updates: the false affair rumor, the coworker ripping artwork down, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My employee started a false rumor that two coworkers were having an affair

When Emily (manager) told me what had happened I did ask her how she wanted to handle it. We discussed our options and decided it was just time for Jane to go. She had gossip issues in the past that she was disciplined for. We knew it would take a bit of time to manage her out but that was the plan.

Because this was urgent, I spoke to Jane (the trouble maker) the very next day and said similar things to what Alison recommended. I don’t interact daily with Emily’s team as I have other locations I am responsible for, but I have a reputation for generally being easy going. I think when I spoke to Jane she was surprised at how matter of fact and assertive I was, there was no friendly banter. I told her that what she had done was completely unacceptable and that her behavior would not be allowed in the office. I discussed with her how rumors of this nature can destroy reputations and careers and Emily and I no longer trusted her. I did tell her that she had a long uphill battle of gaining trust back in the office and that all the effort in the world may never result in trust being restored. She was upset at this point, not angry (which is what I expected) but she was crying (not at all what I expected). I asked her if she thought she felt she could earn back the trust that was broken and if she felt she could move forward. She said she had been looking at other jobs and said that “maybe she should quit”. I told her that would be up to her but I encouraged her to do so. She decided that would be best. I wasn’t interested in having her work her last two weeks, so I had her write a letter of resignation, let her gather her things and that was that. I did process her out as though she gave two weeks so she wouldn’t lose all her vacation time that we pay out when proper notice is given. I thought for sure she would be combative in the meeting and I thought she would argue with me, I was surprised by the outcome but glad I didn’t have to go through the couple week process of managing her out officially.

I found out Jane got a new job a couple weeks later… as a manager. Maybe someday “Ask A Manager” will get a letter from one of her new team members about their less than stellar boss. No one ever called to ask for a reference so let that be a lesson.

After a couple of months, we heard from another staff member that Jane was telling people how angry she was that when she said she would quit that we didn’t try to talk her out of it. She didn’t understand why we just let her go.

2. My coworker is changing her appearance to match mine and rips my work off the walls when she’s mad

I have kind of a bittersweet update to my Therese saga, but I wanted to share it because you and your readers were so helpful and deserve to know: I was just laid off due to budget cuts, and won’t be back at my school next year.

I’m still kind of reeling because, up until the layoff conversation, my boss has implied that I would be safe. It was definitely a shock, but I guess that solves the Therese problem for me, so there’s a silver lining.

Thank you everyone for your advice and concern. Here’s to a new adventure.

Update to the update:

Luckily I did find something else, and have a contract at a district a ways away for the next school year. All’s well that ends well!

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

We’ve been back in the office for a month, so I’ve finally talked to some of my team about our old director. There is a big AAM style red flag and some updates:

I saw the resume she gave when she applied. It was bad. Like 2.25 pages long with 10 point font and 6-12 bullet points under every job she had had going back over 15 years. She had a pop-out section for her skills that was just different non-branded icons labeled as apps like “Outlook. It took up like 20% of the first page. I said that I probably wouldn’t even interview someone who sent in that resume, and my coworkers who interviewed her were like “yeeeeah, it’s now a pretty obvious sign she was a bad pick.”

Apparently, I am just about the only person who didn’t go to HR to file a complaint about her! The only other people who didn’t were her favorites who she had secret end of day calls with, which they hated but didn’t know how to get out of. The HR complaints started within her first two months and continued until the end. Also she badmouthed us to other teams all the time for her entire tenure. At first, our colleagues were like “wow? I always liked your team, that’s surprising!” and then after a few weeks they were saying, “hey, if they’re so bad at their jobs, why don’t you help them because you’re their director?” All her peers and managers also thought she was incredibly ineffective and manipulative. She would lie to people constantly and get caught! And keep doing it! The kiss of death was probably her trying to suck up to our CEO and then trying her bad behavior on his wife’s team. That is an instant three strikes where we work.

I’ll probably learn even more when the whole team can be in one room, but it sounds like our antipathy was entirely reasonable.

By the way, I loved that the comment section was so split between “this is so terrible to do” and “this is so meaningless to do.” Sometimes when you get a split reaction I think it means you’ve found the perfect middle ground. I’ve still never seen her in person, but I’ve been cc’d on emails with her in passing. If I ever meet her… we’ll see what happens.

4. My job search after grad school has been soul-crushing

So I ended up not getting offered the job, and I’m not going to lie, I was a little bitter! Even though it definitely wasn’t my dream job, it was a job I could have honestly done in my sleep, and I was annoyed that I didn’t get an offer. Writing it out it sounds presumptuous, and I know I’m not owed anything, but it was definitely frustrating. Maybe I shouldn’t have jinxed myself so publicly by writing in with my question :)

HOWEVER, I did find out while waiting to hear back from that job (and right around when you posted my question) that I was a finalist for a very well-regarded and competitive fellowship program! I ended up accepting a position through the fellowship and started this past week.

It’s so cliché, but as many commenters said, things really did work out for the absolute best. The fellowship program is an amazing opportunity, the position I have is something that I’m really interested in, and I get to take advantage of my degree and actually challenge myself. I will be doing really cool, impactful work that will give me amazing experience, in addition to the boost that the fellowship will give my resume. I also get to be remote for the foreseeable future even though the job is based across the country, so no uprooting needed mid-pandemic. Had I been offered and accepted the other job, I likely would have left very quickly for this opportunity, which is probably a no-brainer for me but wouldn’t have looked great to my other professional contacts locally (it’s all very tight-knit and word travels fast).

All in all, I’m thrilled with where I ended up! It feels disingenuous to say “don’t give up, everything works out eventually!” to people who are in the same position I was in very recently, because I know exactly how hard and miserable it is to be financially struggling and demoralized during a recession/pandemic/global crisis. But between my job success and vaccines becoming more widely available, it does feel like there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s hoping other people will start to see it soon too.

5. I think my coworker is job searching — should I tell our new boss? (#2 at the link)

I wrote in a while back after realizing that a coworker, Toby, was job searching, and my nervousness about my department’s ability to manage through the workload if he left. Some commenters (correctly) pointed out that my frustration was from being understaffed and needing more resources. So, this problem shouldn’t be Toby-specific, departments need to be prepared for employee turnover, and I shouldn’t be a tattletale.

I chose to keep all of the Toby information to myself; I didn’t let Toby know that I received a recruiter email with his info on it (I thought it would make things awkward between us, plus either no one else received it or the damage was already done), and I didn’t tell anyone else.

Fast forward to today; Toby is still with the company and seems more engaged than ever. He’s volunteering for extra projects and has really taken on quite a bit. However, our workload increased even more, to the point where it became unmanageable with my personal obligations (working 7am-8pm, plus weekends, several weeks per month). I started to look for something else and took an internal opportunity in another department. I am SO happy with my move. I worked with my former boss along the way so he had a chance to plan for the change as much as possible, but my former department is understaffed, scrambling to meet objectives, and working very long hours. I do not envy their predicament, and it’s what I expected to happen if Toby had left. So basically, I became Toby.

my employee says I can’t stop her from leaving work early

A reader writes:

I’m a new manager at a company. The office manager, who is salaried, is continually leaving early by 30-40 minutes a day and leaves at 2 on Fridays. It’s making the owner crazy. I’ve told her that although she is salaried, that salary is based on a 40-hour work week. Her response is that as a salaried employee she can leave early every day and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That can be true, can it?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • A hiring manager chastised me for using his personal email address
  • Telling an interviewer the job expectations aren’t realistic
  • I feel bad that I’m the second choice for a job offer
  • Explaining I was laid off after two months

is this job description full of red flags?

A reader writes:

I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully.

At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a tremendous fit. We had two good calls and were planning for a third with people on his team. Everything seemed to align to what I want next in my career.

After a month of radio silence, today at 2 am, George sent two follow-up emails apologizing for the delay. He also included the job description. Some of the language is troubling:

1) Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost

2) Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need)

I’ve managed and suffered through unreasonable expectations at another company, so #1 raises serious concerns about work/life balance and boundaries.

As for #2, while I have a full life, I also like camaraderie with coworkers. Having worked remotely for the last 14 months and in another role some years back, I know what works and what’s possible when it comes to bonding with teammates.

I asked for clarification and some context, but I’m inclined to bow out of further consideration. Either George means what he wrote (scary!) or lacks the empathy and insight to write a more welcoming and respectful job description. It also makes me wonder what the culture is really like. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Run for the hills!

These are both troubling in different ways, and taken together they add up to a big flashing danger sign that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take #1 first. “Lives up to verbal and written agreements” is such a basic expectation of any job that it’s weird that he feels he needs to include it. Usually when you see something so basic in a job description, it’s there because the manager had employees previously who didn’t do it … and “regardless of personal costs” gives us a big clue as to why. Of course any conscientious employee will try to live up to verbal and written agreements. But sometimes things come up that mean those agreements need to change — someone gets sick so they can’t meet a deadline, or they have a family emergency so they can’t staff an event they’d planned to be at, or they realize that fulfilling the original agreement will require them working 60-hour weeks and they’re not up for doing that so they want to revisit what’s realistic.

Someone who thinks “you must do what you agree to, regardless of personal cost” is someone who lacks a basic understanding of how humans work and how life works, and who doesn’t even realize he’s advertising that he’ll be a nightmare to work for. He feels that “regardless of personal cost” is reasonable. (In fact, if I know this type, he probably thinks he should take pride in his high standards for others.)

Then there’s #2: “Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need).” This is another one that sounds like it was born from an experience he didn’t like — like that he had an employee who was overly social at the expense of their job or other people’s work. And that happens! But a reasonable manager trusts themselves to handle that effectively if it comes up again, by talking to the person about the issue and helping them recalibrate their lines between “normal human warmth” and “behavior that’s disrupting the office.”

Or maybe I’m interpreting it wrong and it just means “you won’t be around other people in this job, so you have to be okay with that.” But if that’s what he means, there are far more straightforward ways to say that, ones that don’t sound like he’s implicitly criticizing people who appreciate having some degree of human connection with their colleagues. I’d be interested to know what he says about it in response to your questions! I’m more willing to believe this one is just artless wording than I am with #1, but when you take the two in combination together, it doesn’t paint a great picture.

Ultimately, I think you’re exactly right: Either he means precisely what he wrote, or he lacks the empathy to understand why his framing would be off-putting. My guess is both. Either way, you’re getting valuable info about what it would be like to work for him.

telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you, my mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously, and more

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

1. Telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you

I’m asking this on behalf of a friend. She recently applied for a new position and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, but she ultimately did not get the job.

She told me that she was asked why she wanted the job, and her response was, “God told me it’s time for me to move on, and that this is the right job for me.” My friend is a very religious person, and she genuinely believes this to be true. I asked her if she gave any other reasons, but she said no, she did not need any reasons other than God’s direction.

I’m wondering if this response hurt her in the process. To be clear, this interview was for a private, secular company and not a place where an answer like this may be more expected.

Should my friend not have said that God told her this was her job? Or is it okay that she said it, but should she have given some more reasons too? I’m trying to help her out for interviews in the future, but she doesn’t see anything wrong with the answer she gave.

Yeah, it’s pretty likely that this hurt her! It’s not that she needs to hide that she’s a religious person, but she missed the point of the question. The interviewer wants to know why she wants this particular job — does it fit in with a particular career goal she’s working toward, is she excited about the opportunity to do X, is it work she loved in the past and wants to get back to, etc.? She may be willing to take God’s word for it that it’s the ideal job for her, but her answer seems to expect the interviewer to take God’s word for it too … and that’s the problem.

2. My mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously

I’ve been mentoring a young woman, “Clarissa,” from a rough home since she was age 20, she’s now 25 (I am 37 and have achieved success in my field). It’s about half life mentoring (very absent parents) and half work mentoring. Clarissa has a lot of health issues, both mental and physical. In fact, we met in a local support group for mental health.

I haven’t seen Clarissa except outside since the pandemic hit because she has not taken the pandemic very seriously. She has ignored lockdown rules, invited guests against the legal guidelines, continued her normal routine, using public transit even at the highest numbers, and just generally isn’t very cautious.

Clarissa misses me, horribly. She has invited herself over many times during the pandemic (we used to go out to lunch or dinner maybe once a month, and she would hang out here regularly too) since dining has been closed where I am. I have declined everything she has suggested except video meets because I am extremely concerned about catching Covid as an immunocompromised individual (my doctor told me to be incredibly cautious). I have told her this dozens of times and she continues to ask, partially because her memory is poor due to her health conditions.

Everyone is getting their vaccines now, and Clarissa seems to think that this will result in me being comfortable around her again. Sadly, it is not the case. She is simply not careful enough.

I don’t know how to explain that I can’t see her unless she is more careful — but the fact is, I don’t think I’d believe her if she told me she was more careful. She has severe impulse control issues and frankly I just don’t think she has it in her to abstain.

Clarissa is like a little sister to me at this point, but I value my health more. What do I do?

I don’t think you need to get into whether she’s being careful enough. You can simply say that you won’t be able to meet in person this year at all because you’re immunocompromised, period. It sounds like you’ll need to keep saying it because she doesn’t remember, but it’s easier to keep repeating “I can’t meet up in person because of my health” than it would be to repeatedly give her an assessment of her own risk-taking.

3. Hiring a friend’s employee

One of my friend’s employees wants to work for my company. My HR department extended an offer and this person accepted. Can I contact my friend and let him know before his employee gives their resignation to give a courtesy heads-up?

Please don’t. They should get to deliver the news of their own resignation themselves. You telling their boss first would undermine that professional relationship and possibly cause problems you don’t know about. I get that it feels awkward to hire away someone who’s working for a friend — but this person is a free agent and you can’t manage the situation for them. You can talk with your friend afterwards, but let the employee deliver the news first.

4. Is my manager changing?

My company emails lists of paperwork due each month which includes (though isn’t exclusively) who has performance evaluations due. There are two supervisors who are primarily responsible for the department I work in. Historically I have reported to Thomas. The most recent listing shows Alice is my supervisor. I haven’t been told that my supervisor has changed. How do I bring this up and do I bring it up to Thomas or Alice?

Thomas. Say this: “This latest email lists Alice as my manager rather than you. Is that a mistake, or am I moving to her?” In other words, you can just ask straight-out! It doesn’t need to be approached delicately, just matter-of-factly like anything else that was important and unclear.

5. Requiring cover letters when some people don’t send them

We’re hiring for a role that is very writing/communication focused, and we requested a cover letter with the resume. I know that candidates are seeing the job on various external sites and some of them autoformat or send in resumes created by those sites, but only about half actually followed the instructions and included cover letters. My colleague wants to disqualify everyone who didn’t send one in, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least for two of the applicants who actually seem like a good fit. How would you handle it? Should we send a follow-up email asking for a cover letter or why they are applying for the job? We do need someone who can follow instructions so I see where my colleague is coming from, but on the other hand, I’d hate to lose out on good candidates just because they applied through Indeed or something.

You can’t do an initial screening of applicants for a writing-focused job without seeing a cover letter (or a writing sample, but in this case you’ve asked for a cover letter). If you want, you can write back and say, “We’re asking all candidates to submit a cover letter and would be happy to consider your application once we receive that” … but it’s pretty reasonable, with a writing-focused job in particular, to just focus on the candidates who sent in what you asked for, assuming you have good candidates who did.

updates: the hidden breast milk, the wedding chaos, and more

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

1. My coworker asked me to hide my breast milk because she doesn’t like seeing it in the office fridge

I followed your advice initially and let my coworker know that I just didn’t feel comfortable keeping my milk hidden. I thought we had worked it out but it got brought up again and the next conversation we had left a bad taste in my mouth.

At that point I contacted my supervisor, and I told her that it was getting to the point where I felt harassed. In her mind, I needed to be more considerate of people who aren’t comfortable with the sight of breast milk whereas I felt like her feelings of discomfort were hers to deal with and there’s just nothing unusual about breast milk in an office fridge.

My boss reviewed the policy in our company which said “nursing employees may bring their own cooler or use a designated fridge if available.”. Ultimately, she ordered a mini fridge for breast milk but I did offer my opinion that a fridge is a basic amenity that the company should commit to making available for nursing employees. After all, no one else has to bring their lunch in a personal cooler. She passed that onto upper management and HR but I don’t think the policy had changed.

This is really an important issue for a lot of working women. It’s great that the law requires employers to give nursing employees the time and space to pump but without a place to store the milk or their pumping components it can make it impractical for some women.

Thanks for your suggestions.

2. If the caterer mentions my mom at my dad’s wedding, all hell will break loose (#2 at the link)

The wedding has happened.

Thanks to your response, I quickly wrote the caterers an email and got a wonderful reply. My tone was like “yeah, this is just not a good idea to mention, oh, and here’s an update.” I’m also glad I emailed because my sibling has changed names and wanted them to be aware.

Someone said in the comments something about it being not as bad or similar to someone faking being straight in order to keep the peace at a wedding. Well, we actually had that situation, too.

Overall, this is a super uneventful update because nothing bad happened, for which I am eternally grateful. My dad and his new wife are happy, I’m happy for them, the worst thing that happened for anyone depended on how you feel about mask wearing, and it was a beautiful day.

Thanks again for your advice.

(And yes, I saw that red flag, too. There are many more.)

3. Great new hire has terrible internet (#3 at the link)

Unfortunately, my company wouldn’t cover the cost of an upgrade, so I had a direct (but understanding) conversation with him at our 1 on 1 where I highlighted that his internet speed was impacting our ability to be a functional team and recommended a few local providers that could be affordable options for him to look at. It was a surprisingly easy conversation to have because he had just been putting off upgrading his internet–there just hadn’t been an urgent need before our conversation. We spoke on a Friday and by the following Monday he upgraded his internet to a faster speed with their same provider. We haven’t had connectivity issues since and I’m really enjoying having him being a part of my team!

4. Asking my old job for their work templates (#4 at the link)

You previously answered my question about asking my old job for their consulting templates. Before writing, I tried to recreate them off memory but couldn’t remember the entire thing and thought mine looked too simplistic. After your answer, I researched industry best practices, applied them to fit my new company, and managed to make a template I’m happy with. It has already helped me organize my projects in a way that is getting recognition within my department.

What reminded me to write an update is I actually just found half of a ripped paper with the first part of the original template, and everything I would need from it is also on the one I recreated. I’m guessing the part that got torn off is also very similar to mine. It was nice to get some proof to counter my insecurities about knowing what I’m doing.

how is the return to work supposed to work, exactly?

As a work-advice columnist, I’ve been able to track the evolution of the pandemic through my email: In the spring of last year, I was flooded with questions about companies that weren’t keeping people safe, the adjustment to working from home, and dealing with furloughs. Then it was coworkers who wouldn’t wear masks or keep their distance, along with frustrations over endless Zoom meetings and how to work with young kids around. And now my inbox is changing again, as offices that went remote last year increasingly start to bring employees back on-site and people begin thinking about how their returns will work.

At New York Magazine today, I answered a bunch of the questions I’ve been getting about the return to offices — about dealing with coworkers who you no longer respect because of their behavior this past year, about bras, about not wanting to go back at all, and more. Head over there to read it.

I’m worried my new hire won’t fit into our very liberal — and vocal — team

A reader writes:

I work in marketing as a creative director for a large brokerage firm in a very religious/conservative state. The past couple of years have been difficult with the previous White House administration — it’s affected our business substantially and has created a lot of volatility within our office. With political tensions still running high, it’s left our department in a delicate position as we’re supposed to remain neutral to all facets of our company (of which, there are many). The past four years have put a palpable strain on a lot of working relationships and we’ve found it can be especially difficult to work with some people, especially after you realize they’re not who you thought they were.

Having said that, I have an incredible team of three creatives who are very politically opinionated and don’t hold back when it comes to expressing how they feel. They’re usually pretty good about keeping those types of discussions quiet and within our department, so I’ve not had to worry about confrontation or offending anyone. Additionally, we have excellent personal and working relationships with one another, probably because we all share similar viewpoints on many (if not most) political issues, and have supported each other during the darkest of times.

For the past two months, we’ve been desperately searching for a new graphic designer that can handle the pressure, workload, and conservative environment. We’ve finally interviewed a young man who I think would be a great candidate. However … looking over his Facebook page, I am concerned he may not fit in with my team’s outspoken liberal-democratic, agnostic, feminist, anti-capitalist (and the list goes on) views. I’m especially worried about my editor. With the past four years being what they were, she is still on fire and would rather die on whatever hill she’s battling that day than let someone (especially a new guy) get away with saying something she doesn’t agree with. It’s exhausting, to be honest. And despite our many attempts at talking with her about this issue, she just can’t help herself. I know that whoever we hire will, at some point, say something to light her fuse and it will be hellfire for everyone.

I am concerned about how to appropriately broach the topic with my team and/or the new hire. I know we all agree on the same issues, and up until now, it’s not been a problem to speak openly. But times are changing and we need to be more open/welcoming to those who differ from ourselves, especially in our department. Is there a way to ask my team to keep their opinions to themselves, at least long enough to let the new guy settle in? What can I do to make the new person more comfortable when they start? Can I warn him, or my team, in some way without planting negative, pre-conceived notions? I am so overwhelmed with projects right now and am desperate for a new employee. We’ve been looking for a qualified person for a long time and we finally have a promising lead; I don’t want to scare him off before he even starts. I also don’t want to give my team the impression that the new hire “doesn’t think like us” and it becomes an awkward team dynamic where people feel like they can’t say what they think, or our work and inter-departmental relationships suffer. Can you help me?!

I think you needed to warn this guy before he accepted the job.

Put yourself in his shoes: How would you feel if you ended up in a job surrounded by highly vocal, opinionated people with politics opposite to yours and who would “rather die” than keep quiet about their views? You’d presumably be pretty miserable, right? You might end up quickly looking to leave. You definitely wouldn’t be happy you’d taken the job.

For that matter, I think you’d need to warn any new hire even if they were politically identical to you. A lot of people who share your politics would still find the environment you describe exhausting and wouldn’t want to work in it. (I wouldn’t want to.)

I know the horse is already out of the barn but: It was a mistake to allow your team’s culture to develop this way. It means you’re going to have trouble incorporating anyone new who doesn’t share your politics, as well as anyone who does but still doesn’t want to work in an environment where people are talking about politics all day … which covers the vast, vast majority of people.

You’ve created a very specific culture that will be an active turn-off for most people … and which sounds like it might not be working for your current staff either, given that you describe one person’s behavior as “exhausting” and you’re worried about hellfire. I’d be curious to know whether either of your other two staffers are privately fed up with this but don’t feel they can do anything about it.

And to be clear, teams develop specific cultures all the time. You can’t avoid having some sort of culture. But when it’s one that will drive off large numbers of people and doesn’t have anything to do with supporting the actual work you’re doing (if anything, it’s likely distracting from the work), you’ve got to step back and ask if it’s justifiable or not.

There might be times that it is! If you work in a field where you have no trouble attracting qualified applicants and where the intense politics talk is a draw to enough of the people you want to hire, rather than a turn-off, and if the management above you has no problem with you screening for hires who will be happy in that culture … then it’s more your call to make. I’d still predict it would come back to bite you at some point, although companies develop unusual cultures that work for them all the time. But none of that sounds like the case here — you are having trouble finding hires, the behavior has been enough of a problem that you’ve had to have multiple conversations about stopping it, and since you note that your team is “supposed to remain neutral,” I’m betting your management wouldn’t be thrilled about what’s going on.

You wrote that you don’t want a dynamic where people feel like they can’t say what they think … but most people do some self-editing while they’re at work because they’re there to get a job done, not to express every political thought they have. I don’t want to ignore that what’s “political” can be in the eye of the beholder, and blanket bans on political talk can end up feeling like an endorsement of the status quo … but your work environment has gone far, far beyond that. It’s reasonable to expect people to focus primarily on work.

This also isn’t just about your team needing to be more open to different opinions. Most people don’t want to be around regular political rants, even if the ranter is “open” to different views. Most people just don’t want that at work, period. (And also — how open do you want to be really? What if it turns out the new guy loves an aggressive debate and his viewpoints are deeply repugnant to the rest of you? You can’t silence one person while letting the others continue, you team dynamics will be a disaster, and everyone will go home with headaches every day.)

So where does that leave you, in practical terms? I’m worried the answer is: in a really bad spot. You can tell your team that things have gotten out of control and the political talk needs to stop, especially now that a new person is coming in. You can share that it’s exhausting and distracting. And you can be deliberate about shutting it down every time it starts. Maybe that’ll work. It’s your best option so if it does work, great. But given what you’ve said about the editor who “would rather die on whatever hill she’s battling that day than let someone get away with saying something she doesn’t agree with” and how she’s already ignored multiple attempts to contain her, I’m not sure it will. And if it doesn’t, you’ll have to decide how far you’re willing to go. If the choice is between keeping her versus being able to hire anyone new (or having new hires be miserable), which will you pick? Because it sounds really likely that it’s going to come down to that.

my manager is annoyed with my days off, missing work because “something came up,” and more

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

1. My manager is annoyed that I keep getting Saturdays off

I work on a production line. It is difficult for me to work Saturdays as my wife works a weekend shift and childcare is hard to find on the weekends. My job is supposed to be (and was when I was hired 10 years ago) Monday through Friday, but over several years they have added 10-15 Saturdays a year.

I discovered three years ago that if I look at our company’s warehouse shipping/receiving database, which I have access to through the intranet to order parts for my line, I can see what Saturdays we are working weeks in advance. If I see an outbound shipment for the item my line makes on a Saturday, it means we will be scheduled for production that Saturday.

We are required to request vacation at least two weeks in advance of the day(s) we want off. So when I see a Saturday work day, two weeks and one day ahead of it I request that Friday off (then you also get Saturday off as it isn’t a normal scheduled work day) and have always gotten it off. The production schedule our team sees is only one week out, too late to request a vacation day if you see we are working a Saturday and want it off.

My supervisor discovered that I haven’t worked a Saturday in three years and has been tracking my vacation requests and put it together that if I request a Friday off, two weeks later we are working a Saturday. She asked (several times) how I know when we are working a Saturday and I say “lucky guess.” I can tell that this REALLY irritates her.

I found out through my brother-in-law, who works in IT for the same company, that my supervisor put in a request for them to review my computer history as she felt I was accessing “inappropriate“ content. Of course they found nothing and my brother-in-law’s boss was somewhat pissed when he found out why my supervisor wanted this done and wasted a bunch of their hours going through my computer files.

My supervisor is now hanging around my work station a whole lot more; she is always walking by and stopping to “check in.” I caught her hiding behind another machine near mine so she could see what was up on my computer screen. She has also asked me to stay logged in under my name to save time when she occasionally covers for me for my breaks (to check my search history?) and of course I don’t as it is against company policy. I now access the outbound page when I know she is at a staff meeting.

It has become frustrating with her constantly hovering over/around me. She is my supervisor so I guess she can but it is making me very nervous being constantly watched. I really don’t want to give up my “secret” as then everybody will do what I am doing and I will start working Saturdays. Can I file a harassment claim against my boss for her actions? Other thoughts?

No, this isn’t harassment in the legal sense (that would need to be based on your race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected class). But it is bad management. If she wants to require you to work some Saturdays, she just needs to tell you that you need to work some Saturdays. If she doesn’t trust you to do that without oversight, she could stop approving your Friday-off requests, since she’s figured out that they’re tied to the Saturdays you want off. I’m not sure why she’s not doing that and instead is spending all this time lurking around you.

On your side, though, wouldn’t it make sense to just talk to her about the Saturday work requirement? Ideally from the start you would have explained that you were hired to work weekdays, have child care commitments on the weekends, and aren’t available to work on Saturdays. It’s going to be harder to do that now because it sounds like it’s turned into a battle of wills between the two of you, but at some point she’s going to figure out a way to block what you’ve been doing, and then you’ll have to have that conversation anyway (or find an alternative for weekend child care).

2. New employee missed fourth day of work, saying “something came up”

I had a new employee start on a Tuesday. That Friday, I woke up to a text from my new hire from the night before, saying that she would not be in on Friday, that something had come up and she would see me on Monday.

This is an in-person job in a corporate environment. It is my first time managing within a corporate environment; my previous management stints were in an environment with labor conditions and expectations that would not fly in a well-run corporate setting. But in my former life, to call off meant you were literally dying or in jail and you would divulge that when you called (I don’t like or agree with this). I fully respect a person’s right to take a sick day and I feel nobody is obligated to share personal details, but I also don’t feel like “something came up” quite cuts it. Especially on what would be your fourth day on the job.

I’m looking for some guidance on where to set my expectations (regardless of this person working out or not). Am I out of line to feel “something came up” feels inadequate when calling out?

You’re not wrong! “Something came up” is strangely cavalier. “I’m sick” or “I have a family emergency” (without giving details beyond that) would both be fine, but “something came up” sounds like it could be “my sister called and I feel like talking to her” or “someone invited me to play tetherball.” It also sounds like she doesn’t think calling out on her fourth day of work is a big deal, when that’s normally something people would really try to avoid unless they truly couldn’t.

“Something came up” might be fine from a longer-time employee who had a track record of reliability (although it would still be kind of weird), but it’s pretty alarming from someone in their first week.

3. Other managers say I should answer calls on my days off

I am a new supervisor (one year) with my state government (but have over 25 years of service with them). The other supervisors in my department feel the need to coach me and told me that even on my days off, I should let my employees know that I am available to them. When I attempted to set boundaries by saying that when I am off, I am usually with my grandchildren, one supervisor responded that she has 10 grandchildren and still makes herself available when she is with them. Well, good for her. I earned every minute of my vacation time and have a full, rich life outside of work. I feel that I am entitled to time off as anyone else is. Am I really expected to answer emails and my phone on my day off? We are not a health care facility and not first responders. We are office workers.

In theory, no, you shouldn’t be expected to answer emails and calls on your days off unless something is genuinely an emergency (in which case, dealing with that is indeed part of many management jobs). But in reality, the expectations around this can vary greatly from office to office. If your office culture is that supervisors are expected to do that, there might be a price for refusing (in terms of perception, promotions, etc.). You might decide you don’t care about that price, which is your prerogative! Or you might look around and realize there won’t be much of a price to be paid at all.

But if you’re unsure, talking to your own manager about it is a good place to start. She’ll be able to give you a better sense of how against-the-grain it would be there to protect your days off, and how it might affect you if you hold firm. (For the record, I support you in holding firm! But your office culture is what will dictate how much of an issue it might be.)

4. I didn’t correct people’s mispronunciation of my name while interviewing

I’ve been through a multi-stage interview process consisting of short one-on-one interviews with various people from the organisation and I’m expecting to hear a final decision next week. I have a fairly common (or at least not rare) first name but it’s pronounced in an uncommon way. Each interviewer I’ve talked to pronounced my name the standard way and because of a mix of my own nerves, fast-paced interviews and the interviewers not pausing to ask if they’re pronouncing it right (which makes sense since my pronunciation of my name isn’t common), I never corrected them. Obviously if I don’t get the position it won’t be a problem, but in case I do, what’s the best way to bring it up? I don’t want to look like I assumed I wouldn’t be working with them or like I’m not proactive. To be fair, in this case I wasn’t proactive about this and that’s something I’ll bear in mind for future interviews and just correct the pronunciation up-front — but in this case how could I bring it up as with as little awkwardness as possible?

It won’t be a big deal at all. On your first day as you’re introducing yourself/being introduced, you’ll just say, “Actually, it’s ‘Lu-CHEE-a,’ not ‘Lu-SEE-a.’” No one is likely to read anything into the fact that you didn’t correct them while you were interviewing. They probably won’t even remember if they used your name with you and if they do, they’ll just figure you don’t bother to correct people every time in every situation, if they even think about it at all (which they likely won’t!). They’re not going to think, “Wow, she must have assumed she wouldn’t end up working with us” or “what a slacker approach to her own name.” No one will think about any of this as much as yourself are!

But if anyone does say something like, “Oh, you should have told us earlier,” you can always say, “It’s mispronounced so often that sometimes I don’t even bother to correct it, but since we’re working together now I wanted to make sure you knew how to say it.”

5. I had a great interview — but they’re still “actively recruiting”

I just finished a final round interview, and I thought it went well (they even asked me about my hobbies, which I saw as a good sign). However, the day after my final interview, I was looking through my email and received a “LinkedIn Job Alerts” notification. I saw the company on the list and that they were still “actively recruiting.” Does this mean that I messed up the last round and will not be hired? In the same vein, if a company reposts a job on a job board after a interview, is it safe to assume that they’re not considering me?

Nope, it means nothing at all. It’s very normal for a company to keep their job postings active until they’ve made an offer and had it accepted. Plus, this was only the day after your interview! It’s very likely that they haven’t made a hiring decision yet and they might still have other candidates to interview. But even if they left the meeting with you thinking, “Wow, that’s the one for sure, cancel all the other interviews,” they’re still not going to have taken down the listing within a day. There are references to check, decisions to finalize, paperwork to do, offers to put together — and then they need to wait to see if you even accept it. It’s very normal to keep ads active during that time.

update: my coworker put a magical curse on her boss

Welcome to the start of a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, with daily updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker claimed to have put a magical curse on their boss? Here’s the update.

Your advice and reading the comments under your blog post really helped me to understand that what I was feeling in the moment was valid. I ended taking your advice and communicated my concerns with my manager. In my opinion the situation became better, but I think my manager lost her marbles in the end.

At first, my manger, Ashley, understood that I was not comfortable working with my coworker who enjoyed hexing others. Ashley took my concerns seriously and never scheduled me with her after that initial conversation, which I was very grateful for. Over the next few weeks, one of my other coworkers started to notice similar unstable behavior/patterns where our coworker would go around talking to herself and saying things like “i have a demon in me” or “on the 21st, all people doing bad things will be sacrificed,” telling customers that they have “evil spirits,” etc.

Eventually she started taping hidden “spells” around the store, we found a few one morning and I was in utter confusion because they insinuated questionable actions. A few days later, there was an incident where she threw something at a customer’s car out of rage. Most of these incidents were brought to my manager, who decided not to do anything about it. She said it was because “I am scared that she’ll do something to me if I confront her.” A day or so later, she stole money from the cash register and a few days later the store was robbed during the pm shift, coincidentally by someone she knew. This person had been constantly visiting her during her shifts and on camera you could see them clocking the store. Yet Ashley said a day later, “I think she is going to work out here.” In that moment, I looked at her in complete disbelief. I was shocked at the complacency and poor management and judgment.

I had to take some time to see if this was really an environment that I could work in until I graduate university. I don’t have anything against witchcraft but when it comes to openly threatening others, purposely trying to make people uncomfortable, and stealing, those are not values I stand for and I no longer wanted to compromise myself for a job that was putting others at risk. In my opinion she was emotionally and mentally unstable, we never knew what she was going to do or say next. Due to the nature of the relationship I had with Ashley, I thought it would be best to discuss why I wanted to part ways. I explained that I had found a new job at an animal hospital as a receptionist (which turned out to be the best thing for me), and that I wouldn’t be putting in my two weeks notice because I felt as if my well-being had been compromised. Ashley was not understanding at all. (Alison interjection: She would have been understanding if you were hexing people though!) I think she was disappointed that I did not want to put in my two weeks but my concern wasn’t about who was going to cover my shifts. She had already made a choice not to address the situation on multiple occasions, even after many of my other coworkers expressed their concerns. This was no longer a safe working environment. Normally I have always put in two weeks notice but my instincts were telling me to head in the opposite direction.

I want to thank you and everyone in the comments who asked for an update. I am doing better than expected and this experience has taught me that sometimes jobs no longer have your best interests and your safety always comes first.

are employees obligated to speak up when they’re unhappy at work?

A reader writes:

I’m in the process of looking for a new job. My skills are in demand and I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving notice in the next few months.

Whenever anyone has left my company, my boss and the director always moan about how the person who left didn’t first come to them with their complaints. They say this as if it’s a horrible thing to do. “If only Fergus had told us he was unhappy, we could have made it better.”

Do you think employees have an obligation to speak up when unhappy?

For context, while some of the things I don’t enjoy could be fixed (the work isn’t as technical as I like and they could easily put me on another project) there are other things they can’t really (we’ve gone from having five women on staff to just me and it’s pretty lonely here). It’s a good job and I’ve enjoyed my time here but I don’t see long-term potential, so moving on just makes sense. Does an employee ever really “owe” it to the employer to bring up complaints first before looking?

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.