candidate’s mom keeps emailing to follow up for her, pimple patches at work, and more — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

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

1. Candidate’s mom keeps emailing to follow up on her behalf

I’m in a position to hire older teens (usually just graduated high school) for a summer job. I have a question about how to handle an applicant’s mom. The child applied, but their mom keeps emailing to follow-up. At the beginning of my career, I worked in higher education (freshman orientation) for several years. In all of our parent programming, we were very clear that contacting your child’s professor wouldn’t help and no one can give you information anyway due to FERPA laws.

Everything in me wants me to respond to the mom and say that it’s not appropriate to email potential employers on behalf of your adult or soon-to-be adult child. To date, I have ignored the mom and only reached out to the applicant. Honestly, the thought of dealing with or making our manager deal with a helicopter parent as an employer makes me not want to hire this applicant. Is it my place to give this parent (or child) feedback?

At a minimum, you could email the mom back and say, “We do not discuss applicants’ candidacy with anyone other than the applicant themselves. We’ll respond to her directly.”

Should you say more? You’re not obligated to but you can if you want to, and you’d probably be doing both of them a favor if you spelled it out more explicitly. For example: “If I can give some advice that will help Jane, I recommend that you not contact employers on her behalf. We want to see that she can manage work-related communications independently, without a parent’s involvement, since she would be expected to do that if we hire her. You risk hurting her chances if you contact employers on her behalf.”

2. How do you evaluate “flourishing”?

I work as an administrator in an academic department in a public university. It’s basically the same old story of being overworked and underpaid. We are guaranteed a 3% raise at the end of the fiscal year and normally up to 5% with merit. Merit is based on the annual performance review, which is two parts: a self-evaluation and your supervisor’s evaluation. Even if you receive “Exceeds Expectation” on all parts of the evaluation, you don’t really see a raise beyond 3.9% (and that’s if you’re lucky).

This year, HR is shaking things up and wants us to answer five open-ended questions. Four of the questions I don’t really have a problem with, it’s the first one that I do: “How did you demonstrate [University’s] core values?” One of those core values is “flourishing.” The university website talks about “flourishing” as being able to make choices for a healthy and fulfilling life.

First, how do you prove or demonstrate that you’re flourishing? I’ve sardonically told others that I’ve taken fewer sick days due to burnout. I don’t think that is what HR or the dean’s office wants to hear.

Second, how do I evaluate if someone is flourishing? I am a supervisor, and I want to make sure that my supervisees get the best evaluation that they can get.

Can you just … ignore that value and focus on others that seem more relevant? Unless there’s something that specifically states you must address every value individually, it’s not uncommon for evaluations to pull out specific values that the manager (or evaluee) wants to talk about, rather than doing a full inventory of all of them.

But it could also be interesting to ask HR if they can give some examples of what employee alignment or misalignment with that value would look like in a work context. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have good examples.

3. My employer wants us to list our dietary restrictions publicly

I have a situation at my job where there is a mandatory all-hands meeting that lasts all day and we will be fed. Thankfully, my workplace is willing to accommodate dietary restrictions (I have Celiac and cannot eat anything with gluten), but the way they are collecting this information gives me pause. Instead of a private form that only goes to the person ordering the catering, we were all sent a shared Google spreadsheet where we are expected to put in our name and dietary restrictions in order to RSVP. I don’t like the idea of anyone and everyone RSVPing for the meeting being able to see my restriction, but I’m not sure if this counts as private medical information that shouldn’t be shared. Is there a way I can push back against this public form and still be able to get my gluten-free lunch?

There’s no legal issue here (except maybe in some very narrowly defined circumstances) but it’s still not information that needs to be public. Try sending the organizer (or their boss, if you don’t trust the organizer to be responsive) a message that says, “Could you arrange for us to submit dietary restrictions privately instead? I’d rather not broadcast my medical restrictions to the whole company, and I imagine there are others who feel the same.”

4. Pimple patches vs visible pimples

I am a middle career professional office worker, who occasionally gets large facial pimples. (Like, about once a month, one pimple on my chin or mouth. Hormones, I assume, though regular mask wearing probably doesn’t help.) I don’t usually wear makeup, and don’t really have the skills to cover up such a large spot without it looking really weird. (And I worry about further inflaming it by piling on makeup, plus getting makeup all over the inside of my mask.)

When I’m working from home, I usually use a hydrocolloid pimple patch, which is not visible on video calls. But what’s the best thing to do for in-person days? I feel like pimple patches have gotten more mainstream, but I’m not sure if it ends up calling more attention to it, since even if I use the “clear” ones, they’re still visible. What do you think?

If you’re wearing a mask, can you just let the mask cover it?

I tend to think pimple patches draw more attention to it in person, especially for people who are unfamiliar with them, which is still a lot of people. (You also wouldn’t want to use one at work at the stage where it’s drawing out gross stuff from the pimple and trapping it under a clear patch.) But it’s a perfectly valid option to just let the pimple run free! You’re a human who occasionally get blemishes. It’s fine.

5. Leaving a job to care for an aging parent

I took a new job late last year to be closer to my aging parent. At the time, my parent was showing signs of worsening health but was still functioning well. Unfortunately my parent’s condition has been deteriorating rapidly over the last few weeks. My job requires a rigid work schedule and offers minimal flexibility, though my boss has done their best to support me within this structure.

I’m wondering if I can try to advocate for a part-time schedule in the interim or if I should rip the bandaid off and quit, knowing this is where I am likely headed as my parent requires more care? My position was unfilled for over a year before I arrived and there is a shortage of people with my skills. I’m also open to other advice from readers who have navigated similar situations.

If you’re going to quit otherwise, you might as well ask if what you want is possible first! If it’s not, it’s not — but there’s nothing wrong with inquiring. I’d say that in other circumstances too, but it’s especially true when there’s a shortage of people who can fill your job.

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