I want quiet but I want to be likable, retro pay for a late performance review, and more

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

1. Reconciling my need for quiet with a desire to be likable

I am seeking guidance on how to participate in social cultures in workplaces. FirstJob taught me that work is not only productivity, but also likability office-wide and mirroring what the big boss’s values are. My reputation at FirstJob was somebody who was very quiet and hardworking but not a member of a cherished inner circle and not a go-to person for projects.

I’m currently at a part-time job that has a full-time opening coming up. This time around, I’m much more aware of things like my likability and realize that too much quiet can be seen negatively. My work environment mores are also entirely different…. at FirstJob, I worked in the same cubicle setup with the same people for three years without knowing anything about them. Here there is a lot of chatter between cubicles, which I don’t particularly like but I deal with. I have to deal with constant interruptions from colleagues and their chatter, the gossip of the lunch table five feet away from me, and a boss who likes to come in and hang out for “bonding” but ends up just distracting me.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can reconcile my preference for quiet with my need to be likable should I want a position here? This is a field where working alone is very common. I am also wondering if I should prioritize positions where I can work quietly more often. Do you have suggestions on balancing priorities in a job search?

It’s true that likability matters, but you can be both quiet and likable. You don’t need to socialize constantly, but getting to know your coworkers and boss on a human level — how they like to spend their time, a little about their families, a mention of a TV here and there — will usually help you get along better with the people you work with. Again, not constant chatting, but small expressions of interest.

At the same time, though, you should screen for a culture where you’ll be comfortable and happy. Your current office sounds like the opposite extreme from your natural state, and there are offices that are less incessantly social. It sounds like this one might not be an ideal fit for what you want from a job — so I’d focus your thinking on the question of whether they are what you want, at least as much as you’re thinking about how to be what they want.

2. Responding to unqualified job applicants when I’d normally send more instructions

We’re hiring for a position right now where we request that the applicants fill out a standard job application. I just received a resume (no cover letter) from an applicant instead. Generally when this happens, I just email back and tell them that we’re requiring all applicants to fill out the job application, with a link to it. But after a quick look at this applicant’s resume, I know we will not be hiring them because they don’t fit our criteria. Now I’m in a quandary of what’s fair: treat it like everyone else and email back the standard email requesting the application or just send a rejection email. Is it fair to have him waste his time with the job application even though I know that we will not be hiring him?

Just send the rejection email. There’s no point in asking him to jump through hoops when you already know what the conclusion would be. (And keep in mind that ethics don’t require that you treat every applicant identically, particularly in this regard; ethics require that evaluate people on merit as objectively as you can and that you’re open and transparent with people throughout the process, but not that you funnel everyone through an identical process, particularly when there’s a foregone conclusion.)

3. I want retro pay for the delay in finishing my performance review

When I started working with my current company I was given an offer letter that stated, “Upon successful completion of your 90-day introductory period, your performance and compensation will be reviewed and you are eligible for an increase up to $XXX per year.”

After 90 days, a performance review was not conducted. My boss kept putting it off until this week, when HR informed me my increase for $XXX was approved, but the retro pay was denied (my job performance is not in question). If my review was conducted after 90 days (when it was supposed to), then the issue of retro pay would never have come up. How do I address this?

You can certainly point out that because your review wasn’t conducted at the agreed-upon time, you didn’t receive $X in salary that you otherwise would have received between then and now. A smart organization will give you retro pay to account for that — but ultimately it’s up to them. If you offer letter had said that you would receive an increase at that time, this would be more cut-and-dried, but it only said you’d be eligible to receive one, so there’s no real way to force their hand here (and you should weigh the benefits of pushing this hard against whatever impact that will have on your standing and relationship with your boss).

4. How can I propose making my role part-time without seeming like a slacker?

I work for an organization that is undergoing a restructuring. The process has been as transparent and collaborative as possible: the woman who will likely be my new manager has already reached out to discuss with me what projects I might be interested in owning from the scope of work my new team will assume. Our revenues took a big hit part-way through the restructuring, which has impacted budgets for our upcoming fiscal year and impacted head counts in the new organizational structure.

In being honest with myself and talking it over with my partner, the hours I’m working and the hectic pace of the work wear me down. We’ll be relocating in the next year and a half, so it makes sense to stay with my current organization until them as I am happy overall. But in light of our recent epiphany that I’m burning out, a knowledge that the budget just got tighter, and the fact that my future manager is actively soliciting my feedback in developing the scope of the roles on her new team, I was wondering how to go about bringing up my openness to a part-time role. I’m thinking 60% would be ideal. I understand my manager may need the full capacity of her team to carry out the work we’re charged with and I am happy to keep working full-time, but would like to find a way to let her know that she could use my capacity as a variable in her planning and budgeting. It’s worth stating explicitly that the organization I work with is full of type-A overachievers. While there are a few folks have a part-time arrangement, I’m nervous that this request would plant concerns about my being a slacker (I have a complex about this myself), especially since I don’t have a “legit” reason for going part-time, just my desire to continue doing work I enjoy with a better work-life balance.

“Would you be open to making this a part-time role? While I love the work I do, I’d love to talk about the prospect of going part-time, around three days a week.” I don’t think you need to have any reason beyond that you’d like to and could accommodate the pay cut it would entail.

That said, you’re far better equipped than me to judge how that might go over in your organization, so your knowledge of your culture should be your guide here. Also, factor in that in an environment like the one you describe, part-time could very quickly turn into more hours than you’re envisioning (while you stay at part-time pay).

5. How should my resume address job duties wildly outside my job description?

I work for a very small company (just myself and my two bosses). When I applied two years ago, the job description was geared towards a Marketing position, but as it turns out I do much more than marketing. In fact, I do everything from product development to shipping to assistant duties for one of my bosses. I’ve helped my boss unpack when she moved to a new house, organized things for her children and helped her complete projects for an auction she runs outside the business. I don’t have a problem doing things “outside my role,” but I will be moving out of state shortly and am unsure of how to describe my current job on my resume. While I definitely do a lot of marketing work, I also have multiple other duties within the company, as well as more typical “assistant” duties.

Additionally, one of my bosses works remotely and I’m not sure she knows about all the “assistant” duties I do. It’s all very awkward for me because we are such a small company and all three of us are very close. Both of my bosses have been mentors for me and have helped me out immensely during my time here. I’m just not sure how to approach describing what exactly I do because I do so many different things.

Well, do those additional duties strengthen your resume if you include them? Do they relate to the jobs you want to apply for? If so, by all means include them. But if not (and I’m guessing not, unless you’re applying for personal assistant positions), you’re under no obligation to include them. Just highlight the work that best represents where the majority of your time went and links to the jobs you’re applying for.

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