- interviewer asked how my family would describe me, employee quit after gossip about her therapy, and more
- update: my company wants to sponsor me for a service dog, but I’m not sure I should accept
- I’m stuck in a job I hate
- my boss keeps inviting me to family events
Posted: 08 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PST
It's five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My employee quit on the spot after her request for a therapy referral was shared
One of the employees in the division I manage recently quit on the spot without providing notice. She quit because another manager disclosed her request for a referral to a counselor under our employee assistance program. She didn’t have a mental illness, but there were some upsetting things happening in her personal life (the upsetting things part was known by everyone; we just didn’t know all the details or the extent). This manager sent an email to several people across many divisions saying "Jane got an EAP referral to a shrink, I wonder what for since she has no illness?"
As soon as my employee heard about the email, she walked out and never came back. She rebuffed any attempt to talk to her as she walked out or in the weeks afterward, and she changed her phone number and wouldn’t answer the door at home when someone went to check on her. We were upset at what happened and wanted to see if there was anything we could do for her but we stopped attempting contact after being rebuffed. Now we’ve found out in another email from the same manager that she stopped seeing the counselor. Another former employee who had heard about what happened ran into her after she quit, and he said she denied ever seeing a counselor (even though she truly was seeing one).
I’m appalled at this manager’s actions but I haven’t complained because he is the owner’s nephew. The nephew is married to the company HR manager, who is the daughter of the owner’s best friend. She disclosed the EAP request to him. Neither have education beyond high school or previous work experience. They both report directly to the owner. I want to tell to the owner about what happened. The EAP request was supposed to be confidential. I’m hesitant, though, since the owner doesn’t take well to them being criticized, but I can’t stop thinking about how wrong it was. I also want to say something because the owner and some executives are questioning my division’s drop in performance, which happened both because morale is down after what happened and because she was excellent at her job and made everyone else shine. I also don’t want my other employees to think this was okay. What should I do?
Holy crap, what? He sent an email to people across many divisions speculating on your employee's private request for a therapy referral? That manager is a jerk and an ass. And he's also incredibly ignorant, since he apparently thinks therapy is only for "mental illness"? And also apparently thinks that he would know if someone were struggling with mental illness or not? And then somehow this continued being gossiped about to the point that a former employee knew about it? And now people are talking about how she's stopped seeing a therapist, which is nobody's F'ing business, least of all her former coworkers'?
Based on your knowledge of the owner, is he likely to understand how outrageous this is? If yes or maybe, then speak up right away. If no … well, I'd think long and hard about the people you're working with.
2. Interviewer asked how my family would describe me
I was being interviewed for a job, and the interviewer asked me, "What words would your coworkers use to describe you?" I said, "They would say I'm very smart and very reliable." Then she asked, "What words would your family use to describe you?" I was utterly baffled by this question. I mean, I honestly don't know the answer. But also, what is the point of this question? What is she trying to find out about me? I have another interview in a few days, and I'm worried I'll be asked this question again. I really feel like saying, "That's none of your business."
It's just a crappy interview question. You can drive yourself insane by trying to read into bad interview questions; more often than not, they're just someone trying to be creative or who downloaded some questions off the internet (and who in both cases lacks a fundamental understanding of how to interview effectively).
It's pretty unlikely you'll be asked this question again because it's not normal, but if for some reason you were, I'd go with "My family would probably say much the same as my coworkers; I'm basically the same person with both groups."
Frankly, I'd like more people to respond to intrusive interview questions with "that's an odd question — why do you ask?" … but I realize that the power dynamic in interviews makes that sadly unlikely.
3. How can I convince my coworkers that I like being a temp?
I am a long-term temporary employee at a Fortune 500 company that has gone through many changes, including an ongoing series of layoffs and reorgs, since I started working here several years ago. When I was hired, my manager was very clear and direct that this position had been outsourced years before I started. It will never revert back to a permanent position, which was fine with me then and is fine with me now.
I enjoy my job and my coworkers, except for one thing. My coworkers aren’t happy with the situation. They think the company should hire me, that I should have been hired years ago, that I’m too nice about it, and that if I just insisted on it, I would be hired on as a full-time employee. There have even been several mortifying incidents in the past where my coworkers felt that it was appropriate to talk to my manager about it, which I found out about when they told me afterwards. Frankly, it was humiliating, as if I were a stray they were begging to keep. Thankfully, that hasn't happened recently, but I live in dread.
How I can shut this conversation down permanently? Every time I think I've stamped it out, it pops up again. I never start these conversations, it always happens when a coworker asks me out of the blue if they’ve made me an offer yet, or worse, why they haven’t made me an offer yet. I have no expectation of converting to an full-time employee and I’ve always been clear about that to anyone that asks. I feel like I can’t emphasize enough that I am not hinting or whining or complaining about being a temporary employee or how I would like to be made permanent or anything like that.
I like my job. I have all of the tools I need to perform my duties. I am allowed to do my job as I see fit. Anything I need, I can have, within reason. I am well-compensated for my role, I receive annual raises, and my informal performance reviews are excellent. I have a reasonable commute and flexible hours. My manager does everything in her power to make me feel appreciated without violating the rules for a temporary employee. This is not some grave injustice; I am not hard done by. How do I get that across to my stubborn coworkers who persist in acting as if I'm being mistreated somehow?
You say that you've been clear to people that you have no expectation of becoming a full-time employee, but that's not the same thing as saying that you're happy with the way things are now and that you don't want to change the situation.
The next time it comes up, be very, very clear about that. Say this: "I'm actually really happy with this arrangement. It works quite well for me, and I'm not interested in changing the situation."
4. My coworker is "borrowing" money from our company
So I am the one who does the cash reports most of the time. My fellow employee told me that he borrowed money from the cash float. So the boss doesn’t find out, he wanted to do the cash report. This way I wouldn't be the one who lied that the money was missing. He was going to pay it back, and he did. I went along with this but am uncomfortable knowing he is doing this, and I am pretty sure the company would not like this. What do you recommend?
Because you now know that he's "borrowing" money from your company without permission, which is also known as stealing, you'd be considered complicit if ever gets caught … meaning that you could lose your job over this.
Is he continuing to do it? If so, you need to tell your boss. If you don't think he'll do it again … well, you should still consider telling your boss. But at a minimum, you should tell your coworker that you can't cover for him for this since you could get fired for knowing and not saying anything.
5. I'm being asked to help out at the job I was laid off from
I was a senior manager for a nonprofit agency that is currently in the process of dissolving. I have been formally laid off, but the board of directors continues to ask me to do things to close the agency. These duties were part of the job I was laid off from. Shouldn’t they have to pay me for this? It doesn’t seem right that I’m asked to volunteer my time. Thoughts?
Because it's a nonprofit, it's legal for them to use volunteers … but that doesn't mean that you're required to volunteer for the work you used to get paid for. It would be entirely reasonable for you to say something like, "I'd be glad to help with this, but my schedule makes it impossible to continue helping without charging for my time. Would an hourly rate of $X work for you?" If you'd rather not help at all, it's also fine to simply decline; you can soften that message by explaining that you're now busy with other things.
interviewer asked how my family would describe me, employee quit after gossip about her therapy, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Posted: 08 Nov 2016 10:59 AM PST
Remember the letter-writer in May whose company wanted to sponsor her for a service dog but she wasn’t sure if it was okay to accept? I told her to go get her dog, and here’s the update.
Of course I took the advice given! Just thinking about your advice, and the advice in the comments, makes me smile huge and goofy. Such an outpouring of love and support, it still makes me tear up thinking about it. Anytime I’m having a really hard week I can just read that page and feel a hundred times better.
My company’s been incredibly supportive and so has the organization. I attended some “Service Dog Boot Camp” sessions in the fall as well as several fundraisers and have been doing some volunteer dog training on the side at my local animal shelter to get me back into the habit of working with dogs and speaking the same language.
As they train dogs for specific functions, they don’t currently have one ready for my specific disabilities, but they do have a class in training at the moment. It’s probably going to be 6-ish months until they’re ready, and I don’t get to meet them until we do some more intense training-together sessions at the organization’s centre (and even then, I won’t know who I’m paired with until the end, which is hard but they’re really good at matching dogs to people and their situations). However, the org has had people do a walk-through at work and has been working with my company to prepare, and they’re pretty thrilled at the idea that my dog (MY DOG!) is going to be working in such a supportive (and safe, and interesting!) environment.
Work’s been very clear that this is both a donation and a method of accommodation for one of their employees, that there’s no repayment necessary (although obviously I’m giving them 110% forever!) and that they’d do this for anyone who needed it. They’re also happy to continue to make donations as everyone has enjoyed working with them and their trainee dogs and honestly, they do wonderful work, providing service dogs for free. It’s also spurred a lot of awareness about how restrictive our industry is regarding people with disabilities and what steps we can take to rectify it. We’ve already made some changes that have increased everyone’s quality of life, like extra dollies and carts when we move desks during project transitions. I’ll admit, it’s been humbling, but occasionally being held up as “If we don’t make this a place for everyone, we’d lose people like this, or never have them in the first place” is also pretty wonderful.
I’m going to get my dog. Thank you, and thank you to everyone in the comments, for your support and wonderful words. I am so excited and hopeful and happy. I also think it’s more than a little wonderful that my dog will have their own government-funded stipend for food and vet care and other necessities if (when) I have to take time off work or if my condition worsens. Not only because I don’t have to worry about them being fed if the worst happens! My dog will be a government agent, y’all.
Go get YOUR dogs, whatever shape they take.
update: my company wants to sponsor me for a service dog, but I'm not sure I should accept was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Posted: 08 Nov 2016 09:30 AM PST
A reader writes:
I need your help. I absolutely hate my new job and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. I work in IT for a regional company. The benefits are decent, the pay is good, and at a 30,000-foot view, I should love my job. But I don’t. The entire IT department is a huge mess, and my team (I use that term loosely) is the most dysfunctional group I’ve ever seen. It’s a split team (some us work in East Town while most others work in West City). I’ve not even been here a year, and I already daydream about just never showing up here again. The team in West City do all the work and then complain that the team in East Town does nothing. There’s a lot of us-vs-them mentality despite the fact that we’re supposed to be on the same team. The poor management and terrible team have made me go from “How can I help this broken environment?” to “How can I make it through the day?”
My tactic so far has been to keep my head down and just do what’s assigned to me and not worry about how terrible things are. The hard part is that simply isn’t me. I’ve started projects only to have them be taken away, changed, and assigned to someone else. It’s broken me down to the point where I just don’t know how to be effective here. I know how to do my job and do it well, but I just don’t know how to be productive in this environment. I’ve talked with my boss (who sees all of the same issues) and I’ve talked with his boss (who has the management skills of a washing machine) and he didn’t understand the difference between not knowing how to be productive in this environment and not having anything to do.
I have learned important lessons at this terrible job. 1) Don’t ever take a job for the money. Almost everyone would be happier at a job they loved that paid less as opposed to a job they hate for better money. Take a job because you believe it’s a great next step and/or you believe in their mission. Don’t do it just for the money. 2) Don’t put all of yourself into a terrible job. If you can’t get your engagement and fulfillment from your work, start a garden, train for a 5k or get some kind of hobby outside of work.
This job has pushed me to go back to school part-time, and I hope to get my bachelors and then my MBA in less than 10 years. (Ironically, my job is the sort of job people go to college to get. I’m going to college to get out of it.) I really want to make the best of what I’ve got, but I’m really not sure how. What can I do to make the most of a job that makes me feel like there’s no way I can contribute any value to the company’s mission?
You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.
Posted: 08 Nov 2016 07:59 AM PST
A reader writes:
My boss (co-owner of the company) is someone who is good to me professionally, but for whom I have very little respect after watching her work for eight years.
However, I am always polite and professional and work as hard as I can for her, her co-owner (who I like), and the company, and have done well.
She has repeatedly drawn me into conference rooms to confide in me about her private dilemmas, frequently breaking into tears. She seems genuinely grateful for this attention and, in return, feels like she’s returning the favor by inviting me to events she hosts for her family.
I don’t know her family. I’ve met her sons a few times. I don’t want to spend any time with this woman. I have my own family/friends I want to spend time with. I just got an invitation to her son’s wife’s baby shower. I don’t want to spend money on a gift and I don’t (and won’t) attend.
How do I put a fork in this for the last time? I ALWAYS refuse the invitations, citing something I need to do with my own family, knowing she won’t criticize that. But I’m tired of feeling like I have to buy her kids baby/wedding/shower gifts.
Ugh, your boss. Crying to you about her personal life and inviting you to family events?! She is not one for professional boundaries, I guess.
It's never easy to tell someone "I don't like you in that way and don't want to be your friend." But the fact that she's your boss gives you an easier, less awkward way to do it than if she were someone outside of work: you can cite the work relationship as your reason.
Say this: "Jane, it's kind of you to invite me to these kinds of things, but I want to be transparent with you that I wouldn't feel comfortable attending a family event because you're my boss. To me, it would blur the boundaries too much; I think it's better for both of us if we keep boss/employee boundaries. I know not everyone does things that way, but it's my way. Thank you for understanding!"
If she tells you that you're being overly scrupulous and that it's not big deal, just repeat this: "I hear you. I'm old-fashioned this way!" By calling yourself “old-fashioned” in this context, you’re reinforcing that professional boundaries are a long-established thing, not some crazy notion that you've come up with on your own.
At this point, she should stop with the invitations. But if for some reason they continue, you absolutely should not feel obligated to buy baby, wedding, or shower gifts for her family members. The fact that she's your boss gets you out of any gift-giving obligations that you might otherwise feel; it would be incredibly unseemly for her to expect an employee to give gifts to her relatives. (Whether or not she does expect them isn’t really the point; the point is that it would be so unseemly that you can just proceed on the assumption that of course you’re not on the hook for those.)
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