my new coworkers embarrassed me in front of my old team, our new uniforms don’t fit women, and more

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

1. My new coworkers embarrassed me at a meeting with my previous team

I recently began a new position with a team that is just getting their feet under them in terms of industry standards, and as part of setting up our new organization, we are working with a number of established institutions in the region to learn how they’ve been successful. I have more experience in this industry than my colleagues do, so I offered to set up a meeting with a previous team who I’m still on very good terms with (I interned there during grad school, and would like to work there again given the opportunity).

Unfortunately, the meeting was a disaster. My new colleagues spent nearly a third of our time dragging previous employees, complaining about our administration, and generally airing dirty laundry that has absolutely no business in a professional meeting. I tried to steer us back on track several times, but had no success. It was clear from some of the looks I got that my previous team was at least as uncomfortable as I was.

Today, I’ve made it clear to my new team that this was wholly inappropriate, and my supervisor apologized to me for any reputational harm done to me by this, but I’m still mortified that I was responsible for their bad behavior in front of our industry peers. I’m afraid this has damaged my standing with my previous team, and I’m really looking for ways to mitigate this damage.

Would it be inappropriate to reach out and thank them for the meeting, and apologize for the inappropriate comments? Or would that just make it look like I also think it’s okay to throw people under the bus as soon as they leave the room? What is the best way to distance myself from my new team’s behavior?

Yes, contact them and apologize! You can frame it as, “I wasn’t expecting the meeting to go that way! I’d hoped we’d talk about XYZ. I’ve talked to my new team about what happened, but I wanted to apologize to you directly. I really appreciate that you were willing to lend us the time, and I’m sorry it wasn’t better used.” I don’t think you have to get into it beyond that — just enough to acknowledge that you know this was messed up and you won’t let it happen again.

Speaking of not letting it happen again — I would not set up more meetings of this type for your team. If you need those meetings, do them alone or maybe with your boss. But don’t risk the same thing happening with other contacts.

2. My company turned into a porn site

I went to work for a start-up company that said they were aiming to be a girl-power, female-focused website. I was a bit underpaid, but it was okay because I was learning a lot, logging big accomplishments, and getting all kinds of new things to put on my resume.

Then the CEO decided they could make more money if they became a porn site. Not a classy porn site … a sleazy porn site with ads promoting sleazy prescription drug companies. I’m fine with ethical porn, but this is not ethical – and I would not want a porn company on my resume due to the negative effects on my future employment.

This goes completely against my values, so I quit. But what do I do with my resume? I don’t want to point anyone to the company because yeesh. The CEO has offered to be a reference but I’m concerned about being linked to the site, and in addition she is noticeably drunk on phone calls about 10% of the time, which is a higher percentage than I’m comfortable with.

What name was the company doing business under before? That’s the name you should list. Don’t list the website address if it now contains porn, but there’s often a company name that’s separate from the web address. That’s what you want.

If you’re concerned about people googling the company and getting led to a now X-rated site, include a blurb about what the company did while you worked there, like “Media company that produced content for women on business, health, and politics.”

If this was your last job, you’ll probably get asked in interviews why you left. It’s fine to be straightforward and say, “The company decided to pivot into adult content. That wasn’t something I’d anticipated when I signed on or something I was interested in working on, so here I am.”

3. Our new uniforms don’t fit women

I am a woman and work in a male-dominated field. We need to wear uniforms. For the five years I have worked here, we have had shirts (women’s cut available) and jackets we are required to wear, and pants, shorts, or skorts could be whichever ones you bought as long as they were a particular color. They are changing the uniforms and now want all employees to wear men’s shirts and want a specific pant and short option that is men’s pants. I am okay with the shirts, but I am very hourglass shaped and can not wear men’s pants as the hips and thigh-to-waist ratio is way off. The brand of pants makes a women’s version. They just don’t want to offer the different option. How do I deal with this?

“These pants will not fit me, so I will need to order the women’s version. What’s the procedure for doing that?”

Say it matter-of-factly, like of course they’ll need to give you that option. If the person in charge of this pushes back, say, “These pants literally will not fit me. It’s not possible for me to wear them. Women’s bodies are shaped differently, and we need to provide options for women as well. Should I go ahead and order them directly and submit the receipt for reimbursement, or will the company order them? Or should I continue wearing my own pants?”

The most likely outcome is that they were being oblivious and will come up with an option once you point out the situation, but go over that person’s head if you need to.

4. Should I put being a Jeopardy contestant on my resume?

I was on Jeopardy last year. Since then, everyone who finds out says I should put it on my resume. Should I actually do this? Where would this even fit?

Yes! People will find it interesting and you’ll get asked about it. You could put it in a Skills section, an Interests section, or an Other Achievements section, depending on which makes sense for the rest of your content.

5. Should I follow up with an unresponsive person on LinkedIn?

Six months ago, my partner and I relocated to another state, where I have absolutely no contacts. We moved for their job, but I’ve been searching for a new position since we arrived. I’ve tried everything from job board sites to in-person networking meetings and cold-messaging hiring managers at companies I’m interested in. Still no offer.

Recently, I applied to a position I am very interested in and researched the company employees to see if I could make a personal connection via LinkedIn. I couldn’t find any of the managers on LinkedIn, but I did find someone who works in the department I applied to. I noticed he’d only been working at the company for six months and messaged him saying something like, “I’ve recently applied to Company X and see that you arrived there fairly recently. Would you mind telling me more about the work environment?” I was hoping just to make a connection and didn’t press that I had applied too much. This person “connected” with me on LinkedIn but never replied to my message. Should I message them again? Do I just let it go? I’m confused as to why they would add me without replying since my profile is already public.

Let it go. Lots of people don’t reply to messages like that — because they’re busy, because they don’t know you, because they’re not involved in hiring, because they think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage in the interview process, etc. Who knows why he connected with you — but it could be just because that was easier than responding to your question. But trying a second time for an answer from a stranger who’s already ignored you, when you’re already going outside of their hiring process, would come across as pushy and disrespectful of his time.

my employee is constantly hyping himself — but his work isn’t good

A reader writes:

I recently hired a new administrative employee in my office. His job is to answer phones, greet guests, and complete various reports and tasks I assign to him. His customer service skills are strong, but his attention to detail is very weak on the other tasks. I have given him a lot of feedback and guided him through processes, but he continues to make spelling errors and basic Excel calculation mistakes and misses almost every deadline I give him.

But he is constantly telling me how great of a job he’s doing. He routinely tells me things like, “You are going to be so happy when I show you what I’ve done for you!” or “You are going to LOVE me, I am making your life so much easier!” and then hands me a report that I have to spend a half hour correcting. Yesterday I told him I need him to follow up with me when he completes tasks because I would rather he proactively inform me than wait for me to ask. His response: “As you know, I always complete tasks immediately (this is untrue) but I didn’t know you needed me to remind you of that. No problem at all!!”

I am probably stressed about other things and it’s affecting my view about this employee, but this behavior is really grating on me. His work product hasn’t improved and I’m starting to feel like he’s trying to manipulate me into not giving him corrections. I’m starting to struggle giving him feedback because I feel like he ignores me and I’m letting that affect my interactions with him.

Have I already arrived at the “this needs to improve or else” conversation? He just started two months ago. I want to give him time to learn and grow, but my patience is zapped.

I’m sorry, I laughed out loud at “As you know, I always complete tasks immediately (this is untrue).”

This employee has gumption.

You probably do need to have a “this needs to improve or else” conversation. You’ve giving him very basic feedback over and over, he’s not improving, and he misses almost every deadline you give him.

His strange overhyping of his own work makes this more concerning. If you could see that he was taking your feedback seriously, he understood that his work isn’t where it needs to be yet, and he was working hard to incorporate your feedback, I’d say sure, give him some time to work on mastering the job. But when he’s ignoring your feedback and telling you his work is superb when you’ve clearly told him it’s not … that’s a serious problem, and not the sort that “time to learn and grow” usually helps with.

However! There’s potentially some room for hope if you haven’t been completely clear with him. When you’ve given him feedback and talked about mistakes, have you been clear that the work isn’t at the level you need and that the pattern of mistakes is serious? And when he misses deadlines, have you held him accountable for that and told him clearly that it can’t keep happening? (For example: “This was due yesterday — what happened?” … followed by, “It’s really important that you turn in work by the agreed-upon deadline or tell me ahead of time if you’re worried about your ability to do that.”)

If you haven’t done those things, it’s possible that doing it could turn this around.

A lot of managers in your situation think, “But I shouldn’t need to do that! He should know that missing a deadline is a big deal, and that he needs to take feedback seriously.” And indeed, he should. But many, many employees miss the cues that managers think are obvious — and when you’re frustrated with someone, the first step is to make sure that you’ve been really clear with them about the expectations you need them to meet. (In fact, whenever you’re feeling frustrated with an employee, that’s a flag to check how clear you’ve been.)

If you’ve done those things and this is still happening, then yes, it’s time for a serious conversation where you explain you can’t keep him in the job if you don’t see significant improvement on these fronts quickly.

Interestingly, I think you can do all of this without directly addressing the “I’m amazing” comments. By addressing the crux of the problem — his work is not what you need it to be — he’ll probably get the message that his self-hype isn’t in line with the reality. If he doesn’t, I’d suspect that’s not a great sign about how well he’s processing your message. Or who knows, maybe this is just his manner, even when he’s struggling!

That said, if you want to address it, you can! You could say, “I was surprised to hear you say you always complete tasks immediately when I’ve shared my concern about a number of missed deadlines recently.” Or you can take the hype as statements of his intentions rather than what he’s actually done. For example, with his “I am making your life so much easier!” comment, you could refer back to that later with something like, “I know you want to make my life easier and I appreciate that — that’s what I want from your role as well. When you give me a report with errors that I have to spend half an hour correcting, that’s not happening. I need you to double-check your work before it comes to me so that you’re spotting and correcting your own errors and I don’t need to fix anything when it comes my way.”

But I think if you keep the focus on the gap between the work he’s producing and the work you need — and just consider the self-hype a strange and even amusing eccentricity — you’ll figure out pretty quickly if he can succeed in the job or not, and that’s what really matters.

Boss’s Day is a crock and we need to kill it off

Boss’s Day is tomorrow, and it’s time to kill it.

Sorry, bosses. But the day is a crock. Here’s why:

1. The power dynamics are all messed up.

It’s not appropriate to solicit recognition from people below you, especially when they feel it’s obligatory! Plus, many offices have started doing celebrations that involve money – employees’ money – to buy gifts and meals. Because these are often group expenditures, people often worry that not chipping in will make them look bad, and that kind of pressure is inappropriate in the workplace. Employees should never feel pressured to dip into their own funds to pay for a gift to the boss.

2. Obligatory appreciation is silly anyway.

Of course it’s nice to hear sincere appreciation for one’s work. But any appreciation offered under the auspices of Boss’s Day is inherently suspect. Managers have no way of distinguishing between an employee who’s sincerely glad for the chance to tell her boss how much she enjoys working together and an employee who is acting out of obligation (real or perceived) in an effort to maintain her standing with the person who signs her paychecks.

3. Good bosses don’t want gifts from their subordinates.

Good bosses are sensitive to the power dynamics (and often financial disparities) that exist between managers and employees, and they don’t want employees feeling even slightly obligated to shell out for this type of thing. So the holiday ends up rewarding the bosses who don’t care that their subordinates feel pressured to give them gifts, while making the good bosses feel awkward and uncomfortable.

4. Etiquette forbids it.

Traditional etiquette says quite clearly that any gift-giving in the workplace should be from a boss to an employee and not the other way around. The idea is that people shouldn’t feel obligated to purchase gifts for someone who has power over their livelihood, and managers shouldn’t benefit from the power dynamic in that way.

How to Get Out of Boss’s Day In Your Office

If you work in an office where people are talking about taking up a collection for a Boss’s Day gift, do your coworkers the service of being the one to stand up and say: “You know, I don’t think Jane would want us to spend money on her. I vote for letting her know we appreciate her throughout the year instead.” Or just send them this article! Chances are good that most of your coworkers will appreciate it and be breathing a sigh of relief.

And if you’re a manager, make it clear to your team ahead of time that you don’t expect or want your staff to do anything for the day. Of course, if someone gives you something anyway, be gracious about it – but do what you can to head it off beforehand.

I adapted this from a piece I published at U.S. News & World Report back in 2015.

my male boss won’t have closed-door meetings with me because he’s married

A reader writes:

I work directly with our CEO and lately I have noticed that whenever we are having a meeting (I am a woman and he is a man) that he will randomly open the door. I thought it was odd and so yesterday I asked him if there was an issue or was it just in my head. He responded by saying he is sensitive to the fact of opposite gender closed door meetings and that he and his wife have rules. I feel very conflicted hearing this statement and I am not sure how to move forward. A big part of me feels like this is going to hinder my growth and I am not even sure how to address this with him. Advice?

Eeewww.

“My wife and I have rules” implies … what, that if the door is closed, you and he might have a sexual encounter? Or people might think that’s happening?

Or is he one of those people who’s decided to believe that anything can put you on the wrong end of a harassment allegation “these days” and so he’d better leave the door open so you don’t accuse him of anything?

All of these are offensive and gross.

Fortunately, you don’t need to get into what his marital rules may or may not be, or what weird beliefs he might hold about how people get accused of harassment.

If he wants to leave the door open when he’s meeting with you, that’s fine — as long as he does the same thing when he’s meeting with men too. It would be sexist and discriminatory for him to allow your male colleagues to have confidential, closed door meetings with him while denying that privilege to your and your female colleagues.

If he wants to keep the door open, it needs to stay open for everyone.

So you could say something like this to him: “I thought about what you told me last week, about wanting to keep the door open when you’re meeting with women. If that’s the case, I’d ask that you do the same when you’re meeting with men, so that our male colleagues don’t have a higher level of access to you than I and other women do. I think there are real advantages to being able to talk privately — like when something is sensitive or when we’re critiquing a piece of work — but if that’s not something you’re able to do with me, we’d need to ensure there’s not a gender discrepancy in how that’s applied.”

If he balks at applying the same rules to men, that just underscores that there’s value to being able to have private meetings. If it’s a problem to deny that to the men, then by definition it’s a problem for you as well.

At that point, go to HR and use the words “gender discrimination” and “violation of Title VII” and “illegally denying women opportunities that men here receive.” If HR doesn’t resolve it with him,  an employment lawyer would undoubtedly be delighted to hear from you.

employee “likes” critical posts on LinkedIn, avoiding dog-sitting for my boss, and more

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

1. Employee keeps liking critical posts on LinkedIn

I have an employee who I am connected with on LinkedIn. I am not their direct manager, but I am the head of their department (they report directly to my boss, though). I’ve noticed often in my newsfeed that this person likes articles on LinkedIn that tend to be critical towards managers, with titles like “how to deal with a bad manager” or “5 signs that you’re ready to quit your job.”

I don’t think this employee knows that people can see everything they like on LinkedIn (personally I don’t like this feature, but I’m also very careful not to like things that can be misread by others). What’s the best way let this employee know how visible this is to others? I don’t want to assume they have intent to quit based on something as simple as LinkedIn likes, but I have to wonder if senior managers (whom we are mutually connected with) are thinking the same things as me.

I’d lean toward leaving it alone and instead just taking it as possibly useful background info that the person isn’t terribly happy in their job or with their manager. If you managed their manager, I’d start paying more attention to how this person is being managed, and see if you spotted areas where their manager might need coaching or support from you. But since they report to your boss, that’s not an option.

If you have good rapport with this person, you could possibly talk to them about how things are going, and then mention it from there. But every time I’ve tried to come up with wording for this, it has ended up sounding overly Big Brother-ish. For example, let’s say you said this: “I don’t know if you know that your activity feed on LinkedIn shows every time you ‘like’ an article. I’ve noticed you’ve liked a bunch of articles about dealing with a bad manager or signs of being ready to quit a job. I don’t want to read anything into that, but I didn’t know if you knew LinkedIn shows that activity to other people.” It sounds like you’re policing the work-related articles he reads. And although you’re not — you’re talking about perception — I think it’s going to feel like overstepping.

2. Coworker solicits sex workers on Twitter

I have a coworker who does not seem to understand that Twitter replies are public. I stumbled on their account with replies that are soliciting prostitutes and reveal they are bisexual. I’m not sure the best way to let them know what they have done without completely embarrassing them. But if I don’t say something, they could be fired over the solicitation.

This is an interesting juxtaposition with the previous question! In this case, I do think you should tip them off, if you have any amount of good will toward them. I wouldn’t assume posts revealing their bisexuality are a problem — that’s not inherently something you should assume they want to hide — but soliciting sex workers publicly generally isn’t a great career move. You could say, “I came across your Twitter account and thought you might not realize replies you send are public — they can be seen by anyone looking at your account. There’s some stuff on there that you might want to take a look at.”

3. I don’t want to dog-sit for my former boss

I recently started a new job and left behind a manager with whom I had a great relationship. Mostly. While working for her, she asked if I would watch her dog while she was out of town on business for over a week. I agreed but instantly regretted it. For one, she lived 25 minutes away from the office and asked that I also go back to the house during lunch to let the dog out (something she did every day). Then, she required that her 85-pound and very elderly dog sleep on the bed with me every night. I don’t mind the dog on the bed, but the poor thing had arthritis and flat out refused to jump up with me. I ended up sleeping on the couch in the living room with her most nights while she slept in her dog bed. The dog also would get up at 3 am to use the restroom, an activity I had to accompany her to as she had problems getting down to the yard. Finally, while my boss did pay me, it was a fraction of what I have made dog-sitting elsewhere — not to mention there was nothing added in for the extra gas I was using going back and forth multiple times a day. I never mentioned my discontentment — I mostly just wanted it to end. She asked me to dog-sit a few times after (usually just for a night or two), but I was always busy so I could say no guilt-free. I assumed once my new job began, the requests would stop.

However, she has begun reaching out and asking for dog-sitting for a variety of upcoming work friends — some many months in advance. I just plain don’t want to do it — it’s not worth my time, energy or money! Not to mention, I now live with my boyfriend and we are settling into a new house. The last thing I want to do is sleep somewhere else. I want to keep in touch with my old boss, but I just don’t know how without these requests! Every time we talk, it seems a new dog request is tied to it. I’m worried this will force me to end our personal and professional relationship. Any advice?

Just say, “I’m not dog-sitting anymore. I’m sorry I can’t help!” If you feel like you have to give more of a reason than that (although you don’t!), you can say “I’m not dog-sitting anymore now that I’ve moved in with Barnaby” or “It just got to be too much with everything else I have going on.” Say it cheerfully and matter-of-factly (not like you think you’re dealing her a devastating blow) and then pivot to a different subject. Seriously, that’s it! You’re allowed to stop dog-sitting.

4. Can I wash my face at work?

We have a bathroom on our floor that everyone uses. I start work at 6:30 and my skin usually gets oily and thirsty by about the time for my first 15-minute break. Is it cool to wash my face in the bathroom sink as long as I used scent-free wash?

You should be fine as long as you’re not splashing water all over the place (or clean it up if you do) and not making anyone wait for the sink while you languidly lather cleanser into your skin. Get in, get out, don’t leave a mess, and it shouldn’t be a big deal.

5. Do we have to be paid for “working lunches”?

I work in a university library. Our new director (here about six months) came in during the strategic planning process. While the former director did the last strategic plan themselves and imposed it on us, the new dean wants us all to participate. Which means they have been commandeering our time left and right — the time we normally spend doing our actual jobs. Which is having a bad effect on our productivity for now but may end up being worth it in the long run. Maybe.

Anyway, their latest thing is holding a lot of “working lunches.” They seem to think that if they feed us, it counts as a “lunch break” even though it *seems* to be mandatory and we are doing work. I suppose the exempt people are out of luck, but what about the non-exempts? I don’t think this is legal. If the non-exempts don’t clock out for the “working lunch” and then clock out for their break before or after, that would be okay, but I doubt that’s happening. Our HR rep hasn’t been explicit about that being what they *should* do. And if the “working lunches” are not mandatory, that hasn’t been spelled out, either.

Yes, if they’re working lunches, your non-exempt people need to be paid for that time. Work doesn’t stop being work just because you’re fed during it. They should stay clocked in during the lunches, and then take their actual break before or after. (If you’re in a state that requires a lunch break, denying them that would be illegal. State-mandated lunch breaks must be free of work. If they’re in a meeting or otherwise working during that time, that doesn’t meet the state requirement.) That’s true whether these meetings are mandatory or not. If they’re there and working, whether by choice or not, it’s legally required to be paid time.

my coworker tipped me

A reader writes:

Recently I took care of some work-related writing for a coworker. It’s definitely his job as a manager (although he’s not *my* manager), but I knocked it out in half an hour and did a much better job than he would have. He made a joke about paying me, which I laughed off. Then, when I was done, he handed me $40. I told him that was outrageous but I also accepted the cash.

Is that as weird as I think it is? Usually when I do a favor for a coworker, they say “thanks” or very occasionally buy me lunch. We’re the same age (early 30s), have known each other for like six years, and he’s never done anything like this before—and when I asked him why in the world he was paying me, he said, “to stay on your good side.” Can I keep the $40, or is there an obvious downside to this bizarro exchange that I’m missing? FWIW, he makes the kind of money where $40 isn’t a big deal, and I do not.

Agggh, I’m torn on this!

If he’d given you a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you instead, this wouldn’t feel weird. That’s a thing people sometimes do with their coworkers.

But handing you cash feels weird because … it’s cash. It’s like he tipped you, in a job where you don’t get tips. And if he did it a second time, it would start to feel like he was hiring you from his personal funds to help with his work, and that would definitely look odd to anyone who learned about it.

Logically, I can’t defend the difference. Why is a gift card so different from cash? I don’t know … but it does feel that way.

I think you’re fine this time though, especially since you laughed and told him it was outrageous (as opposed to just accepting it as your due). Mentally look at it as the equivalent of a thank-you gift card. But I’d refuse the money if he tries to do it a second time.

What do others think?

how to interview job candidates who won’t stop talking

A reader writes:

While I try to be understanding of job candidates who give five-minute responses to interview questions that should never ever take that long to answer, I just can’t get past it, and it makes me want to fidget uncomfortably.

Would it be rude to put specific time limits on their answers, like by saying, “In 90 seconds or less, please tell us how your work experience relates to this position?”

I’ve tried a lot of tactics to trim down excessively long-winded responses, like instructing candidates to be thorough yet brief in their responses and providing them with the number of questions and time constraints at the beginning of an interview and advising them to monitor their time. Some of my hiring committee members have been more cutthroat and cut off the chatty ones with a rushed, “Okay, thank you” of finality when the candidate finally takes a pause for breath. I’ve even gotten “meaner” over time by trying to convey with body language that I’m losing interest.

Unfortunately, first interviews with my employer have to be structured strictly by a script once the questions begin, so there isn’t a lot of leeway to help overly chatty candidates correct their course.

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.

I keep breaking my own heart by turning down great job offers

A reader writes:

I’m 25 and work in a very high-pressure and competitive industry. I’m trying to leave my current job for something more challenging with a better culture. Due to the nature of the job, I’ve had to turn down several of the offers I’ve had (which all would have challenged me and had a way better culture and environment) for reasons of work-life balance and salary.

Most recently I had an offer for a job that would be my childhood dream, great salary, great benefits, and great location — everything I was looking for, except they asked for regular and relatively unplanned travel (I might have had to fly cross country on one or two days notice). I have an intense phobia of flying and a lot of anxiety surrounding traveling. I’m working on that with a therapist but I didn’t feel comfortable taking it, and I cried a little bit when I called to reject the offer. I laid out my case very clearly and suggested to the hiring manager that it was best for him to fill this role with someone who would be eager to travel, not constantly dreading it, and told him I was heartbroken to reject the offer and greatly appreciated him extending it to me.

I turned down two other offers due to a combination of work-life balance and salary issues. They were both local newspapers that would require me to either live in or commute to rural areas while making from $10k to $14k less than I do now, while working long hours and doing a lot off the clock.

I’ve worked very hard to get where I am right now and get the job offers I’ve received, and I’m shocked to find myself a blubbering, agonizing mess who rejects good jobs that college me would have jumped at just because of work-life balance, then cries on the phone to hiring managers. Am I going to be okay? Is this normal at 25? My friends seem to have no problem with moving cross country for jobs (I chose after college to return to the area my family is in) and would jump at the chance to be paid to travel. Am I shooting myself in the foot?

Quality of life and pay are both excellent reasons to turn down jobs.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for turning down jobs that would fill you with constant dread, have horrendous commutes, require you to work unreasonably long hours, or underpay you. It’s completely normal — and smart — to be clear on what you want from your job and your life and say no to jobs that aren’t in line with that.

The are two caveats here. One is that you’ve got to balance what you want against your financial situation. If you’re in dire financial need, you probably can’t be as selective; there comes a point where the financial math may dictate that you need to take what you can get, at least for the time being. But you’re currently working, so as long as your job is still bearable and not awful for your mental or physical health, you’re probably not at that point.

You also need to be brutally honest with yourself about what your options are — particularly in your field. If the norms in the field you want to work in are frequent travel, long hours, and/or low pay, you’ve got to decide if you’re willing to accept those things or if you should be targeting a different type of work. Sometimes those things are the reality of a field only at first — you have to put up with them for a few years when you’re getting started, but then you graduate out of them — and sometimes they’re the reality pretty much always.

But if those things aren’t inherent to jobs in your field, then you just got offered a few jobs that aren’t what you’re looking for and you turned them down. Which makes sense! That’s how it’s supposed to work.

You say that college-you would have jumped at these jobs. College-you didn’t have as nuanced a sense of what makes a job worth doing or what will impact current-you’s quality of life in significant ways. You’ve probably also turned down other things that college-you would have jumped at (romantic partners? crop tops?). That’s normal and fine! You’ve refined your sense of what you want.

Speaking of romantic partners, you know how people sometimes say things like “my partner is great except for his terrible temper” or “my partner is great except she’s poisoning my food”? And you’re thinking “your partner is not great”?

This is the same thing. These aren’t great jobs if they include things that are major dealbreakers for you.

As long as you’re being realistic about whether the things you want are out there (i.e., you’re not looking for a crisis communications job where you’ll never work after 5), deciding “nope, this job isn’t for me” is a normal and expected part of thoughtful job hunting. Don’t feel guilty for that — feel good about it.

do I have to go to my boss’s son’s wedding, I manage a habitual phone checker, and more

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

1. Do I have to go to my boss’s son’s wedding?

My boss’s son (who is my coworker) is getting married next year. I hate weddings, am not particularly fond of this coworker, and am a pretty shy person and a large wedding where I won’t know many people sounds terrible to me. Our office is very close knit (less than a dozen employees who have worked for our boss for, on average, several decades) so it WILL be noticed and commented on the weeks leading up to the wedding and post wedding if I don’t go. Should I suck it up and go anyway?

Nah. This isn’t like attending one lunch for someone — weddings often mean giving up an entire weekend day, or at least many hours. Come up with a conflict that allows you to say something like, “I wish I could, but my family reunion is that weekend and I’d never hear the end of it if I missed it.”

If you feel guilty about that, tell yourself that your boss’s son deserves to be surrounded by people who like him on his wedding day and who are genuinely happy to be there (rather than attending as a work obligation)! It’s more than okay for you to politely bow out with a date conflict and just send a nice card.

2. Should I include my photo in my email signature?

Is it unprofessional to include a photo in your email signature? I used to think it was, but now I’m feeling like it is needed. As my career has matured, I am now working with people all over country via email, and then meeting them in person at conventions and annual meetings. Often, I feel like people are surprised by my age (I’m younger than most at my level in my industry), and are not able too match my name with my face. Is this unprofessional? I see a small portion of my contacts doing this, but it is definitely not the majority. I would, of course, use my professional headshot. What is your take?

If you’re the only one in your company doing it, it’s probably going to come across a little strangely (assuming you’d be using it internally as well). If other people there do it, then sure, you’re fine.

I was apparently staunchly opposed to this when I answered a letter about it in 2011 and again in 2014. So either I have mellowed as I aged or it’s common enough now that it no longer raises my hackles. It’s a thing people do now! So be it, as long as you’re not the only one in your company doing it.

3. I manage a habitual phone checker

One of the people I supervise is a good, solid employee. He does his work on time and to deadline, juggles multiple projects, and supervises some temporary workers. I have no complaints! However, I have noticed multiple times that he has a terrible habit of being on his phone during larger presentations and trainings (say, more than 40-50 people, sometimes more like 80-100, not like a staff meeting). On both recent occasions I clocked him looking down at his phone, scrolling, or reading on his phone more than half of the time. The most recent time, I even checked my watch (it was bugging me a bit, and I recognize there’s a feeling of annoyance that might be clouding my judgment, which is partly why I’m so torn about saying something) and it was more than half the time. And this was in a fairly small room, about 30 people in total, in the front and center. (And just to note, he in no way has responsibilities that are vast or time-sensitive enough to not be able to take an hour or two to step away from their phone.)

Doing this in no way is impacting his work. But I personally think it’s rude and it’s not how I personally want to conduct myself at work. For people who might notice it, it looks bad and reflects badly on him. I’m not sure if it reflects badly on our team as a whole.

I am his supervisor but I don’t really take on much in way of “mentoring” for him. (I would consider this conversation to be more of a mentoring conversation than a work performance conversation, because it’s absolutely not.) But our office is pretty conservative, and I know that if one of my supervisors or the big boss noticed, they would not be pleased. Finally, I think this person is very interested in advancing in his career, so I think there might be a way to frame it as, this might make you look bad and is easy to avoid. So really, I don’t know if I should say something (and if so, what?) or keep my mouth shut and know that this adult human is making choices at work but outside of his work performance so it’s not anything I need to stick my nose into. What should I do?

Say something.

You’re making too much of the distinction between managing and mentoring. Managing well means you’ll need to have conversations with people beyond just their work product — you’ll need to talk to them at times about impressions they’re giving off or their relationships with others and so forth. While mentors might do that too, it’s also part of managing. So this is very much in your purview, and in fact I’d argue you have an obligation as his manager to let him know when he’s repeatedly doing something that will affect how he’s seen by others. (Frankly, even if that weren’t the concern, you’d also have standing to just tell him you want him paying attention in these meetings, since that’s why he’s there.)

4. My employee plans time off at the last minute, and I’m worried I’m taking all the good dates

I’m a reasonably new middle manager with three direct reports, one who is experienced and two who are new. We have very generous PTO at our company and I am responsible for approving vacation requests for our team. We’re not supposed to deny vacation requests unless there is an operational requirement that trumps the PTO. On our team, the way this works out is that, the experienced employee and myself need to avoid overlapping our time off, in order to provide support and mentorship to our new hires.

I make several trips to my home country each year. Because of this, I plan my vacation many months ahead to take advantage of flight deals and make plans with family and friends. My experienced employee is not a planner. She prefers to decide at the very last minute and requests vacation time accordingly. I have changed plans twice since July (fortunately prior to booking flights) to accommodate her requests. After one particularly last-minute request for time off, I told her directly that she needs to get better at planning ahead, but she just laughed and said that’s not how she rolls.

I feel like it is my responsibility to ensure my staff have the opportunity to use all of the vacation they are entitled to, and to pick up the slack when needed to support my team. However, since I plan so much further ahead, if I request my vacation ahead of this staff member, she will have to plan her vacation around my already approved time off. She also struggles to use up her vacation days more than I do, and I can see this becoming even more of an issue if I request first (vacation is use it or lose it and is not paid out at year end). If I don’t, I risk not being able to take the trips I want to take, or having to pay double the price I could be paying. Do you have any suggestions on how to make this work?

Ask her if she minds! Say something like, “I tend to book my vacation many months ahead, and I know you prefer to plan closer to when you’d like to be off. I’m concerned that ends up giving me first dibs on dates and you’re stuck working around my time off. Does that concern you too, or does it not bother you? Would you like me to give you a heads-up about the dates I’m planning before I book them so you have a chance to tell me if it conflicts with your own plans?” That way you’re at least giving her the opportunity to speak up. If she chooses not to after you’ve explicitly given her the chance, then I don’t think you need to worry about it. She’ll know the trade-off for planning last-minute is that you might have gotten there first, and she’ll know that you tried to mitigate that for her.

If you do this, you shouldn’t feel you need to change your plans to accommodate her last-minute requests (unless that’s very easy to do). And it should help if there’s a central place where your team can see each other’s scheduled time off, which you can ask her to consult when planning her own.

It’s also reasonable to sit down with her in, say, August and say, “You’ve got three weeks of vacation to use this year and nothing on the calendar, so let’s figure out good times for you to take it so you don’t lose it at the end of the year.”

5. Reviews are being delayed — which means so are raises

I’m in SAAS sales in the Silicon Valley. Year-end reviews are being pushed out as we just “don’t have time for them.” This is the third year in a row. There is no back pay for reviews being pushed out once they do happen. Am I wrong in being a bit annoyed at this, as I feel I am missing income potential as a high performer hoping to receive a raise?

You can still ask for a raise now, rather than waiting for your review to happen! And if your manager tells you to hold the request until review time, you can say, “Since reviews are getting so delayed and we haven’t done back pay with raises from delayed reviews in the past, I’d like to be able to make my case now.”

weekend free-for-all — October 12-13, 2019

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: Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes. A recent widow whose grief is complicated gets to know a baseball player whose arm stopped working and things must be worked out. It’s a little light and fluffy, and sometimes that is exactly what you want.