wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Does my employer have to let me work from home if I have a doctor’s note?

A year ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and started taking medication for it. I’m doing lots better, but I still battle spikes in anxiety now and again. Additionally, I’m pretty much the picture of hyperthyroidism without an official diagnosis.

Last week, my new manager came back from maternity leave, and while she is nice enough on the surface, I can tell we are going to butt heads a lot, or I’m going to be biting my tongue more often than I’d like. Overall though, my job makes me miserable and I am well past my breaking point here. The only reason I haven’t left yet is because I haven’t had anything lined up. I’ve wanted to switch from working at home to at least relieve some of the office environment stress but I knew they wouldn’t go for it without a doctor’s note.

So I got my note, but my gut is telling me that management is going to fight tooth and nail to keep me in the office. I’m not a bad employee and work pretty much unsupervised all day, so I don’t think my performance would play into it much. Can my company deny me the ability to work from home when it is for medical reasons? Being able to control the sounds around me will be pivotal for me; additionally, being able to eat more regularly and as necessary will help me combat being underweight. This is something my doctor and I talked about and she wouldn’t give me the note to work from home if she didn’t agree with my assessment. I’m just now anxious that my bosses will deny this to me, and I don’t know what I can do at that point.

If your medical condition is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (not all are) and working from home would not pose an undue hardship to your employer or interfere with your ability to perform the essential functions of your job and there is not an alternate accommodation that would resolve the problem, then they might be legally required to allow it. (But if, for instance, they could address the problem by giving you a quieter workspace and allowing you to eat at your desk as freely as you’d like, then it would be hard to argue that working from home was the only acceptable accommodation.)

But if it’s really about just not liking your new manager much, fighting a major battle with your employer to convince them to allow this probably isn’t the way to go.

2. What to do when a written offer is higher than the verbal offer

I regularly chat on a forum frequented by moms in their 30s and 40s. This question came up there and I’d love to know what you think. A woman there verbally agreed to an offer. When she received her offer letter, she quickly accepted it and told them so in writing. Later, she did the math and realized the offered salary is $15k more than what was agreed to. She lowballed herself when she verbally agreed to the original offer, and now she’s wondering if perhaps the company decided to give her an industry-standard salary without telling her.

Half the advice she is receiving from this forum is, “Yeah, they probably wanted to be nice and give you an industry-standard wage, trust that they know what they are doing, and don’t say anything.” The other half is saying, “Tell them. This could turn out badly if they realize their error later and you say nothing. But DONT say it was an error! Just bring it up when you start by thanking them profusely for the faith they have in you and the good will they have shown with the salary bump. This puts you in a position of power and makes it uncomfortable for them to correct you.”

Ironically, this woman was hired as an accountant. What do you think she should do? What do you think of the forum advice?

I’d say something — partly because I’d want the peace of mind of not having to wonder if it was going to be a mistake that would be discovered at some point down the road, and partly because it’s just the right thing to do if you have a real question about whether it was intentional or not. However, I agree that it doesn’t make sense to present it as an error, although I don’t think “profuse thanks” is necessary either. I’d just say something like, “I appreciate the salary bump in the offer letter, and I’m looking forward to starting work.”

3. How long should it take to hear back about a raise request?

A little more than 2 weeks ago, I approached my manager and the HR manager separately (they know I contacted them both) about a raise. Since I got here (in 2005), my duties have increased as a microbiologist. I started with 0 people, now I have 6 direct reports, and I have more areas in my supervision, but no raise.

I simply asked them to review my salary, which I know is underpaid. Both said that they will get together and look into the situation but I haven’t gotten an answer (they didn’t say how much time they would take to come up to a decision). How much more time should I let pass by before asking about my situation again or to know what was the decision?

Give it another week, and then follow up with your manager and ask about the timeline for getting you an answer. (Go to your manager, not HR, because this is really your manager’s call — or at least something your manager would need to be the one advocating for.) This stuff can sometimes take a while, particularly if you’re at a bureaucratic company, but you should at least be able to find out a likely timeframe.

4. Why did this hiring manager ask for another copy of my resume?

I interviewed for a position via Skype early last week and was told that I’d hear back in a few days. Today the hiring manager asked me to send him a copy of my resume. I wanted to update it, but since I’ve already interviewed for the position, I sent the same version that I did when I initially applied for the job. Why would they need another copy of my resume after an interview?

Who knows? Maybe they somehow lost it. Or maybe just the hiring manager lost it and knows that it would take forever to get a response from that slow person in HR. Or the HR person is away. Or maybe he wanted a version that was easily forwardable and their online system doesn’t make that simple. I wouldn’t read anything into it. (However, it would have been fine to have sent an updated version, with a note indicating that you’d updated it.)

5. Manager gives us rules that he doesn’t follow

We work at a convenience store. What do you do when your manager bans all cell phones, iPods, and mp3 players because we “spend too much time messing with them” and tells us we are to be moving at all times, but then two days later reads us a text from his daughter? Or tells us that visitors are not be there more than 5 minutes or that talking to customers for any length of time is no longer tolerable, but he spends 1-2 hours daily talking in lobby with various customers and vendors and the rest of the time playing catch up in the office when he is supposed to be our back up?

We have 180-320 customers on a 6-hour day shift. He accuses of us of having excuses for why we can’t get our duties done, when it is really because he is not there for back up. What we do? Our morale is way low, and work is getting done by most of us; it is just one or two employees on a crew of seven who are not coming close on getting their duties done. We are about to explode. Help!

Well, when you have roughly one customer per minute during a shift, it’s actually pretty reasonable to tell you not to use cell phones or iPods while you’re working. It’s also pretty typical for retail stores to have a hierarchy where non-management employees are subject to different rules than managers. Different positions have different expectations, and it’s really his prerogative to tell you not to use cell phones while you’re working but still use his own. He might (or might not) be hypocritical, but you’re not going to win him over by pointing out that he’s doing the things he’s telling you not to do, because his role is different. I think you’re better off simply accepting that this is pretty normal in this work context and not letting yourself get too bothered by it.

6. Keeping my job applications out of spam folders

I often find that when I email someone for the first time, I get no response, but then when I follow up with a phone call, it turns out that my message ended up in their spam filter. I’m guessing this has to do with the fact that I have an unusual full name (as far as I know, it’s one of a kind) and my personal email address is simply [first name][middle name]@gmail.com. Now that I’m job searching, I’m concerned about this being an issue when I apply for positions that specifically request resumes and cover letters to be emailed. I certainly don’t want to be a pest by calling to see if they’ve received my application, and in some cases there is no phone number listed with the posting, but I would hate to miss out on a position that might be a good fit for me simply because the hiring manager didn’t check their spam folder. Do you have any suggestions for how to handle this?

If you’re sure that your email address is the problem, why not just get a different email address? (I’m not sure if your email address really IS the problem, but if you think it is, that’s where I’d start.)

7. Can I write about hiring on my personal blog?

I currently work for a nonprofit and run my own blog at the same time. I’ve already assisted with hiring an intern for this organization, and we’re working on hiring one more. I wanted to write on my own blog about things people should and shouldn’t do in their job applications based on what I’ve seen from our pool of candidates. I wouldn’t name names, of course, and would be willing to wait until our other intern is hired. Plus, we have no policy against it. Am I allowed to do this?

It’s completely up to your employer, whether or not there’s a policy. Some employers won’t care, and some will not be okay with you writing about work things, including hiring. So check with your manager before you write anything — even if you write anonymously, since things sometimes become un-anonymous on the Internet.

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