my boss watches porn all day, salary and cost-of-living differences, and more

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

1. My coworker slacked off this weekend and no one said anything

My coworker and I are both new hires at a small tech firm. Our CEO and COO stated that we should all (including our team lead) rotate weekends watching the help desk to answer client tickets. Well, it was my fellow new hire’s turn this past weekend and he expressed that he was going to the mountains. I asked if he needed to switch weekends and he said no, he’d have cell service and connectivity.

Well, Sunday morning I took a look at our help desk and noticed that there was an outstanding ticket from Saturday (we’re supposed to reply within an hour). I informed our team lead and she said, “Thanks, glad you caught that” and I offered to take care of the ticket since we hadn’t heard from fellow new hire.

Now, it’s Monday and no one has said a thing. I personally feel as if he should take my shift (next weekend) or at least part of it since I spent a portion of my day answering a ticket that was his responsibility. But as of now there are crickets in the office and no one has brought it up. I firmly believe in team effort but it’s irritating when someone isn’t doing their part. What should I do?

Yes, it’s irritating. But so far, this seems to be a one-time thing. You can certainly say something to him if you want (like “Hey, since I took your ticket last weekend, do you want to cover this coming weekend?”), but I wouldn’t make a bigger deal out of it than that (with him or with your team lead) until/unless it happens again or there are other signs of a pattern.

2. Negotiating salary when major cost-of-living differences are in play

I currently work in marketing in Milwaukee, WI making $40,000/year. I have been job hunting and was recently offered a job in my chosen field the San Francisco bay area (Emeryville, CA). While interviewing, they asked for my salary history (firmly asking for a specific number when I tried to politely skirt the issue), and have offered me a salary of $40,000. My responsibilities would be growing from my current to future position (bigger audience, more responsibility, asking more creatively of me, etc.), and coupled with the cost of living increases, I’m going to need to ask for a higher salary.

Based on cost of living calculator/analysis and talking with my financial advisor, the minimum equivalent of $40,000 in Milwaukee is $54,000 in Oakland, CA (nearest big city), and $64,000 in San Francisco proper. How can I go about negotiating my salary given that they essentially ignored the cost of living discrepancies between the two cities?

Base it on the market rate for that type of work in that geographic area, totally independent of what you’re currently making (which means you need to do some research into market rates for your work). Just like they shouldn’t be basing their offer on your current salary, you shouldn’t be basing your salary request on it either; doing so only legitimizing their approach. However, if you get the sense that they’re determined to build your offer off of your current salary, then you can absolutely point out that there are significant cost of living differences, and can even point out that what they’re offering would in practical terms be a salary cut for you.

3. My boss watches porn all day, every day

I am a maintenance engineer for a food industry. I work second shift so when I clock in, all the major management leaves. After all of upper management leaves, my supervisor watches porn and surfs the net all day, every day for the past 2 years I’ve been there. I’m tired of seeing it. I’ve caught him watching it so much that he’s comfortable watching it in front of me. I work 10-hour shifts everyday and he’s in the office 8-9 hours of the day.

How do I tell management professionally that my supervisor is unfit for his job? Or how do I say it and not come out as a jerk who has something out for his supervisor? Which I don’t; I just don’t think he’s fit for the supervisor job getting paid $65k a year.

Well, you don’t tell them that he’s unfit for his job, because that’s their call. But you absolutely can and should report the porn-watching situation. I’d say something like this: “I haven’t reported this previously because I’ve been uncomfortable speaking up, but Bob watches porn on the computer in his office every night during our shift. I’ve caught him so many times that now he doesn’t try to hide it.”

And assuming it’s making you uncomfortable, you should mention that too, because making you work in an overly sexualized environment like that triggers harassment laws.

4. Can I apply for my own job at a higher rate of pay?

I currently work within a team of seven people who are all employed under the same job title. Our company is advertising externally, and I know whoever they hire in will have a salary 40-50% higher than mine. Can I apply for the job? It is the job I’m currently doing, just they will be paid more as I was promoted within the company off a low base salary.

No, you can’t just send in an application for your own job title when you’re already working there. That’s going to look really weird.

You can, however, make the case for a raise, pointing to the advertised position as clear evidence of what the market rate for the role now is. If you’re given some BS justification for paying external hires more, you should point that you should be based on your value in the role just like everyone else is, and point to what it would cost to replace you. And if that still doesn’t work, then you should consider whether you’d rather become a better-paid external hire yourself, somewhere else.

5. Professional certifications obtained through testing

What are your thoughts on professional certifications obtained through testing? I am a technical communicator/trainer. ASTD (a professional training organization) offers CPLP (certified professional in learning and performance) certification. The cost is $999 or $799 to members. Membership is $229. This cost seems absolutely outrageous! As a comparison, I looked up the HR certification (PHR) cost: $400 or $350 for members. So much more reasonable! My current company isn’t going to foot the bill, and I don’t want to spend my money on something that seems sooooo utterly overpriced. However, in my job hunt, I’ve seen at least one place list CPLP certification as a requirement. Do you think I should still apply for that position? I believe you have encouraged people to apply when they don’t meet 100% of the requirements, but I’m not sure if that includes certifications. Do you think I should mention that I am not certified in the cover letter? I’d gladly take the test if they pay, but that seems tacky to point out.

Do you think certification in software is helpful? For instance, Adobe Captivate certification costs $180. If I don’t have a portfolio which I can share, is certification the best way to prove I know the products? I’m not excited to spend that kind of money, but I would be willing if it was important to hiring managers.

Personally, I don’t care that much about certificates and would always strongly prefer to see real-world experience. If someone has a certificate in X but no actual work experience in X, I know nothing about how successful they are at applying their knowledge of X in real life.

The only times I’d say it makes sense to shell out for certifications are when you truly need the knowledge you’ll get from the process (without regard to the certification itself) or when your field generally does require (or strongly prefer) them. For you, it seems like the question is more about the latter — and the way to find out the answer is to look at what the majority of ads for jobs you’re interested in say, and to talk to people in your field.

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