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

1. Giving extra time off to people who get married

My friend got married this weekend, and she mentioned to me that her office gives her an extra week of PTO to use in the year which she got married. (The idea behind it being that she’ll use it on her honeymoon, although I doubt that that’s enforced.)

I was thinking today about the fairness of this policy. I’m not married and have no prospects (lol). If I worked at her office, I would get a week less of PTO — just because I’m single.

Ultimately, this doesn’t affect me because I don’t work at her office, but, what do you think?

Yeah, it’s lovely that they wants to support their employees, but a policy of giving people a full extra week of paid vacation upon marriage is destined to cause resentment among people who aren’t married, or who were married before they were hired and would really like an extra week off to spend with their ill parent, or so forth. It’s prioritizing marriage above all other life events in a way that isn’t fair or equitable (although it reflects our culture’s tendency to do the same).

An alternative would be to offer an extra week of PTO for anyone with a major life event, which they could define loosely (and they could cap it at one-time usage, or only every X years, or only after X years of employment) — or even remove the “major event” requirement and just let people have it after three years of employment or so forth.

2. How do I politely end conversations at networking events?

Your recent post about conversation starters at industry events got me thinking: once you’ve got talking to someone at a networking event, and both people have got what they needed out of the conversation, how do you politely move on?

I’m on the board of the association for a charity that pays for me to attend various networking events. I want to get the most out of the event both for myself and my charity, meeting people who may want to collaborate, engaging industry leaders, and chatting to a good cross-section of the community so that they feel heard. But sometimes I get stuck — it’s not that I don’t want to talk to the person, I just need to circulate!

I know a few people who are networking ninjas. They are so good at extracting themselves from conversations without fuss that I don’t even notice them moving around. While I’m happy to say “I must circulate” to people I know well, it seems rude to just cut off the flow of conversation with someone you’ve only just met (especially if this is their rare chance to give input into our charity). In that situation, I usually say something awkward like, “I must pop to the toilet” which … isn’t that elegant…

I don’t want anyone to think I don’t value their conversation. Do you have any scripts I could use to move on without causing offense (or having to use the bathroom as a hideaway)?

I’m a big fan of “Well, it was so great meeting you!” which signals the conversation is coming to a close. You can dress it up by adding things like “I’m going to pass on your advice on X to our board,” “I hope we see each other at next month’s event,” and so forth. But the basic idea is to start saying those wrapping-up phrases.

Another way to do it is to offer your card and ask if they have one, and use that as your closing ceremony. Do the card exchange and then go straight to, “Wonderful! Hopefully we’ll stay in touch. It was great meeting you.”

If it still feels too abrupt to leave after those phrases, it’s perfectly fine to add, “I’m going to grab a fresh drink” or “I’m going to go check out that buffet!” or any other phrase that politely announces your intentions.

3. My coworker jumps on me about emails the minute I walk in the door

My shift starts two hours later than a colleague’s shift. It’s always been like this; I didn’t set this schedule. I work 30 hours a week, coming in later and leaving earlier than my colleague. Our jobs are mostly independent from one another, but occasionally, we’ll get an email thrown to both of us as a team.

Whenever this happens, if my colleague has read all her email before I’ve arrived, she’ll jump all over me just as I’m unlocking my cubicle to ask me what I think of the email and how we should respond, imagining I’ve spent all morning at home reading work email to “cue myself up” for the day before I’m on the clock. I can understand someone grabbing me on first sight if something’s truly urgent, but this woman hops on my case about things that aren’t even all that important.

What can I do without coming across like a snitty snoot myself to let her know that it’s not cool to jump all over me when I arrive with her ceaseless demands? It’s like she’s had two hours at work to “warm up” and reach cruising altitude while I’m just aiming myself at the runway for takeoff. She likes to throw around her seniority, too, along with another senior coworker, which is starting to rankle. I don’t want to be the ungrateful junior person, but geez, let a lady land her purse first before expecting her to take off to the work demands at full speed. Any tips?

Right now you’re assuming she should figure this out on her own (and she should) and getting annoyed that she hasn’t, but you haven’t addressed it directly yet, and that’s the next step here.

The next few times it happens, say this: “I just walked in and haven’t looked at my email yet. Give me some time to get settled and then I’ll get back to you.”

If she doesn’t get the message from you saying that a few times, then move to this: “I’ve noticed you’ll often have questions about emails from the morning right when I’m walking in. My schedule starts at 11, and I’m generally not looking at emails before that. So give me some time to get settled in the morning and read over anything that’s come in since the day before. I need to do that before I can discuss any of it, but then I’m always happy to talk with you.”

And if it still happens after that, you can joke about it: “This is my 8 am! Give me a few minutes.” Etc.

4. How can I get over being laid off?

I’m so sad. I’m being laid off from a temporary posting because I have a job to go back to while another person is being kept because they do not have another job. I’m so heartbroken as they found new work for this other person and I’m sure that when I leave, they will give my work (a higher position) to this new person since they have to keep finding work for them. I guess I should be happy that they don’t want to lay them off, but I feel I’m getting the short end of the stick just because I negotiated keeping my home position prior to taking this temporary position.

How can I keep my chin up and leave with good terms when I know that they’d rather lay me off than the new hire? I feel so demoralized and that it simply came down to sympathy for the other person. I am a rockstar employee while the other person is solid but is significantly junior to me. What does this tell me of this department? Normally I’d love to work here but I feel so down that they chose the junior employee over me. The only reason I’ve been given is that I have a job and otherwise she’d be laid off so I can’t even say it was for budget reasons.

It sucks to be laid off. And sometimes when something crappy happens, it’s very easy to turn inward and focus on that crappy thing’s impact on us. But in this case, I think you need to step back and look at this more broadly.

This is a company that, when they realized they did need to do layoffs, seems to have taken responsibility for that and worked to minimize the damage as much as they could. That’s a good thing.

And this isn’t personal — they didn’t pick you because they liked the other person better. They picked you because you were in a temporary role and had a permanent job to return to; that’s a really big deal, and they acted with compassion in factoring that in. They were picking between (a) you returning to a jo`b that was already waiting for you and (b) your coworker having no employment and no income.

I’m not suggesting you should feel great about getting laid off, but as layoffs go, this one isn’t a terrible set-up. They tried to do the right thing, and they saw that you had a softer landing spot.

In your shoes, I’d try to focus on being glad for that softer landing spot (and also remembering that they might have picked you even if you didn’t have it — because they had to pick someone, and the more junior person was probably cheaper to keep — so it’s good that you had that safety net).

5. My VP insists on leaving papers in my chair instead of my inbox

I’m the admin for a team of four in a large company. It’s an okay job and I’m an okay admin. It’s a step back for me but I need the money. We have a new VP who insists on leaving paperwork for me on my seat. This is a major pet peeve of mine. I have an inbox on my desk for a reason. I’ve told the new VP this several times but he refuses to use the box. He says he doesn’t want his work to be missed. I put his papers in the box, on the bottom. However I’m tempted to start chucking them out. An I overreacting or is he being rude?

You are overreacting. Yes, ideally he’d comply with your request — but ultimately, as someone higher in the hierarchy than you, he can decide how he wants to do this. And who knows, maybe he works with other people who prefer urgent stuff go on their chair so they see it right away — and it’s not reasonable to expect him to track the inbox vs. chair preferences of everyone he works with. Or maybe it’s not that at all; maybe this is just his preference. It’s just not a big deal either way.

And it’s definitely not a big enough deal for you to expend energy or capital on. Pick up the papers, put them in your inbox, done. (And frankly, rather than sticking them in the bottom of the box, you should look at them to see how they need to be prioritized. You’ve got to prioritize doing your job well over getting petty payback to him.)

I think you’re choosing to see this as some kind of power play. It’s not; it’s just a thing some people do. Let it go.

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