It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Will future employers care that I’ve been venting on Twitter?
I’m upset that companies have laid off vulnerable staff, like part-timers, interns, temps, and contract workers, and I’m venting a bit on Twitter about how unreasonable that is. Will this be seen as unprofessional or distasteful to future employers? I do believe in these rights, and I think an appropriate employer should too, but I don’t want to look like an aggressive candidate.
It depends on what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. If you sound like you don’t understand basic business realities (like that some companies, particularly small ones, literally don’t have the money to keep making payroll when they have no revenue coming in, and it might not make sense to keep interns and temps over someone doing more critical work), then yeah, that’s going to give some employers pause. If you sound hostile or volatile, that’ll give can be a concern too.
That’s not to say that you can’t speak up about genuinely abusive practices — you can and you should. And certainly layoffs are sometimes (but not always) carried out in awful, callous ways. But if you sound like you think all layoffs are inherently unjustifiable, employers who see that will probably question about how much you understand about the reality of running a business (and how difficult you might be to work with as a result).
2. HR confronted me about my “anonymous” feedback
For my company’s quarterly feedback surveys, they ask us to be honest, open and responses are anonymous. So in the last one, I mentioned that our HR team lacks experience and their overall knowledge of employee laws and regulations is weak.
A day later, our HR (who’s my friend too) messaged me saying that she was upset at my response because she thought she’s always tried to support me. She also said she was disappointed because while I’m welcome to give genuine feedback, I should’ve been more mindful as she was the one collating the responses. I haven’t responded to her message yet.
I’m confused and annoyed because I was contacted about my “anonymous” survey response — by someone on the management team too. And I was told to be honest and then when I did, I’m chastised for it. Am I right to feel this way? And what should I do next?
Yes, you’re right to feel this way. If you were told your feedback was anonymous, you should be able to expect it was in fact anonymous — and then to not only be identified, but confronted about it too? And by HR, no less? Your coworker/friend was out of line, and this reveals a significant problem with the survey and what you were told about this.
Personally, I’d respond to her with, “We were told these surveys were anonymous, so I’m confused about why you’re saying this to me. If the surveys weren’t in fact anonymous, that seems like a major error that we should alert the rest of the staff to.”
But if you want to respond to the substance of her message, you could say, “We were asked for candid feedback and I tried to supply that. I’m happy to give more input to HR about my thoughts, but if we tell people we’re disappointed in their responses because they’re critical, that’s going to be the end of any candid feedback.” Frankly, I’d also add, “I’d hope that’s something HR would be instrumental in helping managers understand” and “It’s a real violation of trust to promise anonymity and then question people on what they wrote. I hope you are not doing this to others.”
3. Can my company fire me if I refuse to work from home?
My job has set most people up to work from home right now. I am still coming in to a physical job site because I am the only one who works at it. With my state talking about quarantining people in their houses, I was wondering if your job can make you work from home. I have the ability to do so, but I would need to get internet, which I don’t currently have at home. Also, I have kids and dogs that are loud and a very small house, so there is no way to get away from the noise. I have a spouse with PTSD who would be triggered by a phone ringing off the hook all day (my job involves answering our company phone to customers during the hours we are open). It would be extremely inconvenient and detrimental to the mental health of everyone I live with to have to be quiet and listen to me be on the phone all day in our tiny house.
I can afford to take unpaid leave for a while, and if we are quarantined I would rather do that. Can my work fire me for not being willing to work at home and wanting to take unpaid leave if there is a quarantine? They are a good company, I have been with them for five years, am a valued employee, and I don’t think they would want to fire me over this but I don’t think they would be happy that I can’t work at home when other people are.
Yes, they can making working from home a condition of your job. But if you’re generally in good standing and you explain that your family situation makes this impossible (as opposed to just “I don’t want to”), they might be very willing to try to work with you on this — to let you take unpaid leave, a leave of absence, or something else. (Hell, they might be relieved to have a lower payroll right now, if there’s another way for your work to get done). Or they might push back and tell you that a lot of people are working from home in less-than-ideal circumstances right now, and they might pressure you to do the same. But it’s a reasonable conversation to have.
The problem, though, is how your work will get done. If there’s no one who can fill in for you, they’ll need to hire someone else to do your job. They might be willing to hire someone temporarily, especially if training someone to pick up the job would be pretty straightforward. But if it will be tough to hire and train someone else right now, they might really lean on you to find a way to make it work.
4. Can I ask for a phone meeting to learn more about a job that’s closed?
I recently got word of a job posting at an organization I’m very interested in working for. The person who posted the job opening is the person responsible for evaluating applications, so I connected with them on social media to express interest and asked some questions about the opportunity. They were helpful and personable and gave detailed answers.
Shortly after it was posted, they let me know that they’re actually taking down the opening for now and will likely reopen it later on in a couple months. (I’m guessing they’re waiting for things to stabilize regarding coronavirus.) I want to make sure I stay top of mind because I’d love to work there, and I’m wondering what the best way to do that would look like? Can I request a phone meeting to learn more about their work/their organization and just get to know them? Can I use that phone meeting to ask more questions about what they’re looking for with that position once they start intending to hire for it again so I can tailor my resume/cover letter and make sure it’s a good fit for me?
Don’t do any of that! It’s too likely to come across as annoying and inconsiderate of their time. They’re busy with priorities higher than this position that’s no longer open, and you’ll come across as trying to use their time to help yourself (and when they’ve already done a conversation with you to answer your questions). When the position opens back up, they’ll presumably have a hiring process that’s designed to give strong candidates the chance to learn more about them — but if you try to claim that time for yourself now, you’ll be circumventing the part of the process where they first assess your qualifications against other candidates and decide if it makes sense to put you in the small group of people they’re investing their time in.
Instead, just keep an eye on their job postings, apply when the job opens back up, and mention in your cover letter that you spoke with Jane Smith back in April and are excited to learn more now.
5. Do employers ever discriminate based on where you live?
I was speaking with a colleague who has had a successful career and has changed jobs throughout it. We were going over someone’s resume, and my colleague said to remove the address as there could be discrimination based on the fact that it is a poorer, less white neighborhood. She said she never includes her address.
I had never thought of this and I have always included at least my town and state on my resume. Is there any basis for this and should people leave off their town if they feel they would be rejected because of it?
You can leave your town off if you want. It’s very common to see resumes without a street address (just city and state), and it’s increasingly common to not even see the city and state. Most hiring managers do prefer to see city and state — it can be annoying when candidates aren’t up-front about whether they’re local or would need to relocate — but it’s very unlikely that you’d be rejected for not including it; they’d just ask you about your location early in their process.
That said, if you’re applying through an employer’s online system (as opposed to just emailing your resume), you’re probably going to be asked for your address anyway (although often that info isn’t passed along when your resume makes it way to the hiring manager).
But to what you’re really asking: Yes, location discrimination can be a thing. It’s not a common thing, but if you know that your region has significant class and racial division and/or prejudice against particular neighborhoods, it’s not unreasonable to take steps to guard against it.
will employers care I’ve been venting on Twitter, I got confronted about “anonymous” feedback, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
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