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

1. I’m working for a pyramid scheme

I’m a 2020 grad in a highly competitive industry that requires “struggle jobs” even during normal times and has completely shut down due to COVID. Everything even tangentially related is fully virtual and fully volunteer, so I’ve been sending my resume out to anything I even remotely qualified for. I recently landed a job with a marketing/sales office, which I took because they offered to train and promote me to HR assistant after a probationary period in their entry-level rep position.

The branch I’m at just opened up last year has a name no one will have heard of, but the umbrella company (several levels up) is Cydcor Marketing. The company is barely not a pyramid scheme. I’ve listened to “The Dream” – it’s above the level of, say, LuLaRoe or Herbalife, but only just. The product we’re selling is legitimate and reps don’t have to buy a package to get started, but the training, promotion, and commission structure is 100% pyramid. There are daily meetings full of meaningless motivational speeches that translate to “you should be glad to be working 80-hour weeks for us, only losers wouldn’t want this opportunity.” (They also don’t offer benefits because offices are intentionally kept too small to be legally required to provide health insurance.)

If we were not in a pandemic, I would cut and run. As it is, I’m scared of losing this (inconsistent but always higher than minimum wage) paycheck, and I’d like to use the promised HR experience to eventually transfer to a more legit company. Is this a good strategy, or will future employers be more put off by an extended stint at a shady company than by a string of retail positions?

Ugh. Cydcor is known to be awful. If you had to put their name on your resume, I’d tell you to get out today if you could do it without plunging yourself into crisis (i.e., if you have a safety net with your family). Being able to put a different company name on your resume might mitigate the problem somewhat, but if a savvy interviewer digs into what the company really is, it’s going to be a problem. HR experience at a shady company is … not great.

But just as importantly, I’d seriously question the quality of the training you’re getting and how well it will translate to another company later. Unfortunately, based on how Cydcor operates, I’d be deeply skeptical that you’re going to get HR experience of much value.

If financially it’s not an option to just quit, I’d recommend continuing to actively look for something else. Retail is not a terrible option by comparison. I’m sorry — I wish I had a different answer for you!

2. How to stop making careless mistakes at work

I’m a manager at a large corporation. Periodically I need to gather some data and present them to VPs and executive VPs.

I noticed that often I’ll be looking and re-reading and re-checking to make sure presentation is error-free and then turns out I missed something. It sucks when an executive leader calls it out, I just want to die.

Part of the problem is stress that I’m presenting this to “authority.” Part of it is fixation on an outcome — I want to get things done. And then add to that the urgency factor and I have a problem. Any suggestions on how to fix this? I’m not stupid, I know the data and materials. I just make stupid mistakes. Is this something to discuss with my manager? How best to approach it?

It sounds like you’re rushing, and that can definitely cause this. But are you rushing because you want to be done or because you’re not given enough time for the work?

If it’s the latter, I’d raise that with your boss — that you’re not catching errors because everything is a rush. But if you’re more rushing just to get through it, try setting the work down after you’re finished and then come back and recheck it later with fresh eyes. Even putting it down for just 20 or 30 minutes can be enough that you’ll catch mistakes when you take a second look. (You might already be doing that, of course!) Also, can you enlist anyone else in looking over the data for you? Is there someone on your team you already trust or could train to be your second pair of eyes?

I’d also look at what kind of mistakes you’re making and where they’re coming from. Are they more like typos? Calculation errors? Forgetting to include something relevant? Misinterpreting data? Each of those has a different solution, which could be as simple as more proofreading (in the case of the first two) all the way up to more training (in the case of the last one).

Whether or not to raise it with your manager depends on how often it’s happening. If it’s just occasional and the timelines you’re being given aren’t unreasonable, I don’t think you need to raise it— all least not without first figuring out where the mistakes are coming from and some approaches to mitigate that. But if it’s frequent, there can be value in saying, “I’m aware of this and I’m doing XYZ to address it.”

3. HR was showing my eductation level to people in the break room

I do not have a college degree. It is something that I am very insecure about, but I have never let it hold me back from working my ass off and advancing my career.

Our HR manager is very immature and has done several things that I question (mostly sharing private information) but I tend to just mind my own business. Today, I walked into the break room and she was showing other employees the education levels of everyone at our company. Someone guffawed and asked who had the high school degree (it’s me). She said it was me and it very much embarrassed me. Am I being emotional by being upset that my private information was shared in that way? Is education info even private?

Your education isn’t something that’s typically expected to be kept private — but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your HR manager to mock it. It’s possible she had some legitimate use for compiling that data but it sounds like she was sharing it a gossipy way, which (a) isn’t okay and (b) undermines the trust people need to have in HR to handle information sensitively.

So no, I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset. There’s nothing wrong with only having a high school diploma and I hope you can find a way not to be embarrassed that some of your colleagues know (if anything, it makes whatever professional advancement you’ve achieved more impressive), but your HR manager sounds like an ass.

4. Using “they” pronouns in a recommendation letter without confusing people

I am a high school counselor. Among the many hats I wear I also write a lot of recommendation letters for students who are applying to colleges and universities, scholarships, and other activities such as internships and job opportunities. This year one of my students let me know that they have come out as non-binary and have elected to use he/they. They also gave me a new first name to address them by. The new name is not one commonly associated with a male; in fact most would assume female, i.e. Susan. They need a letter to complete their college application and I am at a loss at to how to do this without providing an explanation in the letter regarding them being non-binary (I don’t think it would be appropriate). I also don’t want the admissions committee to think I am writing about the wrong student or recycled a letter and forgot to change the pronouns. This is the first time I have encountered this and I want to respect my student and sell them in a good way in my letter without the impression I’m talking about some other kid.

Check with the student first to make sure they want you to use their correct pronouns in the letter; they may be out to you and others at school but not yet in this context. But assuming yes, I’d just explain it the first time you name the student in the letter: “Susan (who uses ’they’ pronouns)…” That’s it! As commenters have pointed out, you don’t need to explain it at all. Just use the pronouns. It’s unlikely the school is going to think you’re writing about the wrong person.

5. Is it a faux pas to ignore a recruiter?

My LinkedIn profile states I’m not looking to move employers. For the first time in many years, I got an email from a recruiter asking me to contact her regarding a job in my field at another company (which she named). I ignored the email, but got a follow-up one from her today. My skill set is pretty niche and is in high demand right now. I’m not interested in leaving my employer as I have a pretty sweet deal, but I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by not responding. I mean, who knows if things might change in the future? I wouldn’t want to blow someone off who could help me if things ever went south at my current job. I don’t anticipate that ever happening, but you never know.

I should mention that I am a few years from retirement (yay!) and not looking to advance any further up the food chain. Am I committing a faux pas here?

You’re not committing a faux pas. Recruiters are used to emailing tons of people and only hearing back from a fraction of them; that’s just how recruiting works. That said, you might find it interesting to talk to her anyway — you can get a lot of good data on the job market and your own positioning in it by talking to recruiters (and who knows, maybe she has an offer that you’d be interested in once you hear it). You’re not committing to anything by having a conversation and potentially have something to gain (even if only information). But if you’re just not up for dealing with it, it’s perfectly fine to just ignore the contact.

You may also like:my boss wants to secretly recruit my coworkers and me into a money-making schememy staff is selling multi-level marketing products at work, my coworker makes R-rated noises, and morehow legit are those “best places to work” lists?

I’m working for a pyramid scheme, how to stop making careless mistakes, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Launched in 2014, StoryBites is a weekly feature from YourStory, featuring notable quotable quotes in our articles of this past week. This special series of compilations focuses on India’s COVID-19 struggle (see last week’s post here). Share these quotes and excerpts with your networks, and check back to the original articles for more insights.

Food safety issues and the enhancement of health security are of growing national and international concern. – FSSAI report

COVID-19 transformed the fish and meat purchasing behaviour of consumers dramatically. Due to safety concerns, consumers made the habit-forming shift to ecommerce. – Shan Kadavil, FreshToHome

Health is no more about medicines; it is now a way of life. – Sanjaya Mariwala, OmniActive Health Technologies

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the lives of people with disabilities. Visually impaired persons cannot avoid touch and cannot maintain physical distancing in their true sense. – Prashant Ranjan Verma, NAB

The lockdown period has drastically changed individual behaviours and highlighted the need for safety and comfort. – Paul Abraham, Hinduja Foundation


Leadership lessons: 7 learnings from 7 months of COVID-19

The pandemic brought enormous human suffering, but the quarantine and economic fallout brought the cash flow crisis. – Patrick Schwerdtfeger, 'Pandemic, Inc.'

It’s competitive to raise funding in any environment and even more so during a crisis of such a magnitude. If you are in a sector that’s in favour right now, do raise a bit more than required to have some buffer. – Jatin Desai, Inflexor Ventures

Any and every profession involves some risk, whether it is delivering food, working on a desk, or running a company. – Raghav Joshi, Rebel Foods

Leading global bodies project that there will be a contraction in global energy demand over the next few years also. – PM Narendra Modi

The coronavirus pandemic has set women professionals back by more than a decade, further disbalancing gender parity at work. – Anuranjita Kumar, WiT India

The pandemic has given rise to unpaid care work that women provide and there has been a reduction in external investment towards women-led enterprises as businesses continue to be affected due to disruption. – Naghma Mulla, EdelGive Foundation

Being used to the traditional office culture, many people don’t have the right frame of mind to work remotely. It takes time, discipline, and dedication to develop that. – Zahara Kanchwalla Zahara, Rite KnowledgeLabs

Corporate campuses are now allowing extended lunch hours to help mitigate the risk by limiting the number of people who can be present in the cafeteria at a time. – Sandipan Mitra, HungerBox


Uber offers 12,000 free rides to National Association for the Blind in 8 Indian cities

COVID-19 has accelerated India's digital transformation and a workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills will be the key to unlocking the country's next phase of growth. – Anant Maheshwari, Microsoft India

As consumers have shifted online, more companies are looking at how they can take advantage of this digital shift and the vast economic opportunities that come with it. – Bhavik Vasa, GetVantage

The blue-collar ecosystem is undergoing massive digital transformation and the ongoing pandemic has accelerated this adoption. – Pravin Agarwala, Betterplace

As the city builds back from COVID-19, there is a demanding need for an accessible, affordable, and safe everyday commute option. – Aravind Sanka, Rapido

During COVID-19 pandemic, consumers began demanding social change in the fashion industry by seeking more sustainable brands. – Rina Dhaka, RE.purposed

Comfort is the priority for most men now especially since most of them are working from home these days. – Prince Kumar, Cantabil Retail

Change and evolution is part and parcel of life – but the beauty of theatre and art is that while nothing stays constant, everything stays the same. – Arundhati Nag, Ranga Shankara

YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).

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