mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Asking for non-money perks in lieu of a raise

I’ve been with my current company for three years now. I received a raise after my first year, but I have not been able to get any pay increases since then. They did give me a small bonus last year and told me they would work to get me an actual raise, but the company has since frozen pay rates for the foreseeable future. They are very appreciative of the work I do for the company, but I doubt I’ll see a raise any time soon.

I am considering asking for some kind of office perk to make up for the lack of a raise. I’d like to ask to be moved from the front desk to an office, or to be able to work more flexible hours, or both if I’m really lucky. Do you think this is a reasonable request? If so, how should I go about asking? Would it be appropriate to do this through email? My supervisors are in the same building, but I feel that I would be better at asking through email.

You can absolutely ask for things other than a salary increase, although you should do it in an in-person conversation, not email (just like if you were asking for a raise).

However, if you’re at the front desk, it might not be feasible to move you somewhere else (if your job involves greeting visitors, signing for packages, and other typical receptionist responsibilities), and the same might be true of flexible hours. So before you ask, make sure you’re considering whether the specific things you’d like to request are realistic for your role or not.

2. Is this legal?

I am a salaried exempt employee. I was forced to use PTO because the office was closed two days for snow. We also had a computer virus and they closed the office for a day and I was forced to use PTO. Then my daughter spent two weeks in ICU, and I ran out of PTO time and have not been there long enough for FMLA, but I was still required to answer emails and phone calls and meet prospective clients for lunch but was told I was not being paid. Is this legal?

No, it is not legal! If you’re exempt, you have to be paid your full salary for any week in which you do any work (with some exceptions, like your first and last week in some cases). And if you weren’t exempt, they have to pay you for all time you spend on work, so they’d need to pay you for those emails and phone calls — so either way, they’re breaking the law.

3. Employee won’t stop staring at people and asking them what’s wrong

I have a question about one of my employees. I have noticed recently that anytime you engage in conversation with her, she is always asking “what’s wrong?” with a very uncomfortable stare, almost like she is trying to see through you. After you answer her that nothing is wrong, she never looks away and then asks, “Are you sure?” This whole time staring at your eyes, never breaking. It is starting to become a problem at the office because it’s making other employees uncomfortable. What do you think could be causing this sudden change in behavior and how should I handle it?

This is weird. But it’s also weird that no one has asked her what’s up. The next time she asks you what’s wrong, say, “I noticed you’ve been asking that of me and others a lot. What’s going on?” And if she’s truly staring other people down in ways that are making them uncomfortable, talk to her privately and ask her to cut it out.

4. Is there any harm in taking a later start date?

I was offered a position in a major firm earlier this year. I informed them that the earliest I could join was in June of this year. The HR manager was pretty flexible about this. I contacted him recently to confirm my start date in June and he gave me 4 options, two in June and two of these dates are first week and last week of July respectively.

Looking at this email, I am now thinking of taking a longer break off of my current position as I want to visit family out of country. Would it be okay for me to accept the late July date as a start date for my employment. Is there any perception problem with me deciding to accept the most later date as a start date for my employment?

Theoretically, it should be fine. In reality, however, there’s a small chance — very small, but still a chance — that the later start date gives them room to decide they aren’t going to move forward after all, which does sometimes happen. It’s rare, but it happens. But they’re offering you the later date (you didn’t request it), and it’s not unreasonable to assume that you can take them at their word.

5. Smokers are getting more breaks than non-smokers

I work in retail. The smokers seem to have more breaks than us non-smokers. How do I let my job know that I want a break too?

You can talk to your manager and point out that smokers are being treated differently than non-smokers, but a manager who’s already allowing this might be a manager who doesn’t care. Still, it’s worth a conversation.

6. How can employers screen out candidates who lie about their job history?

What are your thoughts about how we, as employers, can get around sites that let job applicants fake their job history (complete with fake references), to be sure we are hiring qualified candidates, not just those who are willing to pay to lie to gain employment?

Don’t stick to just the reference list the candidate provides you with but look for other people who worked with the candidate, look up reference phone numbers yourself rather than using the ones provided to you by the candidate, be alert to signs of integrity and honesty throughout the hiring process, and do skills testing and job simulations before ever making any hire. Beyond that, it’s still possible someone could lie to you, but if they can’t do the work, you’ll find out soon enough if you’re paying as much attention to their work as you should be!

7. Reapplying for a job when the instructions change

I applied to a position online. At the time I applied, the site only had a job description and an email address with no further instructions. I sent my resume and cover letter to the email address they provided. I make it a habit to see if the posting is updated, because this seems to happen often. Turns out It was updated; I checked back four hours after I originally applied. Suddenly there were instructions and an added “please mention this to let us know you’re read the whole posting.” I really want the job so I re-applied.

Does reapplying hurt my chances for being considered for the position? When I originally applied, those specifications were not there. What’s the deal?

Well, ideally when you re-applied, you included a note saying something like, “I applied earlier today, but at the time you hadn’t yet added instructions to mention your note, so I’m reapplying to let you know that I did see it.” But if you didn’t, it’s not a big deal; they’re probably going to figure it out on their own.

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