Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Can I refuse to be alone with a co-worker whom I had an emotional affair with?
I am married and I got too friendly with a co-worker. I ended up lying to my spouse about dinners out, traveling, and long personal conversations with this co-worker. My spouse found out, and I confessed that I had lied. I also told my boss and he understood that I could no longer travel, be alone, etc., with this particular co-worker.
But now I have a new boss who wants us to travel together for a sales meeting and told me to "lay my personal stuff aside." This doesn't make me or my spouse comfortable. I feel like if I appealed to my boss's manager, who has similar convictions, I wouldn't have to travel with this co-worker. I feel like a direct honest conversation would be best -- "I love my job, but if this is a condition of my employment maybe I should begin to look somewhere else as to not hinder the team."
My spouse says I should just look for a new position. Any advice?
I'm sympathetic to your new boss's position here.
I totally get why you don't want to be alone with this guy. But at work, you're generally expected to put your personal issues aside and work with other employees. Letting a personal situation impact work to the extent that you refuse to travel with someone or work closely with that person doesn't seem totally reasonable or realistic to me. Ultimately, this is a private situation, and it's not fair to ask your employer to work around it.
That doesn't mean that you absolutely must go on this trip, if you feel strongly that's it a no-go for you. But it does mean that's a flag that it's time to work on changing jobs, because the requirements of this one conflict with your personal requirements, and it's reasonable for your employer to say, "Look, we gave you a cooling-off period, but we can't accommodate that forever."
I don't know if you're right that appealing to your boss's boss would get you exempted from this trip, but I do know that would be a good way to cause long-term issues with your own boss, who's entitled to make the call on this.
2. I'm being flooded with employee referrals for mediocre candidates
Our employees seem to want to get every single person they are acquainted with a job at our company. On a normal day, I have around five employees approach me to give me the name of their friend who applied. It gets very tiring because 99.9 percent of the time, these referrals are not up to par. How can I tell employees that their friends/family will not be receiving a phone call to come and interview without telling them why?
Be direct: "She didn't meet the qualifications for that position, but thank you for sending her our way." Or -- if you haven't reviewed the person's application yet -- "I'll definitely take a look. I know we have a competitive pool for that position, but if he's a strong candidate, we'll reach out to him."
Because it's a chronic problem, you might also consider giving your staff more information about what it takes to get an interview. You could say something like, "I've noticed we're getting a lot of referrals -- and it's great that you'd like to see your family and friends work here -- so I want to share some information on what we're looking for in candidates. First and foremost, if someone doesn't meet the posted qualifications, it's very unlikely that we'll interview them, so you should encourage any applicants you know to make sure they're well matched with the role and that their application materials make that clear. We also put a premium on good communication skills; we get a lot of candidates with sloppy written materials or no cover letter or who don't follow application instructions, so you might encourage your referrals to pay attention to those things as well."
The other thing I'd look at: Are you offering referral bonuses, as some companies do? If so, it might be encouraging people to refer candidates willy-nilly, and it might be worth looking at whether it's causing more harm than good.
3. Filling out anonymous surveys when your manager is sensitive to criticism
Our department is small, with 10 employees and one manager. Each year, we are asked to complete a "voluntary" and "anonymous" survey, which asks questions about what we think about our manager. Our manager is very sensitive and does not take criticism well. We're all wary of giving anything but high marks for fear of retribution. Since there are only 10 of us, one bad review can torpedo the manager's marks, so we have all made a conscious effort to falsely inflate his ratings on our surveys. The thing is, we all think the manager is horrible, but are afraid to say so on the survey. How should we handle the situation?
Well, you could all decide as a group to give candid feedback, which would make it harder (although not impossible) for your manager to retaliate. Or you could all (or most of you) decline to fill out the survey, which would send a pretty strong message too. Or you could talk to whoever coordinates the survey and explain that you don't feel safe giving candid feedback and request that they find another way to gather input about your manager, if it's truly something they want to explore. (There are ways to do that which prevent your manager from retaliating against you, but your company has to be committed to handling it that way -- and, just as important, committed to making sure that you know that.)
4. Can my employer call me while I'm home sick?
I am currently off sick from work due to anxiety attacks. My employer has just tried to phone me at home. I know it was work, as it showed up on my caller ID. Are they allowed to call me at home? As this has now made me more nervous, I feel this is a setback to my recovery.
Yes, they're allowed to call you. If you're on regular sick leave, there are no restrictions on their contacting you. If you're on FMLA leave (through the Family & Medical Leave Act), they may contact you to inform you that you need to re-certify your FMLA leave or your intended return date, or they may contact you with occasional, minor work questions (to ask where a documented is located or the password for a file, for example, ut not to do actual work).
5. I have to tell my manager that I'm interviewing somewhere else
I have been looking for another position, but have not notified my manager. I have had a first-round interview with a consulting firm and was invited to a second interview with the hiring manager. The consulting firm informed me today that they are in discussions to perform work for my current company, so to avoid conflicts of interest and move forward with the second interview, I have to inform my current manager who I am interviewing with and get her approval. How do I broach this subject and have this discussion?
Ugh. Well, you may not want to. You'll need to calculate whether it's worth the the risk that letting your manager know that you're job hunting may impact your standing and even your job security if you don't end up getting this job. But if you decide that your manager will take this reasonably well and you won't suffer professional consequences for it, I'd say this: "I want to let you know that I'm talking with X firm about a position with them and since they're worried about a conflict of interest, they asked me to let you know." If it's not a blatant lie, you could follow that with, "I'm not actively looking, but the position seemed like such a good fit that I felt like I had to explore it a bit with them."
But you also have the option of declining to move forward in their process right now, thus avoiding this.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.