my coworker’s creditors call her constantly, indignant over lack of a raise, and more

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

1. Employer asked me to do 30 hours of free work as part of a hiring process

I am being interviewed for an executive director job for a U.S.-based NGO doing work internationally. I have been told I am a finalist for the position. The next phase of the process requires that I create a detailed development plan that should take “30 hours” to complete over the next couple of weeks.

I have a problem with this on many levels. I don’t think the motives of the rather young and inexperienced board of directors are in anyway nefarious, e.g., to get free work and then pass it on to someone to implement. Yet, I will not do this. The most I would spend on the task would be 8 hours, which is even more than I think is necessary to achieve their stated objective of understanding strategic competency. How would you handle this?

30 hours?! That is insane, and not acceptable.

As I’ve said here many times, it’s crucial when hiring to see candidates actually doing the work they’d be doing if hired. But that means an hour, maybe two.

I’d say something like this: “I’m not able to do 30 hours of work without charge. I’d be glad to walk you through similar plans I’ve created in the past and/or refer you to references who can talk in detail about how I’ve approached this kind of work.” (If you prefer a different framing, you could replace that first sentence with one about how your schedule doesn’t permit you to do 30 hours of work in the next few weeks because of existing commitments to your current job / clients / etc., but that leaves the door open for them to try to extend the timeline or even shrink the project to, say, 15 hours … which would leave you needing to use the first, more direct explanation anyway.)

(Also, I’m sure you’re right that they don’t intend to screw you over; they’re inexperienced and don’t realize that this isn’t okay. That kind of thing isn’t uncommon at smaller nonprofits, but you can point it out to them.)

2. How can I discreetly ask my coworker to stop letting creditors constantly call her at work?

I am responsible for reception duties as well as some accounts payable responsibilities at a mid-sized company. Every day, I receive many personal calls for a particular coworker of mine, most of which are credit card companies and mortgage companies trying to collect a debt. I have been dutifully transferring these calls to her line multiple times a day, but it is reaching a point that it is interrupting my work and seems excessive. I know it is within my colleague’s rights to tell the debt collectors not to call her at work and they must respect this request, but for whatever reason she hasn’t done this. Is there a way I can stop these calls without stepping over any personal boundaries or embarrassing my coworker?

I’m guessing that you don’t have the authority to tell your coworker to stop taking so many personal calls at work, which means that you’d need to frame it as a suggestion rather than a request — framing it as “I wasn’t sure if you knew you could tell them to stop and they’d have to, and thought you might find it helpful.” But if she declines to do so, then you’d be left needing to talk with your manager about it — and actually, that might be the place to start, because your manager might prefer to intervene with your coworker herself than put you in the position of doing it. (Or she might tell you to let it go and not say anything.)

3. Should I be indignant that I’ve taken on much more responsibility without a raise?

I was hired right out of college, a year and a half ago, at a TV news station as half producer, half assistant producer. On the weekends, I’m in charge of entire shows, but on the weekdays I simply assist all the full-time producers with their shows. However, when one needs vacation or sick time, I end up filling in, sometimes with no notice. I may go an entire month being an assistant but once.

These are big newscasts with incredibly high ratings, and more reponsibility and more pressure than an assistant deals with – but I’m not being paid more.

Do I have any justification to be indignant? Is it fair to ask for a raise based on these new circumstances? If a similar thing happens in a future job how should I react? Again, this is my first ever job so I don’t have much to go on.

You can absolutely ask for a raise based on this. (In fact, if you haven’t had a raise since you started a year and a half ago and you’re doing a good job, you should probably be asking for a raise anyway.) But I’d try not to be indignant about it. It’s nice if your employer offers you a raise unprompted, but ultimately you’re the one responsible for advocating for yourself and negotiating your salary. There’s advice here and here and here on how to do that well.

4. Manager is giving some people extra vacation time around Christmas — but not everyone

Is it fair for the boss to give staff time off around Christmas when they didn’t work time in or have vacation days left, when other staff have booked vacation time that they must use? Mostly I am talking about the working days between Christmas and New Year’s. We were discussing vacation time at work and several of the staff are not happy that they have had to book vacation time and wait all year to take time off over the holidays, while the boss won’t close the office but tells other staff that have no vacation time left to not bother coming in those days — essentially it is extra vacation time for them, some of which are new staff this year. Those who have booked vacation time feel they should be able to use their vacation days for extra days.

No, that is not fair. Legal, but not fair. You should point out to your manager that she’s essentially giving extra vacation days to some people and not to others (and in the process, penalizing people who presumably deliberately didn’t use that time earlier in the year so that they’d have it available to them now). If she’s willing to close the office for that time and not charge some people vacation for it, she should be willing to do it for everyone.

5. How much notice do I need to give when I’m being laid off in 60 days?

My workplace just gave me 60 days notice of being laid off. If I am lucky enough to find employment before that 60 days is over, how much notice should I give? I was informed that I would be paid through the 60 days, but I might be told my last day is sooner than that since it’s all dependent on work that is being contracted out. When what’s left is over, then so is my reporting into the office.

First, read your severance agreement. It might require you to work a certain amount of time (or even the whole 60 days) in order to receive severance. (You might rather have a new job than the severance anyway, but you want to make sure you know what’s in that agreement.)

Aside from that, I’d try to give the normal two weeks notice if you can, simply so that you don’t risk burning a bridge or harming your reference. There’s certainly less of an ethical obligation to do it, but you still want to protect those things. However, you could also talk with your manager — who obviously knows you’ll be job-searching — and ask what kind of notice she’d like if you get another job during the 60-day period. You might find out that she would be fine with you leaving sooner. (Although for what it’s worth, most employers won’t push you to start sooner than two weeks out anyway, so this would presumably be mainly about whether you wanted to get out of there earlier, as opposed to an employer needing you to start sooner.)

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