coworker is giving underwear for Secret Santa, manager wants me to report on my coworkers’ arrival times, and more — Ask a Manager


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

1. My coworker is giving a colleague underwear in our Secret Santa

My office organizes a Secret Santa. The guy who has the desk next to mine told me today that he got the name of a colleague of ours with whom we eat often, and that as he heard her say once during lunch that it is a tradition in Spain (she is Spanish) to wear red underwear for the new year, he bought her red lingerie. He is quite friendly with her, but I still think it is a terrible idea. He is in his late 40 and married, and she is in her early 30 and single. They are at the same level and they don’t work together, so he really sees her as a peer and doesn’t agree with me when I tell him that this kind of present is entirely inappropriate. She will have to open it in front of the whole office. Even from a close friend I would not like it, so in a work context I believe it has the potential to become a huge problem. It could damage both of their reputations. I told him what I think and he disagrees with me. What else should I do ? I don’t really want to let my colleague get this kind of present at work.

Yeeesh. That’s really inappropriate. Even if they have the kind of friendship where she wouldn’t be bothered by the gift, she’s going to be opening in front of all her coworkers — and I doubt she wants that, or that they want that.

Since he’s not interested in hearing from you, you could tell the person organizing the Secret Santa and suggest they intervene. They’d probably be interested in clarifying the guidelines of a work gift exchange with him.

2. My manager wants me to alert her when each coworker arrives for the day

I just started a new position about three months ago, and it’s going pretty well. My manager has taking a liking to me and already given me extra responsibilities.

One of them kind of irks me. She tends to work remotely most days and has begun to ask me to Skype her when my coworkers arrive for the day. I feel pretty awkward about it, because being 5-10 minutes late does not matter at all in our positions and I like my peers, so I feel like I’m throwing them under the bus because I know she brings up their tardiness in 1:1’s. Do I have any recourse with my manager, or should I just suck it up?

Ick. If she’s that hung up on time of arrival (which it doesn’t sound like she should be), she should … get a time clock or something. Or ask people to report in to her individually rather than putting it all on you, although I suspect she’s not doing it that way because she knows she’d look ridiculously micromanagely if she did.

You could say this to her: “I feel awkward reporting each person’s time of arrival to you, and I worry it’s going to make it hard for me to have good relationships with them. Would it be okay for me to stop doing that?”

If you don’t think she’d be receptive to that, the other option would be to just stop and see what happens. Or just continually forget and only do it once people have been there for a while (“I forgot to Skype you earlier, but everyone is here”). If her “solution” isn’t working, she may back off of it. That’s not ideal — it’s better to have a direct conversation with her where you explain your objections — but it’s an option if that won’t work.

3. Employer rejected me after the salary I named was 10% too high

I currently work at a job that pays well and provides a good suite of benefits, am comfortable at my job, and am not looking to leave it no matter the cost.

I recently applied for a job that I was interested in. It would be a lateral move career-wise, and also a move from a low cost of living area to a high cost of living area. For context, think something like moving from Missoula, MT to Seattle, WA. After a week, I got a call from their HR for a pre-screening interview, which I set up later that day. Most of the questions seemed standard, and I felt like I answered them all pretty well.

Until the last question: what are your salary expectations? I tried to get her to give a number first, but was unsuccessful. After putting out a guess with a range, it turns out I was about 10% too high. I stated that although the salary on offer would not excite me per se, it was still within a range that I would consider and I felt it would not stop me from considering the job. We ended the call with me feeling like I would be getting a call back for a second interview.

The next day, I did get a call back, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was told that because of my salary expectations, the hiring manager felt a second interview would not be worthwhile. I pushed back a little, asking they not hold my lack of knowledge of the local job market against me, and saying I felt the salary range would work for me. We ended the conversation with HR saying they would go back to the hiring manager, but I have a feeling it won’t go anywhere.

Well … “it wouldn’t excite me” will sound to a lot of employers like “I wouldn’t be enthused about the job at that salary.” And they want candidates who are enthused! Plus, you’d be moving to a more expensive area, which means they might already have been worried about you having sticker shock.

That said, 10% is not the sort of significant difference that normally halts interviews, so I’m guessing it was the “wouldn’t excited me” that might have done you in.

4. Should I take my SAT scores off my resume?

When is it appropriate to take my SAT scores off of my resume? I’m a senior in college and my scores were very good. (I’m a national merit scholar, which is also on there.) I think it’s silly for an adult to put on her resume, especially because I have work and internship experience, but I’ve received conflicting advice. I am a scientist: does it make a difference if I’m applying to academic jobs or industry jobs?

Take them off your resume now; the vast majority of employers don’t care and will think it’s odd to have them listed. The exception to this is if you’re applying in certain segments of the finance or consulting fields; some employers in those fields expect candidates who are in school or recently graduated to list them. But it’s going to look out of place outside of that context. (Similarly, I’d remove the National Merit mention once you graduate; at that point anything from high school just isn’t going to be seen as relevant.)

Keep in mind that SAT scores are basically a (not entirely accurate) predictor of how well you might do in college. Once you’re in college, your GPA is a more accurate indicator of that — and it in turn takes over for some employers as a (very imperfect) predictor of well you might do post-college. They’re proxies because you don’t yet have much real-world experience for employers to look at … which is why a GPA also becomes irrelevant a few years after you graduate, once you have a track record of actual work.

5. How should I handle the holidays with freelance clients?

I’m a freelancer and I work remotely 100% of the time. I’m hired by solo clients, not companies, to perform a service for them. Most of my clients I’ve never met, and the few I have met have just been random situations where we happen to find ourselves at the same conference.

How should I handle the holidays with these clients? I usually just drop “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Holidays” into an email if we happen to be working on business at the appropriate time, but that means I’m only hitting a few of them. Do I need to do anything more? I could … mail a card out to them all? It’s about 15-20 people, depending on the year.

Honestly, I don’t particularly want to do anything. I’m not a big holiday person. Do I have to? Am I shooting myself in the foot by not doing something?

You’re probably fine continuing on the way you’ve been doing. Most people don’t expect freelancers they hire to send cards or gifts. (In fact, if anything, it’s more often the other way around — as a freelancer, I often receive cards and gifts from clients but don’t usually send them. Those are companies, which makes it different from the individual people you’re working with, but the you-don’t-need-to-do-more principle stands.)



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