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

1. Is paratransit making me look like a slacker?

I take paratransit, which is (rightly) notorious for not being on schedule. I’m given a 20-minute window during which they will pick me up but they frequently come before or after it. Usually, this is just an annoyance that means I get home much later than expected, sometimes it’s a bit more inconvenient like when it came at 8:30 am for a pickup window that I thought started at 8:45 but the driver said actually started at 8:55 (which makes it even more baffling!) on a day I started work at 10 am. But today was the worst of all because they came so early to pick me up from work that I had to LEAVE WORK 10 MINUTES EARLY.

I feel so awful and embarrassed. Everyone at work was nice about it (because they’re nice people) but I feel like it was really wrong of me. I’m trying so hard to show that I’m a good worker even though I’m disabled and stuff like this makes me feel like I have more and more to overcome in order to show that. I’m new to this job and I want people to like me and my work and not worry that doing a task with me (assignments shift each hour) means they’re going to have to pick up a bunch of slack.

Is there anything I can do to reassure my coworkers (and myself, I guess) that I’m not a slacker? I apologized to my supervisors briefly in-person and later in email (it wasn’t an email just to apologize, just a brief mention in one about something else). I don’t want to be the person who makes everyone comfortable by apologizing too much, especially since I can’t guarantee that this sort of thing won’t happen again, and I’m not sure what else to do.

This is almost certainly fine! You’ve explained the situation to your managers, and it’s clear that it’s outside of your control and disability-related.

To be clear, “outside of your control” wouldn’t always be enough on its own. If you drove yourself and were late because you hit traffic every day, it would be reasonable for your boss to tell you to leave for work earlier. But in the vast majority of jobs, some flexibility on arrival/departure times would be a reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability who’s dependent on paratransit — reasonable accommodation in both the legal sense and the common-sense sense. Having to leave 10 minutes early for a reason like this isn’t a big deal!

Assuming you’ve had the big-picture talk with your boss explaining that paratransit’s schedule is unreliable, this should be fine (or they will let you know if it’s ever an issue). You could explain it to coworkers too if you’d like them to have that context. From there, there’s nothing to feel awful or embarrassed about, and you definitely don’t need to keep apologizing. (If paratransit ever causes a real problem — like you’re late for something you really needed to be there for — it would make sense to have a separate conversation about that, but definitely not for routine work days like you described.) You’re not a slacker, and people you work with will see from your work that you’re not a slacker. Please don’t keep worrying!

2. Should we have to pay back training costs when we leave?

I work for a large organization and our CIO is looking into having us pay back training if we leave the company within X amount of time afterwards. The details have not been worked out and she’s in talks with HR and Legal. My view is no, uh uh. Any training that I receive benefits the company while I am working. End stop. If I had received training that benefited myself and my previous organization before I left to come to my new organization, would the new organization pay the old organization back? No, they would not. I’m not sure how often this has happened and I’m sure there are plenty of people who knew they were going to quit but asked for training anyway, but what is that percent? We all know how long a job search can take and it would not be good to stop getting training when you don’t know when/if you will leave.

What are your thoughts on having to pay back training you receive if you leave within a certain amount of time after receiving the training? There’s been no indication that this would only apply to training that we ourselves request; as far as I know, it would apply to training the company asks us to take too.

If this is for all trainings, even trainings your employer asks you to take, this is a ridiculous policy.

Your CIO might be thinking of tuition reimbursement programs, where companies pay for someone’s college or grad school classes but require repayment if the person leaves before X amount of time passes afterwards. But if your company wants to use repayment clauses for  more routine trainings (a half-day class on fundraising, say, or a day on a new software) — and especially for trainings they ask you to take — that’s wildly out of sync with normal business practices. It’s also going to discourage people from getting any training since, even if they have no plans to leave the company, who would want to be on the hook for the costs if their circumstances change and they do end up leaving?

Developing employees’ skills is a normal thing for businesses to invest in because it helps the employer by bringing stronger expertise into the company. Your company is asking for a situation where their workers’ skills stagnate. It’s incredibly short-sighted.

3. I think my team was dishonest while I was away

I’m pretty disappointed. I returned to work last week after a 16-week maternity leave. I stayed pretty disconnected from work issues (especially since this was unpaid FMLA) but stayed in touch with my team on some personal updates.

One of my reports got married at the courthouse during the work week and moved houses later that week. She took NO time off and was even clocked in during her vows. Another one traveled to visit family for a week but only took one sick day. These instances occurred several weeks ago, and I noticed randomly when I was training for our new payroll system. They are both hourly employees in an office environment. They both have several PTO hours in the bank.

How serious is this? Because I was not working at the time, is this something I should bring up? I will admit, I’m taking it personally, maybe more than I should. I feel like a level of trust has been broken, but I’m feeling unprepared with how to handle on my first full week back at work.

If they intentionally logged hours that they weren’t actually working, that’s timecard fraud and very serious. You should bring it up; it doesn’t matter that you were out at the time.

But don’t accuse them right off the bat, since there could be more to it than you know. For example, could your employee who traveled to visit family have been working remotely that week, if her job is one where that’s possible? Or, if your employee who got married actually got stuck with a big project that week and worked awful hours around her wedding, you don’t want to go in accusing her of lying, if that’s not what happened. Or since it’s a new payroll system, it’s possible what you’re seeing is a mistake made by people learning a new system. So start by explaining what you noticed and ask what happened. Listen to what they say before you conclude anything.

But if it does turn out that they intentionally reported hours they didn’t work so they’d get paid for work they didn’t do, that’s a very big deal.

4. Our resigning director wants severance payments

I am on the board of a nonprofit. Our executive director and founder is resigning from the organization. We are in a strong cash position (thankfully). They have communicated with the board that they expect us to offer a severance agreement, including a period of compensation and/or benefits after they stop working. If we had asked for their resignation, that would make sense to me, but the resignation is voluntary (and frankly the board was and still is upset about the decision, even though they gave us about six months’ notice and, given our strategic plan/plans for reorganization, the timing makes sense).

What is the norm here? I am tempted to offer modest financial severance but a more robust benefits severance, i.e. letting them stay on our healthcare for several months but not paying a ton of cash out of pocket. But I also know that if we were a small business (instead of a nonprofit), I would feel differently about how much cash we offered, and it feels wrong to discount the right amount of severance just because we’re in the nonprofit sector — work is work.

Severance is not generally a thing when people resign, only when they’re fired or laid off. When employers offer severance, it’s (a) to help cushion the blow of involuntary job loss and (b) in exchange for signing a legal document agreeing not to disparage the company and releasing them from any future legal claims. (That’s not because the employer necessarily thinks it did something wrong, but they’re providing free money that they have no legal obligation to offer, and it’s generally considered reasonable for them to ask for something in exchange. Legal releases have become standard with severance.)

Offering resigning employees severance isn’t typically done. It’s not about being a nonprofit — for-profit businesses don’t do it either. But being a nonprofit does obligate you to be particularly responsible with your donors’ money, and I’d question this use of it (and your funders might too).

But you could certainly ask your ED what her thinking is and see what she says. If she’s asking for it in exchange for that longer notice period, that would make more sense than just “I should get a goodbye package when I leave.”

5. Should I check in with an employer a week after an interview?

I have just come to what I think is the end of a month-long interview process. There was a phone screen, three-person Zoom panel, writing prompt sample, and finally an interview with a client (the position is in consulting and would be working heavily with this client). The last interview was one week ago, and at the end of the interview they said they were planning on moving quickly with next steps. Since this interview included the client, I didn’t follow up in the moment with questions about what those next steps would be or specifics on timing. I also happened to be doing that interview while on vacation, out of the country. Later that day, I sent an email thanking them for the opportunity to meet with the client and better understand that partnership and explaining that I would still be out of the country for the next few days and the best way to reach me would be by email. I didn’t receive a response to that email and I haven’t heard anything else.

I know there were other candidates in the final round and believe that I was the last to interview. My feeling is that they have probably decided to move forward with another candidate and maybe they are waiting to let me know until the negotiations are complete with their first choice. That’s really hard to admit because I’ve never made it this far in an interview process and not landed the job, talk about a knock to my self esteem! But I’m wondering if there is any value in me reaching out again to check in, although I’m not really sure what there is to gain or what I would even say. Perhaps express my interest again just ask if they have an update? What do you suggest?

I wouldn’t assume you’re not getting an offer just because it’s been a week! A week is nothing at all in hiring. (But I also wouldn’t ever assume you are getting an offer. You can be an excellent finalist who doesn’t get the offer for all kinds of reasons that shouldn’t knock your self esteem.)

It’s also too early to push for some kind of response from the employer. Give it two weeks total — 10 days if you really can’t help yourself — and then it’s fine to email saying something like, “I realized I didn’t know your timeline for next steps and would be grateful if you can give me a sense of it.”

In general, don’t contact an employer just to check in with no real reason or reiterate your interest so soon after an interview (there’s no need for it; they know you’re interested because you just completed a four-step hiring process). But it’s fine to inquire about their timeline after more time has gone by, since they didn’t tell you that earlier. Once you do, though, the ball is in their court and the best thing you can do is to put it out of your mind and let it be a pleasant surprise if they contact you.

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