should I warn a store their new hire will steal from them, manager mocks me for my chair choice, and more

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

1. Should I warn a store that my relative who they’re about to hire steals from them?

This may be a bit of a weird question, but I know someone who is about to be hired at a corner store that we both frequent. The issue is, this person steals from that store every time they go. It’s to the point where I refuse to take them (they are a member of my family). They have had multiple jobs in stores and it’s always the same: start working, steal as much as they can (cigarettes, candy, drinks, whatever), get their first check, and either quit or get fired.

Should I warn the manager/owner about this person? I know the cashiers because I went to school with them and thought about sending them a message, but I’m worried about them telling my family member that I did it.

If you know someone is about to get victimized by a criminal, I think you should warn them if you can do that safely, even if that criminal is a family member, and even if your family member will be upset with you if they find out. Alternately, you could tell the family member directly that you know people who work there and that you’ll feel ethically obligated to tell them about the theft if they pursue work there.

2. My manager disparages me for using a chair I need for medical reasons

My office, which has about 25 people, has biweekly staff meetings which take place in a central, convertible space. As such, the majority of the seating options are folding chairs, usually arranged in rows for the staff meeting. I have a medical condition that can be triggered by sitting in certain kinds of seating for long periods of time, so I will usually retrieve one of the full-backed chairs from a conference table at the back of the room to use instead. I’m an otherwise young, healthy, and physically active woman, and my health issues aren’t visibly noticeable. There are a few other people who also pull up the more comfortable chairs, usually about five or six of us in total.

My supervisor, however, has started making disparaging comments about this, saying things like “it won’t kill you to sit in a folding chair for an hour!” when I pulled up my chair and “I left the back row empty for those of you who are special” when it was her turn to set up for the meeting. These comments have left me feeling embarrassed since others overheard them and, frankly, a little angry. I’ve tried sitting in a folding chair for a staff meeting once, and it triggered a multi-day, painful flare of my condition, so I’m not doing this just because folding chairs are uncomfortable. No one else in the office, including our executive directors, have said anything negative about the few of us pulling up more comfortable chairs.

The strange thing is that my supervisor is usually very vocal about supporting individuals with disabilities — including spearheading related projects and sending articles on improving accessibility to our office email list — so I’m really not sure how to address this with her. And it isn’t like she isn’t aware of my condition — I informed her when I was diagnosed because I wanted to be clear about any accommodations I might need moving forward. Do you have any suggestions on how to bring this up without offending her or impacting our work relationship? She can sometimes be very defensive when criticized, and has a forceful personality, to say the least.

The part about her normally being vocal about supporting people with disabilities might give you an easy opening here. You could say, “Jane, I know you’re normally vocal about accessibility and supporting people with disabilities, so I think you must not realize why I and some others use the full-backed chairs in meetings. I’m doing it because I have a medical condition that can be aggravated by the folding chairs. Once when I used one, it trigged a multi-day, painful flare-up. I know you normally want to be sensitive to this kind of thing, so can I ask you to stop the comments about it?”

Frankly, even if she hadn’t been vocal about disability support in the past, you could still use similar language. Sometimes telling people “I know you care about X” or “I know you want to be thoughtful about X” will work even when they’ve given you no evidence that they care about X, because then they feel like they should live up to that (or at least that they can’t say “no, I don’t care about X at all!”). Doesn’t work 100{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} of the time, but works a lot.

3. I’m fed up with an excessive interview process

I’m a marketing professional who’s been on a serious job hunt for several months now so I can be somewhere with better career advancement (and a higher salary!). A lot of the jobs I’ve applied for have required writing samples and/or content exercises. But recently I encountered a job application process that seems like overkill! It’s for a senior content writer at an e-commerce company. I sent a resume and cover letter and filled out an application online. A recruiter reached out for a phone screening. I was requested to resend my resume and cover letter, fill out another job application again (by hand so I had to scan and send it), fill out a personality assessment, send my college transcripts, and send three writing examples. I was then contacted for a second phone interview followed by an in-person interview. Prior to the in-person interview, I had to complete a 48-hour content exercise in which I wrote a 600-word article and created a PowerPoint. At the in-person interview, I had to complete three exams (math, logic, and grammar).

After a week, the company said they offered the position to another candidate, but would like to consider me for a similar role. They asked me to complete another project (and offered to pay me for it). Three weeks after completing it, they asked me for yet another write-up explaining my thought process for the project.

We’ve now hit the three-month mark for this whole process. I’d like to quit the process. They’re taking far too much of my time and energy! As a tech company, I was really surprised they asked me to resend items that I submitted on their website and that I had fill them out by and scan-send them — that doesn’t seem very progressive for a tech company. And I also feel they’ve asked for far too many materials. I’d rather spend my time focusing on other job opportunities and companies that are more respectful of my time. I’d like to know what you think, and what would be an appropriate way to inform them?

Yep, this is excessive. It’s good that they offered to pay you for the project you did, but this is too much to ask — and I say that as a huge proponent of exercises and simulations in the hiring process. (And a grammar exam, really? They can assess your grammar skills from the many writing samples you’ve already produced for them.)

Do you want to drop out of consideration entirely, or would you be willing to entertain a job offer from them as long as you don’t need to invest more time in their process? If the latter, then the next time they reach out to you with a request for more of your time, you can say, “I’ve invested a lot of time in your hiring process so far — several interviews, a personality assessment, producing written content and a PowerPoint, three exams, what I’d thought was a final project, and then a write-up about the project. At this point I can’t invest more time in the process, and I’m hoping that you have what you need to evaluate my candidacy.”

But if you want to drop out entirely, you can simply say, “At this point I’m not able to invest more time in what seems to be a very lengthy hiring process, and so I need to withdraw from consideration. Best of luck filling the role.”

4. My coworker treats me like her personal pharmacy

My coworker is regularly asking me for over-the-counter pills while we’re at work, whether it be Advil or allergy pills. These things cost money and I’m completely done supplying them with pain relievers. How do I politely tell them to go to the drug store next time they ask? They easily take offense to everything.

“Sorry, I don’t have enough to keep giving them away!”

If that won’t ring true because they see you occasionally given them to others: “Sorry, I can occasionally share in a pinch, but I don’t have enough to supply them regularly.”

If they take offense to everything, they may take offense to this too — but that would be unreasonable! And if they’re unreasonable and take offense to anything you say, then there’s no language that will change that, and you’re better off deciding not to care. Say it cheerfully as if of course they will understand this is reasonable, because it is, and then don’t worry about it further.

5. My company is evaluating salaries — can they cut our pay?

I work in a group of about 50 people at a medium sized company. Our group will be spinning out and become an independent company in the next few months.

We were told that when the spin out happens, everyone’s salary will be evaluated and subject to change “so that everyone is paid fairly.” When I was hired I worked hard to negotiate my salary (your column was helpful to me during that time, so thank you for that!) and I am being paid at the top of the pay scale for my position. Now I’m worried that they might reduce my pay.

Can they do that? Is this a normal thing that happens? It seems unfair that after two years someone can suddenly decide to reduce my salary. What should I say if I’m told my pay will be decreased?

Legally, yes, they can reduce your salary (as long as they don’t do it retroactively; they can only do it going forward after they tell you). That doesn’t obligate you to accept that salary, of course; you can attempt to negotiate, and you can leave if you can’t come to terms on it (which is obviously not an ideal outcome).

But what’s most common in this situation is that some people will have their salaries increased to create internal equity, or salary bands will be adjusted (so the maximum salary level for your role might come down, rather than your current salary). It’s unlikely but not impossible that they’d actually decrease people’s current salaries, but no employer does that without realizing that they will severely demoralize people and lose staff over it … so if they do it it anyway, they’ve likely calculated that they’re willing to deal with those consequences for some reason.

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