I’m asked to cover when my coworkers are on a prayer break, my project was taken away, and more

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

1. My project was taken away with no warning to me

A few weeks ago, the CEO of our small company pulled me into his office and told me I was going to be the lead on a new client account. I was very excited for the opportunity to spread my wings, and I got working on our first project with enthusiasm.

Two weeks later, during a team meeting with the CEO, my manager, and a fellow co-worker, I found out that my manager had been chosen to go on a business trip for the new client. A few moments later, I found out she would be working on a different version of the same project I had been working on for this new client. I was confused about the project’s direction and my involvement at that point, so I asked my CEO if he could clarify whether I was still the lead. Strangely, it was as if he completely forgot our original conversation a few weeks back…and my manager is suddenly the lead!

Never mind the fact that my manager probably asked for the new client for herself when she found out it was being given to me…I appreciate that the CEO can make whatever business decisions he deems necessary, and I am still doing all I can to make sure our first project with the new client goes smoothly.

However, I am really frustrated that he didn’t give me the courtesy of telling me that he had changed his mind about my role. It was embarrassing to find out when and how I did. Is there a way I can express this concern to him? Is it even appropriate to do so, or should I keep my mouth closed?

It’s possible that your boss simply forgot he’d already assigned it to you, or it’s possible something else is going on. In any case, it’s reasonable to ask about it when you’re told X but then Y happens. You want to do it in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re challenging the decision, just seeking clarification and even feedback. For instance: “I just wanted to check back with you about Project X. When we talked two weeks ago, you’d asked me to be the lead on it. It sounds now like Jane will be leading the work instead, and I wanted to check with you about whether there was anything in my approach that concerned you or made you think I wasn’t the best fit for it. If so, I’d really appreciate the feedback.”

Your tone here must be calm and non-defensive; it should signal “I’m concerned about whether I’m doing something wrong” — not because you should assume that you did, but because this makes it a lot more likely that you’ll get the real story than if your tone signals “I’m annoyed.”

2. Was I in the bottom of the pile for this job?

More hyper-analyzing of rejection emails: The phrasing in a rejection I received was, “I am currently considering other candidates for the position.” Does the plural use of candidates mean that I was on the bottom of the pile? Also, it makes it sound like he’s sending the rejection before making an offer. Does that mean he really didn’t like me since if he did like me he’d like to keep me as backup in case their first choice didn’t accept the offer? Most rejection emails I’ve gotten announce that they have filled the position.

I thought the interview went well and that I did everything perfectly, so while I would understand being beat out by someone who was a better fit, thinking that a whole slew of candidates beat me out makes me feel awful and that I’m doing something horribly wrong.

You’re over-thinking it! You could be a strong candidate — even in the top 10% out of, say, 200 or 300 candidates — but just not as strong as the 3, 5, 8, or 10 people the hiring manager has decided to talk further with. Or you could be just as strong as them, but he can only reasonably talk to a certain number of people. Or, of course, it’s also possible that you are indeed in the absolute bottom of the whole pool. But you can’t tell that from this email. It just means that you’re not in the group they’re interviewing further.

3. Will it hurt my chances if I ask for a Skype interview instead of interviewing in person?

I’m working in New York and interviewing for a position in Kentucky. I had a phone interview this morning (not a screening, but a real interview). A few hours later I got a call saying I had interviewed very well, and they’d like to fly me down later this week for another meeting. When I hesitated he mentioned that if that didn’t work we could do a Skype interview instead. I explained that due to a death in the family I’ve taken a lot of time off work lately (and my managers are on the difficult side… but I didn’t mention that), and that I would email him by tomorrow at lunch with an answer.

I don’t want to come across as being disinterested or unwilling to commit, but the truth is that a Skype interview would be a much better fit for me. Do you think it will reflect poorly on me/hurt my chances if I opt for that instead of letting them fly me in?

Well, maybe. It could, or it might not — but there’s no way to say for sure. It’s easier to create rapport and be impressive in person than it is over Skype, and there’s some research showing that candidates who do video interviews are perceived as less likable and are less likely to be hired. That doesn’t mean that that’ll be the case with you — but there’s also no way to really know for sure. If this is a job that you really want, I’d try to go there in person if at all possible. Is there any way to schedule it for a time that minimizes how much time off work you’ll need?

4. My company said they’ll re-advertise the job I want if no one but me applies

I have been doing the assistant cook job at work for about 9 months because another employee went long-term sick. She has now resigned and I have applied for the position. I shall be attending an interview and we will be required to make a couple of dishes in a certain time.

I am the only applicant who has responded and said that I will be attending. I am already doing the job and have proved that I can, but I have been told that if no other applicants come for an interview, they will re-advertise. Why would this be?

Three possibilities: (1) They want to make sure that they’re truly searching for the best person, not just hiring the person who happens to be there (which is actually good practice for many jobs), or (2) they’re just not fully sold on you and want to make sure that they’re comparing you to others, or (3) they don’t think you’re the right fit for the job and don’t want to offer it to you. I have no idea which of these it is, but in any of these cases, the best thing you can do is to do an awesome job at your interview and continue being awesome at work the rest of the time. From there, it’s up to them. Good luck.

5. I’m asked to cover when my coworkers are on a prayer break

I’m working in a support department consisting of 3 employees (including me). My coworkers are Muslim, and every Friday they have a 1-hour break for praying in the mosque. And when they’re going to pray, I’m holding down the fort alone.

Unlike my colleagues, I live the furthest away, use public transportation, and have to switch trains/busses 4 times. Public transportion in my area is quite unreliable, so I’m the one who often arrives late (50% not late, 40% late by 3-10 minutes, 10% late by 40-60 minutes). I always leave home at the same exact time, but sometimes little misfortunes happen when I change buses, which accumulates into one mega time waster.

Once a year, we have a performance review. Is it reasonable to ask my manager to consider this one hour I spend every week covering from my coworkers while they’re at the mosque — when I have the responsibilities of 3 people — to proportionally compensate for my lateness? And if my manager says no, is it fair that I just close the door, hang the phone, and put a “Friday Prayer Break” sign up when the Friday prayer time comes?

No, covering for two people for an hour a week is not likely to cancel out being late so often — at least not unless you’ve talked to your manager and explicitly worked out an agreement that it is. (But you’d want to do that in advance, not wait until it comes up in a performance review.)

The thing is, it either is or isn’t okay to be late in the type of work you do. (In some roles it would be, and in others it wouldn’t be.) If it’s not okay in your role, then you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do about it — leave earlier? Talk to your manager and work out an accommodation? Stay later to make up for it, with your manager’s blessing? But you can’t just keep coming in late without talking to your manager about it and expect that it should be fine because you cover for your coworkers for an hour on Fridays.

And no, you can’t shut down the office while your coworkers are gone on Friday without talking to your manager about that too.

You need to talk to your manager about all of this and figure out what makes sense.

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