is it better to quit or get fired, being associated with a difficult client, and more

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

1. I don’t want to be associated with a difficult client

I am currently the lead person working on an account that is causing some issues at my company. Some back story – I got this account in January of 2012 and was told there wouldn’t be too much activity on it. Fast forward two weeks and business began to come in. The key person at the company I’m working with really likes me and I’m the only one she wants to deal with (that’s a whole separate issue that I can’t do much about). Anyway, this account went from no activity to one of my department’s biggest clients. Which was great for me because I got recognition for the hard work I put in to grow the business.

Unfortunately, as we are in the midst of contract negations, the client that really likes me is causing major issues for my boss and the sales team involved in the negotiation. She’s being absolutely unreasonable and if I had my way, I would start to say no to her, but that’s not my decision to make.

The issue I have is my boss was telling me the other day that he’s been referring to the person who is behind all the problems as my “bestie,” as he put it, to the powers that be. When I said, that’s not the case at all, he was like “Well, that’s what I’ve been telling people. She’s your bestie!” Odd language choice aside, this began to worry me. Let me tell you, this woman is not someone who I want to be associated with that way. She can be very rude, difficult to manage expectations with and has on more than one occasion made me cry at my desk. Which I know isn’t professional on her part, but it is what I deal with. Do you think I should be concerned about her reputation being tied to me? And if I should be, how should I go about addressing this with my boss?

Maybe. It’s possible that your boss is referring to how the client feels about you, rather than the other way around. But to make sure, I’d say to him directly: “Actually, would you be sure to make it clear to Jane and Bob (or whoever) that I’m not in any way allied with Amanda? I’m concerned about ensuring that they don’t think I’m connected to or approve of what she’s asking for.”

2. Is it better to quit or get fired?

A couple months ago, my boss approved me working 30 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week so that I could go to school (in an unrelated field — there isn’t really a way to move up in this company unless I moved to the south). Things have picked up at work — it isn’t anything crazy but my boss is treating it that way, and is insisting I work mandatory overtime. I only have the weekends to study since I work 10-hour days 3 days a week and am in school for the entire day the other 2 days. At this point, I am already overwhelmed with schoolwork while working 30 hours, and if necessary I wouldn’t mind not working and taking out more loan money.

I’ve told my boss (via email, she isn’t on location) that I’m sorry but I am not able to work any more hours than I already am. I was thinking about letting her know that I can either work 30 hours or not work for the company anymore, but my husband says I should stick around until they fire me (so that I’ll get unemployment instead of nothing). Do you think it looks better for future employers if I leave on my own terms due to school, or get fired because of school? If it’s better to get fired, how do I continue a conversation with my boss? “I’m sorry but I’m not willing to work more than 30 hours. Accept it or fire me” …?

If you’re planning to include this job on your resume in the future, you do not want to get fired from it. Having been fired can hurt you in reference checks, and it will mean you’re forever having to answer “yes” when online applications ask if you’ve ever been fired from a job. If you’re not planning to include this job on your resume, it will matter less.

Regarding talking to your boss, you could simply say, “I would like to be able to work the extra needed time, but after we agreed I could cut my hours, I enrolled in classes based on that agreement. I can’t work more hours and also meet my school commitments. I’ll gladly do all I can in my 30 hours a week here, but I’m not able to work more hours than what we agreed. Is there a way for that to work on your end?” If she says there isn’t, then you can say, “If there’s no way around that, how would you like to proceed? Do you need to replace me?” And from there, you can explore what the path forward (and possibly out) looks like. This won’t be a firing or a resignation so much as it should be a mutual agreement that your hours don’t fit her needs.

Also, I would call her for this conversation; this is too important a conversation to have it through email.

3. I can’t get through to my office’s HR department

I keep calling my office’s HR department and every time I call the receptionist says they are not available, and she asks me what I need to talk to them about. Don’t they have to be available to their employees anytime during working hours?

Nope. There’s no legal requirement for that. And it sounds like your HR department’s set-up is that calls are screened. While you can certainly debate the merits of this idea, that seems to be the case there. I’d give a general topic, like “benefits,” but if it’s something more sensitive, try saying, “It’s a sensitive matter and I’d prefer to talk to someone in person about it.”

4. Are there legitimate “work from home” jobs?

Wondering if you know of any legitimate opportunities to be able to work from home. Would like opportunities other than transcription and such that you would have to go to school for. I work best when by myself and do not have to be in the middle of the “social crowd or cliques” at work. Have any ideas?

It’s hard to recommend particular jobs without knowing anything about your skill set, but in general, it’s much easier to negotiate for telecommuting after you’ve worked somewhere for a while and have proven yourself. It doesn’t work for every job or every office, of course, but that’s the best path to it. It’s much harder to find a telecommuting job that telecommutes from the start — although they do exist. (If anyone has specific suggestions, please leave them in the comment section!)

5. Contacting a past employee of a company where you’d like to work

Is it ok to contact a past employee, say via Linkedin, from a company you want to work for? Or would that just be awkward? Personally, I wouldn’t mind if someone, even a complete stranger, wanted to know more about a position that I’d worked in the past. But I am not sure if that mentality would apply to everyone else. If you think it’s ok to do so, what (crucial) questions do you think I should ask? I was hoping to know about their experience working there, insights on the job and possibly any advice they could offer about the position.

I think you can try that, as long as you have very specific questions for them — don’t just say “tell me what this company was like” because that leaves them to do too much of the work of having to figure out what you might be interested in hearing about. As for what those specific questions should be, it really depends on what you want to know — it could be anything from what the culture was like to what the downsides were to what they look for in new hires for a particular type of role.

Some people will reply and others won’t. But if you can find anyone in your network on LinkedIn to introduce you, that will up your chances of a response.

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