Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Sat, 05 Dec 2020 06:45:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 weekend open thread – December 5-6, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/weekend-open-thread-december-5-6-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/weekend-open-thread-december-5-6-2020.html#comments Sat, 05 Dec 2020 06:00:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20510 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: Mother Land, by Leah Franqui. An American newlywed in India tries to adjust to her mother-in-law moving in with her. * I make a commission if you […]

weekend open thread – December 5-6, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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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: Mother Land, by Leah Franqui. An American newlywed in India tries to adjust to her mother-in-law moving in with her.

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

weekend open thread – December 5-6, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: will it hurt my chances of getting hired if I can only do video interviews? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-will-it-hurt-my-chances-of-getting-hired-if-i-can-only-do-video-interviews-2.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-will-it-hurt-my-chances-of-getting-hired-if-i-can-only-do-video-interviews-2.html#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 19:59:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20533 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer who was worried she was less likely to get hired if she could only do video interviews? (#2 at the link) Here’s the update. It’s […]

update: will it hurt my chances of getting hired if I can only do video interviews? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who was worried she was less likely to get hired if she could only do video interviews? (#2 at the link) Here’s the update.

It’s been a little over a year since you published my question about remotely interviewing for a job in a different country, and oh my goodness, it almost feels like a completely different world, doesn’t it?! For a company to turn up their nose at doing Zoom interviews now is almost unfathomable. What a wild year it’s been since then.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my first update, I applied to a great job at a company who didn’t bat an eye at the prospect of interviewing me remotely, and I got the job! :) That was mid-December of last year, I moved to the UK on the 7th of January and started at my new job on the 8th. It was, in a word, incredible. I managed to find a flat and moved in just ten days later, I attended our industry’s biggest annual conference in London, I joined a few fellow new hires for a day at our main London office, I made very good friends with several people, and then in mid-March our entire company highly encouraged all employees to work from home if at all possible – I ended up being one of about 20 people left in an office of 120. We knew the lockdown was coming though, so all our managers began helping us check, configure and setup things at home so we’d have plenty of time to fix or solve any issues before the official order to stay at home came out. We were also allowed to take literally anything we wanted from the office, just as long as we notified the office manager; I took a monitor and a few cables (plus several office plants) but I had coworkers who took literally everything, including the office chair. It was brilliant.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been tough, but it’s been tough for everyone, you know? And I can say with absolute certainty that I got this job at the exact right moment. I had enough time after arriving in the UK to properly rent a flat, take a couple of work trips, arrange all my legal documents, and setup my bills and internet connection, all that before the world fell into chaos. If I were still in my home country I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened to me – the nature of my old job required me to be at the office from Monday to Friday, so my coworkers were still having to take (highly overcrowded) public transport and work at the office until around mid-April, which is insane – whereas my new company is extremely supporting of all of us, highly concerned with our mental well-being, have been extremely accommodating of any needs, reimbursed people who had to purchase office equipment, have been keeping us updated in regards to our financial gains and losses, and overall made minimal cuts in the staff by simply not replacing the few coworkers who left for better opportunities in the past few months. They’re not perfect and have made a few mistakes during this process, but considering everything they’ve done and are still doing (and how earnest I know the leadership team is in making things as least bad to everyone as possible) I feel like they’ve handled things honourably by owning up to the mistakes made and being sincere in their wishes to fix things and avoid the same mistakes going forward. As a good example of how well things have been handled, I have ADHD, and due to working from home I’ve struggled with keeping focus and being as productive at home as I am in the office, and my boss has been super understanding and has been doing all that she can to help me through it. Overall it’s been a blessing and a privilege to work for this company and I’m so happy to have found such an amazing group of people that have definitely made getting through this crazy year that much easier, all things considered.

All of this also means that I passed my probation period in July with flying colours! I’m enjoying the work very much; It’s challenging, the customer I work with is really kind, and the product I provide support to is incredible and has won several industry awards. I’m very proud of the work we do and have not regretted my decision to take this job in the least, which is SO refreshing to be able to say! The hardest part is how much I miss my family, but I’m finally going home in December for three and a half weeks to spend the end of the year Holidays with them, and I’m counting down the seconds!

Thank you so much Alison, your blog is a welcome reprieve and a soothing balm as always. May you and all the readers have a lovely end of the year season, and here’s hoping that things start getting back to normal as soon as possible in 2021 ❤

update: will it hurt my chances of getting hired if I can only do video interviews? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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updates: the social boss, knowing when to lean out, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-the-social-boss-knowing-when-to-lean-out-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-the-social-boss-knowing-when-to-lean-out-and-more.html#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 17:59:10 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20596 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My boss wants to hang out socially to improve our relationship As I’m sure many of the updates go this […]

updates: the social boss, knowing when to lean out, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss wants to hang out socially to improve our relationship

As I’m sure many of the updates go this year, COVID-19 hit my company pretty hard. To their immense credit, they funneled resources into keeping all employees safe and on staff. And new distancing restrictions meant pretty much all socializing was off the table, bowling included. Leah and I saw a lot less of Jane on a daily basis, which let us breathe a little bit easier at work, and clients canceled a lot of the projects we were working on, so there was less to do (and to disagree about) overall. I stepped up the friendly chat at work as you suggested, which I do think helped a bit, though the tone overall was pretty grim when we got back.

Leah and I also asked for a meeting with Jane, where we acknowledged that things had been tense and confusing. There had been many projects where she jumped in at the last minute to correct something we thought she had explicitly told us to do. We thought we might be able to better produce the results she wanted if she was willing to share her goals for the department and what her supervisors had told her to address- these were points from the comments I hadn’t considered before. Jane listened, shared a few long-term intentions that sounded good, and expressed a desire to be able to work together more effectively. But for now, she needed us to listen to her instructions- which always seemed clear, until she checked back in and announced everything was wrong. Then on the next assignment, we’d get a longer conversation with ever-more-specific instructions.

Following that meeting and a few more cycles of the familiar pattern, I ended up thinking a lot about the long-term direction I wanted to take. I realized that much as I loved my original position, it was a specialized dead end with little room to expand skills I could apply outside of this particular field and office. Moreover, following additional conversations with Jane about her goals for my position, it became clear she wanted to further specialize me, removing some qualities of the job that originally attracted me to it. With the company’s budget tight anyway and not much to do for the foreseeable future, this seemed like the perfect time to move on. I found a new position in a different field, where I am gaining a variety of skills that I hope will make me a more rounded and attractive candidate to future employers and open up more possible paths. Thank you for the advice and to all the wise commenters.

2. How do you know when to “lean out”?

Thanks so much for publishing my question last March – it was really helpful to get so many different perspectives from the comments. The week you published my letter, I had been sick with a fever and a dry cough for about seven weeks (in retrospect, my doctor suspects it was quite possibly an early case of COVID-19, but I could never swing any time off for a sick day for myself so we’ll never really know), and a few days later I missed my kiddo’s first steps because of work, and I knew I was done. I gave notice a few days before my state went on COVID lockdown – my firm was surprised, but we parted on ok terms, all things considered. I took the work-from-home job in spite of my misgivings about how it might affect my career development, and in these incredibly weird times it has turned out to be one of the better professional decisions I’ve made. Without getting overly detailed, I can say that I’m still engaged in interesting work, and the business unit I’m a part of is growing rapidly (in part because of COVID’s effect on workplaces) so there is a lot more room for advancement in the future than I originally anticipated.

Also, with the benefit of time and (finally) some sleep, I’ve realized that a big chunk of the problem was that I probably wasn’t ready to be back at work at all when I wrote to you – giving birth was physically tough on me, kiddo never slept so I was chronically sleep deprived (we went 17 months before kiddo got a full night’s sleep on their own), and my brain was utterly scrambled from stress and hormones and lack of sleep. Obviously I can’t speak for every new parent, but I definitely would’ve benefited from a longer leave and better part-time options, instead of feeling like my only choice was to find a new job. Working life is long, and the idea that a place that supposedly wanted me to stay for the rest of my career would let one rough year define my prospects is discouraging, to say the least, but it’s only reinforced my choice to find a job that fits my life instead of trying to change my life to fit a job.

3. Did I mishandle phone tag with an employer? (#5 at the link)

So, it’s been 6 years since I wrote in. And I’ve gotten 2 new jobs, with one successful job search. (With the first, I was hired by my manager when after she got a new job.) I still have problems with my anxiety, but I’m in a much better place with my mental health then I was when I originally wrote in. I did find a good treatment for my anxiety, but nothing is perfect, and there will always be really good times, and less good times. I’m starting the second new job in a couple weeks, and It’s all phone and talking, in spite of my anxiety. I had to make the choice between physical and mental health, and this time due to an overwhelming number of factors in the pro column, like getting a job that will force me to work on this anxiety trigger while saving money from work related expenses, getting a wfh job won out. I plan on finding a way (probably an android app) to monitor my emotions, so that I can take any steps needed to work on my stress level. Also, in the last 4 years, I’ve found a lot more confidence, in part thanks to reading your blog.

4. My boss is a jerk — but only to me

The situation never improved with my boss. I think that she has deep-seated emotional issues and enjoys being cruel on some level. For example, in August 2019 when we hired a new grandboss to replace our retiring one, she asked me to give new grandboss a training on what I do. When grandboss asked my direct boss a follow-up question about the session, my direct boss pulled me into a meeting and berated me, asking if I understand the basics of my job. I almost cried right there. Finally in November 2019, I was contacted by a fintech firm in the area for a role that is my boss’s equivalent. The interview process took less than a week and when I received the offer, I didn’t even wait for them to check references – I told her immediately and long story short, she told me to leave that same day. She told everyone else in the department later that HR insisted I leave, which was a lie – I gave my exit interview over video to HR the next day and they were shocked that she had made me leave, and even intimated to me that she’s had a ton of complaints. I already knew that everyone in my department hated her, but it was gratifying to hear from HR as well. Anyway, I’ve been at this new job since November 2019 and I have an absolutely fantastic boss.

Anyway, now for the good part. We hired another employee, a peer of mine also reporting to her, in September 2019 from a bank in the area. He’s much older than me and almost immediately he said that our boss was the worst he had ever dealt with by far. Whenever people would reach out to him on LinkedIn for a job at our company, he would tell them to look elsewhere and that they “wouldn’t want to work here.” He had words with her in several meetings when she would try to shut him down, and he would point out that actually, he had years of experience and was not an idiot. When she would scream at him for misnaming a file that no one would ever see, he fought back. Finally he was called into a meeting with both her and our grandboss, and long story short, he ended up cursing out my boss and asking her, “How do you expect me to work when you speak to me so full of hate?” He quit right there (with nothing lined up – that’s how much he wanted out), but my direct boss apparently tells everyone she fired him.

What’s really disheartening though is that my direct boss has since received a “senior” promotion in her title. It makes me really sad about the working world – that someone can have so many complaints and be such an abject horrible person but still make it. I just hope karma catches up – at least everyone in the company knows now that she’s an awful human being. I’m going to take what I learned and if I ever have a direct report that is causing so many issues, I’ll take care of it.

updates: the social boss, knowing when to lean out, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/its-your-friday-good-news-30.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/its-your-friday-good-news-30.html#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 17:00:56 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20612 It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I have spent the last 10 years working in education. Even though I have a license and my city constantly complains about a lack of teachers I couldn’t even get an interview because of a 15 year old shoplifting […]

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

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It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I have spent the last 10 years working in education. Even though I have a license and my city constantly complains about a lack of teachers I couldn’t even get an interview because of a 15 year old shoplifting charge. I finally got a position in a school essentially working as a teacher but at an assistant’s salary. One of my coworkers told me about a company hiring with a reputation for hiring educators. On a whim I applied right before COVID hit. I ended up interviewing remotely and accepting a position in April for twice the money and half the stress. Today I received my second quarterly review and things are going great. I enjoy my job, I feel valued, and I am able to continue working from home as long as I need to feel safe ( a big bonus most schools in my area are back to in person classes and due to previous health issues I have no real immune system, last year I was sick from November to February). Thank you for your wonderful advice, which I definitely relied on heavily during the interview process.

2. I work in central registry services for a famous university in London.

They have been EXCELLENT about covid from the start – during the full lockdown they paid us all full wage but told us they understood that if we’re stuck at home with children/other responsibilities we can’t be fully effective, and we’re just to do what we can and not worry about taking time off or trying to make up the hours. And if we can’t work at all, to take the time off, and we’ll STILL be paid. Amazing.

Anyway, I’ve just received an email telling me I’m getting an honorarium in recognition of my contribution during covid! It’s about two weeks’ wages. I’m thrilled and feel very supported. I was one of those who needed to use the flexibility over lockdown; I worked two fewer hours each day in order to focus on childcare. So it’s even more amazing that they’d still consider me for a bonus.

I feel very lucky and I am now an extremely loyal employee!

3. Just wanted to finally share some good news of my own!

A few months ago, I asked for a promotion. After 2 years of designing, let’s say, teapots and going above and beyond in my role, I noticed I was getting exclusively positive feedback across my teapot projects. It was super exciting, and my boss made it clear I was valued. So, I told him based on my track record, I wanted a promotion. My other colleagues (white, male) were promoted about 6 months into their jobs. Meanwhile I completed several online courses, attended multiple conferences and gave workshops that were inline with my specialty at the company. It seemed pretty obvious that I earned a right to advance.

Well, a few days after asking, he, and 2 department heads ambushed me during a routine meeting. They told me I was totally wrong, that I needed to be placed on a PIP due to serious performance concerns. They said that after I interviewed for my role, they literally sat around and talked about “how much of a project” I was. They said they knew I would be a project, and they weren’t surprised I was being placed on a PIP. Mind you, I took on more teapot projects than my own supervisor, and played a lead teapot design role in a project that kicked off 3 months late. This was total BS – I was being retaliated against.

I later found out they had a pattern of doing this to women teapot designers who advocated for promotions but were not friends with management.

Things continued to slide downhill. A month later, I had my annual review. I was told I made no technical contributions during my time with the company. (I am in a technical role, full time). I was told my workshops were excellent, but they were an example of good public speaking and marketing skills. Apparently, I had potential doing admin work on their proposal team.. None of my contributions were acknowledged or valued. It felt sexist and condescending. I felt gaslit.

I started looking for a new job, leaning on my contacts heavily. I did informational interviews, attended virtual events, reviewed technical concepts related to my field… you name it. I put in 1-3 hours a day towards studying, writing cover letters, applying to jobs, taking interviews and doing informational interviews. Things got pretty busy.

Management realized I was looking for a job because my PTO usage went through the roof. The department head called me in for a meeting to let me know I was doing a great job during my PIP. So great, they wanted to give me a 3% raise and let me know I was on track to promotion in 3 months. What BS. First my contributions have no value. Now I’m on track to promotion and getting a raise during a PIP. Hmm. Seems fishy.

By this point I was a finalist for a teapot specialist role at 2 companies, and I ended up getting 2 offers. Both of my offers were 20% above my current pay grade. Plus, I networked with some pretty awesome women teapot specialists, and expanded my network. So I accepted the better offer! I start my new job in December, and I could not be happier :)

It was really harrowing for me, especially because it was the first time I ever asked for a promotion. I sacrificed as much of my personal time as possible to Get Stuff Done. I was constantly stressed, wondering if I would get terminated before finding a job. I was so angry and hurt that management would treat my contributions like they had no value. Getting two competitive offers gave me a ton of closure. I feel like I can move on, and up. :)

4. This summer, my years of reading Ask a Manager finally paid off in a big way! I was getting frustrated in my current job due to some toxic coworkers and wanted to start exploring other opportunities. I cleaned up my resume, using your advice, and marked myself as “open to opportunities” on LinkedIn and off I went. I was contacted by the hiring manager for what sounded like a role that was similar to what I was currently doing but it would allow me to move closer to family, something I wanted to do. Using all your advice, I went through the interview process, crushed it, and was offered the job! I negotiated for a relocation bonus and a higher salary and I got the salary I wanted!

In the new role, I have a direct report. This is my first time managing anyone. I have a lot to work on (already seeing some places where I can improve communication) but I’ve started off strong thanks to your advice. My manager sat in on a 1:1 meeting between me and my direct report and had really positive things to say about my communication with my direct report. Thanks for providing me the knowledge that got me off to a great start in my new job!

5. In case there’s anyone who doesn’t know yet how valuable your advice is, I used your materials and instructions to get a new job 2 years ago – after 17 years at my previous job. After being at the same company for so long, I was really nervous about finding another job. The new job included a substantial jump in salary, and I loved the work, the culture, and the company’s mission.

Unfortunately I was laid off from this really great job in April, but I used your advice again, and I’m now in my second week at my new job. I am getting the same salary (which is what I asked for), and even though it’s harder to start a new job remotely, the people I’m working with are doing their best to make it easier for me, and I’m really enjoying the work.

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

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open thread – December 4-5, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/open-thread-december-4-5-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/open-thread-december-4-5-2020.html#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 16:00:28 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20505 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. * […]

open thread – December 4-5, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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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.

open thread – December 4-5, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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interviewer pressed me about politics, I was undercover-bossed, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/interviewer-pressed-me-about-politics-im-not-getting-jobs-friends-refer-me-to-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/interviewer-pressed-me-about-politics-im-not-getting-jobs-friends-refer-me-to-and-more.html#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2020 05:03:22 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20653 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Interviewer pressed me about the presidential election I had my first job interview since the pandemic started. It took place the day after Election Day. After the usual small talk of hi and thank you’s, the hiring manager proceeded to talk about the presidential election […]

interviewer pressed me about politics, I was undercover-bossed, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Interviewer pressed me about the presidential election

I had my first job interview since the pandemic started. It took place the day after Election Day. After the usual small talk of hi and thank you’s, the hiring manager proceeded to talk about the presidential election results and asked what I thought about all the allegations being thrown about, before voicing their support for one of the candidates. They kept saying “don’t you agree?” I was stunned, but chuckled awkwardly and thanked them a second time for the opportunity to interview. The hiring manager commented on my non-answer and said, “I guess we’re not going to get an answer.” The interview then turned tense — they asked me one question and let me ask one question of them before abruptly cutting the interview short (it was scheduled for an hour as it was a higher level role, but lasted less than 15 minutes). The hiring manager emailed me around 3 am the next morning saying they hired another candidate. I know I dodged a bad situation, but what is a good way to handle things like this in the future? I’ve never had an interviewer ask me to comment on politics. Also, the job had nothing to do with politics or writing about politics. It was for a business operations and logistical type role.

That’s incredibly inappropriate — but just as the interview is supposed to be an opportunity for them to learn about you, it’s also an opportunity for you to learn about them. And you learned a lot about their (lack of) professionalism and boundaries, and what it would probably be like to work there. They were rude and wasted your time, but it’s good that they didn’t hide any of that until you were actually working there. (Also, I love that the rejection email was at 3 am — was the hiring manager stewing about it in the middle of the night?)

If something like this happens again, any polite answer is fine because a reasonable interviewer will accept it. One who doesn’t is giving you important info. Personally I’d go with “Ha, I know better than to discuss politics in an interview!” or “You’re not going to get me talking about that in a first meeting” — said cheerfully and as if of course that will be the end of it. If they actually do have good reason for asking — the job is more political than you realized, for example, or you are actually interviewing for a lobbying job and no one told you that — they can explain at that point.

2. I was undercover-bossed

I work in the healthcare field. After a period where our clinic was without a permanent supervisor, we were notified that a new supervisor had been hired and would be starting in the next month or so but not given much other information. One day, two coworkers and I were working in a common area and were approached by a woman who struck up a conversation with us. Our clinic has employees who work in and out of the office, and there are always new faces and staff members I don’t always know. My coworkers and I asked this woman if she was new, some general questions about what position she had been hired for, and if she had started seeing clients. She gave vague answers but insinuated that she was working in the same program as us. The conversation was sort of strange since she was asking us a lot of questions about ourselves and our experiences working with the company, but I didn’t think too much of it.

After about 10 or 15 minutes of talking, she introduced herself as our new supervisor and launched into an explanation of how not revealing who she is when she first meets someone is a tool she likes to use to see if people will tell her things or be more open and honest with her if they don’t know her role when they first meet. My coworkers and I were astounded that she was using a strategy that we felt was deceitful and dishonest.

Since this first impression, I have had a hard time trusting this person’s intentions or feeling comfortable with her in her supervisory role. I keep thinking, “Is this a normal or acceptable way to start a professional relationship with employees?” Am I wrong for now having my guard up in my interactions with her?

It’s understandable that you feel wary and don’t fully trust her! She started your relationship by showing she was willing to deceive you.

And there’s not that much she could learn in 10-15 minutes of small talk! (Unless you were wildly unprofessional and starting dishing dirt on the company/colleagues/managers with a complete stranger. Was she hoping for that?) It’s true that sometimes people are different around the boss than they are with someone they don’t know, but not so often that it justifies starting the relationship off on the wrong foot. There are other ways to learn about a team you’re new to.

It’s possible that this isn’t representative of your new boss’s approach to the people she manages, but she’s going to have a harder time building trust with y’all than she would have had otherwise.

3. How do I leave without looking unreliable to my team?

Earlier this year, I was hired by a company abroad for a position that excites me (and would bring me closer to family) but travel restrictions prevented me from entering the country. The company said they would hold the job for me, as they really wanted someone with my skill set and experience, but they couldn’t afford to pay me in the interim (it’s not a job that can be done remotely). Having no idea how long travel restrictions would last, I started applying for temporary work until borders reopened.

One day, I got a call from a manager who had seen my application for a temporary job at a sister company. He said he was extremely impressed and invited me to interview for a permanent position with him. I was up-front with him about the job abroad and how I was only applying for temporary positions, but he responded positively. He said having someone with my experience on his team for even a little bit would benefit the entire organization and that he hoped I would consider it. He put in writing that I would be released from my contract and duties when borders reopened, and I accepted the position. I felt incredibly blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity fall into my lap!

I love working under my manager, but I have not hit it off so well with most of my teammates. Many complain constantly about, well, everything, including Manager. There are a lot of office politics and negativity, and some seem to always have a problem with our manager’s decisions. I never mentioned the other job to anyone here because a) I had no idea how the corona situation would play out and b) I’ve tried to minimize chatting with coworkers because it is such a gossipy/negative environment.

Now, border restrictions have been eased and my original company is preparing for me to come within the next couple months. I have no problem talking with Manager about this, but I’m terrified about bringing it up with my teammates. If I just say I’m resigning but don’t mention my agreement with Manager, I worry I’ll look flaky and unreliable for leaving a contract job and damage my reputation. But if I do mention that Manager and I had an understanding, I’m worried I’ll be throwing him under the bus and some people will use this as further ammunition against him.

Thinking about having these conversations fills me with dread and anxiety. How do I break the news to not only my team, but the dozens of other people I also work with? Do I avoid mentioning Manager and just say that HR was aware of the situation? And can I wait until my visa paperwork is finalized, or am I obligated to bring it up now?

I think you are over-thinking this! Just be matter-of-fact: “Yeah, it was always intended as an X-month contract; we’d negotiated that from the start.” Say it casually and as if of course it’s no big deal, because it’s not. As for when, with this group I’d probably just treat it like any other resignation and announce it two weeks before you’re set to leave.

If you’re really worried they’ll somehow use this against your boss, you can check with him first — “is there any particular messaging you want me to use when I explain to people that I’m leaving and that our plan was always for the role to be short-term?” But really, if he wanted to hide this from them, you’d probably know (and he probably wouldn’t have done it).

4. How to withdraw from consideration because of a sexist hiring manager

One of my former coworkers, Theon, is trying to bring me on board at his current company. Theon and I always had a good working relationship, and are friendly outside of work as well. He also referred me to my current job and is a big cheerleader of mine, which I appreciate. I am reasonably happy where I am now, but always open to chatting about new opportunities, so I said I would consider it and asked if it made sense for him to submit my resume to get the ball rolling.

Instead of submitting my resume, he suggested that I call the hiring manager directly. This is how I found out that the hiring manager is Ramsay, another former coworker and the bane of my existence for the time that we worked together. I knew Ramsay worked at the same company as Theon, but when we all worked together, they were in a separate chain of command, so I assumed that would continue to be the case at the potential new gig. Not so.

Ramsay was, to put it plainly, a total nightmare to work with. Besides drawing a verbal sexual harassment claim from a woman at my current company, he was sexist in more “old-school” ways — for example, frequently asking younger women he didn’t manage to summarize information that he could easily find himself. He was also disrespectful of others’ time — scheduling last-minute, early-morning meetings including everyone under the sun, for non-urgent items, that he would then come late to/expect others to lead. He would also chastise his own employees about perceived mistakes in front of everyone in our small open office. I could go on.

Just having to work with this man gives me pause, but I could absolutely not tolerate him as my manager. How can I respectfully withdraw from consideration, without burning bridges with either Theon or Ramsay? (Ramsay also had a fairly high opinion of me, and is more senior/well connected.)

If you don’t want to get into the details with Theon, the easiest way is to just tell him you’ve thought it over and decided to stay in your current job for now.

Alternately, though, you could tell him the truth — anything from “I found Ramsay tough to work with at OldCompany so I’d be wary about working for him, but thank you for thinking of me” to “a lot of women found it tough to work with him” (if that’s true? it sounds like it is) to a more specific explanation of the problems you saw. How detailed to be depends on how candid you’re comfortable being with Theon … but there’s an argument for not being terribly concerned if Ramsay’s reputation follows him around.

As for Ramsay, if he already knows you’d been interested in the job, you could ask Theon to just explain you’ve decided to stay where you are. People decide that all the time, and it won’t be weird.

5. Announcing a pregnancy when I’m remote

I’m pregnant with my first child and will be far enough along to announce it at work in a couple of weeks (just waiting for the all-clear from my OB). Due to COVID, I’ve been working from home since March, although I have gone on site occasionally. I work with people in many different departments, and there’s a mix of people on-site most of the time, on-site some of the time, and fully remote.

I’d like some tips on etiquette for announcing my pregnancy. I already have routine status meeting with my boss over teleconferencing, so I’m planning to tell him then. But what about everyone else? Is it okay to share through a mass e-mail, through individual IMs, or should I set up specific telecons to discuss it with the groups who will be most impacted by leave? I’m at a senior individual contributor level, but there will be parts of my job that require a specific person dedicated temporarily, rather than just being absorbed by others in my group in a similar role.

I wouldn’t set up specific calls for the groups most impacted at this stage — that’s something that might make sense to do closer to when you go on leave but at this point you’re probably not talking specific logistics, just sharing the news. One way is to just share it with people as you talk with them — like saying at the end of a call, “I have some personal news to share.” But it’s also fine to send a mass email to your team. I wouldn’t do a company-wide email unless your company is pretty small, but if there are people on other teams you work with a lot, you can send them individual emails (“just to let you know / expect to be out from May – July / will talk details about coverage during my leave closer to then”).

interviewer pressed me about politics, I was undercover-bossed, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: my emotionally fragile employee is sobbing at work multiple times a week https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-emotionally-fragile-employee-is-sobbing-at-work-multiple-times-a-week.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-emotionally-fragile-employee-is-sobbing-at-work-multiple-times-a-week.html#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2020 21:00:02 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20530 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose emotionally fragile employee was sobbing at work multiple times a week? Here’s the update. Thank you, Alison, and the AAM community for your responses. […]

update: my emotionally fragile employee is sobbing at work multiple times a week was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose emotionally fragile employee was sobbing at work multiple times a week? Here’s the update.

Thank you, Alison, and the AAM community for your responses. I’ll admit that I was taken back by the intensity of the responses. It struck me that working in a mental/behavioral health agency for years had softened me a bit – more than I realized. I found myself defending Brenda to commenters, which was probably the thing I needed the most at the time. It actually put me in a mindset to be even more compassionate toward her.

When Brenda returned to the office, it was clear that she had used the time to tackle the issues that were causing her challenges with emotional control. With the additional time available, Brenda’s counselor and medical practitioner were able to more specifically diagnose a mental health issue and begin immediate treatment, which included changes to diet and other coping skills, as well as medical intervention. And even though the medicine would not take full effect for a couple of weeks, the difference was stark upon her return to work. While she was as kind, compassionate, and empathetic as usual, Brenda had control over her emotions again – and even more so than prior to the tough season that she had come through.

Regardless, I sat down with Brenda to discuss the affect that her emotions were having on those around her in the workplace – both on our team, but also with those in other departments. As expected, she was very receptive, and was committed to working within the boundaries that I set with her. We implemented a plan with steps that would be taken should her emotions get out of control – time away from her desk to take walks/get outside; shutting her office door occasionally to help with workload; working from home, if necessary; and even what an extended leave of absence might look like, should that become necessary. Brenda is really doing well – our team managed a busy hiring season very effectively, and we could not have done so without her.

Brenda will always be a feeler’s feeler… which, I’ll admit, is not particularly comfortable for me. But I am learning a lot about the way that both Brenda and I are each wired… and together we are working on ways for us to communicate even more effectively. And, as crazy as it sounds, Brenda was and is still very much beloved and respected by her colleagues. They all know that she wears her heart on her sleeve… but they also know that she is a very good worker, and more importantly, they know just how much she cares for each and every one of them. This is truly a special place to work.

update: my emotionally fragile employee is sobbing at work multiple times a week was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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updates: the religious music, the venting boss, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-the-religious-music-the-venting-boss-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-the-religious-music-the-venting-boss-and-more.html#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2020 18:59:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20573 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My office plays religious music throughout the building I did end up bringing my concern about the music to my […]

updates: the religious music, the venting boss, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My office plays religious music throughout the building

I did end up bringing my concern about the music to my boss, framing it around, “I’m worried because it’s playing when customers are here.” He agreed that it was concerning. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but about a month later the religious station seemed to fall off its weekly rotation.

And was replaced by Kidz Bop.

If you don’t know what that is: it’s a station that plays covers of hit music performed by children. The lyrics are changed to make everything super G-rated. While cringe-worthy in its own way, I don’t think anyone could possibly argue that it’s offensive.

I’m satisfied by the result, although I suspect the replacement was chosen as a passive-aggressive measure and not because someone really enjoys listening to bad covers all day.

2. My boss’s venting is stressing me out

Your advice really did help! So I planned to speak up about the general negativity of the meetings, but a few weeks passed without any majorly depressing meetings so I didn’t feel I could raise it retrospectively (Ron also made a passing comment about how social distancing was driving him mad and these meetings were ‘vital’ to him, which – although it didn’t change my mind about how inappropriate he was being – did make me suspect speaking up wouldn’t be well received). However I suggested we made the meetings less regular and a lot of people agreed – we’re down to three days a week, only for around 10 minutes unless there’s something important to discuss, and we all opt out of attending far more frequently.

(Some commentators also suggested I turn the sound down during the meetings if I didn’t need to be there, which was great advice!)

Overall, I still really doubt my boss’ judgement on these calls – his current thing is voicing certain opinions about political parties and the people who vote for them in a way which, while I do agree with him, I suspect would be incredibly alienating if someone who doesn’t share his opinions joined the team. However, I don’t have to hear his opinions as much as I did! I still go to the catch-ups regularly because important info about our work gets circulated during these meetings (and sometimes people forget to then share them through ‘official’ channels) but it was really reassuring just to be told by you and the commentators that I didn’t have to do all this emotional labour for my boss.

3. My boss is forcing me to work full-time while I’m laid off

The boss brought us all back part-time, though I am working about 55 hours a week for 20 hours’ pay. I was able to benefit from the supplemental unemployment of $600 for a few weeks before it expired, which allowed me to stock my freezer and get some breathing space, Business has picked up significantly, nearly what it was pre-pandemic levels, and I keep getting told that we can all go back to full time “soon,” which has yet to materialize. I am told every day how lucky I am to have a job, which is true, but I am updating my resume and thinking a lot about where the path will take me next. I don’t anticipate I will be here this time next year.

Thank you and everyone else for the encouragement!

4. I need time off work because of my husband’s alcoholism

I’d like to thank you for responding to my original message and also thank your readers for their comments. I suppose that in hindsight, I was concerned about what asking for time off would say about me as an employee who has the luxury to work from home during this time. Your advice gave me the confidence I needed to ask for time off and to know it’s ok not to share details, and that the circumstances for this request were valid. I asked my boss for a couple of days to take care of a personal matter as suggested, and she was great, she wished me luck and said she hoped all was well. I took this time to make sure my husband hadn’t suffered organ failure. He was lucky and is currently doing well and dealing with his demons. The trajectory of my relationship is now very different in many ways, but my career is on track, I’ve even been able to redeem myself after that disastrous presentation in the summer. Originally, I was focused on the career advice, but your readers also commented on the personal portion of my predicament, which was unexpectedly empowering. Again, thank you for your advice and to all your readers for their supportive comments.

updates: the religious music, the venting boss, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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updates: my older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-my-older-male-coworker-is-obsessed-with-my-weight-and-baby-plans-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-my-older-male-coworker-is-obsessed-with-my-weight-and-baby-plans-and-more.html#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2020 17:29:12 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20580 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. My older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans Unfortunately for readers – fortunately for me – […]

updates: my older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans

Unfortunately for readers – fortunately for me – there’s not much to report with Gary. Unbeknownst to me, at the same time I was writing to you, “Gary” was requesting a change of his scheduled hours. This coupled with the reduced hours our whole office is working, and I’ve not seen him other than waving from across the street one morning. I may have to see him at an in-person Christmas party, but I’m ready to shout from 6 feet away that it’s very weird he keeps asking me about my sex life!

2. My mom’s advice is ruining my sister’s job prospects

There’s good news and bad news.

When I wrote to you, my sister had a job as an assistant office manager. Since then, she’s been promoted to a project-based role that better reflects the work she was already doing and received a small raise. She’s still overworked and underpaid, and the company’s behavior is, on occasion, not great. But she can pay her bills. She seems determined to stay where she is for as long as she can. Given the current state of the economy, I think that’s a good idea. The lack of an active job hunt means that we’ve been able to table the issue of job hunting advice. When it does come up again, my plan is to have a serious conversation with our mom about how I know her heart’s in the right place, but that her job advice is counter-productive in the world of contemporary office work.

I did point my sister toward different resources that were recommended in the comments, many of which were excellent. She brushed them off. I get the feeling she’s given up on finding a more fulfilling or stable job. Lately when we talk about work, we talk about how a job doesn’t have to define you; it can just be a way to pay the bills.

One thing I did want to clarify is the nature of my financial responsibility to my sister. A lot of people in the comments seemed shocked by the arrangement, suggested it might be cultural and encouraged me to set boundaries or transfer financial responsibility for my sister to my mom. For the record, I take care of my sister because she needs taken care of, and I’m the only person in our family who’s in a position to do so. I hope that’s not an unamerican concept. I wish, for her sake, that she was more financially secure, but I don’t have a problem being her safety net.

Thanks again for checking in and for confirming that the situation is as untenable as I suspected. And thank you to all the commenters who jumped in and tried to help.

3. My boss micromanages us when we work from home (#2 at the link)

Isn’t it crazy how I wrote to you about WFH struggles on March 10th, and then the pandemic was declared on March 11th sending us to WFH for good? Our last day in the office was March 12th, and I took it upon myself to begin to ask “I’m wondering if we can discuss a new system now that this is going to be every day for the next few weeks…” (little did I know it would be months!) and I was totally ready to gently begin the dialogue you suggested in your response. But, before I could even continue, he said “yeah we’re gonna have to think of a new way…maybe just checking in every couple of days instead”. I was floored, took it as a total win, and said OK! I think he was panicked by the pandemic and was pushed to realize we’re being asked to pick up our entire in-office functions and move our work into our homes (rather than someone simply wanting to WFH), and shifted into more of a survival, ‘let’s get through’ this mode.

It was such a relief to not have to do daily pre-lists and reports, and I was totally fine checking in every couple of days since there was no additional mental load on my end (I just caught him up on the progress I was making/general status updates). He quickly realized we’re all functioning as if we were in the office and the check-ins ended up going down to once per week, and were mostly just catching up on life and working out anything that needed manager review or approval, rather than actually discussing the nitty-grittys of what I had been spending my time on.

So, a big thank you to your support on this, but I’m hopeful this advice won’t be needed nearly as often as it would have been before March 11th!

4. How should I respond when my boss coaches me on something basic and obvious?

Your comments and the insights from your readers were all spot on. It’s good to give the benefit of the doubt especially when certain actions are such outliers. It is hard to immediately step into that mindset when something is impacting you directly; to try and understand another’s perspective or to analyze it in real time. This individual was fighting a serious health issue, and sadly they lost that fight only a few weeks ago. At the time they didn’t know they were even ill; they were just in pain and barely operating. I haven’t thought about this AAM question since I wrote it, because immediately the answer came into light before the question was posted. I really appreciate this resource and like the ability to lean on the vast perspectives of your readers. Thank you for the opportunity to tap into the collective experience and intelligence of this network.

Stay safe everyone and take care!

updates: my older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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share your funniest office holiday stories https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/share-your-funniest-office-holiday-stories-2.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/share-your-funniest-office-holiday-stories-2.html#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2020 15:59:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20484 We have once again entered the season of forced workplace merriment, inappropriate gifts, holiday party disasters, and other seasonal delights! Will there be fewer amusing debacles this year since so many of us are remote? Or will human nature triumph and bring us nude, spray-painted gold Barbies, tantrums over holiday raffles, and Hanukkah balls? I have faith that […]

share your funniest office holiday stories was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Did your CEO make everyone at the company holiday party watch two carousels worth of slides from his recent trip to Yosemite, and then sing a song about a bear?  Did your manager provide you with a three-page document of “party procedures”

share your funniest office holiday stories was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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my old job ripped off another company, should I tell my coworkers why my boobs are gone, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/my-old-job-ripped-off-another-company-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/my-old-job-ripped-off-another-company-and-more.html#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2020 05:03:01 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20652 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My old job ripped off another company I just finished a year long project with a really great place. It went really well and they have strongly hinted at me coming back next year for more projects and supporting my continued work in my field. […]

my old job ripped off another company, should I tell my coworkers why my boobs are gone, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My old job ripped off another company

I just finished a year long project with a really great place. It went really well and they have strongly hinted at me coming back next year for more projects and supporting my continued work in my field. This place was a great fit for me culturally, the work was really satisfying, I enjoyed my colleagues and it was just all around the best job I’ve ever had.

As a way of saying thank you, I went to a new boutique in town and I ordered a not insignificant amount of product from them to take in to my last day. The boutique really went all out on filling out my order, including some of their most popular signature product. Everyone at work thought it was really cool and amazing. They asked me about the boutique and where it was located, and all of the departments got part of the product.

Two weeks later my old job posts copycat versions of the boutique products on social media for sale, including a copycat version of the popular products. It’s important to note that my old job and the boutique are in completely different industries so this is not something that I ever expected to happen. These are obvious copies of the boutique products, and I posted on social media thanking both places with pictures of the boutique’s products.

I feel really embarrassed by this. I wanted to show the boutique my support because they’re amazing and I love their products. I love them so much my Facebook profile is me standing outside their store. But also I loved this job, and I really want to go back next year because it’s a hugely influential institution with a lot of respect behind it that could really launch my career. I feel like I should do something but I’m not sure what. My husband suggested that I apologize to the boutique saying it wasn’t my intention for my old job to copy their product and maybe give them a little gift.

This is … weird. If your old company doesn’t normally sell products in this realm, what made them rush to create knock-off versions of their own?

For the purpose of this answer I’m assuming that these were definitely knock-offs based on what you gave them, and not a weird coincidence or something that had been in the works for a while. (I’m also assuming it’s not somehow legit — like how some spas buy the same products from the same source but sell them with their own branding on them.)

I don’t think you need to apologize to the boutique — you didn’t do anything wrong and couldn’t have anticipated that your old job would rip off their products. But it sounds like you’re feeling awful and acknowledging that to them would probably help.

The bigger issue, though, is your old company! I know you love them and want to return but … do you really now? Is it worth talking to someone there to ask about the copycat products and, depending on their response, to explain that you have a good relationship with the boutique that they’ve now made very weird? I know you might not want to jeopardize your relationship with the old job but if they react badly to that … well, people who are unethical in one area of business are often unethical in others (again, assuming there’s not some context that makes this less shady than it sounds on the surface).

2. Should I let my coworkers know why my boobs are gone?

I’m a young person working two part-time jobs, one of which is currently closed to the public due to COVID (municipal building) and one that is not (retail). Virus permitting, in a few months I’ll be having a major surgery I’ve spent years planning for: a double mastectomy, a decision I reached due to my bad genes and family history of breast cancer. Obviously, I’ll be flat-chested when I return to work, with a plan for smaller implants three months after the initial surgery.

Since this will be such a visible surgery (I’m pretty busty currently), is it better to say something to my coworkers in advance? I had a breast reduction in high school, and decided to go all out letting my grade know beforehand in order to get over the awkwardness of people wondering. I like and am close with several of my coworkers at both jobs, and the only ones I would probably feel uncomfortable telling directly are my two older male bosses at my retail job (although I wouldn’t mind and would even prefer someone telling them secondhand). I’m totally okay with sharing medical info with coworkers, and have been fairly open about this procedure with others since it’s uncommon for a person my age to have and it can inspire others to look into genetic counseling.

That being said, I don’t want to overshare with colleagues in a way that makes them uncomfortable or makes me the “TMI” person in our department! What would you advise here, and what is a good script for sharing this info if I decide to do so?

I wouldn’t announce anything about your boobs to your coworkers in advance or afterwards. It’s none of their business! If they figure it out, so be it — but in general it makes sense to stay away from discussing your breasts at work. Not because breasts are shameful or anything like that — and I agree there’s value in talking openly in other contexts — but because work is a place where you don’t want people thinking about your boobs or thinking you’ve opened the door to them talking about your boobs.

With any medical procedure, it’s fine (and often wise) to be vague — “I’ll be out for a medical procedure; it’s nothing to worry about.” Partly that’s because people really don’t need to know more than that, partly it’s to ward off unsolicited input, and partly it’s because it’s good not to inadvertently contribute to a culture where other people feel expected to disclose their own medical details when they’re out.

It’s true that since you’ll look different, people might figure it out. But that’s fine; you don’t owe anyone a warning or an explanation. They should be able to process the difference without shock or comment (and if they can’t, that’s a problem caused by them, not by you for not warning them ahead of time).

3. I got a strange call from HR after my interviewer no-showed

I applied for a shift supervisor position at a small-ish national coffee shop based in a different state (not Starbucks). I’m a little overqualified from over a decade of hospitality/retail/administrative work and it’s not really what I’m looking for but I’m unemployed and figured why not, since it seemed halfway decent and they offered benefits.

I heard back from them quickly via an auto-generated email that included a link to schedule a Zoom interview with one of their recruiters. I completed the form and a 20-minute interview was put on my google calendar, with some amusingly stiff admonitions attached about “logging in 3-5 minutes early” and “I will only keep the appointment up to 5 minutes after the scheduled time.”

Naturally, I logged in to the interview early, but my interviewer never showed. I waited 10 minutes, emailed him, and got an out-of-office message indicating that he would be gone until the following Monday. I re-checked the invite and the auto-generated reminder email and there was no mistake on my end. I wrote a professional but somewhat cold email to the general recruiting alias explaining that my interviewer had no-showed and I was withdrawing my application. I got a pretty boilerplate email back apologizing for the mixup and suggesting a reschedule, but I ignored it because it wasn’t a job I had set my heart on and there didn’t seem to be any reason to go back and forth about it.

That was about a week ago. Today I got a call from the company’s head of HR apologizing again. I thanked her for the apology and she said that the reason the interviewer had no-showed was that a close family member had died by suicide.

I was totally shocked by this, both the information and the strangeness of it being divulged to me. My brain immediately jumped to whether the interviewer was on board with such a sensitive loss being shared. Pretty much the first thing out of my mouth was “I’m not sure that this is an appropriate thing to tell me,” which admittedly was super graceless but also I was generally gobsmacked. This upset the HR person, who got pretty curt with me, indicated that the interviewer was okay with her telling people, and said several times that she was just offering context and it wasn’t like they were just “sitting around drinking coffee.” She ended the call shortly afterwards in a polite but uncordial way. I feel bad for not responding more kindly in the moment but I was knocked off-balance.

Anyway, is that … normal? My gut says it’s bizarre to have a total stranger call me out of the blue about a position I’d withdrawn from offering “context” that was another total stranger’s tragic family story in order to … get me to reconsider applying? But I guess looked at in the most generous light, it’s someone distraught trying to be honorable and following up with an applicant who may have felt slighted. I briefly considered emailing them again with condolences but that seems like it wouldn’t be helpful so I’m just going to let the matter rest here unless they get in touch again? Who knows.

Other than the over-share, I wouldn’t say it’s particularly bizarre! They assumed you were interested in the job because you applied for it, and so they tried to reschedule after the first mix-up.

You’re right that the HR person didn’t need to share that much, but I don’t think it’s over-the-top outrageous that she did (assuming the recruiter really did okay sharing the details). Mainly it was just unnecessary — she could have simply explained the recruiter had a family emergency or a death in the family. (And that’s not because suicide is shameful or not to be spoken of, but just because the cause of death generally isn’t something that needs to be relayed to strangers.) Still, though, I’m willing to cut people slack for not getting their messaging perfect around something tragic, and I think your response to it might have been a little unnecessary too.

It sounds like you didn’t really want this job, had already written it off after the interviewer no-showed, and as a result weren’t super receptive when the HR person called. Which is fine! But your reaction to the call might be a bit more intense than was really warranted.

4. My manager thinks Zoom etiquette says it’s rude not to have your camera on

My manager has mentioned a few times in the last few weeks that there seems to be a Zoom etiquette rule that it’s rude to not connect your camera during webinars, networking meetings, etc. I don’t think she’s ever said that anyone spoke to her directly, but she reports that she’s seen negativity on the video calls when folks don’t have the camera on. She’s been a little worried about it because our office wifi is heavily used and video likes to drop out of our Zoom calls, and she often reminds the department to be sure our video is on. (For what it’s worth, she does voice-only calls via phone whenever possible, so it’s not an issue internally! We only use Zoom when video/images are actually useful and relevant to the conversation.)

It seems absurd to me. Turning the camera on can cause problems with the connection and can cause the sound to cut in and out when you’re speaking, or the other participants may not sound clear to you / their video may freeze intermittently. We’ve had problems among our staff where the bandwidth is overloaded and the call fails entirely. Plus, if you’re working from home, you might not be able to get a good backdrop for a fake background, or you might have an odd angle that means your kid is always visible. I can think of dozens more reasons that you might feel it’s more professional to be voice-only.

But I’m not on as many Zoom calls as my manager, so maybe I’m wrong, and there really is an etiquette rule developing that requires cameras to be on?

Nope, for all the reasons you mentioned. There are managers who really push video, and there are meetings where it genuinely does make sense to use it, but there’s no etiquette rule that your camera should be on as a default.

More here.

5. Moving from a secure government job to a less safe, higher-paying private industry job

I’ve been a federal employee for about seven years now and am the lead at my agency in an industry that is starting to explode in which few people have the knowledge or experience that I do. I know for a fact that I could be making double my salary if I went to private industry, based on offers I have received from people I know who have asked me to tell them when I’m “ready to leave the government.”

I’ve been terrified to do so due to the pandemic and everything that’s happening in the U.S. The security of a government job and my union is like a safety blanket that I’m clinging to, but I’m increasingly struggling with the fact that I could radically improve the lives of my husband and me by simply changing who I work for: no more living paycheck to paycheck, we could move wherever we like, build our dream home, start the family we’ve been putting off to make sure we’ve saved enough to afford a child, etc. My husband has said this decision is up to me, obviously, and he hasn’t put pressure on me, but I can’t help but know he is well aware that I could change our lives and I haven’t.

I would really love to hear the viewpoints of yourself and/or your audience — maybe others who made this decision or those in private industry now. Would you move from a secure, low-paying government job to a volatile, high-paying private job in the current market? Has anyone done this? What was their experience — do they regret it or maybe wish they’d done it sooner?

I’m happy to throw this out to readers to weigh in on in the comments.

my old job ripped off another company, should I tell my coworkers why my boobs are gone, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: my coworker is a Covid denier https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-coworker-is-a-covid-denier.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-coworker-is-a-covid-denier.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 21:00:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20692 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose coworker was a Covid denier and was monopolizing group calls with rants about it? Here’s the update. A few days after I wrote in, […]

update: my coworker is a Covid denier was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker was a Covid denier and was monopolizing group calls with rants about it? Here’s the update.

A few days after I wrote in, I was on the call and when my coworker started off on covid again, I was surprised to hear another coworker pipe up with questions for him. It wasn’t quite as diplomatic as your suggestions, but she was very calm and respectful when she started asking things like “why do you feel that way?” (when he said covid wasn’t as bad as people think) and “where are you seeing those numbers?” (when he said that it hasn’t killed almost anyone). So I piped up a bit as well, and sent links in the group chat to the CDC’s data and to a news article about our local hospital with doctors pleading for help and PPE. At one point, she explicitly brought me into the conversation by literally asking, “isn’t your husband a doctor? What is he seeing?” So I told them what I knew. It became kind of a lively debate, although I don’t think we changed his mind. Towards the end, he dug his heels in so I said I was dropping off the call, and that “I hope it’s as small a deal as you say it is” – not my best move but I left before I let my anger take over, so I’m calling that a win.

A few days later, our managers sent out new “ground rules” for this group chat that basically amounted to: 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus. The conversation stalled for a while, since chat often used to drift into history and political theory with a side of current events. But eventually they’ve picked back up, and we mostly make small talk about what we’re doing to keep busy outside, TV/movies/books, etc. I’ve also gotten to know a few more people, so I join the call on occasion, but I also try to ping people individually to chat so I’m not dependent on the one phone call.

You did ask where my manager was in all of this – there are two people who manage us, and I’m unsure if either had joined the call on the days where the conversation took the nose dive, so I don’t know that they heard it happen. They each join the call on occasion, and also sometimes join and half-listen but continue to work. Also, covid had come up in passing before this, but the conversation hadn’t deepened (and it wasn’t brought up repeatedly) until the week I wrote to you, when it was all he could talk about. I think your advice to speak to my manager was spot on, and I’m unsure why I didn’t think to do that initially. Both managers were very supportive after the conversation came up – I pinged them both after they sent out the new ground rules to apologize for my role in escalating the discussion, and both were very clear that I didn’t do anything wrong.

update: my coworker is a Covid denier was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Microsoft is removing the user names from its creepy “productivity score” https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/microsoft-is-removing-the-user-names-from-its-creepy-productivity-score.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/microsoft-is-removing-the-user-names-from-its-creepy-productivity-score.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 18:59:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20694 In response to a backlash, Microsoft has agreed to remove the user names from its new “Productivity Score” function that we talked about earlier this week. To recap, they’d unveiled a feature last month that would have let employers track how their employees use Microsoft’s tools across 73 different measures — including things like how […]

Microsoft is removing the user names from its creepy “productivity score” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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In response to a backlash, Microsoft has agreed to remove the user names from its new “Productivity Score” function that we talked about earlier this week.

To recap, they’d unveiled a feature last month that would have let employers track how their employees use Microsoft’s tools across 73 different measures — including things like how frequently you send emails, how often you turn your camera on during virtual meetings, how often you contribute to shared documents and group chats, and the number of days you used Word, Excel, Skype, Outlook, and other Microsoft tools in the last month. The tool could then send your boss a breakdown for each employee every month.

After a ton of criticism, they’ve backed off and instead will only be reporting those numbers in the aggregate, not by individual user.

Read more at Mashable.

Microsoft is removing the user names from its creepy “productivity score” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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updates: asking out an ex-boss, kids taking note at your meetings, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-asking-out-an-ex-boss-kids-taking-note-at-your-meetings-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/updates-asking-out-an-ex-boss-kids-taking-note-at-your-meetings-and-more.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 17:59:23 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20572 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers. 1. Should I ask out my former boss? My update is that my ex-boss is now once again my boss! 2020 […]

updates: asking out an ex-boss, kids taking note at your meetings, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Should I ask out my former boss?

My update is that my ex-boss is now once again my boss! 2020 happened while he was trying to change industries and we had an opening, so with my encouragement he took it. This is mostly good news – he was (and is now again) the best boss I’ve ever had. It has been a little weird for me to mentally transition him back to “boss” from “good friend who I regularly hang out with”, but the benefits of once again having a boss I strongly click with and whose ear I have far outweigh any downsides. Alison’s comment about being ready to give him up as a reference hit home for me as he’s been my strongest reference for the last four years.

We’re also both now happily dating other people, so definitely nothing will change anytime soon. However, life is long and strange – I appreciate one of the commenters pointing out we could just say we “met at work”. Thanks for all the great advice!

2. Is it a problem to provide only positive feedback to my employee? (#2 at the link)

Thank you so much for answering my letter about only positive feedback (and the inadvertent title you initially posted!). Your reply and the reader comments were extremely helpful. I took your advice and asked my director what she thought of Dave’s work, and that both gave me some confidence in my assessment (which was mostly in line with my view), while also providing some suggestions on growth opportunities for him that I hadn’t previously considered. In addition, one of the readers suggested that rather than struggling to look for arbitrary ways for Dave to improve, I should look at this from the view that Dave is one level beneath me, so the goal is to eventually prepare him for my role (or a comparable one), and use that to figure out what I wish I had been trained on over the years. These recommendations gave me goals to set for Dave without rewarding his excellent performance with just more work.

Our in-person performance discussion has not yet taken place, so I haven’t yet gotten the chance to ask him what he wants to work on (as suggested by you and many readers), but I’m relieved that the written annual review I needed to submit for him now captures his excellent work performance, gives him real goals for the upcoming year, and I think leaves the door open for a frank, positive, and productive discussion when we meet in the coming months.

3. Have your kids take notes at your meetings, and other weirdly out-of-touch advice for the quarantine

My husband said that the company’s upper management, who came up with the initial suggestions, were out of touch with the day-to-day challenges that employees were facing and tried to put on an air of normalcy. However, most managers were very understanding of childcare and other Covid-related issues disrupting the normal workflow. My husband’s team in particular is made up mainly of parents whose children are in the 2-7 year old age range and everyone on his team gave their reports and their coworkers a lot of grace. Everyone was allowed to flex their hours however they needed as long as the work was getting done and people quickly adjusted to Zoom meetings with background noise and interruptions. There was even a virtual happy hour where the kids were invited to show off their quarantine arts and crafts (I know for some people that sounds like hell, but that’s normal for his team environment and the kids enjoyed getting to talk to other kids their own age).

As far as my husband is aware, other teams have been operating with similar flexibility and understanding that productivity was never going to be at its peak this year. Overall, his company’s response to dealing with Covid has been pretty reasonable. And from some of the stories we’ve read on AAM, he considers himself lucky!

4. My boss has ideas all the time — and I don’t know which ones she’s serious about

I really appreciated your advice and that of the commentariat – both the empathy from the people more like me and the explanations on how my boss’ brain works from those more like her, idea people :). This latter was quite useful in finding a way to explain what I am doing when trying to make her ideas happen, even if that sounded like unnecessary / way too early criticism for her. I used the ‘state the positive first’ technique proposed to good effect.

In other news, she went to a training on management with all others at her level in our org. Obviously this did not change her whole personality, but she seemed to internalise a bit that planning is not an unnecessary constraint, but a helpful thing. We are having resource issues (thankfully still standing even with COVID, but hiring new staff is all but stopped, even though we had a few people who left), and she is much more mindful of what is actually possible than she used to be in her first year as a manager (I wrote my letter shortly after the end of that first year). So, we are ok. I was promoted based on her assessment of my work (my grandboss decides these things).

updates: asking out an ex-boss, kids taking note at your meetings, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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my employee wants too much time off for the holidays https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/my-employee-wants-too-much-time-off-for-the-holidays.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/my-employee-wants-too-much-time-off-for-the-holidays.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 16:59:09 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20520 A reader writes: Two of my employees are hourly graduate students who mostly work nights and weekends when our full-time employees do not. The position is pre-professional, meaning we treat them like any other professionals, while giving them coaching and help looking for full-time work in the field. We’re clear up-front that they are expected […]

my employee wants too much time off for the holidays was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

Two of my employees are hourly graduate students who mostly work nights and weekends when our full-time employees do not. The position is pre-professional, meaning we treat them like any other professionals, while giving them coaching and help looking for full-time work in the field.

We’re clear up-front that they are expected to work some hours around holidays, so that we have enough employees around to stay open. This year, one of our students said, “My parent recently died” as a reason to get out of working around any holidays, and has requested time off for smaller family events, such as a relative’s birthday, because “it is important to be there since they lost someone recently.” So far, I’ve allowed this to happen without questioning things, as grieving is tough and takes time. But she is not willing to negotiate about being around any time around Christmas–demanding three full weeks off, saying she’ll need a lot of time with family since it is such a tough time of year, and crying when she told me. I reiterated that this is her last year as a student and thus her last year getting a month off for the holidays, and she needs to get used to not being able to go home for weeks at a time.

I have assumed that this death was very recent, but I went online to search for an obituary, and found the death was over two years ago. I want to think that this employee and their family has had enough time to grieve and should get on with their lives, which means not using it as an excuse for extra time off. However, I’ve never had to deal with the death of a parent, so maybe I’m being cold about this situation.

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.

my employee wants too much time off for the holidays was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: my work is getting more and more religious and I’m an atheist https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-work-is-getting-more-and-more-religious-and-im-an-atheist.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-work-is-getting-more-and-more-religious-and-im-an-atheist.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 15:59:12 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20532 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose work was getting more and more religious and she’s an atheist? Here’s the update. I wrote to you about me being an atheist and […]

update: my work is getting more and more religious and I’m an atheist was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose work was getting more and more religious and she’s an atheist? Here’s the update.

I wrote to you about me being an atheist and my work becoming more religious. (A commenter called it a “Jesus hijack” and I haven’t stopped laughing since.) I wanted to thank you and the commenters for helping me feel a lot less crazy about this. It was appreciated more than you know.

Before my letter was published I ended up doing much of what you advised. After the event at the church I spoke with my boss Mary (the leader of our org) candidly about it, that the speaker made me very uncomfortable, and if we were going to do things like that I would like the option to opt-out of attending. Which at first she agreed to, but then it looped back around to a no, because I am the one setting up events and they needed me there. It was a very frustrating conversation that left me feeling like I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Because of that, I stopped bringing any religious language to her attention and just… gave up and made plans to move on.

And then the pandemic happened and (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) it actually helped.

Because we serve a vulnerable population, we shut down completely. In the process of creating safer processes and policies to reopen, a lot of the religious language that had been slowly coming in was taken out. The prayer room was converted back to a dedicated quiet space – the kneeling prayer benches were even replaced with super comfy reading chairs. I really do think that everything happened slowly enough that Mary didn’t realize how much religion had come into play until she was having to write “temperatures will be taken in the prayer room” into policies over and over. The national org we are connected to also made a big push for diversity and inclusion this year, including supporting BLM and Pride Month, and that was a big signal that we should be broadening our reach, not narrowing it.

Rachel no longer works at our org. It was sort of connected to the religion issue – she had been going out of her way to do projects that weren’t under her scope at all (including setting up the prayer room) and ended up dropping the ball completely on some big projects that we could (literally) not afford to screw up. I don’t have any ill will towards her, but it is a relief. After I had to out myself as an atheist, she would often make comments about how she was “glad to know someone like me” which was meant to be reassuring but she said it so often that it made me feel a little bit like an exhibit in a zoo. “And here you can see – in her natural habitat answering emails and copy editing – an atheist!”

After all of this, though, I am still convinced that it is time for me to move on. This whole situation showed me that I am unfulfilled in the work I’m doing, and wish I had more power to affect the focus of our work. With covid hitting our area hard, I’m content in my current position for now knowing that I have a plan to move on, and working towards making that happen.

Happy holidays to you and all the commenters!

update: my work is getting more and more religious and I’m an atheist was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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I’m attracted to my boss, VIP references, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/im-attracted-to-my-boss-vip-references-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/im-attracted-to-my-boss-vip-references-and-more.html#comments Wed, 02 Dec 2020 05:03:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20650 It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go… 1. I had a dream about my boss … and now realize I’m attracted to him I am a teacher in a large school district. From my first interview with my superintendent, we got along. I didn’t realize then that he had a reputation for not […]

I’m attracted to my boss, VIP references, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. I had a dream about my boss … and now realize I’m attracted to him

I am a teacher in a large school district. From my first interview with my superintendent, we got along. I didn’t realize then that he had a reputation for not being friendly. Every interaction I had with him after was positive, professional, and the opposite of what his reputation was. Since he became the head superintendent, he has had many obstacles, both in the district and personally, and I’ve reached out to acknowledge this a few times. He has alway made an effort to seek me out when he is in our building or he sees me at a district event. And I’ve always thought this is because I understand him more than others.

Recently an incident happened that was innocent enough, but a family member of mine asked if he ever flirted with me. This was the first time I had ever thought of him in this context but I answered no, of course not. That night I had a very vivid but inappropriate dream about him and while I realize it was subconscious, I really struggled with it. He is married and so am I. I have never seen him as anything other than my boss. A week later, I saw him at a restaurant and he came over to talk with me (I was with another teacher). After the interaction, she commented about how he was looking at me. Thankfully I do not see him often, but I have sent him emails since then. In hindsight, I think I was trying to normalize things (and he has no clue). The problem is, now I think he realizes something is off. I’ve come to realize that I am attracted to him but will never act on this. I just don’t know how to handle things going forward or how to stop feeling this way.

Those dreams can mess you up! It’s not uncommon to have a sexual dream about someone who you’d never thought of that way before and then see them differently afterwards — especially if the dream was vivid, because now your brain has had those feelings toward them! It’s weird. (It can happen with other things too. You can have a dream that you were fighting with your spouse and feel off toward him the next day even though you know the fight didn’t really happen.)

If you don’t dwell on the feelings, they’ll go away in time. Carolyn Hax, I believe, has suggested picturing the person doing as many unappealing things as possible — being rude to your family, having a disgusting bathroom, hating your cooking, leaving you with all the cleaning, etc. Sometimes, too, it can help to take whatever spark you’re feeling toward the crush and trying to channel that into your marriage instead. But most importantly, don’t panic — crushes are natural, even married people get crushes, and it will go away in time as long as you don’t feed it.

I don’t want to ignore that two separate people have now raised the prospect of some kind of chemistry between you (or at least from him) … but I also do kind of want to ignore it. It sounds like you have a much better relationship with him than most people do, and sometimes other people can misinterpret that kind of rapport between a man and a woman as “oooooh, he likes you!” Of course, it’s also possible that your family member and the teacher who commented were picking up on something real. But assuming that he continues being professional with you and doesn’t cross any lines, it doesn’t really change the advice. (You might choose to pull back slightly on the warmth, while still being polite, but I don’t think you have to — unless that makes it easier for you or you do start sensing something inappropriate from him).

2. One-sided recognition

There is a trend in my office where staff are asked to sign cards for supervisors who have completed training or reached professional milestones. For instance, a newly promoted supervisor who finishes the introduction to supervision course administered by our agency can expect another supervisor to coordinate a card signed by the staff in his or her area.

When staff is made aware of the existence of another card, it is always with notice that they may sign if they wish. Signing these things is not a big deal and in some instances staff may actually have a relationship where the meaning is heartfelt. However, we are a small enough office that not signing will be noticed and the atmosphere is such that petty animosity from the top is a concern (trust is low and the agency ranks near the bottom of the yearly federal Employee Viewpoint Survey).

The only acknowledge staff receive for professional milestones is recognition of employment anniversaries in the form of a pin … or a rebuke that they are late in completing a required training. Is this normal? I used to think it small of me to be tired of the self-congratulatory supervisory ranks soliciting cards for one another, but now the semi-compulsory and one-sided nature of the ritual has me thinking that the promotion and relocation to better quarters is congratulations enough.

No, that’s obnoxious, and I’m not surprised to hear it’s a troubled atmosphere. Treating management’s accomplishments as important and worth celebrating and staff’s accomplishments as only worthy of a nudge to get them completed is a recipe for division and resentment. It’s not small of you to see this as one-sided and weird.

3. How important is it for my references to be VIPs?

I’m currently in a junior position on a team of about 15 people at a mid-sized company. I’m moving to another state soon (great timing, right?) but knew of my move very early and was able to give several months notice to my employer — meaning I don’t have to hide that I’m job-hunting or worry they’ll push me out if they hear I’m interviewing elsewhere.

When updating application materials for a few jobs, I asked my manager, “Maria,” if she’d be willing to be a reference for me. She enthusiastically said yes, but also said my work has been great and “Kim,” her manager, would surely be more than happy to be a reference for me if I wanted to ask her instead, since Kim has a higher title than Maria. This gave me pause — I’d always figured I should be using my manager as a reference. While Kim is a lovely person and a fantastic boss, I do not interact with her one-on-one very often, and while she likely has a rough idea of my day-to-day work, she does not assign me tasks or have check-ins with me, so I don’t expect she knows the ins and outs of what I do or don’t contribute. I’ve concluded that I’m likely overthinking this and that I should list Maria, as she can more directly speak to my work quality and my contributions to her team. Plus, while Kim’s title (Director of Federal Vegetable Policy) is higher than Maria’s (Associate Director of Zucchini Research), Maria’s nevertheless conveys that she is also relatively senior.

While this is a minor question, it’s gotten me thinking more about reference lists than anyone really should. Should I be making more of an effort to list people on my reference lists who are higher-ranking, even if they’re not my immediate manager? Maybe I’m being naive, but if I were a hiring manager I’d want to talk to someone who can speak best to a candidate’s work and their specific abilities, and I would be annoyed if an applicant had given me the name of someone a few levels above them in an attempt to impress me.

Nope, you’re exactly right. Your references should be people who can speak to your work with nuance. A manager several levels up who doesn’t know your work well won’t be able to answer questions with the kind of detail and nuance that make for a really great and useful reference. (Not everyone understands this though! That’s why you get people offering to be references for people they barely know.)

4. Changing my name after my parents’ divorce

My parents divorced after 30 years of marriage (I’m in my late 20’s) and it has not Gone Well. Turns out my dad is not who I thought he was, and he has completely cut contact with my mom. She wants to change her last name, from the one she took when she married him to something completely new. I’m a lot closer to my mom, and depending on how my dad acts in the near future, I might change my name too. It feels like changing your name after a divorce is normal and understandable, but changing your last name when your parents get divorced … it’s like standing in the town square with a big neon sign that says “MY DAD AND I DON’T GET ALONG.”

If I were to change names, how would I phrase this? I’m in an industry that relies heavily on social media, like my portfolio, which is akin to “www.buffysummers.com.” I can’t simply change and expect people not to notice or say anything. I could make a post on LinkedIn that simply says “I’ve changed names, and now go by Buffy Harris” but are people going to assume I’ve gotten married? I’m not even dating anyone, and it feels like it could become really awkward, really fast. Even a straightforward “I decided to change my name after my parents’ divorce” sounds like a surefire way to make others uncomfortable.

You don’t even necessarily need to make a big announcement (although if you do it, do it by email, since using LinkedIn means a ton of people will miss it). You can just start signing communications with your new name. It’s often helpful to include the old name too for a while so people know who you are — something like “Buffy Summers Harris” or “Buffy Harris (formerly Summers).”

And yeah, people are probably going to assume you got married. But you can simply correct them when that happens — and you can be vague when you do! You don’t need to explain it’s tied to your parents’ divorce; you can just say, “Just some family stuff!” Say it cheerfully and then move the conversation along, and most people won’t pry.

I’m attracted to my boss, VIP references, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: my coworkers make orgasm sounds while I’m on the phone https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-coworkers-make-orgasm-sounds-while-im-on-the-phone.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-coworkers-make-orgasm-sounds-while-im-on-the-phone.html#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2020 18:59:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20567 It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Remember the letter-writer whose coworkers were making orgasm sounds while she was on the phone? Here’s the update. I decided to take the slightly underhanded route of scheduling […]

update: my coworkers make orgasm sounds while I’m on the phone was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworkers were making orgasm sounds while she was on the phone? Here’s the update.

I decided to take the slightly underhanded route of scheduling a call with an important customer half an hour before they were going to start faking it, and the moment I heard a noise from their department, I sent an email to my manager, their manager, and their team lead saying that I was on the phone with Professor Annalise Keating of Middleton University and could they please refrain from making any sexual noises while she could hear. To their credit, they were silent for the rest of the day. Later, Bonnie, who is in my department but who didn’t know that I’d specifically requested they be quiet because of my call, made a comment to Laurel, a weekly faker, that she was so glad that they’d finally quit it with the sex noises. On Monday, I went over and thanked them all for not making orgasm noises while I was on my call and said that I’d found the orgasm noises very distracting in the past and would really prefer that they not make orgasm noises in a group like that again. I tried to say the word orgasm as often as possible in as flat a tone of voice as possible, in the hopes that some of them would realize how ridiculous this situation was.

The next few Fridays, I went over to ask them not to make orgasm noises, and they didn’t, though some of them were kind of snarky about it and made it clear they thought I was the Fun Police. Then one Friday, I was off work and apparently they took that as their cue to start faking it again, but then Wes, who is in a third department and is very mild-mannered, went over and told them that they were making him uncomfortable and he had really appreciated the quiet over the past few weeks. I think that that finally clued them into the fact that not everyone thought they were as cute and funny as they thought they were, because the faking it stopped! One or two of them were pretty sulky and snubbed me a bit, but by that point (two and a half months after my initial email), I had been interviewing at another job and was close to getting an offer, so I really didn’t care at all. I did get the new job and started in early February…and then Corona hit, I got laid off, and I got rehired at the old job at 90% of my previous salary. We’ve all been working remotely, and the company’s actually handled it really well and given almost everyone the option to work remotely permanently. We have had occasional recreational video chats scheduled, and we have an open office-wide IM for fun, non-work related messages, but those channels have all been appropriate and free of sex noises, and strictly opt-in. Still don’t love this job and still looking for a new one, but things could definitely be worse!

update: my coworkers make orgasm sounds while I’m on the phone was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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“I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/i-will-confront-you-by-wednesday-of-this-week.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/i-will-confront-you-by-wednesday-of-this-week.html#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2020 17:29:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20473 Several years ago, a reader shared with us this epic email that was sent by their company’s boss after a holiday party gone terribly awry, and as we enter the holiday season we remember its glory. “This happened about ten years ago, but the email I received from our boss was so epic I preserved […]

“I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Several years ago, a reader shared with us this epic email that was sent by their company’s boss after a holiday party gone terribly awry, and as we enter the holiday season we remember its glory.

“This happened about ten years ago, but the email I received from our boss was so epic I preserved it.

Context: The second year I worked at this company, our holiday party was held on a dinner cruise boat. Our boss footed the bill for dinner and an open bar, and a few other companies also hosted their own parties on the boat at the same time. Since I was underage at the time, I did not drink, and actually left early with my date. Everything was fine when I left. The Monday after, I rolled into the office– the first person there– and was greeted with this email from our boss [identifying details removed]:

‘Good morning to all. I hope all of you had time to recuperate and reflect about the unusual chain of events and circumstances at this year’s Christmas party. Some of you went home early and did not take in the full range of events.

Unfortunately, some of our staff got out of hand, including the spouses. Things were said, and things were done, that quite frankly were very inappropriate. Also, we had people from the adjoining group that decided to take advantage of our open bar and co-mingle with our group.

In regards to the inappropriate behavior, I am not going to go into all of the details, but let it be said that the root cause was probably due to the open bar. Some of our staff decided that the open bar meant that the drinking could be unlimited, not only in how much, but how they drank. As a result, some our staff and spouses decided that shots were OK. Shots were ordered for some who do not even drink. Shots are not OK at a company Christmas party. Other staff and spouses got multiple drinks at once for themselves and for people not even in our group. Others decided it was OK to get openly drunk and beligerent, to the point of making racial slurs. I, myself, am guilty of attacking someone from the other group after he decided to retaliate by groping my wife.

Having thought about the circumstances and the fact that we have to work together as a firm and team, some of you need to apologize for your behavior and/or for the behavior of your spouse. We specifically implemented a no fraternization policy and some of you could get fired on that alone, while other staff exercised no restraint over their spouse for their drunken condition. It is not OK for a spouse to misbehave, just because he or she is not an employee. Many careers have been destroyed, and people get fired, due to the conduct of their spouse. You are expected to exercise constraint over your spouse, or take them home. And if that cannot be done, then you should not bring your spouse.

In regards to the Firm’s policy on drinking, there will be no more open bars. Unfortunately, some of you and your spouses exercise extremely poor judgment. Because of this poor judgment, it puts the Firm at risk. Given the poor road conditions that night, some of you could have ended up dead. It is also unfortunate that a few have to ruin it for the whole group.

I would like to start the apologies by stating I am sorry for not handling the situation that I was confronted with in a different manner. I feel embarrassed, and it was not conduct befitting of the firm’s president. I also felt betrayed by some of you for patronizing the one individual from the adjoining group, who’s behavior was lewd and offensive, not to mention the outright theft by running up our bar tab.

I invite others to make some form of apology, either by email or in person for what they did or said, or what their spouse did or said. You can do this voluntarily, and you know who you are, or I will confront you by Wednesday of this week. I do not intend to ignore what happened. If I have to confront you, you could lose your job. I will be available Monday and Tuesday late afternoon, or you can email me and/or others. Let’s not let this one incidence stop us from being [#1 company in field]. We have a lot going for ourselves and let’s keep it going.’”

“I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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update: my employee keeps getting deadnamed by a coworker https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-employee-keeps-getting-deadnamed-by-a-coworker.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/update-my-employee-keeps-getting-deadnamed-by-a-coworker.html#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2020 15:59:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20558 It’s the launch of this year’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager! Every day this month, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off… Remember the letter-writer whose employee kept getting deadnamed by a coworker? The coworker, Lizzy, insisted she would […]

update: my employee keeps getting deadnamed by a coworker was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s the launch of this year’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager! Every day this month, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer whose employee kept getting deadnamed by a coworker? The coworker, Lizzy, insisted she would only use the name the coworker was given at birth “out of respect for his mother.” Here’s the (epic) update.

Hearing from Alison and all of the commenters made me realize that I needed to talk to John about what he wanted to do. I apologized to him for not being proactive enough with this problem and for underestimating just how offensive Lizzy’s actions were, reiterated that I was on his side, told him that I was setting up a meeting with Lizzy and her manager for later that day, and asked what he wanted to do and what he wanted me to do. He admitted that although he was joking about it, he was actually really upset by Lizzy constantly dead naming him, so in addition to needing her to stop, he would rather not work with her anymore, or at least work with her as little as possible. I also told him that I was willing to make a big stink about both Lizzy’s actions and HR’s inaction to my boss (Lizzy’s grandboss) and the higher ups in HR, but that I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with being explicitly identified as being transgender and experiencing transphobic harassment. He said he was worried about escalating the issue himself, because he didn’t want to come off as pushy or overly sensitive, but that he did want me to do it.

I took Alison’s advice with Lizzy’s boss and just checked his and Lizzy’s Outlook calendars to find a time when they were both free and set up a meeting, figuring that his dislike of confrontation meant that he would go along with it. I said that Lizzy’s offensive behavior towards John had gone on way too long and that she needed to immediately stop calling him any name other than John. She tried to say that she had no problem with transgender people (I had not mentioned anything about him being trans, only that she had to call him by his name) and that it was a matter of respect for his mother, but I interrupted her and said that John’s mother and her feelings were irrelevant and that she was being deeply disrespectful to John, who is actually her coworker and thus actually needed her respect. I also said that it didn’t matter how she felt about trans people or if she didn’t intend to be transphobic, purposely calling John by his dead name was a transphobic action and it needed to stop, and that until I could trust her to treat him with respect, she was not to attend any of our team meetings and any workflow that would normally pass between her and John would go through me first and I would pass on the information. Her boss spoke for the first time then and said that that sounded like it might make us miss deadlines on some of our tighter turnarounds, which I agreed was true, but that given that Lizzy refused to use John’s name, I felt I had an ethical duty to prevent her from speaking to him at all, not to mention that allowing her to continue harassing him would open us up to litigation. I tried to say this all as matter-of-factly as possible, so it would be clear that I didn’t care how Lizzy actually felt about mothers or trans people, and that I wasn’t asking for suggestions on what should be done.

After that meeting, I emailed my team and explained that due to Lizzy’s outrageous and offensive behavior, I was changing our procedures so that she and John would no longer have direct contact, and that they should expect some delays in communication between her and our team. I also apologized for having allowed her to behave in such a blatantly transphobic fashion for close to a month, which should never have been tolerated at all, and explained that I had told her that she had to stop immediately, so if she referred to John as Sally again, they should let me know, either by forwarding me an email if it was in writing or by documenting the incident if it were over the phone or video chat, and should also feel free to tell her that she was being offensive and needed to stop.

This is when things get satisfying! My boss was included on the email to my team, and he called me about half an hour later asking about it. I hadn’t told him much about the Lizzy situation, because he has very little patience for people complaining about their interpersonal conflicts to their boss, and while this is a lot more significant than an interpersonal conflict, I thought he wouldn’t want to hear about it anyway, especially since he doesn’t have much contact with my team in normal times and has had even less while we’ve been virtual. Once I explained what had been happening, he said that was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard and set up a meeting for the two of us with the head of HR for the next day (I asked John if he wanted to come and he said he’d rather not and he trusted me to take care of it). The head of HR agreed that this was outrageous and that HR should never have tolerated it. A week later, Lizzy got fired. Then the HR rep who had said this wasn’t explicitly transphobic got fired about about a week and a half later, Lizzy’s boss had to go through some pretty extensive management training and there’s talk that he may transfer into a position without any direct reports, the entire HR department did training on LGBT issues and what is now required of them because of Bostock v Clayton County, the entire company got an anonymous survey asking if we had ever been harassed or felt that we were the victim of discrimination in the workplace, and the head of HR personally apologized to John for the first HR rep’s mishandling of the case and encouraged him to come to her if he ever felt harassed based on his gender identity.

I also sent John the link to my original letter, and he told me to thank everyone for all your supportive comments. And of course I want to thank you all as well, for giving me the confidence to escalate this situation the way I should have from the beginning. It’s seeming more and more like Lizzy, her boss, and the first HR rep were problems, but that the company as a whole really is the good place to work that I’d always thought it was.

update: my employee keeps getting deadnamed by a coworker was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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I couldn’t use sick time after my boyfriend had a stroke because we’re not married, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/i-couldnt-use-sick-time-after-my-boyfriend-had-a-stroke-because-were-not-married-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/i-couldnt-use-sick-time-after-my-boyfriend-had-a-stroke-because-were-not-married-and-more.html#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2020 05:03:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20646 It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go… 1. I couldn’t use sick time after my boyfriend had a stroke because we’re not married I have a pre-COVID question about something that is still bothering me after more than a year. I am a single person and I do not have immediate plans to […]

I couldn’t use sick time after my boyfriend had a stroke because we’re not married, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. I couldn’t use sick time after my boyfriend had a stroke because we’re not married

I have a pre-COVID question about something that is still bothering me after more than a year. I am a single person and I do not have immediate plans to marry or start a domestic partnership. Last October, my then-boyfriend of a year had a stroke at only 30 years old. I received the call from the ER on my way to the office and let my supervisor know that I needed to go to the hospital and that I would be late to work. I’m employed at a large research university which is a perennial “Best Places to Work” list winner and espouses values about supporting employees, mental health, etc. I have hundreds of sick time hours and extremely little vacation time.

After my boyfriend stabilized, I went to my office to collect my computer and some work I needed and spoke with my supervisor about my boyfriend’s condition and that I needed to be in the hospital because he didn’t have any family in the area and I was his emergency contact. I was gobsmacked when I was told I could not use my sick time to be in the hospital with him. Our HR portal allows employees to use sick time for 22 types of relationships (children, stepchildren, in-laws, grandparents-in-law, etc.) and my manager said that my boyfriend did not qualify for any of them because he wasn’t my spouse and we did not live together. I pretty much had a breakdown in her office because I was under so much pressure and stress. It felt, and still feels, like my organization (and my manager) let me down, treated me as “less than,” and failed to live up to the values the organization uses as a recruiting tool. Effectively, it communicated to me that my relationships do not matter and afterwards, out of bitterness and anger, I actively disengaged in any work that was not directly assigned to me and withdrew from volunteer projects. I’m really happy to now be leaving the organization, but I can’t help but feel like I may have missed an important memo — are single people supposed to just constantly lie to their managers in order to have the same privileges and compassion as married people?

No, your organization just sucks. I’m sorry.

A decent manager would have said, “We don’t have a formal category for this but obviously he is like family to you and you should take the time you need. I’ll handle it with HR.”

It’s true that society as a whole — not just employers — treats marriages and domestic partnerships differently than it does people in relationships living separately. It’s a weird thing. If you and your boyfriend shared a house, I suspect you might have gotten a different response even without being married. People see not cohabitating as indicating something about the seriousness of the relationship … which is problematic, because you can have a serious and long-term relationship living apart and you can have a marriage that’s little more than hostile roommates. Part of that is about the legal ties of marriage, of course, but you usually see cohabiting unmarried relationships get taken more seriously than non-cohabiting ones.

Anyway, it’s understandable that employers need to put some limits on benefits usage, but they need to be flexible when a situation comes up that’s still within the spirit of their policy, if not the letter.

2. Moving back to old company soon after starting new job

About six months ago, I left my former organization for a new job that was an upgrade in responsibilities and salary. I love my old company, but it was hit really hard by COVID and I felt like I jumped off a sinking ship. My former boss recently left and my old company is trying to hire me for that position. I don’t love my new job, it’s been a stressful transition, but leaving would almost certainly burn a bridge at my new company. I thought I would at least hear the former employer out even if I’m inclined to say no. Would jumping back to my former employer so quickly look bad on my resume? Is my instinct that I would burn a bridge at my new company correct? It is definitely an upward move and would entail a nice pay increase. However, it does feel like accepting a counteroffer, albeit belatedly.

It would probably burn a bridge with your current employer, but that’s not necessarily a reason not to do it. The thing with burning a bridge isn’t “avoid at all costs.” It’s just “know what you’re doing and be willing to live with the consequences.” In this case, the consequences will probably be that you can’t get a good reference from them (not a big deal since if you were only there six months, I wouldn’t use them as a reference anyway), they won’t re-hire you in the future, and they might quietly curse your name for a while. But if it’s clear to them (or you’re able to explain) that you’re not happy with the new job and it’s not the right fit, it probably won’t be a huge thing. People generally don’t want colleagues to stay in jobs they’re not happy in.

It also likely won’t look bad on your resume. Sometimes people leave a job and then realize they want to go back. It’s not a big deal. And that’s especially true in this year of chaos.

The only way I’d say this is like a counteroffer is that you should make very sure that the instability that drove you to leave in the first place isn’t still a problem.

3. Rewriting my job description when I’ve taken on lots of new work

I’ve been at my job at a PR firm for about two years and many responsibilities (unrelated to my job description) have been added to my plate during this time. My boss is now keen to update my job description to reflect the full extent of the work I’m doing. I haven’t received a raise or promotion and don’t expect to at this point, given the economic uncertainty. However, I feel nervous about simply updating my job description as if these additional responsibilities are part of what I was hired to do at the salary I was hired at. I wonder if it will hurt my chances of getting a raise for this work when the company is financially able. But maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way?

Yeah, you’re right to be cautious. You don’t want the extra work to simply be seen as exactly what you were hired to do in the first place. (That assumes, of course, that it wasn’t. Sometimes a job is expected to evolve as the person is trained, and the extra responsibility is a natural evolution that was always intended.) That said, an updated description of everything you’re doing can also be used at some point to make the case that the job you’re doing now is different than the job you were hired for.

I’d probably just clearly mark what’s new in whatever you write up. Write the job description as it existed when you first came on board, and then have a separate section called “New Responsibilities” and put the rest there. If your boss is turning this into a formal job description for your role, she may remove that — but laying it out like that should help emphasize how the work has evolved.

4. Too many reply-all birthday emails

Pre-Covid, my department used to do birthday desserts monthly for everyone who has a birthday that month. We’d get an email letting us know who had a birthday and when cake was ready.

Now, since we’re not all in the office, we get a “virtual” happy birthday email once a month with a picture of a cake. This has turned into once a month we get a chain of obnoxious reply-all emails where, instead of responding to just the people who have birthdays that month, we all get replies that say “Happy Birthday” until my inbox is spammed with 10 or 12 emails that I then have to delete.

Is there a way to politely bring this up? I’m afraid it might backfire because I don’t have my own birthday on the list or participate in “cake day” when in the office. One email is fine; it’s the continuous reply all’s that are annoying.

That would annoy me too, but honestly I wouldn’t spend capital on it. Having to delete 10-12 emails isn’t onerous enough to warrant trying to get it stopped; save your capital for other stuff.

I couldn’t use sick time after my boyfriend had a stroke because we’re not married, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Microsoft’s creepy new “productivity score” tells your boss how often you attend meetings, answer email, and use Word https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/microsofts-creepy-new-productivity-score-tells-your-boss-how-often-you-attend-meetings-answer-email-and-use-word.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/microsofts-creepy-new-productivity-score-tells-your-boss-how-often-you-attend-meetings-answer-email-and-use-word.html#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2020 18:59:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20661 If your workplace uses Microsoft Office products, be aware that the company launched a new “Productivity Score” feature this month, which lets employers track how their employees use Microsoft’s tools across 73 different measures — including things like how frequently you send emails, how often you turn your camera on during virtual meetings, how often […]

Microsoft’s creepy new “productivity score” tells your boss how often you attend meetings, answer email, and use Word was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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If your workplace uses Microsoft Office products, be aware that the company launched a new “Productivity Score” feature this month, which lets employers track how their employees use Microsoft’s tools across 73 different measures — including things like how frequently you send emails, how often you turn your camera on during virtual meetings, how often you contribute to shared documents and group chats, and the number of days you used Word, Excel, Skype, Outlook, and other Microsoft tools in the last month. Then they compile it all into a report and send your boss a breakdown every month.

Microsoft claims this is “not a work monitoring tool” and points out that it’s optional — even though the administrator of the program (your employer) is the only one who can opt out.

Here’s Gizmodo:

If that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare in the making to you, you’re not alone—privacy experts are criticizing the company for essentially gamifying workplace surveillance.

… David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of the office suite Basecamp, described the feature’s design as “morally bankrupt at its core” in a series of tweets this week.

“The word dystopian is not nearly strong enough to describe the fresh hellhole Microsoft just opened up,” he said. “Being under constant surveillance in the work place is psychological abuse. Having to worry about looking busy for the stats is the last thing we need to inflict on anyone right now.”

… Workplace surveillance has become a particularly prevalent concern this year with the pandemic pushing more and more people to work from home. In June, the research firm Gartner found that 16% of employers were using monitoring tools more frequently to track their workers’ computer usage, internal communications, and engagement among other data. And with coronavirus cases continuing to climb to record heights in the U.S., experts expect the development and adoption of these tools to only ramp up further.

Microsoft’s creepy new “productivity score” tells your boss how often you attend meetings, answer email, and use Word was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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how do you hold an office holiday party during a pandemic? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-do-you-hold-an-office-holiday-party-during-a-pandemic.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-do-you-hold-an-office-holiday-party-during-a-pandemic.html#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2020 17:29:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20635 Usually at this time of year, my inbox fills up with questions about company holiday parties: How many drinks are OK to have there? Should I bring a date? Do I really have to go at all? This year, the questions are quite different – and nearly all along the lines of “what do we […]

how do you hold an office holiday party during a pandemic? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Usually at this time of year, my inbox fills up with questions about company holiday parties: How many drinks are OK to have there? Should I bring a date? Do I really have to go at all?

This year, the questions are quite different – and nearly all along the lines of “what do we even do for the holidays in a pandemic?” Many employers are simply canceling holiday celebrations, since there’s no way to safely gather. But some employers have devised celebrations that will keep people safe and actually sound fun (even to this curmudgeon). I recently asked Ask a Manager readers to share how their teams are observing the holidays in lieu of in-person parties this year, and it turns out companies have gotten really creative. At Slate today, I shared some of the most interesting ideas people reported. You can read it here.

how do you hold an office holiday party during a pandemic? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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is it right to fire someone for being arrested for a (horrible) crime? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/is-it-right-to-fire-someone-for-being-arrested-for-a-horrible-crime.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/is-it-right-to-fire-someone-for-being-arrested-for-a-horrible-crime.html#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2020 15:59:50 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20660 A reader writes: Recently a coworker of mine failed to show up for his shift a few days in a row, and his supervisors were unable to reach him on his phone. Eventually, someone went to his home, where they were informed of the reason he hadn’t been at work — he was in jail. […]

is it right to fire someone for being arrested for a (horrible) crime? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

Recently a coworker of mine failed to show up for his shift a few days in a row, and his supervisors were unable to reach him on his phone. Eventually, someone went to his home, where they were informed of the reason he hadn’t been at work — he was in jail. The company immediately fired him. The crime didn’t happen while he was on the clock, on company property, or involving any other employees.

On one hand, I get it. I live in an at-will employment state, and being accused of a crime is hardly a protected class. Additionally, this person”s role is very public-facing, and the nature of the crime he’s been accused of would make the public and his immediate coworkers very uncomfortable to have to interact with him. (The crime was rape, although I don’t know if they knew that when they fired him.)

On the other hand, I know that people do get accused of crimes they didn’t commit. He’s only been accused, not convicted It seems kind of gross to fire him when we don’t know yet if he actually committed the crime. If it turns out he didn’t do it, he would have been fired — not laid off — for a situation completely out of his control. I know the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t really apply outside the court system, but still… the whole thing kind of rubs me the wrong way.

What do you think?

Agggh, this is hard.

You’re absolutely right that it would be awful to fire someone for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s also understandable that the company doesn’t want to have an accused rapist on its payroll. Some companies handle this by suspending the person without pay until there’s been a conviction or acquittal, but then you still get news stories saying that the accused rapist is employed by CompanyName. That can be a difficult thing for a business to navigate.

It’s different, of course, with different crimes. Automatically firing anyone who’s arrested for anything is a bad practice — especially when you consider the role race plays in policing and in who gets charged with crimes and who gets given the benefit of the doubt.

It would also be illegal under federal law. The EEOC says, “Arrests are not proof of criminal conduct. Many arrests do not result in criminal charges, or the charges are dismissed. Even if an individual is charged and subsequently prosecuted, he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. An arrest, however, may in some circumstances trigger an inquiry into whether the conduct underlying the arrest justifies an adverse employment action (emphasis mine) … The employer needs to show that the policy operates to effectively link specific criminal conduct, and its dangers, with the risks inherent in the duties of a particular position.”

In other words, you can’t fire someone simply because they were arrested, but if the conduct that led to the arrest makes the employee unfit for their position, that can be a reason for firing — for example, a trucker arrested for drunk driving. (If you’re thinking that requires the employer to act as judge and jury before an actual judge and jury have made a determination … yes.)

Some states have laws that offer employees a higher degree of protection, such as California’s law preventing employers from firing someone for an arrest that doesn’t lead to a conviction.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes someone may be fired not because of the arrest itself but because of the missed work while they’re in jail.

It’s a tough thing though. As a society, we tend to believe in “innocent until proven guilty” more in theory than in practice.

What do others think?

is it right to fire someone for being arrested for a (horrible) crime? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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boss told me I need to wear makeup and jewelry, employee has terrible attitude, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/boss-told-me-i-need-to-wear-makeup-and-jewelry-employee-has-terrible-attitude-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/boss-told-me-i-need-to-wear-makeup-and-jewelry-employee-has-terrible-attitude-and-more.html#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2020 05:03:52 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20645 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My boss told me I need to wear makeup and jewelry I work as an account manager in health care. I have a new boss who has been writing me up for having an “unprofessional appearance.” Today she explained to me that I need to […]

boss told me I need to wear makeup and jewelry, employee has terrible attitude, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My boss told me I need to wear makeup and jewelry

I work as an account manager in health care. I have a new boss who has been writing me up for having an “unprofessional appearance.” Today she explained to me that I need to wear makeup and jewelry. I have never been one to wear makeup, and when I do it’s minimal. Same with jewelry, I do not like to wear it. My overall attire is always professional and I take much consideration in my appearance. Is she right for saying I should wear makeup and jewelry?

I have been with this job for three years and never been told I lacked professionalism until she was hired.

Nooooo, she is out of line. There are a small handful of jobs where women are still expected to wear makeup and jewelry — some types of high-end sales, for example. But it’s not most jobs, and it’s not health care. In most jobs, whether you wear makeup and jewelry is entirely up to you. You might be expected to look polished, but how you get there is a matter of personal choice. Your manager is being weirdly overbearing and sexist.

A bit about the law: Courts in the U.S. have generally allowed companies to have different grooming standards for men and women, including requiring that women wear makeup — but they’ve also generally held that grooming standards shouldn’t place a significantly higher burden on one sex, and your manager’s requirement sure as hell sounds like it would do that.

I’d suggest talking to HR. Tell them your manager has told you you’re required to wear makeup and jewelry and ask if that’s a new rule that’s now in effect; assuming it’s not, tell them you’re concerned she’s presented it as a requirement, you’re concerned it creates legal liability for the company, and ask for their help in shutting it down.

2. My employee gets their work done but has a terrible attitude

I was promoted earlier this year to a position where I’m leading a small team at a small company (~100 employees). One of my direct reports (we’ll call them Jan) is both older and more experienced than I am, but for a number of very valid reasons, was not considered for the promotion. However, Jan feels they should’ve been promoted over me. From early on, Jan made it clear that they saw reporting to me as temporary and frequently kept me out of the loop on important projects or tried to go around me. We had several challenging discussions about this, and it felt like we were making some progress.

However, after nearly a year, Jan has continued the same behavior. We discuss the behavior regularly, but after our meetings, it’s like we never discussed anything at all—they just adjust their behavior on one project and then revert to their old ways with new projects. I understand that the reason why is there are little to no repercussions—Jan still gets their work finished, and as long as they’re getting the work done, I don’t know what I can do.

It’s gotten to the point that it’s causing tension on our team since it’s painfully clear that Jan is unhappy. I’ve asked Jan for feedback so we can work better together (I’m very aware of the fact that I have a lot to learn!), but they insist things are fine…then I hear from my boss and others on my team that Jan is complaining about my management.

I don’t have any management experience with a situation like this, and I’m at a loss as to what I can do. Can I discipline someone for having a bad attitude? Is there some way to get Jan to actually provide feedback?

Give up on trying to get Jan to give you feedback and instead focus on the changes you need to see from them. Don’t make it about their attitude (which can be hard to pin down); make it about specific behaviors that need to stop (or start). You can absolutely discipline and fire someone for things like you’ve described — you just need to translate the problems into concrete behaviors. For example, if Jan keeps you out of the loop, one of the standards you need to hold them to is “proactively informing me of details like X, Y, and Z.” Sit down and write out all the behaviors you need to see that you’re not currently seeing, and you’ll have the meat of a performance improvement plan.

You’ll need your boss to have your back on this so loop her in right away, both about the severity of the issues and your plan for dealing with it. You should be prepared to fire Jan if the problems continue after you clearly spell out what they need to change, and you don’t want your boss to be blindsided if that’s the direction things go in. (Also, this isn’t something you should let drag out. Aim for a resolution within a month or two at most.)

3. How much does a company’s Covid response reflect how it might respond to other crises?

I know you have been receiving and answering plenty of questions regarding how to navigate working for an employer who doesn’t take Covid precautions as seriously as they should. I just started a job this fall and have been extremely disappointed with how my small company has handled the massive increase in cases recently (think: scheduling an in-person holiday party, having a culture where it’s a “choice” to work from home but a frowned-upon choice, etc.). I’ve been following your advice in this context as best I can, and I know that if it really came down to it, I would 100% pick my safety over keeping this job. But if it doesn’t get to that point, I’m wondering if I should still be thinking critically about my long-term desire to stay at this company — which I otherwise like — given their Covid response. In other words, how do you think a company’s Covid response is concretely related to how it might respond to other, non-Covid (and non-emergent) contexts?

I think it’s strongly correlated in several ways. First and foremost, it says they’re cavalier about public health, and their employees’ health in particular. In your company’s case, it also says you can’t trust what they say; they might tell you something’s okay but then penalize you for it. And it says they’re either willing to buy into the politicization of a serious public health issue if it suits their own agenda or — if they’d be doing this even if Covid hadn’t become politicized — that they prioritize their profits way over the safety of their employees (beyond even the typical amount of self-interest you normally see under capitalism).

4. Holiday blues in a festive office

I work in a job that is classified as essential, so I have to go into the office every day. My family was hopeful that we’d be able to get together over the holidays this year, but we canceled Thanksgiving and stayed in our own homes.

I’m looking ahead to Christmas, and starting to mentally prepare myself for the fact that I probably won’t be able to see my family for that either. To make matters worse, I live alone and my company has a shutdown for Christmas that’s pretty long, but not long enough for me to properly quarantine and go visit with loved ones. So I’m looking at a holiday that I’ll have to spend alone, for the first time in my life. The easiest way for me to do this is going to be to essentially pretend the holiday isn’t happening and do my best to act like it’s just another day.

The office that I work in tends to be VERY festive and based on communications from management I think they’re going to double down this year in an effort to lift spirits after a rough year. Unsurprisingly I’m not super into it. I want my coworkers to enjoy their holiday and I don’t want to stop anyone from having fun. Any recommendations on how to respond when people realize I’m not as into the festivities this year (they will, I’m a big Christmas person in the office) without drawing too much pity or coming off like a grinch?

How about, “The holidays are hard for me this year since I can’t go home so I’m kind of tuning it out. I don’t want to dampen your celebration; I’m just sitting it out myself.”

You do risk people responding to that by trying to cheer you up or get you into the holiday spirit, so be prepared to say, “I appreciate the thought, but this is easier for me this year” followed by an immediate subject change.

5. Asking for a raise after I was hired back at an old job

I was laid off last spring (like many), but was offered an old job at a previous company. I had kept in touch with my old boss, and when they heard I was unemployed, jumped on asking me if I would like to come back. They were offering $13k less than what I was making at my laid-off job, but I was not in a position to say no to a steady income. I did not negotiate at the time because I wasn’t sure if I could. Upon my hiring, my manager said we could discuss a raise in around six months to a year. I have now been at the company for eight months, but I’m not sure how to bring this up. Our company definitely is not doing poorly (or as far as they share with employees), but I just don’t know how to ask to revisit the conversation. I was thinking about waiting until the holidays and seeing if they do anything special this year (during my previous time with this employer, they never did a holiday bonus/end of year cost of living adjustment).

Am I being too timid with this? Thinking about the conversation makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Yes, you’re being too timid! Don’t wait to see if they do bonuses or raises around the holidays when they’re never done that before. Plus, you want a raise, not just a one-time bonus or a cost-of-living adjustment.

Asking for a raise makes lots of people (probably most people) uncomfortable, so don’t take your discomfort as a sign not to do it. Sit down with your boss and say, “When I was hired back eight months ago, you suggested we could discuss a raise after six months. I think my work has gone really well — I’ve achieved X, Y, and Z — and I’m hoping we can increase my salary.” More advice here!

boss told me I need to wear makeup and jewelry, employee has terrible attitude, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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weekend open thread – November 28-29, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/weekend-open-thread-november-28-29-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/weekend-open-thread-november-28-29-2020.html#comments Sat, 28 Nov 2020 05:01:30 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20503 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: Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Another epic family saga, this one told from alternating points of view and about two sisters who leave Ireland […]

weekend open thread – November 28-29, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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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: Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Another epic family saga, this one told from alternating points of view and about two sisters who leave Ireland for America. Estranged for years after arriving, one raises a large family while the other becomes a cloistered nun. It’s about family, secrets, and how decisions when you’re young can shape the course of your life in ways you never expect.

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

weekend open thread – November 28-29, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/its-your-friday-good-news-29.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/its-your-friday-good-news-29.html#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2020 17:00:34 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20608 It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I’m excited to share that after a very difficult fellowship and a very difficult fellowship, I got a job offer that I’m really excited about! I’ve been reading your blog religiously for a couple of years largely because I started […]

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

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It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’m excited to share that after a very difficult fellowship and a very difficult fellowship, I got a job offer that I’m really excited about! I’ve been reading your blog religiously for a couple of years largely because I started a fellowship two years ago with a Horrible Manager. My manager made me feel so small and I felt like I had to compromise my beliefs to do the role. Your blog helped me to navigate that relationship and stand up for myself. The ending to the fellowship was also difficult – after the CEO told the entire staff that our jobs were secure and my manager said that they could probably (which I know isn’t a definitely) extend the fellowship until I found something else, I asked and found out that I couldn’t get an extension with about a month let of my fellowship. So I found myself staring down an unknown period of unemployment, in a pandemic, with a tough job market.

I had been applying to jobs for over a year before the end of my fellowship because my manager was so awful and I wanted out. I got through multiple rounds of interviews pretty consistently, but never got an offer. Once the fellowship ended I totally redid my cover letters and resume based on your advice. I come from a legal background so my old cover letters were kind of formal and rigid and also didn’t provide new information about myself that wasn’t already on my resume. I edited my cover letters to talk about my results and examples of who I am as an advocate through my work. I also edited my resume to talk about my accomplishments rather than just my job duties. Also honestly I was sort of burnt out from working in reproductive rights for the past three years and wanted to switch into another field but felt kind of daunted by that process.

Well, thanks to your advice I got interviews consistently over the two months I was unemployed, including a bunch in other fields. In my interviews I didn’t shy away from asking tough questions about workplace culture and thinking critically about not just if I was a good fit for the organization, but if they were a good fit for me. In retrospect my last fellowship had a lot of red flags during the interview process that I should have probed more about to find a work culture and manager that was a better fit. All of the places where I interviewed really appreciated how thorough I was in my questions and I think it showed how much I valued fit on both sides of the relationship. I finally got a job offer today at an organization that values my advocacy style, background, and racial justice values. I know there is no such thing as a dream job, but it feels so good to accept an offer from an organization where I feel like I don’t need to hide what I value to fit in.

Anyway, I spent years interviewing trying to fit myself into roles that weren’t really “me” because I was so worried about job insecurity. But reading your blog and having this unemployment period really helped me to reflect on what I value in myself and the workplace.

Thank you so much for all that you do and good luck to everyone searching for a job searching. I used to read the Friday Good News thinking “I hope that’s me some day!” And now it finally is – I wish that for someone else too.

2. As a long time reader, I thought I’d share my good news. Throughout the pandemic, I was working in a position where I was unhappy with the leadership of the company, though I loved my boss. I was essentially resigned to continue in the role because we were in the midst of a pandemic. Then, a recruiter reached out. After a long interview process, I am now in a new leadership position with a great company that is looking for my skill set to grow the company. I went from a place that seemed terrified of any change, to one that is embracing what they need to grow to the next level. The new position comes with increased salary and responsibilities.

I’ve internalized a lot of the great advice you and the community have given. Instead of dreading work, I am actually looking forward to it, which is nice given the current state of the world.

3. I’ve been job hunting in the last month and I’ve put your lovely suggestions and all the AAM advice on job seeking/interviewing and career swaps to work and applied to an open position in accounting for a mid-large company here in my city. Got called back within the hour, had the first phone screening and landed another round of interviews via Zoom and ended up being invited for a third and last in-person meeting on Monday aaaaaaaaaaaand I’ve got an offer as an accountant! Yay!! I’ll have a lot to learn but there is going to be time and a learning curve is expected since it is a career switch. But they love my soft skills and the attitude my years as an AA gave me! Yay!! It will also be a title and salary. 2000€/yr more than what I was making plus food tickets! (Note from Alison: Something in Italy, I think?)  I’m SO thrilled! It’s not the permanent position I dreamt of but they are open to go beyond the maternity leave temp, when the time comes (in a year) and I will, in both scenarios, have one year experience in this new role.

Thank you SO very very much for all the support, the useful informations you give us! And thanks to all the readers, because they are golden in every comment!

4. I have been unhappy in my job for over a year for a number of reasons. My husband and I are lucky to both work in industries that are booming during the pandemic. We’d always discussed moving to a new state and a couple of months ago decided to start casually applying to jobs in the state we want to live in. I applied for a lateral move type job but with a much smaller company. Within an hour of sending my application, I had a phone screen scheduled. Within a couple hours of the phone screen, I had a virtual interview scheduled. Using all the stuff I’ve learned from your site over the years, I guess I won them over. A couple days after my interview I had a full job offer and was even able to negotiate a signing bonus to help with our move! We decided to go for it and are now in the process of moving across the country. I am beyond excited to start this new adventure and work somewhere that I’m wanted and can succeed. It feels crazy that within two weeks of applying I had an offer and now after a month we are packing up our home, but it will be worth it to finally move to an area we’ve dreamed of for so long. Thanks for your amazing advice!

5. I have been a periodic Ask a Manager reader over the last few years and have always enjoyed your advice. When I was one of the unlucky ones to be fired in the midst of COVID this spring (with thankfully a few months leeway to find a new position elsewhere), your blog was an essential voice of reason at every stage as I ventured into serious job hunting for the first time in several years.

It helped me wrap my head around what to expect and ask for from my former company if I did not find a job by my prescribed end date. It gave me the perspective I needed to begin to process what went wrong, what mistakes I made or didn’t make, and what I can apply in future roles. And most importantly, it equipped me with great tips, tools, and reality-checks throughout the job search process (especially spotting red flags!). I’m happy to report that not only did I accept a new position with another organization that furthers my career in new and exciting ways, I even successfully negotiated a higher salary than what was advertised as being the top end of their range for the position (and higher than my salary at my old company)!

Although I’ve certainly had a lot of support over the past few months from my family, boyfriend, friends, and therapist (hooray for mental health services!), this blog has been a huge factor as well. I’m looking forward to continuing my devotee status as I start this new position in the coming weeks. Thank you for everything!

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

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open thread – November 27-28, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/open-thread-november-27-28-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/open-thread-november-27-28-2020.html#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2020 16:00:29 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20502 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. * […]

open thread – November 27-28, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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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.

open thread – November 27-28, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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being put on a performance plan right after a glowing review, photos on resumes, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/being-put-on-a-performance-plan-right-after-a-glowing-review-photos-on-resumes-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/being-put-on-a-performance-plan-right-after-a-glowing-review-photos-on-resumes-and-more.html#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2020 05:03:20 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20642 It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go… 1. Performance plan two weeks after a glowing review My husband was just notified he is being put on a performance plan. He agrees that a recent event he was involved in, but not in charge of, did not go well. But, he was just rated […]

being put on a performance plan right after a glowing review, photos on resumes, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Performance plan two weeks after a glowing review

My husband was just notified he is being put on a performance plan. He agrees that a recent event he was involved in, but not in charge of, did not go well. But, he was just rated “an exceptional performer” in a review less than two weeks ago, he has been nominated for department awards every month for the past six months, and he is on track to meet all his metrics and goals for the quarter.

The issues outlined in the performance conversation were things like communicate issues better, document processes more, and some concerns about early metrics related to a new platform they are not fully moved into. They also noted that he should think of this as a development conversation, but also that it is a formal performance plan.

I should also note that this is a very “company first, work all hours/days of the week” type of environment and management acknowledged that he had indeed been “putting in the hours,” in the PIP conversation.

Is it possible to be an exceptional performer, meet goals, and still need a performance plan? What should his takeaway be here?

Putting someone on an improvement plan who just got rated “exceptional” two weeks ago? I can come up with a couple of cases where maybe that would happen, but they’d be incredibly rare and it would be clear it was a big deal and Things Had Changed — things like uncovering serious issues that he’d successfully hidden, or finding out that work you thought he’d done was actually entirely done by someone else. Those aren’t normal, though, and if something like that happened, as a manager you’d want to specifically address and explain the discrepancy with the review.

In this case, it sounds like his manager just hasn’t been managing well … or is getting pressure from someone above to manage him differently for some reason. Something weird is happening.

And that crap about “it’s just a development conversation” — no. If that’s all it were, it would be … just a conversation. It’s a formal plan, so it’s something else.

If I were him, I’d sit down with the manager and say, “I want to make sure I’m clear about where I stand. I just got an exceptional rating two weeks ago, and now I’m on a formal improvement plan. I’m certainly committed to making the improvements outlined in it, but the fact that this rose to the level of a formal plan, so soon on the heels of a stellar review, makes me wonder if I’m missing something. Did your assessment of my work change in the last two weeks and if so, what caused that?”

2. What’s up with photos on resumes?

I’ve been a recruiter for about eight years and I have reviewed thousands of resumes. Recently, I have been getting resumes from new college grads with photos on them. I’m not talking a small headshot up in the corner but pictures that are taking up 25-30% of the usable space on the resume. All of them have looked posed and professional, but one was obviously a graduation photo taken in front of a fountain at the candidate’s alma mater. Are college counselors recommending this now? I don’t necessarily think it looks unprofessional but … unnecessary. The photos are often taking up valuable space that could be used for highlighting accomplishments. What are your thoughts on this?

Yeah, it’s weird. (In the U.S., anyway. There are countries where it’s common, but we are not one of them.) I don’t know if college career centers are pushing it (but it would not surprise me), but there’s a definite thing where online resume templates often come in formats that no hiring manager would want to receive, sometimes including space for a photo. I don’t know who’s designing those resume templates, but it’s not people who actually do hiring.

3. Company wants to have a large Christmas luncheon during Covid

I oversee a few locations of the company where I work, and my manager approached me about Christmas luncheon amongst these separate locations. I’m currently working from home and hate this idea. I’m not even planning on seeing family in person. How do I convey that it makes me uncomfortable they’re even suggesting this get together?

I’d say, “Currently public health guidelines say not to have social gatherings with households other than our own. The company really can’t violate public health recommendations and put employees at risk. A lot of people aren’t even seeing their families for the holidays, and I think this will seem really tone-deaf.”

If they don’t care about employees’ safety, point out that if it turned into a super spreader event, it would be horrible PR for your company.

4. Should I contact the department head directly about a job I applied for?

There is a position I’m excited about, close to my home (I’m outside a major city, so I would not have to commute into that city and would actually travel opposite rush hour traffic), and in an institution that, because of its location, does not usually attract many of the qualified candidates that generally flock to the major urban center about 40 minutes away.

I know this last fact because I met the woman in charge of the department I’m applying to about a year and half ago. I scheduled an informational visit and a tour of the facility for a class I was taking at the time in my masters program, a professional program that was preparing me for exactly this kind of job. At the time, I corresponded directly with the manager of the very small department. We had an excellent visit, where she showed me around and answered all my questions, even explaining her aforementioned struggle to attract talent to the institution. She even encouraged me to apply for a small fellowship at the institution in the department, albeit in an offhand way (I was unable to, as I had accepted an internship elsewhere).

This woman is still the head of the department (the information is on the website). I of course applied straightaway through the HR portal about three weeks ago, and while I have not heard back yet I know this process moves slowly. Would it be wildly inappropriate to reach out to this manager to reintroduce myself as a candidate and remind her of my interest in the institution? We have not spoken since the visit. The portal makes me think she won’t see my application until an initial screen is done by whoever monitors it. I think I’m qualified, and anxious to procure full-time employment in this terrible job market. Good idea?

Yes! When you know someone on a team you’re applying to, it’s never inappropriate to contact them directly and let them know you applied for a job. In fact, if I were her and you didn’t contact me directly, I’d wonder why! Email her today.

being put on a performance plan right after a glowing review, photos on resumes, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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the Christmas tantrum, the dirty elf, and other tales of holidays at work https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/the-christmas-tantrum-the-dirty-elf-and-other-tales-of-holidays-at-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/the-christmas-tantrum-the-dirty-elf-and-other-tales-of-holidays-at-work.html#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2020 16:31:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20472 Over the years, readers have submitted a tremendous number of amusing stories about holidays at work. In lieu of any more posts today since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some of my favorites from the last 13 years. 1. The duet “The organization I work for often holds its convention just a couple of weeks before Christmas, […]

the Christmas tantrum, the dirty elf, and other tales of holidays at work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Over the years, readers have submitted a tremendous number of amusing stories about holidays at work. In lieu of any more posts today since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some of my favorites from the last 13 years.

1. The duet

“The organization I work for often holds its convention just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and several years ago, as part of the entertainment for the closing banquet, we had a quartet singing mostly Christmas songs. In the banquet room right next door, though, somebody was holding a very large and loud corporate Christmas party that included a very loud D.J. playing very loud music, none of it Christmassy, as far as I could tell.

And I do mean LOUD.

So this, I swear to God, is what it sounded like to those of us sitting closest to the wall that separated our sedate Christmas quartet performance from the very loud D.J. performance of ‘Brick House’ by the Commodores:
Quartet: ‘Oh, hooooooly niiiiight! The stars…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWse, she’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out’
Quartet: ‘It is the niiiight of our dear savior’s…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWWse, well put-together, everybody knows.’
Quartet: ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for…’
DJ: ‘She’s a brick…HOWWWse, owwww, that lady stacked and that’s a fact…’

I love ‘Oh Holy Night,’ but come on, that was HILARIOUS.” (2019)

2. The come-hither pirate

“This wasn’t a White Elephant gift, but one a coworker who didn’t last so long gave to all the unpartnered women under 40: A studio portrait of himself, semi-80s background, with lasers, soft focus, standing, with his hand on his chin, a ‘come hither’ look, and his parrot on his shoulder.” (2018)

3. The grief poinsettia

“It was one of those lunchtime holiday parties where people sat in groups around round tables. At the center of each table was a poinsettia. The big boss/emcee announced that she realized that some in the crowd must have experienced hard times that year. She invited people to share their tales of woe, and whoever told the saddest story at each table would win the poinsettia. No one volunteered.” (2018)

4. The elf’s vice

“The dreaded Elf on a Shelf got passed around the different departments. At the end of the day, someone from the department that had it last would go to another department and pose the elf. For the most part, it was okay: cute poses with rubber duckies, a little bathroom humor (the elf pooping a Hershey’s Kiss), that sort of thing… until my department got it. He was snorting hot cocoa using a $1 bill besides a naked Barbie doll. I work in HR. The department that left it was Legal! I don’t work there anymore and I’ve banned Elf on a Shelf from my current job.” (2017)

5. The Christmas tantrum

“A woman who had worked at our office for more than twenty years pouted and threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, ‘FIX!”’ or ‘CHEAT!’ or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, ‘I DESERVE this,’ and walked away with it.” (2014)

6. The flush

“It was my first holiday party at my office fresh out of undergrad, and with my hearty Irish heritage I am prone to 1) generally ferocious rosacea and 2) an especially vivid red flush after my first drink. I arrived to the party late because I’d walked form work (it was at a hotel conference room area), met with friends, and grabbed a glass of wine. Pretty much immediately after finishing the glass I got my customary alcohol flush.

One of my coworkers (the office front desk manager, so she’d been involved with the whole party, like ordering food, etc) had been drinking way too much at this point, and was already pretty drunk. We wound up in the bathroom washing our hands at the same time. ‘Oh my god, you’re so red,’ she said. I tried to play it off (‘haha yeah, this happens all the time, definitely not something I spend literal hundreds of dollars at dermatologists before I found out it was genetic’), and she goes, ‘Are you allergic to something? Are you having a reaction?’

I tried to tell her it was just my face but she lost her mind. She was positive I was allergic to something. I finally escaped but she kept finding me periodically over the span of probably the next half hour or so, and every time she got more freaked out that I was having an allergic reaction. Her reactions went from slightly worried but having too much fun to think about it to grabbing my cheeks and feeling my pulse. Finally I thought I lost her by hiding with some friends in a corner.

NOT SO. Fifteen minutes later I’m over at the table pondering which cake slice to take when this woman appears with an epi-pen clutched precariously in her fist, pulls me around by my shoulder, and tries to LIFT MY DRESS UP to get to my thigh!! I’m scrambling away, she’s too drunk (thank god) to actually be effective at stabbing me with adrenaline I DON’T NEED, and worst of all because she got me by surprise she hoisted a decent bit of my dress up and all my colleagues saw least a good portion of my cheeks, framed tastefully by the the red velvet and vanilla cake options on the dessert table behind me.

My company handled it really well – called a car for her to go home, followed up with me then and there, and had separate meetings with us on Monday, as the party was on a Friday evening. Her intentions were honestly good (if not soaked in alcohol) and given the weekend I was beginning to find it funny that I’d effectively mooned all the higher ups and they had to be professional about it, so in the end I think she just went through some sensitivity training. She was also MORTIFIED, apologized nonstop for the next week, etc. I’m no longer at that job but what an intro to the world of Corporate Christmas Parties.” (2018)

7. The Christmas carols

“At my first job out of college, I worked at a small transport-related company of about 50 employees that was privately owned by a couple … One year, Wife Owner, who fancied herself an artist and would often sing in the office (her voice wasn’t terrible but it was still really weird), decided we should make a CD of employees singing Christmas carols. Keep in mind that we did not have a bunch of moonlighting Broadway extras working there. I felt pressured to be on the CD and ended having to drive 25 miles on the weekend (unpaid) to a recording studio. I did draw the line at doing any solos and only signed up for the multi-voice songs, where I desperately tried not to stand out. Fortunately, I got accepted into grad school after that and never had to witness any further embarrassing company gifts. Apparently, the gift ploy worked in a sense, as I have run into people from the same industry who laughingly remember this company despite the fact that 10+ years later, they are no longer in business.” (2017)

8. The reply-all

“My organization hosts an annual Christmas party where staff, spouses, volunteers, and board members are all invited. We get an email sent out when tickets are available so that we know when to go ahead and get them.

A few years ago, one of the board members accidentally hit Reply All to the ticket announcement email and asked the organizer to ensure that he wasn’t seated with our volunteer firefighters, since he was stuck at their table the year before and none of them wanted to talk to him. Within a minute, someone else had hit Reply All again saying that he would be honored to be seated with those firefighters, as they’re willing to risk their lives to keep our community safe. A few other emails went flying back and forth congratulating the firefighters for their hard work, and the board member soon sent out an apology email.

To make things even more awkward, one of the people making a speech at the company Christmas party did take a few minutes to commend our volunteer firefighters. I’m sure the board member couldn’t have looked any more uncomfortable as the rest of the room toasted them.” (2018)

9. The swingers

“In my mid-20s, I worked in a fairly conservative accounting department (think government contractor engineering firm) but we had a couple of strange characters. I’d been warned about one mid-50s accounts payable lady, that she was ‘Very Social.’ She wasn’t popular in the department, but was nice enough at work, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Being the youngest and lowest rank in the department, my husband and I were seated at the ‘accounting outcasts’ table, which included Very Social and her husband. The whole party was super-swanky. Very Social and her husband were good company, complimentary, and didn’t ping ANY of my warning systems…

…right up until she learned that my husband was a welder. Then she let out a delighted squeal and asked him to build her custom steel people-sized cages, with brackets for harness hooks. She also let us know they were VERY interested in having us over try out their other “equipment” for additional Christmas Merriment.

That Christmas I learned ‘Very Social’ = Unabashedly Enthusiastic Swingers into BDSM.”

This follow-up added further details:

“We turned her down, and she was still very nice. She even hand-quilted a baby blanket for my second child.

Data entry, people cages, nipple clamps, hand-embroidered baby quilts. She was very well-rounded for an accountant.” (2019)

10. The Christmas countdown

“I once had a coworker who lodged a complaint with her manager’s manager that her manager was making her take her hours to Christmas countdown (yes hours, not days) off a whiteboard that was needed for something else. Wasn’t even like it was the week before Christmas at that point, pretty sure it was at least a month before. She was getting up and changing it a few times a day.” (2016)

11. The sex toy

“A Christmas party I was at had a Secret Santa … and one of the ‘presents’ was a huge dildo which, as most attendees were utterly plastered, was thrown around and, eventually, somehow stuck to the ceiling and wouldn’t budge despite various things being thrown at it.

Most people thought this was OK, but it wasn’t as we had not hired the venue exclusively and families with children were present. So a colleague and I got a ladder and eventually pry the thing off the 13-foot-high ceiling.

All Christmas celebrations were banned for the remainder of the eight years I was on the project.”

In response to a question about why it stuck there:

“We found out when I got to the top of the ladder. The ceiling had evidently been painted recently with gloss paint and was not fully dry. It was just tacky enough to hold the dildo (I cannot believe I am writing sentences like this :)” (2019)

12. Hanukkah balls

“I am a Jewish 26-year-old. I’ve been on the job about a year, and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of New York City for this job. My family is not super religious but we certainly never celebrated Christmas growing up.

My boss, a usually nice lady, has taken it upon herself to educate me about Christmas this season. She is super into the holidays, which I appreciated for Halloween, but has been declaring to the whole office how this is ‘Jane’s First Christmas’ and taking that opportunity to spend well over $500 on Christmas decorations which she has strategically placed mostly around her and my office. She has bought me my own Christmas stocking and ornament which says ‘Jane’s first Christmas’ with a date and her signature on it. She has placed red velvet bows around anything they will stick to and she has replaced our office coffee K-cups with eggnog. She has put up lights in the hallways and decked my door with some kind of tinsel that keeps sticking to my clothes and following me home.

She keeps reminding me what ornaments are and is amazed when I told her that I know the words to some Christmas songs.

She also has invited me to her home for Christmas because ‘no one should celebrate their first Christmas by themselves.’ When I mentioned something about celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, she went out and bought this Hanukkah inspired contraption, which was really just eight round traditional ornaments with a light in each of them. She said they were Hanukkah balls.” (2014)

13. The strong opinions

“Our Christmas party planning (once again) ended in tears over an argument about whether body-part-shaped gummy candy was an appropriate table decoration. It was apparently Halloween candy (think bloody zombie arms and legs).

For reasons which I dare not know, there is a small contingent of people in my department who all have strong personalities, strong opinions, and no chill. Everyone hates each other, but they all must be on the various party planning committees. Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.” (2016)

14. The club kid

“The year the club kid software developer INSISTED on everyone doing tequila shots, like ‘come on bro, it’s not cool if you don’t!’ — he saved his hardest pressure tactics for the CEO, who was like WTF. Same club kid tried getting down and dirty on the dance floor with a female high level exec, and then drunkenly knocked her over onto the floor.” (2016)

15. The frozen boobs

“One time I worked at a government agency where the head of HR was a reformed alcoholic who had found religion and was thus now very religious whilst also being teetotal. Every year before the party we’d get an email about how under employment law the party was an extension of the workplace and bad behaviour would not be tolerated, etc. etc. She wasn’t very well liked in the office for other reasons but no one hated her and often she didn’t come to the parties as she found them too rowdy.

The year her marriage broke up she came and got so drunk at the party she flashed her boobs over the metal railings of this rooftop bar we were at…..and because of the snow/light rain the side of one of her boobs fused to the railing (kinda like if you lick something frozen and your tongue gets stuck!). Seeing her two (female!) HR admins blowing on her boob to release it whilst shielding her modesty with scarves is a sight that will never leave me.” (2016)

the Christmas tantrum, the dirty elf, and other tales of holidays at work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 26, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/thanksgiving-free-for-all-november-26-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/thanksgiving-free-for-all-november-26-2020.html#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2020 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20471 This comment section is open for any discussion (work or non-work) you’d like to have with other readers. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 26, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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This comment section is open for any discussion (work or non-work) you’d like to have with other readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving free-for-all – November 26, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Thanksgiving eve open thread https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/thanksgiving-eve-open-thread-3.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/thanksgiving-eve-open-thread-3.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2020 21:59:15 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20470 Share your holiday angst — or your holiday joy — in this special Thanksgiving eve non-work open thread.

Thanksgiving eve open thread was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Share your holiday angst — or your holiday joy — in this special Thanksgiving eve non-work open thread.2 cats dressed as a pilgrim and turkey

Thanksgiving eve open thread was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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a happy ending https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/a-happy-ending-2.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/a-happy-ending-2.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2020 18:59:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20637 We’re not quite into update season yet (that starts December 1), but I thought this letter was a good way to send us off into the Thanksgiving holiday. This is from a reader who had commented on a post earlier this month about kindness at work, about her sister and nephew who both had Covid. […]

a happy ending was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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We’re not quite into update season yet (that starts December 1), but I thought this letter was a good way to send us off into the Thanksgiving holiday.

This is from a reader who had commented on a post earlier this month about kindness at work, about her sister and nephew who both had Covid. Her sister, a single mom whose ex is behind on child support, couldn’t work while quarantining and wasn’t being paid. The reader had been assisting with her bills and groceries but had nothing left to keep helping with, and a kind coworker had offered some help.

Several other readers got in touch with me to ask they could help and sent along money. Here’s the letter I received on Monday.

Hello AAM community! This is an update to my post on “Kindness at Work” regarding my sister and nephew who both tested positive for COVID. My sister had been unable to work for a month due to quarantine, was struggling to pay bills, get necessities and I was out of funds to help her. A coworker had overheard part of our conversation and gave me a check for her, even though she had a daughter who had been sick and required several medical procedures.

First, I would like to say THANK YOU to all of those who offered my sister assistance. It was truly a blessing for them. With the assistance of the commenters and some additional resources, she was able to pay all of her bills, purchase groceries, get her medicine, get her heater fixed and has a small bit leftover in case anything comes up before she gets paid. She actually returns to work today and her manager is offering her as many hours as she feels up to through the holidays.

I took the morning off after the post and made some calls on her behalf. I called the nutrition department of the school district to inquire about any possible resources, as they had been giving out food boxes for student families during the summer. They have a program to deliver food boxes to student families who are in isolation/quarantine because of COVID. It is a mix of nonperishables and fresh vegetables. They call to let you know they are on the way, put the box on your porch and honk the horn. They were able to order some things online and have them delivered. They will get another box Tuesday or Wednesday. His high school is currently 100% virtual due to a COVID outbreak among the band (100 plus students tested positive), so he may or may not go back next week. He had been home for almost three weeks when that outbreak happened.

I also found out that although her employer does not participate in FFCRA, they have an emergency fund you can apply for. So I had my nephew take photos of her bills and email them to me. Then I put her on speakerphone (at home, not in the office!) and asked her the questions on the online application and typed in the answers. She was approved and they deposited the money into her account.

Using social media, I made contact with my nephew’s paternal grandmother. She said she doesn’t speak to her son much for various reasons and she was quite upset he wasn’t paying his child support. I explained the situation and she wired money to my sister. I gave her my nephew’s phone number (with his and my sister’s permission) and they are talking, texting and video calling each other now.

Things are definitely looking better for them. I don’t think I can sufficiently express my sincere appreciation for the help provided. My sister and nephew are extremely grateful and moved by the compassion that this community showed them. You are awesome people! I’m so glad that I found this site years ago when I wanted to know if I needed to buy my coworker a gift for her third wedding since I had bought gifts for the first two!

Alison- thank you so much for this site! This is not the first time your people have helped other commenters in need and I’m sure it won’t be the last. In case I haven’t said it enough, let me say it again- this is an amazing group of people!

Stay safe AAM community!

Me again. For more ways to help others, please consider donating (food or money) to your local food pantry or using any of the ideas here!

a happy ending was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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job applicants’ parents keep calling me https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/job-applicants-parents-keep-calling-me.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/job-applicants-parents-keep-calling-me.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2020 17:29:25 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20486 A reader writes: I work at a camp, with loads of seasonal employees. We just opened applications for staffing opportunities for teens age 14-17 and were flooded with hundreds of applicants who want to come do our dishes, haul trash, and chop firewood. This is a wonderful thing! The problem is their parents, who regularly […]

job applicants’ parents keep calling me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

I work at a camp, with loads of seasonal employees. We just opened applications for staffing opportunities for teens age 14-17 and were flooded with hundreds of applicants who want to come do our dishes, haul trash, and chop firewood. This is a wonderful thing!

The problem is their parents, who regularly call for updates on their teens’ applications. We’re really too swamped with inquiries to respond to their (sometimes daily!) requests. But more importantly, I wish it was the teens themselves who called, not their parents.

I think most of these parents are still in “sign my kid up for camp” mode. They aren’t seeing this as a job. And since these are teens, we really need the parents on our side. I can’t afford to alienate them by being forceful about how inappropriate it is for them to call. What’s your advice – what can I say to parents like this?

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:

  • Interviewing for a manager job where my team would be hired before me
  • Resigning during a hiring freeze
  • Are offers to stay in touch with old coworkers sincere?
  • I have to eat dinner with coworkers every night on business trips and I’m exhausted

job applicants’ parents keep calling me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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how do I talk about my work when my work is depressing? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-do-i-talk-about-my-work-when-my-work-is-depressing.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-do-i-talk-about-my-work-when-my-work-is-depressing.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2020 15:59:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20636 It’s the weekly “ask the readers” question (I’m bumping it up to today since tomorrow is a holiday). This one is tough. A reader writes: How do I talk to my friends and family about my work when it is depressing? I work for an international development nonprofit. The situation in the country where we […]

how do I talk about my work when my work is depressing? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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It’s the weekly “ask the readers” question (I’m bumping it up to today since tomorrow is a holiday). This one is tough. A reader writes:

How do I talk to my friends and family about my work when it is depressing?

I work for an international development nonprofit. The situation in the country where we work has devolved into violence and war, with more bad news several times a day every day. My job hinges on being up close and personal with all the bad news, trying to make sense of it and helping to communicate externally and make strategic decisions in response as things (d)evolve.

Every week when my friends and I catch up, we talk about how everyone’s jobs are going. Most people have (very valid) complaints or challenges around difficult work environments (one is in healthcare and certainly is having a rough time) and contrarian employees and bosses. Their issues are valid and I am always happy to contribute my two cents, but it’s getting harder and harder to talk about these problems. Moreover, when I want to take my turn to talk about work, I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to talk about the daily crises I am trying to navigate because they are extremely heavy and weigh on me. But, I don’t want to make light of it or have nothing to share. Do I need to just forget about leaning on my friends and pay for therapy?

This question feels more pressing as we approach the holiday season, since my family will be getting together (we are rapid testing first) and I know everyone will ask me about my work. What should I say when people ask me how my work is going?

I wrote back and asked, “Are you finding it harder to talk about your friends’ work problems because you’re burned out on talking/thinking about work at all right now? Or because it’s hard to take on additional problems on top of your own? Or something else?”

I think it’s more that some of their problems elicit eye rolls from me, if I am being honest. I am in a headspace right now of “who cares if you’re not getting your raise, there are whole countries at war!” or swap that in for any number of other way more challenging circumstances that people all over the world are facing right now in light of the health, environmental and political crises of 2020. I think I am getting burned out on pretending to care about what sound like ultimately pretty trivial problems. I think that’s compounded by the frustration that I feel like I can’t talk about my issues/concerns, even though no one has explicitly asked me to stop bringing it up.

I also asked, “For your own stuff, is it that you don’t want to talk to your friends about it at all right now, or more that you’re concerned it’s too heavy to lay on them?”

It feels too heavy to lay it on them. I have tried to find more surface level work-related topics to discuss, but there really isn’t anything I am working on right now that doesn’t directly relate to the heavy and distressing info, and I am all-consumed with it every day. I think the world feels like such a heavy place for all of us, and when we get together we try to make that a time to unwind and lighten the load. If I talk about what’s on my mind, I feel like I am definitely NOT lightening the load. There’s also not a lot of positive spin to put on it, so it ends up being a real bummer conversation that leaves everyone (including me) more down in the dumps.

I want to take my turn to talk about work, I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to talk about the daily crises I am trying to navigate because they are extremely heavy and weigh on me. But, I don’t want to make light of it or have nothing to share. Do I need to just forget about leaning on my friends and pay for therapy?

OK, readers, you are the advice-givers today! Have at it in the comments.

how do I talk about my work when my work is depressing? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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bringing pet spiders to work, manager is following people to the bathroom, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/bringing-pet-spiders-to-work-manager-is-following-people-to-the-bathroom-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/bringing-pet-spiders-to-work-manager-is-following-people-to-the-bathroom-and-more.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2020 05:03:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20640 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Employee is bringing pet spiders and roaches to work For most of the year, my organization has been running partial operations with lighter staff. During that time, one of our supervisors learned that her small dog needed surgery and post-operative medical care. The supervisor started […]

bringing pet spiders to work, manager is following people to the bathroom, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Employee is bringing pet spiders and roaches to work

For most of the year, my organization has been running partial operations with lighter staff. During that time, one of our supervisors learned that her small dog needed surgery and post-operative medical care. The supervisor started bringing her dog to work, where it has been a quiet, generally welcome presence.

I’ve just learned that, before the dog started coming to the office, another staff member started bringing various bugs in small terrariums and keeping them in her mailbox/cubby; she likes them and wants to show off her collection. They’re not particularly noticeable, but another employee in the building told me that she shudders every time she walks past the mailbox because of the black widows, giant cockroaches, and other bugs that appear there.

Is it a double standard for us to allow the dog but ask the staff member to take the bugs home? We haven’t had complaints about the dog, but I’ve heard a couple now about the bugs.

The dog is there because he needs care and the bugs don’t, right? That alone makes it not a double standard. But even aside from that, if people were afraid of the dog and complaining about him, you’d presumably respond to that … but that hasn’t been the case. It is with the bugs.

Explain to the staff member with the bugs that the dog is there because he needs care and that you’ve had requests for the bugs to be removed.

Also, black widow spiders?! It’s beyond reasonable to say people can’t bring venomous animals into the office, period.

I say all of this as someone who likes bugs! But a ton of people are squicked out by them, and people’s need to move freely through your workplace without being jarred by a visceral “eeeek!” reaction trumps your employee’s interest in showing them off.

2. Manager is following people to make sure people are really heading to the bathroom

One of the managers in another department, Fred, has started to follow employees to verify whether or not they are going to the restroom when they say they are. He’s not actually entering the bathroom with them, but he’s checking to see if they are actually going there or if they’re doing something else, like going to the break room to get food or coffee or check their cell phones or heading outside.

The problem is that it sounds like he’s only doing this for one employee: Jared. Fred claims to have caught him at least once or twice not actually heading to the bathroom, but I’m unsure if he’s actually called him out for this. Jared seems to have caught on to this scheme though and he’s now asking around to see if anyone has noticed Fred following him to verify restroom usage.

I’m at a bit of a loss here. I don’t like the idea of following my own employees around and I certainly don’t want to be asked to follow someone into the restroom if it comes down to that. Plus, it’s led to Jared questioning anyone who happens to be in the break room or restroom at the same time as he thinks Fred is sending other people to check on his whereabouts. Am I wrong to think this is wrong? Or could this be viewed as a form of harassment (especially from Jared’s perspective)?

Why on earth is Fred so concerned about whether people are using the bathroom versus grabbing food or coffee? That’s a bizarre level of control and oversight to try to exercise over adults. His boss should be shutting this down — and taking it a sign to look much more closely at how Fred manages in general, because someone who’s so concerned with the exact specifics of why people are leaving their desks is someone who is managing badly in other areas too.

If Fred is concerned that Jared is away from his desk too often, he should just address that with him. He doesn’t need to trail him or do a stake-out. He can just talk to him about whatever problems it’s causing. (And if it’s not causing problems, there’s nothing to address.)

What Fred is doing isn’t harassment in the legal sense as long as he’s not targeting Jared based on his race, religion, disability, or other protected characteristic. But it’s awful management that makes Fred look terrible.

As for Jared … he needs to lay off the questioning of colleagues about whether Fred has sent them to monitor him. But he’s not the main problem here.

3. Can I make friends at the companies I audit?

My job involves auditing suppliers to my company. I work 100% remote in a different state from my company doing this niche task, kind of like a contractor, and therefore don’t have much of an opportunity to socialize with my coworkers.

However, a lot of my job involves going to audit suppliers who are local to me, and occasionally I meet people who work at them who I think are great. I’d really like to get to know them, both from a networking/professional standpoint and because making new friends when you move to a new state at 28 is … hard (even in the Before Times).

But the power dynamics are tough. The interaction when I show up to audit them more closely resembles a deposition of the opposing side. Anything negative I uncover could result in them losing us as a customer, or even getting in trouble with the government if it’s bad enough. So if we were to meet in a more informal setting, neither of us can really chat casually about our jobs.

Can I still ask if they want to meet up (virtually)? Or are the power dynamics such that they’d feel too compelled to say yes?

So far I’ve held off because of this. But recently one person I thought was great suddenly and mysteriously left the company I met her through. My suspicion is that this particular dumpster fire of a supplier fired her, which in my professional opinion was a huge mistake, as she was one of the last vestiges of competence there. Does this change things? Can I reach out to her now? Honestly I’d even offer to be a reference for her, since I know a lot about her performance during audits from “the other side” and her ability to do 10 people’s worth of work.

As an auditor, you shouldn’t make social overtures to people who work at the companies you’re auditing because it has the potential to become (or be perceived as) a conflict of interest.

I’d be wary about offering that reference too, unfortunately. There’s too much you might not know about the person’s work/conduct (for example, you probably wouldn’t know if she had, say, harassed someone or terrorized her staff). And if the company has valid reasons for firing her and then finds out their auditor gave her a reference, it risks making things really odd between your company and hers, when you’re being paid to prioritize the professional relationship.

It sounds like you’re lonely and I’m sympathetic to that! But as an auditor it’s not a good idea to go looking for friendships at the companies you’re auditing. It’s just one of those jobs where you can’t.

4. Email etiquette when someone mentions a family crisis

I never reflected on this question before I started a new job where I have to email thousands of people a week. Most don’t reply directly to me, but instead do the task in the email — for example, “click here for the employee benefits survey” or “be sure to update your address before x date” and the like.

Most people don’t reply, or just have a question about the email itself. But a handful of times I’ve gotten a message back saying something like, “So sorry I didn’t do this by the deadline. My mother was in the hospital but I’ll do it now.” I’m not sure what the best way to respond is. I try to start with something saying I hope she’s doing better and then dive into business, but it seems so cold. It’s especially hard because most of my emails are signed “Tax Team,” which makes it more impersonal. I guess I’m looking for a way to say that I’m so sorry about your situation, but then go into the business portion smoothly. I really do need them to complete the action in the email!

You’re right to acknowledge the bad news they shared with you; it would be cold not to! But it’s not cold to then say whatever business-y thing you need to say. These are work emails and work relationships; the other person is expecting it and it won’t be weird.

The exception to that would be if they shared that they’re in the midst of an ongoing crisis. You don’t want to reply to “I just lost everything in a fire and am urgently searching for somewhere my family can stay” with “be sure to vote in the pie contest by tomorrow.” And even in less immediately dire situations, you want to use some judgment — if someone is very ill or has an sick family member, some things won’t be important enough to bother them with once you know what’s going on (benefits enrollment deadlines, yes; pie contests, no).

But otherwise, people typically just say something like, “I’m so sorry to hear that! I hope she’s doing better now” … and then move into the business at hand. You can also add something like, “If you end up needing more time on this, let me know and I’ll see what we can do” if it seems appropriate.

Also, can you add your own name above the Tax Team sign-off when you have exchanges like these? That’ll make it feel less Faceless Corporation too.

5. Is this an exception to the “don’t gift up” rule?

I know the consensus is to never gift upwards in the workplace, but do I have an actionable exception in front of me? My current boss of 2.25 years, who has been one of the best bosses to me in at least a decade, is transferring back to a different department in a different building as of January 1. Before he became my boss, when I was in a different adjacent department, I considered him at least an ally and mentor, if not work friend. My longevity and experience in this department is such that he often deferred to me on matters such as safety and equipment, despite his PhD compared to my MS.

Since he is leaving anyway and the relationship has always been much more of equals or peers, would a small gift as a token of my appreciation under these circumstances be appropriate? It would be as much of a going away / “thank you for being my boss during a difficult time” gift as a holiday gift (which I don’t celebrate anyway).

It’s fine. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do it and you shouldn’t do anything that will create pressure on others to gift upwards, but it’s not a major faux pas if you do it in circumstances like this. That said, I’d still only do it if you come up with a gift that will have personal meaning. If the gift would be fairly generic, you’re better off writing a personal note about what you’ve appreciated about working with him; that will have way more meaning (and longevity) than a mug or a gift card.

bringing pet spiders to work, manager is following people to the bathroom, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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should I tell my boss about my coworker’s temper tantrum? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/should-i-tell-my-boss-about-my-coworkers-temper-tantrum.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/should-i-tell-my-boss-about-my-coworkers-temper-tantrum.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2020 18:59:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20631 A reader writes: Today at work, something happened that I need some perspective on because I’m still rattled by the incident. I work in retail-based sales with roughly 50 employees, but just three people at my location (my manager, my coworker, who has about four weeks more tenure in the position than I do, and […]

should I tell my boss about my coworker’s temper tantrum? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

Today at work, something happened that I need some perspective on because I’m still rattled by the incident.

I work in retail-based sales with roughly 50 employees, but just three people at my location (my manager, my coworker, who has about four weeks more tenure in the position than I do, and me). Our boss has been away for a couple of weeks due to personal reasons, so most days lately are just me and my coworker, Pete. Pete is in his mid-30s, has known our boss for several years before this job, and has communicated to me more than once that he has significant amounts of respect for our boss. I had expected him to help out a bit more while she’s out but I don’t mind picking up extra hours and taking charge of routine tasks and projects, plus the overtime this week will be nice before the holidays. Pete is a bit of a slacker, but does always get the necessary things done.

So today, we had a slow but steady stream of clients coming in for service, and while I was doing my paperwork after making a sale, I was listening to Pete working with a new potential client out on the sales floor, and it wasn’t going well. Pete was speaking in a much more casual, low-toned, almost aggressive and definitely condescending voice to this client. The client had decided our prices were too high for his budget and he wanted to check out other options for his needs, and Pete just did not handle it well. He wasn’t overtly rude to the customer, but was very short with him. Then, when the client had left the building and it was just Pete and I in the store, he started yelling. Loudly. He moved to commission last pay period (we all do after our initial new-hire training probation has ended, but caveat: it’s not commission only, we do still receive an hourly compensation, just less hourly than the training pay) so I understood the frustration of feeling like someone just wasted your time, but his reaction went on for around 10 minutes off and on, yelling and swearing about “f@#$ers coming in here and wasting my time” and insulting the client’s weight (he was NOT overweight, but that is absolutely irrelevant).

I immediately shut down. Unexpected loud noises, particularly angry yelling and items being pushed or thrown around or tossed around make me seriously uncomfortable. Yes, it is based in past trauma that I have otherwise worked through and moved on from, but the lingering effect of hating loud noises and the fear of tall angry men screaming obscenities in the same room as me sends me panicking. I went to one of the back rooms as soon as he started yelling and just tried to focus on my own work, but there aren’t any doors between us and I could still hear him loudly yelling angry things at himself, or no one.

Some context: this is my first full-time job, and I’m only about three months in. Pete has a somewhat aggressive personality type. We’ve always gotten along pretty well prior to this and I usually enjoy working with him, and I know his anger wasn’t directed at me, but having him throw such a tantrum over a single client meeting not going well didn’t warrant such a big reaction, and frankly it made me feel unsafe and very uncomfortable in a place I couldn’t leave. I didn’t say anything to Pete about it today, simply stayed in another room for a while doing my own work and stayed busy with clients until I left.

Do I tell my boss? The whole outburst made me feel really really uneasy in a place that used to feel like a second home, around someone I spend 30+ hours with every week. I really think that he should’ve better managed his temper, and I probably should have told him then that he needed to cool it, but honestly, I was too uncomfortable and just trying to focus my mind on anything except my flight or fight reaction. My boss has been reachable by email while she’s out and I think that I should tell her, just at least so she’s aware, and maybe she would talk to him about not reacting so poorly. What do you recommend I do?

WTF, Pete.

Being short with a client who wants to check out other options that better fit his budget is bad enough — but then to lose it entirely once the guy left, and yell and swear and insult the person’s body? That is … not normal behavior and it’s not okay.

And it’s not just you! A lot of people would have been deeply uncomfortable around Pete’s explosion. Your history with trauma undoubtedly made it worse, but it’s not odd or sensitive or anything like that to have the reaction you did. It’s very normal not to feel safe when you’re trapped with a large, angry man who appears to be out of control. (Or with any size person who appears to be out of control, but large, angry men are physically more threatening and there’s a cultural context there that can’t be ignored.)

I do think you should speak to your boss. Unless you’ve continued to feel unsafe in Pete’s presence, it probably can wait until she’s back at work, but at that point you should let her know what happened and that he was so out of control that you had to retreat to a back room and stay there until you could leave for the day. If your boss is at all decent at her job, she’d want to know what happened, and she’d want to address it with Pete.

You can also address it with Pete yourself if you’d like to. You don’t have to, especially if you feel uncomfortable doing that and especially while your boss is away. This isn’t one of those things where fairness requires that you speak to the person first before you escalate it. That applies to things like “could you please turn down your music?” and “the way you’re naming files is messing up our system.” It does not apply to “you lost your temper and were terrifying.” You’re allowed to go straight to someone above him if you want.

But if you do feel comfortable speaking with him about it yourself and you’ve had good rapport in the past, you could say, “When you started yelling about that client last week, it was pretty frightening to be around. You were yelling, swearing, and insulting him. I can’t focus on work around that much anger. Could you not do that around me again?”

This would be in addition to your boss, not in place of it. Your boss needs to know Pete has the potential to explode like that, and needs to make it clear to him that it’s not acceptable.

should I tell my boss about my coworker’s temper tantrum? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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my boss keeps inviting herself to my house https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/my-boss-keeps-inviting-herself-to-my-house.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/my-boss-keeps-inviting-herself-to-my-house.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2020 17:29:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20504 A reader writes: Three months after I started a new job as an executive assistant, my position was eliminated. Fortunately, the company offered me a 12-month contract in another department with a new boss, which would help me out financially while I looked for a permanent job. When I met my new boss, “Carrie,” I […]

my boss keeps inviting herself to my house was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

Three months after I started a new job as an executive assistant, my position was eliminated. Fortunately, the company offered me a 12-month contract in another department with a new boss, which would help me out financially while I looked for a permanent job.

When I met my new boss, “Carrie,” I instantly got the vibe that she would be a difficult person to work for, and that was confirmed when I watched her interactions with other staff. So I’ve tried to make a point of ensuring I stay on her good side.

This seemed to work! As time went on, Carrie was appreciative of my work and gave me constant positive feedback. She fought for an extension of my contract and a pay increase, and I felt awkwardly indebted to her.

But soon it became clear that there was a price to pay for how well she treated me. She expected loyalty at all costs so if she had a screaming match with another staff member, she expected me to spring to her defense regardless of whether she was in the wrong or not. I have always avoided office gossip and office politics, but I felt dragged into all my boss’ drama-filled exchanges with staff, which usually ended with her crying in the HR office.

I’d also often have to feign interest as she spat venom about all the people in her life. I’d disingenuously offer sympathy because what else could I do? I need the job until I can find a new one.

I also noticed other staff trying to avoid my boss socially. They would awkwardly make up weak excuses when she tried to invite herself over to their houses for dinner or for the weekend. Sometimes they couldn’t avoid it because she would keep suggesting alternative dates. It was sad to watch. Obviously she is very lonely and part of me felt sorry for her, but not sorry enough to invite her to my house! But she broke me down and eventually I gave in and let her come for dinner once.

Then I ended up having major complications from what should have been a simple surgery and ended spending two months recovering at home. My boss insisted on visiting me in the hospital, and when I was out she invited herself over for dinner on the pretext that she had a “pamper pack” she wanted to give me. How could I reject her when she was being so thoughtful? She ended up staying overnight and hung around the next day (because she had drunk too much alcohol and couldn’t drive her car). My husband didn’t like her and wanted me to get rid of her. I wanted to get rid of her as much as he did, but I fear that if I set boundaries with her, she will turn on me. And I need to use her for a reference to find a new job, so I need to keep being nice to her.

But this keeps happening. My phoned pinged again this morning. It was my boss saying, “Hey lovely lady. I miss you! It’s about time we had a catch-up. How about dinner at your place on Saturday?”

I still haven’t found a new job, so I guess she will be coming over for dinner! Unless there’s a way out of this?

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

my boss keeps inviting herself to my house was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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the people I train keep failing — am I the problem? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/the-people-i-train-keep-failing-am-i-the-problem-here.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/the-people-i-train-keep-failing-am-i-the-problem-here.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2020 15:59:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20632 A reader writes: I’m fairly positive I’m the jerk in this situation and I’m worried I might be throwing another new hire under the bus. I know I need to be better at training but I’m not sure what else I can do. I was promoted from a coordinator job to a new position. Due […]

the people I train keep failing — am I the problem? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

I’m fairly positive I’m the jerk in this situation and I’m worried I might be throwing another new hire under the bus. I know I need to be better at training but I’m not sure what else I can do.

I was promoted from a coordinator job to a new position. Due to structural changes in the organization during that move, I was still covering my old job and was burning out quickly. Luckily after six months, management was able to hire someone to take that role. I was tasked with training the new hire, Lee, and I’m not sure how well I did. On paper the position was entry-level, but much of the work was intricate and requires extensive knowledge of the systems our office used.

I had never trained anyone before. I thought Lee took to training well, and they commented often about their 25 years of experience in the field and that they had no trouble stepping into the job. However, I found out quickly that they were resistant to adapting their work to our systems and lacked some basic skills necessary for our organization’s work.

I found that Lee had made considerable errors within their first two months with the company, i.e. destroying a document signed by international clients which had to be submitted the next day to meet a deadline and releasing confidential information to an outside vendor in direct breach of a client’s contract. They also showed signs of being overwhelmed and upset as the duties were far more than what had been explained to them. Initially I was sympathetic and stayed after hours to help them complete administrative tasks and spoke with them about what could be done to help restructure their workload.

I encouraged them to speak with our manager over their concerns, as they had explained that during the hiring process, they questioned the overtime expectations and were told by management that it was not likely. This was incorrect, as I was consistently working late and through lunch to get tasks completed. Lee had seemed agreeable to reaching out to our manager but apparently never did.

After another chronic issue came to light with Lee’s work, I admit that I was showing frustration, which I know is unacceptable. A few months into their work, they began to show concerning behavior in interacting with me. They would go to other colleagues for clarification on tasks, but these colleagues had no experience so I would be included in email chains where they had tried to go above me. Or colleagues would call me with questions with the employee on the line, acting as a mediator of sorts. It was weird and caused a bit of confusion as people with no background in the work had to stop and look at the instructions available to Lee to answer their questions.

I had to continue to check their work as mistakes were occurring in work presented to clients. I was then informed that Lee had gone to our C-suite to request a meeting and filed a formal complaint that I was “henpecking” them. Our direct manager was included in this call and was directed to talk to me about my behavior. During that two-hour call with our manager, I explained what had been occurring and the chronic issues and failure to complete requirements. I stressed that I was still producing all project schedules, which had been assigned to Lee, but Lee had refused to complete training and had pushed it back until we closed for quarantine. This surprised our manager, and they asked that I share emails and screenshots of my work to clarify that I had been attempting to train on scheduling, and that Lee had disregarded my requests and was not doing the work assigned to them.

This resulted in our manger speaking with C-suite to clarify the issue and then with Lee. C-Suite and my manager had me work to put together all issues I had found with Lee’s work so an improvement plan could be made. After less than 10 days on the plan, Lee quit and cited me specifically in their office-wide farewell email stating that my “nitpicking” style had forced them out.

I again took on the old job and my current role until a new coordinator could be hired. Luckily the position was filled quickly and just the loveliest person was hired on, Quinn. I put together a binder for their use with every manual and troubleshooting tip and trick I could think of. I studied your “how-to-train” articles and guides and felt like I was prepared to give them the best start. Now after another six months, Quinn is still struggling with the workload and asked to meet with me near tears and admitted they’ve fallen two months behind. I agreed to take on scheduling again while they got a better handle on the rest of it. Our manager asked to know what the meeting was about, and I was straightforward due to my prior experience. I voiced that Quinn is able and willing to work, it’s just a lot for them to complete each day. The next day I saw Quinn get pulled into a meeting with our manager and HR and since then Quinn has been cold to me all week.

I feel like a low-life tattletale but I’m not sure where to go from here. Quinn is a lovely person, just maybe poorly suited for the work as they voiced the same questions about our systems during training and even months after I had ceased overseeing their work. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken some of their work either, but I kept quiet because I know they were willing to work but just got behind. I honestly unsure if this is just a couple of bad hires or if I’m the issue in this equation.

I wrote back and asked, “Do you think the workload in that job is manageable for one person? Have you seen people before these two do it successfully (without seeming completely stressed and burned out)?”

I may be answering my own question, but before I took the position there were three employees who left pretty quickly for various reasons. Though of the last two employees who did well, both moved into my current position and then one continued on to the next tier in the organization and the other left starting her own company on great terms.

I view the workload as manageable for someone who is very detail oriented, able to keep on eye on moving parts, and can manage accounts simultaneously. From the two I trained, I assume the hardest aspect to adapt to was the specific programs we use, or that at times there can be small projects and administrative tasks that accumulate quickly.

My workload increased during the last two years, because by the end of my tenure I was acting as coordinator and unknowingly doing the workload of another employee who had gradually turned everything over to me (which actually helped me get the promotion in the end so hey).

I want to offer to restructure some of the coordinator work, but as my current duties expand our manager doesn’t seem open to that option. The manager is allowing it for now as we have a backlog to sort through but I’m not sure they’d agree to that long term.

Yeah, you’re not the problem here! Or at least there’s nothing in your letter that indicates that.

It’s possible that the problem is the workload, but I can’t tell for sure. Normally if you’ve seen other people do the job well and handle the workload fine (including yourself), I’d say the workload isn’t the problem — but it might be a job that takes a specific sort of person to do it well, and the hiring has failed on that front. But you said the workload increased during your last two years in the position — and if the workload is now much higher than when others were doing the job, their ability to succeed with a lower workload doesn’t tell us anything.

If I were your manager, I’d want to figure out: Is the workload the problem? Or were these just the wrong hires? (I’ve found commenters on this site tend to default to believing it must be the workload, but the reality is that we can’t tell from here. I’ve seen average-workload jobs overwhelm the wrong hires.)

That’s really a question the manager needs to figure out. You can offer input though, from your vantage point as the last person to do the job successfully and the person who’s been watching the new hires close-up. What do you think is a reasonable workload? And not a reasonable workload for someone who’s been doing the job for two years, but for someone who’s new? Based on your experience doing the job and watching Lee and Quinn, do you think the right person could do it all … without high levels of stress? If not, you should push that perspective with your boss.

All that said, Lee almost definitely wasn’t the right hire. They lacked the skills necessary for the work, made significant errors, resisted using your organization’s systems, and refused to complete training. They did have a legitimate beef if the job was different than what had been sold to them — and that’s something your organization needs to fix if so — but regardless, they sound like they’re weren’t the right person for the role, in a way that training couldn’t fix. (Also, repeatedly telling you they had 25 years of experience and no trouble stepping into the job is … odd. And sending an office-wide email with their grievances when they left is not an awesome sign about their judgment.)

It sounds like over time Lee came to take issue with your oversight and guidance. It’s possible that could be legitimate (since I have no idea what your style is — maybe you are unreasonably nitpicky or deliver feedback unkindly or so forth), but it’s also possible that Lee just took issue with being corrected all the time, even though those corrections were necessary, and thus grew to dislike or resent you.

But you didn’t do anything wrong by sharing your concerns about Lee’s — or Quinn’s — struggles with your manager. In fact, you probably should have looped in your manager much earlier on. When you’re assigned to train someone and you see serious problems, you’ve got to make their manager aware — they’re counting on you to alert them to stuff like that, and they can’t manage effectively if they’re unaware of what’s unfolding. Similarly, you shouldn’t agree to take over parts of someone else’s job (like the scheduling) without informing your and their manager, who may not want you to do that — and need to know if it’s happening.

That said, the manager also should have been checking in with you regularly about how things were going. The manager seems strangely absent in much of this, and it sounds like you’ve been left to make it work on your own. But that’s not your job, so you’ve got to pull her in more.

If Lee/Quinn/whoever resents you for doing sharing your impressions with your boss, they’re not being realistic about how training works. It can help to tell people up-front that you’ll be keeping your manager posted on how training is going so it’s less of a surprise when you do, but some people will resent it anyway. All you can do is be fair with your feedback (to them and to your boss) and be transparent with all parties.

Ultimately, though, it sounds like you’re carrying the burden of figuring out how to make this work when (a) you have a different job to focus on now, (b) it’s your manager’s job to deal with and she’s paid for that — you’re not, and (c) you don’t have the authority to do what it would take to solve this anyway — you’re not the one selecting hires, managing workloads, giving formal feedback, etc. Ideally you’d do a brain-dump with your manager of everything you’ve concluded about this role — what’s working, what’s not, whether the workload is manageable, the key skills to look for in a hire — and then leave it with her and keep your mental energy on your new position.

the people I train keep failing — am I the problem? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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coworker won’t stop consulting an ex-employee, my boss won’t wear a mask, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/coworker-wont-stop-consulting-an-ex-employee-my-boss-wont-wear-a-mask-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/coworker-wont-stop-consulting-an-ex-employee-my-boss-wont-wear-a-mask-and-more.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2020 05:03:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20630 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My coworker won’t stop consulting our former boss, who doesn’t work here anymore Due to recent restructuring from Covid, the head of our department’s position was eliminated and now I and one other regional director report directly to the CEO. Instead of one person making […]

coworker won’t stop consulting an ex-employee, my boss won’t wear a mask, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My coworker won’t stop consulting our former boss, who doesn’t work here anymore

Due to recent restructuring from Covid, the head of our department’s position was eliminated and now I and one other regional director report directly to the CEO. Instead of one person making a major decision, we have to come to an agreement and share our recommendations to the CEO to ultimately decide.

My co-manager is close with the old boss who was let go and is continuing to text him and have conversations asking for advice on several recent initiatives. My colleague then insists on a course of action because “that’s what he recommends.” I have tremendous respect for our old boss but he neither works here nor has all of the information.

I’m feeling undermined and made to feel like my own expertise is irrelevant. What is a good way for me to handle this? We generally work well together and I want to keep it that way. Do I ignore when this happens and hope that with time we settle into our responsibilities and authority?

Yeah, that’s not good. I could imagine there being one or two situations where the former director might have crucial info or perspective that you can’t get any other way … but not on the reg and, more importantly, this guy was laid off and is no longer being paid by your organization. Maybe he’s happy to continue to help, but your organization shouldn’t be comfortable continuing to let him. And that’s before we get into the very valid points you made about him no longer having all the relevant context, and others now being in charge. (There also might be confidentiality concerns, depending on the type of work you do.)

So I’d address it head-on: “I’m concerned about continuing to bring Bob into these conversations because the more time that goes by, the less he has all the relevant info. I believe (CEO’s) intent was for you and I to make these decisions ourselves. I’m also concerned about leaning on Bob for input when he’s no longer being paid by the company; at a minimum, I think the company would want to be aware that he’s being asked for input in this way.”

If that doesn’t stop it, talk to your boss about it; it’s a big enough deal that it rises to that level.

2. My boss won’t wear a mask

We’ve returned to working in the office for a percentage of the month. In addition to other safety precautions, we have all been asked to social distance and wear masks, as expected. For the most part, I’ve seen my coworkers comply with the mask rules. The one hold-out is my direct supervisor. Whenever they have a mask on, they always wear it below the nose. When they have approached me at work, they have either removed their mask completely or have just worn it incorrectly. I feel extremely uncomfortable, and am upset that they think this is acceptable.

The last time I was in the office and they approached me (again with the mask not covering everything it was supposed to), I got so tense that I probably wasn’t as personable with my responses as I could have been, and just tried to end the conversation as soon as possible (and it wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been sent in an email). I feel awkward and like I acted unprofessionally, but I am just so frustrated. We all know how to wear a mask, and I feel that intentionally not doing so is a sign that they believe their comfort is more important than my safety.

For a number of reasons, I am not super comfortable approaching this issue with them (for one, I haven’t been taken seriously when trying to bring up concerns in the past), but I’m not sure bringing it up to our manager is the best thing to do. I don’t want to be seen as a tattler. I’m also concerned that the failure to follow the rules stems from dangerous and ill-informed views regarding the pandemic and I don’t know that I want to open that can of worms. This sentiment is quite prevalent where I live, so it has definitely crossed my mind.

I really want to reiterate that my company is very serious about these safety rules. Our industry has taken a massive hit due to this pandemic, so it’s in everyone’s best interests that we all follow the guidelines. I know that if I spoke up, the concern would be addressed but I worry about how that would affect my reputation.

Your company is taking the rules seriously, has asked employees to take the rules seriously, and you’re confident they’ll address it. So please speak up. Your manager is putting people’s health and lives at risk. This isn’t tattling (a concept that doesn’t really exist at work, particularly around serious, substantive issues like this one); it’s giving your company important safety info. If your manager were driving company cars drunk on work property, would you tell someone? Same thing here.

When you report it, explain you’re concerned about retaliation from your manager and ask if it’s possible for them to keep your name out of it. Something like this is so simple for them to independently confirm that it should be easy for them to do.

3. If I give bigger gifts this year, am I setting a precedent?

I have two full-time employees and I always get them a $50 gift card from a large retailer with a professionally heartfelt note about how much I appreciate them. We’ve all been under great stress this year due to the pandemic. I’d like to give them more, but I’m worrying about setting a precedent. If I go to $100, will I then need to do that in all future years? Will it be too awkward going back to $50? I use my personal money for this as our organization’s rules don’t allow for using the budget for gifting employees.

Related, am I being too stingy? I’ve never had bosses that give me more than a small Starbucks gift card – and my current manager, the leader of the organization, doesn’t even give a card, much less a gift. Even though I’ve been a manager for almost 10 years, I wonder if I’m doing this right!

You are not being stingy! To the contrary, you’re being very generous.

If you want to put in extra this year, you can do it without setting a precedent. Include a note that says something like, “A little extra because of how hard 2020 has been.” I’m sure your employees would be very appreciative.

The two caveats I’d give are: (1) If your team gets larger in the future, you may need to lower your per-person expenditure at that point (simply to protect your own budget). But generally people understand that as a team gets larger, this kind of tradition may change. (2) Make sure you’re not inadvertently creating pressure on other managers to give significant gifts to their teams. With a two-person team, you’re probably not, but it’s something to be sensitive to. (I hope that doesn’t diminish your confidence in what you’re doing this year! It sounds lovely, and you sound lovely.)

4. My employer doesn’t understand I’m in high school

I am 17 and work part-time as a cashier at a big box superstore, where I have worked for about a month and a half. I typically work weekends and Thursday/Friday nights, and told them when I started that I wasn’t able to work before 4:30 on weekdays due to school. This worked well for up until the past week.

When I checked my schedule on Sunday, I found I had been scheduled to work at 3:30, 10 minutes after school lets out here, and 3:15 the following day (when class is still in session!). I talked to the manager of my department and explained I couldn’t work those hours because of school and got them pushed back. Water under the bridge until today.

I received a call today, while I was in class, from an an assistant manager, asking me to come in within the next 20 minutes or so. I told him I couldn’t and explained again that I was in high school. He told me I could come in later today, but am I right for being annoyed? Other than this, it’s a good job, but with this being the third time my request to not be scheduled during school hours was ignored, I’m lost on what to do.

Most likely, people are just going to keep forgetting and you’ll need to keep reminding them. That might be incompetence, but it could also just be that they’re scheduling a ton of people and can’t remember the specifics of everyone’s availability. Also, it sounds like multiple people get involved in finding coverage, and they’re even less likely to know your availability. It sounds like they’re good about backing off once you remind them, and so you might just need to remind them over and over. If you can see it that way — as opposed to them pressuring you to miss school or otherwise being inconsiderate — it might be easier to deal with.

5. Following up with an employer who said they might be hiring in January

I’m currently job searching. I had an informal interview with an employer that was recommended to me through my network. It went well, and I would be excited to work with them. In the interview in mid-October, they stated they were not currently hiring because they were onboarding a couple new employees and didn’t have bandwidth for an additional new employee. However, they thought they might be hiring in January. I was curious what the best way to follow up would be. Do I wait until January or reach out now since it’s almost December (so that I’m top of mind when January arrives)? Is it enough to restate my enthusiasm for working with them and to inquire about whether they are hiring now, or is that too direct?

It’s too soon to follow up. It wouldn’t make sense to ask if they’re hiring now, when they recently told you they might be hiring in January (which implies it’s pretty unlikely to be now).

I’d wait until early January to follow up. Normally right before their stated timeframe would be fine, but in this case that would be the last week of December, which is often a time where very little is happening. So, right after the new year starts.

When you do check back in, you can note that they’d mentioned they might be hiring in January and say you wanted to reiterate your interest if they are. Good luck!

coworker won’t stop consulting an ex-employee, my boss won’t wear a mask, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-is-giving-me-bad-vibes-but-i-like-the-hiring-manager.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-is-giving-me-bad-vibes-but-i-like-the-hiring-manager.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2020 18:59:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20500 A reader writes: I went on an interview for a job in a different industry (academia), I’ve always had a passion for education so even though I knew I would likely be taking a pay cut, I still applied and was willing to take the offer if it was a good fit. My first phone […]

HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

I went on an interview for a job in a different industry (academia), I’ve always had a passion for education so even though I knew I would likely be taking a pay cut, I still applied and was willing to take the offer if it was a good fit.

My first phone screen was with the HR manager, who asked why I would want to work there if they couldn’t match my current salary and seemed doubtful of my answer that I would be okay with a pay cut from my research of what academia paid for this type of role. Then he asked why I would want to work there if I lived so far from the work location (it’s about a 45 minute drive). I said in the future, it’s very likely that I will move closer to that location since my husband also works in that area and that I don’t mind a 45 minute commute if there was occasional flexibility for work hours/telework. He said this role would absolutely not allow for flex hours or telework because of the nature of the role, I thanked him for the information and we ended the conversation shortly thereafter. I assumed we would not proceed. Later, I got an email from him saying the hiring manager was interested in speaking with me. I was surprised, but I accepted the interview just to learn more about the opportunity.

The interview with the hiring manager was drastically different from my phone screen with HR. First, the hiring manager is a remote worker and she said she was definitely okay with flex hours (starting earlier to leave a little earlier) and occasional telework, and in fact many people at the organization take advantage of those options! She also observed I was highly qualified and asked if I was comfortable making less than I would in the corporate world. When I explained my interest in switching to academia, she was a good listener and believed me. She proceeded to ask some standard questions. I then proceeded all the way to final rounds, met the team, and had a good experience with everyone. The hiring manager hinted they would be making an offer.

Well, I got a call from the same HR manager after my final interview round, and he was snarky and honestly a little hateful. He asked again if I was REALLY interested in the role, as if he couldn’t believe I would be, then he implied he didn’t think I would be a good fit because I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to work in a different industry and was almost trying to tell me I shouldn’t take the job. It wasn’t from a place of trying to be helpful, but deterring me because he didn’t like me as an interview candidate. What’s the best way to respond in this situation?

Put way more weight on your interactions with the hiring manager than HR. The hiring manager is the person who will be managing you if you take the job, and you might have little to no interaction with this HR person ever again.

The HR guy sounds like he has very set views about things that the manager doesn’t share, on everything from changing fields to the length of commutes, and he’s attempting to impose those views on the selection process … but in a well-functioning organization, it’s the manager’s assessment that will count the most, and that sounds like what’s happening here.

It’s true that bad HR sometimes can be a sign of problems with a company. But often the department you’d be working in can be great, even though HR isn’t. Sometimes HR is it own weird island, or just fairly irrelevant once you start working there. Other times not. But the hiring manager — the person whose team you’ll be working on — is far more likely to give you an accurate idea of the job, the culture, and the day-to-day realties of working there.

That said, if they do make you an offer, you can certainly ask the manager about this! As part of whatever discussion you’re having with her about the offer, you could say, “I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with you and the rest of the team, and I’m excited about the job. I wanted to ask though — the info I’ve been getting from Bob hasn’t lined up with what you and I have discussed around things like flex hours and occasional telework, and he almost seemed to be discouraging me from taking the job. I’ve put more weight on what you’ve told me since the job is on your team, but I wondered if you had any insight that would help me sort through that?”

HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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how can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-can-i-find-new-hires-who-will-be-comfortable-with-our-boys-club-culture.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-can-i-find-new-hires-who-will-be-comfortable-with-our-boys-club-culture.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2020 17:29:24 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20448 A reader writes: I’m looking to add a new employee to my team, most likely a recent college graduate, and I’m not quite sure how to come up with questions to ensure a good cultural fit. Our team is a bit of a “boys club” with cursing and the occasional inappropriate joke made in smaller […]

how can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

I’m looking to add a new employee to my team, most likely a recent college graduate, and I’m not quite sure how to come up with questions to ensure a good cultural fit. Our team is a bit of a “boys club” with cursing and the occasional inappropriate joke made in smaller group settings. I know that some people aren’t comfortable around this type of environment (and I know this culture won’t change in the near future) so I want to make sure the person would be able to fit into this group. It seems awkward to ask, “How do you feel about cursing and the occasional crude joke?” Is this a legitimate question to ask in an interview? If not, do you have any other recommendations for how to do it?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?
  • My colleague didn’t hire my son
  • Working on maternity leave
  • Why did my interviewer mention another candidate?

how can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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we can only bring our spouses to the holiday party if we have kids https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/we-can-only-bring-our-spouses-to-the-holiday-party-if-we-have-kids.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/we-can-only-bring-our-spouses-to-the-holiday-party-if-we-have-kids.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2020 15:59:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20498 A reader writes: I’ve considered writing in years past about my company’s Christmas party, but I never felt like I had any agency to change things. This year the Christmas party is cancelled (obviously) so when we resume next year (hopefully) it will be a chance to re-set the rules, so to speak. Our company […]

we can only bring our spouses to the holiday party if we have kids was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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A reader writes:

I’ve considered writing in years past about my company’s Christmas party, but I never felt like I had any agency to change things. This year the Christmas party is cancelled (obviously) so when we resume next year (hopefully) it will be a chance to re-set the rules, so to speak.

Our company has about 80 employees. Christmas at our workplace is very family-oriented. It is a catered lunch during the work day, an employee dresses as Santa, and every single child under the age of 18 associated with the company gets called up and given a gift. This means kids and grandkids. We also have an employee raffle that is incredibly generous. It has ballooned into a huge ordeal.

There is a lot to like about our Christmas parties but one thing upsets me every year: I am not allowed to bring my husband. The rule is that spouses can only attend if you have a child. If it is a grandchild, then the parent(s) can also attend. Which means that those of us without kids don’t get the opportunity to introduce our coworkers to our spouses. I also think it’s especially rude because we have multiple employees who are in same-sex marriages, and this rule applies to them as well, as none of them have children. So for example, one older employee has three adult children and a total of 9 grandchildren under 18, so they will bring 12 guests, but my coworker is not allowed to bring his husband of 10 years because they don’t have a child together. It just doesn’t seem fair. I do like meeting my coworkers’ families. I think it helps us get to know each other on a more personal level and really connect with each other. But I’d like them to be able to meet my husband, too!

It is frustrating. I spoke with the party planner last year about a month before the party about it, and she insisted on the rule and said that some younger employees also complained to her because they didn’t have kids or spouses, but would like to bring a parent with them to see their workplace and meet all their coworkers. She said we simply cannot accommodate everyone. Then the party was kind of a disaster. I can’t say for certain but I think there were about 350 or so people in attendance, we ran out of chairs/tables, we ran out of food, and our party planner was near tears from stress and frustration trying to scramble for more food and seats. I ended up sitting at a table with a bunch of teenagers who were just waiting for their gift cards from Santa and refused to talk to me and were all on their phones. It was no fun.

Our office party planner is open to suggestions but seems to think there is no way for us to have a “family” Christmas party that it equitable for everyone, so people without kids just have to suck it up. Christmas 2020 is canceled so I’m hoping we can come up with ideas for Christmas 2021 that makes our party fun, fair, and not totally overwhelming! I was thinking a rule of children under 12 only, and no grandkids, and everyone else gets one plus-one. It would cut the numbers down drastically but the party planner thinks it would be agist and make our employees with grandkids unhappy to change the system. But after last year’s disaster of a party it seems clear that something has to give.

Do you have any ideas on how to fix this? Or is our party system not the problem, and just my attitude is? I don’t have kids and I’m not planning on them, so I can’t help but wonder if I’m just being a wet blanket about this.

This is a terrible system!

Some employees get to bring 12 guests while others can’t bring anyone, not even their spouse? It’s incredibly exclusionary, and I’m not sure why they think employees without kids would even want to attend on their own — when their coworkers get to bring their spouses and the rest of their families. And grandkids! You can’t bring your spouse, but other people can bring their spouse, their adult children, and their grandkids?

And your party planner says she can’t change anything because it would upset employees with grandchildren … but she’s apparently totally unconcerned about the people who are upset right now at being excluded?

The most generous reading I can come up with is that this isn’t really a party for employees; it’s a party for employees’ kids, and everyone else is welcome to attend. It’s possible that’s really what they intend, based on the family focus, the gifts to every child, etc.

But if that’s the case, it would be understandable if you and your other colleagues without children decided not to attend at all. I’m curious how that would go over — would anyone care? Or are you pressured to be there, especially since it’s during the workday?

If you want to push back on it, I’d talk to someone other than the party planner since she doesn’t seem to be able to see past “this is how we do it.” Her reasoning — “we can’t accommodate everyone” while letting some employees bring 12 guests — says pretty clearly that she’s not bringing logic to this discussion. My guess is that she figures this is the system you have, it would take effort and some political capital to change it, and she either doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to deal with the complaints event planners get with any change … so you need to go higher.

Ideally you and your other coworkers who object would go over her head and talk to someone with more authority. Explain that it’s alienating to be told you can’t bring your spouse while others bring a spouse and 10+ guests, and ask if the party can be re-envisioned to be more inclusive of all your employees, not just those with kids.

Since it seems like your company really wants to do something for kids, you might get more traction if you suggest keeping the event for kids, but adding an adult party that all partners (or any plus-one) are welcome at.

we can only bring our spouses to the holiday party if we have kids was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee, coworker plays music all day, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-wont-let-me-do-anything-about-my-horrible-employee-coworker-plays-music-all-day-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-wont-let-me-do-anything-about-my-horrible-employee-coworker-plays-music-all-day-and-more.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2020 05:03:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20496 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee I have an hourly worker who routinely comes in 5 – 7 minutes late and leaves 5 – 7 minutes early. I’ve been told by our HR department I can’t “legally” require her to be […]

HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee, coworker plays music all day, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee

I have an hourly worker who routinely comes in 5 – 7 minutes late and leaves 5 – 7 minutes early. I’ve been told by our HR department I can’t “legally” require her to be here on time (start of shift) and stay until end of shift, because we have the round up/down policy — anyone who comes in up to 7.5 minutes late rounds back to the start of that hour, and is considered “on time” and leaving 7.5 minutes early gets rounded up to the next hour — so according to HR, I can’t legally penalize her or insist she be here by the start of shift or stay until the end of her shift. This is a problem for me because she is supposed to be relieving someone when she comes in — mostly student workers (we are at a university) who have to leave to get to class, and I can’t make them late to class by insisting they stay until she shows up. She also has to open on Saturdays, and she keeps the rest of the staff waiting to get into our area while she strolls in 5 – 7 minutes late every week. HR says it’s a violation of the FLSA to require her to be here on time and stay until end of shift.

She is aware of this policy, and I believe is intentionally using it to inconvenience the rest of the unit (she is openly rude and dismissive to the student workers — this “late” issue is only the tip of the iceberg) and to be covertly insubordinate. She is later than the “allowed” seven minutes an average of about once a week, but she’s perceived by the rest of the staff as being late every day, and they are resentful.

She is a recent transfer to my unit, because her previous job was eliminated. She is openly unhappy about the transfer (she had to apply so it’s not like she was forced). She refuses direct assignments or delegates them to others if it’s something she feels is “beneath” her. Having her behave this way is causing a major drop in morale. I’ve got student workers asking to change shifts so they can avoid working with her because of her attitude, and she has twice made her views regarding transgender people quite clear (she refuses to use their chosen pronouns or names if not “officially changed” in the school records — she doesn’t believe transgender people exist), which has caused at least two student workers to ask to be reassigned so they can avoid her. Morale is plummeting in our unit and while my immediate supervisor sympathizes, HR is tying my hands since I’m not allowed to speak to her about the “sort of” late/early issue, as HR says that’s not really late or leaving early. I don’t know what to do.

Good lord.

First, your HR people are wrong about the law. It’s true that if you have a practice of rounding people’s hours up or down, you must do it in a way that doesn’t always advantage the employer (i.e., you can’t always round down). But that’s about what time people get paid for. The law in no way says you can’t require people to be on time or stay until the end of their shifts, and you absolutely can discipline people (including firing them) for routinely shortening their shifts. (That said while legal, it would be overkill to do that over a 5-7 minutes, unless the person is in a job where coverage matters and you’ve warned them repeatedly — both of which are true in this case.)

But you don’t even need to fight with HR about this because there’s so much else here that you should fire this person over: first and foremost, deadnaming colleagues and refusing to use their correct pronouns, but also being rude and insubordinate, refusing assignments, assigning her work to others. If HR is giving you a hard time on the lateness, pursue the other stuff. Each of these things should be fireable on their own, and you’ve got an obligation to your other employees to deal with those aggressively.

2. We have to bring “sources of consternation” to our meetings

I work for a state agency, and we have been working from home since mid-March. Just before the pandemic, we were supposed to begin a new organizational policy that involved an enormous amount of paperwork. I asked if we couldn’t streamline the process by having all the paperwork reduced to a shared spreadsheet, but I got shot down because they wanted it done the same way throughout the agency. I pointed out that everybody has different styles, and some people (like me) get very twitchy and unfocused when surrounded by mountains of paperwork, but I was brushed off because the agency wanted to use the new policy exactly as written. Then we all began working from home and the new policy was put on hold for months until they finally decided to do it virtually, and, just as I originally suggested, they ended up doing it with a shared spreadsheet. But they plan to return to the mountains of paperwork as soon as we’re back in the office.

Today my team of about a dozen people received an email saying that at our team meetings from now on, we are each required to describe something at work recently that has been a source of consternation for us. I am horrified and predict that it will cause a lot of tension and not be a productive use of our time at all. Even if nobody uses the time to lodge inappropriate complaints that would be better addressed in a one on one with our team lead, I still don’t like that we are being asked to focus on negative things as a group.

I should add that I’m sure this new task was not my team lead’s idea, as he dislikes meetings almost as much as I do, keeps them brief, and ends them if nobody has anything to bring up. I plan on addressing my concern with my team lead at my next one-on-one, but I fully expect that I will not get anywhere because pushing back against red tape has failed before. I can and will speak up, but I do not have the standing to effect change to an agency policy. I also cannot stand the idea of regular meetings where we all have to talk about something unpleasant. I’m hoping the agency realizes it’s a terrible idea and discontinues it after the inevitable drama results, but if that doesn’t happen and we’re stuck with these terrible meetings, do I have any option other than just leaving?

So … I think you might be overreacting. Or at least reacting prematurely.

It sounds like your team is being asked to bring problems and challenges for discussion at your meetings — which is a very normal and common thing to do. If I’m wrong and they literally just want people to name problems with no focus on solving them, that would be odd — but it would be so odd that it’s much more likely it’s about problem-solving, not complaining (and not about interpersonal drama either, unless your team is highly dysfunctional). Either way, why not wait and see how it goes before drawing any conclusions? It’s possible it’ll be different than what you’re picturing, and if it does turn out to be unconstructive, you can raise that then. If you raise it now, it’s likely you’re going to be asked to wait and see how it goes anyway — and it’ll be much easier to raise concerns after you’ve given it a chance and seen what it’s really like.

It’s possible you’re assuming or even creating drama where it won’t exist. Or not — but wait and see how it goes.

To answer your actual question, though, if it turns out to be as bad as you fear, you can talk with your manager and talk with your coworkers and encourage them to push back on it too, but if management above you is committed to keeping these meetings, then yeah, you’d need to decide if you can live with that or not. Unless they’re truly dreadful, it doesn’t sound like something that would warrant leaving, but everyone draws their lines in different places.

3. Coworker listens to music on speakers all day

I have a coworker who listens to music on speakers at his desk in our open office, all day. I’ve mentioned to our mutual manager a couple of times over the past year how distracting it is, and she just told me she would ask him to turn it down. He does turn it down for a while after she speaks to him, but I still can hear it, and it always creeps back up over time. I have discussed this with other coworkers who sit in our office and they are also distracted by his music. We all wear headphones or earbuds in part to drown out his music, but what we all really want is for him to wear headphones too. A complicating factor is that the coworker who plays the music is a favorite of our manager (he clearly gets special treatment in other ways) and becomes a drama lama to all the staff if he feels he’s been slighted. How do you recommend I talk to my manager again about this?

Have you talked to the music-playing coworker directly? You’ve talked to your manager and you’ve talked to other coworkers, but is anyone talking to himIdeally every time you can hear his music, you’d say to him, “I can hear your music and it’s making it tough to focus — could you use headphones?” If you’re not doing that because he’s difficult when he feels slighted — well, this isn’t a slight, and if he chooses to take it that way, that’s on him. You could also try asking your manager for a rule that music can’t be played out loud, period, and that everyone needs to use headphones. It’s possible that would be more effective than her conversations asking him to just turn it down (and that’s a very reasonable and common rule for offices to have).

But most likely, you’ll need to take it to the coworker directly. If he hears from enough of you, there’s a decent chance he’ll eventually comply, even if begrudgingly. (And if none of this works … well, then at that point you know he’s an ass and your manager sucks too, but it’s worth taking these steps first because they might work.)

4. Should I send a note telling an employer I’ll send in a resume soon?

I have worked in a deadline-oriented position in print media for numerous years. Because of declining sales in this area, all of the employees at my company were moved to contractor positions with no benefits two years ago. I love my job, but I’m at a stage where I need to seriously save for retirement for the next 10 years, and the new contracted position offers less money and much less stability.

Enter: a posting for a similar job with a slight reduction in title, but a huge increase in stability (and I’m presuming benefits). But because I haven’t needed to have a resume for over 10 years, I’m having to rewrite my resume from scratch, which is time-consuming! And, I’m on deadline for current job so I literally am sleeping/eating/working only for another week.

Would it be appropriate to send a letter of interest (which I feel very confident writing after following your cover letter advice for years), saying that a resume is forthcoming? I feel like they might understand the time constraints involved, and might even be glad to hear about my deadline dedication? That being said, I don’t want to potentially jeopardize this opportunity by turning them off or by letting the job get filled while I’m overbooked. What do you think?

Nah, not unless they’ve asked for applications by a date that you’re otherwise going to miss. On the employer side, it’s not really useful to get a note that a stranger’s application is coming. Without a resume I have no way of knowing if this stranger will be a strong candidate or not — and if they are, I’m going to see that when they apply anyway. It doesn’t help me to hear that their application is forthcoming; just send the application when it’s ready and I’ll look at it then.

You’re concerned about the job being filled before you apply, but an employer isn’t going to hold off on hiring because someone they don’t know said they plan to apply in a week. You might not even apply, and now I’ve held the job unnecessarily! Or you might apply and not be competitive with my current top candidates. (Which, statistically speaking, is the case for most candidates.)

Send everything at once.

5. Gifts for less than $7/person

I work as a manager in the IT department of an academic medical center. In March, our department became remote for COVID. In May, that decision became permanent and we will be remote going forward, so my employees now work from home.

Typically for Christmas, I get my direct reports a small gift in addition to our Secret Santa gift exchange. There are 14 of them this year, and this gift comes out of my pocket. I enjoy getting this gift for my team, but I do try to keep it to less than $7/person. I haven’t found anything that I like for that price point, and I’m having to factor in delivery or shipping this year. Any ideas?

$7/person including shipping … I’m going to throw this one out to commenters to weigh in on. Personally, I’d skip the gifts at that point and just do notes to each person about what you’ve appreciated about working with them this year — which I think people will appreciate more anyway.

HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee, coworker plays music all day, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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weekend open thread – November 21-22, 2020 https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/weekend-open-thread-november-21-22-2020.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/weekend-open-thread-november-21-22-2020.html#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2020 06:00:40 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20466 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: Cobble Hill, by Cecily von Ziegesar. It’s about four families — including a former rock star, a school nurse, a renowned but struggling novelist, a performance […]

weekend open thread – November 21-22, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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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: Cobble Hill, by Cecily von Ziegesar. It’s about four families — including a former rock star, a school nurse, a renowned but struggling novelist, a performance artist, and their spouses — and how their lives intersect in unexpected ways. Not a lot happens but it’s fun.

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

weekend open thread – November 21-22, 2020 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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