Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Mon, 14 Jun 2021 01:27:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 employer asked if we should use force to protect traditional values, working with a coworker who drops balls, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/employer-asked-if-we-should-use-force-to-protect-traditional-values-working-with-a-coworker-who-drops-balls-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/employer-asked-if-we-should-use-force-to-protect-traditional-values-working-with-a-coworker-who-drops-balls-and-more.html#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2021 04:03:09 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21820 This post, employer asked if we should use force to protect traditional values, working with a coworker who drops balls, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Job application asked if we should use force to protect traditional values I took this online assessment for a right below C-level manager position three weeks ago and I’m still thinking about this question. I’m stunned that it was asked. I’m guessing it skirts the […]

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This post, employer asked if we should use force to protect traditional values, working with a coworker who drops balls, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Job application asked if we should use force to protect traditional values

I took this online assessment for a right below C-level manager position three weeks ago and I’m still thinking about this question. I’m stunned that it was asked. I’m guessing it skirts the legal line, although is there a legal line about political beliefs? Are questions like this reasonable and should they be expected as part of the interview process?

Application question reads, "Our traditional values are disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve them." Strongly agree/agree/mildly agree/disagree/strongly disagree

Application question reads, “Our traditional values are disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve them.” Strongly agree/agree/mildly agree/disagree/strongly disagree

I wish I had taken pics of the other questions which were just as off putting: do you agree millennials need to just work and stop complaining and should universities teach more life-skills and fewer humanities classes? These questions were interspersed with the usual “I would rather x than Y” type questions. It was all normal until it went off the rails.

I guess there are non-nefarious reasons to ask these types of questions, I just can’t think of them. So, is this legal, or is it just to be used as a flashing red sign to run far and fast from this company?

It’s legal in most of the U.S. There are a couple of jurisdictions here that prohibit discriminating against candidates based on political beliefs, but most don’t. But it’s certainly not reasonable — unless the job is for an insurrectionist, in which case I guess it’s right on target.

The company is at least doing candidates the favor of letting them know right up-front what they’re like.

But nah, it’s not something you should expect to encounter, any more than having to make dinner for 20 employees and perform a choreographed dance routine, ranking whether torturing a person is worse than prostitution, or any of the myriad other ridiculous things outlier interviewers have dreamt up.

2. I don’t want to work on projects with a coworker who drops balls

I have a junior colleague who is always super-keen to collaborate on projects with me, and we have worked on a bunch of stuff together.

However, over the past few years (not only during the pandemic), she has asked to work on projects I am running and then not followed through. I have explained this messes up my timelines, and I have advised that she shouldn’t keep saying she wants to be involved in far more projects than she can clearly handle, and that she must prioritize.

She won’t let go of projects, even when she is not doing any work on them, so that all of her work falls to me but in a non-scheduled or systematic way. Usually she does a little work at the end, when I have become completely stressed or burned out, and then claims it as “our” project.

Most recently, after she didn’t respond to any emails or notices about a project she was very insistent about working on, I just ran it on my own. It was great! It was a huge project, everything was done in an orderly fashion, I wasn’t shattered at the end of it, and it was a smash hit. Just as I was feeling happy and quite proud, she realized she had missed the whole thing and started calling and emailing about how she felt she had been sidelined and wanted to stay a part of the project, and basically claiming a right of ownership over something she had no involvement in — which she insinuated was somehow my fault.

I do not want to work with this woman any more! But we work in the same field, at the same institution (I’m quite senior, she is very junior), and I need a very warm and friendly way to extract myself from any future collaborations because she will always work in my field. What can I do? We used to be so friendly, but I really do not like her at all any more.

It’s more than reasonable to decline to work on projects with her in the future. The next time she asks, say, “We’ve run into issues before when you weren’t able to finish your pieces of the work, so I don’t think it makes sense / I want to handle this one on my own / it’s not a risk I can take.” Or, if you can say it credibly, even just, “I’ve got it covered, but thanks.” But really — you’ve already talked to her about messing up your timelines by taking on more than she can handle, so this shouldn’t come as a shock to her.

3. Asking for a week off as a new hire

I don’t know how to ask my manager for some days off — or if I can at all, not having completed my probation yet.

I started a new job less than two months ago. It is my first time in a big company and first time in this role, and I am basically the last arrived and the most inexperienced. I would like to ask my manager if it is possible for me to take a week off next month (so barely three months into the job) without giving too much explanation about the reason.

On the one hand, I still am in my probation period, which lasts six months, and I have a previous working experience where time off during probation was not seen well. On the other hand, the reason is quite important. Not extremely urgent (I am an expat and need to go to my home country to get some paperwork sorted that the embassy cannot help with), but in a global pandemic, traveling in summer is a lot easier than waiting until October. But I don’t want my personal problems to be reflected on my work life, so I would rather not share this information.

Can I ask for a week off? If so, how? Will it be seen badly? I don’t know what company policy is in these cases.

It doesn’t generally look great to ask for a week off when you’ll barely be three months into the job — unless you have a compelling need for it, which you do (or unless you negotiated it when you were accepting the offer). So you’re better off sharing the reason you need the time. You don’t need to give details about exactly what the paperwork is, but saying there’s something you need to handle in-person in your home country will look better than asking for the week off so early on without explanation.

4. Employer sent me flowers the day after my interview

I recently completed an all-day virtual series of interviews for an academic posting. I sent a thank-you letter the next day. The next next day, I received a lovely plant arrangement from the selection committee.

What does this mean? Top candidate, consolation prize, caring selection committee chair, new HR policy for virtual interviews? And do I need to send a thank-you or acknowledgement for the flowers?

P.S. The note read, “Thank you very much for spending a virtual day with us. We look forward to sharing the results with you soon.” It was signed from the university (not the selection committee specifically).

Academia is its own thing and I can’t speak to what they might have dreamed up in their strange enclave, but answering this without an academia-specific slant: I would assume they’re sending plants or flowers to all their candidates, and that it doesn’t indicate anything more than “thanks for giving us a day of your time.” It’s just a nice gesture. Don’t read anything into it re: your chances.

If you haven’t already sent a post-interview follow-up note, you could include a mention of the plant in that. If you already have, you don’t really need to send anything more (but a very brief “thanks so much for the beautiful plant — what a lovely touch on top of an already great experience” email wouldn’t go amiss either).

5. Asking for lots of meet-and-greets as a new hire

I just started a new job. So far the onboarding has been mostly self-driven and not particularly well organized. I’ve had one 30-minute call with my new manager. She hasn’t really had a direct report (there is an intern and a contractor who report to her but that’s it) so she doesn’t seem familiar with the processes either. She showed me an org chart of the department as a whole and asked that I set up meet-and-greets with basically as many people as possible.

While she did send a quick intro email to the department announcing my start, I still just feel incredibly awkward cold-emailing all these people to ask for 30 minutes of time to say hi. Do you have any suggestions on how to word these emails? Or even just what to include in a subject line?

It’s really normal to do this, so don’t feel weird! And you can specifically say your manager asked you to. But I wouldn’t ask for 30 minutes unless she specifically told you to — that’s a long time for this sort of meeting.

You could just say, “Ophelia suggested I ask if you’d have time for a quick meeting to help me get to know the department and its work better. Would you have time for a short 10- or 15-minute conversation in the next week or two?” And for a subject line, you could write “quick meeting” or even “Ophelia suggested we meet.”

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weekend open thread – June 12-13, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/weekend-open-thread-june-12-13-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/weekend-open-thread-june-12-13-2021.html#comments Sat, 12 Jun 2021 04:15:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21791 This post, weekend open thread – June 12-13, 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: Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, by Elyssa Friedland. As two families who own a historic Catskills resort gather to decide whether to sell it, family […]

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This post, weekend open thread – June 12-13, 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: Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, by Elyssa Friedland. As two families who own a historic Catskills resort gather to decide whether to sell it, family drama, dysfunction, and secrets emerge. It’s funny and includes a lot of enjoyable old-timey Catskills nostalgia. (The author’s The Floating Feldmans is also good.)

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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updates: the nosy coworker, not oversharing as a manager, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-nosy-coworker-not-oversharing-as-a-manager-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-nosy-coworker-not-oversharing-as-a-manager-and-more.html#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2021 16:59:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21753 This post, updates: the nosy coworker, not oversharing as a manager, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My colleague won’t leave me alone after my former employee died I want to start with a huge thank you […]

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This post, updates: the nosy coworker, not oversharing as a manager, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My colleague won’t leave me alone after my former employee died

I want to start with a huge thank you to the AAM community. The messages of support and advice were very helpful in reframing things for myself moving forward.

Myrtle has not texted me at all since I wrote to you, but she did try to bring up my former employee’s death in our next meeting. When she asked if I had heard anything else, I responded “I am upset about [employee’s] death. Out of respect for her and her family, I think it’s important not to contribute to the rumor mill. Now what do you need from me for the X project?” Myrtle seemed a bit flustered, but did refocus and has not brought it up again.

Alison, you were right about their being a much larger pattern of boundary-crossing behavior from Myrtle. In the past, she has brought her children to work events and left them for me to babysit (ignoring my shocked “No! I cannot watch them!”). There’s more, but other details would be too specific for anonymity. Unfortunately, Flitwick and several key managers in my organization also ignore boundaries. The more time I spend in this and similar roles, the more I get the sense that overly-personal work relationships are not abnormal for my current industry and are a fact of life in my geographical area. Hopefully I can use some free resources in the next few months to train for an entirely new career, leave my current organization for good, and move somewhere else in 3-5 years.

In the meantime, I have politely declined any one-on-one meetings with Myrtle without a clear work purpose, thus severing the mentor relationship. We are having to work closely on a special project Flitwick assigned us, but as it is new for both of us it has been easier to maintain an assumption of equal footing. Flitwick and Myrtle are both on information diets – I have been practicing using your past scripts when asking for leave (sick and annual) without providing details that could be used to question my health/state of mind/need for time off. Some of the comments helped me realize that I am not nearly as good at setting (and maintaining) boundaries as I want to be, so I am going to do some self-improvement reading and see if I can find a new therapist to assist me.

2. Not over-sharing as a manager while trying to de-stigmatize mental health

I wanted to write with a very quick update, first to thank everyone for the thoughtful comments and feedback, and also to say that my anxiety level about these issues went down about 5000% when I formally changed my first name and pronouns to reflect my nonbinary gender identity. :)

I realize the gender stuff wasn’t really the focus of my question, but since coming out and changing my name, everything just feels, oof, so much easier. It’s honestly hard to explain, but it’s like a lot of things I used to really intellectualize – “how do I be exactly the right amount of honest/authentic but not uhhhh so much so that it causes problems??” – just don’t require strategizing about anymore. I just am myself and it’s out there and everything else follows from that.

(That’s not to say navigating manager-employee boundaries for the first time isn’t a challenge! It just doesn’t feel like this totally intractable mess anymore.)

Sending all my love and encouragement to any other readers who are on a gender-nonconforming-in-the-workplace journey. I believe you, and believe in you!

3. My employee gets their work done but has a terrible attitude (#2 at the link)

After reading the response and comments, I took the course of action most people had recommended: laying out the specific behaviors I’d like to see changed. I met with Jan, discussed the behaviors that were causing challenges, and shared a very brief, straightforward list of the specific actions I wanted to see as follow up. As many of the commenters suggested would happen, Jan begrudgingly agreed to it and almost immediately failed to meet the actions laid out in it.

Unfortunately, while I had initially received encouragement on developing this plan, my boss did not back me up when I went to him with this update. Instead, he directed me to pull back the plan. Going back to Jan with that had the effect of undermining whatever respect they had for me in the first place, so the situation has just gotten worse. Since it’s now clear there will be no consequences, Jan pretty much does whatever they want, including ignoring asks from me unless my boss is involved somehow. At this point, it feels like my boss should take over managing Jan, but he isn’t willing to (despite Jan asking).

Although I like my job outside of this, I am starting to explore other opportunities. I feel defeated and alone trying to navigate this situation, and I can’t see any positive outcome. I appreciate all the advice from the AAM community. Wish I had a happier update for everyone!

4. Friday good news (#1 at the link)

This is a good (but chaotic) update to the good news that I sent in in August 2020. I was the OP whose organization (Organization A) gave me a 30% raise because 1) I was extremely underpaid for my industry and 2) the need for my role (professional support staff at a nonprofit-type organization …. think IT) expanded greatly due to the pandemic. My plan after that raise had been to quit my contractor role (in a related area, but more specialized) at another organization (Organization B) so that I would have more time in my life. Well, a few months after my raise, two things happened at essentially the same time:

• Organization A drastically cut their benefits to all employees. They had “paused” employer-sponsored retirement contributions back in May 2020, but still have not outlined a plan for putting them back in place… I should note that although this organization has had to make large investments to accommodate the pandemic, they have NOT lost revenue, and I know that they got a large PPP loan. So morale in that department was already a little low, and then they rolled out a plan to eliminate the employer-provided group health insurance (during a PANDEMIC!) and instead provide “individualized health benefits counseling” where they contracted with these consultants to advise employees about joining their spouses plan, getting an ACA plan, or… and this was the real problem … getting a Christian health-sharing plan. Organization A is ecumenically Christian, but employees come from a broad spectrum of beliefs and many were not on board with the idea of having something that is explicitly not health insurance and requires signing a conservative statement of faith. During the rollout of this plan, HR and the higher ups kept emphasizing that the goal was for each employee to have equivalent or better coverage for less money, and the idea was that employees would choose an “individualized” plan, and then Organization A would pay a certain percentage of the premium. However, it eventually became clear that Organization A would only contribute to the cost of health insurance if the employee chose the plan that was recommended to them by the consultant. And, of course, many employees were recommended to get the (very inexpensive, very limited coverage) Christian health-sharing plan (including me). So, the organization effectively eliminated employer-sponsored coverage.

• One of the directors that I worked closely with at Organization B left their job somewhat unexpectedly. Knowing this, I reached out and essentially said that if they were interested in having me continue my role there, I would be interested in a full-time role. I have worked as a contractor with this organization for 2 years, and have great relationships with colleagues there. It took a few months, but eventually they offered me a full-time role with an additional 10% increase in compensation! Alison, this offer is AMAZING. I have never had good benefits before. I will be able to meaningfully save for retirement in the first time in my life.

So, here I am in 2021, soon to be making almost 40% more than I was a year ago and with 1 job for the first time since I was 16. Hopefully there are no more professional changes in my immediate future. I’ve given my two-weeks notice at Organization A and my immediate supervisor is upset, because he will be very overwhelmed when I leave, but he understands where I’m coming from. Every day I hear more complaints from other employees there about how there will be a lot of turnover (at a historically low-turnover organization) in the coming year.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/its-your-friday-goodnews-57.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/its-your-friday-goodnews-57.html#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2021 16:00:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21794 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I’ve been reading this blog for years, usually on my morning commute. I just wanted to write in with some happy job news. I am a degreed librarian with a second niche MA and have worked in libraries in some […]

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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, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’ve been reading this blog for years, usually on my morning commute. I just wanted to write in with some happy job news. I am a degreed librarian with a second niche MA and have worked in libraries in some capacity about 7 years total. My goal for many, many years was to become a specific type of librarian, and so I supplemented my library jobs with a handful of programming gigs directly related to this role. To be an “official” librarian, you need a Master’s in Library/Information Science, so I enrolled in a special library program specifically preparing students for the exact role I wanted. Extremely long story short, my grad progam absolutely killed my passion for libraries. When I graduated I spent months applying to anything-but-library jobs and was rejected or ghosted by most places I applied– and I don’t blame them! I spent my entire working life gunning for a hyper-specific career and my work experience showed it. I did have one promising interview outside the field (we’ll get to that later), and one disastrous still-in-libraries full-day interview (academia…), but that was it.

I ended up applying to one of those hyper-specific library jobs when it became financially necessary to just get a job, any job. I was offered that position, and –in the same week!– another completely unrelated to libraries position that seemed interesting and aligned with a lot of my interests. Faced with those two options, I felt like I had to pick libraries one last time, as I had never actually done the job I had spent so many years preparing for. At the time, I also couldn’t afford the lower salary. So, I accepted the position and made a lot of necessary and fulfilling changes to my department in my first six months. I didn’t magically start to love libraries, but at least I had a stable job with a decent salary. Then… the pandemic hit, and I was laid off exactly a year from my start date. As I know you’ve seen, libraries were, well, not the best places to work in a pandemic. I spent eight grueling unemployed months reading Ask a Manager, scrolling jobs-related subreddits, and sending out applications to all sorts of places. I had two interviews in that whole period, neither of which led to anything.

But then the non-library job I was offered when I first graduated was open again. I read all of your cover letter writing advice (including a particularly helpful post on career changes) and sent in a cover letter unlike any I have ever written. Looking back, I know the confidence hit from being unemployed for so long really showed through in this letter and in my first interview (!) with the company, but there’s no changing that now (I cringe at my use of the word “unconventional” TWICE). The hiring team remembered me, invited me to interview again, and I start in two weeks! I still can’t quite believe it– how often do we get do-overs?

Anyway, I really just wanted to say thank you. I’ve read so many helpful comments and posts over the years, and I’m happy to finally have something positive to show for it.

2. The pandemic really highlighted the weaknesses at my workplace (morale is non-existent as is effective communication, and favoritism runs rampant). I have been looking for a new job since last summer but even in normal times my area is over saturated with candidates for my industry. To say the least, my search has been discouraging. But, today I received an official offer for a new job! The pay is very slightly more but I’ll actually work less. From reading AAM, I’ve picked up great tips about assessing workplaces and bosses in interviews and I feel hopeful about my new employer. This position will also allow me to learn a lot more industry specific skills that I’m excited to explore. Between finally qualifying for a covid vaccine and this new opportunity, I finally feel like 2021 will be better than 2020.

3. I’m a long-time reader, occasional commenter and just wanted to give you a little bit of really good news about my job. So I’ve been working at my current employer since December 2018, and in 2019 I finally felt brave enough to come about about part of my queerness, and my Grandboss was so happy with this that I was invited to join the Employee Resource Group for LGBTQIA+ people in March 2019. Side note: I love Fergus, he is everything I want to be in a manager. Aside from being visible queer representation in a notoriously conservative industry, he’s fair and sound and really champions people from the ground up. But all that is by-the-by.

On to my more recent Good News. In aid of Trans Day of Visibility 2021 I was invited to attend a webinar by said LGBTQIA+ network that really helped to clarify some things that I had been pondering about my gender since Lockdown 1 in March 2020. I included my pronouns in my Zoom handle and was called out by the speakers as normalising neopronouns in a really positive way, and that made my mind up. I called my direct manager after the webinar and came out as nonbinary to her, and let her know that when Employer rolls out the Pronouns-in-the-email-signatures thing (hopefully HR will sign off on it in time for Pride 21) that mine would be Ey/Em/Eir as well as the She/Her that my colleagues are used to. And while she was taken by surprise she was incredibly supportive and told me she was proud of me.

I don’t know about others, but I’ve really felt like this job, which I stumbled into purely by accident, has been the best move of my life, giving me the support I needed to question both my orientation and gender and the security to come out and be supported and not fear retaliation.

I hope someday soon all employers will be as supportive and inclusive as mine.

4. Avid reader of yours and wanted to share a little good news. So throughout my adult life, I haven’t really had a solid career path that felt right. I graduated college in 2008 with a degree in Anthropology, worked at a school, did retail, and eventually got into an office admin type role which is where I thought I wanted to be. I soon felt bored and roughly a year or so into that job, my partner and I decided to up and move to BigCity nearby. I had gotten another job in sales which I hated, got back into an administrative role, got laid off from that, and then started another office admin role. I found myself bored once again but decided to use that time to study up on Excel and then on the CRM we were using. A year later, I got myself a certification for that CRM (a major, well recognized/respected certification). Eight months after that, this Monday, I accepted a role as the CRM Administrator at a different company. This came with a 44% increase in my salary which after years of struggling and undervaluing myself feels amazing (money isn’t everything, but it sure helps). Your site (and book!) have been instrumental in helping me to process through impostor syndrome, writing resumes, interviewing etc. I am so excited to begin this new chapter in my career with all the challenges and opportunities it will bring! Thank you!

5. A few years ago, I started working at a job that was a Perfect Fit for me. I loved every single day of work, I loved my director and teammates, it was everything that I hoped for. And then we got a new director, and everything changed. My job title across the company was eliminated and I was demoted, and then our team started to experience insane turnover (I was there for 4 years and had 5 directors) with most of the people at my level getting fired rather than resigning.

And then 2020 happened – I was diagnosed with severe depression and forced into a short term leave, which blew my mind. I was basically told that I needed to choose to take a leave or be fired, even though I begged them not to make me take a leave. After that happened, I polished my resume and cover letter and started to look, but given my field I knew that things were going to be tight. My profession is one of the first to get laid off/fired when the economy slides, so I knew my market was flooded with highly skilled and talented folks. I applied for a few jobs over my 3 month leave, and kept looking even as I busted my butt to keep my employment.

In February, though, a company that I’ve always wanted to work at posted a job opening that was literally a perfect fit for me. This company is one that I’ve applied at many times and never once got an interview (I was never qualified, but what’s the harm in applying, right?), are highly awarded across Canada, and a 10 minute drive from my home. So I applied, and kept my cool about it…. and they called me back! It was 3 weeks from application to offer, and I was able to negotiate an amazing total benefits package! It’s a total dream for me – everything that I love to do professionally, coupled with an amazing team!

Thanks for this amazing blog – I love the resources, I love the stories (and I’m so grateful that I’m not the only one who has experienced terrible jobs!) and I love reading your advice.

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open thread – June 11-12, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/open-thread-june-11-12-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/open-thread-june-11-12-2021.html#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2021 15:00:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21789 This post, open thread – June 11-12, 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. * […]

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This post, open thread – June 11-12, 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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do younger managers still care about thank-you notes, I don’t want to hire my ex’s father, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/do-younger-managers-still-care-about-thank-you-notes-i-dont-want-to-hire-my-exs-father-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/do-younger-managers-still-care-about-thank-you-notes-i-dont-want-to-hire-my-exs-father-and-more.html#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2021 04:03:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21810 This post, do younger managers still care about thank-you notes, I don’t want to hire my ex’s father, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Do younger hiring managers still care about thank-you notes? I’ve been on a couple of job interviews for entry-level jobs in my field and have a question about post-interview thank you letters. My rule is to always send one if the interviewer is a bit […]

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This post, do younger managers still care about thank-you notes, I don’t want to hire my ex’s father, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Do younger hiring managers still care about thank-you notes?

I’ve been on a couple of job interviews for entry-level jobs in my field and have a question about post-interview thank you letters. My rule is to always send one if the interviewer is a bit older (40+) or if the interview process is very formal.

I recently applied for a job with a start-up; the process was casual and the people who interviewed me were all around their mid-20s. Should I be sending a thank-you email after these types of interviews? I always end the interview with a clear thank you and I feel that millennials tend to see these messages as insincere and purely procedural.

Also, what is the protocol when you’re not offered the interviewer’s email at all? Is this signal that they don’t want candidates contacting them directly?

It’s generally a bad move to assume all people of a particular generation feel a certain way about anything. There are plenty of younger managers who appreciate thoughtful post-interview notes. And millennials have received the same guidance to send post-interview notes that other generations have received, so even if they’re more cynical about them, they’ll know why you’re sending it and in many cases will have sent their own. There’s a greater risk of being at a disadvantage for not sending one than for sending one. (And you know, younger managers often have older bosses … although really, we shouldn’t be playing into generational stereotypes at all. It’s not great for prospective colleagues to assume things about you based on your age, in either direction!)

If the concern is that a note will appear insincere and purely procedural, then write a note that doesn’t feel that way. Everyone should be doing anyway, since perfunctory notes are crap no matter how old the recipient is.

If you’re not offered the interviewer’s email, it usually doesn’t mean much more than that they didn’t think to offer it. You should still send the note.

2. I don’t want to be listed on a company website for safety reasons

A situation that occurred a couple of years ago still bugs me, so I’d like your take on it. At the time, I had been in my position for five years when my past came back to haunt me. Long story short, I found out that a man who had previously raped, stalked, and threatened to kill me was asking around about how to contact me. Those events happened 10 years ago, but, for hopefully obvious reasons, some fear of him remains. I choose to remain unfound by him and, when I discovered he had renewed efforts to find me, I asked my employer to remove my information from their website — information that included my full name, picture, and the location of where I go to work everyday.

For context, I was in a client-facing position, but my role served only a specific pool of people who didn’t need the website to reach me, as there were internal contacts for that. Think, someone contracted out to work with just one company and clients didn’t come from anywhere else. I was also a trusted, hard-working employee who wasn’t known for complaining or making special requests. After some discussion, I was essentially told no. They would not long-term remove my information from the website without documentation proving the threat. I don’t have, nor can I get, such documentation. One of the reasons they gave was “anyone could come in and say this and it’s important that our website represents our employees.” Aside from the fact that insinuating a rape survivor is lying is just bad, am I right to be disturbed by their stance on this or is this an expected stance? I have since moved on from this job for this, and other, reasons. Is there a more effective way to approach this issue in the future or am I now limited to non-client facing positions (which is not really a thing in my career)?

No, this is super messed up. When an employee says having their info publicly available is putting them at risk of violence, responsible companies remove that information. That can get trickier if the position by its nature is a very public one (although even then they should try to work with you to figure out how to keep you safe), but that wasn’t the situation here. Your former employer handled this terribly, and I’m sorry they made a horrible situation even worse for you.

Going forward, if you’re considering taking a job with a company that lists its staff publicly, you could raise it once you have an offer — saying something like, “I’ve had a frightening stalking situation in the past and to keep myself safe from a recurrence am careful not to put anything online revealing my location. I know you list your staff on your website and I’d need to be excluded from that for safety reasons.” A good employer will make that happen.

3. Is it okay not to want to hire my ex’s father?

I’m the hiring manager for two new roles on my team which will report to me, and I’ve dove in to LinkedIn Recruiting to encourage potential candidates to apply. In one of my searches for people to contact, a familiar name appeared in the results — my high school ex’s father.

I went to high school in a different state than I live in now, and unbeknownst to me it turns out he entered the field in which I work and moved here. My relationship with his daughter in high school was fraught with problems. She emotionally abused me, manipulated me, and cheated on me, among other things. To make matters worse, her father was borderline abusive to her at the time and I had an almost non-existent relationship with him while I was dating her. My relationship with her caused me to carry substantial baggage into future relationships for decades.

Upon seeing his name and profile in the results, I did some quick Googling to confirm it was in fact him, and it was. His profile and experience honestly match what I’m looking for in my two new hires, but after sitting and thinking about it for a few minutes, I marked him as “Not a Fit” and added a note to my coworkers that I had a previous personal history with him and could not work with him (and also noted that doesn’t mean he couldn’t work with other people in my organization).

Did I make the right choice here? On the one hand, I feel like I should be trying to find the best people to work with me and my organization, and he could very well be a strong contributor. On the other, I’m not sure I see a path to being able to viably manage him, and I’m sure his mere presence would constantly remind me of his daughter — at least for awhile.

You’re fine. This guy didn’t even apply! You just declined to try to recruit him. You have no obligation to try to recruit people you have a history with just because they’re qualified for the job.

If he applied, it would get a little trickier — but even then it’s fine to decide that you can’t objectively manage someone you have a personal history with. It’s true that this person is fairly removed from you — he’s not the one you dated, and it doesn’t sound like you had much or any contact with him yourself — but if you know you couldn’t manage him effectively, you’re not required to ignore that out of some idea of fairness. (It also wouldn’t be particularly fair to hire him into a job with a manager who doesn’t want to be around him.) You wouldn’t be expected to hire the ex, and you don’t need to hire her father either.

4. How do I gracefully reject a former employee who keeps applying for a new job with me?

I am the hiring manager for a role that becomes available from time to time, and a coworker I used to manage has applied to it pretty consistently. I am not interested in bringing them on — they bring a good amount of drama into the workplace and are generally unreliable and difficult to train.

The first time they applied, we had an internal candidate express interest in transferring to this role and I let them know that. The second time, they applied a bit late in the process, and I already had some candidates I was interviewing and moving forward with. However, that might not always be the case, and like clockwork they have applied to my most recent open position.

Do you have some messaging that I can use that would communicate that this just isn’t going to be a fit? We had discussed their performance issues in their annual reviews, so it wouldn’t come out of left field to acknowledge that it’s an issue, but it seems a little inappropriate to give that kind of feedback when I’m not their current manager.

I’d just say, “Hi Jane, thanks for your interest in the X role. I know you’ve expressed interest in it a few times so I gave it some thought and unfortunately I don’t think it’s the right match. That said, I hope you’re doing well and wish you all the best!” If there’s something you can easily offer as a reason (“we’re looking for more experience in X / stronger skills in Y / etc.”), add that in — but otherwise it’s okay to be vague.

The two of you discussed your concerns with her work when she worked for you so she should be able to put the pieces together. But if she does ask why it’s not the right fit and, assuming there’s not an easy-to-provide explanation like the ones above, it’s okay to say something like, “You have a lot of strengths, but the performance issues we were working on when you were in the X role would be prohibitive for this job.”

5. Clothes for exercising during work breaks

Thanks to lowered Covid case rates and high vaccination rates in my state, I’m thankfully done with WFH and back in the office. Unfortunately, my gym hasn’t reopened yet, so I’m looking at a summer of running and biking outdoors for exercise, either on the way in to work or during my lunch break.

I do have the ability to change clothes and shower at the office, but I still have to walk past several colleagues’ desks to get from the entrance to the locker room. I’m a woman with an, ahem, Rubenesque figure. What can I wear to work out in during the heat of summer that won’t have me squirming in embarrassment while I dash to the showers to clean up and change? We have a casual office environment, but I’m not sure I want to stroll in in runners tights and a tank top.

I try not to ever engage in physical exertion, so I’m going to throw this out to readers for suggestions.

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updates: I insulted my boss’s daughter, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-i-insulted-my-boss-daughter-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-i-insulted-my-boss-daughter-and-more.html#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2021 17:59:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21748 This post, updates: I insulted my boss’s daughter, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter (first update here) Professionally, I have little to update. I left that job and […]

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This post, updates: I insulted my boss’s daughter, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter (first update here)

Professionally, I have little to update. I left that job and the workforce to raise my children. I am no longer a Christian, and strongly disavow my previous actions while recognizing that I still bear responsibility for them. I will never allow my daughters to be treated the way I was.

2. I received an email warning me not to take the job I was just offered

I asked about two things: your thoughts on a slew of negative reviews of a CEO on Glassdoor and an anonymous email warning me not to take the job I was just offered. I took your advice and called the hiring manager (who also conducted the interview) and told him about the email – he sounded surprised and informed the CEO who called me personally. I spoke with the CEO and brought up my concerns with the abundance of negative reviews on Glassdoor and the anonymous email. He explained they recently laid off their sizeable outsourced sales team, and the company was retaliating against him. That explained the negative reviews, but not the email. For that, he said he couldn’t imagine who would send that, but apologized and hoped I would give him a chance to prove that the person sending it was wrong, and that the company was a good place to work. The CEO upped the offer by $10k and included a $5k signing bonus to show how serious he was, and I was really excited about working with the hiring manager, so I decided to accept the offer.

My second month, the head of HR was fired in a tumultuous meeting, and IT found out she was sending a lot of anonymous emails from her computer to potential, current, and former employees trying to get people worked up against the CEO.

My third month, the head of customer success, our graphic designer, and our senior sales rep all left the company. I took over customer success and discovered we had basically no relationship with most of our customers who were waiting for us to reach out and teach them how to use our software and several were threatening to revoke their credit card payments.

My fourth month the CEO cancelled the contract with our sales development rep agency, so I took over sending cold emails (which he wrote).

After two months of completely rebuilding the communication strategy, marketing automation, customer success outreach, and sales cadences, my manager told me he put in his two weeks notice and recommended I take over his role.

On my manager’s last day, at the transition meeting the CEO announced that the company was almost out of money and even if we closed every deal in our sales pipeline, it wouldn’t be enough money to cover our monthly operational costs, so he and the board decided to close the company. So instead of a going away party, we had an out of business party and I walked out of the office that day for the last time with a month’s severance.

That was on a Friday, by Monday I had a job offer from one of my (former) company’s vendors that included a nice salary bump. I was only at that company for six months, but I feel like I got six years’ worth of experience. If the company didn’t close, I probably would have started looking to move on soon – in the end, the Glassdoor reviews were right about the state of the company but for the wrong reasons. That job was my first in tech, though, and it directly lead to meeting some of the smartest, most talented people I know – many of whom are now close friends!

So I guess bottom line, if you see a bunch of negative reviews of a company or CEO on Glassdoor and somebody is motivated enough to send an anonymous email warning you not to take the job, taken together those are probably more likely signs of a troubled organization than a healthy org with the odd bad apple.

3. Using “they” pronouns in a recommendation letter without confusing people (#4 at the link)

I am the high school counselor wrote the letter to you regarding the student who let me know they were non-binary and had selected the he/they pronouns. The new name was generally associated with a female and I needed to write a recommendation letter for college. Most of the advice I got from your readers echoed yours and suggested I ask the student. One of your readers who identified as non-binary was very helpful and indicated what I thought, that they did not think that it was OK to ask if they wanted to change it back to reflect the born gender. I had to write the letter and send it at about the same time I wrote to you because- deadlines -and I have a LOT of letters to write. Calling home was iffy because we were distance learning at that time and the student is really hard to reach, he generally will not answer emails and has other issues that make calling a sketchy proposition depending on his mood. I did not mention this in my original letter but the task was a bit harder because when I write letters I do ask the students for input (community service, awards, clubs, honors, noteworthy things, etc.) and this students big thing was involvement in Girl Scouts of America. Yes, he was still involved in high school to include mentorships with younger GS.

So what I ended up doing was a change in my first sentence that went something like this:

I have known Melody “Susan” Jones (he/they) since his freshman year as his school counselor.

I did it that way for a few reasons. The name change is not a legal name change so I do have to continue to use the legal name that matches the student application but I can refer to the person as “Susan” and use the preferred pronouns and the reader will know who I am talking about. I am not writing a letter about why they are non-binary, but rather about student who happens to identify as non-binary and why I believe they are a good candidate for a recommendation committees consideration.

4. Can I tell interviewers my weakness is that I burn myself out?

Thanks so much for answering my question about talking about weaknesses and burnout in interview , and thank you to all the people that commented. It really helped me reflect and realise how problematic the pattern was, and that I was minimising its impact on myself and others. Many commenters astutely recognised this was more of a life problem than just about working habits and interview answers as I had been looking at it in terms of.

As for my update, things got a lot worse, then a lot better. Though I thought I was trying seriously to address this pattern, I ended up having such a bad ‘bust’ period that I ended up hospitalised for 2 months. It was my lowest ever point, but also the start of things turning around. When I was in hospital I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and suddenly it was like the missing piece of the puzzle had been found and my lifelong patterns that had damaged my work and personal life made more sense. I realised that my issue wasn’t just work stress, and my working habits were both caused by but also perpetuating the disorder. I started on medication which has gone a long way towards reducing the extreme swings, but also I recognise I need to change my behaviour and really take this problem seriously. It also helped in that what was previously a bad personal trait became recognised as a disability, so I have a certain amount of protection in terms of reasonable accommodations, which for me meant being redeployed to a different role that was less conducive to overwork, and where my absences would be less disruptive than in my previous role. I am now more stable and doing better at work than I have ever been, I just wish I’d realised this all and got on top of it years ago!

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updates: avoiding political talk, the feelings boss, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-avoiding-political-talk-the-feelings-boss-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-avoiding-political-talk-the-feelings-boss-and-more.html#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2021 16:29:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21754 This post, updates: avoiding political talk, the feelings boss, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. How to avoid political talk from family when working in politics Thank you so much for answering my letter about […]

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This post, updates: avoiding political talk, the feelings boss, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. How to avoid political talk from family when working in politics

Thank you so much for answering my letter about how to avoid political confrontation with family when working in politics! And thank you to the many commenters for their advice as well, I read and appreciated all of it (minus the person who assumed I was trying to force my beliefs on my family and that I lived in some progressive utopia). About a month after I wrote to you, I landed a paid full-time internship with a progressive political communications firm and loved every minute of it! I learned so much in the past four months.

My conservative grandparents who I was living with at the time were extremely supportive of my job search and so excited for me when I got the position. I used some of the advice from commenters and just kept the work I do vague, simply referring to it as “communications consulting work” and let my family fill in the blanks however they wanted. And though I did have to hear about 100 hours of Rush Limbaugh and OAN, my grandparents and I coexisted very peacefully and I was honestly so grateful to have spent so much time with them after having lived 7 hours away from them my entire life. Covid restrictions kept me from seeing some of my more argumentative family members but I’ll be moving in with my parents soon (the life of 2021 college grad) and now that all of my family is vaccinated I do think I’ll be making use of some more of your advice soon!

I’m also pleased to report that I received amazing feedback from my bosses and coworkers – so much so that they asked me to stay on as a fellow through the fall! I started my fellowship this week and I’m so happy to continue working with a team I love, doing work that I find extremely interesting and important, and gaining so much valuable experience w/ increasing responsibility! (They also mentioned we will “discuss joining the team permanently” at the end of my fellowship so *fingers crossed*). I’ve been reading your blog since my first manager recommended it to me almost 3 years ago and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without your advice!

2. My boss wants to talk about her feelings all the time (first update here)

Ultimately, a year later this terrible boss left the company. And earlier this year, I also left the company. The space has solidified for me how toxic the former boss was and how our workplace allowed it. I was recruited for a new job that was a promotion of responsibility, running a team and a big pay bump. (Not to mention, they made me the offer when I was 7 months pregnant and gave me 16 weeks of leave after I started, a workplace that really values families.) But the update today is that I got a call from another professional contact who wanted to recruit me for another job — being the terrible boss’ boss! I’m not interested in making a move, even though it too would be a great job. And the presence of the former boss definitely would have been a factor if I had been looking. But it was a little reminder, for me at least, that the tables can turn in a few short years.

3. We might have found a coworker’s suicide to-do list

Veronica saw the post and messaged me asking me if I knew about your blog, the post, etc. I feined ignorance, but she said that she knew I had written the letter and she wanted me to send the post to the owner. She wanted me to let the owner know that she was being bullied (I don’t think she was). Sometime after this, Veronica was let go (or quit?, I am unsure) and I was given her position. I think she is doing fine at another job.

4. Changing my name because of a complicated family situation (#5 at the link)

I thought I would send in a quick update and thank you to Alison and the commenters who were so helpful. I am relieved to say I was totally over-thinking it, like some of the commenters said! I told my boss and direct team members in our daily zoom check in, and everyone rolled with it pretty quickly. All I mentioned is that it is what I use socially and it came from my initials and no further questions were asked. Other colleagues immediately switched to my preferred name in emails without me having to even ask (after I changed my email signature and preferred name in our systems), and while there are a few slips of my old name people have either caught themselves or been reminded by other coworkers. I have barely had to remind anyone myself, which has been awesome.

I really appreciate the reality check that I was making it a bigger issue than it was due to my history with my given name. I’m not sure I can adequately say just how gratifying and life changing it is to hear a name that doesn’t cause me pain every time it is used. I’m proud of myself and so much happier.

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I feel mediocre compared to our new hires https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/i-feel-mediocre-compared-to-our-new-hires.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/i-feel-mediocre-compared-to-our-new-hires.html#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2021 14:59:11 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21796 This post, I feel mediocre compared to our new hires , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: I’m nearing two years in my first post college job and in the throes of a quarter life crisis. This job isn’t my passion, but it is a good paycheck while I figure things out. For context, I’ve struggled with mental health for most of […]

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This post, I feel mediocre compared to our new hires , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

I’m nearing two years in my first post college job and in the throes of a quarter life crisis. This job isn’t my passion, but it is a good paycheck while I figure things out. For context, I’ve struggled with mental health for most of my teenage and young adult life and have finally sought therapy and medication (diagnosed general anxiety disorder and panic disorder) in the last year.

Recently we’ve hired a bunch of interns for the summer and my company sent out little blurbs about them. They are all these amazing, capable humans who have done amazing things (one even did humanitarian work in Rwanda and Latin America), and I can’t help the stirrings of inadequacy in me, looking at their accomplishments. We’re in the research sector, and most of them have much more lab experience than I do, and I know any one of them could take my place and do a much better job, as I had been hired when they were desperate for people and were accepting anyone. I read their bios and am reminded of all the opportunities I could not (or chose not to) take because of my then-undiagnosed anxiety. I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault, that I wasn’t strong enough to overcome my anxiety to be able to accomplish the same things as them.

Do you have any words of wisdom or ways to be okay with my mediocrity when it feels like I’m being increasingly surrounded by smarter and more qualified people than I? I’ve never had a performance review, so I’m not certain of exactly where I stand, but what I have heard has been positive.

I don’t mean to sound like a drag or a mope, and I am really hoping our interns enjoy their experience, I don’t want to burden anyone with my own insecurities.

Readers, what’s your advice?

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frequent bathroom visits, putting an out-of-state address on your resume, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/frequent-bathroom-visits-putting-an-out-of-state-address-on-your-resume-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/frequent-bathroom-visits-putting-an-out-of-state-address-on-your-resume-and-more.html#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2021 04:03:43 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21803 This post, frequent bathroom visits, putting an out-of-state address 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. Do I need to say anything about my frequent bathroom visits? I recently started a new job. The people I work with are kind and supportive and it’s been great so far. My team has only three team members, the controller, a staff accountant, and […]

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This post, frequent bathroom visits, putting an out-of-state address 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. Do I need to say anything about my frequent bathroom visits?

I recently started a new job. The people I work with are kind and supportive and it’s been great so far. My team has only three team members, the controller, a staff accountant, and me. We share an office. I take a medication for an endocrine disorder that causes IBS-like symptoms, and I am often running to the bathroom once every hour or so. My bathroom breaks take longer than the average pee break for obvious reasons.

My boss hasn’t said anything about the frequency of my bathroom breaks but I’m used to working on larger teams where my bathroom breaks were not as apparent. There are only three of us and the bathroom is right next to our office. I know everybody poops, but I’m starting to feel self-conscious about how many times I’m in the bathroom during the day because it’s impossible to conceal where I am going when I leave the office. No one has raised an issue with this, but I worry that over time it will give the appearance that I am avoiding work. Not taking the medicine isn’t an option and there are no alternative meds for my condition, so I’m stuck with these digestive issues indefinitely.

Should I proactively approach HR with a doctor’s note explaining the situation and that I need accomodations (for frequent bathroom breaks) due to a medical condition to head off any slacker perception? Or should I wait to see if anyone raises it? This is the first time I’ve worked in a team this small and I’m starting to get embarrassed by my condition, which has never been an issue for me in the past. I need this job and I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a hard worker. What say you?

You can talk to HR if it would give you peace of mind! You don’t even need to go the doctor’s note route yet; just explain that you’re on a medication that requires frequent bathroom breaks, you don’t want it to look like you’re slacking off, and you wonder if they’d recommend getting something official on file. Or you can say something similar to your boss; if she tells you it’s fine, that might be all you need to do.

Alternately, you can leave it alone unless your boss mentions it, but it sounds like you might get some peace of mind from having the conversation so you’re not having to wonder if it’s being noticed and if wrong conclusions are being drawn.

2. Am I overreacting to my coworker’s sexualized comments?

There’s a man who works for the same company, in the same building as me. We’re not based in the same actual office and we have different bosses, but we meet in common areas and he always initiates conversation because we used to work together.

My issue is that he often makes small but sexualized comments that I find distressing. He does rank above me but because we don’t work together, I’ve been brushing it off. For example, earlier today we ran into each other and he asked me about my apartment renovations. I mentioned I was turning one of the rooms into an office and he said I should turn it into a sex dungeon. It was said in a jokey way. Another time, I mentioned watching Bridgerton and he said he started watching it but there weren’t enough “heaving bosoms,” while looking at my chest.

I am aware that he has had two cases brought against him in the past two years for bullying and sexual harassment. I mentioned it to my line manager and she brushed it off, saying he was just a creep. Anyone I’ve spoken to — friends and coworkers — about this hasn’t seem very perturbed. I do have a history of sexual trauma, so I am oversensitive. Am I overreacting? How should I deal with this?

You’re not overreacting. It’s creepy and boundary-crossing for him to keep turning work conversations to sex, and the fact that he’s had complaints against him before says he knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t misunderstand what’s appropriate for work or not realize how he’s coming across; he knows and doesn’t care.

Your boss is right that this guy is a creep, but he’s not “just” a creep — he’s someone who should be reported. Talk to HR — and mention that you initially reported it to your boss too, because they should be concerned that she brushed you off.

3. Should I put an out-of-state address on my resume?

I have been trying very unsuccessfully to get a job in my partner’s state. I work in medicine in a position that has a huge disparity in utilization depending on the state. His state is not friendly to my profession (but still has a few schools with the program so the competition continues to get stiffer). My work history is strong. The two areas I’ve worked in have provided me with a well-rounded and desirable (in most states) resume. But I cannot seem to get even an interview there. My friend suggested that I use my partner’s address when applying for jobs. While I’m sure a local address would help (and I’m up there for a quarter of each month), it feels like the wrong move (because, you know, it’s ultimately dishonest). It could be a problem with my resume, but when I have applied for jobs in my state, I don’t seem to have a problem getting an interview at the very least. I’m pretty miserable in my current job and would very much like to decrease the distance between me and my partner, so any advice is appreciated.

Use his address! You’re there a quarter of time; you’re basically splitting your time between the two states while you look for a job so you can move there permanently. Using his address should make your search easier.

Do be aware that if they think you’re local, you might be asked to come in for an interview right away (like within a day or two), and if that’s not feasible for you to do while you’re back in your original state, be prepared to say something like, “I’m in Texas right now — I’m splitting my time between Texas and Minnesota until I can make the move permanently — but I can interview by phone or video tomorrow, or if you prefer in-person, I’m planning to be back there next week.”

The other option is not to put a location on your resume at all, which has become increasingly common.

4. Cover letter plagiarism

I’m currently overseeing talent acquisition and recently noticed that many MANY candidates have taken lines verbatim from the cover letters you’ve shown as exemplars. I started to keep track and currently, for every 16 cover letters I get, I see this line at least once: “I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.”

I love that your reach is so expansive, but when I see this, it’s an automatic no. I know that you’ve encouraged readers to use their own voice and I just want to echo that. I’d hate for people to be missing out on opportunities because all of us hiring managers also follow your blog. :)

Yeah, every time I share a good cover letter here, I have to warn the writer that it will definitely be plagiarized and copied all over the internet and make sure they’re okay with that. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I warn people not to steal other people’s writing or that a cover letter only works when it’s customized to the writer; they do it anyway. I’ve even received cover letters from this site sent to me when I’m hiring. It’s ridiculous.

5. Dropping half of my last name while applying for jobs

My legal last name is hyphenated, but for family reasons I want to drop the second name and just go by the first. I’ve been using my preferred last name socially for a year but not in work contexts, and I’m not ready to change it legally yet. My first name and the first half of my hyphenated name are a bit unusual, but the second half of my hyphenated name is very unusual (imagine Janetta Forest-Googlesmythe and I want to go by Janetta Forest).

I’m in the process of looking for my first “real” postgrad job after having a few really great seasonal jobs in my field. My previous employers have offered to be references and connect me with people, and I’m so grateful but I’m worried about the logistics of my name change. Is it okay to email them using my old-name email address and ask them to refer to me by my new name, or should I switch all my communications with them to my new-name email even though that’s not how they’re used to hearing from me? Should I put on job applications that I have also gone by Forest-Googlesmythe?

Also, the email address I made for my new name includes my middle initial, which happens to be the same as the first letter of my last name. If I put the name Janetta Forest on a resume but then list the email as janettafforest@website, will they think it’s a typo and/or try to contact me at the “corrected” address? Should I put my name as Janetta F. Forest, even though I don’t want to be known as that?

1. Email your references and let them know you’re dropping Googlesmythe and going by Janetta Forest from now on. It doesn’t really matter which email address you use to do it.

2. If you want to cover all your bases, you can put a note on the list of references that you provide it to employers that says, “Some references may know me as Janetta Forest-Googlesmythe, although I’ve recently dropped the Googlesmythe.”

3. Your job applications don’t need to note that you’ve also gone by Forest-Googlesmythe (unless you encounter an application that specifically asks about other names you might be known by). You definitely don’t need it on your resume.

4. Don’t worry about the double F in your email address. Employers aren’t usually typing in your address from scratch; it’s already in their system from when you applied or they’re just hitting reply to your email. But even if someone does type it in themselves, they’re likely to use what you provided and not second-guess it. (That said, I can imagine that issue coming up in other situations, so if it’s not too late, it might be worth finding one without what might end up being a repeated nuisance to you.)

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updates: the false affair rumor, the coworker ripping artwork down, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-false-affair-rumor-the-coworker-ripping-artwork-down-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-false-affair-rumor-the-coworker-ripping-artwork-down-and-more.html#comments Wed, 09 Jun 2021 17:59:55 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21745 This post, updates: the false affair rumor, the coworker ripping artwork down, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers. 1. My employee started a false rumor that two coworkers were having an affair When Emily (manager) told me what had […]

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This post, updates: the false affair rumor, the coworker ripping artwork down, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My employee started a false rumor that two coworkers were having an affair

When Emily (manager) told me what had happened I did ask her how she wanted to handle it. We discussed our options and decided it was just time for Jane to go. She had gossip issues in the past that she was disciplined for. We knew it would take a bit of time to manage her out but that was the plan.

Because this was urgent, I spoke to Jane (the trouble maker) the very next day and said similar things to what Alison recommended. I don’t interact daily with Emily’s team as I have other locations I am responsible for, but I have a reputation for generally being easy going. I think when I spoke to Jane she was surprised at how matter of fact and assertive I was, there was no friendly banter. I told her that what she had done was completely unacceptable and that her behavior would not be allowed in the office. I discussed with her how rumors of this nature can destroy reputations and careers and Emily and I no longer trusted her. I did tell her that she had a long uphill battle of gaining trust back in the office and that all the effort in the world may never result in trust being restored. She was upset at this point, not angry (which is what I expected) but she was crying (not at all what I expected). I asked her if she thought she felt she could earn back the trust that was broken and if she felt she could move forward. She said she had been looking at other jobs and said that “maybe she should quit”. I told her that would be up to her but I encouraged her to do so. She decided that would be best. I wasn’t interested in having her work her last two weeks, so I had her write a letter of resignation, let her gather her things and that was that. I did process her out as though she gave two weeks so she wouldn’t lose all her vacation time that we pay out when proper notice is given. I thought for sure she would be combative in the meeting and I thought she would argue with me, I was surprised by the outcome but glad I didn’t have to go through the couple week process of managing her out officially.

I found out Jane got a new job a couple weeks later… as a manager. Maybe someday “Ask A Manager” will get a letter from one of her new team members about their less than stellar boss. No one ever called to ask for a reference so let that be a lesson.

After a couple of months, we heard from another staff member that Jane was telling people how angry she was that when she said she would quit that we didn’t try to talk her out of it. She didn’t understand why we just let her go.

2. My coworker is changing her appearance to match mine and rips my work off the walls when she’s mad

I have kind of a bittersweet update to my Therese saga, but I wanted to share it because you and your readers were so helpful and deserve to know: I was just laid off due to budget cuts, and won’t be back at my school next year.

I’m still kind of reeling because, up until the layoff conversation, my boss has implied that I would be safe. It was definitely a shock, but I guess that solves the Therese problem for me, so there’s a silver lining.

Thank you everyone for your advice and concern. Here’s to a new adventure.

Update to the update:

Luckily I did find something else, and have a contract at a district a ways away for the next school year. All’s well that ends well!

3. Can I pretend not to know who my old boss is?

We’ve been back in the office for a month, so I’ve finally talked to some of my team about our old director. There is a big AAM style red flag and some updates:

I saw the resume she gave when she applied. It was bad. Like 2.25 pages long with 10 point font and 6-12 bullet points under every job she had had going back over 15 years. She had a pop-out section for her skills that was just different non-branded icons labeled as apps like “Outlook. It took up like 20% of the first page. I said that I probably wouldn’t even interview someone who sent in that resume, and my coworkers who interviewed her were like “yeeeeah, it’s now a pretty obvious sign she was a bad pick.”

Apparently, I am just about the only person who didn’t go to HR to file a complaint about her! The only other people who didn’t were her favorites who she had secret end of day calls with, which they hated but didn’t know how to get out of. The HR complaints started within her first two months and continued until the end. Also she badmouthed us to other teams all the time for her entire tenure. At first, our colleagues were like “wow? I always liked your team, that’s surprising!” and then after a few weeks they were saying, “hey, if they’re so bad at their jobs, why don’t you help them because you’re their director?” All her peers and managers also thought she was incredibly ineffective and manipulative. She would lie to people constantly and get caught! And keep doing it! The kiss of death was probably her trying to suck up to our CEO and then trying her bad behavior on his wife’s team. That is an instant three strikes where we work.

I’ll probably learn even more when the whole team can be in one room, but it sounds like our antipathy was entirely reasonable.

By the way, I loved that the comment section was so split between “this is so terrible to do” and “this is so meaningless to do.” Sometimes when you get a split reaction I think it means you’ve found the perfect middle ground. I’ve still never seen her in person, but I’ve been cc’d on emails with her in passing. If I ever meet her… we’ll see what happens.

4. My job search after grad school has been soul-crushing

So I ended up not getting offered the job, and I’m not going to lie, I was a little bitter! Even though it definitely wasn’t my dream job, it was a job I could have honestly done in my sleep, and I was annoyed that I didn’t get an offer. Writing it out it sounds presumptuous, and I know I’m not owed anything, but it was definitely frustrating. Maybe I shouldn’t have jinxed myself so publicly by writing in with my question :)

HOWEVER, I did find out while waiting to hear back from that job (and right around when you posted my question) that I was a finalist for a very well-regarded and competitive fellowship program! I ended up accepting a position through the fellowship and started this past week.

It’s so cliché, but as many commenters said, things really did work out for the absolute best. The fellowship program is an amazing opportunity, the position I have is something that I’m really interested in, and I get to take advantage of my degree and actually challenge myself. I will be doing really cool, impactful work that will give me amazing experience, in addition to the boost that the fellowship will give my resume. I also get to be remote for the foreseeable future even though the job is based across the country, so no uprooting needed mid-pandemic. Had I been offered and accepted the other job, I likely would have left very quickly for this opportunity, which is probably a no-brainer for me but wouldn’t have looked great to my other professional contacts locally (it’s all very tight-knit and word travels fast).

All in all, I’m thrilled with where I ended up! It feels disingenuous to say “don’t give up, everything works out eventually!” to people who are in the same position I was in very recently, because I know exactly how hard and miserable it is to be financially struggling and demoralized during a recession/pandemic/global crisis. But between my job success and vaccines becoming more widely available, it does feel like there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s hoping other people will start to see it soon too.

5. I think my coworker is job searching — should I tell our new boss? (#2 at the link)

I wrote in a while back after realizing that a coworker, Toby, was job searching, and my nervousness about my department’s ability to manage through the workload if he left. Some commenters (correctly) pointed out that my frustration was from being understaffed and needing more resources. So, this problem shouldn’t be Toby-specific, departments need to be prepared for employee turnover, and I shouldn’t be a tattletale.

I chose to keep all of the Toby information to myself; I didn’t let Toby know that I received a recruiter email with his info on it (I thought it would make things awkward between us, plus either no one else received it or the damage was already done), and I didn’t tell anyone else.

Fast forward to today; Toby is still with the company and seems more engaged than ever. He’s volunteering for extra projects and has really taken on quite a bit. However, our workload increased even more, to the point where it became unmanageable with my personal obligations (working 7am-8pm, plus weekends, several weeks per month). I started to look for something else and took an internal opportunity in another department. I am SO happy with my move. I worked with my former boss along the way so he had a chance to plan for the change as much as possible, but my former department is understaffed, scrambling to meet objectives, and working very long hours. I do not envy their predicament, and it’s what I expected to happen if Toby had left. So basically, I became Toby.

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my employee says I can’t stop her from leaving work early https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-employee-says-i-cant-stop-her-from-leaving-work-early.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-employee-says-i-cant-stop-her-from-leaving-work-early.html#comments Wed, 09 Jun 2021 16:29:57 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21739 This post, my employee says I can’t stop her from leaving work early , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a new manager at a company. The office manager, who is salaried, is continually leaving early by 30-40 minutes a day and leaves at 2 on Fridays. It’s making the owner crazy. I’ve told her that although she is salaried, that salary is based on a 40-hour work week. Her response […]

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This post, my employee says I can’t stop her from leaving work early , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a new manager at a company. The office manager, who is salaried, is continually leaving early by 30-40 minutes a day and leaves at 2 on Fridays. It’s making the owner crazy. I’ve told her that although she is salaried, that salary is based on a 40-hour work week. Her response is that as a salaried employee she can leave early every day and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That can be true, can it?

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:

  • A hiring manager chastised me for using his personal email address
  • Telling an interviewer the job expectations aren’t realistic
  • I feel bad that I’m the second choice for a job offer
  • Explaining I was laid off after two months
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is this job description full of red flags? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/is-this-job-description-full-of-red-flags.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/is-this-job-description-full-of-red-flags.html#comments Wed, 09 Jun 2021 14:59:01 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21783 This post, is this job description full of red flags? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully. At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a […]

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This post, is this job description full of red flags? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully.

At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a tremendous fit. We had two good calls and were planning for a third with people on his team. Everything seemed to align to what I want next in my career.

After a month of radio silence, today at 2 am, George sent two follow-up emails apologizing for the delay. He also included the job description. Some of the language is troubling:

1) Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost

2) Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need)

I’ve managed and suffered through unreasonable expectations at another company, so #1 raises serious concerns about work/life balance and boundaries.

As for #2, while I have a full life, I also like camaraderie with coworkers. Having worked remotely for the last 14 months and in another role some years back, I know what works and what’s possible when it comes to bonding with teammates.

I asked for clarification and some context, but I’m inclined to bow out of further consideration. Either George means what he wrote (scary!) or lacks the empathy and insight to write a more welcoming and respectful job description. It also makes me wonder what the culture is really like. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Run for the hills!

These are both troubling in different ways, and taken together they add up to a big flashing danger sign that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take #1 first. “Lives up to verbal and written agreements” is such a basic expectation of any job that it’s weird that he feels he needs to include it. Usually when you see something so basic in a job description, it’s there because the manager had employees previously who didn’t do it … and “regardless of personal costs” gives us a big clue as to why. Of course any conscientious employee will try to live up to verbal and written agreements. But sometimes things come up that mean those agreements need to change — someone gets sick so they can’t meet a deadline, or they have a family emergency so they can’t staff an event they’d planned to be at, or they realize that fulfilling the original agreement will require them working 60-hour weeks and they’re not up for doing that so they want to revisit what’s realistic.

Someone who thinks “you must do what you agree to, regardless of personal cost” is someone who lacks a basic understanding of how humans work and how life works, and who doesn’t even realize he’s advertising that he’ll be a nightmare to work for. He feels that “regardless of personal cost” is reasonable. (In fact, if I know this type, he probably thinks he should take pride in his high standards for others.)

Then there’s #2: “Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need).” This is another one that sounds like it was born from an experience he didn’t like — like that he had an employee who was overly social at the expense of their job or other people’s work. And that happens! But a reasonable manager trusts themselves to handle that effectively if it comes up again, by talking to the person about the issue and helping them recalibrate their lines between “normal human warmth” and “behavior that’s disrupting the office.”

Or maybe I’m interpreting it wrong and it just means “you won’t be around other people in this job, so you have to be okay with that.” But if that’s what he means, there are far more straightforward ways to say that, ones that don’t sound like he’s implicitly criticizing people who appreciate having some degree of human connection with their colleagues. I’d be interested to know what he says about it in response to your questions! I’m more willing to believe this one is just artless wording than I am with #1, but when you take the two in combination together, it doesn’t paint a great picture.

Ultimately, I think you’re exactly right: Either he means precisely what he wrote, or he lacks the empathy to understand why his framing would be off-putting. My guess is both. Either way, you’re getting valuable info about what it would be like to work for him.

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telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you, my mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/telling-an-interviewer-god-said-this-is-the-right-job-for-you-my-mentee-hasnt-taken-covid-seriously-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/telling-an-interviewer-god-said-this-is-the-right-job-for-you-my-mentee-hasnt-taken-covid-seriously-and-more.html#comments Wed, 09 Jun 2021 04:03:33 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21802 This post, telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you, my mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you I’m asking this on behalf of a friend. She recently applied for a new position and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, but she ultimately did not get the job. She […]

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This post, telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you, my mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you

I’m asking this on behalf of a friend. She recently applied for a new position and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, but she ultimately did not get the job.

She told me that she was asked why she wanted the job, and her response was, “God told me it’s time for me to move on, and that this is the right job for me.” My friend is a very religious person, and she genuinely believes this to be true. I asked her if she gave any other reasons, but she said no, she did not need any reasons other than God’s direction.

I’m wondering if this response hurt her in the process. To be clear, this interview was for a private, secular company and not a place where an answer like this may be more expected.

Should my friend not have said that God told her this was her job? Or is it okay that she said it, but should she have given some more reasons too? I’m trying to help her out for interviews in the future, but she doesn’t see anything wrong with the answer she gave.

Yeah, it’s pretty likely that this hurt her! It’s not that she needs to hide that she’s a religious person, but she missed the point of the question. The interviewer wants to know why she wants this particular job — does it fit in with a particular career goal she’s working toward, is she excited about the opportunity to do X, is it work she loved in the past and wants to get back to, etc.? She may be willing to take God’s word for it that it’s the ideal job for her, but her answer seems to expect the interviewer to take God’s word for it too … and that’s the problem.

2. My mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously

I’ve been mentoring a young woman, “Clarissa,” from a rough home since she was age 20, she’s now 25 (I am 37 and have achieved success in my field). It’s about half life mentoring (very absent parents) and half work mentoring. Clarissa has a lot of health issues, both mental and physical. In fact, we met in a local support group for mental health.

I haven’t seen Clarissa except outside since the pandemic hit because she has not taken the pandemic very seriously. She has ignored lockdown rules, invited guests against the legal guidelines, continued her normal routine, using public transit even at the highest numbers, and just generally isn’t very cautious.

Clarissa misses me, horribly. She has invited herself over many times during the pandemic (we used to go out to lunch or dinner maybe once a month, and she would hang out here regularly too) since dining has been closed where I am. I have declined everything she has suggested except video meets because I am extremely concerned about catching Covid as an immunocompromised individual (my doctor told me to be incredibly cautious). I have told her this dozens of times and she continues to ask, partially because her memory is poor due to her health conditions.

Everyone is getting their vaccines now, and Clarissa seems to think that this will result in me being comfortable around her again. Sadly, it is not the case. She is simply not careful enough.

I don’t know how to explain that I can’t see her unless she is more careful — but the fact is, I don’t think I’d believe her if she told me she was more careful. She has severe impulse control issues and frankly I just don’t think she has it in her to abstain.

Clarissa is like a little sister to me at this point, but I value my health more. What do I do?

I don’t think you need to get into whether she’s being careful enough. You can simply say that you won’t be able to meet in person this year at all because you’re immunocompromised, period. It sounds like you’ll need to keep saying it because she doesn’t remember, but it’s easier to keep repeating “I can’t meet up in person because of my health” than it would be to repeatedly give her an assessment of her own risk-taking.

3. Hiring a friend’s employee

One of my friend’s employees wants to work for my company. My HR department extended an offer and this person accepted. Can I contact my friend and let him know before his employee gives their resignation to give a courtesy heads-up?

Please don’t. They should get to deliver the news of their own resignation themselves. You telling their boss first would undermine that professional relationship and possibly cause problems you don’t know about. I get that it feels awkward to hire away someone who’s working for a friend — but this person is a free agent and you can’t manage the situation for them. You can talk with your friend afterwards, but let the employee deliver the news first.

4. Is my manager changing?

My company emails lists of paperwork due each month which includes (though isn’t exclusively) who has performance evaluations due. There are two supervisors who are primarily responsible for the department I work in. Historically I have reported to Thomas. The most recent listing shows Alice is my supervisor. I haven’t been told that my supervisor has changed. How do I bring this up and do I bring it up to Thomas or Alice?

Thomas. Say this: “This latest email lists Alice as my manager rather than you. Is that a mistake, or am I moving to her?” In other words, you can just ask straight-out! It doesn’t need to be approached delicately, just matter-of-factly like anything else that was important and unclear.

5. Requiring cover letters when some people don’t send them

We’re hiring for a role that is very writing/communication focused, and we requested a cover letter with the resume. I know that candidates are seeing the job on various external sites and some of them autoformat or send in resumes created by those sites, but only about half actually followed the instructions and included cover letters. My colleague wants to disqualify everyone who didn’t send one in, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least for two of the applicants who actually seem like a good fit. How would you handle it? Should we send a follow-up email asking for a cover letter or why they are applying for the job? We do need someone who can follow instructions so I see where my colleague is coming from, but on the other hand, I’d hate to lose out on good candidates just because they applied through Indeed or something.

You can’t do an initial screening of applicants for a writing-focused job without seeing a cover letter (or a writing sample, but in this case you’ve asked for a cover letter). If you want, you can write back and say, “We’re asking all candidates to submit a cover letter and would be happy to consider your application once we receive that” … but it’s pretty reasonable, with a writing-focused job in particular, to just focus on the candidates who sent in what you asked for, assuming you have good candidates who did.

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updates: the hidden breast milk, the wedding chaos, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-hidden-breast-milk-the-wedding-chaos-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/updates-the-hidden-breast-milk-the-wedding-chaos-and-more.html#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2021 17:59:20 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21747 This post, updates: the hidden breast milk, the wedding chaos, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My coworker asked me to hide my breast milk because she doesn’t like seeing it in the office fridge I […]

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This post, updates: the hidden breast milk, the wedding chaos, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker asked me to hide my breast milk because she doesn’t like seeing it in the office fridge

I followed your advice initially and let my coworker know that I just didn’t feel comfortable keeping my milk hidden. I thought we had worked it out but it got brought up again and the next conversation we had left a bad taste in my mouth.

At that point I contacted my supervisor, and I told her that it was getting to the point where I felt harassed. In her mind, I needed to be more considerate of people who aren’t comfortable with the sight of breast milk whereas I felt like her feelings of discomfort were hers to deal with and there’s just nothing unusual about breast milk in an office fridge.

My boss reviewed the policy in our company which said “nursing employees may bring their own cooler or use a designated fridge if available.”. Ultimately, she ordered a mini fridge for breast milk but I did offer my opinion that a fridge is a basic amenity that the company should commit to making available for nursing employees. After all, no one else has to bring their lunch in a personal cooler. She passed that onto upper management and HR but I don’t think the policy had changed.

This is really an important issue for a lot of working women. It’s great that the law requires employers to give nursing employees the time and space to pump but without a place to store the milk or their pumping components it can make it impractical for some women.

Thanks for your suggestions.

2. If the caterer mentions my mom at my dad’s wedding, all hell will break loose (#2 at the link)

The wedding has happened.

Thanks to your response, I quickly wrote the caterers an email and got a wonderful reply. My tone was like “yeah, this is just not a good idea to mention, oh, and here’s an update.” I’m also glad I emailed because my sibling has changed names and wanted them to be aware.

Someone said in the comments something about it being not as bad or similar to someone faking being straight in order to keep the peace at a wedding. Well, we actually had that situation, too.

Overall, this is a super uneventful update because nothing bad happened, for which I am eternally grateful. My dad and his new wife are happy, I’m happy for them, the worst thing that happened for anyone depended on how you feel about mask wearing, and it was a beautiful day.

Thanks again for your advice.

(And yes, I saw that red flag, too. There are many more.)

3. Great new hire has terrible internet (#3 at the link)

Unfortunately, my company wouldn’t cover the cost of an upgrade, so I had a direct (but understanding) conversation with him at our 1 on 1 where I highlighted that his internet speed was impacting our ability to be a functional team and recommended a few local providers that could be affordable options for him to look at. It was a surprisingly easy conversation to have because he had just been putting off upgrading his internet–there just hadn’t been an urgent need before our conversation. We spoke on a Friday and by the following Monday he upgraded his internet to a faster speed with their same provider. We haven’t had connectivity issues since and I’m really enjoying having him being a part of my team!

4. Asking my old job for their work templates (#4 at the link)

You previously answered my question about asking my old job for their consulting templates. Before writing, I tried to recreate them off memory but couldn’t remember the entire thing and thought mine looked too simplistic. After your answer, I researched industry best practices, applied them to fit my new company, and managed to make a template I’m happy with. It has already helped me organize my projects in a way that is getting recognition within my department.

What reminded me to write an update is I actually just found half of a ripped paper with the first part of the original template, and everything I would need from it is also on the one I recreated. I’m guessing the part that got torn off is also very similar to mine. It was nice to get some proof to counter my insecurities about knowing what I’m doing.

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how is the return to work supposed to work, exactly? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/how-is-the-return-to-work-supposed-to-work-exactly.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/how-is-the-return-to-work-supposed-to-work-exactly.html#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2021 16:29:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21784 This post, how is the return to work supposed to work, exactly? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As a work-advice columnist, I’ve been able to track the evolution of the pandemic through my email: In the spring of last year, I was flooded with questions about companies that weren’t keeping people safe, the adjustment to working from home, and dealing with furloughs. Then it was coworkers who wouldn’t wear masks or keep […]

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This post, how is the return to work supposed to work, exactly? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As a work-advice columnist, I’ve been able to track the evolution of the pandemic through my email: In the spring of last year, I was flooded with questions about companies that weren’t keeping people safe, the adjustment to working from home, and dealing with furloughs. Then it was coworkers who wouldn’t wear masks or keep their distance, along with frustrations over endless Zoom meetings and how to work with young kids around. And now my inbox is changing again, as offices that went remote last year increasingly start to bring employees back on-site and people begin thinking about how their returns will work.

At New York Magazine today, I answered a bunch of the questions I’ve been getting about the return to offices — about dealing with coworkers who you no longer respect because of their behavior this past year, about bras, about not wanting to go back at all, and more. Head over there to read it.

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I’m worried my new hire won’t fit into our very liberal — and vocal — team https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/im-worried-my-new-hire-wont-fit-into-our-very-liberal-and-vocal-team.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/im-worried-my-new-hire-wont-fit-into-our-very-liberal-and-vocal-team.html#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2021 14:59:42 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21805 This post, I’m worried my new hire won’t fit into our very liberal — and vocal — team , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I work in marketing as a creative director for a large brokerage firm in a very religious/conservative state. The past couple of years have been difficult with the previous White House administration — it’s affected our business substantially and has created a lot of volatility within our office. With political tensions still […]

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This post, I’m worried my new hire won’t fit into our very liberal — and vocal — team , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work in marketing as a creative director for a large brokerage firm in a very religious/conservative state. The past couple of years have been difficult with the previous White House administration — it’s affected our business substantially and has created a lot of volatility within our office. With political tensions still running high, it’s left our department in a delicate position as we’re supposed to remain neutral to all facets of our company (of which, there are many). The past four years have put a palpable strain on a lot of working relationships and we’ve found it can be especially difficult to work with some people, especially after you realize they’re not who you thought they were.

Having said that, I have an incredible team of three creatives who are very politically opinionated and don’t hold back when it comes to expressing how they feel. They’re usually pretty good about keeping those types of discussions quiet and within our department, so I’ve not had to worry about confrontation or offending anyone. Additionally, we have excellent personal and working relationships with one another, probably because we all share similar viewpoints on many (if not most) political issues, and have supported each other during the darkest of times.

For the past two months, we’ve been desperately searching for a new graphic designer that can handle the pressure, workload, and conservative environment. We’ve finally interviewed a young man who I think would be a great candidate. However … looking over his Facebook page, I am concerned he may not fit in with my team’s outspoken liberal-democratic, agnostic, feminist, anti-capitalist (and the list goes on) views. I’m especially worried about my editor. With the past four years being what they were, she is still on fire and would rather die on whatever hill she’s battling that day than let someone (especially a new guy) get away with saying something she doesn’t agree with. It’s exhausting, to be honest. And despite our many attempts at talking with her about this issue, she just can’t help herself. I know that whoever we hire will, at some point, say something to light her fuse and it will be hellfire for everyone.

I am concerned about how to appropriately broach the topic with my team and/or the new hire. I know we all agree on the same issues, and up until now, it’s not been a problem to speak openly. But times are changing and we need to be more open/welcoming to those who differ from ourselves, especially in our department. Is there a way to ask my team to keep their opinions to themselves, at least long enough to let the new guy settle in? What can I do to make the new person more comfortable when they start? Can I warn him, or my team, in some way without planting negative, pre-conceived notions? I am so overwhelmed with projects right now and am desperate for a new employee. We’ve been looking for a qualified person for a long time and we finally have a promising lead; I don’t want to scare him off before he even starts. I also don’t want to give my team the impression that the new hire “doesn’t think like us” and it becomes an awkward team dynamic where people feel like they can’t say what they think, or our work and inter-departmental relationships suffer. Can you help me?!

I think you needed to warn this guy before he accepted the job.

Put yourself in his shoes: How would you feel if you ended up in a job surrounded by highly vocal, opinionated people with politics opposite to yours and who would “rather die” than keep quiet about their views? You’d presumably be pretty miserable, right? You might end up quickly looking to leave. You definitely wouldn’t be happy you’d taken the job.

For that matter, I think you’d need to warn any new hire even if they were politically identical to you. A lot of people who share your politics would still find the environment you describe exhausting and wouldn’t want to work in it. (I wouldn’t want to.)

I know the horse is already out of the barn but: It was a mistake to allow your team’s culture to develop this way. It means you’re going to have trouble incorporating anyone new who doesn’t share your politics, as well as anyone who does but still doesn’t want to work in an environment where people are talking about politics all day … which covers the vast, vast majority of people.

You’ve created a very specific culture that will be an active turn-off for most people … and which sounds like it might not be working for your current staff either, given that you describe one person’s behavior as “exhausting” and you’re worried about hellfire. I’d be curious to know whether either of your other two staffers are privately fed up with this but don’t feel they can do anything about it.

And to be clear, teams develop specific cultures all the time. You can’t avoid having some sort of culture. But when it’s one that will drive off large numbers of people and doesn’t have anything to do with supporting the actual work you’re doing (if anything, it’s likely distracting from the work), you’ve got to step back and ask if it’s justifiable or not.

There might be times that it is! If you work in a field where you have no trouble attracting qualified applicants and where the intense politics talk is a draw to enough of the people you want to hire, rather than a turn-off, and if the management above you has no problem with you screening for hires who will be happy in that culture … then it’s more your call to make. I’d still predict it would come back to bite you at some point, although companies develop unusual cultures that work for them all the time. But none of that sounds like the case here — you are having trouble finding hires, the behavior has been enough of a problem that you’ve had to have multiple conversations about stopping it, and since you note that your team is “supposed to remain neutral,” I’m betting your management wouldn’t be thrilled about what’s going on.

You wrote that you don’t want a dynamic where people feel like they can’t say what they think … but most people do some self-editing while they’re at work because they’re there to get a job done, not to express every political thought they have. I don’t want to ignore that what’s “political” can be in the eye of the beholder, and blanket bans on political talk can end up feeling like an endorsement of the status quo … but your work environment has gone far, far beyond that. It’s reasonable to expect people to focus primarily on work.

This also isn’t just about your team needing to be more open to different opinions. Most people don’t want to be around regular political rants, even if the ranter is “open” to different views. Most people just don’t want that at work, period. (And also — how open do you want to be really? What if it turns out the new guy loves an aggressive debate and his viewpoints are deeply repugnant to the rest of you? You can’t silence one person while letting the others continue, you team dynamics will be a disaster, and everyone will go home with headaches every day.)

So where does that leave you, in practical terms? I’m worried the answer is: in a really bad spot. You can tell your team that things have gotten out of control and the political talk needs to stop, especially now that a new person is coming in. You can share that it’s exhausting and distracting. And you can be deliberate about shutting it down every time it starts. Maybe that’ll work. It’s your best option so if it does work, great. But given what you’ve said about the editor who “would rather die on whatever hill she’s battling that day than let someone get away with saying something she doesn’t agree with” and how she’s already ignored multiple attempts to contain her, I’m not sure it will. And if it doesn’t, you’ll have to decide how far you’re willing to go. If the choice is between keeping her versus being able to hire anyone new (or having new hires be miserable), which will you pick? Because it sounds really likely that it’s going to come down to that.

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my manager is annoyed with my days off, missing work because “something came up,” and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-manager-is-annoyed-with-my-days-off-missing-work-because-something-came-up-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-manager-is-annoyed-with-my-days-off-missing-work-because-something-came-up-and-more.html#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2021 04:03:12 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21801 This post, my manager is annoyed with my days off, missing work because “something came up,” and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My manager is annoyed that I keep getting Saturdays off I work on a production line. It is difficult for me to work Saturdays as my wife works a weekend shift and childcare is hard to find on the weekends. My job is supposed to […]

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This post, my manager is annoyed with my days off, missing work because “something came up,” and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My manager is annoyed that I keep getting Saturdays off

I work on a production line. It is difficult for me to work Saturdays as my wife works a weekend shift and childcare is hard to find on the weekends. My job is supposed to be (and was when I was hired 10 years ago) Monday through Friday, but over several years they have added 10-15 Saturdays a year.

I discovered three years ago that if I look at our company’s warehouse shipping/receiving database, which I have access to through the intranet to order parts for my line, I can see what Saturdays we are working weeks in advance. If I see an outbound shipment for the item my line makes on a Saturday, it means we will be scheduled for production that Saturday.

We are required to request vacation at least two weeks in advance of the day(s) we want off. So when I see a Saturday work day, two weeks and one day ahead of it I request that Friday off (then you also get Saturday off as it isn’t a normal scheduled work day) and have always gotten it off. The production schedule our team sees is only one week out, too late to request a vacation day if you see we are working a Saturday and want it off.

My supervisor discovered that I haven’t worked a Saturday in three years and has been tracking my vacation requests and put it together that if I request a Friday off, two weeks later we are working a Saturday. She asked (several times) how I know when we are working a Saturday and I say “lucky guess.” I can tell that this REALLY irritates her.

I found out through my brother-in-law, who works in IT for the same company, that my supervisor put in a request for them to review my computer history as she felt I was accessing “inappropriate“ content. Of course they found nothing and my brother-in-law’s boss was somewhat pissed when he found out why my supervisor wanted this done and wasted a bunch of their hours going through my computer files.

My supervisor is now hanging around my work station a whole lot more; she is always walking by and stopping to “check in.” I caught her hiding behind another machine near mine so she could see what was up on my computer screen. She has also asked me to stay logged in under my name to save time when she occasionally covers for me for my breaks (to check my search history?) and of course I don’t as it is against company policy. I now access the outbound page when I know she is at a staff meeting.

It has become frustrating with her constantly hovering over/around me. She is my supervisor so I guess she can but it is making me very nervous being constantly watched. I really don’t want to give up my “secret” as then everybody will do what I am doing and I will start working Saturdays. Can I file a harassment claim against my boss for her actions? Other thoughts?

No, this isn’t harassment in the legal sense (that would need to be based on your race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected class). But it is bad management. If she wants to require you to work some Saturdays, she just needs to tell you that you need to work some Saturdays. If she doesn’t trust you to do that without oversight, she could stop approving your Friday-off requests, since she’s figured out that they’re tied to the Saturdays you want off. I’m not sure why she’s not doing that and instead is spending all this time lurking around you.

On your side, though, wouldn’t it make sense to just talk to her about the Saturday work requirement? Ideally from the start you would have explained that you were hired to work weekdays, have child care commitments on the weekends, and aren’t available to work on Saturdays. It’s going to be harder to do that now because it sounds like it’s turned into a battle of wills between the two of you, but at some point she’s going to figure out a way to block what you’ve been doing, and then you’ll have to have that conversation anyway (or find an alternative for weekend child care).

2. New employee missed fourth day of work, saying “something came up”

I had a new employee start on a Tuesday. That Friday, I woke up to a text from my new hire from the night before, saying that she would not be in on Friday, that something had come up and she would see me on Monday.

This is an in-person job in a corporate environment. It is my first time managing within a corporate environment; my previous management stints were in an environment with labor conditions and expectations that would not fly in a well-run corporate setting. But in my former life, to call off meant you were literally dying or in jail and you would divulge that when you called (I don’t like or agree with this). I fully respect a person’s right to take a sick day and I feel nobody is obligated to share personal details, but I also don’t feel like “something came up” quite cuts it. Especially on what would be your fourth day on the job.

I’m looking for some guidance on where to set my expectations (regardless of this person working out or not). Am I out of line to feel “something came up” feels inadequate when calling out?

You’re not wrong! “Something came up” is strangely cavalier. “I’m sick” or “I have a family emergency” (without giving details beyond that) would both be fine, but “something came up” sounds like it could be “my sister called and I feel like talking to her” or “someone invited me to play tetherball.” It also sounds like she doesn’t think calling out on her fourth day of work is a big deal, when that’s normally something people would really try to avoid unless they truly couldn’t.

“Something came up” might be fine from a longer-time employee who had a track record of reliability (although it would still be kind of weird), but it’s pretty alarming from someone in their first week.

3. Other managers say I should answer calls on my days off

I am a new supervisor (one year) with my state government (but have over 25 years of service with them). The other supervisors in my department feel the need to coach me and told me that even on my days off, I should let my employees know that I am available to them. When I attempted to set boundaries by saying that when I am off, I am usually with my grandchildren, one supervisor responded that she has 10 grandchildren and still makes herself available when she is with them. Well, good for her. I earned every minute of my vacation time and have a full, rich life outside of work. I feel that I am entitled to time off as anyone else is. Am I really expected to answer emails and my phone on my day off? We are not a health care facility and not first responders. We are office workers.

In theory, no, you shouldn’t be expected to answer emails and calls on your days off unless something is genuinely an emergency (in which case, dealing with that is indeed part of many management jobs). But in reality, the expectations around this can vary greatly from office to office. If your office culture is that supervisors are expected to do that, there might be a price for refusing (in terms of perception, promotions, etc.). You might decide you don’t care about that price, which is your prerogative! Or you might look around and realize there won’t be much of a price to be paid at all.

But if you’re unsure, talking to your own manager about it is a good place to start. She’ll be able to give you a better sense of how against-the-grain it would be there to protect your days off, and how it might affect you if you hold firm. (For the record, I support you in holding firm! But your office culture is what will dictate how much of an issue it might be.)

4. I didn’t correct people’s mispronunciation of my name while interviewing

I’ve been through a multi-stage interview process consisting of short one-on-one interviews with various people from the organisation and I’m expecting to hear a final decision next week. I have a fairly common (or at least not rare) first name but it’s pronounced in an uncommon way. Each interviewer I’ve talked to pronounced my name the standard way and because of a mix of my own nerves, fast-paced interviews and the interviewers not pausing to ask if they’re pronouncing it right (which makes sense since my pronunciation of my name isn’t common), I never corrected them. Obviously if I don’t get the position it won’t be a problem, but in case I do, what’s the best way to bring it up? I don’t want to look like I assumed I wouldn’t be working with them or like I’m not proactive. To be fair, in this case I wasn’t proactive about this and that’s something I’ll bear in mind for future interviews and just correct the pronunciation up-front — but in this case how could I bring it up as with as little awkwardness as possible?

It won’t be a big deal at all. On your first day as you’re introducing yourself/being introduced, you’ll just say, “Actually, it’s ‘Lu-CHEE-a,’ not ‘Lu-SEE-a.’” No one is likely to read anything into the fact that you didn’t correct them while you were interviewing. They probably won’t even remember if they used your name with you and if they do, they’ll just figure you don’t bother to correct people every time in every situation, if they even think about it at all (which they likely won’t!). They’re not going to think, “Wow, she must have assumed she wouldn’t end up working with us” or “what a slacker approach to her own name.” No one will think about any of this as much as yourself are!

But if anyone does say something like, “Oh, you should have told us earlier,” you can always say, “It’s mispronounced so often that sometimes I don’t even bother to correct it, but since we’re working together now I wanted to make sure you knew how to say it.”

5. I had a great interview — but they’re still “actively recruiting”

I just finished a final round interview, and I thought it went well (they even asked me about my hobbies, which I saw as a good sign). However, the day after my final interview, I was looking through my email and received a “LinkedIn Job Alerts” notification. I saw the company on the list and that they were still “actively recruiting.” Does this mean that I messed up the last round and will not be hired? In the same vein, if a company reposts a job on a job board after a interview, is it safe to assume that they’re not considering me?

Nope, it means nothing at all. It’s very normal for a company to keep their job postings active until they’ve made an offer and had it accepted. Plus, this was only the day after your interview! It’s very likely that they haven’t made a hiring decision yet and they might still have other candidates to interview. But even if they left the meeting with you thinking, “Wow, that’s the one for sure, cancel all the other interviews,” they’re still not going to have taken down the listing within a day. There are references to check, decisions to finalize, paperwork to do, offers to put together — and then they need to wait to see if you even accept it. It’s very normal to keep ads active during that time.

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update: my coworker put a magical curse on her boss https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/update-my-coworker-put-a-magical-curse-on-her-boss.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/update-my-coworker-put-a-magical-curse-on-her-boss.html#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2021 17:59:00 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21766 This post, update: my coworker put a magical curse on her boss , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Welcome to the start of a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, with daily updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off… Remember the letter-writer whose coworker claimed to have put a magical curse on their boss? Here’s the update. Your advice and […]

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This post, update: my coworker put a magical curse on her boss , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Welcome to the start of a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, with daily updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker claimed to have put a magical curse on their boss? Here’s the update.

Your advice and reading the comments under your blog post really helped me to understand that what I was feeling in the moment was valid. I ended taking your advice and communicated my concerns with my manager. In my opinion the situation became better, but I think my manager lost her marbles in the end.

At first, my manger, Ashley, understood that I was not comfortable working with my coworker who enjoyed hexing others. Ashley took my concerns seriously and never scheduled me with her after that initial conversation, which I was very grateful for. Over the next few weeks, one of my other coworkers started to notice similar unstable behavior/patterns where our coworker would go around talking to herself and saying things like “i have a demon in me” or “on the 21st, all people doing bad things will be sacrificed,” telling customers that they have “evil spirits,” etc.

Eventually she started taping hidden “spells” around the store, we found a few one morning and I was in utter confusion because they insinuated questionable actions. A few days later, there was an incident where she threw something at a customer’s car out of rage. Most of these incidents were brought to my manager, who decided not to do anything about it. She said it was because “I am scared that she’ll do something to me if I confront her.” A day or so later, she stole money from the cash register and a few days later the store was robbed during the pm shift, coincidentally by someone she knew. This person had been constantly visiting her during her shifts and on camera you could see them clocking the store. Yet Ashley said a day later, “I think she is going to work out here.” In that moment, I looked at her in complete disbelief. I was shocked at the complacency and poor management and judgment.

I had to take some time to see if this was really an environment that I could work in until I graduate university. I don’t have anything against witchcraft but when it comes to openly threatening others, purposely trying to make people uncomfortable, and stealing, those are not values I stand for and I no longer wanted to compromise myself for a job that was putting others at risk. In my opinion she was emotionally and mentally unstable, we never knew what she was going to do or say next. Due to the nature of the relationship I had with Ashley, I thought it would be best to discuss why I wanted to part ways. I explained that I had found a new job at an animal hospital as a receptionist (which turned out to be the best thing for me), and that I wouldn’t be putting in my two weeks notice because I felt as if my well-being had been compromised. Ashley was not understanding at all. (Alison interjection: She would have been understanding if you were hexing people though!) I think she was disappointed that I did not want to put in my two weeks but my concern wasn’t about who was going to cover my shifts. She had already made a choice not to address the situation on multiple occasions, even after many of my other coworkers expressed their concerns. This was no longer a safe working environment. Normally I have always put in two weeks notice but my instincts were telling me to head in the opposite direction.

I want to thank you and everyone in the comments who asked for an update. I am doing better than expected and this experience has taught me that sometimes jobs no longer have your best interests and your safety always comes first.

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are employees obligated to speak up when they’re unhappy at work? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/are-employees-obligated-to-speak-up-when-theyre-unhappy-at-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/are-employees-obligated-to-speak-up-when-theyre-unhappy-at-work.html#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2021 16:29:02 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21738 This post, are employees obligated to speak up when they’re unhappy at work? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m in the process of looking for a new job. My skills are in demand and I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving notice in the next few months. Whenever anyone has left my company, my boss and the director always moan about how the person who left didn’t first come to them […]

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This post, are employees obligated to speak up when they’re unhappy at work? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m in the process of looking for a new job. My skills are in demand and I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving notice in the next few months.

Whenever anyone has left my company, my boss and the director always moan about how the person who left didn’t first come to them with their complaints. They say this as if it’s a horrible thing to do. “If only Fergus had told us he was unhappy, we could have made it better.”

Do you think employees have an obligation to speak up when unhappy?

For context, while some of the things I don’t enjoy could be fixed (the work isn’t as technical as I like and they could easily put me on another project) there are other things they can’t really (we’ve gone from having five women on staff to just me and it’s pretty lonely here). It’s a good job and I’ve enjoyed my time here but I don’t see long-term potential, so moving on just makes sense. Does an employee ever really “owe” it to the employer to bring up complaints first before looking?

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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what to say to job applicants when you know you can’t offer fair compensation https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/what-to-say-to-job-applicants-when-you-know-you-cant-offer-fair-compensation.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/what-to-say-to-job-applicants-when-you-know-you-cant-offer-fair-compensation.html#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2021 14:59:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21787 This post, what to say to job applicants when you know you can’t offer fair compensation , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m hiring for an open position and have received applications from a number of really fantastic, experienced candidates who do the work we do wonderfully. I’d love to bring one of them on to our team. However, the budget I have been given for hiring is nowhere near what is fair for […]

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This post, what to say to job applicants when you know you can’t offer fair compensation , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m hiring for an open position and have received applications from a number of really fantastic, experienced candidates who do the work we do wonderfully. I’d love to bring one of them on to our team.

However, the budget I have been given for hiring is nowhere near what is fair for the skills and experience of these applicants. (The amount I have been told is my budget is about two-thirds what I feel they should be offered. Based on my experience, I think the best I could get these candidates is about 75 percent of what I think they deserve.) Some of them are currently unemployed and some are employed but we don’t ask current salary so I can’t be certain where that figure would fall against their current or previous salaries as we’re in an industry with widely varying salaries.

What’s the best way to handle these applicants? Do I call them and tell them what I’m able to offer and ask if it makes sense for them for us to have an interview? Just skip them altogether knowing what I can offer them isn’t reasonable? Interview them and not tell them upfront about the salary? Part of me feels it would be insulting to be called and told the offer would be so low but I also don’t want to take all choice away from qualified candidates who may want to work for us anyway because we have other non-monetary benefits to our company.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been working hard on bringing salaries up in my department since I took over about four years ago. In that time, our starting wage has gone up 50 percent, we’ve brought all current employees up to above that amount and in many cases offered a year of retroactive pay for the difference. So we’re improving but I still don’t feel it’s enough to be fair to these candidates.

As a general rule, I’d say to never decide on a candidate’s behalf that the salary won’t be enough for them. Tell them your range and let them decide if they want to move forward or not.

That’s because you never know what someone’s situation might be. Maybe they’ve already heard through the industry grapevine what your salaries are and they’re interested anyway. Maybe they’re changing fields and prepared to take a pay cut to do it. Maybe they’re fabulously wealthy and are working not for money but because of a vow they made to their rich aunt on her deathbed to always stay in touch with the little people after inheriting her millions. We can’t know!

More to the point, there are a lot of job applicants who really don’t want to be ruled out because of a hiring manager’s assumptions about what they will or won’t be happy with. They want the chance to decide for themselves.

The easiest way to make that happen is with an email, not a phone call. If you set up a phone call, they’re likely to assume it’ll be a full phone interview (or at least a screen) and will invest time in preparing for it — and you don’t want them to waste their time if the salary is a clear deal-breaker. So instead, send an email that says something like, “Thanks so much for your interest. I think you could be a great match for what we’re looking for. Before we talk, I want to let you know the salary for this role is around $X. I might have a little wiggle room but not much. If that’s in line with what you’re looking for, I’d love to set up a call to talk more.”

Beyond that … based on the efforts you’ve been making to bring up salaries on your team, I’m assuming you’ve pointed out to whoever set this range that it’s two-thirds of the market rate for the work? I’m curious about what your company’s response is to that. Do they think the lower rate will attract candidates who are good enough, even if not the best, and so they don’t care? (And is that true?) Do they disagree with you on the market rate and, if so, can you ask to see their data and compare it to your own? Is their pay data out of date? Or, is it possible that whoever set the salary is picturing a different candidate profile than you are (like you’re thinking about experienced hires and they’re envisioning someone more junior) — and if so, can you talk with them about what you need in the role, what it will take to get that, and the impact on the work if you can’t? And if they’re convinced you can hire people at this salary — which you’ll find out soon enough, either way — is it worth pointing out the downsides of that to them (like that you might be able to hire someone but they’ll leave quickly if they can find something more fairly paid, etc.)?

But meanwhile, full transparency with candidates up-front is the way to go.

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joking about people getting fired, what’s up with pantyhose, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/joking-about-people-getting-fired-whats-up-with-pantyhose-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/joking-about-people-getting-fired-whats-up-with-pantyhose-and-more.html#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2021 04:03:02 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21782 This post, joking about people getting fired, what’s up with pantyhose, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Was I wrong to joke about getting people fired? I’m an employee in an entertainment type of place and wanted to ask if my jokes have been inappropriate enough to result in a verbal warning. I was informed by my manager that I was supposed […]

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This post, joking about people getting fired, what’s up with pantyhose, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Was I wrong to joke about getting people fired?

I’m an employee in an entertainment type of place and wanted to ask if my jokes have been inappropriate enough to result in a verbal warning. I was informed by my manager that I was supposed to be the new team leader for the cleaners in our building, and I have been training two new people for about a week, helping them get settled and such. However, the youngest, who doesn’t have much work experience, has spoken to my manager twice about my jokes, the most recent and prominent ones being how I said that I had “the power to have one of them fired if I see fit,” which I followed up with a good laugh and stated, very clearly, that I was joking. The second joke was about the two of them fighting for the supervisor position when I stop being a cleaner here, but again I laughed and stated it was a joke. The youngest one is apparently worried her job isn’t safe even though I’ve had three conversations about these jokes with her, explaining I was not being at all serious. Was I in the wrong?

Yes, you were in the wrong! It’s appropriate for your manager to have a serious conversation with you about it and warn you not to do it again.

Joking about firing people when you have any kind of authority over them (or when they might think you do) is never appropriate. Some people might understand there’s nothing behind it, but others will not. And even if they’re pretty sure you’re joking, what exactly is the funny part — that it would be hilarious if they lost their jobs and their income? If nothing else, it signals to them that you’re cavalier about your authority and their livelihoods and that they can’t trust you to treat either of those with the care and seriousness they warrant.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that you’re new to training people and having authority and might not be super comfortable with that role yet — and one way you’re dealing with that is by joking around about it. But you just can’t joke about your own power to people who are subject to it in some way.

2. What’s the deal with pantyhose?

I’ve been loving your blog and have started going through the archives. Currently I’m on 2010, and I was reading the question from the reader about whether she should wear pantyhose hose to an interview. There were a lot of varied answers in the comments — and people seemed to feel strongly one way or another. Your answer was “In general, no.” But you also pointed out that in more conservative industries, they may still be the norm. Do you think this is still true? I have severe sensory issues regarding pantyhose and other things, so I never wear them. Do readers still think that people look polished/better with them?

Agh, the great pantyhose debate of 2010, in which the comment section got overtaken by pantyhose fetishists who apparently sent out a bat signal because A Woman Was Disparaging Pantyhose and I had to remove some really icky comments.

Pantyhose have almost entirely disappeared from workwear as a required item. Some people still choose to wear them, but industries where they’re expected are very rare now, and that’s a good thing. Bare legs are fine in the vast majority of fields.

Some people will tell you that women look better/more polished with pantyhose. Some people will also tell you that women look better/more polished in high heels or with unnaturally straightened hair or in a girdle. They’re welcome to their opinions, but those opinions do not obligate you in any way to please them.  In nearly all industries these days, bare legs are fine if you prefer them. (And not that it really matters, but if anything, I think you’ll find more people who think pantyhose looks dated now than those who think you should wear it.)

3. My boss is interfering with her daughter’s background check

The adult child (“Kate”) of one of our directors recently applied for a position within our company (but not under her mom’s direct supervision). The background check is pending because the screening company we use has not been able to verify some critical information. As a result, Kate is waiting to hear the outcome so she can officially give notice at her current job. Kate’s mom is now coming to me, asking about the results of the background screen (I don’t work in HR, but I have adjunct responsibilities, like running background checks). I would never provide feedback to any candidate’s parent, and I don’t see this as an exception. However, I report to this director, so I feel like I’m being crunched between what I would normally do versus what she expects me to do. Help!

HR is perfect for this kind of situation; it’s right up their alley. Talk to them! Say that you’d never discuss a candidate with their parent normally and you feel caught in an awkward situation since this parent is your boss. You might also point out that this is a worrying sign for whoever will be managing Kate if she’s hired — and that your boss/Kate’s mom needs to be told that she can’t interfere with Kate’s job if she’s brought on board. (Frankly, the fact that she’s already doing it should give that person serious pause about hiring her.)

4. Quickly leaving a new job that isn’t going well

I’m a recent grad (from grad school, not undergrad) who just got my first “salary” job. I’ve been here about a month and I’ve already been reprimanded multiple times. Part of it is definitely my fault; part of it feels like the company obfuscated things during the interview that I thought I had asked explicitly about. But maybe I misunderstood the answers.

I’ve been told I need to consider whether or not I’m staying at this job for what I’d say are mostly office culture missteps. It’s things like showing up on time — which apparently meant to the minute, not within five minutes, communicating more (genuinely didn’t know about that, have since hopefully corrected it), and so on. I think the perception of me is getting a little better, but I won’t know until the boss decides to sit me down in a week or so and tell me.

When they originally said, “Hey, you need to decide if this is the job for you,” I panicked a little and started contacting companies I had interviewed with who were interested in me before I chose this one. My current company isn’t really in my field and doesn’t use the skills I went to grad school for. I chose it because it seemed to have the office culture I wanted, plus a good salary, and it was a pandemic, so anything I can get.

But the companies I’m going to go back to interviewing with are in my field and use those skills. I figure if I do get an offer and accept it, I’ll be burning the bridge with this current job because I’m leaving so fast. I guess the question is — am I morally in the clear to leave so quickly, being such a bad start and being told I might be let go?

You are 100% morally in the clear to leave so quickly. They told you that you need to decide if this is the job for you! That is very much a way of saying, “This may not be the job for you,” and it’s a way of warning you things might not work out. Of course you started looking at other prospects after that! They’re not going to be shocked by that, and they might even be relieved if things aren’t going the way they’d hoped. If/when you resign, you can say something like, “I appreciate you being candid with me about your concerns that this might not be the right match. I took that seriously and after a lot of thought, I’ve decided it does make sense to move on.”

5. Store donates part of our tips to charity, without our permission

I’m a high school senior who works in a local food service shop that’s in my small town. It’s usually great. But we get tips in cash and through our iPad debit card system, so every week our boss adds up all of the tips and divides it by how many hours we worked and gives it to us in cash. Last year during the early days of the pandemic, there were a few times where the owners donated our product to local hospitals/first responders using not the store’s profit, but a small portion of our tips (maybe 10%? I was never told) but there was some consultation with the staff about whether we were okay with that.

I hadn’t heard anything else about the donations until recently, when I saw that my boss posted on the store Facebook page that the employees are so generous to donate a portion of our tips to hospital workers. No one that I’ve talked to was consulted as to if we wanted to do this. I’m not totally opposed to donating money, but it feels unethical that this money is disappearing without us even knowing, and some of my coworkers don’t want to either. I wish this would have been a conversation. It’s not a ton, but tips are often around $35 for a five-hour shift, so that 10% adds up quickly in how much we’re losing. Also, most people who work there are in high school with a few in college, so I feel like I want them to learn what is and isn’t appropriate from their employers for the future and how to stick up for themselves. Is this unethical or okay? And if it isn’t, any ideas for a script of how to talk to my boss about it? I would not know what to say.

No, this isn’t okay! Your boss can’t legally or ethically take your tips without your consent. It sounds like might have had it that first time (although it’s not clear if everyone agreed or not), but if he’s continuing to do it without checking with people, he needs to stop. Federal law prohibits any arrangement that requires tipped employees to turn over their tips to the employer (even if the employer then donates the money to charity). You can read more about the law here.

It’s also gross that he’s trying to make the store look good by taking money from y’all. If the store wants the credit for charitable donations, the store itself should provide the money.

Ideally a group of you should say, “We realized that federal law prevents any portion of our tips from being taken from us without our explicit agreement to donate them to charity. We think it’s great if the store wants to donate to charity, but it should come from the store, not from employees’ tips. Going forward, please do not deduct from our tips.”

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weekend open thread – June 5-6, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/weekend-open-thread-june-5-6-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/weekend-open-thread-june-5-6-2021.html#comments Sat, 05 Jun 2021 05:11:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21716 This post, weekend open thread – June 5-6, 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: Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I’m reading everything by this author after loving The Plot recently. In this one, an admissions officer at Princeton confronts her failing […]

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This post, weekend open thread – June 5-6, 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: Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I’m reading everything by this author after loving The Plot recently. In this one, an admissions officer at Princeton confronts her failing marriage, issues with her mom, and a momentous decision from the past. There are fascinating details about how admissions officers work!

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/its-your-friday-good-news-56.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/its-your-friday-good-news-56.html#comments Fri, 04 Jun 2021 16:00:39 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21717 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I’ve been reading your blog for over 5 years, it’s helped me out SO much in my journey from finding my first internship to navigating my early career. Not long after WFH started due to the pandemic, I realized that […]

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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, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’ve been reading your blog for over 5 years, it’s helped me out SO much in my journey from finding my first internship to navigating my early career.

Not long after WFH started due to the pandemic, I realized that the chaotic culture of my job was being masked by how much I liked a couple of my coworkers, so I started looking. When my Director (the manipulative headwater of an incredibly toxic river) found out I was looking, she threatened to have me blacklisted in our niche industry as she sits on the Board of our professional organization.

I didn’t want her shadow cast over my next job so I decided to try applying for roles in different industries that leveraged the same skillset. All of your cover letter advice was incredibly important in showing employers how my transferable skills would apply to the role, and the unique perspective I could bring! After I got my first offer, I even used your blog to negotiate even though I was desperate to escape.

My new job has turned out to be a wonderful counterbalance to all the negative behaviours at my last one – my manager has set up a clear succession plan for promotion, members of senior management have gone out of their way to provide feedback and support (even though I am at a fairly junior level and they manage dozens of staff members!), and work-life balance isn’t just given lip service.

As a first-generation immigrant, it was really hard to figure out work culture without having parents or older family members to go to, and your blog has filled that gap in my journey so many times. Thank you so much for all the time you put into sharing the resources that you do, and in an effort to pay it back, I’ve started participating in mentorship programs for PoC and disadvantaged youth in my community.

2. Five years ago, my husband took a new job in a community 5 hours away from what was to be our “forever home”. Our plan was to sell the house and make the move permanent, but…life happened and the market tanked. With our adult children under-employed or still in post-secondary, we left them to mind the house and we relocated. (We like to say “The kids grew up so we left home!”)

Fast forward to now. I’ve got a great job with the same organization and my boss is hugely supportive of my skill development. I love the challenge and the responsibility along with the strong team I work with. The only fly in the ointment is that our “forever home” is still sitting there and I’m way over here. (Which also means we’re paying both rent and mortgage!)

Earlier this month, I applied to a job “back home” that would have let us move back and offered lots of opportunity for job growth. I crafted an “AAM style” customized cover letter and changed my resume to focus on accomplishments instead of tasks. The interview went well and I was positive about the whole process.

I didn’t get the job.

But, this is good news, right? My boss was super supportive of the whole process, was willing to give me a kickass reference and completely understood why it made personal and economic sense for me (us, because he’d lose my husband too) to move. When he heard I was thinking of leaving, he asked what it would take to get me to stay. I was honest about the effect of the extra housing on our budget and that there’s no room for me to grow in the organization.

Boss looked up the job posting and realized it was a much more accurate reflection of the work I actually do than what’s in my current job description. He also saw how I was maxed out in terms of advancement in the organization if I stayed in my current role.

Instead, he and I rewrote my job description and he took my case to the evaluation committee. They established a new role (which will outlive my tenure, so the organization will benefit in the long term) and assessed my contribution several steps higher on the salary grid.

Today my title bump and 20% raise were made official!

I’ve learned a lot from AAM and refer people here all the time and I’ve used the language and suggestions here in many, many situations. 2020 was, to be honest, a terrible year for me and the verdict is still out on 2021, but this is a huge bright spot.

3. I’ve been freelancing as a translator since shortly before the pandemic started – at first I was doing well, but over time Covid affected me more and more, until I wasn’t really covering my expenses. I started applying to go back to FT jobs even though that wasn’t what I wanted to do. Honestly I had stopped reading the Friday Good News because it was bumming me out that I wasn’t making progress. But! I just got a part-time job that uses my language skills in a new way, and should make a huge difference in my bottom line – without me having to completely give up on my goals. I even used your negotiating techniques to get the hours I needed! Just want to say to anyone else in my boat: hang in there.

4. Back in January 2020 I was working in a very prestigious but very demanding job that I thought would be my “dream job”. It was tough but managable and I was doing everything in my power to make this job work out for me, even though it was one of the most toxic environments I’ve ever been in. My boss was an older British man who looked down on me for being a young American woman and punished me in a million small ways for not being the British “lad” he had wanted to hire for my position. The rest of the office was just as bad for various other reasons (including a coworker who would frequently tell stories about his time in various Thai brothels) and I was so desperate for people to like me that at one point in Febuary I resorted to bringing in muffins for the office (which unsurprisingly went totally unappreciated and turned into yet another thing I was critized for by my coworkers). Throughout January and Febuary I kept telling myself that it couldn’t get any worse and that it could only get better for me… and then the pandemic hit.

We went to working from home and the toxic environment only got worse. My boss went from a strict “No work communications on the weekends” policy to demanding I answer questions at 11PM on a Saturday because “You have the time to do this”. The toxic coworker who hated me started sending screenshots of everything I said to the grandboss and “accidentally” cc’ing me on it. During this time I started job hunting like it was my fulltime job. I spent about 2-3 hours everyday job hunting and becoming more and more depressed at my prospects. We went back to the office in May despite government regulations technically not allowing it and after two weeks of being back my boss ended up getting so drunk at a department function that he snapped into a rage, pinned me to the wall with his forearm, and screamed in my face that he “hated” me and “hated he had to stoop so low as to hire an American” and a whole bunch of other horrible stuff not worth repeating.

What I didn’t tell him at the time was that I had received a job offer only 24 hours before from a new organization far far away from these people in a totally different country. I quit as soon as I safely could (I had to wait a few weeks until my boss was out of the office for a few days. I didn’t want to risk being pinned to the wall again.) and left for my new job ASAP with my husband and two cats in tow. After I left I blocked everyone from that awful place, deleted that job from my resume, linkedin, etc. and closed the door on that chapter of my life forever.

As of today, I have been in my new job for about six months and I really like it here. Everyone is nice to me and I am judged on the quality of my work and ideas, not on my gender or nationality. My department even likes it when I bring in baked goods! I am adjusting to the new country as best I can (I moved continents so it’s a very different way of life than I am used to) and my cats love the house my employer has provided me (We went from a one bedroom city apartment to a three bedroom house with a yard and vegtable garden). My husband is doing well in his new job and has been told by managment that they want him to apply for a slight promotion in his department that would come with a small bump in pay and responsibilities. There is still a lot I need to work through in terms of healing from the toxic hellscape that was my last job but I have adopted the policy of “the best revenge is living well” and so far that’s been working for me. I also credit your blog with helping me get through the lows of job hunting so thanks for all the help, even if I never sent in a question directly.

5. I’ve been in a toxic job situation for seven years. It just about broke me, professionally and personally. I stayed for a myriad of reasons, none of them worth what I endured. I did some halfass job hunting for a couple of years but it left me feeling so broken and exhausted that I just avoided it.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to study your website and books like I was preparing to take the SAT again. I read, made notes, highlighted. I revamped my cover letter and my resume. I learned how to do better in interviews. I was contacted about a job that seemed like a perfect fit. I have NEVER felt so great after an interview. I have never connected with a hiring manager in such a strong way. I retained my professionalism but really tried to be authentic. I approached it as if the company was selling to me too because they are. I was very honest about my expectations and non-negotiables.

I was offered the job the next week. I’d named a number for my salary in the initial interview. My manager told me that she couldn’t offer me that. She wanted to offer me more! I was floored. This is something I thought only happened to other people. One of my major concerns about my previous job was the way they handled COVID. I also love working from home. This is something that is now permanent for me. My manager is communicative, kind and has already started calling me a rock star. I am so happy. Thanks to you and your commentators for helping me. I think my life will be very different now. I have a lot of work to do with shaking off trauma from my last job. I keep waiting to be abused, disrespected or taken advantage of and I just don’t think it is going to happen. I will continue to work with my therapist to shake off the gaslighting and abuse I’ve dealt with, but I am feeling great about this change.

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open thread – June 4-5, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/open-thread-june-4-5-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/open-thread-june-4-5-2021.html#comments Fri, 04 Jun 2021 15:00:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21715 This post, open thread – June 4-5, 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. * […]

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This post, open thread – June 4-5, 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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hiring a replacement before someone is fired, I accidentally sent a dirty message to my friend’s work email, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/hiring-a-replacement-before-someone-is-fired-i-accidentally-sent-a-dirty-message-to-my-friends-work-email-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/hiring-a-replacement-before-someone-is-fired-i-accidentally-sent-a-dirty-message-to-my-friends-work-email-and-more.html#comments Fri, 04 Jun 2021 04:03:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21775 This post, hiring a replacement before someone is fired, I accidentally sent a dirty message to my friend’s work email, 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 wrong to hire a replacement before someone is fired? I’ve been at my current job for 2-1/2 years and have gone through three grandbosses in that time. Each new grandboss has done “house cleaning” where they’ve let go quite a few long standing […]

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This post, hiring a replacement before someone is fired, I accidentally sent a dirty message to my friend’s work email, 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 wrong to hire a replacement before someone is fired?

I’ve been at my current job for 2-1/2 years and have gone through three grandbosses in that time. Each new grandboss has done “house cleaning” where they’ve let go quite a few long standing employees in management and brought in their own people. Crappy, but not unusual I guess. Recently I’ve noticed that literally within days of announcing a person was gone (and I confirmed they were fired without any type of notice), their replacement started work. It is obvious to me that they recruited and filled the position before letting the person currently in that position go.

I suppose that this is … practical? But it feels so slimy! They’ve done this secret recruitment, not advertising the position in their normal ways so no one sees that it’s open and figures out what’s happening. It also prevents anyone internally from applying for these positions because they obviously don’t advertise them internally so the person being fired doesn’t find out.

It all feels sneaky and gross to me. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to our new grandboss and really lessens my trust knowing my replacement could be actively being recruited and I have no idea my job is in jeopardy (the people who were fired were blindsided, no PIP, performance conversations, etc, which is another bad practice of course).

Am I overreacting? Is this just one of those facts of life that is less than ideal but just is the way it is?

Nah, it’s sneaky and gross, particularly as a routine practice. It’s one thing if you’re working with someone on performance issues and it seems pretty clear they’re not going to be able to make the improvements needed and so you start discreetly talking to possible replacements so you’re not starting from scratch if you do need to let the person go, and even then it’s still not ideal for all the reasons here.

But they’re not working with people on performance issues. They’re just firing them with no warning whatsoever — something that’s really only appropriate if someone has done something truly egregious (punched a coworker, embezzled money, etc.). All of it demonstrates that they’re not managers you can trust to operate fairly or with transparency, and you’re right to be alarmed.

2. I accidentally sent an inappropriate message to my friend’s work email

I sent an email to a friend’s work email instead of their personal email where the attachment was something they actually requested that was harmless but as a joke I made the subject line “DILDO RECEIPT.” I realized what I’d done and reached out to the friend, who said it never came through to their inbox, junk or even quarantined/spam folders. She works for a very large corporation (50,000+ employees). What are the odds someone flagged it and will see this and confront my friend about it? What are the odds the friend gets fired?

The odds of her getting fired are extremely low. Someone may have an awkward conversation with her about it, but even that probably won’t happen. But if it does, it’ll be clear she didn’t send it and she can say, “Yeah, my friend has a weird sense of humor, meant to send it to my personal address, and I’ve already told her not to do it again.”

3. How much does an executive forwarding a resume to a hiring manager matter?

I recently gave my employer notice. I’m a reporter moving to follow my partner, who recently got a job across the country in Big City where we’ve been hoping to move. My editor sent out the customary company-wide email to announce my departure and it included some compliments, as have all of the “this person is retiring/quitting emails” at this company.

One of my colleagues (who I’ve never actually met before! What a saint!) forwarded the “she’s quitting” email to his old friend who is now a high-level executive at a company that publishes a big newspaper in Big City. The executive asked for my resume and examples of my work and sent that to the editor-in-chief and head of HR at that paper.

Of course I’m really excited. But I also don’t know how much weight, if any, editors might put in this kind of thing. I can imagine it might even be annoying to them if they don’t want an executive to get involved in their hiring process. For more background, I have three years of experience and their current open positions require five years experience. I’m also not sure if I should apply to their open positions separately through their website so I can also get a cover letter in or if I should wait to hear back.

If you received a resume this way, would that stand out to you in a good way or would it be basically meaningless or annoying? I’d also love to hear from AAM readers who have been in similar positions as I am. What came of it?

It varies. When the executive doesn’t know you personally, it’s usually not “you must interview this person” but rather “hey, take a look at this person and see what you think.” Sometimes it is “you must interview them,” but more often it’s just “have a look” and you’ll probably get a slightly longer look than you would have otherwise (which doesn’t guarantee an interview, but does usually mean more care with your application). Do go ahead and send in a formal application too; it might turn out to be unnecessary but you can’t know for sure, and it’s better for them to have it than to not.

It’s not usually seen as terribly annoying; candidates come in from all sorts of avenues and that’s fine. (It has a higher risk of being annoying if you cold-emailed the executive rather than just using their normal application process, but it’s less so when someone else is recommending you.) Good luck!

4. I asked the magic question and it backfired

I’ve been a big fan of asking interviewers the question you recommend, “Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?” and have done so successfully in the past! However, I had an interview yesterday where this question completely backfired, and I don’t know whether it was my fault or not. I had an interview for admin work in academia, and interviewed with the boss (1) and the boss below her (2).

At first, I was met with silence. Then I tried clarifying with, ”Like any particular skills…?” And then Boss 2 gave me a long answer on how she could but wouldn’t proclaim any skill superior to another. It felt like she was really offended by the question, and she kept going about how sometimes they need people with expertise in area X and sometimes Y and she couldn’t give me an example of how someone would be great overall. Which is, you know, excellent points! But I don’t understand the question ended up being something that she felt she had to defend against me. She also made a remark about how they are a group who complete each other, which is a good thing but in context was probably a jab towards my individualism? Or something? Boss 1 said that the ability to listen to the organization is good, but agreed with Boss 2.

The thing that might have come across as something (egotism? rudeness?) was maybe that I added, “thinking back on people that have had this position before, or maybe who have it now” (since there were 50 other employees with the same title at the office). Did I screw up big time, or was this a red flag?

That question isn’t just designed to impress interviewers (although it often does); it’s also designed to help get you better insight into the job and whether it’s a good fit for you. And I’d argue it succeeded — because it revealed some really weird info about the person who would be managing you! When someone reacts that oddly and defensively to a normal question, that’s useful info for you to have.

So no, I don’t think you screwed up. I wouldn’t have referenced the person who has the job now since some managers won’t want to say anything that could sound like performance commentary on specific current employees (although with 50 people in the same job, that’s less of a worry) but that’s not a big enough deal to have produced the reaction you got. Something is weird there, and it’s not you.

5. I keep getting rejected for jobs I already declined

This happened three times in the last few years, and I am very confused about this behavior. I had interviews for various positions, decided to not take them, and informed the interviewing companies of this via email/phone. Then, weeks later, I get an email from them saying that they are no longer interested in pursuing the application with me.

The well-meaning interpretation of this would be that they just lost my message and wanted to make sure things are cleared up from their side.

But this feels rather insulting, and makes me wonder if I now have a negative remark in their interviewing systems, and if it would even make sense to write back, “No, you are mistaken, I cancelled with you on March X.”

Nah, leave it alone. It’s just sloppy application tracking — most likely they’re sending rejections to everyone who applied and didn’t get hired, and you’re technically in that group even though it doesn’t make any sense to send you that message. But even if you’re recorded as having been rejected for the job, that’s not a black mark against you if you apply there in the future. (And even if you did respond to correct their records, they’re very unlikely to actually change anything in their system to reflect that.)

If you were getting these messages within a couple of days of the interview you’d canceled, I’d be more concerned — like did they think you no-showed and so they’re rejecting you based on that? Because that’s something that could be held against you in the future. But you’re getting the messages weeks later, which says they’re probably just doing a mass rejection of all applicants they didn’t hire.

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unvaccinated employees are complaining about a $100 bonus for getting vaccinated https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/unvaccinated-employees-are-complaining-about-a-100-bonus-for-getting-vaccinated.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/unvaccinated-employees-are-complaining-about-a-100-bonus-for-getting-vaccinated.html#comments Thu, 03 Jun 2021 17:59:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21725 This post, unvaccinated employees are complaining about a $100 bonus for getting vaccinated , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My wife is in middle management for a relatively large health care system, where she manages over 100 clinical staff. Her employer recently announced that anyone who receives a Covid-19 vaccine will get a few perks, the most significant being a $100 bonus. We both thought that was a great idea, but […]

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This post, unvaccinated employees are complaining about a $100 bonus for getting vaccinated , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My wife is in middle management for a relatively large health care system, where she manages over 100 clinical staff. Her employer recently announced that anyone who receives a Covid-19 vaccine will get a few perks, the most significant being a $100 bonus. We both thought that was a great idea, but this week, she has been hearing tons of negative feedback from her staff who aren’t vaccinated and have no plans to be.

I have two broad questions about this: First, is there anything illegal about offering incentives to employees for personal decisions about their health? And two, do you have any language for how to talk with her employees about it?

The federal government actually just updated its guidance to employers about exactly this!

The EEOC confirmed last week that vaccine incentives fall under its existing regulations on wellness programs. Specifically:

* If the employee receives the vaccine from a third party (not from their employer), the employer can offer an incentive of any kind and require proof of vaccination from the employee before providing the incentive.

* If the employee receives the vaccine from the employer or the employer’s agent, they can still offer an incentive as long as it is not “so substantial as to be coercive.” (The concern is that a large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information by responding to pre-screening questions when getting the vaccine from the employer or its agent.)

As for how to talk to employees about their pushback … frankly, the more pressing problem is that she has a bunch of staff with no plans to get vaccinated, and in a health care system no less (I’m assuming without medical/religious reasons). But if she wants to address the complaints about the incentive, there’s not a lot to say other than, “It’s in the company’s interest to have as many people as possible safely vaccinated so that they’re not spreading a deadly disease to colleagues or the public.”

While we’re talking about updated guidance from the EEOC, they also said in that same recent update:

* Employers can require that employees be vaccinated in order to enter the workplace.

* As always, an employer would need to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities or religious objections unless doing so would cause the employer undue hardship. The EEOC guidance provided examples of reasonable accommodations for employer to consider, such as requiring the unvaccinated employee to wear a mask, maintain social distance from others, work a modified shift, or telework.

* Employers who do not require vaccination can still require that employees disclose their vaccination status, as long as questions are limited to whether or not an employee is vaccinated (including the type of vaccine and dates administered) and don’t inquire as to why an employee may have chosen not to get the vaccine.

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Ask a Manager in the media https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/ask-a-manager-in-the-media-12.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/ask-a-manager-in-the-media-12.html#comments Thu, 03 Jun 2021 16:29:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21685 This post, Ask a Manager in the media , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here’s some coverage of Ask a Manager in the media recently: I talked to the New York Times about keeping boundaries between your work life and your personal life. I talked to Today about how the definition of “looking professional” has changed. (This one is old and I forgot to post it earlier.) I talked […]

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This post, Ask a Manager in the media , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here’s some coverage of Ask a Manager in the media recently:

I talked to the New York Times about keeping boundaries between your work life and your personal life.

I talked to Today about how the definition of “looking professional” has changed. (This one is old and I forgot to post it earlier.)

I talked to Vice about how to motivate yourself to write cover letters.

I talked to Bloomberg about employees who don’t want to go back to the office.

I talked to the Forward about what the future of work holds.

I talked to Bored Panda about office food thefts.

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when out-of-office messages go wrong https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/when-out-of-office-messages-go-wrong.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/when-out-of-office-messages-go-wrong.html#comments Thu, 03 Jun 2021 14:59:50 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21726 This post, when out-of-office messages go wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: The question last week about “thanks in advance” had me wondering about your thoughts on this person’s manager’s out-of-office reply in this video. I found it to be super condescending and way too much. What do you think? Would be interested in readers’ out-of-office messages. First, here’s the out-of-message for people who […]

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This post, when out-of-office messages go wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

The question last week about “thanks in advance” had me wondering about your thoughts on this person’s manager’s out-of-office reply in this video. I found it to be super condescending and way too much. What do you think? Would be interested in readers’ out-of-office messages.

First, here’s the out-of-message for people who don’t like watching video (although the person in the video is funny and really brings the message to life):

Oh shoot. You need something and I’m unavailable today. Here’s the good news: you have options.

Option 1: Wait it out. Ask yourself, “Is this urgent and important?” If it isn’t, take a beat and give me a chance to respond after I dig myself out of my inbox later this week. You and I will be better off with this expectation set now.

Option 2: Get help sooner. If you answered yes to the above question, don’t wait. I have a team of competent humans who look out for me and one another. They can help you too. Work with (insert names here) accordingly. If you need help with scheduling, cut straight to my assistant.

Option 3: If it’s an inferno, skip the line. Is everything burning and only a master of existential threats could help? First, flattered you even contacted me. Now get going and contact my supervisor. He is the elusive one you’re looking for.

Okay. So, it’s not to my exact personal tastes — to me, it’s overly wordy — but it’s probably fine for their culture and I’d be mildly amused if I got it. I see where you’re seeing condescension, but I think you can read it without that too.

I’d be happier getting this than one of the out-of-office messages that provides waayyy too much detail — “I’m at home nursing an unhappy stomach, hope to be in tomorrow, but meanwhile am resting and checking email in between bathroom runs,” etc.

But let’s talk out-of-office messages: overshares, excessive detail, the ones that self-aggrandize (I once had a coworker whose auto-replies often said he’d be in late because he “pulled an all-nighter” on various work projects, etc.), the ones that never get turned off, people who don’t use them at all, and other pet peeves.

Readers, what do you like and hate in out-of-offices replies? Any stories of particularly off-key ones?

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coworker loves to abuse robocallers, boss uses Facebook photos without permission, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/coworker-loves-to-abuse-robocallers-boss-uses-facebook-photos-without-permission-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/coworker-loves-to-abuse-robocallers-boss-uses-facebook-photos-without-permission-and-more.html#comments Thu, 03 Jun 2021 04:03:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21735 This post, coworker loves to abuse robocallers, boss uses Facebook photos without permission, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My coworker loves to abuse robocallers I work in a county government building that is constantly under construction. A few weeks ago, my desk was moved to accommodate some new renovations. My new space is a cubicle within an unrelated department. The person who occupies […]

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This post, coworker loves to abuse robocallers, boss uses Facebook photos without permission, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My coworker loves to abuse robocallers

I work in a county government building that is constantly under construction. A few weeks ago, my desk was moved to accommodate some new renovations. My new space is a cubicle within an unrelated department. The person who occupies the cubicle in front of mine, Fergus, loves robocalls. He will wait out the recorded message and then pretend to want whatever service or product the live caller is pitching. He’ll draw them in for a while and then when the caller thinks they’re about to close the deal, Fergus will call them all kinds of vile names and tell them how ashamed their family would be of them. One time I heard him tell a caller they would burn in hell. Just this morning he put a curse on a caller’s house. He’s loud and animated on these calls. Recently, he started representing his son who is being contacted by debt collectors. So now the debt collectors are also calling Fergus. Fergus is a lawyer and will cite state statutes to the debt collectors and inform them that their violations will result in them personally owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state. He’ll threaten to get them fired and also berate them for their choice of professions.

These calls happen about three or four times a day. Some people in the office chuckle when they hear him, but it gets kind of distracting. I’m no fan of robocallers or debt collectors, but is there a way to ask him to tone it down or go outside? We work in different departments and I don’t know who his supervisor is.

Of course it’s distracting! Having to hear someone spew vitriol three or four times a day while you’re trying to work must be really unpleasant, too. If Fergus wants to handle calls outside the office that way, that’s his prerogative (although regularly going out of one’s way to be awful to someone rather than just hanging up is a crappy way to go through life), but it’s bizarre that he’s spending work time on this multiple times a day.

Would you be comfortable saying, “If you’re not willing to just hang up on robocallers, would you mind taking those calls somewhere else? It’s really jarring to hear that kind of abusive language when I’m trying to work, especially several times a day.”

2. My boss uses Facebook photos without permission

I started a new job earlier this year. My new boss added me as a Facebook friend shortly after. Normally I wouldn’t accept a friend request from a boss, but I noticed she was friends with my coworkers and they all were active on the company’s Facebook page.

After a few months, I’ve realized she can be volatile, and I don’t want to get on her bad side. Today, she tagged me in a post on the company’s Facebook page, which featured a personal photo from my account. The photo isn’t inappropriate, but I’m uncomfortable that she used it. It’s nearly 10 years old, which means that she had to go through a LOT of old photos to get there.

Apparently this is par for the course. I’ve learned that she finds personal photos of employees online and uses them to make digital birthday cards, etc. to share with the office.

I have a professional photo that is on the company website. In an ideal world, I would tell her that I would not like my personal photos to be used in any capacity, but that my professional photo would be acceptable. But I’m worried that she will get hostile and retaliate if I voice this.

I’ve changed my privacy settings so that she is on my restricted list (so that she can only access my profile information that is public), while still staying Facebook friends. Knowing her tendencies and personality, I feel like it’s safer to just try to strengthen my security settings, rather than confront her. What would you do in my shoes?

Normally it should be completely fine and not controversial to say, “If you need a photo of me for something, please use my company headshot or check with me if you need something different. I’m not comfortable having photos from my Facebook account used without my permission.” That’s not confronting her, it’s just passing along a reasonable request. But if your knowledge of her tells you she’d take that badly, then just keeping her access highly restricted is a good way to go. (For what it’s worth, even people who are volatile would often be perfectly fine with that request, but it’s also understandable not to want to risk finding out.)

If you wanted to, you could disconnect from her on Facebook altogether and say something like, “A mentor who I really respect told me I should never connect to managers until we’re no longer working together” or “I’m barely using Facebook these days so I’ve pared it down to family” or so forth. But if you think she’d take that badly, just keep her highly restricted.

3. My boss’s wife was so rude to me that I walked off the job

I recently walked out of my job due to what I feel was harassment by my boss’s wife. She recently dubbed herself the “office manager” after retiring from 33 years of teaching last June. We started off great and got along surprisingly well. I went out for two weeks in March for surgery and when I returned, her whole demeanor towards me had changed. She was short, rude, and found a way to nitpick and find fault with me daily. I am a nurse and have been for 25 years and she insisted on trying to tell me how to do my job.

The tension between us was mounting everyday until finally about two weeks ago it came to a head. She was very rude when I arrived one morning, and I let it go. That afternoon she was rude again and yelled at me loudly enough that a patient in the waiting room heard her and made a joke about it when I brought him back to a room. I decided then that I’d had enough and after I got him situated, I walked out. Is this considered harassment? A hostile workplace? Can I report her?

Assuming she’s just a jerk and not targeting you because of your race, sex, religion, disability, or other legally protected class, it’s not considered harassment or hostile workplace in the legal sense.

In a legal sense, a “hostile workplace” isn’t what it sounds like: It’s not about your boss or coworkers creating a hostile environment for you by being jerks. The term refers to conduct that’s based on race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. The conduct must be based on those categories and “must be severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” (This whole paragraph is also true for workplace harassment.)

So a lot of jerkiness isn’t actually illegal and isn’t reportable outside of your company.

4. How many resume bullet points are too many?

I’ve been helping my mom update her resume while she looks for a new job. It needs a lot of work, mostly in changing her work experience to be accomplishments instead of job duties (but at least they’re bulleted lists, not paragraphs!)

She listed 3 jobs going back about 11 years, but underneath each job, she lists between 10-15 bullet points. One one hand, she worked at one of those jobs for 8 years, so it makes sense to have a lot under it. But more than 10 still seems like a lot. I usually aim to have 3-4 per job when I’m doing my resume, but my longest tenure was only 3 years.

This all left me wondering what to tell her to do. Should I tell her to shorten it, or is 10+ bullet points okay, as long as they’re accomplishments?

It’s depends on the individual resume. As a general rule, 10-15 bullet points for a single job is a lot, and 10-15 bullet points for each of three jobs is really a lot. But if each bullet point is truly compelling and impressive, I wouldn’t remove some just to adhere to an arbitrary number. Be rigorous, though, about making sure that they all really meet that bar … and bring an even higher bar to the oldest job.

For all of them, maybe ask her which ones she’d keep if she could only have six or so bullet points per job and then see if you each feel like anything really important is being lost.

5. Should I tell my boss if I have an easily treatable cancer?

I recently found out that I have a concerning nodule on my thyroid that I have to get biopsied to see if it’s cancerous. It’s taking forever (or it feels like it) to get an appointment to have the procedure done, and I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything to anyone at work at this point because I have no idea if there’s an actual issue.

Thyroid cancer is generally very treatable, usually just with surgery. Chemo/radiation are rarely used if everything is contained in the thyroid. So, in the case that the nodule I have is cancerous, I’d likely just have to have surgery. (The surgery, to be fair, would have some life-altering effects. I don’t want to downplay it; it’s just not as intense as many other cancer treatments.)

What I’m wondering is, if this ends up being the case, do I tell my boss what’s going on or just say that I’m having surgery? I know I don’t technically have to say anything and my boss wouldn’t push for details if I remained vague, but … the idea just feels weird. On the one hand, cancer is cancer and can be scary regardless of the treatment; on the other hand, I know it conjures up images of chemo and radiation, and I’m always concerned about seeming dramatic or blowing things out of proportion. So, what do I say if I end up having to deal with cancer?

It’s completely up to you! You can share as much or as little if you want to. If you’re more comfortable just saying you’re having surgery, that’s absolutely fine. (And you don’t need to say more than that but if you did want to give a little more context, you could say something like, “Nothing to worry about too much, just something my doctor wants me to take care of soon.”) But if you have the kind of relationship with your boss where you’d be more comfortable explaining more about the situation, that’s fine too. Doing that wouldn’t be dramatic; explaining you have cancer when you do in fact have cancer is not dramatic, and you could be clear that your doctor doesn’t expect you to need chemo or radiation. It’s really entirely up to you.

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should I let my staff take retroactive leave for unproductive days? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/should-i-let-my-staff-take-retroactive-leave-for-unproductive-days.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/should-i-let-my-staff-take-retroactive-leave-for-unproductive-days.html#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2021 17:59:54 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21731 This post, should I let my staff take retroactive leave for unproductive days? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My office is fully remote and very flexible, allowing people to work whenever they want as long as they make meetings and assessing performance based on work output, not time. I’m in charge of leave policies, and I’ve recently hit a snag: a few employees have been taking time off retroactively, either […]

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This post, should I let my staff take retroactive leave for unproductive days? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My office is fully remote and very flexible, allowing people to work whenever they want as long as they make meetings and assessing performance based on work output, not time. I’m in charge of leave policies, and I’ve recently hit a snag: a few employees have been taking time off retroactively, either “paying” with leave retroactively for unproductive work time during the week or taking too much advantage of the flexibility and then wanting to “pay” for that in leave. For example, one employee might not start work until late afternoon, work only a couple hours, and then want to retroactively take leave to make up for that.

I’ve encouraged people not to “punish” themselves for being unproductive by taking leave and proactively take time off when they think they won’t work a full day, but I’m getting pushback from a couple of staff who view strict time accounting as the trade-off for the flexibility we offer. Some also say they don’t realize in advance when they’re going to only end up working a few hours — I suppose they think they will work late to make up for starting late, and then end up not doing so. I don’t love that, and I don’t love retroactively taking leave, but I’m not sure I can articulate why it’s bad — or maybe I’m off-base and I should just allow everyone to use leave however they want! What do you think? What is the culture about leave taking at other remote/flexible hours workplaces?

I wrote back and asked the letter-writer if she could better pinpoint what’s making her uneasy about it. Her response:

Yeah, I’m questioning myself a little here because I wonder if part of the reason I don’t like it is that it’s not what I’m used to, but we generally try to have a better justification for policies than that!

I think it comes down to a few of things:

• When a direct report doesn’t let me know they haven’t worked as much as they meant to until the end of the week, the issue isn’t the hours (which could be “paid back” with leave under the employee’s desired system) because I don’t generally care about hours if you’re meeting all your goals. It’s that there might have been some goals/tasks that week that, had you told me proactively you were out sick with a cold or just not productive or whatever, I might have stepped in and reassigned or similar. Of course if it’s just an hour here and there it typically doesn’t matter, but if it’s getting towards full days of work out, it becomes an issue.

• I think sick leave should be used in a recuperative way. If you’re having a cold, you rest in bed to get better on sick leave. If you’re having a bad mental health day, you practice self-care. If you’re really fried and not productive, you step away from work. I worry about staff who want to “pay” for a lack of productivity retroactively, because in some cases they have been at the computer the appropriate hours, feeling guilty perhaps for not working, rather than recuperating. It seems they then don’t benefit from the leave they end up taking to cover this, or risk spending too much of their sick leave this way and not having enough later.

• I have a general feeling that this focus on hours spent promotes time-focused performance management and not goal/output-focused management.

I think some of this is legit and some of it less so.

What seems very legitimate is your first bullet point. If you would assign work differently if you knew someone wasn’t going to be working their expected hours, that’s absolutely your business — and it’s very reasonable to point that out and ask that you be informed ahead of time (or at least in real time). That said, how often is that the case? If it’s very rare, this point holds less weight.

I don’t disagree that sick leave should be used in a recuperative way, not sitting in front of the computer feeling guilty about not working. And you can work to create a culture that supports truly disconnecting during leave (including modeling that yourself, talking explicitly about its importance, supporting people when they disconnect, and not contacting them when they’re out), but I get antsy when managers get too involved in dictating exactly how sick leave should and shouldn’t be used. So I’m not fond of that as the core of the argument here.

I’m with you that what your staff wants to do can put an overemphasis on hours spent in front of a computer rather than output. But that’s more the fault of the time-off system itself; it’s based on hours worked/not worked, so it’s not surprising that people are using that model. (And that’s not necessarily a criticism of the model; unlimited time off policies can be their own mess. But when you you give people X hours off, they’re going to think in terms of X hours off.)

I think, ultimately, when you want to give people flexibility (which is great), part of that is letting them make their own decisions about whether to assign their time that day to leave or not. That’s definitely the case when it’s not retroactive — when instead it’s just someone thinking, “Eh, I’ll knock off a few hours early today” or “I feel like sleeping in so I’ll start a few hours late” (assuming that doesn’t negatively affect anyone’s projects; if it does, that’s the issue to address). I’d decide that’s completely fine and not worry about it anymore, assuming you’re getting whatever communication you need to keep work flowing smoothly.

Where I’m more concerned is with the retroactive stuff. If someone spends the day in bed watching West Wing reruns, it makes sense to charge that to PTO. But if someone is in front of their computer, answering the occasional email, in theory ready to work but just has trouble getting motivated to accomplish anything concrete — the kind of day where you get sucked into reading months of posts in the office #suggestion-box Slack channel because some of them are hilarious and then you realize the day is almost over and you’ve accomplished nothing … well, most people have a day like that now and then and they’re not charging it to PTO. If someone is doing an excellent job and they have an occasional day like that, that’s because they’re a normal human and I don’t love seeing them lose PTO over it. In those cases, at least when you hear about it, you could say, “We all have less productive days now and then and your work is on track. I don’t want you losing PTO over it so don’t charge it that way.”

Of course, if someone is regularly having those unproductive days, then you’d want to look at what else might be going on. Did they just come off a season of 60-hour weeks? If so, some slower days are to be expected. Or are they disengaged or unmotivated? Dealing with stressors outside of work? Are they performing at a high level (and if so, do those unproductive days matter in any real way) or is their work suffering? There are a bunch of possibilities, but I’d take it as a flag to look at what’s really behind it and to actively manage anything that requires managing, rather than approaching it as strictly a question of how and whether to log PTO.

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my employee doesn’t work enough hours https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-employee-doesnt-work-enough-hours.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-employee-doesnt-work-enough-hours.html#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2021 16:29:54 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21549 This post, my employee doesn’t work enough hours , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I supervise a very good employee. She is exempt and full-time. She is very efficient, but she rarely puts a full day in at the office. I haven’t had a problem with this because of her efficiency, and I don’t think hours worked is as important as productivity. Lately she has been […]

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This post, my employee doesn’t work enough hours , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I supervise a very good employee. She is exempt and full-time. She is very efficient, but she rarely puts a full day in at the office. I haven’t had a problem with this because of her efficiency, and I don’t think hours worked is as important as productivity.

Lately she has been telling me that she does not have time to take on projects. But I know she can fit in more work because she isn’t working the full 40 hours she is supposed to. How do I approach this without making it seem as if my concern is that I don’t see her in the office from 8-5 every day?

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:

  • Is it okay to cry when firing someone?
  • My interview got canceled because another team is interested in me
  • Can I tell my employee she might need glasses?
  • Asking why a job is open again so soon
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we’re being put back in cubicles even though we’re more productive in private offices https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/were-being-put-back-in-cubicles-even-though-were-more-productive-in-private-offices.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/were-being-put-back-in-cubicles-even-though-were-more-productive-in-private-offices.html#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2021 14:59:54 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21730 This post, we’re being put back in cubicles even though we’re more productive in private offices , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My role involves lots and lots of meetings — meetings with colleagues in my department and meetings with internal clients, individually and in small groups. I also do a lot of training for groups — sometimes asynchronous but mostly synchronous. I also write complex documents. My department has 14 people with similar […]

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This post, we’re being put back in cubicles even though we’re more productive in private offices , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My role involves lots and lots of meetings — meetings with colleagues in my department and meetings with internal clients, individually and in small groups. I also do a lot of training for groups — sometimes asynchronous but mostly synchronous. I also write complex documents. My department has 14 people with similar roles, and we all have this blend of consultations, training, and writing. We all have cubicles — big cubicles to be fair — in two open offices.

Before the pandemic, we did a mix of Zoom/phone meetings from our cubicles and in-person meetings and training in conference rooms scattered around our building. Since the pandemic began, we’ve done our consultations, training, and writing from home.

I am so much more productive in my home office than I was in my cubicle! When I’m presenting or consulting via Zoom (or even the phone), I don’t have to moderate my voice to reduce the disturbance to colleagues who are trying focus. When I am writing, I don’t have to listen to anyone else’s noise. I never have to spend time booking a conference room (in a separate system than our shared calendar), making sure all the internal clients know how to find it, walking there, kicking out the people there without a reservation, and setting up the in-room tech. When I say I’m more productive outside of the cubicle environment, I’m not just assessing myself — that’s according to quantitative stats and qualitative feedback from our internal clients (not to mention my boss).

I’ve raised this issue with my department leadership, and the response was — offices have been desired for a long time but are not going to happen because we don’t have the budget. (For context, the org has a whole has an annual operative budget of four billion dollars.) It’s really hard for me to interpret this any other way than, “Sure, you can do better ‘deep work’ and better interpersonal work from private offices, but that’s not a high priority for the organization.” Budgets reflect priorities, and the fact that we’ve got shiny new public spaces for internal clients in our department, but unrenovated open offices for my team, shows that my team’s work is not a high priority.

How do I reframe this some way other than “leadership doesn’t value my team’s work”? Because whether that’s true or not, it would make me pretty miserable to believe it, and I’m not planning to leave this job anytime soon.

And any new ideas from commentors about mitigating any of the problems I mentioned (avoiding distracting others, being distracted, having to schedule conference rooms)?

Also, I would like to make a public apology for every time I internally rolled my eyes at someone who was complaining about our cubicles. I though these people wanted offices as status symbols, but I didn’t realize how bad cubicles can be compared with offices. I was wrong and you were all right!

You’re probably right that the message is, “Sure, you can do better ‘deep work’ and better interpersonal work from private offices, but that’s not a high priority for the organization.”

But that’s not necessarily the same thing as “leadership doesn’t value your team’s work.” It could easily be “leadership doesn’t agree that private offices would make enough of a difference to justify the cost.” They might value your work greatly but see the productivity improvements from private offices as incremental enough not to make sense. They might know that if they give your team private offices, there will be 12 other teams that could make the same case for themselves with the same or even stronger reasoning, and that changes the cost/upheaval equation significantly. There’s a point where if you do it for everyone who would benefit from it, you need an entirely different building.

You can look at that and say, “Well, if so many people would benefit from private offices, why not get different buildings? Why not change the whole model and give offices to everyone who’d benefit?” But you’ve got to balance that against costs, real estate realities, and how that particular priority stacks up against other priorities, which might be more pressing or have greater payoffs.

I’m not here to defend cubicles. I think they often suck, for all the reasons you named. I think companies are often sacrificing people’s productivity and quality of life by using them. But I also don’t think “we’re willing to accept this particular decrease in productivity in exchange for not blowing up our entire real estate model and causing a bunch of drama with other teams” is the same as saying they don’t value your work.

It’s a thing that sucks, for sure. I just wouldn’t read any more meaning into it than what’s really there.

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interviewer became rude after I got his name wrong, coworkers keep asking to see my baby bump, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/rude-interviewer-baby-bump-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/rude-interviewer-baby-bump-and-more.html#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2021 04:03:22 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21729 This post, interviewer became rude after I got his name wrong, coworkers keep asking to see my baby bump, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My interviewer become rude and disinterested after I got his name wrong I was recently laid off and got an interview after applying for the position within two days. I should have given myself more time to get prepared but was excited and decided to […]

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This post, interviewer became rude after I got his name wrong, coworkers keep asking to see my baby bump, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My interviewer become rude and disinterested after I got his name wrong

I was recently laid off and got an interview after applying for the position within two days. I should have given myself more time to get prepared but was excited and decided to take it head on! Right off the bat, I made a very bad impression by calling the interviewer by the wrong name, and the interview eventually ended badly.

I had checked my email before the call and the sender’s name was stuck in my head, which led to my confusion and I called him by the wrong name. He called me out on it, which I apologized for, but after that I noticed the mood shifted and he no longer seemed interested in what I had to say. At one point, he even picked up his phone to text while I tried to get the interview back on track. After that, he asked if we could stop sharing our video and finished up the interview early.

No matter what I did, it seemed like there was no saving myself. Looking back, I wish I had just stopped the interview after I felt disrespected and knew there was no chance I would be considered for this role. I would love to hear your thoughts on how to handle bad interviews from bad first impressions. This one kind of got to me — it made me feel like my past professional experiences were inadequate and made me second-guess myself while I was trying to job search.

Accidentally calling the interviewer by the name of someone else you’d been corresponding with isn’t ideal, but it’s not an outrage. It happens; people slip up and forget names. Candidates have called me plenty of things other than Alison (Elizabeth is popular, for some reason), and I don’t care in the slightest. I mean, yes, if the person seemed like a disorganized mess in other ways, that name mess-up would look like part of a bigger picture — but an otherwise good candidate who got my name wrong upon meeting me for the first time? It would be crappy hiring to hold that against them.

I say all that because your interviewer’s reaction was over-the-top. Letting the whole mood shift and losing interest in what you were saying? It’s possible he’s just rude in general and would have been texting and ignoring you throughout the conversation even if you’d gotten his name right. There’s no way to know — but what we do know is that he’s rude and you didn’t cause that.

To your broader question about how to handle bad first impressions in an interview, sometimes you can address it directly — “I worry we got off on the wrong foot when I fumbled my answer to your first question. If you’ll give me a minute, I’d like to speak to that again, now that I realize what you were looking for.” … or “I’m worried we got off on the wrong foot when I tripped you in the hall! I’m mortified — I’ve never done that before, and obviously it’s not the impression I wanted to make! I promise you I’m not normally walking around tripping colleagues.” … or so forth. But with a guy who reacts this strongly because you got his name wrong, I’m not sure that’s something you can salvage on your own.

That said, in a situation like what you described, sometimes it’s reasonable to politely call out the behavior — as in, “I’m getting the sense I’ve lost you. Is there something different you were looking for?” or even ““I’m getting the sense I’ve lost you. Does it make sense for us to keep talking?” … but if you’re at the point of asking that, it probably doesn’t make sense to keep talking, and it would just be a way to decline to be treated disrespectfully.

2. Should I let my boss know we can see he’s following sexually explicit accounts?

I started a new job recently and did some cursory googling of my new supervisor. I don’t follow or friend anyone I work with on social media, but I did see that he has a public Instagram account that goes mostly unused. However, since it’s public, I can also see accounts and hashtags that he follows, the latter of which includes the name of someone who appears to be an adult model and the hashtag brings up nude and sexual images.

I don’t really care that this is something he is or was interested in having on his feed, but I know from my short time on the team that he would be mortified to know this was visible to anyone who searches his name, particularly since we work in education in student-facing roles (in higher education, so adult students, for what it’s worth). I feel like we have developed a good rapport, and our work environment is fairly casual; people feel comfortable with occasional cursing in conversations with colleagues, we wear t-shirts while we’re all still working from home, and he is around my age. I’m not sure whether this is something I should mention to him though, partly because I don’t want to embarrass him and partly because while the possibility of anyone else finding this exists, well, I doubt other people are really searching the hashtags he follows on Instagram and I don’t want him to think I’m a creep.

Leave it alone. You’re new, there’s a not-insignificant chance that it’ll make him feel uncomfortable around you (which can play out in subtle ways that aren’t good for you professionally, even without intent on his part), and it’s not yours to solve. It’s a kind thought to want to tip him off, but you’re better off just pretending you didn’t see it!

3. My coworker keep asking to see my baby bump on Zoom

I am pregnant with my first child and am due in two months. My coworkers haven’t seen me at all since I got pregnant, as we are all working remotely since the start of the pandemic. My boss and coworkers keep jokingly asking to see my baby bump on Zoom, or commenting if they catch a glimpse. For some reason, this makes me deeply uncomfortable. I know they are just excited for me, but how can I nicely say, “Stop asking me. It makes me feel weird displaying my pregnant body for you on camera!”

“I know you didn’t realize, but I’d be grateful if you didn’t ask me to do that; it makes me really uncomfortable! Thanks for understanding.”

4. I wasn’t even interviewed for an internal promotion

I recently applied to a position that would have been an internal promotion for me. The role would serve as the division director for my team; I thought I was an ideal fit. My current director encouraged me to apply since she was not interested in it. So, I applied and never heard anything from HR or the hiring manager. Three weeks later, I was told the new division’s director would start in a week. I was stunned because I wasn’t even offered an interview. The current division director (who is being promoted to another position) hired an outside person with the same amount of experience and education that I have. I felt and still feel disrespected.

Granted, companies can hire whomever they choose. Still, as a current tenure employee, I would have thought the division director would at least met with me and provided an explanation as to why I wasn’t offered an interview. I assumed he and I had a decent and respectful working relationship.

How do I approach this issue going forward? I want to ask my division director why wasn’t I afforded an interview without coming across as being emotional.

Yeah, when an internal candidate applies, they should get some sort of response — not just hear nothing until a hire is announced. Ideally the hiring manager would have contacted you to explain why they weren’t offering you an interview, if nothing else. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

Am I right in thinking the job would have been at least two steps up (since it’s a higher level role than your current boss has)? It’s possible that they saw it as more of a stretch application from you, figured you knew it was a stretch, and didn’t think they needed to explain their decision, who knows (although they still should have). In any case, you can certainly email the division director and say something like, “I was hoping for a chance to at least touch base with you about the role while it was open. Would you be willing to meet with me to talk about how I can position myself more competitively for similar roles in the future?” That’s different than “why wasn’t I interviewed?” — although depending on how that conversation goes, you could also point out that it stung to hear nothing at all and suggest that be handled differently going forward. That’s also feedback you could give to HR right now — but again, it would be less “why wasn’t I interviewed?” and more “can we communicate better with internal candidates in the future?”

5. While interviewing for a remote job, when should I mention that I’ll be moving?

I’m in the midst of interviewing for two remote positions. Either would be a step up for me, come with a significant pay increase, and be an opportunity to escape my dysfunctional team. Both roles require significant travel (when that is possible again).

However, I’m also in the midst of a move. Now I live near a large airport, facilitating this work travel. In the next month or so, I’ll be relocating to a smaller city. My new town has a regional airport, but I’d have to take connecting flights each time I head out of town for work. Both employers have expressed a bit of hesitation with a remote employee — not much, but a bit of concern.

When do I mention the move, if at all? After getting an offer, were I to be so lucky? Not say anything at all, until I accept and actually start work? I have a bit of flexibility in the move date, too … should I even consider pushing it out?

Definitely don’t wait until you’ve already accepted the offer! It’s information they’re entitled to know before they decide whether to offer you the job. For one thing, if you’re moving to another state, that will have legal and financial consequences for them and could be prohibitive. (If they’re not already set up to do business in that state, having you working there can mean they have to charge sales tax to customers there, as well as pay taxes to that state. They’d also need to buy worker comp insurance there and comply with the new state’s labor laws, which might be more restrictive than the ones they follow now.) If the move isn’t to a new state, the airport change (and the ease of flights and cost of tickets) is relevant info that they’re entitled to consider. Plus, it’s possible that they’re factoring in your location in ways you don’t know about — like wrongly thinking you’ll be right near their second biggest client and easily able to take over those accounts.

For those reasons, if the move is a definite thing, it makes sense to mention it now. If it’s not 100% definite, you could wait until you have an offer and say it’s something you were planning on in the near future and ask if that would be an obstacle for the role. But do mention it!

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I’m ready to rage-quit my job — am I being unfair to my boss? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/im-ready-to-rage-quit-my-job-am-i-being-unfair-to-my-boss.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/im-ready-to-rage-quit-my-job-am-i-being-unfair-to-my-boss.html#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2021 17:59:48 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21723 This post, I’m ready to rage-quit my job — am I being unfair to my boss? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a department head at a small business. My boss, Alex, is the owner/founder. I was an independent contractor for most of my career, and this is the first time in years that I’ve had a boss. I have strictly enforced work/life boundaries, so when I’m out of the office, my […]

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This post, I’m ready to rage-quit my job — am I being unfair to my boss? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a department head at a small business. My boss, Alex, is the owner/founder. I was an independent contractor for most of my career, and this is the first time in years that I’ve had a boss.

I have strictly enforced work/life boundaries, so when I’m out of the office, my staff knows not to contact me unless it’s a true emergency. In turn, I don’t contact them at all during my vacation.

There have been a few times when my team has decided to set aside non-urgent tasks for me to complete when I get back from vacation. This is minor stuff that’s still best left for me to handle, like responding to a friendly message from a vendor who knows me personally. Unfortunately, in these situations, Alex tends to step in and “help” without knowing the full context of the situation, ultimately creating confusion and stress.

This meddling behavior also occurs when Alex is out of office himself. Every time Alex preps for PTO, he says something like, “I’m disconnecting completely, don’t expect to hear from me. I trust you to handle anything that comes up,” leaving us with what seems like a clear set of expectations.

However, he’ll randomly violate those expectations. He’ll often get basic details wrong, because he reacted impulsively and without proper context. For example, we’ll think he’s surfing in the middle of nowhere but receive a contradictory email response from him on a thread we’ve already resolved, calling our judgment and authority into question with clients.

My response is to reach out and say something like, “We’ve got it under control, please let us handle this. Hope you’re having a good break!” Alex’s replies are often extreme — “I just spent hours arguing with my wife, work is the only good thing in my life, I’m just trying to be happy again, why can’t you let me have that,” or “oh, so I’m not allowed to check my email now? I was just trying to help!” Awkwardness aside, it’s unsettling that he’s treating this business, which is in serious financial trouble, as a source of emotional comfort.

This pattern has started making me angry to a degree that might be unfair to Alex. I’ve almost quit on the spot the last couple of times he’s done this. (I didn’t, though, because I think about my actions at work, which seems like a pretty standard professional thing to do.) This feels like an overreaction on my part. Though annoying, these situations are ultimately minor and infrequent.

If I had an employee who behaved the way Alex does, I’d tell them to stop “helping” and trust that the team can function just fine without them. The ability to step away completely is a good thing! But I’m not Alex’s boss, and though he’s never explicitly said “this is MY BUSINESS—I’m the boss and I can do what I want,” that message feels pretty heavy in the subtext.

So … what should I do? I feel like rage quitting is the wrong answer, but it also doesn’t feel right to just stand by and watch this happen without doing anything.

Rage quitting isn’t a great answer, but regular quitting (after lining up another job) might be.

If Alex were otherwise an excellent boss who just had trouble disconnecting when he was on vacation, I’d encourage you to try to let that go. Some bosses are like that. It’s annoying and it’s inefficient, but if everything else is good, it’s not worth leaving a job over.

But you have:
* a small business that’s in serious financial trouble
* an owner who regularly delegates authority to you (“I trust you to handle anything that comes up”) and then takes that back
* an owner whose “help” creates stress and confusion and calls your judgment into question with clients
* an owner who personalizes routine work conversations in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways (“I’m just trying to be happy again, why can’t you let me have that?”)

I’m guessing these aren’t the only issues with the way Alex runs things.

I’m assuming, of course, that you’ve tried speaking with him about the problems this behavior causes — that you’ve pointed out that he’s causing confusion and stress and undermining you with clients and sending contradictory messages about how things should run when he’s out. If you haven’t, you should — it’s worth having that conversation at a time when he’s in the office, not on vacation, and giving specific examples of how it’s impeded people’s work.

But my hunch is that it won’t change much, particularly because Alex seems to want to use his business as a way to nurse emotional wounds rather than to run it effectively. Changing that would probably require a significant mental shift from him, and it’s not easy to nudge someone into that shift from below. It’s still worth trying because you never know — and also because the way that conversation goes will probably help you decide if there’s any point in expecting anything different in the future.

That said … there’s another option here, which is to decide that you simply don’t care. If you otherwise like the work and the business isn’t so unstable that your job is at risk, it is an option to just accept that this is how Alex will operate, expect interference when he’s away no matter what he promises, and just work around it as best as you can. A fair number of people find their way to reasonable contentment at jobs with highly flawed managers. You’ve got to be able to let it kind of flow off of you though (I once had a coworker at a dysfunctional job who repeated “like water off a duck’s back” as a mantra to herself all the time, and it did seem to mostly work) so you’d want to figure out if you can do that or whether you’re too fed up and will be on-edge the whole time you’re there if nothing changes. If it’s the latter, work on getting out.

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how can I get a management job without management experience? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/how-can-i-get-a-management-job-without-management-experience.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/how-can-i-get-a-management-job-without-management-experience.html#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2021 16:29:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21706 This post, how can I get a management job without management experience? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am about six years into a career that puts the “individual” in individual contributor (nonprofit fundraising, in case it matters). I have good relations with my colleagues and we work collaboratively when possible, but our projects are completely solo. I have always known that I want to spend my career in […]

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This post, how can I get a management job without management experience? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am about six years into a career that puts the “individual” in individual contributor (nonprofit fundraising, in case it matters). I have good relations with my colleagues and we work collaboratively when possible, but our projects are completely solo. I have always known that I want to spend my career in a role that involves organizational leadership and people management. I’m good at the work I do now, but I feel so much more fulfilled when I have the opportunity to coach and support others, and my deepest goal is to be part of the team that sets the strategic direction of an organization.

The problem is, there’s no way for me to build management experience in my current role. The organizational structure is rigid and there is not likely to be a director level position opening for many, many years. Even when something does open up, I might not qualify because, you guessed it, I don’t have management experience. The scope of my role is intentionally kept very narrow, and while I’m fully independent in my work, the management here likes to keep us at arm’s length from any real conversations about the organization’s strategic direction.

I keep an eye on postings outside my organization, but the positions are either what I already have (individual contributions only) or require a decade of strategic oversight and people management to even be considered. If I wanted to take an intermediary step by finding a lateral move that incorporates the work I do now and also organizational and people management, it would invariably involve moving to a smaller, less prestigious organization and taking a serious pay cut which I really can’t afford.

I’m looking for a volunteer position that would include people management (such as a nonprofit board) but these are hard to come by. I also don’t have hours every week or deep pockets to contribute to an organization they way board members are often expected to. I do respect and trust my boss and have considered discussing it with her, but I’m afraid the answer will be there’s no way for me to get the experience I want in this role and it would damage my reputation here to indicate I might not be in it for the long haul.

So what gives? In some ways this feels like a repeat of the difficulties of finding a first job when all entry-level positions require five years of experience. How can I land a job managing people, when I don’t have any experience managing people?

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

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my company’s leadership program for women excludes men https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-companys-leadership-programs-for-women-excludes-men.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/my-companys-leadership-programs-for-women-excludes-men.html#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2021 14:59:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21722 This post, my company’s leadership program for women excludes men , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: The large company I work for has embraced inclusion, equity, and diversity. That’s a good thing in my books, but one of the campaign’s company-wide programs helps women grow in leadership and explicitly excludes men. I’m a male. The program offers guest speakers, panel discussions, and learning modules to help women improve […]

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This post, my company’s leadership program for women excludes men , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

The large company I work for has embraced inclusion, equity, and diversity. That’s a good thing in my books, but one of the campaign’s company-wide programs helps women grow in leadership and explicitly excludes men. I’m a male.

The program offers guest speakers, panel discussions, and learning modules to help women improve leadership skills and deal with blockers to career growth. It really sounds like a great program. I am interested in all those things.

This doesn’t seem fair at all. I’d like to believe we can find ways to address systemic issues in the workplace without disadvantaging others so acutely. To be clear, I support the goals of inclusion, equity, and diversity, and have supported many programs to promote these goals — but this seems to cross a line.

I’m concerned about three points: 1) I’m missing out on great professional development. 2) People who take part in this program may receive greater consideration for raises and promotions. 3) I feel personally excluded, like the company is sending a message that my career doesn’t matter. Related, I’m concerned it’s setting the culture of the organization. Any decisions by my immediate managers could take into account these values as implied by this program, which is supported by leadership.

One final nuance: the industry I work in has historically featured more men in leadership positions. This has gradually changed in recent years. My specific part of the company has never been dominated by men — there is no issue with gender equity in my department.

How would you deal with this situation?

I think you’re missing the fundamental point: They are taking a group that has been historically disadvantaged — and still is today — and giving them assistance to close some of that gap. By trying to give women some of the advantages that have been systematically denied to them and afforded to you, they are not putting you at a disadvantage; they are attempting to level the playing field.

It’s an attempt to bring more balance to an unbalanced picture — to level the playing field for a demographic that’s significantly behind in pay, professional opportunities, mentoring, and apparently your field. It will not fully level that playing field because of the broader society we exist in, but’s an attempt to open the door a little wider so maybe more women end up in rooms where they’re disproportionately absent now (ideally high-level, decision-making rooms).

You do not want to look at a program created to offer redress for systemic marginalization and complain that you, a person in a group that’s comparatively advantaged*, aren’t being offered the assistance that’s designed not to put them ahead of you but to close some of the gap.

I mean, imagine that you had a huge basket of delicious fruits and your female coworkers had some withered bananas and one soggy tangerine, and so your company decided to put some more ripe fruit in the women’s baskets … would you look at that and say, “But wait, I’d like that fruit too?” Would you think you were being personally excluded and that the company was telling you that you didn’t matter? Or would you understand they were making an effort to balance an unbalanced situation?

Hopefully you would not try to claim that fruit or view it as a strike against you. Don’t do that here either.

Obviously that’s an oversimplification of a complicated issue, but you are not facing the same systemic obstacles that your female coworkers face. You do not require the same attention to close that systemic gap.

* Caveat: If you are in a different demographic group that is systemically disadvantaged as well, you could certainly advocate for similar help for that and other marginalized demographics.

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coworker made a rude comment about a family death, a reference stole my job offer, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/coworker-made-a-rude-comment-about-a-family-death-a-reference-stole-my-job-offer-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/coworker-made-a-rude-comment-about-a-family-death-a-reference-stole-my-job-offer-and-more.html#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2021 04:03:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21721 This post, coworker made a rude comment about a family death, a reference stole my job offer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My coworker made a rude comment about my grandmother’s death I lost my grandmother on May 16th. Her wishes have always been to get everything sorted as soon as possible; when my grandfather passed years ago, she was the same. Get the “life admin” sorted […]

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This post, coworker made a rude comment about a family death, a reference stole my job offer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My coworker made a rude comment about my grandmother’s death

I lost my grandmother on May 16th. Her wishes have always been to get everything sorted as soon as possible; when my grandfather passed years ago, she was the same. Get the “life admin” sorted quickly to allow the grief to flow easier. And that is how my family are.

As I work in property, my parents (the executors of the estate) asked me (one of the three beneficiaries) to arrange to get the property valued, the day after she passed. This was done on the 19th, and the decision was made that night to put it on the market. I told the sales manager on the 20th that we wanted it on the market starting on May 24th. As I told him that, someone I work next to turned round and said, “You’re very quick getting it on the market considering she only died a few days ago.” I stammered out some sort of joke and a comment about getting it done quickly, then slipped off to the loo to cry without anyone noticing. I barely managed to get through the rest of the day with her and told our boss, who said she will speak to her.

So far, that doesn’t appear to have happened, or if it has, she hasn’t told me. I don’t know how to deal with this. I am trying to remain professional and speak to her about work topics, but I don’t want anything to do with her. My parents and my husband are furious. The people I have spoken to about this have said it is incredibly rude and disrespectful, she does not know my nan’s wishes or my family’s circumstances. And I know there are people who think this is too fast, it is faster than I anticipating it being, but you still don’t say it! Any advice on how to deal with this?

I’m sorry about your grandmother!

Your coworker made a thoughtless and insensitive comment, and those can be especially hard to deal with when you’re grieving. But allowing it to become a significant issue at work is likely to make this time even harder and I don’t think will serve you well when you already have so much stress and grief on your plate.

To be clear, your coworker was wrong! She shouldn’t have said what she said … but unless she has a track record of being a jerk, I would try to write this off as one of the many blundering things people say in these circumstances, perhaps label her as particularly cloddish in your head, and try not to let it affect your work life.

2. Dressing androgynously when we return to the office

I’m relatively new to the professional workforce (only been working for about a year), and while I did an internship at my current company about two years ago before I got this job, my actual professional career has been entirely remote. We’re talking about a return to the office, which has me thinking about dress code concerns. My office tends towards fairly business casual — a lot of the men wear dress shirts and khakis, unless there’s something very specific that requires a tie. I think I even remember occasionally seeing jeans, though only on Friday.

Here’s where the complication comes in: I present as female, typically. I’m nonbinary (they/them), but I’m not out at work, and probably won’t be for some time because I don’t want to be until I am sufficiently integrated for it to be Not A Big Deal. That being said, I don’t really want to wear blouses and dress pants that are overtly feminine, so I have been considering just wearing what the men are wearing when I go in. However, I’m also aware that would be A Statement to a lot of people—business casual for women isn’t the same clothes as business casual for men, typically! Can I wear a men’s dress shirt and khaki’s into work or not? Technically, it’s not against dress code, considering all the men are wearing it, but it’d be somewhat atypical looking on me, wouldn’t it?

I have never been in the office as anything but an intern in-person, and we rarely use video calls at my work, making it very hard to judge what other people are wearing. Also, I’m in an extremely male-dominated field, and could quite possibly be one of only one or two femininely-presenting people on the team when we go back into the office.

So as someone who is new to my office, would this be worth it? It would make me feel more comfortable, but would also probably make me stand out, and if it became A Thing I don’t know how I’d feel. I have also been considering doing it when we first go back, and if I’m called out on it, saying, “Oh I didn’t know, I haven’t been in the office for so long” but maybe it’s better to go back to the office and judge the dress code first before I do something like this? Or maybe, because I haven’t been in the office and during my internship I didn’t really have any examples around me of people in similar situations, I’m making a big deal out of something no one would notice—I’m genuinely unsure!

In an office where khakis are okay for men (i.e., not an office that expects suits), you can definitely wear khakis and a button-down. Lots of cis women wear variations of that, so it shouldn’t send out that much! And there’s no reason it couldn’t be a men’s button-down as long as it fits well (that doesn’t mean tight, just that it isn’t super billowy or something).

The degree to which it does or doesn’t read as A Statement to some people will probably depend on the details — like whether it’s full-on menswear or whether it’s mens-cut womenswear (which is a whole category of womenswear!), whether you wear accessories and what they are, and how you style your general look.

Also, there’s lots of great advice on menswear for female-presenting people in the comments here.

3. Using the heart emoji in work messages

I’m an early-30s woman working in higher education. I collaborate with a wide range of people, and a lot of our day-to-day communication is done via MS Teams — mostly the kind of messages that would be quick in-person chats if we were in the office, but we’re currently still working remotely due to COVID.

Sometimes, there are messages which don’t need a response but where an acknowledgement is useful — i.e., “I’ve just emailed you the latest version” or “Just spoke to John — he’s going to follow up with you directly about that document” — and the fact that it’s easy in Teams to put an emoji-reaction on a message is really helpful. But rather than using the “thumbs up,” which would always be my default, a fair number of people have started using the “heart” emoji.

I don’t mind it on more friendly, non-work related messages with colleagues I get along with personally, but there are a couple of male colleagues in particular who use the “heart” reaction almost every time on work-related messages and it makes me feel … weird. Is it weird? Am I being overly sensitive about this?

I get why it feels strange, but I think you can assume that when it’s used in a work context, it’s really more of a “like” (it’s not like signing your work emails with “love”).

Try to convert it in your head to another version of the thumbs-up (assuming it’s not paired with behavior that challenges that interpretation) and you’ll hopefully be less weirded-out by it.

4. Returning to an old job as a volunteer

I am resigning from my job (managing volunteers) on good terms for a career change. Our small nonprofit hosts several programs/events that serve youth in our state, and these programs rely on the support of volunteers from specific fields. I am unique in my org in that I have the type of education/experience required to be a volunteer. A common sentiment shared by my coworkers and board members as we say goodbyes is that they hope to see me back as a volunteer. I care greatly for the org and its mission and would love to support them in this way!

However, I am wondering if it would cause any issues if I return to the org in several months as a volunteer. Would there be any uncomfortable dynamics if I “report” as a volunteer to whoever takes on my role, while having detailed knowledge of the management side of things? Would this situation look strange on a resume or with a reference during future job applications? Any other potential weirdness you can think of with volunteering after resigning, or am I overthinking this?

It won’t look at all weird on your resume or with a reference, but ideally you’d wait longer than a few months so your replacement has time to settle in and make the job their own. Some people would be perfectly fine with you coming back sooner (and might even welcome having you there to pick your brain), but a lot of people would find it nerve-wracking to have their experienced predecessor hanging around watching while they get the hang of their job. I’d say give them something closer to a year to settle in (and of course, if/when you do start to volunteer, defer to their decisions even if they’re doing things differently than you would have).

5. My reference stole my job offer

I just recently had a job offer that evaporated because the reference I supplied, upon talking with ownership and management, placed his hat in the ring and applied for the job the reference was for. Is that even legal? Or just morally wrong?

Legal but seriously crappy.

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a coworker stole my spicy food, got sick, and is blaming me https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/a-coworker-stole-my-spicy-food-got-sick-and-is-blaming-me-2.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/a-coworker-stole-my-spicy-food-got-sick-and-is-blaming-me-2.html#comments Mon, 31 May 2021 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21707 This post, a coworker stole my spicy food, got sick, and is blaming me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m off for Memorial Day, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2016. Don’t miss the update, which is also linked below! A reader writes: We have a fridge at work. Up to this point, nothing I had in it was stolen (I am quite new, and others have […]

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This post, a coworker stole my spicy food, got sick, and is blaming me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m off for Memorial Day, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2016.

Don’t miss the update, which is also linked below!

A reader writes:

We have a fridge at work. Up to this point, nothing I had in it was stolen (I am quite new, and others have told me that this was a problem).

My food is always really, really spicy. I just love it that way. Anyway, I was sitting at my desk when my coworker came running out, having a hard time breathing. He then ran into the bathroom and started being sick. Turns out he ate my clearly labeled lunch. (It also was in a cooler lunch box to keeps it cold from work to home, as it’s a long drive.) There was nothing different about my lunch that day. In fact, it was just the leftovers from my dinner the night before.

Fast forward a day and my boss comes in asking if I tried to poison this person. Of course I denied that I had done so. I even took out my current day’s lunch and let my boss taste a bit (he was blown away by how spicy it was even though he only took a small bite). I then proceeded to eat several spoonfuls to prove I could eat it with no problem. He said not to worry, and that it was clear to him that I didn’t mean any harm, my coworker shouldn’t have been eating my food, etc. etc. I thought the issue was over.

A week later, I got called up to HR for an investigation, claiming that I did in fact try to do harm to this person and this investigation is still ongoing. What confuses me is there was nothing said about this guy trying to steal my lunch. When I brought it up, they said something along the lines of “We cannot prove he stole anything.” I am confused at this. I thought the proof would be clear.

My boss is on my side, but HR seem to be trying to string me up. Their behavior is quite aggressive. Even if my boss backs me up, they just ignore everything he says. (As in, he would say “That’s clearly not the case” and the HR lady wouldn’t even look in his direction and continued talking.)

On top of this, HR claims that it would be well within said coworker’s rights to try and sue me. The way it was said seemed to suggest that they suggested this to him as a course of action.

How can someone be caught stealing my lunch and then turn around and say I was in the wrong? I don’t understand it at all! I don’t know what to do, I am afraid that I will loose my job over this. Is there any advice you can give me?

What?!

This makes no sense.

You are allowed to enjoy a unusually high level of spiciness (and as a fellow spice enthusiast, I commend you for it). You are not required to make sure that your own personal lunch doesn’t contain anything that might offend a coworker’s palate, as your coworkers should not be eating your food without any invitation.

The only way their stance could possibly make sense is if they’re alleging that it wasn’t your lunch at all, and that it belonged to your coworker and you secretly dumped a toxic level of spice into it. Is that what they’re saying? Because otherwise this is bizarrely illogical. And what’s your coworker saying in all of this? Is he trying to claim that it was his lunch all along?

In any case, I think the way to handle this is to go a bit on the offensive, which is warranted based on how aggressive HR is being. I’d go back to them — possibly to the boss of the person you spoke with earlier if that’s an option — and say this: “I’m extremely concerned by what’s been said about this. The food in question was my personal lunch, brought in for me and me only. The spiciness of my food shouldn’t be anyone’s concern, and I’m distressed that I’m being accused of in any way intending harm toward someone else because of what I pack in my personal lunch. I take my professional reputation very seriously, and I’m concerned that this bizarre story is impacting it. I’d like your assurance that the company does not intend to penalize me for eating spicy food at lunch.” I’d also put a similar message in writing and email it to them “to document our conversation from earlier today.”

Sometimes ridiculous people back down when they see that you take standing up for yourself seriously.

I’d also ask your boss what the hell he thinks is going on. Does he think you have anything to worry about? If he’s confident that you don’t (and if his judgment is usually pretty good), then I suppose you can just let HR’s weird spiciness policing play out and ignore it as best you can.

Your company’s HR is terrible.

You can and definitely should read an update to this post here.

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can an employer steal your work when you apply for a job, why can’t low-wage jobs retain workers, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/can-an-employer-steal-work-you-do-when-applying-for-a-job-why-cant-low-wage-jobs-retain-workers-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/can-an-employer-steal-work-you-do-when-applying-for-a-job-why-cant-low-wage-jobs-retain-workers-and-more.html#comments Mon, 31 May 2021 04:03:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21708 This post, can an employer steal your work when you apply for a job, why can’t low-wage jobs retain workers, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Can an employer steal your work when you apply for a job? This question is purely hypothetical. My interest was piqued by a story I read from fashion watchdog group Diet Prada (the story has gone viral). As the story goes, a woman was applying […]

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This post, can an employer steal your work when you apply for a job, why can’t low-wage jobs retain workers, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Can an employer steal your work when you apply for a job?

This question is purely hypothetical. My interest was piqued by a story I read from fashion watchdog group Diet Prada (the story has gone viral).

As the story goes, a woman was applying for a design internship with Converse (makers of the ubiquitous Chuck Taylor sneaker for anyone not familiar). Along with her application, she submitted a design pitch. This was not a test assignment or part of the application, just additional materials that she decided to send along to show her skill and enthusiasm. It is worth noting that the work was done specifically to strengthen her application to Converse — it was design ideas for some sneakers inspired by U.S. national parks. This wasn’t previous work done for other clients or a student portfolio or anything of that nature.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. She was rejected for the internship, but two years later, Converse announced that they are rolling out … a line of sneakers inspired by national parks! The designs are undeniably similar (some would say identical) in both color and style. Converse is predictably denying that they got the idea or the designs from this woman. It goes without saying but they never contacted her to get permission, give credit, or to pay her for her work.

I think we can all agree that this is unethical so I guess my question is — is this legal? If this woman wanted to sue Converse, would she have a legal leg to stand on? Any time you submit something to a potential employer, are you giving them the right to use those materials for their own profit? Maybe it gets tricky because she was basically giving them an unsolicited design pitch but it feels so incredibly wrong!

Nope, employers do not own materials that you share with them in the process of applying for a job, regardless of whether those materials were solicited or unsolicited. That candidate owns her own work; she wasn’t creating it as a work-for-hire (like if she worked for them) or under any sort of contract.

Of course, sometimes people think their work was stolen when it was an idea that multiple people could have easily come up with independently of each other. (I’ve seen people allege that when the idea was something really general.) But other times unscrupulous employers really did take someone’s work and use it without paying them for it, which isn’t legal or okay.

The trick, of course, is in proving that they did, which will take a lawyer and time and money.

2. Why can’t retail and food service jobs retain employees?

I’ve been struggling with this question for years now, since having noticed that “seniority” seems to have stopped ruling, at least in my field (retail or food service) and local area. Anywhere one might shop or eat, they are more likely to receive service from a new face than a (more) familiar face. I’ve always heard the phrase, “I’ve got a stack of applications in my office” (typically in a joking manner or as part of a story about someone else, no one has actually said that to me). Why does it seem like a revolving door for a constant influx of new people is the preferred practice over retaining experienced employees who actually know what they’re doing?

It’s because employers in retail and food service often don’t pay enough or provide decent enough working conditions (including benefits) to retain employees over long periods of time. It’s not that employers prefer a revolving door of employees necessarily, but they’ve calculated that it’s not worth it to them to do the things they’d need to do to stop it (because those things cost money).

3. Sick leave when you have a flexible schedule

I work part-time on a completely flexible schedule—as long as I average 20 hours a week for the fiscal year, my supervisors don’t seem to have a strong preference as to which 20 hours those are, or if they are even in the same week. In the past, this has meant when I am sick I simply reschedule my working hours to a later time and make them up them. As a consequence, I have accumulated a lot of sick leave hours and, as of a month ago, did not see myself using them any time soon. However, in the last month, I started a new (additional) part-time job and got busy in some other parts of my life, and so my ability to just reschedule if I am feeling unwell has decreased. I can still technically reschedule work for later if I am feeling ill, it is just a lot more of a pain to do so. Is it ethical for me to use the sick leave I have accumulated, given I could just reschedule my working hours? I figure I have the sick time for a reason but I feel weird using it unless I absolutely have to.

Use your sick leave! That’s the whole purpose of having it. If you were working there full-time, would you feel weird about using sick leave because you might feel well enough to make up the hours over the weekend? Hopefully you would not. They give you sick leave, it’s fine to use it when you’re sick, and you aren’t doing anything unethical or even mildly sketchy.

4. How do we write an executive-level job description that makes it clear our staff is highly diverse?

My question concerns language in an executive director job description. Our temple has a small staff, about a third of whom are queer. We’re varying levels of quirky, shabby, fat, disabled, and neurodivergent. We love working together and we’re sad to see our beloved executive director move on.

Are there any key phrases you recommend that say “the queers aren’t leaving and you must meet the weirdos where they are” but in executive hiring-speak? (I am one of the queers in question and I’m using the words by which I self-define.) I’d love your advice as I meet with our various committees and explain to them (probably repeatedly) that our diversity really does make us who we are and it’s vital that whoever they bring on knows that.

Ideally the job posting would explain the person will lead a “diverse and inclusive staff” and that candidates should be committed to equity and inclusion on multiple fronts (race, disability, neurodiversity, LGBTQ+, etc.) … but don’t just rely on that! Interviewers should also talk explicitly about the org’s commitment to diversity and equity and ask candidates about their experience building diverse and equitable teams (for example, “tell us about a time when you worked to make sure your workplace/team/project was a place where everyone—particularly those with marginalized identities—could participate and thrive,” etc.).

5. Changing my name to something gender-neutral

I’m a young woman with a recognizably female name, but I’ve been thinking about using a more gender-neutral name or initials solely for my professional life, a la J.K. Rowling, for example. I wouldn’t want to change my actual name, pronouns, etc., just the name I get bylines under. I’ve floated the idea before, and now I’m starting to consider it more seriously.

(For what it’s worth, the specific name I’m considering would be CJ. I’ve been told that it sounds like a “basic frat boy name,” which, LOL, but maybe that wouldn’t be a detriment…)

My question for female readers is: have you done this? What effect, if any, has it had on your professional life?

I’m happy to throw this out to readers to share advice.

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weekend open thread – May 29-30, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/weekend-open-thread-may-29-30-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/weekend-open-thread-may-29-30-2021.html#comments Sat, 29 May 2021 05:00:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21681 This post, weekend open thread – May 29-30, 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: Mary Jane, by Jessica Anya Blau. Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane, who has strict parents with strict ideas about values, gets a summer job nannying for a psychiatrist […]

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This post, weekend open thread – May 29-30, 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: Mary Jane, by Jessica Anya Blau. Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane, who has strict parents with strict ideas about values, gets a summer job nannying for a psychiatrist — who happens to have a rock star patient and his famous wife secretly living with him for the summer. Things are learned by all.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/its-your-friday-good-news-55.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/its-your-friday-good-news-55.html#comments Fri, 28 May 2021 16:00:20 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21684 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I just graduated from college and I was so worried about trying to find my first job post graduation in these strange times. I spent most of the school year crafting cover letters for positions that never so much […]

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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, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I just graduated from college and I was so worried about trying to find my first job post graduation in these strange times. I spent most of the school year crafting cover letters for positions that never so much as sent a rejection, and most of my classmates had similar issues with employers never getting back to them. But! I’ve been an avid reader for my entire college career, and I used your free PDF on interviewing to prepare and absolutely wow the interviewers through Zoom meetings and an office walk-through.

I just accepted their offer today for a position with amazing work-life balance, benefits, and pay more than DOUBLE what similar jobs in my area were offering! When the manager called to give me the offer, she told me that my poise through the technical problems in Zoom and my questions (including the “what separates a good person in the role from a great person in the role? question in the guide!) convinced them that I was exactly what they were looking for. I’ll be starting my first “adult job” in June!

Thank you so much for the troves of advice, and thanks to all the commenters on the blog. Just reading through others’ experiences and stories helped so much to calm my nerves and let me evaluate the company right back, instead of desperately trying to get hired. I’m confident that this will be a strong start to my career.

2. Last year I was “laid off” due to issues I had with a coworker who would continually berate me in emails (in which she would cc the entire office), withhold information and then send more emails criticizing me for not having said info… etc. It took me a long, long time to finally say something and, well, I learned my lesson. I was unemployed from the beginning of February to the first of November, when I found a temp job. The last day of April one of my beloved kitties had to be put down, and to be quite honest I think if I hadn’t been at home instead of having to deal with that place I probably would’ve lost what little patience I had left. Glass half full, or whatever.

And then! I got a text from the employer I left to go to the organization with the horrible coworker. I left them for only one reason: the money. I initially took the job because I had really needed an income, but it became the best job I ever had. A nonprofit that was chock-full of people who really, really, believed in what they do (I was accounting support). My boss did for me what no boss had done before, and that was: assuming I knew how to do everything. When I started there, I KNEW I had the skills and knowledge to do my job. He made me BELIEVE it. When I left I really, really missed my coworkers and management. I started my new job with positivity and enthusiasm that was quickly stomped on, and became one of those people who woke up dreading weekdays. And then of course I was out of a job. I missed the money, but not the people.

On to the good. The old VP-now-CEO, whom I had sporadically stayed in touch with after I left, sent me a text asking how much it would take for me to come back in a slightly different position that would still be working with numbers and plenty of accounting work but in one department, as opposed to the organization as a whole. I gave her a figure and then waited for almost two weeks. After about ten days I thought I had asked for too much. Knowing what I know now, it took them that long to move money and find money to make it work. I also learned it was Old Awesome Boss, who had also left the company, who told her to contact me. I started with them the first week of January and it’s almost like I never left! It took a few days to re-learn the software and accounts and I am still learning the intricacies of the department, but I know I have already made a lot of difference already because my two managers tell me pretty frequently I am a great investment. And! Just before I started, Old Awesome Boss texted and let me know he was ALSO returning.

No more abusive emails, no more passive-agressive comments in meetings, no more favoritism, no more people doubting what I can do. No more walking into a room and practically seeing the venom dripping down the walls. Even on the most pressured and stressful days, people are still positive and helpful. A year ago I was terrified and wondering what the heck I was going to do. Now, every morning I wake up with a great outlook and am actually excited about my job again!

3. I’ve been working full time since 2011 and reading AAM since 2012. I was asked to become a partner in the firm that I work at, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for a couple specific things you’ve done that have helped my career.

1. You preach that fair doesn’t mean equal. This couldn’t be more true in a professional setting, and it has made me a much more effective employee and manager. I don’t get bogged down trying to figure out how to treat everybody the same (or expecting to be treated the same), and I instead focus on being fair to everybody and making sure that I am treated fairly. Seeing specific situations on your blog have really helped me apply that principle in real, concrete ways.

2. You always advise directness. This one came easier to me that the first, but seeing your advice on specific situations with specific scripts has helped me apply this in ways that have benefited me greatly. As a result of your advice, I am a good advocate for myself, and I try to handle issues that arise with folks that work for me in a direct, “how do we solve this” type of way instead of letting things fester. This is one that in retrospect seems obvious, but doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

3. You are good at giving the benefit of the doubt to all sides of the discussion. It is too easy to just heap the blame on one side of a conflict, and I try my best to emulate you on this. Sometimes the issue is so egregious that there is no doubt to be given, but that is in the very tiny minority of situations that I deal with, and that is reflected in your answers to your questions.

Anyway, this just seemed like an appropriate occasion to thank you for the nine years (dang, we’re old…) of advice. You’re a significant part of the reason I am where I am.

4. I completed my MFA in fine arts in 2018 and have been searching for a tenure-track position in my state. After three years of adjuncting and several offers that didn’t quite materialize, I signed on to an amazing school, $10k more pay than I expected, and I have creative freedom to build the program of my dreams! It’s even a remote appointment, which is a huge plus as I’ve come to be quite the homebody over COVID. I negotiated a pay raise and the remote appointment and AAM’s techniques were invaluable.

5. I’ve been searching off-and-on (mostly a passive search) for a new job for 2 ½ years. My current role was fine enough, but not quite the right fit, below-market compensation, and there wasn’t much room for me to grow and advance into higher-level roles. I’d only ever gotten one offer in my job search during that time and they just couldn’t offer enough of a financial package for my family to make the jump. Nine times I’d gone through an organization’s entire interview process. At least thirty times I got past the initial phone screen. That long journey is now over: I have finally gotten and accepted a new offer!

I start in two weeks and am extremely excited for my new role. It’s in a part of my field where my interest level is highest, it’s above-market compensation, the benefits package in sum total is better, and there’s tremendous opportunity for growth and advancement. Thanks to AAM and the community here for helping keep me going through some times where I wondered why anybody would hire me at all, and often wondered how I was even keeping my current job. Keep trucking along, folks!

6. In June 2020 I was laid off from my job of almost 16 years. I was able to find a new position and was onboarded remotely at the end of the summer.

Pretty quickly I realized that the job was not a good fit for my skillset, even though the people were nice. I started applying for other positions over the winter and had several interviews with different companies in December and January. One interview was very promising but the company ghosted me. (And the job was just posted again – go figure.)

However, that door closing allowed another one to open. I interviewed four times with a well-known tech company, they made me an offer, and I just finished week one at my new job! I’m thrilled because this position is exactly what I want to be doing, and I have found “my people” on the team. This is a permanent remote position and most of the team is in another state.

I had to brush up on AAM about how to resign from a job, because I’d never actually done that before. The scripts and advice were extremely helpful.

To everyone else who is searching, your door will open too – I truly believe it!

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open thread – May 28-29, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/open-thread-may-28-29-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/open-thread-may-28-29-2021.html#comments Fri, 28 May 2021 15:00:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21682 This post, open thread – May 28-29, 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. * […]

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This post, open thread – May 28-29, 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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video cover letters, asking for money to cover a lost perk, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/video-cover-letters-asking-for-money-to-cover-a-lost-perk-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/video-cover-letters-asking-for-money-to-cover-a-lost-perk-and-more.html#comments Fri, 28 May 2021 04:03:16 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21705 This post, video cover letters, asking for money to cover a lost perk, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Asking for compensation to cover a lost perk I work as a staff member at a school, which is categorized as a nonprofit and my colleagues and I are paid nonprofit-level salaries. One of our perks is that breakfast and lunch are available to us […]

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This post, video cover letters, asking for money to cover a lost perk, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Asking for compensation to cover a lost perk

I work as a staff member at a school, which is categorized as a nonprofit and my colleagues and I are paid nonprofit-level salaries. One of our perks is that breakfast and lunch are available to us for free in the cafeteria. During a normal summer when students are not on campus, the school hosts summer camps so the cafeteria is open throughout the summer too. Last summer, campus was closed due to the pandemic and we all worked from home. It appears that this summer there are no camps. My colleagues and I were just informed the cafeteria will be closed for the entire summer (10 weeks).

Getting paid our salaries in a high cost-of-living area is tough. I am a single parent with a not-super-flexible budget, and I have colleagues in similar inflexible budget situations: new parents, caregivers, single people paying off school loans, and more. I just had a conversation with some of my colleagues lamenting that we are barely surviving on our salaries and are concerned about our summer budgets. Beyond this issue, I enjoy working at my job.

I am considering speaking with HR about some type of additional or alternative compensation to help cover the missing perk that my colleagues have come to rely on as an income supplement. I am wondering if you have advice — even if that advice is “don’t talk to HR and instead search for a new job.” I did not consider raising this last summer because I did not know how long the pandemic would last and worried about being seen in a negative light for asking while economic uncertainty that pervaded the country. Now that we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel and my workplace appears to be more secure, I want to ask what you think about this.

If you weren’t being paid barely-survival-level salaries, I’d tell you not to ask for this — perks sometimes go away when circumstances change and you can’t usually ask to be compensated more when that happens. But the fact that many of you are barely making it on what you’re being paid is relevant, and I think you could raise it if you frame it in that light. You could say that the free meals have been vital to many of you working on low salaries and ask if they’d be willing to consider a meal stipend or other supplement while the cafeteria is closed.

Frankly, that framing should shame them — it’s a problem that they’re paying employees so little that the loss of free meals jeopardizes people’s budgets. Nonprofit work does not universally mean “our staff are barely getting by,” nor is it supposed to. Plenty of nonprofits pay living wages or significantly better, and you shouldn’t allow them to convince you that subsistence budgets are somehow just part of the deal.

2. What’s up with video cover letters?

I was perusing social media and came across someone who applied to a job that required a video cover letter. Is this a thing? I’m an elder millennial introvert and this has me all kinds of confused and irritated.

It’s not often a thing, but occasionally a company does require it. It’s baffling to me because watching videos takes so much longer than quickly skimming a cover letter to see if you want to read more. It also invites a ton of bias (unconscious or otherwise) based on race, appearance, accents, etc. (And yes, those things will all be observable at some point in the interview process, but it’s been well established that keeping them out of initial screenings leads to more diverse candidate pools.) And unless the job requires public speaking, requiring videos is likely to build in bias based on skills that might have little to do with the job too.

Confused and irritated is an appropriate response.

3. What do I owe my boss after grad school?

I’m currently a staff member at my local university. I took this role three years ago to pay for my master’s program in an unrelated field. As I wind down my studies, I am wondering how long I should stay at my current job before moving on to a position related to my shiny new degree. My mom pointed out that my boss has been a huge advocate of my education and has given me an incredible amount of flexibility, without which I would not have been able to complete my program. Therefore I should wait a year before I start my job search.

While I agree my boss has been amazing, I countered that I also have been a great employee. While applying to and completing my program, I have been promoted twice, expanded my current role, received stellar reviews, taken on and created new projects, trained other coworkers, and am always available for last-minute assignments, which my boss has taken me up on several times. Basically, yes my boss is a rock star, but I haven’t exactly been out to lunch either.

Another thing that is coloring my judgement is that while I really like my boss and teammates, I don’t love the work, I don’t like the greater institution, and I’m not paid competitively. (In the salary spreadsheet you published, I had the lowest salary for my type of work by $6,000.)

Do I wait before I start applying to new positions? How long do I “owe” my boss my undivided attention? What’s reasonable for a boss that has gone above and beyond, but a job I could take or leave?

Assuming you didn’t sign an agreement to stay for X amount of time afterwards (which is common with tuition reimbursement agreements), it’s okay to start looking now. Your boss has been an excellent and accommodating boss, and in return you have been an excellent and accommodating employee and given her three years of good work. You don’t “owe” her any amount of your future! You get to leave when you’re ready to leave (always, but especially when you’re being underpaid).

I think your mom feels like your boss gave you something “extra” and you need to repay that by staying longer, but it sounds like your boss did reasonable things to retain a strong employee — and did retain you for three years, doing work you didn’t love and for an uncompetitive salary. You both got something you wanted, and it’s not disloyal to move on when the arrangement doesn’t serve your interests in the same way anymore.

4. Who should initiate a LinkedIn connection, manager or employee?

Who should be the one to initiate a LinkedIn connection: boss or employee? I’m the boss, and I’m connected to all of my direct reports (including one I hired yesterday who sent a request to connect this morning) but one person. Should I reach out to that team member to connect? Should I assume she’ll connect with me if she wants to? Finally, is a boss/direct report connection a good or bad thing overall?

I’d say it’s mostly a neutral thing, assuming neither of you is using LinkedIn in weird ways (like bombarding your connections with crappy articles or constantly doing those one-click skill endorsements for every random skill that pops up).

But if you want to play it safe, wait for the employee to initiate the connection. Not everyone wants to be connected to their boss on LinkedIn while they’re still working together; some people will worry that you’ll pay attention to their activity there and in particular that you might notice indications that they’re job-searching (like a sudden flurry of activity, which doesn’t necessarily indicate that but people worry about it regardless).

5. What kind of bag should I carry to interviews?

I am a graduating high school senior, and I’m applying to some summer jobs and internships. I plan on bringing extra copies of my resume and such to the interviews I have scheduled. The issue is that I’m not sure which bag to use. I really only have two bags, my backpack for school and a tote bag that has an (appropriate) quote on it in pride flag colors. Should I buy a new, more professional bag? Is one of those two okay? Should I carry only a folder?

It’s fine to just carry a folder or portfolio (which is the more professional but not strictly necessary version of a folder).

And really, since we’re talking about summer jobs and internships, the backpack or tote would be fine in a lot of cases too (and the tote has the side benefit of possibly screening out non-inclusive employers) but I’m giving you the most professionally conservative version of the answer.

At some point you might want to get a more professional bag for interviews — ideally by the time you’re interviewing for post-college jobs — but for right now, a folder should be fine!

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my interviewer asked about my personal finances https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/my-interviewer-asked-about-my-personal-finances.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/my-interviewer-asked-about-my-personal-finances.html#comments Thu, 27 May 2021 17:59:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21690 This post, my interviewer asked about my personal finances , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Is it normal for a hiring manager to ask, somewhat insistently, how a candidate has been supporting herself financially during a period of unemployment? If it’s not normal, which is my suspicion, what could possibly be behind this? I work in a niche field and was laid off last year in a […]

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This post, my interviewer asked about my personal finances , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Is it normal for a hiring manager to ask, somewhat insistently, how a candidate has been supporting herself financially during a period of unemployment? If it’s not normal, which is my suspicion, what could possibly be behind this?

I work in a niche field and was laid off last year in a Covid-related restructure (i.e., it was not performance-related). I’ve now been unemployed and desperately job searching for an entire year. It’s been brutal because my field is already small and my skills are not easily translatable to other lines of work. In short, there are very few opportunities for people like me, and everyone in the field knows that.

I had several interviews for a role in which I’d be a contractor at a client site, and an employee of the contracting agency. It was made clear that it’s informally a contract-to-client hire role, and the contractor is expected to have a very close relationship with the client hiring manager. After multiple in-depth interviews, the client hiring manager called me directly without the contract agency present. To be honest, the rest of the conversation also felt inappropriate, but what really bothered me was that at the end he pointedly asked how I’ve been supporting myself financially, because “a year is a long time,” “I didn’t think unemployment payments were enough to support that,” and “I didn’t know if you were married or had kids.” I politely and non-defensively asked why he asked, and he said he “just wanted to know,” but that I “didn’t have to answer.” I mustered all of my diplomacy to assure him that I wasn’t turning down jobs to rely on unemployment or even hiding a more recent job, if that’s why he was asking, and that the job market was just really difficult right now. He laughed and said that’s not why he asked but just really wanted to know, and asked again.

What could be behind this? I can’t imagine that personal finances are any business of a potential employer for roles like this that don’t require a security clearance. If he was concerned that I had gotten into some unsavory financial arrangements to finance my debt, like drug dealing, that should be covered by the credit check process, right? And I can’t imagine that this was to suss out my salary requirements, because I had agreed to the range before interviewing, and aren’t salary negotiations what he hired the contracting agency to manage? The agency wasn’t even on this call. Also, even if he was stepping into salary negotiations, why does it matter how poor I am now? Salary should be based on merit, not need. If it’s based on need, then I need $10,000,000.

I was already on the fence about this role due to other troublesome behavior I had noticed throughout the process, so am probably going to decline if they offer this job to me. I’m just really curious what could have been behind these questions, especially without the contracting agency present.

This is just a nosy dude.

He felt curious about how you’d supported yourself through a year of unemployment. That curiosity on its own isn’t the problem; the problem is that his brain didn’t immediately tell him it was none of his business. And even after you politely pushed back twice (first by asking why he asked and then by trying to address what you thought he might be concerned about ), he still felt entitled to insist on an answer. And he didn’t have any qualms about admitting that he “just really wanted to know.”

I think you can take that at face value. He just wanted to know. And he’s clueless enough not to realize or care that being interested isn’t the same as having the right to ask.

Because you are a normal, professional person, you’re looking for a way his question could be rooted in something businessy — thinking maybe it was about salary or so forth. And sure, maybe he was looking for signs that he could lowball you on salary. But more than anything, he’s just nosy and feels entitled to get his curiosity satisfied.

I think you’re right to turn down the job, particularly since there have been other danger signs, but it wouldn’t hurt to mention to the contracting agency that you had an odd call and explain what he said to you (not just this, but whatever the other inappropriate parts of the call were too). They may not care since he’s the client — in fact, their attitude may be that whoever they hire needs to deal with this guy, so it’s better to have people self-select out otherwise — but it’s still reasonable to alert them that it’s happening.

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