my boss and her daughter want to move in with me, my interviewer laughed at me, and more — Ask a Manager

I’m off today. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My boss and her daughter want to move in with me

I’m working for the summer as a seasonal employee in a management position at an arts festival in a rural community. To accommodate the influx of out-of-town employees, the company has a housing department that organizes local apartments that we rent for a small weekly fee for the duration of our contract. Because it’s a not-for-profit and both money and housing are limited, staff can either pay more for a single accommodation or agree to live with other festival staff, who may be requested or are matched by the housing department.

As it’s my first season with this festival and I don’t mind roommates in general, I agreed to be matched, and over the past four months of my contract I’ve had two different roommates, both people with shorter contracts that butted against each other. Having a revolving door on my apartment has been a bit stressful, especially as my position is one with many stresses outside of adjusting to new living partners, but in general it’s been fine and I recognize it as a minor annoyance. But now that my current roommate is moving out my boss just told me that she and her adult daughter may be moving into the apartment with me next week, due to unspecified “life” reasons.

To be fair, it was presented as a bit of an ask, but I don’t feel I’m in a position to say no. I want to preserve a positive relationship with this company for the future, and also it’s very hard to turn away a person who is obviously going through a rough patch. I know a little bit about what’s happening for her right now, and I know part of it is that her daughter is having major health problems, which is certainly indicative that this will not be an easy living situation, along with all the other red flags. When you get right down to it, regardless of any other factors, the fact remains that she’s my boss, the apartment is too small for three adult people, and after four months of hard, stressful work I was really looking forward to spending the last month of my contract relaxing, instead of navigating a complicated and difficult living situation. On the other hand, I only have another four weeks on my contract. Is it really worth stirring the pot over a single month’s inconvenience?

Normally I would take this to someone higher up the chain in the organization, but unfortunately she’s at the top, and I’m directly below her, so there’s no intermediary available.

Ugh, it’s really your call, but I wouldn’t want to do that and you should be able to refuse if you want to — this is your living space, and you’re paying for it. It’s pretty unfair of her to ask you to take on a third person in a two-person unit, knowing that there’s a power dynamic that might pressure you into saying yes.

You could say something like this: “The apartment is really too small for three people. Is there another one available that you could use?” If you’re willing to do this, you could add, “But if there’s a on-person apartment available, I’d be willing to move into it as long as the rate didn’t go up and then you could have this one.” With that option, you’d have the hassle of moving, but you’d get your own place for no price increase.

If that doesn’t solve it, you’ll have to get more direct: “I don’t think I’m up for having three people living here. I’m sorry!”


Read an update to this letter here.

2. After I resigned, my coworker sent me advice about quitting gracefully

I gave my three weeks notice at my current job yesterday, and things have already gotten weird! About an hour after I had the conversation with my manager, I received an email from a colleague who is close with my manager, but who I am not close with. He congratulated me on my new position, and then sent three web links to articles on how to “gracefully resign.” All three links have these in the title, it seems like that’s the phrase he googled.

Am I being paranoid, or does this seem as pointed as it feels? I’m not sure where it’s coming from, as I’ve never had any negative feedback about my professionalism, and so far, my resignation has been very by the books. I’d like to ask him whether my manager feels that I haven’t been professional in my resignation, but I’m wondering if it’s just better to let this one go?

The details of my resignation: Yesterday, I emailed my manager in the morning asking when she had time to meet and talk. She’s a busy person, so she asked if I could call, to which I responded that I would rather talk in person. We confirmed a meeting time but not five minutes later, I got a call from her asking for a “hint.” I said that I would just need to have the whole conversation, a hint would be hard, and she said to just tell her. So I did! I told her that it had been a hard decision, that I had enjoyed working here, but that I had accepted another job offer and that my last day would be three weeks out. I also let her know that I still wanted to meet in person, because I was working on a transition plan but wanted to make sure our priorities matched up. It was a short call, but it seemed to go okay at the time. If anything, she seemed disappointed or sad.

For what it’s worth, my manager does have a history of speaking poorly of people behind their backs once they’ve done something to make her unhappy. I’m concerned that she’s not telling people the truth about my resignation, but I’m not sure if that matters.

Your resignation sounds perfectly done — you tried to meet in person but said it over the phone when she pushed you to (which is better than playing games about it) and what you said was everything you should say when resigning. So I don’t know what’s up with your coworker! Sending those links would have been an extremely snotty move even if you had been unprofessional, which you weren’t; you’re not even close with this guy and he has no standing to send you unsolicited advice in this context. It’s bizarre.

So yeah, either he is extremely weird and inappropriate (is he?) and did this on his own, or your manager misrepresented what happened and he’s still weird and inappropriate enough to think this is okay for him to do.

If you feel like pursuing it, you could walk over to him and say, “I’m confused by the email you sent me about resigning. Did you have a concern about the way I gave notice?” (I would do this because I would be irate and would want to force him to explain his thinking, but you might be better off just leaving it alone.)

You could also say to your boss, “Did you or Bob have some concern about the way I resigned? After he heard I’m leaving, he sent me some articles about how to resign gracefully and I can’t figure out why.”

Or you could just let it go, of course. But personally I’d enjoy making it awkward for them.


3. My interviewer laughed at me

I went on an interview for a marketing related job and met with three interviewers. As I was responding to the question of why I wanted to work for the company, I noticed one of the women glancing over across the table to her colleague, laughing. We made eye contact and the interviewer who was laughing quickly covered her expression with her hand, to hide her laugh. This is a company whose culture is about being inclusive and investing and valuing people and clearly this message was falling short in these three unprofessional women. Not to mention, the actual job title was being falsely advertised, which in turn was not a marketing job but rather an administration one.

What would have been the appropriate thing for me to do during a situation like this? Do you think it is appropriate for me to contact the director of Human Resources and the president of the company to inform them of their unprofessional hiring team?


That’s horrible, and I can absolutely understand why you were put off by it. But it’s entirely possible that she wasn’t laughing at you at all; she might have been laughing at an email or IM they both just received or who knows what else. Of course, she should have explained that to you and apologized (“I’m so sorry, we just got an odd email; my apologies!”) because any decent interviewer should have understood that it would come across rudely and that it would have been particularly hurtful if there was no explanation. She didn’t, and thus she is rude and an ass.

But it won’t do you any favors to complain to HR or the company president. These employees are known quantities, you’re an unknown quantity, and there’s too much baggage around candidates who go over interviewers’ heads to complain (i.e., they’re often overreacting and lacking in judgment — not a group you want to be lumped in with). To be clear, it’s not that this was acceptable; it’s just that it doesn’t rise to the level of reporting it, given the context.


4. What should I call my mom when she starts working in my office?

I’m a senior-level employee in a small-ish community human services organization (and in my 40’s, if it matters at all). My mother was the former director of another organization in our community for many years and recently retired. She’s very well known here and was absolutely brilliant at what she did. After her retirement, my boss offered my mom a part-time position in our office working directly with her on some special projects where her expertise and network of contacts will be really valuable.

She’ll be starting at our office soon and I just realized I’m in a bit of a quandry about what to call her when she’s here. It feels really weird to me to call her “mom” at work — but it feels equally weird to call her by her first name! Given the work she’s done in our community over the years, a lot of people know we’re related even though we have different last names. All of my colleagues know she’s my mom so it isn’t that. And my boss and I have made sure to be thoughtful about when and where our work overlaps, which won’t be much. She won’t report to me, and most of her day-to-day stuff will overlap more with my boss and another department, but given my role in the organization we will interact regularly. And really, our office is just pretty small so we’re going to see and talk to each other when she’s here.

Am I over thinking this? Is there some kind of office etiquette around how to handle this kind of situation? I don’t want things to be unnecessarily weird, but I don’t want to be unprofessional either. What do you think the smartest option is here?

There is indeed office etiquette around this! You should call her by her first name — both when addressing her directly and when referring to her to others. You’re probably going to feel incredibly weird doing it in the beginning, but that weirdness will fade, and it will be nothing compared to the weirdness other people would feel if you called her “mom.” Look at it this way: In the office, you’re relating to her as a colleague, not as your mom — and you want the way you speak to and about her to reflect that.


5. My coworker reacts badly when I won’t come in on my days off

I’m a relatively new grad school grad working at my first real job ever. I’m running into an issue with a coworker where we are the same level in title but she feels as if she has seniority over me due to her having been there before me. We work in a professional field where accreditation is legally required and she acquired hers after I did, despite graduating way before I did, and as a result had to actually have me as her “supervisor” for a very short time for professional ethics purposes.

Recently, she’s been slacking a lot and her supervisor had a talk with me about potentially firing her due to her slacking off. But she will just skip off work and then expect me to cover for her. It’s gotten to the point where she texts me on my clearly designated off days to ask me to come back into work to cover for her. She’s gotten so used to me covering her duties that she feels entitled and reacts badly when I tell her that I’ve indicated that this is my off day and I will not be coming back to the office just to do her job. But as a green employee, I’m just always very insecure about doing stuff like this. So how do I draw boundaries with coworkers like this?

“Sorry, I’m off today and can’t come in!” You can drop the “sorry” if you’d like.

You also don’t need to respond at all. It’s your day off. Mute her texts and go about your day.

If you want to, you can tell her, “Hey, just so you know, I’m generally never going to be able to come in on my days off because I always make plans for those days ahead of time.”

This is all 100% okay to do. You shouldn’t feel awkward about this; it’s very, very normal to want to preserve your days off, and it’s especially normal not to want to do major favors for someone who’s rude to you when you say no. Plus, it really sounds like your manager would support you and not her if it ever came to her attention.


Read an update to this letter here.

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