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. Can my friend avoid being laid off?

My best friend is three months into her first full-time job post-college. It’s not in her field, but she was generally happy with having a job, her coworkers, etc. Her boss just announced that they will be laying off one staff member who will be chosen from a group of three workers doing generally the same thing (my friend is in this group).

The announcement of who it is will be coming in two weeks because it’s corporate’s decision. Naturally, the fear is that she will be the one laid off because she’s the newest worker. Is there anything she can do in the next two weeks to increase her chances of staying? Or is this basically a done deal?

There’s probably not much she can do in the next two weeks. The decision will probably be made either on seniority or merit. She obviously can’t change her seniority, and if it’s decided on merit, there’s not much she can do to change whatever impression she’s already made in that regard, good or bad. What she should do, however, is (a) start job-searching; if she’s laid off, she’ll be glad she had the head start, and if she’s not, she can short-circuit the search at that point, and (b) be prepared to ask for severance if she’s the one who’s let go. To strengthen her case there, she might point out that she turned down other jobs to take this one, if in fact she did; that argument and similar ones can sometimes help.

2. Company doesn’t offer benefits until after six months of employment

I have been offered a job which does not offer benefits (health insurance, paid time off, sick leave, etc.) for the first 6 months. It is a full-time permanent position. Employees do accrue paid time off during that six months but are not paid for any time off.

I have never experienced this before. To me, the company is saying, “We don’t expect our employees to stay here more than six months so we aren’t going to provide them with benefits,” and either people are leaving before six months or getting fired before six months, neither of which is good. What do you think of it?

Some people do leave or get fired before six months in pretty much every company. It’s possible that it’s happening here more than most, but it’s more likely that they simply have a bad insurance policy. I don’t take issue with their paid leave policy — it’s not uncommon to allow leave to accrue but say that you can’t use it in your first six months. It is, however, a bad policy not to offer insurance until six months, because it means that their employees will either have to pay to use COBRA if they had a COBRA-eligible job previously (which doesn’t account for everyone, and COBRA premiums are often very high) or that they’ll be uninsured. So that part of the policy sucks.

3. My manager asked for volunteers to do yard work at our director’s house

One of my managers asked, mostly via email to everyone, for volunteers to do yard work for our director. While this was voluntary and meant as a nice gesture to a well-respected director, it didn’t seem right to me. I voiced my opinion and now my hours have been halved. My concerns included the question of what if someone gets hurt, whether participants would later receive preferential treatment, and whether human resources would condone this.

You were right to speak up, because it’s inappropriate to ask employees to do yard work for a manager. They were wrong to cut your hours as a result. Ethically wrong, that is, and managerially wrong — legally, it’s their right to do that, but it’s a ridiculous response. If you have a good HR department, you might consider raising this to them.

4. Is it useful to mention being in the advanced stages of interviewing with other companies?

I have been working at a very idiosyncratic fixed-term contract job. I’m not paid by the company, but by a third party. It’s impossible for me to keep on working there. I have around $65,000 student loan debt, and I make almost nothing. I am granted the favor of being allowed to list a staff title (low ranking, but at least not “intern”) on my resume and on the company’s website. But it’s not a very respectable industry and has very poor exit options.

After a very, very long period of not having any leads for good, full-time jobs with decent potential for career growth, I’ve gotten a little lucky recently. I got 3 rounds with a company in my desired field, for an entry-level position. But I also am in the second round with a different company in my field, and also a second round with a company in a different, less desired field, but for a higher position.

At this point, my priority is getting any decent offer. Once I have a real job in a decent industry, I will be able to build on that and move up either there or through networking. My question is: In lieu of an offer, is there a way to leverage late stage interviews (being very deep in the interview process) with one company for another? The first company actually told me two times, in my last interview, that I should tell them right away if I had any other offers, and that could speed their decision time up in giving me an offer. It’s been a little over one week now since my final interview there. They told me they’d take a few weeks. I originally planned to follow up in two weeks.

Hearing that you have an offer from somewhere else isn’t likely to push them into making you an offer if they otherwise never would have. All it can do is speed up their decision making process — which could mean a faster “no,” not just a faster “yes.” And you definitely don’t want to bluff and say you have an offer when you don’t, because you risk hearing, “We won’t be making decisions for a while, so you should take it” and then being removed from their process.

But you’re not asking about offers; you’re asking about mentioning that you’re in advanced stages of interviewing with other companies. That isn’t really useful, because employers know all too well that hiring takes time, and you could reach a late stage with a company, only to have it take weeks (or longer) before offers are made.

5. Explaining a job gap due to a mental health issue

Until recently I held a position that I loved in the entertainment industry. However, I am in my mid-twenties, the time of onset for many major mental illnesses, and I learned I am bipolar when I had my first major manic episode. This necessitated my leaving work to get help, and while they loved me and would have held the job if possible (my boss told me this), it is obviously a fast paced industry, and taking two months off isn’t feasible.

Now that I am properly medicated and looking for work again, what do I say when asked why I left my last job? I am confident I can count on good references from my previous job, but how do I explain leaving? I don’t want to vaguely reference a medical crisis that will make them worry about my reliability, but the truth is obviously even worse! Any thoughts would be appreciated.

“I had a health issue that has since been resolved.” It’s accurate and it doesn’t reveal any more than you need to.

6. How can I find out what happened with the job I was interviewing for?

After three months of interviewing with a hedge fund for a senior role, I progressed as far as being told that we would be getting contracts shortly. Three weeks went by and nothing. I emailed and called and am getting no response. I have to assume they changed their mind, but I have never encountered this total lack of professionalism. Any suggestions on how I can find out what happened?

You might not be able to. You’ve attempted to contact them multiple times and they’re not responding. At this point, all you can do is chalk it up to rudeness on their side and move on — which will serve you far better than spending any energy trying to figure out what happened anyway. (Because really, it doesn’t matter what happened, whether it was a better candidate coming along, the position being put on hold, hiring being frozen, doubts about your fit for the role, or whatever. Sure, it would be nice to know, but since they’re being rudely unresponsive, just move on.)

7. My company won’t compensate me for the level of work I’m performing

I am in a situation where I have been in my current job for over 2 years, have been doing excellent work for those two years, but not getting the pay nor the title associated with that level of performance. My performance reviews have been Exceeds Expectations during this time, and the feedback I get is that I am performing at a level far beyond my experience. Not only that, over the last year, my company assigned me to the most critical product launch in the last 10 years, one that saves the company if it is successful, and dooms it if not. (It has been successful and is nearly fully launched.)

My dilemma is this: I am much younger than the typical person in this role, yet I am performing at that much more experienced level and I think I should get compensated for it. The excuse from my management is that I do not meet the on-paper experience requirements for them to place me at the organizational level I think I deserve, and that HR will fight it to the death. My company’s policies/philosophy for this type of thing makes it much more attractive to leave the company for 1-3 years and come back for substantially higher salary and organizational level.

How hard should I push my manager/management, or should I begin to look elsewhere? I do not wish to leave the company, and I very much like the people I work for. My gut feeling is that they do not currently see me as someone at risk to leave, so they are not thinking about this in the same light I am. That said, I am aware that most of the large corporate mindset in America these days is that everyone and anyone is replaceable and that they won’t “use their chips” to “go to bat” for you. I have a mid-year performance evaluation coming up in about a week, and I plan to discuss this then. What should I do?

Start looking for another job. You answered your own question here: “My company’s policies/philosophy for this type of thing makes it much more attractive to leave the company for 1-3 years and come back for substantially higher salary and organizational level.”

You can certainly tell your manager that you’re concerned that the company’s policy encourage you to leave in order to be appropriately compensated, and that you’d like to stay but you do want to be paid fairly … but that’s about all you can do. If you want more money and they won’t give it to you, you’ll need to go somewhere else to get it.

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