manager buys me gifts, my rude email got forwarded, and more

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

1. A manager who wants to hire me keeps buying me gifts

A manager in a different department who I believe I have a great working relationship with can’t keep staff in her department. She wants me to leave my department and work in her department because she says that she trusts me and respects my work ethic. I am torn because no one in her department likes her and they are all leaving. What makes it worse is that the manager has started calling me to have personal conversation and buying me and my children things. I do not want to ruin the relationship but I am also trying to keep an open mind and not listen to the complaints of others. I believe it’s only fair to formulate my own opinion. I also think that I should pay attention to the turnover rate in the department. Any advice would be great.

There’s value in keeping an open mind in situations like this; sometimes you might be able to comfortably work with a manager who other people struggle with. But you should still put real weight on what other people’s experiences have been: Talk to them about the reasons they’re leaving, ask what they tried to resolve those issues, and ask what they think it takes to work with her successfully. But if she’s got multiple people fleeing, pay attention to that. A lot of attention.

The other really important piece of data you have is that while she’s trying to recruit you, she’s buying things for you and your kids. That’s weird and it’s manipulative, and it’s not the action of a good manager. If she were just, say, tough but fair and the people leaving were people whose work wasn’t great, that would be one thing (and you might be able to work happily with her if your work is better). But this is someone who thinks she should buy gifts to convince you to work for her — that’s a flag that something’s really off there, and it makes me think her high turnover is for good reason.

You said you don’t want to ruin your relationship, but “I appreciate the offer but I’ve decided I’m happy where I am and don’t want to make a change right now” shouldn’t do that. At least it won’t do that with a reasonable manager — and if she’s not someone who would accept that with grace, that’s all the more reason to turn her down anyway.

2. New job, mistaken identity?

My husband recently started a new job. Another person, Jon, started on the same day as him — similar education, similar experience, different roles.

My husband’s role requires an understanding of the tools used in Jon’s, so he wasn’t surprised when his training was focused on those tools. But the assignments he’s getting continue to be directly using those tools, as would be expected in Jon’s role. Meanwhile, Jon has mentioned being assigned the higher level problems my husband expected to work on. We’re beginning to think that his boss (the owner) forgot who was hired to do what.

The only reason my husband took this job was because he was assured throughout the interview process that he would be working on the higher level problems. But there’s a pandemic going on, and we can’t afford for him to be out of work. What if anything can/should he say to his boss to get this straightened out? My husband doesn’t have a great read on how reasonable the boss is, yet, other than that he is very sarcastic.

He can address it without saying “I think you mixed us up” since there might be another reason for it anyway. For example, he could say, “I wanted to talk with you about how things are going. When I was interviewing, we’d talked about the X job (use the specific job title here in case he did get them mixed up) focusing largely on problems like A and B. I see those have been getting assigned to Jon in his Y role, while my assignments have been more C and D. I’m eager to take on the type of work we discussed when I was being hired, and I wanted to talk with you about the timeline for that.”

3. I wrote a rude email and it got forwarded

I was having an issue with a department at my work. I wrote a venting email to a coworker (I know, dumb) and she forwarded it to a number of people to try to get me help with my problem. Unfortunately, it had all of my original email attached. I wasn’t outright rude and I didn’t call anyone out by name, but it wasn’t a great tone. I was frustrated and it showed.

Needless to say, I apologized to everyone who got the email and assured them that I was being helped. Do I need to do anything further? I’m super embarrassed and have learned my lesson.

If you apologized and addressed the issue you were venting about (by saying you’re now being helped), that’s all you can do. That second piece (addressing what you were venting about) is important, and something people often skip in this situation. They’ll apologize but leave the topic of the venting hanging out there, still an issue. It helps to close the loop on that in some way. (For example: “I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t received quicker responses from your team, but I should have talked to you about that directly rather than complaining to someone else, and if it comes up in the future I’ll come to you earlier.”)

But there’s not much more damage control you can really do after that (at least just going on the details in your letter). You’ll likely feel the embarrassment for a while, but that’s actually a pretty effective way of making sure you don’t do it again … so in that way it serves a purpose.

4. Taking a leave of absence at a tiny start-up

I work for a very small, early stage start-up (less than 10 employees) and have been with the company for a few years. I’m in my early thirties, and when I joined a few years ago, the fast-paced work and feeling of contributing to something exciting was exactly what I was looking for.

My dad has had stage 4 cancer for over a year and recently stopped chemotherapy due to very debilitating side effects. His personal care needs have become very great as he has lost most use of his body. My mother is doing an incredible job taking care of him, but I think she needs more support. I’m also completely preoccupied, exhausted, and grieving from a distance. I’m unable to visit due to quarantine restrictions in the state where they live (I live five hours away in another state) and due to the fact that I can’t work remotely due to the nature of my job. Without the pandemic, I’d be able to continue working and visiting my parents on weekends, with the odd day off as needed.

I’d like to ask for a leave of absence from work to support my parents and because I’m so preoccupied, exhausted, and stressed that my performance isn’t up my usual standard. This puts my company in a tough spot as the work I do is tough to cover in such a small company. They’d either have to push all deadlines or hire and train a replacement. I’m financially in a place where I could take an unpaid leave for several months, but I don’t want to lose my health insurance. I don’t qualify for FMLA due to the size of the company. Furthermore, I don’t know how long my leave would be and what is reasonable to do in this situation.

What are my rights here and what is reasonable to ask for? Am I better off leaving a job (that otherwise is a great fit) and finding something that I could do remotely?

In terms of legal rights, it’s really just FMLA. Even if you don’t qualify for that, check your state laws because sometimes states offer more benefits and at smaller employer sizes.

But if that’s not in play, your company still might be willing to work something out with you. Talk to them! Explain the situation and explain what you’d like to do, and ask if there’s any way to work something out. They might surprise you — employers sometimes come through in situations like this. Not always, of course, and it might turn out there’s just no way to make it work on their side, but you shouldn’t assume that until you have the conversation.

You might also think about middle ground options. Even if most of your job can’t be done remotely, are there parts that could be — enough parts that you could go part-time while you’re out-there (even very part-time)? Or, would you be up for paying for more/all of your health insurance during that time if that’s a sticking point for them?

How much time is reasonable to ask for is a harder question, and depends on details of your dad’s situation and your job that I don’t have. One month can almost certainly be accommodated (you could be out for that long if you got injured or very sick and they’d make it work). Two or even three months would work in a lot of cases too. Six months is probably asking more than they can accommodate in a small company. But the exact amount that’s reasonable is hard to say from the outside. I’d think about what you really want and what you’d be willing to settle for, and then talk to them and see what your options are.

I’m sorry about your dad.

5. Writing a resume when Covid has dramatically changed my job

I’ve been with my company for nine years and in my current job for two. I’m looking to change jobs and that means updating my resume. As I’m filling in new information, I find myself in the situation of my current position having changed dramatically without a title change.

Before COVID, I was spending 28 of 40 hours a week running local HR and training for between 90-140 employees at a national restaurant chain, and doing whatever was needed for the other 12. Now, though, corporate has severely limited our hours, and we are doing what is essentially hiring/damage control for 10 hours per week and covering unfilled positions for the other 30 hours. (Recently, 36-45 hours, to be frank. It’s a bit grim and exhausting, and burn-out is driving the decision to move on.)

I thought about making a separate, COVID-dated entry with the same title, but that looks…weird. Any advice?

You don’t need a separate entry for the Covid stuff. In fact, you don’t need to list the Covid stuff at all if you don’t feel it strengthens your resume. You can simply focus on what the job was before Covid hit. If you’re asked about this time period in interviews, you should of course answer honestly, but you don’t need to get into it on your resume if you don’t want to.

A resume doesn’t need to be a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve done at each job, just the highlights that you feel most strengthen your candidacy. You shouldn’t take that so far that the totality of what you list for a job gives an inaccurate idea of what the role was all about, but that’s not the case here.

This would be different if you’d just started this job in March and all you’d done was the Covid-era stuff. In that case, you couldn’t list the old duties that you’d never performed. But in your case, you’re fine focusing on what the job has been up until recently.

You may also like:can a manager and employee vacation together?my manager won’t manage and tells us to “police our own ranks”how can I hire good candidates to work in a dysfunctional environment?

manager buys me gifts, my rude email got forwarded, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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