fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My comments in an interview might have lost my company a contract

I made a huge mistake in an interview a month ago. I have been working part-time in a restaurant while getting my degree. The restaurant is an awesome place to work, and I have a really good relationship with the owners, who are family friends. They have been really supportive and know that I am looking to transition into my chosen profession.

I interviewed at a really big company three weeks ago. During the interview, they asked what I liked best about my current position, and I talked about how I love that the management at the restaurant want to give people second chances so they work with a nonprofit and employ people who have criminal histories and really try to be an active part of the community. Through the partnership between the restaurant and the nonprofit, the people recently released are reconnected to society and have an outlet that is not part of the patterns that got them into trouble in the first place, and the program they are in really reduces the likelihood they will become a repeat offender by about two-thirds. I thought the company i was interviewing with knew this information and supported it because there was a branch of the restaurant on-site and that is how I developed the connection to get the interview.

Fast forward two weeks… the company is now requiring that any person who works at the location not have a criminal history within the past 7 years, and the restaurant is close to losing their contract as a food vendor. The company that I interviewed with has a great reputation and was known to do a lot of outside work within the community, so I am really confused why they are taking these actions. Should I tell the restaurant what I think happened? I feel horrible and am not sure what I should do.

Tell the restaurant. This isn’t your fault — this surely isn’t a program that they keep hidden; it’s one that they’re rightfully proud of, and the company you interviewed with almost surely could have found out all sorts of other ways if you hadn’t mentioned it. You mentioned it because you were proud of the work and had no reason to think it would cause problems. So tell your restaurant — to clear your conscience because you’re feeling at fault when you’re shouldn’t be, and also so they have a fuller picture of what might have happened.

2. Is this a work assignment or vacation?

I work in a hospital in a specialty position. The good is, I have really good job security and hours. The bad is, I have a difficult time getting time off because there are few who can cover my job. Asking for time off becomes a big deal.

There is an educational seminar I could use to improve my productivity. When I asked 3 months in advance, I was told I would have to use vacation time to attend. I was OK with this. However, now my manager wants me to take notes and give a condensed version for the rest of the staff in my department. Should I at least ask for mileage or ask to not use vacation time since this is now becoming a work assignment?

Either this is vacation time — when you shouldn’t have to do work — or it isn’t, in which case you shouldn’t have to use vacation time. Say something like this to your manager: “I wasn’t clear if you were asking me to do that as a work assignment, since I’m planning to use vacation time while I’m gone. Should I not be using PTO for it and instead treating it as work time?” (However, make sure that your manager was truly assigning you this work, not just casually mentioning that it would be something nice to do if you happen to think of it. Will it be held against you if you don’t? If so, they shouldn’t be making you take time off for it.)

3. Boss keeps calling me by the wrong title

I was hired at my place of employment as an Office Manager. Because of the amount of input I provide to the organization, I asked for a title change to Executive Assistant, which was granted. I feel that my input has been very significant to the organization and I have even contributed to other areas without any additional stipend or bonus. (Also, I might add, I am being paid below what I feel I should be considering my experience and successes. But I take responsibility for accepting the position under the salary condition….)

Recently, at the organization’s annual meeting, my boss, the Executive Director, announced me as the Administrative Assistant, and today at our staff meeting, he announced that it was Administrative Assistant appreciation day to thank me for the good work I do. He took me out to lunch and bought me a lei (I live in Honolulu, and they do that here).

Somehow, it strikes me less as being a compliment, and more of an insult. Am I wrong to feel this way? Why would he decide to change the way I am addressed and not discuss it with me first? So far, no one has discussed this point yet. I was thinking to address it to him directly myself. So, there are two points which seem contradictory, on the one hand, my work is being appreciated, on the other, he has verbally “demoted” me, or is there a more positive way to see this?

Lots of people see office manager, administrative assistant, and executive assistant as being similar or even the same thing — and at many organizations (especially smaller ones), they are. So I think you’re reading far, far more into this than what it really means.

If it really bothers you, you can say to him, “I noticed you’ve been referring to me as an administrative assistant. I know it might not seem like a big deal, but I’d really prefer it if you’d use executive assistant as my title.” But really, many people see very little difference between the titles and I’m sure it’s not meant as an insult. I’d pay far more attention to how he actually treats you, not what titles he uses.

4. Told to use vacation time for the day our office was closed after the Boston marathon bombing

I was told to stay home on the day of the Boston bombing because all businesses had to be closed for safety. Should I be paid for this day and not be forced to use vacation time?

It’s up to your employer. They can require you to use vacation time for closures (same thing for closures due to weather), although it would certainly be a nice gesture if they didn’t in this case.

5. Applying for a job where I don’t know a required computer program

I have a question about job fit. I usually apply for jobs where I fit at least 80% of the job description. Today I came across a job I think would be very interesting and that I am a good fit for. I match all of the requirements except one, which is a computer program I am familiar with but have no experience with. Is it worth addressing in my cover letter (i.e., I am familiar with program x, I do not have any experience but am willing to take my own time in order to get caught up or I am quick learner, etc). If your hiring someone, would you even consider someone who had never used the program before?

I wouldn’t even necessarily address it up-front. Apply and see what they say if it comes up. If you get all the way to an offer without being asked about, you can certainly ask at that stage if it’s an issue. But employers are often flexible on the job requirements they list, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it until/unless they tell you it’s a problem.

6. What is this style of management called?

There is a style of management where a company will purposefully assign a manager/supervisor to a group of workers, knowing the workers despise the manager in order to make them “grow” and mature. What is this called?


If that’s really the whole story. If, rather, the workers dislike the manager because she holds them to a high bar when they’ve been held to a low one in the past, sometimes it’s called good management. So the details matter.

7. Asking for accrued vacation time to be paid out when leaving a job

Tomorrow is my last day at my current job, as on Monday I start a sparkly new one. My mother has suggested I ask my company to pay me the vacation time I have earned while working there as, at this moment, I have 40 hours of accrued vacation time.

I personally feel this is a bit strange to ask as it makes me slightly uncomfortable. However, as this is the first time I’ve had accrued days at my disposal, is asking to be reimbursed for your unused vacation days when you leave a position a common practice? Is it even legal?

It’s very, very common. Not every company does it, but many do. (And in some states, like California, states are required by state law to pay out accrued vacation time when you leave.) Check your employee handbook; there’s a good chance that this is addressed in there. If it’s not, you can certainly ask. Usually your company will have a policy that they either do or don’t, and it’s completely normal to ask how they handle it.

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