2014’s Top 10 Posts

Dear, Readers,

Many businesses conduct annual performance reviews. Why should I be exempt? (Gee, I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.)

I took a moment to reexamine the questions asked and answered in 2014 to assess readership, analyze traffic, identify employment trends, and see which posts merit a second look.

Adult male adjusting necktie.And the most viewed articles of 2014, in order of popularity, are (drumroll, please)…

#1: Tattoos & Interviews
Before you spend that crisp $10 bill your Granny taped inside your Christmas card on skin art, read up on why tattoos could limit your career path.

#2: Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified
How many times have you read through an online job posting thinking I’m perfect for this… until you come to one or two bullet points that you don’t possess? See when to apply and when to not waste your time.

Woman with "Hired" Sign#3: Explaining Away “You’re Fired”
Should you include an employer from which you were fired (ahem, “relieved of your duties”) on applications and résumés? There’s no black and white answer.

#4: Top 10 Interview Fails
Top 10 lists must work; you’re reading one now! Read about interview faux pas and make a resolution to avoid committing even one of them at your next interview.

#5: How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 1
Think beyond CareerBuilder and Monster.com when it comes to searching for employment opportunities. Why Part 2 didn’t also make the top 10 list is a mystery. I suggest reading both.

#6: Top 10 Attitudes Employers Should Look For
While written in response to a question from a manager, job seekers can use this insight to make sure they convey these attributes in their résumé and cover letter and during interviews.

#7:  10 Commandments to Avoid Email Miscommunications: Tablet 1
Communication is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. Since a whopping 93% of nonverbal cues are missing in emails, it’s no wonder there are so many misunderstandings! Use the tips in this post (and the rest in Tablet 2) to prevent slipups.

#8: No Payroll Deductions
Being paid under the table? Not receiving an itemized paycheck stub? Learn what’s legal and what’s not.Raising_Hand

#9: Salary Negotiation Mistakes
Avoid these 10 mistakes while asking for a raise or negotiating a starting salary.

#10: Applying to Internal Position
Here is advice on deciding if you want to move up (or laterally) within your company, and how to negotiate this potentially tricky scenario.

Readers: What was your favorite Anita Clew article this year?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita. Your question might make next year’s Top 10 list!

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Holiday Missive

Dear Readers,

I wish you a joyous season celebrating
your traditions of faith and family.

I’ll be back to my custom of offering pragmatic advice after the holiday season. If you are a job seeker, an employed person, or a manager/supervisor, ask a question at http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Bonus Deductions

Dear, Anita,

I just got a year-end holiday bonus check and I’m grateful, but confused. The amount taken out for taxes seems way too high. It seems to be a greater percentage than my usual paycheck deductions. What’s up with that?

Dear, Bob Cratchitt,money

Oh, joy! Oh… wait! I hear this concern about bonus checks often. Uncle Scrooge… excuse me, Uncle Sam may be to blame. The IRS views bonuses (as well as commissions, overtime, even things like employer-paid moving expenses) as “supplemental wages.” Employers may use either a flat 25% withholding rate or an aggregate method. The aggregate method combines the bonus amount with the most recent regular wage paycheck. Then, the normal withholding amount based on IRS tables is determined for the total of both amounts. Your payroll department subtracts what was already withheld from your last paycheck and withholds the rest from the bonus amount.

The aggregate method, while more cumbersome, is actually the more accurate method of determining your actual tax liability. Pay now or pay later – April 15th, to be exact. (Not-so-fun fact: the average American works the first 111 days of the year – or to just past Tax Day – to pay their taxes.) The good news is that if the withholding at the higher rate was actually too much, you’ll be refunded when you file your tax returns.

Man doing his accounting, financial adviser workingSpecial rules apply to bonuses of $1 million or more (don’t you wish you had that “problem?”), and they are bumped into the 39.6% withholding rate.

Before you go out to spend your anticipated bonus, use the AmCheck Flat-Rate or Aggregate Bonus Calculator. Remember, in addition to the federal taxes, bonuses are also subject to withholding for Social Security, Medicare, and any state and local taxes.

Readers: Did you get a holiday or year-end bonus this year? What are your plans for the windfall?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

No Payroll Deductions
Keeping Employees’ Spirits Bright
Developing Employees with a Business Owner Mentality

Dear Santa, I Want This Job to Become Permanent

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been looking for work for a while, and have an opportunity for a temporary job during the holiday season. If I take it, is there any possibility I can stay on after the season ends?Santa List

Yes, Virginia,

Christmas comes but once a year, and so do some seasonal jobs, most notably in retail and shipping. To lengthen the traditional 12 days of Christmas employment into 365, follow this list and check it twice.

  • Show up on time or – gasp! – a few minutes early for each and every shift. It’s a sad fact, but punctuality is noticed by managers because of the severe lack of it these days.
  • Don’t be a clock-watcher. If you are in the middle of helping a customer or an assigned task when the end of your shift rolls around, finish up before clocking out.
  • Be flexible with your schedule. You’ll endear yourself to your supervisor if you volunteer for night and weekend shifts and offer to cover for the inevitable no-shows.
  • Learn from the full-timers. Get to know the permanent employees, and pick up tips from those in the trenches all year long. Maintain friendly relations with all coworkers.
  • Be self-motivated and willing to do anything asked of you. Managers appreciate employees who don’t need constant reminders and supervision to get the assigned tasks done.Red_Shirt_Worker_Small
  • Do your best. Some seasonal employees do just enough to get by. Doing even more than asked will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. If you can keep a smile on your face during this hectic season, you’ll be seen as someone easy to work with year-round.
  • Make your wish known. Be sure your supervisor is aware that you are interested in staying on after the holidays – preferably after you’ve just gotten positive feedback or an “Atta Girl” from said supervisor.

Once you get hired on a permanent basis, January will become your most wonderful time of the year.

Readers: Have you turned a holiday job into a permanent position? Add your top tip to the list in the comments below!


Looking for Work during the Holiday Season
The Bridge from Temping to a Full-Time Position
I Resolve to Get a New Job

Coworker Gift Exchanges

Dear, Anita,

Morale has been low around our office since we learned we would not be getting a year-end bonus due to a downturn in company sales. I’d like to organize some sort of gift exchange to spread some holiday cheer. Any ideas?

Dear, Cindy Lou Who,

There are several un-Grinch-like options to get you and your coworkers in the Christmas spirit.  I’ve even heard of some offices that do some version giving a gift on each of the 12 Days of Christmas. Not literally, though like Andy on The Office:

But a gift swap should be fun and not a burden (so the 12 Days of Christmas is out, considering all the other family and friends you have to buy for). Keep the gift budget to a comfortable level for all participants. It’s not about the cost; it’s about how creative you can get for the money!

Why not try a Theme Gift Exchange? One year can be ornaments, the next year a coffee/tea mug, and the following year food items, to mix it up a bit.

The simplest way to exchange gifts with workmates is to have a Gift Grab Bag. Everyone brings a gift of a pre-set value suitable for a coworker of any gender or age and contributes to the grab bag.

Celebration of Christmas in the officeTo add a little friendly rivalry to the party, try a Yankee Swap or White Elephant Gift Exchange.* Everyone contributes a wrapped gift – a new item for Yankee Swap rules; a used one is often brought for White Elephant exchanges with sometimes hilarious regifting high jinks. Draw numbers to see who gets to pick from the array of gifts first. Player #1 chooses a present, unwraps it, and displays for all to see – and possibly envy. Player #2 then either “steals” that item or picks an unopened gift from the remaining pile. Each subsequent
team member can either steal any opened gift or choose to unwrap another. Any player whose gift is stolen gets to pick again. The game continues until everyone has a present.

Another option is Secret Santa. WikiHow has instructions on setting up this name-draw exchange. For a laugh, here are some additional rules, courtesy of Visual.ly. At SecretSanta.com or Elfster.com, you can let the Internet help keep the name draw and notifications undercover. Euroffice offers some workplace gift-giving tips in its infographic here.

Gift exchanges can occur at the holiday party, lunchtime potluck, or December’s departmental meeting. In lieu of a gift exchange, keep to a food motif. Simplify the Martha Stewart 8-step Cookie Swap party – festive paper plates and saran wrap will do! Each person brings two dozen holiday cookies and goes home with a sampling of each of their coworkers’ culinary creations.

Sometimes the best way to get your mind off your woes is to help someone else. Consider organizing a Charitable Drive. You can collect Toys for Tots, help Make-a-Wish Foundation, donate to a local charity that organizes gifts for foster kids or for children whose parents are in prison, or sponsor a needy family by providing gifts plus a holiday meal. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!

Readers: What was your most memorable holiday gift-giving event at work?

*Random tidbits: The term “white elephant” refers to a burdensome gift not easily disposed of, supposedly after the King of Siam gifted albino elephants to courtiers who displeased him so they would sink into financial ruin because of the costs to maintain the animals. The “Yankee Swap” term is said to have come from the civil war tradition of trading Confederate soldiers for wounded or sickly Yankee prisoners of war.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Holiday Parties, Payouts, and Perks
Getting Your Staff into the Giving Spirit


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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