my former employee lied to get a new job, paper turkeys, and more

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

1. My former employee lied to get a new job — should I do anything?

Recently I became aware that a former direct report of mine had landed a new job with a new employer. Kudos to him! But the job he got is well beyond his abilities and experience, by about 10 years. He jumped about three levels, to an equivalent level to mine. Curious, I checked out his LinkedIn and his professional site, and what I found is rather shocking. He has, in essence, made it sound like he was doing my job. He completely exaggerated his role and responsibilities and taken credit, not just for my work, but for all the work of his former coworkers.

I am no longer with the company where we worked together. He was fired from that job (like escorted from the building, fired) a few months after I left, for, among other things, malfeasance and insubordination. I was keeping him in check while I was his boss, but once I left, he went completely off the rails. His new boss was formerly an executive at the same company where we worked together, but he wouldn’t have been aware of this guy’s antics. I know his new boss, and so do many of his teammates.

Suffice it say, his former teammates are pretty disgusted with him, and some of them have talked about outing him to his new employer. It would be very easy for them to do so.

I’m no longer in that business sector, so this doesn’t impact me directly, and I’m pretty sure his unstable behavior is going to get him fired again. But I’m pretty insulted by what he did. Should I just let this play out? Should I drop him a note letting him know that I and his former teammates are on to him? Should I contact his boss?

It’s odd that his new boss knows you were this guy’s boss, used to work with you, and didn’t bother to contact you. Maybe since they’d worked at the same company, he assumed he already knew enough about him and didn’t realize how much he actually didn’t know.

Anyway, I’d leave this alone. It doesn’t affect you, and he sounds likely to implode at some point anyway. You might as well keep your hands clean. (I’d give a different answer if you’d said he was in a position to do real harm, such as working with vulnerable populations or, I don’t know, driving tanks.)

Definitely don’t send him a note saying you’re on to him! That could have unforeseen consequences, like him setting out to harm you professionally; there’s no point in taking that on just to mete out justice here.

2. We’re supposed to decorate paper turkeys with praise for our bosses

I know you have talked about not giving managers gifts/presents, but I’m looking for an opinion on this. Every Thanksgiving, our “party committee” does a thing where people decorate paper turkeys with words about how wonderful their managers are (supposedly anonymously but, yanno). It’s only in our department, not a company-wide thing.

Now, technically I am a manager and receive these turkeys (as well as the option to decorate my own for my managers, yay), but it makes me super uncomfortable. I don’t want my reports to feel like they need to tell me I’m a nice person or whatever this weird popularity contest is. On the other hand, it’s not a gift, it’s optional, and managers get a lot of shit, so I conceptually understand the appeal of some nice words. Thoughts?

Ick, yes. It sends a weird message to organize an activity where the whole point is for employees to praise the people who have power over them. And using paper turkeys to do it is a strangely juvenile touch. (I hope these are the ones where you trace your hand, per kindergarten turkey protocol.)\

If your party committee wanted to put out cards and pens so people could write thank-you notes to anyone who has made their life easier this year, that would be fine. It’s the managers-only element of this that makes it feel off.

3. My coworker just took off Christmas of next year, so now no one else can

I work on a small team that does a critical business function. Between the 6-7 of us, everyone performs this function for a specific region and is cross-trained to perform it in a few of the others. When it comes to PTO, this means my boss will only approve one person for any given day to make sure we still have enough coverage in case someone also gets sick.

Due to the first come, first served nature of our system, I frequently get the short end off the stick for holiday PTO. I am unable to make solid family plans more than about a month in advance due to my family’s workplaces’ PTO/scheduling rules. This didn’t bother me when people were taking off the holidays in the spring and summer, but now I have had a coworker block off Christmas a full 13 months in advance. The fact that the people taking the time off are staying local and have local family, while I can’t visit my family without it having to be an overnight trip only makes me more (unjustly) resentful. For this year, I was able to speak with to my boss early and have work from home approved (possible for the job but rarely approved).

I don’t have a problem with giving planners the priority in general, but certain point it stops being fair or reasonable. I want to talk to my boss about modifying the PTO rules for holidays starting in 2020, but don’t want to go in without a good alternative. I was hoping you or the readers would have some good suggestions.

I don’t think your resentment is unjust. First come, first served systems for PTO often end up being unfair for exactly this kind of reason. And if only one person can be out on any given day, it’s pretty crappy of your coworker to block off all of Christmas time 13 months in advance, when no one else is likely thinking about it yet. (I mean, yes, she’s just working with the system she’s been given. But it’s not great.)

There are some suggestions here and here that you could consider proposing, like having everyone submit their first, second, and third choices for time off throughout the year and making sure everyone gets at least one of their picks. But I think the bigger issue is the rule that only one person can be out a time. That might work the rest of the year, but unless it’s truly essential for the work, it’s not a good plan for Christmas time, when loads of people want time off to spend with their families. Right now, if one person goes away for a week during the most desired vacation period of the year, no one else can have any time off then. That’s a bad system. Can you and your coworkers propose handling this time period differently (especially if workload is lower then, as it is for many businesses)?

That said, if your family doesn’t make plans until a month before, that’s a big constraint to work with and there might not be any system that works well for you (since you can’t reasonably ask your coworkers to hold off on reserving time until then). But there’s clearly a conversation to be had here with your team and with your manager about making this better even if it can’t be perfect.

4. Start date and losing a bonus at my current job

I just received a job offer and they’re hoping for me to start just a few weeks before my current firm hands out end-of-year bonuses. I was hoping that their proposed start date would fall in the new year, so I could earn my bonus at my current job and give my notice a few days to a week later (not the best, I know, but I worked for that bonus!).

I’m wondering if this is something I could mention as part of my salary counteroffer? That way, I would be much more willing to accept the earlier start date.

Yes, although I’d start by asking if you can adjust the start date, which might be their preference. Try this: “Ideally I’d like to stay in my current role through December in order to receive my bonus, which I expect to be $X. Would it be possible to set X as the start date instead? Or alternately, would you be able to increase the offer by $X so there’s no financial loss for me by starting with you earlier?”

5. Listing freelance writing work on a resume

I went freelance when I moved to a smaller city. It’s not always the best, but it’s allowed me to have a much higher salary than people who work locally in my industry. I’m a writer, and on any given week, I typically work with 3-4 different publications, but not every publication every week. I counted recently, and I’ve written for about 10 publications, with the number growing. I also do a pretty wide range, from copywriting to more reported features. I’ve also picked up some part-time, hourly work here and there, which is a great way to pay the bills. It often requires going through a short hiring process, or, at the very least, submitting a resume.

Until recently I didn’t have this work on my resume, but the gap is getting pretty wide and it’s weird to leave off the last eight months of work. But I have no idea how to represent it! I have done some googling and a lot of freelance recommendations seem like they are for people in a more perma-lance situation and recommend putting each job as a separate entry — but my past eight months of work would already fill up a page! I feel like ideally “Freelance Writer” would be one entry on my resume but I’m not so sure.

Yep, definitely don’t make these each their own separate entries. You should have one job called Freelance Writer, and this all goes under that umbrella. Then, where you’d normally have bullet points describing your work and accomplishments at that job, include the details of who you’re writing for and what you’re doing for them.

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