wearing revealing exercise clothes around coworkers, telling an employer I have another offer, 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. Wearing revealing clothes to exercise around coworkers

I’m a young woman at my first corporate job in a male-dominated field. I go to the gym across the street after work on most days; it’s not affiliated with the company. For comfort and convenience, I often wear somewhat revealing clothes to exercise (tight shorts and crop tops/sports bras). I dress modestly in the office and don’t change clothes there.

The problem is that many of my (male) coworkers go there too, and it’s the unofficial office gym. I’m concerned that it’ll damage my professional standing being seen in skimpy clothes, even though it’s technically outside of work. Do you suggest that I adhere to any sort of dress code while I’m there? Or should I dress as I please because I’m not at work? My office is pretty chill, but I’m still concerned about double standards.

Dress however you feel comfortable at the gym. You’re not walking through your office hallways in booty shorts; you’re dressed appropriately for the space and for the activities you’re participating in. It will not hurt your professional standing unless you work somewhere that’s far more dysfunctional and sexist than the average workplace (a bar that allows for a fair amount of dysfunction and sexism before this would be an issue).

2. My employee wants to be promoted into a job that doesn’t exist here (and probably shouldn’t)

I supervise a high-performing, early career employee who has been in his current role for two years. He would like to be promoted into a role that he’s written for himself. It’s a role that doesn’t exist in our industry or our organization. I’m happy to help this employee and be his champion, but I do not think this is a role that the organization needs. It is hard to make a business case for how the role adds anything to the existing set-up. If it did exist, I do not yet think this person would be ready to fill it. He’s not a bad employee, he just needs more experience in a broader variety of activities that relate to this position he’d like to have. Do you have any advice for me in coaching him or a path he would take?

You’re not doing him any favors (or serving your organization well) if you aren’t up-front about the challenges you see in his plan. Be direct with him — explain that you think it’ll be tough to make a business case for the role and why, and explain what qualifications you think the company would want if they did create it. At the same time, you can talk to him about what kind of path he’d need to take to get those qualifications, what that might look like, and whether there are opportunities in your organization for him to strengthen himself for that type of work, even if he doesn’t ultimately end up doing it there. And if he’s intent on making a case for it there, let him make that case — but being honest about your assessment will help him make better choices for himself.

3. How do I handle having to drop a job opportunity that I really wanted?

I’m entering my senior year of college after this semester, and I was recently able to secure an opportunity exactly in the field I wanted to be in. It would have opened a lot of doors in my field, and I was originally really stoked — except they never disclosed it was unpaid. That fact and an hour+ drive to the location multiple times a week on top of two other jobs (gotta pay rent) meant I had to drop the opportunity.

How do you get over something like this? I’m still in the regret phase even though I know I couldn’t afford to do it.

There are going to be a lot of job prospects in your future that would be perfect except for one thing, and that one thing will be significant enough that it’s a deal-breaker. It could be the salary, or the location, or the manager you’d be working with, or the hours, or the company culture. This is really normal, and it’s good to get comfortable with it early on, because when you try to ignore the “just one thing” that makes a job a bad fit for you, that’s how you end up in a job where you’re miserable (or broke). Take this as an early lesson in being clear-eyed and resolute about what does and doesn’t work for you, regardless of how enticing it might otherwise be.

Also, it’s sketchy as hell for them not to disclose up-front that the work was unpaid. That’s a red flag about them generally.

4. Timing my resignation with a week off and a company retreat

I am a program manager at a small company, and I’m the only staff member assigned to my program. Every summer my company shuts down for a mandatory paid week off, and the next Monday is our mandatory all-staff retreat, which consists of serious planning sessions interspersed with team-building activities. We have to set goals for ourselves and our programs and stand up in front of the whole company and declare what each of us is committing to for the upcoming year.

I’m planning to leave the company this summer to start my own business. I really want to take advantage of the paid week off, and I’m concerned that if I give notice right before the break they might let me go immediately to avoid paying me for that week off. I have a good relationship with my boss and don’t think he’d do that, but there are also some pretty horrible leaders above him who have screwed over employees before, and money has been really tight the past few years so I think there’s *some* risk.

I also don’t want to wait more than a week after the break to give my two weeks notice, because I need to get ready to launch my business in the fall. If it’s not ready in the fall, a big chunk of my prospective customers will sign on with other service providers for the year.

Is it better to fake my way through a full day of public planning, goal-setting, and making commitments, just to turn around later that week and say “just kidding!” or to give my notice before the break and cross my fingers they don’t let me go immediately? If it’s the former, any advice on how to reduce the awkwardness?

Why not give your notice right after the week-long break, on the first day of the retreat? Give it that Monday and ask whether your manager would rather you attend the rest of the retreat or spend that week getting your work in shape to transition. He can make that call — but that way if he wants you at the retreat, you won’t have to pretend to make commitments for the coming year because it’ll be out in the open that you’re leaving. If that timing seems awkward, you can note that specifically: “I know the timing isn’t ideal, but now that I’ve made the decision, I wanted you to have to maximum possible notice.”

5. Do I need to tell employers I have another offer I am considering?

I have been applying for positions and interviewing for a long time. A few weeks ago, two employers indicated they intended to make an offer. However, both still needed to go through their internal approval processes, which has taken several weeks.

Now, I have received one offer (I have two weeks to review it) and the other employer says they will send an offer in two days. Do I need to tell the employers that I have another offer? If so, what would be a good script to use?

I don’t want to make either employer think I am uninterested because I am considering another offer, but if I don’t mention it now they may be caught by surprise when I decline which may impact my reputation in my network. They are both great jobs but very different, and in different locations too, so it will be a difficult decision.

You’re not obligated to announce if you have other offers. Employers generally assume you’re interviewing with multiple companies and realize they could lose you to an offer you like better (or simply because their offer/job isn’t right for you, even if there aren’t other offers in play). If an employer is ever shocked to learn that you’ve been talking with other companies, that’s on them — not on you for not spelling it out.

You might choose to mention it anyway if the situation calls for it — like if the second company’s offer is delayed and you’re going to run up against your deadline for the first (in which case it could make sense to tell the second one that you’re very interested but you have another offer that you need to answer by X date). Or if you prefer Company A but Company B makes a higher offer, you might see if A is willing to match it. But you don’t need to announce it just on principle — only if it serves your interests in some way.

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