inviting an ex-coworker to a holiday lunch, new meds make me burp, and more (2024)

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

1. Should I not have invited an ex-coworker to a holiday lunch?

This happened a couple years ago but has bothered me ever since. A well-loved employee of eight years left the company after a major change in leadership. A terrible change in leadership, which she was not happy with, so her leaving was somewhat fraught with emotion (we were shocked she left!). She resigned and finished her work while our city was still in lockdown, so her farewell was over Zoom. About a month later, we were set free and had our team’s Christmas lunch at a local pub. We were still friends, so I mentioned it while we were chatting about things. I suggested to her that she should pop in once the event was officially over (outside of work hours) so we could say a proper goodbye as her Zoom farewell was not so fabulous.

She did in fact pop in — well after the event had ended, when most of us were just hanging about, finishing drinks which we had self purchased. She was warmly received, with loads of hugs and well wishes, with nothing but people happy to see her. As we sat there, someone turned to me and drama whispered, “OMG do you know who invited her?!” and I responded that yes, in fact, I had. This employee said to me, “You’d better call in sick tomorrow. There’s going to be a major witch hunt to find out who would do this.” A couple more people also warned me that I’d “get in trouble.” Turns out, because this person had left in an unhappy way, management had kind of “disowned” her, and had apparently treated her as persona non grata in her final weeks. Apparently they were going to have a hissy fit that she was “allowed” to come to this event and my head was going to be on the chopping block.

I don’t get it. She showed up to a public place, after an event, to see some ex-work-mates. Did I do something wrong here?

For the record, I showed up to work the next day. Nobody said anything to me, but when I too resigned a few weeks later (because I found a great new role), management also treated me as though I had the plague for my final weeks. Apparently this was their thing? No matter who you were, if you resigned, you were immediately hated and they talked sh*t about you.

The idea of a “major witch hunt” because a former employee dropped in toward the end of an out-of-office social event is indeed ridiculous. But I will also point out that it didn’t happen — your coworkers warned you that it would, but it didn’t. To me, that says that your management had created a deeply dysfunctional environment where people anticipated blowback based on the amount of vitriol that had already been circulating, which is itself a problem; your coworkers just misjudged exactly how it would play out in this situation.

That said, there are situations where inviting a former employee who’s known to be persona non grata with your management would affect you politically. It’s not the same as your situation, but if you’d invited someone who had, I don’t know, stolen the firm’s client list or screamed “f*ck you” at everyone on the way out the door — or even this person — your management might rightly take issue with that, and it could affect how people saw your judgment and your trustworthiness.

Even in a situation like yours, when management was wrong to be upset with the ex-employee, inviting that person to a social event that’s been organized for employees could still have political implications for you. You might decide you don’t care on principle, but you’d still want to be aware that it was something that could blow back on you and make your decisions accordingly.

2. New meds make me burp constantly

I am on some new meds, and the two worst side effects are nausea and belching. They are mostly little, but I am burping constantly. I’ve told my team about it, lest they think I’m suddenly disgustingly rude, and they understand (we’re too close with too many boundaries crossed, so this was just a little thing to say).

But we’re merging companies and I’m going to be in charge of more people who I don’t know and don’t have the same relationship with. It’s not something I want to share with everyone just because we cross paths, and I am hoping that a new influx of people will help move my group to a more professional attitude, so I don’t want to necessarily share from that aspect, either. A boss shouldn’t generally say these things to their employees.

We’re in an open office plan, and not everyone will hear every burp, but everyone is going to have to deal with it sooner or later and to some extent. Of course I say “excuse me,” but it’d honestly be easier for me and a lot faster to just pretend it didn’t happen, or I’m saying “excuse me” all day long!

So, do I tell my new staff? Do I just pretend it’s not happening after the first “excuse me”? Do I just say “excuse me” 700 times a day? (And no, Pepto doesn’t help!)

I mean, I wouldn’t open with “I burp a lot” when you’re first introduced, but it’s fine to explain it at some point relatively soon after starting to work together. For example: “Excuse me, a medication I’m on causes belching. I find it’s less disruptive if I don’t say ‘excuse me’ every time, so please consider this a blanket ‘excuse me.’” There’s nothing inherently inappropriate about saying that to employees, and people are generally more patient and accommodating with stuff that’s been acknowledged and explained.

3. Why do recruiters ask for MY impression of an interview first?

I need help with a job hunting pet peeve.

I realize that recruiters are humans just trying to do their job in the way they’ve been taught to do it, I know that being rude or hostile to a recruiter would be a Very Bad Move, I always try to be externally warm and polite even when I’m internally screaming “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

That being said, when recruiters set me up with an interview, the first thing they do after is call me and ask how I think it went. Which is okay if it’s just an introductory call where we’re both evaluating each other, but they also do this for technical screenings where the hiring team is evaluating my skills. WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME HOW IT WENT? My opinion isn’t the one that matters here! I’m probably already really stressed about it, the last thing I want is to rehash it with a stranger. Why don’t they just ask the hiring team first? Then they could tell me how I did.

I realize that I’m having an outsized emotional reaction that has more to do with the stress of job hunting than recruiter behavior, but I could use some generic, noncommittal scripts to make these interactions easier.

Recruiters are, at the core, salespeople and they are trying to sell you to their client, the employer. They want to talk to you first so that they know if you think you bombed the interview, or if you’re not very interested in the job anymore, or if something weird happened that they’ll need to smooth over, or if you don’t want to move forward without clarity on issue X, and on and on. They feel more in control if they gather info like that from you first, so that they’re not flying blind when they talk to their client.

It might be more intuitive if you imagine, say, sending a junior team member to meet with a VIP. Afterwards, you’d probably prefer to check in with the junior team member before you talk to the VIP in case anything happened that you’ll need to manage on your end, and so you have some info before you go into your conversation with the higher-stakes person.

It’s also not true that your opinion doesn’t matter; you could decide you don’t want the job, and it’s in the recruiter’s interests to know that early on if so.

4. I can’t get anyone to acknowledge my resignation

Earlier this year I took a second job as a fitness instructor, and … I hate it. The location is one of many in a large chain, and ever since my onboarding I have felt quite alone and things have been very disorganized. I recently found out that I wasn’t even trained properly. So I decided to quit teaching this particular class. The problem is that my immediate supervisor also resigned about a month ago, and a replacement hasn’t been hired yet. I sent a resignation email to the site leader (my grandboss), and I have heard nothing back. It’s been almost a week.

I realize that it isn’t technically my problem, but being an instructor is customer-facing and continuing to be on the schedule and “no-showing” would look really bad, especially to the members who I’ve developed a rapport with. I also teach at another location in the chain that has a much better culture, and I don’t want to do anything to burn that bridge. I was planning to follow up at the beginning of the final week of my notice period, but is there something else that I should do here?

I wrote back and asked, “Any reason not to call them today?”

I’ve never even met him and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, so this didn’t occur to me. Duh. I suppose I could try that. And if I just get voicemail?

Yep, call him! If you get voicemail, leave a message explaining the situation — something like, “I want to make sure you received the resignation I emailed you on (date). I hadn’t heard anything back and wanted to confirm you’ve seen it. I’ll need to be taken off the schedule after (date). Please let me know you’ve received this so I don’t keep trying to reach you!”

Whenever your need to reach someone is time-sensitive and you haven’t heard back via email, try calling. Even if you’ve never met the person or spoken to them before. When one method isn’t working and time matters, always try another. (Within reason, obviously — don’t resort to showing up at their house. But a phone call should always be fairly high on the list of things to try.)

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inviting an ex-coworker to a holiday lunch, new meds make me burp, and more (2024)


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