boss keeps giving me food I can’t eat, employee gave lots of notice but we have a replacement already, and more — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

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

1. My boss keeps giving me food I can’t eat

Is there a tactful way to ask my boss to stop giving me food-based tokens of appreciation? My boss occasionally gives donuts, cookies, candy bars, or buys pizza for our small work group to show her appreciation. While I know it is the thought that counts, I cannot eat gluten. My boss is aware of this dietary restriction, yet continues to give me the “gift” of gluten-containing items. She is a wonderful manager in many other ways, and but these small tokens leave me feeling annoyed instead of appreciated.

“Would you take me off the list for food items? I can’t eat them so they go to waste.”

Then if she forgets and gives you food anyway, hand it back to her in the moment: “Oh, remember I can’t have this, let me give it back to you for someone else.”

Also, with the pizza for the group, is there something else she could order for you at the same time (ideally from the same place but if not, then from somewhere else)? If so: “I can’t eat pizza, but I’d love it if you included me by getting X on the side so I can participate with everyone else.” If she doesn’t want to do that, so be it, but if she actually wants you to feel included and appreciated rather than excluded and annoyed, you’ll be giving her clear info about how to do that.

2. Employee gave lots of notice, but now we have someone who could replace him

I’m writing this question on behalf of my boss, who owns the company (I’m his EA). One of his employees (Gary) gave notice that he’s moving out of state, likely three to four months from now. My boss has cultivated a workplace where long notice periods are common, because he is known as someone who isn’t going to push someone out early or punish them for giving notice.

However, my boss just learned that a different person (Lance) is interested in working here full-time. My boss has wanted to hire Lance in the past and Lance comes highly recommended. The position is hard to fill as it takes very specific expertise.

In a perfect world, my boss would hire Lance and let Gary just work until he leaves. Unfortunately, we don’t have the budget to have both of them at once. My boss is trying to find solutions to make sure he does right by Gary, while also finding a replacement for him in his hard-to-fill position.

His main solution right now is to have a conversation with Gary to see if he can get a firmer timeline of his departure, especially because he suspects Gary might leave sooner than he originally said. It feels like an imperfect solution, though. Do you have any ideas of how he can navigate this?

Your boss should go back to Gary and be honest: “I appreciate the amount of notice you gave me and I don’t want you to regret doing that. That said, now that I know, it would really help if I can get a better idea of your timeline because I have someone in mind for your role who won’t be available indefinitely, and I want to figure out if he’s even a possibility or not.”

Your boss just needs to be careful not to push Gary out earlier than he wants to leave; if he starts feeling tempted to do that, he should remember that the only reason he even has this potential opportunity to hire Lance is because Gary generously shared his plans early — and that if he’d stuck with a more typical two weeks, this wouldn’t even be coming up. Plus, if other employees get any whiff that Gary got pushed out early, your boss is much less likely to get that kind of early notice from other people in the future.

what to do when an employee announces she’s resigning … at some point but not now

3. Turning down a lateral move at a lower salary

A couple of months ago, I got very close in the interview process for a more senior position at a different division within my company, at a slightly higher salary. I was told that I was a strong candidate and it was a difficult decision, but they ultimately hired another candidate. It became clear that they already had someone from their department in mind for the role, and were surprised to find another strong candidate in me. The department head encouraged me to apply for the role that the candidate they hired would be leaving, which would be a lateral move with the same title as the one I currently have. There are reasons why I’d be interested in this change, including a bad personality fit with my current boss.

I applied and when they reached out for an interview, I asked the recruiter to check that my current salary would be met in the new role. I was surprised to learn that while they could get close (higher than the starting salary listed on the job post), it would be a small pay cut from my current salary, rolling me back to the salary I had one cost-of-living-increase ago. I agreed to an interview to assess if the role would be a better fit for me, but was asked to let them know if I wasn’t interested after the meeting so they can move on in their search. It went well and I think there would benefits, including a more experienced manager and more room for career growth. After the interview, I felt good about the prospect and told the recruiter I’d accept the position if offered it. But after thinking about it over the weekend, I can’t get over that it might come at a small but real material loss to my income.

Do I have any leverage here to negotiate a salary match if given a job offer? How is this complicated by me wanting to leave my current role? It seems doubly painful since I know I’m qualified for a more senior position. But on the other hand, they have shown themselves to have a preference for hiring people from within their department — but then again, is it fair of them to ask me what that’s worth to me? Help me wrap my head around this!

Sure, it’s fair for them to ask that. They’ve already agreed to increase the salary but their budget is their budget, and if it won’t work for you, it’s reasonable for them not to want to waste anyone’s time.

If you wouldn’t take the job at the salary they’re offering, tell them that now. They asked you explicitly to let them know and you told them you’d accept, so if you’ve changed your mind about that, you need to tell them. If you go through their whole process and then try to negotiate more money at the end — after they were up-front and asked you if they should be focusing on other candidates — it’s likely to reflect poorly on you. Right now it’s early enough in the process that you can simply say, “After thinking about it more, I’m very interested but couldn’t take a pay cut from where I am now.”

4. A company asked me to keep check in for updates … how often should I contact them?

I’m currently job hunting, and I recently interviewed with a company that wasn’t hiring immediately. They were very transparent that they didn’t have a position open immediately and that it could be months before a something became available. The interview went really well, with the interviewer encouraging me to check in often for updates.

That was two weeks ago, and I sent a follow up today asking for updates. They responded that the interview went well, but there wasn’t anything new on their end.

How often should I be following up? After that initial follow up, I was thinking monthly.

Should I respond to the email to say thanks? And should I do that with each of their updates? I don’t want them to think I’m rude for not saying thanks, but it feels excessive (I’d imagine most updates are going to be a short “Sorry, no updates”) and I don’t want to clutter their inbox.

Checking in monthly would be way too often. Every two to three months is the absolute most frequently you could do it without seeming annoying (and don’t do every two months like clockwork; vary it). If they have an open position that you’re a strong candidate for, they’re going to remember the person who’s been in touch within the last few weeks without you reminding them so frequently that you exist.

And sure, it’s fine to respond to their emails to say thanks, now and in the future.

5. Applying to two different jobs at the same company

I’ve worked in IT customer support my whole career, but I enjoy and am much better at the customer support side of things than I am dealing with IT systems.

Last week I saw that a local company had just posted a role for an IT department manager. Parts of the role seemed appealing to me and fit my profile quite well, so I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring to see what happens. I wrote a nice cover letter that I’m hoping will get me at least a phone conversation with the hiring manager and later got a response explaining how the company doesn’t use automated processes to review applications and that a real human would soon get back to me. However, the very next day, a customer service manager role was posted, and now I’m absolutely kicking myself because I know I’m a much better fit for this role and I would have definitely applied for it over the IT manager one if they were both presented to me.

My partner thinks I should sit tight and wait to hear from someone on the IT role, but a friend said I should apply for the customer service role as well, so now I’m torn. What should I do?

Apply for the second one. Just make sure you write a letter that speaks very specifically to the second role and isn’t generic. If it’s a small company, you should also explicitly address that you applied for the IT manager job, but you’re also throwing your hat in for this one because (reasons). If it’s a large company, you likely don’t need to do that but at a smaller one, the same people may be reading your application for both and you’ll be better off explaining it head-on. (It shouldn’t be lengthy or defensive, just a sentence or two that explains why you’re applying for two seemingly very different jobs.)

Don’t take your partner’s advice to wait until you’ve heard back on the IT job, because you risk the window closing on the one you want more.

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