I’m earning less than someone who lied on their resume, difficult client will only deal with one of my employees, and more

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

1. I’m earning less than someone who lied on their resume

I am perturbed by the fact I have worked my butt off for the last 15 years to get to what my salary is, and someone I know lies on their resume (who just started working about 5 years ago) is making more than I. Does HR not check backgrounds anymore? Should I push harder? I can’t lie, it’s more of an accomplishment deal for me. How should I move forward? Is this what people do these days?

No, this isn’t what people do. This is what one unethical person did. You presumably value your own integrity and not having to live in fear of a lie coming out and torpedoing a job you’ve already been hired for (which is very much a thing that happens) more than that person does. You move forward by recognizing that there have always been people who lie and always will be, and that that’s something you choose not to do because those aren’t your values.

But also — even without lying, sometimes people with less work experience than you might be earning more. Sometimes it’s because they’ve schmoozed their way into a higher salary than their work deserves, but sometimes it’s because they’ve genuinely earned it. The thing is to make sure that you feel you’re being paid fairly and competitively for the work you’re doing. Ignore everyone else (barring situations like systemic discrimination, of course).

2. A difficult client will only deal with one of my employees

I manage a small team of customer service/account managers. I’m after some help navigating a tricky situation. I have a long-term client who is quite particular and has dealt with one of my employees for a few years now. Recently, I’ve brought a new employee on board and we decided to transition this account over to her. The client sent me a polite, but very stern email after about one week requesting to be put back in the original employee’s hands immediately. Now, nothing really happened to prompt this, the new employee hasn’t done anything wrong, and our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee.

I personally think it’s quite rude to demand someone be returned to your account, but I can’t see how I could refuse her either, which may be taken badly by my new employee!

I once asked to be moved to a different account rep when the one I’d been assigned was repeatedly misunderstanding requests and giving me information that was clearly wrong — and if I’d been told I had to stay with him, I would have taken my business somewhere else.

I don’t know what prompted your client’s request, but it’s not necessarily an unreasonable one. Before you conclude anything, you’ve got to find out what the concern is — either by talking to the client or reviewing the correspondence between the two of them or through whatever other means you have at your disposal. And then you’ve got to decide if the client’s business is valuable enough that you’re willing to move the account back to the previous person. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t — but if it’s a valuable account, sometimes you do things like that to keep an important client happy. (It’s also worth finding out what the previous rep’s secrets of success are with this account — maybe she’s just highly competent, but maybe she has certain approaches she uses that others could use too.)

Make the decision based on what makes sense for your business. And if you do move the client back to the old rep, be straightforward with the new hire about why. If this client is just picky and difficult and it’s not her fault, be honest about that. But if you find out that she wasn’t handling the account as well as the previous rep, explain that too — she’s new, so some of that is normal, and it makes sense not to saddle her with someone especially challenging while she’s still learning the job.

3. Handling things that aren’t my job when there are serious consequences if I don’t

I do some work as a court-appointed attorney for parents (and occasionally children) in child protection cases. The social services department in my county is, quite frankly, horrible. I frequently have to step in and take care of things that are (literally, legally!) their jobs. I’ve been doing this for about five years. It feels like their whole department has come the proverbial missing stair. Quite frankly, it’s burning me out.

I’ve tried pushing back and not doing it, but there are serious consequences when I don’t. For example, I’m not supposed to be in charge of finding placements for kids, but I historically have done so since nobody else will. However, the one time I pushed back and just didn’t help, a kid wound up sitting in juvie because “he was just too hard to place.” Needless to say, I wound up giving in and finding placement options. I’ve tried talking to the social services supervisor and the county attorney, and they just say that the social workers are “trying their best,” which seems uncredible since I’m able to find placements, services and resources without any of their tools. Do you have any ideas of what I could say or do to try and push back on this becoming my responsibility? I’m good at being assertive, I’m just not even sure what to say or try at this point.

Children’s service workers are notoriously overworked and under-resourced, so it’s possible that they’re genuinely stretched too thin to give individual cases the time and attention you can. In fact, having to triage resources in child protection cases is so common that I’d assume it’s happening here unless you have real evidence that it’s not — there literally may not be money to pay for the additional staffing they’d need to do a better job.

Readers who work in this field, do you have advice on concrete actions this letter-writer could take?

4. I don’t want to reconnect with a former coworker from a toxic job

I spent the past five years working in a toxic environment where I was completely miserable. I recently got a new job in the same field in a different state, and I am so much happier! Moving out of state was difficult but so worth it for my mental health.

However, I recently learned that a former colleague, Jane, will be moving to my city to start a job in my same field but with a different employer. It is a small and somewhat niche field, so our paths may cross even though we will not directly be working together. Jane and I were friendly at our old job, but I was privately not her biggest fan. She was very close with a high-up manager there (to the point where people thought they were having an affair), and he prioritized spending time with her over supervising his direct reports, including me, which caused my work to suffer. Thinking about having to see her just reminds me of the toxic and miserable workplace I was so anxious to get away from.

I am worried that when Jane moves here, she will reach out to get drinks or dinner. I moved jobs and cities to get a fresh start and really do not want any reminders of the job that made me so unhappy. Is there a polite way to blow Jane off without making it awkward if our paths cross professionally?

Yep — plead an overbooked schedule. As in, “My schedule is ridiculous and it’s hard to get anything new on my calendar right now. But if there’s anything you’re wondering about the new city, feel free to reach out and I can try to be helpful.” (If you don’t want to offer that last piece, you can change that sentence to, “But I hope you’re getting settled in and enjoying the new city! I really like Coffeeshop X and Restaurant Y.” The recommendations are optional, but including something of that sort helps soften the message so it’s a bit more than “I hope you shall never darken my path again.”)

5. Explaining why I’m staying remote without disclosing health information

The return to work after Covid has brought up a conundrum for me. I am vaccinated, but immunosuppressed with other major underlying conditions. I’m fortunate to have a job that I can do completely remotely and my boss has allowed me to do so indefinitely. My issue is that the rest of my office has started resuming in-person activities. Celebrations, lunches, etc. My company is not tracking vaccination numbers or asking for masking of unvaccinated employees, so I have opted out of any in-person events. However, my absence is being noticed by other employees. I am not forthcoming about my health problems and for various reasons have no desire to share this information beyond my immediate supervisor.

It is widely known that I have no children and if I claim to live with a family member who is immunocompromised it will just lead to questions about my spouse. The comments so far have been well-meaning and benign so far — “Hope to see you at [upcoming event],” “I look forward to getting together at [office celebration],” “Let’s meet up for lunch this week when I’m in the office.” I’ve been able to change the subject or use the phrase “I wish I could, but I’m still being careful.” But as time goes on I’m concerned this will become a perception problem that I’m not a team player. I am now the only employee opting out of in-person attendance at these events. It’s feeling more and more awkward and I’m getting the impression I’m being seen as antisocial and not wanting to join in on group activities, especially since I’m fairly high up in the company. There is one large event later this summer that I would normally be leading. Instead, I won’t even be attending.

I feel like my health information should be private, but I also think showing up as the only masked person and opting out of eating won’t be received well either. I am younger and appear healthy so medical concerns are not what people jump to. This feels like a rock and a hard place. How do you recommend I navigate this?

I get that you don’t want to disclose that this is health-related … but it’s by far the easiest way to handle it. You wouldn’t need to share any specifics; you’d just matter-of-factly say, “I have a health situation that means I need to stay remote for now.” You don’t need to provide details beyond that.

If you really don’t want to say that, you could stay very vague — “I’m staying permanently remote for now” — but you’re right that it risks becoming a perception problem. That’s especially true because you’re higher up; there’s a risk of it being seen as unfair, or as hypocritical if you’re involved in high-level decision-making in an office that’s bringing everyone else back. You don’t have to disclose that this is health-related, but you’ll likely get a much better outcome if people have a general sense of why you’re suddenly not there.