Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Sat, 27 Feb 2021 05:27:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 weekend open thread – February 27-28, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-27-28-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-27-28-2021.html#comments Sat, 27 Feb 2021 05:20:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21046 This post, weekend open thread – February 27-28, 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: You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. This is two sisters, one of them a comedian, writing […]

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This post, weekend open thread – February 27-28, 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: You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. This is two sisters, one of them a comedian, writing about the crazy racist things that have happened to the other, and I didn’t know that humor and horror and fury could be combined so effectively. It’s excellent, and if you’re white it’s eye-opening even if you thought you already knew.

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

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-42.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-42.html#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2021 17:00:44 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21048 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 live in Texas, which just had a very newsworthy week. While my home situation was pretty terrible, I have to brag that my employer was amazing. On Monday, leaders starting reaching out to check in with their people, […]

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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 live in Texas, which just had a very newsworthy week. While my home situation was pretty terrible, I have to brag that my employer was amazing. On Monday, leaders starting reaching out to check in with their people, and my department essentially gave everyone the week off, fully paid, to focus on taking care of their families and households. I didn’t have power for four days, and not worrying about my PTO or getting paid on top of that eased a huge source of stress, and I am incredibly grateful. There are some parts of my job I don’t love, but this experience reminded me that overall I work for a great employer!

2. I started reading AAM a few years ago when I felt stuck in a miserable job. Although I’m no longer in the workforce since taking time to be a stay-at-home parent, I am hooked!

What’s amazing to me is how much AAM has benefitted my non-work life. I struggle with social anxiety to a degree that interacting with other humans often feels awkward, and interpersonal conflict is overwhelming to a degree that can be detrimental to my well-being. I’ve taken a lot of comfort in reading AAM and applying its lessons to social situations. I feel like I’ve gained better perspective of when to speak up about something, when to let something go, when to change my situation, and when to admit that I myself need to change. Over the past couple years I’ve set boundaries with in-laws, reconsidered some long-held world views, ended a decade-long friendship that had become unhealthy, and more. Mosy recently, I took a stand against the Big, Bad HOA board, something I never thought I had the confidence to do!

So thank you, Alison, for how your work-centered advice has helped me improve my personal life. And as it’s become increasingly clear that the company culture at my spouse’s job has taken a nosedive since last year’s acquisition, I hope my household will also produce a work-related AAM success story before too long!

3. I was in my last role for about 4.5 years and was pretty miserable for most of that time. I was extremely fortunate to get that job without a master’s degree, which is basically essential in my field, and the only reason I stayed as long as I did was because they paid for me to get my degree. I started my job search in November 2019 and finished my degree that December. I had a few interviews and was actually expecting an offer for a “dream job” when COVID hit and knocked my search completely off the rails. But I didn’t give up! There were still openings in my field (although a lot fewer of them), so I kept applying for anything that looked remotely promising. One of my goals was relocating to anywhere but my former state, so I had the advantage/disadvantage of not being hampered by location — but also having to interview at a lot of locations that I wouldn’t be able to see in person before a decision. It was a very weird search!

I applied for probably 40 jobs over the past year, most of them after March. Thanks to your amazing advice (particularly about crafting a cover letter and asking the “magic question”), I ended up a finalist for two different positions — one at my dream location but a very stretch role for me; the other at a less desirable location but at an organization with a mission that I’m really passionate about, and in a role that is very in line with my background, interests, and long-term goals. I ended up getting an offer from the second one, and I accepted it.

It’s been a weird onboarding — most of my team is remote (I’m choosing to come in to the office most of the time because it’s easier for me to focus), and I started in what is normally a pretty slow period for my field (higher education). But this role also gives me MUCH more freedom and “creative control” than my last one, and we already have a few projects in the works that I’m going to be taking the lead on. My previous role was in a very defined box that I could only deviate from in very specific situations with approval from various stakeholders, so it’s really exciting to have basically carte blanche to do whatever I want as long as it falls under the general umbrella of the role.

Some things I learned from this process and experience:

a. If you’re negotiating a start date, make sure the one you land on makes sense for your field and the role. My new organization basically told me I could start whenever I wanted, and I was VERY anxious to leave my old role behind, so I chose an early start date of right after Thanksgiving (basically, as soon as I could possibly relocate). But in my field, things slow down dramatically between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I had a lot more downtime than I would prefer for my first few weeks at a new job. 

b. Don’t relocate the week before a major holiday. Just don’t. Even though we weren’t travelling (the one blessing of COVID right now), we still wanted to have a nice Thanksgiving, and it was so much more stressful than it needed to be.

c. Don’t set your start date or give notice before your background check is complete (and be aware that it may take longer right now). Everything worked out fine because I knew I had nothing in my background, and I wanted to give my former boss as much notice as possible, but a process that I expected to just take a few days took almost a month! I ended up getting cleared literally the day before my last day, and just over a week before I was supposed to relocate. Even though I knew it would probably be fine, I was so stressed for that whole month that I might end up unemployed.

d. Be patient, but don’t give up! As I said, I applied for probably 40 jobs (which is a lot in my fairly niche area), which led to about a dozen interviews and one offer. Just keep at it and follow Alison’s advice whenever you can — you’ll find the right role eventually!

4. I wrote to you asking if I needed to do anything different when sending a cover letter to someone who already knew my work well. You graciously reassured me that I was overthinking it and could just write a normal cover letter. I did my best, and it worked — after 4(!) rounds of interviews (for which I think I might have mined every single article you have ever written on interviewing) I have just been offered the job. All the interviews meant I had plenty of opportunity to dig into the culture of the company, talking to lots of different interviewers about their experiences, and I’m confident that this is a place where I can thrive and do great work. My current schedule is unusual in my field and I’d resigned myself to moving to a more standard one, but I even get to keep that too!

Thank you for everything you do. I don’t think my current workplace knows how much of our culture is shaped by things that you’ve written, but I’ve poured as much Alison-magic into this place as I can, and I’m excited to bring everything I’ve learned into a new role.

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open thread – February 26-27, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-26-27-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-26-27-2021.html#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2021 16:00:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21045 This post, open thread – February 26-27, 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 – February 26-27, 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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explaining a drastic appearance change, employees won’t use hearing aids, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/explaining-a-drastic-appearance-change-employees-wont-use-hearing-aids-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/explaining-a-drastic-appearance-change-employees-wont-use-hearing-aids-and-more.html#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2021 05:03:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21086 This post, explaining a drastic appearance change, employees won’t use hearing aids, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Explaining a drastic appearance change we when return to work Like many, I (a mid-40’s woman) have been working from home since last March, so I have not seen my coworkers in person since then. In that time I had some very serious medical issues […]

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This post, explaining a drastic appearance change, employees won’t use hearing aids, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Explaining a drastic appearance change we when return to work

Like many, I (a mid-40’s woman) have been working from home since last March, so I have not seen my coworkers in person since then. In that time I had some very serious medical issues related to COVID, including a few hospitalizations, and the ramifications are lifelong. As a result I’ve lost 80+ pounds and my appearance has changed drastically. In the cases where I’ve seen non-work people, they have not recognized me immediately. I am on Zoom calls, but it’s hard to really see the changes until you’re face to face.

I know people will have well meaning comments when I return to work, but this weight loss is a blessing and a curse. I’d gladly take all the pounds back to be completely healthy again! I don’t want to discuss my medical issues but I also don’t want to encourage any conversations about my “lifestyle change” or “how I did it” either. I almost died, it’s not a good way to lose weight! Do you have any advice on a graceful way to deflect these comments?

Are you comfortable just saying, “It’s from being very sick”? (You could add, “but I’m doing better now” so people don’t worry terribly.) Or, “It’s from almost dying of Covid” or anything else that succinctly communicates the situation? That won’t shut all of it down because our culture is so profoundly messed up about weight that some people will see even weight loss from a serious illness as a lucky break, but it’ll shut down a lot of it.

If pressed to discuss it further, you could say, “Well, it’s medical so I’m not really getting into it at work. Thanks for understanding!”

2. My employee with hearing loss won’t wear her hearing aids

One of my direct reports is a sweet woman who has mentioned that she has hearing loss but that she doesn’t like to wear her hearing aids at work because they make everything louder. It is noticeable that she needs them though. When you speak to her, she frequently will get a blank look on her face or have to have things repeated, and she speaks quite loudly. With mask wearing due to Covid, the situation has gotten worse, and I have also had to remind her to maintain social distancing (as she often tries to get closer to hear better.) Her hearing is becoming a real issue. How do I ask her to wear her hearing aids without seeming ableist or creating any potential legal situations?

You can’t insist she wear hearing aids, and you shouldn’t. It might be helpful to realize that hearing aids aren’t like glasses. With glasses, you put them on and boom, your vision is corrected. Hearing aids don’t work like that; they can magnify environmental noises at the expense of voices and otherwise provide auditory input in a way that’s uncomfortable. Not always, obviously. But if your employee says she prefers not to wear them, there’s probably a reason. And legally, you cannot require them.

What you can do is to lay out the work-related problems you’re seeing and ask her what accommodations would help. There may be other strategies each of you can use that will improve things. (There are a lot of ideas here she could look at.) Meanwhile, you definitely can insist that she maintain social distancing while this gets worked out.

3. I was promoted under threat of retaliation and want to leave without burning all my bridges

I was offered a promotion to team lead a few months ago after my old lead left because of how bad the job is. Management was calling her in on her days off and she was working every weekend! So I turned it down, citing wanting to focus on my technical skills at this point in my career to be polite. Unfortunately, no one else took the job after I said no, so my manager came back to “ask” again. I got called into a meeting with him where he accused me of not being committed enough to my job. Then I got “offered” the role again. He only gave me until after lunch to answer. I made a panicked decision to take the job, fearing retaliation and not wanting to be fired. I told myself I could commit for a year and then leave, to try and get something out of the role for myself professionally.

Now I’m doing a minimum of 15 hours of overtime a week and working most weekends. I’m exhausted. We haven’t replaced my old role but the amount of work has stayed the same, despite my repeated requests to make something change, so I’m just doing both jobs. I have no training for management and am barely keeping it together on a personal level. I miss my old life so much. I pretty much just wake up and work until I am so tired I have to sleep. I don’t even feel like a person anymore. My manager is content to say “I’ll do something about it” and then not do something about it indefinitely when I bring up these issues.

I can’t live like this for a year, but I’m struggling with feeling good about leaving within a few months of being promoted. It seems like that will blow up any hope I have of using this place as a reference and might impact my reputation within the industry. I only graduated two years ago, and this is my first “real job” — I don’t have older references to fall back on except internships. I’d like to get out of this nightmare without burning every bridge or hurting my team. If I stayed six months, does that look better to other employers? And I care about my team, and I worry that leaving so soon will also put them in a bad place where they’ll have even less manpower and more pressure to overwork from above. Is there anything I can do to help them before leaving?

I feel like I’ve made a horrible mistake and it would have been better to refuse the role and start job hunting aggressively. Any advice?

Oh my goodness, you get to leave whenever you want to! Your boss might not like it but your boss is an awful person who basically forced to you to take a job you didn’t want and now is overworking you to the point of constant exhaustion, despite your pleas for help. Were you ever going to get a great reference from him anyway? I wouldn’t count on it, no matter what you do. Plus, it’s very normal not to use your current boss as a reference; most employers understand that can jeopardize your current job. You might have wanted him as a reference in the next job search, the one after this one, but it’s not a huge obstacle that you won’t have him. You’ll have other colleagues you can use. In fact, what about your team lead who left the job you were then forced to take over? She’d be a good option. It’s also fine to use references from internships when you’re early in your career. That’s normal and not strange in the least.

Other employers won’t be terribly concerned that you left a few months after being promoted. That doesn’t look that odd. If asked, you can explain you stepped up when they were in a pinch but you’re looking for something that won’t have you working seven days a week. Reasonable employers will fully understand that, and you don’t want to work for anyone who doesn’t.

As for your team … you can’t protect them at the cost of your own health/quality of life/ability to sleep. They’ve got to negotiate their own work lives on their own, and they’ll be able to figure out this is a crappy company that they need to leave just like you have. Feel free to encourage them in that direction! But trust that they’re adults and they’ll deal with it … and really, anyone worth sacrificing yourself for wouldn’t want you to make that sacrifice.

4. How do I teach someone time management when I’m bad at it myself?

I work for a very small research nonprofit. I have been asked to manage our youngest associate, Josie. Josie is very bright and does great work — when she does it. But she’s unreliable, misses deadlines right and left, and doesn’t communicate that her work will be coming in late. I believe it’s a time management issue and just being new to the workforce and not understanding norms.

If it were just as simple as saying “you must meet deadlines, and you must communicate to your team if you’re delayed,” that would be fine … but I feel compelled to help Josie learn better time management skills and set an example through my own actions. The truth is, though, that I am not great at time management. I’m often guilty of spending too much time chasing rabbits down holes, or trying to perfect a single slide or paragraph at the expense of other urgent work. The reason that I don’t miss deadlines is because I’m fueled by anxiety and determination, and so I’m willing to stay up all night to make sure the work gets done.

But I realize that my work patterns are not great — even if the results are good — and I would not want Josie to emulate my behavior (to the extent that it’s visible to her). How do I teach her to be effective at time management when it’s something I struggle with myself?

I’m not sure you can! It’s very hard to teach someone something that you haven’t mastered yourself, and especially if they see you doing something totally different. Also, time management is a thing where different methods work for different people. I manage my time in very specific ways that work well for me, but trying to teach those ways to other people has made it clear what works varies greatly from person to person. Some of the systems I see other people use would never work for me, and vice versa.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a nice bonus if you could teach Josie time management — it would be — but the most important part of your role as Josie’s manager is to be very, very clear about what outcomes you need from her. Lay out the expectations she must meet and hold her accountable to them. If you’ve already clearly told her she absolutely must meet deadlines or give you an advance heads-up when she needs more time and that’s still not happening, that’s a pretty serious performance issue. You can make suggestions (like that she find a time management book and read it) but ultimately it’s on her to figure out what she needs to meet those very basic expectations.

I also wouldn’t assume this is about being new to the workforce. Most people new to the workforce grasp these concepts easily when they’re spelled out. She might just not be right for the job.

5. My dad won’t stop sending me LinkedIn connection requests

Over the years, I’ve had my dad periodically request to connect with me on LinkedIn. My dad and I are in completely different industries. I think this is his indirect way of trying to “help” me even though his job connections wouldn’t be helpful. I don’t have other relatives on LinkedIn since it’s a professional platform.

Part of me wants to just block him on LinkedIn because I think he will just brush me off if I tell him directly to stop this time since he has good intentions. I should also note I’m hardly on LinkedIn myself, I just happened to see he sent a request recently.

Is the main reason you don’t want to connect to him that he’s not in your field? If so, it’s not weird or uncommon to connect to people you know on LinkedIn even if they’re in different fields. And you never know when a connection of a connection will actually turn out to be useful.

But if you don’t want to (and I realize there could be other reasons you prefer not to), just ignore the requests. Delete them, move on, done. If he asks about it at some point, you can say, “Oh, I’m never on there, I don’t even see requests most of the time.” Or if you really want to make it stop, you could block him on the platform — but that seems like an extreme step unless there’s more to it.

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company gives employees 6 months to “fix” their health issues https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/company-gives-employees-6-months-to-fix-their-health-issues.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/company-gives-employees-6-months-to-fix-their-health-issues.html#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2021 18:59:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21083 This post, company gives employees 6 months to “fix” their health issues , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve worked in HR for 15 years, striving to be the seemingly elusive good HR. I’ve administered wellness programs in a couple of different workplaces and the main purpose has always been engagement – you want people to feel good about taking care of themselves and to be as healthy as they […]

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This post, company gives employees 6 months to “fix” their health issues , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve worked in HR for 15 years, striving to be the seemingly elusive good HR. I’ve administered wellness programs in a couple of different workplaces and the main purpose has always been engagement – you want people to feel good about taking care of themselves and to be as healthy as they can be. Recently, my sister brought up a facet of her company’s wellness plan that made me feel … gross.

Her company brings in a vendor to do biometric screening, which is great, but here’s where they lose me: her HR department reviews results, determines who is “fine” and who is not, gives those who are not a period of six months to “fix” issues, and then uses this to determine who gets employer funding in their HSA. Not like $25/month funding either, they do the annual max for the employee’s enrollment type.

I feel strongly that HR shouldn’t have personal health information on their employees unless it’s necessary and job-related. To me, this is a complete overreach of things HR should be involved in or have access to. I also don’t think compensation should be tied to things that are potentially genetic and sometimes outside of a person’s control.

My sister argues that it’s a good cost-control measure for the company since the HSA amount is so generous. She thinks that they shouldn’t reward people who aren’t even trying, and says it’s no different than assessing a premium increase for smokers.

I keep thinking of scenarios where this could turn into a discrimination issue. What if a previously healthy woman gets pregnant, ends up with hypertension and gestational diabetes, and they deny her the money? What if someone of a certain ethnic group has a genetic condition that they are under physician’s care for, but can’t completely alleviate? Maybe the program has certain exceptions to allow for these situations, but I don’t have all of the specifics.

I am wondering if this is common practice/legally kosher or if there is a real issue with her company’s wellness program. More to the point, which sister is right?

You are the winning sister! It’s almost certainly illegal, and probably in a few different ways.

* The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo medical exams. It makes an exception for exams conducted as part of a wellness program only if they don’t use the screening to discriminate against employees and only if the program is voluntary and the employer doesn’t penalize people who don’t participate. The law does allow employers to offer incentives for participation if the reward is nominal. Funding someone’s entire annual HSA is not nominal.

* To comply with the ADA, wellness plans must give disabled employees equal access to the program’s benefits, and employers can’t require people with disabilities to complete additional requirements to obtain equal benefits. The plan in your letter doesn’t sound like it complies.

* The ADA also puts significant limits on how much info an employer can request about an employee’s disability. One of those limits is that wellness programs that request health information must be “reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease.” The law says a program does not meet that standard if it exists to shift costs from an employer to employees based on their health; is used by the employer only to predict its future health costs; or imposes unreasonably intrusive procedures, an overly burdensome amount of time for participation, or significant costs related to medical exams on employees. There’s a good chance your sister’s company’s program is in violation of this.

* The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits employers from requesting genetic information from employees. GINA provides an exception for wellness programs only if the employee provides “prior, knowing, voluntary and written authorization”; there is no penalty for not participating; only the employee and licensed health care professional or counselor receive individually identifiable information concerning the results of such services (ahem); and genetic information isn’t disclosed to the employer except in aggregate terms. The program at your sister’s company violates most of this.

* Finally, wellness programs can reward employees for participating in the program — for example, doing things like getting a health screening or joining a gym. But if they tie rewards to achieving specific health outcomes, that can easily end up discriminating based on health status.

And even aside from this cornucopia of legal problems, the program at your sister’s company is a complete paternalistic overreach. Employers shouldn’t be involved in people’s individual medical decisions. Providing health insurance doesn’t make them doctors, and it definitely doesn’t make them their employees’ doctors.

We’ve ended up here because of our ridiculous system of tying health insurance to employment (which is probably in the top 10 worst decisions in the history of the republic), but this is way over the line.

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update: I want to quit … but if I leave, my project will die https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/update-i-want-to-quit-but-if-i-leave-my-project-will-die.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/update-i-want-to-quit-but-if-i-leave-my-project-will-die.html#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2021 17:29:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21050 This post, update: I want to quit … but if I leave, my project will die , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer who wanted to leave her horrible, abusive job but feared a major project she’d worked on would die if she quit? Here’s the update. Thank you for your good advice and for running my letter! This whole situation is just soaked in weirdness. Before I give an update, I want to clarify […]

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This post, update: I want to quit … but if I leave, my project will die , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer who wanted to leave her horrible, abusive job but feared a major project she’d worked on would die if she quit? Here’s the update.

Thank you for your good advice and for running my letter! This whole situation is just soaked in weirdness.

Before I give an update, I want to clarify a couple of things. Unlike what many of your commenters suggested, I was not being pushed out the door — quite the opposite! (Although I totally understand why it came across that way, and it’s not like I didn’t think the exact same thing!) Lorna has always reduced and expanded contractor hours as suits her budgetary needs, and almost always brings them back in the future for additional work. Had I been given the courtesy of a few days’ warning, I wouldn’t have brought it up at all.

I’d also like to clarify that saying someone is not a bad person doesn’t mean I think they’re a good person. Lorna was a much different person a year ago for reasons both valid and questionable. I am and always have been aware of the fact that she has very poor management and communication skills, having been in middle management under her for most of the past year.

All right, so an update to the letter:

I quit, obviously, just a few weeks after I sent the letter, because of a totally bizarre conversation over email (paraphrased here) that happened after Lorna had completely disappeared for a month:

Lorna: What are you working on?

Me: Hello, Lorna. I am working on [task we set as top priority in November for a January launch to be possible that must be done no matter what happens].

Lorna: I don’t want you working on that until I know how to do it faster. (I had been working on it, with her knowledge, for months.)

Me: This is a job that only I can do out of everyone on our team, so I’m confident that I’m working as quickly as possible on it, but please let me know your ideas when you’re ready. Is there something else you would like me to work on in the meantime?

Lorna: Have you done [lowest priority task] yet?

Me: I just want to remind you, that’s our lowest priority task. If you want me to go ahead with it, no problem, but we need to talk about whether you want [Option A] or [Option B].

I wait a week. No word. No word.

Me: Hi, Lorna, sorry to bother you, but I’m unable to work unless you answer my question about [Option A] or [Option B]. Also, I looked into [high-priority task] and I’m very concerned because [X reasons.]

I waited a week. No word. Keep in mind that her last words to me were literally a question, “Have you done [low-priority task] yet?”

I hadn’t been told to stop working, and I hadn’t been given a task. Communication back and forth with Ignatius indicated that [high-priority task] was what was to be worked on, so I reluctantly returned to it. I couldn’t contact her as she was out of the country on personal business.

So, of course, she was angry at me for doing the work that needed to be done, and I just … couldn’t anymore. She wasn’t even wrong, I had in fact gone against her wishes, but as it was work that would have had to be done exactly that way no matter what, it wasn’t as if I had wasted time. She insisted that she wanted me to remain on the project, but that she wasn’t sure when I could start work again. I really don’t think I was expected to glean that I was supposed to stop working abruptly from her asking if I had done a task yet, I’m sorry. But I just couldn’t argue anymore. How many times do you have to yell “There’s a fire!” before running to the exit to save yourself?

Unfortunately, I do not have the financial stability I had expected to have anymore due to an emergency. Losing this job has been a personal as well as a financial hardship to me in many ways. That said, I finally feel “normal” for the first time in a year, so I’m going to chase that feeling as long as I can.

I do not plan on returning if asked.

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how can I move out of working in retail? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-can-i-move-out-of-working-in-retail.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-can-i-move-out-of-working-in-retail.html#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2021 15:59:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21051 This post, how can I move out of working in retail? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: I graduated with an MFA in fine arts several years ago and worked briefly as an adjunct after finishing school. The work was low-paying for the effort I put in and so unstable that I found myself abandoning the thought of pursuing a career in […]

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This post, how can I move out of working in retail? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

I graduated with an MFA in fine arts several years ago and worked briefly as an adjunct after finishing school. The work was low-paying for the effort I put in and so unstable that I found myself abandoning the thought of pursuing a career in academia. I eventually got a job as a salesperson with a fashion retailer with a reputation for treating its employees well. I initially never had any plans in staying with this company, but I was encouraged to pursue a promotion and got it! After two assistant manager positions, I eventually landed a department manager position in 2018. I am grateful for everything I’ve learned during my time with this retailer and am currently working under a lovely store manager and alongside good people.

The problem is I can’t stand being in a customer-facing retail position. As an introvert, it’s the worst, most stressful part of my job. In the last two years alone, I’ve had to kick customers out for having sex in the fitting rooms or using the fitting room as their personal bathroom (eww). I’ve had to deal with entitled customers abusing salespeople or attempting to commit fraud. I’ve had to deal with a customer spouting homophobic nonsense at one of my salespeople and have been the victim of harassment a time or two myself. It’s to the point where every time I get a call for a customer issue, my heart starts pounding and I get that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach.

I’ve tried pursuing non-customer facing opportunities inside and outside of the company with no luck. Even with a resume focusing on my accomplishments and a tailored cover letter, I’ve never been invited to an interview outside of my company.

This past winter, I went to a career counselor who confirmed that retail wasn’t for me. I have many skills that I feel are transferable to other work and she guided me towards academic recruitment (combining my sales and academic experience) or executive assistant type positions. With her help I revamped my resume and made sure my cover letters explicitly linked my skills from my current position to what each job description is looking for.

And then the pandemic hit… The northeast metropolitan area I live in went from having a good job market to a terrible job market overnight, and the positions I’m applying for sometimes have over 300 applicants. I’m glad I didn’t lose my job through all of this, but dang do I feel pretty discouraged. I’m terrified that I’ll be pigeon-holed in customer service positions forever. The burn-out I’m feeling right now is affecting me in my personal life and is finally starting to seep in at work as well, despite how much of a happy façade I have.

Do you or any of your readers have any advice on escaping retail? Am I going about this the wrong way? Am I going to have to wait out the pandemic to have any sort of chance?

Readers who have successfully moved out of retail or seen others do it, what’s your advice for this letter-writer?

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trainer says I need to shadow her for a year, charged vacation days during a natural disaster, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/trainer-says-i-need-to-shadow-her-for-a-year-charged-vacation-days-during-a-natural-disaster-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/trainer-says-i-need-to-shadow-her-for-a-year-charged-vacation-days-during-a-natural-disaster-and-more.html#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2021 05:03:24 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21082 This post, trainer says I need to shadow her for a year, charged vacation days during a natural disaster, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My trainer says I need to shadow her for a year before I can do my job I was lucky enough to recently land a new job in an organization I’ve long wanted to work for. While a lot of the position is new to […]

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This post, trainer says I need to shadow her for a year, charged vacation days during a natural disaster, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My trainer says I need to shadow her for a year before I can do my job

I was lucky enough to recently land a new job in an organization I’ve long wanted to work for. While a lot of the position is new to me, I have related experience that I think helped me land the job. The job is split between two departments, but with similar duties.

It’s been seven weeks now on the job. Training went really well with the first department, and I’m now doing that work independently. I know I don’t know everything, but I’m 90% comfortable in the position and I know who I can ask if I have questions. But I’m having troubles with June, the woman training me in the other department. I’m supposed to take over the position from her, while she remains in the department.

It feels more like a job shadowing than a training. June will have me watch her do certain tasks and has told me a lot of general information; she says it will take a year of this before I can take over the job. I still don’t have access to many things (budget, network drives, etc.) that I will need. She insists that I cannot go to meetings without her. She is still the email contact person for everything, so I am not even in the loop on most things happening.

I am going crazy! I feel like I am an intern, rather than a woman with over a decade of professional experience who is successfully doing the job in another department. I have tried a few times to tell her that I’d like to work independently and I’d like to move towards taking over the position, but she shuts that down and insists it will take a full year of training before I am ready. The weird thing is that she asked for a new hire because she didn’t have time to do this job. I think she doesn’t want to put the initial work in to adequately train someone and figures it is just easier to have me watch her. But I don’t want to move this slowly, and I don’t think my boss will have a high opinion of me this way either.

How do I approach this with her? I’ve thought about going behind her back to start getting the access I need, but I don’t like being underhanded. Or is this the sort of thing I should raise with my boss who just seems to care that the work is being done and doesn’t care if it’s me or June doing it? June is nice and I don’t want to burn a bridge with someone I will continue to work with; I like this job and this organization very much, but I can’t be her shadow for a year.

Some people get very, very possessive of their jobs and have a hard time relinquishing the work to someone else, even if they asked for the help.

You should talk to your boss about it! It might seem like she doesn’t care as long as the work gets done, but it’s very unlikely that she intended to hire someone who wouldn’t take over the job for a year. And if she’s a decent boss, she’ll care about it because of the impact on your morale as well.

I’d say this: “I’m done with training for Department A, and I’m doing that work independently now, which is going great. But with the B work, June has told me I’ll need to simply watch her do the work for a full year before I do the job myself. That wasn’t my understanding when I was hired, and shadowing her for a year doesn’t sound like what you had in mind when we talked earlier. Is there a way for me to move more fully into the role more quickly?”

If she seems shocked (which she should) and says she’ll talk to June (which she should), at that point you could say, “I want to make sure that raising this with you doesn’t damage my relationship with June — is there a way to navigate this that won’t cause tension with her?”

Another option if you’re worried about June’s reaction would be to skip the above and instead ask for a meeting with your boss to talk about how things are going, then let her uncover this herself during that conversation so it’s not like you went straight to her to report it … but going straight to her is also fine. This is the kind of thing managers want to know!

You also could talk with June about it first, although it sounds like you’ve tried and she’s been unreceptive. If you want, you could say, “I want to give you a heads-up that I’m going to talk to Valentina about the transition timeline since I think her intention was that I’d take on more of this work more quickly” … but you don’t need to do that, and frankly there’s a chance that a heads-up would just let her lay some kind of groundwork for arguing that this is needed.

2. Being charged vacation days during a natural disaster

I work for a mid-sized company at their office in Texas. We have been working remotely for most of the last 12 months. Last week, many of us were stuck in freezing homes with no electricity, no heat, no cellular data, and eventually no water. Today, HR advised us to use our vacation time for any days we were unable to work.

Honestly, I’m appalled. I was already planning on mentioning how disappointed I was in the response when we stayed open. Even when I did have power, I had neighbors in homes that had been unheated for more than two days and the entire state was under advisement to conserve energy. None of us should have been working those days, using power instead of conserving it.

Is there a way to approach HR about this? Should I look for a new job? This has totally reframed how I think of my work and the workplace culture.

It’s actually not terribly uncommon for companies to have people use vacation days when weather keeps them from coming to work.

But this wasn’t just bad weather. This was a massive crisis that caused widespread suffering. And this is not how you treat employees during a crisis. It’s the opposite of how an employer signals that it cares about its employees.

I wouldn’t look for a new job over it unless it’s part of a pattern of callous behavior. But I’d try pushing back with a group of coworkers to see if you can get it changed, pointing out that docking people’s already limited time off for days spent dealing with a crisis that affected so many people sends a terrible message about the company’s support for employees.

3. My boss over-praises me to higher-ups

Why does my supervisor keep over-praising me to the bigwigs? This has happened on at least two occasions. The first time was during my annual review. He praised my efforts, and, while I don’t mind him letting our bosses know how much I do, he definitely over-sells it (especially when raises and bonuses are on the line). He actually does this to his own detriment because he literally tells them that I do everything multiple times.

The first time, our big boss looked at him and said, “Well what do YOU actually do?” and I had to swoop in and give a mini speech about how we’re a team, and I couldn’t do my job without him, he’s the best supervisor I’ve ever had, yadda, yadda.

The second time was more recent. We were meeting with a different big boss, mostly to analyze how my supervisor and I have been operating our department during COVID. Throughout the meeting, he kept praising me and everything I do. I was baffled because it had nothing to do with the meeting, and I actually started feeling a little uncomfortable. The other big boss literally said, “You’re digging yourself into a hole” to him. I swooped in again and said we’re a team, I couldn’t do anything without him or his guidance, and so on.

I’m so confused as to why he does this. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m asking him to up sell me to the bosses for whatever reason. I do do a lot of work and I appreciate the recognition, but I don’t want him to throw himself under the bus for my sake.

It’s hard to say for sure! He could be worried about protecting you/his team from potential cuts (and he could have reason to be worrying about that, or he might have just decided it on his own). He could know in a general sense that managers should advocate for their people and make sure their work is visible to higher-ups and is trying to implement that without enough skill. He could just be bad at reading a room/judging what and how much is appropriate and when.

I wouldn’t worry about his bosses think that you’ve requested this; if it reflects weirdly on anyone, it’ll reflect on him, not you (because if you’d requested it, presumably he’d run that through his own filter of what’s appropriate).

4. Letting staff know they can still take mental health days during Covid

I manage a team of workers. Our organization has taken strong measures as it relates to COVID-19, which means anyone who experiences any of the various symptoms must be out of the office for a minimum of five days after they stop having symptoms and in some cases need a negative test result. We work in an industry where taking a significant amount of time off (especially unexpected time off) means a lot of catch-up when you get back in the office, so I am not worried about my staff abusing the “free vacation” or anything like that. My question is actually about the exact opposite: I know that many of us have taken a sick day in our careers when we weren’t physically sick but just needed a mental health day for whatever reason, and generally in those cases people fabricate symptoms (or just say “sick”). I am wondering how I can let my staff know that if they just need a day to reset, I’m okay with that and they don’t have to be worried that by telling me they have a headache/upset stomach/etc. they’ll be home for a week.

They’ll probably figure out wording to use that won’t trigger a one-week quarantine (“under the weather, nothing resembling Covid” would do the trick), but if you want to spell it out you could say, “I know sometimes we all just need a day off here and there to preserve our mental health. Please don’t feel you need to get into specifics in order to avoid an unnecessary quarantine — it’s fine to simply say you’re under the weather but it’s nothing on the Covid symptom list, and that’s enough for me.” You could add, “Please do make sure that it’s definitely not anything on the list though — our individual judgment about what it is or isn’t should not override the guidance from the CDC.”

5. How do I get a former client to stop contacting me for more help?

A few years ago, I did some logo work for a friend of a professional contact. Every few months since then, this guy has asked for tweaks to the design. Sometimes I charge him and sometimes, if the tweak is small, I do it quickly and send it along. However, it has been about three years since I did this work for him, and I’ve moved on from doing graphic design work and no longer have access to Photoshop or design software and have no desire to continue to do design work. I sent him all the files I had, including the Photoshop files, so he can have them and potentially hire someone else. I explained that I no longer have Photoshop.

But he continues to reach out to me. Today he said he can pay for a monthly PhotoShop subscription for me to work. I’m not sure if he means instead of paying me, as he didn’t say anything about payment for me. I’m tired of this client and want him to move on, so I can move on with my profession and my actual 9-5 career.

On a different note, but still related, he gave his sister my information to help her with a logo. She insulted my work and refused to pay for it, which soured me on the two of them a little bit, even though that was the sister, not him. It reaffirmed my decision that not working with them anymore was the right decision. However, how do I respond to his message that he wants some more color changes and is willing to pay for Photoshop? I don’t want to be rude, but also want to tell him I’m done working for him and he needs to find someone else. Help!

It’s not rude to explain you’re not longer doing that kind of work! Just like it’s not rude to explain you’re unavailable, booked up, retired, on a year-long vacation, going on the lam, or anything else that makes you not available for someone’s project. I mean, if you tried to send work to your old accountant and she told you she was actually working as a dentist now, would you think it was rude that she wouldn’t do your taxes anyway? You would not.

You can keep it very simple: “I’m not doing design work at all anymore, but there are lots of great designers out there who should be able to handle it. Sorry I can’t help, and good luck with it!” (Normally I’d suggest referring him to someone specific, but I don’t think you should do that to your contacts in this case.)

If he pushes after that: “I’m really not doing this work at all anymore. I’m focused on other commitments.”

And if he pushes after that (which would make him basically as rude as his sister), feel free to simply ignore him. You’re not tethered to this person for life just because he’s obnoxiously pushy!

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my coworker doesn’t quarantine after flying all over the country https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-coworker-doesnt-quarantine-after-flying-all-over-the-country.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-coworker-doesnt-quarantine-after-flying-all-over-the-country.html#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2021 18:59:42 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21068 This post, my coworker doesn’t quarantine after flying all over the country , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My office split 60/40 working in the office versus working remotely. Due to my husband’s job in healthcare and my office’s looser adherence to health rules, I’ve continued to work from home. One of my coworkers, who is in his early 30s, has resumed traveling for fun. A lot. He’s taken 10 […]

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This post, my coworker doesn’t quarantine after flying all over the country , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My office split 60/40 working in the office versus working remotely. Due to my husband’s job in healthcare and my office’s looser adherence to health rules, I’ve continued to work from home.

One of my coworkers, who is in his early 30s, has resumed traveling for fun. A lot. He’s taken 10 trips since October, which have included long-haul flights to higher risk parts of the country and staying over at other people’s homes. He’s stated that he misses seeing people, is in generally good health, and wants to take advantage of discounted flights while there are fewer travelers. Our official office policy is to adhere to state guidelines and quarantine after trips, but that hasn’t been happening, from what I can see over Zoom. The leadership team is back in the office, at least part-time, so they must have at least some awareness of this employee’s weekend activities.

So far, I haven’t said anything when his travel plans come up in conversation. My rationale is that I’m not in the office, but seeing this person share an office (unmasked) with another coworker is a strong deterrent for me to come back. It has also made for some awkward phone calls with clients who aren’t back to “normal” when it comes to travel hearing that this employee “just got back from their neck of the woods.” Thoughts on how to best handle this?

Agh, your coworker. He wants to take advantage of discounted flights while there are fewer travelers. What a delightful member of society he is.

Here’s the good news (maybe): Your office has a policy requiring quarantining after trips. He is not following that policy. You should raise that with someone in authority.

I know you’re thinking that since the leadership team is back part-time, they must know what he’s doing … and if they’re not enforcing the quarantine rules, that must indicate they don’t care. And maybe that’s true. But very often, a rule just isn’t getting enforced because no one has pointed out the problem. Maybe they’re not paying enough attention to know if he’s quarantining or not. Maybe they assume his manager is on it. Maybe they’re thinking, “Ugh, Cecil has always been such an ass” without connecting that to “and I have the power and the obligation to do something about it.” Who knows.

But you should speak up. Talk to your manager, talk to HR, talk to whoever is best positioned in your office to act on it (which is some combination of authority and willingness and Taking Covid Seriously). Say this: “I know our policy requires quarantining at home after out-of-state trips, in line with public health advice. I’m concerned that it’s not happening — for example, Cecil was back in the office right after his recent trips to X and Y, both of which are hotspots for Covid. What can be done to ensure that policy gets followed so we don’t have an outbreak at work?”

If you feel you lack standing to say this because you’re not in the office yourself, I’d argue you do have standing. It affects you if your office has unsafe working conditions and people get sick and/or die. And you could say, “In thinking about when and how I could return to the office, this is very much on my mind.”

As for clients: If a client expresses surprise or concern about Cecil traveling, that’s something you should pass on to your manager too: “Jane at Oatmeal Emporium seemed shocked that Cecil was doing recreational travel during the pandemic, which I guess he mentioned while he was taking her order for groats this morning. How do you want me to handle that?”

It’s possible your office won’t care about any of this. You mentioned their “looser adherence to health rules” and some unmasked colleagues, so maybe they just don’t care. There’s a weird number of companies that don’t. But some do act when pressed (even ones you don’t expect to), so it’s worth raising it and finding out for sure. If it turns out they’re fine with the state of things, it’ll at least be confirmation that you need to continue to work from home.

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a drunken cowboy, gingerbread house chaos, and other office contests that went badly https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/a-drunken-cowboy-gingerbread-house-chaos-and-other-office-contests-that-went-badly.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/a-drunken-cowboy-gingerbread-house-chaos-and-other-office-contests-that-went-badly.html#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2021 17:29:16 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21041 This post, a drunken cowboy, gingerbread house chaos, and other office contests that went badly , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Last week, I asked you to share your stories of workplace contests gone awry. Here are 10 of my favorites. 1. The chili cook-off winner Not my story but my dad’s, and it makes me laugh every time. His workplace hosts an annual chili cookoff and everyone would bring in a crockpot of their chili, […]

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This post, a drunken cowboy, gingerbread house chaos, and other office contests that went badly , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Last week, I asked you to share your stories of workplace contests gone awry. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1. The chili cook-off winner

Not my story but my dad’s, and it makes me laugh every time. His workplace hosts an annual chili cookoff and everyone would bring in a crockpot of their chili, put it in the kitchen, and then judging and mass chili consumption would happen at lunch.

One year, one of his coworkers brought in an empty crockpot in the morning, took a bowl of chili from every other crockpot and dumped it in his crockpot while people were working, stirred it up and called it his own chili. He ended up WINNING that year for his “depth of flavor”, and confessed after he got asked for the recipe and had no answer. Everyone wanted to riot!

2. The run-down gingerbread house

My work did a gingerbread house contest a couple years back. All the employees could vote for their favourites. Most teams spent hours on it and made really beautiful things but mine was basic and fell apart before I was done. I put a sign on it that said “for rent: $2000 per month” since the COL in my city is super high and I figured at least people would laugh even though I obviously wouldn’t win.

I was wrong because I won in a landslide despite putting in less than 30 minutes of work. Most people were good sports but some people were definitely bitter!

3. The free day off

We did Office Olympics with events like rubber band archery and seated trashcan basketball. Beer, wine, and snacks were provided, but we got into trouble with a VP pulled out some whiskey. At the end of the event, I grabbed the mic to thank the organizers and participants, and yadda, yadda, yadda… I announced that everyone would be receiving a free PTO day, which I had absolutely zero authority to give. Thankfully management made sure we all got home safe and followed through with the PTO day like it had been planned and approved.

4. The drunken cowboy

Long ago, my company had an annual Halloween parade and contest. And then there was the year that someone came in as a drunken cowboy. Problem came when a vice president who was acting as judge grabbed the bottle of Jim Beam and took a swig and found out it was real. I’m still not sure how the cowboy kept his job…but it was 15 years before we had another costume contest.

5. The steps contest

Our work has a terrible “who can walk the most steps” contest. It’s framed as a fitness thing, but it’s pretty ableist and frankly comes off not great when all of us are working from our homes, are pressured to work more hours, and a lot of folks (particularly at more junior levels) find it hard to find the time for regular exercise.

So, sorry not sorry, I attached my activity tracker to my siberian husky’s collar and am KILLING it. I’ve made my views known and no one listened, so if the doggo wins the prize will go straight to the furloughed employees assistance fund.

6. The hot sauce contest

The full story of the hot sauce eating contest, in all its horrifying glory.

On year as part of our Oktoberfest party the party organizer (Brad) decided that we would have a hot sauce eating contest. I don’t do spice, so I sat the whole thing out. The prize (singular) was an Amazon gift card.

The contest starts with maybe 20 people, a good mix of folks from all the departments in the building, sitting panel-style at the front of the big conference room. They start with some mild hot sauce served straight on a spoon, and they’re off to the races. And people start dropping out left and right as the sauces keep getting hotter and hotter, until we comes to the last two people, and the hottest sauce. This sauce is so hot that it comes with a large warning label. Brad dons a pair of nitrile gloves before even opening the box the bottle comes in. This sauce is so hot that rather than a drop on a spoon, it is presented as a tiny drop on a toothpick. (It’s called The Source.)

Both people eat it. Neither bows out. So Brad sort of stares at them and gets two more toothpicks.

Again they eat, and again neither bows out. Neither is even sweating, unlike Brad, who is looking very concerned. See, the bottle says not to ingest more than 2 drops in a day, for the sake of your esophagus.

At this point half the audience is shouting “tie tie!” in an effort to get them to stop before someone gets hurt. But then one of the bosses (who had tapped out 5 sauces earlier) shouts that there is only one prize, and to keep going. So Brad gets out the bottle again. Now the audience is in a complete uproar, with some demanding that the contestants keep going, while others insist that they stop. While the toothpicks are prepared someone shouts “I’ve got five bucks if you stop!” which starts the passing of the hat to scrounge up enough cash to balance the Amazon card.

Eventually a tie is declared and the hot sauce eating stops. One contestant threw up in the bushes on the way to his bus, and the other missed work the next day because she was up all night with GI distress.

And that was the last eating contest.

7. The IT contest

Some people shouldn’t try to manage IT departments. Case in point:

Our boss back then had a “really fun great contest” in mind to increase team morale across the various local IT departments. There were about 6 different teams he directly managed.

His plan? “The team that identifies AND fixes the most system errors in a month gets several days paid leave! And an award of whatever food they like.”

Anyone with any experience in IT or software engineering knows what happened next: the most colossal amount of service failure calls logged EVER. Heck, wander into the LAN room, disconnect a random cable and you could get 20 calls logged before you put the cable back in. Edit permissions in Active Directory!

There was 2 days of this before the boss sent round a single line email: “This was a f**king stupid idea eh?”

8. The voting cheat

My ex company (which was pretty huge at around 500 people) regularly held inter-department competitions – charity bake sales (most popular stall), staff walking count (total number of steps collated on a fitbit). As one of the smallest and least known departments, we always ranked the lowest… until one day, a colleague of mine realised the most popular stall voting sticker looked exactly the standard yellow circle sticker you can find in any stationary store. Several votes were added to our count, and for the first time in YEARS, our department won something.

(If it’s any comfort, you don’t get a prize other than a mention in the next company news letter)

9. The unfamiliar foods

At a staff picnic, we had a contest where blindfolded contestants were given various foods to guess and finish. Unfamiliar stuff like pickled eggs, sardines, huge Castelvetrano olives, caviar (the cheap stuff, not the good stuff), pickled mushrooms, etc. The staff team responsible went out of their way to serve items that our contestants would probably be unfamiliar with — that was the point. I got a whole HEAD of garlic in oil. I did not win the contest; I did not even complete the contest. I’ve often thought later how lucky they were not to serve something that would have triggered a food allergy.

10. The gingerbread chaos

One of my lovely former colleagues always had great ideas for fun contests and she outdid herself at one holiday party. The teams in this contest had 15 minutes to assemble and decorate a gingerbread house from a kit. Not too difficult, you may think. But everyone assembling and decorating had to do it wearing a blindfold. Each team was allowed one non-blindfolded member, who was allowed only to shout out instructions.

Well, I’m glad they put down a tarp first and made the participants wear plastic aprons, because I’ve never seen so many gumdrops go flying and so much icing get squirted everywhere. It was total chaos and hilarious to watch. And if you’re wondering how difficult it was, the winning house had two walls standing, one of which fell over right after the contest ended.

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my employee is level 10 drama all the time https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-is-level-10-drama-all-the-time.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-is-level-10-drama-all-the-time.html#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2021 15:59:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21077 This post, my employee is level 10 drama all the time , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m the assistant director for a very small company that provides vocational training. Our classes are heavily regulated by the state, and there are a number of additional rules in place due to Covid. We are doing the best we can overall, and thus far it looks like we may be able […]

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This post, my employee is level 10 drama all the time , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m the assistant director for a very small company that provides vocational training. Our classes are heavily regulated by the state, and there are a number of additional rules in place due to Covid. We are doing the best we can overall, and thus far it looks like we may be able to survive the pandemic and come out on the other side.

My issue is one of my direct reports. She is intelligent and has good skills but is rapidly spiraling out of control. I’ve known her for years, before she came onboard, and she has always been melodramatic. Everything is TEN ALL THE TIME and she must always be the center of attention.

In the 18 months that she’s worked here, every cold has been cancer, every personal setback has been sabotage. She pushes back against every rule. Every safety step we take is a personal affront to her (the Lysol smells bad! the mask is stuffy!) There have been multiple times where her parent was at death’s door or her kid ran away from home or she got evicted or her car broke down or someone stole all her money (so she says) and she just … emotes all over the place, to anyone within earshot. It’s exhausting and I am losing what little remaining patience that I have, especially because these issues are really hard to believe when it’s every day.

I really try hard to be understanding and accommodating of my staff, especially in these uncertain times, but … it’s so much. And on top of that, I’m not able to give her feedback because she is holding me (and everyone else) emotionally hostage. Anything I point out, any mistake or correction, is met with tears and drama. Yesterday, when I was telling her something that needs to be fixed, she told me she might as well “just kill herself.” It seemed like a blatant guilt-trip, and I told her point-blank that I was concerned about her and want her to see her doctor because she’s very obviously not well, that we want her to be well, but we need to be able to discuss work things and work issues without worrying it’s going to send her off the deep end.

It’s a shitty feeling. I know I wasn’t as compassionate as I should have been, but (and this sounds so callous) there aren’t enough staff to do all the things we need to do when one is so completely out of touch with reality. What can I do?

Aggggh.

It’s hard to say “have less drama in your life” to someone like this because they tend to believe the drama is all external and that they can’t help the string of Very Hair-Raising Events that happen to them … not realizing that much of it is about the way they respond to events and how much chaos they create around them (not all of it, of course— there are surely real emergencies too). And you don’t want to come across like you’re saying “have fewer bad things happen to you.”

Given that, I would focus on the pieces of this that directly affect your employee’s work. There are two obvious ones in the letter: her response to workplace rules and her response to feedback.

The next time she complains about a safety step, it’s absolutely reasonable to talk to her in private and say, “I don’t know if you realize that you frequently complain about safety steps, like X and Y. Not everything that’s required at work will be exactly to your tastes, but I need you to roll with it anyway because complaining so often creates an unpleasant environment for other people. Certainly if something is causing you a genuine problem that you need us to accommodate, come and speak with me or HR. But otherwise, I need you to just move forward with whatever the procedure is without negativity.”

And if it continues after that, the next conversation would be, “We talked about this before, but it’s still happening. It’s important to me that other people not have a regular stream of negativity or complaints in their work environment and if it continues, over time people will be reluctant to work with you. Is this something you’re up for working on?”

Her response to feedback is an even bigger problem, and one you need to address with urgency. You have to be able to give her regular, timely feedback, and she needs to be able to hear it — that’s a basic requirement for staying on your team. You can’t have someone work for you who refuses to talk about mistakes or things you’d like her to do better; it’s not an option. So, step #1 is that you have to continue giving her feedback despite her reaction to it. If she cries, you can say “Would you like me to give you a minute?” or “Would you rather resume this conversation later this afternoon?” — but you need to give the feedback and you need her to engage with it.

If you think it will help, you can try addressing the pattern itself — saying something like, “I’ve noticed that when I give you feedback on a project, you often become upset — you’ve cried and even told me you should harm yourself because I asked you to correct something. I will always need to give you feedback, and I need you to be able to engage constructively in those conversations. If you need a minute to compose yourself, that’s fine. If there’s a way I could handle those conversations differently that would be helpful for you, I’m glad to try to work with you on that. But in order for you to stay in this job, I need to be able to give you feedback on your work and have you receive it professionally.”

You might feel awkward having this conversation, but there’s no avoiding it, just like you’d also have to talk with her if she were, I don’t know, coming to work drunk. Plus, it’s actually kinder to address it directly than to avoid it, because what she’s doing will seriously hold her back in her career. It will harm her reputation and her relationships with coworkers, prevent her from moving up to higher-level positions, and make people not want to work with her. It might feel compassionate to endlessly accommodate it, but it’s kinder to be honest what she needs to change to meet some pretty basic professional expectations.

And if she continues to refuse to take feedback after that, that is a serious performance issue and you have an obligation as a manager to address it as one, just like if she were chronically missing deadlines or making repetitive errors.

The stuff about her personal life is harder to raise in a work context — but you can change the way you respond to it. If she has a new personal crisis every day, there’s a point where it’s reasonable to simply say, “That sounds rough, I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. I’ve got to jump on a call, but I hope things go well” and end the conversation. You don’t need to let her emote endlessly to you. If that sounds heartless … I don’t think it is! You’ve tried hard to be emotionally generous with her, but there are limits to what you can do that’s actually useful, and you’ve got to be able to focus on your job (and so does she).

The steps above won’t fully solve the problem but they should improve the most egregious aspects of it (and the part about feedback has to change or you can’t keep her on) and should get you to a better place than where you are now — or if they don’t, it’ll be clear that you have to take more serious steps to deal with it.

Ultimately you’re not asking her to change her personality, but you’re setting limits on what behavior is and isn’t okay at work.

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my mother-in-law got a job at my company, my new coworker is someone I talked to on a dating app, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-mother-in-law-got-a-job-at-my-company-my-new-coworker-is-someone-i-talked-to-on-a-dating-app-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-mother-in-law-got-a-job-at-my-company-my-new-coworker-is-someone-i-talked-to-on-a-dating-app-and-more.html#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2021 05:03:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21076 This post, my mother-in-law got a job at my company, my new coworker is someone I talked to on a dating app, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My pushy mother-in-law got a job at my company Over the summer, I took a job at a new company. Last week my mother-in-law called to announce that she had also gotten a new job … at the same company. We’ll be reporting to the […]

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This post, my mother-in-law got a job at my company, my new coworker is someone I talked to on a dating app, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My pushy mother-in-law got a job at my company

Over the summer, I took a job at a new company. Last week my mother-in-law called to announce that she had also gotten a new job … at the same company. We’ll be reporting to the same grandboss, though thankfully not to the same boss.

How on earth do I handle this? I don’t think this would be ideal even under the best circumstances, but my mother-in-law can be very pushy. She really likes big events in her adult children’s lives (graduations, weddings, relocations, new babies) to be conducted according to her preferences. She struggles with boundaries, and I prefer to be as vague as possible with her about the details of my life because she can be very critical. If she had been working at this company before I started, I would not have applied for the job, but now that I’ve had it for a few months, I really don’t want to restart a job search during a pandemic. I had no idea that she was even looking, let alone that she was applying to my current employer.

Also, I’m newly pregnant! My husband and I hadn’t planned on telling either her or our employers about my pregnancy until the second trimester. I was already dreading the increase of pushiness/criticism I have seen with her other grandchildren … and now I have to work with her every day. Do you have any advice? Am I crazy for being annoyed that she applied for a job at my work without even a heads-up?

Fortunately, I will be working from home for the foreseeable future. Even before the pandemic, many of my coworkers had negotiated remote work arrangements, and I was told that my role was considered compatible with remote work once in-person people return.

Updated to add: It turns out she’s going to be working more with HR and with my direct manager than I previously anticipated. I’m not super thrilled about her potentially having access to my performance reviews and this makes me even more wary.

Yeah, this isn’t great. But the saving grace — and it’s a big one — is that you won’t be working with her in-person, because that would open the door for a lot more potential weirdness, especially after you announce your pregnancy.

And yes, it’s odd that she applied there without telling you. Maybe she applied before you announced your job there, who knows — but once it was clear you were working there, it’s surprising that she didn’t tell you. (That said, if it’s a big company and she assumed you wouldn’t have much overlap in your work, it’s less weird.)

Have you talked with your boss about your concerns? A lot of employers would take steps to ensure her work won’t overlap with yours simply because of the family connection, especially where anything HR-related is concerned. And if you explain it’s important to you to keep as much of a firewall as you realistically can, a good boss will try to help you with that or at least will be straight with you if it’s not going to be possible. (Keep in mind, too, that working with HR doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll have access to your performance reviews; it’ll depend on the specific work she’s doing.)

It could be worth talking with your mother-in-law as well. Obviously it depends on how you think that conversation would go, but in a lot of cases you could talk with a family member about keeping work and family separate, wearing work hats while you’re at work, and being conscious of not crossing boundaries despite being colleagues.

But a lot of this might be about waiting to see how it goes, and being prepared to shut down anything inappropriate when it first happens so that you’re very clear from the start. For example, if she sends you work IMs about the pregnancy, you can say, “Oh, I don’t really talk about it at work. Got to jump on a call right now, have a good day!” Breezy refusals to engage might be surprisingly effective, since when you’re remote she can’t hijack your focus in the way people can when they’re right in front of you.

2. My new coworker is someone I was talking to on a dating app last year

I am a recent college grad working my first professional job. I was hired in May, and since March the company has been working remotely with no immediate plans to return to the office. I have one specific coworker who works with me on different facets of the same projects.

Here’s my problem: this coworker and I knew each other before I started working here. A few months before I started working here, I matched with “Josh” on a dating app. We got along really well, exchanged numbers, and made plans to meet up. We texted every day for several weeks, but the day before we were supposed to get together, I called off the date. I was still getting over a bad break-up, and I was home from college at the time, so I knew I would have to go back in the next few weeks anyway. He was very understanding and kind about it, and we haven’t texted since.

When I was hired, I recalled that Josh worked for the company, but there are hundreds of employees, and I didn’t immediately see his name anywhere, so I figured he must have found another job in the meantime. Little did I know, he goes by a different, more phonetic spelling of his name at work so as not to confuse clients. So when his position changed and he joined my team last month, I was initially unaware it was him Our company-provided computers do not have cameras, so I rarely ever see my coworkers’ faces. It wasn’t until he added a profile picture to our chat software that I realized who he was.

When we communicated over the phone before I realized this, we had such a good camaraderie, but now I’m insecure about my job performance or anything I might say to him. He has not given any indication that we knew each other before, so I am wondering if he even remembers me, and I am unsure how to address the situation. I wouldn’t even bring it up, but I am still interested in him romantically. Our workplace is very young (almost everyone on my team, my supervisor included, are in their 20’s or early 30’s), and I know that workplace dating is so common that it’s a bit of an inside joke in company culture, so that part wouldn’t be taboo.

We have occasionally talked about our personal lives on work calls, but I would really like to rebuild the budding relationship we might have had. However, we do still have to work in direct contact with each other, and I am worried he no longer feels the same way about me as he did a year ago. I still have his cell phone number, but I’m too nervous to actually text him again. How can I stop feeling awkward about this? Do I bring up the fact that we’ve talked before? Do I attempt more overtly romantic overtures? Or do I just leave everything as is and hope he brings it up, or even forget about these feelings entirely?

Well, if I can give some unsolicited dating advice: I would not recommend thinking of yourself as having romantic feelings for someone you texted with for a few weeks a year ago but never met in person. Certainly some people do carry on long-term relationships before they ever meet, but when you’re talking about a few weeks of texting, it’s easy for your mind to fill in the blanks about what the person is really like and you can end up invested in an idea of someone that doesn’t match the reality. (This was in fact the cardinal rule of online dating from the dating advice blog I used to run years and years ago in my youth.)

Of course, you do know him better now from your work calls! All I’m saying is, don’t put too much weight on the texting from last year.

Anyway. Back to this blog. Don’t attempt an overly romantic gesture with a coworker. Work just isn’t the place for that. But you could say something like, “I just realized we texted each other for a few weeks about a year ago, before I working here, and didn’t meet up because I was about to go back to college. If you ever want to have that drink, let me know! But just continuing to discuss the Jones account is good too, of course.” I wouldn’t say this on one of your calls since that puts him on the spot and requires an immediate answer; an asynchronous method like email or text would be better. And of course, you’ve got to be prepared for a no (which could be because he doesn’t want to pursue anything with a colleague/isn’t dating right now/has a partner/lost interest) so don’t say it unless you trust yourself not to make things tense or weird if that happens, especially since you’ll have to keep having contact with him.

3. I’m bombarded with requests for my time, despite having created a bunch of resources to answer questions

I’m a very well-known entrepreneur in a very popular field in my area. As it prospered during the COVID era, there are more and more people wishing to switch into this field every day. I consider this a great thing, and I have made myself very helpful and approachable – I have created informative brochures, Facebook groups, held lectures to college students interested in this field, etc., etc.

But lately, it’s getting SO exhausting. People are constantly emailing me with questions that could easily be found in absolutely any of the free materials that I have created; they are asking for “quick” phone calls to get information, and it’s even spreading and it’s really starting to take a toll on my time and mental health.

I don’t know how to stop. I very much value my work and my approachability and it has so far resulted in some great business opportunities, but it is not possible to continue this way. Still, I feel very, very rude for saying no or pointing to a brochure. Any advice on how to stop without feeling awful?

It’s absolutely okay — and often necessary — to put limits on how you spend your time, which for well-known and/or busy people often means saying no to requests. It’s not rude to do that! I mean, it’s possible to do it in a rude way, of course, but you don’t sound like you’re at risk of that.

What many people do is have a kind of form letter response that they can copy and paste,  modifying as needed to fit the situation. For example: “I’m really encouraged to see the growing interest in the X field! My schedule means that I can’t say yes to every meeting request I receive or I would never get to see my family, but because I get a lot of queries like this I’ve created materials that answer the most common questions I hear. (Link to resources.) I hope that helps, and good luck!”

More here and here.

4. We’re hiring someone else with my job title — what does it mean for me?

This week my boss announced they would be hiring someone with the same job title as me. They didn’t use descriptive words like “additional” or “replacement” so I don’t know what this means for me. I’ve been struggling lately and I guess I was shocked by this announcement since I had not heard anything about it, despite being very honest with my challenges. Do you think this is a bad sign or just an oversight and I should be thankful?

You can ask! I’d say it this way: “I wanted to ask about the search for another rice sculptor. When this person is hired, will that change anything about my role?”

It’s possible this is an additional person to take on some of the work, or it’s possible they’ll have totally different projects than you. It’s also possible they’re looking for a replacement in case you don’t work out, since you’ve been struggling. A decent organization wouldn’t do it this way, without talking to you about it, but it’s not impossible. Asking about how the role will intersect with yours will get you more info. (If they’re seeing this person as a possible replacement for you and they’re shady, they won’t necessarily tell you that — but you’ll still get some insight from raising the question.

5. Mentioning personal adversity in a cover letter

I’m a recent grad on the job hunt so I’ve been writing tons of cover letters. Some of the organizations I’m applying for are nonprofits that deal with poverty and surrounding issues. One of the reasons I’m interested in the work they do is due to family history — specifically growing up in an immigrant family that experienced poverty (fortunately, that time in our lives has now passed). In a few cover letters, I have mentioned this personal experience as part of explaining why I’m interested in the work. I’m wondering what your take is on this, in terms of if it’s appropriate to spend time in a cover letter discussing personal adversity as it is related to the organization’s work, or if that’s seen as too personal or something? This kind of thing totally flies in college applications, but I’ m not as sure for job applications.

For nonprofits, it’s really common for cover letters to say something personal about why the person connects to the organization’s mission. Don’t spend a ton of time on it — most of your letter should still be about why you’d do a great job in the role — but one to three sentences, absolutely.

Even outside of nonprofits, there can be room for it if you’re applying to do work that is in some way connected to a social mission or working with a specific population or so forth.

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how can I convince my employee not to work until 2 AM? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-can-i-convince-my-employee-not-to-work-until-2-am.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-can-i-convince-my-employee-not-to-work-until-2-am.html#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2021 18:59:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21074 This post, how can I convince my employee not to work until 2 AM? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a manager who has a great team and several high-performing employees. We are all working from home these days due to COVID. One of my employees in particular will often stay up late into the night working on assignments I have given her. I know this because she will send […]

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This post, how can I convince my employee not to work until 2 AM? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a manager who has a great team and several high-performing employees. We are all working from home these days due to COVID. One of my employees in particular will often stay up late into the night working on assignments I have given her. I know this because she will send me emails at 1 or 2 in the morning with updates on her work. (We are all exempt and on salary so overtime pay is not an issue here.)

She is producing high-quality work and I have no issues with her work performance. Because she works so hard on projects, they often come in well before deadlines as well. My sense is that she does this because she finds the work interesting and engaging and doesn’t want to stop. But I worry that she is going to get burned out by working such late hours, and also that other employees on my team will see her working so late and wonder if they are expected to do so as well. (I have tried to address this directly with my other employees and told them that it’s not what I expect.)

I’ve tried to tell her many times in our one-on-one meetings that she doesn’t need to work that late and that I don’t expect her to do so, but it doesn’t seem to stop her. I really don’t want to make this into a formal performance issue either. Do you have any suggestions on how to “convince” her not to work so hard?

Well, you can talk to her about the importance of pacing herself so she doesn’t burn out — it’s a marathon, not a sprint, etc. etc. Explain you care about her being able to do the work well long-term, not just doing a lot of it in the short-term.

But given everyone’s situation right now with pandemic stress and being trapped at home … I wouldn’t press too hard. This might be how she’s coping. You don’t want to push her to stop doing something that might feel like a lifeline right now.

It’s also possible that she’s working late at night because she’s working less during the daytime — either because her current life necessitates that (like if she has to oversee her kids’ online schooling during the day) or because she simply prefers it. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t force her back into a more traditional schedule if this one works just fine.

But you’re right to worry about the message her late-night emails could send to colleagues. It was wise to tell your other staff members directly that you don’t expect that … but I’d also think about suggesting that she hold her emails until the next work day. She can write them at 2 a.m. if she wants, but schedule them to go out the following morning (or just save them as drafts until then if her email program doesn’t let her schedule them). I know it feels a little odd to be like “disguise how hard you are working” but that wouldn’t be the message. You’d frame it as, “You and I both know you’re working these hours because they work well for you, but when people see others doing this, it can make them feel like they’re expected to be checking email at all hours.” If she manages people, you definitely need to say this — but either way, you can frame it as being thoughtful about what signals she might otherwise inadvertently send.

I do think there’s a weird thing going on right now where many people suddenly have a lot more flexibility in the hours they work. For some people that sucks — it’s because school and child care is still in such disarray that working odd hours is their only option, or boundaries between work and home have been blurred so much that it feels like work never ends. But other people have found a real freedom in being able to manage their own schedules in ways that weren’t as common pre-pandemic. Obviously that’s not happening in all jobs, but there’s more of it going on than there used to be. It’ll be interesting to see if it becomes a lasting change. (If it does, it’ll almost certainly be both good and bad — good because more freedom is generally good, but bad because it’ll undoubtedly add to the already mounting pressure some people face to be available all the time.)

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I got promoted, but I can’t get a fair salary https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/i-got-promoted-but-i-cant-get-a-fair-salary.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/i-got-promoted-but-i-cant-get-a-fair-salary.html#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2021 17:29:16 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21044 This post, I got promoted, but I can’t get a fair salary , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was hired as an entry-level, salaried employee five years ago. After less than a year, a new position was created for me – not a promotion or lateral move, but an entirely new position, one with a different expertise. The salary for my original position was average, and my salary adjustment […]

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This post, I got promoted, but I can’t get a fair salary , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was hired as an entry-level, salaried employee five years ago. After less than a year, a new position was created for me – not a promotion or lateral move, but an entirely new position, one with a different expertise. The salary for my original position was average, and my salary adjustment when I was moved to the new position (one I wanted and helped create!) was a 22% increase. Had they paid me the average salary for the position, it would have been closer to a 100% increase.

When I questioned the rationale behind the new salary and explained that the average for this position is significantly higher, I was told I had received “a significant raise” and could not be given a larger one.

If they had hired for the position from the outside rather than promoting me into it, there’s no way they would have offered the salary I was given for it. It’s a highly-paid field and I’m making peanuts, comparatively. (That said, I have no interest in leaving my workplace; I intend to stay there for a very long time and while the money isn’t everything, it is still something.)

I was later approached by a recruiter to take the same job at a competitor where I would have been paid above the average for this kind of work. I turned it down because it was a toxic workplace, but I did use their offer to eke another 20% out of my employer. But, still: I’m severely underpaid compared to what I could be paid anywhere else.

It seems that I’m being penalized, unintentional as it may be, because they hired from within, and they’re looking at the position shift I made as a step up the ladder of that role, but my previous position would never lead to the one I’m now in; they’re completely unrelated positions! Any advice on how to navigate this in a way that doesn’t make me look like I’m ungrateful or making an absurd request to push my salary significantly higher? I just want to be paid fairly!

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

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our staff aren’t underpaid but think they are https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/our-staff-arent-underpaid-but-think-they-are.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/our-staff-arent-underpaid-but-think-they-are.html#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:59:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21058 This post, our staff aren’t underpaid but think they are , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I work at a nonprofit with about 200 staff. Staff constantly bring up how underpaid they are and ask for bonuses, cost-of-living increases, better benefits, everything. They take up a lot of meeting time talking about it, send all-staff emails, badger the board, send nasty emails to any committee that has anything […]

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This post, our staff aren’t underpaid but think they are , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work at a nonprofit with about 200 staff. Staff constantly bring up how underpaid they are and ask for bonuses, cost-of-living increases, better benefits, everything. They take up a lot of meeting time talking about it, send all-staff emails, badger the board, send nasty emails to any committee that has anything to do with money, and get angry at the person who cuts the paychecks. It’s not everybody, but might border on 50% of staff who are adamant that we are underpaid.

But our staff is very well-paid by market comparators. Our HR department commissioned a report from the most capable local compensation consultants, and they found that our staff are among the highest-paid employees in their job categories in our region (and, I should point out, these are professional jobs that are decently-paid to begin with). They literally would take a pay cut if they went and did this job at any other organization, whether private sector, government, or nonprofit. Employee response? The report was rigged.

W are given regular increases, every year there is a bump to pay scales, there are benefit improvements all the time, and our leadership has been fantastic during COVID. None of this seems to satisfy a vocal group of staff. Another factor is that because we are nonprofit, we cannot have salaries that are too high or we risk being de-incorporated by the government (the government in our region has shown that they will do this). Staff know this, but the griping continues, constant and mean. It is poisoning our entire workplace.

Because of some weird things about our structure and the overall culture of our organization (if you try to get people to stop using all-staff email, for example, there will be an outcry about quashing dissent), I think the only tool we have here is communication. I think our leaders need to convince people that we are well-paid and the regular increases are enough to keep us that way. Looking at facts and figures doesn’t seem to be doing anything. How do we convince people that they’ve got a pretty sweet deal?

I don’t know that you should spend a lot of time trying to convince them, on top of the time and effort you’ve already invested. You’ve given them the info. They don’t believe you. And they’re poisoning your culture. You’re probably better off being really clear about what will and won’t happen and encouraging people to make their employment decisions accordingly.

Before I go any further, I need to give a caveat: I’m taking you at your word that your staff are paid well. It’s not necessarily the case that they’re paid well just because they would earn less everywhere else, because there are jobs that are systemically underpaid everywhere. But for the purpose of this answer, I’m going to assume they’re earning at least a living wage and presumably above that.

Okay. So what is going on here? What you describe is so unusual — “constant and mean griping,” along with hassling people who have no power over their pay, and a set of beliefs so fully at odds with what the facts seem to be — that I’ve got to think something else is going on. There are some hints in your letter of other culture problems, and I’d bet money that your organization has some serious work to do on its culture in general.

It’s good to have a culture where people feel comfortable raising issues, but what you’re describing — the “constant and mean griping,” the nasty emails, the anger and badgering — is not a functioning, healthy organization. Dissent is good! People feeling comfortable pushing back is good! Ongoing meanness is not.

So I don’t think you can solve this without taking a bigger look at whatever’s going on with your culture. And because of that, I’m hesitant to offer advice on addressing just the pay piece of things, because I don’t think that on its own will address whatever is really going on.

That said, you can certainly lay out everything you’ve done to assess your organization’s pay and how you’ve reached the conclusions you’ve reached. You can say that if anyone wants to bring you additional research that tells a different story, you’ll be happy to take a look at it (and mean that).

And from there, you can set limits on what behavior is and isn’t okay. You can’t just say “stop talking about pay” — that’s terrible from a PR, morale, and management standpoint, and it’s also likely to violate the National Labor Relations Act (depending on the specifics of how you implement it). But you can put your foot down about spending significant meeting time on it, badgering the board, sending nasty emails, or being rude to the person who cuts the paychecks.

You also can say that you want to be really clear about what the organization can and can’t offer for salaries and what will and won’t be happening in the future, so that people can make the right decisions for themselves. And you can say that you fully support people who are unhappy with their pay in leaving for better opportunites. When you say that, it shouldn’t sound like “there’s the door” but rather a genuinely supportive, “We’ve considered this from many angles and want to be transparent that our salary structures will not change. Please give some thought to whether that will work for you, and if it doesn’t, we understand and we’ll do whatever we can to support you in finding another position at a different organization. But we can’t continue discussing it over and over. It’s become a distraction to our work, so we need you to decide if this will work for you or not.” And then you enforce that the same way you enforce any other work standard; you have to mean it and you have to be willing to follow through if the behavior continues.

But something else is going on there.

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what are you wearing on work Zoom calls these days? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/what-are-you-wearing-on-work-zoom-calls-these-days.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/what-are-you-wearing-on-work-zoom-calls-these-days.html#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:00:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21060 This post, what are you wearing on work Zoom calls these days? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This post is sponsored by thredUP. So, what are you wearing on Zoom calls for work these days? For a very short time at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people on video calls were mirroring what they’d wear in the office – at least from the waist up. And then a lot […]

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This post, what are you wearing on work Zoom calls these days? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This post is sponsored by thredUP.

So, what are you wearing on Zoom calls for work these days?

For a very short time at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people on video calls were mirroring what they’d wear in the office – at least from the waist up. And then a lot of people went way in the other direction for a while – sweats, hoodies, even pajamas. Now at least some of us have swung back to somewhere in the middle – comfortable clothes that still roughly qualify as business casual, at least through a camera.

I was interested to see what a personal shopper might suggest for work video calls these days, so I asked the lovely people at thredUP to put together some clothes for Zoom calls for me.

If you don’t know them already, thredUP is the largest online thrift store that buys and sells high-quality clothing for women and kids. You can shop on-trend, like-new fashion from top name brands and designers for up to 90% off estimated retail. (That’s not a typo – it’s 90%, which is an enormous discount.) They have a massive selection, with brands like Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Theory, J.Crew, and more.

In addition to offering regular shopping, thredUP also offers Goody Boxes, which is a personalized shopping service. You explain what you’re looking for and fill out a style quiz that asks you questions like what colors you do and don’t like, how you prefer items to fit (fitted, looser, etc.), how you feel about things like animal print and ruffles, and lots more. You pay a $10 deposit which goes toward anything you decide to keep, and they send you a personalized box of 10 thrifted items picked by their stylists to match your size, style, and budget. You only pay for what you keep and return the rest (with no charge for return shipping). And it’s not a subscription so you’re not locked in; you can just do it one time if you want.

It’s pretty nice to just explain what I want and then sit back and let someone else dress me! If you’d like to try it yourself, click here to order your first Goody Box today!

When I ordered my box, I said I was looking for items with some visual interest that were still work appropriate. I asked for blues, greens, and other darker colors, and said I wanted to avoid orange, yellow, black, and white (limited colors is the redhead curse), and no animal prints, logos, or ruffles. They stuck to that! I’m keeping most of what was in my box, including a very cute Boden dress that I will wear on calls when I need to disguise myself as more professional than I actually am. (Returning the rest is easy with their free shipping label.)

Here’s some of what I’m keeping.

If you’d like to try it out yourself, click here to order your first Goody Box today!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by thredUP. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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start-up founder with no work experience, my boss says I killed the business, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/start-up-founder-with-no-work-experience-my-boss-says-i-killed-the-business-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/start-up-founder-with-no-work-experience-my-boss-says-i-killed-the-business-and-more.html#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2021 05:03:10 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21057 This post, start-up founder with no work experience, my boss says I killed the business, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My friend’s start-ups are struggling and I think it’s because he has no real work experience I have a friend who I’ll call Jake. Jake is a genuinely nice guy, motivated and could charm just about anyone. He has his own podcast, has co-founded several […]

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This post, start-up founder with no work experience, my boss says I killed the business, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My friend’s start-ups are struggling and I think it’s because he has no real work experience

I have a friend who I’ll call Jake. Jake is a genuinely nice guy, motivated and could charm just about anyone. He has his own podcast, has co-founded several start-ups across different sectors, has connections everywhere, and has won several awards for entrepreneurship.

However, his start-ups are struggling and he has approached me for advice since we are close friends and so far I’ve been successful in building my own career (although I don’t own my own business and don’t work within the industries he is interested in). It has reached a point where he is very depressed by his lack of success and most of our conversations now involve him complaining about his work.

One issue I see is that Jake doesn’t have any traditional work experience. By that I mean he has never been managed by someone other than himself, never worked in a team that he wasn’t leading, never had to stick to a schedule set by someone else, etc. One of his start-ups is aimed at providing management consultancy services to SMEs, but he has never worked in management consulting, which I believe is the main reason his firm is losing out to more experienced competitors.

My instinct is to tell him to decide on what industry he wants to run a business in, and actually gain experience working in that industry. Then he could learn some skills to help him put his ideas into practice.

However, I’m only 22 and far from an expert myself, especially as my career aspirations are very different to his. What do you think would be best for Jake to do?

The advice you want to give Jake is the same advice I’d want to give Jake. It is very hard to credibly offer services to others when you don’t have experience in that area.

I don’t see any harm in offering that advice to him; it’s not terribly insulting or offensive, and it sounds like he’s raising his worries with you a lot. That said … I wouldn’t be surprised if Jake doesn’t take it. He sounds like someone who very much wants to run his own thing. If he’s never seriously considered traditional employment, there’s probably a reason for it. That said, if he’s complaining to you all the time, you’re certainly on firm ground in pointing out that building up his credentials by working for others is a common way people solve the problem he’s having.

2. My boss says I killed the business when I gave notice

I’m in a general-manager-type position for a small, agricultural business. It’s common, but not required, in this industry to give significantly more than two weeks notice. Due to a combination of factors, I was only able to provide two weeks notice to my boss (the business owner), and needed to do it via email to ensure it was received, and because we don’t often cross paths.

I’m leaving for a few reasons, largely personal, also involving a new job (that I’m very excited about, is a step in the right direction for my long-term career goals, etc). He is telling me that the business will absolutely fail, and it will be entirely my fault. I’m not sure I agree with this, but it has me absolutely devastated, crying and unbearably anxious about finishing my two weeks. I know I won’t get a reference out of him, and I don’t need it. Any advice on surviving the next two weeks? Is he right, did I kill this small business?

Whoa, this is really unfair. If the business will fail without you giving more notice, the business was so precarious that it was going to fail anyway. What if you’d been suddenly hospitalized, or worse? What if you had a family emergency and couldn’t give any notice? Those things happen; healthy employers know it’s part of running a business and make do.

Also, the point of a notice period isn’t so your replacement can be found and trained; the standard two weeks notice doesn’t normally even allow for a replacement to be hired. Work is transferred to someone who can do it in the interim.

Your boss is guilt tripping you because you’ve done something inconvenient for him, not because you did something truly wrong. (To be clear, he may genuinely believe what he’s saying! He’s still wrong.)

3. Asking about time off after reading bad Glassdoor reviews

I’m in the final stages of the interview process with a company that offers unlimited vacation as one of its benefits. I’m aware that in many cases, people often end up taking less time than they typically would if they had a defined number of vacation days available. Recently a new Glassdoor review was posted that absolutely shredded the company, giving them the lowest ratings across the board. One of the issues brought up in the review was that they expect 24/7 availability and that although the company offers unlimited vacation, if you try to take more than a few days off at a time, you’re judged and treated as if you aren’t committed to the company.

I’m coming from years of an intense, high-pressure work culture where I rarely took vacation time, and one of the things I’m looking for is more balance. I know Glassdoor reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but this company only has a few, so that does concern me a bit — especially because even the positive reviews include comments like “expect to go above and beyond if you want to succeed” (which in itself isn’t a red flag but coupled with the negative reviews that mention lack of balance, it’s worrying). If I receive an offer, is there a polite way to ask about the work/life balance and the average number of vacation days people in the company take? Or would that come across as not taking the job seriously? I’m fine with an average of 10-15 days per year and I am a pretty driven, hard worker in general — I just don’t want to leave the high-pressure situation I’m already in for one that’s even worse.

Yes, absolutely ask about it. You can say you haven’t worked somewhere with unlimited vacation time before and have questions about how it works in practice. Asking how many vacation days most people take in a year is smart and, given that Glassdoor review, I’d also ask how often people take a full week or two weeks off at a time. That’s not going to come across as not taking the job seriously — time off is generally understood to be a benefit people care a lot about. If they react poorly to the question, that would tell you a ton about working there.

4. Quitting right after getting a promotion to “senior”

The company I work for froze all promotions and merit increases in 2020. During that year, a lot of coworkers in my department quit, and I have been picking up their work and responsibilities. At the end of the year, I went to my manager with a solid case that I was (1) underpaid for my current position and (2) actually doing the work of a higher position (arguably for longer than just last year), and asked for both a promotion and a significant raise (without specifying a dollar amount). I was told that our merit cycle occurred in Q2 and he couldn’t do anything before then.

I’m unsure if they will offer a level of compensation that would make me want to stay, but I think they are likely to give me the title bump. I have enough savings that I could comfortably resign on the spot if I’m not happy with the raise. But then how would I handle this on my resume? If, say, I put in two weeks’ notice the day after I’m offered the promotion, do I list the job as “Senior Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021”? Or “Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021, Senior Llama Wrangler 2021-2021”? Or just “Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021” if I don’t actually do much work for them while officially holding the “Senior” title?

Does the answer change if I stick it out for a few weeks or months before leaving? How much is the “Senior” title on my resume likely to help me with future job searches? I know I should really be job hunting while holding this job, but I don’t feel like I have the energy right now to do both without half-assing my current job.

If you only had the title for two weeks — and for the two weeks you were transitioning out of the job, no less — I would not include that title on your resume. I know you’re thinking the title bump would be recognition of work you were already doing, but if you didn’t formally hold the title until your final two weeks it doesn’t really make sense to include it. (And in fact, your employer may not even process the title bump if you resign the day they tell you they’re giving it to you, meaning that if a reference checker verifies your title, they’d just hear the old one.)

If you stayed for a few months after the title change, then it’s reasonable to use the Senior title on your resume … but a few months of it isn’t likely to be a big enough deal that you should change your timeline for leaving. Senior vs. non-senior isn’t likely to have a big impact at all in most fields — the specific accomplishments you’ll list for that job will carry much more weight.

5. Can I resubmit a better version of my resume?

I’m aggressively job searching right now due to potential layoffs. When I heard this could be happening a few weeks ago, I panicked and started to apply for a bunch of positions. I updated my resume and included my most recent work, I diligently customized each cover letter and thought I was doing okay, despite … not really doing okay.

I’ve been overworked during the pandemic and my work shifted to an area I’m less passionate about. And frankly, I’m burned out and feeling negative and stressed.

After a weekend of reflection, I realized my resume wasn’t great. I re-wrote my recent experience to be more achievement-focused (yay!) and to include some teasers for interesting anecdotes about some of my best successes. And, admittedly I had to clean up some typos and errors. It’s much better now.

But I’m kicking myself about some of the opportunities I already applied for. One or two of the jobs, I would really like the chance to show them my new, improved resume. Can I follow up with them and send my new version for them to consider instead? It’s a much better reflection of my career and the drive I have (but lost).

I feel stupid asking this question because reading your blog I know I should know better than sending out the first resume.

Well … as a general rule, no. You really only get one bite at it. Some systems won’t even accept a second application for a job if you’ve already got a recent application in for it … and where you can do it, it can come across as annoying/high-maintenance.

That said, if you think the new resume is a significant improvement (not just slightly, but really significantly), it’s not the worst thing in the world if you give it a shot. They may not accept it, or they may get the two mixed up and use the old one anyway, or they may have already reviewed the first one and not want to bother looking at a second one, but they’re not likely to reject you outright for trying it. (I’m reluctant to say this because in general people shouldn’t do this … and if people start doing it a lot, it’ll get considerably more annoying and companies will be more likely to block it across the board. But you’re one person doing it with two companies; it’s not likely to blow anything up.)

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update: my new team is taunting me because I have a nut allergy https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/update-my-new-team-is-taunting-me-because-i-have-a-nut-allergy.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/update-my-new-team-is-taunting-me-because-i-have-a-nut-allergy.html#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2021 18:59:07 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21049 This post, update: my new team is taunting me because I have a nut allergy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer whose new team was taunting her because of her nut allergy? She had repeatedly found Snickers bars lined up on her desk, and her manager knew and wasn’t stopping it — and thus become a Worst Boss of the Year nominee. Here’s the update. I just wanted to say a massive thank […]

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This post, update: my new team is taunting me because I have a nut allergy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer whose new team was taunting her because of her nut allergy? She had repeatedly found Snickers bars lined up on her desk, and her manager knew and wasn’t stopping it — and thus become a Worst Boss of the Year nominee. Here’s the update.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you for your advice. I genuinely was going to quit a job that I have been in for years and that I love over it. Your advice and comments from readers gave me the confidence to tackle it.

I did approach HR, who advised me to speak to my boss if I felt I was being bullied. Obviously that wasn’t feasible as the boss was fully aware of what was going on.

I scheduled a meeting with the head of site who is second-in-command to the CEO and laid out everything that been happening — the bullying, but also the toxic environment.

I was promoted to implement training and coaching because the department wasn’t performing and it was having a knock-on effect on other departments and ultimately customers. He wasn’t aware of any of the issues with the department — it’s a small department which has flown under the radar for years.

He promised me the situation would be investigated and to log every single incident in an email to him personally. I felt incredibly stupid having to send email after email listing the many incidents that occurred. But I logged everything.

He came in personally one morning to catch the person putting the nuts on my desk. She was fired instantly. It was the boss’s right-hand woman who believed she should have got the promotion not me, and this was her attempt to make me leave.

The boss was suspended pending investigation. It turns out that for the last four years, he has not been doing any paperwork — return to works, 1:1’s, PDP, CPD’s, nothing. During the investigation, they also looked into staff turnover and there have been numerous accusations of bullying which have been ignored and a high number of staff have quit. He resigned last week before they could fire him, and I know it’s unkind but I’m absolutely thrilled!

It’s been hard work making changes within the department. There has been some pushback and major changes have needed to be made. Two staff have quit because they now actually need to perform. But we have two staff from different departments and a new manager who are all incredible. The head of site has been incredibly humble about it, which I did not expect. He apologized and acknowledged this should have been picked up years ago and assured me that going forward the business will be putting more measures in place to ensure it can’t happen again.

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what to do when a low performer asks for a massive raise https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/what-to-do-when-a-low-performer-asks-for-a-massive-raise.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/what-to-do-when-a-low-performer-asks-for-a-massive-raise.html#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2021 17:29:29 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21013 This post, what to do when a low performer asks for a massive raise , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: One of my employees has handed me a letter asking for a promotion and a 30% pay raise, detailing their desired new job title and new job description! This letter has shocked me, to say the least, as this person is underperforming in his current role and only last week he and […]

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This post, what to do when a low performer asks for a massive raise , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

One of my employees has handed me a letter asking for a promotion and a 30% pay raise, detailing their desired new job title and new job description! This letter has shocked me, to say the least, as this person is underperforming in his current role and only last week he and I agreed that we would give it six months for his performance to improve and get him back on track.

I believe this employee is feeling hard done by, as we recently hired a more senior position on the team. He did not express any interest in applying for this more senior position and has not taken any responsibility for his own development. Are you able to offer any advice as to how to deal with this situation without upsetting him?

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:

  • Employee dating drama
  • Should I tell an employer their offer is below industry standard?
  • My bosses spend early morning meetings on small talk
  • How do interim roles work?
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my boss called me “disgusting” for not cleaning up my male coworkers’ mess https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-boss-called-me-disgusting-for-not-cleaning-up-a-mess-made-by-men.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-boss-called-me-disgusting-for-not-cleaning-up-a-mess-made-by-men.html#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2021 15:59:15 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21042 This post, my boss called me “disgusting” for not cleaning up my male coworkers’ mess , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I work for a medical facility (think live-in treatment or residential care). I share a desk with the night and weekend staff, “Jim” and “Dwight.” I’m an administrator, and the desk and surrounding area need to be neat and tidy during the day because of the type of work I do. I’m […]

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This post, my boss called me “disgusting” for not cleaning up my male coworkers’ mess , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work for a medical facility (think live-in treatment or residential care). I share a desk with the night and weekend staff, “Jim” and “Dwight.” I’m an administrator, and the desk and surrounding area need to be neat and tidy during the day because of the type of work I do. I’m the first person most of our incoming guests see. My coworkers, supervisor, and clients comment constantly on how messy the area is and it’s embarrassing. They never say anything to Jim or Dwight about it.

Jim left a drink on the desk behind the computer that I didn’t find and it went rancid and stunk up the office and waiting area. I got blamed for it. I’m usually wiping boogers, small hairs (holy crap, I HOPE they’re mustache and beard hairs) off my desk. The shared keyboard is almost always covered in some kind of food residue: spilled soda, chocolate. There’s almost always food in the trash. The area under the desk is disgusting with food pieces, dirt, and tracked in snow. I’ve talked to my boss about the night and weekend staff leaving the desk a mess before the pandemic and during and he blew it off and said I was being “dramatic” and being inconsiderate to Jim and Dwight and that I didn’t “dictate their workflow.” I’ve never had a problem with my boss before but he’s very chummy with Jim and Dwight and doesn’t like hearing anything against them.

At that point he seemed to think the mess was funny and was kind of jocular about it, that they’re too busy to keep the area clean and that they’ve got to grab what food they can while they’re working so hard. There were some sexist undertones about cleaning being the woman’s job in the office. Jim and Dwight actually don’t have any major duties over the weekend besides now screening people who enter the building, answering the phone (which they let go to my voicemail anyway 90% of the time, so I deal with escalated issues by Monday morning but that’s a different issue) and keeping an eye on the security cameras/keep an eye on the residents.

Fast forward to now. We’re still sharing a desk during the pandemic and I’m bringing in my own cleaning wipes to clean the used space on top of our cleaning crew sanitizing the space between staff use. It’s still gross even though the area gets cleaned between staff. We have a shred-only bin that’s not for garbage and it started to stink — Dwight had thrown a piece of fruit in it. One of our cleaners reported overflowing food trash and the shred bin to my boss. My boss pulled me in for a meeting regarding how messy the area was and said, “I can’t believe how someone could create a mess like that. It’s disgusting. Your house must be filthy. It’s utterly disgusting.”

I explained that the mess was being left by Dwight and Jim. It got very awkward bordering on red flags because every time I tried to point out it was the evening/weekend shift, which is solely Dwight and Jim, my boss kept putting his hand up and saying, “Let me stop you, it’s your area. You’re responsible for it. Stop deflecting and blaming others.”

I have half a mind to go to HR. I know the pandemic has us all on edge but this feels 1: Sexist as hell, like I’m supposed to clean up after the men and not ask questions. 2: Toxic and dangerous like my employment might be at risk. Who says that to their staff member? I don’t want to work under someone who treats people this way. Should I go to HR about this? There have been some rumors there’s a round of layoffs coming and I don’t want to be a target but I feel like I might be anyway with the mess fiasco as it is.

It sounds sexist as hell to me too.

You had already told your boss that Jim and Dwight were leaving the desk a mess and he blew you off — said you were being “dramatic,” in fact — but now you’re suddenly responsible for the mess and also must keep a disgusting, slatternly house?

It’s incredibly weird that he’s making this so personal. Why is your house coming into it at all? If he thinks you’re responsible for the mess, he could simply have said, “This area is too messy and needs to be cleaned up.” It’s hard not to think he made it so personal because you are Falling Down On the Job of Womanhood.

With a different set of facts, I might have thought you were being blamed because you’re the one who’s there during the day and so it’s seen as more “your” desk than the people’s who use it in off-hours. That doesn’t sound like the case here, because you’ve already told him who’s causing the mess.

Any chance there’s something else going on? For example, have you complained about his pals Jim and Dwight for other reasons in the past, and so he’s digging in to defend them from something he believes is personal on your side? (This is silly since it’s clearly personal on his side, but he wouldn’t be the first person to do exactly what he’s accusing someone else of doing.)

Or maybe it’s just exactly what it looks like, which is that — consciously or not — he’s irate that men he’s chummy with are being criticized by a woman for not doing women’s work.

I’m also curious about whether you’ve talked to Jim and Dwight directly about the mess and, if so, how that’s gone. If you haven’t, your boss has put you in a weird position where if you address it with them now, you might seem to be going directly against what he wants, so that’s … not great.

As for what to do from here, in theory you should be able to take this to HR, particularly given how sexist this looks. In reality, if your boss will have input into who on your team is laid off (if indeed layoffs are coming), reporting him to HR right now risks putting you in a precarious position. On the other hand, if your company has good legal counsel, they should be very cautious about laying someone off right after she made a report of possible sexism because it could look like retaliation, which is illegal. On yet another hand, there are lots of other ways for them to justify the decision, and companies do legally sketchy things all the time.

All of which is to say, it’s a risk … so what to do depends on what you know of your boss (is he vindictive? how does he handle being challenged?) and what you know of your company’s HR and whether you’d trust them to handle this skillfully and not mess it up. What you know of the people and company you’re dealing with will really matter. I’m sorry — I know that’s not very helpful. But if nothing else, know your instincts don’t sound at all off.

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my ex-friend is my new boss, employer sending rides for us in the snow, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-ex-friend-is-my-new-boss-employer-sending-rides-for-us-in-the-snow-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-ex-friend-is-my-new-boss-employer-sending-rides-for-us-in-the-snow-and-more.html#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2021 05:03:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21043 This post, my ex-friend is my new boss, employer sending rides for us in the snow, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My hostile ex-friend is my new boss My ex-friend convinced me back in the beginning of 2020 to take a job in the same office as her where we would be peers. Unfortunately, we’ve had a falling out since then and are no longer friends, […]

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This post, my ex-friend is my new boss, employer sending rides for us in the snow, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My hostile ex-friend is my new boss

My ex-friend convinced me back in the beginning of 2020 to take a job in the same office as her where we would be peers. Unfortunately, we’ve had a falling out since then and are no longer friends, but have kept it cordial at work and have kept our conflict out of the workplace.

However, she has been promoted and is going to be my boss, which I’m extremely uncomfortable with as she now has access to information I would prefer she does not, and has control over my promotions, raises, etc. I’m not sure how to navigate this situation but it’s extremely distressing as she has been, for lack of a kinder way to describe her, a generally vindictive, spiteful person since I’ve known her and I believe she will use her newfound power over me to make my life miserable. I’m actively trying to get pregnant and absolutely do not want to have to have any conversation with her in this regard, as I am fearful she will share information with mutual friends before I’m ready. Do I have any options here or am I stuck trying to make the best of a bad situation?

(The falling out happened because I didn’t text her to tell her about a significant life event before posting it on social media. We were friends but not close enough where that would even be a thought in my mind. She has since blocked my phone number and has me blocked on all social media platforms. I haven’t tried to address this problem outside of work as I have no way to contact her to do so.)

You said your ex-friend “is going to be” your boss, so it sounds like this hasn’t formally happened yet. Talk to someone above her, right away, today. That might be her boss or the head of your department or it could be HR (depending on the available players and what you know of each of them). Explain that you’re concerned about reporting to her because the two of you have a difficult personal history that turned hostile — that you used to be friends but she became hostile toward you, froze you out, and blocked your phone and blocked you on social media. (Don’t be tempted to gloss over those details; they’re important in illustrating exactly what the situation is.) Say she’s been hostile toward you, and you don’t think she can manage you objectively or without bias. Ask if there are other options, like reporting to someone else.

Any halfway decent manager or HR person will be seriously concerned upon hearing this, because your former friend cannot manage someone she has a hostile history with. (Frankly, I’d also be doubting her judgment since she didn’t think to disclose this herself.) If they’re not halfway decent and they leave the situation as is, I’d ask what safeguards can be put in place to protect you … but I would also be actively trying to get out from under her (even if that means taking a job at another company at whatever point you can).

2. Employer driving us to work during a snowstorm

I work in a nonprofit non-emergency healthcare organization in Texas. We are one of those areas that was hit hard by snow last week — over 10″ in three days, and our area is definitely not prepared for something like that. Our office declared an “Inclement Weather Day” for Monday-Wednesday, meaning if you couldn’t make it into the office you could use a PTO day without being dinged as a no-call, no show (though some people could work from home like we did during the past year with COVID). However, I’m writing this on Thursday and today it seems like our executive director wants more people in the office and is sending out staff with 4×4 vehicles to drive other staff members around and ferry them back and forth to the office.

This is insane, right? I’m talking about office staff, not nurses or other healthcare workers (although some healthcare workers are also being driven around). What do you think?

Eh. It’s a thing some employers will arrange when some vehicles can drive though snow and others can’t. No one should be pressured into being a driver or a passenger if they don’t feel safe or if they’re dealing with aftermath from the storm, but otherwise offering rides in vehicles equipped for the snow isn’t an outrageous thing. (That said, if your E.D. was pressuring people to come in when they could have worked just as effectively from home or when they needed to be dealing with consequences of the storm, that’s not okay.)

3. How to resign when my great manager just went to bat for me

I received a job offer for a position that is perfect for me. The pay and benefits are much better than what I have now, the commute is shorter and will be almost fully remote post-COVID, and the description is what I love to do, with lots of opportunity to grow.

The only con of leaving my current position is my manager. Things here can be a little … less than professional. I feel like the two of us are friends. We were in similar roles and worked together closely before she was promoted to her current position, so it’s been an adjustment getting into the manager-staff roles.

After my previous supervisor left, she worked really hard to get me on her team and ensure I’m only doing the work that was in my job description (I was previously doing two positions worth of work). She’s done a lot to help me, and I’ve only officially been on her team for less than a month.

I know she’ll understand my opportunity, and I know I’m internalizing this because I tend to over-empathize, but I don’t know what to say to her. The reason I’m leaving has absolutely nothing to do with her. I feel like I need a “script” to follow on how to resign when my manager is absolutely wonderful, that I can personalize. If it’s not obvious, this was my first position after college and I’m still learning how to navigate the professional world without getting over-invested in emotions and feelings. Do you have any tips for me?

It can be hard to give notice right after your manager expended a lot of effort and capital doing something for you, but sometimes that’s just the way the timing works out. (Also, for what it’s worth, managers usually have business reasons for those efforts too; she’s unlikely to have done it purely a favor to you.) The best thing you can do is acknowledge that your boss went out of her way for you, you appreciate that, and you know the timing is bad.

Here’s sample language: “I have some news to share. I’ve been offered a job that would be a big step up for me, and after a lot of thought I’ve accepted it. I know the timing is bad — you went to bat to get me on your team and I’m very grateful. I was really looking forward to working more closely with you! But this fell in my lap and was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

(If any part of your manager thinks you should have turned down the job since she’d just brought you onto her team,” the “too good to pass up” language is helpful in reinforcing that it’s foolish to expect someone to turn down a better opportunity.)

Also, for any guilt or awkwardness you’re feeling about resigning, read this and this and this. And congratulations!

4. No salary increase while on an improvement plan

I’ve recently been put on a PIP. I was expecting an automatic salary increase (this is customary in my field and is applied to everyone at my level), but was informed that I would be paid at my current salary during the duration of my PIP. Is this normal? I also recently returned to my role after taking time off for health issues. I’m not sure if this is just a case of weird timing, but it was strange that this was never brought up, as my work performance has been directly impacted by my health issues.

It’s not unusual to be ineligible for a raise while you’re on a performance improvement plan.

But I’d look closely at the issues your manager is raising with your work. It’s certainly possible they’re legitimate issues since you note that your health issues did affect your work, but make sure you’re not being penalized for the time off itself (which would be illegal if you took the time under FMLA or the ADA). If the details seem vague or are things that you’ve seen other people get a pass for doing, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the laws protecting medical leave.

5. How do you handle resume items that used to be a big deal but aren’t anymore?

I’m a journalist, and I’ve been in the business for two decades, during which our industry has changed a lot. Updating my resume recently, I noticed older items like “helped build internet traffic by writing breaking news stories for daily web posting,” a new and interesting thing back in aught-five or so, and just part of the job now. Or “adept at use of emerging platforms like Facebook and Twitter to break news and promote stories,” a major selling point as recently as the early 2010s, and just expected now.

The obvious solution is to simply delete those lines … but at the time, these things were a radical change to the way journalism had been done for decades, and a lot of reporters resisted those changes, some quite aggressively. Is there a way to reflect what that work said about me then — that I’m flexible, comfortable with technology, not afraid to try new things, committed to doing great journalism with whatever the best tools are — without sounding like I’m embarrassingly out of touch with industry norms now?

Yes! Add some language that puts it in context — like “was one of team’s first reporters to write for the web” or “early adopter of social media, pushing paper to break news on Facebook and Twitter, leading to X and Y.”

You might also touch on your comfort with new tools in your cover letter and/or in a profile section of your resume if you have one.

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weekend open thread – February 20-21, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-20-21-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-20-21-2021.html#comments Sat, 20 Feb 2021 05:41:20 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21026 This post, weekend open thread – February 20-21, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Here are the rules for the weekend posts. Book recommendation of the week: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner. A young Irish immigrant, miserable in early 20th century New York, answers an ad from a San Francisco man […]

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This post, weekend open thread – February 20-21, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner. A young Irish immigrant, miserable in early 20th century New York, answers an ad from a San Francisco man looking for a mother for his young daughter. The man is polite and treats her well, but it soon becomes clear all is not as it seems. I read this all in one (long) sitting and could not put it down.

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

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-41.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-41.html#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2021 17:00:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21031 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 can’t thank you and your readers enough! I was working in a job for almost a decade that gave me valuable experience in the working world, and more than decent pay and benefits, but was otherwise awful for […]

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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 can’t thank you and your readers enough!

I was working in a job for almost a decade that gave me valuable experience in the working world, and more than decent pay and benefits, but was otherwise awful for my mental health. In particular, my relationship with my boss was incredibly toxic.

I have been searching for years for other opportunities, but was dreading the leave because the last time I tried to accept another offer I was berated as a fool and manipulated into staying and my professional relationships deteriorated further as a result of the incident.

Due to a number of factors, last year I was pushed to my breaking point and really dove into my job search with increased vigor. The good news: with your column’s advice, and your book, my revised cover letter and resume brought multiple interviews and a handful of offers. One in particular was especially appealing to me, but seemed more than I deserved. They even fought to convince me by increasing their salary offer past the already-exceeded range.

Here’s where your commentariat comes in; I wanted to accept so badly but feared putting in my notice with Toxic Boss. I sought advice and reassurance in one of the Friday Open Threads and found such inspiring support, that I realized that, if complete strangers were rooting for me so proudly, why couldn’t I do the same for myself?

So, I put in my notice the following Monday, worked out my two weeks, even negotiated a small severance, and I am now working at the new job. It’s a completely different industry, which is a bit of a culture shock, but its worlds apart from the toxic culture I worked in before. I already feel valued and respected and wanted here. I’m so excited about my future now!

I couldn’t have made it here without you and yours readers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

2. For COVID, my company made us take a 20% pay cut across the board, and then later turned around and cut certain people’s hours and salary in half (leading to most of them resigning, because part-time work isn’t really a thing in my industry so they wouldn’t be able to make up the wages lost with a second job). We were bleeding people, and to top it off, the project I was on was going worse and worse, with longer and longer hours, more and more bad decisions, and generally a lack of respect for the work my team put in in favor of the work another team was doing.

I started job hunting despite the pandemic, and announced my departure a week after my boss announced his. We’re both so much happier at our new jobs I can hardly believe it. I’ve only just started this week, but already I can see the signs that the company is healthier, people are less stressed, and the work culture is more geared towards general wellness, so people are encouraged to take breaks and keep a good work/life balance. I’m hopeful to stay here quite some time before I move on again! I know my cover letter wasn’t any good (I was too drained to really put a lot of time into it), but my resume was full of key skills in my industry, and I’d allowed myself to forget what a valuable team member I am on paper and in person. I had three competing offers! So if you’re out there and you’re unhappy, focus on learning some in demand skills and arrange your resume to highlight them. It can be done!

3. A lesson from your blog helped me this week! I’m a graduate student who recently started my first tutoring job through my department–it’s only a couple of hours a week, but besides being useful experience, it’s a nice little bit of pocket money/rainy day fund on top of my graduate stipend. I needed to purchase a specific book to use in the tutoring sessions, and I was about to just buy it and accept the fact that most of my first week’s pay would go on this textbook. But then I remembered you telling so many people that you shouldn’t have to give your own money back to your employer! So I asked, and it turned out my department was totally willing to reimburse me for this book. It wasn’t even an issue. It’s made for a very auspicious start to the tutoring job and a pleasant reminder that my time and money actually are worth something!

4. In April 2019, I was laid off after being associated with a company for over 20 years doing freelance and then full-time specialized work. Over the previous decade, I’d also built a side gig as a freelance writer and editor. After I got over the shock of being let go, I decided to pursue writing and editing full-time positions. Over six long months, I had to reinvent myself. I applied to over 200 positions, took job-hunting classes, got a new wardrobe, and joined a networking group. One of the best things I did was to start reading Ask a Manager. It really helped when I was ghosted by another company after going through six rounds of interviews. I learned to just move on. I learned interviewing techniques. I learned I wasn’t alone in the struggle.

I’m happy to report that in Oct. 2019, I landed a fantastic full-time content writing job with a progressive company, and I’m earning more than double my salary from my other full-time job. When COVID hit, the company committed to NO layoffs in 2020 and moved everyone 100% remote . They’ve actually hired around 3,000 new employees. I have a great work team and a supportive manager. I love my job. And last week, I received a 6% raise because upper management has been impressed with my work. I couldn’t be happier!

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open thread – February 19-20, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-19-20-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-19-20-2021.html#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2021 16:00:56 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20985 This post, open thread – February 19-20, 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 – February 19-20, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

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

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my boss won’t manage a terrible employee, my coworker scream-yawns, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-boss-wont-manage-a-terrible-employee-my-coworker-scream-yawns-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-boss-wont-manage-a-terrible-employee-my-coworker-scream-yawns-and-more.html#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2021 05:03:24 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21040 This post, my boss won’t manage a terrible employee, my coworker scream-yawns, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My boss won’t do anything about a colleague’s terrible work, which I rely on I am the head of a subsection of my department and am responsible for supervising and delegating work to one other employee. Although I am responsible for whether or not he […]

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This post, my boss won’t manage a terrible employee, my coworker scream-yawns, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss won’t do anything about a colleague’s terrible work, which I rely on

I am the head of a subsection of my department and am responsible for supervising and delegating work to one other employee. Although I am responsible for whether or not he completes his tasks correctly and efficiently, I have no agency to do anything if he doesn’t, which is frequently the case. He’s always been easily distractable and difficult to keep on task (he has a habit of falling down YouTube rabbit holes), but I always chalked it up to his age (he’s in his early 20s) and figured that if I checked in with him more frequently, eventually it’d click. He’s been with us for around 18 months and I realized a few months ago that we’re having serious issues.

One of his tasks is to make sure dates match across two different programs; they can’t communicate and the only way to keep up on it is to do so manually. Having done this task myself, I know that if it’s done weekly, it’s a 10-minute job. And it’s important to do since these dates are used for billing purposes. I stressed this to him multiple times and would ask every month or so if he was keeping up on it and how it was going. Every time he’d tell me yes, he was keeping up on it and it was going just fine. A few months ago, though, I was going through and making notes for billing and I realized that the dates were really off. A quick search told me that the last time they’d been matched was at least a year ago.

Because I don’t have the agency to handle it myself, I went to the manager of our department. She agreed that this was serious and brought him in to talk with him, but no other action was taken. She said that he’d be given a month to fix the dates, and if it wasn’t done in that time, she’d take further action. After several emails from him that the task was done and me verifying each time that it was not done in full, she “stressed the importance of the job to him” and finally the dates matched.

More recently, he’ll get work back to me that is incomplete and poorly done; he just sent one document to me that he said was finished, but nothing had been changed since he sent me a draft weeks ago and I’d given him notes on what needed work. Also, we discovered yesterday that important emails in a shared inbox have been opened but not addressed (it wasn’t my manager or myself, so it must have been him).

I’m at my wit’s end. I’m having to do all of my work plus some aspect of his, whether it’s going behind him to be sure he’s doing a task correctly or redoing work he should have done. I’ve tried working with him to find a solution that works for him. I’ve given him suggestions on how to remind himself to do recurring tasks, written detailed, step-by-step instructions, and even filmed videos in case he couldn’t focus on written instructions. I don’t know what else to do to make the tasks easy for him and I don’t know what else to do to get my manager to take this more seriously.

Stop all the extra work you’re doing to try to get him to do his job. You can’t be more invested in his work than he is. Instead, go back to your manager and say the problems haven’t been resolved and in fact are growing more serious. I’d say it this way: “I’ve tried everything I can think of — I’ve talked with him multiple times, written step-by-step instructions, and even filmed training videos. But I’m at the point where I can’t rely on him to do the work accurately or at all, and I’m spending an inordinate amount of time checking and redoing it. At this point, I need someone else to do this work. Is there a way to get someone else into this role to handle it?” (Don’t water down those last three sentences in particular.) If she just says she’ll talk to him again, then say, “I know you’ve been speaking with him, but I’m at the point where I need a different solution for getting this work done.”

If she refuses to take any real action, then the conversation to have is one explaining you can’t be responsible for him completing his work correctly without any tools to hold him accountable for that. But at that point the problem would be far more with your manager than with your coworker, and there’s not a lot you can do if she’s just a terrible manager.

2. My coworker scream-yawns

I’ve started going back into the office. In fact, I just got to move across the hall to the biggest cubicle in the department. I’m a permanent federal employee, and one of the contractors who works here screams when she yawns. It is so loud and so jarring that I jump every time it happens. I’m jumpy for a bunch of reasons, not the least because I can see the US Capitol building out the window and I had to walk through several lines of heavily armed National Guard to get to my office. I didn’t know that she had this habit until I moved into this new (to me) cube. Headphones help a little but it still induces panic every time I hear it.

I feel like I can’t say anything. I don’t know if she does this because of a medical reason, I don’t know her well, and there are are financial disparities (she’s likely not paid as well as I am, and her contract will be ending soon, though I don’t know how soon). I’m not a supervisor, and I feel like saying something to her supervisor would be weird, like I got this big new space and I want to change everything else in this side of the office too. Can you please help me navigate this? Is it as simple as walking over to her and saying something like, “So what’s the deal with the screaming?” I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure how that would go over. It’s not the only noisy thing she does but it’s the worst.

I feel inspired to write to you today because she must be very tired today — the scream-yawn has startled me out of my chair at least ten times, and it’s only 2 pm.

It might be something medical she can’t control, but it also might not be. I’d start with asking, “I’m sorry to ask, but is there any way you can keep the noise down? You make what sounds like a scream when you yawn, and I jump every time it happens.”

If that doesn’t work and headphones don’t sufficiently block it out, any chance you can give up the biggest cubicle in exchange for a space further away from her?

This sounds potentially worse than a scream-sneeze.

3. My boss demanded to know if I’m job-searching

My boss has apparently heard rumors that I’m looking elsewhere and that I called in sick for in interview (I didn’t; I was actually sick and have not had an interview anywhere). She demanded I tell her if I’m looking elsewhere and that if I am I will not be given the position I was promised when hired because “there’s no point in investing in me.”

She has asked me what my thoughts are and I told her I would like to see a pay raise/promotion once I receive my degree next year and she has already told me that will not happen and that my degree will mean absolutely nothing to the company. I really don’t think me applying elsewhere is any of her business. How do I handle this confrontation without biting the hand that feeds me? This isn’t a bad job by any means, but I definitely feel once I have my degree I should be compensated for the experience and education I will have at that time.

In many/most fields, degrees don’t mean automatic pay raises or promotions. In some they do! But in many they don’t. So your boss isn’t necessary wrong to tell you the degree won’t affect your role or pay at work. (Although if she literally told you that your degree will mean nothing to the company, there’s something very wrong with how she interacts with people.)

But regardless of that, her idea that she has any right to know if you’re looking at other jobs is way off-base; you’re under no obligation to share that with her. She’s being ridiculous there.  It’s by no means common practice for people to give their manager a heads-up about that. Sometimes people will if their manager has a track record of handling it well; yours clearly does not.

It does sound like if you want to parlay your degree into a higher level role and/or higher pay, you’ll need to job search.

4. Requiring social interaction in the classroom or at work

I’m a faculty member at a large public university, and I’ve never worked in a “normal” workplace, only labs and academia, but your blog has been great in helping me navigate running my own lab. My question, though, pertains to teaching and what amount of social interaction is “expected” in a typical workplace.

In normal times, I teach large (200-400) person STEM courses. I also use “active learning,” where I pose questions during lecture and the students discuss them with the people around them. Compared to traditional lecturing methods, this style of teaching has been shown to on average improve learning and to be more equitable, in that it lowers the gap in learning between groups historically over-represented in science and groups historically under-represented in science (women, first-generation college-going students, black and Latinx people). I also get lots of student testimonials on their course Final Reflections (yeah, it’s anecdotal, but it’s what I have) that active learning helps them stay engaged and increases their learning compared to other courses they’ve taken that use just lecturing.

The problem is that students with anxiety sometimes get overwhelmed by the “talking to your neighbor” activities. I’ve had lots of testimonials by students who were initially wary of talking to the person sitting next to them but by the end of the term, they learned that people aren’t so scary, and some even make a friend. But for some students, this amount of social interaction makes them shut down or skip lecture, which hurts their grade because attendance counts.

I try to be accommodating. Students are not forced to talk, only strongly encouraged, and they are free to sit near someone they know. But, isn’t that degree of anxiety going to hurt them in the workplace? Isn’t this the equivalent of starting a new job and needing to talk to the person in the next cubicle? A lot of these students want healthcare careers! Thanks for any illumination you can provide.

It depends on the field they go into, as well as the specific jobs they want in that field. There are plenty of jobs that require very little interaction with others. But on the whole, yes, being unable or unwilling to talk to colleagues will generally hold people back professionally.

I’m not sure that’s yours to solve though. Definitely use the teaching methods that you’ve found get the best results! But I’d be very cautious about trying to tailor it to what you think will help people in their post-college work lives because (a) it’s really hard, if not impossible, to replicate those conditions in the classroom (and often rightly so — it’s a very different set-up with different goals and different constraints) and professors often get it wrong when they try, and (b) your students won’t all have the same sorts of work lives. I’d just focus on the learning outcomes you want from your classroom.

5. Doing a student placement as an older student

I returned to school as a mature student to pursue a master’s degree while continuing my full-time well-established career. In my field, a master’s degree is necessary to move into upper management, this was not undertaken to change fields. Due to the pandemic, I was laid off from my job of 6+ years where I had intended to complete the “practicum” component of the master’s. The program is designed for working professionals, and most individuals take on a small side project in their current job to fulfill this component.

Because I needed to complete my master’s in a certain timeframe (as well as find an income!) I accepted a short “student” placement in a highly visible government organization. It is being done remotely and I have video meetings with the team daily. This has gone well and my supervisors are well aware I am operating at a non-student level. I am being given senior tasks, collaborating on projects as a peer, and have been praised for the quality of my work. The issue is, I keep getting referred to as a “student” in team meetings and communications. I am worried this is preventing me from being taken seriously and hampering my chances of having this placement extend to a full-time job offer (which is standard for this particular arrangement). In 1:1 meetings, I have tried to casually mention my 15+ years of experience, my professional designations, that my BA was completed a very long time ago, etc. … but nothing seems to stick! How can I navigate this so that I can be taken seriously as a colleague instead of as “the student”?

It’s a student placement, so it’s not weird that they’re referring to you as a student! I get that it feels like it’s downplaying all the experience you bring … but it is a student placement and it’s not wrong for them to refer to you that way. Pushing back on that too hard risks coming across strangely (either as insecure or like you think you’re too good for the slot). Plus, it sounds like they really do recognize the additional experience you bring; that’s why you’re getting higher-level assignments.

If it’s common for this particular student placement to end in a full-time offer, having them think of you as a student shouldn’t harm you, as surely they have been aware that past placements have been students too! I would just make sure to cultivate a good relationship with the person or people who will have the most input into that decision, make sure they know you’re interested in a full-time offer (a step that people often skip!), and make sure they see the level of work you’re doing.

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interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/interviewers-want-to-know-how-ive-been-spending-my-time-out-of-work-during-the-pandemic.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/interviewers-want-to-know-how-ive-been-spending-my-time-out-of-work-during-the-pandemic.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2021 18:59:57 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21032 This post, interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was laid off in May 2020 (along with so many others, of course). My industry isn’t directly affected in the way the restaurant industry is, but it is indirectly affected, and of course more unemployed people just means more competition. I’ve been applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, interviewing like […]

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This post, interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was laid off in May 2020 (along with so many others, of course). My industry isn’t directly affected in the way the restaurant industry is, but it is indirectly affected, and of course more unemployed people just means more competition.

I’ve been applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, interviewing like mad, and have made it to the reference check stage of four interviews. I’ve had a provisional offer, but they’re waiting to see if they win the (government) bid. I was a live-in nanny for a few months, but have otherwise just been on unemployment and trying to get a job.

Recently, probably since I’ve been unemployed so long, interviewers have started asking (sometimes in multiple, probing ways) what I’ve been doing since being laid off. Given the circumstances, these questions (phrased like, “So have you been consulting?” or “What have you learned about yourself in this time?”) strike me as tone-deaf. The answer to that question is, of course, that I’ve been trying to take care of myself mentally but haven’t had the motivation to pursue a ton of activities that I’m not sure will lead to anything. Between the general malaise of the global situation, nationwide protests and reckoning on race relations, once-in-a-generation political turmoil, and my own personal issues (including the loss of my job!), I just really haven’t been in the mood to do unpaid work or write blogs or intern , when I could conceivably get a job at any moment and all that would end prematurely. Without the structure and routine that a regular full-time job provides, I just don’t have the drive to do things for the fun of it, without knowing it will bring something useful.

My responses have been something like, “I’ve worked to stay connected through X board position, and I’ve been nannying which I have really enjoyed since I love working with kids whenever possible, and have been becoming a pretty amazing cook!” But I just feel so deflated when that’s asked, as if I’ve just been sitting on my bum by choice. What can I say when I haven’t actually been consulting, or interning, or whatever — I’ve just been looking for a job?

Agggh, you’re right that this question is weirdly oblivious to Everything Going On and how it has affected people. Frankly your answers — both the unvarnished one and the one you’re giving in interviews — sound a lot better than the answer would be for many people (“I’ve been trying to keep myself and my dependents alive, crying in the shower most days, and losing a lot of hair”).

I’m sure you’re right that you’re starting to hear this question now because you’ve been unemployed for a while. And that would make sense in normal times. But these are not normal times, and someone needs to tell these interviewers to pull it way back. Unfortunately, that someone probably can’t be you, so I think you’re on the right track with your answer. I’d try to throw in a little more work-relevant stuff if you can — you’ve been working on deepening your network, taking time to reflect on lessons you’ve learned from your career and what you want to do next, blah blah — or even just say that you had the ability to take some time off and now you’re eager to get back to work … but it’s a crap question right now, and you shouldn’t feel deficient for not having a more exciting answer to it.

Also, you should feel free to ask in response, “How has your company been managing through the pandemic, and what have you been doing to support employees who are struggling?”

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is applying for jobs a numbers game? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/is-applying-for-jobs-a-numbers-game.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/is-applying-for-jobs-a-numbers-game.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2021 17:29:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21008 This post, is applying for jobs a numbers game? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been job searching for what feels like forever but in reality is probably about six months. I’m getting conflicting advice about how to approach my job search and I’m not sure how to sort through it. I’ve read that it’s smart to apply for as many jobs as you can because […]

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This post, is applying for jobs a numbers game? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been job searching for what feels like forever but in reality is probably about six months. I’m getting conflicting advice about how to approach my job search and I’m not sure how to sort through it. I’ve read that it’s smart to apply for as many jobs as you can because finding a job is a numbers game and the more applications you have out there, the more likely you are to get called for an interview. That sounds logical to me! But I’ve been applying for every job I can find that I’m qualified for, and I’m not getting much response to my applications.

A friend of mine who’s also looking for a job right now says that he was told to focus on a smaller number of applications for just the jobs he’s really interested in, and he does get more interviews than I do. That approach appeals to me, especially because I’m exhausted by what I’m doing now, but I’m worried it will just lower my chances of getting a job. Logically, why wouldn’t fewer applications mean fewer interviews? I have no idea how to approach this.

You can read my answer to this letter at Vice today. Head over there to read it.

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the hot sauce contest, soup-gate, and other work contests gone awry https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/the-hot-sauce-contest-soup-gate-and-other-work-contests-gone-awry.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/the-hot-sauce-contest-soup-gate-and-other-work-contests-gone-awry.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2021 15:59:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21021 This post, the hot sauce contest, soup-gate, and other work contests gone awry , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

“We had a hot sauce eating contest at work years ago that ended with the crowd demanding that the contestants stop before they got hurt (and passing the hat to come up with a second prize) and then one contestant threw up in the bushes on the way to his bus and the other was […]

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This post, the hot sauce contest, soup-gate, and other work contests gone awry , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

“We had a hot sauce eating contest at work years ago that ended with the crowd demanding that the contestants stop before they got hurt (and passing the hat to come up with a second prize) and then one contestant threw up in the bushes on the way to his bus and the other was up all night and didn’t come in to work the next day.”
commenter JustaTech

“We have an annual soup contest that someone won a few years back with a package of ‘just add water’ mix. It’s referred to as the soup-doping scandal or soup-gate.”
commenter ExceptionToTheRule

And then there was the company that ran a contest for employees where they could win money by guessing which of their coworkers would be fired next.

Let’s talk about workplace contests gone terribly awry. Please share your own stories in the comment section.

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board member brings a gun to meetings (but he’s a cop), coworker leaves early every day, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/board-member-brings-a-gun-to-meetings-but-hes-a-cop-coworker-leaves-early-every-day.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/board-member-brings-a-gun-to-meetings-but-hes-a-cop-coworker-leaves-early-every-day.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2021 05:03:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21037 This post, board member brings a gun to meetings (but he’s a cop), coworker leaves early every day, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Board member brings a gun to meetings (but he’s a cop) One of the members of the board I report to is a police officer, and he comes to meetings in his full uniform, weapons included. He has also been called on to leave to […]

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This post, board member brings a gun to meetings (but he’s a cop), coworker leaves early every day, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Board member brings a gun to meetings (but he’s a cop)

One of the members of the board I report to is a police officer, and he comes to meetings in his full uniform, weapons included. He has also been called on to leave to perform police duties while in meetings, making us lose our quorum and putting a stop to the meetings. I have pointed out that it might be inappropriate for him to perform board duties while on call, but I’ve been brushed off. He even brought his gun when he was on a panel interviewing potential new employees! When I voiced an objection, the board laughed it off. Is there anything I can do about this?

(I’m a relatively new and young director of a small town library with only two employees. I’m an outsider to the community and haven’t been able to gain much respect.)

If the board is fine with it and he’s not violating any local laws, there’s probably nothing you can do here. I share your discomfort with having a gun at meetings and job interviews (!), but “police officer in uniform with service weapon” does read very differently than “Joe the accountant bringing a gun to board meetings.” It also sounds like he might be coming in his full uniform, including gun, because he’s sometimes called away to do police work. In a situation where the board has already heard your concerns and dismissed them and where you’re new and an outsider to the community, it’s probably not going to be a good use of capital to keep pushing it.

2. Coworker leaves early every day

Our coworker leaves 5-10 minutes early for lunch and then again leaves 5-10 minutes early at the end of the work day. Their job is customer service — answering phones in a small call center — so their presence is relevant to their job. Our supervisor has different work hours so he goes to lunch earlier and leaves earlier and doesn’t notice this behavior. When informed by other workers, he tries to make everyone happy by saying he doesn’t mind us leaving early once in a while as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. What isn’t addressed is that two employees consistently leave in this manner and if the other two did the same there wouldn’t be anyone working.

How do we get the supervisor to put their foot down and stop what is going on? We have tried going to the supervisor’s supervisor but that didn’t get anything corrected either. We think that they (the supervisors) are concerned that the employees who are leaving early will retaliate by filing a complaint against them, so they pretty much leave them alone. Our work environment has plummeted because of this issue.

One option is to take them at their word — if they don’t mind people leaving early once in a while, then leave early once in a while and see what happens. Time it so you’re ducking out before the habitual early-leaver, so you’re not the one leaving things unstaffed.

But if you’re too conscientious to want to do that (or if would feel unsatisfying as a solution), go back to your manager and explain (a) it’s not “every once in a while,” but actually most days (or whatever is accurate) and (b) it’s causing XYZ problems for your work. That last part is important — what is the specific impact it’s having on you? Is it leaving you with too many calls to handle on your own? Making you stay late in order to get through all the callers? Something else? Whatever the impact is, that’s the problem to put in your manager’s lap and ask them to help you solve. If there isn’t really an impact on your work and it’s just irritating … that’s something you’ll probably need to live with. If that’s the case and your manager has said they’re unconcerned, you don’t really have the standing to push it further.

3. Social media during job hunts

I am graduating from university in a few months, and have started to job hunt. My question is regarding social media — all of my accounts are private, but I believe there are ways prospective employers can get around these measures? Is this true?

Additionally, what is okay to post and what isn’t? I know generally to stay away from party photos and risqué photos — but if I have photos from a vacation, where I’m in a bathing suit, should I take it down? Or on Twitter, I tend to favourite political tweets (although I rarely retweet anything), is this going to be a problem? Am I worrying too much?

If your social media accounts are private, employers don’t have any special way of accessing them. They’d need to be connected to someone you’re connected to and you’d need to have your settings set to allow friends of friends to see your stuff. Employers aren’t generally looking that hard, but if you’re worried about it, you can lock that setting down.

Beyond that: Don’t post photos that seem to glorify drinking to excess. Holding a glass of wine is generally fine; holding a red Solo cup while looking drunk probably isn’t. Don’t post about being hungover or otherwise indicate you’re cavalier about heavy drinking.

Liking political tweets isn’t a big deal unless you’re applying to work on the opposite side of the political aisle, or unless you want to screen for employers who will hold your political views against you (but the mere act of liking a political tweet is not usually damning unless it’s hate speech or bigotry).

Some people will tell you that you should take down bathing suit photos, if just from an abundance of caution. But no one tells dudes to take down bathing suit photos of themselves, so I will tell you that you don’t want to work somewhere that would penalize you for having a (gasp) photo of yourself in swimming attire.

4. Leaving a degree off your resume

My husband recently applied for a job through a recruiter who contacted him (very common in his industry). The recruiter called him the next day concerned that on my husband’s LinkedIn profile he lists his degree while it’s not on his resume. This caused a bit of a hassle but not a big deal since he does have the degree exactly as stated.

But it did raise an interesting question. My husband’s profession requires extensive professional exams that lead to leveled credentials. That, combined with 15 years of experience, he feels is more important than the degree. Many intake systems only accept a one-page resume and putting the degree on there means one less line he can use to tailor his job experience to the position. I think this experience shows that his degree needs to be on there even if it pushes something else off. What do you think?

Yeah, he should have the degree on there. It’s so strongly convention to include it that it will look weird if he doesn’t (if they later realize he actually has it), and some employers will screen out candidates without it. I’d love to say he could leave it off without consequence given his decade and a half of relevant work experience, but he needs to keep it on there. It’s one line.

(To be clear, if he had graduate degrees that he wanted to leave off because they were in a different field, that’s fine. But with so many people feeling like a bachelor’s is a prerequisite or at least something they’re very interested in you having, it’s got to stay on.)

5. Is pushy networking the new norm for college students?

I’m genuinely curious about some interactions I’ve had with a student from my alma mater who has been contacting me for networking/“advice.” I’ve always been more than happy to pay it forward for students from my school and do networking coffees and have helped them with recommendations and getting internships before, as I work in a somewhat difficult to enter public policy field, but I’ve been thrown for a loop with this latest student.

We met up once before the pandemic where the student proceeded to use the whole time to talk about himself and all the people he knew in the city where he was interning (where I’m located) and didn’t ask me questions, but I still gave him the usual advice I give students. I was not impressed, but this student has sent me several emails over the past year to “update me” on his GPA, where he was moving, his extracurricular activities, etc. At one point I didn’t respond quickly enough and he messaged me on Linkedin saying he’d been trying to contact me and hadn’t heard back.

Is this the new norm for college students now? I understand the pandemic has made things very difficult for those graduating during these times. I’ve been polite in my responses, but don’t feel like I need to respond to every email, and I’m curious how you or others would handle?

Nah, this isn’t a new norm. This is just one obnoxious dude.

There is advice out there for people to stay in touch with those they’ve networked with, and for early-career networkers to let people who helped them know how things are going as time goes by. Maybe that’s what’s he’s doing. But the level of pushiness is all him.

His “I haven’t heard back from you” message actually gives you a good opening — you could respond to that and say, “Glad to hear you’re doing well. I’m swamped these days so behind on correspondence. Best of luck in whatever comes next for you!” And the give yourself permission to stop replying to future messages if it’s not a relationship you want to maintain.

Someone could argue it’s better to be straight with him (“you’re coming across as demanding more of my time when you didn’t make good use of our meeting last year”) but I don’t think that’s a burden you need to take on. It’s not on you to explain to him why his approach is wrong, although you certainly could if you wanted to.

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how should I handle joking around during mental health discussions with my team? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-should-i-handle-joking-around-during-mental-health-discussions-with-my-team.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-should-i-handle-joking-around-during-mental-health-discussions-with-my-team.html#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2021 18:59:52 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21025 This post, how should I handle joking around during mental health discussions with my team? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Over the last few years, our company has promoted safety as an agenda topic to start every meeting. Over the last year, mental health has been added as a focus. We have many resources available to employees and have created a series of “awareness” presentations with topics including suicide, depression, stress, meditation, […]

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This post, how should I handle joking around during mental health discussions with my team? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Over the last few years, our company has promoted safety as an agenda topic to start every meeting. Over the last year, mental health has been added as a focus. We have many resources available to employees and have created a series of “awareness” presentations with topics including suicide, depression, stress, meditation, etc.

Typically, my weekly staff meeting begins with a safety discussion and often a mental health topic. We are working from home, so the staff meeting is also an opportunity for everyone to socialize and I have a boisterous team (they were pretty informal when we were face-to-face also).

As part of our leadership feedback (anonymous), a team member raised a concern that there is joking when the mental health topic is brought up and that I need to stop that behavior. I totally agree and feel awful that anyone on my team has felt that I allowed this behavior. I honestly don’t remember any joking – but there is often banter, so I believe it’s happened.

What’s the best way to address this? Obviously, I need to speak up in the moment if it happens again. Should I also preemptively make a statement about this being a serious topic? The discussions are already awkward for me because I don’t feel like I’m qualified to answer any questions other than what resources are available. I encourage dialogue – but meaningful participation on this topic is limited. I want to ensure no one on my team feels marginalized, but I don’t want to scold the team into staying quiet throughout the meeting.

I wrote back and asked, “What do these mental health discussions consist of? My initial reaction is that it’s really not good to ask managers without a background in mental health issues to lead those talks, but I might be misunderstanding what they entail.”

As an example, the letter-writer forwarded me the slides she was supposed to show on suicide prevention (covering why it’s important to talk about, risk factors, warning signs, and steps to take if you’re concerned someone is thinking about suicide) and explained:

I’m supposed to go over the information and encourage comments / discussion. For example, we had a concern about an employee who may self harm – we ended up involving medical and he was transported to a hospital for help. Some managers bring up that incident and talk about how it was handled and how we need awareness and then encourage discussion about that scenario. Some people have talked about family or friends who were affected by suicide. We are encouraged to share and start a discussion – but it’s not required.

For me, even reading through the slides can be difficult. I sometimes get a bit choked up and am trying not to let my voice break as I review some of the scenarios (like asking someone if they are suicidal or want to kill themselves). I’m okay in a real situation – but for some reason get emotional when discussing.

So …. it is really problematic to ask managers without expertise in mental health to lead these conversations.

I know that’s not what you’re asking about, but I don’t think we can talk about this without talking about that piece of it!

You’re not a trained mental health facilitator. As far as I know, you and your fellow managers have no background in mental health at all (partly evidenced by their sharing info about a specific employee’s mental health crisis — ?!?!). It’s irresponsible of your company to ask you and other managers to lead these highly sensitive, highly consequential discussions. It’s great that they want to raise awareness about mental health, but this is not the way to do it. There is strong potential for an untrained manager to do more harm than good, regardless of the company’s intentions.

Can you push back on how this is being implemented? If your company wants to distribute resources on mental health, great. If they want to offer an EAP and ensure your health insurance makes mental health services low-cost and accessible, even better. If they want to do things that support mental health, like offering flexibility for care-taking and plentiful paid time off and making sure the culture supports people taking it — excellent. But expecting untrained facilitators to lead discussions of serious mental health topics is not reasonable and it could make people less safe, not more safe.

If you truly have no choice, is it possible to simply distribute the slides and handouts, draw attention to the resources available for help, remind people of the work-specific ways you can support them (job accommodations for people who need them, time off, etc.), and leave it there?

If you worry jokes will happen anyway, you could start these meetings by saying something like, “I know we joke around, but this topic is a serious one and kidding about it can affect your colleagues in ways you might not anticipate, so let’s treat this with the seriousness it warrants” … but again, I really don’t think you or other managers should be leading these discussions at all.

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how to manage an employee with anxiety https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-to-manage-an-employee-with-anxiety.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/how-to-manage-an-employee-with-anxiety.html#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2021 17:29:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21012 This post, how to manage an employee with anxiety , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a talented employee who gets paralyzed trying to do new things. When there is a roadmap and it’s something he’s comfortable with, he does a great job. He’s smart and his ideas are usually great. To move into the next step in his career, he needs to start driving new […]

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This post, how to manage an employee with anxiety , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a talented employee who gets paralyzed trying to do new things. When there is a roadmap and it’s something he’s comfortable with, he does a great job. He’s smart and his ideas are usually great. To move into the next step in his career, he needs to start driving new projects where there isn’t a roadmap, and he’s starting to struggle.

From watching him, I suspect he is dealing with anxiety. The tipping point to me is the degree of paralysis I’m seeing. If something is in the “new project” box, he has a hard time recognizing the pieces he has done before or is familiar with. When we talked about this, I told him it’s fine to not know how to do things, he just has to communicate that with his teams appropriately and make a plan, and he told me that he has a really hard time admitting when he doesn’t know something and asking for help (which, as a somewhat anxiety-prone person myself, felt familiar). Is there a good way to be sensitive and supportive while giving feedback?

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:

  • Declining an interview because of ethical issues with the company
  • My boss redoes my projects after I turn them in
  • Living so close to work that coworkers could see in my window
  • Should I give my interviewer a pre-written thank-you note at the end of our interview?
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my employee keeps criticizing my food https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-keeps-criticizing-my-food.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-keeps-criticizing-my-food.html#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2021 15:59:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21024 This post, my employee keeps criticizing my food , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Dear AAM, We had a pandemic baby and we decided for safety reasons it was better to be exposed to one person (a nanny) versus the potentially hundreds in a daycare setting. The expense for even 40 hours of her time is a tight squeeze for us, but we’ve found someone who is overall fantastic. […]

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This post, my employee keeps criticizing my food , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Dear AAM,

We had a pandemic baby and we decided for safety reasons it was better to be exposed to one person (a nanny) versus the potentially hundreds in a daycare setting. The expense for even 40 hours of her time is a tight squeeze for us, but we’ve found someone who is overall fantastic. Our baby does amazing with her, she’s knowledgeable, experienced, helpful, and taking the kinds of precautions we need and expect.

I manage people at work but have never had in-home help until now, and I have no role models for this because we are just not of an income bracket where I’ve ever been around nannies. She feels different than someone I would manage at work because the lines blur a lot — she’s in our home, caring for our baby, eating lunch with us, etc. We also can’t afford to lose her — there just aren’t that many folks who fit our needs out there right now.

The issue is this. She’s lost some serious weight. I’m talking 100+ pounds, and she’s still going. I am happy for her because she seems happy about it, and I understand the commitment a change like that takes — it can be all-consuming. That said, she comments on every single food we eat and bring into our house, and not favorably. While we eat reasonably healthfully and are active and healthy weights, we do have junk food in our house and not every meal is perfectly balanced and nutritious. As a working mom, my priority is first ease and second cost. Nutrition matters, too, but it’s definitely not the only consideration. Also, we have a new baby in a pandemic! Every night I cook at all feels heroic and we eat some treats only because they’re tasty.

I’ve tried hinting, “We eat everything in moderation here” or “We want to teach [baby] that foods aren’t good or bad, and all bodies are good bodies” and finally, “I can’t really talk about food and weight this much; it’s not healthy for me.” She doesn’t get it.

I sort of lost it when I saw her snap a photo of our snack drawer presumably to show someone what pigs we are but I didn’t say anything because I needed to work.

How do I address this in a way that puts a stop to it, is blunt enough to be clear, but doesn’t sour our relationship and make things awkward? If I were in an office, I’d know what to do but I’m honestly at a loss here.

She’s being incredibly rude! Maybe she’s finding the topic of food choices all-consuming right now, but you cannot criticize other people’s food choices like that — especially when they have told you pretty damn directly that they don’t want to talk about it.

I know you’re worried about making things awkward, but she has already made things awkward.

And I get that you’re worried about losing her if you do something that sours the relationship, but (a) you can’t be so afraid to lose an employee that you don’t address serious problems and (b) if she decides to leave because you politely requested something very reasonable, that’s a person so volatile that it was all going to blow up at some point anyway. And you can’t have someone volatile taking care of your kid, because at some point you’ll need to ask her to change something else around your kid, even if you try hard to avoid it. (I don’t think she will blow up and leave over this, but it’s useful to think through whether that worry is really one you can cater to.)

I would say this: “Jane, we love having you as a nanny. You’re great with (baby). There is one thing that I need to ask you to change. Please stop criticizing the food we bring into the house. You’re right that it’s not all perfectly nutritious; that’s a compromise we’re willing to make. We will always make sure you have food here that you want to eat — and if we’re ever not doing that, please let me know and we’ll fix it — but I’m asking you to stop criticizing the food we’re eating. For me, it’s unhealthy to talk about food that much.”

She might feel a little awkward after this conversation; it’s awkward to be told you’re doing something that upsets someone. There’s no way around that. But you initiate a warm, normal conversation with her soon afterwards, often that can help reset the vibe.

By the way, I’m hoping she wasn’t really photographing your snack drawer to criticize you to others. That would be a pretty big violation by someone you need to trust in your home! Are there any other feasible interpretations of what you saw — like might she have been photographing it to remember the brand or name of an item in there, or because she likes your snazzy drawer dividers, or anything like that? But if you’re pretty sure you’re right about what she was doing, that’s all the more reason to have this conversation immediately and see how it goes.

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the best time of day to apply for jobs, working for an unethical industry, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/the-best-time-of-day-to-apply-for-jobs-working-for-an-unethical-industry-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/the-best-time-of-day-to-apply-for-jobs-working-for-an-unethical-industry-and-more.html#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2021 05:03:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21033 This post, the best time of day to apply for jobs, working for an unethical industry, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Is my CEO stringing me along in her succession planning? I work for a small nonprofit (12 employees). Seven years ago, I was wooed to my current position of vice president by the CEO/president, with the explicit plan that I will take over and run […]

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This post, the best time of day to apply for jobs, working for an unethical industry, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Is my CEO stringing me along in her succession planning?

I work for a small nonprofit (12 employees). Seven years ago, I was wooed to my current position of vice president by the CEO/president, with the explicit plan that I will take over and run the organization once she retires. It appeared to be forward-thinking succession planning on her part, and I took a pay cut from my previous job to make the leap. She was nearing traditional retirement age, and she also hinted at some specific timelines (“this is the last time I’ll be in charge of this project”); I was expecting to lead the organization within five years.

Fast forward to now, and we’re still in the same position. Worse, she refuses to engage in communication about the future of the organization and my role. Over the last year, I’ve tried to broach the subject in a “big picture” way, yet she cuts me off and insists she won’t be forced out. I recognize that she has to make the decision that’s right for her. But I also need information to make the decision that’s right for me.

Everyone at the organization is aware I was brought in as her replacement, and I often get questions (from employees, board members, and community partners) about when I’m taking over. I tempted to subtly share some of my frustration the next time a board member asks, in attempts to spur some conversation about succession planning at the board level, but I fear that might be overstepping. Am I out of line for making the assumption that I would have a clearer picture after seven years at the organization? What should I do?

Seven years?! No, you are not out of line. If she has changed her mind, so be it, but she owes you a direct conversation about what’s going on so you can make the right decisions for yourself.

If you knew that it definitely wasn’t happening in the next several years, what decisions would you make? I’d start assuming it’s not happening for at least the next several years, if at all, and plan accordingly.

But since it sounds like the board assumes you’ll be taking over at some point (and presumably has approved that) and board members are asking you about the timeline, you also should be able to talk with a board member about your concerns. Explain the CEO has refused to discuss any timeline with you and you’re at the point where you’re thinking about whether you need to leave the organization to pursue your own goals. Ask if they have any insight or can initiate a conversation about timeline. (Before doing this, you should factor in what you know of the CEO — if she’ll freak out that you raised this with a board member on your own, be sure to pick the specific board member and your wording carefully … and consider asking the board member to help shield you from that.)

2. Working in an ethically dubious industry

I’m an attorney working at a mid-sized national firm with a big law annual billable hours requirement. My firm primarily focuses on litigation, but after five years here (nine years in practice total), I’m sure this isn’t the right fit for me. I’m a wreck when it comes to public speaking, I’m terrible at generating my own business, and hitting the annual billable hours target is a consistent source of stress. Moreover, the regional office I’m in is small and my role isn’t as defined as other associates, meaning I often find myself low on work while younger, less experienced coworkers are busy with their niche projects or cases. Basically, I’m over it and looking for a way out. Going in-house for a major company is an attractive option because it will gel with my experience, generally pays well, and will get me out of having to bill.

An international tobacco company is hiring for an in-house position doing primarily commercial and transactional work (contracts and such) and I’m thinking about applying. However, I’m concerned about the ethics of working for a tobacco company and the potential ramifications of doing so when I’m ready to move on in the future, particularly if someday I want to transition to public service (my goal in law school before the realities of having to pay back my huge loans set in). Will having worked for a tobacco company, even one that isn’t US-based and so wasn’t embroiled in decades-long litigation regarding lying to the public about the dangers of smoking, be a black mark on my resume to future employers?

It’ll be a black mark to some employers, and others won’t care. To some extent it depends on the kinds of jobs you’ll want afterwards. If you’d want to work for, say, a public health group or a progressive charity, it’s going to be more of an issue than if you want to work for a bank. (Even at a bank, though, you’ll find individual hiring managers who find it distasteful.) You said you’d like to move to public service at some point, and it’s more likely to be an obstacle there — not across the board, it’ll depend on the specific organizations you’re applying for, but I’d weigh that pretty heavily in your decision-making.

And of course, there’s a reason it’ll be a black mark to some people — you’ll have signed on to help support a product that kills people. Are you comfortable with that work? Maybe you are! But I’d think hard about your own comfort level with it, first and foremost.

3. Does time of day matter when sending in a job application?

I’ve come across a couple of articles indicating that applications are more likely to receive a response if sent in early in the morning. I’m somewhat of a night owl and often am working on applications after business hours or on weekends. If a position is reviewing applications on a rolling basis but the deadline is still a few days to a few weeks off, is it better to send in my application ASAP, even if that means sending it at 10 p.m. or on a weekend, or should I hold it until the start of the next business day?

It doesn’t matter. Apply when it’s convenient for you. What matters most is that you have a compelling, personalized cover letter and a resume that shows a track record of achievement in the area they’re hiring for — not the time of day you apply.

In fact, most hiring managers won’t even notice what time of day your application was received. Few people read applications in real time as they come in. Most people read them in batches. Those batches might be organized from oldest to newest, or newest to oldest, or alphabetically, or they might be in no order at all. Apply as soon as you have time to do it well and don’t get hung up on the timing.

The one caveat I would give about timing is not to wait until just before the application deadline. Employers don’t always stick to those deadlines; if they find someone great before then, they may hire that person. Other times the deadline is artificial because the site where the job ad requires one so they just put in a date, but it doesn’t have real meaning. So apply as soon as you can.

4. Can I opt out of using electronic calendar invites and other widgets?

I work as an academic at a university. For years I happily used old-fashioned, text-based email software, but we have all been pushed onto Microsoft Exchange.

Increasingly, I’m getting emails that are not just emails. If I’m being invited to a meeting, these emails will often contain a calendar
widget with an RSVP button, which will add the event to “my calendar.”

I don’t use the university-provided calendar to manage my schedule, and I have no desire to start. You’ve written about Microsoft’s creepy “MyAnalytics” productivity analyzer, and I want no part of that. And moreover, I don’t want to invite assumptions about when I am and am not free. Much of my work takes place outside formal meetings, and I need to protect my time.

All this said, I don’t want to be rude to others. If someone sends me one of these calendar widgets, do good manners oblige me to use the widget to reply? And, more generally, to what extent am I obliged to get on board with whatever communication and time-management systems my employer tries to push?

You’re not obligated to use that kind of widget. Nor are you necessarily obligated to accept calendar invites that automatically add things to your calendar if you don’t use your calendar that way.

That said, if the culture of your workplace is to use shared calendars to see people’s availability and set up meetings, it might not fly to opt out of that system. So I’d look at whether it would inconvenience colleagues or be strongly out of sync with your culture before you make up your mind. That’s partly the answer to your broader question too — the extent to which you’re obligated to get on board with whatever systems your employer is pushing depends on how that system is used, how onerous it’ll be for other people if you don’t use them, and how much autonomy you have to do your own thing. An academic may find it pretty easy to opt out of that stuff; a junior accounts person may not.

5. Organization refuses to credit me for my volunteer work

I volunteer for an organization and I was the one to suggest hosting an online meeting (they’ve never done that before). When it came time to publicize the event, literally everyone else’s name was included but mine! I need to get credit for the work I’ve done in order to maintain the membership I hold, as it is based on a points system.

I’ve spent hours telling the chair of this organization to “click this link” or “do this” in order for it to succeed. It would seem this person barely knows how to turn a computer on. When I confronted them about how I need my name to be published on the event link, they babbled on something about data protection, and how I am just “an admin for this event.” So, they won’t publish my name. For a volunteer event. That I’m doing all the work for.

At the time I barely concealed my disappointment, but is it worth fighting over? Should I quit before the event? Or should I just let it go?

What benefits, if any, are you getting from this volunteer organization? If the answer is few to none and you’re volunteering purely out of a desire to do good in the world, it’s hard to see why you should keep giving this one your time. There are other volunteer organizations that would happily accept your time and work and wouldn’t refuse to credit you in a situation like this, especially when you directly ask.

On the other hand, if there are professional or other benefits to remaining a member, I’d let this go as a very annoying one-off … but if similar things happen and you’re seeing a pattern, it’s hard to imagine continuing to lend your time.

As for whether to push for credit now, it sounds like you’ve tried and been told no. Make sure you still receive the points toward membership that this work should have earned you, though.

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when asked about salary, I say “I’ll start for $X and earn the rest through merit” https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/when-asked-about-salary-i-say-ill-start-for-x-and-earn-the-rest-through-merit.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/when-asked-about-salary-i-say-ill-start-for-x-and-earn-the-rest-through-merit.html#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2021 18:59:06 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21023 This post, when asked about salary, I say “I’ll start for $X and earn the rest through merit” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Here’s what I’ve been doing when it comes to salary negotiation: When asked what I want, I’ll say something like, “I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit.” How does that sound to you? First, I don’t care if they secretly budgeted $150k. Their budget doesn’t determine my value. I […]

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This post, when asked about salary, I say “I’ll start for $X and earn the rest through merit” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Here’s what I’ve been doing when it comes to salary negotiation: When asked what I want, I’ll say something like, “I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit.” How does that sound to you?

First, I don’t care if they secretly budgeted $150k. Their budget doesn’t determine my value. I used to play the “you blink first” game, but it’s ultimately unproductive. The only winning move is not to play. I do give a great deal of thought about the price tag I place upon myself, and I back it up with facts about what the local market bears (just in case) and usually stand firm. When I say, “…and earn the rest through merit,” I hope it signals that I’m giving them a bargain up-front, and then I’ll prove that I’m worth more with my actions. I think it also indicates that I’ll be expecting a raise in the future. If they intend never to give me a raise, this statement should trigger them to react or pull back. After all, inflation is 2.3%/year, and that’s important to take that into account.

I get where you’re coming from, but I wouldn’t use that approach. First and foremost, it’s generally much easier to get more money before you’ve accepted an offer than after you’re already working there. Once you’re on staff, you’re likely going to be constrained by however the company handles raises overall, which means you might be locked into much smaller increases than you want. If you’re coming on for $X while thinking you’ll earn $Y in a year once you prove yourself, there’s a very strong chance that won’t happen — even if you could have gotten $Y if you’d negotiated for it from the start.

Second, you saying “I’ll earn the rest through merit” is going to make good hiring managers nervous, because it’s not clear what “the rest” means. Speaking from the employer’s side, I don’t know if you’re envisioning $5,000 more or $25,000 more, and I’m not going to move forward without hashing that out because I don’t want you coming on board with unrealistic expectations and being disappointed or resentful later. I’m willing to consider something like “we’ll pay $X now and consider $Y after six months if you’ve shown A, B, and C” … but we’re going to be talking about specific figures, not leaving it vague.

You said you’re hoping your approach signals that you’re giving the employer a bargain up-front, and then you’ll prove that you’re worth more once you’re in the job. But good employers aren’t that invested in getting a bargain up-front. They want to hire the best person for the job and pay that person a salary that makes sense within their broader salary structure, taking into account equity along race and gender lines. They usually want to negotiate that number at the start so that everyone is on the same page.

I’m not saying your approach won’t work for some employers, but it’s likely to turn off more than it will appeal to. I’d do your salary research and just ask for what you think you’re worth; don’t make it any more complicated than that.

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is it irresponsible to quit my job without having another one lined up? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/is-it-irresponsible-to-quit-my-job-without-having-another-one-lined-up.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/is-it-irresponsible-to-quit-my-job-without-having-another-one-lined-up.html#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2021 17:29:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21018 This post, is it irresponsible to quit my job without having another one lined up? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have been at my company in a support role for over two years. I was under the impression from the very beginning that I was on a promotion track, and I thought my boss and I were on the same page. Long story short, I endured two years of belittling, gaslighting, […]

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This post, is it irresponsible to quit my job without having another one lined up? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have been at my company in a support role for over two years. I was under the impression from the very beginning that I was on a promotion track, and I thought my boss and I were on the same page. Long story short, I endured two years of belittling, gaslighting, and repudiation (just to name a few) and suffered through terrible management in every way you can think of. Two years of being made to feel like I was an idiot left me depressed and without a shred of self-esteem. I could go on for pages about all the terrible things that happened leading up to this point, but this is not about whether or not I should stay — I decided months ago that I was ready to leave and needed to start looking for a new job.

Unfortunately, with the condition of the job market during this pandemic, job opportunities have been few and far between and my search has been largely fruitless. I was prepared to stick it out at my current job (it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, and the conditions at work had been going on for so long anyway that at least there wouldn’t be any surprises). But just when I thought things at my current job couldn’t get any worse, they did and I don’t think I can work in this organization indefinitely.

I desperately want to quit and remove myself from this toxic situation for the sake of my mental health, but I worry that if I quit my job without having anything lined up I could be unemployed for years. Is it illogical to quit knowing that opportunities in my industry are sparse? Would it be an irresponsible decision for my long-term career goals? Any advice you might offer is appreciated! My gut and my brain are in a never-ending battle.

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 punishes single people who have to quarantine more than once — but not married people https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-company-punishes-single-people-who-have-to-quarantine-more-than-once-but-not-married-people.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-company-punishes-single-people-who-have-to-quarantine-more-than-once-but-not-married-people.html#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2021 15:59:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21027 This post, my company punishes single people who have to quarantine more than once — but not married people , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was recently told during a company-wide training by my company’s HR department that employees who have to be quarantined more than once a semester will have to work remotely but still take sick days and/or vacation time. We were also told that while HR understands and will make exceptions for families […]

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This post, my company punishes single people who have to quarantine more than once — but not married people , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was recently told during a company-wide training by my company’s HR department that employees who have to be quarantined more than once a semester will have to work remotely but still take sick days and/or vacation time. We were also told that while HR understands and will make exceptions for families who end up passing the disease to one another, the expectation is that others (i.e., single people) should not have to quarantine that often and they will subtract accrued vacation/sick time and take “disciplinary action” if you have to quarantine multiple times.

Right now I am not eligible for a vaccine but I have already had to quarantine and get tested once this semester (thankfully not COVID) and am worried that if have symptoms again I may be penalized. HR also mentioned that having to be quarantined multiple times is too hard on other coworkers but they allow parents to exclusively work remotely

I should mention that my entire job can be done remotely (I am not a customer-facing position) but I am still required to go into the office and be exposed for half the week, mostly because some of my coworkers who are parents (and have customer-facing responsibilities) now work remotely. Work is the only place where I am exposed as I do everything online/pickup and go months without seeing family or friends. If I do show symptoms again, I am torn on what I should do. I feel as if I am being discriminated against for having no children and living alone. Should I just cross my fingers and hope I don’t get sick?

I should also mention my supervisor is awesome about everything but she can’t fight HR’s edicts.

Wow, your employer is so terrible I don’t know where to begin. So in no particular order:

* They want you to work from home but they’re also going to charge you sick or vacation leave for that time, while you’re working? This is not only an unethical policy, but it’s a laughably illogical one too — why would they expect you to work during that time if they’re deducting it from your leave time? (In most states this is legal — more here — but it’s really, really bad practice and no decent employer would do it.)

* By punishing people who need to quarantine, they’re ensuring that people will come to work when they should be quarantining … which means this policy will lead directly to more people being sick, more people needing to quarantine, and more of their workforce being impacted (and, you know, possibly dying).

* Single people shouldn’t have to quarantine as much as people who are married or have kids? I’d love to see their statistics on that. Single people have roommates, go to the grocery store, have electricians/plumbers/other necessary workers in their homes, etc. etc. etc.

* “Quarantining multiple times is too hard on your coworkers!” Yes, the situation sucks. Being in the middle of a pandemic is a hardship for everyone. Your employer can’t discipline their way out of that reality. (And that’s before we get into the ludicrous hypocrisy of them saying that while ignoring their preferential treatment for parents. To be clear, I’m all for accommodating parents — but let’s not pretend it’s impact-free while chastising single people for daring to have a cough.)

* In some jurisdictions (but not federally), it’s illegal to discriminate based on “family status,” which includes whether you are married or have children. It’s worth checking to see if that’s the case where you work.

How do your coworkers feel about all this? Ideally you’d push back with a group of them on the policy requiring you to use sick or vacation time while working from home, and on the idea of disciplinary steps for protecting your colleagues’ safety in compliance with public health guidelines. You might consider consulting with an employment attorney who will know the laws in your area, as well.

And frankly, they’re really asking for you to go all out and unionize … so you might think about that too.

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my coworker is copying my look, I blasted a recruiter for not answering me, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-coworker-is-copying-my-look-i-blasted-a-recruiter-for-not-answering-me-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-coworker-is-copying-my-look-i-blasted-a-recruiter-for-not-answering-me-and-more.html#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2021 05:03:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21022 This post, my coworker is copying my look, I blasted a recruiter for not answering me, 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 is copying my clothes and hair Imagine working in an office and having someone copying everything you wear. The person is my coworker who sits next to me. We are medical professionals seeing the same patients. She comes from a rural area and […]

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This post, my coworker is copying my look, I blasted a recruiter for not answering me, 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 is copying my clothes and hair

Imagine working in an office and having someone copying everything you wear. The person is my coworker who sits next to me. We are medical professionals seeing the same patients. She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in and that’s fine, but she has started aping me and it’s not flattering, it’s plain irritating that someone goes and buys everything you wear, even sweaters, shoes, and the same haircut from my hairdresser.

How do you deal with a coworker who imitates you to this extent? I’ve stopped sharing details of my clothes and stuff, but now she knows where I shop and what I buy and has everything that I own, even basics like cardigans, so some days we are literally twinning which feels sick. I love taking effort and putting a good look together but here I have a copycat next door! I’ve tried to maintain a distance as it’s draining me and I find her toxic. But that’s making her clingier and now she’s calling/texting desperately to keep this friendship. It sounds trivial but I have to work and deal with this person daily and I love my job.

FYI, we are both 35-plus women and this problem is more than a year old. I haven’t discussed it with her as yet but I’m pretty sure she knows she’s copying me.

Agggh, this might fall in the category of “annoying but there’s not much you can do about it.” You can’t really call dibs on haircuts or clothing or stores … but it’s still awfully unsettling to have someone modeling their whole look on you, especially to this extent and especially with someone who sits right next to you! I’d be tempted to make some very extreme changes — shave your head? Temporarily borrow a lot of neon pleather?

I do think you could try a one-time conversation and see it gets through to her — something like, “I like to have my own style, and it’s throwing me to have you buying the same clothes as me. I’d be grateful if you’d stop doing that.”

I know I just wrote in a January post that there’s no upside to addressing clothes copying at work, but the details of your situation are different than that letter (and fortunately you’re not dealing with the rest of that person’s situation).

As for the clinginess, your best bet may be to address it all together: “You are calling and texting me a lot and even buying the same clothes and getting the same haircut as me. It’s too much, and it’s making me uncomfortable. I’m happy to have a collegial relationship with you at work, but I don’t want to call or text outside of work or show up wearing the same clothes, and I need you to respect those boundaries.”

2. I blasted a recruitment agency for not responding to me

I am a job seeker who recently had a somewhat unpleasant experience with a recruitment agency. I wanted to ask about this agency’s services. I tried contacting them through the phone, but it was an automated voice message. Then I tried to email them, providing a bit about my background such as my name, education, and experiences, but I heard nothing for over 24 hours. I was getting impatient and quite irritated.

This isn’t very smart of me, but my nerves got the better of me and I left a negative Google review on this agency’s page mentioning that they are unreachable. They responded to me an hour or two after I left the review, and they told me to be more patient and that my actions wouldn’t take me very far in the recruiting process, rightfully so. I removed my review immediately afterwards. However, I am aware that this has left a bad mark on my relationships with this agency and possibly my reputation.

I was wondering if my actions may have caused me to end up in an employment blacklist, so to speak? If so, is there anything I can do to remediate the relationship and possibly be taken out of the blacklist?

You’re probably blacklisted with them, yes — in that they’re not going to consider future applications from you — but there’s no central blacklist you could be on. If you’re wondering if there’s a way to un-burn the bridge with them specifically, probably not. You should apologize and let them know you removed the review (if you haven’t already), but it’s unlikely that they’d be enthused about recommending you to clients, even post-apology.

For what it’s worth, leaving a bad review just because no one got back to you for 24 hours is … a lot! They aren’t really obligated to respond to cold calls at all, let alone so quickly. The best thing you can do with anything job-search-related is to put your feelers out there and then move on; let it be a pleasant surprise when people get back to you, but don’t stay on tenterhooks waiting for it or it can mess with your mind like this did.

3. Should I stay in my job until I’ve improved my work?

Is it wise to leave a job when your performance is not up to par? I’m currently working in a position and company that I desperately want to get out of. Unfortunately, my last two, and only, performance evaluations have had some critical feedback and I’ve been marked as performing below expectations.

I’m concerned that leaving this job in the near future with this current track record will hurt me in the future when I list the company as a reference. Is this a valid concern? I know my other references will give me great reviews but this is my first job since getting my graduate degree so I worry it will have more weight.

Is this a valid concern? While I feel I have the capability to do a much better job, the stress, anxiety, and general burnout I currently feel makes me doubt that I can turn things around.

It’s true that when you can swing it, it’s better to leave with good performance assessments — but if you’re struggling and desperately want to get out, it doesn’t make sense to stay just to try to improve your work, especially when you’re not confident you can.

Realistically, you could end up not turning things around, thus staying even longer in a job that isn’t working for you or even ending up getting fired. Plus, even if you did turn things around, you might need to stay for a pretty long time in order to fully overcome the impressions from earlier; two “below expectations” evaluations are significant enough that those issues still might come up in a reference, just accompanied by a mention that things improved.

But one thing to know is that you don’t need to offer this company as a reference in the future. Yes, ideally you would since it’s your first post-grad-school job, but you’re allowed to suggest other references instead. If someone asks to speak to this manager specifically, you can explain that the job wasn’t the right fit because of X or Y so they at least have that context if they do contact them.

4. Can I ask an interviewer how many women are on their team?

I just had a phone interview for a job in the same field I’m currently in. I’m a woman and it’s pretty male-dominated, to the point that my department is currently having a sexual harassment campaign. Part of the issue right now is that my small department has two women and four men (in addition to four to five male temps every day). Our broader umbrella department only has two other women! Last week, I heard a male coworker tell my female coworker, “It’s a man’s space, what do you expect?” in a common workspace.

I wish I’d asked about gender in this workplace — the three people interviewing me were men. Would a question like “How many women are on your team?” have been appropriate?

Yes! Very normal to ask, especially in male-dominated fields. You can word it just like that. You can also ask things like:

* How many women are on your senior leadership team? / How diverse is your executive team?
* Can you share any data about race and gender diversity in the company?
* What programs does the company have in place to support diversity?

5. Warding off crisis as a resume achievement

Your resume advice of listing “achievements” rather than “responsibilities” is so valuable, but I’m having trouble fitting it in to my current situation. I’ve been in a pretty dysfunctional, understaffed environment for a while, where I am responsible for too many things to be able to give any of them the attention they deserve. The main “achievement” I’ve had for a while is that a wide variety of important tasks gets completed at a baseline acceptable level and imminent crisis is continually avoided. I know how to translate this into relevant soft skills that are appropriate to mention in a cover letter or interview (i.e., I’m adaptable, good at juggling priorities, etc.) but I feel stumped when it comes to the resume.

That itself is an achievement! Here are some examples of how to talk about this kind of thing (the details will vary based on your own situation, of course):

* Juggled multiple priorities to keep a busy campaign running smoothly and without crises during a time of staffing and budget cuts.
* Met 100% of deadlines for high volume of projects on a fast-paced team where priorities frequently changed.
* Managed X during period of financial difficulty, successfully steering team through funding cuts with minimal disruption.

You should still talk about other specific work outcomes you achieved, but this kind of thing can be one of them.

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thoughts on rejection from a hiring manager in a competitive field https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/thoughts-on-rejection-from-a-hiring-manager-in-a-competitive-field.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/thoughts-on-rejection-from-a-hiring-manager-in-a-competitive-field.html#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2021 18:59:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21014 This post, thoughts on rejection from a hiring manager in a competitive field , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

After last week’s letter from someone who was frustrated because she kept getting rejected for writing jobs, a hiring manager in a competitive field sent me this: We recently hired for a junior role in a competitive field at an organization with a globally recognized name and a reputation as a generous employer locally. I […]

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This post, thoughts on rejection from a hiring manager in a competitive field , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

After last week’s letter from someone who was frustrated because she kept getting rejected for writing jobs, a hiring manager in a competitive field sent me this:

We recently hired for a junior role in a competitive field at an organization with a globally recognized name and a reputation as a generous employer locally. I was the lead hiring manager and was shocked when we got ~200 applications for the role. I’ve never had to filter through more than a couple of dozen applications before.

This meant that our criteria (clearly laid out in the job description) became much stricter. Really promising people who wrote great letters and absolutely had the potential to do a great job were filtered out as we shrank the pool to 70, then to 12, then to inviting a final group to interview. Honestly, it kept me up at night and made me feel a bit sick to think of all the fantastic people we’d had to put on the “no” pile, many looking for their first break and some out of work during the pandemic but who just didn’t quite match up to the finalists — who all had more experience than we expected for applicants to this sort of role.

Even the interviews were tough, 100% of them were engaging conversations with really positive, great human beings. 80% of people we called to interview would have been able to slot fantastically into the role and performed well on the written test portion. But we only had one job to offer, so people who met all the criteria, who interviewed well, who tested well, and who we liked didn’t get the job.

It wasn’t their skills, it wasn’t who they were, it wasn’t that they interviewed badly, it was just that we had to make a call and we had to make it on very fine margins.

Trust me, I know that in a job search everything can feel personal or like failure. But I wanted to share this so people know that everything can go perfectly and they can still not get the job. The more competitive the role or the organization, the more likely that is.

I also wanted to add a personal note that rejecting people isn’t fun or something hiring managers want to do. I saw so much of my younger self in some of these applications and if I’d been in a position to give many of them a chance, I would have done. But that’s not how hiring works, it’s just a zero sum game. I make up for it by taking part in mentorship programs and training days at my alma mater to try and lower a ladder behind me.

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my employee debates every assignment https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-debates-every-assignment.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-employee-debates-every-assignment.html#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2021 17:29:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21011 This post, my employee debates every assignment , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a direct report who argues every change or new task that is assigned, including changes the entire team is being asked to comply with. She frequently argues that she feels some other team should be responsible for the task or complains no other team is having to do it and […]

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This post, my employee debates every assignment , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a direct report who argues every change or new task that is assigned, including changes the entire team is being asked to comply with. She frequently argues that she feels some other team should be responsible for the task or complains no other team is having to do it and says that she doesn’t understand why we do.

She will do this in meetings in front of others, and I have had other team members approach me about how it is uncomfortable it is to have to listen to her argue every little thing. What advice do you have on how I can curb the interruptions from these arguments and how I should approach her one-on-one about this issue?

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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I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/i-was-used-as-a-public-example-of-what-not-to-do-at-a-team-meeting.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/i-was-used-as-a-public-example-of-what-not-to-do-at-a-team-meeting.html#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2021 15:59:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21016 This post, I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Today we had our monthly team meeting, in which our managerial team usually chooses one topic to discuss and instruct the rest of the team on. Let’s say the work we do is llama grooming and today’s instruction was about the tone we use when writing the llama grooming documents. My grandboss, […]

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This post, I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Today we had our monthly team meeting, in which our managerial team usually chooses one topic to discuss and instruct the rest of the team on. Let’s say the work we do is llama grooming and today’s instruction was about the tone we use when writing the llama grooming documents. My grandboss, Chad, leads the meetings and today started by saying something along the lines of, “I was reminded of some issues related to tone when I was reviewing Ivy’s last llama grooming document, and I thought they’d be worth discussing as a group.” (Surprise! Ivy is me!)

He then proceeded to list several things that llama care writers like myself often do wrong or could improve upon, frequently peppering the instruction with things like “As I noticed in Ivy’s document, it’s often better to do X rather than Y” or “I was reminded of this issue when reviewing Ivy’s document.” None of the things he mentioned were Big Issues, more like subtle course corrections or ways to more effectively communicate the right ideas.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of this, he said “Ivy, I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you. Your writing is very strong!” to which I just didn’t respond because a) it was a Zoom call, so it wasn’t as though we were in the same room and I just didn’t say anything, and b) I had no idea what to respond with, because I felt VERY picked on.

To say the least, it was very uncomfortable, embarrassing, and demoralizing to consistently be referred to in front of the whole team in relation to things we shouldn’t do, and now I’m left worrying about whether the rest of the team even views me as a competent asset to the team or takes me seriously after listening to a recitation of my missteps and areas to improve in.

Chad had already given me this feedback via email and I thanked him for it and have implemented it in other documents, so having my weaknesses aired in a team meeting felt decidedly not great. There is absolutely no reason he couldn’t have just said, “Here are some things I’ve noticed that could be improved as I’ve reviewed the team’s documents” and left me out of it completely, and I’m so upset that he didn’t do that. My close colleagues who are also llama care writers privately expressed their outrage to me that he’d used me as a public example like that, but nobody from the managerial team seemed to think it was inappropriate. Unfortunately, the one manager who I feel confident would have my back on this wasn’t in the meeting, so going to her for advice isn’t really an option.

Is it worth shooting Chad an email to tell him that I was very uncomfortable by the way he handled this situation? We’re remote right now, so a face to face discussion isn’t possible, and even if it were, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that. Chad is always saying that he wants us to give him feedback and call out when he messes up or could improve, but I have little faith that me saying anything would even have a positive effect (which is a whole separate issue in and of itself). Telling him that I was uncomfortable with the way the meeting went would be more about catharsis for me than it would be about expecting change from him, but should I do it anyway? If so, how exactly do I say “I think it was highly inappropriate of you to use me as an example like that and please never do it again” in a professional way?

Yeah, that’s not good.

It’s very possible — even likely — that Chad thought it was okay to use you as an example because he thinks it’s obvious that your work is strong and/or that these weren’t serious issues. He might have figured it would be clear to you and others that this wasn’t “Ivy sucks,” but rather “here’s how to take something already good and make it even stronger.”

It’s still not okay though. As you said, he could have made the same points without naming you. Or he could have checked with you beforehand to see if you’d mind and to let you know where he was coming from.

Of course with the way he did it, you felt singled out and embarrassed. Does Chad … perhaps have a track record of not seeming entirely in tune with how most humans work?

As for whether it’s worth saying anything: If you felt comfortable talking with Chad about it and believed it would have an impact, I’d say yes. Sometimes managers have blind spots and are receptive to people pointing them out, especially when they’ve injured someone. But you said doing that would be more about catharsis than expecting any real change from him, and if that’s the case, it depends on how much you want that catharsis, how much political capital you’re willing spend on getting it, and how open to feedback Chad really is (not just how much he says he is).

But if Chad has a history of taking feedback about himself reasonably well, there’s value in saying, “This didn’t sit right with me. Can you please not do it again?”

Another option is to talk to your direct manager and ask her to talk to Chad. It’s perfectly appropriate to take something like this to your own manager, and talking to a third party can feel a lot less emotionally loaded anyway. (Also, you said, “The one manager who I feel confident would have my back on this wasn’t in the meeting, so going to her for advice isn’t really an option.” Is that your manager or someone else? Either way, you can ask advice from her even though she wasn’t in the meeting; just explain what happened. And if she’s your manager, you definitely should.)

My guess, though, is that Chad lacks emotional intelligence, and that can play out in two different ways: He could be horrified to learn he embarrassed you and will want to apologize and try to fix it (like by correcting the record at the next team meeting). Or he’ll think you’re being overly sensitive and won’t see anything to fix. You probably know which of these is more like Chad — let that guide what you do next.

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can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature, stuck paying for a business hotel, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/pronouns-business-hotel-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/pronouns-business-hotel-and-more.html#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2021 05:03:16 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21015 This post, can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature, stuck paying for a business hotel, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature? My employee recently added pronouns to his signature line: (he/him). Can I ask him to remove this from his signature? It seems highly unprofessional, especially in our industry. Please don’t. It’s not […]

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This post, can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature, stuck paying for a business hotel, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature?

My employee recently added pronouns to his signature line: (he/him). Can I ask him to remove this from his signature? It seems highly unprofessional, especially in our industry.

Please don’t. It’s not unprofessional.

There’s a growing movement to include pronouns in things like email signatures to create a more inclusive environment for trans and non-binary employees. Your employee may be signaling support and inclusivity and/or may have encountered people misgendering him.

If this feels out of sync with your company, the answer to that isn’t to tell your employee to stop doing something inclusive; it’s to push your company to evolve. If you’re not up for doing that, you at least shouldn’t stand in your employee’s way.

2. Stuck paying for my own hotel for business travel

I work sales for a mid-size company. I was sent on a sales trip, and the company booked a room at the hotel. Unfortunately, due to airline delays, I arrived at the hotel three hours too late and the room was no longer available. The hotel had no other rooms available. I went to another hotel and checked in with my own credit card.

When I got back, I had hoped to be reimbursed for my hotel stay. Instead I was informed that I stayed at a hotel that’s on the company’s excluded party list (a list of companies, agencies, people, etc. that the company does not do business with). I tried to explain that I was unaware that the hotel chain was on the list and this all happened at 2 in the morning when I didn’t have time to call the company and have them get me a room somewhere else or tell me what local hotel was okay. I’m am aware there’s a list, but I didn’t know about this chain and I was stuck. I think the company should at least reimburse me for 75%. Your thoughts?

Your company should reimburse you 100% unless you purposely chose something like the Ritz-Carlton when the Doubletree was available. And even if you did that, they should still reimburse you whatever amount they normally would have paid.

It’s not reasonable that you should have to pay for your own hotel on a business trip simply because you were stranded without lodging at 2 am and weren’t able to check their excluded list. Ideally, sure, you would have checked the list. In reality, that’s not always practical, and a decent company would recognize that and make sure you’re not penalized just because you encountered a travel snafu that was out of your hands.

I would go over the head of whoever told you no and push this further.

3. My company is investing in me, but I don’t plan to stay

Before Covid, I was a freelancer in a fast-paced, competitive, and highly creative field. Due to my state’s strict lockdown rules, it is impossible for me to do that work until all restrictions are lifted. Even then, the chatter in the field is it could be a while before everyone is fully employed. I found a great part-time job working from home with a startup that, while in my wheelhouse, is not in my field. I had trouble adjusting to the more corporate aspects of the job, but after six months I am thriving. I went from part-time to full-time (after aggressively lobbying for it because I needed the money). Going full-time has meant more responsibility and more to do. That is great, as I like to be busy.

But recently I have been getting more to do that signals that they are making an investment in me, in hopes that I will be a long-term employee who will move up and take on a more senior role. The problem is, I plan to go back to my previous career the moment it is an option. I do enjoy the work here, but this was a stop gap. I am worried that if I signal my intent to leave in the future when my previous career becomes an option again, they could cut my hours or just fire me. If it matters, I do think I will be in this job for at least another 8-12 months.

Is it wrong of me to continue to take on more responsibility, knowing I will eventually leave? My boyfriend says I shouldn’t say anything, that it will be their problem to replace me when the time comes. But that feels wrong to me, they gave me a job when no one else was hiring, and it’s the reason we were able to keep our heads above water, and I like and respect everyone there.

Is there a way signal my intent to eventually leave, without damaging the position I am in now? Most of my contracts in my previous job never lasted more than 6-8 weeks, so this is officially the longest job I have ever had in my adult life. I think that is making it harder for me. I just don’t know that the best practice is here. Am I overthinking this?

Nah, it makes sense to be concerned that your company is expecting something different from you than what you’re planning, and that they’re investing in you based on that assumption.

But I would not alert them that you plan to leave as soon as you can. They probably wouldn’t fire you, but you’d risk a whole range of other less-than-desirable consequences, from being stuck with boring work for the rest of your time there to being at the top of the list if they need to lay people off. A good company won’t do that in a punitive way, but it can be the natural result of knowing you’re planning to leave. On top of that, you don’t currently have firm plans for any kind of timeline. No one can say for sure when your old field will pick back up again or how long it will take for you to get hired when it does. And who knows, maybe something will change in the meantime that will make you decide to stay where you are.

It would be different if you had firm plans to leave in two months. But “I hope to leave in about a year, but the timing is really up in the air” is not something you need to share right now.

4. Can my employer make me take a lunch break when I’m working from home?

I’ve been working from home for 10 months now, and am hourly.

Currently, hourly workers must request to work from home via an HR app each week. No big deal — the vast majority of the organization is currently working from home, and the approval is just a formality. We recently received an HR notification stating that hourly employees will start having to clock in and out electronically, with details forthcoming.

When we were in the office, we were forced to take a half-hour lunch, unpaid. I have not been doing this during this period of working from home. Maybe it will be addressed when login instructions are communicated, but I wonder if an employer can compel you to take an unpaid lunch when you’re not on the premises.

Yep, they can require you to take a lunch break even when you’re not on their premises. Some state specifically require employees to ensure that non-exempt employees take a lunch break after a certain number of hours of work, even if said employees are working from home. But even if your state doesn’t mandate it, your employer can choose to require it.

But if it’s not required in your state, you could tell your manager you’ve found you prefer not to take lunch and ask if you could start or end early so can skip lunch without incurring overtime. Depending on schedules and workflow in your office, that might be fine. But ultimately it’s their call.

5. Should I tell my boss I’m dealing with a chronic pain issue?

Over the last month or two, I’ve developed chronic pain that has required me to miss several days of work. I never know how bad each day will be until I wake up. This pain is centralized on my uterus/ovaries. I am working with doctors to try and figure out the cause, but diagnosis and treatment can take time.

I dont want to being any of this up to my manager. When I’ve had to take a random day off every three or four weeks, I’ll simply say via email I have a migraine or a stomach bug. But the pain has only been getting worse and I might need more days off and more frequently.

My manager and I have a friendly relationship. I’ve been using my allotted sick time and she previously has said I’m exceeding expectations but I am still relatively new (nine months). I also worry as pain associated with menstruation is often just associated with “being a woman.” However, I worry if I don’t address this soon, it will become more problematic if I need to take off additional time off. When I am working, I’m working slower. I haven’t had any issues with projects as my role is relatively flexible in terms of deliverable dates, but I know I’m only working at about 25 to 50% of what I would normally be doing.

Should I not bring this up until it becomes more problematic, if it ever does? Should I simply mention that I am dealing with some health issues and my output may be lower? Should I provide more specifics? With Covid, we could only have this talk via phone or email (my company does not turn our cameras on for any work calls).

Since it’s ongoing, it’s useful to let your manager know the general situation so that if you keep needing days off or she has noticed you seeming slower, she has some context for what’s going on. That’s better than her jumping to any other conclusions.

But you don’t need to go into detail. You could just say something like this: “I wanted to let you know that I’ve been dealing with a health issue. It’s nothing to worry about and I’m working with doctors to figure out how to treat it, but when it flares up I will sometimes need a day off or might seem a bit off my usual game. I don’t need anything in particular right now; I just wanted you to know the situation in case I end up needing additional days off or you notice anything seeming different.”

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weekend open thread – February 13-14, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-13-14-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/weekend-open-thread-february-13-14-2021.html#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2021 05:15:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20973 This post, weekend open thread – February 13-14, 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: Necessary People, by Anna Pitoniak. Two friends, one rich and one who’s had to work hard for everything she has, find themselves at professional odds when they […]

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This post, weekend open thread – February 13-14, 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: Necessary People, by Anna Pitoniak. Two friends, one rich and one who’s had to work hard for everything she has, find themselves at professional odds when they start working for the same cable news show and it becomes clear one of them only has her own interests at heart.

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

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-40.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/its-your-friday-good-news-40.html#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2021 17:00:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20975 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 literally been waiting for the day I get to share good news for good news Friday! I was very very unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of August. I was devastated as I loved my job and coworkers. […]

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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 literally been waiting for the day I get to share good news for good news Friday!

I was very very unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of August. I was devastated as I loved my job and coworkers. Plus, it was a new job title for me, as well as a role I had only been in for 11 months. Between that and the pandemic, not a lot was on my side. Well, I’m happy to say I was offered a 3-month contract role, with the same job title as I had before!

I have done a lot of soul searching the last few months and have had the opportunity to start new hobbies, develop hobbies that have been on the back burner and really look after my mental and physical health- something I haven’t done in ages. I am in a privileged position that my partner has a well-paying job that he loves, so we didn’t need my whole salary back. A contract position making a bit less is fine by us. Plus, I get to set my hours and days I work, so I can keep nurturing the things I love to do for fun. It’s for a well-known company that’ll look great on my resume in the future and I’m excited to recoup our savings and get back to work. Hopefully three months from now my contract will be renewed, but if not, at least I’ll have some savings while I find a new position.

2. I’ve been an avid reader for years, which helped me to realize how awful and toxic the small nonprofit I worked at’s Executive Director was. The last straw for me was when a colleague’s position was eliminated (2 years from retirement! in a pandemic!) for the flimsiest of reasons (budget was truly not an issue). I brushed off my resume and cover letter, made copious use of your tips for interviewing, and negotiated a remote position with an organization across the country that pays more and has much better benefits. During the interview process I was sure to ask about culture and why the position was open–I wanted to make sure it was a good fit before I committed. I’m so much happier than at my old job; it’s fabulous to be in a place that has thoughtful, supportive management and is transparent as possible in its decision making. 3 months in they’re clearly happy with my remote work, as they’ve just advertised two positions that can be fully remote (and are apparently very excited about the strong applicant pool they’re getting.).

3. Around this time last year, I applied for a job in my ideal field after two years’ freelancing. I was nervous as it was my first time interviewing in that two years, but the advice on your site was really valuable when preparing. I landed the job and negotiated working from home, which was a dealbreaker for me due to my location. After a year working at the company, I’ve just been promoted along with the biggest raise and the highest salary I’ve ever had! It’s been a horrible year for so many reasons but work has often been a welcome distraction, which I’ve never been able to say about a job before. Thank you very much for all the resources you provide – they’ve been so helpful when applying, and also for sense-checking and perspective when my workplace is confusing!

4. (Note about timeline: received in a few days before Christmas)

I’ve been an avid reader of Ask a Manager for several years – but have been taking a break for the past several months because reading about work and jobs grew too painful. You see, I loved my job working as in house counsel for a hospitality company and while this year has been a tough one, it has been particularly brutal for those of us working in hospitality. I thought I’d be marking my 5th year at this job this fall instead of getting a call from HR telling me my position had been eliminated (I’d been furloughed since the spring). I knew I enjoyed working for a company and practicing corporate law, and that I’m good at it, and I stuck to my guns in applying to new roles that fit this bill (instead of freaking out and applying to every law job I saw posted, including entry level ones that didn’t fit my experience, interest, or salary requirements). I had a few video interviews with places that weren’t good fits, and it was so hard to keep the faith at times. I want other readers to know it’s important to keep pressing onwards – last week, I received a job offer from a new (and even larger) company, doing the type of work I enjoy, and with colleagues who seem to be supportive and kind. Plus, I negotiated my salary and am now making 10% more than I was at my prior job.

This has been a surprise Christmas miracle after what’s been a long, trying year. Thanks for providing people like me with a forum to encourage other job seekers out there. I’ve been hoping I’d be able to contribute to your Friday Good News all year, and am thrilled now is finally my time!

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open thread – February 12-13, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-12-13-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/open-thread-february-12-13-2021.html#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2021 16:00:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20972 This post, open thread – February 12-13, 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 – February 12-13, 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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boss sends us daily sales pitches for a money management app, pressure for virtual socializing, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/boss-sends-us-daily-sales-pitches-for-a-money-management-app-pressure-for-virtual-socializing-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/boss-sends-us-daily-sales-pitches-for-a-money-management-app-pressure-for-virtual-socializing-and-more.html#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2021 05:03:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21006 This post, boss sends us daily sales pitches for a money management app, pressure for virtual socializing, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My boss is bombarding us with daily sales pitches for an app One of my bosses has made a money management app available as a perk for employees — think a Dave Ramsey program. She sends us daily emails strongly encouraging us to “sign up […]

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This post, boss sends us daily sales pitches for a money management app, pressure for virtual socializing, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss is bombarding us with daily sales pitches for an app

One of my bosses has made a money management app available as a perk for employees — think a Dave Ramsey program. She sends us daily emails strongly encouraging us to “sign up and take control of your cash!” I find these emails annoying and intrusive and bin them as soon as they come in. I have my own financial planner and thankfully don’t need this program, nor do I want to give any time (and, I suspect, any money) to an organization that’s as obnoxiously evangelical and gun toting as this organization is. And suggestions on how to handle? My younger staff is feeling a lot more intimidated about this than I am, and I’d like to support them.

I would bet money that this app has an affiliate set-up where your boss gets money for everyone who joins through her link, because there’s no other explanation for why she’s being so aggressive about it. Daily emails?!

This is no different than if she were aggressively hawking nutritional supplements or essential oils at work — it’s not okay, and it’s extra gross because she’s using her position of power both to access people (would anyone else be allowed to send daily sales emails to your team?) and to pressure you into signing up.

Do you have HR? If so, take it straight there; they’ll almost certainly put a stop to it. But otherwise, talk to her and say, “I’ve heard from some of my team that they don’t want to keep receiving pitches for this app — can we give people a way to opt out from messages about it?” Or: “I’m not planning to sign up for this app, and my team has said they’re not interested either. Can you leave us off any future messages about it?”

(If you’re uncomfortable doing that, talk to someone over her head. Or, since you said “one of my bosses,” talk to one of the others. It’s very unlikely the company will be okay with this.)

2. My boss wants us to do virtual socializing all the time

My supervisor, Bob, is very into the group socializing. When he was promoted, he said one of his biggest achievements was getting his entire department to attend after-work happy hours. Another boss leads the weekly virtual happy hour, but Bob attends to see who is there. We usually get an email filled with jokes and the some version of “Remember it’s not only a happy hour but a check-in. These are hard times with continued social distancing so I think we should all commiserate by getting together on a Friday for games and fun.” Some of these happy hours are okay, some are not fun at all. We’ve spent over an hour discussing power tools, people’s health issues, and whether or not recording work meetings is illegal, even after they decided to email our legal department.

In addition to this weekly Friday happy hour, there is a leadership lunch every Monday. That one I skip. Unsurprisingly, both of these have pretty low attendance outside the people who feel forced to attend. The director, deputy director, and other bosses attend every week and have discussed how to increase participation. Some ideas were turning the first half into a weekly highlight meeting, continually mentioning that the bosses are there, and individually polling people who aren’t participating and asking why (personally I’m hoping for this option because a higher-up friend doesn’t drink and wants to point out that happy hours are discriminatory).

Bob has also mentioned that he feels bad for me and another coworker because we’re young and live alone, so he wants to help us be social. We have friends and family to call or even see outside socially-distanced (I talked to my coworker about this, and he feels the same).

I’m one of the younger and least senior people in the department, so I’m not sure how much pull I have. I also just started in July. Is there a good way to explain that people just don’t want to do these mandatory social activities after work every single week? Do you have any other advice or suggestions I can make to supervisors who are insistent we need to socialize? So far I was thinking of switching the weekly events to monthly, but that’s my only idea.

Suggesting switching from weekly to monthly is good, but it’s also okay to just bow out. You can say you have other commitments outside of work — maybe your family has a regular Zoom call every Friday after work or you’ve joined a book club that meets then or your friends have a standing virtual meet-up then or so forth. And if Bob makes another comment about how you must be lonely, you can say, “Just the opposite — if anything, I have Zoom fatigue from how often I’m talking to family and friends these days.”

You can also address it more directly: “I’m wiped by the end of the day and it’s tough to do another Zoom call. I appreciate the invitation, but at the end of the day I usually need to sign off and deal with things around my house that are waiting for me.”

That said, it can be a good idea to attend this kind of social event occasionally — like once a month or once every couple of months — so that you don’t seem totally out of sync with your team culture (which is annoying, but the reality of it). But you don’t need to stay for the whole time — you can hang out for 20 minutes and then need to call the kid you’re tutoring or go make dinner or so forth.

3. How will I give two weeks notice when my UK-based company thinks three months is normal?

I am U.S.-based, but work for a company abroad (UK if it matters). While there are a few U.S. offices of the company, I’m the lone U.S. person on my fully UK-staffed team. I’m not based in any of the U.S. offices either, I’m a fully remote employee.

In a discussion the other day, someone mentioned that another person resigned and gave “only” four weeks notice. They seemed quite upset over that, and seemed to be judging the person harshly for it. Upon further investigation, I learned that at my company, most people have three-month notice periods! While I know employment in the U.S. is at-will, and I’m not contractually obligated to a notice period of a certain length like my UK colleagues, how would I go about resigning? It would probably leave a bad taste if I gave them the customary two weeks, but I’m not sure I could tell my new employer that I would need three months to start! Is there a graceful way to go about this that wouldn’t ruin my reputation? Despite the company’s being abroad, they are still well known in the industry, and recommendations and connections are too valuable to lose one this.

Do you have a good relationship with your boss? If so, you could use the conversation you were just in as a way to raise this — explain what you heard and say, “I want to make sure you know that our resignation periods in the U.S. are generally much shorter; two weeks is the standard here. I don’t have any plans to leave, but assuming it will happen at some point down the road, I want to make sure our notice periods won’t be a shock to anyone.”

Otherwise, when you resign, you can say something like, “I’m sure you know our resignation periods in the U.S. are much shorter — two weeks is the norm. Jobs here generally expect new hires to start pretty quickly because of that.” (That said, if you can swing a month instead of two weeks, it would likely help — and in a lot of fields, that wouldn’t be weird to ask for.)

4. My manager won’t stop commenting on my injury

I suffered a torn ACL recently, which has necessitated me providing my workplace with documentation regarding my doctors’ appointments and workplace limitations. Although my supervisor means well, I feel she is crossing personal boundaries by asking me on a regular basis what my pain levels are on a given day.

A few weeks ago, I privately told her that although I know she has good intentions by asking me about my pain, I am a very private person and would prefer to keep details of my injury to myself. I did share with her that on any given day, my pain levels vary. To be honest, I am not sure why there is a workplace need for this information and think she may just have an issue with boundaries.

Lately, she has stopped asking me about my pain levels, but when we were walking into a conference room yesterday, she exclaimed, “Wow, you’re walking so well today!” She makes other similar comments on a regular basis. I understand she is coming from a good place, but I’m embarrassed by her publicly drawing attention to me, and I don’t exactly know how to react when she says things like this.

Since I have tried to address this a few times with her with no success, should I just grin and bear her comments? In our department she has no one higher up.

I don’t think you need to grin and bear it. It sounds like she’s trying to be kind and concerned about you, but she’s not reading your cues at all, even after you pretty much spelled it out.

But it sounds like she was receptive to the earlier conversation (she just didn’t extrapolate enough from it), so I’d try another one. You could say, “I should have been clearer earlier — I appreciate your concern about my injury but I would prefer not to discuss it at work at all, including things like how I’m walking or X or Y. Thanks for understanding!”

If you want, you could even say, “I’m trying not to think about it and when you comment on it, it gets me focusing on it again.” But you don’t need that explanation.

5. Should I give feedback to an overly enthusiastic and unprofessional intern candidate?

My company is hiring four interns (for a university placement year) to work in my department. The four roles are exactly the same and one of the basic requirements is that you must have excellent written skills. The interns will end up reporting to me and the three other managers in the department (one intern per manager). Right now the candidates are going through screening calls with our recruitment team and will be slimmed down into a pool for us managers to interview.

I got a rather enthusiastic message from one candidate on LinkedIn, which I would usually ignore, but the tone of the message was so off-putting, that I was deciding whether to give them some polite feedback. What do you think? This is an edited version of what they sent me:

Hi, it’s Sansa! I hope you are well! I am interested in the job opening currently at your comoany, infact I had just given my phone interview yesterday! I’d like to get some advice on the next steps and what all you did in order to land this amazing job :) Would love to have chat with you x

There was an emoji thrown in too. And yes, that’s a kiss at the end. I kept the spelling mistakes in too.

I know that LinkedIn is a fairly casual networking place, so I could ignore this message, but I was wondering if it was worth letting them know that if they are going to message a connection to the role, it’s usually best to err on a more professional tone the first time you reach out?

Eh, I could argue it either way. As a general rule, it’s not a good use of your time to give unsolicited feedback to job applicants (there’s so much you could give, you don’t know if people even want it, and ultimately it’s not what you’re being paid to spend your time on) … but interns are a little different since they’re generally at the start of their careers and by definition are trying to learn more about the work world. There’s more room there to offer feedback if you want to.

Also, that is an astoundingly odd message on multiple counts — the spelling errors, the kiss (!), the content itself — which makes me more inclined to want to help. (With a more experienced candidate, it would make me less inclined because I’d figure if she hadn’t learned those things by this point, a single email from a stranger wouldn’t change anything … but again, interns are different.)

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