It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Will my mental health get in the way of a promotion?
I am a college student working part-time at a retail job that I absolutely love. I have goals and plans to move up in the company that my direct supervisors and my district manager are aware of and are very supportive of. Recently, a manager has been guiding me towards a small promotion as a lead cashier. It may not seem like much, but would bring me more responsibilities and would make me more likely to be moved into a management role later on. I am extremely eager for this job.
The thing is, I suffer from depression and anxiety. I go to counseling and take medication, and I am able to function well and exceed expectations most of the time and often more than double sales goals, but recently my mental health has taken a turn. I’m doing my best to still perform well at my job, but today was unbearable and I asked a coworker to take my shift.
My boyfriend is worried that I have jeopardized my chances at this promotion and that they will not give me the lead cashier position because my mental health makes me “unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work.” His thinking is that they will be more likely to promote people who never have people take their shifts, call in, or request off. I don’t agree with him but now I am worried. Do you think it is likely for them to give someone else the position because they do not have mental health issues? Is it even legal for them to not give me a promotion based on my mental health? And how should I address my issues to my employers so I don’t come across flaky and make it clear that my job still is extremely important to me? (I told the person who took my shift that personal things had come up, but when I called my manager to let her know she would be showing up instead of me, I did let her know that I was just having a bad mental health day and couldn’t see myself performing my best. She is open about her own mental health problems, but she is leaving our store soon and I now wonder if whoever replaces her will understand as well, or if the manager who is doing the hiring for the promotion won’t understand.)
Your boyfriend thinks that you’ll look unstable and unreliable based on getting someone else to cover your shift once? It’s really, really normal to switch shifts with people at part-time retail jobs, as is needing to call in sick or ask for specific days off. So do not listen to your boyfriend on that front.
But in general, when you call in sick or let a manager know you’ve switched shifts, I’d keep it vague — you’re “under the weather” or “feeling ill.” Don’t specify that it’s for mental health reasons. Not because there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s more info that you don’t need to provide (just like you don’t need to specify “diarrhea” or “sharp shooting pain in my side”) … and because the reality is that yes, there can still be stigma around mental health issues, even among people who seem to get it, and there’s no reason to introduce worries in their head that it cause issues in the future. That’s of course unfair; if you call in with a headache, you wouldn’t normally worry that your boss will fear you might have headaches in the future — but this is still a thing when it comes to mental health.
As for the legalities … if your condition is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s illegal for them to consider it in promotion decisions (as long as you can do the job with reasonable accommodations and without undue hardship to them). But the reality is that there’s a ton of bias — both conscious and unconscious — around this stuff, so you’re better off keeping the info you share minimal.
2. Is it okay to hire people from my full-time job to work at my part-time job?
I work full-time for a public organization, overseeing about 50 staff members in a large department. There is a fair amount of movement between positions and there’s no guarantee that I will supervise the same people from year to year. I also work part-time for another public organization and regularly advertise for new positions on a professional listserv. Recently, people who work for my full-time organization have started to apply for positions in the part-time organization that I hire for and would supervise.
My initial feeling is that it would be a conflict of interest to hire a person who also works for my full-time organization, as I’d potentially be in the position of supervising them for two different companies. I can imagine all sorts of issues with that. Even for those staff members who I do not directly supervise at my full-time job, there is a real possibility that I would have to give them feedback on their full-time work as it often directly affects the work of the staff members that I support. I’ve reached out to my supervisor at the full-time job to confirm that she would also see this as a conflict of interest, also I haven’t heard back yet. So, I’d like to keep it as separate as possible and not hire anyone for the part-time job who also works in my department at my full-time job.
However, is this okay and ethical? It seems unfair to take someone out of consideration for a position simply because I may have a conflict of interest in hiring them. Do I need to convey this to potential candidates somehow? What if they are the best candidate and the only disqualifying factor is that they work for my department at the full-time job?
Ugh, yeah, I’d be wary of conflicts of interest too. For example, if you become aware of problematic behavior from someone at one job, you’ll have the question of whether and how it’ll impact your assessment of them at the other job. Or if they don’t like how you handle something at the part-time job, is it going to impact things at the full-time job? (And how will your full-time job feel about that?) You also risk politics from the one job coming into the other. It could go perfectly smoothly, of course, but you’d be introducing the potential for problems and messiness that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
That said, I don’t think this is such an absolute no that you can’t evaluate the whole situation and decide to proceed with hiring one of them anyway; it’s not like hiring your boyfriend or your daughter or other definite no’s. If you know someone to do good work and they have a track record of professional maturity, it’s not crazy to decide the risk of problems is low enough that you’ll move forward with them.
But I can also see being pretty uncomfortable about doing that with people who you work with closely at your full-time job. So one middle-ground option would be to decide that you don’t want to hire people from your department there, but that you won’t do a blanket ban on the whole organization. If you went that route, you’d simply explain to anyone in your department who’s interested that you don’t feel you can hire from your current department because of the potential for conflicts of interest.
If you decide to do that, that’s not unethical; people aren’t entitled to any particular job, and it’s very normal to remove otherwise good candidates from consideration because of connections that could cause problems (for example, that they’re dating or related to someone in the same department or who would have authority over them). I’d just make sure that the part-time employer is aware that that’s what you’ve decided to do, so that they’re not surprised by it later on (especially since these are public organizations).
3. Is this good resume advice?
I have been reading advice about resumes lately that goes against what has seemed “standard” until now, and instead suggests people start using complete sentences, include explanations for job changes or gaps within the resume, write a friendly “summary” at the top. Is this really a Thing now, or is this from the land of “video resumes are the future!”? My brain is honestly so fried now from all of the different tweaks I see suggested, I’m having trouble even bothering to revise my resume anymore … (which may be why I’m still not working!)
Do not use complete sentences on your resume. Resumes should be easy to skim, space is at a premium (so you want to be concise), and they should use bullet points, not prose. More on that here and here.
Nor should you include reasons for leaving or for gaps, unless there’s a very specific situation that where it makes sense — but not as a general rule. That’s not the convention for resumes, and it looks a little out of touch when people include that info for all their jobs. Not like “I won’t hire you” out of touch, but it doesn’t strengthen your resume.
But summaries are indeed a real thing now. They’re by no means a requirement, but they’re pretty common these days. The majority of them aren’t useful because they tend to be so generic that you could imagine every other candidate with similar qualifications having the same summary … but the good ones talk about what differentiates you and makes you awesome (meaning concrete achievements, not “good communication skills”).
4. My company adjusts salaries for cost of living downward but never upward
I have been an employee with my company for five years, and in my current role for four of those years. We are allowed to work remotely, and I recently relocated from the D.C. area to California. When I originally moved, I let them know that I would temporarily be in San Diego, and they ran numbers and reduced my salary based on OPM’s pay tables. This was annoying, but I knew the move was temporary and assumed that we would recalculate once I landed somewhere more permanent. After three months, I relocated again to Los Angeles, a considerably more expensive metro area (more expensive than even D.C.!). When I inquired about the COLA adjustment to reflect my new location, I was informed they never raise salaries for COLA, just decrease them. So I could move from LA, to a less expensive metro area, take another pay cut, then move to San Francisco and have to suffer at the lower salary.
This doesn’t seem fair to me — if you are going to allow employees to go remote, and make adjustments to salary, shouldn’t they be prepared to make those adjustments regardless of how that shakes out for them?
Yes. This isn’t how this is supposed to work. You work for jerks.
5. My ex-roommate left documents in violation of HIPAA
My roommate moved out a month ago. She was in the medical profession and, well, she left a lot of stuff behind. Today, I started looking through a folder that she left, and it’s bad. There are dozens — literally dozens — of patient charts with full names, medical histories, and medication lists. She also left documents with her full Social Security number, date of birth, everything needed to steal her identity. I figured shredding the latter would be sufficient, but I don’t know what to do about the former. It seems like a massive HIPAA violation, and she’s still practicing. I have two major questions. 1) What do I do with these documents? I don’t want them in my home, I don’t want to be responsible for them, but I have no idea what the procedure is for disposing of them. 2) Do I report her to the licensing board? This seems really, really bad, and I feel like the hospital should know, as well as the board. I’ve tried contacting her to no avail.
Do you have a way to contact her old employer? If so, I’d do that, explain what you found, and ask what they want you to do with the materials. I don’t know that you need to report her to the licensing board — you certainly could if you wanted to, but I think that’s really up to you, based on whether you feel strongly enough to put in the time to do that.
I don’t think you’re being negligent if you decide not to; she’s the negligent one, and anything you do to clean up her mess is more than you’re obligated to do. (Although I do think you at least need to shred those materials unless her former employer directs you to do something differently.)
will my mental health get in the way of a promotion, bad resume advice, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.