kids supposed to juggle work and childcare responsibilities with offices opening back up and Covid not yet conquered? It feels like employers expect us to be back to normal when we’re definitely not at that point.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today, along with answers to these questions:

  • Is it unprofessional to Zoom from your bedroom?
  • How do you take sick days when you work from home?
  • Can you tell job candidates your company doesn’t take Covid seriously?
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my boss flirts with (and sometimes sleeps with) our vendors — and tells me all about it https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-boss-flirts-with-and-sometimes-sleeps-with-our-vendors.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-boss-flirts-with-and-sometimes-sleeps-with-our-vendors.html#comments Tue, 12 Oct 2021 14:59:56 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22432 This post, my boss flirts with (and sometimes sleeps with) our vendors — and tells me all about it , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am hoping for some help here. I’m really not a prude; I am afraid that is the way I might come off. My manager has put me in a weird position. I’m not sure if I’m… Continue Reading

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This post, my boss flirts with (and sometimes sleeps with) our vendors — and tells me all about it , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am hoping for some help here. I’m really not a prude; I am afraid that is the way I might come off. My manager has put me in a weird position. I’m not sure if I’m overthinking things and would appreciate some advice.

Within the past year, I have noticed that my manager has become increasingly narcissistic and inappropriate at work. She has always been a toxic manager, but the company I work for is good. I have been with the company for almost 10 years, and with this manager for almost five. I am a hard worker and they pay me fairly.

My manager tells me too much. A year ago, she confided in me that she is having an affair with a want-to-be vendor, whom my company has since purchased from due to my manager’s perseverance. And I know she has kissed other vendors at work events in the past. She will often attend industry events alone and tells us stories of how she likes to lead them on by allowing them to walk her to her hotel room.

She recently took this same vendor to a sporting event with company tickets. She did not invite anyone from our company to join them. I politely confronted her, explaining that I think this is inappropriate use of company tickets. She offered to get me a ticket by myself — in a different section — to attend the game. I declined. A few days after the game, she told me that it was wrong of me to say that to her and that I “need to remember that she is my superior and deserves my respect.” She essentially gaslighted me, telling me that I am the one in the wrong here.

Then this week, she last-minute invited our team to dinner with a different want-to-be vendor. The entire dinner, she continued to be flirty and made sexual innuendos at this person. I went to dinner to learn about this vendor’s product, not to learn about their inside jokes and how often they text.

We are in an extremely male-dominated industry. I want to be taken seriously as a woman in this business, but I feel like my manager’s actions are affecting how we are viewed.

Is it worth having another conversation asking her to tone down the flirting at work, or is it a lost cause? I know I need to find a new job, but it has been hard in this current climate.

I would not bother asking your boss to tone down the flirting. Based on what you’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely to work … and it’s likely to cause problems for you.

I can imagine a different set of circumstances with a different boss where it might be worthwhile to try. With a boss who wasn’t defensive and with whom you had pretty good rapport, I could imagine saying something like, “I know you’ve got a really friendly relationship with Ralph, but dinner last night was pretty uncomfortable for the rest of us.” Or, “I’m worried we’ll be violating the company’s conflict of interest policy if we push Ralph’s company since you have a relationship with him outside of work.”

In theory, you could say those things here too. But you’ve already tried to broach these issues with your boss and she (a) told you that you were the one who was wrong and (b) suggested you remember that she’s your boss (your “superior” even — ick) and need to respect her. Those are not signs that she’s open to feedback, at least on this. To the contrary, those are signs that she’ll push back hard if you try again and will use her authority in ways that make your life unpleasant.

What you can do, though, is to talk to someone else. Does your HR have a track record of dealing with issues competently? If so, you might consider talking with them about your concerns — not necessarily the flirting on its own (that’s probably not something in their purview) but the conflict of interest if she’s carrying on relationships with vendors/potential vendors and then pressing the company to use their services, as well as the sexual innuendo your team is getting subjected to.

If HR isn’t an option, you might be able to find someone senior to her who you trust to hear what’s going on and act on it appropriately.

But I doubt your boss is going to stop just because you ask her to. It’s going to have to come from someone above her.

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my manager talks about religion daily, my boss makes a huge profit on my work, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-manager-talks-about-religion-daily-my-boss-makes-a-huge-profit-on-my-work-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-manager-talks-about-religion-daily-my-boss-makes-a-huge-profit-on-my-work-and-more.html#comments Tue, 12 Oct 2021 04:03:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22430 This post, my manager talks about religion daily, my boss makes a huge profit on my work, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My boss talks about religion every day I am currently one month into my new job and am so far excited about the possibilities of the position. The work seems… Continue Reading

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This post, my manager talks about religion daily, my boss makes a huge profit on my work, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss talks about religion every day

I am currently one month into my new job and am so far excited about the possibilities of the position. The work seems like a good fit. It’s also fully remote and more money than I’ve ever made by a long shot. My boss is in the same town, so I (in theory) have that nearby support while the rest of the company is on the west coast.

The problem, though, is that my boss is bulldozing my boundaries. I am not religious but respect those who are, but she is extremely religious (though she said it’s spiritual when I brought up not being religious as a way to stop the conversation) and seems to have taken it upon herself to try to tell me the good news of her religion. Every day she brings this up and talks about how amazing it is for her and how it could benefit me.

She is also constantly asking me very personal questions and on the days we’ve worked in person she hugs me, strokes my shoulder, and rubs my arm. I dread our collaboration days and have had to up the dose on my anxiety medication.

I know I need to say something to her or HR, but I am so uncomfortable and so new and she is very well liked and helping to get our company to a new level of maturity. She’s also a close friends with a past boss I consider a mentor, who helped me get this position. This is also my third job in two years and I want to be able to establish longer experience and show stability, and don’t want to have to leave and I know this is also making me more hesitant to speak up. I’d appreciate any insight you could give on this situation!

Please speak up! It doesn’t have to be a big confrontation; it can just be, “I’m not comfortable talking about religion or spirituality at work, and would rather not continue to have these conversations. Thank you for respecting that.”

If that doesn’t stop it, then please do talk to HR. Your company has a legal obligation to prevent your boss from what she’s doing — legally it’s harassment on the basis of religion — and if they’re at all a decent company, they’d want to know it’s happening. You could frame it as, “I’ve asked Jane to stop talking to me about religion but she won’t stop, and I’d like to do my work free of religious pressure.”

And for the touching: “I’m not a big toucher — I like to have personal space!” (Some people find this easier to say if they say it in a self-deprecating way, with a tone of “this is just my weird thing.” It’s not weird and you shouldn’t have to downplay it, but if that makes it easier for you to say, go with what works.) You might have to say it a few times before the message sinks in. Feel free, too, to physically distance yourself from her. And sometimes having a more pronounced physical reaction when she strokes/rubs you (ick) — like jerking away or flinching — can help reinforce a “stop it” message.

As for being worried about speaking up because she’s well liked: Asking not to be touched and not to be proselytized at are both profoundly reasonable requests! If your past boss/mentor is a remotely reasonable person, she’d be horrified to hear about the religious harassment, not hold it against you for wanting it to stop. The same goes for anyone at your company who hears about it too.

2. My boss makes a huge profit on my work

In December of last year, I was approached by a woman who told me she had a very busy writing business and needed a second writer to come on board to help with her overflow work. I agreed to work with her at a good rate per word. Things went really well and I soon found myself writing quite a decent amount and earning a good salary as a result.

About a month or so ago, my boss asked me something about helping her to rewrite her website for the business, which made me realize that I had never seen her site. I then went to Google her and found a Fiverr account instead. Now I don’t mind Fiverr, but what surprised me was the rates I saw that my boss was asking for the work I was delivering. She earns at least double what what I earned on the projects I did, just for sending me briefs, proofreading my work and sending it to the client.

She obviously pays in 20% commission to Fiverr for using their platform, but even taking that into account she is making a huge profit on my writing, which is generally sent off to clients with minimal edits (in most cases completely unedited).

Am I right to be surprised by this? Or is this just business? For some reason I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. I should also say that I have no desire to start a Fiverr profile of my own. My boss has Pro status and obviously worked hard to get there. I don’t want to be client-facing at all and am happy to continue working in my current capacity. I guess I’m just a little shocked that my boss is earning more than double what I get for each piece of writing I submit. Please tell me: am I being suckered here?

It’s really normal for a business to charge clients more than what they pay employees for doing that work; the difference goes to overhead expenses (like marketing, billing, tech, admin support, etc.) plus profit to make running the business worthwhile. But if your boss is just getting jobs on Fiverr and farming them out to you, she probably doesn’t have a ton of overhead.

If you felt your pay rate was fair before you found out where her business comes from, I’m hard pressed to say you’re being taken advantage of. And if you’re not interested in setting up your own Fiverr account and doing the work to get the visibility yourself that she has there, then this arrangement seems pretty reasonable.

But I can see why you feel weird about it, too. I think ultimately you’ll have to decide if you’re happy with the work you’re doing and the pay you’re getting, regardless of the profit she’s making on it. Alternately, though, now that you have this info, you could try asking for a higher rate of pay (factoring in that she’ll still need to make some kind of profit on your work in order for it to make sense for her to farm it out to you).

3. How much should I tell employees about my disability?

I work a full-time remote job and have a physical disability that often affects how and when I work. HR is aware of my condition, and I’ve informed my direct managers, but none of my coworkers know unless I tell them outright (and unless we’re especially close, I usually don’t).
I will likely be taking on a managerial role of my own in the near future.

Generally speaking, I’d assume that managerial etiquette involves telling your direct reports less and not more about your personal life—at least where it’s not immediately appropriate or relevant. But my disability does affect how I work: I often block off large chunks of my calendar for doctors’ appointments, get sick more often and more severely than your average person, and occasionally have to leave a meeting unexpectedly due to spontaneous flare-ups of pain.

Most significantly, I’m in a different time zone than most of the company, which means most coworkers are several hours of ahead of me—and rather than waking up early to attend early meetings, which would deprive me of sleep that I already struggle to get and desperately need, I’ve asked people for their patience in scheduling meetings at later times. I’m not the only employee in my time zone, but most others have will bend their schedules in a way that my health won’t allow. If I ever manage employees in a time zone significantly ahead of my own, this means they may not be able to reach me for the first several hours of their work day.

As a manager, should I disclose this information to my direct reports so they don’t assume I’m flaky or unreachable? Or is it none of their business what hours I work or when I can and can’t hold meetings? I’m not shy about or ashamed of having a disability, but I don’t want this to become a situation where it could be used against me by upper management or my own direct reports.

Disclose the parts that will be relevant to them, but you don’t need to get into specifics. It’s enough to say, “I have a medical condition that makes me pretty consistently unreachable before (time), and I might occasionally have to leave a meeting unexpectedly due to spontaneous flare-ups. I’ve been able to manage my work around it well, but I wanted you to have that context up-front.”

You shouldn’t take a “it’s none of their business when I do and don’t work or when I’m available” because if they don’t have the sort of context I suggested above, they’re likely to end up frustrated or annoyed at what could otherwise look like inflexibility. But for most people, that context will make your scheduling needs perfectly reasonable.

4. How do I stop adopting my coworkers’ demeanor?

I have had some work before but am new to the professional environment.

I have a tendency to subconsciously adopt my coworkers’ attitude about work while they’re around. Which isn’t the best if they’re burned out or having a rough time/bad day, and it’s not the best when I copy the ones who are always having Such A Fun Time at work. How do I conduct myself at work and how do I avoid subconsciously copying other people? I do like my job.

(BTW, I know this isn’t anyone’s fault but mine! I’m not pinning this on my coworkers.)

It sounds like you’ve got to be more deliberate in thinking through who you want to be at work. Can you spend some time reflecting on what image you want to project at work and what that does and doesn’t mean for how you’ll operate? Can you walk through past scenarios where you weren’t pleased with how you conducted yourself and think about what you wish you’d done differently and what that would have looked like?

But also, often this stems from not being confident about what your behavior should look like. So it can help to find colleagues who you admire and pay attention to what they do and don’t do in some of these same situations, and consciously model yourself on them for a while. Sometimes that can feel like acting, but if you practice it enough, eventually it’ll feel more natural.

Also, this may help, as well as the comments on this.

5. My new boss didn’t tell me she lives in another state

I recently started a new job that’s still mostly remote for now, although I’m expected to go into the office occasionally, with the frequency of on-site work ramping up over time. The interviewing and hiring process was all done remotely. I didn’t find out until my first week of work that my direct supervisor recently relocated to another state (before I applied for the job), so I will essentially never see her in person. That feels … weird to me, and it also makes me feel weird that this was never mentioned by her or by the HR person who was my other point of contact during the hiring process.

While on one hand, I guess it means that my boss will probably be more hands-off, which I prefer, on the other hand I don’t love that all of our face-to-face communication is going to be on Zoom, even when I’m on-site. I’m not sure it would have been a deal-breaker in terms of accepting the position, but it’s definitely a piece of info I would have liked to have had in making my decision. And it sort of makes me feel like I’m starting this job with a trust issue, to be honest. Am I off-base here?

You’re certainly entitled to be disappointed to learn she’s full-time remote, but I don’t think it should should make your distrust her or your new company. Yes, it would have been better for someone to mention it! But it sounds like a lot of their staff are still fully remote (if not all of them), so it might have felt unremarkable enough that no one involved in the process thought about it as a thing they should specifically flag for you. And of course, you could start any new job with a boss who’s on-site, only to have that person go remote shortly thereafter.

I’d look at it as a disappointment but not as as something they deliberately withheld or misled you about.

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employer says candidates must accept the job if it’s offered https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/employer-says-candidates-must-accept-the-job-if-they-offer-it.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/employer-says-candidates-must-accept-the-job-if-they-offer-it.html#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2021 17:59:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22422 This post, employer says candidates must accept the job if it’s offered , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently was referred to a job posting by a friend in my industry. While I am happily employed, it was definitely something I would consider. However, the posting ended with the line, “It is understood that… Continue Reading

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This post, employer says candidates must accept the job if it’s offered , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently was referred to a job posting by a friend in my industry. While I am happily employed, it was definitely something I would consider. However, the posting ended with the line, “It is understood that any candidate applying for a full-time position will accept employment. Please do not apply if you do not plan to accept full-time employment, should it be offered.”

I know they obviously can’t hold candidates to that, and I will give them that they are completely transparent about the exact salary in the job posting. However, they also say that full benefits will only be discussed after the offer has been made. Moreover, this would not be a local position for me, or for most applicants at the level they are seeking, and I obviously can’t commit to moving my family across the country before even interviewing.

Just how big of a red flag is this line? Am I reading too much into things, or is this the mark of an employer with a warped view of power?

It’s a big red flag.

It says, “We think you should be willing to accept the job based solely on what’s in this ad, with no consideration of what you learn about the position, the company, the manager, or the team during the interview, and regardless of what salary and benefits we offer you.”

Which is obviously absurd and not how this works.

Any time you interview for a job, you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you. This would be like if you applied for jobs with a cover letter reading, “Please do not invite me to interview if you do not plan to offer me full-time employment.” Employers would immediately throw out your application, and rightly so. You would also look bizarrely out-of-touch and delusional and, again, rightly so.

That said, the specific wording they used and their emphasis on “full-time” makes me wonder if this is less about “you will accept whatever we offer and like it” and more about trying to ward off people who apply for the job and then try to negotiate for part-time. But if so, the way to handle it is to stress in the job posting that the role is full-time and cannot be made part-time.

I also wonder if it’s a reaction to candidates ghosting them on offers, as has been happening more and more. But this wording would be an odd response to that since someone who ghosts on an offer isn’t less likely to do it just because an ad warned them not to.

Plus, what’s up with “full benefits will only be discussed after the offer has been made”? That’s a weird thing to say in normal circumstances, and it’s especially ridiculous in the context of “you had better commit to taking this offer when you apply.”

So: big red flag, and something over there is indeed warped.

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my employee keeps changing her appearance during the work day https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employee-keeps-changing-her-appearance-during-the-work-day.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employee-keeps-changing-her-appearance-during-the-work-day.html#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2021 16:29:07 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22383 This post, my employee keeps changing her appearance during the work day , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am hoping to get some advice on a situation I am having with one of my employees. Michelle has worked here for almost a year. This is her first job after college and her second job… Continue Reading

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This post, my employee keeps changing her appearance during the work day , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am hoping to get some advice on a situation I am having with one of my employees. Michelle has worked here for almost a year. This is her first job after college and her second job ever. There are no issues with the quality of her work.

But Michelle makes drastic changes to her appearance, and these changes always happen during the work day. Most employees on my team (including Michelle) are exempt and lunches are generally longer than an hour. Over her lunch, she will drastically change her hair, clothing, and makeup.

For example, on a given day, she has long blonde hair, almost no makeup, and is wearing a gray suit. After lunch, she returns with black hair that’s ear-length on one side and chin-length on the other, with noticeable makeup and a black suit. Or she has shoulder-length curly hair that she is wearing down and she comes back with straight hair that is a different color, in an up-do and with an undercut. Since she started working here, at least once a month she comes back from her lunch wearing drastically different clothes, shoes, makeup, and nails and she has radically changed her hair (color and length) over her lunch half a dozen times.

I don’t know if I should say anything because as her older, male boss I don’t want to seem like I am appearance policing, and she is always within the norm for the dress code/appearance within our office and industry. However, I feel like doing this in the middle of the work day is hurting her professional credibility. Once we gave a presentation for both internal and external people and Michelle was present because she had assisted with the preparation. After we broke for lunch, she returned with darker hair, bangs, and completely different clothes. Many people at the presentation thought she was a different person at first. Another time she returned to a meeting with shorter hair, longer nails, and different clothes, and it was the same thing.

Is this something I should be speaking to her about? If so, how do I do it so as to not to make it about her appearance but rather how it affects her professionalism and how people perceive her, even there are no problems with her work and she is making all these changes on her lunch and not when she is expected to be working?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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should I expose my boss for her mean and gossipy Twitter account? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/should-i-expose-my-boss-for-her-mean-and-gossipy-twitter-account.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/should-i-expose-my-boss-for-her-mean-and-gossipy-twitter-account.html#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2021 14:59:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22421 This post, should I expose my boss for her mean and gossipy Twitter account? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I joined a small (~15 employees) company several years ago. While there, my direct supervisor made an offhand remark about some joke she had tweeted. I was able to search for a string of words and find… Continue Reading

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This post, should I expose my boss for her mean and gossipy Twitter account? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I joined a small (~15 employees) company several years ago. While there, my direct supervisor made an offhand remark about some joke she had tweeted. I was able to search for a string of words and find her Twitter account. Her Twitter does not include her name, but her bio mentions the industry she works in, her profile pic is an identifiable selfie, and she regularly posts selfies and has posted pictures from a conference with the company’s logo in the background.

I would periodically check in on her Twitter account without her knowing. It’s how I learned about our company being acquired by a larger (~500 employees) one before the news was public, the imminent firing of a colleague a day before it happened, and way too much about her personal life. She also tweeted gossip about “members of her team” (the 2-6 employees she supervised in my time working there), including times when we “fucked up,” someone needing time off to terminate a pregnancy, and a few things about my relationship and sexuality. She would also boast about the big bonuses and raises her boss gave her during times when I received insulting ones (a 1.5% salary increase one year).

Some of this is just dumb. Some of it is actually illegal.

When we were a small company, I felt I had nobody to bring this up to because there was no HR and because she had a close personal relationship with the founder (her supervisor) and his wife. After the acquisition, I still felt that I couldn’t bring this up (due to the Covid job market and my need for job security).

I was laid off a couple months ago as the parent company has had some major fumbles — 30% reduction in staff. She still works there, and the founder who was her supervisor is now in a higher position. She offered to write me a letter of recommendation, which I included along with a contact list of other (more trustworthy) professional references in my search for something new. Luckily, I found something quickly. I start my new job next week. It pays better. The severance check from the old place has cleared. She is (mostly) in my rearview mirror.

My question is, do I anonymously send dozens (possibly hundreds) of work-related tweets I’ve screengrabbed to HR at the parent company? My reasons for wanting to do this fall into two categories:

1. My own anger at the situation of my layoff, the way she treated me as my manager, and the years of powerlessness and waning support I felt (I can admit this!). The layoff was one of those “remote meeting with HR, immediate remote shut-off of company laptop” affairs, so I had no exit interview where I could bring this up.

2. Legitimate concern for the people who have to work under her currently and in the future, knowing what she says about them and how dumb and risky her behavior is as a manager. Regardless of my impotent anger, I know that the information I have could help others even though it would hurt her.

I believe everyone should be able to blow off steam about work and say things they wouldn’t otherwise say in the office. I also understand that this might happen on social media rather than over a drink at the end of the day. But her social media isn’t exactly “anonymous,” nor locked (it’s public! Anyone could find it and read it! She has over 1,000 followers!) and therefore poses a risk to the company and violates their policies that we have to re-learn every year.

I am much more lenient about those policies when it comes to low-level employees who don’t supervise anyone. My own personal morality math changes when they’re in charge of others. She has also boasted recently about the possibility of (and been in meetings about) moving up in the company now that her boss has. She is a massive liability to this company — one which I don’t feel a lot of love toward, but still!

She doesn’t support any dependents (single, no kids, parents don’t rely on her) and the job market isn’t terrible right now. Is this too vengeful? It’s a lesson she should learn, but is it my lesson to teach her?

Send the screenshots. Let your former company decide for themselves if it’s something they care enough about to address.

This manager is tweeting about an employee’s abortion. She is tweeting about employees’ sexuality.

Those are intensely private things that no manager should be commenting on, let alone publicly, let alone in cavalier and gossipy posts on Twitter.

Not to mention spilling confidential news about a company acquisition! And firings before they had happened! What is she thinking?

And this would all be terrible enough if she were doing it on a locked, private account, but she’s doing it on a public one?!

Sometimes when you know that part of your motivation for an action is that you dislike someone or feel anger or resentment toward them, it can be hard to separate that out from other possible reasons to take the action. But even if you liked your boss or didn’t feel personally injured by her, you’d still have good reasons to flag what she’s doing.

Protecting the company doesn’t need to be one of those reasons at this point (if she spills all their top-secret plans on Twitter, that’s not your problem), but you’re on solid ground in wanting something done about someone who’s profoundly mishandling personal information about her employees.

If she still manages people or will manage people in the future (and it sounds like both are the case), this isn’t just an act of vengeance and it’s not about teaching her a lesson. It’s about taking action on behalf of the people she still has power over.

Send the screenshots.

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company wants our baby photos, getting away from a boss who’s yelling, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/company-wants-our-baby-photos-getting-away-from-a-boss-whos-yelling-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/company-wants-our-baby-photos-getting-away-from-a-boss-whos-yelling-and-more.html#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2021 04:03:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22424 This post, company wants our baby photos, getting away from a boss who’s yelling, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My employee submitted an over-the-top, glowing self-assessment that doesn’t match up with his work I’m in the process of doing annual performance reviews for my direct reports and I’ve run… Continue Reading

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This post, company wants our baby photos, getting away from a boss who’s yelling, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My employee submitted an over-the-top, glowing self-assessment that doesn’t match up with his work

I’m in the process of doing annual performance reviews for my direct reports and I’ve run into a situation I haven’t faced before. Bob — my longest-serving employee — has completed the self-evaluation portion of the review (the first stage of our process) and has written the most over-the-top glowing comments about himself that I’ve seen from an employee. For example, he makes comments about being the center and “heart” of our (500-person) company and that his work has basically been a key reason for the company’s success. He calls himself one our most mission-critical employees, and says he feels like the organization doesn’t value him enough considering his role.

This is not my perspective. Bob’s work has been good in some respects, but not necessarily great in other respects, and he causes drama because of his tendency to complain a lot. He is certainly not our most mission-critical employee. There are many others on my team who do the same job as him, and some of them do more complex work that is (at times) better than his. Bob is also the highest-paid non-manager in our department. (How that came to be — for several historical reasons — is a whole other issue that I won’t go into here.)

My inclination is to respond to his comments by offering fair praise and making the types of remarks that I’d make anyway. But does that approach send too subtle a message to someone who is not subtle? Should I directly address Bob’s review comments and somehow say that I don’t agree that his work is THAT excellent? Is there any value to that, and how would I even say that if I did want to convey the message?

For additional context, others on my staff also talk in their performance reviews about the excellent work they’ve done, and I’m fine with that. I see it as marketing their achievements. But it feels like Bob’s views are starting to veer toward delusional, and I’m not sure if a manager has to squarely address an employee’s delusions?

Oh, Bob. It’s quite a move to declare oneself the “heart” of a 500-person company.

Have you had other problems with Bob’s assessment of something being really off-base? If it’s a pattern, I think you need to address the pattern (and a performance review is a good time to do that). But if it’s not, then this might just be Bob going weirdly far with the common advice to talk up one’s own work in a self-appraisal. In that case, you could just go ahead and write the assessment you want to write without worrying terribly about his glowing self-appraisal … and frankly, that might get the point across on its own.

But when you meet to talk about his review, if you sense that he’s rattled or upset by your review of his work — or if you just want to acknowledge the situation explicitly — you could say something like, “I know this is a different assessment than the one you shared in your self-appraisal. I really appreciate hearing your perspective, but ultimately I make these assessments based on what I see and the results you’ve gotten in your work. Let’s talk through any questions this raised for you, and then what I think would be most helpful is to talk about what I hope your work will look like moving forward.”

2. Can I say “I need a minute” if my boss is yelling at me?

I cannot handle people yelling at me. I break down very quickly and start crying. If someone like my boss was to start yelling at me, would it be appropriate to interrupt and say, “I need a minute” and run to the bathroom? I could see it being very frustrating to have an employee just walk away when you’re trying to express something that feels Very Important and worth shouting about.

Nothing at work is ever worth shouting about (unless it’s “fire!” or “sinkhole!” or similar, and then the yelling would be to warn of danger, not to express anger). Yelling out of frustration, stress, or anger doesn’t belong in a functional workplace, period, because it’s abusive.

Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Bad bosses do yell. But you don’t need to stand there and be yelled at if it happens. Your “I need a minute” plan is fine. So is saying, “I’m not willing to be yelled at, but I’d be glad to talk about this later when you’re no longer yelling” or “I can’t process what you’re saying when you yell. I’m going to leave, but I’m available to talk about this later when you’re not yelling.” And then leave.

3. My company wants our baby photos

I got an email at work from someone fairly high up in the management chain saying, essentially, “We’re going to play a fun game! Please send me a baby picture of yourself.” Apparently this is their idea of some kind of team-building exercise. Do they not understand that such pictures can be deeply problematic for some people?

• Not everyone had a happy childhood; for some, childhood photos are reminders of trauma.
• Such photos can reveal unwanted details about family of origin, social class, and so on, that one has taken efforts to keep private.
• Not everyone even has baby pictures of themselves. Or they may still be in the possession of one’s parents, and not everyone is comfortable contacting their parents to ask for one.
• They’re essentially asking any trans people working there to out themselves, as childhood photos typically feature the subject presenting as the gender they were assigned at birth. This is particularly awful coming from a company that is continually patting itself on the back for its “wokeness” on diversity and inclusion, and on LGBTQ issues, “bring your whole self to work,” and so on.

How can I opt out of this gracefully and/or communicate to the individual who hatched this cockamamie “game” just how bad of an idea this is?

This exercise has been around for a long time, often as an ice-breaker or team-building thing (“guess whose baby picture belongs to who”), but you’re right that it’s problematic for all the reasons you name.

Does someone in your company work on equity and inclusion issues? If so, you could flag your concerns about the exercise to them. Or, if you’re willing to spend the political capital on it (which may or may not sense for you, depending on context I don’t have), you could respond to the email explaining your concerns.

If you just want to opt out, you can do that too. “No thanks!” or “I don’t have easy access to baby photos” or “I don’t have photos I can share but here’s a kitten photo” can all work, depending on your sense of the dynamics with the person who sent the email.

4. Interview invitation delivered via video

My husband recently applied for a job in his field, but at a company that’s a bit more tech start-up than he’s previously worked for. He got a response inviting him to an interview, but almost didn’t follow up because he thought it was spam. The email was from a very bubbly person (not necessarily a bad thing!) and contained a link to a video. He saw the link and assumed the job listing had been a scam and that the whole thing was a phishing attempt.

I convinced him to click just in case — and it was the hiring manager delivering the text of the email in video format, possibly to make the remote hiring process seem more personable?

Is this common? Growing because of the pandemic, as more employers adjust to a remote hiring experience? A rather weird outlier? Has this company, despite being a tech start-up, never heard of phishing scams?

No, it’s not common. And that company is almost certainly losing a significant portion of candidates at the interview invitation stage because, like your husband, people are assuming it’s spam or a phishing attempt!

It’s also just a bizarre choice to make. Interview invitations work just fine via email. It’s hard to think of any part of the interview process that needs to be a video less than this does.

5. Disclosing a mental health condition to get my schedule changed

Recently my doctor suggested that I inform my employer about my mental health condition in order to get my schedule changed so I can have monthly bloodwork done. I realize that they can’t fire me if I inform them of my condition, but this doesn’t mean that they couldn’t find another reason to let me go. My other concern is privacy — who knows how many people could learn of my condition? My problem is the lab that does the blood work closes at 4.30 and you can forget Saturday since it’s extremely busy. Any advice?

Be vague! You never need to give an employer specific health details for something like this. It’s generally enough to say, “I’m going to have a monthly medical appointment for the foreseeable future. The timing is flexible, but I’ll either need to come in X minutes late or leave X minutes early one day a month.” You could also offer to make up the time that same day or week if that’s something that makes sense for your job. But this is pretty minor and in most offices that would be all that’s needed to take care of it.

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weekend open thread – October 9-10, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-9-10-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-9-10-2021.html#comments Sat, 09 Oct 2021 04:07:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22390 This post, weekend open thread – October 9-10, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: The Second Home, by Christina Clancy. As three siblings try to… Continue Reading

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This post, weekend open thread – October 9-10, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: The Second Home, by Christina Clancy. As three siblings try to decide what to do with their family’s summer home on Cape Cod, long-buried secrets are reckoned with.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-73.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-73.html#comments Fri, 08 Oct 2021 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22395 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news! 1. “I just wanted to share with you some really wonderful news. It has been a somewhat bumpy path, but I am so excited to finally be here. My industry was hit pretty hard by Covid… Continue Reading

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This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news!

1. “I just wanted to share with you some really wonderful news. It has been a somewhat bumpy path, but I am so excited to finally be here. My industry was hit pretty hard by Covid and my company did some layoffs, salary cuts, and hours cuts. Thankfully, I was not laid off, but did have my salary cut in July of 2020 and a few months later had my hours cut as well. It was rough and demoralizing, but I decided to make the best of it. I sat down with my manager when the salary cuts started and explained that I totally understood the position the company was in, and that I knew there would be no raises that year, but that I knew we would make it through this and that when we come out the other side, I wanted to position myself to be promoted in my department.

We worked together on certain skills and things I needed to grow and improve in order to be eligible for a promotion. I really buckled down and put in a ton of effort, and in April 2021, the company was able to restore our full salaries and hours. I asked my manager if we would be doing reviews soon, and they were pushed back due to our busiest season and some projects on my manager’s plate. We finally met in August for my review and I got a lot of positive feedback, but nothing specific on the promotion other than that my manager needed to meet with leadership to discuss company financials.

It took over a month, but this week, I finally got the news that the company is promoting me, that I’m getting about an 8% raise, and I am thrilled! I have worked really hard, and it feels so good to receive the recognition (and corresponding pay increase) that goes with that.”

2. “I wanted to thank every single person in this community as well as Alison for their amazing insight, empathy, and specific advice. I’ve been reading this blog for years and, it has truly helped me progress.

So, amazing news! I was hired as a contractor to work at a large financial investment firm almost a year ago to date. They usually analyze their contractors quarterly based on performance and offer us a “conversion” to be hired on as actual employees. That conversion was delayed for many months because of the pandemic. I knew it was going to come back eventually because of how well the company treats us and because they sent us home first week of March to protect us. I worked hard, networked, worked on a few projects that went live amongst a few states, helped problem solve, asked for coaching opportunities, trained 6 new hire classes, created job aids, etc.

I was officially hired on as an employee back in November. I had to pass 3 licensing tests. It was brutal not only studying but losing friends who did not pass. I got through it and passed my last test early January. It feels wonderful. I worked in my old position as licensed for almost 3 weeks, but I have now been accepted into an “apprenticeship” program where they train me in a new position! It comes with a bonus and, if I perform well, this will become my new position with a 7% raise.

I am incredibly happy to have an amazing company that pays and truly cares about their employees. Years ago, I thought I was going to have to be a lifer in the food service industry. I dont ever look down on anyone that is, but I also did not want that to be my life path. I had no idea how I could ever break out of that. Alison, just reading all the advice you have given has helped my translate my food service skills and reframe them into great interview talking points. I am incredibly grateful, and I know that I deserve this. Thank you.”

3. “I wanted to thank you for what a valuable resource that your website has been for me. I have been especially grateful for the Friday Good News posts, and I finally have some good news of my own!

My first real office job out of college was a customer service position that I took to escape retail. It was in an industry that had absolutely nothing to do with my niche liberal arts major, but thanks to your tips about cover letters, I was able to highlight my transferable skills and got the job!

After a few promotions, including one that got me mostly out of customer service, I hit a ceiling. No more opportunities for growth, and the benefits weren’t great either. I was considering moving on, and then I had a health issue that required surgery. I decided to stay put for awhile and maybe change jobs once my medical leave was over. Then the pandemic happened, so I stuck it out a bit longer because I was working from home and still had some lingering health issues, and my employer was very flexible. That flexibility ended over the summer with mandatory return to work full time, despite the delta variant. That was it, and while I had been occasionally putting in an application here or there, I ramped up into a full-blown search.

I read up on your resources and cast a wide net. It took a long time to hear back from anyone, so the Good News posts were so encouraging while I got crickets from employers. Finally, I got a few interviews, asked the magic question, and got to choose between two job offers! Both of them were in a completely different industry, but they were impressed by my materials and interviews. When I put in my notice, I got a tempting counter offer, but thanks to what I’d read on your website, I realized that what they were offering wouldn’t fix everything I was unhappy with.

I just finished my first week at my new job (with more money and better benefits!) and I’m really excited about the work! Thank you for all of your wonderful advice, and thanks for sharing the Good News posts. I don’t think I would be where I am today without the knowledge you’ve shared.”

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open thread – October 8-9, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-8-9-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-8-9-2021.html#comments Fri, 08 Oct 2021 15:00:52 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22391 This post, open thread – October 8-9, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is… Continue Reading

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This post, open thread – October 8-9, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

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volunteer’s mom hangs out in our office, refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/volunteers-mom-hangs-out-in-our-office-refusing-to-comply-with-a-vaccine-mandate-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/volunteers-mom-hangs-out-in-our-office-refusing-to-comply-with-a-vaccine-mandate-and-more.html#comments Fri, 08 Oct 2021 04:03:56 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22414 This post, volunteer’s mom hangs out in our office, refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Refusing to comply with a workplace vaccine mandate Now that we’re seeing the vaccine mandates take effect, I was wondering whether the people who leave their jobs after refusing to… Continue Reading

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This post, volunteer’s mom hangs out in our office, refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Refusing to comply with a workplace vaccine mandate

Now that we’re seeing the vaccine mandates take effect, I was wondering whether the people who leave their jobs after refusing to take the vaccine would be considered to have quit or been fired.

It’s not clear-cut and will probably be up to the employer to decide what they consider it, but fired seems most logical to me since the person is refusing to comply with a condition of the job.

2. Volunteer’s mom is hanging out and distracting an employee

I manage a small nonprofit organization. It’s usually a pretty quiet and relaxed environment. We have a young girl (around 12) who volunteers for us and she’s great. Her mother has befriended one of our staff members and they spend an excessive amount of time socializing during her shift. This mother will follow our staff member around for an hour or more talking to her while she’s working. I often find them looking at photos and videos together during her shift. Our staff person enjoys this, and I realize other channels for socialization have been curtailed due to the pandemic. I feel awkward about addressing this, but it is disruptive and it does interfere with her work. What is the best way to handle this?

The easiest way is to address it is with the staff member, since you have direct control over how she spends her time at work. Let her know that the socializing has become disruptive and she needs to keep focusing on her job even if the mom is around. I’d talk with her how to message that to the mom too.

But I’m also curious about why your volunteer’s mother is hanging out in the office in the first place. If it’s because she doesn’t want to leave a kid that young there alone, you could let her know that you’re happy to have her stay but your staff need to stay focused on their work and so you’re going to set her up in a conference room instead. But if she’s just sticking around because she’s befriended your employee, it’s reasonable to explain that you’re not set up for visitors to hang out in the office (but maybe she’d like to be put to work too!).

3. How much loyalty should I have when working with recruiters?

I work in a field that has become very “hot” in the past few years. I recently had a call with an external recruiter who wanted to propose me for a position. After discussing it, I was not really interested in the position itself but I thought it could be a good idea to explain what I was looking for. They told me I could leave my resume with them and they would share it with their network so it could reach people who were working more closely to the sub-field I was interested in.

I sent my resume by email and they thanked me and said they were always available to help, and if I wanted to send my profile to any specific company I could let them know and they would intercede for me.

At this point I am not sure if I have made the correct choice in sending my resume. I thought it couldn’t hurt, but I am now scared they might send it to companies directly, without asking me first. I also wonder if this means that I cannot work with other recruiters, in case they come to me with more interesting roles. I just received a message from another recruiter, and I don’t know if it would be fine to hear about what they are proposing. How loyal do I have to be to the original recruiting company?

You don’t have to be at all loyal to the original recruiting company! It’s very common for people to work with multiple recruiters. There’s no exclusivity agreement. Go ahead and talk to that other recruiter.

Also, do not ask that first company to be your intermediary for other jobs you want to apply for! If they happen to be handling the hiring for a particular role, you’d go through them — but otherwise you should apply directly to the jobs you see that interest you. If the recruiter doesn’t have an existing relationship with that company, they won’t bring you any advantages that you wouldn’t get from applying on your own. And in fact, going through them could actually hurt you, because once a recruiter submits you for a job, they “own” your candidacy with that company (according to the terms by which companies and recruiters work together), which means the employer would need to pay them a fee if they hire you. If the company is already working with that recruiter, they expect that fee — but if they’re not, that will immediately make you a more expensive candidate than you would be otherwise. And if a company isn’t interested in using a recruiter (and many aren’t) or in using that recruiter, they’ll often just automatically nix your candidacy if a recruiter presents you.

4. If a company recently rejected me, will they keep me in mind for other jobs?

Lately I’ve been getting to the final round with companies but not getting offers. Usually I feel like I did pretty well in the interview, so probably someone else was just a better fit. (Not that I’ll ever really know.) If those companies post another job I’m qualified for, part of me wants to apply … but part of me figures they know who I am already, and they know I’m looking. If they thought I might be right for this, would they reach out to me?

Especially if it’s a small-to-medium company and I interviewed quite recently, what’s best practices? It almost feels delusional to apply to a small org that rejected me a month ago, even if it was for a different role.

You should still apply. The position could be on a different team with a different hiring manager, and that person probably doesn’t know of you at all. But even if it’s the same hiring manager, there’s no guarantee they’ll think of you. Managers often just move on to the next job they need to fill and focus on the applications they have for that one, without thinking back to other applicants they saw recently. When you’re doing interviews, it can be easy to forget about the person you talked to six weeks ago who wasn’t right for that job but might be right for this one.

So go ahead and apply! It won’t look odd. And even if it turns out that you’re not right for the second role, there’s still no shame in trying; people submit applications for second, third, even fourth jobs at the same company all the time.

5. Looking fresh after biking to work

I’m about to start my first professional job out of college in a new city. Although I’m close to public transportation, the bike commute time is 20 minutes while the train is 40. I love biking, so this is a perk, but I’m worried about ruining my work clothes and showing up sweaty! Do you (or readers who bike) have any tips on looking fresh for work after biking there, especially while managing rain and snow? (I doubt the office will have a shower.)

Let’s find out. Readers?

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how to make waiting to hear back about a job more bearable https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-to-make-waiting-to-hear-back-about-a-job-more-bearable.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-to-make-waiting-to-hear-back-about-a-job-more-bearable.html#comments Thu, 07 Oct 2021 17:59:07 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22402 This post, how to make waiting to hear back about a job more bearable , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a question about waiting to hear back about a job. I have been in the process of applying for a new position. I’ve had three interviews with the company, I know someone who works there… Continue Reading

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This post, how to make waiting to hear back about a job more bearable , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a question about waiting to hear back about a job. I have been in the process of applying for a new position. I’ve had three interviews with the company, I know someone who works there who gave me a strong recommendation, and my background matches the position very well. Two days ago, they called me for a fourth time and asked about my location and the possibility of relocation (they have remote work options). I told them that I was flexible with my location and would be happy to move to the area because I have immediate family there.

It has now been two days of silence. I am hopeful, but as a person who is a bit desperate, the wait is painful. Do you have any advice on how to make this part of the application process a bit easier? This is a very large international company and so that is why I think things may be moving a bit slowly, but I really hope to hear something soon.

First, use this time to do your due diligence on the job. It sounds like you’re very focused on wanting to get an offer — but have you also dug into the possible downsides? Have you thought through concerns you might have, investigated what other people’s experience working there has been, and read online reviews? Do you know what outstanding questions you’d want to discuss if you do get an offer? Have you thought through what you’d need to see in an offer to feel good about accepting it?

I don’t want to deflate your enthusiasm! But remember that you need to be assessing the employer as much as they’re assessing you … and when you’re very focused on Must Get Offer, that can make you leap too fast.

Second, keep applying to other jobs. That can be hard to do when you’re really hoping your job search is coming to an end. But psychologically it’s helpful to keep looking because it’ll keep you from focusing too much on this job, and it’ll reinforce that there are other jobs out there that you might also like. It also has the advantage of keeping your job search active in case you don’t get this offer, or in case the offer isn’t one you end up wanting to accept … and it can prevent you from feeling like, “Well, this is what they’re offering so I guess I have to take it.”

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update: how can I fix my procrastination problem? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-how-can-i-fix-my-procrastination-problem.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-how-can-i-fix-my-procrastination-problem.html#comments Thu, 07 Oct 2021 16:29:30 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22394 This post, update: how can I fix my procrastination problem? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer a couple of years ago wondering how to fix her procrastination problem? Here’s the update. (Warning: this mentions suicide.) It’s been several years and a pandemic since I wrote to you about my procrastination issues at work.… Continue Reading

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This post, update: how can I fix my procrastination problem? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer a couple of years ago wondering how to fix her procrastination problem? Here’s the update.

(Warning: this mentions suicide.)

It’s been several years and a pandemic since I wrote to you about my procrastination issues at work. Your answer and all the comments my letter received showed me that I was far from alone in that situation, and they helped me see that it was something that could be worked on instead of some horrible fatal flaw I had as a human being. I wish I could now say that procrastination is no longer an issue for me (alas, it still is, and as you can imagine having to work from home for close to a year did not do me any favors in that department), but what I can say is that I now understand the problem much better. I thought I would share some of what I learned on that journey for all the people out there who related to my letter.

In your original answer, the sentence that most stood out to me was this: “Being constantly terrified of getting fired and yet choosing to operate in a way that could get you fired is an interesting contradiction, and I suspect it’s not a coincidence.” When I read it, I immediately recognized it was true, and yet I couldn’t see what exactly could be the root of that behavior. Ironically, the thing that came and pushed me in the right direction turned out to have been bundled up with what triggered my procrastination problem in the first place: my brother’s accident (which I mentioned in my first letter).

In late 2019, my brother came to visit me. We watched old movies from our childhood, got a little drunk, and he told me that when the accident happened, he had intentionally gone to an unsafe road because he wanted to die. He hadn’t exactly crashed his car on purpose, but he described it as “getting what he was fishing for.” He survived, even though he was injured rather seriously. He now has some chronic pain and limited mobility, although it’s improving (he was still extremely lucky). I was shocked because although I had always had a kind of nagging sense that my brother wasn’t super happy with his life, I had no idea it was that bad. He had hidden how serious it was from pretty much everyone. I knew he’d started therapy afterwards, but I thought it was for the trauma of the accident itself. Turns out, it was for that and much, much more. He told me that he was doing so much better now, even factoring in the lingering effects of his injuries, but that even since puberty he’d been struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness. He also said that with his therapist, he’d identified the main source of his issues as emotional neglect during childhood. Since we’d both been raised by loving but largely absent workaholics, he wanted to tell me in case I had been going through something similar.

Naturally, that was right on the money. Since I was maybe 15, I’ve had frequent depressive episodes complete with suicidal ideation, insomnia, and all the bells and whistles. During my worst years, I’ve spent maybe 6 months out of 12 being intensely depressed. And just like him, I hid it from everybody — I thought I was lesser than others and therefore did not deserve help or sympathy. I didn’t mention it in my original letter because at the time, I wasn’t seeing this pattern as a very concerning symptom — I thought it was a character flaw, basically, and that I just needed to stop being so dramatic. Realizing that my brother had been going through something similar impressed onto me that this was a real issue and I needed to stop minimizing it. We made a promise to check in and support each other, cried a bunch, and a couple months later, I decided to go to therapy.

It turned out to be very good timing, because a month or two after I found my therapist, the lockdown started. My therapist’s support during the pandemic was invaluable. Aside from supporting me in my feelings of anxiety around Covid-19, she also helped me uncover many things about myself — namely how the emotional neglect I experienced as a kid had shaped my behavior. Procrastination, as it turns out, was related to that, as were the depressive episodes. I also mentioned in a comment on the original letter that I’d been diagnosed with a chronic illness not long before, and that I had been working on managing the symptoms — and it turns out, the illness itself was largely caused by the constant stress and insomnia I was experiencing. All those things fed into each other.

So, what did I learn that’s worth sharing? Well, mostly that the way our parents treat us as children becomes a blueprint for how we treat ourselves, even when we might consciously decide to treat others differently. My parents love my brother and I a lot, but when we were growing up, they ignored us most of the time. This taught me that I wasn’t important and that I was worth less than the other kids, who had parents who paid attention to them even when they didn’t do anything to earn it. I learned that my needs were not important and that to be good, I had to be quiet and wait until it was convenient for others to pay attention to me.

That’s a valid adaptation for a helpless kid stuck in a sub-optimal situation. As an adult, it’s a recipe for depression, isolation, and unfulfillment. In hindsight, I think the biggest mistake I made with my terrible sales job was to take it at all! When I did, I wasn’t particularly strapped for cash and I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. I just didn’t believe I could really do it or that I deserved it, so I when I got that sales job offer, I took it, thinking I should be thankful to at least have a steady payheck. It ended up being a traumatizing experience, I developed bad habits, and the opportunity cost was high: for most of the time I spent there, I was too apathetic to look for design jobs, and it fueled my belief that I was not good enough to work in my chosen field.

The way I’ve come to understand procrastination for me is as a form of self-neglect reproducing the neglect experienced in childhood. If you think you’re not important, then your desires, ambitions, and reputation are also not important. They’re not worth the discomfort of effort. The lure of instant gratification will win every time because there’s a core element of motivation that’s missing, even if rationally you know your career and your ability to pay the bills are important. The problem is that you’re not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth. That makes it hard to truly care about anything you’re doing.

On top of that, adults who were emotionally neglected as children usually ignore their own emotions just like their parents did, and have trouble processing them. Procrastination is rooted in not wanting to confront a negative emotion (fear, performance anxiety, etc.), often because you don’t know how to deal with it. Emotionally neglected children also typically never learn discipline from their parents (who are too disengaged to enact consequences or reinforce good behavior), so they have a hard time with self-discipline as adults. It really does make sense when you think about it — self-discipline is a skill that needs to be developed, and it’s naturally a lot stronger if you’ve been training it since you were a child.

So, the work I’m doing in therapy right now is mostly building a sense of self-worth and learning to identify and process my emotions in a healthy way. It’s been a difficult road, but I feel like I’m improving. The effects on my procrastination behaviors are still mild for now, but I started having days where somehow I just… put away social media and do things without having to fight myself too much. I go “oh, I’ll feel better once this is done” and since I care more about how I feel, it turns into motivation and motivation turns into action. When that happens, it feels like magic. In general, working on not avoiding my feelings seems to be very important to the process. After all, if I’m procrastinating because I’m anxious about failure and inadequacy, then what I’m ultimately trying to do is not feel those things. If I can get in there and actually feel them without going to pieces, then I might be able to do what I need to do without first riding the procrasti-go-round for half an hour.

I know this will not apply to all procrastinators out there, but if there’s even one or two people who recognize themselves in what I’m saying, it will have been worthwhile. To anyone who read this and went “wow, are you talking about me?” I recommend looking up the concept of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). It might provide a framework to help you understand your struggles better.

I know psychological help is hard to come by, but if you’re in a position where you can access it, do know that whoever you are, you’re worth it. I know I am, even if it took me until now to realize it. I feel like I’m in a much better place than I was when I wrote my letter and I hope things keep improving.

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how do you network in the era of Covid? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-do-you-network-in-the-era-of-covid.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/how-do-you-network-in-the-era-of-covid.html#comments Thu, 07 Oct 2021 14:59:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22393 This post, how do you network in the era of Covid? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: I live in an area with a lot of rules around the pandemic still — masks are mandated for indoor public spaces, many orgs are (wisely) still offering many things… Continue Reading

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This post, how do you network in the era of Covid? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I live in an area with a lot of rules around the pandemic still — masks are mandated for indoor public spaces, many orgs are (wisely) still offering many things online, universities and such are mandating students and staff be vaccinated to come on campus/ into the office, just to name a few. Also, I’m not American, but I live in a country that is somewhat culturally similar (okay, fine, it’s Canada).

My problem is that I feel like I need to start networking. I’m in grad school. I finish next April and I hardly know any one in my field. In the “before times,” I likely would have attempted to go to a few organizations events in a horrific and awkward and probably fruitless attempt to meet people. As it is, I don’t have time for this (grad school, internship, teaching fitness classes, family obligations, etc.) and I don’t really want to spend my limited free time at awful events where I’ll be incredibly anxious, unable to connect with others, etc. I’ve gone to networking events in the past and felt like it was a waste of time; no one is going to do me any favors because I talked to them once. If I try again, I can try to follow up later, but it makes the relationship feel so fake and contrived for me.

I have tried messaging with people in my field via social media. I would love to do informational interviews, but those also felt like a massive waste of time in the past because I want a relationship with these people, I don’t want to just milk people for information. A lot of the people I deal with at my internship are fellow interns: I’m doing my best to keep connected with them, especially those who’ve left and have other “real” jobs now, but the only staff member I have any real opportunity to deal with is my supervisor. I work in a specialized area where I don’t see much overlap between my colleagues and the people in the area I want to work in when I graduate, so while I don’t just plan to move on and never speak to my supervisor again, and I need them for a reference, it’s not like they’re a great resource for referring me to their connections in my chosen niche area. I could go on but hopefully I’ve painted a clear enough picture of my issues.

I’ve considered going to my campus career center but, beyond teaching me the basics years and years ago, I’ve found these sorts of career services to be useless. They seem great if you’re a beginner to job searching and when I didn’t really know how to interview, write a resume, or even that I *should* network (much less how). I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to provide me with updated recommendations for networking. I believe they’ll just parrot the standard recommendations which really don’t suit my circumstances or the fact that, well, the pandemic is still going on.

I don’t know where to go to learn some ideas about how to network with the world in the shape that it is in, but that’ll also give me the expansive options I need (e.g., I don’t want to be told to attend a virtual event; unless it’s a lecture, I don’t give AF).

Well … you are closing off a lot of options here! But let’s throw this out to readers to weigh in on.

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what do I do if I can’t find child care, HR asked if I’m job-searching, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-do-i-do-if-i-cant-find-child-care-hr-asked-if-im-job-searching-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/what-do-i-do-if-i-cant-find-child-care-hr-asked-if-im-job-searching-and-more.html#comments Thu, 07 Oct 2021 04:03:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22412 This post, what do I do if I can’t find child care, HR asked if I’m job-searching, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. What do I do if I can’t find child care? I’m a public schoolteacher. The past year and a half have been exhausting. Years ago, I gave up hope of… Continue Reading

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This post, what do I do if I can’t find child care, HR asked if I’m job-searching, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. What do I do if I can’t find child care?

I’m a public schoolteacher. The past year and a half have been exhausting.

Years ago, I gave up hope of ever being able to have another baby. So I was thrilled (but very surprised!) to get pregnant last fall. My pregnancy with my first child (now age six) was very high risk, so I didn’t tell anyone at my workplace for a long time. The pandemic was stressful enough and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a public miscarriage if it came to that.

Well, it didn’t come to that! I lined up a long maternity leave for myself and in July I gave birth to a baby boy and he is heavenly. But I did have a lot of health problems again, including very scary preeclampsia. I tried to be gentle with myself. Now that my son is three months, I’m feeling better and starting calling around for childcare. 

I can’t find any! I’ve called a dozen places and have added myself to half a dozen wait lists but these aren’t short lists. First openings are March, June, even September of 2022! What do I do? I’m going to keep searching, and I’m not scheduled to go back until the end of January, but what if I can’t find anything?

My job’s not protected past FMLA’s 12 weeks right? Can I get fired if I can’t find instant childcare? Do I just request more unpaid leave and cross my fingers? How soon do I tell my employer, and what do I say?

I’m embarrassed I didn’t start searching sooner and am kicking myself for not getting on waiting lists earlier. But pandemic teaching was so stressful and I didn’t want to jinx anything before my son was born. I know that sounds silly now, but if you’ve struggled with pregnancy … it’s hard. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

You’re right that legally your job is only protected for 12 weeks under FMLA and, in theory, an employer could fire you if you don’t return to work after that. But that doesn’t mean that’s likely — many, many employers are willing to work with people in situations like yours, especially in the weird circumstances we’re all dealing with right now.

At some point you should talk to your boss, explain the situation and how hard you’ve been looking, and ask what your options are. If you weren’t a teacher, I’d suggest raising it about six weeks before you were due to return if you still hadn’t found child care by that point. But as a teacher, the right timing might be different since presumably they’ll need to line up substitute coverage.

If you have a union, talk with them too. They may have advice for you that’s specific to your workplace.

And if you haven’t already, take that March opening if you can — that would mean only extending your leave by about a month, and that might be pretty easy for your employer to accommodate.

2. Friend’s ex won’t stop harassing her at work

A friend of mine got a great new job about 6 months ago at a very big, cool, well known company. From what she’s said it seems like she loves the environment and is thriving workwise. However, this friend, Sally, ended up getting into a relationship with another person on her team, Harry.

The relationship was short but very intense. It ended badly for a number of reasons that aren’t mine to get into, and since the break-up he’s sent her pages and pages of texts trying to aggressively convince her that she’s ‘crazy.’ After she blocked him elsewhere he even took to reaching out over the work Slack to try and convince her to meet with him so he could share some insights about what he thinks her failings were in the relationship. This prompted her to unblock him as she didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss this on work channels.

As her friends, we’ve tried giving advice like blocking him or even going to HR. The messages from Harry have often been aggressive and borderline abusive, and the sheer volume of messages probably constitutes legal harassment in some places.

We’ve been totally stumped on how to help her, because they’re in the same team and she doesn’t want to cause drama at work. She also hasn’t been there for a very long time, so may not have the social/political capital she needs to get people on her side.

Sally has set a clear boundary by saying she no longer wishes to talk about anything other than work. She’s proposed keeping things cordial at work a number of times, and he’s able to do that but continues to contact her about this outside of work. She’s scared he might retaliate and make her work life even more difficult. What advice would you give in this situation?

Your friend is being harassed by a coworker who has refused a clear request to stop. She should report it to HR.

This isn’t about whether she has enough capital as a new hire to get people on her side; her employer would have a legal (and ethical) obligation to stop the harassment even if it were her first day. It’s also not about her causing drama, because she’s not! She’s just trying to do her job. Harry is causing drama. Any reasonable person looking at this will see that.

Making things easier, it sounds like the harassment is in writing, and HR loves having things in writing.

It also doesn’t matter that some of this is happening outside of work. Because they’re coworkers, the company is legally obligated to put a stop to it regardless. They’re also legally required to ensure she doesn’t face retaliation from Harry or others for reporting it, and that’s assistance she can ask for explicitly.

Please encourage her to report it today.

3. Our “stay interviews” ask if employees are job-searching

My organization recently decided to start having “stay interviews” (like exit interviews but with people who aren’t leaving, for retention purposes). Our head of HR scheduled one with me and flat-out asked if I was looking for jobs elsewhere (she was pretty obviously reading from a list of prepared questions). She told me the interview was confidential, but given that she’s involved in promotions and raises, it seems like knowing someone is looking elsewhere would factor into that later.

I was caught a little flat-footed, since I consider myself to be prudently always looking, and told her that I wasn’t unaware of opportunities out there, since I’m on several professional network email lists.

What are your thoughts? In retrospect I wish I’d declined to answer the question entirely and maybe ended the conversation there. While I understand the idea behind stay interviews, this question felt inappropriate.

It’s a bad question! Most people who are looking won’t be comfortable sharing that — and rightly so — so your employer is unlikely to get accurate information and they’re going to freak out their staff in the process.

Your answer was good.

4. I want to ask for a different work schedule

I currently work on a 9/80 work schedule, meaning I work 80 hours in nine work days instead of 10. This is considered to be a benefit of my job, as I get every other Friday off of work.

I’ve been struggling with this schedule ever since I moved to it three months ago. With working one extra hour a day, I find myself anxious to complete everything else I have to do during my day outside of work, like walk the dog, make myself a healthy dinner, go to the gym, etc.. Sometimes I’m only able to work eight hours so I can fit the rest of my life in, but then I’m online at 10:30 pm trying to make up the extra hour, which then messes with my sleep schedule. I’m so anxious and frazzled during the work weeks that when I reach my off-Friday, all I do is lay on the couch and nap because I’m exhausted.

I want to ask to switch back to working regular eight-hour days, five days a week, but I’m afraid I’ll be viewed as lazy, unorganized, or ungrateful. How do I approach this situation and request a different work schedule without my manager being concerned or judging me?

It’s very unlikely that you’ll be viewed as lazy when you’re asking to work more days of the week. Organization shouldn’t really enter into it, and ungrateful just isn’t a concept that applies to wanting to work more traditional hours. If a schedule is leaving you frazzled and wrung out, it’s not a perk and there’s nothing to be grateful for.

Let your boss know that, having tried it for three months now, you’ve found this schedule doesn’t work for you and is making it hard for you to balance the rest of your life, and you’d like to move back to a traditional five-day schedule. Unless your company is completely closed on those Fridays or there’s some reason your team needs everyone working the exact same hours, the chances are very good that your boss will be fine with this.

5. LinkedIn profile when I don’t have much work experience to put on it

I am tired of working in retail and decided to explore other options for work, specifically in software engineering. A few places I’ve been looking at ask for a LinkedIn profile as an option. I’ve read your past posts about LinkedIn, particularly about how it’s not a critical must but a common professional trend and wondered how someone in my position might be able to use it.

I’m in my mid-twenties and have worked as a retail assistant for about nine years, but haven’t progressed to much more than that. Originally, I set off for university for an engineering degree but due to finances and a shocking lack of motivation, I flunked out badly and have no real experience in the industry. I have kept my mind occupied with coding puzzles and scientific journals, but I haven’t made anything concrete yet.

A part of me thinks I should just forgo making an account and that it may hinder rather than help if I don’t have anything of substance to post, but I would like to have all avenues covered, and if it can help, I’d like it to.

Is it worth making an account? Should I just focus on getting experience instead of one minor aspect of painting a professional picture? I realize this sounds trivial, but I’m very nervous about change and my self confidence is at an all time low.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it either way! Most employers don’t put a ton of weight on LinkedIn. If you have a profile, they might look at it. If you don’t, it won’t be a big deal. You could certainly make one and put your retail experience on it, but it shouldn’t affect things either way if you decide not to.

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boss organizes a poker game to determine end-of-year bonuses https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/boss-organizes-a-poker-game-to-determine-end-of-year-bonuses.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/boss-organizes-a-poker-game-to-determine-end-of-year-bonuses.html#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2021 17:59:30 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22409 This post, boss organizes a poker game to determine end-of-year bonuses , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Is it legal for my husband’s boss to have his employees play poker to determine their bonuses? The backstory begins last winter, when a declaration was made by the owner of the company, “Michael,” that Christmas poker… Continue Reading

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This post, boss organizes a poker game to determine end-of-year bonuses , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Is it legal for my husband’s boss to have his employees play poker to determine their bonuses?

The backstory begins last winter, when a declaration was made by the owner of the company, “Michael,” that Christmas poker would be played in the office! So Michael walks in like Santa Claus with thousands of dollars worth of quarters in his jolly sack, and the Hunger Games of bonuses ensues. Coworker was pitted against coworker, and they duked it out for coins.

My husband is apparently decent at poker and came home with about a thousand bucks (yes, in quarters) and a few new video games that he will never play. Most others weren’t so lucky, and the bottom people were given about $200 in consolation prizes, though they had worked there much longer than my husband.

I suppose it feels different this year because last year he was new, and didn’t even know if he had worked there long enough to merit any sort of bonus. But this year, he did some critical work for the company and was told he would get a big raise and bonus a few months ago. Then he was told that finances were tight for the company, so not to plan on any pay increases until next year. Now we find out that Michael used company money he could have used to compensate my husband on an extremely expensive poker prize for this year (a used Hummer).

Does he have ground to stand on legally from this experience? And if it isn’t, what do you do? File a report with the Better Business Bureau?

There’s no law against employers using ridiculous methods to determine bonuses; managers can base bonuses on pretty much anything they want as long as it’s not a specifically prohibited thing thing (like race, sex, religion, or so forth). An employer could allocate bonuses based on who drives the cleanest car or who has the best musical pitch if they wanted to. It would be terrible management, but it would be legal.

The only legal issue would be if the poker game doesn’t comply with your local gambling laws.

I’d look at what the rest of your husband’s experience has been with this employer. I’m betting it hasn’t been great since this is the action of a manager who thinks it’s okay to play games (literal ones) with people’s compensation, who tells people to expect big raises and bonuses that then don’t materialize, and who — while finances are allegedly tight — spends large sums of money on a Hummer instead of on paying people what he promised them. That suggests there’s plenty in this work environment that’s problematic beyond Hummergate, and that the poker game is just a symptom of the larger problems.

It’s a pretty good job market out there right now for a lot of people/places/fields, just saying.

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can you give an employee time to find a new job before they’re fired? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/can-you-give-an-employee-time-to-find-a-new-job-before-theyre-fired.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/can-you-give-an-employee-time-to-find-a-new-job-before-theyre-fired.html#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2021 16:29:25 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22382 This post, can you give an employee time to find a new job before they’re fired? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am going to need to fire someone for low performance even though she’s trying hard. I have already laid out a performance plan and those goals have not been met. It is 100% clear that the… Continue Reading

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This post, can you give an employee time to find a new job before they’re fired? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am going to need to fire someone for low performance even though she’s trying hard. I have already laid out a performance plan and those goals have not been met. It is 100% clear that the employee does not have what it takes for the role.

I would like to give her some time to search for another job while we look for a replacement, but how can I ensure that she will behave in a positive manner during that time, knowing she’s been fired? What steps could I take to prevent her from creating a toxic environment for the rest of the team? If this were to happen, of course we would shorten the transition, but what messaging would help to start it off on the right foot?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I accept a huge favor from my new staff members?
  • Banning significant others from attending work events
  • Unplanned absences and our review process
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the controversial calculator, the highlighter war, and other drama over office supplies https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/the-controversial-calculator-the-highlighter-war-and-other-drama-over-office-supplies.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/the-controversial-calculator-the-highlighter-war-and-other-drama-over-office-supplies.html#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2021 14:59:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22405 This post, the controversial calculator, the highlighter war, and other drama over office supplies , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Last week, we talked about drama over office supplies … and good lord did you deliver. Here are 20 of my favorite stories people shared. 1. The purple pens “I briefly was the Supply Order person, and learned REALLY fast… Continue Reading

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This post, the controversial calculator, the highlighter war, and other drama over office supplies , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Last week, we talked about drama over office supplies … and good lord did you deliver. Here are 20 of my favorite stories people shared.

1. The purple pens

“I briefly was the Supply Order person, and learned REALLY fast how passionate people are about specifics, often color. We were new and had a small budget so as instructed I bought decent pens and such, but didn’t spend more for prettiness.

Once I ordered a bunch of purple ball point pens because they were on sale for the same price as the black/blue ones, so why not have something fun. Biggest mistake of my year. I explained about the one-time sale price and that we didn’t have a budget to spend 5x more for a pretty colour, but those pens haunted me for months.

People hoarded them. People complained that someone else had two and they didn’t have any. People checked the supplies daily in case more pens had appeared. One person cried about not having one and feeling ‘so excluded’. Another said it made her feel unappreciated that we didn’t keep ordering them. People wrote PURPLE PENS!!!!! on the supplies needed list every week for months. People came to tell me they were so disappointed after each new order came in with no purple pens. Finally they stopped carrying them, thankfully, so no more people saying, ‘I checked the office supply website and they HAVE the purple pens.’

10 years later I still occasionally see one floating around the office and it all comes flooding back, though now I can laugh about it with the only other person who remembers all the purple pen passions. Of course now, we could just order them, but our current bunch of staffers don’t seem to care much as long as the pens write well.”

2. The chair

“I worked in an office where there were two fairly senior people who had a major, months-long dispute over the angle of a chair. I worked in an open office that was L shaped, and in the front of the L, there was a small waiting area, with a little loveseat and two wooden chairs. One manager though that the one chair should face THIS way, and another manager thought that the chair should face THAT way. The difference was literally about five inches.

For months, manager A would fix the chair, and manager B would walk by and move it five inches, only to be fixed later in the day by manager A, and then later manager B, etc.

But I was the only one who knew that manager B was moving the chair because I was the only one whose desk faced the L. Manager A was very vocal about how the chair was always out of place, but manager B kept her mouth shut and just casually moved it as she walked by. Manager A, who was my own manager, would interrogate me about who WHO WHO was moving the chair, and I would just shrug and say I didn’t know, maybe it just moved as people sat in it or whatever. People speculated on who the second Chair Mover was, but I was the only one who knew, and I took my secret with me when I quit that crazy place.”

3. The pencils

“At my first professional, only leads or above were allowed to get supplies (pens, highlighters etc) for their group. There was an admin who managed everything for the director in charge of all the groups and she managed the supplies. Which were kept in a locked room. Up to this point, it’s fairly normal. Not a free for all to get the supplies. A process. Bit rigid but a process.

Except that to get a new pen, pencil or highlighter, you were required to turn in the old one to prove it was used up!!! No mechanical pencils were allowed for anyone lower than a lead. The rank and file got regular pencils and had to return their stubs to get a new one. Leads got ONE stick of lead at a time for mechanical pencils. Highlighters had to be proved to be completely dead before getting a new one. No Post-Its were allowed to be requested. One notepad at a time. Everything was doled out in the smallest possible amount. When I moved to a new team in a different building, I found out that this was NOT the norm for the company. The rest of the company had a supply closet and you just took what you needed. It’s been 28 years since I left that group. The madness of it all still makes me laugh.”

4. The paper trimming

“I worked for a company where the main admin would order A4 paper and then trim the excess off to 8.5×11. This was for a few years, always ordering the A4 size. Finally, she got a new boss who asked why she did this, as it was horribly inefficient and she said it’s just how they order and that’s how she was trained. Turned out, the previous admin had been told by the exec she worked for to do this because he’d gotten some insane deal for this size. The intention was to take advantage of the price this one time and then go back to buying the standard size, but the original admin didn’t know that and trained the second admin to do the same. The new executive put and end to the practice, but now all supply orders have to go through him.”

5. The key

“I once worked at a Catholic girls high school where the very officious school secretary refused to let the PTO parents have a key to the closet where the PTO kept all its stuff. They had to check the key out every single day from Edith and then turn it back into her before they left the building. One day, the PTO president checked it out, unlocked the closet, then walked to the back door of the school and handed the key to another parent volunteer who was waiting there. That person then went to the nearest hardware store and had copies made. Edith never figured it out.”

6. The correction tape power game

“I once worked at an otherwise-excellent nonprofit agency in which the office manager was…very controlling. This was back in the typewriter era; to correct a mistake, you had to use correction tapes. She insisted that I keep the used-up tapes in their original box and would ONLY send me a new box of correction tapes after I’d sent her the box of used-up ones; this meant that, in between the time I used the last of the tapes and her sending me the new box, no corrections were possible on the typewriter. Since I worked in a branch of the agency that was several blocks away from the main office, this was NOT just a matter of walking across the hall to get new tapes! This went on until I told my supervisor (the second-in-command of the agency) about it. I’ll never know what she told the office manager, but the correction tape power game stopped immediately.”

7. The ancient pens

“My sister is 13 years older than I am. She started her first job when I started kindergarten. She brought home some branded pens that the bosses told her to take because they were awful and they were trying to run out the supply. (30k employees in the state) Blue and black would work, the red were nightmares.

I took a job there when I was 24. THEY STILL HAD THE PENS. And they tried to give them to me because I was new. I wasn’t trying to say or start anything, I just blurted, ‘Those look like the pens from 20 years ago!’

‘Oh, you know these?’

Those are the same pens?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, I know them. They don’t work. Got stuck during a spelling test!’

awkward pause and chuckle.

‘Well, there are other pens over here.’”

8. The soap

“My first post college job was at a very small office (only seven people). The office manager was a very nice older lady. I don’t know how her compensation was figured, but I always guessed that it was in some way tied to how much money she could save on supplies. She could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped.

My favorite example was the office bathroom. We only had one unisex bathroom, which really wasn’t an issue considering how small the office was. She would buy the supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, etc. She would usually go to the local dollar store for these items. She would purchase the liquid soap in a pump dispenser. When the dispenser would get about halfway empty, she would go in and fill it back up with water. She continued this process each time the dispenser got to the halfway mark, diluting the soap inside each time. Eventually, all that was left was basically water. It usually took a customer commenting to get a new bottle of soap purchased. I eventually learned to keep a bar of soap in one of those travel containers inside my desk which I used when needed. I know several other workers did the same thing. I was only at that job a short time. Not long before I left, this office manager hosted a party at her home to which I was invited. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom. On the lavatory, there was a brand new bottle of liquid soap. I couldn’t resist myself. I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it.”

9. The stapler

“One of my peers at my first job was proprietary about his stapler. I kind of got it – the company had started buying cheap plastic staplers instead of the heavy-duty, metal Swinglines we’d had for years, and the ‘good’ staplers became a hot commodity. This guy named his stapler (Annie, I think), engraved his name on it, and locked it in his desk when not using it. He had it out one day and stepped away from his desk for a few minutes and an executive assistant, unaware of the stapler drama, grabbed it on her way from the copy room to bring stuff to her boss and clients, fully planning to bring it back. This dude flips out about where ‘Annie’ is, finds out where it went and, goes into the conference room and TAKES HIS STAPLER BACK FROM THE EXECUTIVE’S HAND IN FRONT OF CLIENTS, while loudly declaring it HIS stapler. Needless to say, this was not well-received.”

10. The highlighter war

“We had two people start an all out interpersonal war over one of them ‘hogging’ all the highlighters of a particular color. My office is not stingy with office supplies – there are unmonitored supply rooms on every other floor (that are restocked weekly) as well as a central supply room. Granted, it’s harder to find a purple highlighter than yellow, but apparently this one person went through and picked up all the purple ones and locked them in their desk. The other person went to HR because they couldn’t use yellow as the bright color gave them migraines and *only* purple would do – not light blue, not green, both of which were in abundant supply everywhere. They also asserted that the highlighter hogger was doing this to them deliberately and wanted them to have migraines, miss work, and get fired and demanded HR fire the highlight hogger (still unclear on what grounds they expected this to happen).”

11. Furniture hierarchy, part one

“One of my summer internships was at a place with a policy that stated what level of chair each position was allowed. Interns got basic models with no arms, admins and people with a year of tenure got arms, senior staff got a nicer chair style with arms, and the c-suite got Aeron chairs. I’m not sure who was so bored and short on actual work that they thought writing a chair policy was a good use of time, but it was ENFORCED. One of my fellow interns worked in the c-suite and was offered a chair swap to a C-somethig-O who hated the Aeron chair… they got formally reprimanded by HR. Yet HR was still surprised when none of the interns applied for a full-time position post-graduation…”

12. Furniture hierarchy, part two

“I accidentally got an admin in trouble for getting me a credenza that was too nice for someone in my position to have. I just wanted something to hold some files and put my coffee maker on. An admin went to the warehouse of old furniture and brought me back a slightly beat-up 40 year old wooden credenza. The front-office admin got very upset because apparently only certain levels of management are allowed to have wooden furniture. So SHE took the wooden credenza (since she supported a higher level of management, apparently she deserved it?) and gave me her cast-off metal credenza. That credenza was actually in better shape and had better storage organization than the wooden one. But it was not made of precious higher-management-level wood.”

13. The calculator

“My office mostly used those large, clunky, tape-filled adding machines. As I didn’t work in accounting and simply needed a regular old calculator for basic everyday math (this was in the days before smartphones), my boss told me to request one from IT (who, oddly, handled supplies).

I made my request, and for reasons I still don’t know, a power struggle ensued regarding whether or not I could acquire said calculator. This was brought up at management meetings, emails were sent for ACTUAL WEEKS back and forth discussing the merits of my need for a basic calculator instead of using an old adding machine that was already in the supply closet, etc. It was an absolutely ridiculous overreactive shitshow that I wasn’t even really part of; managers just fired off nasty emails back and forth about it.

Someone finally brought me a supply catalog so I could pick out my calculator. THEY WERE TEN DOLLARS. TEN. DOLLARS. They must have wasted at least a grand on peoples’ time discussing the calculator purchase. I’m thrilled to say I don’t work there any longer.”

14. The grocery orders

“I used to work in an office that was very generous with supplies and more importantly food and drinks. We had granola bars, fruit, pop tarts, oatmeal, pretzels, nuts, etc. As a new college grad, the ability to eat breakfast at work was a huge perk!

The office admin was a really kind woman who would typically take requests for the grocery order if you asked nicely. So if we had creamy peanut butter but you like crunchy, you could ask and she would buy both going forward. As you can imagine, this quickly gets out of control…

It all came to a head with the drink fridge. We were ordering no less than 20 different types of soda, 6 different flavors of sparking water, and various powerades and gatorades due to requests people had made over the years. The fridge was impossible to organize logically due to the variety! The admin finally had enough and presented everyone with a survey to reduce the the drink options. We each had 15 points to allocate to drinks. So if you felt strongly about something, you could put all 15 points on your favorite option to try to keep it. The day of the survey, people were running up and down the halls strategizing the best way to ensure they could keep their favorite. In the end, I think we reduced the options in half, but the admin was still taking requests, so I have to imagine the process will have to be repeated again soon.”

15. The label maker

“At an old job we hired an office manager who was super young new grad, and as we hadn’t had an office manager for over a year at that point, they kind of just gave her the job and told her to run with it with no real guidance. A few days after she started, I opened up the supply cupboard to see every. single. item. labeled. Like she had found a label maker somewhere in the office and just thought “this is what office managers do.” So the whole time I worked there we were using stuff labeled in all caps – ‘STAPLER,’ ‘HIGHLIGHTER,’ ‘PHONE,’ et al. She grew into the role and was great at her job, but the sight of the over-labeled cabinet was equal parts insane and wholesome.”

16. The toilet paper

“During the pandemic, only a few people in my office were in daily. One of my staff apparently did not like the office toilet paper, and brought in their own. They conveniently labeled the two sides of the dispenser ‘Office supplied TP’ and ‘X’s personal TP.’ I noticed it about a month before they were going to retire and decided to ignore it. However, other staff apparently noticed and brought it up to their supervisors. (I don’t know why. Were they mad? Did they also want to bring in their own toilet paper?) Those managers took it to our facilities management team. Fortunately facilities was willing to let it go given the retirement scenario. Thank goodness. I was not sure how I was going to have the conversation about it being inappropriate to load your own supplies into the TP dispenser. (And I still wonder how in the world the staff managed that – I have no idea how those things work.)”

17. The mangos

“I was the new office manager when there hadn’t really been one before. Mondays were snack delivery day, and the most coveted was the dried mango–a plastic shopping bag full of it just got plopped on the table, a feeding frenzy ensued, and it would be gone by the end of the day.

My two mistakes were a) believing the hirers when they said I had ownership over kitchen decisions and b) letting my Psych Major brain take over. I figured everyone’s scarcity mindset was ruling them, and they were eating more mango than they wanted because they knew it would be gone soon. So I rationed it out to make it last a few days–put some in a bowl, and the rest in a tupperware in the cupboard.

Not. Popular. People went and raided the secret stash. (I had to start locking it in my desk.) People also, like…hated me. It was a terrible introduction to the office. None of my supervisors had my back and literally no one appreciated the fact that now there was mango on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Did I learn from this? Not really. I did the same thing with the cold brew concentrate that no one was diluting. (We got permission to order two weekly boxes instead of one and I forbade anyone from opening the second box until Wednesday every week, regardless of when the first one ran out.)”

18. The vending machine

“This is very Silicon Valley, but my company got a device vending machine where you could get a new mouse the same way you could a bag of chips: one letter, 2 numbers, and it dropped down. However, you had to scan your card and that automatically tied the device back to you. I was shocked at how many people thought it was just free range for whatever and ‘bought’ 3 pairs of AirPods (one for home, one for work, and an extra just in case) and were shocked and upset when IT immediately contacted them and told them to return 2 of the pairs. It took IT one day to put lock down controls on the machine so that you could only get 1 of everything. Then, people started getting things they didn’t even need, and would keep them wrapped and new in their desks until they needed to trade them or whatever. One guy scanned for a single device every day and got caught trying to return them (without a receipt) to a store at the mall nearby. It was so wild and I could not believe how entitled everyone was. I sat right in front of the machine and would hear the most bonkers comments.

Pro tip from the IT team: when someone puts in their notice, immediately cut off their supply card access because that is when they go on a spree.”

19. The URLs

“I used to work for a company that made websites for clients. We hired a new account director who the higher-ups kept praising because she dazzled them in her interviews, but those of us in the trenches noticed that she kept dodging questions and didn’t seem to know what she was doing. The higher-ups shrugged it off when we tried to tell them.

According to the story I heard, the CEO found her poking around in the supply closet and asked if he could help her find anything.

‘Where do we keep the URLs?’ she asked. When he asked what she meant, she said, ‘I’m meeting with a prospective client in ten minutes who doesn’t know our work. They asked me to bring some URLs to the meeting.’

She was gone about a week later.”

20. The copier

“I was the department admin of a massive research university department for seven years. We were FINE for money (you have to house the students – can’t cut that department!) But OH, the crazy shit I have seen!

We had a copy machine that was 8 years old and would overheat, make ominous noises, then stop working for the day until it cooled down. But we weren’t allowed to call for repairs or ask for a new one BECAUSE. I never knew why, but WE WEREN’T. Repairs or replacement costs did not come out of our department budget. This was considered part of essential work business and the university as a whole had a 24/7 repair contract with the company. If you called, they would arrive within the hour.

I was in my twenties and it was my first office job, so I would just go, ‘Oh, X is broken’ and would do what HR told me to do and call the repair service immediately. The repair men came, got it up and running and put in a request for a new one for us as the copier was very old and out dated and a security risk. I said in passing in the next staff meeting, oh, this will be delivered X day, and IT will come later that day to make sure everyone can access the new copier.

My department director went BALLISTIC. How dare I do that? She NEEDED the old copier. She cancelled all her appointments the day the new copier was to arrive, sat next to my desk all morning, and sent the repair and install team away, giving them a stern talking to. They explained this had to be done, this was a security issue as someone could technically break into the network through this unprotected wireless connection between copier and our department computers.

IT appeared moments later as the copier guys called them to explain the situation. The junior IT staff (there were two) explained that this had to be done, this was a security issue, and the copier guys are just waiting outside. They will explain how the copier works, etc. My director dug in her heels: NO. NEW. COPIER. All of us were in our twenties and very confused with what to do with this situation. But it’s an awesome new thing? That is not broken? Hurrah new tech?

IT left, copier guys stayed outside as they were required to replace this copier. 10 mins later, the director of IT comes in. He explains the same thing, this is going to happen. My department director says NO, walks away, and locks herself in her office. I deer in headlights at the IT Director because what am I supposed to do here?

So my boss stays in her office as the copier is replaced, the IT director stays and does all the setup on everyone’s computers except our boss’, knocks multiple times on her door to get her to come out and witness training/installs/etc. Nothing, silence. Process finishes, IT Director and I had chatted gaming and Mass Effect, and then IT Director heads out with repair guys. Within moments, my boss storms out, screams at me for betrayal, unplugs my phone and says I am done working for the day, that I will be written up for my unprofessional behavior, and forces me out of the office. I had already turned in my hourly time sheet and knew I would be paid any way for the day as she had no idea how to do payroll, and this was the millionth time I was told I would be written up and never was, so I just shrugged and headed out. This was Friday afternoon.

When we returned to the office on Monday, the new copier is sitting outside the office, like physically outside the building. It has been rained on and was destroyed. Inside, the old copier (unplugged and slightly burnt as if there had been an electrical fire) was in its previous place. Our department director was no where to be found. I shrugged because this was not abnormal things for my boss to do, and called the IT Director and dean of our section of the university (my boss’ boss) to explain this was what I found when I came in, what should I do?

IT Director, Dean, Assistant Dean, and another university Dean came down and looked at everything themselves. I was given the day off while they fixed the issue, got us a new copier, and made sure there wasn’t another fire issue else where in our old 1890s aged building. Sure, whatever, its Boston in the early 2010s: I went day drinking at the Hong Kong with friends, this was not a ME problem.

We discovered later that our department director had called the repair company, demanded they bring back the old copier, which for some reason they did. But they would not remove the new one. So she hired movers out of her personal money that Saturday to remove the new copier, put back in the old one. However, some sort of fire happened inside the old copier when she plugged it back in. So she just unplugged it and left.

Tuesday rolls around, and I go into work with my other coworkers like normal. We have a new copier, all pre-set, IT Director comes by to explain to me how it works. My department director is there, working, acting like nothing is amiss. That nothing strange happened last week. My other coworkers and I looked at each other, shrugged, and just went with it because what else could we do? The next week, our department director gushed about how wonderful our new copier was, how great it was that we could afford it, etc.

She kept her job for 4 more years. She ‘survived’ our department, including me, getting laid off in 2017 and crowed about it. I was offered another job at the university, but I declined.

She did not think it was strange or suspicious that her entire staff was laid off and not her. She was let go without fanfare and no option for unemployment as she was let go for cause for theft: she had been embezzling for years. I spoke in a variety of depositions against her filed at a civil, state, and federal level. She was required to pay back her entire retirement (over two million dollars) plus restitution to the university in order to stay out of jail.”

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writing an improvement plan for a pastor, job-searching outside of business hours, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/writing-an-improvement-plan-for-a-pastor-job-searching-outside-of-business-hours-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/writing-an-improvement-plan-for-a-pastor-job-searching-outside-of-business-hours-and-more.html#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2021 04:03:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22410 This post, writing an improvement plan for a pastor, job-searching outside of business hours, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. How do we write an improvement plan for a pastor? I am on the personnel committee for my church. We work with the senior pastor in hiring, firing, job descriptions,… Continue Reading

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This post, writing an improvement plan for a pastor, job-searching outside of business hours, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. How do we write an improvement plan for a pastor?

I am on the personnel committee for my church. We work with the senior pastor in hiring, firing, job descriptions, salary requirements etc. It’s time for annual reviews which, given the nature of the role of minister, are not always data-driven and can be a bit fluffier than normal jobs. The youth pastor at our church has been there a LONG time. He’s a good guy, well loved beyond the church community. Fixture of the broader community kind of guy. Never a cross word. He always does what is asked of him. The church has supported him through several major health battles. He is well compensated for a part time role both for the area and for the job. We do have comparison reports that give frameworks for that sort of thing, if anyone was wondering how some churches determine what pastors are paid. We are southern baptist in denomination and that means the church makes the decisions on hiring and such, it’s not determined by a larger governing body.

The problem is stagnation and boredom. You’ve got teenagers coming to the senior pastor, kids who WANT to be in church, complaining of boredom in bible study. There is nothing innovative out of his department. The same events and programs are rehashed.

The committee is tasked with helping write the terms of the PIP. I’ve already said the number of students attending and number of students going to camp are no longer appropriate metrics. But how do we write a metric around being less boring? He’s already been sidelined from preaching on Sundays because it’s basically torture. Part of the PIP is giving him room to create his own exit in a way that is positive for everyone involved. If we thought money in terms of actual funding, more help, etc. would help, we’d do that but he doesn’t have any good self-reflection skills. Part of that may be due to the major health issue.

I can’t speak to the politics of the church context, but if I were writing an improvement plan around these issues, I’d do metrics based on teen engagement. For example, can you measure teens’ happiness with the programming through a survey or some other objective means of pulse-taking (maybe surveying now and in six months to measure any change)? I’d also think about what it looks like when teenagers are engaged and build metrics around that. Do engaged teens sign up for additional classes? Not drop out of current ones? Show up more regularly? There are probably metrics there that taken together will describe the goals you’d want anyone in the job to be meeting.

For innovation, you might also include something like “create two new initiatives, different from our current offerings, that generate X amount of involvement from Y population.”

But if you’re convinced that he won’t be able to meet those metrics, the better route might be to have an honest conversation with him about what you’re looking for and why you believe it’s not a match with his strengths. That’s not always the right route to take — sometimes for political or other reasons you need to demonstrate that you went through a PIP-like process — but it’s worth having it in the mix of what you’re considering.

2. Will job applications submitted outside of business hours be ignored?

My husband works in finance and I work in healthcare. He is currently job searching and claims that Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, are the only times to job search. If he job searches in the evenings or weekends, then he says his application will get buried in their piles of emails so he can’t job search then. Is that true or is he making this up? He says this is basic info that I should have been taught in college. This information is very important in how we arrange our schedules with respect to our respective careers and childcare during this pandemic, so I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

Your husband is wrong. It’s very normal to send applications during the evening or on the weekends — that’s when most employed people do it if they have jobs with regular hours, because you absolutely shouldn’t be job-searching from work — and those applications are not at any disadvantage. I’m not sure if your husband pictures a hiring manager sitting there evaluating every application as it comes in, but that’s not how it works; typically applications are looked at in batches whenever it happens to be convenient, sometimes at random times throughout the week and sometimes all at once when an application period ends. There is no reason you need to submit them during work hours; in the vast, vast majority of jobs it will make no difference at all.

If his college taught him otherwise, we can add that to the very long list of weird and wrong things that colleges have taught students about job-searching.

3. Director is so bad that everyone is leaving

About a year ago, we got a new director at the top of our company. In the last year, he has pushed back on every reasonable request, has prevented us from moving forward on a number of key projects, rejects necessary infrastructure changes and asks for new proposals, then rejects those too. He offers no options or solutions for how we can proceed when he rejects something and expects us to come up with yet another new plan that he will ultimately reject. It’s become impossible to do the most basic functions of our jobs and as a result we have lost three team members, including a manager, an interim manager is stepping down, and EVERYONE is job hunting to get away from him. One of the managers who left made it clear that the director was the reason he quit, but nothing has changed and it seems everyone is afraid to tell this director that he is impossible to work for and there are now no managers between us and the director to push back on him.

I love the company, the benefits would be hard to replicate in a new job, and ultimately I like what I do … when I can do it. Do I have any options besides fleeing a sinking ship like everyone else?

Well … you can decide that you’re willing to live with these conditions in exchange for staying in the job. I don’t mean that to sound flippant. Some people are able to make their peace with terrible managers and find ways to let the dysfunction roll off their back. If it’s worth it to you to do that to stay in the job, that’s your “any other option.”

If the “any other option” you’re looking for is a solution where you or someone else speaks truth to the new director and makes him see the light … it’s unlikely. Feedback has already been given and ignored. If you happened to be in a position where you had excellent rapport with him and he was open to feedback and you’d seen evidence he could change … well, maybe, but even then it would still be be unlikely. And since he’s at the top of your company, there’s no one above him who’s going to swoop in and make things right.

Your options are almost certainly to decide to live with things as they are or move on.

4. Are interviewers turned off that I say my son is my priority?

I am attempting to reenter the workforce after many years out of it for several reasons (school, baby, living overseas, child diagnosed with disabilities). I have had several interviews, but no offers yet. I initially started looking for part-time remote work but haven’t found jobs that I’m interested in with those parameters. So I expanded to looking at full-time remote or part-time office jobs. My interviews have all been for part-time office jobs.

When I have interviewed, I have been very clear that my hours are not flexible because I need to be available when my son is out of school and he is my priority. I am beginning to wonder if this honesty about my priorities and availability is taking me out of the running for these positions. I don’t need to work to support my family right now, but I would like to get out back in the workforce for many reasons. Should I continue to be blunt about my availability since I can afford to be picky right now? Is there a good way to phrase this? I have literally said my son is my priority and I’m sure that is not what employers want to hear.

I think it’s that your kid being your priority generally goes without saying, so when you make a point of declaring it in an interview, it sounds like you’re going to be prioritizing him in ways that go beyond what most people do, which might make you a pain for the employer (like being outraged that they expect you to work during his winter break or something like that). Try just explaining that your hours can’t be flexible because of school schedules — without the “he is my priority” part — and see if that changes anything.

5. Should I wear a button with my face on it to my new job (since we’re masked)?

I’ll be starting a new job in a few weeks. With the exception of the three people who participated in my video interview, no one knows what I look like — including the executive director and others at the in-person interview (I live in a state with indoor mask mandates). Since I’ll be masked for the foreseeable future (and probably then some since I am risk-averse), I was thinking about getting a little photo button — like about 2.5 inches round — to affix to my clothes for the first few weeks. Is this silly? I would be delighted if it became something we did as people, as I miss seeing people’s faces when I am just meeting them. But I’m not putting that on the world, haha. I don’t want to seem overeager or dorky — help! :)

I’m interested to hear other people’s reactions to this! Personally, to me it feels too … something. Other people might like it but even if they do, is there really enough benefit that it’s worth it? My answer is no … but readers, what’s your take?

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our Zoom meetings are a disorganized mess https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/our-zoom-meetings-are-a-disorganized-mess.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/our-zoom-meetings-are-a-disorganized-mess.html#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2021 17:59:57 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22406 This post, our Zoom meetings are a disorganized mess , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: This hilariously, painfully accurate TikTok dropped into my Twitter feed today. This is very true at my organization, and seems like I’m not alone. We weren’t exactly famous for starting meetings in an on-time, organized manner in… Continue Reading

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This post, our Zoom meetings are a disorganized mess , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This hilariously, painfully accurate TikTok dropped into my Twitter feed today.

This is very true at my organization, and seems like I’m not alone. We weren’t exactly famous for starting meetings in an on-time, organized manner in pre-pandemic times, and we struggled with Zoom before it was cool, but it’s definitely gotten worse. I’m getting tired of every meeting starting with five minutes of awkward digital thumb-twirling, especially since some employers, including mine, are recommending that everyone dial into meetings in perpetuity to level the playing field between remote and in-office workers.

I’m sympathetic to Zoom technical issues, spotty home internet, etc — I’ve had plenty of my own — but on some level, we’ve been doing this for 18 months, and it feels like if we establish an expectation that meetings start on time with A/V issues worked out (including calling in if your internet is spotty, etc), people should generally be able to do that by now.

I have one meeting — run by the big boss — who just says “okay, let’s get started” at one minute past the scheduled meeting time and we go, whether people are there or not. But that’s still very much the exception. Has any office fixed this on a larger scale, especially for small group meetings where you really need everyone present with tech working? Or are we stuck with “Let’s wait a few minutes — is Jim here yet? Let me ping him. Okay, let’s get started — okay, Jane, I can see you but I can’t hear you — no, I CAN’T HEAR YOU — I’ll Slack you, maybe you can’t hear me” being the norm for eternity?

It’s a people problem more than it is a tech problem. It only looks like a tech problem.

To fix it, you need the people who run your meetings to be committed to being assertive about running them well.

That means everyone who runs meetings should:

a. Let people know ahead of time that the meeting will start on time and then do what your boss is doing — just start at the scheduled time, whether everyone is there or not.

b. Let people know they’re expected to test their tech ahead of time and to call in instead of struggling with video if their internet is spotty.

c. Interrupt meetings to say things like, “Jane, you keep breaking up — can you disconnect and call in instead?” … and then keep going so the meeting isn’t sidetracked by a big discussion of what might be going on with Jane’s connection.

d. If there’s a chronic offender, reach out to that person privately and ask them to fix whatever’s going on (whether it’s asking them to be on time, or to be less disruptive when they join the call if they do need to be late, or to figure out their tech set-up or whatever it is).

e. Reflect on whether the meeting itself is structured in a way that’s causing some of this — for example, do all the attendees really need to be there (people may be straggling in because they have good reason not to prioritize their attendance), is it scheduled at a convenient time or is it right after a different meeting that always runs late, and so forth — and if so, change those things.

And then you need a culture that reinforces and supports those practices.

For some reason, a ton of people in charge of meetings don’t do half of what’s involved in running them well — whether it’s this stuff or not cutting off a monologuer or not being disciplined about using an agenda and ensuring there are clear takeaways — and the end result of all of it is that their meetings annoy their attendees and waste people’s time. Sometimes if one high-up person models good meeting practices, it’ll trickle down to everyone else … but sometimes it takes a commitment from managers to set clear expectations on this stuff and reinforce it. Unfortunately, managers can be just as bad at running meetings as anyone else, so that doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should.

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my coworker complains all day long https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-coworker-complains-all-day-long.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-coworker-complains-all-day-long.html#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2021 16:29:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22392 This post, my coworker complains all day long , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I work in IT at a mid-sized company and my coworker, who I share an office with, does a lot of complaining. IT was understaffed at this company for a long time, and we have a huge… Continue Reading

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This post, my coworker complains all day long , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work in IT at a mid-sized company and my coworker, who I share an office with, does a lot of complaining. IT was understaffed at this company for a long time, and we have a huge backlog of projects, poor management, and little support from leadership. I’ve been here for nearly four years and have worked in many different departments, so I know that these are systemic issues that do not only affect IT. I am fairly burned out, but I’m trying to push through and do a good job until I can find a job at another company.

I really like my coworker, “Chris,” who has been with the company for about nine months. We’re of a similar age, have similar hobbies, and get along great. I could see being friends and hanging out outside of work after I leave the company. We’ve both been open with each other about the fact we’re applying for new jobs.

However, he just continuously complains all day long about all of the issues here. Often when I have my head deep into some work or am writing something and need to focus, he will turn around and complain about one of the hundreds of issues here. This job is already hard enough, I’m already burned out, and while complaining together can be cathartic at times, hearing him complain all day every day is making a bad situation worse.

What I’ve tried so far is saying things like, “Yeah it sucks, but we have to try and tolerate this for now so we’re not miserable” or “Yeah, I’ve been here a long time and have seen that issue in many different forms, but we still need to try and fix what we can.”

I feel like I already know the answer is that I just need to be direct and tell him his constant complaining is making me miserable (but in nicer words somehow), but I am writing in the hopes that there may be an easier solution. I don’t want to blow up on him, but he complained almost the entire time that I wrote this letter to you (while I was trying to relax and enjoy my lunch break, no less!) and my patience is really starting to run out. What would you suggest?

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

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my employee vents to me about her job and personal life and wants constant reassurance https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employee-vents-to-me-about-her-job-and-personal-life-and-wants-constant-reassurance.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-employee-vents-to-me-about-her-job-and-personal-life-and-wants-constant-reassurance.html#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2021 14:59:58 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22404 This post, my employee vents to me about her job and personal life and wants constant reassurance , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a small business owner, managing a team of three people in addition to performing my primary job. I spend most of my day driving and working with clients while my team supports me from our… Continue Reading

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This post, my employee vents to me about her job and personal life and wants constant reassurance , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a small business owner, managing a team of three people in addition to performing my primary job. I spend most of my day driving and working with clients while my team supports me from our office or remotely from home. All roles are client-facing and we help people who are going through emotionally intense life events. It is often stressful but very rewarding work.

I’m struggling with my most recent hire. She is a hard worker and wants to do her job well, but she is a tightly wound ball of anxiety. I am constantly having to coach and reassure her, and I don’t know at what point it’s too much.

A sampling from one particularly challenging day:

– A 20-minute phone call where I had to reassure her she hasn’t been doing her job completely wrong since starting two months ago. She told me she was “freaking out” when she saw another employee state something in an email to a client that was different from her own understanding of the issue. Asking me for clarification was exactly the right response, but I spent two minutes clarifying and the remainder of the call talking her off the ledge.

– Several text messages, one about her personal finances and the shortcomings of her dental insurance, one saying “today is such a bully,” and one saying “this might be my toughest day here yet.” When I asked what was up, she didn’t have a specific problem but just said people were being difficult and there was a high volume of calls, and elaborated that she didn’t “take her day off seriously” and was feeling “burnt out.”

– An email making a scheduling request, and after I agreed to it and solicited coverage, a second email changing and greatly expanding her request. This alone wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it’s part of a larger pattern of immediately agreeing to or asking for one thing and then walking it back or changing it later.

– Multiple texts asking me to walk her through complicated workflows for which I have previously provided documentation. While I was driving.

I want to be supportive and help her succeed, but this seems like … a lot. She has huge confidence issues, needs to be reassured at least 2-3 times per week, and breaks down and cries frequently. She has told me she gets anxiety attacks when I am not present in the office, and when I am there, I’m constantly being interrupted with stories about health and financial problems. It is getting to the point where I dread the days she is working.

My question is, is it okay to ask her to only bring issues and questions to me that I can actually fix (and to do that via email if it’s not time sensitive) instead of just venting about her day and life in general? Can I start simply ignoring the texts that don’t need a response, or is it better to sit down and discuss the big picture? If I can ask her to find someone else to vent to, how do I do that without sounding like a jerk?I hate to make A Policy outlining how and when to communicate with me because my other employees seem to get this intuitively and I don’t mind the occasional text, but the volume and intensity from this one person is overwhelming and disruptive.

I’m also seeing a pattern of oversharing of personal information and could use a script to discourage this. I do try to inquire about families, school, or whatever else my employees have going on in their lives, but I don’t really have time for the blow by blow stories about difficult roommates, root canals, family disputes, and so on. More worrisome is that I’ve had direct reports do this in the past and the resulting perception of “friendship” makes it difficult for me to be an effective and objective manager.

This particular employee may not ultimately be a good fit, but I am not ready to give up yet and still see the potential for her to excel in the role. I think her problem is mainly understanding professional norms and I would love to mentor/coach her on how to better navigate the stresses at work without dumping on me.

This sounds exhausting —and really distracting when you’re trying to work (or drive!). It’s not good for her either, because she’s never going to develop independent judgment if she’s leaning on you like this. But even if that weren’t true and the set-up was great for her, you absolutely get to — and need to — put limits on it for your own sake.

So: Yes, you can indeed tell her to only bring issues and questions to you that you can fix rather than simply venting, and to do that via email instead of text if it’s not time-sensitive. And you can indeed ignore texts that don’t need a response, ideally after resetting expectations with her about how this all should work.

I think, though, that there’s a bigger issue here, which is the amount of reassurance she wants and the way her anxiety is playing out at work in general. Needing to be reassured multiple times per week, crying frequently, having anxiety attacks because you’re not there, leaning on you for constant venting about problems in her personal life — this goes beyond an employee who’s just contacting you too frequently.

If it were just a matter of the barrage of texts, I’d tell you to sit down with her and say this: “Now that you’ve been here a while and are settling in, I want to recalibrate how we’re communicating throughout the day. I’m normally running between clients and have to keep most of my communications very streamlined. From now on, I’d like you to only text me if something is time-sensitive and needs an immediate response. Otherwise, please put it in email and I’ll get to it at a convenient time.”

Ideally, you’d give some examples here to make sure you’re both on the same page about what “time-sensitive” really means. You could say something like, “So, for example, texting me about X last week was exactly right — I needed to weigh in on that in real time. But things like Y and Z are things I’d like you to put in email going forward.”

In that situation, you should also say: “I also want to ask you to be thoughtful about when you contact me in general. We’ve been having a lot of back and forth where you’ll ask me for something but then contact me again soon afterwards to change it. That’s a big increase to the number of texts and calls, so I want you to think things like X or Y through first, before you contact me, so that once you do you’re sure about what we need to agree on.” Of course, there’s a danger that this will lead to a situation where she really does need to walk something back and is afraid to tell you — so you’d need to keep an eye out for that and address it right away if it happens.

But I don’t think that addresses what’s really going on in this situation. You could try it first and see! And if it doesn’t work, it’ll probably bring what’s happening into really stark relief, which could make it easier to address. But it sounds like you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands.

Instead, I think you need a conversation where you step even further back and frame it as, “How are you doing?” and “My sense is that you’re really overwhelmed, and I’ve realized we’re spending a lot of work time talking about that and trying to reassure you about the stressors you’re encountering, both at work and outside of it. I care about how you’re doing, but I need us to have different boundaries in place. I can’t be the person you vent to about your personal life, finances, or even your job. I’m happy to help when you run into work difficulties, but I need you to try to solve work problems on your own first and to be conscious about how much you’re leaning on me for help with how you’re doing emotionally and in your personal life. It’s not that I don’t care — I do! But because of our roles, I can’t be the person who helps you with what’s going on in those areas.”

Do you have an EAP? If so, this is the perfect time to refer her to do it. If you don’t (and with a four-person organization, I’m guessing you don’t), this is trickier. But all you can really do is to lay out very clearly “here’s what I can help you with / here’s what I can’t help with / here’s what I need from you / is there anything you need from me to help move forward within that framework?”

The clearer you can be about each of those elements, the better it will be for both of you. Giving her clear expectations of what you can and can’t accommodate will vastly increase the chances that she’ll meet those expectations (and not doing that will probably guarantee that nothing will change). It will also help you see more clearly whether there’s been enough improvement or whether she’s just not able to function in the way you need.

I think it’s pretty likely that you’re going to find that she can’t — that for whatever reason, she’s not able to work independently enough for the job to be the right one for her. But by having a clear conversation about what needs to change, you’ll be giving her an opportunity to do the job the way you need — and getting yourself much more accurate data about whether this can work out or not.

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coworker buys us things we don’t want, putting vaccination on your resume, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/coworker-buys-us-things-we-dont-want-putting-vaccination-on-your-resume-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/coworker-buys-us-things-we-dont-want-putting-vaccination-on-your-resume-and-more.html#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2021 04:03:20 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22403 This post, coworker buys us things we don’t want, putting vaccination on your resume, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Coworker wants us to reimburse her for purchases we never agreed to A coworker showed up on a Monday with a refrigerator and a microwave. She was so proud of… Continue Reading

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This post, coworker buys us things we don’t want, putting vaccination on your resume, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Coworker wants us to reimburse her for purchases we never agreed to

A coworker showed up on a Monday with a refrigerator and a microwave. She was so proud of herself. “Look what I did!” Well, the next day she was asking the other four of us to split the bill. (Mind you, we have three microwaves and two refrigerators already—just not in the actual office we occupy). She also will show up with shirts (we are nurses) she has bought for us to wear (like twinsies!) and then ask for repayment.

How can I ask her to stop making purchases without our input? How can I do it without alienating her?

It’s possible that by just declining to chip in the next few times (“no, sorry, it’s not in my budget”), she’ll get the message. But to address the pattern itself — to proactively tell her to stop in the future too — here are a few options:

* “I’m on a budget, so please don’t assume I’ll be able to chip in for something unless I’ve okayed it first.”
*“I know you’re trying to do something nice, but I don’t like to spend my paycheck at work! Please check with me before assuming I’ll chip in for something.”
* “You’ve asked us to pay you back a few times for things we didn’t know you were buying. Please check with us first, since those might not be expenses we all want to take on.”

A reasonable person won’t find any of those responses alienating, but I don’t know whether or not she’s reasonable. Still, though, if the choice is between having her constantly reaching into your wallet without your okay versus dealing with an unreasonable person being momentarily miffed, go with miffed.

2. Should I add that I’m vaccinated to my resume?

I’ve seen a number of jobs ads that include a vaccine requirement at the bottom of the listing. Would it be weird to include that I’m fully vaccinated in my resume? I live in an area where vaccine rates are not great and wouldn’t want an employer to assume I’m not.

Some people are doing this, but it’s odd and I wouldn’t recommend it. You don’t typically include medical information on a resume, and an employer that has a vaccine requirement will let you know.

3. Company wants to see my car insurance for my personal commute to work

I’m starting a new job tomorrow (my second one after college) and received an email from HR listing the items I need to bring to get set up for payroll — ID, Social Security card, etc. as expected. However, I was also told to bring proof of auto insurance, explicitly including my name and the effective date of coverage. I’ve worked a half-dozen other jobs and one full-time one aside from this, but never have I been asked about my car insurance. The job doesn’t involve any driving for the company, just transit to and from. The HR rep I spoke to indicated it’s a very big deal with the company HQ (I’m working from a branch in another state) and that if I’m caught driving to work before providing this document it could lead to termination.

I understand a company protecting itself from liability if employees drive for them or in the course of their normal workday (work errands and such) but is this common when the job doesn’t involve any driving? Mostly this is an issue because my insurance is through my parents and I’m not listed as a covered driver explicitly; this is being fixed but I won’t have a paper copy with my name on it to hand in tomorrow. Public transit is a no-go, so I’m looking at having someone drive me +1.5 hours round-trip in the morning and evening until it’s settled.

What?! No, this is bizarre.

If you need to drive your personal vehicle for business purposes, it would make sense for your employer to talk about insurance with you (either increasing your policy’s coverage at their expense, or adding you on to their own policy, depending on the situation). But getting involved with your insurance coverage for your commute is extremely odd and not a thing that’s normally done.

I wonder if it’s actually a misinterpretation — like they require proof of insurance for people who do drive as part of their jobs, and someone misinterpreted that to think they’re supposed to see it for everyone and now they’re requiring it across the board when that wasn’t how it was supposed to be set up.

I’d love to tell you to push back, but as a brand new employee who’s already been told it’s a big deal to the company, it’s probably not the right battle to fight. Any chance you can get your own policy right away? It’s usually something you can set up same-day. It’s not your employer’s business, but it’s probably the path of least resistance.

(Also, for what it’s worth, car insurance typically won’t cover people who aren’t living with the policy holder. If you’re not living with your parents, I’d be concerned about whether you’re  really covered by their policy, particularly if you’re not explicitly listed. Update: apparently that varies by state. But that’s a concern for you, not your employer!)

4. My boss is upset that she didn’t know my coworker and I live together

My company doesn’t have a no-fraternization policy (unless there’s a power differential), but they do require us to disclose romantic relationships with others in the company, and especially within the smaller departments. Recently, my supervisor pulled me aside and told me that she was very concerned because she had just learned that I was in a relationship and living with one of my coworkers. She said that she’d smoothed things over with the higher-ups and the coworker and I wouldn’t be disciplined for the non-disclosure, but she was very disappointed in us for not being open and following the policy, and implied that her view of my professional integrity and judgment was affected by this.

The thing is … we aren’t in a relationship. I do live with a coworker, and we’re very close friends, but we are very explicitly not a romantic couple (we briefly discussed dating at one time before we lived together, but both had the immediate reaction of “ew, no, you’re like family”). I tried to explain that to my supervisor, but she clearly wasn’t buying it — raising her eyebrow, pursing her lips, etc. She finally said, “Even if that was true, you still should disclose a close personal friendship if you’re living together.”

At the time, I just let it go and apologized, but I’ve been thinking about it and I’m not sure if I should bring it back up. I am a woman and my coworker is a man, so I guess it’s not that surprising that people assume we’re a couple, but since we’re not, I didn’t think our shared address was relevant. But am I wrong in that thinking? Should I have assumed that my living situation required disclosure? And should I try to talk to my boss about it again and make sure she understands that 1) I’m honestly not dating my roommate/coworker and 2) I would of course have followed the policy if I’d realized it applied to roommates as well as romantic partners?

You’re not wrong, and I bet this wouldn’t be happening if you had moved in with a female coworker.

Frankly, I would appreciate knowing if two of my employees lived together because it can bring up some of the same conflict of interest stuff that romantic relationships can — but I wouldn’t have a right to be upset if they didn’t go out of their way to tell me about it. That’s just not generally a thing you’re expected to disclose in a formal way.

Since your boss implied that you committed an ethical breach, I do think you need to bring it back up. I’d say this: “I got the sense when we spoke the other day that you didn’t believe that Cecil and I aren’t involved. I’m taken aback that you think I’d lie about that. I understand why our disclosure policy is in place and my integrity is important to me. If I’d known that the company wants roommates to disclose that they’re roommates, I’d have happily done that — but my understanding was that the policy was about romantic relationships and this is not one. I’m alarmed by your implication that this reflects on my integrity. How do I set the record straight?”

However, whether or not to pursue it depends on what you know of your boss. With some managers, it would be wiser not to keep poking at it. But otherwise, I’d want to raise it.

5. Should I tell my boss she’s a difficult manager?

I have a question about giving feedback to my supervisor. I am also in a supervisory position for the last 1.5 years. She is newer to managing as well and only moved into her position about six months before me. She’s a kind, fun person but seems to struggle with the basic aspects of managing. She is emotionally volatile and, when in a bad mood, can be rude and pouty. She also will not address concerns with people she supervises and her approach is to ignore issues or start treating them badly until they quit.

Last week, she got in a heated argument with a subordinate. She was upset that day and said to me, “Would this place be better with someone more emotionally stable running it?” I was caught off guard and did not give much response. I would like to go back to her and offer honest feedback since it seemed like she was genuinely asking. What is the best way to offer this, if at all? I’ll add that I plan to move cities in the next year and would like a positive recommendation from her so not looking to burn a bridge, but I feel I owe it to the company and her to share what I see since she is asking.

I’m not convinced she was genuinely asking. That sounds very much like something someone might say when they’re looking for reassurance. And even if she did mean it, she still might not be ready for honest feedback and could respond badly to it. Managers with the traits you described — volatile, rude, not direct — are not particularly safe ones to give honest feedback to.

You definitely don’t owe it to your boss or the company to risk the relationship or your future reference just because she raised the question! In general, give honest feedback to a manager only when they have demonstrated through their actions that it’s safe to do so. That doesn’t sound like the case here.

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update: a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-a-coworker-prayed-for-my-fiances-death-so-we-didnt-invite-her-to-our-wedding-and-now-there-is-drama.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/update-a-coworker-prayed-for-my-fiances-death-so-we-didnt-invite-her-to-our-wedding-and-now-there-is-drama.html#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2021 17:59:07 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22388 This post, update: a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter about the person who prayed for a coworker’s death, leading to a bunch of drama when she wasn’t invited to his wedding? Here’s the update — which apparently resolved before I had even printed the letter here.… Continue Reading

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This post, update: a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter about the person who prayed for a coworker’s death, leading to a bunch of drama when she wasn’t invited to his wedding? Here’s the update — which apparently resolved before I had even printed the letter here.

I wrote to you recently about my fiancé, “Ted,” who was in a car accident with his coworker, “Bob.” Their coworker, “Sally,” confessed to Ted that she had prayed if God had to let one die, she hoped it would be him. Thank you SO much for your great insights, advice, and quick response.

An update: Fortunately, this resolved very very quickly! The morning after I wrote you, Bob privately asked Ted if they could talk about the situation with Sally. Turns out, Sally does have a crush on Bob. When they returned to work after the accident, she told Bob that the thought that she might lose him made her realize she loves him. Bob said he told her he is happily married and not interested. He said that since then, she has been driving past his house repeatedly, calling his home and hanging up, sending weird texts (some continuing to be suggestive or expressing her love while others are angry, almost threatening) despite his asking her to stop.

Ted ended up telling Bob about his bizarre conversation with her. Bob said he would quietly talk to others on the team to explain why Ted didn’t want to invite her to the wedding. But Bob also decided it had all become weird enough that he needed to talk to their manager to give her a heads-up. I don’t know what happened after his meeting with the manager, but that afternoon, it was announced that Sally is no longer working there.

Ted is actively looking for a new job. We read your advice and the comments together. Ted agrees that he should’ve talked to Sally directly about how much her comments upset him. And that he should’ve given at least a vague explanation to the others as to why she was the only one excluded. We both have now learned the hard way that from now on, we need to keep boundaries between our professional and personal relationships.

Ted especially appreciates all the supportive comments regarding therapy and says he is going to make an appointment to see someone. This has definitely been a learning experience and we both sincerely appreciate the help! When you’re caught up in drama, getting an outside perspective is SO valuable. Thank you!

Sincerely, No Longer Sad

I cannot let this letter go so I wrote back and asked, “What happened with all the drama on the team? Did people end up finding out why Sally hadn’t been invited, and have things calmed down?” The answer:

Apparently Bob told everyone all that had occurred. All but one of the women has apologized to Ted, saying they should’ve known he wouldn’t exclude Sally for no reason.

Still—you were SO right. We shouldn’t have excluded one couple with no explanation! No one has heard from Sally, but someone from security came to clear out her desk. I guess based on her bizarre behavior with both Bob and Ted, she’s struggling right now with some sort of mental health issues and I hope she gets help.

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I’m constantly anxious that one of my employees will quit https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/im-constantly-anxious-that-one-of-my-employees-will-quit-2.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/im-constantly-anxious-that-one-of-my-employees-will-quit-2.html#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2021 16:29:16 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22381 This post, I’m constantly anxious that one of my employees will quit , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I manage a small team. We pay generous salaries, overtime, on-call pay, and very nice year-end bonuses. I’d like to think I am good manager – I invest in my team’s growth, I communicate expectations clearly, and… Continue Reading

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This post, I’m constantly anxious that one of my employees will quit , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I manage a small team. We pay generous salaries, overtime, on-call pay, and very nice year-end bonuses. I’d like to think I am good manager – I invest in my team’s growth, I communicate expectations clearly, and I offer genuine appreciation for good work. When something goes wrong – as it always does at some point – I’m professional and fair, and have a constructive conversation about corrective actions.

All that said, I am constantly anxious that someone is going to leave. If they request a day off in the middle of the week, I think “oh no, interviews.”

Everyone seems happy and I have no reason to think anyone is looking to leave. I check in regularly with the team to ensure everything is going well for them, but I can’t envision anyone really telling me they were job-searching if they were.

I totally get that people leaving jobs for a whole host of reasons is a normal thing. I have ensured the staff is cross-trained so I am not reliant on any one person, but as everyone is a key person, the thought of someone leaving makes me nuts. Any thoughts on how to control my stress here?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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job seekers are ghosting us on interviews and job offers https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/job-seekers-are-ghosting-us-on-interviews-and-job-offers.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/job-seekers-are-ghosting-us-on-interviews-and-job-offers.html#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2021 14:59:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22389 This post, job seekers are ghosting us on interviews and job offers , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently made a slight career change. I went from working at a nonprofit to working for a vendor I often outsourced work to, so the people I manage now do almost the same thing as the… Continue Reading

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This post, job seekers are ghosting us on interviews and job offers , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently made a slight career change. I went from working at a nonprofit to working for a vendor I often outsourced work to, so the people I manage now do almost the same thing as the people I managed previously. Part of my job is hiring, but I’m having a much harder time hiring now than I did at the nonprofit. The pay and benefits are better— we start people at more than the max rate at the nonprofit, hours are more consistent, and we offer good PTO, matching 401k, and insurance. I’ve sent out over 30 offers to interview. Nine agreed to interviews. Three didn’t show up, two failed background checks, two didn’t want to travel even though it is in the job description that 50-75% of this job is travel, and we’ve made offers to the other two but neither has responded to accept or reject. I’ve never had so many people just not respond or not show up. Is this the new normal? Was this always normal and I just never experienced it? I’m at a loss and feeling really discouraged.

To some extent it’s the new normal, yes.. In a lot of fields (not all, but a lot), it’s very much a job seeker’s market, and so candidates aren’t jumping at interviews or offers with the same interest that they did previously. Employers are seeing a lot more ghosting: people not showing up for interviews and even not showing up for jobs. It’s a reflection of the increase in options that (some) job seekers have.

If you’re thinking that it’s awfully rude of them to just ghost rather than contacting the employer to bow out … well, employers have been doing this to candidates for years — not calling for scheduled interviews and never getting back to people who interviewed with them.

Now that the balance of power has shifted, however temporarily (and maybe it’s not that temporary, who knows), the tables have turned and the ghosting is starting to go in the other direction too.

It’s rude when employers do it, and it’s rude when candidates do it. But in a lot of ways, employers set up these ground rules themselves when they treated candidates so cavalierly when the market made it easy for them to do that.

Of course, not every employer operates that way! Many managers, including me, have always been diligent about getting back to every candidate who applies for a job. But employers ghosting people has become so very much the norm that it’s no surprise that workers have decided to play by the same rules.

All that said, I suspect there’s a nonprofit/for-profit difference at play in your situation too. When you’re hiring for nonprofits, a much higher percentage of candidates will be specifically excited to work for your organization in particular, and because of that they’re inherently less likely to ghost. So you’re probably seeing that difference at work too.

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my boss threatened to sue me when I quit, Netflix on work laptops, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-boss-threatened-to-sue-me-when-i-quit-netflix-on-work-laptops-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/my-boss-threatened-to-sue-me-when-i-quit-netflix-on-work-laptops-and-more.html#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2021 04:03:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22396 This post, my boss threatened to sue me when I quit, Netflix on work laptops, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My boss threatened to sue me when I resigned I’ve been at my current company for about two years. It’s a small business where the owner is very involved in… Continue Reading

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This post, my boss threatened to sue me when I quit, Netflix on work laptops, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss threatened to sue me when I resigned

I’ve been at my current company for about two years. It’s a small business where the owner is very involved in the day to day business, so I see him regularly. He’s very hot-headed and I’ve seen him get in screaming matches with other employees before, but for the most part I’ve gotten along with him fine. That is, until I put in my notice. His company is a small one that caters to individuals only, and I am moving to a similar but much bigger company that only serves commercial businesses. I gave my whole speech about how much I appreciated my time here and outlined all my plans to help the transition along smoothly, and when I was done he asked where I was going, and when I told him he informed me that I signed a “non-compete” agreement and that I would be breaking it if I left them for the new company. I asked if he was going to pursue that in court, and he said he hadn’t decided yet.

The thing is, I know that I never signed that agreement. I’m just an office staff member and they have never required any of us to sign them, only the sales force. I asked him to provide me a copy of the agreement he said I signed, and after a day of tearing apart the office looking, he realized it didn’t exist. He still is trying to claim he could sue me because of an “implied non-compete agreement” which I think is insane, but does it have any merit? The two companies don’t serve the same customer base at all, and I’m not in a position where I’d be able to steal customers even if i wanted to because I don’t interact with them at all. Also, do I have to finish out my two weeks notice with someone who’s threatening legal action against me for quitting?

This is not a thing! Even actual, signed non-competes are often thrown out by courts as unenforceable because they’re over-reaching. A fantasy “implied” non-compete does not exist. You should tell your boss that you’re holding him to your “implied pay-out agreement” where in your head you have a document that says he has to pay you a large of sum of money when you part.

You don’t need to finish out your two weeks if he’s being abusive (and if that’s the case, there’s advice on how to handle it here). If he’s just being annoying but not abusive, it might be in your interests to finish your notice period so he can’t tell future reference-checkers that you walked off the job … but if you’re confident that you’re not going to get a good reference from him regardless, that makes the decision easier.

2. Explaining to interviewers why I took the last few months off

I’m in a new city trying to apply for jobs after taking a few months off. I resigned from my previous job in June, had a wedding, moved across the country by car, and helped my partner settle in to his graduate program. After all that, I began seriously job hunting on August 2nd and have since applied to nearly 150 positions. My responses have been limited, but I recently revamped my resume with the help of some contacts with hiring experience, so I am hopeful that good interview opportunities will happen.

Now my problem is trying to spin my growing employment gap as a positive. In my most recent interview, my interviewer bluntly asked what I had been doing since my last job. Not wanting to get into the personal reasons too deeply, I said something like, “I had the opportunity to take off a few months while moving from [home state] to [new state]. Now, I’m ready to hit the ground running at a new position.” My interviewer did not seem impressed by this answer, which made me feel that I should be working on a certificate or something to justify my break further. Is there a better way to frame this?

This is such BS. You took a few months off from working — who cares? No sensible person would. God forbid you not spend every waking moment of your life contributing to the capitalist machine.

So the answer you gave would be fine for reasonable interviewers; don’t get too thrown off by one weird person. But if you want to tweak it, I’d word it this way: “I moved from [home state] to [new state] and have been dealing with the move and getting settled in, and now I’m excited to get back to work.” It’s a small change but it leaves out the “I had an opportunity to take some time off” and just frames it as dealing with normal life/move logistics.

There’s still a small contingent of interviewers out there who were trained years ago that job candidates should never express interest in money, benefits, time off, or any of the other reasons people work. That attitude used to be more prevalent but has really changed in the last 5-10 years — but some interviewers are still stuck in that mindset. I’d argue you’re better off avoiding working for them so if they want to screen you out over that stuff, good … but not everyone has the luxury of that option, and sometimes the person interviewing you wouldn’t be the person managing you, so you might choose to play their game anyway.

3. Am I wrong about meeting etiquette?

Recently, a person in another division asked to meet with me and my boss to help with a part of a project we are all working on. I have never met this person before, but was glad to help. She set the time and location (a conference room in her department) and sent out a meeting request after confirming with us. About an hour before the meeting, she had to cancel due to an emergency and emailed both of us. I told her it was no problem to reschedule, and went about my work. About an hour later, I get an email from my boss wanting to know if I was coming to the meeting. I told him he must not have received the email, but she cancelled the meeting. He replied that she cancelled the meeting, but he did not. I was his employee and he wanted to meet to discuss the project.

Did I do something wrong? It was such a focused meeting that she requested, and she told both of us she needed to reschedule. I could see if he sent an email saying that since we are both free, could we still meet, but I heard nothing from him.

No! Most people would have responded the same way you did. Person X called a meeting and then Person X canceled the meeting, so it’s reasonable to assume the meeting is canceled. If your boss still wanted to meet with you anyway, he should have proactively let you know.

Now you’ll know going forward that your boss has strange meeting practices, but you weren’t in the wrong originally.

4. Netflix on a work computer

I work for a smallish, creative-work company, so there has never been a ton of corporate oversight. I’ve been given a work laptop because I travel some for my job, and I also use it as my main work computer at home (since the pandemic I am now mostly WFH). While I’m traveling for work, is it weird to use that laptop to watch Netflix or another mainstream streaming service after work hours?

I’ll note that I don’t download anything to the computer—I know that years ago someone got in trouble for using company bandwidth/computers to torrent movies—and I’d never stream anything I’d be afraid to be known. Think Great British Bake-Off, not X-rated stuff. On one hand I see the wisdom in using a company computer for work only … but I don’t make enough to have a personal laptop, and when I travel I don’t get a per diem or anything. I pay for my own internet at home. Again the company culture is pretty relaxed and we have a very small IT department that doesn’t seem to sweat small stuff, but I don’t want to cross an egregious line. Thoughts?

You’re fine. It’s normal to do this! If for some reason your company has a problem with it, they’ll let you know but (a) I wouldn’t expect that to happen and (b) if for some reason it does, it won’t be a big deal that you didn’t know; they’ll just say “hey, don’t do this because X” and you’ll say “okay” and that will be that.

5. Should I keep escalating customer feedback about a peer?

I have a peer (let’s call him Tom) who I frequently receive critical feedback about from shared customers. The customers prefer to go to me as I’m more responsive, but truly based on role and duties should be going to Tom. I remind the customers frequently to contact him first as I don’t want to create a scenario where I’m overstepping boundaries. Tom and I report to the same director and in the past I have passed on the feedback from customers to my director and my director acknowledges he’s working with Tom to improve. I got more complaints today – should I continue to forward to my director or leave it alone as it’s already a development area for Tom?

Ask your director! “Do you want me to continue forwarding this kind of thing to you, or should I just handle it on my own?”

That signals you’re aware it might be getting to be overkill but lets your director decide if he wants to keep hearing the feedback or not. Frankly, I’d be a little concerned if his answer is no — I can’t imagine saying that no, I don’t want to know about customer complaints about one of my employees. But this way you won’t have to guess … and because you’ll have talked about it, you won’t need to worry that it seems like you’re just harping on Tom.

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weekend open thread – October 2-3, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-2-3-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/weekend-open-thread-october-2-3-2021.html#comments Sat, 02 Oct 2021 05:00:54 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22357 This post, weekend open thread – October 2-3, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: Several People Are Typing, by Calvin Kasulke. Told entirely through Slack… Continue Reading

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This post, weekend open thread – October 2-3, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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: Several People Are Typing, by Calvin Kasulke. Told entirely through Slack messages, this is the story of an office, complete with morning meetings, out-of-touch bosses, and a cursed spreadsheet. It’s very funny.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-72.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/its-your-friday-good-news-72.html#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2021 16:00:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22359 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news! 1. I’ve been with the same company (albeit doing a couple of different jobs) for 20 years. I’ve been unhappy with my job for a while: it doesn’t interest me after doing the same thing for 10… Continue Reading

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This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news!

1. I’ve been with the same company (albeit doing a couple of different jobs) for 20 years. I’ve been unhappy with my job for a while: it doesn’t interest me after doing the same thing for 10 years, it doesn’t require a brain and the company culture is such that I’ve been complained at for leaving on time one day a week (apparently having a social life is a problem). I’ve been so stressed for so long I can’t even tell if I’m stressed any more.

After some thought about what I wanted to I decided I wanted to change careers to one in web development. Fortunately it’s one where it’s very easy to learn for free in your own time using the multitude of resources on the internet. After a couple of years of learning in my free time, this summer I decided I was ready to start looking for junior web development jobs and oh, it was hard. I was finding, on average, a job a week to apply to. One job I interviewed with said they’d had 60-odd applicants.

I was getting dispirited and had nothing on the horizon apart from this one job I’d got to the second interview of. It was the only one I interviewed for that I actually wanted, by the time I finished interviewing. I was just glad I was their last interview and only had to wait 24 hours to find out if I’d got it or not. It happened to be at the end of a week off and I was more productive in that 24 hours than I had been in the whole week, while trying to take your advice to put it out of my mind (so much easier said than done).

And I got the job! When it comes to work-life balance they are the total opposite of my current job: they complain at people if they’re still working 10 minutes after finishing time. What with long notice periods here, I don’t start until November, but I am really looking forward to it (it’s just so far away…).

The coding community is amazing and have so much advice – so much that it conflicts. Wherever there was a conflict I went with your advice, and it seems to have worked. Having bought your book, I found the advice about interviews really useful (the coding community is
entirely focused on technical interviews). And particularly your advice about how to think about your achievements when they’re not easily quantified with numbers – I’d never have managed a create good resume without that.

2. This is not my news, but my daughter’s. She was invited to apply for a job that had a firm requirement for a college degree and 3-5 years’ experience. She has the experience but not the degree. I told her to go for it, she had nothing to lose. She did, and when they called the first time they asked her salary requirement. She asked for 50% more than she is making at her current position. Well, not only did she get hired, she got the salary she asked for!

The takeaway for me is, even if you don’t have all the requirements, don’t be afraid to throw your hat into the ring!

P.S. I know some of you are thinking “50%!!! What planet is she from?” But she would be giving up a company car, company paid cell phone and corporate credit card, so this is what she figured she needed to make up for this.

3. I work in an extremely niche field, and while I could move beyond that niche, I wanted to stay within it.

I’d been unhappy at my job for some time. Our workplace was a bit dysfunctional. I was supposed to work closely with someone in another group; that individual refused to acknowledge my existence if we were in-person together (in the same small conference room!) for YEARS. People were passed over for well-deserved promotions in favor of the girlfriend of a senior staff member. A favored few were sent to conferences for software we didn’t own…when there was no money in the budget for anyone to attend conferences for software we DID own. Every woman who was promoted to a management position still had to do her old job…the price of a promotion was to work crazy hours.

Then my boss left, my boss’s boss left, and my boss’s boss’s boss left in the space of two months. My new temporary grandboss was someone who’d berated me in a meeting because he didn’t believe employees should be paid for on-the-job professional development. I knew it was time for me to go.

I’d read AAM for a long time, mostly as a lurker. I saw my ideal job on LinkedIn: mostly remote, in my niche, for an extremely well-respected organization. I used your tips for my cover letter and resume. I got a call within less than 12 hours for an initial interview, and now I’m working at the only job I’ve applied for in years. EVERYONE commented on how much they loved my cover letter. I tried to use that to highlight the things they wouldn’t know from my resume, and let my personality come through. Thank you so much for that.

I did not use your skills for salary negotiation. This workplace had such good benefits that I asked for my current salary (as the benefits package meant the equivalent of a 10% increase in pay. Well, they bumped my actual pay up 20% more than I was asking for!

Now, my “ideal job” isn’t a perfect job. There are no perfect jobs. Every workplace has its quirks; no one gets along perfectly with every single person they work with; there are frustrations no matter where you work. But there is a world of difference between a workplace that values you and one that doesn’t. I hope that everyone reading this gets the opportunity to work where they are respected and can grow.

One other piece of advice I can give: I am extremely involved in organizations for my industry, and have volunteered my time in organizing conferences, participating in online forums, holding webinars to bring people together, etc. As I mentioned, this is the sort of thing my then-new grandboss frowned upon, but when I applied for this job, my (good) reputation had preceded me — my coworkers already “knew” who I was — and that was truly a deciding factor in their decision to hire me. I would highly recommend volunteering your time if your industry has educational groups., You don’t necessarily need to be the most knowledgeable person in the group; you can start by taking notes at meetings, finding speakers for webinars or conferences, and making yourself useful. I don’t look at it as networking. I’m genuinely just building relationships, making friends, and introducing people to others. But it has made a big difference in my career.

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open thread – October 1-2, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-1-2-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-1-2-2021.html#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2021 15:00:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22358 This post, open thread – October 1-2, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is… Continue Reading

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This post, open thread – October 1-2, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

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interviewing from a parked car, asking employees to solve problems on their own, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/interviewing-from-a-parked-car-asking-employees-to-solve-problems-on-their-own-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/interviewing-from-a-parked-car-asking-employees-to-solve-problems-on-their-own-and-more.html#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2021 04:03:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22379 This post, interviewing from a parked car, asking employees to solve problems on their own, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Is it bad to interview from a parked car? What are your thoughts on virtual interviews in a car (parked, of course)? Recently a hiring manager told me a candidate… Continue Reading

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This post, interviewing from a parked car, asking employees to solve problems on their own, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Is it bad to interview from a parked car?

What are your thoughts on virtual interviews in a car (parked, of course)? Recently a hiring manager told me a candidate interviewed from their car, and he was very put off. I thought perhaps the candidate was on a lunch break and that was the only private space they had. He thought it seemed more like they were running errands and squeezed this interview into their day, thus they did not take it very seriously. In general, is this a real snafu?

What on earth? No. People interview from their cars all the time because it’s the only private place they have to take a call. When there’s video involved, it make sense to acknowledge your surroundings (“Apologies for the background — I’m calling from my car since I don’t have anywhere quiet to take this call at work”) but it’s not a shocking faux pas if you don’t.

Also, even if they were squeezing in the interview in between errands … so? How is that different than squeezing it in between work meetings? Does he need them to clear an entire half-day for a 30- or 60-minute call to show appropriate deference to him? He’s an ass.

2. Should employees try to solve problems on their own before coming to me?

Am I wrong, as a manager, to think that my associates should exhaust all other avenues before asking me a question? These are professional, highly-compensated individuals.

I got upset for someone recently for asking me where the pencils are. He had to walk past six other people before getting to my office. But if I’m wrong, I need to change my attitude quickly.

I wouldn’t say people need to exhaust all other avenues before asking you a question, as a general rule. You don’t want people to spend half a day searching for an answer to something that you could tell them off the top of your head if you’re available. And you don’t want people to feel that the barrier for approaching you for help is prohibitively high.

But it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll at least attempt to solve basic problems like “where are the pencils” without involving you. If there’s a pattern of you getting those kinds of questions, that’s worth addressing (which probably means first reflecting on whether you’ve inadvertently trained them to be dependent on you, and then laying out clearer expectations for what sorts of problems people should first try to solve on their own).

3. My boss wants me to push back my start date at my new job so I can stay here longer

I’ve been working for a small company for three years. I came into a disaster and worked really hard to get things set up to work correctly/at all. But my boss doesn’t trust easily, even with years of relationship building. Many of my tasks were very rote. I told him that I was pursuing advanced skills and certification and was bored with the data entry work. I earned full certification in July.

I told my boss that I was seeing a lot of interest in my skills before I earned the certificate and requested a raise in February. He came through in July, just before I completed the certificate.

Then I was asked to train the part-time personal assistant of our owners to do the grunt work. This person is lovely and tries really hard, but has no understanding of my field or our sort of business. So not a net win.

Then my certificate came through, and my LinkedIn blew up. I accepted a great new role! Pay raise, bonus, and benefits, which my current job can’t offer. Opportunities to dig into higher level stuff and room for growth!

OldBoss is NOT HAPPY. He told me I should have told him I was looking, and given him six months notice to find and train up my replacement. (I don’t think my job requires anything like six months of training, if you hire an experienced professional.) Some of what I do is complex, but most of it is not.

Failing that, he wants me to ask my new job for a 3-4 weeks notice period. How much of a faux pas is it to go back and say, “Hey, my old job asked me for a bit more time. Can my start date be X?”

Don’t do it. It’s not a big deal to ask for a start date three to four weeks out; people do that all the time and if an employer can’t do it, they’ll let you know. But going back after your start date was already set and they’ve probably been planning around it is an inconvenience. There might be times when you need to do it anyway, because of reasons of yours. But doing it just because your old boss wants you to doesn’t warrant that.

And for the record, your old boss is ridiculous. Six months of notice? No. That is wildly outside what’s reasonable to ask or expect. Two weeks is standard. Some jobs ask for four weeks. Expecting six months is unheard of. (Occasionally some people offer six months — when their situations allow it and their employers have earned that kind of notice by making it safe to give it — but expecting it is outside of any professional norm that exists in the U.S.)

And the purpose of a notice period isn’t to train your replacement anyway. In most jobs, two weeks won’t even cover the time it takes to hire! A notice period is for wrapping up your work, transitioning key info to whoever will be filling in temporarily, and leaving documentation for the next person — that’s it.

Tell your old boss you’re sorry but you don’t have flexibility with the start date for the new job but you’re leaving behind plenty of documentation for someone to take over (and then do that) and go start your new job on the date you planned without guilt.

4. Should I mention my former homelessness in an interview?

I’m in the beginning stages of searching for a job and I’d love your input on whether it’s appropriate to mention that I was homeless at a job interview.

For context, I was homeless between the ages of 15 and 20 (I’m 29 now). My family was extremely impoverished. This period of time is the reason I was a “mature student” by the time I went to college. I was also able to take back many life skills from that period in my life. It’s the reason I’m resilient and have a growth mindset — I quite literally came from nothing to be where I am today. It’s also a huge reason I have such empathy for those around me. Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.

I’ve always treated this like my dirty little secret. I’m afraid it would sound like a sob story to an interviewer. I’m also afraid that this period of time is so far in my past that it may be considered no longer relevant, even though it continues to affect me to this day. Should I keep this period of time under wraps, or would I be able to mention it briefly when an interviewer asks about my history or strengths?

I don’t think it’s going to sound like a sob story. I do think it risks making some people uncomfortable, because some people are Very Uncomfortable with homelessness. You might decide you’re fine with that risk because you rightly don’t want to work for someone who would have that reaction. But you also might not have the luxury of that option, or just might not feel like taking that on.

All that said … usually when interviewers ask about your history or strengths, they’re asking about work history and work strengths. Even though there’s a direct line between this history and your work strengths now, stronger interview answers will usually (not 100% of the time, but usually) cite examples from work — so you might mention resilience and a growth mindset but illustrate them with examples from your work life.

But please don’t feel this a dirty secret. You might strategically decide when to share it and when not to, but anyone who would find it off-putting is revealing something unflattering about themselves, not about you.

5. Personalize your cover letters!

This is an observation, not a question, about cover letters that’s consistent with your advice, but I just want to reinforce it from my current experience. I’m a VP over a division that has several open positions, ranging from entry-level for new college graduates to executive level with a healthy six-figure salary. At every level, we are flooded with cover letters from people who repeat the info on their resume and make no effort to communicate why they are interested in THIS position at THIS organization.

For context, we are the headquarters for a large nonprofit organization in a mid-size city. The city has a lot to offer, but we aren’t Austin, TX — this isn’t a hot destination where you assume people want to move just because they want to be here. So when we get applications from people around the country who all have similar qualifications, a candidate stands out when they give some indication that they have a particular interest in being here, in this city or at this organization. At least make the effort! “I’ve always been interested in aviation and would love to live in Dayton, birthplace of Orville Wright!” or “I can’t wait to try Kansas City barbeque.” With a nonprofit, it’s even easier — say that our mission matters to you and why.

I was most amazed by a candidate who has volunteered for us for several years in another city — and is a current volunteer — and didn’t mention anything about that in her cover letter! I had dismissed her resume until another person pointed it out at the end of her resume under “volunteer experience.” I was gobsmacked! It would have put her over the top with me right away, but she almost got passed over.

Amen. Cover letters, man.

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is it unprofessional to use fidget toys at work? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/09/is-it-unprofessional-to-use-fidget-toys-at-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/09/is-it-unprofessional-to-use-fidget-toys-at-work.html#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2021 17:59:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22365 This post, is it unprofessional to use fidget toys at work? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a young woman in my first post-college position, working for a public institution known for being quirky. My desk is in a large shared office with seven other fairly low-key coworkers, including my boss. I recently… Continue Reading

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This post, is it unprofessional to use fidget toys at work? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a young woman in my first post-college position, working for a public institution known for being quirky. My desk is in a large shared office with seven other fairly low-key coworkers, including my boss. I recently acquired a fidget toy and to my surprise found fiddling with it really helps with my focus, especially when reading long documents. Since then, I’ve been using it more often than not.

Will this hurt my reputation for professionalism? Seem juvenile? Drive my coworkers crazy? I don’t think I’m making noise or anything that would obviously be distracting.

Nah, you should be fine.

There’s a growing awareness of how fidget toys can help people focus — people with ADHD in particular, but others too — to the point that some companies, even highly corporate ones, now keep baskets of them set out on conference room tables.

It’s always smart to be aware of the culture you’re working in and note if it seems really out of sync or like it’s distracting the person sitting next to you, but it’s highly likely to be fine.

And even if it did seem like it raised eyebrows, that wouldn’t necessarily mean you should stop using them. It could just mean that you should explain why you use them (“I use this to help me focus; it’s sold for that purpose” provides useful context if someone thinks you’re just messing around for the hell of it), be open to trying to compromise if your focus tool turns out to be someone else’s distraction nightmare (for example, trying something quieter or smaller), and/or consider requesting a formal accommodation if something like ADHD is in play.

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