can you work from home while caring for small kids, presenting with a coworker who swears, and more

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

1. Can you work from home while caring for small children?

I have a friend who is currently working from home full-time with her toddler around. She’s been managing so far, planning her work day around his naps and the feast/famine workload. She would like to have more children. Her husband, for reasons I won’t go into, has steadfastly refused that they put their toddler and any future children in childcare until they start school (at age 4). She has told me he has told her he thinks she should be able to continue to work from home managing a toddler and a preschooler (after maternity leave).

She’s not so sure.

She has essentially a desk job with no travel or customer facing tasks and I suspect the bulk of her work needs to be done during regular working hours. But I don’t feel it’s a reasonable assumption that two small children at home plus working full-time is an very easy doable thing.

But what do I know – my own kids are in their teens now but when I had the two of them under five, it was a busy time. I wasn’t even working and it felt busy.

Are there any working at home parents out there among your fans who are making it work with two small children at home? Or is this one of those situations where it sounds and looks good on paper but in the end, someone loses and something’s gotta give?

Hahaha! No, it’s not realistic to work full-time while also being the sole caretaker for two small children.

In fact, it’s really common for companies with remote employees with small kids to require those employee to sign a document attesting that they have child care during work hours, because it’s widely recognized that taking care of small kids requires way more attention than a full-time job allows.

If your friend works for herself with no employer to answer to, and doesn’t mind having zero leisure time and near-zero sleep time, maybe she could try to make it work.

Otherwise, it sounds like her husband is going to need to take over the child care if he finds paid help a no-go.

2. Giving a presentation with a coworker who swears a lot

I occasionally work with a junior colleague who curses quite a lot. Part of her job is hosting events with people who are coming to our organization for the first time from around the country and she regularly drops the F-bomb within the first hour of the event. Sometimes when she’s in my office talking to me, I feel like I should close the door to my office so the other people in my senior-level suite don’t wonder what’s going on with the profanity. When I first met her, I thought she was terribly unprofessional, but as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve found that she’s very good at what she does, incredibly intelligent, and actually someone I really enjoy working with — just young and maybe a bit inexperienced in professional settings (I think this is her first job outside of a research setting after her PhD).

I’ve thought in the past maybe I should say something to her about the profanity. To be clear, I’m not offended in the least — I curse all the time myself, just not at work! I thought as someone with a little more experience, and as a fellow woman in a male dominated field, I could maybe give her some polite advice. I eventually decided it’s not my place — I’m not her supervisor, she doesn’t even work in the same division of our institution, and I didn’t want to offend her.

But now, we’ve been asked to give a presentation together in a couple weeks to a very high-level group within our organization. They are NOT the kind of people you curse in front of. I’m not sure if my colleague really understands the status of this group because she didn’t even know what it was until I explained it to her (this is a very large organization and they’re in a totally different part of it from us, but a super important one). I would be mortified if we were co-presenting and she cursed even once, so I’m wondering if I should say something. On the one hand, I don’t want to offend her by assuming she doesn’t know not to curse in front of an important group. But on the other hand, it’s not like I haven’t heard her curse before in front of people at events (granted, much more casual events with less high-level people, but still). Any advice on how I could politely bring this up without offending her?

Just be matter-of-fact about it; if you try to approach it delicately, it’s more likely to come across weirdly.

So: “Hey, I know you’re sometimes a fan of salty language — and so am I, outside of work — so just a heads-up that that would not go over well with this group. We need to keep it super G-rated.”

Say it in the same tone you’d use to say, “This group hates any Powerpoint longer than three slides” or “they will always want to break for lunch promptly at noon.” You’re not judging anything; you’re just letting her know useful context.

3. A new hire who ghosted us a few years ago just applied for another job here

I work in a very small company (7-8 people) that belongs in a niche industry. That means that among all, we do not have a dedicated HR department. We do not hire people often since we have almost zero turn over, but when we do, it is up to me to post job listings and perform the interviews.

Few years back I was pregnant so we started searching for someone to fill in some of my duties while I would be on maternity leave, but to have him/her stay after my return as well. Interviews were scheduled until we finally selected the person who would fit very well in the role. Her first day would be on Monday. She never showed up. She didn’t even have the decency to talk to me, she just left a message at the reception that she would not be working with us, no other explanation. Understandably that put me in a lot of stress, but we started the process again and came up with a great colleague who stills works with us.

Now another member of the team is pregnant and we started looking for someone to expand our team. The person who stood us up few years back just send her CV. I am furious. Should I respond or just let it go ?

The mature answer is to either ignore her or send her a frosty rejection, but there’s also nothing wrong with responding back with, “We actually hired you for an X role three years ago but you didn’t show up on your scheduled first day. We’d of course want to understand what happened there before we could consider another application from you.” (You will not consider her application regardless, but it would be Very Interesting if you get a response.)

4. Should I advocate for just one penny?

I work as a project assistant at a non-profit. It’s a really great job with really great people, and I’m super happy! However, I recently discovered that the hourly rate on my offer letter and the rate displayed on our company’s payments portal are different – by one cent (for context, I’m hourly and non-exempt). I calculated the difference that would make me over all, and though it’s definitely not much, it’s still more. Should I dispute this, and how? I feel kind of silly advocating for that single cent, but all money helps, and I also don’t want to just let it go on principle.

Sure. It’s money, and it’s owed to you, and a decent company will want to have their systems correct. You don’t want to approach it guns blazing, of course — just like, “I noticed a small discrepancy between the pay rate in my offer letter and the one in the payments portal. It’s a minor one, but I wanted to make sure the correct figure is in there.”

5. I was turned down for a promotion based just on my interview

Yesterday I received news that I did not receive a promotion to a supervisory position. The reason they did not promote me I feel is not valid. I wanted your second opinion on it, and advice.

The reason why management turned me down was only because of my performance on the interview. They said that I seemed unsure of myself. My argument is that the work environment itself and the interview are two totally different atmospheres and thus people can behave in a different fashion. Management is very well aware of my contributions and work for the operation, and I have been working there for over four years. I believe that my performance on the job is a better reflection on how I would fit into a supervisory role. This is also not the first time I tried for this promotion, and each time I do get rejected I get a different reason. This is the first one that had nothing to do with how I perform my duties.

In general, working with someone for four years is going to tell you way more about them than an interview ever could. That said, it’s still possible that your interview could be a legitimate reason for rejecting you, depending on the context. In this case, you were applying for a management position, and seeming unsure or hesitant about how you’d handle various management challenges would absolutely give a good interviewer pause. (To be clear, if you’ve never managed before, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t be 100{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} confident — and in fact, if you were, I’d take that as a danger sign too — but there’s a certain level of uncertainty that would be worrisome.)

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter if you think their reason for rejecting you was valid or not; they get to decide, and it’s not like you can overturn their decision if you disagree with it. But what you can do is to ask about what you need to work on in order to be promoted in the future. If they can’t lay out a pretty clear path to that, that’s a signal to you that you probably need to look outside the company in order to move up. (Frankly, it’s worth trying that regardless, so that you know what your options are.)

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