my boss accused me of game-playing, eccentric references, and more

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

1. My boss accused me of game-playing and hung up on me

My boss, who is normally pretty chill, yelled at me on a phone call earlier this week and hung up on me (it was just the two of us). It was a tense conversation, but necessarily so because we were trying to figure out how to solve a very difficult, very high-stakes problem. There had been no anger prior to his outburst, which was, “We’re going to have a serious problem, (my name), if you keep playing this game.” I have no clue what that means. I managed to say, “I’m really sorry, I don’t understand what’s happening” before he hung up.

I was shocked and upset and expected him to apologize, but it’s been three days and he hasn’t. I need to understand what happened — I don’t know what he meant by “game” but it’s clearly something that bothers him about me that he hasn’t stated — and frankly I just need acknowledgment from him that it was hurtful and inappropriate, but that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. Overall there’s a lot about this job that I don’t love and I’m trying to leave in the long-term, but in the meantime, how do I proceed? How do I decide whether to bring it up the next time we talk or do I pretend it never happened? If I do bring it up, how should I go about it?

I think more than an acknowledgement from him that it was hurtful and inappropriate, you need to get to the bottom of what the hell he meant. It sounds like he thinks something is happening that isn’t actually happening, and unraveling that needs to be the bigger priority. I think you have to bring it up — it’s such a bizarre and serious thing to say that you can’t proceed as if it wasn’t said.

I would say this: “When we last talked, you said you thought I was playing a game. I was taken aback because that’s not something I’d ever do, and I’m incredibly concerned that I’ve somehow given you that sense. Can we figure out where we’re seeing this differently?”

Of course, this assumes your boss is at least semi-reasonable. But if this is in character for him and he makes weird accusation toward people on the reg, there might not be a lot to gain by pursuing it. (Even then, though, I still might because sometimes even unreasonable people back down if you calmly express concern about something like this. Not always, but sometimes. So you have to know who you’re dealing with.)

2. Job candidate didn’t turn his camera on

Interested in your take on an interview situation I ran into. I was conducting a video interview the other week, and to my surprise when the candidate logged in they didn’t have a camera. I wasn’t the hiring manager so I don’t know how the set-up for the interview was conveyed. I did ask the candidate if he had a camera and he said he didn’t want to do the interview on his work laptop and he had no other computer. I just rolled with it and conducted the interview as normal, but afterwards I was wondering if I should’ve required a camera? What do you think? Obviously not everyone has the same access to technology. I also hadn’t thought about potential conflicts with using a work laptop. But it ended up feeling more like a phone screen instead of a second round interview as this was.

If he didn’t have a camera, he didn’t have a camera. What could he have done? You shouldn’t penalize people for not having the same access to technology as other candidates. Throw in that you don’t even know if he was asked to use a camera ahead of time, and rolling with it was 100% the right move.

If a video interview is really important to your ability to assess him correctly and he’s still in the running, you can ask him if he has a way to set up a video conversation (giving him advance notice, of course). And there are jobs where it would matter (for example, if he’s applying to be a trainer and you need to physically see him function as a trainer), but there are a lot of jobs where it really wouldn’t. So I’d ask whether you wanted him on video just because that’s what you were expecting and are used to, or whether you actually need it to proceed.

3. Eccentric references

My references have eccentric personalities. I come from the field of education and I’m looking to switch to banking, in a role that focuses much less on things like attendance and grading, obviously, and more on compliance and policy.

I have an interview with a bank. Yay! Will it matter that my references, who are lovely, lovely people, by the way, have more kooky personalities instead of serious/tempered ones, and what if they speak about me more like I’m in an educator role?

You should be fine, at least as long as we’re talking about more run-of-the-mill eccentricities and not something like “he will use four different accents during a 10-minute phone call” or “she will demand to be addressed only in the third person.”

Centering their conversation about you as if you’re still in an educator role will be understandable — the reference-checker will know your job history and the nature of the role where this person worked with you. But it’ll help to remind your references ahead of time about the work you’re applying for now and the specific skills or attributes that you especially want them to focus on. It’s even okay to say, “Something like Skill X or Y won’t be as relevant for this job, but if you could focus on Z, that would really help.”

4. Is it normal to have lots of turnover in your managers?

It seems like a lot of other readers mention years-long job searches to get away from bad managers or having long-standing relationships with good ones. In my experience (large global companies, financial services), managers change pretty regularly due to reorganizations and people joining/leaving the firm. I’ve been at my current company less than two years and am on my third manager. (And I don’t think it’s personal, as at my prior company one objectively excellent colleague had six successive managers in one particularly eventful year.) I read a lot about the importance of “managing up” and adapting to your manager’s communication style, and it seems like a substantial investment of time and emotional energy to create a solid relationship when odds are that it will be relatively short-lived. Is my industry an outlier, or is it normal to get new managers and have to re-build the relationship relatively frequently?

There’s a lot of variation, but in general it’s more common to have managers stick around long-term than to have three managers in two years. It’s very common to have the same manager for three, four, five, or more years. That doesn’t mean people don’t also have shorter-term bosses — they do — but lengthier relationships are pretty normal.

Also, managing up doesn’t normally take a massive investment of time! It’s just about making the pieces of the relationship that you can control go as smoothly as possible, and often expanding your view of what those pieces are. More here.

5. Am I going to get this offer?

I found an alum at a company I’m interested in. Stayed in touch and months later he asked me to interview for a role on his team. I met the three people on his team. Interviews went okay, I guess. A week later, HR reached out to say the alum wanted them to speak with me and to please formally apply online. HR said I am one of very few final candidates and the decision is still being made— no concerns, just each candidate has different strengths and weaknesses. They asked for my salary/bonus expectations, said they could offer me a substantial increase, asked about restrictions on giving notice, asked me if I would accept the job if offered (I said absolutely), and then gave me access to benefits portal with password to view insurance etc.

I’m still waiting on the call with the decision. Odds I have the job? I literally can’t sit still. Wouldn’t it be kinda messed up to give me access to their benefits portal and then not offer me the job?

Well … not really. It makes sense for them to let you review their benefits now so that if they do make you an offer, you’ve already had a chance to review that info and figure out what questions you might have.

I know this is painful and everyone wants a way to read the tea leaves, but there’s no real way to know what your chances are. They could hire someone else, run into a hiring freeze, end up reorganizing and moving someone internal into the role … Or they could hire you! There’s just no way to predict. The absolute best thing you can do is to tell yourself you didn’t get it, put it out of your mind, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you do. Staying antsy doesn’t make the decision come any faster (in fact, it usually makes it feel like it takes longer) — and there’s absolutely no downside to mentally moving on.

You may also like:can you play games on your phone while waiting in the lobby for an interview?should you return a missed call from an interviewer who didn’t leave a message?my coworker keeps demanding I say “please”

my boss accused me of game-playing, eccentric references, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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