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I don’t want to hear about all the snacks our main office gets, interviewing after scandal, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. I don’t want to hear about all the snacks our main office gets

I work for a medium-sized law firm. In addition to our main office, we have three small satellite offices; I’ve been assigned to a satellite office (about a 10-minute drive from the main office) since March.

Ever since I came to this location, the main office still sends out the firm-wide emails about all the firm lunches, birthday cake, treats dropped off by other firms we work with, etc., but I’m not included.

I replied-all to one of the emails about the partners ordering coffee and bagels for “everyone” because one of the sinks in one break room had a leak so that half of the office couldn’t make its own coffee. (The other break room in that office still had coffee just fine.) All I said in response to the email that “coffee and bagels are here, enjoy!” was, “Ours hasn’t arrived yet.” The biz manager set up a Teams with me so fast and said to please never reply-all to firm emails.

This month contains my (and several others’) birthday. Every month they order a cake for the people with birthdays in that month. On Friday it was cake day at the main office. I got a call from our accounting department telling me I was allowed to run to Kroger up the street to buy A FIVE DOLLAR CAKE and “expense it” (so I wouldn’t even be reimbursed for two weeks because we’re paid bimonthly).

A few other staff come here too, and it’s not fair to them to miss out either. Nobody really wanted to come here! Any advice?

Whoever is doing this in your main office is in the wrong, but you’re making too big a deal out of it.

To be clear, they shouldn’t be handling it this way; they need to set up an email list that’s just for that local office and then make it clear that announcements about food, etc. should be sent there, not to everyone. It’s silly that they’re not. And you could and probably should suggest that!

But you’re not going to do yourself any favors by getting really aggravated if they don’t do it. This is a thing that sometimes happens when staff are spread out among different locations. It shouldn’t … but it sometimes does, and it doesn’t warrant getting this bothered by it.

However, why not suggest a small budget for treats for the satellite offices, pointing out that it’s a perk that shouldn’t be confined to only one location of the four?

2. When do I disclose an accidentally scandalous, very public past mistake?

About 12 years ago, when I was just starting my career, I had a brief dalliance with a well-known celebrity. In my infinite 20-something wisdom, I wrote an indiscreet email to my friends about it … and that email leaked and was written about by a news org and went viral. It was quite the scandal at the time! Luckily, the tempest quickly passed, but if you google my name, multiple stories about it come up at the top of my search results.

Crucially, it hasn’t entirely affected my career. I had written the email from a personal address and off company time, so most people have chalked it up to youthful indiscretion. I’ve gone on to work at companies with great reputations and have consistently moved upward in my field. However, the industry I work in is small, and every job I’ve held has come from a referral in my network or a hiring manager who already knew me and liked my work, and had no issue with the situation. At most, the manager or HR has asked me to explain the situation, and in every case shrugged it off once I did. My references are also effusive about my work and, if asked, have vouched for my learning and growing from this incident.

I’m currently in final rounds for a great role at a large company, one that the recruiter herself has told me many times that I’m a perfect fit for. But this opportunity didn’t come from my network; I applied directly and was called in. I’ve met with the recruiter, the hiring manager, and the head of the department so far and no one has asked me about this yet. I’m not sure if they’re aware and unconcerned, or just haven’t gotten to that step yet. It’s not a buttoned up industry or role, but it is a role where discretion is often key.

Is this something I should proactively address with the recruiter? I don’t want to raise red flags where there may not be any, but I also don’t want them to potentially make any decisions based on a Google search.

My biggest worry would be if they hire you, you start the job, and then they find out at some point later and it’s a big concern for them. If you don’t raise it, you’re sort of gambling on that not happening — which I don’t think is an unreasonable gamble to make, since it’s been 12 years and you’ve successfully built a career in that time. But given that risk, the question for you is whether you’d get more peace of mind by raising it (probably with the recruiter, framed as “I want to make sure this won’t be an issue for them down the road — it’s never been so far, but I don’t want it to be a surprise later after I’m already working there”). I don’t think you need to do that, but if it is going to be an issue, I’d rather you find that out before you take the job than after.

3. Should I report an obnoxiously pushy recruiter to the person who interviewed me?

I was contacted by a recruiter about a job. While I am open to better opportunities, I am satisfied in my current position so a job would have to be pretty awesome for me to want to move, and on first blush the offer this recruiter was presenting looked like a decent move. It involved a slight title change that I consider an upgrade, and the hourly wage was a slight improvement. I agreed to an interview, and eventually learned that the position was temporary with the possibility of permanent hire. My employer would be the temp agency, not the company I originally thought I was talking to. The temp agency “normally doesn’t offer” benefits to temp employees other than state-mandated sick days, so I would be losing my health insurance with no replacement, and the slight wage increase did not make up for that difference or for the costs I would incur going from 80% remote to 100% in-person.

I mentioned this during the interview, so the interviewer was able to negotiate with his boss an alternative pay option, where instead of hourly I would be salary with health insurance, PTO, and sick days, but the salary would be lower than the hourly worked out to. If I had no job, either offer would have been attractive, but it is a downgrade from my current compensation. I emailed the recruiter and interviewer, politely declining both offers and letting them know I was grateful for the opportunity, but it would not work with my budget.

The interviewer emailed back a pleasant “thank you for letting us know, we’ll keep you in mind for any higher-paying positions” type of response. The recruiter emailed with what seemed to be mild indignance: “It is a good opportunity and we both agreed on the hourly rate provided by the client, so can we discuss the reason you’re not comfortable doing the job so that I can try to help you out with the problem.” While I did agree the hourly wage sounded good in the initial conversation, I did not have the whole picture then. Then, before I had even finished reading the two email, the recruiter called (I declined the call) three times within 45 seconds. I assure you this is not hyperbole or exaggeration.

Should I mention the seemingly childish response to the person who interviewed me, so that he can determine whether they want to use this recruiter again? I do not know if the recruiter is an employee of their agency or is a third party. Quite honestly, the recruiter did not seem to be professional or very old.

Nah, let it go. The recruiter was annoying and pushy but it doesn’t rise to the level of something so egregious that it warrants reporting to his client.

4. How to word an out-of-office message when you’re travelling for a funeral

I have to leave town this week to attend a close family member’s funeral. I am broken up about the death and cannot speak about my loved one without being visibly emotional.

I will not be in a position to actively monitor my email and respond to inquiries while I’m out, so I need to put an out-of-office message up. However, I really, really want to find a way to word it so that (1) people do not assume that I’m away on vacation or doing something fun and (2) no one with a reasonable amount of emotional intelligence is inclined to ask me follow-up questions about how it went after I get back. I think it’s relevant to note that every time I’ve failed to note the reason for my absence in my out of office message, I come back to people cheerfully asking me how my vacation was or asking me about my travels. I don’t want to deal with that. It’s not okay, I’m not fine, there’s nothing any client can do to help, and I don’t want to talk about it with any clients beyond a cursory “sorry for your loss” / “thanks, I appreciate that” exchange. Is there a script for this?

Say you are “away until (date) for a family funeral.” That’s not oversharing but it communicates that you’re not on a fun vacation that people should ask about when you return.

You still might get people who forget and mistakenly think you were off doing something fun, because not everyone retains what they saw in an out-of-office message (if they even read beyond the “out of office” part), but it will take care of most of it.

I’m sorry about your family member.

5. What do I put on my resume when businesses I worked at have closed?

I work in the medical field in an industry where small private practices are the norm. I got my first job far from home in a location I love and have been practicing in this area for five years now. My first job just wasn’t a great fit. I loved my second job, but they decided to close while the Covid quarantines were happening. My next job started out great but ended up letting me go when we experienced a rather sharp decline in business (they eventually closed as well). Now I’m in a job where things are working out great, but unfortunately a close family member at home has taken a sharp decline in health suddenly and I have decided I need to move back.

What information should I provide on my resume about my chunk of work experience at places of business that no longer exist (three jobs in a row, and three of my five years of work experience)? Address and phone number information would be inaccurate, as neither of these businesses are still in existence. Do I just not list any? Do I explain this on the resume?

You don’t need to include employers’ addresses and phone numbers on your resume at all, even if the businesses were still in existence! You might choose to list city and state for each employer, but you can still do that for the three now-closed businesses because that was their location when you worked there. You don’t need to include any particular explanation that they’re no longer around, although when you get to the reference-checking stage it might make sense to mention at that point.


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