You Didn't Get the Job? Maybe It's a Good Thing

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

Dear Workologist:

Someone at a big company that I worked for some years ago recently approached me via e-mail, asking if I would be interested in rejoining. I was. "Fantastic," this manager replied, and a few days later we spoke over the phone. He sounded pleased, asked me to submit my résumé online to get things rolling, and said human resources would be in touch.

I did not hear from H.R. A week later, I e-mailed the manager who had reached out -- and received no response. Another two weeks went by. I called him and left a voice mail message. Late that night, I received a standard rejection e-mail. The job listing had been removed from the company Web site.

I was shocked and hurt that I had not had the courtesy of a phone call or personal e-mail from this manager. I left him another voice mail, asking what had happened and that he consider me in the future. Again: No response.

What should I have done? Does it make sense to try to contact this manager for future work? I don't want to stalk him. Name Withheld

You certainly have every right to feel bewildered and insulted. But maybe you should also feel relieved.

It's easy to conjecture all kinds of explanations here, but keep in mind that some of the most plausible actually have nothing to do with you. Maybe this manager lost some kind of internal political struggle about the new position. Maybe he stepped on H.R.'s toes. Maybe he didn't know that an internal candidate had the gig locked up. Maybe the process always takes months, but no one bothered to tell you. Who knows?

But frankly, no matter what the explanation, it's lame that he ended a conversation he started with a full-on vanishing act. That's why your best course might be simply to be pleased you avoided working for this guy, and let the whole thing go. Plenty of companies have strict policies about avoiding communication that could open a can of litigation, but too many managers use that as an excuse to dummy up. You want to work for someone better than that.

Should you wish to resolve the mystery here -- which I would understand -- you could give that manager one last shot. But do so in a way that removes short-term job-seeking from the conversation. This may sound disingenuous (mostly because it is) but you could try a note that has two themes: Thanks for thinking of me, and would you consider an informal, off-the-record phone call about what went awry here? Indicate that your interest is purely for future reference, not about rehashing this incident. What you really want to do is find out whether H.R. somehow found you objectionable, and for what (possibly misguided) reason.

If the conversation is framed as carrying zero threat to this manager, maybe he'll be helpful. And perhaps the chat will go so swimmingly that you'll want to keep in touch about other opportunities. But based on your experience, I'm sorry to say that I think that's a long shot.

Dear Workologist:

I work as an administrator for a medical practice. I earn a decent salary, but not what I think I deserve -- and about $6,000 a year less than the other administrator. We are connected to an academic institution, and her salary is mostly covered by the college. But she asked the practice to add 10 percent to that figure, and she got it.

The thing is, she does nothing, basically. She has snowed the entire department and my chairman. She is lazy, not smart, makes personal calls all day long, and doesn't even have a college education. Yet she earns more than I do.

I just can't get past it. I am incredibly dedicated, work very hard, manage a staff, run the finances and billing for the department, work with the billing service. My question is, what do I do to make my boss realize he has been completely taken for a ride? How can I get more money? I deserve at least as much as this other administrator.

L.R.H.

Long ago, H. L. Mencken defined wealth as "any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband." Decades later, people with advanced academic degrees came to a not-dissimilar conclusion about the intersection of human psychology, money, and "positional concerns," by way of a study finding that a surprising number of people would choose to earn $50,000 in a situation in which their peers made $25,000, rather than a $100,000 in a context where $200,000 was typical.

The rationality there can be debated, but I bring it up because any argument you make to your boss needs to set up properly. Right now you are essentially saying: "My fellow administrator is incompetent -- so you should give me a raise!" That is not persuasive.

If you believe you should make more money, you need to construct a case that's tied to you, your abilities, your accomplishments and your worth. Energies devoted to tearing down your colleague are high-risk (you might come across as spiteful, or nuts) with no clear rewards (a co-worker's faults say nothing about your merits).

In other words, don't become so caught up in your "positional" concerns that you veer off into a mission that's less about what you deserve, and more about some abstract pecking order. Ask yourself: Would you rather get a $6,000 raise (tied with your colleague, but making more money than you are currently) or stand pat and see your colleague's salary reduced by $7,000 (you'd be Menckenesquely ahead, but not bring home a single extra dime). The answer should guide your actions.

If your real objective is to snag a higher salary, perhaps the lesson to take from your co-worker is that she, somehow, persuaded your bosses to give her more money. Maybe you should ask her for advice.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here