I need time off work because of my husband’s alcoholism, boss doesn’t pay freelancers on time, and more

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

1. I need time off work because of my husband’s alcoholism

My husband is a severe alcoholic, something he has been “dealing with” for 4+ years. He used to be the best spouse and then something happened when he lost a job he had been in for over a decade that changed him. He is highly employable and found a job in the same capacity fairly quickly, but his addiction and behavior have worsened. I’ve tried getting him help and he doesn’t accept it. I’m at my wits end.

Since the pandemic, I’ve been working from home and because he has a different work schedule, I have experienced his before-work behavior, which involves him getting “a little” intoxicated. Yesterday he hit an all-time low, where he called off from work to drink and basically ruin my work day. Right before a presentation to my team, I found out he had consumed all of the bottles of alcohol and then resorted to drinking rubbing alcohol, which infuriated me and ruined the delivery of my presentation. I wanted to cry the entire time.

I am trying to get him help, which will require me to take a couple days off work, so my question to you is if I should let my boss know what is going on at home. I tend to keep my personal life separate, but my personal life is interfering with my career right now and I am afraid of the possible consequences of this.

I’m so sorry. You don’t need to give your boss the details; it’s enough just to say you have a personal emergency you need to deal with, or your husband is having a health emergency. If you’re asked what’s going on (some people will ask not to pry but out of concern about whether you’re okay), you still don’t need to give details — you can say, “I’m okay. I just need a few days to deal with it, and I’m hopeful that’ll get things on the right track.”

Good luck to both of you.

2. My boss doesn’t pay freelancers on time

I manage a team of freelance writers for an industry website. We’re a start-up and have a few full-time employees and a couple dozen freelancers. In the best of times, our finances are tight; with COVID, I know our ability to run payroll depends on sponsors paying on time (which doesn’t always happen).

My boss (the CEO/founder) has always tended to run payroll for freelancers later than what I would consider acceptable (90 days), and with COVID, we haven’t yet paid out for pieces that were invoiced for the beginning of the year. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with this, but I can’t run payroll myself and I don’t have eyes on every aspect of our finances. I’ve talked to my boss about this several times and for various reasons, freelancer payroll has been delayed as our own financial circumstances have changed. I’ve already started assigning fewer pieces than I would normally. I direct all questions from writers about payroll straight to my boss, since he has more insight into timing than I do (and he’s said it’s fine for me to connect him directly with writers), so they have a direct line of communication with my boss. What other agency do I have here, aside from continuing to talk to my boss and asking for updates? I feel so uncomfortable with this.

90 days in the best of times? That’s … not good. And now the company still hasn’t paid for pieces from the beginning of the year, so up to seven months?

Would you be willing to tell your boss you’re not comfortable continuing to assign new pieces when pieces from seven months ago haven’t been paid yet? Ideally you’d sit down with him and say something like, “We can’t keep assigning out new work when we haven’t paid for work from months ago. Can we put a hold on new assignments until we’re caught up and can meet our promises to writers about when they’ll receive payment?” And, if necessary, “I’m not comfortable assigning work knowing we probably won’t be able to pay for it in the timeframe people expect. If we can’t stop assigning new work until we’re caught up, I want to be up-front with freelancers about the payment timeline before they accept a new assignment.” (You can also just do that last part on your own if you want to.)

You could also point out to your boss that when word about this kind of thing gets around, your best writers will stop working for you, and it can take years to rebuild a good reputation with freelancers after that.

3. My toxic company wants my help four years after I left

I escaped from a very toxic work environment four years ago. Among my other duties, I was in charge of company social media profiles, as well as a few groups for industry professionals. Before I left, the company chose to delete some of the profiles, but two of the groups were left under my name. I tried to get them to transfer ownership of the groups several times, but no one ever did.

I left the groups alone for more than three years and just ignored the infrequent notifications I would receive when people asked to join. Throughout this time, the groups were completely inactive (no new posts by members), and no one ever reached out to me to take ownership back. It seems that all the digital assets I had built for them while I was there (several websites, training repositories, etc.) were left to rot, so I figured these groups were also abandoned.

A few months ago, I got fed up with the notifications and deleted the groups. Of course, today I received a message from a former coworker asking me to transfer the groups to him.

It’s been FOUR YEARS since I’ve been employed at that company, and I tried really hard to get them to take these things out from under my name. Because they are so toxic, I’m scared to respond to them — I cannot understate how abusive and awful my last months at that company were. I had PTSD symptoms for six months after leaving. I don’t know what to say, or if I should even respond to them at all. What should I do?

Ignore it. Delete their email and move on. It’s been four years! You tried many times to contact them about this and they ignored you. You are under no obligation to respond to them four years later. For all they know, that email address might not even be active for you anymore, or you check it once a year, or you’ve gone off the grid and make your home in the forest now.

This wouldn’t be my advice if it had only been, say, five months. You do need to give former employers a grace period to get it together after you leave and to realize what they might still need from you. You shouldn’t do something permanent like deleting groups within a few months of leaving, even if they appear to be defunct.

But four years?! Four years! Ignore the email, consider blocking emails from their domain, and don’t give it another thought.

4. Should I reply to candidates’s post-interview thank-you emails?

When a candidate I’ve interviewed sends a thank-you email, is that something that I need to (or should) respond to? I wouldn’t normally reply to a “thanks” email, like a reply from one of my employees for sending them something, because everyone already gets enough email. On the other hand, any time someone says “thank you” to me in person, I would respond with “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure.” I promise to follow your guidance on this issue whichever way you recommend.

It’s optional. You don’t need to, and many employers don’t.  The etiquette is still similar to the etiquette for other thank-you’s; if someone sends a thank-you note for a gift, you’re not expected to then send them a thank-you for their thanks. While post-interview thank-you notes aren’t really thank-you notes (or at least they shouldn’t be when done well), the protocol is still similar.

However, if you have the time to reply, it’s a kind and gracious gesture. And if it’s a candidate you’re wooing, I’d put more of a priority on responding since you want them to continue to feel connected and excited about the job. And if someone took the time to write a thoughtful, substantive note that truly built on the conversation you had in the interview, I’d acknowledge that too. It doesn’t need to be much — just something like, “It was great meeting you as well, and we’ll be in touch soon.”

5. Applying for a job when I have mutual connections with the hiring manager

I’m looking for some advice on how to navigate networking for a posted job when I have some connection to the hiring manager. In my current situation, I’ve spotted a position that I think I’m a good match for and it looks like a second degree connection from LinkedIn is on the hiring committee. We have 14 mutual connections and many of them have worked with both of us — the hiring manager used to work at my company so we know a lot of the same people. I’m wondering about the etiquette for leveraging this connection. After I apply, is it worth either reaching out to her to let her know I applied, or asking a mutual connection to put in a word, or is that too pushy and I should wait for an interview first?

Since you have mutual connections, the stronger move is to have one of them email the hiring manager and say something like, “I wanted to let you know my colleague Tangerina Stewpot has applied for your X position, and I think she could be great for the role because of XYZ.” (But just have one person do this! If comes from a bunch of people, it looks like an orchestrated campaign and can be annoying.)

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