terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My boss is reading my emails

I’ve been having trouble at work. I went on FMLA medical leave from September to December, during which time my boss started to receive my email. When I returned to work, she decided to keep reading my email. I know this because frequently she comes to my office to ask me questions about them. Yesterday she called me in for a meeting, and pulled out a large folder with my emails printed out with notes on them. Is this a sign I’m about to be fired? And if I’m about to be fired, is preemptively quitting better than getting fired?

Why not ask her what’s going on? Say something like, “I’m getting the sense that you’re concerned about how I’m handling my email, both because you’re still monitoring it — which you didn’t do before I went on leave — and because you’ve been asking me about it. Do you have concerns about my performance that we should talk about?”

As for whether quitting is better than being fired, that’s really premature at this point (and depends on lots of factors that aren’t in your letter). First you need to find out what’s going on.

2. Can I push back against meetings that run into the evening?

I am a senior logistics manager within an automotive based company. My wife has recently returned to work and we have a baby who is in childcare on a daily basis. Recently the company has been calling meetings which can sometimes last until 7 p.m. Due to my family commitments, do I have the right to advise that I need to leave due to family commitments at a reasonable hour?

Sure, you can explain that to your manager. And with many jobs, at many companies, that will be fine and you and your manager will find a way to work around your schedule. But at other jobs and other companies, it might not be flexible. So it depends on how accommodating your employer is willing and able to be.

3. Writing pieces on behalf of someone else

In my job, I write articles and reports on behalf of my supervisor. He might review the work, but I do all the research and writing. When the pieces are published, my name usually isn’t on the byline with his. Would you please suggest an approach I could take to putting this activity on my resume? And if I were to need writing samples, could I use any of the articles that list only him as the author?

This is very common, and employers will understand it. You can refer to it on your resume as “wrote articles and reports released under CEO’s name” (or whatever), and assuming that your manager is willing to confirm that you wrote the pieces if asked in a reference check, there’s no reason you can’t use them as writing samples.

4. Thank-you gift for dining hall staff

I am a senior at a small women’s college, and I have to follow a restricted diet due to medical issues. Throughout my four years here, the dining hall staff have gone way above and beyond the call of duty in accommodating this — making me a gluten-free pancake with a candle for my birthday my first year, for example (when I was also washing dishes in the dining hall for work-study). I’d like to give them some kind of thank-you gift for everything they’ve done for me, but I don’t actually know any of them well enough to know what they’d like. Would it be appropriate to bring/send a flower arrangement or something similar for the staff as a whole?

Yes, absolutely. They’d probably also appreciate a handwritten card telling them how much their help meant to you.

5. Reaching back out to a company after withdrawing from a hiring process

I made a big mistake! I applied for a great position and even got a interview lined up. But my manager at the time presented me with a promotion, so I withdrew my resume, advising them of this new opportunity. The problem is that now my manager is abruptly no longer with my company and the position that was promised to me was put on hold. Would I be out of line if I were to write the other hiring manager an apology and ask them to consider me for any future positions?

You don’t need to apologize — you didn’t do anything wrong. But it would be fine to let them know that because your manager has left, you’re interested in moving on after all and that you’d love to talk with them if they think you’d be a good match for a role in the future.

6. Calling when a job ad lists a phone number

If a job description lists a name/number to call if you have questions, should you always call, even if you “think” you know enough to proceed with the application?

No, absolutely not! If you have no burning reason to call, don’t call. They’re going to have hundreds of applicants for that position, if they’re like most places, and if all that applicants felt they should call (with or without good cause), they’d be hugely inconvenienced. Moreover, you won’t make a good impression if it’s clear that you don’t have a compelling reason to call them.

7. My temp position was posted online yesterday

I am a temp and have worked here for 2 months. When I was being hired, I was told that there was a high chance that I would become full-time, but I saw that my position was posted online yesterday. Should I go to my boss and ask him, “Are you hiring someone for my position?” I think if I don’t ask, I will drive myself crazy/paranoid, plus I was laid off before starting here as a temp! At this company there are a total of three people in this same position (includes me) but the other two are full-time.

Should I directly ask my boss, my boss’s boss, or call HR? I feel like unless I directly ask my immediate supervisor I will only create “gossip.” Please advise.

You are way over-thinking this. You’re not going to create gossip by enquiring about this. It’s also completely normal and reasonable that they want to consider multiple candidates rather than simply offering you the position (and “high chance” that you’d get the job is not a certainty). Just ask your manager: “I saw that this role was posted online yesterday. I’d love to be considered for it if you think I’d be a strong candidate.”

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