It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.
* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.
1. I was told to hide that I used to be a stay-at-home mom
I had a very strange review yesterday, where my boss shared some feedback that she received from another leader in our organization. Basically I was told that I should stop telling people that I was once a stay-at home mom, as it could negatively impact my growth in this organization.
To be clear, this is not something that generally comes up in my work environment and it’s certainly not something I regularly talk about as I have been back to work for six years now and my work has nothing to do with kids or parenting. Over that period I have successfully grown from an individual contributor to a manager and recently to a director-level position. My reviews have all be stellar and my boss was clearly uncomfortable sharing this feedback, but share she did.
It took me a bit to realize where the feedback originated and then I recalled that last year I was nominated to work on a special project designed to elevate the visibility of emerging leaders in the organization. The year-long project involved designing a product intended for stay-at-home moms. Through the course of this project, there were times that certain designs resonated with me and I would say something like, “when I was a stay-at-home mom, this would really have helped me.” It was always in the context of how my personal experience could help us create a better product. I honestly don’t think the feedback related to me sharing this information too frequently, but was intended as a caution to share this information at all.
I don’t think having been a stay-at-home mom is a dirty little secret to keep hidden; in fact, I am proud of the work I did during those years, which included both hard work at home and balancing several volunteer leadership roles. I feel like I am being asked to adjust my narrative to cater to someone else’s bias and I am disappointed in my boss that she shared it with me. On the other hand … well, is there another hand? Should I just let this go as another example of bias that exists and through which I need to navigate? Or should I have a heart-to-heart with my boss highlighting how inappropriate this was? I would love some advice about what to do with this strange feedback.
Yeah, that’s messed up.
Is the person who shared this feedback with your boss someone who will have a lot of influence on your career in this company? If so, I’d take it as a useful information about things that might unfairly impact you in this company. But if she’s not, I wouldn’t put a ton of weight on it; she’s one person with a kooky viewpoint.
But I do think it’s worth going back to your boss and saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about the feedback you passed on to me from Jane about not saying that at one point I was a stay-at-home mom. I haven’t been able to make any sense of it — many people are stay-at-home parents at some point in their lives, and many go on to have successful careers. I’m curious to know your take on what she said. Do you agree with her, or does it seem like off-base feedback to you?”
You might find out that she thinks it’s ridiculous but felt obligated to pass it along (either because the person is influential enough that it seemed relevant or because she’s one of those managers who passes along everything without applying her own judgment to it). Or you might find out she agrees, which would be useful to know about her. Depending on how the conversation goes, at some point you might say, “I think we’re in dangerous territory if we’re saying the company would be biased against moms who used to stay home with their kids. If leaders here really think that, that’s awfully unfriendly to women and parents, and seems like a potential legal liability.”
2. Our receptionist is rude to people
We have a coordinator in our office who is our receptionist. She’s the first to answer the phone, and she is the first one clients see when they walk in the door. A big part of her job is customer service, but lately I’ve received complaints about her interactions with people — two from other departments and two from customers.
It has been very surprising to me because she is so friendly with me and the manager in the office (it’s just us three in our office). She’s upbeat, bubbly, friendly, etc. My office is in the back of our suite, so I cannot overhear her interactions with people, and same for the manager. The complaints I have received say that she is rude, difficult to work with, unfriendly, etc., but when I asked for the specific conversation no one has been able to say “I said X and she said Y.”
I’ve spoken with her once about this in the past because I had received other complaints. During the conversation, she got very quiet and just said she’d do better. She didn’t try to rebut the complaints or say they were wrong. It seemed like there was improvement based on some of my office creeping (literally standing around the corner while she was on the phone so I could overhear). But today I got two more complaints, same with the rude, unfriendly, etc. and no specific example. One of the complainers asked me if there was a way to work directly with me as he wanted to avoid any interaction with the front desk because he says it is so bad.
I obviously need to do something, but I’m not sure how to fix this since I already talked to her once. Other than this, she is a stellar employee. Her work is quick, perfect, and she’s very proactive. I’ve asked before if she felt overwhelmed and she said no. I thought maybe that could have been causing her stress and that’s where the behavior came from. What do you think? How do I handle this the second time around? I really like her and see her moving up in our office. She’s rather young and this is one of her first jobs so then I wondered if maybe it could be inexperience? But maybe I like her so much that I’m just trying to make excuses for her.
If people aren’t telling you that it’s about specific language, my bet is that it’s about manner — that she’s coming across as annoyed, brusque, put-upon, or unhelpful. You shouldn’t drill customers for details, but go back to the internal complaints you’ve received and ask those people to tell you more about what’s going on. (Frame this as “I want to better understand so that I can coach her,” not as “you need to prove this to me before I act on it.”)
Then, talk to your receptionist. Tell her about the feedback you’re hearing and ask what she thinks is going on. This should be a dialogue — not just you relaying the complaints and telling her she needs to do better. Really talk to her and try to figure out what’s happening and why.
It’s reasonable to have one of the measures of success for her job be “people come away from their interactions with you feeling you were warm and helpful.” Be very clear to her about that, and paint a picture of what that looks like — for example, “If you’re stressed or annoyed by a request, the person you’re talking to shouldn’t pick up on that. We want them to feel that you’re looking for ways to make their lives easier, rather than that they’re inconveniencing you.” You might even try role-playing some particularly tricky interactions and coaching her on how to respond.
But ultimately, you can’t have someone in that role who’s alienating people, especially customers. So really stay on this — find more opportunities to observe when she’s talking to people, and follow up with other people internally for feedback. Now that you know there’s a problem, you want to proactively monitor it — don’t just wait to see if other complaints show up.
3. I don’t want my partner to take a job on my team
I was recently hired after a months-long job search because a friend (Fergus) recommended me for a position in his company (Company X). I’m really excited about the work and I liked the team and manager when I met them in the interview. I’ll start in a few weeks.
My partner has also been looking for a job for the last several months; he is quite miserable at his current company. He and I work in the same field, so Fergus recommended him for a position at Company X as well. It now looks like Company X is moving forward with my partner’s application, and will be interviewing him in the upcoming week. He will be interviewing for the same team that hired me. The position for which he is interviewing does not report to mine, or vice versa.
Before I accepted the job, I didn’t think that I would have a problem with Company X interviewing both my partner and me. Now that I have the position, though, I’m having second thoughts about working together. I’d like to think we can be completely professional with each other at work, but I recognize that working on the same team as your partner has many potential pitfalls (professional and personal). I brought this up with my partner, who acknowledges my concern but wants to move forward with the interview. He thinks any awkwardness that might result from our working together would be worth it if he can leave his current position.
I’d feel pretty selfish about asking my partner to withdraw his application from Company X, knowing how miserable he is now. But I’m really concerned and tempted to push back harder. Is it reasonable to not want to work on the same team as your partner? Am I overreacting, especially since he doesn’t have the job yet?
I also have a few logistical questions about this. If Company X continues to be interested in his application, when/how/by whom should our relationship be reported? And if Company X hires him, what kinds of boundaries do successful coworker couples negotiate to keep everyone on the team comfortable and maintain professionalism?
It is so reasonable not to want to work on the same team as your partner. There are all sorts of ways that it can end up being bad for your personally and professionally. You aren’t overreacting — this is a really big thing, and it’s not the kind of thing your partner should move forward with if you’re not okay with it.
I get that you’d feel selfish about vetoing it since he’s so unhappy with his current job, but it truly does have the potential to cause real problems for both of you. And what he’s proposing would be a fundamental change to the conditions of your own new job, which you should get to sign off on. I get that he’s unhappy in his current job and desperate to get out, but he does have a job; taking this one isn’t the difference between him being able to eat and not being able to eat. And there are other jobs and other teams out there.
If he moves forward anyway, he should alert his interviewer to the relationship — saying something like, “I should mention that my partner, Jane Smith, was just hired on this team and starts in a few weeks. I wanted to up-front about that in case you wouldn’t want both of us working on the same team.” And there’s advice here about boundaries you’d both need to have. But I really hope he won’t move forward with this if you tell him you’re not comfortable with it.
4. My student employee lied on his resume and said he was a director
I managed a student employee, Benjen, for about six months. Those were a tumultuous six months where we had a lot going on, absent directors, etc. I got a new job and Benjen, a part-time grad student, had to step into my old role more than he should have had to. I was happy to stay in contact with him and help him where I could after I left. Benjen was in way over his head and it wasn’t his fault.
When he left a few months later, I was happy to help with his resume. He was a great employee! Well, after a few revisions he sent me his final resume … and he claimed he was the director of the department for the ENTIRE job duration. He was never even full-time, and I wasn’t even a director. That was two levels above me.
I dropped the ball in responding to his last resume, which was months ago. I was so mad at his self-promotion that I just didn’t respond.
Now I’ve been contacted by someone for a reference on him and it turns out I’m still angry and I’m not sure how to give a reference. HE WASN’T A DIRECTOR!
Tell the truth. This is the whole point of references — as a way to verify the information candidates are self-reporting and to learn more about them. Talk to the reference checker and be very clear that he was a student employee, not a director. (And if you can only speak to the six months where you overlapped, be clear about what those dates were. If there’s any chance he was actually given the director title after you left — which sounds very unlikely — you want to be clear about that and careful to say that you’re only speaking to the time period you were there.)
Frankly, it also makes sense to write back to Benjen now and say, “I’m confused about the title you’ve listed. You were a part-time student employee while you worked with me, not a director. You definitely can’t send it out with this on it.”
5. How often is too often to have a reference contact a firm I’m interviewing with?
I’m wrapping up a graduate program in just a couple months and am currently job searching in my city. I’ve been lucky enough to have a short-term job for the past year in my new field where the managers I work for have offered to be generous with their advice and connections as I search.
I recently applied to a job at a related firm where one of the managers I’ve worked with over the year has connections. I asked him to put in a good word for me, which he did with someone who is not the hiring manager, and I’m not sure if the message got through to the hiring manager. I did receive a first round interview, and now, after a month delay, have been asked back for a second interview. This interview will be with the hiring manager and a staff member of the firm’s client, with which the open position works regularly. This staff member is another person that my manager knows and with whom he shares professional contacts and interests.
Should I ask my manager to put in another good word for me to the firm’s client? How many times can I ask for these kinds of favors from my generous manager (particularly as this would be two for the same job), before I “overask my welcome”? Assuming this potential employer did get the message the first time, how many of these kinds of informal references are helpful as opposed to annoying? And just generally, any advice on using informal references to get your resume to the top of a pile or to reinforce an interview?
You’ve already used this reference for this job, so I wouldn’t use him again for the same job; that would be overkill. If the firm handles input about candidates well, they will have shared the reference’s feedback with the hiring manager, and it would be odd to then have the same reference approach that client as well.
If there you have other references who know the hiring manager, you could have one or two of them contact her. But only if they know her, and only if they haven’t already mentioned you to her previously.
About two and a half years ago, I was hired by a cultural organization as their only staff person. While the job was not without its challenges, it was a great learning experience and I excelled in my role, which has greatly boosted my professional reputation in my area (it’s a small field in my city).
One of my roles was as the intern manager. My first intern came on board in my second month at the organization, and she seemed a good — but not great — intern. She produced good results and was eager to learn, but she worked slowly, needed a lot of coaching, had little initiative, and there were complaints about finding her asleep or on personal calls. However, due to the closeness in age (she was only a year younger than me) and it being my first intern, we bonded, which led to me not being as effective a manager and essentially not addressing her performance issues. I know now that this was a great disservice to her, although at the time I thought I was being kind.
She initially stayed on as a volunteer after her internship ended, and I wanted to give her something she could list as an accomplishment on her resume. So I gave her some authority over a new project I was designing, and told her that while we couldn’t pay her, she would work with me and get recognition in the industry (I had done something similar at an internship I had, and it really benefited me). However, she was dissatisfied that we couldn’t pay her, and expressed that by showing up three hours late to a four-hour shift, spending her time on personal calls, or just not showing up at all. I ended up having to end her volunteering with the organization.
Fast forward two years, and we were hiring for my replacement. She applied, but did not mention her experience as an intern at the organization, nor did she reference it in any way on her cover letter. As someone my board trusted, I was asked to give my opinion on her candidacy, and based on my feedback she was rejected without an interview. I felt some misgivings — it had been two years and she could have gotten her act together — but mostly I was glad that the organization would find a good person for my role.
Well, recently, her name came up again! At a part-time job where I pick up weekend shifts (not in my professional field), my manager asked me if I knew her. I briefly explained that she was my intern and that I wasn’t super impressed with her performance back then, though I stressed that she could have grown a lot since then. My manager then rejected her application without an interview, just based on what I said.
Have I been sabotaging her chances at jobs?? This is now two jobs in two months that she has been rejected for, just based on my word. I have worked hard to become a respected professional in my field, and I don’t want to vouch for her and attach my name with hers, but I also don’t want to keep her from jobs. Should I have not said anything? I’ve been stressing for the past week, and I know a situation like this will most likely arise again unless I move out of the area. Help!
You’re not sabotaging her chances at finding work. There are many, many jobs that she can apply for where people won’t consult you. But when you know the people who are considering hiring her and they ask for your opinion, you should be honest. (See yesterday’s letter about the reference who wasn’t honest for an example of why!)
You’re right to stress that she might have grown since your experience with her, because she might have. You could also mention that it was your first time managing and you didn’t give her much feedback, because that’s relevant. But you also have an obligation to be honest about what her performance was like. And really, this was only two years ago; that’s not a ton of time, and so your experience working with her is still very relevant.
And there are consequences to being a kind of crappy intern. That doesn’t mean that it should prevent her from ever finding work again, and it won’t. But it does mean that if she applies with people who know you — and certainly if she applies at the very organization where the internship happened! — it will be something those people want to take into account.
This is basically what references are all about. If they were exclusively positive, there wouldn’t be a lot of point in using them. Sometimes they won’t be great.
If you’ve never discussed with her the sort of reference you’d be able to give her, I’d recommend doing that … although it sounds like she probably knows, given how the volunteer work ended (and indeed, it doesn’t sound like she’s offered you up as a reference since then).
I work for a small company with two full-time employees, two part-time, and a weekly bookkeeper. My boss is wealthy, mercurial, and often out of the office or traveling. Recently, he announced that he has decided to move our office from our (already small) space into his duplex apartment, which is supposed to be quite luxurious. I am extremely wary of working out of his apartment and the lack of division this would create between personal and business space, not to mention that we are expected to work nine hours (or more) a day and are discouraged from taking more than 20 minutes outside of the office to get lunch. But he wants to save the money and it seems like his mind is already made up.
I really want to express my reservations about the move, and I’m already looking for other jobs. How do I frame my concerns so that they sound professional and not just personal – i.e., that I don’t want to be in his house all day? I’m dreading this move and I feel it will make our company look less legitimate.
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:
Can I use troubling info one employee gave me about another?
I’m not getting the training I was promised when I took this job
How can I tell if a job applicant is detail-oriented?
Are you good at something and willing to share that expertise with others here? Here’s what I propose for a change of pace:
1. In the comment section below, name something you’re really good at that you’d be willing to answer questions about. It could be Excel, or financial planning, or make-up recommendations, or resolving customer service problems, or anything else that you’re awesome at and willing to take questions on.
2. Ask questions of others, and answer the questions people ask of you.
3. Feel free to leave calls for expertise too — like “how do I get rid of hanging indents in Word?” or “how do I keep people from falling asleep in my presentations?”
If all goes well, then at the end of the day, you will have helped other people and been helped yourself.
A couple of months ago, I joined a new team at work, in a role that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the group. So I was glad when another junior staff member who had joined the team a bit earlier reached out and showed me the ropes. As we grew more friendly, we also started sitting next to one another (our office has open seating with no assigned desks), and chatting occasionally during the day. Our remarks were always casual, and though they were not strictly work-related, we never discussed deep or personal topics. So, I was surprised when one day, he began referring to me as his “work wife.”
At first, it was simply in reference to that fact that someone had sat at the desk I usually claimed, breaking up our “marriage.” But in the next few days, he repeated the comment a couple times, once to another colleague. The term “work wife” makes me uncomfortable as it overstates our relationship, and may have a dubious connotation. As a young woman, I worry that it may undermine my professionalism. On the other hand, this colleague uses the term so casually that I don’t think he means anything by it. He is also on my level and does not work on any of the same projects as me, so there is no threat to my performance here.
Am I right to find the term “work wife” strange or is it actually commonly accepted? Either way, how do you think I should proceed here? I don’t want to alienate one of my only friends on my team by bringing this up as some kind of big problem or having a serious talk, but I would rather not deal with these comments.
It’s a common enough term (along with “work husband” and “work spouse”) to refer to someone at work who you’re close with and get along with uncommonly well (and can be same sex or opposite sex), although it sounds like he’s using it where the relationship doesn’t really warrant it. Either way, though, you don’t have to like it and you’re allowed to tell him to stop.
It would be fine to say something to your coworker like, “Hey, I don’t love that term. Let’s just say ‘coworkers.’”
2. My work is excellent but I can’t get promoted
I work at a very large company in a support role, it is basically glorified data entry, but it can call for a little critical thinking in some cases. I out-perform my coworkers by a large margin. On a team of 14 people, I account for 30% of the total productivity on any given day (on busy days, it is 50%). We are assigned work through “tickets,” and when we resolve an issue, we close a ticket. We are able to view how many total tickets the team closed every day, as well as how many we closed ourselves, which is how I have calculated my results.
Management is aware of this and of my aspirations to move up within the company, and they even “fight” for me to get that promotion (at least they say they do) but HR won’t grant the requests due to my lack of time with the company (four years). I would be okay with this if I wasn’t pulling all of the weight and having nothing to show for it.
Management will do things like nominate me for awards, discretionary bonuses, and extra PTO, which is great, but I feel like they are avoiding the real issue, which is the rest of their workforce. What will they do when I am gone? Are they holding me in this position because they know they will be in trouble if they lose me? Am I wrong in asking them to enforce their productivity metrics or raise the bar in order to light a flame under my coworkers? I understand that lazy people are everywhere, but I can’t help but feel as though I am being used as a crutch holding up the weight of our department.
They won’t promote you because you’ve only been there four years? When you said it was due to lack of time with the company, I thought you were going to say you’d only been there six months or something like that. Four years?! That’s ridiculous. At every other company in the world, that’s more than enough time to overcome any tenure rules about promotion.
So either they have a bizarrely ridiculous rule about length of tenure (have they told you how long you’d need to be there before they’d consider it? is it, like, a century? are they all vampires?) or they’re keeping you in your position because you’re doing the work of four people.
“Top performer on a 14-person team, resolving 30-50% of daily tickets” is an excellent line for your resume. Go use it and find a job that rewards you appropriately.
3. Do I need to organize social outings for my staff?
I manage a staff of about 15 people whose offices are scattered across our company’s campus, so there are many members of my team that I won’t see/won’t see each other if it’s not intentional. For our team to function well, it’s important that we communicate and collaborate. To that end, we have standing meetings, regular professional development sessions and occasional group trips to industry conferences, an orientation process that emphasizes getting to know the rest of the department, etc. … all specifically work-day activities.
Previously, I had a couple of staff members who initiated regular happy hours and other social activities, as well. I was grateful for them because when the work day ends, while I truly enjoy my colleagues, I can’t wait to go home to my family and read a book in the bath with a glass of wine after dinner. I am also reluctant to be the organizer of happy hours because I don’t want to create “Ugh, I have to go out after work to make my boss happy” situations. That said, I know many people do like to socialize! With coworkers! And when someone else organized a happy hour, I went for a drink when I could — it was fun and low-key and there was usually a good crowd. I realized recently, however, that after some normal turnover, the main “social directors” are gone and no one has stepped up to take their place. Do I need to take this on? Or can I just go home and lock the door behind me?
You do not need to take this on! You do need to ensure that your team has opportunities to interact and collaborate, and it sounds like you’re doing that. There is nothing that says “and some of those opportunities needs to be after work or with alcohol.”
If you really want to address it, you could say to your whole team, “I’ve realized that since Jane and Fergus left, we haven’t had many happy hours or other social activities since they were generally the organizers. If anyone misses doing those, feel free to organize them! I’m not going to do it myself since I wouldn’t want anyone to feel pressure to attend. But it’s fine if you want to! And fine if you don’t, too.”
4. There’s an error in my offer letter
I recently received an offer from a great company, and the director of the program personally called to extend the offer. When negotiating salary over the phone, the director and I agreed on an hourly pay rate. The pay is not the best and much of the currency comes from getting a foot in this company’s door.
However, I just got my offer letter via email. The letter reflects an annual salary that ends up being less than our agreed upon hourly rate (and it has no mention of the hourly rate we discussed via phone). When I asked if our previously agreed upon hourly rate was used, the director sent me her formula. She calculated 40 hours per week x 4 weeks a month x 12 months a year x my hourly pay rate. Basically, her formula mistakenly uses 48 weeks in a year instead of the correct amount of 52 (essentially shorting me 4 weeks of accumulated pay).
It seems like my only option is to call out the director (whom I’ve met once and is essentially my future boss’s boss’s boss) on her math skills. She’s extremely accomplished, regarded for her intelligence, and generally comes across as someone who does not like to be corrected. How do I advocate for the correct pay without embarrassing her?
If she’s worth working for, she’s not going to penalize you for pointing out that she’s shorting you a month’s worth of pay! Truly — and if she seems to be holding it against you, that’s a huge red flag.
Just be matter of fact! For example: “Ah, it looks like you calculated it using 48 weeks in the year rather than 52. At 52 weeks in a year, it should be $X. Can you confirm that on your end?”
5. I spent 45 minutes helping a student and heard nothing back
I am an allied health practitioner who is sometimes approached by students from the local university for informational interviews or to answer questions about the way I work. I am happy to assist where I can — other professionals in my field certainly gave me similar access during my own training. I suspect that the course faculty are suggesting me as a contact for students because of my willingness here.
A student recently emailed me a set of (numerous) questions about the way I work, my thoughts on the industry, etc. It took about 45 minutes to work through it, so it wasn’t an insignificant request. I am a bit taken aback that the student didn’t reply to acknowledge my response or say thank you. Judging from the question design, I think the student sent it to several practitioners at least.
I feel like I’m saying “I DESERVE GRATITUDE” but really I’m thinking “THIS KID IS GOING TO ALIENATE HALF OF THE LOCAL PRACTITIONERS,” which is hardly fair on the next student who wants help.
It felt unprofessional, as well as a bit discourteous. Am I just being petty? I’m aware that students are often still developing their understanding of professional norms. I’m wondering if I should email the course tutor and suggest they remind students to follow up with an acknowledgement when they’ve asked for someone’s time, without naming the student involved. Would that be an overreaction?
Not at all. It would be doing their students a favor. I encourage you to do it — and be specific about what happened, that you’re happy to help but you spent 45 minutes answering numerous questions and heard not a peep back afterwards.
You could also email the student and say, “I haven’t heard back from you and want to make sure you received this. Assuming you did, I want to mention that courtesy is enormously important in this field (as in most others), and you will alienate people if you don’t acknowledge their time or assistance.”
“Arya” and I were classmates in college. We were in the same year and did the same major. We’ve known each other for 16 years and have worked together twice; one time she was my manager and the other time I was hers. We often attend the same work-related conferences and exchange thoughts on articles that appear in industry publications. Our relationship is a professional one, although I did attend her wedding because her husband was in the same fraternity as me, and she did introduce me to my future husband at a networking charity event. Besides her wedding, we have never talked outside of work or a networking event.
I was hiring for a position and one of the promising candidates was working for Arya and had put her down as a reference. Arya sung her praises and told me she was the best employee in the department. The position I was hiring for would be a promotion for the candidate, and Arya said there was no room for promotion in her department at the moment. Based on Arya’s glowing review and the same from another manager there (and her strong resume), I hired her.
It was a catastrophe. Her work was sloppy and disorganized. She struggled to do basic tasks, missed deadlines, and was sometimes cold to her coworkers and clients. She was asked to take point on a project because her resume listed a similar project, and it went so far off the rails we had to bring in outside help to get it back on track. I know a promotion and new company can be an adjustment, but she was incompetent beyond having to adjust to a new place. Her mistakes cost us so much money she had to be fired.
When I spoke to Arya the first time, she played dumb. The second time, she admitted to lying about how good the candidate was because she was tired of dealing with her mistakes and wanted her gone. She told the candidate she wouldn’t fire her if she quickly left on her own and promised a good reference in exchange. The other manager agreed to do the same thing when Arya asked him to. Arya also told the candidate to lie about how long she worked there to make it seem like she was there longer and to put the project on her resume even though she wasn’t point on it. Arya said it was business and nothing personal.
After she was fired, my boss told me the bad candidate is being investigated by federal authorities for regulatory violations from her time at Arya’s company. The investigation started just when we were interviewing her, and Arya knew about it and didn’t tell me. The other manager is also being investigated for the same violations, which is how Arya got him to lie about the candidate. If the candidate had not left her job there, she would have been fired when word of the investigation got out. We had another candidate who worked for Arya, and Arya told me he was a mediocre employee who does the bare minimum. He just won two different prestigious industry awards. Arya also admitted to lying about him because she didn’t want him to leave. He still works at the same company as her.
I’m angry. She knowingly lied to me. I put stock in her opinion because of our relationship. I feel stupid and duped. I’m afraid making such a bad hire and passing up a good candidate will make me look bad and affect my career. My boss and her boss are upset about this debacle, and everyone knows something is up because the regulators came in when they found out the candidate worked here. They haven’t found anything yet but everyone is still nervous. The other manager who lied about the bad candidate has already been arrested and, based on what the bad candidate is accused of, she will likely be arrested soon also. (Arya cooperated with authorities, isn’t being investigated, and isn’t accused of doing anything against regulations.)
I don’t plan on talking to Arya again beyond being arms-length and professionally cool if I run into her at a conference and others are present. I’m not even sure if I can go to her boss because I don’t have any proof beyond her telling me verbally. Whether I knew her or not, the lie was egregious. Do I tell her boss? Do I confront her or leave it alone? She didn’t show any guilt or apologize to me.
Wow, Arya behaved horribly.
It’s bad enough when references lie in order to pass a problem employee on to someone else — instead of doing their own job and firing the person if it’s needed. That’s crappy, and it’s negligent. But doing it to someone you’ve known for 16 years — someone who was at your wedding! — is a whole new level of audacity. And then add in that she gave the candidate her blessing to lie about both her tenure and her work, and that she knew the person was under federal investigation, and that she also lied to keep a good employee from getting a job somewhere else, and Arya is officially an awful person.
As for whether to tell her boss about this … Do you know her boss at all? Or does your boss? If neither of you do, I wouldn’t just call up out of the blue — but if there’s any relationship there at all, then yeah, I’d detail all of this to her. You don’t need proof in order to say something; you can just factually explain what Arya did, and that she admitted it to you.
I also wouldn’t be shy about sharing with others what she did. You should feel free to warn people in your field not to trust references from her, and to explain why. What she did should be a reputation-ruiner, and you’re not under any obligation to shield her from that.
As for confronting Arya herself … I would. This isn’t a situation where you have anything to gain by doing that so you may decide not to bother, but certainly on principle you have every right to tell Arya how unethical and unacceptable her multiple lies were. And in response to her claim that it’s “just business,” you can tell her that ethics apply in business too and that her professional credibility is shattered.
On this week’s episode of the Ask a Manager podcast, I talked with happiness expert Gretchen Rubin about happiness and work. Gretchen is a leading expert on the connections between habits, happiness, and human nature, and is author of multiple bestselling books, including The Happiness Project and, most recently, The Four Tendencies.
We talked about what people can do to feel happier at work, the idea of following your passions (and why that’s a disservice to people), and much more. You can listen to our discussion about it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Anchor (or here’s the direct RSS feed). This episode is 20 minutes long.
What can/should I do when my boss is rude to another coworker?
We’re a small, very early-stage start-up with no HR person. The coworker and I are both young, female, and new. My boss often puts her down (“God, you’re inattentive” or “if you can’t even do this task you should be fired”) in front of us in response to her simply asking for clarification or an email to be resent, or tells her curtly “louder” while she’s talking in a meeting. He doesn’t seem to be doing it to anyone else.
It bothers me to see this and I imagine she must feel uncomfortable as well. I want to say something, but I don’t know what I can say. Any advice would be appreciated.
Agh, this is really tough.
What most people do in this situation is stay silent, feel really uncomfortable, and maybe commiserate with their coworker afterward.
Sometimes that’s truly all you can do. If you’re in a very junior position or otherwise don’t have much standing to speak up, or if you don’t have great rapport with the boss yourself, you might not be in a position to do anything in the moment. That’s a pretty awful position to be in — it’s horrible to feel like you have to just sit there and watch someone be mistreated. If that’s your situation, I’d encourage you to talk with your coworker and see how she’s doing — let her know that you see what’s happening and that you think it’s unacceptable. That might make the situation she’s in easier for her, and if she’s starting to question whether she’s somehow causing his mistreatment of her, it can help to hear that someone else thinks it’s not okay. (That’s especially true since she’s young and may not have much frame of reference yet for how a manager should interact with people.)
That said, sometimes you’re in a position to do more. Sometimes simply looking visibly shocked will shame a boss like this. And if you’re in a senior role and/or particularly respected by the boss and/or have particularly good rapport with him, you’re often well positioned to say something to him afterwards — which, depending on the relationship, could be anything from “you came across pretty harshly with Jane in that meeting” to “it’s really uncomfortable when you talk to people that way” to “we are going to lose good people if you keep talking to them that way.”
If you’re new and junior, though, that’s probably not something you’d easily be able to do. (Although you could do the “look visibly shocked” part.)
But there might be opportunity to provide another perspective in a way that doesn’t directly take on your boss. For example, if your boss insults your coworker because she asks him to clarify something, you could say mildly, “I actually was wondering the same thing too.” Or if he’s berating her for not getting a task right, you could say, “To be honest, I wasn’t totally confident about my ability to do this either. For me, the problem was X.”
If you do that, there’s a chance that your boss will just widen his circle of wrath to include you too, so you’d have to decide if that’s a risk you’re willing to take. But you could try it once and see what happens — who knows, it’s possible that it’ll calm him down.
Ultimately, though, your boss is a jerk. (And to be clear, it doesn’t matter if your coworker truly is awful at her job — she still doesn’t deserve to be talked to that way.) And when you’re working for a jerk, it’s usually only a matter of time before their jerkiness starts seeping out in other ways too, so I’d keep an eye out for that.
1. My manager said she’d give me a great reference — but she didn’t
After a second round interview with company A, I was asked to submit references. I typically would not include my current direct supervisor, who started working with my team six months ago, but many of her close friends work at Company A and she is aware that I am job searching. We have a good relationship, and she is a “huge fan” of the work I’ve produced. She gave me great reviews during my annual review last month.
Despite all of this, I did not get the job at Company A because of the reference my current supervisor gave. According to the hiring manager, my supervisor did not have full confidence in my work product. What makes this situation especially unique is that my supervisor has been bragging about the “glowing” reference she gave to multiple people in the office. She even told one of my peers that the workload may shift because I was about to get a fabulous new job.
Should I let her know that her reference was not as glowing as she thinks it was? Aside from never using her as a reference again, how should I move forward with her? It at all? I’m sure it was her – the hiring manager specifically said my current supervisor’s reference was the determining factor. My other references were former coworkers/former supervisors.
It’s possible that the hiring manager got mixed up, and the reference was from someone else. But assuming that’s not the case, it’s possible that your manager was acting in good faith here … because references aren’t typically a pass/fail thing but are more nuanced than that. References that are overall very positive generally still acknowledge that the person has weaker spots (and really, a credible reference often needs to do that). It’s possible that she didn’t think the weaker spots she mentioned would matter much for the job, but the hiring manager considered them a bigger deal.
The idea that she said she didn’t “have full confidence” in your work sounds damning, but it could have been something like, “Of course, she’s still learning to do A and B so I have a lot of oversight on her work in those areas.” Or the hiring manager could have asked how independently you work, and your manager could have said, “I review all her work before it goes out” just because that’s standard practice at your company. Or who knows — but there are a lot of ways that your manager could have felt she gave a strong reference while the hiring manager didn’t take it that way.
That’s not great, of course, because it may mean that your boss isn’t communicating the way she intends — but it also could just mean that the hiring manager put more weight on something than you’d expect her to from the outside.
Since you have the kind of relationship with your boss where she knows you’re job-searching and she’s bragging about how she’s helping you, I do think you could say to her, “I feel awkward about raising this, but the hiring manager for that job said that your reference gave her pause — she felt like you didn’t have full confidence in my work. I want to make sure I’m meeting your expectations and you feel you can give me a great reference in the future. Is there anything you’d like to see me doing differently?”
2. Recruiter made me promise not to accept any job offers
A few months ago when I was job hunting, I was contacted by a recruiter, Megan, who explained the position she was working on with me and asked about my experience and job hunt. She asked if I had any other interviews or offers on the table. I was honest and told her I had one interview the next day. She said, “I can’t submit your resume until you turn down that job” (mind you, I hadn’t even gone on the interview yet). She said “I’ll call you tomorrow to see if you even liked it or not.”
The next day, she calls and asks how my interview went. I told her it went well, but that position was very data-heavy, not what I was looking for. She said “Okay, I can submit your resume to my company, but you have to PROMISE me you won’t accept any other offers.” I was very put off by this, but the position sounded great, so I told her sure. She kept following up with me, saying “you stopped job hunting right? Not taking any offers?” I would just kind of brush it off.
Turns out, the company thought I was too junior and didn’t want to interview me anyway. What if I had actually turned down an offer to get this though? I’d be furious at myself and Megan for pushing so hard. I didn’t stop job hunting or turn anything down, since I knew this wasn’t a guaranteed interview. But I still found it incredibly strange. Is this normal? I never worked with another recruiter like that.
It’s not normal. It’s terrible practice. Of course you should be actively searching and should be free to accept a job offer if you want to! Good candidates aren’t going to agree to work with a recruiter who makes those demands, so Megan is harming not only candidates (for the reasons you mentioned) but the employers she’s working for as well (since they’re going to lose out on strong candidates who will find Megan’s demands ridiculous).
3. My boss doesn’t know my name
I’m writing in with a bit of an odd conundrum; I don’t think my boss knows my name. My company has less than 25 people in it. I have a main supervisor and then a boss who is above my supervisor. Every time my boss has spoken to me, she has called me by a different name. Sometimes, the name she calls me starts with the same letter or sounds somewhat similar to my actual name (such as Emily or Annie) but sometimes it is wildly different (Rachel or Christine). Each time she does this, I say something along the lines of “oh, it’s actually MY NAME,” but it continues. The only time she got my name right was when she was interviewing me during the job application process.
I’ve noticed that she sometimes makes small mistakes with other coworkers’ names, such as Christine instead of Christina or Katie instead of Kaitlin, but it’s never as huge as with my name. My coworkers have definitely noticed it, and seeing what name she’ll call me next has become a bit of a running joke. I don’t necessarily find it offensive, but it is annoying. I don’t feel like my name is all that unique or hard to remember. Do you think there’s anything else I should be doing or should I just let it go and accept that for whatever reason, my boss just can’t learn my name? Am I totally overreacting?
Since you’re already correcting her each time, there aren’t a lot of other options. The only other things you could try would be (a) a big conversation with her about it (“Jane, I’ve noticed you almost never call me by my correct name; can you try to remember to call me Cecily?”) or asking your supervisor to mention it to her. I might go with the latter, so that you don’t have to shoulder the burden of an awkward conversation with someone who has been so dismissive of your reminders already. But since she’s apparently mangling other names on the reg too (although not as badly as yours), I’m not super hopeful that it’s solvable.
It would be interesting, though, to know if she ever messes up names of people who are her peers or senior to her. If she’s an equal opportunity mangler, I wouldn’t take it personally at all. But if she only does it with people who she has power over, that’s telling.
4. I saw a job advertised for less than minimum wage
I am job searching and just came across a job that pays less than minimum wage. I am not interested in applying for this job in particular but wondered what the best way to handle it in general is. Minimum wage in New York city and state recently increased and in the city, the minimum wage is $13/hour for businesses with 11 or more employees and $12/hour for those with less.
This job is a temporary, part-time job at a non-profit. Even if it has fewer than 11 employees, the $11/hour they’re offering is still illegal. If I were interested in applying (which I might have been in the past), what is the best way to handle this? In the interview? At the offer stage? Just not apply for this job because an organization that doesn’t even realize the laws surrounding minimum wage have changed is one that one should avoid for fear of complete disregard of all labor laws?
I have actually worked at a business in the past that disregarded state wage laws but it was a little bit of a different situation (a restaurant that paid the federal minimum serving wage instead of the higher, New York state wage) and my wages after tips were generally high so I rolled my eyes and decided it wasn’t worth it. That was admittedly not the best way to handle it, so insight would be great!
It’s possible that they just haven’t updated their ads — if they’re used to reposting the same ads, it could be that it’s being done by a junior person who doesn’t realize they need to update that piece of it. So it’s possible that if they offered you the job, you’d find that they were offering it to you at the higher, legal wage.
As for when to bring it up, you could just wait for the offer and address it then if they still offer the lower, not-now-legal wage: “New York City recently increased minimum wage to $13/hour, so am I right in thinking that should be the wage for this position?” But it would also be fine to bring it up in the interview: “I saw in the ad that the position was advertised as paying $11/hour. Since New York City recently increased minimum wage to $13/hour, am I right in thinking that $13 is actually the wage for the position now?”
In other words, just sound matter-of-fact about it and like of course they’ll follow the law.
5. How far back do employers check your social media?
Thanks to your resume advice, I’ve managed to get an interview for an internship!
I’m very much a quintessential millennial and have had Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for a lot of years now. Do you have any advice for ensuring there’s nothing that an employer would object to on there? Part of the internship is running the charity’s social media accounts, so simply making my accounts private probably wouldn’t fly. My recent content is all employer-friendly but I’m just worried in case there’s some dumb teenage stuff from years back. How do employers check social media? Do they glance over the most recent stuff or do they deep trawl your account?
They’re usually just looking at the most recent stuff. It’s hard to give an exact timeframe since it depends on how much you post (six months of posts for you could produce the same number of posts as three years for someone else, if you’re a prolific poster and the other person isn’t). But typically an employer isn’t going to be reading everything carefully; it’s more like a quick skim to see if anything (good or bad) jumps out. That quick skim usually won’t go more than 100-200 posts back (and that’s on the high side).
That said, if you know that you had bad judgment in what you posted in the past, it would be smart to go back and clean that up, because you just never know how someone might run across something. But if you’re just worried that you might have posted something indiscreet eight years ago but don’t have anything particular in mind, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.