can I nap on my break?

A reader writes:

I work for a large company that has a large common break and dining area, which has dining tables and booths like a restaurant, along with many televisions along the walls showing various network and cable shows. They also serve food and beverages. This area is an employees-only area and isn’t accessible or viewable by our customers.

I typically arrive to work early to cover myself in case of traffic or other issues, and on days with no problems typically arrive 15-30 minutes early. For the past couple months, I’ve sat in one of the booths with some coffee, and while sitting upright, relaxed and closed my eyes until it was time to head to my work area. I typically don’t fall asleep due to the coffee and the fact that I’m not tired, but someone seeing me might think so. Well, someone did and told my boss and my boss told me not to take naps during my breaks.

That doesn’t seem right. I’m allowed to eat and use the restrooms, but I can’t take a nap? Even if I’m not sleeping, does that mean I’m not allowed to close my eyes and not move for long periods of time? My work is hard but being able to rest and relax beforehand is really helpful to my day’s productivity. How much pushback should I give on this or should I just let it go?

In theory, you should be able to nap on your breaks or before work. That is, by definition, time that you’re not working and thus your employer should give you wide leeway in how you use it.

That said, in practice, “don’t fall asleep at work” is a very common office expectation. Some of that is about perception — people don’t know that you’re on a break or not officially on the clock yet and it can look like you’re sleeping when you should be working. That can look really bad for you, and even for your boss (who appears to have an employee who’s openly slacking off). It would be nice if people assumed that if they spot you sleeping (or appearing to sleep), it’s because you’re not on the clock … but the reality is, people don’t always default to that assumption.

Some of it, too, is just convention. We’re not generally used to encountering sleeping colleagues at work, and it can be jarring.

All that said, though, there might be some room here for you to give some context to your boss and see if that changes anything. You could say, “I haven’t been sleeping in the dining area, but I do sometimes sit with my eyes closed before work because I find it makes me more productive once the day starts. I’d like to be able to keep doing that — is that okay with you, since I’m not actually sleeping?” (Hell, you might even be meditating during that time. Who’s to say? And your boss might be more open to that.)

But if the answer is still no, I’d leave it there. The perception stuff is real, and if your boss is opposed, this isn’t a battle worth fighting. You could, however, do this in your car rather than in the dining area, and might have more privacy there. (Or you could go all-out and pitch your office on napping pods! But at that point you might look overly invested in naps and resting your eyes.)

should I go around HR and contact the hiring manager directly?

A reader writes:

I’m currently job searching and when I learn about an opening, I’ll often reach out directly to department heads as opposed to HR. However, sometimes after these directors/VP’s email me back saying they’ve forwarded along my resume to HR, it goes no further.

I like being proactive and cutting out the middleman seemed to make sense to me. However, I don’t want to offend anyone or burn bridges with these companies. Should I re-think my approach? Is it wrong to reach out to department heads regarding a position instead of HR?

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

my coworker dumps emotions all over us and wants to be coddled

A reader writes:

My coworker, Dionne, and I are struggling with our other coworker, Amber. We are all the same level, but in charge of different departments. Dionne and I are young to have the positions we have, but we’ve both worked extremely hard and actively pursue opportunities to address any skills gaps we have. Amber is older than we are, very insecure, and has boundary issues.

We’ve tried addressing these issues with Amber directly, and that actually seems to make things worse. For example, she was complaining about our administrative coordinator and saying that she, Amber, annoys our admin, and the admin doesn’t like her, and so on. We said, “We’d prefer not to talk about the relationships you have with our other coworkers.” She started crying, and said that’s not okay, that we need to be nicer to her, and that we need to respond with “Oh, I’m so sorry. That sounds so hard. I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. How can I help?”

Another time, Dionne had to tell her during a meeting that she didn’t have an answer for Amber and would have to ask our boss. Amber kept rephrasing the question to get the answer she wanted, but Dionne wouldn’t give in. Over a year later, Amber is STILL bringing up “the time Dionne was so mean to her in the meeting.”

People generally walk on eggshells around Amber, and don’t like to ask her to even do small things like put her appointments on the calendar so we can schedule meetings, or ask her to close her door when she’s on the phone, and her team is hesitant to bring up problems with her, because they’re afraid of making her cry.

We’ve noticed a pattern developing, where when one of us has to say “no,” set a boundary between work stuff and personal stuff, address an issue, or go to our boss for an answer to one of her questions, she essentially responds by saying her reaction is our fault, and wouldn’t happen if we were “warmer.” Recently, during yet another conversation to address a flare-up that she admitted was directly a result of her feeling insecure, she told me “the problem is your face” — that my expression is too neutral, so she imagines I’m thinking all sorts of awful things about her, and I need to be more effusive and start my responses to her with “I’m so sorry…”

Our boss highly values collegiality and respect in the workplace, and evaluates us on this specifically every year. I understand having two younger coworkers is really striking at the heart of Amber’s insecurities, and I am trying to be sympathetic to that, but it feels like we can’t address issues directly and have to work around her (and her feelings), and it’s leading to a lot of frustration, especially when she says we need to be “warmer” and less “work-focused.” Is there a way to nicely communicate that we can’t manage her feelings for her, or is this just one of those times when we should start everything we say to her with “I’m so sorry…” to keep the peace, and let the behavior go?

Amber sounds exhausting. She’s asking you to do some very weird emotional work on her behalf, and it’s not a reasonable request — anywhere, but especially in a work situation.

If you give in to her, she’ll have essentially made it impossible to work with her. If you can’t ask her to close her door because she’ll cry, or to put a meeting on the calendar because she’ll cry, or decline to hear gossip about other coworkers because she’ll cry … well, she’s holding you hostage with her emotions. You can’t do normal work things because she might emote all over you. And it goes even further then that — when she doesn’t get answers because you don’t have them, she’s accusing people of being mean to her a year later?

There isn’t a perfect solution here. If you give in, you won’t be able to do normal work-related things that you have to do. If you don’t give in, a flurry of emotions will rain down on you.

Neither of those is good, but one is significantly better than the other. It’s not an option to stop the normal work-related things that you have to do as part of your job, so that leaves you with having to accept that she’s going to have Feelings, and not let yourself get manipulated by that.

That means that all you can do is to treat her like you would any other colleague — be polite and professional with her, but don’t coddle her. If she has a reaction to that … well, that’s going to be on her to handle. It’s not yours to fix. Say what you need to say to her briskly and cheerfully and don’t get drawn in beyond that.

It’s possible that once she sees that you’re just not going to engage on this stuff, she’ll tamp it down. Or maybe she won’t — but you’ll be minimizing the impact on you by not getting drawn in.

I’d also stop trying to address all the flare-ups with her. She’s shown that’s not likely to work, and it sounds like it’s making things worse. Instead, you’re better off limiting your interactions with her and ending conversations as quickly as you can. It’s not your job to explain to her that what she’s asking is unreasonable or to talk through how her insecurities might be influencing her reactions. Stay out of all of that. If she has an emotional outburst, let her have it — on her own. You don’t need to engage with that, and letting her draw you in is signaling to her that it’s okay for you to be involved in managing her emotions. You’re better off disengaging completely and just letting her have whatever reactions she wants to have. Those don’t need to be your problem.

I think it’s feeling more like your problem because of your mention that your boss values collegiality and respect and evaluates you on those things. But you know, most good managers value those things — and still wouldn’t be at all okay with Amber’s behavior or expect you to accommodate it. If the problem is that your boss values those things at the expense of literally everything else, and is someone who would see this situation as Amber deserving respect and collegiality while the rest of you aren’t entitled to any from her … well, then you have a boss problem. But unless your manager has specifically stepped in here and told you to accommodate Amber’s issues — and even then, unless you’ve responded by explaining the work-related impacts her behavior is having and why accommodating it would cause additional issues — I wouldn’t assume that’s where she stands. That would a highly dysfunctional stance — and until you see clear evidence otherwise, you should assume she’ll find this as ridiculous as everyone else does. (Or at least that she would if she knew the full situation. If she only sees bits and pieces of it, she may not — but that would be a sign that she needs fuller information, not that you shouldn’t count on her to respond reasonably once she has it.)

One other thing: I’d leave the age stuff out of it. I can’t tell if Amber has told you herself that having younger coworkers is making her insecure, but even if she has, that’s not an excuse for her behavior and it’s not something that you need to cater to. If she hasn’t told you that and it’s more of a guess, you could be off-base with it. But either way, it doesn’t really matter and I worry that by framing it that way you’re playing into the idea that the age thing would somehow justify some of this … or are inadvertently being a little ageist, which obviously you don’t want to do either. Her behavior is wildly inappropriate regardless.

my boss wants a team outing to a gun range, employer wants to discuss my “hot mess” cover letter, and more

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

1. My boss wants to do a team outing at a gun range

My boss keeps suggesting a team outing at a gun range. I feel very uncomfortable about this prospect as I don’t have any interest in handling guns. Is there a way to gracefully bow out of this “team building” activity? He is a bit provocative and I really don’t want to get into a discussion about why I am not interested in going.

What the actual F? Your boss is not thinking this through.

Ideally you’d say: “Many people aren’t comfortable around guns, and given the high emotions around gun issues right now, I think this would do the opposite of team building. I’d like to suggest we pick something else, but if this goes forward, I’d need to opt out of it.” And then if he tried to get into a back-and-forth with you about it, you could say, “It’s not something I’m comfortable discussing at work. I just wanted to register my concern and let you know I wouldn’t be able to participate if you decide to do it.” (Repeat as necessary.)

But if you don’t want to go that route, there’s always (a) discreetly asking HR to intervene (I can’t imagine they’ll love this, at least in most companies, at least in most regions), or (b) finding a reason to be out that day.

2. Employer wants to meet to discuss my “hot mess” cover letter

I screwed up and got overzealous on my cover letter. There were no typos (luckily), but I managed to repeat myself again and again, and managed to go on so long that it was hard to read. Apparently it was bad enough that the recruiting manager wants to meet to review the letter together.

Apparently, they want to help me improve it before it can be sent higher for decisions on interviews. The exact wording they used on the letter was “hot mess” and that they simply cannot send it to the managing partner looking like that. I assume I wasn’t outright denied because I applied through an amazing recommendation by a contact who they are close with.

This is not an interview, though I will prepare as if it was one. How should I approach this in the future? Normally I pride myself in well written cover letters, but I was very excited for the position and really wanted to show that I had the credentials and experience. I have never heard of anything like this happening.

I’d assume that your contact’s recommendation is carrying serious weight here and they want to interview you because of that — but that they can’t make that case with the current cover letter. That said, meeting to review it together is … strange. I could see them saying something like “can you take another stab at the cover letter and make it half the length?” (although even that would be unusual) but an entire meeting to go over it together is really odd. And frankly, if I were that managing partner and found out my hiring staff had coached a candidate this closely to meet my standards, or that they were covering up a relevant piece of someone’s application, I’d be pissed — and would have serious concerns about their trustworthiness and understanding of how the process is supposed to work.

That’s not for you to solve though. All you can really do here is go into the meeting with an open mind and listen to their feedback. And yes, prepare for it as if it’s an interview, because it’s likely to be at least interview-ish, and possibly an actual formal interview. You should also start reworking the letter now, so that you’ve gotten a head start on figuring out where you went wrong and how to fix it. Don’t finalize the new version until you get their input, but it’ll help to have already done some of the work.

(In an ideal world, you’d redo it on your own ahead of time and send it over to them, saying that your enthusiasm got the better of you initially and here’s a more restrained version … but that only works if the new version is excellent. If it’s not great — and you aren’t necessarily well positioned to assess that yourself — then you’ve made the problem worse, so I wouldn’t take that risk.)

3. I’m moving and my company won’t let me work out of the office I want, even though other people have been allowed to

I have been with my employer for four years, straight out of college. I have decided to move an hour away, back to my hometown, to be near family and because I just purchased a home in a community that I like (and could afford). As the closing process was happening, I sat down with my supervisor to let him know that I would be interested in relocating to the office most near my new home, the Teaville office.

I didn’t think this would be problem since two and a half years ago, another colleague who is close to my age, but at that time had also been with the company four years, was moving with her fiance to the opposite coast for a job he has been assigned (he works with a different company). We are located on the east coast. So she was moving from one coast to the other. Also, a year ago, a colleague joined our department from another team and was offered the option of working from the Teaville office or our office, the Earlville office. In both cases, both were able to remain with our department and keep their regular duties.

Now I am asking to relocate to the Teaville office and instead my supervisor proposed moving me to the Potville office.The Potville is about the same distance to my new home as the Teaville office, but significantly more difficult to get to (more traffic) so my commute would be a bit longer. Additionally, I would be moved out of my department to a role where I am doing what I do now but with a smaller scope.

My supervisor said this was because it would be “harder to manage you,” and that we needed to find something that was reasonable for both the company and for me. He also mentioned that he wished that I would have brought this up before I decided to buy my home, which strikes me as odd. All this strikes me as being unfair given that in less than five years, two colleagues were given the opportunity to relocate and keep their roles.

I would like to sit my supervisor down and advocate why this is unfair and cite the two examples above and offer solutions to mitigate their fears, like weekly phone check-ins and driving in to the Earlville office two to three times a month. What do you think?

You can give it a try! But go into it with the understanding that there can be good reasons not to treat everyone exactly the same and your manager might have legitimate reasons for his decision. For example, you might require a different type of management than your colleagues did (like more interaction or more oversight), or your work might be fine but theirs was great (and thus your employer was more motivated to accommodate them), or maybe the two previous moves ended up being more challenging than they’d expected. So your argument shouldn’t center on “it’s unfair” or “other people have been allowed to do this” but rather on how you think you can make it work and address your manager’s concerns.

4. Dealing with grief at work

I’ve been at my current organization for three years. It’s my first job out of college, and for the most part, it’s been a great experience. But during those three years, my mom suffered serious health issues and eventually passed away. It was a really difficult time for my whole family–basically two years of constant stress, followed by the heartbreak of her passing at such a young age. The first anniversary of her death was a week ago.

Over the course of this year, I’ve found navigating grief at work to be tricky. I was able to take three weeks of paid bereavement leave thanks to the generosity of my colleagues, but coming back was still difficult. For one thing, my short term memory really took a hit (I’ve since learned that this is normal for people who are grieving or experiencing a lot of stress). My motivation was also dicey, and I flirted with quitting and just taking some time off. I cried in my manager’s office more than once, and I think she struggled with how to deal with me, though she did her best.

Now, almost a year later, and I’ve found the weeks around her yarzheit to be particularly challenging. I’ve been struggling with a lack of focus and motivation because all I’m thinking about is my mom. I was just promoted a couple months ago to a whole new division and team. One of my immediate supervisors knows about my loss, but not the details. The other two do not. It’s difficult for me to talk about my mom without crying (I’m crying as I write this), so I avoid it at work. But I worry that they see my lack of focus and motivation and judge me for it.

How do I manage this? Should I let my whole team know about what I’m going through and why I’ve been a little out-of-sorts? Or should I just carry on, hope it will pass soon, and avoid calling attention to my less-than-stellar performance the past few weeks? I’d also like to hear from readers about how they’ve managed coming back to work while grieving. People have been telling me to “be kind to yourself,” but I don’t know how to balance that with doing good work and making a good impression on my new supervisors. Any advice?

I’m so sorry. I know this is horrible.

I don’t think you need to make a team-wide announcement, but do talk to your managers and let them know what’s going on. It’s enough to just say something like, “I suspect I haven’t seemed like myself the last couple of weeks, and I didn’t want to leave you with no context for that. It’s the first anniversary of my mom’s death, and it’s been a tough time. I felt like I should mention it in case you’ve noticed me seeming off.”

Once they know what’s going on, decent managers will understand. If they don’t have any context for it, though, they may draw the wrong conclusions about what’s going on — so just let them know.

5. Can I ask for a phone interview before coming in for an in-person interview?

My question might fall under “good problems to have,” but it’s still becoming a problem. I am working at my current job, but looking for a new job outside my company. I have been getting positive responses to my applications with one weird curve — they always want to bring me in to their company right away for an interview, as opposed to doing an introductory phone call first. This has happened several times already. While I am flattered, it means that I am sometimes going in cold to an interview (sometimes not knowing all that much about the company). I have to make excuses to leave my current work early/come in late, which is awkward (I hate lying). I live in a major metropolitan area and commute in, which means there’s sometimes significant time/stress involved in getting to the interview (fighting traffic, finding parking, getting on the right train, etc.) I’ve gotten to an interview to find out about 20 minutes in either that the job is not what I’m looking for, or I’m not what they’re looking for, which is a waste of my time and theirs.

I just got a request on a Friday to come for an in-person interview the following Monday at 10 a.m.! Can I push back and ask for an introductory phone call first, just to get a lay of the land, or would that put them off? I don’t want to lose a great opportunity, but I’m also tired of schlepping into the city on a bust.

They should want to save themselves the time too! I can’t imagine hiring without phone screens first, because you end up weeding out tons of people in 10-15 minutes of talking to them — sometimes even in the first few minutes, depending on the issue. It makes no sense to set up in-person interviews without a shorter phone screen first.

Anyway, if you were coming in from out of town, you absolutely could request a phone interview first. It’s a little trickier when you’re local, because it risks coming across as “I’m not willing to invest time in exploring this yet.” But you could try saying something like, “I’m in a period at work where it’s difficult to get away during the day. I’m really interested in the position and will certainly make that happen if we move forward, but would you be open to doing a phone interview first so we can get an initial sense of how strong the match is on both sides?” You do risk someone bristling at the idea of having to adjust their process, but it’s a reasonable thing to ask for and it sounds like you’re a strong enough candidate to have a lot of interest from employers, so I’d give it a shot a couple of times and see how it goes.

weekend free-for-all – July 14-15, 2018

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. Desperate to be away when his ex-boyfriend gets married (and not thrilled about his impending 50th birthday), a novelist decides to accept every invitation to out-of-town literary events that come his way. Beautifully written, smart, and funny.

record a question for the Ask a Manager podcast

There are now two ways to ask a question on the  Ask a Manager podcast:

1. If you want to come on the show yourself to discuss your question with me in real time, email your question to podcast@askamanager.org. The advantage of this option is that we get to have lots of back and forth and refine the advice to make sure it works for your situation. We record over Skype and it’s quite easy.

2. If you just want your question to be answered on the show, but don’t want to come on yourself, you can record your question on the show voicemail at 855-426-WORK (855-426-9675). Any question you leave there might be played and answered on a future show. This is a good option for questions that seem shorter/simpler (stuff like the daily “short answer” posts), or if you’re just not up for lots of back and forth or having so much focus directed on you.

open thread – July 13-14, 2018

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. 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 don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

how confidential are job searches, I’m the office nail trimmer, and more

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

1. How confidential are job searches?

My question is about job searching when you’re already employed. Considering people are well connected to each other in many industries, how confidential are job searches, really? I’ve been applying and get the feeling that my employer knows! I’m suddenly offered a promotion and given several other perks/recognition unrelated to the promotion. Do contacts give each other a heads-up?

If they’re ethical, no. Job searches are generally understood to be confidential, and thoughtful people understand that they could jeopardize your current job by revealing to your employer that you’re job searching.

That said, certainly not everyone is thoughtful or ethical, and it is possible that someone could share the information with a contact, without realizing or caring about the position they’re putting you in. (PSA to hiring managers: This is terrible behavior! Do not do this, even if you’re sure your contact will handle the information well. It’s not your info to share, and you’re abusing the trust that you’re asking applicants to place in you!)

2. My boss overshares her personal life to an uncomfortable degree

I recently started a new temp job. The office is small and disorganized, but it’s mostly a fine work environment. Except that my supervisor is a wild oversharer. I’m also an oversharer, so when I say she goes too far even for me? It means something. She shares things with me I won’t repeat here, both because of the sheer amount of private detail she gave me and because some of it could easily be triggering. These are things she should be seeing a therapist about, or at the least talking with a close friend.

Not with the temp.

It started on my first day and as it was my first day and the power dynamics between temporary employee and supervisor are such that I have … not very much, I just sat there and made sympathetic noises. I’m not alone with her often, so it took a couple weeks for it to happen again. But it did. And I made some more sympathetic noises and reminded myself the job would be over in a few weeks.

I don’t know if she does this with other employees, or just me. For whatever reason, it’s not uncommon for strangers to open up to me about their life stories and problems. Normally I don’t mind, but I’m at work and the detail she goes into has been frankly inappropriate.

This job only goes to the end of the month. It might never happen again, and then I’ll be gone. Other than this, she’s kind and and supportive, and has given me projects designed to help me learn new skills for my resume as she knows I’m seeking permanent employment. She also, frankly, is going through a VERY rough time. (Trust me. I know all about it.)

Since I’m not here much longer, I don’t know if it’s worth it to talk to her about the behavior or to go to someone else about it, though please tell me if you think I should. I’ve never had problems in a workplace and am pretty unfamiliar with the appropriate steps for different issues. As a Step One, could you suggest possible escape routes if I get caught being her therapist again?

If you weren’t about to leave, you might need to find a more direct approach, but since you’ve just got a couple more weeks, I think you can exempt yourself from having to have a very awkward conversation about this and instead just look for ways to extract yourself if it happens again. For starters, I’d find reasons to physically exit the conversation when it takes such a personal turn — for example, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or get something to drink. Or, if your job involves phone work, you suddenly have some calls to make. Or, if you can say it credibly, you can try, “Wow, that sounds really tough. I’m sorry you’re going through it. Well, I better get back to these reports — I want to make sure I meet the deadline.” Or even, “That’s awful — I’m so sorry! Hey, while I have you, can I ask you about (work question)?” That last one might sound a little callous, but really, what she’s doing is not appropriate, given that the power dynamics make you a captive audience, and it’s okay to steer her back to where she should be.

3. I’m the office nail trimmer

I have a compulsive habit regarding my fingernails and cuticles. I’ve had this habit since a very young age. It started as nail chewing, but thankfully I kicked that habit in early middle school. Keeping them painted was useful, even though painted nails are really not my thing. For the past 10+ years, the compulsion has manifested in picking at the skin surrounding my fingernails.

I’m working on killing this skin-picking habit, but it’s been about 20 years in the making and I hardly ever realize I’m doing it, so it’s not easy. Because of this, I’ve started using a cuticle clipper (looks just like a normal nail clipper, but the edges are curved differently) to satisfy this urge in a way that’s safer and tidier for my fingers, and it seems to be helping me be more aware of when the compulsion strikes, since I have to reach for a tool instead of mindlessly fidgeting. The problem is that now when I feel the need to do this at work, it’s way more obvious than when it had just looked like I was fidgeting.

I have my own office with a door that closes, so I always do that, but the outer wall and the door to my office are glass. I am conscientious of trying to put the clippers away when I hear someone coming by (the glass isn’t terribly soundproof), but occasionally I’ll miss it. I worry I’m grossing people out, but don’t want to go back to picking with my hands. What say you?

The fact that you have an office with a door is hugely helpful here, even though the door is glass. Being seen occasionally clipping a nail in your office with the door closed isn’t a huge deal. If they see you in there doing it all the time, yes, it’s going to look odd, but if you’re mostly stopping when you see through the glass that someone’s approaching, you’re probably fine.

4. My boss is requiring me to greet him

At work we are under some tight deadlines. I was unfortunately called away for a week. While I could not come in to work during the day, I decided to come in to the office to pick something up to help me do work at home. I was tired, didn’t want to talk with anyone, and was hoping to get in and out without any conversation if possible. However, my boss noticed me and while on my way out called me into his office. He told me that as the boss he expects me to say hello to him. Not that it would be nice, but it’s expected. I can understand exchanging pleasantries in the morning out of politeness. But to require it of your subordinates seems excessive. In the case above, I just wanted to get in and out. On other days if I am there first and busy with projects I don’t necessarily want to stop what I am in the middle of just to give a required hello.

I know to some, this may seem rude or petty, or some may even view it as not being a team player. However, I find it irritating to stop my train of thought and interrupt my work flow to exchange pleasantries. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Anyway, the question I have is, can my boss really REQUIRE me to say hello to him?

Sure. He can also require you to wear only blue or to sing him a lullaby as a condition of keeping your job if he wants to. All of those things would make him an ass and a ridiculous person, but employers can set any conditions of employment they want as long as they’re not explicitly illegal (for example, as long as they’re not rooted in discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected class, or as long as they don’t subject you to sexual harassment, etc.).

Your boss is being A Bit Precious by requiring you to greet him, but it’s a minor enough thing that you’re better off just greeting him, while internally rolling your eyes that he’s requiring this.

5. Should I send a cover letter even if a job posting doesn’t ask for one?

I was reading the job description for an internship. It ended with “please send your resume to Firstname Lastname at email@address.com.” There was no mention of a cover letter or other documents to send. It did not say to not send a cover letter either. I was wondering if I should add a cover letter with my resume in those circumstances. Some advice I saw said that if they do not explicitly say to not send one, I should send a cover letter even if it’s not requested, to stand out as a candidate. Other advice said to not add the cover letter, as it might look like I cannot follow instructions and that the recruiter or hiring manager would have asked for a cover letter if they wanted one.

I opted to send my resume with a very short paragraph in the body of the email with the main points I usually underline in my cover letters that are not apparent from my resume alone. I would like to know what you think would have been the best thing to do.

Unless they specifically say not to send a cover letter, send a cover letter. Lots of hiring managers read and are influenced by cover letters, but whatever job posting system their company is using neglects to ask for one. It’s a very rare hiring manager who will penalize someone for including an unsolicited cover letter, since they’re such a standard part of a job application. It’s not like you’re sending a poem or a link to a future performance review you’ve written for yourself, which would indeed be odd and a turn-off. You’re just including a normal part of an application.

interviewer wants me to write a fake performance review for my future self

A reader writes:

I am currently in the running for a position I think could be an excellent fit for my career, and I for the company. As part of the interview process, they have asked me to complete a performance review. Basically, I am supposed to pretend that I have been at the company three months and fill out a review based on what I have achieved, what I want to achieve going forward, my strengths, and areas of opportunity. After speaking with the hiring manager, this is meant to get a grasp on my writing skills and self assessment, but I am really at a loss for where to begin. I have the job description and after the phone interview I have a pretty good idea of the position, but I just don’t know where to start!

You’re not sure where to start because this is ABSURD. It’s one thing to ask you to talk about your plan for your first three months (frankly even that often isn’t rooted in a ton of reality, but it’s at least a more reasonable question), but asking you to assess your future hypothetical self on work that hasn’t happened yet is in the realm of … fan fiction. They’re asking you to write fan fiction about yourself.

Is this someone you really want to work for? At a minimum this is a warning sign that they don’t know how to hire, and it may also be a warning about their critical thinking.

If you really want the job and aren’t deterred by this silliness, you might as well indulge in the rampant speculation that’s being requested and fill it out as if you’ve had an outstanding three months. Take a look at the goals of the position and whatever knowledge you gained in the interview about how your success would be measured, and have at it. Keep it reasonably realistic so that you don’t look comically out of touch, but look at it as a chance to reflect back your understanding of what a successful initial performance would look like and what the challenges of the role are likely to be.

But seriously, this is pretty silly. If they want to see your writing skills and ability to self-assess in action, there are easy, obvious ways to do that: they can have you do a job-related writing exercise, and they can ask you to self-assess work you’ve already done.

my employee says her errors are just “enthusiasm”

A reader writes:

I have a new employee who just finished grad school but is not new to work because she worked a few years between college and grad school. Some of the people we work with have been put off by her behavior.

She is asking a lot of questions in meetings and making a lot of suggestions about things she knows nothing about yet, rather than sitting back a bit, listening, and learning.

She seems to believe that everything has to be done quickly and does not check her work before giving me a “finished” product that has not been checked for errors or to see if it looks okay. As a result, I am getting a lot of things that are not finished enough for me to review them and have to give them back a couple of times. In addition, her writing skills are substantially below what I would expect from someone with her level of education, but she does not take feedback on her writing well.

She has also taken it upon herself to do some things I told her I would do and offended a couple of good clients in the process. She annoyed these clients enough that they mentioned it to me.

When I have spoken to her about these issues, she has said she is enthusiastic and just wants to get things done. She always uses the term “enthusiastic” to describe what comes across as pushiness. I am planning on sitting down with her and nicely telling her that this behavior is not productive. However, how much should I invest in a new employee with what seems to be ingrained behavior?

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.