responding to an unprofessional resignation, pitting companies against each other to get a better offer, and more

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

1. What to say to an employee who resigned unprofessionally

An employee I supervise in an hourly role working with children resigned today. I am not his direct manager, but rather the overall coordinator for this program working with youth. We regularly hire a number of tutors who know from the start that they need to make a commitment to the students, and we look for that as a quality when hiring.

This particular employee chose to resign this morning by text message to a coworker, not his direct supervisor. She heard it secondhand from the coworker after the employee was supposed to be at work. I’ve since followed up with him (after hearing about it THIRD-HAND – still no direct notification) asking him to clarify the rumor that he was resigning, to which he essentially responded, “Yeah, I was going to tell you later, but I’m really tired after work all the time and I appreciate the opportunity but it’s just not for me.”

For his own sake, I want to tell him to never ever do this again. He’s still a student (college age) and is learning about the professional world, and I want to leave him with some good constructive criticism. I want to phrase it well, but also let him know he messed up, and at the moment I’m stuck on the disrespectful tone of his response, AND the fact that we’re now in a bad spot for the next few weeks….and I’m concerned that whatever I send is going to be too much of an attack and therefor not actually useful advice.

How about, “Please give me a call so we can talk about the logistics” (or simply giving him a call yourself to have that conversation). Then, in addition to whatever logistics you presumably really do need to cover (final paycheck, etc.), you can say, “I want to be candid with you: I was surprised by the way you handled your resignation. It’s true that no job will be for everyone and every role will have some turnover, but I was a little taken aback by the way you handled this. I know you’re new to the working world and this stuff isn’t always intuitive, but in general, I want to encourage you to talk face-to-face with managers when you resign in the future and make sure they don’t hear it second-hand.”

The other issue here is that his wording to you was incredibly cavalier, but I’m not sure you’ll achieve anything by going into that with someone who’s already clearly checked out.

2. Should I pit two companies against each other to get a better offer?

I’ve interviewed with Company A and Company B over the last month and a half, keeping Company A waiting several weeks while I went through a longer interviewing process with Company B. Company A had indicated that they would like to give me an offer over the phone when I am ready. Company B called me this morning to let me know they want to give me an offer as well!

The thing is, the two choices involve completely different roles. While I like both companies, after all these weeks of interviewing and soul searching I now realize that I really, really want to be doing the type of work I’ll be doing at Company B.

My partner thinks I should let Company A know I have an offer from B so that I can “pit them against each other” and negotiate my way to higher salaries/benefits, etc., but I’m pretty sure I really want to work at Company B and that there is no amount of money that would convince me to choose Company A. To me, it doesn’t seem nice of me to waste any more of Company A’s time if I don’t intend on accepting the offer. Given that, should I get back in touch with Company A and negotiate two job offers? Or should I negotiate Company B’s offer (on its own merit) and politely tell Company A that I’m going elsewhere?

Don’t play games with Company A. If you know you won’t accept their offer, there’s no point in trying to negotiate with them; you’d be wasting your time and theirs, and you’d be potentially burning a bridge by drawing out the process without any sincere interest. Moreover, if you try to use Company A’s offer to get more money from Company B, you risk Company B saying, “Sorry, we can’t do that, so you should accept the other offer” — and losing the offer you really want. Plus, companies want to believe you’re genuinely excited about working with them — not that you’re just auctioning yourself off to the highest bidder (even if you are). So negotiate with Company B on your own merits, and don’t negotiate in bad faith with Company A.

3. Research projects versus internships

I am currently enrolled in an advanced degree program, as well as working full-time in my field. My program is wrapping up and I need to commit to my final class. This class is either an internship or research project that focuses on an issue in our field. My intention throughout my program was to do the internship route and gain new technical skills that I would like to develop (as the skills I want to learn are being listed as a requirement more and more in my field). Due to my significant other’s recent job move, my plans had to change, as did my schedule. This means that a remote internship is likely the only option with my time availability.

When I brought up the possibility of a remote internship to my adviser, she contacted the Assistant Director for advice on this possibility. The Assistant Director seems to suggest the research project to anyone who works full-time and can’t do the internship on-site. We have been in talks about this, but I would like some other opinions: What are employers’ thoughts on remote internships? Are they counted in the same light as on-site internships? Does it depend on the industry and the projects undertaken? And am I putting myself at a disadvantage if I do the research project option instead of the internship option? Can I work my research project into my resume as I could with freelance work?

A remote internship isn’t always as valuable as an on-site internship; you lose some of the value of simply learning how to operate in an office and you often don’t get the same exposure to colleagues that you’d get if you were on-site. However, a remote internship is still vastly superior to a research project. Employers will see the research project as simply an extension of your academics, whereas an internship is actual work experience. Go for the internship if at all possible, even if it’s remote.

(And while you could possibly put the research project on your resume, depending on the details of it, it won’t be counted the same as freelance work. For it to really be counted as work experience, you need to be accountable to a manager, not just to yourself or a professor, and it needs to be outside a school context.)

4. Should I apologize for taking feedback badly?

My boss is great most of the time, but she got me in the office as soon as I walked in today and lectured me about staff training. I was in a particularly bad mood and basically sulked and moaned about “having my coaching questioned,” which she didn’t really do. Should I apologize with a “bad day, won’t happen again” vibe?

It’s hard to tell based on the limited information here, but probably. Sulking and moaning are generally not great moves, and complaining about having your actions questioned when your boss is giving you feedback generally doesn’t make you look great either. One way to approach it is, “I wasn’t as receptive as I wish I’d been when you talked to me about staff training the other day. I’ve thought about what you said, and I’m taking the feedback to heart, particularly X and Y. Thanks for talking to me about it, and I’ll be vigilant about not getting defensive in the future.”

5. I have a job offer but might get a better one in a few months

So I’ve been unhappy with my current job for awhile and have been job hunting for a few months now. I scored an interview at my dream agency, a place I used to intern at two years ago. It went really well, as did the follow-up interview. However, they called me a few weeks later to tell me that, although I am their first choice for the position and they would like to offer me the job, there’s a delay with acquiring some new business and they wouldn’t be able to hire me for about two months. I didn’t get a hard “yes,” but it seems as though the new business was delayed, not on hold or postponed, and was an eventuality that was likely to happen.

Fastforward a few weeks and I’ve been offered a position I’m much less excited about, but one I still like better than my current job and I’d be happy to at least work somewhere else, but I’m still waiting to hear from my dream job. How should I proceed? Would it be wise to call up the manager I’ve been speaking with at Dream Agency to tell them I’ve been offered a position, but I really want to work with them and could they give me any info about timelines moving forward? I really don’t mind sitting tight for another month, but I just want to know it’s a sure thing before I turn down this other position.

First, don’t assume it’s a sure thing unless you have a firm offer that you’ve accepted (after all, they could end up not coming to terms on salary or other details), and a start date. Without that, there’s no offer — just an employer that is kind of interested in you.

Contact the first place and explain that they’re your first choice but you have a firm offer from another company that you need to respond to by ___, and ask if they’re able to expedite things on their side. If they do, great. But if they tell you that they can’t, then you need to decide if you’re willing to turn down a definite offer in favor of one that might never materialize.

It’s helpful to think about how you’ll feel in two months if they end up not hiring you after all — will you regret having turned this one down? There’s no perfect answer here; it’s about how much risk you’re willing to tolerate, how much you want the other job, how much you do or don’t want the job you have an offer for now, and how much you’d regret ending up with no jobs at the end of all this. That sounds like I’m pushing you to take the offer you have now, but I’m not; it’s truly about where all these factors shake out for you.

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