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.

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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.

Original Source:

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.

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

Original Source:

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.

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

Original Source:

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

1. I accidentally sent my boss a message complaining about her

I accidentally sent a message to my boss which was meant for somebody else and am very embarrassed.

I’d had a long day. I had back to back meetings from 12 to 4. I started work at 7 am to allow myself some extra time to produce work products before the meetings started. A few of the meetings were intense, with coworkers having professional differences of opinions that resulted in some animated Zoom conversations. I had an important appointment that required me to leave at 4:30, but I did not tell my boss in advance because that’s when I’m typically scheduled to leave work anyway.

Then, at 4:15 I got a text message from my supervisor saying she needed me to jump on another meeting. Assuming the meeting might not end by 4:30, I sent a quick text message to my sister, who was joining me at the appointment. I said, “My boss is being insane and asked me to join another call. Hopefully we can still leave on time.” However, I accidentally sent the message to my boss. Obviously, I was totally mortified. Even though it had been a long day, I meant the text message in a lighthearted, joking way. I have a lot of respect for my boss, and in no way think it is unreasonable for her to ask me to join a call when she needs input.

I apologized immediately. I explained the message was meant to be humorous and intended for my sister. I acknowledged how rude it was, and said that it is, of course, perfectly reasonable to expect me to join calls during work hours. My boss said not to worry about it, but she then told me not to join the call since it was almost over and that she could catch me up tomorrow. We are all working remote due to the pandemic, so I could not have a face-to-face discussion with her right then.

I am not sure if an apology via text message is sufficient, or if there is more that I should do to try to make amends. This is particularly unfortunate because I truly think she is a great boss, and in no way insane. Do you think I should bring this up with her again, or is it time to let it go? Also, from a manager’s perspective, how serious is this offense? I think we have a good relationship, and don’t want her to think that I resent doing my work and think she’s a bad or unreasonable supervisor.

Well … yeah, as a manager, if I got that I’d feel a little stung, but more importantly I’d wonder if it reflected something you saw as a pattern, or if you were unhappy with me in ways I hadn’t been aware of. (And I say that as someone who knows that it’s very normal to blow off steam about your boss, even a boss you like.) It wouldn’t be a huge deal, but it would be irresponsible for me not to reflect on those questions after seeing that comment.

So yes, I think it’s worth following up with her. The next time you talk, I’d say something like, “I want to apologize again for the message I sent to you that I meant for my sister. It had been a long day and I was feeling pressure to leave on time to meet her for an appointment, and I was just blowing off steam. It wasn’t in any way unreasonable to ask me to join that call! I really like working for you, and I’d never want to give you a different impression.”

It’s not that this is a serious offense — it isn’t. This is just about not leaving your boss with an inaccurate impression or having her worry about how you’re feeling about her/your job/her expectations.

2. My boss wants to know my long-term plan

I work at a nonprofit (about 50 people total). We’ve survived COVID-19 so far, but the future is uncertain. We’re waiting on news about some grants and state-issued money to know what the immediate financial future looks like. Without them, it seems pretty dire.

My supervisor asked me today what my five-year plan is: if I want to stay with the organization, if I’m looking to stay in the field, if I think I’d like to move on. They explained that, with some potential/probably financial turbulence, we may have to reorganize, so her boss was looking for insight on what some possibilities could be.

I felt caught off-guard and flustered my way through saying that I thought I would probably move on from our organization before another five years were up (I’ve already been here for over five years and am not really challenged anymore, with no potential for growth.) I asked for more time to think and let her know, with no hard date set as to when to do that.

Frankly, I’ve been considering moving on from the organization for a while and potentially leaving nonprofits entirely. My immediate plan was to leave in spring 2021 and start massage therapy school. (My partner makes decent money and has awesome benefits, under which I’m covered; it’d be tight, but doable … minus, you know, COVID.)

Do I tell my boss any of this? Should I just say that I’d like to stay at my organization for the foreseeable future? Or do I take this as an opportunity to try something new out entirely? Plans are by no means set in stone about massage therapy school, but it’s a pretty strong contender.

Do not tell any of this to your boss. There is too high of a risk that you’ll end up being pushed out earlier than you want to leave, because if they’re looking for places to make cuts they’ll figure you’re an easy one since you’re on your way out anyway.

In normal times, maybe you could share your thinking with your boss, if and only if she and the organization both had a track record of handling this kind of thing well and not pushing people out earlier than they wanted to leave. But right now, with so many employers facing budget shortfalls — and yours openly saying they’re contemplating how to reorganize — the risk is just too high.

Go back and tell your boss you’ve been happy at the organization and hope to stay for a long time. (If you then do end up leaving in the spring, you can explain that your plans changed. You’re not writing any of this in stone.)

3. Is liking a competitor post on LinkedIn a cardinal sin?

I work as a manager in a small specialized team in a much bigger company — our team is about a dozen analysts and 4-5 people with a management role. One of our former colleague, whom I’ll call Sansa, left for a competitor company a few months ago, after 10+years with the company. Nearly all of us in the team are “friends” with Sansa on Linkedin, from her time with our company.

Apparently, one of our analysts liked a post from Sansa on LinkedIn, with his personal account, and the other managers in the team are considering it a cardinal sin, and that it shouldn’t be done, and that we should remind our staff not to do that, ever. It may be cultural or personal difference (the other managers are American older men, and I’m a younger European woman), but I don’t see why it’s so much a problem. We cannot control personal accounts on LinkedIn, and it’s not because Sansa is now competition that she’s the devil all of a sudden. What would you advise?

They’re overreacting and being weird. Liking a LinkedIn post from a former coworker is not wrong or disloyal, even if the person now works for a competitor. That said, some employers are weird about this kind of thing — although usually it’s more about liking other companies’ stuff, not the posts of individual people who you know personally.

Can you be a voice of reason and point out to the other managers that this is an over-reach, that your employees aren’t going to cut off Sansa just because she now works for a competitor, and that they didn’t do anything disloyal?

The exception to this is if Sansa’s post was promoting her new company in a way that was in direct competition with your company — like if it was about a product that’s clearly designed to threaten your market share. If that’s the case, you should explain to your staff that even if they just meant to be supportive to Sansa, it’s the kind of thing that can ruffle feathers.

4. We close early before long weekends — but not entirely

My company, like most others, closes early on the Friday before a holiday. However, they always send an email saying that we are closing at say 1 pm on Friday, but expect us to check our voicemail and email until 5 pm in case of an emergency, and that the main line will be answered until 5 pm and calls will be forwarded as usual. So really, it’s not closing early at all.

Is this the norm? Why do I feel like this is unreasonable and/or disingenuous about granting an early dismissal for a holiday?

We are an insurance agency, so it’s not like we have patients or legitimate medical emergencies that need to be addressed immediately. We do have claims of course, but policyholders are provided claim reporting information that directs them to go directly to the insurance company, which is generally staffed 24/7.

It’s not terribly uncommon. They’re not fully giving you the afternoon off since you still need to check in and would need to work if something urgent came up — but they’re saying you don’t need to keep working if no emergency comes up. You can go home, lounge around, check in a few times, and continue doing nothing unless there’s an emergency. And if you don’t often have emergencies, then you probably won’t end up working during this, which is good. But they want to make sure that if something does come up, letting everyone head out early won’t cause problems.

I don’t think it’s especially unreasonable or disingenuous — it’s a way for them to let people leave when they otherwise probably couldn’t.

5. Do I need to include my most recent job title on my resume?

I’ve been at my current company for about a decade. In that time, I worked up to a very respectable job title. In May, the company had major layoffs. I was spared but made a lateral move to a different division, and with it came a different title that is very generic and not a good description of what I do (which is almost the same as what I did before with my old title).

I am considering applying for jobs that would be a good match for someone with my old title. Do I need to list my current title on my resume or can I just use my pre-May resume? I’m afraid for two reasons — one is that the title sounds much less impressive and like less of a match to the new positions and the other is that I would list this title as just beginning in May, I’m worried that it looks like I was given a new job, didn’t like it, and left. Is leaving off this detail lying?

Yeah, you’ve got to list your current title. Otherwise you’d be saying your old title is your current one, and that’s misrepresenting it. That could easily come out in a background or reference check, and that would raise questions.

That said, if you don’t think the title accurately captures what you do, you can include an explanation in parentheses like this:

Senior Breakfast Specialist (manager of breakfast communications)

You don’t need to worry about leaving so soon after your title changed. You might get asked about it, but it’s not going to be a big deal. Just explain the company has been having layoffs and you’re looking for a more stable role. Interviewers will get it.

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I accidentally sent my boss a message complaining about her, boss wants to know my long-term plan, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. I was told to ask more questions while I’m being trained

I just started a new job two weeks ago. I received feedback that they want to see me ask more questions so they can see externally that I’m “getting it.” I tend to not have questions until I start actually doing things myself. I take notes and I’m paying attention, but currently everything seems very self-explanatory. How do I respond to this? Should I make up questions to ask?

I’ve had this feedback before from previous employers, and I’m concerned I’m giving off the impression I’m not interested or am worrying them somehow. I’m a hands-on learner, so watching people do things and taking notes doesn’t really help me until I can put it in practice.

If you’ve had this feedback from multiple employers, I’m betting that it’s not necessarily that you need to ask more questions, but that you’re not sending enough signals that you’re paying attention and processing things. Questions are one way to do it, but they’re not the only way.

Things you can do:
* After someone shows you how to do something, repeat back your understanding of the key takeaways. For example: “Okay, so after logging in, I’d go to A and do B, and if C happens, I should check D?”
* Nod and give verbal cues that you’re following along: “Okay, got it” … “That makes sense” … “Ah, I see what you’re doing!” … etc.
* Be explicit about what you said here about how you operate: “I think I’ve got it! I usually don’t have questions until I start doing things myself, but I’ve taken notes and this makes sense so far.”

The idea is to more actively engage in the training conversation, to show you’re taking it seriously and not tuning out (because some people do that). The more you’re not just silently absorbing information and instead are actively participating, the less likely people are to worry that you’re not getting things.

2. Is it tacky to recommend exorbitantly priced products at work?

With all staff members now working from home, my company has been holding weekly lunch Zoom meetings, where we’re invited to socialize and talk about anything outside of work. While the conversations have been around things like cooking, gardening, and other hobbies, we recently had a conversation around skin care. Several people, including our CEO, recommended a couple of products they liked. However, I was flabbergasted at the cost of some of the products our CEO mentioned: $800 eye serums, $200 face creams and $500 tools for “helping products settle into the skin better.”

I believe everyone has the right to spend their money how they want to and shouldn’t have to explain themselves. I also like my CEO and I’m sure she had the best intentions. But recommending these products to staff members during a time when many of us have had family members lose their jobs due to COVID rubs me the wrong way.

Furthermore, as someone who grew up seeing a dermatologist, I was often recommended products under $20. The acne medicine I use now costs $10 with insurance. The prices of the items she recommended are truly exorbitant for the general public.

Would you consider this behavior tacky and/or tone-deaf? Is the situation amplified due to COVID?

Yeah, it’s tone-deaf. She presumably has some idea of what salaries you’re all earning. Assuming those salaries aren’t high enough to make those prices de minimus to you, those recommendations come across as insensitive to her audience — and particularly ill-advised because they reveal what looks like a significant income disparity between her and the rest of you. That would be true at any time, but it’s especially insensitive at a time when she should know lots of people are struggling to pay for food and housing.

3. Interviewers who ask about salary history when it’s illegal

I live in a state where it’s been illegal for hiring managers to inquire about your current salary for a while, but I’m sorry to say that hasn’t stopped it from happening in literally every interview I’ve had since that law went into effect in 2017. What I’m struggling with is how to handle this. In the moment, I have tried to pivot — I’ll say, “Can I ask about the salary range you’re planning for this position?” or something like that. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped interviewers from pushing further. One particularly tough interviewer refused to proceed with the interview until I provided an answer!

Because of wanting to present well, it’s hard to say anything that could come across as contentious. I’m uncomfortable saying, “I’m not going to answer that because it’s illegal for you to ask” because that’s obviously not a good way to make a strong impression. But there’s definitely a chance I’m leaving money on the table by being honest when I shouldn’t have to be. How can I best navigate this situation the next time it happens?

Say this: “Oh, there’s actually a new law in (state) that says we can’t talk about salary history in interviews. But if you can give me a sense of what range you expect to pay, I can tell you if we’re in the same ballpark.” Say it cheerfully, as if you don’t think you’re saying anything controversial — even like you’re offering helpful info.

(And to be clear, the law doesn’t really say “we” can’t talk about salary history. As the candidate, you can offer it up on your own if you want to; they just can’t ask. But you’re saying “we” because it’ll sound less adversarial.)

4. Giving feedback to a job-hopper

I was hoping to get some help with how to respond to an applicant asking for feedback on their resume and why they were not considered. This person has a long history of job hopping, with their longest stay around 1.5-2 years out of all 12 jobs listed from 2003 to the present.

How do I tell this person that they weren’t considered due to their job hopping, in the most respectful and professional way without getting any backlash to myself or the company?

Well, you don’t have to give feedback if you don’t want to. You’re not obligated to explain why you didn’t invite someone to interview; you can just explain you had a lot of highly qualified applicants and focused on the ones most strongly matched with the role.

But if you want to provide the feedback, I’d say, “For this role, we’re seeking stability and are focusing on candidates with a track record of longer stays at most of their jobs.”

5. I’m paid a day earlier than everyone else

I get paid a day earlier than the rest of my colleagues and have no idea if I should bring it up to payroll. Do I need to? Will it look bad if it’s discovered and has been happening for years (five, to be exact) without me saying anything? Can I just continue to get paid a day earlier and feel ethically okay not saying anything? It’s not like the 24 hours makes a huge difference in my life, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a nice convenience.

More info: We’re paid every other Friday, but I always receive my direct deposit around noon on Thursdays. It took me a few years to realize this was abnormal! About two years in, I mentioned it to a colleague who said they were paid Fridays, but she didn’t seem to find my early payday strange, and suggested it was just something with my bank or that perhaps there was a variation in pay schedules.

I didn’t give it much more thought until I was out for lunch with several trusted coworkers who were joking that they “can’t wait til payday tomorrow!” and I felt … weird. I asked a few others afterwards and confirmed that yes, every person I’ve talked to is paid Fridays. Except me. I get paid on Thursdays. What the heck? How has no one ever noticed this? Do I come clean?

I doubt your company is running two separate payrolls, one for you and one for everyone else, so the most likely explanation is that it’s something to do with your bank — like if you bank at the same bank your company uses, it’s possible the money shows up in your account earlier.

But if you’re curious, there’s no harm in asking! I’m sure your payroll people will be glad to explain whatever might be happening, and you’re not going to look bad for not speaking up earlier. (You’re not cheating or anything! It just shows up earlier for you. You’re not doing anything wrong, and it wasn’t something you needed to flag for them.)

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I was told to ask more questions, recommending high-priced products at work, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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