Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Thu, 22 Apr 2021 18:57:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 can I ask contacts at other companies how much money they make? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/can-i-ask-contacts-at-other-companies-how-much-money-they-make.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/can-i-ask-contacts-at-other-companies-how-much-money-they-make.html#comments Thu, 22 Apr 2021 17:59:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21476 This post, can I ask contacts at other companies how much money they make? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Is there an acceptable way to ask distant contacts at other companies how much they’re making? I’m in a role that exists across most industries but at wildly different levels of pay and responsibility (executive assistant). I often come in contact with other industry assistants through meeting setups and other correspondence. Is […]

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This post, can I ask contacts at other companies how much money they make? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Is there an acceptable way to ask distant contacts at other companies how much they’re making?

I’m in a role that exists across most industries but at wildly different levels of pay and responsibility (executive assistant). I often come in contact with other industry assistants through meeting setups and other correspondence. Is there any polite way to send a couple of them a LinkedIn message basically saying, “I think I’m underpaid, but my boss is open to reviewing my compensation if I can find market comps. Would you mind giving me an idea of your compensation that I can use as market research?” Could you suggest a more professional script for that?

People can be really hesitant to share what they’re making, especially with people they don’t know well.

That’s a problem. It’s bad for everyone that our culture is so secretive about salaries; it puts workers a disadvantage in negotiating, and it also helps hide and perpetuate salary inequities along race and gender lines. (Or more accurately, it’s bad for everyone except employers. They tend to benefit.)

But given that people aren’t always open to sharing what they make, one way to approach it is to ask not for their salary but for a general idea of what their company pays people in their role. For example, you could say: “I suspect that I’m underpaid for the market, and my boss has agreed to revisit my salary if I can present her with comps for executive assistant roles at similarly sized businesses. Would you be willing to share with me the general range your company pays for jobs like ours? I’d be happy to share my own range in return if that would be helpful to you.”

People may still be hesitant though. Some companies even consider their salary structures confidential, and people may be hesitant to share openly because of that (especially when you’re framing it as market research that your boss will review, which might this feel more official than informal info-sharing).

A totally different option: Could you start a google spreadsheet for salaries in your field? You and other executive assistants could fill it out anonymously, and you could include fields not just for salary but for things like size of company, benefits, and years of experience. If all of you had access to the data on it, it could end up being a useful tool for everyone.

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updates: the partner’s employer’s quarantine requirements, the boss who thinks everything is fun, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/updates-the-partners-employers-quarantine-requirements-the-boss-who-thinks-eveything-is-fun-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/updates-the-partners-employers-quarantine-requirements-the-boss-who-thinks-eveything-is-fun-and-more.html#comments Thu, 22 Apr 2021 16:29:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21488 This post, updates: the partner’s employer’s quarantine requirements, the boss who thinks everything is fun, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here are three updates from past letter-writers. 1. My partner’s employer makes me quarantine whenever I have contact with another person Thanks for posting my letter (and jumping into the comments section as well). It was really helpful for me to get outside perspectives on everything. It was hard but necessary to hear that I’ve […]

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This post, updates: the partner’s employer’s quarantine requirements, the boss who thinks everything is fun, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My partner’s employer makes me quarantine whenever I have contact with another person

Thanks for posting my letter (and jumping into the comments section as well). It was really helpful for me to get outside perspectives on everything. It was hard but necessary to hear that I’ve got to be taking a firmer stand – with this household and with my partner.

The household is still going through a covid risk budgeting process, led by an outside mediator. I really have been trying to follow the advice to keep my distance from these discussions! But there’s a lot of enmeshment going on – this household represented friends / a close thing to family for me, once upon a time. My loss of trust in them has taken a huge toll on me.

That grief, combined with the fact that I was living somewhere with no natural light, has put me in the worst mental health place I can ever recall being in. I’m used to thinking of mental health as a “quality of life” thing e.g., when I’m not depressed, I’m more productive and life is more enjoyable. I knew no natural light wouldn’t be good; I didn’t realize it would be dangerous for me. But I was in such a dark place a few days ago – staying up all night multiple nights in a row writing arguments for why the household should adopt a particular budget – that I might have had to be hospitalized without my therapist’s intervention.

That experience – including having to reach out to my partner, a former housemate, a friend, and my own employer for support instead of handling it on my own – really brought home to me that my own network is very small and under-resourced. I’ve been so worried about the vulnerable person we were taking all these precautions to protect that it took me a long time to see how vulnerable I am myself as a person who’s also disabled. I appreciate the commenters who flagged that for me.

I’m currently staying in a sunny room at a friend’s place and getting the right amount of sleep. My partner’s taking (unpaid) time off to take care of me. I learned that someone from my activist book club is an unemployment lawyer, so she’s advising him of his options for maybe getting quarantines covered in the future. Meanwhile, the mutual aid group I volunteer for is trying to help me find medium-term housing. So, I am in the process of building a new support network and learning how to ask for help. Asking strangers on the Internet for advice was an important first step there! Again, thank you to everyone who weighed in.

An update to the update:

My partner got a new (temp) job so things are looking up!

2. My new boss says everything is “fun” — even data entry and illness

My supervisor continued to micromanage (had to be cc-ed on every email, sent me “fun” templates to use for taking my own personal notes, etc.), and continued to assign me really tedious (“fun!”) work at the expense of more interesting projects. To alleviate some of the boredom, I signed on to help organize a small, regional event that has since exploded into a national virtual conference with several thousand attendees. (We may actually be considered for a major industry award!)

While that was happening, I was offered an amazing job that I just accepted! It’s a 40% pay increase, and is much more focused on the area of work I’m interested in. Even better, I’m essentially being brought in to build processes and policies from the ground up.

I studied your guides ahead of my interviews, and have followed your cover letter/resume advice from the time I was an undergrad! I didn’t get to use any of your negotiating tips, since I was offered the max salary automatically, but I’m not complaining!

3. Should I warn job candidates about how bad my company is?

My replacement ended up being an individual who was new to the state and had zero connections here in my city. As many of your insightful readers guessed, things were much rockier at my previous company than I realized or wanted to admit. In the months since I’ve left, I learned some pretty damning things about my previous employer, including that one team member was owed a YEAR of pay before they were fired and the CEO was purposely delaying checks to lower-wage, support staff to pay leadership on time because of cash flow issues. There are many more stories here, but I’ll save that for another day.

As for the good news: although I was intending to leave my industry, I applied to a position on a whim. I would consider it a dream role within a well-established company and never one I thought I would get in a million years. But, I used all the information from your blog and your book to brush up on my CV and craft a thoughtful cover letter. I worked on my interview skills and made sure I was focused on interviewing them too (I, of course, asked the magic question). And… I got the job! Oh, and the best part of it all? The pay jump. I’m getting over 100% in increased income. I’m so excited and looking forward to the simple things… like getting paid on time and having company-provided equipment.

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people who have been at work all along are exhausted https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/people-who-have-been-at-work-all-along-are-exhausted.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/people-who-have-been-at-work-all-along-are-exhausted.html#comments Thu, 22 Apr 2021 14:59:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21492 This post, people who have been at work all along are exhausted , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how anxious many people feel over returning to their offices later this year — and how much of that stems from a break in trust in the people and institutions that have shown they can’t be counted on to protect us. But plenty of people won’t be returning to […]

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This post, people who have been at work all along are exhausted , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how anxious many people feel over returning to their offices later this year — and how much of that stems from a break in trust in the people and institutions that have shown they can’t be counted on to protect us.

But plenty of people won’t be returning to their workplaces, because they’ve been there all along — essential workers, workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely, and many people whose employers brought them back early on even though they didn’t need to.

They’ve been dealing not only with the risks of being on-site, but also with colleagues who refuse to wear masks, members of the public who throw tantrums (and worse) when asked to, and employers that don’t enforce safety measures. And some of them are frustrated when people who have been able to stay at home — and who were able to do that thanks to others who took on more of the risks so they didn’t have to — complain about having to return, when they’re not hearing much about their own experiences in that conversation.

Here’s what one person wrote to me:

“I have to say that some of the more recent letters about people reluctant to return to work despite being vaccinated, drops in positivity rates, and improved safety measures are really getting to me.

I know that each of us has experienced trauma this past year. But can we please stop pretending that the trauma of working from home and not wanting to go back is the same as the trauma of never being able to be home in the first place? It is defeating at best to hear from people who have been safe at home for an entire year talk about how nervous they are to go back and the level of unawareness in some of the responses is dumbfounding. These are people who have asked others to sacrifice their health and safety so that they could have access to food, healthcare, and essential services. And now that the tide is shifting and returning to the office is possible, the narrative is focused on them again.

Essential workers have spent the last year exposed to hate and anger and the fear of dying. People not wanting to leave their home offices is not the same and the more that we pretend that it is, the more we ignore the burden put upon those out and working every single day.

There are no winners in this pandemic, but there are certainly those who have paid a bigger price. Please stop pretending we are all in the same boat. Some people never had a boat to weather the storm and are barely hanging on.”

So, people who have already been back at work for a while or never left, let’s talk about how you’re doing. What’s your workplace getting right and what’s it getting wrong? How is this moment in the pandemic — where there’s so much cause for hope, but also so much anxiety — playing out for you?

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should I tell my boss I’m unhappy with my job, being assertive about safety, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/should-i-tell-my-boss-im-unhappy-with-my-job-being-assertive-about-safety-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/should-i-tell-my-boss-im-unhappy-with-my-job-being-assertive-about-safety-and-more.html#comments Thu, 22 Apr 2021 04:03:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21500 This post, should I tell my boss I’m unhappy with my job, being assertive about safety, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Should I tell my manager I’m unhappy with my job? I work in the nonprofit sector as a middle manager/director level employee. The last year I have been working from home, as has our whole team of 12 people. Working from home has brought to […]

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This post, should I tell my boss I’m unhappy with my job, being assertive about safety, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Should I tell my manager I’m unhappy with my job?

I work in the nonprofit sector as a middle manager/director level employee. The last year I have been working from home, as has our whole team of 12 people. Working from home has brought to light some issues the org has always had, but they have been made worse by being remote and from budget strains that aren’t pandemic related.

Personally, I feel completely drained by my job. I feel unappreciated and overlooked by the executive level leadership. I often feel ignored, as many people are terrible at getting back to me in a timely manner or at all (no matter what way I ask my questions). I feel that I’m being pulled in too many directions, and that there is no prioritization or planning, especially now as we enter year two of pandemic life. I also have no decision-making power over my own program the way someone in my position should, due to the micromanaging nature of our executive director.

These things aren’t exactly new in this job, but they were easier to deal with when we were in person. My performance evaluation is coming up and I want to know — is this something I can say to my manager? Is being unhappy at my job something I should say or is it safer to be quiet? I could just look for another job but this one pays well, and I am in a rural area without many choices and I don’t want to move right now. Is it better to just keep the unhappiness to myself and keep my eyes out for something else (even though opportunities are few and far between)?

Before you say anything, ask yourself what outcome you’d be hoping for, and what outcome you think is likely. Realistically, if your manager can’t do much about these issues, there’s probably not much point in raising them. Having her know that you’re unhappy won’t usually be terribly useful to you if there’s not something she can do, and it risks you being pushed out earlier than you might want to leave if they need to make cuts. (To complicate this, that’s not true 100% of the time. There are times when knowing you’re deeply unhappy can spur your manager to make changes in your job in ways you didn’t anticipate would be possible. But those situations tend to be the exceptions, especially when the things bothering you are deep-rooted cultural issues that will take significant work to change.)

However, sometimes you can pick one or two things that you do think she could help with, and that could make your life more bearable for however long you’re there. You’re probably not going to singlehandedly turn an org with no prioritization or planning into one that’s good at those things, but you might be able to get some changes around the edges (“I need at least two days notice for X”) or get other things that would help (whether it’s the authority to move X forward on your own if no one gets back to you, or increased recognition of your work, or more time off, or so forth).

2. Can I turn off notifications from my boss at night?

My boss has a habit of sending panicked/angry emails way after hours (we’re talking 11 pm on a weeknight) and on weekends. Never are these emails concerning actual emergencies — he simply doesn’t read his email all day, works his way through his inbox between the hours of 8 pm and midnight, and is understandably completely out of the loop and without crucial context when he’s reading otherwise ordinary intra-company correspondence. He works his way through daily emails backwards, starting with the most recent, and as a result, nine times out of ten he sends an email 15 minutes later, apologizing for flying off the handle, and acknowledging that the necessary context he needed was contained in emails sent earlier in the day.

These panicked/angry emails trigger push notifications to my phone, and naturally, I am compelled to read them. Otherwise — major anxiety. So my question is, can I turn off push notifications after hours and on weekends? Or can I turn them off after a certain hour? Perhaps I’m off-base here, but these emails feel inappropriate and unprofessional, and they trigger a lot of needless stress among me and my colleagues. As I said, the subject of his late-night Internet tantrums tend to clear themselves up with a bit more reading on his part — but I’m anxious that in turning off push notifications all together, I might miss the first real, bona fide emergency.

If it’s a real, bona fide emergency, he can call.

Turn off the notifications. You don’t need to allow your evenings and weekends to be constantly interrupted by angry emails that don’t even have any basis. (Frankly, even if they did have basis, you wouldn’t be obligated to let all your off time be destroyed this way either. You are allowed to have time away from work.)

It’s pretty ridiculous that your boss didn’t figure out after the first couple of times this happened that he needs to read back further before losing his cool, because the info he needs is there if he looks. Is he … not good at drawing logical conclusions and learning from experience? Ideally someone on your team would point out to him that this is happening regularly and there’s a simple solution. (That person may or may not be you; ideally it would be someone relatively senior and/or someone who has good rapport with him.)

3. Being assertive about safety once we’re back in the office

After most employees at my company have WFH for the past year due to COVID, my employer is bringing everyone back to the office very soon, and continued WFH is not an option. The timing is such that anyone who wants a COVID vaccine will have had ample time and availability in our state to be fully vaccinated before returning. Masks are not currently mandated in my state, and my employer is not requiring them in the office, nor validating who is or isn’t vaccinated.

Although I am fully vaccinated, I am hesitant to be in the office (around more people than I’ve been around in over a year), without masks. Some employees are almost certainly choosing not to be vaccinated, and current CDC guidance states that even fully vaccinated people should not be in close proximity of unvaccinated people from multiple households without masks. I will choose to wear a mask myself, but since masks primarily protect others (and others will not be required to wear them), I am at a loss on how to best set, communicate, and enforce boundaries to maintain my own safety. Can you suggest some sample scripts for how to respectfully but firmly: respond to lunch meeting invitations (since eating = guaranteed unmasked); respond to meetings held in conference rooms (can I request a Zoom option even when we’re all in office?), and request that others not enter my personal workspace unmasked?

Lean into the CDC guidance! Scripts:

* “I’m not comfortable doing in-person group meetings yet since the CDC says vaccinated people shouldn’t be in close proximity to people from multiple households without masks unless they know for sure everyone is vaccinated. Can I call in instead?”
* “I’m not able to do lunch meetings until the CDC relaxes their guidance for vaccinated people. Could we set up a call instead?”
* “Could you put on a mask before you come, please?” And if they’re unwilling: “In that case, can I ask that you go back to your desk and we’ll talk by phone? I’m being very careful.”

You could also highlight for your office that its plans are at odds with current CDC recommendations and ask what procedures they’ll put in place to comply.

4. Setting boundaries on requests for help from a significant other’s network

I am lucky enough to have recently fallen in love with a wonderful person. We live in a mid-size city (about 300,000) and both work in human services/education, though for different organizations. We are working to create healthy boundaries between our personal and professional lives and it is important to both of us that we are able to pursue careers independently.

My organization is bigger and engages in some grant-making activities. A coworker of his recently reached out to me for more information on how their organization could acquire funding. I directed her to publicly available resources but she responded seeking a personal introduction to the grant officer, who is not listed on the website. This made me uncomfortable; I’m happy to connect anyone who asks to public information, but it felt like she was leveraging my personal relationship to gain access. Being in the nonprofit world, I know the importance of networking and personal connections but I have no professional relationship with this person and we’ve only met once in passing.

My fiance and I discussed the need for some kind of baseline policy on how to deal with these kinds of inquiries as we see this being a recurring issue as we move forward in our careers. I would love advice from you on how to navigate these kinds of requests.

The way you handled it sounds just fine! When she asked for an introduction to the grant officer, you could have said, “Oh, we get such a high volume of interest in funding that we ask all grant applicants to follow the process listed on our website.” And if she still pushed: “I’m sorry I can’t help. We’re really rigorous about asking everyone to use the process on our website so that everyone is treated the same. Thanks for understanding!”

In other words, not so different from how you’d probably handle it if your fiancé weren’t in the picture. Explain what the person should do, and then reiterate that if necessary. Be warm and friendly, but hold firm on what you are and aren’t willing or able to do.

(My answer would be different if the person had been requesting something different. If she were asking for something like an informal chat about moving into your field — as opposed to this kind of special treatment — I’d encourage you to consider that, like you presumably would consider other similar requests that came through a mutual contact.)

5. Should I address having a different degree than an employer is looking for?

I am starting to seriously job hunt after being with my current organization for about a decade. My field is fairly niche, and there are not a lot of jobs available even in the best of times. I’ve expanded my search to adjacent fields — think libraries when my background is in archives. I’ve come across a few postings that I know I could do well and I have all the qualifications/experience except for the specific degree they are asking for. I still want to apply for these positions, and will of course highlight how my achievements/experience show that I would be a great fit, but I’m wondering if I should acknowledge in my cover letter that I have a field-adjacent degree. I’m thinking something like “I understand that you are looking for a candidate with a Library Sciences degree, but I am confident that my Archival Studies degree, along with my relevant work experience and achievements make me a great fit for the role.” If it matters, both the degree they are looking for and my degree are Master’s, so same education level. Is this a good idea to mention or should I leave it and hope that they don’t automatically dismiss me because I have a different degree?

I’d address it, but with slightly different wording. I’m not a fan of “I’m confident that X makes me a great fit for the role” type wording — that’s just asserting it to be true rather than demonstrating it in a more compelling way. You’ll be more convincing if you instead say something like, “While I realize you’re looking for a candidate with a Library Sciences degree, my Archival Studies degree gives me a strong grounding in X, Y, and Z” and otherwise explain how it makes you a good fit, rather than just declaring that it does. Good luck!

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I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-a-woman-does-my-interview-attire-have-to-be-feminine.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-a-woman-does-my-interview-attire-have-to-be-feminine.html#comments Wed, 21 Apr 2021 17:59:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21487 This post, I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a young woman about to graduate college and enter the workforce. I am also a lesbian and very uncomfortable with feminine clothing. In a perfect world, my professional attire would be near-identical to what is expected for a man. I’ve never had to interview for a job before, as all […]

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This post, I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a young woman about to graduate college and enter the workforce. I am also a lesbian and very uncomfortable with feminine clothing. In a perfect world, my professional attire would be near-identical to what is expected for a man.

I’ve never had to interview for a job before, as all my existing work experience is summer jobs that I got through personal connections (working with professors or people in my community) and I’m starting to get nervous about the upcoming process of interviewing. You suggest dressing for an interview in a way that will not draw attention to your outfit, and I know that if I dress the way I prefer to, I absolutely will be seen as “the butch candidate.” This does not seem ideal!

I live in an extremely liberal city, and maybe on paper nowhere I’d be looking to work would discriminate against people with gender nonconforming fashion tastes — but I also know that not everyone in charge of interviews is going to be as “woke” as the average reputation of a city, and a lot of the hiring process is based on subconscious biases.

What do I do? Grit my teeth, borrow one of my girlfriend’s blouses for the interview, and if I get the job just show up on day one wearing a suit and tie? Would it be disingenuous to dress differently for an interview than I plan to dress for the job itself? Would interviewing in a suit and tie be a good litmus test for how accepted I’d be in the job, or would it likely screw me over before I’ve even begun?

Nah, you don’t need to borrow a blouse.

You can if you want to. It’s not disingenuous to wear a typically feminine-presenting outfit to the interview even if that’s not your normal day-to-day wear. A lot of people have interview outfits that don’t bear a ton of resemblance to what they wear once they’re actually on the job.

But if you’re more comfortable in traditionally masculine-presenting clothes, there’s a real advantage to interviewing in them: It’ll help screen out companies where that’ll be an issue, and will screen in workplaces that don’t care.

That’s the case with a lot of things about how you present yourself at an interview, not just clothing. For example, if you’re naturally quiet and reserved but you force yourself to be bubbly and outgoing in interviews, you risk ending up in a job where they want you to be bubbly and outgoing (and that can be hellish if that’s not you).

As a general rule, the more you’re yourself in an interview, the more confident you can be that you’ll be able to comfortably be yourself on the job.

(Of course, that advice works well when you have options and the luxury of happily screening out employers that won’t be a comfortable fit. It can be less realistic when you don’t.)

All that said, since you’re in an extremely liberal city, this is pretty unlikely to be an issue (especially if we’re talking about something like San Francisco). You’re right that interviewers don’t always mirror the sensibilities of the cities where they’re located, but women in masculine-presenting clothing is so quickly entering the mainstream that it’s just not going to be a thing for the majority of interviewers.

I think you’re well-positioned to wear the professional clothes you’re comfortable with.

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my company is planning an overnight trip with secret activities https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-company-is-planning-an-overnight-trip-with-secret-activities.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-company-is-planning-an-overnight-trip-with-secret-activities.html#comments Wed, 21 Apr 2021 16:29:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21399 This post, my company is planning an overnight trip with secret activities , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My company (a young tech start-up) is planning an overnight company trip. They’ve been keeping the details secret, which has caused a lot of anxiety, especially since teasers implied that we would be going camping. They finally released a few details the week before it is set to happen, stating that we […]

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This post, my company is planning an overnight trip with secret activities , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My company (a young tech start-up) is planning an overnight company trip. They’ve been keeping the details secret, which has caused a lot of anxiety, especially since teasers implied that we would be going camping. They finally released a few details the week before it is set to happen, stating that we needed to bring athletic clothes and swimsuits, there would be a day of “team building activities,” followed by a big party, followed by “more fun extreme sports activities” the next day.

I have a health condition where hours of team sports will be miserable and potentially make me feel really unwell. I’d like to talk to my boss, explain this, and see 1) exactly what the team building activities involve and 2) if the sports activities will be optional. I’m stressed about not going and being perceived as not being a team player, but also don’t want to have to sit awkwardly on the side and deal with questions about why I’m not participating. Do you have any advice for how to approach 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:

  • My new hire is missing too much work
  • Can I recommend two people for the same job?
  • What’s the deal with “stay interviews”?
  • I chastised a company for not hiring me — can I apply there again?
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my whole office works from home except me — and I’m getting stuck with everyone’s admin work https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-whole-office-works-from-home-except-me-and-im-getting-stuck-with-everyones-admin-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-whole-office-works-from-home-except-me-and-im-getting-stuck-with-everyones-admin-work.html#comments Wed, 21 Apr 2021 14:59:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21494 This post, my whole office works from home except me — and I’m getting stuck with everyone’s admin work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Like many other businesses, my company made a decision at the beginning of the pandemic to let anyone work from home who wanted to. Nearly everyone took them up on this offer and scrambled to find a way to make it work, slapping un-tested procedures together that were never intended to be […]

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This post, my whole office works from home except me — and I’m getting stuck with everyone’s admin work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Like many other businesses, my company made a decision at the beginning of the pandemic to let anyone work from home who wanted to. Nearly everyone took them up on this offer and scrambled to find a way to make it work, slapping un-tested procedures together that were never intended to be long-term. I chose to come into the office. I figured if I was alone, then my exposure was just as limited, and my bosses were happy to have someone holding down the fort. My coworkers asked if I could take care of their in-office work since I would already be here, and I of course agreed since at the time we thought it would only be a few weeks of additional responsibilities. We’re all in this together, right?

That was more than a year ago and I’m still the only person in the office. Not only have these responsibilities morphed into bigger responsibilities, but everyone seems to have forgotten this was a FAVOR that was supposed to last two weeks. They just think of me as the in-office help and forget that I have my own job, just like they do. Things become my problem just because I’m the one here. If mail is returned because the address was wrong (not my fault or my responsibility), it will just sit here for weeks until someone calls around to find the correct address and re-mail it (“someone” is me, of course). Even on the rare occasion a coworker comes in to work for a few hours, they will still forward their finished document to me so that I can print and mail it. While they’re still in the office. I deal with angry clients, new clients, vendors wanting payments, delivery people, repairmen, salesmen, and scheduled meetings that my coworkers don’t bother coming in for. Which is great! For them. Why make a special trip if they can just make me do it?

I have no idea how to combat this. Pushing back makes no difference, and I frequently get looks like they can’t believe I’m making a big deal out of something so silly. It’s just mailing something, how hard can it be? And I get it — I don’t want to make people come in and print things any more than my bosses do — but I’m not the office admin and I want it to stop. My bosses tell me frequently how much they appreciate me taking care of … well, EVERYTHING … but appreciation only goes so far. I want people to take their responsibilities back, period. They should have to figure out for themselves how they’re going to get their jobs done from home and not make it my problem anymore. (There’s no plan to bring anyone back. Everyone except me will be allowed to work from home as long as they want to.) I asked if I could work one day from home, or even a half day, and my boss actually flinched. She said I have work that can only be done in the office. And I do! We ALL do!

To be clear, there’s nothing about my particular job that makes me more vital to in-office work than anyone else. I’m not the newest person, I’m not the lowest on the org chart, I’m not an admin. I’m just the idiot who agreed to stay, and now I’m the idiot who’s stuck. Is there a way to fix this?

This sucks!

It especially sucks because now this is the plan forever?

If your office was planning to bring people back in a few months, I’d tell you to just hang on for a few months more — that it’s annoying but there’s an end in sight. But the new permanent plan is that everyone else gets to work from home forever and you don’t, just because you volunteered to do something helpful for a couple of weeks a year ago? And the new permanent plan is that you now have a significant new admin support component to your job that wasn’t there before, again just because you volunteered to do something helpful for a couple of weeks a year ago?

I know you tried talking to your boss about this and she flinched — she flinched! — but if you just approached it by asking to work from home some of the time, she may not realize exactly what your concern is. Before you conclude she won’t budge, try laying it out differently.

Ask for some dedicated time to speak with her and say you have something important about your job you need to discuss. Then say this: “When I initially agreed to this set-up, we thought it would be for just a couple of weeks. Obviously it turned into a lot longer than that, but I was willing to keep helping out while we were in a crisis. But this isn’t something I’m up for doing long-term. Because I’m still the only person in the office, I’ve turned into everyone’s admin support — I’ve ended up in charge of the mail, delivery people, repairmen, and salespeople. I’ve ended up being the one who deals with angry clients. I even end up dealing with meetings on X and Y that other people schedule but then don’t come in for since they figure I’m here and I can do it. This has significantly changed my job into one very different than what I signed on to do. I’m spending about X hours a week on these things, and it’s preventing me from being able to focus on projects like Y and Z. Again, I volunteered to pinch-hit when we were in a crisis mode, but now that we’re planning for the long-term, I’d like the same options to work from home that everyone else has — and we need to figure out solutions to the work that was temporarily added to my plate.”

If she doesn’t seem to get the point from that, say this: “Right now it feels like because I stepped up and offered to help when we really needed it, I’m not going to be allowed the same options as everyone else going forward, and that doesn’t seem right to me.”

It’s possible your boss will say that the nature of your job has changed and this is now the role, take it or leave it. And if so … well, then you know and you can decide if you want the job under these terms or not. But try spelling it out this way — being this explicit about the problem and the impact on you — and see if it changes anything.

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rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video, interviewer asked to see the writing I do for fun, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/rejecting-a-candidate-because-they-cant-interview-by-video-interviewer-asked-to-see-the-writing-i-do-for-fun-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/rejecting-a-candidate-because-they-cant-interview-by-video-interviewer-asked-to-see-the-writing-i-do-for-fun-and-more.html#comments Wed, 21 Apr 2021 04:03:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21493 This post, rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video, interviewer asked to see the writing I do for fun, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video I’m at a midsized government agency on the west coast hiring for a middle manager-level position. We posted nationally, got good responses, and have asked four candidates to interview over Zoom. We have three interviews set […]

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This post, rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video, interviewer asked to see the writing I do for fun, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video

I’m at a midsized government agency on the west coast hiring for a middle manager-level position. We posted nationally, got good responses, and have asked four candidates to interview over Zoom.

We have three interviews set up. The fourth person, who lives 1500 miles away, said she didn’t have a webcam on her computer. We suggested she use her phone, but she said the phone webcam was broken. She didn’t say, nor did we ask, why she hadn’t solved these problems. She asked if she could do an audio call instead.

I decided not to interview her, given the other strong candidates. It seems to me that with over a week’s notice for the interview, the candidate should be able to borrow a friend’s phone for an hour, or rent/borrow a laptop, or use a public computing resource in her town (we googled and there are some). I also think that somebody interviewing remotely, particularly during a pandemic, should have been prepared for video interviews, anticipated this question, and have potential solutions in mind.

However, some of my team disagrees, saying we don’t want to eliminate candidates because of their financial situations, with which I wholeheartedly agree. The person is currently employed in a management role, not that that means their budget allows for webcams/phone repair! And I have a lot of sympathy for those who aren’t in the best financial situation. Still, if they hadn’t thought to borrow a friend’s equipment or make some kind of arrangement, I’m having a hard time believing they’re interested enough, or resourceful/creative enough, for the role in question. What are your thoughts?

I think you were wrong to decline to interview her if you otherwise would have. You’re reading a lot into her lack of webcam. She understandably might be loath to use a public computing space during a pandemic. And it’s not necessarily easy to borrow someone else’s equipment during a pandemic either; she might not even know anyone local who she’d feel comfortable asking, especially if she didn’t know it would be a deal-breaker for you.

And why is it a deal-breaker for you? A few years ago, before video interviews were as ubiquitous as they are now, most of us relied on phone interviews and they worked just fine. And yes, I know there are advantages to video — like that you can see body language — but there are also disadvantages, like the well-documented drain from the constant gaze of the camera and the slight delay in virtual responses. Ultimately, “can interview on camera” is not so essential that it should be a deal-breaker for most roles (assuming the job isn’t something like giving trainings via webcam, where you’d want to see their on-camera presence) — at least not at an early interview stage.

If nothing else, I would have argued for doing the interview by phone and then, if you wanted to move her forward, deciding at that point if she really needed to be on camera for the next round or not.

2. Interviewer asked to see samples of the fantasy writing I do for fun

I was interviewing for a developer position at a large company, and the interview process had gone generally well. As I was talking with my interviewer, one of the questions that came up was a question about what I like to do in my spare time. I mentioned that, oh, I like to write in my spare time. However, I was thrown off-guard when he asked me if I had any writing to show him. The position I was interviewing for had no real writing component, let alone fiction writing, so I hadn’t brought anything, and to be honest a large part of what I write I wouldn’t want to show an employer. (None of it has anything I think is offensive or anything, it’s just that it can be personal, and my amateur, unpublished fantasy writing isn’t something I super feel like my bosses in development need to see). The interviewer seemed surprised and disappointed that I didn’t have anything to show him when I said that I didn’t have anything for him, and it was awkwardly silent for a moment before we moved on. I ended up feeling like I had somehow messed up by bringing it up.

I later ended up with the job, so clearly the interviewer’s confusion here didn’t break the deal or anything, but it still haunts me a little. Should I have not mentioned writing if I wasn’t prepared with a portfolio? If I’d said I played guitar, they wouldn’t have expected me to play a song, would they have? Are there more expected hobbies and interests to mention in an interview? I’d brought up writing because I thought it was more interesting and came across as more constructive to say in an interview than bringing up, say, playing video games or Dungeons and Dragons, but because writing can be a job skill did the interviewer expect me to have more? Or was this just a slightly awkward interaction without much else behind it?

Just a slightly awkward interaction without much else behind it. You were fine! There’s nothing wrong with mentioning writing as a hobby. My guess is that either (1) your interviewer didn’t realize you wrote fiction and was picturing more expository writing (essays, blog posts about your field, a series of cranky letters-to-the-editor, or so forth) and thought it could potentially illustrate a work-relevant skill, or (2) he was just interested on a personal level, without thinking through all the reasons you might not want to share your personal writings (which might point to inexperience interviewing on his part, or maybe just basic naïveté about the wide range of things people write, the writing process, etc.).

(Also, for what it’s worth, he probably didn’t expect you to have a portfolio of writing on you that you’d whip out on the spot. He was likely hoping you’d say, “Oh sure, I’ll send some over later today.” But if he was in fact expecting you had it with you … you had an odd interviewer.)

But it’s perfecting fine to mention writing as a hobby. That said, do know that you could get follow-up questions on anything you mention in an interview, even if it doesn’t feel especially relevant — sometimes because people are genuinely curious or trying to be polite and sometimes because there might be something going on that makes it relevant in a way you don’t realize, like that the person who writes whimsical limericks for their packaging just left and they’re trying to find someone else who can do it. So if you wouldn’t want to answer questions about, for example, what genre you write in, it’s safer not to mention the hobby!

3. Candidate calls me by my first name, but not my male boss

I’m a professional woman in my early 50s hiring for a position at my company. My boss (a mid-40s man) and I interviewed a good candidate for a junior position (a man is his late 20s) with whom my boss and I have each subsequently exchanged a few emails. In each email the candidate has sent to my boss, he calls him “Mr. [Boss’s last name]” but in mine, he calls me by my first name. We’re pretty informal in our office, were relaxed in our interviews, and have always signed our emails with just our first names. I’m confused by the difference in addressing us. My husband says it’s sexism and a big red flag. I’m curious as to your thoughts.

I can’t say for sure, but there’s a good chance it’s sexism. It could just be because your boss is the boss, but I’d bet a fair amount of money that if you were an early 50s man, he’d be calling you Mr. LastName too. (As we discussed last week, in most fields it’s overly formal to be calling anyone Mr./Ms. LastName, and especially when they’re using their first names with you. People who insist on doing it anyway often — not always, but often — subscribe to the same brand of retro business “manners” that include treating men differently than women.)

Have you noticed any other differences in your interactions with him? Is he making way more eye contact with your boss than with you, addressing all his questions to your boss even though you’re in the room talking to him as well, etc.? Those things often go hand in hand.

4. When interviewing, when should I disclose that I can’t drive?

I have a disability that prevents me from driving. Generally, my disability has not necessitated any accommodations at work except for at one previous job that required a driver’s license in the job posting. The reality was that the job could be done without me personally driving through a combination of public transportation and cabs/rideshares that were at a very low cost to my employer (~$200 total over three years). I’m now working at a job that doesn’t require a driver’s license, but I am interested in applying for a different job that does.

Here’s the thing. The hiring manager for my previous job that required a license knew me before I applied. She was aware of my disability and chose to interview me anyway. I didn’t need to disclose anything, and I knew that when I applied. She told me she hired me because she knew the quality of my work and trusted that I knew what I was doing and would get the job done well. (I was promoted multiple times, and she and other managers at that company continue to be a strong reference for me.)

The job I want to apply for now is a different story; I don’t know anyone at the company. I have had this disability my whole life; I have gotten really good at telling when I can’t do something and when an able-bodied person just didn’t consider all the different ways a job could get done because they’ve never had to think about it. Of course, there’s always the chance that I am missing something prohibitive, but that is what the interview process is for. If I learn that a fundamental part of the job requires driving, I have no problem bowing out. Otherwise, I’m pretty confident that this is another job that I can excel at despite not being able to drive. But when do I disclose that I don’t meet one of their stated requirements due to my disability? The first interview? The second? If there’s a job offer? What is the protocol here?

Two options: You can ask about it in the interview (any of them) by saying something like, “I noticed the ad asked for a driver’s license. Is there a lot of driving in this role?” Then, if you want, you can say, “I have a disability that prevents me from driving but have always found that easy to accommodate with public transportation or cabs. Would that be prohibitive for this role?”

Or you can simply wait and bring it up at the offer stage. The advantage to waiting until then to raise it is that it will ensure the employer has to be rigorous about figuring out if there’s a way to accommodate you (because they can’t legally rescind the offer at that point unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship). The disadvantage, of course, is that you could go through the whole interview process only to discover that not driving really is prohibitive. But so many jobs list a license as a requirement when it doesn’t need to be that it’s not unreasonable to wait until the offer stage, as long as you don’t see anything in the job description that indicates driving really is likely to be an essential duty.

5. I think my emails to our biggest funder are going to her spam folder

I work at a medium-sized nonprofit where I run a local project that has been entirely funded by a single national grantmaker since its inception five years ago. This foundation is my organization’s largest donor and we have a great relationship with the foundation beyond just the money — they’ve tapped my program to assist in testing one of their national initiatives, the foundation director has spoken at our organization’s annual meeting several times, our CEO is included in their small planning groups, etc. So we’re tight.

Last year the foundation’s assistant director left and they hired a replacement, Kelly. Kelly has never ever answered a single one of my emails. She answers my coworkers’ emails no problem and has never given any other indication that she has a problem with me, so I don’t think it’s personal, I really think all my emails are going to her spam folder. I don’t know what to do about this! Normally I would just call but nobody I know has her phone number (and I’ve asked!). I could reach out to the foundation director but I don’t want to make her look bad to her boss. I could ask one of my coworkers to forward my contacts but I don’t want to make it look like in accusing her of ignoring me (though … is she??) I’m just at a loss here because of the power dynamics. I want to keep her happy (and boss, and her boss, and both our organizations) but I need my questions answered!

I think you’re over-complicating this in your head! You can just ask a coworker who’s in reliable contact with Kelly to explain you’re having trouble reaching her and your emails are likely going to her spam folder, and have that coworker forward the most recent message. You’re not going to sound like you’re accusing her of ignoring you; this happens occasionally, and it’s fine to just be matter-of-fact about it!

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my former coworkers hired me to work for them … but it was a bait and switch, they fired me, and I’m ashamed https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-former-coworkers-hired-me-to-work-for-them-but-it-was-a-bait-and-switch-they-fired-me-and-im-ashamed.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-former-coworkers-hired-me-to-work-for-them-but-it-was-a-bait-and-switch-they-fired-me-and-im-ashamed.html#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2021 17:59:56 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21485 This post, my former coworkers hired me to work for them … but it was a bait and switch, they fired me, and I’m ashamed , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was recently fired from my job. I never thought I would find myself in this position, and while mentally I am struggling to get past the emotional aspect of it, I know I have to push through and focus on finding another job. My situation was a bit uncommon. A few […]

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This post, my former coworkers hired me to work for them … but it was a bait and switch, they fired me, and I’m ashamed , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was recently fired from my job. I never thought I would find myself in this position, and while mentally I am struggling to get past the emotional aspect of it, I know I have to push through and focus on finding another job.

My situation was a bit uncommon. A few months ago, two former coworkers — Amy and Brooke — reached out to me. I had a great relationship with them and saw them as mentors. The job we worked together at was in, let’s say, custom teapot painting (I’m disguising the real field for anonymity’s sake). I found that it wasn’t my strong suit and it was a very toxic company, so I went to a company where I did teapot painting in-house. I was great at this new job and consistently got great performance reviews in two years there.

Amy and Brooke started their own custom teapot company, and they wanted me as their first hire. I turned down the job three separate times, knowing this type of work catered to a lot of my weaknesses. Throughout every conversation, they were so complimentary to me, saying they knew how smart and capable I was and they hated that my old toxic company made me doubt myself. Finally, they told me that my role would not include managing the custom orders, but would just be painting the teapots.

On one hand, I was great at my current job, but felt like I wasn’t being challenged. I really looked up to these two women, trusted them a lot, and thought working with them would give me the opportunity to grow and develop more in my field. So, I decided to take it.

Before I officially accepted their offer, I tried negotiating the proposed salary for just a few thousand dollars more. Here’s the first red flag: They said for that level of salary, they would want me to take on some of the responsibilities of being the point of contact for some of these custom orders, just for one to two projects. I thought it was a strange practice for that small of an increase, but again, they were so complimentary and said they knew I could do it, and I leaned on the trust I had in them, so I ultimately accepted. Since I hadn’t done that type of role for over two years, my employment contract stated that I would take on that role six months after starting, and the raise would come when I took those responsibilities on.

Fast forward. About two weeks into the job, Amy said I was doing such a great job that I would be moved up to the PM role (with the salary boost) now instead of waiting six months. A few weeks later, they asked if I wanted to take on more (basically back to what my role was at the old toxic company) for an even bigger pay boost. I remember thinking that it felt like a bait and switch, but they made me feel like I really could do this. I thought maybe my imposter syndrome was worse than I thought and they saw something in me I couldn’t see myself. They said they would always be there to support me if I had issues, so I felt comfortable enough and accepted.

About a month into the role, things had changed even more, we nearly doubled in size, and everyone else in my role had significantly more experience than me. As we grew, I got the feeling they wanted to take a more hands-off approach. I was the only PM who didn’t have a painting partner, so I felt like I didn’t have anyone to even bounce ideas off of without being a major inconvenience. One of my projects was for something I had never done before, and I was really in over my head. I was working until 8 pm or later and sobbing over dinner every night at the thought everything on my plate.

I ended up making a few incorrect assumptions on that project. The customer never found out, but it did slightly mess up the budget for the project. Here’s the thing — while I took responsibility and apologized, I feel like with the information I had, they weren’t the craziest assumptions to come to. Maybe I should have defended my decision-making style more so they could have seen where I was coming from, but I didn’t want to seem like I was making excuses so I just apologized and fixed what I could.

During all of this, I also was having difficulties on a project where it was the company’s third time trying to design for a client who couldn’t stop changing their minds. Amy tried, Brooke tried, and now me. It was bad timing, but that project began to fly off the rails right as this issue came up.

Initially, they seemed annoyed, but late that week they told me, “We all mess up sometimes, we still mess up to this day all the time!” and, “We knew exactly what we were getting when we hired you and this is the company you’ll retire from.”

The following week, they fired me. It was a 10-minute conversation, and when I asked why I couldn’t be put on a PIP or have a warning, Amy said, “This is really uncomfortable for me so let’s keep this short.” They offered me an exit interview, but not with them, with a new admin they had just hired. Right after the conversation, they locked my work computer and that was that.

Since then, I’ve tried so hard to take my ego out of this situation and look at it different ways. Mentally I was really struggling. I live alone and had been in complete solitude for months due to Covid, and it had started to weigh on me. An old eating disorder resurfaced due to the anxiety I was under at this job. I felt like I didn’t have the option to go into treatment because I couldn’t miss work. Ultimately, I know this role just wasn’t a fit for me. But I really tried as hard as I could. I wanted to be the great employee I thought they saw me as. Given the history I had with them, I feel like there’s an added layer to this firing that isn’t there with most, and it’s been hard to get over.

I feel like a lot of this was imposter syndrome coming true. My confidence in myself professionally has plummeted. I feel scared to apply for jobs if I don’t surpass every single qualification. I’m now in weekly therapy for my eating disorder as well as this situation, and it has helped.

My question for you is how to handle this during my job search. I was only there five months. Should I leave this off my resume completely? Or will that raise more red flags? They did agree (in writing) to give a neutral reference. What does that mean for the employer side? I know I have to figure out how to explain this in interviews in a matter-of-fact way, and I was hoping you could provide a script on how to do that.

Right now I just feel like a total loser. I’ve still been keeping it a secret from a lot of my friends and family because I’m so ashamed.

You’re not a loser. You were pressured into taking a job that wasn’t right for you, and you were set up to fail from early on. Not intentionally, I assume — but Brooke and Amy mishandled this on so many fronts that it’s hard not to see their incompetence as an almost willful disregard for you.

Let’s review how they operated here:

* You turned down the job with them three separate times because you knew it played to your weaknesses, and yet they kept pushing — overriding your judgment with their own judgment, for reasons that still aren’t clear. In this process, it seems like they “love-bombed” you — flooding you with compliments and praise that wore down your defenses. That could be innocent — maybe they just genuinely liked you and your work and wanted to work together again — but when people shower you with compliments while trying to override your “no,” it’s hard not to see that as manipulative.

* They gave you a contract stating that your first six months on the job wouldn’t include the work you were wary of … and then reneged on that only two weeks in, knowing that you didn’t want to take on that work yet and knowing they had agreed not to ask it of you.

* A few days after telling you “we all mess up sometimes” and “we knew exactly what we were getting when we hired you” and “this is the company you’ll retire from,” they fired you. (By the way, telling an employee “this is the company you’ll retire from” is an odd thing to say, especially a few months into their employment. Amy and Brooke have a pattern where they like to make really grandiose statements that don’t line up with their with their later actions. And “later” sometimes means three days later.)

In other words, they wooed you hard to get you to leave a job you were happy with, then made a series of bad decisions that ensured it wouldn’t work out, and now appear to be cavalier that their actions left you with no job at all.

Amy and Brooke did you wrong at pretty much every turn. They might not have meant to — they might be head-in-the-clouds idealists who think everything will be great up until the moment they realize it’s not — but they did.

(And it would be different if they hadn’t wooed you so hard. There would still be all the other ways they messed up — but what they did is especially horrible because you didn’t even want to leave your job! They talked you into it!)

I’m curious about what else you saw of Amy and Brooke’s management because I’m thinking there’s no way it was good. Their words don’t match their actions, they pressure people into things they don’t want to do, they overpromise things they can’t/won’t deliver, and they don’t have forthright conversations about problems. And they say things like “This is really uncomfortable for me so let’s keep this short” while firing a person whose livelihood they treated like a toy.

So that’s them. You? Your mistake was letting yourself be talked into taking a job you knew wasn’t aligned with your strengths, but a lot of people in your shoes would have done the same thing, after all the praise and assurances of unwavering support. It’s highly understandable.

I hate that Amy and Brooke messed up so profoundly and repeatedly, but somehow you are the one questioning yourself and feeling to blame.

As for your questions …

You could leave the job off your resume altogether (five months is a pretty short time), but interviewers will ask why you left the previous job and then it’s going to come up anyway. You’re better off listing it and then explaining in interviews, “I was hired to do X, which they’d seen me excel at when we worked together at OldCompany, but they ended up needing me to do Y, which is not a strength. My focus has always been X, and that’s what I’m looking for now.” That’s the truth, and it has the advantage of ensuring that any new employer is clear that they shouldn’t hire you if what they really want is someone doing Y.

As for the neutral reference Amy and Brooke agreed to give, ideally you’d find out more about what that means. Does it mean they’re just going to confirm that you worked there? Something else? Ideally they should say that they hired you to do X, which you’re great at, but the job changed to Y and so it didn’t work out. That’s true, it’ll confirm what you’re saying to interviewers, and it won’t be alarming. Can you contact them and negotiate that? (And while I don’t normally recommend reference letters — most reference checkers want to speak to references and ask their own questions — in this case it could be helpful to have that specific explanation in writing from them, as it’ll confirm what you’re saying … and writing it might reinforce that narrative in their heads in case they do get calls.)

But please stop being ashamed of what happened. You trusted two former coworkers, and they turned out to be dishonest and bad at running their business in ways that harmed you. The shame here is theirs.

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https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-former-coworkers-hired-me-to-work-for-them-but-it-was-a-bait-and-switch-they-fired-me-and-im-ashamed.html/feed 206
you need to ask for a raise — here’s how https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/you-need-to-ask-for-a-raise-heres-how.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/you-need-to-ask-for-a-raise-heres-how.html#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2021 16:29:03 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21486 This post, you need to ask for a raise — here’s how , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m constantly alarmed by how many people tell me they’ve never asked for a raise. They feel awkward about initiating the conversation, or feel like they never get an opening to do it, or they’re worried they’ll sound greedy, or they just have no idea how one would ask for a raise at all. Instead, […]

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This post, you need to ask for a raise — here’s how , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’m constantly alarmed by how many people tell me they’ve never asked for a raise. They feel awkward about initiating the conversation, or feel like they never get an opening to do it, or they’re worried they’ll sound greedy, or they just have no idea how one would ask for a raise at all. Instead, they rely on their employer to notice their good work and offer them salary increases — a strategy that can leave people earning far less than they could be receiving if only they’d speak up.

Please believe me when I say that asking for a raise is a very normal part of having a job — and you could end up earning significantly more money just by having a conversation that could be as short as five minutes.

At New York Magazine today, I’ve got a blueprint for how to do it.

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my employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-employee-wants-to-work-from-home-without-child-care-for-his-baby-forever.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-employee-wants-to-work-from-home-without-child-care-for-his-baby-forever.html#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2021 14:59:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21477 This post, my employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been a manager for one year and one of my team members, I’ll call him Larry, is consistently behind, terrible with due dates, and generally unreliable. He does really great work, but it’s almost never on time. My boss (the head of our organization) knows this unreliability has been going on […]

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This post, my employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been a manager for one year and one of my team members, I’ll call him Larry, is consistently behind, terrible with due dates, and generally unreliable. He does really great work, but it’s almost never on time. My boss (the head of our organization) knows this unreliability has been going on for years, but has said we are not firing him.

Larry had a new baby join the family in February of last year and has been the primary caregiver since then, caring for the baby while trying to work his full-time job. His husband works a more demanding job and he straight-up told me that because his husband gets paid more and has more strict and regular deadlines, Larry takes on the bulk of the childcare duties. The particulars of Larry’s job mean that he really needs dedicated periods of focused work time without distractions in order to accomplish his duties — especially because he’s someone who gets easily distracted and unfocused. Every week in our one-on-one meetings, Larry has a story about how he sat down to try to get this dedicated work time, only to be interrupted by a crying baby or his husband handing the baby over to him because his husband had a very important call.

I understand that the pandemic has forced many people to care for children while trying to work, and we’re an organization that prides ourselves on being family-friendly (plus we’ve been WFH for years). My problem is that Larry told us long before the pandemic that his plan was always to have the baby at home with him full-time and be the baby’s primary caregiver — while working a full-time job.

This just doesn’t add up to me, especially because he’s an employee who has always struggled with deadlines and timeliness. Furthermore, Larry has made it clear that he has no intention of putting his child in daycare now or in the future, no matter what changes with the pandemic. I have gently asked whether he has any family who can help out and he’s said no. I am at a loss because I think this is just an untenable plan. We have other members of our team who are only part-time and still pay for daycare for their young children because they have said it is impossible to get work done with little ones around.

My boss knows what’s going on but says it’s inappropriate for us to tell Larry how to manage his household. While I generally agree, I just can’t see how this situation can go on, especially as the baby gets more and more mobile. What’s more, Larry just told our team last week that he and his husband are expecting (through a surrogate) another baby in September.

Not only am I looking at this with regards to Larry’s situation, but I also think often about the precedent it sets for other employees. One of my other newer team members recently remarked to me that she’s thinking about trying for children with her husband soon, and is so glad to see how well everything’s going for Larry having his baby at home with him — something she now hopes to do as well. *facepalm* What’s the best way to proceed? As a manager, what are appropriate lines to set around childcare, especially given the pandemic—but also the knowledge that the pandemic will not be forever? Is it okay to tell Larry he needs to find childcare, especially when Baby #2 is born?

Yes.

Before the pandemic, it was customary for companies to have policies requiring that anyone working from home with small children have separate child care in place for their kids, and to strictly enforce that. Most companies prohibited working from home while also caring for little kids, because you can’t do both at once — as many, many people have seen this past year when the pandemic forced them into trying to do it.

Employers had no choice but to become flexible on that during Covid. When schools and daycares were closed, most parents working from home had no alternatives to having their kids at home with them. Even now that many schools have opened back up, some people have still chosen to keep their kids at home because of the risks of the pandemic. It’s right for employers to accommodate that, since the alternative is parents needing to drop out of the workforce altogether (something that has affected women in particular in massive numbers this past year).

But once we are no longer in pandemic conditions, it makes sense to return to the child care expectations we had before the pandemic — to recognize the reality that people cannot care for small children while remaining focused on work, and to require separate child care to be in place while those employees are working.

That is true for everyone, but it’s especially true for an employee who you describe as “consistently behind” and “generally unreliable” and who struggles with deadlines and timeliness!

The best thing you can do is to give Larry — and all your employees — advance notice now that while you have of course been flexible during the pandemic, by the end of the year* you will no longer permit employees to be the primary caregiver for kids under age 10 (or age 12, or whatever cutoff your company chooses) while on the clock. Tell people now so that they can make the right plans for themselves, particularly since you’ve heard Larry and others making plans that are predicated upon different assumptions.

Of course, you’ll need your boss on board with this and that might be a sticking point, given his apparent unwillingness to hold Larry to basic performance expectations. (You have a boss problem, by the way!) You should point out to your boss that this isn’t about telling Larry how to manage his household; it’s about telling Larry how to manage his job, which you very much have standing to do, and which millions of other companies do as a matter of policy.

* Planning for the end of the year seems like a reasonable timeline now, but you can always push it back later if we’re not in a place to make that realistic then. But the point is to say something now so people can begin planning.

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scheduling a Zoom call to reject a candidate, an insulting trophy, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/scheduling-a-zoom-call-to-reject-a-candidate-an-insulting-trophy-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/scheduling-a-zoom-call-to-reject-a-candidate-an-insulting-trophy-and-more.html#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2021 04:03:52 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21475 This post, scheduling a Zoom call to reject a candidate, an insulting trophy, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Scheduling a Zoom call to reject a job candidate My friend has been applying for jobs and made it to the final round for one position. She didn’t hear back from them on the timeline they had mentioned on the last interview, so she assumed […]

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This post, scheduling a Zoom call to reject a candidate, an insulting trophy, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Scheduling a Zoom call to reject a job candidate

My friend has been applying for jobs and made it to the final round for one position. She didn’t hear back from them on the timeline they had mentioned on the last interview, so she assumed they passed on her and moved on. But she got an email from them recently asking to schedule a Zoom the next day. Feels promising, right? Wrong. She hops on the Zoom and they immediately tell her, “You are great, but we went with another candidate and they accepted” to her on the video, end of meeting.

Is it appropriate to schedule a Zoom call just to reject someone? I feel like that’s really overkill and sort of the equivalent of asking someone to come into the office just to reject them in today’s world where everything is so virtual. At the most I felt like this could have been a quick phone call instead of going through the rigamarole of scheduling a Zoom, where the expectation was to be on video so they can reject you to your face. I also felt like scheduling the Zoom gave her the impression they would be making a formal offer, so it was doubly painful to get rejected in this manner because she got her hopes up.

Oh, this is awful! I’m sure they didn’t intend it to be, but this takes all the problems with phone call rejections (you get your hopes up when they call you, then have to respond graciously on the spot to what might be crushing disappointment) and adds a horrible video twist (you probably took time beforehand to ensure you looked professional, maybe put on makeup and a bra, all to get a rejection that could have been delivered over email).

When companies do this, they think they’re being courteous and respectful. “She invested the time,” the thinking goes, “and we owe her the courtesy of a real conversation.” Some candidates really do prefer rejections that way … but so many people find it upsetting that it’s really better to stick to email. You can send a very gracious, personalized email rejection. You can even add a note that you’d be happy to talk on the phone if the person would like feedback, if that’s something you’re willing to offer. But making someone get rejected face-to-face on video is not kind, no matter what the intentions.

2. Applying for full-time work when my health means I’d have to go part-time soon

My current work contract ends this year so I’m job-hunting again. I’m in a professional career with accreditation and specialized skills. My problem is that I have fibromyalgia that limits my energy and ability to work. Realistically, I can work maybe 20 hours a week, but the vast majority of available jobs want full-time workers. I could do this for a bit — the last time I tried, I made it about three months with sick days every week or two before I had to give up.

Would I be an asshole for applying to full-time jobs and hoping that when my body gives out, the job will value me enough to let me stay on, but cut my hours? I’d love to be up-front about how much I can work, but I’m really worried about not finding anything in my speciality before my money runs out, and if I work outside my speciality, I’d be taking a huge financial hit and not able to pay for rent/groceries. I’d love some advice.

This is such a hard situation, and I’m sorry you’re in it.

You wouldn’t be an asshole for doing what you propose — you’re not trying to screw anyone over, just trying to support yourself in a world that doesn’t make that easy in your situation — but it’s a risky approach that could leave you worse off.

It’s true that some jobs will be willing to let a valued worker go part-time when their health requires it, but asking for it after only a few months is a much harder sell. It generally takes a lot longer for an employer to value you in the way that makes them willing to turn a full-time role part-time; after only three months, it’s more likely that they’ll conclude it’s just not working out (especially if those three months already had a lot of days off in them). That’s not always the case, of course, and you may find an exception … but those exceptions will likely be rare. And if you then end up with a couple of jobs in a row that you had to leave after a few months, that will make it harder to find the next one.

I wish I had a different answer for you! And obviously you need to do what you need to do to get by. But this specific plan is a risky one.

3. Recruiters who want me to suggest 10+ times when I could talk

I recently got an email from a recruiter saying that she’d like to set up an interview and asking me to provide times that I would be available to speak every day for the next two weeks. In a similar vein, recruiters often ask me to provide them with 10+ times that I am available to speak or give them my full availability over a two-week period.

I’m hesitant to block so much time, especially because I’ve found that the recruiters who ask for so much time are usually slow to get back to me about scheduling.

These requests turn me off, but they’ve gotten so common that I don’t feel I can entirely avoid the companies that make them. I usually provide just a handful of times, and when the recruiter inevitably pushes back, I either add a couple of additional times or ask them to provide some times that work on their end. Would you handle it differently?

Yeah, this is a bad way to go about scheduling unless they’re going to get back to you very quickly. It’s not reasonable to expect someone to hold so many different time slots empty for very long.

I’d send back what they’re asking for but include a note saying something like, “My calendar tends to fill up quickly so I can’t promise these times will all stay open — but if you’re able to confirm a slot by today or tomorrow, that’ll ensure nothing else gets booked then.” (They still may not; that’s just how this stuff tends to go.)

Personally, I’ve always found when scheduling interviews with candidates, it seems to work better if I suggest a couple of times to them (while making it clear they should tell me if none work).

4. Is this trophy an insult?

I work in state government. About a year ago, we got a new grandboss, who promptly started a new award system to honor those who go above and beyond in their work. The monthly winner gets a traveling trophy. That’s all fine and dandy.

What rubs me the wrong way (and maybe shouldn’t) is what he calls it: the “getting shit done award” for monthly winners, and the “top of the pile” award (“remember, it’s always better to be at the top of the pile!”) for quarterly winners. And the traveling trophy? It’s a plastic miniature outhouse.

To me, the way this system is set up (especially the “top of the pile” bit) implies that those of us who don’t get the award are, quite literally, shit employees, even if I know that’s not the case (I’ve never won but consistently get glowing performance reviews from my boss). What do you think?

I think the outhouse in poor taste and I wouldn’t do it (and would advise him not to if he asked me), but I doubt he intends to imply the rest of you are shit. It’s more likely the outhouse is referencing “getting shit done,” since that’s literally the name of the award that accompanies it! Tacky, yes, but not intended to be insulting.

5. Can I tell interviewers I’m leaving my job because of how my employer has handled Covid?

As I’m looking for a new job, I understand the general advice is to frame your reasons for leaving in a positive way. I’m perfectly capable of doing that, but I want to be honest about my main reason for leaving my job. I work in a field where most peers are working fully remotely even now, but my work has been in the office as soon as it was legally possible. This was okay at first, because we had alternating schedules and social distancing desks in place.

As time went on, my boss asked people to come in not on that schedule, which meant social distancing was no longer in place. He ended up testing positive and Covid spread to over half of the office. He asked us to come back in less than two weeks and, when I asked if I could work remotely for two weeks, he said he would not pay me if I didn’t come in. He dismissed our concerns about future prevention of Covid spread and said anxiety-inducing things like “everyone will get covid eventually, it’s better to get it over with” and “why are you even worried? Your parents are young.” He also doesn’t seem to trust vaccines and says Covid was made by the Democrats and China.

My mental health has been at an all-time low. I just want to be honest about why I no longer enjoy working there, but my boyfriend says one should never badmouth your boss in interviews. Surely lack of a safe environment is a valid reason I can voice? Saying only a generic reason like I want more challenging work, while true, just seems disingenuous. I’m worried about coming off as a complainer and wonder how I can phrase things in a professional way.

The rule that you shouldn’t badmouth your employer means you shouldn’t say things like your boss is toxic or a jerk. That’s considered indiscreet and because your interviewer will wonder what the other side of the story is — more here.

But it’s fine to say that you’ve been concerned by how your office has responded to the pandemic and you’re looking for a company that is operating in a safer manner. That’s perfectly understandable, just like you could also say you were looking because your company was having financial problems and you wanted something more stable. The key is to say it matter-of-factly and just in a single concise sentence like that — you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) go into all the details you have here. Your interviewer may ask about what your concerns have been (because they will rightly want to make sure you’ll be comfortable with whatever they are doing). I’d respond with something like, “Despite a lot of requests from the staff, the company wouldn’t enforce social distancing or the other public health measures the CDC recommended, and more than half our employees ended up contracting the virus” — factual, concise, and not explicitly about what a loon your boss is (although he is).

It’s actually a useful thing to explain, because it will help you screen out employers similar to your boss.

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my employee is paranoid — can I help or is it not my business? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-employee-is-paranoid-can-i-help-or-is-it-not-my-business.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-employee-is-paranoid-can-i-help-or-is-it-not-my-business.html#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2021 17:59:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21473 This post, my employee is paranoid — can I help or is it not my business? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I lead a small team of four: two assistants who I supervise, and one colleague at my level but who doesn’t have supervisory duties. Because we’re a small team that likes one another, our meetings usually end with personal chatter—nothing boundary-crossing, just normal friendly updates. One assistant, Georgia, has a bit of […]

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This post, my employee is paranoid — can I help or is it not my business? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I lead a small team of four: two assistants who I supervise, and one colleague at my level but who doesn’t have supervisory duties. Because we’re a small team that likes one another, our meetings usually end with personal chatter—nothing boundary-crossing, just normal friendly updates.

One assistant, Georgia, has a bit of a paranoid streak. She’s come to me with concerns that, say, a jogger she sees regularly near our building in the morning is following her, or an idea for our office to install a panic room in case of a shooter. We work in an area where muggings aren’t unheard of, so I can’t dismiss some of her concerns outright. When she hears me remind her of our security protocols and the safety measures that she can take, she’s usually satisfied. All of that is to say, it’s not really affecting her ability to do her job.

However, Covid has done a number on her. We’ve worked exclusively remotely for over a year and are just starting to come back to the office, slowly. Georgia has some family nearby, but otherwise, work is her only social outlet, so she’s been spending a lot of time alone in her apartment. Recently, as we finish meetings, she’s been telling us stories about how the FBI or ICE or “someone” is obviously in the apartment above hers, and they follow her from room to room—she can tell because she hears them banging or stepping around. She believes they have a camera in her apartment tracking her movements. She says she always sees the same cars following her while she runs errands. In short, she believes she’s being watched basically at all times.

I’ve been able to handle the workplace conversations about what we can and cannot do to keep her safe, but I’m at a loss how to handle this paranoia about her home life. It’s obviously way out of my league to diagnose this as a problem or provide mental health assistance. But I do care about my employee! Our company does have an EAP, but I’m not sure how to even have a conversation with her about this when she truly believes that these things are happening to her. (And who knows, maybe the FBI really is spying on her!)

Any scripts or advice you have about what to say to help Georgia out would be appreciated. Or is this an example of “it’s not affecting the work, so continue to be sympathetic and let it go”?

Aggh, this is tricky. You should be able to offer support and nudge Georgia toward the EAP, but you’ve also got to tread carefully as a manager.

If this were my employee, I’d go to HR for advice … so I asked the always excellent Suzanne Lucas of Evil HR Lady to weigh in. Here’s what she said:

“Mental illness at work is such a challenge because you are limited in what you can do. As for encouraging a call to the EAP, you have an advantage in that an EAP provides all kinds of help — mental health, legal, and financial. So, you can approach the EAP conversation from this angle: ‘Georgia, I’m really concerned about you. I wanted to suggest that you call our employee assistance program. They can help you figure out your rights and get you the help that you need.’

An EAP rep has much more latitude to suggest doctors and psychologists than a manager or HR person does. She may call thinking she’ll get an attorney to help her with her spying neighbors, but hopefully, they can set her on the right path.

If her paranoia is affecting her work, then you can insist on a medical exam. The guideline from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is that when the employer ‘has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition,’ you can require an exam.

A last resort is to contact her family. We collect emergency contact information for true emergencies and whether or not this qualifies depends on the situation. Please consult with an employment attorney before taking this route.

I will add only that if you work somewhere with HR, loop them in too. This isn’t the kind of thing you want them hearing about only after it blows up in some way. Which doesn’t mean it will blow up in some way; hopefully it won’t. But get them in the loop about what’s going on.

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how can I protect my team from last-minute rushes? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-can-i-protect-my-team-from-last-minute-rushes.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-can-i-protect-my-team-from-last-minute-rushes.html#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2021 16:29:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21398 This post, how can I protect my team from last-minute rushes? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a new manager who heads up a team of 12 employees, and I’m having an issue with the other groups that we work with. The other groups have developed a habit of not including my team on work to be performed, then dropping it on us and demanding it be done […]

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This post, how can I protect my team from last-minute rushes? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a new manager who heads up a team of 12 employees, and I’m having an issue with the other groups that we work with.

The other groups have developed a habit of not including my team on work to be performed, then dropping it on us and demanding it be done ASAP.

I don’t mind the occasional unexpected item coming up, but I’ve found a couple of recurring themes: Either the reported deadlines are several weeks short of when our part is actually needed, or the work they need from us is known several weeks in advance but we’re not notified until the eleventh hour. Additionally, quite a bit of this work is announced informally (grabbing my employees in the hallway or calling them on their cellphones and telling them to go do things) rather than entered in the ticketing system so that it can be prioritized, scheduled, and documented for billing purposes. This has caused us to miss deadlines on important tasks because we’re scrambling to complete work that won’t be needed for a month out. The overtime to pull off some of these tasks on very short notice is killing my group’s morale, and the next-day shipping on materials is killing my group’s budget.

To get everything done correctly and on time, I need advance warning when possible, along with accurate deadlines so I can have the staffing and materials available to handle it. However, the more that I explain this, the more the other groups’ managers seem to dig in their heels and try to circumvent our proper channels.

Am I being unreasonable? And would be out of line to explain to both my employees and the other managers that my employees report to me, they are no longer to take on any new tasks without my approval, and if those requests don’t have a realistic deadline, then I can’t promise that it will be done on time because my folks are already scheduled for other jobs?

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

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our boss’s high salary is tanking morale https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/our-bosss-high-salary-is-tanking-morale.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/our-bosss-high-salary-is-tanking-morale.html#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2021 14:59:35 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21474 This post, our boss’s high salary is tanking morale , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: This is an odd question in that I think I know what I’m going to do (dodge it and run — I am a nervous creature) but I’m wondering if that’s ethically what I should do. The scenario is this: I work on a five person team for a nonprofit. It’s the […]

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This post, our boss’s high salary is tanking morale , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This is an odd question in that I think I know what I’m going to do (dodge it and run — I am a nervous creature) but I’m wondering if that’s ethically what I should do. The scenario is this: I work on a five person team for a nonprofit. It’s the executive director and four primarily self-directed employees. One of the other four non-directors and I both took our jobs just before the pandemic at well below market rates. In my case, I’m paid about half of what I should be for my experience, the breadth of the job responsibilities, and my impact on revenues. This was fine: the shutdown was looming when I took the job. Any port in a storm, etc. Now that hiring is picking back up again, we both landed other jobs elsewhere at fair pay and as such are unfortunately both resigning one on the heels of the other.

I mentioned feeling bad about this to one of the coworkers who’s staying … which is when I found out something shocking: our ED pays himself over double the market rate for his position in our city. Everyone else on staff makes below market rate for their own roles. Plus, his salary was over a third of our entire operating budget this past year, when fundraising was impossible and we were putting important expenses on hold due to the pandemic. This is now known to everyone on staff because the other departing employee looked it up in our publicly available tax filing.

People are angry. I am too, but I’m also out the door. I know if I were staying, though, it would be impossible to deal with the rather stringent austerity measures he puts in place knowing that if he cut his salary to something approaching the norm in our city we’d all be paid more fairly and the people our nonprofit serves would benefit as well. We are a very small team with a very small budget. His salary is large enough to live well in a city at a much higher cost of living than our own.

I have two questions. First: given that the people who are staying cannot say anything without making their working lives awkward or untenable, do I have a responsibility to say something in my exit interview? My answers go to him but also to the board of directors. It feels safer to mention that I think they ought to pay more for my role in the future and leave it at that. I’d like to leave on good terms. But part of me wonders if the least I can do for the two who are staying is to let the ED know that he needs to explain himself if he wants to regain their trust.

And second: prior to learning this information, I was all set to enthusiastically try to find them a replacement for my position. I was going to first suggest strongly that they pay better, but in either case I thought it’s a good enough job with good people and I’d like to see them find a good fit. Now I feel uncomfortable enough that I’m not sure if I can recommend them as an employer. Am I overreacting? My inclination now is to help them write the job description, but not put out any feelers to my network or otherwise endorse the job.

I don’t always agree when people complain about ED pay, because even what feels “high” for a nonprofit can be very low compared to what that person would make for their skills in the private sector, and you often need to pay very competitively for talent for those roles (roles which can be immensely demanding). There’s sometimes an ethos in the nonprofit sector that people shouldn’t be working there for the money, and I don’t agree with that at all; I think everyone should be compensated fairly for their labor, including those running the organization.

But this is not that.

This is more than double the market rate for his position in your city, while everyone else makes below market. This is a third of the organization’s operating budget. During budget cuts. In an organization already struggling to pay its expenses, this is a salary “large enough to live well in a city at a much higher cost of living than our own.”

So no, I don’t think you’re overreacting to have a problem with this. Your ED is underpaying staff while overpaying himself and shortchanging the people the organization serves. That’s bad stewardship of the organization and its mission. It’s both incompetent (because he’s in charge of allocating the organization’s resources effectively) and ethically icky.

It’s reasonable for you to decide you’re not comfortable recommending the organization to potential replacements when you have serious concerns about its leadership.

As for whether you have a responsibility to say something in your exit interview … I don’t think you ever have a responsibility to raise anything in an exit interview. You’re not obligated to raise uncomfortable truths that could jeopardize things that are important to you (whether it’s relationships or future references) just to provide free consulting to an organization you’ve already decide to leave (particularly when there are other ways for them to receive feedback from staff if they really care to). I respect people who choose to provide that input anyway, but you’re never obligated to do it.

In your case, you’re motivated by wanting to help the colleagues who are staying and probably the organization itself, separate from the ED. But those colleagues are able to advocate for themselves if they want to; addressing publicly available information about the ED’s salary is not so sensitive that it can only be done by someone who is leaving.

That said, if you want to raise it, do! It’s useful for organizations to hear pushback on this kind of thing. You’d be doing a good deed by telling them how it’s landing — and there is a greater public good here because it’s a nonprofit, in a way there wouldn’t be with a private business. But it’s not on you to be the one to deliver that message or fix the situation if you’d rather just make a clean break.

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coworker doesn’t pay attention in meetings, LinkedIn’s “stay-at-home-mom” job title, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/coworker-doesnt-pay-attention-in-meetings-linkedins-stay-at-home-mom-job-title-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/coworker-doesnt-pay-attention-in-meetings-linkedins-stay-at-home-mom-job-title-and-more.html#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2021 04:03:23 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21472 This post, coworker doesn’t pay attention in meetings, LinkedIn’s “stay-at-home-mom” job title, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Coworker doesn’t pay attention during meetings A team member never pays attention during our team meetings. She sits and types on her laptop, and if the meeting is via Zoom, it is obvious that she is doing work while we are all discussing various issues. […]

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This post, coworker doesn’t pay attention in meetings, LinkedIn’s “stay-at-home-mom” job title, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Coworker doesn’t pay attention during meetings

A team member never pays attention during our team meetings. She sits and types on her laptop, and if the meeting is via Zoom, it is obvious that she is doing work while we are all discussing various issues. If you ask anything that concerns her, again it is obvious that she wasn’t listening and you have to ask her the question again. She is a team member, she does not report to me. My boss hasn’t directly asked her about this, but I know it bothers him and it is quite disrespectful. Other team members find it amusing that she is oblivious to the chat. Any suggestions on how to approach this?

If it just annoys you but isn’t causing real problems, let it go since as a peer you don’t really have  the standing to address it. But if it’s causing problems — and it sounds like it is if people are having to repeat their questionss — it’s reasonable to speak to your boss and say, “Could you ask Jane to tune in more during our meetings? She doesn’t notice when we ask her questions and we’re having to repeat things once we get her attention.”

If your boss is the passive type who won’t do anything, another option is to say at the start of the meeting, “Could we agree not work on other things while we meet? These go faster when everyone is paying attention and not distracted.”

2. Using LinkedIn’s “stay-at-home-mom” job title

I’m so curious for your take on the news that LinkedIn is adding “stay-at-home mom” and other caregiver titles to its site. I understand the rationale, particularly given the harsh reality of millions of women being pushed out of the workforce due to lack of childcare and school closures in the pandemic. I’ve navigated the transition from stay-at-home mom to job seeker myself (pre-pandemic), and it was awkward at times! I’m hugely in favor of any measures that help women get a foothold once they are able/ready to return to the workforce, and for lessening the stigma of caregiving employment gaps in general. But I wonder if LinkedIn’s move is actually helpful, or does it fall into the “well-meaning but misguided career advice” category?

I don’t love it. Being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t belong on your resume so I’m not sure why it should go on your LinkedIn profile, and including it can harm more than help — partly because it’s considered inappropriate to have anything related to your family on your resume and partly because it risks inviting bias (of which women face plenty already). That’s especially true if it seems like you’re equating parenting to work experience (as opposed to just explaining what you were doing during that time), and I worry about this encouraging people to present it that way.

I assume the intent is to help people explain work gaps — but (a) tons of people are going to have pandemic-related gaps and (b) gaps aren’t inherently bad. You might be asked what you were doing during that time, but that’s something you can easily explain with one sentence in your cover letter if you want to.

Your resume is for professional accomplishments and employment, and I don’t know that LinkedIn should be any different.

3. I’m on dating apps and it’s easy to find my workplace

I have a slightly unusual first name. I moved to a new city for a job and joined some dating apps to meet people. My job comes up a lot, as I am passionate about what I do, but a quick google search of my first name and profession leads to my LinkedIn page and other links that show my workplace. I work in a public-facing field and anyone can come into my work when we are open.

I was chatting with one gentleman, who found out I was uninterested and unmatched and then sent an email to my work address that night.

I am not sure how I can stay safe while working here. I don’t want to hide what I do as I am very passionate, but using an alias first name seems kind of awkward.

Yeah, don’t continue to give out both your first name and your profession if they easily lead to that kind of identifying information.

Do you need to be as specific about what you do or can you say something that’s accurate but not as specific? For example, if you do llama midwifery consulting, can you just say “consulting”?

Or can you use a variation of your first name, or a nickname? For example, if your name is Valentina, can you go by Val until you’ve met and determined you’re comfortable with the person knowing more? I know it might feel a little sketchy to introduce yourself as Val and then later be like “actually I’m Valentina, I said Val earlier because my name is super searchable and I didn’t know you yet” — but really, any man who doesn’t understand why you might take that kind of precaution is oblivious to a concerning degree about safety dynamics between the sexes.

4. Employer illegally classified me as a contractor for years — is it too late to do anything about it?

This has bothered me for years, and I’d love to hear your take on it.

Right out of college, I got a job writing/editing for some niche publications under the umbrella of the main newspaper in my state, along with 10-15 other people. We worked as independent contractors for about two years, then we all became full employees for a few months, and then we were all laid off when the economy tanked. Thanks to your blog, I now know that I was illegally classified as an independent contractor (had set hours, an office to go to, using the company’s equipment, etc). This classification cost me a fortune in quarterly taxes, plus I was granted less money when I filed for unemployment after I was laid off.

I’d love to report the company to the IRS/Department of Labor for misclassifying its employees, but this was back in 2008-2010 so I suspect too much time has passed. I’m not looking for restitution or anything like that; I guess I’m just annoyed that they were doing something so blatantly illegal and I worry that they’re still continuing this practice. Did I miss the boat on reporting them?

Unfortunately, yes. You have to file the claim within two years of the violation (or three years in the case of an employer’s willful violation). Your state law might have different deadlines so you could check that, but it probably won’t go back that far.

5. Hiring when we’re open to full-time or part-time

What is the best way to keep our options open for offering a job? I’m at a small nonprofit. We expect to have a full-time position available this summer. The position may be hard to fill because it requires several different skill sets. We might be looking for a unicorn. I would like to post the job (with salary range!) but encourage part-time applicants to apply as well in case we decide to fill the position with a combination of 2-3 part timers. What do you think of this approach?’

You can do that! I’d lay it out very transparently in the ad — “While our preference would be to fill this role with one full-timer, we’re also open to hiring several part-timers to each cover a piece of this work. If you don’t have every skill listed but would be open to part-time work, please apply and note that in your cover letter.”

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weekend open thread – April 17-18, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/weekend-open-thread-april-17-18-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/weekend-open-thread-april-17-18-2021.html#comments Sat, 17 Apr 2021 04:45:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21440 This post, weekend open thread – April 17-18, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Here are the rules for the weekend posts. Book recommendation of the week: Good Company, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. The discovery of a wedding ring that was long believed lost reveals secrets that unsettle a marriage and a friendship. * […]

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This post, weekend open thread – April 17-18, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Good Company, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. The discovery of a wedding ring that was long believed lost reveals secrets that unsettle a marriage and a friendship.

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

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/its-your-friday-good-news-49.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/its-your-friday-good-news-49.html#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2021 16:00:42 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21445 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. I’ve been a faithful reader of every post on Ask a Manager since 2017, and I also worked my way through most of the archives. Lately, however, I found myself sometimes having to skip the Friday good news posts. It […]

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

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

1. I’ve been a faithful reader of every post on Ask a Manager since 2017, and I also worked my way through most of the archives. Lately, however, I found myself sometimes having to skip the Friday good news posts. It was just a little too much, being in a position that was making me miserable and wondering why all these people could make it work while I couldn’t seem to. At my worst, I could always find a reason those letter writers were in a place to succeed that I would never find myself in. In case there are any other readers in that position, I wanted to share my story.

In 2019, I was pretty happy, but open to better opportunities. I had a full-time position at a small business that had some amazing perks but, despite being a nationally-recognized subject matter expert, after nearly a decode I had only recently started earning $15 an hour. (This sort of pay scale is standard in the industry.) There were also many of the issues you’ve often talked about accompanying small businesses that led to frustration (at best). I also had a successful freelance career and part-time job in another industry, but there is no such thing as a full-time job in my freelance role, and freelancing enough to earn a living would mean much more travel than I’m willing to do.

By April 2020, I was miserable. On top of the obvious worldwide conditions, while I had kept my full-time position, the role I was in had all but disappeared. I went from unique and largely fulfilling work to a generalized role as a cog in a profit-optimizing machine. On top of that, my freelance industry has been one of the hardest hit overall. After a few months of struggling to keep my head above water, I realized I had to find some energy to improve my situation with a job search.

I took your advice to tailor both my resume and cover letter to the organization and role, so due to my level of burnout, I knew I couldn’t complete a large amount of quality applications. I decided to focus only on jobs in organizations for which I could get excited about working and for which I thought my experience was a genuinely strong pitch. It massively narrowed my field, but any other approach seemed overwhelming and likely to leave me ultimately dissatisfied, so I decided to give it a try.

One of my first applications was to an organization that I’ve long been a fan of. I was called in for an interview and felt so good about my prospects. Despite trying to take your advice about putting the job out of my head and moving on as if I hadn’t gotten it, I got optimistic. The next week, the CEO called to tell me how much they enjoyed meeting me, but that there were a couple people with more experience who they were going to continue with in the hiring process instead. (He also specifically mentioned how much he appreciated my thank-you note, which was 100% thanks to your advice.) When I got off that call, I broke down crying. That interview represented my greatest hope for moving on, and I honestly thought at the moment that phone call ended that I had unknowingly sealed my professional fate years ago, and now I was trapped. There would always be someone better than me.

Well, remember that part-time job I briefly mentioned? It was pretty eradicated by COVID too. However, I’ve always loved working for them. They value employees in ways that matter. One week to the day after getting that rejection call, I had an email announcing a position they were recruiting for internally that it looked like I was qualified for and would enjoy. That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday I wrote up my application and sent it in. On Thursday I had a phone screen. On Friday I video interviewed. On Monday they offered me the job. On Tuesday I received the formal benefits package, and on Wednesday I negotiated (for the first time in my life!) for a salary increase and accepted the offer.

After a notice period that reminded me of every reason I was leaving my old job (seriously so many letters’ worth of material in those two weeks alone), I started my new job last week. I’ve gone from internal and external pressure to work overtime hours and not slack for a second to no time clock and a bunch of updates from coworkers who are setting time off to pick up kids from school every day or watch the inauguration. At my old job, working from home meant doing so on your own resources. Now I’m working on a work-issued laptop and have been told any use of my own phone is strictly optional. And I’m making over 30% more in this position with “room to grow.” Every day I’m noticing differences that might look small, but make me practically giddy.

I couldn’t have done this without you. I followed your advice from applying, to interviewing, to thank you notes (seriously, everyone mentioned how great those were), to negotiating the offer, to giving my notice. I was able to clarify my thinking and focus my efforts in a field I’ve never been comfortable navigating before. I can safely say that none of it would have looked the same if left to my own devices, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Thank you.

2. I’ve been job-searching since I was furloughed in March last year. I was very fortunate that most of this furlough was on full pay and I survived a round of lay-offs at the end of it. Despite this, I was unsatisfied with my prospects for advancement and was feeling less and less enthusiastic about eventually moving back to the extremely high cost-of-living city I worked in (I have been living with family in a much cheaper part of the country since furlough started). Add in that when I was working again, I got moved from a lovely, warm, supportive team to a comparatively cold and hands-off, non-communicative one, and… well, things felt grim.

I worked with a great recruiter and did not struggle to get interviews but kept just missing out. I was going for a role that would be a promotion and was up against people who already had solid experience in that role. Feedback from the companies I interviewed with was very positive, so it was very… close but no cigar, basically.

Then in December I was contacted by an internal recruiter for a fantastic company in a part of the country I’ve wanted to live in for a while, for a job that is the next step up in my career and which I’ve been chasing for months. I gave the best interview of my life so far – thank you so much for your interview tips! – and got an offer this week. I’ve signed my contract, given notice at Old Job, and am counting the days until I move on.

I’ve frequently felt like I was never going to progress in my career and imposter syndrome has been kicking my backside for the past nine months or so. I can hardly believe I’m starting a new chapter of my life, but I’m so excited to do so!

3. In late 2019, I was fired from my job (just shy of three years when some of the benefits improved and vesting in the company 401k was about to kick in). I’m still not exactly sure why I was fired. I wrote the policy they accused me of violating in the official paperwork (which they clearly never read) and having spent the previous six months reviewing the department policies I can say with a great degree of confidence that the policy they say I violated was never in writing or told to me as a policy, and they definity didn’t have any record saying I was trained on this non-existent policy. As best I can tell, I was fired for asking for my salary to be raised to in-line with market rates for the new certification they required me to get and expressing my concern with the desired qualifications for the new director we were looking to hire for my department (which included an unnecessary certification and no managerial experience for a department of 20).

So I headed home and began sending out resumes. I started by contacting two former bosses who had since started their own companies. One had two open positions he was hiring for and the other wasn’t hiring but had a client who was. I had two phone interviews within 24 hours. Then another former coworker contacted me about a site that was looking. So within 48 hours, I had three places wanting to interview me.

I was able to be completely honest with my old boss and his business partner about why I was looking and they both had a WTF reaction to the story. They made an offer that was a 25% raise from the place that fired me (in line with market), had way better benefits, and at the location near my husband’s aging parents (who are increasingly taking up our caregiver energy) so I accepted.

Last week I celebrated my one-year anniversary here and I couldn’t be happier. My previous employer has not weathered COVID well and I would have likely been laid off last spring if I had still been there. I heard that they cut all wages by 30% without cutting hours and are now hounding staff about productivity. My new employer has really handled COVID well. Thanks for all your excellent advice that had me ready to shine when this opportunity presented itself.

4. After a promised promotion that didn’t come through for over a year and a half, I went on an active job hunt. The job I eventually signed with actually recruited me – and wanted me on the team so badly that they increased their budget for the position by $10,000! It’s a step up and I will be in a manager role for the first time. I promise I’ll take all your first-time manager advice to heart as I move into the next stage of my career.

5. Long-time reader here, writing in for the first time ever to share some unbelievably good news and to thank you and your readers/commenters personally. After I graduated college, I promptly moved to a completely different part of the country where I had no prior connections — and (unsurprisingly, in hindsight) struggled to find full-time work for roughly two years, begrudgingly freelancing and working part-time jobs that had nothing to do with my degree in the meantime. In an admittedly spiteful effort to prove that even if I put my all into searching for jobs, I would come up empty-handed, I applied on a whim to a very appealing remote full-time position… well, now I start next week. My starting salary alone is 30~35% more than my (heavily researched!) expectation, and the benefits have even my friends who work in much more lucrative fields than mine flabbergasted. I’m still in shock.

I wouldn’t have been able to undergo the multi-step interview process without the guidance that this blog so graciously provided me: both in preparing my resume and cover letter, and in writing questions for interviews that could both help me get a read on the culture of this particular company and signal to those interviewing me that I had researched the company beforehand. While I ended up not having to negotiate my salary, being prepared to do so gave me peace of mind throughout what was frankly a stressful and unfamiliar process. Checking this blog once every few days for the past couple of years has bestowed unto me lots of insight — and, on occasion, lots of laughter and bewilderment — that I have no doubt will continue to benefit and guide me as I head into my first full-time job EVER!!! Thank you.

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open thread – April 16-17, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/open-thread-april-16-17-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/open-thread-april-16-17-2021.html#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2021 15:00:22 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21441 This post, open thread – April 16-17, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

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

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

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

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lunch meetings when I can’t eat, I’ve fired my new employee before, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/lunch-meetings-when-i-cant-eat-ive-fired-my-new-employee-before-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/lunch-meetings-when-i-cant-eat-ive-fired-my-new-employee-before-and-more.html#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2021 04:03:02 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21467 This post, lunch meetings when I can’t eat, I’ve fired my new employee before, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Lunch meetings when I can’t eat I’m about to enter an industry that encourages people to communicate with each other, especially through the grand event of “let’s have lunch.” My biggest secret is that I have a rare lifelong eating disorder that makes it very […]

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This post, lunch meetings when I can’t eat, I’ve fired my new employee before, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Lunch meetings when I can’t eat

I’m about to enter an industry that encourages people to communicate with each other, especially through the grand event of “let’s have lunch.” My biggest secret is that I have a rare lifelong eating disorder that makes it very hard to eat with people. When I usually have lunch with people, I’d rather sip on some coffee and still be engaged in the conversation. Knowing that buying someone lunch is a way to show kindness, especially between professionals, I am not ready for this. The worst case scenario is for the other party to think they are doing a very kind service of ordering something for me. Insisting that I eat when I am not in the right space can be insanely triggering and can lead to me having an emotional breakdown. These “rules” do have exceptions, however. For example, I am more likely able to eat breakfast than lunch and dinner.

Having a lunch meeting is inevitable. How can I still participate in lunch conversations without having to eat nor explain my condition?

If these meals are with groups, this will be easier to navigate; people won’t be as focused on what you’re eating or not eating and you can likely get away with just coffee and something small that you push around on the plate (if you’re comfortable with that). But in a one-on-one meeting, it can feel pretty awkward to be the only person eating and it’s more likely to become A Thing. So for any meetings that will just be you and one other person, suggest breakfast or coffee. People are often glad for the opportunity to change things up (and both of those can be shorter than lunch, which people often appreciate). But if someone is really pushing lunch, try saying, “I’ve got some food restrictions that make it hard to order off most menus, but I’m happy to just have coffee if you want to do lunch.” (Then it’s up to them if they want to be the sole eater.)

It’s unlikely that someone will order something for you (that’s not something people normally do in business situations, especially if you’ve already said you have food restrictions) but if someone does, jump in with, “Thanks for offering but I hate to waste food, so I’ll stick with coffee.” Typically when someone pushes food in a context like this, they’re worried about you not having what you need or that you’re unhappy/being deprived, so the more you can be breezy and cheerful about it, the better: “Oh, I’m used to it, I don’t mind at all!” — “Any time I have coffee is a win for me!” — “Nah, I’m used to it and it doesn’t bother me at all. So tell me about Work Topic X!”

2. I’ve fired my new employee before

I recently took a job in my same industry and city. In my new role, I’ll have a team of eight reporting to me in various capacities and functions. During the interview process, I got a brief read-out of the team and a high level talent assessment. Nothing stood out as an issue. On my first day, I met the team reporting to me. One of the people on the team is someone that worked for me before and who I terminated for cause due to performance at my previous job.

What do I communicate to my new manager and/or HR about this situation? It feels weird to say nothing because ultimately, this could be a management issue — I’m sure this employee doesn’t feel great about the situation. On the other hand, I don’t want to risk harming this person’s reputation at this company if they are doing a good job so far. This person is pretty new here, too, and my impression is they are either doing a better job in this role or management has not yet identified an issue with their performance.

Have you talked to the employee yet? That’s important because they are undoubtedly really uncomfortable, if not outright panicking. Ideally you’d tell them that you’re happy to be working with them again, you’ve heard good things about the work they’ve been doing (if that’s true), and while you know your last time working together didn’t go the way either of you wanted, this is a different situation and, as far you’re concerned, both of you are starting fresh.

I do think you’re right that you need to mention it to your own manager or HR. It sucks because this person is entitled to a fresh start without the firing following them to a different job, but I’d be pretty concerned if I found out someone I managed didn’t share something so potentially relevant with me. It’s relevant not as a predictor of the person’s work now but because it could affect the dynamic between the two of you, and either of you could struggle not to interpret things through that old lens. I’d keep it very brief — “I managed Jane at an old job and unfortunately the fit wasn’t right and we ended up parting ways. I’m very willing to start fresh with her and I’m hopeful the role she’s in could be a great a match, but I figured you’d want to be aware of the prior work relationship.” Also, if it’s been a while since you worked together, stress that too.

3. Visible nipple piercings at work

I work in healthcare, and one of our front desk staff has nipple piercings that are easily visible through her shirt (to the degree that it is obvious what type of jewelry she is wearing).

Although I am generally firmly in the camp of “your underwear (/piercings) are your own business,” is it appropriate to ask her to conceal her piercings more effectively? If so, how does one have that conversation?

Maybe it’s because my brain is completely burned out after Wednesday’s speed round (in which I answered 76 QUESTIONS IN TWO HOURS and may never recover) but I’m honestly not sure where I stand on this. I can come up with a bunch of justifications for saying you can’t have distracting piercings at work (no matter where they are) and I can come up with a bunch of reasons why you should leave it alone. In general, my bias is to err on the side of giving people maximum freedom unless you have a good reason not to, but that doesn’t always work when you’re dealing with front desk staff who are the face of your business. If you had a “no visible non-ear piercings” policy, that would cover this — but I don’t want you to implement that policy just to deal with this since it would ban other piercings that you might otherwise have been fine with.

Ultimately, I think the right answer is that you can/should address it, but I can’t seem to get myself all the way there … and I’m sure it’s because I’m so tired of people having opinions about how women’s breasts show up at work … even though I know this is different from those situations. Thoughts from others?

(It’s also an interesting thought exercise to think about how you’d handle this if it were a highly visible Prince Albert piercing on a man.) (Do not google that at work.)

4. Can I use a second job offer to get more money after I’ve already accepted a different offer?

Last year, I (unsuccessfully) attempted to negotiate my existing contract with my employer of five years as it was no longer working for me and my family. My boss listened to my concerns, but I was told that our industry was hurting from COVID and the changes I was seeking were not possible then. A week later, I was furloughed for several months. At the end of my furlough, my employer let me know my job was still available to me, but my contract would remain unchanged. I had a job offer in a new role in the same industry, which I accepted, and told my employer I would not be coming back. We parted on good terms.

After six months at my new job, I realized this new role was not for me. After a chance encounter with my former employer’s biggest competitor, I was offered my old role at this new company, with all the terms I was previously seeking. I accepted the position and have a start date in the coming weeks.

My industry is small, and this morning my former manager reached out to me saying that he heard I’m going to this new company and was upset I didn’t reach out to him about moving back into my old role. He mentioned that they are expanding their workforce, and asked if I would be open to talking about changes that have been implemented there and what it would take to have me return! I accepted the meeting but have no intention of returning there regardless of how good the offer is. My intention was to see what they offer and then go to my new job, tell them my old employer made an unsolicited offer, and see if they can offer me a signing bonus. In my industry, signing bonuses are very common. I was not offered one with my initial offer, but I know they have offered them in the past to try and entice people to join their company.

Is this acceptable practice, or does this have the potential of blowing up in my face? I’ve never been in this position before, and I figure it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

No, it could hurt to ask. You’ve accepted their offer, and you’d basically be going back to them and saying, “I might not take this job after all, unless we can renegotiate compensation” — which will make it look like you haven’t been operating in good faith. (What if they came back to you after you’d accepted the job and wanted to pay you less?) You can walk away from the new job if you want (it will likely burn the bridge, but you can do it if you want to take the old job), but you can’t say, “Wait, I changed my mind and now I want more.”

Frankly, I wouldn’t take that meeting with your old boss at all if you’re positive you have no intention of returning. That would be operating in bad faith with both employers and it’s not a good way to navigate your career. (There’s usually no harm in hearing people out, but in this case you’d be wasting their time solely in the hopes of using it to get more money from someone else, and you risk that someone else telling you that you should go ahead and take the other offer, which you don’t even want.)

5. My colleague keeps canceling on me, and it’s jeopardizing a deadline

I am supposed to be trained on a particular platform for evaluating students. The person responsible for this training has said they would meet with me on three different occasions, but they have never shown up; always something came up. I have done what I can in the system by reaching out to fellow colleagues, but the next steps must involve the training person. If the data is not submitted by end of April there will be tough consequences, district and state-wide. How do I approach them with a firm understanding that we must meet? Do I go to my supervisor? Help!

Do two things: let the person know that you absolutely must have the data submitted by the end of the month, which means you need the training no later than X (to give you time to actually do the work after you’re trained), and ask how to nail down a time that they can absolutely commit to. Then give your boss a heads-up about what’s going on and how you’re handling it, so that she’s aware of the situation and so she can intervene if she wants to.

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have I destroyed boundaries with my team during Covid? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/have-i-destroyed-boundaries-with-my-team-during-covid.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/have-i-destroyed-boundaries-with-my-team-during-covid.html#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 17:59:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21459 This post, have I destroyed boundaries with my team during Covid? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been a manager for four years, all at the same location and mostly with the same reports (three people). I’m a pretty private person and didn’t love a previous job that tried to force out-of-work friendships on staff. As a manager I’ve always been a friendly-but-not-friends type, they’re lovely people and […]

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This post, have I destroyed boundaries with my team during Covid? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been a manager for four years, all at the same location and mostly with the same reports (three people). I’m a pretty private person and didn’t love a previous job that tried to force out-of-work friendships on staff. As a manager I’ve always been a friendly-but-not-friends type, they’re lovely people and I have a general idea of what’s going on with my reports from chat on breaks/check-in during supervision; I’ve never socialized with them except for out of office team-building on company time and shared meals during conference travel.

And then COVID. We are all pretty conscientious people in a state full of anti-maskers and never went remote so have been working in the office this whole time. None of us are really seeing anyone outside of close family and each other. I feel like I’ve increasingly drifted in the friends-with-reports direction during this time with one person in particular, and somewhat with another. The third is super reserved and isn’t really friendly with anyone. By that, I mean 10-15 minute check-in chats daily, occasional half-hour office hangouts during downtimes, sharing family photos and videos, recipe and cocktail recommendations, etc. We are all similar age and single. It’s honestly helped keep me sane, and during our annual reviews last week they each mentioned something about their good work environment and relationships helping them get through COVID.

But … we are all currently or soon to be vaccinated, so I’m beginning to think about what to do after/if things do go back to normal. I don’t want them to think I don’t like them anymore if I cut down the personal conversations, but I also don’t want to have inappropriate personal relationships or make any new staff who come on board feel excluded. Any thoughts?

Having 15-minute chats, occasionally socializing for half an hour during downtime, and sharing photos, recipes, and cocktail recommendations — that doesn’t seem like a crossing of boundaries to me! Those are all things managers with appropriate boundaries can do with their teams. You’re being warm and friendly and developing deeper connections with the people you work with. That’s fine!

Inappropriate would be things like wanting your employees to listen to or help you solve serious non-work problems in your life, having weepy conversations about your family or love life, badmouthing your own boss, or expecting them to prioritize chatting with you over their own work or outside interests (or them expecting any of this from you). It would also be things like getting drunk together or hanging out regularly outside of work. But trading recipes and photos — totally normal and not a sign of problematically relaxed boundaries!

So I don’t know that you need to worry particularly. A warm, friendly environment isn’t inherently problematic. You do need to be careful that the third person doesn’t feel excluded; you should always attempt to include her even if you know she’ll likely decline, and make sure the others don’t have special access to you that she doesn’t have. You should also make a point of watching how often you initiate these conversations versus how often the others do; the power dynamics mean they may feel obligated to engage with you on demand, so you’d want to watch out for that.

But a team that gets along well and enjoys talking to each other isn’t the same as a team that’s obliterated professional boundaries. (If I am misunderstanding and there’s more to it than the specifics you named in your letter, please write back so I can course-correct!)

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how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-to-screen-out-micromanagers-in-a-job-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-to-screen-out-micromanagers-in-a-job-interview.html#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 16:29:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21397 This post, how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am part of the interview team in finding a replacement for our ex-manager. And our department would really like this person to not be another micromanager. Any ideas for questions I could ask? Or any red flags in the interviewee’s answers/demeanor to watch out for? I answer this question over at […]

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This post, how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am part of the interview team in finding a replacement for our ex-manager. And our department would really like this person to not be another micromanager.

Any ideas for questions I could ask? Or any red flags in the interviewee’s answers/demeanor to watch out for?

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

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how have other people helped you in your career? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-have-other-people-helped-you-in-your-career.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-have-other-people-helped-you-in-your-career.html#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 14:59:43 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21257 This post, how have other people helped you in your career? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Let’s talk about how people have helped you in your career, especially if you grew up in a family that couldn’t provide much guidance. What specific things did others do that helped you? Hopefully this will be good fodder for all of us to think about what things we can do to help other people, […]

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This post, how have other people helped you in your career? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Let’s talk about how people have helped you in your career, especially if you grew up in a family that couldn’t provide much guidance. What specific things did others do that helped you? Hopefully this will be good fodder for all of us to think about what things we can do to help other people, too.

Let’s discuss in the comment section.

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new employee has gone AWOL, asking someone to mentor me, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/new-employee-has-gone-awol-asking-someone-to-mentor-me-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/new-employee-has-gone-awol-asking-someone-to-mentor-me-and-more.html#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 04:03:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21465 This post, new employee has gone AWOL, asking someone to mentor me, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. New employee is AWOL I’m writing this question on behalf of my husband, Wakeen, who is a managing attorney at a small firm that is entirely remote, with lawyers spread out across the region. He recently hired a mid-level attorney, Fergus, who is based in […]

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This post, new employee has gone AWOL, asking someone to mentor me, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. New employee is AWOL

I’m writing this question on behalf of my husband, Wakeen, who is a managing attorney at a small firm that is entirely remote, with lawyers spread out across the region. He recently hired a mid-level attorney, Fergus, who is based in a different city and who reports directly to Wakeen.

Fergus started 10 days ago and to date appears to have done no work. Beginning on day one, he began telling Wakeen and other senior attorneys that he was having a “temporary personal crisis” and needed more time to finish the assignments he was given. He didn’t specify the nature of this crisis, and no one has felt comfortable probing. Given all that’s happening with Covid, they have tried to be accomodating. But now deadlines are approaching and they have no sense of when or if Fergus will be able to turn around his assignments. He appears to have billed zero hours using the firm’s time-keeping system, but everytime they have checked in with him, he emphasizes that the crisis is temporary, will be resolved soon, and says he can turn some things in the following day — implying that he’s been working on these matters. But he never turns in anything.

What do you advise they do at this point? It’s a small firm with no real HR and none of the managers have ever dealt with a situation like this before. FWIW, there was one potential red flag during the interview process: Fergus had quit his last job of five years with no other job lined up. He said he quit because he couldn’t stand working there anymore. Wakeen decided to overlook this because he comes from a similar Big Law environment as Fergus, and he thought Fergus was a good fit for the firm’s needs.

Fergus has done no work in the 10 days he’s been employed there and isn’t communicating about what’s going on. I’m all for accommodating people when you can and understanding that life sometimes interferes with things in a big way, but this isn’t reasonable. The part that concerns me most is that he’s repeatedly breaking promises about delivering work (and he doesn’t address that when it happens, it sounds like?). That takes it beyond the realm of “maybe he had some really bad luck,” which you would want to accommodate if you could, and makes it seem more likely that he’s abusing your good faith.

If I were your husband, I’d call Fergus and say, “We want to be accommodating, but without a better understanding of what’s going on, we’re at the limits of what we can do. If there’s anything you want to share about what’s going on, maybe we can help, but otherwise we’re at the point where we need to hire someone else for the role.” Another option would be to tell him he needs to begin work by X date or they’ll assume he has abandoned the job — but with the way he’s navigated this so far, I’d recommend just cutting things off now unless he shares something that changes how this looks.

2. How can I signal that I’m not the bottleneck?

In my work, I work on things that pass through many hands and each person’s involvement is needed at those times. In most cases, those doing the work are a level above me and I am mostly coordinating the project/work. For example, I am working on securing a contract with an external consultant but it needs to pass through review by our attorney (who is not an employee). The external consultant is pushing for it to move faster and is setting up other things that are dependent on this contract being signed now. Yet the attorney is moving at a slower pace. I am being pressured by the external consultant for them to be able to sign the document. Another example, my supervisor habitually does things four to five days late.

I don’t want people to think that I am the bottleneck and I also don’t want to seem unresponsive, so I feel like I should respond in some way. For the most part, I don’t want their slower pace or missing deadlines to reflect on my reputation. Can you help me with a few ideas of how (or even should) I let others know that I am not the bottleneck? How can I phrase it so that, for example, the attorney knows and sees that the other party is starting to get impatient?

For the consultant, it’ll help to manage expectations from the start: “The attorney will need about a week to review this. I’m hopeful I’ll have it ready for you by Monday, but it’ll depend on how quickly she’s able to complete it.” And then if the consultant pushes after that: “I will check in with the attorney, but typically the process takes about a week.” Or “I’ll see if she has an updated ETA, but I know she’s fitting it in around other work.” You should also check with the attorney when the work first goes to her to see if she can give you an ETA you can share … but don’t bug her just because the consultant is antsy, unless the attorney truly is outside the timeline you would expect.

When people are waiting on something from your boss: “It’s with Jane but I know she’s swamped. I’ll see if I can nudge her / see if I can get an updated ETA.”

Sometimes, too, it will make sense to proactively circle back to people who you know are waiting on something you have no control over and say — even before they’ve followed up with you — “I know you’re waiting on X from Jane and hoped to have it by now. She hasn’t sent it back yet, but I’ll make sure it stays on her radar.” That can help signal that even if other people are holding things up, you are on top of things and responsive.

3. Letting a new manager know I cover my hair

I recently took a new job, and although it’s mostly remote for the time being, I will be going into the office once every week or so. My first visit to the office will probably be next week. My issue is that in the dress code it states that we’re not allowed to wear hats, and I cover my hair in public for personal religious reasons (I’m Jewish). I’m aware that religious discrimination is illegal, and as far as I know there shouldn’t be any barriers in accommodating me. However, I’m uncertain about how or if I should bring it up. I usually wear a plain-colored bandana coordinated with my outfit, so it’s not as immediately obvious/well-known as other styles of religious head coverings. Should I tell my manager beforehand? Simply come in wearing it and explain if anyone asks? Wear a kippah instead the first couple times and then switch back to my bandanas?

“No hats” probably doesn’t mean “no bandanas or scarves” so there’s a pretty good chance that you could just wear the bandana without having to explain it. But if you want the peace of mind of not having to wonder, you could mention it to your manager ahead of time — “by the way, I cover my hair for religious reasons, and I wanted to give you a heads-up in case it would normally violate the ’no hats’ policy.” That’s it! You could also go the kippah route at first, which would likely get the point across without having to explicitly address it, but I’m a fan of just spelling it out up-front (especially since then you can just stick with bandanas from the get-go, which it sounds like you’d prefer).

4. How do I ask someone to mentor me?

I am at a transitional point in my career, and I have a former board member who has tremendous skills in an area I want to develop. I would like to ask them to mentor me. We had a good rapport when they were on the board, but haven’t spoken since they termed off.

I don’t know how to write this email. It feels like asking someone out on a date! What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not clear in my ask? How do I do this?

In my mind I know what I want to learn from them, an idea of frequency for meetings, and I will understand if they decline (they’re busy and might want space from my employer). But how do I start this email?

I’ve always found the best mentorships are the ones that spring up naturally, as opposed to a formal arrangement from the start. It’s also a pretty big request if the relationship hasn’t already been moving in that direction on its own (or if the person hasn’t already indicated their willingness to make that time investment, such as by signing up for a formal mentoring program, etc.).

So I think you’d be better off just asking for a single meeting first and seeing how that goes. You could frame it as, “I really respect what you’ve achieved in A and B, and you’ve been a model for me as I work to develop skills like C and D. I would love to run some questions by you that I’m grappling with about my career.” If that goes well, you can continue to build the relationship from there — but I think it’s a lot to jump straight to requesting formal, ongoing mentorship right off the bat.

5. Posting on LinkedIn when you’ve been laid off

I was just laid off from a startup today. It’s been the second time I’ve been laid off from a startup in 2.5 years. Both times I had gotten rave performance reviews, but was still laid off with a group of others due to budget issues. I know it’s part of the culture and not due to my performance, but it still stings a bit.

I was kind of embarrassed the first time it happened and didn’t ask for help on LinkedIn. However, a few months back my company laid off a bunch of people. They were very honest and asked for help on LinkedIn posts and I saw a lot of support and offers for interviews.

As a general rule, is it a good idea to post to LinkedIn when laid off to let your network know you’re in the market for a new job?

Yeah, this is a thing people do, and it can generate job leads! Don’t let it take the place of reaching out individually to your network, but it’s a useful thing to add to whatever else you’re doing.

And don’t be embarrassed — people get laid off all the time, and even more so this past year. It might help to remember that by letting people know you’re looking for work, you could be helping them, if they’re searching for someone who does exactly what you do or if it lets them make a really good referral to someone they know or so forth.

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Ask a Manager speed round https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/ask-a-manager-speed-round.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/ask-a-manager-speed-round.html#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2021 17:58:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21451 This post, Ask a Manager speed round , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Ask a Manager speed round! Until 4 pm ET today, I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live, in the comment section below. How to ask questions: Submit a comment below with your question. This quick format is best suited to questions that don’t require lengthy, nuanced answers. Questions won’t appear […]

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This post, Ask a Manager speed round , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Ask a Manager speed round! Until 4 pm ET today, I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live, in the comment section below.

How to ask questions: Submit a comment below with your question. This quick format is best suited to questions that don’t require lengthy, nuanced answers. Questions won’t appear until they’re answered.

How to stay anonymous: Pick a user name (not your real name!) for the “user name” box.

How to comment: You can comment as normal, by replying below. Comments won’t appear until approved due to the moderation function necessary to set this up.

Update: The speed round is now closed! You can read it below.

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do I really have to have career ambition? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-i-really-have-to-have-a-career.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-i-really-have-to-have-a-career.html#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2021 16:29:39 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21438 This post, do I really have to have career ambition? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m the type of person who works for one and only one reason: to earn a living. I do a good job, but this is 100 percent because I’m terrified of starving in the streets and 0 percent because I genuinely care about work or want to build up a “career.” There […]

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This post, do I really have to have career ambition? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m the type of person who works for one and only one reason: to earn a living. I do a good job, but this is 100 percent because I’m terrified of starving in the streets and 0 percent because I genuinely care about work or want to build up a “career.”

There aren’t any jobs in the universe I’d ever actually want to do. I’ve never read any job description and not thought, “well, that sounds awful.” The highest bar I’m interested in setting re: work is finding something that isn’t too awful to bear every day, and performing well so I don’t get fired.

I accept that having a job also means being required to nod and smile along with all the company BS. I do. But I struggle mightily with my company’s obsession with everyone’s “career development.” It’s fine that this stuff is there for people who are interested—what I don’t understand is why those of us who aren’t interested, and are never going to be interested, are forced to participate too. No matter how many times, year after year, I smile and repeat “I’m fine with where I am now, I don’t have any goals beyond performing well in this role,” I can’t seem to escape it.

Is it too much to expect that I can simply have a job that allows me to earn a living and that’s it? Or will I really have to keep dealing with this CAREER nonsense until retirement? If so, how do I navigate this? Do I need to come up with some convincing fake “goals” and “passions” to appease the powers that be? If so, I’m completely blank on ideas for what to say and would appreciate suggestions.

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

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my coworker is a talker and whines when I ask him to stop https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-coworker-is-a-talker-and-whines-when-i-ask-him-to-stop.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/my-coworker-is-a-talker-and-whines-when-i-ask-him-to-stop.html#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:59:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21460 This post, my coworker is a talker and whines when I ask him to stop , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a mid-20’s woman and I share a tiny office with two coworkers who each have multiple grandchildren. My male coworker, Bob, is a talker. I have tried everything — the staring at my screen, typing furiously as he starts a conversation, the distracted “mhmm, ok”’s as he rambles, and straight up […]

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This post, my coworker is a talker and whines when I ask him to stop , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a mid-20’s woman and I share a tiny office with two coworkers who each have multiple grandchildren. My male coworker, Bob, is a talker. I have tried everything — the staring at my screen, typing furiously as he starts a conversation, the distracted “mhmm, ok”’s as he rambles, and straight up asking him to stop talking by saying “I can’t talk right now, I need to focus.”

He does several things that I find absolutely infuriating.

1) If I am giving off body language that shows I’m trying to focus but he has something he really wants to share, he overrides all my subtle cues. He has in the past shoved his mobile phone right in front of my face to show me a photo of his grandkid, the latest funny/inspiring video clip he needs to share, etc. He has poked me in the arm to get my attention when I have headphones on.

2) When I explicitly say that I can’t talk right now, he does a suuuper strange, whiny, childish voice mocking my request (e.g. “ooh nooo, Sansa has to focus, she’s put her boundaries up”). He usually does this for 5-15 seconds, which I ignore, then leaves me alone.

I feel like I need to put up with his ridiculous whiny whinging about not being able to talk for 5-15 seconds as a down payment for an hour’s silence. Maybe this is just what I need to do, but it is so incredibly draining and frustrating and I honestly tense up every time he opens his mouth.

He is otherwise a really friendly, extroverted person and I don’t mind chatting over lunch, but he often starts chats just as I really need to focus. His desk is literally right next to mine (our chairs are probably about half a meter apart), so this is starting to really grate on me. He also regularly talks to himself and chuckles out loud at things on his screen, but that is honestly a smaller problem compared to everything else. Help!

What the hell?

It would be one thing if Bob were just bad at picking up on social cues — in which case you’d just need to be more direct — but he knows you’re trying to focus because you’ve told him and he  chooses to whine and mock you for that? As if you’re there to meet his social needs whenever he feels like it, as opposed to .. working.

And I know how exhausting it is to always have to talk about sexism, but it is no coincidence that you’re a woman. The Bobs of the world rarely use these specific behaviors with men. On some level, he resents that you’re not serving his needs in the way he wants — or he at least feels entitled to insist on it in a way that he probably doesn’t do with men. (Can you imagine him poking and whining at, say, a 50-year-old dude?)

Bob might be friendly in other contexts, but he’s acting like a self-absorbed child and a jerk.

You’ve tried all my usual advice — say explicitly that you can’t talk at the moment, use body language that reinforces that, ignore the person and keep typing — and it’s not working. If anything, it sounds like Bob takes all of that as encouragement to be more obnoxious.

So at this point you have two choices:

1. You can continue you’re doing now: tell him you can’t talk and accept that he’s gong to whine for 15 seconds but then will leave you alone.

2. You can push back much more aggressively — and I do mean aggressively, because he has created a situation where handling him politely isn’t working. For example:
* When he shoves your phone in front of your face, say in an openly pissed off tone, “Take that out of my face. You can see that I am am working.”
* If he pokes you (!), say in an even more pissed off tone, “STOP TOUCHING ME.” Follow it up with, “I am working right now. If you need me, please email me and I’ll see it when I’m free.”
* Most importantly, every time he interrupts you while you’re working, say, “I cannot talk right now, I’m busy.” If he starts whining, look him straight in the eye and say, “Why are you talking like a child?” Or, “You must not realize how off-putting that sounds from a grown man.” Or, “You are being rude. Stop.” Or, “That makes me never want to talk to you, and it’s really getting old.”

He’s not going to like that. At all. And that’s fine. He is the one who has created a situation where you’re forced to be this blunt. If these exchanges feel bad to him, that’s on him.

You probably won’t like it either, because that’s a much more aggressive way of speaking to colleagues than people normally have to use and it won’t feel polite. But all of these responses are warranted. You won’t be the one crossing lines; you’ll be the one responding to someone else’s line-crossing. It’s okay if he feels stung or embarrassed; he should feel embarrassed, and it may be what it takes to get him to stop. Or he might just stop liking you, which is also okay — unless that could cause political problems for you at work, in which case move to the next step.

If this doesn’t work — or if you can’t bring yourself to be as direct as I’m recommending — two other options are to have a big-picture conversation with him or with your boss.

If it’s with him, you could say something like, “I want to talk to you about how you respond when I’m busy and can’t speak to you. You insist on getting my attention anyway and complain if I won’t give it to you. It’s getting in the way of my ability to focus, so if I say I can’t talk, I need you to let me work.” Who knows, maybe he’ll back off. Or maybe he’ll find that hilarious and it’ll egg him on further.

If that’s the case, then at that point you’ll have plenty of standing to go to your boss because this is something that’s interfering in your ability to work. You’ll have tried to address it on your own, Bob will have openly refused to leave you alone, and you’ll have exhausted your options for handling it yourself.

(If that doesn’t work, consider digging a large pit right under Bob’s chair for him to fall into one day. You can send down food and water.)

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job candidate was fired twice previously, I have to pay to volunteer, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/job-candidate-was-fired-twice-previously-i-have-to-pay-to-volunteer-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/job-candidate-was-fired-twice-previously-i-have-to-pay-to-volunteer-and-more.html#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2021 04:03:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21458 This post, job candidate was fired twice previously, I have to pay to volunteer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. How much of a red flag is it if a job candidate was fired twice previously? I am hiring for a position that is fairly entry-level office work. A candidate, who is fairly young, lists two positions in the past decade from which they were […]

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This post, job candidate was fired twice previously, I have to pay to volunteer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. How much of a red flag is it if a job candidate was fired twice previously?

I am hiring for a position that is fairly entry-level office work. A candidate, who is fairly young, lists two positions in the past decade from which they were fired, but they were post-college full-time positions, not high school summer jobs where turnover would be expected to be high and where the job may not be a huge priority for the employee. This seems like a lot. I would follow up with a reference check to get more details if I move this candidate forward, but I’m not sure if I should just disqualify them — I’m a couple decades into my career and I’ve never been fired, so I am not sure if my frame of reference is skewed here. If it matters, there are other candidates I’m leaning toward, but this candidate is currently in my top tier in terms of skills and experience.

If they’re in your top tier of candidates aside from this, why not talk to them and ask about it? What you hear might turn out to be concerning/disqualifying, but it also might not be. Examples of things that might not be worrisome: they took a job that wasn’t right for their skills, and those aren’t skills they’d be using in this job … the job changed after they were hired, and their skills were no longer right for it … they were fired after reporting harassment or discrimination … they messed up but have learned from it, as demonstrated by their strong work since … and on and on.

You’ve got to talk to them and get more info before you can know. You should also verify whatever they tell you with references, particularly since this is two incidents rather than one, but since they’re a strong candidate it doesn’t make sense to reject them without learning more.

2. I have to pay a membership fee to volunteer

I have been volunteering for a small, young nonprofit that as of today consists of myself and board members on the staff. Although I am not on the board, I am expected to attend all board meetings to provide input on strategies and tactics and give an update on my one-person department, which is fine by me. The nonprofit does not pay anyone and primarily makes money through donations and memberships. All board members have purchased memberships, and as far as I can understand it is an unofficial prerequisite for being a board member.

Today, the founder reached out to me and said he cannot send me an invite to the next board meeting on Teams unless I pay a membership fee. Although the cost of a membership fee is not prohibitive for me, I am saving up for a home and am saving wherever I can so I don’t want to pay for this. I told the founder I am fine with not being involved in board meetings since I am not a board member, and they clarified that in order to be on the staff at all you have to pay to have a membership.

Am I crazy in thinking this feels off? I would like to think my time, services, and the products I create for them are payment enough, and now this just feels like they are after my cash. Do other nonprofits who have volunteers typically require for their volunteers to pay some fee to have the opportunity to volunteer?

No, that’s ridiculous. You’re donating your time and expertise to them. A requirement that you also be a paid member is gatekeeping and counterproductive — and a sure way to alienate volunteers. It’s particularly bizarre since you are their only volunteer and they have no staff! If they had a huge volume of potential volunteers, prioritizing members wouldn’t be unreasonable — but they’re not exactly in a position to turn away help.

They probably see membership as a sign that you’re invested in the organization — but donating your time is also a sign that you’re invested in the organization (a bigger one, in fact).

If you’re willing to walk away over this, you could say, “I’m happy to donate my time and skills, but I’m not in a position to donate financially. Does that mean you’d rather I stop volunteering?”

3. My boss has already reserved all the holiday time off for himself

We have a shared calendar we are asked to use to schedule our time off. Either my boss or I have to be working for coverage. He has scheduled for time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas a couple months in advance in previous years, but it is April and I see he has scheduled PTO on the calendar around every holiday this year. In the past he has said, “I just put that up there to get it on the calendar, we can work around it if you need time off then as well,” which I suppose is some level of consideration … but since it is my boss, I am reluctant to do so and I certainly am less likely to feel like I can schedule anything major with my family, such as prolonged travel to see my family out of state.

Am I wrong for feeling pre-empted and not considered here? If so, should I talk with him and express that this is unfair to me and why I’m less likely to take that time off? His family tends to plan their whole year out (or they make it seem so!) whereas mine is much less likely to do so (and due to other schedules, are much less likely to be able to do so).

Talk to him. You could say, “I’d like to be able to take time off at the holidays but I typically don’t know specific dates this early in the year. What’s the best way for me to ensure I’ll be able to get the time I need if I won’t know the exact dates until (month)?” You could also say, “I’m concerned that with what’s on the calendar right now, I won’t be able to take any time off around the holidays” and suggest that you trade off holidays — if he gets Christmas, you get Thanksgiving or vice versa.

But also, how close to the holidays would you ideally want to wait before scheduling your own time? If your preference is to wait until very late in the year, that might not be realistic in this situation; you might need to nail down some dates earlier than you’d otherwise want so that he can make concrete plans as well (or you risk forfeiting your ability to do it later). You might benefit from using your boss’s approach of “just getting it on the calendar.”

4. Responding to job overtures from other teams when I’m not interested

I’m currently in an analyst role, which I’ve been in for the last three years. My performance reviews have all been in the top performer range, which is unusual in my company.

I have started receiving emails from managers of other departments advising me they have job openings in various teams and if I applied they’d be willing to throw their weight behind my application because “I’d be a good fit for their team” or “I have a lot to offer them.” This is completely unfamiliar (but quite flattering) territory for me as it isn’t something I’ve come across in other businesses I’ve worked for in the past.

My current role works with data across the entire company, so I still need to be able to work closely with these people in future, but the roles they are offering really don’t appeal to me. They aren’t promotions, they are at the same level and in the same pay band, but involve far more admin and customer service than I would like to do (which I deliberately moved away from when I took this job).

My manager also has a reputation for being difficult to work with, even though we have a great relationship (after an initial rocky start), so I don’t know if they think they are offering me a way out of her team while gaining someone with skills and knowledge they can use — and it feels far too rude to ask! I’ve been responding with a polite, general note that I’m not looking to move roles at the moment, and I’m in the middle of some projects that I’d really like to see to completion, but I’m worried that I’ve just set myself up for more emails when those projects close. I don’t mind getting offers, but I’d rather not be seen as someone who just always says no in the event that there is a role I’d be interested in. How do you politely decline something unsolicited like this without damaging relationships that need to be maintained? Am I overthinking this?

First, you definitely shouldn’t need to worry that turning down an offer will make it harder to work with people in the future; it shouldn’t. If anything, you’re seeing that they value working with you!

Continue sending the polite notes you’ve been sending, but I’d remove the mention of wanting to see some projects to completion since that does imply that you might be up for moving as soon as they’re over. Instead, it’s fine to just say, “Thank you for letting me know! Right now I’m happy where I am, but I appreciate being thought of.” When there are things about the role that are clearly not right for you, you can also mention that since it’ll help them target things better for you in the future — “Thanks for thinking of me! This role looks like it has a heavier admin and customer service component than what I’d be looking for in my next move, but I appreciate you letting me know about it.”

If it’s a team where you think you might want to work some day, you can also mention what you would like — “I’m happy where I am right now, but at some point I think I’d be interested in moving into X. If that kind of role ever opens up and you think I could be the right match, I’d love to talk with you about it.”

5. Interviewing when I’ll need time off to care for elderly parents

I lost a job a couple of years ago. The new position I found was not in my field, and I currently have my fingers crossed for a new position that does relate to my decades of experience. However, I have elderly parents, and one just got a dementia diagnosis that will require growing amounts of care for possibly years to come. On and off for a few years, I’ve already needed time off to care for both of them, usually occasional ER visits and not consistent appointments.

Next week I have an interview with an organization that is notoriously difficult to get into and very well respected. Just getting advanced to this stage feels like a win. Even if this position turns out not to be the one for me, I will still be searching for opportunities to return to this field. When I do find something, I will need to let the new employer know about potential impacts due to caregiving needs. I realize the interview is not the right time, but at what point would I want to inform a new employer about the potential need for flexibility due to FMLA?

The first thing to know is that you’re not eligible for FMLA until you’ve been at the new job for a year (although some state laws kick in earlier). That doesn’t mean, though, that you won’t be able to take the time off that you need; many employers would be happy to work with you around this.

The right time to raise it is once you have an offer. At that point, as part of your negotiations, explain what you’ll need and ask if it’s something they can accommodate. Be as specific as you can about the likely frequency, since if they’re going to object it’s better to find out before taking the job than after you’re already working there. Good luck!

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speed round — submit your questions https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/speed-round-submit-questions.html Tue, 13 Apr 2021 19:15:52 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21450 This post, speed round — submit your questions , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Ask a Manager speed round! On Wednesday from 2-4 pm ET, I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live on the website during that time. To submit a question in advance, use the form below. (You’ll also be able to submit questions during the speed round itself tomorrow.) These will be […]

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This post, speed round — submit your questions , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Ask a Manager speed round! On Wednesday from 2-4 pm ET, I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live on the website during that time.

To submit a question in advance, use the form below. (You’ll also be able to submit questions during the speed round itself tomorrow.)

These will be short answers, obviously, so this is better suited for questions that don’t require lengthy, nuanced replies.

Update: The response to this has been overwhelming so I’m closing the question submission form for now. You’ll still be able to submit questions during the live speed round itself.

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how should I address my interviewer in application emails? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-should-i-address-my-interviewer-in-application-emails.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-should-i-address-my-interviewer-in-application-emails.html#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 17:59:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21454 This post, how should I address my interviewer in application emails? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a question about how to address someone at a company you’re applying to during the process. Recently, a colleague of mine passed along my resume to someone they knew was hiring informally and great news! My colleague got back to me and said something to the effect of, “Bob Smith […]

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This post, how should I address my interviewer in application emails? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a question about how to address someone at a company you’re applying to during the process. Recently, a colleague of mine passed along my resume to someone they knew was hiring informally and great news! My colleague got back to me and said something to the effect of, “Bob Smith was really interested in you. He asked me to pass along his email and direct phone number. Reach out to him to set up an interview for this week.”

Here’s the question: My spouse thinks that I should have addressed this email “Dear Mr. Smith.” In my mind, I should address the email “Dear Bob.”

My spouse stressed that I need to show respect/reverence for the person who might become my future boss, but I don’t see it that way. I’m thinking of this as a business transaction and I certainly wouldn’t call my boss Mr. Smith day-to-day if I do end up working for him later. For what it’s worth, my spouse would also address the email Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name] if it was a recruiter reaching out for a phone screen as well.

What’s the correct business etiquette here?

Either one is fine!

“Dear Ms. LastName” has long been standard business etiquette. Lots of candidates still use it, and no sensible hiring manager will hold it against you.

But in the vast, vast majority of industries, first names are totally fine and there has been a rapid increasing move in that direction. Plus, it is especially fine when you’ve been referred by a mutual contact.

That’s the short answer. Here’s the longer one:

Generally, when you’re talking with prospective employers about jobs, it makes sense to interact with them in a way that’s similar to how you would interact if they were current colleagues. Not the colleague who you go to drinks with every week and gossip about your boss with, obviously — but a colleague who you feel warmly toward and have a friendly relationship with even though you haven’t worked together much.

Some people approach interviewers more like your husband does — but those people tend to come across as more stiff and formal and less personable. In some fields and with some hiring managers, that might not matter. But more often than not, you’ll come across better if you relax a little and treat the person like a colleague.

What you definitely don’t need to do is show reverence for a hiring manager! Any hiring manager who wants that is someone who you don’t want to work for, and good interviewers will be a little put off if they pick up on it. I’m not talking here about just opening a letter with “Dear Ms. LastName” — that’s just old-fashioned business writing and it’s not a big deal. But actual reverence won’t come across well in a healthy workplace. I suspect your husband doesn’t really mean reverence though; hopefully he just means respect. And respect is good — but most people these days consider first names in hiring correspondence perfectly respectful.

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how bad is job-hopping, really? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-bad-is-job-hopping-really.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-bad-is-job-hopping-really.html#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 16:29:09 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21439 This post, how bad is job-hopping, really? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: How bad is it really to “bounce around” jobs frequently? I’ve been practicing in my field for about five years and have had three jobs in that time – the first for about five months, the next for about two and a half years, and my current one for about a year […]

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This post, how bad is job-hopping, really? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

How bad is it really to “bounce around” jobs frequently?

I’ve been practicing in my field for about five years and have had three jobs in that time – the first for about five months, the next for about two and a half years, and my current one for about a year and a half. Recently, I’ve been starting to feel unfulfilled at my current job, partly because of the pandemic (my workload has been really inconsistent), but also because the workplace in general is a lot more anti-social and older-skewing than I was originally expecting. I came from another job where there were a lot of people around my age, frequent group lunches/happy hours, etc. Here, while everyone I work with is super nice and lovely, most of them could be my parents and everyone simply sits in their office alone, not really interacting (the only plus was that this made the transition to working from home very easy for everyone).

I’ve also been thinking about my long-term goals and have concluded that staying where I currently am may not lend itself those goals. I’m an associate at a law firm doing a kind of niche work that isn’t typically valued outside of the specific field, and I know that I want to eventually go in-house with a company rather than become a law firm partner.

All of this seems to point to searching for a new job. However, I have heard time and time again that it looks bad on a resume to have bounced around a lot and was advised by someone I used to work with that I really need to stay at my current job for at least two years before moving again. I myself have judged someone’s frequent moves when evaluating potential candidates. But is this true? Will I really be hamstrung in a potential job search by not hitting an arbitrary mark of time at a job I don’t like? Should I just wait it out?

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

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how do I get out of my office’s toxic positivity meetings? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-do-i-get-out-of-my-offices-toxic-positivity-meetings.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-do-i-get-out-of-my-offices-toxic-positivity-meetings.html#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 14:59:18 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21455 This post, how do I get out of my office’s toxic positivity meetings? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: So I work at a small nonprofit in a non-U.S. country, during this pandemic. Due to a number of pandemic-related factors, the work I do has been complicated multiple times during the last year or so, and I am doing my best to manage this stress and all of the deadlines my […]

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This post, how do I get out of my office’s toxic positivity meetings? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

So I work at a small nonprofit in a non-U.S. country, during this pandemic. Due to a number of pandemic-related factors, the work I do has been complicated multiple times during the last year or so, and I am doing my best to manage this stress and all of the deadlines my job involves, but the management team at my job are not helping and are filling my calendar with frivolous meetings.

They insist on doing what they refer to as TEAM CONNECTS! which are Zoom calls where they ask questions about Covid and how we are feeling. There is an intense, albeit unstated, pressure to be chipper and cheerful at these meetings, even if you are not feeling that way.

For example, one of the first times we did one of these calls, they had not only just reduced my pay and hours the day before due to the pandemic (something that was not universal but done to select staff), but laid off half of my working team 10 minutes prior to the meeting! Although I was upset and shaken, in the meeting I was called out on the spot by name to contribute something positive about Covid! I was so shocked, the best I could muster was that it definitely was reminding me about what was important and what my priorities should be.

Since that event, these situations keep arising. I have lost family members due to COVID. and still, every two weeks, whether I want to or not (I don’t!), I have to gather to discuss what inspires me or what I consider team work to be during this era of Covid.

The one time I was honest and talked about how upsetting the losses have been and how taxing talking about/dealing with Covid is for me (I am the only person in staff of 20+ with a school-aged child), I was met with uncomfortable silence and nobody even addressed or acknowledged what I’d said before they quickly moved on to another topic.

I am trying to be “a team player” but I am tired and honestly? I already have a therapist for this kind of stuff! They say we don’t need to speak in these meetings, but if I don’t contribute to the discourse, I am called out by name and forced to speak. If I make suggestions that don’t involve being put on the spot and only contributing to discussions when time/mental health allow, I am met with complaints that “optional interaction isn’t as valuable!” They are now gearing up to relaunch the social committee and push us into even more social situations where we do things like eat lunch and watch Netflix together! My lunch hour is the one break I get all day — I don’t want to do this!

I understand that other people may get something out of these exercises (a number of the senior management team are single people who are quarantining alone), but for me, they have become forced socialization appointments on my calendar that I completely dread. I felt like crying at the one I had today.

What do I do here? Is there a polite way to bow out of these meetings? I actually like my job and the work I do (in spite of the stress right now), but these events are awful!

What the F.

They’re demanding that you name something positive about Covid?

Over and over?

When people are losing loved ones?

And they demanded that you name something positive about Covid 10 minutes after half your team was let go and a day after they cut your pay?

I hear a lot of ridiculous things writing this column, but this should win some sort of prize for how out of touch it is.

And the one time you tried to speak openly about how upsetting the pandemic is, everyone acted like you’d pooped on the floor and you were the problem?

What is going on in the culture there? I mean, there’s plenty of toxic positivity floating around in lots of companies — and lots of “share but only share in the exact way we want, and make yourself vulnerable but only in ways we approve of” — and lots of “your mental health is our business even though we’re in no way qualified to address it and might in fact worsen it” — but this is still a remarkable commitment to bad practices on multiple levels. So I’m curious about what else goes on there, because I’m skeptical that there aren’t other problems.

As for what to do …

At a healthier organization, you’d be able to simply say that you don’t find the meetings helpful and would like to opt out so you can focus on pressing deadlines. But when you just asked not to be forced to speak in the meetings, you were told “optional interaction isn’t as valuable!” (??!) so I’m not optimistic that you’d get a different response if you proposed not attending at all. (But who knows, maybe you would. Sometimes people get hung up on “if you’re here, you participate” and so it goes better if you can just … not be there.)

At this point, I would go straight to telling your boss that these meetings are bad for your mental health and so you need to stop attending. You could use language like, “I have lost family members to Covid and I am not in a place where I can participate in a discussion of what’s good in the pandemic. I’ve made a good faith attempt for a while, but it’s become clear to me that these meetings do me more harm than good. To protect my mental health, my plan is to stop attending and I’ll use that time to work on projects like XYZ.”

Your boss may still push back, but you’ll have put it in terms that will make it much more awkward for her to do that so let’s see what happens.

But if you’re outright required to continue attending, even after that conversation, one option is to stick to really vague responses that don’t require any real emotion from you: “I’m hanging in! Such a weird time, blah blah.” … “Team work in the age of Covid? I guess I’d say it’s been important for us all to be flexible and work together to support our goals.” … “Something positive about the pandemic? Well, it’s made me appreciate family and friends more than ever.” … just totally vague and bland pablum.

The other option, of course, is to refuse to play along: “Well, to be honest, I’m shaken by the layoffs! I’m worried about the colleagues we lost and about how to absorb that work on fewer hours. Can we talk about the plan for that?” … “Nothing from me today — I know you’ve said we don’t need to speak in these meetings, so I’m going to pass today.” … “Like a lot of people, I’m not feeling positive about Covid right now. So I’ll pass today.” … “While we’re talking about team work, could we talk about how the team should approach Work Complication X?” … You’d need to judge how much this might or might not hurt you politically there, and how much you care, but it’s an option. (And if you do a few “can we talk about the plan for handling X?” they might be happy to have you opt out of future meetings.)

Also, any chance you’ve got other coworkers who feel similarly to you? Even if there are just a few of you, pushing back as a group can often carry more weight and make it harder for you to be singled out as the problem person.

Your office is exhausting.

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coworkers keep interrupting my closed-door meetings, is it weird to throw a party for coworkers at your house, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/coworkers-keep-interrupting-my-closed-door-meetings-is-it-weird-to-throw-a-party-for-coworkers-at-your-house-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/coworkers-keep-interrupting-my-closed-door-meetings-is-it-weird-to-throw-a-party-for-coworkers-at-your-house-and-more.html#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 04:03:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21453 This post, coworkers keep interrupting my closed-door meetings, is it weird to throw a party for coworkers at your house, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Coworkers keep interrupting my closed-door meetings I am wondering how to address what seems to be an organization-wide lack of office etiquette. I was recently in a meeting with my boss, the CFO, in my office. We were discussing a serious matter and the door […]

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This post, coworkers keep interrupting my closed-door meetings, is it weird to throw a party for coworkers at your house, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Coworkers keep interrupting my closed-door meetings

I am wondering how to address what seems to be an organization-wide lack of office etiquette. I was recently in a meeting with my boss, the CFO, in my office. We were discussing a serious matter and the door was shut. Yet two staff members felt it was appropriate to knock anyway, for access to non-urgent things like petty cash and use of the corporate gas card. My boss was standing near the door and opened it, visibly annoyed. He made a comment to the the two interrupters about the situation, but this is almost a daily occurrence and those two coworkers are not even the worst offenders. Today, I was interrupted (closed office door) by a staff member from another department asking if I knew where there was a vacuum cleaner they could use! That kind of pushed me over the edge, and the tone of my response was not the kindest. I indicated that I was unaware that cleaning equipment was part of the staff accountant job description and the person left in a huff. This goes on daily, even with a do not disturb sign on the door … even during an audit!

They are usually staff members from other departments. While I consider them peers in that I’m not a supervisor of any staff, in our company chart I am above them. My boss thinks I worry to much about being liked and I haven’t set appropriate boundaries because of this. He’s not wrong! I tend to let things that annoy me build up, until I eventually blow my stack. I know I need to be more direct, but my first go to about this situation was to put a sign on my office door which seems too passive aggressive. Please help before I really lose my cool!

A sign isn’t passive-aggressive; it’s practical and direct. Since you’re apparently working in an office where people think it’s fine to knock on a closed door even for minor things (and in some offices, it genuinely is) and you don’t want them to, put a sign on your door that says “in meeting — please do not interrupt.”

If someone knocks anyway (or if you forget the sign one day), it’s fine to say to the interruptor, “I’m in a meeting right now — please come back when I’m out” or “I’m in a meeting, but I’ll find you later” or so forth. If someone is a repeat offender, address that with them privately later: “When you see my door closed, please assume I’m busy and can’t be interrupted — send an email about what you need and I’ll see it when I’m done.” But none of this needs to involve blowing your stack! When you realize you can assert reasonable boundaries in a matter-of-fact way, you’re far less likely to end up frustrated to the point of losing your cool.

2. Is it weird to throw a party for coworkers at your house?

I work for a company that generally encourages team members to socialize and become friendly outside of work. I didn’t mind this when we were in-office (we have been working from home since March 2020) as this usually meant lunches, early dinners at restaurants, or happy hours near work. However, I have been on three calls this week where someone said, “When we are all vaccinated I’m going to have a BBQ, party, etc. at my house so we can all get together and see each other.” One person was my direct leader, one was my director, the third was a comparable level coworker. I know this sounds strange, but I would feel uncomfortable going to a coworker or leader’s home for a private party or BBQ. I understand COVID has changed lots of things, but I still feel like this is strange. I am polite and friendly at work, but I try to keep my work and personal social life separate. Am I wrong in thinking it would be weird to go to a coworker’s house for a private party? Or is this normal and I just haven’t been invited to any previously?

Another issue I foresee is that I imagine these events will take place on weekends or evening hours and I do not want to cut into my private, relaxation time to go to a colleagues home to socialize. I am inclined to being an introvert and need my free time to recharge. Besides crossing my fingers and hoping these events never get planned, how can I politely turn down any offers for outside of work hours events at coworkers’ homes if they do get extended, especially ones coming from someone above me?

There are offices where this is a thing that happens. It’s often — but not always — offices with lots of young people where the social boundaries are blurred, or a senior exec hosting a relatively fancy event at their home. There are also lots of offices where this never happens and would be odd.

It’s quite possible that the plans your coworkers are announcing will never come to fruition; we’re at a stage where it feels good (to some people) to talk about all the things we’re going to do once we can do them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll really follow through. If they do, though, it’s perfectly fine for you to decline the invitation because you have other plans for that time. That said, if the party is being thrown by your manager or director, it might be politically useful to show up for an hour, be seen, and then cheerfully take your leave … but you don’t have to do that if you’d rather not. People have plans outside of work! It’s okay for you to have a conflict.

3. Is eight interviews ridiculous?

My fiancé just got out of his eighth interview for a position. Yes, eighth. The job is a manager position, but nothing like a director or a VP. These interviews were with everyone from an external recruiter to a VP and have ranged from 25 minutes to an hour. One was more of a test where they presented him with some reports that they used and asked him to find various data. The recruiter has assured him that this was the final interview, but still — it seems like a ridiculous number of interviews. Our city’s offices are almost entirely remote right now, so all of these were video calls, but what if everyone was still in offices? Would they expect him to take time off of his current job eight separate times? We wondered if normally, they’d walk him around the office and introduce him to various people after a regular interview and everyone on the team could get an impression, rather than setting up eight separate meeetings.

Other things have made me wary, though. The company is under 40 people. They have no real HR. Multiple people he talked to have hinted or outright said that they’re dedicated to “the grind” — that people work hard and, sometimes, long hours. They have no time off policy, meaning that, in theory, people can take as little or as much time off as they need. In reality, though, I’ve heard (including from your blog!) that these policies often mean that taking time off at all is frowned upon — and without a bank of PTO that’s baked into a compensation package.

If only one of these things were the case, I probably wouldn’t think twice, but all of it together — plus the number of interviews — has me worried that this company overworks their employees and doesn’t respect their time. Some of our friends who he’s described the process to think I’m overthinking things. Of course, in the end, what I think doesn’t matter as much as what he thinks, and if he wants the job he’ll take it. I guess I just want confirmation that I’m not overthinking this, or that I’m wrong to be super wary. Is eight interviews not as over-the-top as I think it is? Are more interviews becoming more normal now that everyone’s at home?

Yeah, some companies are doing more individual interviews like this since so many people have gone remote. Maybe in the Before Times you would have met with, say, four people in one morning at the company’s office but now those four conversations are being scheduled in separate calls; since you’re not going anywhere to do it, they assume it’s not the same hassle for you that four in-person meetings would be. But eight is a lot. I’d pay attention to how organized they seem overall: Was this number of calls always the plan or did they keep adding on meetings and not seem to know what process they’d use or what to expect next at any given stage? What other signs has your fiancé seen about their level of organization, planning, and decisiveness versus chaos and indecision?

The other stuff could be bad or it might not be a big deal — it depends on details I don’t have. The best advice you can give your fiancé is to do a ton of due diligence — talk to people who work there or have worked there or who otherwise have the inside scoop, and don’t just rely on what he learned in formal interviews.

4. People won’t say my last name

Nobody at work will say my last name. My last name is not pronounced how most people think, and the way it looks like you should pronounce it, is a fairly innocuous word but could be considered an insult. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend my name is Katniss Pygg, and Pygg is pronounced like pie with a g.

So I’ll be in a meeting and the organizer will be doing roll call or reading the team names off a slide, and literally every other name is read “Firstname Lastname” but when they get to me, I’m just Katniss. Sometimes if they’re brave they say a very quiet, muffled Pffg. Because nobody wants to call me a Pig, right?

I’ve tried jumping in and saying “it’s Pie-g”, I’ve told people individually, I’ve even added the pronunciation as my Skype status. I never get upset when people say Pig or ask me how to say it, I usually graciously respond “that’s okay, nobody says it right! It’s Pie-g!” But still every day.. “We have Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, John Wick, uh, Katniss, uh, Jiminy Cricket…” even with people I’ve told before, and people who were in meetings where I’ve told people.

It seems like it’s gotten worse with all remote work, because I can’t smile and catch the person’s eye to let them know it’s okay to pause and ask how to say my name. Do you have any suggestions for how to get people to say my name, or do I need to just suck it up and call myself one of those one name celebrities?

I think (a) it’s probably never going to go away completely and the more you can resign yourself to that and decide not to care, the happier you will be (as with name misspellings), but also (b) it’s totally fine to jump in when you hear someone hesitating over your name and call out “Pygg!” If you notice someone struggling with it repeatedly, it could be worth a quick, private, matter-of-fact, “I’ve noticed you hesitating over my last name! So you’re sure for next time, it’s pronounced Pygg.”

5. Do I tell my internship supervisor that another employee is badmouthing him?

I’m a (remote) intern with a law firm, and I report to an attorney, Peter. I also work with several other attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants. This has been great, except for the way that one of the legal assistants, Susan, keeps talking about my supervisor when in direct conversation with me.

Several times when working on a project for Susan, I have not known how to do something or been unable to access part of the client file, and remarked that I should ask Peter about it. Every time, Susan immediately and strongly responds by saying that Peter “hates being asked that sort of thing” or in general hates being asked questions. She has heavily implied or outright stated several times that Peter would be angered or upset by me asking him basic questions.

This could not be farther from my direct experience with Peter, who has been nothing but accommodating, friendly, and professional in all of our interactions. He has never discouraged question asking, nor responded in a way that indicated he didn’t appreciate being asked. Sometimes he will tell me to look for an answer myself, but even then it feels as if he is teaching me something, not that he’s annoyed or angered.

Should I let Peter know that Susan is saying these things about him to an intern who reports directly to him? I am confident enough in my relationship with him to disregard what she says about him for the most part — I know I can ask him questions and he’s not going to be upset, and I don’t know what Susan’s problem is — but the next intern might not be, and this could seriously damage their relationship with him and cause problems in the work product as well. (If it matters, there are other indications I’ve seen that things are not totally well with Susan and the rest of the team. For example, I received an email the other day saying, “Hey, Susan was assigned these reports and never completed them. We don’t know what’s up with that. They’re due today, can you get on that for us?”)

I could argue this either way. If I were Peter, I’d definitely want to know — but that doesn’t oblige you, as an intern, to take the initiative to be a go-between on office weirdnesses. And it’s possible there’s more to the situation that you aren’t aware of (like maybe Peter is very different with Susan than he is with you, who knows). So if you’d rather just leave this alone, that’s fine. But it also would be completely okay if you want to mention it to Peter! Don’t do it in a “Susan sucks” way, but more “it might be useful to give other interns clearer guidance on this since I can imagine it causing problems if someone thought they shouldn’t ask you anything.”

One easy time to raise it could be toward the end of your internship as part of a conversation about how things went … but you could also raise it now if you want to, and if I were Peter, I’d rather know sooner than later.

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https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/coworkers-keep-interrupting-my-closed-door-meetings-is-it-weird-to-throw-a-party-for-coworkers-at-your-house-and-more.html/feed 510
do I have to wear a bra when I go back to the office? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-i-have-to-wear-a-bra-when-i-go-back-to-the-office.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-i-have-to-wear-a-bra-when-i-go-back-to-the-office.html#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2021 17:59:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21437 This post, do I have to wear a bra when I go back to the office? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I (25, she/her) have been lucky enough to work from home this past year. I am halfway through the vaccination process, which has made me think about going back to the office sometime soon (it’s open, and for the time being management has left it up to us whether we’d like to […]

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This post, do I have to wear a bra when I go back to the office? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I (25, she/her) have been lucky enough to work from home this past year. I am halfway through the vaccination process, which has made me think about going back to the office sometime soon (it’s open, and for the time being management has left it up to us whether we’d like to return or not).

The thing is: I have not worn a bra (except for exercise) for more than 10 months, and I don’t ever want to again if I don’t have to. My boobs are free! It is amazing! Their underwire prisons have been relegated to the back of my closet and I do! not! want! to retrieve them.

The office is business casual, leaning towards the more casual side, and overall very liberal—many people wear jeans, and t-shirts in good repair are not unheard of. The dress code allows sandals but not flip-flops, and women wear dresses (some with spaghetti straps). We rarely interact with the public, and we have a very active staff, so more than occasionally people come in from their bike commute or back from their lunch break in workout clothes, and not everyone changes right away.

During the pandemic, we have been a video-on Zoom meeting crew. I don’t wear a bra, and I don’t think it’s very noticeable — I choose shirts that are loose or wear camis under ones that would maybe be more showy. But if I were to be walking around an office with my average-sized boobs in work attire, there may be some jiggle. When the AC is on blast, there will likely be occasional nipple. To a close observer, it could be apparent that I’m not wearing a bra. I know this seems trivial … but this year has shown me that life is too short to be uncomfortable for 40 hours a week, and I am most comfortable without a bra.

I’ve seen some of your previous columns about bras in the workplace (and on Zoom meetings), but I’m curious if your views have changed in light of recent events. All this is a long preamble to ask: Do I have to wear a bra when I go back to the office?

Aggggh, I really want to tell you that you don’t have to return to wearing a bra … but it’s probably still going to be a thing in most offices.

Of course, that’s only the case if people can tell when you’re not wearing a bra. Your underwear is very much no one’s business otherwise, so if your body or your clothing means no one can tell, then go to town. And this doesn’t mean you’ve got to bind yourself into something rigidly structured and underwired; sports bras, bralettes, and tanks with shelf bras are all options. But yeah, full bralessness is probably going to continue being seen as unprofessional in most offices.

That doesn’t mean that’s right. It’s not right that our ideas of  “professionalism” still require women to strap down and disguise their boobs, but that’s the world we live in. You always have the right to decide that’s a battle you’re going to fight, of course, but if you’re just asking about general norms … yeah, the dark days of bras’ return are likely soon to be upon us.

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people are freaked out about going back to their offices https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/people-are-freaked-out-about-going-back-to-their-offices.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/people-are-freaked-out-about-going-back-to-their-offices.html#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2021 16:29:27 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21435 This post, people are freaked out about going back to their offices , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Many workplaces that went fully remote last year are starting to set timelines for bringing people back to the office, and their employees are not happy. As reopening initiatives gather steam, I’ve been flooded with letters from people viewing these plans with deep suspicion — largely, I suspect, because in the past year, we’ve had […]

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This post, people are freaked out about going back to their offices , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Many workplaces that went fully remote last year are starting to set timelines for bringing people back to the office, and their employees are not happy.

As reopening initiatives gather steam, I’ve been flooded with letters from people viewing these plans with deep suspicion — largely, I suspect, because in the past year, we’ve had experienced a massive loss of trust in our institutions and in each one another. At Slate today, I wrote about how that’s affecting reopening plans. You can read it here.

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is this office culture cutting-edge or a cult? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/is-this-office-culture-cutting-edge-or-a-cult.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/is-this-office-culture-cutting-edge-or-a-cult.html#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2021 13:59:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21436 This post, is this office culture cutting-edge or a cult? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently saw an entry level job opening at a fairly new company that would be a great fit for me as long as the company isn’t a weird cult. The style of the job listing gave me pause. It was less explanatory about the role and more intensely vouching for the […]

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This post, is this office culture cutting-edge or a cult? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently saw an entry level job opening at a fairly new company that would be a great fit for me as long as the company isn’t a weird cult. The style of the job listing gave me pause. It was less explanatory about the role and more intensely vouching for the company culture.

For background, I’m looking to leave my first job out of college where I’ve been working for a year. I just don’t know much about the variation in office cultures out there. In my current industry (print journalism) starting pay is generally very low, ceiling for pay is also pretty low, turnover is high, and I’m basically perpetually on call during days I work. I’ve found the lack of distinction between work and personal life grueling.

An entry-level job at this other company pays about 20% higher than entry-level journalism positions would. I just can’t tell if the culture is cutting edge and passionate or if it’s actually a potentially very toxic environment.

In the job application, there are links to videos about who should and should not work at the company (which is referred to as “the tribe”). Several employees say it’s “not a job” but a lifestyle. One employee says you need to be able to hit deadlines and not make extra work for other “tribe members.” Another says you need to be able to accept if your ideas are dismissed as “outright wrong” and that the company changes quickly and “there’s no apology for it.” That same employee talks about setting your own boundaries because she was approaching burnout in the first couple months on the job. Others talk about bringing “your whole self” to the job, being ready to have your “mask” torn off, and being willing to ask others to “call you out for your weaknesses.” The CEO said in one of the videos that the culture is completely opposite of anywhere “you” have worked before, basically because it encourages personal connections and growth. Also, the company website’s first page is all about why it’s a great place to work and its second page is about the services it offers.

I enjoy working hard, improving and being vulnerable to a point, but why is this company working so hard to convince me the culture is outstanding and totally unique?

On the other hand, according to its website, this company has won awards from several magazines for being one of the top 20 or whatever best places to work in the state and in the country. It also offers six weeks of paid time off per year, which is more than triple what my current company offers, so that bodes well for work/life balance.

Is this awesome or should I run for the hills? And if it is awesome, why does it freak me out?

I’d lean toward running for the hills.

The stuff they’ve chosen to highlight in their videos are very … specific choices. Here’s how I’d interpret them:

* “It’s not a job, but a lifestyle” — You will be expected to work long hours, be on call 24/7, and have no boundaries between work and your personal life.

* “You need to be able to hit deadlines” — This is such a basic, unremarkable requirement that choosing to feature it in a recruitment video says something odd. Either their deadlines are unrealistic and unrelenting, or they like to think of themselves as special in ways they are not.

* “You need to be to accept it if your ideas are dismissed as outright wrong” — The fact that this is in their videos says they’re doing this regularly, which is weird, and that they don’t tolerate pushback. This is not a pleasant place to work.

* “The company changes quickly and there’s no apology for it” — They make things up as they go and what you were told yesterday will probably change tomorrow. (I’m interpreting this one in the context of the rest of it. There are companies you could describe this way where it would be less problematic — but grouped with all the rest of this? It’s going to be bad.)

* “I was approaching burnout in my first couple of months on the job” — Burnout will be your way of life.

* “Be ready to have your mask torn off” — Hi, this is a cult.

* “Be willing to ask others to call you out on your weaknesses” — Again, taken in the context of the rest of it, bad news. In a healthy culture, this can work fine. In this culture, it’ll be used against you. I would bet a large amount of money on it.

* “The culture is the opposite of anywhere you have worked before, because it encourages personal connections and growth” — This is not a unique thing. It is weird that they think this is a unique thing.

It’s also worth noting that in their staff photo of about 45 people, there is only one who isn’t white.  (Perhaps that’s why no one has realized that their usage of “tribe” is increasingly understood to be problematic, and companies are dropping it.)

Nearly everyone looks very young too — which is the sign of a company that deliberately hires inexperienced people because they’re more likely to put up with things that more experienced people won’t.

As for the company having won awards for being a good place to work, it’s important to know that those lists aren’t terribly reliable. The screening criteria they use tend to be limited (for example, the benefits package) and don’t include many of the factors that control whether somewhere actually is good or bad to work at (like quality of management or culture). Companies nominate themselves for consideration and submit info in a process that’s often managed by their marketing departments. So I wouldn’t put a ton of weight on that.

That said … I don’t know anything about this company other than the links you showed me. (Although a peek at their Glassdoor reviews makes me think I’m not off-base.) If you’re interested in the work, there’s no harm in applying, interviewing, and learning more. Just go in with a healthy amount of skepticism and do a ton of vetting of your own before making any decisions.

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pretending not to know my old boss, waiting for a ride after an interview, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/pretending-not-to-know-my-old-boss-waiting-for-a-ride-after-an-interview-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/pretending-not-to-know-my-old-boss-waiting-for-a-ride-after-an-interview-and-more.html#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2021 04:03:43 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21442 This post, pretending not to know my old boss, waiting for a ride after an interview, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Can I pretend not to know who my old boss is? I come asking for permission to be insanely petty to my old boss. I want your blessing. Last year, we had a new director on my team for about seven months. She started when […]

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This post, pretending not to know my old boss, waiting for a ride after an interview, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

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

I come asking for permission to be insanely petty to my old boss. I want your blessing.

Last year, we had a new director on my team for about seven months. She started when we were all remote, so I’ve never met her in person. We also never did video calls, so we’ve not even e-met face to face. She didn’t even introduce herself or get to know us when she started. She sucked. She went on leave for a month last fall, and then ghosted us for two weeks when she came back and then the chief of staff announced she was moving into a different role. She literally never acknowledged it with us and just bounced without a word. She’s been gone about as long as she was our boss.

Next month we’re going to start returning to the office, and I want to act like I don’t know who she is if I run into her. Nothing mean! Just a serene “oh it’s nice to meet you” and give zero impression I know she was my boss. I don’t have any working relationship with her now, I will never ask her for a reference, and I’ll do nothing catty to her. I just want one really petty interaction to convey how much she sucked at her job.

Is this allowed? May I be this petty at work?

If it will bring you some satisfaction after a frustrating seven months, I give you my blessing. Frankly, it might go right over her head! But in your head, it’s a pretty precise hit on her lack of contact with you. Also it’s funny.

If anyone is wondering why this is different from last week’s letter from the manager who wanted to ice out her employee during the employee’s last two days: that was someone who wanted to be unkind to someone she had authority over. This, on the other hand, is not a misuse of authority. It’s also quite mild. It’s the difference between punching down and punching flicking up.

2. I’m being tortured by endless revisions

I work in a department with five others, including my manager and one subordinate. Our last project was huge and the schedule unreasonably tight. It included the production of over 100 videos in several courses, and the content is unbelievably detailed. (I’m the content producer.) We have realized we all needed to review all of the content ages ago to find and fix mistakes. My time is too tight to sit and review it. Despite my efforts to explain the importance of reviewing carefully and early, and the importance of proofing early and reducing revisions, the process hasn’t worked. Instead I’m getting slammed daily now with endless nitpicking.

With only two weeks until the deadline, I received a barrage of revisions on content that was “approved” over a year ago. I fix a set of notes for each module, and the next day I get another full set of new notes on the same material that they could have included the first several times. This happens over and over. There are now four people reviewing the work over and over again, making even more notes every time they look at it. Unfortunately, some of it does need to be fixed, spelling errors especially. But some is just nitpicking. The fact that they weren’t caught a long time ago is something we all regret but here we are and I’m the one being tortured by this.

My manager is well aware of this and removes most of the notes but still leaves many and hasn’t discouraged the reviews. I don’t know how to make this stop, and I don’t know what my attitude should be since a portion of these notes are things I didn’t catch either so I feel like I must allow them to repair what should and could be repaired. At the same time, we need to be able to finish. The material is so technical and complicated, there is no end to the details.

You need to issue a dictate that the only things that can be changed at this late date are errors. Explain that people were given lots of opportunities to submit changes earlier and there’s not enough time to make more changes now if they’re purely stylistic. You should also say that for the stuff that truly must be changed, those changes must be submitted all together in one round. You will then make those changes, they can check to ensure you implemented them correctly, and that will be it.

If you don’t have the authority to announce or enforce that, then you need to ask your manager to. If you can’t get your manager on board, you can do a slightly softer version: allow stylistic changes but explain there is only time for a single round of them. Anyone submitting changes needs to compile their final revisions in one document, you’ll make those, they’ll check the implementation, and that will be the end. You could note that any deviation from that will bump back the completion date by X days each time. If your manager won’t support even that, then at that point you’re stuck with a hellish next two weeks (and a bad manager) — but this is a really common rule to implement and shouldn’t shock anyone.

3. Waiting for your ride after an interview

In 2015, you recommended not waiting in an employer’s lobby for a ride. With Uber, Lyft and similar so popular nowadays, do you still recommend not waiting after the interview?

Yes. If it’s a huge company it may not matter, but otherwise wait outside or somewhere nearby. Otherwise you risk raising concerns about whether you’ll have reliable transportation to get to work, and it can just feel “off” to be hanging around the reception area after your interview is over. (There are of course exceptions to this, like if you flew in from out of town and are obviously waiting for a car to the airport, or so forth.)

4. What is retaliation exactly?

I applied for an internal role that would have been a promotion for me and did not make it to the interview phase. The hiring manager (who was also my current manager) spoke to me about why, and after speaking with him I also set up a meeting with HR to get further feedback (since I knew from my manager that my HR rep had been involved in the decision). The meeting with HR went fine, and I thought the actions I took to seek feedback were normal and expected.

My manager heard from HR that I had spoken with them and told me that indicated I was indeed not ready for the promotion because HR is only for legal/compliance concerns, so by going to them I had made it seem like I had a concern along those lines. I felt like he was implying this could hurt me in a future attempt at the same promotion. I was really taken aback.

After feeling uncomfortable about it for a while, I wrote an ombudsman complaint stating that I felt retaliated against and describing the situation. My complaint was investigated by the ombuds team, which ended up telliing me that because my manager never took a retaliative action against me (like writing a negative performance review or tanking my chance at a promotion), what he did was not retaliation.

Sure, it was verbal and not written but does that not make it an action? Also, I had reason to believe he might take action against me in the future. Certainly at minimum he was threatening the possibility of future retaliation. Am I completely off-base here, and not understanding what retaliation is? Maybe the situation was just not bad enough for an ombudsman to care about it?

I wonder if they were only talking about retaliation in the legal sense. Legally, retaliation is when  (a) an employer takes a “materially adverse action” against you (defined as something that could deter a reasonable person from engaging in the activity in the future) because (b) you engaged in legally protected activity (which relates to reporting or resisting discrimination or harassment, talking to coworkers about those issues, or participating in a related investigation).

Your situation doesn’t meet (b), because the conduct that provoked the retaliation (seeking interview feedback from HR) isn’t legally protected activity.

So it’s very possible that the ombudsman team simply meant there was no legal violation. But your company should still be concerned that your manager said what he said, because there was nothing wrong with you seeking feedback from HR and it was bizarre for him to tell you they’re only for legal/compliance concerns, and it’s terrible practice for a manager to discourage people from talking with HR. But at this point you’re likely better served by not continuing to pursue it.

5. Writing a cover letter when you don’t know what the company is

I work in publishing, and I recently saw a job ad for a sub-editor position at a publishing agency. It was posted by a recruitment agency and didn’t include the name of the agency. I understand sometimes companies use recruiters and keep their name hidden, but in this case, the disadvantages seemed to outweigh the advantages. If I don’t know what the agency is or what they publish, how do I know if they specialize in an area I have any knowledge of or interest in? Also, I couldn’t imagine writing a cover letter if I didn’t know what the company did — what am I supposed to say when I explain why I want to work for them? At the same time, I thought if other applicants were writing cover letters, I would be at too much of a disadvantage if I didn’t write one, so I decided not to bother applying. What would you suggest doing when you’re applying for a job when the employer’s name is withheld?

External recruiters often withhold the name of the company they’re hiring for because they don’t want candidates to go around them and apply directly (since then they’d lose out on a commission after doing the marketing work that drummed up those candidates).

Often you can write a cover letter without knowing the specific company because you’re focusing on the work of the role; it’s usually more important that you tailor what you write to the role than to the company anyway. In a case like yours where you truly don’t know if it’s a good match without that info, then you’re just stuck just writing a crappier cover letter than usual if you want to apply; there’s no real way around that.

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weekend open thread – April 10-11, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/weekend-open-thread-april-10-11-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/weekend-open-thread-april-10-11-2021.html#comments Sat, 10 Apr 2021 05:07:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21413 This post, weekend open thread – April 10-11, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Here are the rules for the weekend posts. Book recommendation of the week: Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley. A woman in 1915 decides to escape her life as a spinster living with her brother by roaming the country […]

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This post, weekend open thread – April 10-11, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley. A woman in 1915 decides to escape her life as a spinster living with her brother by roaming the country in a mobile bookstore, selling books as she goes. It’s funny and charming.

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

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it’s your Friday good news https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/its-your-friday-good-news-48.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/its-your-friday-good-news-48.html#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2021 16:00:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21417 This post, it’s your Friday good news , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time. 1. Last year my company was so great when it came to COVID. I work for a large company (~20k employees) and they prioritized saving people’s jobs above all else, which led to a reduction in staff size that was […]

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

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

1. Last year my company was so great when it came to COVID. I work for a large company (~20k employees) and they prioritized saving people’s jobs above all else, which led to a reduction in staff size that was less that 5% and significantly less than our competitors. One of the other policies they enacted was a salary cut for those at the very top and title promotions but no salary increases until January 2021. I was promoted in June 2020 and was excited about it despite the fact that I wouldn’t see my 10% raise until this year. I was also completely at peace with the fact that I would not receive back pay, as the CEO made it seem very unlikely and I was just happy to have a good job!

However, just yesterday we received an email from the CEO saying that everyone who took a pay cut or who didn’t receive a promotional salary increase would be getting full back pay!!! I can’t tell you how happy that made me, as I was fully prepared to never see that money. I feel so grateful that I have a great, supportive employer during these times and this just proves how much they have their employees’ backs. I wish everyone could have this kind of employer in their lives!

2. Thanks to you, I did not leave money on the table. I’ve been in my position for eight years, and we recently had management turnover in the entire C-suite. As part of this turnover, they began the year by cutting all bonuses and stipends and increased workload company-wide, and last month laid down a moratorium on salary negotiations for current employees. However, I am finishing my industry certification this year, and had been verbally promised a raise by prior management (nothing in writing – -I know, I know! my mistake), so I emailed the CEO to discuss my situation. I did not expect anything, but was already bitter about the loss of over $5,000 in stipends and bonuses that previously compensated me for work that was now part of my job description (yes, I tried to negotiate at that point; no, it didn’t work) and figured it was worth asking.

Keeping everything I read on this blog in mind, I constantly bit my tongue and did not discuss my loss of stipend, increased workload, or prior negotiation. I reminded myself that even though I had emotional baggage, I was simply pointing out the value add of my certification and the verbal promise that I knew was never written down. And…. it worked!! It’s not quite enough to make up for the lack of stipends, but it gets me much closer than I had been before, and actually was a higher raise than had been verbally told to me – so I feel very good about it.

Thank you for reminding us to keep our value-add at the center of negotiations, and to stop talking after you make the ask!

3. I’m close to retirement age, but there is always something to be learned on the AAM site, a better way of handling a familiar situation, or more nuanced language. Despite having many years of experience and excellent interpersonal relationships, I still bump into difficult situations.

For the last 11 years, I’ve been a team lead for a very large financial institution in my non-US country. During the course of my career, I’ve led many complicated database infrastructure projects and have a reputation for organization and collaboration.

My previous manager and I had a great relationship. On reviews he wrote that I am a self-managing employee and that his job was to make sure that I had what I need to get the job done, and then get out of the way. For eight years, that’s how we did things. Then he left for a new job and one of my fellow team leads became my manager.

My new manager (Joe) and I have an abrasive relationship. He tends to yell and argue. That’s his style. Even when you agree with him, it still sounds like you are arguing. I told Joe from time to time that it wasn’t much fun to always be in confrontation mode with him. But things didn’t change.

I have been juggling three high-stress, major infrastructure projects. At one point, I had received some conflicting instructions from our department manager and Joe. In order to keep him in the picture and try to resolve the conflict, I initiated a conference call with Joe and another team lead who was affected by this. On the call Joe didn’t let me talk. He “read my mind” and then argued with me based on his telepathy.

Joe accused me of going behind his back, despite the fact that I was the one bringing this to his attention. He accused me of doing whatever I want, no matter what decisions were made, which is also incorrect. He then said that if I didn’t like what he was saying, maybe I should resign. I responded that this was not a productive conversation and ended the call. A few minutes later, the other team lead called to see if I was ok and to explain that Joe is problematic and not to take it personally.

This was just before our company went on holiday for a week. Joe tried contacting me via email, phone, and WhatsApp. I needed to calm down, so I told him that I had no intention of talking to him until after the holiday, to which he responded, “OK.”

I was in the office over the holiday and had plenty of time to think. I originally planned to demand a transfer of my team to a different manager, which would be feasible. However, I decided to try and work things out with him.

After the holiday I told Joe that I don’t mind justifying my actions to him, but it is not OK to personally insult me just because things are stressful. He agreed he has a tendency to “explode” and say things he shouldn’t. He said he wanted to continue working with me, but if I wanted to go to his boss and ask for a change, he wouldn’t stand in my way. He would even go with me to help facilitate the move.

We agreed to give it a try. We also agreed that if he gets out of line, I should shut down the conversation. That will let him know that he’s out of line, give him time to calm down, and keep things from escalating.

In the last three months, it’s been like a honeymoon. It’s clear that he has been making an effort to avoid fighting. I think he did some soul-searching because our one-on-ones are no longer confrontational. So, true to the AAM philosophy, the willingness of both parties to communicate try to resolve their conflict helped us to get to a positive resolution.

4. I decided to switch careers in my late twenties. I had been a teacher and wanted a more administrative role. I went to graduate school and then started looking for work, and even though I had four years of teaching experience, I did not have office experience and I was finding many entry-level jobs still expected prior relevant experience. I was looking for jobs in my hometown (which is one of the most expensive cities in the world) and I knew that I needed to make at least $X to be able to afford living expenses.

I applied and applied and applied, and after many months I only got three interviews. One place asked my salary needs upfront and disqualified me because they were not willing to pay $X, the second place required me to work Saturdays and commute over an hour and 20 minutes each way, and the third place said that they did not negotiate salaries and that the offer was $X-$1,000.

Since I was desparate for work and had depleted most of my savings, I took the third offer even though it was $1,000 less than my bare minimum salary needs. Well, I’m very happy that I did because that was five years ago and I chose a company that offers many opportunities to grow and move up and I’m currently two promotions from where I started and I’m now making double my original salary which is far better than I had expected. I also really like the organization, my coworkers and the work so it really worked out well and I’m glad I didn’t just discount it based on salary alone.

5. Thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge and expertise through your site; I’ve found it invaluable in my job search as a May 2020 college grad.

My good news is that I accepted an offer for an incredible job at a company that invests in their employees and offers a clear path for career movement and lots of training/support. It’s exactly the kind of work environment I hoped to be in, and it’s doing work that makes a tangible difference in peoples’ lives!

My cover letters have long been pretty formulaic, but for this application I followed your advice and one of my interviewers even mentioned the specific lines from it that stood out and made her think I’d be a great fit!

Thanks also for providing a space for sharing good job news. I’ve been applying and getting rejected over and over again for almost a year to the point where when I got this job, my anxiety brain convinced me that I shouldn’t be excited because I should have gotten a job earlier and I’m a failure for taking so long. In writing this email, I started to feel the joy and excitement I’ve denied myself and I’m going to work to hold onto those feelings.

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open thread – April 9-10, 2021 https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/open-thread-april-9-10-2021.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/open-thread-april-9-10-2021.html#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2021 15:00:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21412 This post, open thread – April 9-10, 2021 , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

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

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

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

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I’m constantly interrupted while I work, no comfortable space to work in at home, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-constantly-interrupted-while-i-work-no-comfortable-space-to-work-in-at-home-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-constantly-interrupted-while-i-work-no-comfortable-space-to-work-in-at-home-and-more.html#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2021 04:03:08 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21433 This post, I’m constantly interrupted while I work, no comfortable space to work in at home, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. I can’t get work done because of constant interruptions I work in a very detail-oriented, fast-paced role (IT change management). Interruptions cause me to lose focus and I have made some big mistakes due to them. My workload has tripled during Covid. People have left […]

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This post, I’m constantly interrupted while I work, no comfortable space to work in at home, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. I can’t get work done because of constant interruptions

I work in a very detail-oriented, fast-paced role (IT change management). Interruptions cause me to lose focus and I have made some big mistakes due to them. My workload has tripled during Covid. People have left my team and we can’t fill the spots fast enough. Interruptions are probably one of the reasons for the turnover.

While I do need to know if there is an urgent issue, I cannot take time out to fix a problem that is a) not urgent or b) has come in outside of our request queue. I can’t just hide in Instant Messenger because my team uses it to communicate. Same with turning off my phone, I just can’t do that at my company.

The pandemic has made people pushy and rude. Most people just ignore my IM status of busy and do the equivalent of just barging into my office while I’m working. If I ignore the IM, they call me five minutes later. Even just answering the phone or looking to see who is messaging me constantly adds up to significant amounts of time each day. These issues are not urgent.

Dozens of people do this. Some are re-offenders who do it even after being asked not to do it. They pop up and expect instant help when we have dozens of changes with a higher priority.

How do I manage this? I’m considering looking for another job due to these constant interruptions. I love my job otherwise but I can’t get work done and worse, I can’t even catch my breath. Any suggestions?

The problem is that the system you need to ignore to be able to do your work is the same system these people are using to interrupt you. (Well, the other problem is rude colleagues, but that’s less in your control.) In some cases the answer would be to assign one person whose job is to deal with all those incoming messages and triage them so you don’t have to — but you basically have that in the form of a request queue and they’re not using it. Another option would be for your boss to lay down the law with the people who are doing this, but she’d need to have the authority and the pull to do that. For the purpose of this answer, I’m going to assume she doesn’t.

But where is your boss on all this? Ideally you’d talk to her, lay out the issue, and suggest switching to another system for communication (like a private Slack channel or similar). Another option would be to change your IM user name and not give it out to anyone outside your team. (You could even keep the old one active and set its status permanently to “for immediate help, submit a support ticket.”) That might solve the problem, if your boss is open to it. (If your boss already knows all these details and has essentially said “deal with it,” I’d give it one more try where you point out people are leaving over this and you’re trying to find a way to make staying workable. If that doesn’t change anything, then the people who have left probably have the right idea.)

2. Working from home without a private, comfortable spot to work in

My office will now be permanently using a work-from-home hybrid system where I will still need to go to the office for meetings, but my day-to-day will be at home. We have specific requirements for work from home, like our work stations not being able to be seen by non-staff and being in a private room. These make sense for security reasons, but I live in a small apartment with roommates, so the only place I can have the workstation is my bedroom.

I have what I considered a large bedroom by city standards when I moved in. It can fit my bed, my bureau, a bedside table, and two chairs. But it cannot fit a desk. So when I was sent home last year with a desktop computer, it went on my bureau and I have been sitting on the ottoman that goes with the armchair (the other chair is a folding chair) and working like that for a year. As someone with scoliosis and chronic pain, this has been terrible. My armchair is set up specifically for me to be able to have a lapdesk for my hobby writing, but so far all of my requests for a laptop for work have been denied.

I have asked management for advice in setting up a better home workstation, but they all seem to be wildly out of touch: either use my spare bedroom as an office or just get my own place. I don’t have the money for either of those things; if I did I would not be living in a small apartment with roommates.

I love my job, but I do not love this set-up. I have spun through ideas, but they don’t work. If I replace my bureau with a desk, then I don’t have any clothes storage (I do not have a closet). If I throw out my beloved armchair, I could get a small desk, but I don’t think sitting in a folding chair will be healthy long term. I can’t use the dining table because my roommates have access to the space. I cannot afford my own place and even if I could find a new place with new roommates in a pandemic (cases in our city are going up), I doubt I would have a larger bedroom.

I’d approach it as a disability accommodation request under the ADA. Send an email with the subject line “official request for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act” and explain that due to a chronic medical issue, you need a different work station. Say you need either a laptop or an exemption from the private space requirement. The ADA requires your employer to engage in an interactive dialogue with you about what accommodations will work, so if they again suggest you get your own place (!) or use your non-existent spare bedroom, at that point you will explain that those are not options in your situation and again suggest one of the other two solutions.

Be aware that there’s a risk that their solution could be to have you return to the office full-time (they’re not required to agree to the solution you want, just a solution that works), so if you wouldn’t want that and think they might suggest it, write back and I’ll make further suggestions.

3. Can you negotiate salary for a promotion?

Using tips from your blog, three years ago, I successfully negotiated a higher salary for the first time in my career! Recently, my boss from that same job mentioned he nominated me for another position within the company that he thought would be a good fit for me (and a promotion!). Today I was offered the position with a 15% raise. I’m excited about the position and accepted it, but I didn’t negotiate the salary. While the offer was a little lower than I was expecting, I didn’t know how to negotiate an offer for an internal job transfer or promotion, and honestly, I was afraid of losing out on the opportunity.

That left me wondering, is it okay to negotiate salary during a promotion? And in the future, how would I go about negotiating salary for an internal promotion or job change? Is this different from negotiating an external job offer?

It’s both okay and normal to negotiate salary during a promotion! Companies are sometimes more rigid about salaries for internal moves than they are for external hires (partly because they tend to think you’re less likely to walk away than an external candidate might be). But people can and do successfully negotiate salaries for promotions all the time.

It’s pretty much the same process as negotiating an external offer. One thing that can be different is that you won’t always be given a clear opening to talk about money — sometimes your employer will just assume you’re accepting the promotion and will move forward without a real discussion of salary. That means you’ve got to be prepared to bring up money early in the process — like when you’re first offered the promotion or soon after (definitely before you have officially accepted anything, which is tricky because there isn’t always a clear, official acceptance; often it’s more like “here’s this thing we’re giving you”). You can do that by saying something like, “This sounds great. Can we talk about what salary you’re thinking?” or even just, “What’s the salary for the new role?” … and then from there, you can be off and negotiating with the same advice here.

4. Emailing hiring managers before applying for a job

I’ve been getting some advice (from someone selling a job coaching product) that I should be emailing people who I think might be on hiring committees and introduced myself directly before I apply. If memory this is the opposite of what you recommend. I would be annoyed to receive an email like that. Is this bad advice? I get the sense this person just wants me to buy whatever email template she’s selling.

Yes, it’s terrible advice. Unless you are a very senior, highly in-demand candidate for hard-to-fill jobs, no one wants you to email them to introduce yourself before you apply; they just want you to apply. (And even if you are a very senior, highly in-demand candidate for hard-to-fill jobs, they still would rather you just apply; they’ll just cut you more slack if you introduce yourself first.) Following this advice would make you the annoying candidate most people are irritated by, even if they’re polite about it.

Don’t buy anything this person is selling.

5. Teaching students about employment law

Today I learned that this summer I’m teaching the careers class for Upward Bound, a program that increases the college completion rates for low-income and potential first-generation college students. I’m so happy about this! I’ve been reading your blog almost daily for the past year, and it has been very helpful in my professional life.

In your recent blog post “Should we require resumes from high school volunteers?” you wrote that you would love to see someone teaching high school students about employment law.

I’m revising the curriculum from last summer, keeping the sections on career outlooks and required degrees, licenses, or training, reducing the amount of time spent on resumes, and adding some time on employment law basics. Several years ago you wrote about an attorney who gave a workshop on labor issues at a high school. What else do you think my students will want to know?

Yay! How great.

I’d love for you to teach them:
* what rights you have at work (like the right not to be harassed, not to be discriminated against, the right to be paid your agreed-upon rate and paid on time, the right to have disabilities accommodated)
* what illegal discrimination is (like that it covers things like race, gender, and religion, but not — in most cases — clothing choices or tattoos)
* some specific examples of what that means for them (for instance, employers can’t ban Black employees from having natural hair styles or refuse to let a disabled cashier sit in a chair)
* exceptions to these laws (for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act and most federal anti-discrimination laws don’t kick in until 15 employees, although some state laws apply at lower numbers)
* what unions are and how they work
* what to do if an employer is violating your legal rights (including options before you get to the point of taking legal action)
* how to learn more about your rights (for example, a lot of people don’t realize you learn a ton by just googling the name of your state and “paycheck laws”)

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should staying remote when my coworkers go back to work mean I get left out of everything again? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/should-staying-remote-when-my-coworkers-go-back-to-work-mean-i-get-left-out-of-everything-again.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/should-staying-remote-when-my-coworkers-go-back-to-work-mean-i-get-left-out-of-everything-again.html#comments Thu, 08 Apr 2021 17:59:55 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21424 This post, should staying remote when my coworkers go back to work mean I get left out of everything again? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a question about being a full-time remote employee as things open up again and all the temporary work-from-home people go back in-person. A few years ago, I moved states but kept my full-time job and became one of a handful of full-time remote employees at my small company. I knew […]

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This post, should staying remote when my coworkers go back to work mean I get left out of everything again? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a question about being a full-time remote employee as things open up again and all the temporary work-from-home people go back in-person.

A few years ago, I moved states but kept my full-time job and became one of a handful of full-time remote employees at my small company. I knew at the time I was signing up to be the odd one out and accepted that I would miss out on parties, swag, social hours, etc. unless I flew back for a visit (which I did a couple times a year). My immediate team adapted really smoothly and my day-to-day work environment and relationships were great, so I wrote the other stuff off as not that important and enjoyed it when I got to visit in-person.

Cue the pandemic, everyone starts working full-time from home, everything goes online, and suddenly I’m included in everything. Gifts get mailed out, social hours are based around online games, parties are everyone ordering food and eating together on a video call. It feels surprisingly great, a real silver lining to an otherwise terrible year.

But lately, as more people have started to go back into the office, stuff is starting to move back to being in-person-centric in a way that leaves me out again. Last week we had a company-wide celebration of a big milestone we hit. They had a party in the office with lunch, cake, decorations, a photo booth, and a gift to take home. People who called in from home got to sit on the line for 10 minutes before they figured out the audio, listen to the few minutes of speeches, and then hang out on a Zoom call with music and party chatter, which made it impossible to even talk with other people on the zoom. Nobody has said anything about mailing out gifts if you can’t pick it up from the office.

I’m feeling really left out and down in the dumps about it, like I’ve abruptly been dropped back to the bottom of someone’s priority list. If I stop and think about it, I totally understand how all of this is reasonable and nobody is setting out to exclude me, and as someone who chose to move I did sign up for this, but it still feels disappointing and demoralizing. I know this trend is going to continue as people get vaccinated and the office goes back to normal in-person operations.

(I do expect that some of my coworkers will work from home more often than they used to, but those people would still go into the office for a big party/meeting or to pick up a gift, so I don’t think that’s really relevant to my question. I don’t know of anyone else who has moved away since the pandemic started.)

Should I talk to anyone at work about this? Either about this specific party flop or about remote stuff going forward? Is it reasonable to ask them to put in a little more money and effort to include people who chose to be full-time remote once everyone else is back in the office, or should I suck it up and quietly go back to my old status quo? I can’t decide if this is a legitimate employee satisfaction issue people would want to know about, or me whining about not getting a present. If I should bring it up, would it be best to raise this with my boss (director level, we have a good relationship but they’re juggling a lot of big priorities), someone in HR I have a strong relationship with, or approach the admin(s) who actually organize parties and stuff directly (who I’ve never met before)?

For reference here are the sorts of things I would like to happen:
– consistent A+ tier AV setup for people calling in to company-wide meetings or parties (live video AND slideshare, high-quality audio, ability to ask questions)
– if there’s swag/gifts, mail them to remote people without being asked, ideally a little early so we can open them at the same time the office does
– occasionally do social hour stuff online, like games/trivia
– if there’s a party (especially one to to recognize an accomplishment), coordinate sending a small gift/gift card/treat to anyone who can’t attend in person, and/or organize a way for people calling in to participate somehow
– I’m also open to suggestions from commenters on other easy and fun ways to include remote employees! Or just commiseration from other remote workers going through this weird little niche disappointment in an otherwise happy time.

These are pretty reasonable requests. Your company may or may not implement them, but it’s not whiny to suggest them.

You’re right that pre-pandemic this stuff felt a little different — the feeling tended to be more, “If you choose to move, you won’t be included in every in-office perk, but you’ll be getting a bunch of other perks, like no commute and working in yoga pants.” (That wasn’t the case everywhere, of course; I’m speaking generally.)

And realistically, we’ll probably drift back in that direction.

But we’ve seen over the past year that it’s actually not that hard to find ways to include remote staff in team perks. That increased understanding should lead to more thoughtfulness about continuing to do that even after other people return to the office.

And it’s not greedy to want that. Good employers care about morale, and they want their remote employees to feel recognized and included and like part of the team. It’s in their interests for you not to feel like your own little outpost separate from everyone else.

You probably need to ask for it, though. Being remote has always meant being more at risk of “out of sight, out of mind,” and if the majority of your team goes back to being in-person, you might need to speak up to ensure your needs don’t get overlooked.

Fortunately, you have a great list that most employers would like to see! It’s clear and concrete, and it’s things they’ve already been doing so they know it’s possible.

It might not be reasonable to expect all of it — in particular, calling into events where most other attendees are in-person will never be an ideal experience (because of technology and because of the way people socialize in-person vs. virtually). But your list is a good outline of the sorts of things your team should at least think about.

As for who to talk to, unless your boss is very hands-on about this kind of thing, I’d start with HR. If you don’t get far with them, try your boss next. Frame it as, “One thing that I really appreciated about the past year was being included in so many office celebrations that I previously didn’t get to be part of since I was remote. This last year, I felt really included in a way that was great for my morale and general cohesion with our team. Now that we’ve found ways to do that, can we keep it going even after some of the staff is back in the office?”

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updates: the personality tests, the storage stealer, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/updates-the-personality-tests-the-storage-stealer-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/updates-the-personality-tests-the-storage-stealer-and-more.html#comments Thu, 08 Apr 2021 16:29:31 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21367 This post, updates: the personality tests, the storage stealer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here are three updates from past letter-writers. 1. My boss has weaponized her personality test results (#2 at the link) I wrote in a while ago about my boss’s use of her Clifton strengths as a weapon. She’s still “maximizing” things, but less often. We were talking about how a client hadn’t completed a report […]

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This post, updates: the personality tests, the storage stealer, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss has weaponized her personality test results (#2 at the link)

I wrote in a while ago about my boss’s use of her Clifton strengths as a weapon. She’s still “maximizing” things, but less often. We were talking about how a client hadn’t completed a report for us. I told her that my “empathizer” and “connectedness” strengths helped me remember that the client just lost her husband to cancer. I think, judging by the look on my boss’s face, I may have made my point. I think she wanted to argue that she had empathy too, but she’d already let us know repeatedly what her “strengths” were and empathy wasn’t one of them. That’s the problem when you stick people in boxes!

2. My coworker tries to store her things in my office (#3 at the link)

I thought I’d do a quick follow-up with you on my coworker who kept storing stuff in my office. I want to thank you and your readers for their advice on the matter. I did give my boss a heads up, and in the end, the boxes were stored somewhere else and eventually were picked up by Butler Box. Your readers made me realize that I was upset because she felt she could direct how my office space was used instead of asking and that it wasn’t about the stuff. You also pointed out that political capital and an unbalanced power dynamic were involved as we are coworkers, but she’s worked here much longer.

So, onto the update. The second wave of the pandemic hit, and my coworker and I had to work from home. During that time, my boss would work periodically in the office. He recently admitted to cleaning up her office space. He couldn’t find items in her office that she’d normally be responsible for (which is why it was in her office), but that he now needed to find on his own. He found lost receipts, unbanked cheques, and other misplaced things due to how messy her office was. Feeling a little bit vindicated!

3. Can I flat-out refuse to do a project?

Not too long after my letter ran, things came to a head at work. There was simply physically too much for me to do within my work hours, and I sent some pretty direct “please tell me how to prioritize these projects” emails both to my Supervisor and to the Boss, to whom Supervisor also reports. Shortly after that, Boss let me know that I would be reporting to them directly from now on instead of to Supervisor. There was some initial weirdness in making the transition; no one told HR about it for months, and Supervisor tried to get me to continue reporting to them secretly (!), which Boss told me to decline.

But since that change, even though work has substantially intensified, I am so so much happier. Boss and I work well together; I anticipate workload problems and create solutions before I bring them up, and Boss gives my solutions constructive support. I’m more successful numbers-wise than I’ve ever been, and when there’s too much work for one person, Boss finds other teammates who can help or takes it on themselves. It’s like I work at a totally different office.

On top of that, two other things have made me more confident that I was not the problem. First, a raft of office issues which Supervisor told me were my sole responsibility have now been delegated to entire teams — and it’s very clear that no one person would have been able to solve those issues single-handedly. Secondly, I’ve begun to hear on the grapevine that other staff have had issues with Supervisor that are very similar to mine.

So I feel a lot less crazy, and I’m very grateful for your thoughtful column and the kind comments that gave me strategies to navigate this while it was happening. I think I was quite close to quitting, and now I actually like this job a lot.

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how should I deal with a pompous, sexist coworker? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-should-i-deal-with-a-pompous-sexist-coworker.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-should-i-deal-with-a-pompous-sexist-coworker.html#comments Thu, 08 Apr 2021 14:59:36 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21430 This post, how should I deal with a pompous, sexist coworker? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes: I’ve recently started a new job, I love my team, the work is engaging, my manager is amazing, the company culture really suits me, and they’re super flexible around Covid. But (there’s always a but) I’ve run into an issue with a coworker that’s impacting […]

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This post, how should I deal with a pompous, sexist coworker? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

I’ve recently started a new job, I love my team, the work is engaging, my manager is amazing, the company culture really suits me, and they’re super flexible around Covid. But (there’s always a but) I’ve run into an issue with a coworker that’s impacting my work, and I’m finding it really frustrating.

I work in marketing, and there’s a man at my company with a kind of silly title, for this letter we’ll call him Fergus, “International Innovation Manager.” Let’s say that he’s in charge of thinking of and creating new teapot types, and I’m one of the people marketing the teapots. I had to work with him for the first time a month or two ago, and it was a really bad experience. I asked him a simple question via IM about a new product so that I could make sure I had all the information straight in new promotional materials and he called me immediately, saying that if I had to ask questions like that, he had to question my ability to fully understand the way the international teapot market works. He said he would rather I didn’t work on any promotional materials until I’d had a presentation from him. I was a bit shocked so I agreed to the presentation, in which he explained very basic concepts (I have several degrees in our field) in a very condescending way.

After that call and presentation, I felt really, really down. I changed my whole content plan to be exactly as he’d requested, frankly because he intimidated me. When I presented this to our marketing director, he told me he was shocked that this was my work, as it wasn’t up to my usual quality. I explained I’d done it to Fergus’ specifications, and he was very clear that there is a good reason I’m in charge of promotions, not Fergus. Then I felt even worse, for not sticking up for myself and handing in sub-standard work!

My boss told me that other women in the company, including her, have had similar experiences with Fergus. A male coworker said he thinks Fergus has a bit of an ego problem and doesn’t like it when simple marketers try to reduce his grand concepts to snappy slogans.

How can I deal with this going forward? I’m working on another project with him now, and every snarky bit of feedback from him feels like he’s questioning my intelligence and it’s making me so much less motivated. This is really impacting my work! I get that how he makes me feel, is mostly a “me” issue, so I wonder if you or the readers have any tips for mentally getting out from under this guy’s ego (and my own bruised ego!).

Readers, what’s your advice?

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can I ignore a toxic employee who’s leaving, warning candidates about weirdness in our hiring, and more https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/can-i-ignore-a-toxic-employee-whos-leaving-warning-candidates-about-weirdness-in-our-hiring-and-more.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/can-i-ignore-a-toxic-employee-whos-leaving-warning-candidates-about-weirdness-in-our-hiring-and-more.html#comments Thu, 08 Apr 2021 04:03:41 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21428 This post, can I ignore a toxic employee who’s leaving, warning candidates about weirdness in our hiring, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. Can I ignore a toxic employee during her last few days? I have managed someone, let’s call her Rachel, for over a year and a half. The majority of the experience has been negative — she’s rude, feeds on drama, and produces low quality work. […]

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This post, can I ignore a toxic employee who’s leaving, warning candidates about weirdness in our hiring, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Can I ignore a toxic employee during her last few days?

I have managed someone, let’s call her Rachel, for over a year and a half. The majority of the experience has been negative — she’s rude, feeds on drama, and produces low quality work. I’ve had several discussions with her on improving her performance. After a lot of painful experiences, she resigned while I was on vacation. (My supervisor texted me.) She only gave a week’s notice, and since I’m on vacation we will only have two days overlap.

I know as a manager I have the responsibility to be professional and courteous, but I can’t stomach the idea that we even have to interact at all on those two final days. I have even contemplated rescheduling our team meeting to the day after she leaves because I don’t want to hear some passive-aggressive spiel from her about how she’s going to some place that appreciates her and her skill set. And I certainly don’t want to have a fake conversation where we thank each other for our time and work together, because that would be a lie. While previously I’ve tried to be encouraging in difficult conversations, now I feel like I don’t have to put on any pretenses anymore, especially since she resigned in a petty way. Is it okay if I ignore her or have very minimal interaction with her on those final two days? And what are your thoughts more broadly about minimizing interactions with toxic employees that you manage directly or are part of your division?

No, you cannot ignore her during her final two days. That would make you look small and petty to other employees … and rightly so!

You’re the manager, which means you have most of the power in this situation. If this employee is that bad, the time to handle it was much earlier — by giving her clear warnings about what needed to change and then letting her go if you didn’t see those changes. That didn’t happen for whatever reason (and for all I know, maybe you tried to do that and were overruled, in which case I can better understand your frustration). But she’s leaving now! Be glad she’s leaving.

You do need to handle it professionally though; it would make you look truly terrible otherwise. Have the conversation where you wish her well because that’s the professional thing to do, especially as a person with more authority than she has. If you truly think she’ll be disruptive in your team meeting, then sure, go ahead and reschedule it — but not if it’s just to avoid talking to her or because you don’t want to hear her say goodbye. Part of your job is being gracious as a representative of your employer when someone leaves. Don’t give up your moral high ground and compromise your own reputation and credibility just when you’re about to be free of her. (Maybe it’ll help to think of this as what you owe yourself, not her.)

And to that last question about minimizing interactions with toxic employees you manage: Nope, can’t do it, same reasons. You’ve got to manage them; if they’re toxic, warn them and then fire them if it’s warranted. But you cannot ignore or minimize interactions with people you manage. If you want to do that, that’s a flag to look at how effectively you’re really managing; I suspect it’s not actively enough!

2. Fragrance reactions when I don’t work for the same company as the perpetrator

I am allergic to Lysol and a lot of other harsh chemical smells and perfumes. I have had supportive managers and when someone has worn heavy perfume, I was able to speak to management (or directly to the person, depending on our relationship) and the matter was resolved.

I have managed to get through most of Current Times without many incidents. However, I have a new neighbor in my office. The other day she sprayed down her entire office with Lysol and I noticed it immediately. I get a brain-splitting migraine and unless I am away from the smell my medication won’t be able to help. I had to leave for the day.

I told her I was allergic and asked if she would be able to refrain from using it or at least wait until the end of the day. She said she was sorry for triggering my allergy but keeping herself safe from Covid is her top priority. While I don’t disagree (my husband is high-risk and I am cautious myself), I can’t use those kinds of chemicals.

I am not sure how to handle this because we share an office building but do not work for the same company. Half of the building is one company (I think they own it) and the other half is rented out like executive suites. My company leases a few individual offices for me and two other coworkers. My bosses aren’t involved with anything at my location other than paying for the space. From what I gathered, my neighbor is renting the office for herself.

I do have a work-friendly relationship with the office manager. We in the leased offices have access to their copy machine, break room, etc. and if I had an issue with any of those things I would speak to her. I am not sure what authority she would have regarding this issue.

Talk with the office manager. While her company isn’t your employer, they are providing you with workspace and have an obligation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They might be willing to tell your neighbor she can’t use scented products in the office, or might be able to move one of you to a better ventilated area (or just a different area), or otherwise find a solution. If they won’t, at that point you’d need to take it to your own company (since it makes no sense for them to pay to put you in a space that you end up needing to flee), but start with the office manager first.

3. Should I warn candidates about weirdness in higher ed hiring?

Currently, I’m leading a search committee for an entry-level professional staff position at a public university. These positions are often the first job people get out of grad school for higher education administration.

Since our positions are government positions, we have a lot of restrictions on what we can ask as a search committee. For example, we have to ask every candidate the same set of questions (or very similar questions). All committee members take detailed notes during interviews. As a result, our interviews are often stilted and have significant pauses after each question as committee members write! This also means that we have to ask all candidates a question we’d normally just want to ask one candidate.

I don’t want to seem condescending, but I feel like explaining the format ahead of time may help candidates perform better. Does this sound unusual enough to warn candidates? I’m used to it, but I’ve been working at the same institution for 10 years.

Many candidates in higher ed are probably used to it, but I’m a big fan of explaining your process anyway — because “many candidates” is not the same as “all candidates,” and by sharing the playbook you help level the playing field for people who might not have the same reference points as other applicants.

It could be as simple as creating a spiel you give at the start of every interview — “We’re required to ask all candidates the same questions, so there may be some questions that don’t apply as much to you. It’s fine to just note when that’s the case. We also take detailed notes, so you’ll likely notice pauses after each question; don’t let that throw you.” Etc. That shouldn’t seem condescending; even people who don’t need it will likely appreciate the attempt at transparency.

You could also potentially email it as a standardized blurb about your process when you’re confirming interviews ahead of time, but I think it works just fine to explain it at the start of the meeting.

4. Asking my old job for their work templates

I just started with a new company doing the same type of work as a previous job. My old job had the most amazing templates for our work, whereas my current department is not as developed in this area. I wish I had these templates, but I can’t remember all the details to recreate them myself. Would it be inappropriate to ask my old department for their templates? My new company is a completely different industry so there are no competition concerns, but the amount of work they did to research best practices makes me pause. I don’t want to insult them by asking for their work.

I would not. That’s their intellectual property. It’s possible they’d forward it on, but there’s a pretty decent chance they won’t and that the request itself will land badly.

But you can use the knowledge you gained from working with those templates to recreate something similar at your new job. You might not remember everything that was included but it sounds like you know, for example, that they were created after lots of research into best practices. So in theory, you could describe why they were so useful and ask if there’s interest in having you or something else put in the time to create your own.

5. Showing growth in responsibilities on a resume

I took on a job as an X Coordinator at a small organization. As I became comfortable in the role my duties expanded a lot and I was asked to lead more projects. I suggested that since I was doing quite a bit of project management that my title be changed to X Manager, and it was. I was then asked to do an Interim Director role for a few months and then will return to my X Manager role.

How do I express all of this on resumes or LinkedIn? I didn’t receive a promotion (nor a raise), just a title change as duties naturally shifted around. So right now I just changed my title on LinkedIn, without showing any “moving up” per se.

I’d really like to show my growth on paper, however. I’m good at my job, took initiative to volunteer, expanded the role, and grew a lot! How do I show that without an actual promotion?

A promotion isn’t only a promotion if it comes with more money. You went from coordinator to manager — that’s a promotion for the purpose of your resume. You could show it like this:

Oatmeal Galleria
X Manager, January 2020 – present
X Coordinator, May 2018 – December 2019
* Created highly-reviewed barley outreach campaign, leading to 20% growth in barley support in one year
* Acted as interim director for four months, overseeing five-person oatmeal production team and spearheading award-winning groats packaging
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

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