Q: I think I might get let go from my current position. Is it okay to ask?
Because of a particularly bad quarter for the nonprofit where I work, I’m fairly certain that I’m about to be laid off. I’m basing this on the fact that one staff member has already been laid off (we’re an organization with 15 full-time staff members), our part-time staff have had their hours cut, and my organization works in a number of communities, with mine being the only one that isn’t currently grant funded. Our director of evaluation also recently asked me if I could help them transition a number of partners on my caseload to “operate more independently” (i.e., without me). If that isn’t the writing on the wall, I’m not sure what is.
I’ve accepted that if they decide to cut more staff, there’s a very strong possibility that I’ll be the first to go. Would it be weird for me to directly ask my supervisors to let me know if they’ve made that decision? I’ve been talking to my network for the past couple of weeks, and I have a promising lead for another job, but I’d have to let my contact know before the end of this month whether I want to go that route or not.
A: It sounds like you should almost definitely plan on leaving your current job.
You can definitely ask your current employer about your job security, but there’s a high risk that you won’t get a straight answer (organizations often don’t want to tell people they’re being laid off until the decision is absolutely certain and the timing is right for them) or that they’ll give you a no that’s true now but it will change in a month or two.
However, the advantage of talking to them is that they might nudge you in the direction of the other job, which will probably give you some peace of mind about the decision and prevent you from second-guessing yourself.
It’s also true that organizations that are planning to lay someone off are often hugely relieved if that person decides to leave on their own (especially for another job). So you could say this: “I know it’s likely that we may need to make more cuts. Someone in my network happened to reach out about a possible position. Normally I wouldn’t be interested, because I like my work here. But I definitely wouldn’t want to turn it down and then have my position cut. Given that I need to get back to them this week, are you able to give me a sense of how likely that is? To be clear, I don’t want to leave — but I also don’t want to end up jobless.”
Read More: Is there a best time of day to fire someone?
But regardless of their answer, given the conditions you’ve described, I’d only plan on staying if you hear an extremely convincing “we will never cut your position because of Compelling Reasons X and Y, and our plan for funding it is Reliable-Sounding Plan Z” — and it comes from someone who you trust implicitly. And even then I’d be pretty skeptical.
Q: How should I handle staff lunches that we’re asked to pay for ourselves?
In the past, our old manager would very occasionally call for a group lunch and always paid.
The new manager (internal promotion) called for a group lunch last week to welcome a new person. He named the place because it was easy to get to and, while I don’t love their food selection, I was okay with it because the expectation that lunch would be paid for was there. Fifteen minutes before the lunch, he emailed his staff saying that we could pay him back when we returned from lunch rather than try to split the check there. The place is pricey and not something I would ever choose for myself. I feel blindsided and I’m not even sure I have the cash on me to pay him back. He’s also requested we chip in for the new person’s lunch.
I’m really uncomfortable with all of this. As it may come up again in the future, what can I do?
A: I’d say this: “In the past, the company covered these lunches. If we’re going to be asked to pay for our meals going forward, would you let us know in advance? I probably won’t be able to attend many of them because they’re out of my budget.”
(I’d default to assuming that it was the company footing the bill in the past, not your old manager personally, because that’s the most likely scenario. If it turns out that’s not the case, your new manager can explain that — but I’d assume that until told otherwise. Either way, though, asking for advance notice and explaining you can’t attend if this is the new arrangement is the way to go.)