Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
Here's a round-up of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Can I reopen negotiations on a job offer I already accepted?
I accepted a job offer recently but have since learned that I will not be paid or compensated for overtime. The job is $45k plus $4k in bonus annually (if earned). This is the first big job I've had and I feel like I missed an opportunity to negotiate the salary because I didn't want to seem greedy. I feel like I could have negotiated the salary up to at least $53k (they really wanted me for the position and contacted me out of the blue without me even knowing about the position being open).
I signed the work agreement two days ago but am still wondering can I safely ask if the salary is open for renegotiation since I am just learning that I am exempt from overtime. I was told that I would not be paid overtime even if I do end up having to work more than 40 hours a week (the job requires 75 percent travel, and the travel is not included in the 40 hours of work). I was considering asking, "After further reviewing the position and now being informed that I cannot be paid for overtime, would you be open to negotiating my salary to $50K to compensate the possible overtime that I will likely be working in weeks to come? If that is not a possibility, I understand but I just wanted to take this opportunity and ask you to consider."
It's considered bad form or bad faith to try to reopen salary negotiations after an offer has already been accepted. (After all, would you want them to contact you in a week and try to negotiate to pay you less?) I'm not going to tell you that there's no chance of getting what you want here, but there's a big risk of coming across poorly and harming the relationship with them before you've even started. I'd be inclined to chalk this up to a lesson to confirm every detail of a job offer before accepting in the future.
But if you do it anyway, do not attribute it to "further reviewing the position," which would be really alarming (since you shouldn't accept an offer until you're done "reviewing the position"). You should attribute it to getting new information that wasn't available before. Keep in mind, too, that exempt positions (positions exempt from overtime laws) by definition don't provide additional compensation for overtime, so you don't want to phrase this as asking them to "compensate the possible overtime." Instead, you'd want to say something like, "I'm so sorry, but we miscommunicated earlier. I was under the impression that the position was non-exempt and paid overtime and was evaluating the offer with that in mind." But again, it's risky -- you already accepted the offer.
2. Will my office let me spend my training budget on a career coach?
Our organization provides each employee with up to $1,000 a fiscal year for training. Our boss has asked that we propose a "budget" of how we'll spend this money (he asked this midway into the fiscal year, but OK). Would it be appropriate for me to request that I spend this year's budget on career coach services? I enjoy my position but want assistance in thinking more long-term about my career (something the current boss does not provide), but fear he'll think that this is just about finding another job (which it is not). How do I pitch this appropriately?
If your boss is like most bosses, that money is supposed to be spent on professional development that your employer will benefit from you gaining -- for instance, most commonly, it's classes where you learn a new skill that you'll use in your current job. Career coach services aren't likely to benefit your employer, and in fact sound like they're likely to lead to you leaving your employer. (The exception to this would be if the coaching is specifically focused on developing skills that you'll use in your current role -- for instance, working on running better meetings or developing leadership skills -- but those aren't typically things that people think about when they think about career coaching.)
Basically, unless you can make a very strong argument that your employer will benefit from you receiving this coaching, it would be inappropriate to propose it.
3. A co-worker told me she's fudging her application for a job in my department.
A position opened in my department at work. I recommended to a co-worker and friend in another department that she should apply. I previously consulted with this person on small projects, and she appeared knowledgeable and responsible. In fact, we became friends through these work contacts. My friend appreciated my recommendation and arranged a meeting to ask me more details about the work done by my department. My friend stopped by my desk today to thank me for my help, because the application was long and detailed. She told me that some of the information she included on the application was not entirely accurate and that some of her work experience did not match the job requirements and needed to be reworded for a better fit. I know this is wrong, so I want to know what I do or how I talk to my manager about it.
Tell her that she's put you in an awkward position by involving you in her inaccurate application, and that you have both ethical and practical qualms about continuing to help her -- ethical because misrepresenting herself is wrong, and practical because you could be implicated by association (and because you presumably want someone in that job who's qualified). Whether or not you talk to your manager is up to you, but personally, I'd give the manager a heads-up about the situation.
4. How to handle a co-worker's comments on people's personal lives.
I have a colleague with a rather "old-fashioned" view on things, at least sometimes. For example, if someone from the department gets married, she will make comments like "and when are you going to have children?" or "it won't be long until she gets pregnant." Maybe I would like to get married one day, but I am anticipating my colleague starting to "monitor" me because she would now expect me to start "breeding." This really stresses me out and I can't believe I'm letting this person have this effect on me. What is the best way to handle a colleague like this?
Ignore her. Or shut her down by saying, "That's a personal question" or "That's none of our business" or so forth. Don't let her continue this kind of thing unchecked when you can speak up.
5. Why do some companies post the same job every few weeks?
I have a question about something that I've seen happen over and over again in my job hunt. Why do companies post the same job online every couple of weeks without filling it? Are they really not intending to hire for the position, are they not getting enough qualified candidates to start the interview process, or is it something else? Any insight would be appreciated!
There are a few possibilities: In some cases, they're not actively hiring but are collecting résumés for whenever they do have an opening to fill. In other cases, they intend to hire but are disorganized and incompetent. In other cases, they're not thrilled with their candidate pool and so are keeping up the search. And in still other cases, they're actively interviewing but are (smartly) keeping the ads live until they've made a hire.
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