short answer Sunday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Coworker laughs loudly all day long

This is going to sound weird, and possibly also like I’m an 80 year old curmudgeon telling teenagers to get the hell off my lawn. I have a new coworker (she’s been with our company for maybe 2 months now) who laughs. A LOT. Like, all day long. It’s really more like a cackle. And it’s really loud. Apparently, everything is funny. Who knew?

It’s really, really distracting. I sit in a separate office from her, across the office, and I can still hear it if I close our door (we sit 3 or 4 people to an office). I feel so bad for the people who share HER office and cannot get away from it. Our direct managers don’t really have the clout to do anything personnel/HR related, and our boss is hands off (and out of the office in meetings a lot, and sits farther away/can close his door). I’m pretty sure he’d say to just learn how to deal with it.

It doesn’t feel like it’s any of our (coworkers on the same level) place to talk to her about it, and truly, though it is super annoying, I don’t want to make her feel bad. We just need to be able to concentrate and do work. It’s already become something we all kind of acknowledge, and honestly, talk about under our breath. Which is not good for office morale.

Laughing loudly all day long in an office falls outside the bounds of professional behavior, and you’re entitled to ask her to hold it down, so say something! In a very nice, possibly apologetic tone, say “Could you keep it down? Thanks!” Say it once a day if you need to.

If being asked to keep it down daily doesn’t cue her to rein it in, you’re dealing with someone especially oblivious. (At which point your choices would be to get more direct with her, enlist some of those equally annoyed coworkers in supplying additional pressure, involve your manager, or start wearing headphones.)

2. Company asked me to donate to its PAC

Recently I received a request from a high-level manager at my company for me to sign up for payroll deduction contributions to the company’s Political Action Committee (PAC). Are there corporate political implications to my decision? Who usually knows whether and/or how much an individual contributes?

There are only corporate political implications if you work somewhere flagrantly unethical. Try ignoring the request or simply declining and see what happens; if there’s going to be additional pressure, you’ll get a follow-up request soon enough. (And by the way, if your employer is coercing or outright requiring employees to donate, it’s an illegal violation of FEC laws.)

3. Telling a coworker he looks “kinda gay”

We were required to wear t-shirts given out by the company to work in today. (We usually wear business attire.) My male coworker was wearing a particularly snug shirt, obviously too small for him. I blurted out, “Your shirt is too tight. You look kinda gay.” Aside from a warning, does this statement warrant any serious action?

Not sure if it’s relevant, but our dress code says that we aren’t allowed to wear anything too snug, especially if our backs are bared when we bend down. This was the case with his shirt, so it was actually a violation of the dress code.

Pointing out that he was violating the dress code isn’t the issue here; using “gay” as a slur is the issue. Your second paragraph makes me wonder: Do you really not see that pointing out a clothing issue and using bigoted language are two completely different things?

If this is the first time that you’ve made a remark like this, you’re probably just going to be warned … but take this as a sign that it’s time to update your language and that you’re likely offending plenty of people around you.

4. Explaining why I moved without a job lined up

I recently moved from one major city to another, without having a job lined up. My lease was up on my apartment, and I was feeling a bit antsy with where I was in my current position. Not to mention, I was living in a rather pricey city for the past two years, and was ready to rid myself of the financial burden that comes with living in one of the nation’s most notoriously expensive cities.

With that said, how do I mention these details to an employer during an interview process? I am searching for jobs that are on a different, but almost similar path, to the two full-time positions that are reflected on my resume (one of my main reasons for relocating, wanting to break into a different line of work that reflects what I went to university for). I don’t want to come off as impulsive and rash when asked in an interview why I left a position without having something lined up. Any advice on how to bring up the issues listed above without seeming irresponsible?

I’d just say directly that you really wanted to move to the more affordable and livable City X and that you knew it would be easier to find a job there once you were actually living there (which is true).

5a. Letters of recommendation when you’re been working in a foreign country

For the past few years, I have been working with an NGO in Latin America, but I plan on moving back to the U.S. at the end of the year (I am a U.S. citizen) and have started looking for jobs. I know that you generally don’t like letters of recommendation, but should I ask my organization for letters before I leave in December? I have a hard time believing they are going to call my NGO for references, particularly since no one here speaks any English. This is my first job after graduating from college, and thus I don’t have any other professional references aside from short-term jobs and volunteering while I was in college. Or should I just not worry about it and let potential employers decide what they want to do?

It wouldn’t hurt to get a couple of letters in this case, as long as you understand that they don’t substitute for references. Employers can take them or leave them as they see fit.

5b. Which reference would be better — my short-term manager or a longer-term manager who’s worked with me less closely?

On a related note, I have had 10 different managers during my three and a half years with the organization. (I’m not kidding; in fact, only 3 of the 20 people in my area were here before me, and I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve seen come and go, and the situation is pretty much the same throughout the organization.) Should I get a reference from my most recent manager even if I have only worked with her for a few months? Or would it be better to get a reference from my boss’s boss who has been here for 3 years and has a very high opinion of my work but has less direct contact with me?

Someone who’s worked with you longer than a few months is better, as long as she can speak to your work in a reasonable amount of detail (which she probably can, if she knows enough about it to have a very high opinion of it).

6. Moving to a post-science career

I have been in a particular branch of science for my entire career. I majored in it in university, taking almost no other type of coursework. After school, I was extremely fortunate to take a research position at a really wonderful institute. I spent eight very happy and productive years there, doing a lot of great work, and enjoying the satisfaction derived from getting the opportunity to publish papers, present abstracts, help write chapters for textbooks and books, and speak at symposiums. Alas, my laboratory lost funding and with it, my position.

I have since taken a position at a prestigious big name university, but it’s been a very different story so far. Budgets are razor thin, morale is medium-low, pay is very low, and opportunities for publication inclusion have not been apparent (this is decided by superiors). I thought my previous experience would help me establish myself here, but it’s a tough work environment.

When I was hired, the HR representative said that the university preferred a year’s commitment before moving on. At the time, that seemed like nothing. But now that I’m here in the position, I struggle. It really makes me realize that I had a very special position at the institute, and perhaps I may not see that sort of opportunity again. I am now considering leaving science entirely.

Do you know of any resources for people considering moving on to post-science careers? Would your readers have any advice for me? Although I only have side projects and volunteer work that is non-scientific, I do think I could move on to other career paths if needed. The stoic part of me says to try to stick this out for at least the year, and then decide so I don’t get blacklisted at this university (a big employer in my state). But many if not most days I cry either going to work or coming home, and if I don’t cry, I feel like it.

I’m posting this here in the hopes that readers will have resources or advice that might help you. But I encourage you not to decide to leave science entirely just because of one bad job! Lots of careers that people find extremely satisfying have the occasional bad job within them — and that’s no reason to leave the career entirely. Why not look around at what other opportunities are out here before moving such a major decision, based on a single bad experience?

This entry was posted in HR, Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.