should the interviewer dress up, I can’t afford to go to an event recognizing my work, and more


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

1. Should the interviewer dress up?

I’m a fairly senior manager interviewing candidates over Zoom for professional positions (e.g., accountants, lawyers) at my tech company. Our company is fairly informal and I generally wear t-shirts and hoodies and have my hair in a ponytail. But I’m wondering if I should dress a little better, wear some makeup when I interview. Does it look unprofessional or disrespectful to dress so casually when candidates are so dressed up?

I think it’s in everyone’s interests if you show interviewees what things will be like if they work there, so by that standard it’s good to demonstrate what the culture is around dress. That said, it can also feel imbalanced to be interviewing someone who’s in a suit while you’re in a hoodie.

I’d advocate including a mention of your dress code in your interview invitations — like “our dress code is informal (t-shirts, jeans, etc.) and you’re welcome to dress casually for this meeting if you’d like to.” Just make sure anyone else interviewing your candidates knows you gave that guidance, so no one gets penalized for following it.

2. My boss patronizes us

How do I deal with a boss who uses heart-eye emojis and says she is proud of us? It’s infuriating, patronizing, and just feels off. Example, a message from her via Teams to the whole team: “Thank you guys for being flexible this weekend. You are super, I’m so proud of you! 😍”

Note: we work in health care (dealing with national crisis, short-staffed, and in the middle of a desperate war negotiating higher salaries), and we are mostly women in our 30-40’s. It’s difficult to imagine she would talk that way if we were men in a technical field, for example.

Is this an issue? If so, how should she communicate instead? I get that she is trying to show appreciation, but at least for me, this is definitely not working.

That does sound patronizing and irritating, and I agree it’s unlikely she’d say it to a group of men. The first part — “thank you for being flexible this weekend” — is good. It’s the “You are super, I’m so proud of you!” that feels like she’s talking to kindergarteners.

That said, it doesn’t rise to the level of you needing to do something about it. It’s just an annoying trait she has. If you’re ever asked to give feedback about her management style, it’s something you could mention … but otherwise I’d just roll your eyes and save your capital for other things (which it sounds like there’s no shortage of).

3. I can’t afford to go to an event recognizing my work

My colleagues and I have been working really hard over the last year on a pretty big project and we’ve been invited to a national awards event as recognition. The event is far away enough to be expensive and awkward to get to, but not far enough away that my organization would pay for an overnight stay.

I would love to go! I’ve worked really hard on this project and it’s the first piece of real recognition I’ve had for my efforts. BUT, I just can’t afford it. I can’t afford the travel expenses (which may or may not be reimbursed as it’s an optional weekend evening event), and I absolutely can’t afford to buy a formal gown appropriate for a gala event. I’m torn between claiming a previous engagement and being honest with my manager about the reason I can’t go — that it’s too much expense for my limited budget to handle.

My manager is a good person who would be horrified this is the barrier for me to attend. At the same time, I would hate to be so vulnerable and then be met with “okay, no problem.” I want to go (the networking opportunities alone would be fantastic) but I also have to pay my bills. Any thoughts on how to navigate the realities of being poor in an industry not noted for its inclusivity?

You should be matter-of-fact about it! “I’d love to go, but the travel expenses and an appropriate dress are out of my budget.” There’s nothing shameful about that! And don’t be upset by the prospect of “okay, no problem” in response — while ideally they would cover your travel expenses (and who knows, by saying this you might find out that they will), it would be pretty unusual for an employer to cover the cost of something to wear, so “okay, no problem” would just mean “I understand, sorry to hear it” not “too bad for you, peasant!”

(But also, make sure you’re right that you’d need a formal gown! A lot of these events are business formal — meaning suits or business dresses — rather than social formal.)

4. My colleagues are pushy about my travel logistics when I spend an extra night in a location

I’m a mid-career six-figure professional in a white-collar office job. My previous roles have sometimes had up to 80% travel (three weeks out of four back to back or similar) and I’ve almost always booked my own flights, either directly or through a third-party expense system. I consider various factors like what time the first event is on day 1 and the last event on the last day, the cost of flights during the week vs. weekend (this can sometimes be hundreds of dollars less), how expensive flights are at certain times (again, this can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings), non-stop or direct flights vs. multiple legs, and hotel check-out time, transportation to the job site, and how feasible it is to be lugging luggage around all day to check out of the hotel in the morning. I try to balance it all out and get the best possible deal for the company with the minimum amount of pain and inconvenience for myself.

However, recently I had a day where my final event on site ended at around noon. Multiple people asked me, “Oh, are you flying back today?” I was not — it so happened for reasons I detailed above, it made more sense to spend the night and fly back first thing in the morning. It left me rattled and annoyed though, like I was missing something. People were advising me to call the airline and switch and were just so pushy and obtuse about it.

Am I the baddie here? It seems so odd to me that these people (peers or one level above me) were so pushy and insistent on this and concerned with it, and the most important, pressing thing in the world was for me to be on a plane the second the meeting was over. What is the norm or expectation for when the flight is, post-event, if the event is less than a full office day?

Are you sure people weren’t pushing you to fly back that day out of concern for you, rather than the company’s finances? People often make this sort of remark when they’re trying to look out for you and your quality of life — the subtext is “don’t feel you need to stay away from home another night!” If it’s clear that’s not what they meant and they are in fact concerned that you are being profligate with the organization’s money, you can just say, “Nope, I’ve run the numbers; this is the most economical way to do it.” But it’s highly likely that they’re just feeling protective of you.

5. Can my my employer dock my PTO even if I worked extra hours earlier in the week?

I live and work remotely in the state of Florida and I’m an exempt employee. I’m a manager of people. I Iog my billing and not billable hours daily.

Can my employer dock my time off when I work more than 40 hours in less than a week if I’m salaried and I ensure all deliverables are met? If I work 45 hours in four business days and decide to take half day off on a Friday (the hours are now 49) ensuring all deliverables are met, can my employer dock my PTO hours?

If I work 46 hours in five business days and I was responsibly unavailable for three hours in one day due to a medical appointment, can my employer legally dock my sick time?

Yes to all of those scenarios. Being exempt means that your employer can’t dock your pay when you work less than a full week (except in some narrowly defined circumstances), but they can dock your PTO even if you worked additional hours in the rest of the week. This is a bad practice (you get no credit a day where you work extra hours, but docked on a day when you work fewer — it’s unfair), but it’s also weirdly common.

Related: can my employer dock my time off when I work less than 40 hours if I’m salaried?
my manager is nickeling and diming me on vacation time while I’m working 27 days in a row

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