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Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?

I’m a mid-level manager at a medium-sized startup. We recently hired a very young intern who just graduated from college. She took a three-day trip to New York, and had asked for the time off in advance. This morning she emailed me telling me, not asking me, that she would be extending her trip by one day: “I’ll be extending my stay in New York an extra day and will be returning to work on Wednesday. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

My boss was livid when he found out and wants to fire her. Our office has a flex-time-off policy, but other workers have to cover for your assignments while you’re out, and we ask for advance notice. It’s unprofessional and unbelievable, sure, but is it grounds for termination?

Your boss is overreacting and being unreasonable. In many offices, people manage their own time and this would be perfectly fine. It sounds like that’s not the case in your office, but then you just need to explain that to her when she gets back. She’s an intern; explaining this kind of thing is part of the deal.

Unless her unexpected one-day absence is causing some kind of massive problem that she should have been able to foresee (like it’s the day of an event she has key responsibilities at), your boss is off-base.

2. My coworker makes rude remarks about my work and my quietness

I started in my current workplace doing quite a technical job which involved very little interaction with colleagues (I am the only person working on that area and it doesn’t cross a lot with others). I am quite quiet and not very assertive.

After about a year, I got a new manager and a promotion to a job that involves, with my old duties, substantially more working with colleagues across our organization. I think my new manager and I have a good relationship and she has invested time and effort into my development, particularly around taking on a leadership role internally.

I get reasonably good feedback (I am not there yet but have improved), but a member of my team who does not report to me comments a lot about my quietness, etc. For example, if I am about to go into a meeting, she will comment about whether I am going to talk enough. Or when I chaired a meeting recently, she seven to eight times pulled up that I wasn’t moving things on as quickly as she would have liked and afterwards commented to the whole team that some people “just aren’t cut out for it.”

I don’t really know how to handle this; it’s going against the grain for me to speak out anyway, and I think this makes it a more challenging environment. In our hierarchy, she is more junior to me but older. I would be really grateful for any advice about deflecting this or if I am being over sensitive. I don’t think she knows the background but I am struggling to improve.

Your coworker is a jerk — seriously. Even if she has legitimate concerns about the things she’s raising, she’s raising them in a rude and obnoxious way. Her comments aren’t okay, and someone needs to shut them down, either you or her own manager. Ideally it would be you, because it will strengthen your standing if you take it on yourself. Ideally, you’d do two things: First, in the moment when she makes a rude comment, call it out — for example, “Jane, your comments aren’t constructive. If you have a concern, please come talk to me after this meeting.” Second, talk to her in private and say this: “You’ve made a number of comments questioning my work. If you have a legitimate concern, please raise it directly with me or with your manager. Can you do that?”

If it continues after that, let her manager know what’s going on. She’s way over the line, and her manager should want to rein her in. (And if the reality is that you can’t bring yourself to talk to the coworker directly — which I realize might be the case, although I hope it’s not — then go straight to the manager. But do get it shut down.)

3. Am I obligated to give a birthday gift to a coworker who gave me one?

If one of my coworkers purchased me a birthday gift, am I required to purchase her one for her birthday? I know this sounds cruel, but this coworker has been attempting to become closer with me than I want. She has caused problems in the office for herself and others, and while I don’t mind the occasional call in which she tends to rant about her job, I don’t really want to be that close with her. In other words, while I know her from working with her, I do not want to be friends outside of work, at least not while we work together in the same office.

She purchased a gift for me for my birthday (a small bottle of alcohol) and she knew that giving me the gift made me uncomfortable, but she did it anyway. (She knows how I feel about workplace relationships and keeping things relatively professional. She actually said she knew it would make me uncomfortable but did it anyway.) I thanked her for the gift by saying it was thoughtful and didn’t really know what else to do. To my knowledge, she has not purchased any other coworkers gifts.

Now her birthday is coming up. Am I required to return the favor? My concern is this will set precedence for not just birthdays, but other holidays as well (Christmas?) and I do not have the extra cash to spend on someone I don’t know that well and I don’t want to know that well. Frankly, the whole thing has made me somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t want to have to purchase coworkers gifts, but I feel like if I don’t get her something, she will think of me as rude or downright mean. I feel like I’ve been pushed into a tradition that I don’t want anything to do with.

Nope, you’re not obligated to buy her a gift. This is actually made somewhat easier by the fact that she said she knew it would make you uncomfortable; it sounds like you’ve already explained to her that you don’t want that type of relationship. Plus, the easiest way to convey “I don’t want a gift-giving relationship with you” is … to not give a gift.

It would be nice to wish her a happy birthday that day (and that should keep the lack of a gift from feeling mean). But also, keep in mind that you can’t control how she feels. You’re not obligated to give her a gift, you’ve made your stance on boundaries clear, and you’re not doing anything wrong; if she’s upset, that’s not caused by you, but by expectations on her side that you’ve already asked her not to have.

4. Pregnancy when employer has a self-funded health care plan

I have recently found out that I am pregnant (currently about five weeks) with my first child. My first appointment isn’t until around the eight-week mark, and I wouldn’t normally even consider telling my employer until around five to six months.

However, we have a self-funded health care plan. What makes it worse is that I work in HR and my boss is the one who receives all the medical paperwork that includes the cost, employee name, and what was done. Does the fact that she will see I’m attending prenatal appointments, having ultrasounds, etc. just through the fact that we’re self-funded change when I should tell her myself? I really don’t want to tell her so early, but I don’t see many options when she’s going to find out herself regardless.

I don’t think it needs to force you into announcing your pregnancy before you’re ready. Yes, it’s true that if your boss sees that paperwork, she’s likely to figure it out, but if she has any discretion at all, she’ll know she needs to engage in a polite fiction of not knowing. And because your employer has a self-funded plan, they’re covered under HIPAA, which means that your boss can’t legally share the information she’s exposed to from administering the plan or use it for any employment-related action. So, proceed the way you would if it weren’t a self-funded plan, and announce when you’re ready to announce.

5. Can I push back on this inconvenient meeting time?

I am a remote employee who doesn’t get much face time with my boss. He often cancels meetings.

I’m developing a big proposal for my department which I thought was due early next week. We had quickly mentioned last time we talked that we could perhaps review in person. I reminded him and he suggested 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning. That means I have to kill a day to get there for a very early meeting when, if it were a few hours later, I could fly in and out in one day.

Can I push back on this? I don’t see why it can’t be later and fly in and out same day.

He’s probably just not thinking about the logistics the way you are. It’s really normal for this to happen — managers don’t always think as deeply about logistics for this type of thing because they assume that if there’s an issue, someone will say so, whereas employees often assume that if the manager is suggesting it, that must be the way they want it and there’s no room to push back.

Just say, “Any way we could do it later in the day so that I can fly in and out the same day?”

should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission, coworker makes rude remarks about my quietness, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 29th, 2016 10:39 pm
Every week, let's celebrate ourselves, to start the week right. Tell me what you're proud of. Tell me what you accomplished last week, something -- at least one thing -- that you can turn around and point at and say: I did this. Me. It was tough, but I did it, and I did it well, and I am proud of it, and it makes me feel good to see what I accomplished. Could be anything -- something you made, something you did, something you got through. Just take a minute and celebrate yourself. Either here, or in your journal, but somewhere.

(And if you feel uncomfortable doing this in public, I've set this entry to screen any anonymous comments, so if you want privacy, comment anonymously and I won't unscreen it. Also: yes, by all means, cheer each other on when you see something you want to give props to!)
Monday, August 29th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Monday, August 29th, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’m going on a final interview in another country next week, and they’re flying out my whole family so we can decide together if we want to expatriate. They’ve been very accommodating and have been wooing me, which I appreciate.

My problem is this: we’re taking a red-eye, overnight, from the west coast to Europe. I got an email today asking me and my family (my partner and our two children) to meet for tea in the late afternoon. My questions:

– Is it weird that they want to meet my partner and children?

– I’m worried that my children may not be well-behaved due to jet lag; our meeting is late afternoon local time but early morning on the west coast, and they will have been up all “night.” Do I warn the interviewer? Do I try to force my strong-willed kids to nap in the middle of the day, despite the fact it’s bad for jet lag?

– How do I prep children for their parent’s interview?

My initial reaction after reading this letter was “just say your kids will be napping after the red eye or have touristy plans with their dad,” but then I realized that I really have no expertise on this. I also realized that I know someone who does have a ton of expertise on this — Suzanne Lucas of Evil HR Lady. Suzanne, in addition to being a friend and mentor and the person who inspired me to start Ask a Manager, moved from the U.S. to Switzerland with her husband and kids a few years ago and knows all about international relocations. Here’s our conversation.

Me: My initial reaction was that she should say her kids will be napping or that they are doing something touristy with their dad, but then I wondered if this isn’t really supposed to be optional and they’re all expected to make an appearance. What’s your take?

Suzanne: It’s a little weird to want to meet everyone, but it’s not super weird. Why? Because when you’re offering someone a job in a new country, you really have to make sure the whole family is happy. In theory, you just ask the candidate, “Everyone excited about this?” but it’s a great idea to bring the spouse and sometimes kids out to the new place.

If an expat relocation fails, it’s not likely to be because of the job, it’s likely to be because of the family. I’ve been living the expat life for seven years now, as a trailing spouse. That means my husband got the expat job and I followed. We love it here, but I’ve seen plenty of jobs fail because the spouse didn’t like it. I’ve seen families return to their home country in under six months because the spouse just couldn’t handle it. I’ve seen people lose a hundred grand in relocation costs in order to get back home. I’ve seen families broken up where the expat person stays and the spouse and kids return home.

Moving to a new country is hard. If you’re going to any reasonably sized city there will be an expat group and lots of English speakers, and an international school for the kids. But, there won’t be a Target or a Walmart, or a decent place to get shoes at a reasonable cost. Sure, you read about those Hollywood stars who go to Paris to shop, but they come with huge bank accounts. You’ll find everything smaller and more expensive in Europe. For instance, we sold our 3700-square-foot home in Pennsylvania, and live in a 900-square-foot apartment. Part of that is simply choice–we like to spend our money on travel–but part is that 3700-square-foot homes just don’t exist in Switzerland and if they did, they’d be so expensive we’d never be able to get one.

Some people can not handle this at all. They can’t handle learning a new language or figuring out new customs. I was with a fellow expat wife when she got angry that the gas station attendant didn’t speak English. I pointed out that maybe she should learn German and she replied that if they had good customer service they’d only hire people who spoke English. Okey-dokey, you’re not fitting in here at all.

So, this company obviously understands the importance of keeping the family happy. They wouldn’t go to this expense with the idea of interrogating your children before making you a job offer. It’s probably more of a “we’ll sell the whole family on this!” However, if they want to have tea with your whole family on the same day as you land in Europe, that’s nuts. My kids don’t sleep on flights, and are complete disaster cases whenever we land in Europe from U.S. trips. (They do better going West than East, as most people do.)

So, what I would do is say, “Everyone is really excited about getting a chance to see the city and we’d love to have tea together, but can we make it at the end of the week when we’ve had a chance to adjust to the time change?” If they hold firm, well, a nice warning of “Everyone will be a jet-lagged mess, but we’ll see you at 4:00!”

I don’t know how old your kids are, but if they are toddlers, well, I’d advise you to leave them home with grandma anyway. Toddlers on a plane. Shudder. Jet-lagged toddlers are even worse, but that’s up to you. And up to grandma, if one is available.

Me: That’s super helpful. What do you think they’re hoping to gain by having the kids at the tea? Do you think they’re trying to sell the kids on the area (if the kids are old enough for that), or is it more like general hospitality, or ….? I get the sense that the letter-writer is worried a bit that her kids and spouse will be being judged in some way, and I assume that’s not the employer’s intention, but what’s your take?

Suzanne: I’m guessing it’s general hospitality for the kids, but I think they may be legitimately concerned about the spouse not liking it and wanting to make sure he wants to move. International relo is really expensive. Really expensive. Ours cost over $100,000. Even with repayment agreements, it’s a huge risk.

I’m making assumptions here–but since the letter-writer is female, I’d assume a male partner, although it could be a female partner (and really, it’s Europe, no one cares), but male trailing spouses are rarer than female ones and it can be really hard for men to adjust to being the trailing spouse.

It’s hard for women, but for generations there have been wives clubs and such, with little for men. That’s changing, of course. I wrote an article on it a while ago, and interviewed a bunch of men about their challenges.

If the spouse is going to be looking for a job, they’ll often offer job hunting assistance, so they may want to talk with the partner about that.

I can’t imagine they care about the kids, probably just being nice and realizing that they can’t have the partner come in and leave the kids alone in the hotel.

I’m guessing though!

Me: That makes sense. Thank you, Suzanne! Everyone should go read Suzanne’s blog now, and send her all your questions about international relocations.

company wants to have tea with my family as part of an international interview was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 29th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Jade (as she watches a toddler play in the farm store): “I remember when life was that easy.”
Brett: “Heh. You don’t get to say that yet.”
Monday, August 29th, 2016 02:09 pm
I’ve done laundry (it’s in the dryer, at least) and gotten a start on changing our sheets. I got enough done with the sheets that it shouldn’t take long to finish. I just need to find some oomph from somewhere. I’m not sure why putting pillows in pillowcases is so very, very hard. I kind of want a nap just from what I’ve done so far, but I really can’t do that comfortably until I finish putting the bed back together.

I’ve written about 500 words on the pinch hit. I told the moderator that I would like to keep it because I’m pleased with the story that’s taking form in my head. I’m not sure how long it will end up being, but I think it will be at least 4000 words. I’m hoping not to go over 5000, but who knows? As long as it gets done.

I’m holding off on the Amber AU fic right now because I think I need a little distance to spot where I need to start cutting things. Nothing there is actually out and out obviously wrong, but it may not belong where it is or be necessary to explicitly put in the text at all.

The phone in the basement is still working, and it’s been ringing on and off this morning. At least one call was likely the pharmacy saying that my prescriptions are ready, but I haven’t wanted to try to rush down the stairs to get the phone when it’s either that or spam.
Monday, August 29th, 2016 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

usnewsLife has a way of instilling lessons in us that don’t always apply in every context. That’s especially true when it comes to work: You may have habits or ways of thinking that served you well in school or beyond, but which will actually hold you back in your professional life — like thinking that being thorough is always better or thinking that appearing impartial will make you more credible.

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about six of the most common things you may to need to unlearn in order to succeed at work. You can read it here.

6 things you should unlearn to succeed at work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 29th, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I am a partner in a small engineering firm. Six years ago when I was brought on, I was allowed one staffer. I hired a new grad, Fergus, who turned out to be great. He knew or could adapt to any design software out there, wasn’t lost in the world of theory, and turned in work that was actually able to be constructed. He’s almost never missed a deadline or has been over budget. He has been one of the main reasons my department has grown. I have compensated him with raises every year.

A year and a half ago we grew substantially, to the point that my staff engineer was overwhelmed. I needed to hire additional staff. I needed someone with the experience of another five-year engineer. It’s a really competitive industry, and all I could find was a 10-year engineer who was licensed, at almost double my five-year’s salary.

The 10-year, Cecil, is a competent enough engineer, but he’s slower, he often requires information that the client doesn’t have to start a project, he isn’t as capable with technology, and he lacks the personal skills to effectively coordinate with other departments.

Recently Fergus has achieved his professional license and has been named in a “30 under 30” publication. We are growing but not to the point where we can hire. I am not able to compensate the five-year adequately and still win bids for projects. His salary review wasn’t quite as amicable this year as normal. I know that he left disappointed.

To make matters worse, I am forced to have Cecil write all proposals, lead all major projects, and take some smaller projects from Fergus when we are slower in order to justify his cost to the other partners. I can’t let either one go because replacing them will a long and costly process.

I suspect that Fergus has to be receiving calls from our competitors on a regular basis. He’s quiet and respectful about it. However, I suspect that it’s a matter of time before he finds another company with a culture that he likes and can offer more.

I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t know what I can offer. I feel like assuring him that we will let Cecil go as soon as we can replace him with a quality replacement is unethical. A made-up title isn’t going to cut it, and I have little more responsibility to offer. Do you have any suggestions?

Be honest with him about what you can and can’t offer, and support him if/when he decides to leave.

Sometimes when you can’t pay great people more, you can keep them by offering other things — more responsibility, opportunities to have more impact, ways to grow, or a really great working environment.

In this case, you can’t offer those things, and to add insult to injury, he has to watch a less competent colleague getting all the benefits and recognition that rightfully should be his. Just hearing about this as a bystander is pretty infuriating, so imagine what it’s like for him.

What you’re saying here is that you know you hired someone who isn’t very good, but you’re going to give him a bunch of rewards that he hasn’t earned while denying them to the person whose performance does actually merit them … and you’re going to pay the less competent guy nearly double what the better performer is getting.

If you’re really committed to that path, then the most ethical thing you can do is to let Fergus know that this is how things are going to remain and that you understand if he chooses to look elsewhere because of it.

And really, even if there were some magical way to keep Fergus (without changing any of these fundamentally unfair conditions), it wouldn’t be right to do it. You shouldn’t try to dissuade him from leaving a situation that’s stacked against him.

For what it’s worth, though, you say that you can’t let either of them go because replacing them would be long and costly. But you’re going to lose Fergus at some point and will have to go through that long and costly process then anyway, so it might be worth factoring that into your thinking.

how can I keep my star performer, without being able to pay or promote him (while his less competent coworker earns double)? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 29th, 2016 08:35 am
We ended up going out for dinner last night. We tried the new place near us. I don’t think we’ll go back. The food was excellent, but the prices were high and the portions tiny. The assumption is that a single person will buy two or even three dishes that cost between $10 and $20 each. Scott got lamb meatballs. There were four of them with a fancy sauce and crushed hazelnuts and nothing else. I had salmon pate with four tiny bits of bread. There was a lot more pate than I could fit on those. That was $13. Cordelia had a fancy omelette with goat cheese. She wasn’t impressed. She ate it all, but she wasn’t pleased. I’m not sure how much that cost.

I think it’s a restaurant that might do well in downtown Ann Arbor or in a different neighborhood, but this location is fairly far out from downtown and located right on the edge of the engineering campus. This is not a high end neighborhood, so they’re only going to do well if people come in from elsewhere. The other restaurants in the area are things like Subway and Panera and a low price Chinese delivery place (the only place I could order food on Christmas when I was stuck at home).

Service was middling. The waitress paid attention to allergies, but she also left us alone for quite a while before taking our orders. I think we waited ten to fifteen minutes for her to return to take our order. She also assured me that what I ordered would come out fast because I was getting very close to my 8:00 can’t eat more time, but my food came out more than ten minutes after Scott’s and more than five minutes after Cordelia’s. Also they were out of indoor seating, so we were outside. It was kind of unpleasant. I found the table unpleasant to touch but kept trying to rest my arm on it.

We ended up going by McDonald’s so that Scott could buy a sandwich. Cordelia felt she’d had adequate food, and it was late enough that I couldn’t eat anything else anyway.

We didn’t make it to the library before it closed, so I put a bunch of things in the outside dropbox. Either I’ll go in by bus in the next couple of days, or I’ll get Scott to drive me down there to pick up my hold.

The only solution Comcast could come up with for the tangle their system had made of our request for service was to cancel absolutely everything and start over. They said we should have service this evening some time. I’ll believe it when it happens.

I’m looking at my wishlist on Amazon, and there’s a book I put on my private list because it was out of print and far too expensive to consider buying, especially given that I haven’t read it before. (It wasn’t anywhere in our ILL system.) It was about $150 for a used paperback copy. Right now, there are three copies, from different sellers with good ratings, all priced between $15 and $22. That’s a lot of money for a new to me book by an author I don’t know much about, but it’s a lot less than it was. I don’t know. I don’t remember, at this point, where I saw the book recommended, so I can’t judge based on that.

I’m drinking chai with stevia this morning. I don’t know that that’s what I’ll do long term. If I want to, I’ll have to have Scott stop and buy more because I’ve only got three bags left. I need him to pick up a couple of prescriptions tonight anyway. There was something else— possibly more than one thing— I wanted from the store… What was it? Well, I’ve got a few hours to remember.
Monday, August 29th, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My coworker asks where I’m going every single time I leave my desk

I am a research analyst at a small research center. I share an office with two other analysts. One of my officemates is part-time and works unusual hours, so we are rarely here at the same time. My other officemate just started a few months ago, and we are both here 9-5, five days a week. She and I don’t work on any of the same projects, so we don’t talk much beyond the usual polite small talk a couple times a day (how was your weekend, can you believe this weather, etc.).

Since she is new, she occasionally asks me a technology question or where to find a document, which I’m more than happy to help her with. But she does one very irritating thing: she asks me where I’m going every. single. time. I get up from my desk. I don’t think it’s an attempt to make conversation since she never asks any follow-up questions. I truly do not know why she wants to be updated every time I go to the bathroom, to a meeting, for a walk, out to lunch. The constant questioning makes feel like she is monitoring every move I make, when there’s really no reason for her to do this. I need her to stop, but I also do not want to be rude or make her feel like I never want her to talk to me. I am pretty introverted and tend to get lost in my work, but I wouldn’t mind having more conversations with her, just not about the frequency of my bathroom breaks. Should I say something?

Yes. I know it can feel awkward to ask someone to stop doing something, especially if it might make them feel awkward, but remember that (a) the awkwardness is likely to be brief, especially if you make a point of helping things be normal afterwards (more on that in a minute) and (b) most people would much rather know that they’re doing something highly annoying than just be stuck annoying you forever.

Some options for what to say:
* “Did you know you ask me where I’m going every time I get up? I will never have an interesting answer to that.”
* “I love sharing an office with you, but I like to be able to leave without announcing where I’m going! But I’ll let you know if I’m leaving for the day or something like that.”
* “It feels a little weird having to tell you whenever I’m going to the bathroom, so can we just say that I’ll make a point of letting you know if I’m leaving for the day so that you aren’t asking where I’m going each time I get up?”

And yes, she might feel a little chastised, but if you make a point of being aggressively normal with her after that (find a reason to make conversation about something else, ask if you can get her a coffee when you go to get yourself one, etc.), any awkwardness shouldn’t last long.

2. Employee disregards direct instructions

I took a promotion nearly a year ago that put me in a management position over my previous peers. One of the women who reports to me has been with the company much longer, and commonly disregards requests I make of her (and the team). Recently, I asked my team to begin using our interoffice instant messaging tool to ensure the team is able to contact other team members quickly (for those questions that don’t warrant an email); many of us work remotely from each other, so we don’t have the option to yell over cube walls or walk over to chat.

This woman did not respond to my request and has not implemented it (it’s been a week since I requested implementation). HR has told me that I can’t force her to use it because it isn’t a company policy; however, managers can implement their own requirements, and it sure would be great if she would do what I asked her to do. Any advice for me in this situation? What can I say to her to ensure that she implement, while also letting her have a chance to share any concerns she has? What if she still just won’t implement after we’ve discussed?

HR is totally off-base; the majority of what managers expect from employees aren’t things that are formally enshrined in policies.

But the bigger issue than the instant messages thing is that this employee commonly disregards your requests. That’s not okay, it’s a big deal, and you need to address that forthrightly.

If that weren’t the situation, and it was just about the IM’ing, I’d say to just ask her what’s up, because maybe there’s some reason that she especially hates IM or finds it distracting, and maybe you’d even find it compelling once you heard her reasoning. In that case, I’d recommend saying this: “Is there a reason you haven’t turned on your instant messaging after I asked everyone to start using it last week?” Then, if you weren’t swayed by her response, you’d say this: “I hear you. I do want everyone using it because we need to be able to communicate quickly, especially with so many remote people, so I need you to keep it on.” Depending on the circumstances, you could add, “Let’s try it for the next few weeks and see how it goes — if you’re hating it at that point, we can revisit it then, but I’d like you to give it a shot.”

But this isn’t about IM. This is about an employee who regularly ignores expectations, and that’s really what you need to be taking on. That’s a conversation where you say, “This has become a pattern, and it’s disruptive to our team. I need to be able to rely on you to implement the things I request. That’s a requirement of your position here, and if it continues not happening, it will jeopardize your job.” And you need to mean it when you say that, because you cannot responsibly keep someone on who regularly ignores what you tell her.

3. Coworkers keep interrupting me when I’m on meal breaks

I’ve been working for a new company, less than 90 days. It’s a decent environment, but my team doesn’t seem to disconnect when people are off the clock. We don’t have a cafeteria, so generally people take lunch at their desks. I also arrive early (about 20 minutes) each day to eat breakfast and get situated.

We have an open floor plan. My boss and peers will often talk shop on MY time. My bag isn’t down yet some mornings and I’m being asked about things. They don’t leave me alone during lunch either. Everyone else is working on the clock but they will ask me to jump in.

I’m not the only new employee. I’ve noticed the others take lunch in their cars and don’t come in early. Is this culture normal? How do you respectfully create boundaries? I don’t want to eat lunch in my sweltering car!

Well, if you’re in your office, it’s not outrageous that people are assuming that you’re working. You’re calling it “MY time” and getting annoyed that people aren’t leaving you alone, but they don’t know what your schedule is or that you came in early for non-work purposes.

It sounds like the issue is that there’s no way to tell that you’re not officially working when this happens. Lots of people do eat while they work, so that’s not a sure-fire sign that you want to be left alone. So I think you’re going to have to get comfortable saying “I’m on my lunch break right now but will help you once I’m back to work.” (That won’t really work for breakfast — it’ll be odd to say you’re on a break when you just arrived — so it might make more sense to eat breakfast at home.)

4. Asking my boss to hire a full-time assistant instead of two part-timers

My boss wants to hire two part-time admin assistants, instead of one full-time person, for the end of the year and for tax season. According to my coworkers who have been here longer than I have, they tried this setup before and it was “a total disaster” due to disorganization and things falling through the cracks. I have worked as the full-time admin here and I supervise the current admin’s work, so I have a day-to-day understanding of what the job entails, and I feel very strongly that we need one full-time person in the job. I know I should address this in terms of making our office run smoothly during our busiest time of year, but how can I bring this up to my boss without seeming like I’m overstepping? Or should I not bring it up at all?

No, you should definitely bring it up. This is the kind of thing that good managers want to hear input about. It’s not overstepping to express an opinion about something that you have standing to understand and that will impact the organization’s work. It would be overstepping if you kept bringing it up repeatedly, but that’s not what you’re proposing.

Just be direct: “I’ve been thinking about your plan to hire two part-time assistants rather than one full-time person. I’m concerned about X and Y if we go with two part-time people. Would you be open to one full-time person instead?”

5. I want to tell my company I know my raise is just about the new overtime law

I work full-time for a very small company. I am a salaried employee who makes about $2,500 less than the new threshold for overtime pay. I typically receive a small raise once every two to three years, and no annual bonus.

My company is doing extremely well this year, and my department has gone above and beyond to support that in many ways. One of the reasons I took this (underpaying) job in the first place was because it offered some flexibilities and a predictable workload. Both of those features have eroded considerably in the last year, and are likely to continue to do so.

Come December, I expect I will receive a raise of about $2,500 to get me up to the new overtime threshold … but it will be given in a “congratulations/thanks for all the hard work!” context (and gratitude will be expected) rather than a “this is financially smart for the company but not really for you!” context. I would like to indicate to my supervisors/company’s owners that I know better. I want to do that in order to not participate in what might not be a total lie, but also isn’t the truth, and to at least make them question their usual modus operandi of “everything is fine because we’re saying nice things, and saying nice things costs nothing!” It hasn’t been easy going to company meetings where the owners talk at length about how great all of the new revenue is, when the people who built what they’re selling know we’re not likely to see any of it beyond what the government now requires. Is there a way to do this?

Eh, I don’t think there’s a lot of reason to. It’s going to be very, very normal for companies to raise people’s pay to the new overtime threshold if they’re already pretty close to it. I can see why it grates if they’re pretending that’s not the reason and expecting you to be grateful, but I think the real issue here is that you feel underpaid and the benefits that attracted you to the job have gone away. That’s where I’d focus your attention. (It’s also really normal not to get any of that new revenue earned by the company; pay is generally tied to market rates for the job you do, not to the company’s sales figures. But if you’re not even being paid market rates, that’s a legitimate concern, and it might be time to go somewhere that does pay you at market value.)

If you really want to say something, though, why not ask for a larger raise and fold the overtime bump into that? You could say, “I know this salary bump is to get us to the new overtime threshold. But in light of my work doing X and my accomplishments in Y, I’d like to talk about adjusting my salary to a higher level.”

employee disregards direct instructions, coworker asks where I’m going every single time I leave my desk, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 10:09 pm


The Unfuckening: Bedroom Edition

I just found the Unfuck Your Habitat tumblr and it really inspired me to finally clean the bedroom hardcore. This took me probably about 4-5 hours. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I was decluttering at the same time. The donation pile in the hallway is enormous. There was stuff in the closet that hadn’t been gone through since I lived in a dorm in college about 3 years ago. Hopefully I can keep up with the various challenges and keep the apartment looking this clean. Also, excuse the panorama looking wonky; I’m not very good at taking them.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 10:12 pm
I have two writing dilemmas. The first, I think I just need to sleep on because making decisions is beyond what I can do right this second. That’s about the pinch hit I signed up for. I had settled on a story idea and started research, but now the moderators tell me that someone else has offered for it. I had told them that my canon knowledge was not all that firm, and they’re giving me the option to keep the pinch hit or to pass it on. I’m torn because I have a story in my head now, not in detail but still there. If I don’t write it for this, I probably won’t write it at all. On the other hand, maybe I should pass the thing on to someone else who has a better grasp of canon. Would that be better for the recipient?

The second has to do with figuring out how to extricate myself from my Iddy Iddy Bang Bang story. The problem there is that I never had any sort of end/goal/direction in mind. I probably could keep writing forever with the characters having the sorts of conversations that I enjoy writing (and reading) but that will make most readers want to throw rocks at them to make them shut up and *do* something. There’re also some issues of consistency in characterization that I have no idea how to fix in the time I’ve got. I didn’t bother being too picky about it as I wrote because, well, this is the idfic equivalent of… I’m not sure what, actually. I was going to say an infodump, but that’s not it at all. But I just came out with whatever occurred to me in the moment. When a story’s only in my head, that doesn’t matter.

At any rate, I think that the central character question of the story is, ah, tangential to most of what I’ve written. There’s a good bit of porn, and it doesn’t actually connect very strongly to the decisions my POV character needs to make. It’s just there because I had fun writing it.

Babbling about an Amber AU fic. Darkish with non-specific references to bad things happening. A lot of noodling about characterization decisions. )
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 02:55 pm
Cursive Law Writes New Chapter For Handwriting In Alabama's Schools

The first autonomous, entirely soft robot

Scientists create flexible 3D printed objects that 'remember' their shapes

True Colors

Whiskers help animals sense the direction of the wind

400 Years of Equator Hazings: Surviving the Stinky Wrath of King Neptune's Court

Gut reaction: the surprising power of microbes

‘Whose language is it anyway?’ The evolution of English, from ‘loaf’ to ‘LOL’ (Video)

He Used To Live On The Streets Of Mumbai. Now, His Cafe Welcomes Everyone

Well-wrapped feces allow lobsters to eat jellyfish stingers without injury

The Unusual Origins of Pink Lemonade

Parents Didn’t Just Dislike Super Nintendo 25 Years Ago—They Thought It Was a Scam

Stranger Things and the Problem of “Plotblocking”

“The Millennial Whoop”: The same annoying whooping sound is showing up in every popular song

FDA recommends Zika testing for all blood donated in U.S.

US judge upholds state law requiring vaccinations

Love in exile

Millions at risk as deadly fungal infections acquire drug resistance

As capital punishment declines nationwide, a tiny fraction of the country generates an alarming number of death sentences. What this new geography tells us about justice in America.

The Pain Of Police Killings Can Last Decades

4 Really Disturbing Ways Jail Is Much Worse for Women Than Men

No Way to Call Home: Incarcerated Deaf People Are Locked in a Prison Inside a Prison

The troubled-teen industry has been a disaster for decades. And it's still not fixed.

In Baltimore, public investment — and disinvestment — in transportation have figured greatly in the persistence of racial and economic inequality.

Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

When School Feels Like Jail

A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment.

Rebels, civilians leave town after four-year siege

Turkey-backed Syria rebels advance on U.S.-backed Kurds

Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse

East Ukraine: on the frontline of Europe's forgotten war
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 04:44 pm
Okay, I’ve been groggy all day, but I had eight ounces of orange juice with psyllium husks about an hour ago, and I’ve slowly started to feel better. I can’t have the psyllium within one hour, either direction, of taking medicine, though, so that’s not viable as an early morning thing.

Scott has been on the phone with Comcast for about three hours now. The difficulties getting our service going appear to be entirely bureaucratic and rather Catch-22 in nature. Scott’s talked to three or four different people without getting things sorted and is currently on hold. The impression I’m getting from listening is that the support people really don’t have any clue what to do with someone who’s trying to set up a bundled service.

Now Comcast is telling us that they thought we were at a different address (we’ve lived here for twenty years) and that we have a request for some sort of service on the outside line at this address. They also seem to have not closed our old account (which we asked them to do in June) even while they opened the new one, and the equipment got put on the old account and so couldn’t be activated under the new account.

We have an hour and a half left before the library closes. I have one hold to pick up, and it doesn’t expire until Wednesday, but I’d still like to get it today. We’ve got two DVD sets that must be returned before the library opens tomorrow, but that’s easy to do even after the library closes.
Friday, August 26th, 2016 12:35 pm
For years, passengers on Washington State ferries have spent their trip working on communal jigsaw puzzles. It is a delightful, adorable thing.

Flying with the Fourth State of Matter

The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World

Hiding in plain sight: Vast reef found hiding behind Great Barrier Reef

A brief history of chairs.

'Dark twin' of the Milky Way galaxy discovered

The Most Precious Blood on Earth

Carp demonstrate rapid de-evolution to get their scales back

The Contestant Who Outsmarted The Price Is Right

Robotic Dolls Linked To Higher Pregnancy Rate Actual article with less Onion

Scientists uncover common cell signaling pathway awry in some types of autism

The History Dish: Pumpernickel Ice Cream and Cinnamon Lemon Bay Leaf Ice Cream

Introduction to Egyptian Fractions

Graphing Calculators - A Game Boy For Math

Memory activation before exposure reduces life-long fear of spiders

The Sissies, Hustlers, and Hair Fairies Whose Defiant Lives Paved the Way For Stonewall

There's a Section of Yellowstone Where You Can Get Away with Murder

Alaska roadkill thieves target moose meant for charity

Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine

What toilets and sewers tell us about ancient Roman sanitation

In Iran, unique system allows payments for kidney donors

Hit by climate change, Central American coffee growers get a taste for cocoa

To Protest Guns on Campus, Students in Texas Are Carrying Big, Fake Penises to Class

Newer homes and furniture burn faster, giving you less time to escape a fire

In some US schools, resistance to ending corporal punishment More

Manitoba men weep after learning they were switched at birth 41 years ago

Rise of the Nazi-Grave Robbers

Private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America is trying to seal from public view documents in a lawsuit that claim female visitors to a Tennessee prison were forced to undergo strip searches to prove they were menstruating.

The Rio Games Were An Unjustifiable Human Disaster, And So Are The Olympics

New map shows alarming growth of the human footprint

It’s Children Against Federal Lawyers in Immigration Court

Philippines drugs war: The woman who kills dealers for a living

Colombia’s War Just Ended. A New Wave of Violence Is Beginning.

In crime-ridden Israeli Arab city, police seek new approach

Forced relocations raise doubts over Jordan's tribal customs

Raped and tortured by IS, Yazidi women recover in Germany
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 12:45 pm

Time for a final wipedown of all the germy surfaces in your house. Those little fuckers like to linger. Take a few minutes and wipe down your door handles, sink and tub faucets, toilet flusher knob, and light switches. While you’re at it, switch out your hand towels and dish towels for fresh ones.

Enjoy your clean(er) house and the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 12:00 pm

Unfuck your bills!

Find, organize, and, if you can, pay your bills. Now is a good time to set up automated payments or online bill pay if you haven’t already. If you’re out of stamps, still get the bills ready to go and put them on top of your purse or bag so that you get a book of stamps the next time you’re out.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 11:15 am

This one’s for pet owners. No pets? Do a freestyle 20/10 on whatever needs unfucking.

Pet owners: wash out those slobbery food and water dishes, and wipe down the area where your pets get fed, including any cabinet or wall surfaces that may get accidental splatter mess. Cat people, clean out your litter box. Gather up any toys and pet-related detritus scattered around the house and put them away. Wash your pet’s bedding. It smells. Trust me.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 10:30 am

To the bathroom! Time to go through the medicine cabinet, drawers, and any other storage you have in there. Throw out (or properly dispose of for prescriptions — check with your pharmacy) anything expired or gross, wipe down anything icky or sticky, sort, toss, organize and clean. Check to see if you’re running low on anything (especially critical stuff, like toilet paper).

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 10:30 am

Moderately productive. Two "publishing events".

  1. Sex and the Single Link is up on my "formal" website, This is, despite the clickbait title, an article about the joy of singly-linked lists.
  2. MakeStuff is up on GitHub. This the first of several projects I intend to put up there; it's the collection of makefiles and scripts that powers all my websites. You can see it in action here.

Apart from that, and a bunch of Quora answers, not a whole lot going on. One my Quora answers led to a good discussion on the comment thread. Fairly prodctive at work, though as usual not quite as much as I wanted to be.

One particularly interesting article for the programmers in the audience, Developer Differences: Makers vs Menders, which seems to describe me fairly well.

Also of note, the first episode of the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Podcast: Ordinary Women by Heather Rose Jones ([ profile] hrj on LJ) is up.

Notes & links, as usual )
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 11:03 am
Ugh. Coffee with whole milk and stevia is pretty disgusting. Neither the milk nor the stevia mellow the coffee anywhere near enough, and the stevia adds an extra layer of ick on top— I had a swallow of coffee more than five minutes ago, and I can still taste the stevia. I haven’t managed to choke down even a quarter of my cup, and it’s been an hour.

I have no idea what other options I have for getting this much caffeine without sugar or artificial sweeteners (pure stevia is the only one I can have). Black tea might be possible, but I’d need a heck of a lot more of that to get the same level of caffeination. At half an hour a mug, how much time would I need for that? I’m also suspicious that caffeine without sugar won’t do anything to help me wake up and think.

The last time I stopped caffeine was right after my gall bladder surgery, six or seven years ago. I did that deliberately because I was pretty sure that I’d be too out of it to notice the withdrawal headache, and that worked. The thing is that without drinking coffee (with sugar!) every morning, I ended up having to nap every morning, losing about three hours out of my day every single day and running into problems with doctor/dentist appointments because the best time to schedule them was late morning, at least in terms of getting home in time to pick Cordelia up from school. I also didn’t do very much writing because school day mornings are the best time for that. Afternoons involve lunch and exercise time and are generally broken up into pieces too small for me to use. Also Cordelia comes home an hour earlier now than she did then.

Right now, I’m wondering if I could manage being awake and doing things in between when Scott gets up and when Cordelia leaves for school and then nap because I’m pretty sure the fact that I seldom get much sleep during those three hours is a big factor in my needing either coffee or a nap. The biggest problem is that I’d be stuck in the bedroom for most of that time because Scott naps in the living room and because Cordelia really, really doesn’t want me awake while she’s getting ready for school. I think we could compromise in terms of me being awake as long as I keep the bedroom door closed.

Tumblr sent me a we’re about to give away your user name email to get me to log in. I debated whether or not to bother but ended up doing it just to keep my user name. I don’t know that this will make me visit Tumblr with any regularity because I find it overwhelming. I’ve thought about trying to disable the images there, but if I do that, is there any point in Tumblr at all?

We turned up the ceiling fan in the bedroom last night. That helped some but not as much as I’d hoped. I slept middling well. I’m still really exhausted (and the lack of coffee/sugar isn’t helping). I think that I’m going to have to push for changing the AC at night.

Cordelia spent most of yesterday with Scott’s family. They didn’t end up going out in the boat because it rained, but they played a lot of Telestrations and some card games and had dinner. Scott and I met his sister in Brighton to retrieve Cordelia and bring her home.
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 09:45 am

By this point, almost everything should be done but most of your floors. (If you were following along, you’ll have swept your bathroom and vacuumed the living room.)

Grab the vacuum and a mop and bucket or your steam mop and go to town on your floors. You should have access to most floors, since you picked up all of your clothes and put everything back where it belongs everywhere else.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 09:00 am

Good morning!

Start by making your bed!

Time to double check your flat surfaces. Any table, counter, desk, or bookshelf that you haven’t already dealt with is getting some attention. Clear them off, put or throw stuff away, and clean or dust off the surface.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 03:39 am
argh I would really like to be able to sit up for more than three minutes without horrible paiiiiiiin
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Eve on chairThis comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Recommendation of the week: Today I’m recommending movies instead of books, and two very different movies at that — the very funny mockumentary Popstar, and the very funny but in a totally different way Love & Friendship, based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. I am still laughing at both.

weekend free-for-all – August 27-28, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 01:15 pm

You’re avoiding something. It might be an invisible corner. It might be a box of crap you need to deal with. It might be your junk drawer. Whatever it is that you’ve been relieved that none of the challenges so far have made you deal with, that’s what you’re dealing with for the next 20 minutes. Don’t lie to yourself. You’re putting something off, but now you have to go deal with it.

When you’re done, take the rest of the day off. We’ll see you in the morning with more challenges!

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 12:30 pm

To the living/family room! Start by clearing off the coffee and end tables. Straighten the bookshelves. Put away anything that belongs somewhere else. Fold any blankets, fluff the pillows, dust what needs dusting, and run a quick vacuum.

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 11:45 am

Did you have a good break? Back to the bedroom. This time, focus on your surfaces: nightstand, dresser, etc. Clear them off, put shit back where it belongs, and give everything a good dusting.

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 11:00 am

Time to head into the bedroom. This 20 minutes, focus on getting rid of the floordrobe, put your shoes back where they belong, and put away any laundry hanging out in baskets or on surfaces.

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 10:15 am

Sheets dry yet? If so, make your bed. After that, start another load of laundry. How’s your laundry area? Gross? Use your 20 minutes making it less gross. None of this applies? Do a 20/10 on whatever needs it.