coworker asks me questions he could google, employer’s shirts don’t fit me, and more


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

1. Coworker in a different department asks me inane questions

I am a 30-year-old woman. I have been at a business for three years in one department. A man, about 60, who has been there for 25 years in a different department, often asks me for information he could google (addresses, phone numbers, employee names at other businesses, etc.). I am in a manager role (although not his manager; we are pretty much equals) and have no assistance duties assigned for this colleague. I find these requests annoying. What can I politely say to him to encourage him to use his resources and problem-solve on his own before asking colleagues for help?

“I don’t know, you should google that.” If you say this every time, he’ll probably stop asking you pretty quickly.

But if you’d like to make more of a point: “I might be missing something — why are you asking me to do this?” (If you’re comfortable being blunter, you can drop the first part.)

Or: “You often ask me for info you could google, and which I’d need to google myself. We work on different teams and I’m not an assistant. What am I missing about why you’re coming to me for these things?”*

But really, “I don’t know, you should google that” on repeat should put a stop to it pretty quickly.

* The answer is to that question is almost certainly that you’re a younger woman who was helpful to him once or twice, or maybe just someone he saw being helpful to someone else once.

2. The shirts my employer offers don’t fit me

I work as staff at a university. The dress code is business casual, but on Fridays we are allowed to dress in jeans and a university branded t-shirt. My department gave us t-shirts, but they only went up to size XXL. I need a 3X, so I am unable to participate in “sprit Fridays.” I never said anything about it and I just stick with business casual on Fridays. My question is not about this particular issue, but I’m including it as background and evidence of a pattern.

Recently I was accepted to a leadership development program offered by the university. The program director sent a link to an online form for participants to fill out. The form asks for t-shirt size and provides options from XS to XXL. None of these will fit me. The field is required and there is no option to decline a t-shirt, so I can’t submit the form without choosing a size.

I could just choose a size that would fit my daughter and give the shirt to her, but I’m concerned I will be expected to wear it for program events/photos. I also feel shamed, othered, and excluded by the lack of sizing options. My university is sending me a clear message that I do not fit the look of a “leader.” Given that the program focuses heavily on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I wonder if this is worth flagging for the director.

What would you suggest? Request a daughter-sized t-shirt and explain if asked to wear it? Decline to fill out the form and email the director with my information instead, explaining that the sizes offered do not work for me? If this is something I should raise as a DEI concern, how can I do so without coming across as scolding, angry, or aggressive? This program is a great professional development opportunity and I don’t want to further alienate myself.

Please do email the director to explain the t-shirt sizes aren’t inclusive and won’t fit you and ask how you should proceed since it’s a required field. Clearly using the words “not inclusive” to someone leading a program that focuses on DEI might be enough to jog her into realizing this is A Problem, but you can also spell it out in a straightforward way. For example: “Especially since the program focuses on DEI, I hope this is something we can change.”

3. I’m supposed to do two jobs for a $30/paycheck raise

I currently work for for a SaaS company. I was hired as a product analyst and although the salary wasn’t what I wanted, it was close and I was told promotions were common and come with a 7-15% raise (depending on performance). Over the past year I’ve become critical to the team, handle 47% of the department workload (proven by our metrics), have wonderful monthly reviews, and have the highest client ratings in the company. My managers told me I just needed to keep performing like this and I would be promoted/given a raise to what I was originally looking for. Well, good news, I just received a promotion! There is a hiring freeze though so I’m expected to continue all of my current duties (they can’t backfill until 2023 at the earliest) while immediately taking over all client-facing meetings, and handling my new duties. It’s a lot but I feel like I can handle the added responsibilities. The issue lies in my “new” compensation.

Apparently, I was started at a higher rate than some of my coworkers due to my experience within the field, so I’m now being told that the pay band for my new role only allows a raise of less than 1% from what I currently make (about $30 a paycheck before taxes) and this is the most they could get approved with the freeze in place. They are asking me to stick with it and they will take this into account during annual reviews to get me the max amount, which is capped at 4%.

I loved working here before this but this has left a bad taste in my mouth. I haven’t signed the promotion paperwork yet as there was a clerical error, and I’m unsure if there’s anything I could or should do.

So they have you doing two jobs, one of them a higher level role than you were hired for, and they are paying you … $30/paycheck extra for that? That’s quite a good deal for them, and quite a bad one for you.

If they can’t pay you appropriately because there’s a hiring freeze, then by definition they can’t afford to hire you into the new job at all right now. And that’s the way I’d approach it with them: “This is a significant amount of additional work to take on while still doing my old job, without the compensation to match. I’ll be glad to take on the new position once we’re able to allocate the appropriate pay for it, but it sounds like the hiring freeze means we need to wait on that?” (Of course, this requires you to be willing to risk the promotion, so you’d want to figure out exactly where you stand on that before having this conversation. Keep in mind, though, that once you start doing the work, you’ll give up much of your leverage to be paid fairly for it.)

4. Asking about salary when your interviews seem endless

I was browsing jobs after a bad week at work and found a role that seemed like it would be a good fit and would allow me to better utilize my degree than my current job. I submitted an application without expecting much, but the next day I received a request for a virtual interview with the person who previously held the position. I agreed, just to learn more about the job, and things seemed to go well. I then had a second virtual interview with the person who I would be directly reporting to, and that also went well. I was then asked to a third virtual interview with the board of directors, which apparently (again) went well. In between interviews, I also had a phone call with the person who previously held the job (at my request) just to learn more about the day-to-day. All of these interviews took place over the course of a week. During that week, I was also asked to complete an online personality test and a skills assessment.

The only reason I was able to meet with them so easily is because they were virtual interviews, but even then I did have to make up excuses to not be at work (my job is not remote). Now I have been asked to come into the office for a fourth interview to meet the board of directors in-person. This would have to be during a specific time slot four days from today.

This all seems like it would make sense if I was applying for a prestigious job. But this job is not something that I have encountered before. It is a new position with no historical data, so I am not able to easily find any information online, particularly salary info.

Should I reach out for a salary range before I attend any more interviews? I have a feeling, based on what I have learned about the responsibilities, that this job will pay less than what I am making now (in this economy a dealbreaker), and I’ve already spent a lot of time on this company. But there is also a small chance that this job has better pay and benefits than what I have now. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by jumping the gun and asking about pay too early.

This is way too many interviews. And unless it’s a very senior position (like the top position), there’s no reason the board of directors needs to be interviewing you, let alone twice.

You can definitely ask about salary before you do anything else. Say it this way: “Before we move forward, can you tell me your salary range for this role so we can make sure we’re in the same ballpark?” You can ask about the rest of the process too: “It will be hard for me to continue taking off more work, so I wonder if you can tell me how many more steps to expect in the process?”

5. Getting reimbursed for tips on work trips

I’m currently traveling for work and I’m wondering about tipping. I have a corporate credit card that I’m using for my hotel, rental car, and meals. It’s easy to add a tip to my total when I use my card at a restaurant or something. But I’m not sure to handle tips that are usually done in cash, like for the hotel housekeeping staff or valet parking. My company does also have a reimbursement process, so I could attempt to submit this for reimbursement, but they require a receipt for every purchase. Is this just a cost that I’m expected to “eat”? (Which would be annoying, but I guess I’d rather deal with the personal loss of a few dollars than have service industry workers suffer.) How do other companies handle this?

No, you shouldn’t just eat the cost of cash tips. At most organizations, you’d record the tips you give and submit those along with the rest of your expenses for reimbursement. Some people do that by writing the tip amount on some form of receipt connected to the trip (like if you tip housekeeping, write that tip on the receipt for the hotel stay). Your organization might also have written guidelines for tipping, so check for those too.

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