can I train people not to bother me when I have headphones on, I promised to tell my boss when I’m job-searching, and more (2023)

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

1. Can I train people not to bother me when I have headphones on?

I am a supervisor at a small public library (10 full-time people). Our office in the back is an open office plan. I am next to the employee entrance/exit, staff bathrooms, and the break room. Needless to say, there are a lot of interruptions! I hate this floor plan, but there’s not too much I can do about it. My boss loves it.

I often wear headphones (which is acceptable, but not extremely common here) and people don’t seem to get the hint that I need to concentrate and will often interrupt me with things that can wait or things that can be left in my inbox. I try to listen to make sure I am not missing anything important.

Is there any way that I can train employees to not bother me when I have headphones on or do I just have to live with interruptions that could have been an email? Also my boss is very chatty, so I often get a lot more work done when she is not around and need the uninterrupted work time.

It depends on the nature of your role. There are some jobs where being accessible is part of doing it well, and that can be mean being available even for things that could wait. There are other jobs where that’s not the case, and where it’s perfectly reasonable to ask people to save things up for a more convenient time, email them to you, etc. Assuming your job is in the latter category (and that your own boss would agree), it’s okay to tell your staff, “I need some blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on projects that require concentration. I’m going to wear headphones during those times, so when you see my headphones on, please only interrupt me if it definitely can’t wait.” (Of course, if you do that, you need to make sure you’re not wearing headphones all day long, every day.) You might also have luck with a sign reinforcing that message — something like, “Work block — interrupt for emergencies only.”

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Also, think about the sorts of things people interrupt you for. Could you cut down on some of it with better training or more proactive guidance or by delegating more authority? That won’t always solve this kind of thing — sometimes people just want to talk in person RIGHT NOW regardless — but it’s worth thinking about.

2. I promised to tell my boss when I’m looking for a new job

About six months ago, my direct manager resigned and I now report to that manager’s former manager. During our initial conversation after my manager’s departure, I was asked to “let them know if I’m reaching a point where I’m looking for something else.” I (in a moment of panic) agreed. Given some changes in the culture and changes in work, I’ve begun actively looking and am expecting to give notice in the next few months.

Now in a regular situation, my advice to others would be that it’s not necessary or prudent to share that you are actively looking until there is an offer on the table, especially if it could affect the working relationship while still in your job. However, I’m a bit torn in this situation since I explicitly agreed to let them know. Any thoughts on how to navigate this?

Your boss’s boss put you in an unfair position by asking that of you in the first place; very few people in that situation will feel safe saying, “Actually, I’d rather not let you know and I’d prefer to drop it on you like a surprise when it happens.” Of course you agreed to it!

But that doesn’t mean you need to do it, and it’s likely not in your best interests to. You risk getting pushed out earlier than you want to leave, or even just not considered for raises, bonuses, or high-profile projects since they’ll figure you’re on your way out anyway. Stick with two weeks notice, and if your boss’s boss mentions your “agreement” at that point (which they might not even do), you can say, “This fell in my lap and was too good an opportunity to pass up.” You don’t owe full transparency (or full transparency outside of normal professional conventions, no less) just because someone with power over you pushed you to agree to something contrary to your interests.

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3. Salesman showed up in person at my new job

I started a new job three months ago. This morning, a colleague in another department messaged me that a visitor, “John Doe,” was looking for me, and asked if I was expecting anyone. I was not, and the name wasn’t immediately familiar. Before I could respond, John was led across the building to my desk. (The safety issue there is a separate issue.) I realized John was a vendor that I’d worked with at my last job, as in I’d emailed him to place an order a couple times over the last few years. My last order was a year ago.

John was of course in full sales mode, said he enjoyed working with me before, gave me his new pitch, etc. I took his business card and said a polite noncommittal thing and he left.

After, I looked at my LinkedIn history and saw we had connected on LinkedIn a while back. When I posted my job update a few months ago, he had sent me a perfunctory “congrats on your new job” message and I had responded with a thank you. I hadn’t remembered that (was wondering how he knew where I worked now), but that was the extent of our interaction. I certainly wasn’t expecting a person I barely remembered to show up at my new workplace unannounced for a cold sales call. Also, his company has never had business with my new company.

John’s company does seem to operate with an old-fashioned business etiquette, where in-person business tends to be emphasized, and I understand he is a business owner just doing his job. However, I work with sales reps from vendors frequently, and they have always called, emailed, contacted us via our website, or pre-arranged a visit. While I’m sure John’s visit was meant to be a warm, personal touch to help them stand out as a company, I feel uncomfortable and a little creeped out knowing that he tracked me down in-person! Is this as weird as this felt for me? Do other companies actually prefer these in-person, unannounced sales visits?

Yeah, this is a thing that some salespeople do. Since you announced your new job on LinkedIn (and even traded messages with him about it, albeit perfunctory ones), he didn’t really track you down so much as make a note of your new employer so he could contact you there. Showing up in person without an appointment is obnoxious, but I’d argue it would also be obnoxious if you were a current client of his. It’s more about overly aggressive, old-school sales tactics than creepiness, at least in my opinion. But you’re not the only one who will find it over-the-top, and salespeople really should adjust their traditional tactics to account for the growing number of people who are turned off by this kind of thing.


4. My current job is pushing me to commit to projects while I’m waiting for an offer

I work in a nonprofit niche, and after being at my organization for a decade, I’ve applied for a new opportunity doing similar but higher-level job at a new place. I’m pretty sure I landed the position or I’m in close consideration. However, it’s been three weeks since my last interview and I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop.

My profession is pretty calendar-driven, with certain projects occurring annually on a standard timeline. My supervisor is starting to press me to get started on the next upcoming set of big projects. If I were staying, I’d definitely be getting started right now — but I don’t want to begin a new cycle, then bail after several weeks once the new job finally calls me. Because of downsizing during Covid, I’ve gone from a department of five to a department of one (just me!), so there’s nobody I can low-key delegate to right now, and they’d have to hire an outside replacement for me; said replacement would then have to decipher my half-done work, which is way more complicated then having them start fresh on their own version of the project.

I’ve been reluctant to follow up since my thank-you’s after the final interview. I figure (a) I’ve got the job, (b) I’ve not got the job, or (c) they haven’t decided, and calling them won’t change that. I gave consent for a background check a week ago, and I’m boring as sin so I know it must have come back clean.

Is it appropriate to let the new job know that I’m being pressed to commit to the upcoming year at my current organization, and I need to know if they’re making me an offer so that I can begin transitioning out? Both employers are in the same field, so it should be pretty clear the kind of conflict/inconvenience this would cause if the situation were flipped. I don’t want to rock the boat for rocking’s sake, but I’m afraid they might be asleep at the helm!

You shouldn’t tell them you “need to know” if they’re making you an offer; the reality is the timelines simply might not match up the way you want them to, and sometimes that’s just how this goes. But you can say, “I wondered if you might have a sense of your timeline for next steps. I’m being asked to commit to some big projects at my current organization soon, but I’m very interested in the role with you.” That might nudge them … or it might not. They might not be ready to move immediately for any number of reasons (decision-maker out of town, last-minute candidate emerging who needs to be interviewed, background check taking a while — and they can definitely take longer than a week, even when you’re boring). But it’s reasonable to ask about their timeline and you can give that a try.

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Meanwhile, don’t do anything at your current job that you’ll regret if you don’t end up getting this offer (or — equally important — if you get the offer but turn it down over salary or other terms). You never really have an offer until you actually have an offer, no matter how promising things seem, and things can always change at the last minute. So generally speaking, you should proceed as if you don’t have the other job until you do, which can indeed mean starting projects that then inconvenience your employer when you move on. That’s just the way this stuff works.

5. Rejecting a candidate who I invited to apply

I was recently promoted into a management role at my company and with that I’m now hiring to fill my former position. I’ve previously supervised interns, so I decided to reach out to one who had stood out to let them know about the job and that I thought they might be a good fit.

Unfortunately, their application and cover letter both look really slapped together with a lot of typos and grammar errors. Most concerningly to me is that they’ve listed their internship under the title of the staff member they worked closely with (which was never their title) and have made it look like they were a full staff member.

I’m at the point of checking references for my finalists and needing to start sending rejections. What’s the best way to go about rejecting someone that you asked to apply in the first place? And should I bring up their resume and the misrepresentation of their work?

The main thing when you’re rejecting someone who you invited to apply is to send a personalized rejection rather than a form letter. For example: “I really appreciate the time you put into exploring the X position with me, and it was great to be able to catch up with you about what you’ve been doing since your time here. We had a very competitive group of applicants for the position, and ultimately I’ve decided to offer it to another candidate, who has accepted. If you’d like any feedback about your interview or application, I’d be happy to set up a call to do that — but either way I’m grateful for the time you spent talking with me.”

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If they do want feedback, you can bring up the concerns you had then, but this message leaves it in her court rather than you spontaneously listing all the ways she disappointed you.

That said, in situations like this I wish we had a time machine! The misrepresented job title is an important thing to raise, but the best time to ask about it was earlier in the process. Doing it now before they’ve asked for feedback — when you didn’t say anything about it earlier — will feel a little odd, so at this point I’d wait and see if they want to hear more or not.

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If you have a supportive boss, the professional speaker and career strategist says you can let him or her know you're looking for more or different responsibilities, and together you can explore every possible opportunity internally.

When your boss tells you to look for another job? ›

When a manager tells you to start searching for a new job, it is a good sign because they care enough to give you time to search for a new opportunity. It will help you figure out if in fact you have outgrown your position and are settling in your career.

How do I tell my boss I can't come in? ›

How to tell your boss you can't work a shift
  1. Confirm your schedule. ...
  2. Ask to have a conversation. ...
  3. Give as much notice as possible. ...
  4. Acknowledge your obligation. ...
  5. Provide a reason. ...
  6. Plan ahead for your workload. ...
  7. Offer to make up the time. ...
  8. Understand the consequences.

Should you tell your boss you have an interview? ›

It's better not to jeopardize your current position until you've accepted an offer for a new job. Nevertheless, when it is time to tell your current boss, remember to be polite and at your professional best. It is best not to burn any bridges.

Should I tell boss im unhappy? ›

If your unhappiness is due to a company-wide policy, poor decision-making by one of your boss's superiors, or other factors out of their control, then there's no benefit to telling her you're unsatisfied (and it may be worth considering who else you can talk to, such as HR).

Do I have to tell my boss why I called out? ›

In short, you don't have to explain anything unless you need to take more time off than your contract allows. If that does happen, it's best to talk with Human Resources and ask for their advice about how to approach the subject with your boss.

How do you tell if you are being pushed out of your job? ›

Telltale signs your company is trying to push you out:

They're not giving you new assignments. You're being passed over for promotion. You're not being called into important meetings. They're taking work off your plate.

How do I know if I am being managed out? ›

Danger Signs of Being Managed Out
  1. Your Boss Has Started Micromanaging You. ...
  2. Your Manager Is Asking You to Document Everything You're Doing. ...
  3. Your Duties Have Been Reduced or Reassigned. ...
  4. You're Being Left out Of Key Meetings and Communications. ...
  5. You're Being Given the Silent Treatment. ...
  6. You're Not Being Assigned Long-Term Tasks.

How do you say no professionally? ›

Use these examples to politely say "no" to your employer and coworkers:
  1. "Unfortunately, I have too much to do today. ...
  2. "I'm flattered by your offer, but no thank you."
  3. "That sounds fun, but I have a lot going on at home."
  4. "I'm not comfortable doing that task. ...
  5. "Now isn't a good time for me.

How do you politely tell someone it's not your job? ›

Try phrasing your response like this: "I'd love to be able to assist you with this task. However, our supervisor originally assigned this task to you, and the task isn't within the scope of my responsibilities. I'm going to politely decline, and I recommend speaking to management to find a solution."

How much work is too much? ›

So how much work is too much? A recent study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization shows that working more than 55 hours a week can have negative effects on your health.

Can I be fired for looking for another job? ›

Q: Can I Be Fired for Looking for a New Job? A: No. To fire an employee legally the dismal must be classed as “fair”. Broadly, this means there must have been something wrong with your job performance.

What is a manager not allowed to do? ›

Not pay you overtime or minimum wage. Promise a job to an unpaid intern. Discriminate against workers. Allow you to work off the clock.

Can a manager yell at you in front of other employees? ›

The short answer is yes. Legally speaking, supervisors and managers are allowed to yell at employees. However, when that yelling is about or against a protected class, the yelling may qualify as harassment.

How do you stand your ground with your boss? ›

Stand Your Ground
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  2. Push back from your boss. ...
  3. Push back from your team. ...
  4. Push back from outside vendors. ...
  5. How do you maintain your stand without being perceived as overbearing?
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Can you be fired for being unhappy at work? ›

The National Labor Relations Board has weighed in on this question, and their answer is that you are free to be as grumpy or disagreeable as you please. Or, in other words, your employer can't force you to be happy at your job.

What is a toxic manager? ›

CoachHub · 18 April 2022 · 8 min read. Toxic management can be defined as a management style that destroys an individual's dignity, self-confidence, or effectiveness through remonstrances, daily spikes, or inappropriate speeches.

How can I stand up for myself without getting fired? ›

How To Stand Up To Your Boss (Without Getting Fired)
  1. Arrange a private meeting. Grabbing a quick word or catching your boss at the end of a meeting is not the right setting for a serious and potentially confrontational chat. ...
  2. Be clear. ...
  3. Watch your language. ...
  4. Come with a solution. ...
  5. Don't poison the well.
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Is your boss allowed to ask why you're calling out? ›

No federal law prohibits employers from asking employees why they are out sick. They are free to ask questions such as when you expect to return to work. They may also require you to furnish proof of your illness, such as a note from a physician.

Can you leave work if you throw up? ›

What does the law say? The bottom line is that an employer can tell an employee that they cannot come into work even if the person wants to work. OSHA recommends employees stay home if they are sick and the CDC recommends staying home until at least 24 hours after a fever ends.

What is considered excessive calling out? ›

Excessive absenteeism is a term that describes an employee who is away from work too much. This can include actual absences, such as unauthorized personal days or an excessive number of sick days. It can also include repeated tardiness, frequent long lunches or recurring early departures.

What should you not say to HR? ›

What should you not say to HR?
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When should you quit a job? ›

Read more about
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  • You actively look for ways to avoid your job. ...
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If your boss trusts you more than he trusts others then it is a great sign that he cares about you. They will give you more freedom to work the way you want because they trust you. In case you are free to make your own decisions when it comes to work, it means your supervisor cares about you.

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Here are four signs that you're likely being watched at work.
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No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.” Learning how to say “no” will make your overall work quality and mental health improve, and make you a true team player.

How do you say no without being rude? ›

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  7. No, thank you but it sounds lovely, so next time.
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Why Saying no is important at work? ›

We all want to perform every task to the best of our ability. So if you feel a task will suffer as a result of your hectic schedule, saying 'no' can demonstrate good time management skills.

How do you work with someone you don't respect? ›

How to work with someone you don't respect
  1. Seek advice from a colleague. ...
  2. Examine your feelings. ...
  3. Maintain a professional attitude. ...
  4. Keep your interactions brief. ...
  5. Make a list of your concerns. ...
  6. Focus on your performance. ...
  7. Speak with your supervisor. ...
  8. Involve human resources if necessary.

How do you say not your fault professionally? ›

4 Ways to (Politely) Say 'That's Not My Fault' at Work
  1. “I wasn't aware of that—thank you for letting me know.” ...
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  3. “Could we discuss this further in a team meeting?” ...
  4. “I wasn't involved with this part of the project, but please tell me the correct way to handle this situation.”
2 Jan 2019

Can I refuse to do work not in my job description? ›

At-Will Employment

The company doesn't need to give you a reason, but if you don't perform the job duties your supervisor gives you – regardless of whether they're in your job description – you could risk losing your job.

Can working too much make you depressed? ›

Similarly, overworking has been linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The WHO now considers depression the leading cause of disability.

How do you beat burnout without quitting your job? ›

5 Tips for Managing Burnout When You Can't Just Walk Away
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  2. 8 Unusual Signs of Burnout.
  3. Make Time for Self-Care. ...
  4. Ask for Help. ...
  5. Maintain Your Social Life. ...
  6. Set Boundaries.
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Can you ask your boss to fire you? ›

The quick answer is yes, you can approach either HR or your manager about getting laid off. Which one you choose depends on your relationship with both people. If you have a good relationship with your manager and she isn't likely to fire you for asking, then go to her first.

Can I get fired for calling in sick? ›

Your employer can fire you for calling in sick if you're lying and get caught.

Can you be fired for mental health? ›

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you simply because you have a mental health condition. This includes firing you, rejecting you for a job or promotion, or forcing you to take leave.

When to tell your boss you're leaving? ›

It's best to notify your manager at least two weeks in advance of your last employment date. Remain professional and gracious during the conversation, thanking your employer for the opportunity.

What is a good reason for leaving a job? ›

Some good reasons for leaving a job include company downturn, acquisition, merger or restructuring as well as the desire for change — be it advancement, industry, environment, leadership or compensation. Family circumstances may also be a factor. Deciding to leave a job is a tough decision.

How do you tell a toxic boss you're quitting? ›

Instead of asking your bad boss, try talking to another supervisor in the company, or a coworker who you trust and respect. You may even want to discuss the matter with someone in human resources. In short, find someone in the firm who understands your value as an employee and ask that person to provide a reference.

How do you quit your job when you are scared of your boss? ›

How to Quit When You're Scared of Your Boss
  1. 1 | Prepare What You're Going to Say. ...
  2. 2 | Practice What You're Going to Say. ...
  3. 3 | Decide the Day and Time You're Going to Tell Your Boss. ...
  4. 4 | If There's an HR Department, Speak with Them First. ...
  5. 5 | Release Tension. ...
  6. 6 | Focus on Your Breath. ...
  7. 7 | Say What You Rehearsed.

What should I say when I quit? ›

What to Say When You Quit Your Job
  • A Thank You for the Opportunity. ...
  • An Explanation of Why You Are Leaving. ...
  • An Offer to Help With the Transition. ...
  • Appropriate Notice. ...
  • The Date You Are Leaving. ...
  • Have a plan for the following outcomes, and you won't be caught off guard:
  • Be Prepared to Leave—Now.

Is it OK to say you left a job for personal reasons? ›

If you are actually resigning because you are unhappy with your job, you don't need to go into detail about it. You want to maintain a good relationship with the company (and your supervisor) so you can use them as a reference. In this case, you can simply say that you are leaving for personal reasons.

What reasons can you quit a job and still get unemployment? ›

You may qualify for unemployment benefits if we decide you quit for the following good-cause reasons: You quit to take another job. You became sick or disabled, or a member of your family became sick, disabled or died, and it was necessary for you to quit work.

What to say when asked why you left a job? ›

Example Answers for “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”
  1. Lack of Advancement Opportunities. “I was eager to advance in my career and independently lead more projects. ...
  2. Wanting a New Challenge. ...
  3. Changing Careers. ...
  4. Fired. ...
  5. Laid Off. ...
  6. Family Responsibilities. ...
  7. Be Positive. ...
  8. Be Honest.


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