employer wants to hire my replacement but I haven’t quit, boss’s daughter watches me while I work, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. My boss wants to hire my replacement, but I haven’t quit yet

When I started grad school two years ago, I could tell my bosses were very nervous about it. The two years have passed (no promotions), I’ve completed my program but wasn’t able to find a new job while in school. When I started the program, I told my bosses that I would stay at least through grad school. I’ve realized that my direct boss took that to mean “I’m quitting as soon as school ends.”

She has made little comments about me leaving over the last six months even though I’ve said repeatedly that I have no concrete plans to leave. That hasn’t made a difference and today she said they’re going to start the hiring process for my replacement in about a month. Before I have given notice. They got approval already for there to be a one-month overlap between me and my replacement.

I’m terrified because the job market is awful and I feel really humiliated. What am I even supposed to say when people ask where I’m going once the listing goes up? Is there anything I can even do at this point? I’m not going to resign, so do I just have to wait for them to fire me? And in the meantime try desperately to find a new job?

Yes, speak up more assertively, ASAP! Say this, “I think we’ve had an awful miscommunication somewhere. I have no plans to leave. Unless there’s something I’m missing and you actively want me to go, you shouldn’t be hiring for a replacement — I’d like to stay and was planning on staying. Can we put a stop to the plans for replacing me?” (But really, today — you want to do this before things move any further along.)

And yes, this could create an awkward situation if you do end up resigning a month from now. If that happens, you’ll apologize and explain that a perfect opportunity fell in your lap. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than being pushed out of your job before you have another one to go to.

For what it’s worth, I suspect the issue is that you used language like “no concrete plans to leave” — which, in this specific context, sounded to your boss like “I’m working on it, but nothing’s finalized yet.”

my boss wants a timeline for me leaving and I haven’t even given notice

2. Boss’s daughter watches me while I work

My boss’s 19-year-old daughter is interning with my company for the summer. She sits at another colleague’s desk when he is out of town (two week vacation right now). His desk and my desk are in the same small room. She sets her personal laptop on the desk and turns in the chair to face my computer screens while working on her work laptop in her lap. Most importantly, she constantly watches me.

I have nicely offered a spare rolling desk for her to use for her additional laptop (even though there’s plenty of space on the desk) and she says she’s fine.

How do I ask for space? When I scoot out to attend meetings or go to the restroom, I literally run into her legs. That is how close she is.

Be more direct! “I feel self-conscious with you facing me like that while you work, and it makes it hard to focus. Can you use the desk instead? Or is there something you would need to work more comfortably there?”

Or even, “I can’t focus with you turned in the chair and so close like that — it makes me feel like you’re waiting on me for something. Could you use the desk instead?”

3. I accidentally saw my manager’s shocking offer letter

After a very turbulent time in our organization, a new director (Logan) was recruited for my team. From the first, he was abrasive and belittling. He threw his weight around with our suppliers, disrupted projects, tried to manage us via WhatsApp, was completely indifferent to staffing needs, and made meaningless process changes that meant my team’s workload increased significantly. He was not well liked and was certainly not respected. But he was feared.

We moved into a new office about two months into his tenure and had been there for a couple of weeks. We had new printers that connected to a print server and you then needed to tap your access card to collect your printing. Logan sent us (his leadership team) a message asking how the printing worked. I replied, forwarding him the email from the print server company which contained my code, and advised him he needed to look for his mail from the company and use his code or to request a new code from facilities. He thanked me and that was that.

That evening, before leaving the office, I went to collect some work that I was taking home. I tapped my card and to my surprise an offer letter addressed to Logan printed out with the rest of my printing. It was for another supplier VP position (so not a competitor) but was for an obscene amount of money (think a quarter of a million dollars a year, a 20% signing bonus, and stocks and shares) but he had to accept the offer and start at the new job within the next three weeks. The letter was dated that day.

To say I was stunned was an understatement. It felt like I had been handed a bomb and I did not know what to do. I spoke to one of my colleagues, Don, who also worked for him and Don said I should just give the offer back to him when I next saw him. I was uncomfortable with that as I didn’t know Logan well, had no idea if he was vindictive or not, or if he would fire me or make my life a misery. I don’t think he could have fired me as I had done nothing wrong, but the company culture at the time was not great and people were coming and going with such frequency that I just didn’t know. I thought maybe I should hand the letter to his manager and let them deal with it, or just do nothing at all and pretend it never happened.

I opted for the last option, and he was fine with me when I next saw him. Needless to say, he left and we were all delighted. I wonder if I managed it in the right way though. What do you think?

Doing nothing was the right way to handle it. Anything else would have just stirred up drama. It wasn’t meant for you, you saw it by mistake, and the best thing to do was to mentally avert your eyes and move on.

Really, what you saw was good news — a sign that a manager who had made your life miserable might be about to leave! All you needed to do was file away that potential bit of good news and wait to see what happened.

4. My coworker asks for time with me, then doesn’t follow through

I have a younger colleague who will frequently say, “Hey, are you in tomorrow so I can ask you about XYZ?” My response is frequently, “Sure, no problem, just reserve some time in my calendar,” but sometimes also just, “No problem, just grab me whenever I’m free.”

The problem is that she rarely follows through on any of it. I have in the past reminded her to make sure she set up some time for us to discuss XYZ, but if I have to remind someone multiple times to do something, I have to conclude it’s not important to them.

I don’t have managerial responsibility, but I am her informal subject matter mentor as I’ve been in the field a lot longer. My title is Senior XYZist, hers is XYZist.

Do you have any ideas on how to just let it go? It gets frustrating to hold myself at the ready for the consult that never happens. Or, should I just plan a meeting myself whenever she asks if she can pick my brain? I’ve been resisting that, because it’s her question so her responsibility.

You shouldn’t organize the meeting yourself, since she’s the one asking to meet. But why not just ask her about it, especially as an informal mentor? You could say, “I’ve noticed that often when you ask if we can meet the next day to talk about a specific item and I suggest you book time on my calendar or come find me when you’re free, we don’t ever end up talking. What’s going on there? Are you finding the answer a different way and don’t need to meet anymore or…?”

If she says that often she doesn’t still need to meet when the next day rolls around, you could say, “Would you mind circling back to let me know so that I’m not mentally holding space for it?”

5. Reference-checker tried to solicit my references for business

A staffing agency solicited my references for business by asking them to use the staffing agency to hire employees (while contacting them to check my references). My reference felt obligated to meet with them after giving me a reference. I found other red flags, such as benefits that didn’t meet my needs, after it was clear the employer was very interested in me. What are my options? Can I bypass the staffing agency and contact the employer? (The job is also listed on the employer’s website.)

The staffing agency almost certainly “owns” your candidacy at this point (based on typical contracts between staffing agencies and employers, and probably your agreement with them as well) so you can’t go around them — or, rather, if you tried to, the employer would be legally obligated to the loop the agency back in. But soliciting your references for business is really shady. It’s a thing that sometimes happens, but it’s pretty slimy — that’s not why you provided them with those people’s info, and they’re abusing their access. After this hiring process wraps up, you can certainly tell them that, and can decline to work with them again if you want to.

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