my boss fired me but will probably change his mind, fringe hobbies on resumes, and more

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

1. My boss fired me but will probably change his mind

How do you handle a situation where a boss tells an employee early in the month that he will be fired at the end of the month? This is happening to me and I am prepared to leave, but I have a feeling he may “allow me to stay” at last minute. I was given such warning about being laid off at the end of the month twice, but only verbally and in private. Can I apply for and collect unemployment if I don’t show up next month? How should I handle this?

I’m not sure from your letter whether this is a firing for cause or a layoff for business reasons, or why you think your manager will change his mind in a few weeks, but I’d think that you’d need to decide whether staying is something you’re interested in doing. You’re certainly under no obligation to stay if you don’t want to; it would be perfectly reasonable to say, “Thank you, but when you told me you were letting me go, I moved forward with other plans.”

As for whether that would make you ineligible for unemployment, you’d have to check with your local unemployment agency, but my assumption is that it would (since you’d be turning down work).

2. My manager told my coworkers I was hospitalized for “a mental breakdown”

I work for a small business, where immediate supervisors take on the role of HR. Recently I was voluntarily hospitalized for mental illness under the recommendation of my therapist. I was as vague as possible about my hospitalization when I alerted my supervisor that I would be taking some leave time, and I only used leave time that I had earned. Besides 2 personal leave days I took off for the hospital, I have been working full time and completing my deadlines and projects.

Nonetheless, my supervisor guessed the reason for my absence and told the office gossip that I had been hospitalized for a mental breakdown, and now the office is full of chatter about how I can’t handle the stress of the job. Several people have come up to me during work time to recommended “cures” consisting of dietary changes and homeopathic herb pills. Other coworkers are calling me unstable and gossiping about me to clients.

I am disappointed that the job and work environment I liked have turned so suddenly on a dime to a place that I dread going to every day. My wife says that my supervisor’s disclosure of my hospitalization is a breach of confidentiality and that I should look for legal recourse. I am looking for another job. Do I have any legal standing regarding confidentiality? And for the future, what should I have done differently? (I have bipolar disorder and will struggle to mange it for my entire life.)

Your employer isn’t bound by the same medical confidentiality laws that, say, your doctor would be; it’s not illegal for them to share information about your health. It is, however, incredibly thoughtless, particularly given what it led to. And it’s possible that if you’re now being harassed based on your medical condition, there could be some legal issue there, but you’d need to talk to a lawyer to find out for sure. Regardless, though, I’d go back to your manager and explain that you’re taken aback that she shared such personal information with others and explain what it led to. I’d even ask her what she intends to do about the gossip about you that’s now occurring with clients, etc.

As for handling it in the future, I’m not sure what you can do differently, since I don’t know how your manager “guessed” the reason for your absence … but working for a more mature manager would be one big preventative measure. Sorry you’re dealing with this.

3. Why was our direct deposit temporarily disabled?

Is direct deposit being “temporarily disabled in our payroll software” actually code for “we don’t have money in the bank to cover your paychecks”?

Maybe. But it could also just mean that there’s some technical issue they’re working out. Have you seen other signs of financial instability?

4. Can I ask to be paid as a consultant for training my replacement after I leave my job?

I recently gave my resignation at my current job as I am now starting a new one in a few weeks. I gave my notice to my boss – giving her 9 days instead of the usual 10 days because of a pre-planned vacation. She failed to come into the office to have a conversation with me after I submitted my resignation (via email cause she is never in the office) and now wants me to come back and train my successor (they are going to promote my assistant to take over my responsibilities) in a few weeks because she is going on vacation again and won’t be back in the office until the end of August.

Can I ask them to pay me for this time as a consultant? I am giving them notice and will do my best to get all my files organized and write up a document with transition information, but I feel as though it is not my fault the timing on this is bad and because she is going on vacation, I have to come in after I have already started my new position to help train my assistant.

Not only can you ask to be paid for that time, but you absolutely should. And it shouldn’t be a request — it should be a factual statement, as in, “I can do that, but since I’ll no longer be on your payroll, I’d need to be paid as a consultant. I think a fair rate would be $X.” (And that rate should be more than what you previously earned working for them, since if they’re not paying you through their payroll, payroll taxes won’t be coming out of it. Plus, you’re doing this as a favor to them and on top of a different job.)

You also should feel free to set whatever limits you want on this — as far as which hours you’re available and for how long. And you should feel free to decline it entirely if you’d rather focus on your new job (and if you decide to do that, you can explain it by saying that you’ll be too busy with your new position). Keep in mind that the only thing you’re strictly OBLIGATED to do here is to leave everything in good shape and work hard through your last day. Anything after that is optional.

5. Could having a letter published here jeopardize your job?

Do you know of any cases of a reader’s job being compromised by writing in to you? Do you forsee any situation where anonymously asking a question about a fairly specific work scenario might get someone in a lot of trouble? I was browsing your archives and read a post in which the OP’s coworker quickly chimed in in the comments section, which surprised me. I would never let another coworker know that I had written at length about potentially sensitive workplace issue online, even if I trusted them and I knew they shared my opinions. Maybe I’m paranoid? To be clear, I think your blog is awesome and should exist, but I wonder people have accidentally gotten themselves in trouble being not discreet enough.

If anything, I think it’s the opposite — I often get people writing in with questions who are concerned they’ll be recognized, when in fact the question is pretty common or generic. That said, it’s not impossible that someone could be recognized if their letter was about a very unusual situation with lots of specific, identifying details included. But thinking to the typical letter that’s published here, it’s fairly unlikely. (In the post you mentioned, my impression was that the letter-writer had told the coworker about the letter herself, not that the coworker had just stumbled upon it.)

An exception to this would be something like the letter from the person whose ex-coworker was throwing a mean-spirited party for some, but not all, employees of the company. That was uniquely weird enough that I’d think someone else who worked there would recognize the situation if they came across the post (although I’m not sure they’d know who specifically had written the letter).

But if all the stars aligned and someone was outed for writing a letter, whether or not they got in any trouble would depend on what the letter said. A request for advice on getting your coworkers to stop interrupting you? Unlikely to get you in trouble. A complaint about your horrid boss who you’re plotting to get fired would be a different risk level. But again, unless you include tons of really specific identifying details, your boss is unlikely to spot you.

6. Is my sci-fi book review blog too fringe for my resume?

I have been writing for a blog for around two years, doing daily updates on Twitter, interacting with commenters, setting up giveaways, etc. This has given me a lot of experience with WordPress and social media in general, along with enhancing my writing skills. The blog is a collaborative effort among a few other people. This blog is pretty large and I’ve had some of my own reviews mentioned in a few books on the review blurb pages that are at the beginning of books.

When I sat down with a resume consultant to fix up my resume, I asked about mentioning writing for a blog somewhere on the resume. When asked about the type of blog I write for, I mentioned that its is a book review blog mainly reviewing urban fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal books.

She told me that I should probably not mention what type of blog it is as it is “too out there” or too much on the “fringe.” I am looking into public relations and nonprofit work, and I think my experience with social media and blog writing would be a good asset to mention for a position that requires blogging and social media experience. Is my blog experience to bizarre for conservative business minded professionals to handle?

No, you should mention it. It’s good experience, and really, someone who would take issue with you reviewing sci-fi and fantasy books is the one who’s “on the fringe” not you.

7. Expressing continued interest in an internal position

I interviewed for an internal position back in February and ended up being the second choice candidate and did not get hired for the position. I heard through the grapevine that the same job in the same office has opened up and I am still interested in working there, however I do not have any idea how to approach expressing my continued interest in the job considering that the interview was so long ago. Do you have any advice on how to approach this?

Just be straightforward: “I heard this position may be opening up again, and I’d love to be considered for it again if you think I’d be a strong candidate.”

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