my manager accused me of fraud, helping an employee with anxiety, and more

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

1. How can I help an employee who suffers from anxiety?

How can I help an employee who is suffering from anxiety? The employee in question is a very hardworking, very conscientious employee but she suffers from excessive worry and anxiety. This isn’t my diagnosis — she told me she’s taking advantage of our employee assistance program and getting help with it. However, part of her illness is that she worries — a lot — and doesn’t always have a good sense of perspective on what’s worth worrying about and what’s not. I understand this, as I’ve been there as well.

The way this manifests is that she frequently asks me if she’s messed something up, or made mistakes, and she seeks constant reassurance. I am very good about giving feedback, positive and negative, so she knows that I’ll tell her if there’s a problem. But I think the illness is clouding her ability to really accept that. So how do I work this? I don’t mind giving reassurance, but I don’t think it’s really helping. Is there something else I should be doing?

Well, you can certainly be reassuring and positive when she asks you if she’s made mistakes or messed something up. And if you’re willing to look for additional ways to help, you could ask her directly what, if anything, she would find helpful. But you’re probably right that the anxiety is clouding her ability to really accept it when you tell her that she’s doing fine, and that’s a problem that you’re not going to be able to fix for her — she’s got to do that on her own (and with the help of a therapist, as she’s doing).

I’d just keep boundaries in mind here — being calm, reassuring, and positive about her strengths is good, but going beyond that to find ways to help her believe you isn’t your role. (And in fact could be counterproductive, since she’ll be held back professionally if she starts to lean on you for that type of support.)

2. Will taking an politically ideological job harm my friend when he leans in the other direction?

My friend and I recently graduated college. He is currently searching for jobs/internships in the political research field (in the D.C. area). He is in the late stages of the interview process for a job with an international think tank that ideologically leans far in one direction. While my friend is willing to work for a political organization whose beliefs he doesn’t totally agree with (he also has had interviews with politicians from “the other side” and has no problem with this because he wants the job experience), he is concerned that this will affect his future job prospects. He eventually wants to work for an organization that leans in the other direction of this divisive issue.

This job would pay very well and he could probably pay off his student loans in two years. The job itself is great and plays to his strengths; it’s just the opposite ideology of what he wants. If he gets this job offer, do you think it would be worth it to take it? The alternative is probably taking an unpaid internship or even a minimum wage job. Will it affect his future job prospects negatively if he does?

If he ultimately wants a job with an organization on the other side of this issue, yes, it could be an obstacle. He can explain that he took the job solely for the work experience, but he risks that not going over over well with the organization he ultimately wants to work for — because to many people (not all, but many), that will look like  wishy-washiness or  a mercenariness that’s at odds with the commitment to their objectives that they’re probably looking for. In D.C. and in politics/advocacy work in general, you generally pick a side. You certainly can switch, but then the switch becomes part of your story — “I went where they’d hire me” doesn’t usually sell well.

(To further illustrate this: When I was working on drug policy issues, I would have considered a candidate who used to work to imprison people for marijuana use if that person had come to realize they’d been on the wrong side of that fight, and if they could talk thoughtfully about the change in their stance. I would probably not have considered that person if they just said, “Well, that’s just where I could get a job, even though I didn’t agree with it.” Some types of work require backbone.)

3. My manager accused me of fraud for correcting my timesheet

I am in charge of timesheets and leave forms. I hand them to my manager and she normally hands them back to me in a day or two. Recently, she had taken a long time with them, so one morning she hadn’t come in so I decided to go and look for them. I found them and saw that she had already signed them so I removed them. When I did, I saw that my timesheet had a few errors that she had pointed out. I then immediately corrected it and on the timesheet wrote a note thanking her for pointing out the mistakes and told her that I had corrected it on the timesheet as well as on Oracle.

She was furious and accused me of fraud and asked me who gave me permission to take things off her desk. If I was trying to defraud the system, I would have removed even the paper that she had made the corrections on and then she wouldnt have any evidence, but that really wasn’t my intention. I really did not intend to do anything that she is accusing me of. I would just like to know what my rights are in this case.

Legally? None. Your manager is allowed to be angry at you and even allowed to wrongly accuse you; this stuff isn’t governed by the same rules that cover the justice system.

I’d focus instead on how to resolve the situation. While her response sounds like an overreaction (although she’s entitled to be disturbed that you went through her papers and took things off her desk without permission) and the fraud accusation is silly given the context, just explain to her that that absolutely wasn’t your intention and that you tried to be extremely transparent by leaving her a note about what you had changed, but that you understand now that she doesn’t want you handling things that way and you won’t do it in the future.

4. Responding to a next-day interview invitation when I’m not a local candidate

I’m in the middle of a job search, and while I currently live in Colorado, I’m looking for jobs all over the country. Some of the jobs for which I’m applying are in Boston, and with family in the area, I was debating using their address when applying to these Boston jobs.

In an old post, you mentioned “Consider going a step further and using a local address. Many out-of-town candidates use the local address of family or friends who live in the area. But be prepared to explain when you’re called and invited to come in for an interview ‘tomorrow.’” Do you have any advice on what to say if you’re called in to interview “tomorrow” when you’re actually in Colorado, not outside of Boston?

Just be straightforward and say whatever you can to minimize any inconvenience for them. For instance: “I’m currently in Colorado, but I could be there by early next week to interview.”

5. I just started a new job — and just found out I’m pregnant

I just relocated to a new city, new job. They even paid the relocation. I love it, everything is great. I have recently figured out I am (surprise!) pregnant again… and now I have been here in the new job a whole 3 weeks and am faced with telling my new boss I am about 3 months pregnant. When do I tell her? Is now better than a few weeks from now? What’s the chances she is going to be mad, or feel like I hid this from her? I am pretty much hiding it from everyone since I am shocked this happened!

I’d tell her now. The earlier you tell her, the earlier she can start planning for how your leave will be handled. And while you’re under no obligation to do this, I think this will go better for you if you tell her that had no idea when you accepted the job and just found out yourself. Otherwise, yes, it will look like you knew earlier and didn’t mention it, even after you had an offer. (They couldn’t legally have let that information affect their hiring decision anyway, but it will look like you weren’t up-front with them and it’s human nature to be bothered by that, whether or not they should be.) Tell her soon, and present a proposed plan for your leave when you do. Hopefully she’ll be happy for you — and if not, you’ll have just learned something valuable about your new boss.

And congratulations.

6. Applying directly to the hiring manager rather than through an electronic system

With the hundreds of job applications for a given posting, would it be okay to figure out who the hiring manager is in the instance that their name isn’t posted (using Google, LinkedIn, etc.), and email the person your resume and cover letter directly? Would that show resourcefulness or would that just come across as stalker-ish? It’s exhausting to fill out those online applications knowing that your information will likely be ignored or overlooked by (potentially) a junior HR person who was given the task to sort through applications.

You can do that, but be aware that it won’t really look all that resourceful. People are rarely blown away by an ability to use LinkedIn or Google. They’re usually either neutral or mildly annoyed that you didn’t follow their application instructions (and will generally simply forward your application to HR or tell you to apply directly).

If it has any advantage, it’s that if you’re a really great candidate, the hiring manager might add a note to HR telling them that you look worth interviewing.

7. Can I list just some of my work experience on my resume?

I work in the arts, and have led sort of a “double life” where I worked in both an administrative capacity, in addition to contract and freelance work as a teaching artist, performer, and writer. I am trying to transition into an administrative role (preferably in the arts, but I’m open to other industries), and I’m uncertain of what’s the best way to approach my resume. Is it okay if I do a “select work experience” section that only lists relative administrative work? Or will what look like gaps (where I may have had a teaching contract, etc.) be a red flag? I know that I can explain my desire to shift gears adequately in my cover letter, I just don’t want my resume to cause any concerns.

Sure, that’s fine to do. Many people do that and call it Relevant Work Experience.

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