when an employee stops coming to work, do we have to formally fire them?

A reader writes:

I’m the only HR person in a high turnover construction-related business. Prior to me, the supervisors handled (or didn’t, is more like it) all their hiring and firing themselves. We often have people quit showing up for work, and in the past supervisors would just never contact them with their next report time/location rather than explicitly fire them. They would also ignore any phone calls if the person tried to reach them. The phrase they’ve used with me is “we kind of let them…go away.”

I don’t like the idea of leaving someone hanging there without a clear termination, so I’ve been making phone calls to these individuals to let them know we are letting them go. Is there a better way to handle this?

I’ve sent a letter a few times, but that delays the news by a couple days and I’m concerned about someone trying to come back after they’ve abandoned the job (it’s happened–they pretend like they were never gone) and I’d rather tell them immediately that we are letting them go than risk them showing up again, especially showing up on a jobsite where we would be liable if they present themselves as our employee and we haven’t formally terminated that employment. Do you have any other ideas? Or is a phone call the best answer in these situations?

I understand that in a business where no-shows are common, it’s easy to assume the person peaced out, but one day one of those people is going to have been a no-show because they’re in a hospital bed somewhere or something else has gone terribly wrong.

So yes, you should call. If you don’t reach them, leave a message saying, “You didn’t show up for work today. We hope everything is okay. Please get in touch with us as soon as possible. If we don’t hear from you by X, we’ll assume you’re not returning.” Then, if you don’t hear from them by X, make another call confirming that you’re terminating their employment. (You can also follow this up with a letter if you want to, although I tend to think simply documenting the phone calls is sufficient.)

If you’re worried this policy will open the door to people no-showing but then calling you later to save their jobs, there’s no requirement that you take them back at that point. But at least this will allow you to make an exception if it does turn out that someone was hit by a bus or something.

having a bad boss can make you sick, superstars can struggle to bond with their teams, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: having a bad boss can make you sick, why some superstars struggle to bond with their teams, and more. You can read it here.

I thought I liked my new boss, but I’m worried about how she treated a coworker

A reader writes:

I started my first full-time job about four months ago. The position is a staff role in academia. I work in a fairly small team (three people, one of whom is my director). We also sit in the same office space as my associate dean.

Even though I had hesitations about the associate dean from my interview with her, I liked my boss and was fairly happy in my role until about six weeks ago, when they told me that a significant part of the job I had just learned would be transferred to a new hire. Last week, things went to a new level, when my boss and my associate dean brought my coworker into a meeting and presented her with a list of things she had said that “undermined my boss’s authority.” I was present for all the instances described and my boss never said anything to my coworker in the moment. Instead, she wrote all of these instances down and then brought them to the associate dean. I’ve certainly noticed tension between my coworker and boss, but not anything on the level my boss seems to be suggesting. I have also been witness to very poor management from my boss, including making comments about how attractive a student was to me. After what happened with my coworker last week, my boss sent me an IM to tell me she was sorry, which was very awkward and made me uncomfortable.

Long story short, my trust in my boss is completely blown. Even though there are no issues with my performance now (I have received nothing but glowing reviews), I am afraid that if I ever do anything that rubs my boss the wrong way, she won’t address it with me productively. I also feel very uncomfortable to be the third person on a team when there are such deep issues between two other people. Do you think I should try to speak to my boss about this? HR? Or should I just cut my ties and look for another position?

Ick, yeah, your boss sucks.

Well, probably. That’s if your coworker’s account can be fully trusted. It’s possible that there’s some wider context that you don’t know about that would change the way it looks. But if it’s what it looks like on the surface, then you have a boss who doesn’t address concerns head-on and instead drags people into meetings with third parties — indicating that she doesn’t know how to give direct feedback and address problems matter-of-factly and then move on, and also indicating that she isn’t very confident in her own authority. None of those things are good.


This is your first job. You’ve been in it for four months. You were happy with your boss and your job until a few weeks ago. Much of what you’re unhappy with now is a situation that you’re not actually involved in and which you’re presumably hearing about secondhand.

It would be premature to jump ship at this point. That’s especially true since you’re still establishing yourself in your career (and frankly, especially since you’re still developing the ability to assess and calibrate these situations well), but it would be true for anyone at this point. You just don’t have enough firsthand information to make a decision like that. And it’s not like if you jump ship, you’ll magically end up with a great boss. Great managers aren’t especially common, and there’s a decent chance that you’ll end up with another one who’s inept in at least some ways.

That doesn’t mean that you should accept all bad behavior from a boss, no matter how terrible — but it does mean that you should probably have more reason for leaving than just what you’ve described here.

You asked whether you should talk to your boss or HR about this. I don’t think there’s reason to. What happened was between your boss and your coworker, not you. Focus on your own work and your own relationship with your boss. If you sense your boss is troubled by something and not talking with you about it, ask directly. But at this point, it sounds like you’re just speculating that that might happen, but it hasn’t actually occurred. Keep your eyes open, absolutely, but don’t be quite so trigger-happy.

my manager is disconnected and hands-off, my manager is pushing me to work I don’t want to do, and more

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

1. My manager is disconnected and hands-off — is this normal?

I joined a company at a director level position a little over a year ago. A director is a fairly highly ranking role at this company. The level of interaction with my manager is so low that I just don’t feel I can do my job. My manager never reviewed annual goals, doesn’t keep a regular one-on-one, and didn’t even define what his expectations are of me. He is in a different office than I am, so I don’t even get to take advantage of hallway conversations. If I reach out to him for clarification or discussion, his response is always that he will schedule a one-on-one. The meeting doesn’t materialize. If I attempt to schedule something, I get a terse brushback that I am overstepping my bounds, and that I need to learn to be a little more autonomous. But the issue for me isn’t that I’m not able to be autonomous – it is that I have been completely abandoned. I don’t consider myself a needy employee, but I do expect a two-way dialogue with my manager about expectations, am I meeting them, and if not, finding out about this in a timely manner so that I can make adjustments. It doesn’t even need to be frequent, but preferably, it would be regular.

I feel as if I’ve done all I can to have a functional relationship with my manager, and it doesn’t show any signs of improving. I am strongly considering searching for a new position – something I don’t want to do since I’d have to pay back a large signing bonus if I leave within two years. Is no communication with management something I need to just accept as I move higher within my career, or do I have a legitimate reason to move on?

No, this is about your manager, not about working at a higher level. Good managers at all level set clear expectations, respond to questions, and meet with staff members. Certainly as you climb higher and higher, the discussion often becomes about bigger-picture strategy and less in the weeds, but those basics don’t change.

Your manager is just unusually, problematically hands-off. Since you’d have to pay back your signing bonus if you left, it might make sense to try to figure out whether you can can work under this guy reasonably happily for a while, before just high-tailing it out of there. (But if it turns out that you can’t, keep in mind that if you’re enough in demand enough in your field, you might be able to negotiate your next offer to have the new employer pay off whatever you’d owe on the signing bonus.)

2. I got a large raise, but then my boss cut my bonus

I have been working for a nonprofit organization for 25 years. I have been getting a yearly raise, not a whole lot but I have always been grateful for what I received. Last month was “raise month,” so I asked my manager for a significant raise, which he granted begrudgingly, seeing as how I am the only person in two states who does what I do, and I have been a loyal employee for 25 years. This month’s paycheck included my Christmas bonus, which he cut in half. I did send him an email in case it was an oversight, to which he has not responded. Should I just leave it alone or fight for what I deserve? I am quite sure he gave himself not only a significant raise but also a significant bonus; he pays himself an obscene amount of money.

Well, he might have cut your bonus because of the raise, or it might have been lower for other reasons; bonuses aren’t generally guaranteed. You can certainly ask why and possibly make a case for why you deserve more, but I wouldn’t do this in email, since that’s something you should have a real conversation about. Email isn’t an appropriate forum for this.

Also, it’s possible that it was perfectly reasonable to lower your bonus this year; if you got a “significant raise,” that might be where your compensation is going. (Personally, I’d rather have a “significant raise” than a bonus, since bonuses are one-time and raises are more permanent.)

3. My manager is pushing me into work I don’t want to do

I’ve been working at my company for a few years now. When I started, I was something like a junior teapot producer – I would get tasks from account managers, who would report back to their clients when I was done. My goal was always to strengthen my teapot-building skills and get involved in more complex projects, but despite my telling them what I wanted to work on, the timing never seemed right to bring someone less-skilled into the bigger stuff. Instead, I was given more responsibility in communicating directly with clients to try to reduce the workload of the account managers.

I don’t like dealing with clients directly. They make me nervous. I made a career change when I took this job because I was hoping to have less client contact. But I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the matter, because the account manager I work the most closely with (“Jane”) is always incredibly overworked, and there was really no one else who could help.

A few months ago, my company merged with another, larger company, which I hoped would give me more opportunities to get back to teapot-building. This company, though, does most of its teapot-building overseas, and now my bosses are trying to push me into an even more client-facing role – without consulting me about it. My first indication of this was about a week ago, in a meeting with Jane, some of the big bosses, and someone from the new company. Jane and the big bosses had clearly already been discussing handing one of our big (and difficult) clients over to me because Big Boss had already wanted Jane to stop working with them (news to me), and they were presenting this to me as a done deal. Then today, Big Boss emailed me about a new project, saying “you don’t need to do anything with this now, but you’ll likely be the client manager for this.” I just want to toss up a time-out sign and go whoa, since when am I a manager of anything?? I don’t want to manage clients! I want to be a teapot engineer! How can I say this without looking difficult or unhelpful? I’m honestly not even sure I can salvage the career path I want out of this position any more, and I am willing to move on, but I’d like to try to work it out first.

You need to have a candid and direct conversation with your manager about the direction of your work. Say something like this: “I’m being assigned more client management work, and I’m getting the sense that you’d like me to be going more in that direction. To be frank, client work isn’t a direction I want to go in; I really want to focus on teapot building. Is it possible to pull back from the client work and focus most of my time on teapots?”

Your goal here is to be up-front about where you stand on this and get a realistic idea of what is and isn’t possible. If you end up hearing that this is just the way the job is changing, then you can decide if it makes more sense for you to move on to something more in line with what you want to do.

4. Interviewing when you don’t know anything about the job

Today I got an interview for a job at a company I’d love to work for. The problem is that the job is unadvertised and basically all I know is the job title. (I’m a student looking to break into this particular sector, so one of the people I know at the firm sent my resume around to see if anyone had any suitable vacancies.) What should I do to try to prepare for the interview? Should I email the HR consultant who will be interviewing me and ask for a job description?

Yes, absolutely. Say something like this, “So that I can prepare for our meeting, is there a job description or other information about the role that you can share with me?”

5. Can I send employees home when there’s no work?

Can a non-union, hourly employee be sent home if there is no work to do towards the end of the work day?

Yes. Keep in mind, though, that if you do this routinely, you risk losing good employees, who will want more reliable hours and will resent setting aside the whole day and not getting paid for it.

2 reader updates (with happy endings)

Two more updates from recent letter-writers:

1. How can I ask my new employer for breaks to sit when I go to trade shows? (#3 at the link)

It turns out that my new boss is extremely understanding, and as soon as I told her I was having foot issues she arranged so that I could sit down for nearly the entire time during the 5 day trade show. I feel like I really lucked out with this in having such a great boss, and it was a huge relief.

The reader who suggested looking into Dansko shoes was a great suggestion too. I got a pair of their Mary Jane style and they are great for walking and when I do have to stand! Thanks everyone for the support and helpful suggestions!

2. My interviewer kept laughing at me (#1 at the link)

The interviewer turned out to be who would be my direct supervisor. Unfortunately, the college’s English department (so, including the writing center) was changing department chairs, so my interviewer/supervisor had to do interviews I’m not sure he was prepared to do. He offered me the position, but before I made my decision, he invited me to come into the office and meet everyone in the department. This second meeting went very well, with no awkward giggling; in fact, everyone in the office made me feel very welcome and I learned what work would be like on a day-to-day basis. I accepted the tutoring position, but due to personal reasons, I was unable to start immediately. But my supervisor was very supportive and accommodating during the entire hiring process, and I’ve had a great first month working at the writing center!

Even after working with him for just a month, I’m already starting to notice a lot of my supervisor’s quirks. I can assure the comments section that his laughing was not due to drugs! Through bits of conversation, I’ve learned that he played football for a big college team, and he even mentioned that he hopes that isn’t too intimidating to me. In hindsight, I realize I was feeling very insecure because it was my first post-college interview, and even though I avoid judging based on appearances, being interviewed by a 6’2″ athlete didn’t help my nerves! Through our conversations, I now understand that my supervisor was laughing to help me feel more welcome during an interview that wasn’t going as planned on the English department’s end.

I’d also like to add that my supervisor is extremely supportive of everyone’s goals at the writing center. This position is a great stepping stone for future English professors, and most of the past employees have gone onto working in various academic positions both at this community college and at larger 4-year colleges. During downtime, my supervisor encourages me to work on my own creative writing projects and frequently discusses them with me. He says that as much as he likes all of his employees, he wants everyone gone in a couple years so that they can pursue larger goals beyond this part-time tutoring position. Honestly, I’ve never had this level of support in any of my previous jobs, and I’m excited to go into work everyday because I’m always learning something new. Maybe some of the most awkward interviewers can turn out to be some of the best bosses?

(I can’t resist popping back in to answer that. My thought: Awkward, sure. Rude, mean, disorganized, or flaky, generally not.)

5 on-the-job benefits that sound great but don’t always deliver

Companies are increasingly getting creative with what kind of benefits they offer to attract and retain employees – offering things like free lunches and dinner, gym memberships, and even unlimited vacation time. But while most of these sound great in theory, some of them don’t quite deliver when you look at how they play out in practice.

Here are five benefits that might sound fantastic but which don’t always deliver in the way you might expect.

1. Unlimited vacation time. You might have read about companies like Netflix offering employees unlimited vacation time. The idea is that instead of getting a set number of paid days off each year, you’re allowed to take as much time off as you want, as long as your work gets done. Sounds great, right? It often can be. But in some cases, it can result in employees taking less vacation time than they took under more traditional policies. That’s because without guidelines, some people become unsure about how much time off is really okay to take. When you don’t want your manager and coworkers to think you’re a slacker and you don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about how much time away is appropriate and how much might be frowned upon, it can get a lot harder to feel comfortable using this benefit. (Of course, these policies canbe managed well – but it takes commitment on the part of the company and its managers to ensure that people really understand what’s expected of them.)

One other drawback to unlimited vacation time is that it means that you won’t formally accrue paid leave – which means that there’s nothing for your employer to pay out to you when you leave your job. With more traditional vacation policies, you might receive a cash pay-out if you leave your job with accrued vacation time remaining. (And indeed, some states require such pay-outs.)

2. Combined sick and vacation leave into one overall PTO (“paid time off”) bucket. This often sounds great at first – after all, if you don’t get sick, you can use that time for vacation instead. But what often happens in reality is that it creates an incentive for people to come to work when they’re sick so that they can keep their PTO for vacations. That means that you might end up with lots of sick and contagious coworkers spreading their germs around your office.

3. Egg freezing. Apple and Facebook made headlines recently when they announced they’d offer coverage for female employees to freeze their eggs. But it’s not hard to imagine that the companies’ desire to keep women at the office (and not out on leave) played a role in the decision, particularly when the tech industry is known for demanding hours and work cultures that aren’t always family-friendly.

Egg-freezing can certainly make sense for some women, but the offer certainly raises questions for women about how their employer might be subtly nudging them to put off parenthood in favor of work.

4. Four-day work weeks, or other part-time arrangements. When carefully negotiated and managed well, these arrangements can often work out to everyone’s benefit. But all too often, workers take a salary cut in exchange for a part-time schedule and then find themselves working on their days off anyway, in order to get their work done and seem responsive to colleagues. If you’re considering one of these arrangements, it’s crucial to hash out ahead of time what your hours will really look like, how you’ll handle it when last-minute work comes up, and whether you’ll be expected to respond to email on your days away – and get it in writing in case there are questions later about what was agreed to.

5. Tuition reimbursement. Tuition reimbursement can be a great benefit, but it’s important to read all the fine print before signing up for classes. Many companies that offer this have clauses that require you stay with the company for a certain amount of time afterwards (often several years) or you’ll have to pay back the tuition money. That means that your earning potential could be significantly stymied, or that you may find yourself locked into a job or company that you no longer want to be at, long after you’ve earned that degree.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

I turned down a job offer and now the recruiter is invoicing me

A reader writes:

I was in the awesome position of interviewing for two roles through recruitment agencies and receiving offers for both. Both roles were aware that I had another strong offer on the table, and negotiations started between myself and the two agencies.

As I was available immediately, both roles wanted me to start ASAP and had suggested start dates that were within a working week of the initial offer. Within a few days, I made my decision and I outlined my choice in an email to the recruiter of the role I was turning down.

The recruiter wanted to discuss the matter further and I declined. He indicated by email he was upset that I was turning down the role so close to the start date.

A month later, I received an invoice from the accounting team of the recruitment team – no other communication – just an invoice made out to me for $50 for a background check they had completed. I responded to the accounts team saying that I believed this cost was for their client, and as I had no relationship with them, it wasn’t an invoice for me personally (assuming it had been mistakenly sent to me as the subject of the background check).

The next day, I received an email from the recruiter directly, who informed me that as I had behaved unprofessionally and without integrity, as an act of good faith I should pay this “insignificant amount” rather than ask the (very large international) agency to absorb it.

I wanted to write a strongly worded response about my ideas of professionalism, but I am going to sit on it for a day or two. Ironically, if he had emailed me and outlined his point of view earlier – without attacking me – I probably would have paid the invoice out of feelings of guilt/good faith.

So am I obliged to pay this? And if I’m not obliged, should I pay it to save face professionally?

What the flying F?

Um, no, you should not pay this. Just like they should not pay for your interview suit or your time spent interviewing or the Xanax I will use to calm my slightly crazed laughter after reading this letter.

Background checks are a normal cost of doing business for recruiters. There are a few industries where applicants are expected to pay for their own (teaching is one), but those are (a) rare and (b) disclosed ahead of time. That second part is the real tell here — you don’t spring costs on people after the fact that they never agreed to. That’s not how this stuff works. People have to agree to it up-front; you can’t decide to charge them later because you’re bitter.

This dude sent you an invoice in a weirdly misguided attempt to penalize you for turning down an offer (and losing him his commission). That’s unprofessional, hostile, and out of touch with what’s okay to do.

There’s nothing unprofessional about turning down an offer — and that goes double when you were totally up front with him throughout your deliberations. You’re under no obligation to accept an offer (just like they were under no obligation to make you an offer).

He sucks, you have no obligation to pay this, and you certainly shouldn’t pay out of guilt or to save face. In fact, that would be the opposite of saving face — it would be agreeing that you’d done something wrong, when you haven’t.

Ignore the invoice, ignore his letter, and never work with this agency again. As for sending a letter back to him, I’d skip that entirely .. but if you must send a response, send it to someone above him; there’s no need to engage with someone who has already demonstrated that he’s hostile and irrational.

Read an update to this letter here.

someone keeps rearranging my desk, did my manager give me the finger, and more

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

1. I share a desk with the night shift and someone keeps rearranging my stuff

Recently, we had a huge increase in our workload. As a solution, my employer has hired more people and added a second shift of work at night. We do not have enough desks to accommodate the sudden influx of employees, and the night shift people share the day shift people’s desks.

I keep a few personal items in/on my desk, such as hand sanitizer, an extra bottle of water, mints, and a spare phone charger. For the past week, my entire desk has been rearranged. Being the type A I am, it drives me up the wall. Today was the last straw. I keep my phone charger plugged in oftentimes because the plug is hard to reach behind the computers. It was unplugged and thrown on the floor when I came in this morning. I am sick of people touching my stuff and not taking care of it. Am I overreacting? Is there anything I can do or say to resolve this?

When you’re sharing desks, things are going to get rearranged — there’s no real way around that. To the person working the night shift, that’s their work space — not someone else’s space that they’re borrowing, but their space. I know that’s hard to accept when it was your space first, but the reality is, now it belongs to both of you. (After all, if you were on the night shift, wouldn’t you hate feeling like you were just a guest in someone else’s space?)

If it’s going to drive you crazy to see items rearranged, I’d suggest keeping them in a drawer. It might even be worth working out an arrangement where you each get assigned a drawer, so you each have some space that’s just yours.

I agree that unplugging your phone charger and tossing it on the floor was less than polite, but just talk to the person about it — explain you like to keep it plugged in because it’s hard to reach the plug, and ask if they mind keeping it there when they’re using the desk in the evening.

Overall, just talk to the other person, acknowledge it’s tough to share space, and see what kind of system you can work out that will keep you both happy.

2. I’m part-time and my full-time coworkers expect I can cover for them whenever they’re out

I’m the only part-time worker in an office of six people, and I am consistently being asked to come in early and stay late when full-time workers are absent. My boss knows that I want to be full-time, but I’ve been told the budget doesn’t allow it, but then I’m asked to work extra hours. We all work flex-hours, which means when there’s a holiday, we revert back to regular, five-day work week hours. People seem to take it for granted that, when they take time off during these weeks, I will cover for them.

Is it fair for my boss to hold it against me, when I decline to change my hours? She told me that she was “giving” me extra hours and that she would be “accommodating” me by not offering these extra hours to me. I’m confused by her reaction. I told her I’m available to help out in emergencies, but allowing others to take vacation and depending on me to cover, is unfair. What do you think?

Your boss assumes that because you want to be full-time, you’ll be glad to take any extra hours that you can get. She’s not thinking about the fact that until you’re full-time, you might have other plans for those hours and you’re not just sitting around hoping that she’ll fill them for you at the last minute.

Say this to your boss: “I’m happy to help out in emergencies, but because my schedule is part-time, I often make other commitments for the days I’m not scheduled to work. That means that I can’t always fill in when people want me to, especially if there’s not a lot of advance notice. Again, I’m glad to help cover when I can, but I want to make sure that people know not to count on it as a certainty and that I may have other commitments.”

If your boss has an issue with you having a life outside of work when she’s only willing to guarantee part-time hours, well, she’s delusional and irrational and there’s not much you can do about that. But I’d start with the above first.

3. Did my manager give me the finger?

I work in a culture that I find rather repressive, but I refuse to be repressed so I sometimes say things other people don’t like. I get that, but I am willing to have a conversation and negotiate, and I can handle disagreement or “no” responses. I think I present myself that way, but I tend to get indirect statements. (“I am not the one quashing your proposal – it’s the higher-ups.”)

Recently I proposed something that my boss wasn’t keen on, but she gave me the go-ahead to develop my idea anyway. While she was doing this, she used her middle finger to adjust her glasses. I haven’t seen her do this before, so my instinct is that she was sending me a negative message despite trying to appear positive. I really don’t want to waste time developing an idea that’s going to get smacked down behind my back. Am I making too much of the finger?


It’s highly, highly unlikely that your manager was giving you the finger while trying to disguise it. That’s not really what professional adults do in offices, let alone to someone who they manage.

4. Should I give thank-you gifts to my references?

When someone gives you a job reference, would it be nice to send them a small thank you gift in the $10-15 range such as a Starbucks gift card or bottle of wine? Or would a thank-you card suffice? References could potentially be contacted a few times, and sometimes they need to fill out a written form. So this process isn’t totally painless and I wanted to show my appreciation. These are my own references that I know, so it’s not as “gimmicky” as sending a gift to a hiring manager. Would a small gift be a nice gesture, or overdoing it?

Overdoing it. Giving references to past employees is just a normal part of being a manager, and gifts come uncomfortably close to implying a quid pro quo.

The best way to show your appreciation to references is to (a) thank you them (in a call, email, or note) and (b) keep them posted on the outcome of your search. People who give you glowing references usually like hearing whether you ended up getting the job or not.

5. I’m anxious about telling my manager I’m applying for an internal opening

I’m a recent graduate working for a fairly small organization. We currently have an opening, one that absolutely needs to be filled in the very near future. I am involved in the hiring process and will interact directly with the new hire.

After a recent meeting, two of my colleagues involved in the process told me that I would a great fit for the position and that they wished they could hire me. One of them even suggested speaking to my boss about it. I was very flattered by their comments but didn’t know whether I should take them seriously. I did share that I was interested in the position, but that I’d also need time to think about it.

I’ve since learned that the offer was made in earnest, and it’s very much something I’d like to pursue. The position would come with a significant raise, additional project management responsibility, opportunities to interact with those in more senior positions, and would really help differentiate me when I go to apply for other positions. There are only two catches: 1) it’s a term position, which I’ve made my peace with; 2) my current supervisor will most likely be angry, and I would still have to work very closely with him/her. Ordinarily, s/he is a fairly accommodating boss, but s/he is also very passionate, and I can’t imagine him/her taking it very well.

I’m at a complete loss about how to proceed. I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my supervisor, but I also want to give him/her a heads up if possible. Jobs are few and far between in my field, and I’m almost positive that another such opportunity won’t come around for me in my current position. Do you have any advice for how to proceed?

How long have you been in your current position? If it hasn’t been long, your manager will be understandably annoyed but will get over it (and if she doesn’t, that’s on her, not on you — because a reasonable manager would). If it’s been a year or more, your manager shouldn’t even have initial annoyance. Either way, don’t give your manager this much power over your career decisions. If she has an issue with it, that’s about her own craziness, not a reflection of you doing anything wrong.

As for how to proceed, go talk to your manager. Explain that you were approached about this position, you’re excited about it because of ___, and you want to be transparent with her that you’re going to throw your hat in the ring for it.

Sunday free-for-all – November 16, 2014

IMG_2703It’s the weekend free-for-all.

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 non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

giving feedback to an unprofessional job candidate, staying in a two-bedroom suite with a colleague, and more

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

1. Should I give feedback to this unprofessional internship candidate?

I was interviewing for interns this past week and I found a candidate who had decent experience and decided to bring her in for an interview. Once I Googled her, I found that her Twitter feed was full of complaints about how no one would hire her and she couldn’t get any experience. I completely sympathize and I know how hard it can be, which is another reason I wanted to bring her in. Once I did, it became very clear why no one would hire her. She had a very unprofessional and casual vibe during the interview and the phrase “the ultimate goal is to have someone to pay me to lay in my pajamas all day and watch sports” came out of her mouth.

I believe in providing constructive feedback because I know I would have wanted someone to help me when I was feeling helpless but I’m curious what your thoughts are on feedback that isn’t an error like a bad objective. I feel like it might be impossible to properly word my advice which consists mostly of “try acting more professional.” Is it worth giving the feedback?

I don’t think so. “Be more professional” isn’t that helpful; you’d need to go into specifics about exactly what she should be doing differently, and she hasn’t shown any signs that she’ll handle that feedback maturely. If she asked you for feedback, I’d be more inclined to give some, but proactively offering it to someone who doesn’t seem to have done any basic research into how to interview successfully? I don’t think it’s a good use of your time, and I think it’s likely to go unappreciated.

By the way, the Twitter comments were the first sign of unprofessionalism. I’m sympathetic to people who are struggling to get hired too, but good candidates don’t typically fill up PUBLIC social media accounts with that kind of thing.

2. I’m worried I’m getting treated unfairly in an internal hiring process

My boss is leaving and I was encouraged to apply for her position. Our CIO, who is a fairly recent hire himself (about 4 months), has referred someone from his previous company to apply for this position as well. We both interviewed, along with five other candidates. No decisions have been made.

The hiring manager is my director, who has been under very close supervision by our new CIO due to some performance concerns. So my director is leaving it up to the CIO to decide whom to hire. The CIO did not participate in the interview process in any capacity with any candidate. Although this may be subjective, people who interviewed CIO’s referral did not consider her a good fit.

I know our company has a policy not allowing us to hire direct reports in such manner, but I am not sure of the details when it’s an indirect report. I find this incredibly unfair for the CIO to make a choice and for my director to hand it off like that. However I really enjoy my work here and don’t want to be placed in the “unhappy” employee category. What do I do?

Well, there might not be much you can do here. If the CIO doesn’t trust your director’s judgment (which wouldn’t be crazy if she’s having serious performance issues), I can see why he wants to make the hiring decision himself — although then yes, he certainly should have been involved in all the interviews. In any case, why not ask the CIO if you can meet with him to talk about how you’d approach the role and why you think you’d be a good fit for it? If he’s determined to hire the person from his old company (and he might be), this might not make much difference, but it probably gives you the best shot in this situation.

3. Staying in a two-bedroom suite with an opposite-sex colleague

I’m wondering if it’s appropriate for my boyfriend’s female boss who works for a huge law firm to book a two-bedroom hotel room for them both to stay in while on a company trip? I work in corporate healthcare and feel that this would never be acceptable behavior. Am I crazy?

They have separate bedrooms and are sharing the common areas of a suite, like a living room? Doesn’t send up any red flags for me, but if your boyfriend is uncomfortable, he should speak up. (But only if he’s uncomfortable.)

4. Can my employer lower my pay?

I am a lead/managing server at my company. A couple weeks ago, they lowered my pay and still have me doing the same job. Is this legal?

They can’t lower your pay retroactively, but they can lower it going forward as long as they alert you beforehand. At that point, you have the choice of agreeing to the new rate of pay or declining to continue the work under those conditions.

5. Manager is clocking people out for standing around

I work at McDonald’s as a crew member and I know of a manager who has been clocking employees out on time, even though they have left later than what they were scheduled. The manager’s excuse was that the employee shouldn’t be getting paid for just standing there, and he brags about clocking us out. Since then, I’ve kept a close eye on my hours and noticed they’ll take a minute here and there. Is this illegal? And if so, what can I do about it?

The manager absolutely can’t clock people out just because they’re standing around rather than actively working, unless their shift is over and they’re free to go and they’re remaining there by choice. But someone who’s been asked to stay later? They need to be paid for all of that time.

Your state department of labor is in charge of enforcing this, so you could contact them. But with a large corporation like McDonalds, it might be easier/faster to bring it to the attention of whatever regional management structure oversees your particular location.