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 roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Can I turn down a networking request?
I am three months into a great job at a huge organization in my field. A friend and former manager who helped me get the job (my first out of college) just reached out to me with a friend of hers who is trying to set up information interviews for when she's in the city. Having just gone through 100 information interviews, of course I'm happy to meet with her and be on the other side of the table. However, they both asked if I would set up information interviews for her with some higher-ups in my organization. I felt really uncomfortable about this request, as I have never met this person and I am still brand-new to this organization and developing my own relationships within it.
Am I rude for saying no? It just seemed like such a strange request.
Nope. It's totally reasonable to say something like, "I'm still new here, so I don't feel like I'm able to ask other people here for favors yet, but I'd be glad to meet with you myself and be helpful in other ways if I can."
2. An anonymous caller said my co-worker is dealing drugs
I work for a city transit system. Tonight at work, some anonymous caller called me on the hotline to say a co-worker (mentioned by name) is dealing drugs on the bus. The caller said he is calling the sheriff tomorrow.
Should I tell my boss? Should I go to the co-worker? My boss does not take this kind of stuff lightly. It's a small office, and my co-worker and most of the workers will know I have reported this. I don't want to be a snitch or cover up the issue. Would you have any tips on how I could deal with this?
Well, first of all, telling your boss about this isn't "snitching." This is doing your job professionally, and giving your boss a heads-up about something that she'd surely want to know about. If it comes out that this person called your hotline and you didn't bother to tell anyone, don't you think that's going to be a big deal for you and your boss?
So, yes, you need to relay this to your boss. You're not saying "Jane is dealing drugs on the bus." You're saying, "A caller informed me that he is going to tell the sheriff that Jane is dealing drugs on the bus." Those are two different things. And you're really obligated to pass the latter along so that your boss isn't blindsided.
3. How much can I push back on a freelance client?
I work as a freelance writer and have a number of clients that come and go. One of my better clients worked with me for more than a year. Recently, the person whom I was working with was suddenly fired and the client brought in a new person for the position. That person reviewed all the work done by all the writers over the other person's tenure.
Last week, the client sent me back five articles to rewrite with vague instructions to "make them better." I did what I could and sent them back and heard nothing. Today, I was contacted by a totally different person (there was apparently another firing) and told to rewrite around 35 more articles, dating as far back as February.
I have been already paid in full for everything and, until now, never received a complaint about any of the work. It does not appear that the client wants to pay me for these rewrites. How far do I push back here? I have just been sent weeks worth of work to do over and little guidance on what it is the client sees as the problem. While I'm dealing with these rewrites, I would not be able to take on work that I would be paid for, so this is a significant financial burden on me.
If it were just a few articles and a small amount of work, I'd say to go ahead and make the changes without charge in the interest of keeping a good client happy. But this is a significant amount of new work, when the old work had already been signed off on quite some time ago--so you should be charging for your time. I'd respond by telling the client that you'd be happy to do it and the rate will be $___. You can explain that you'll be spending significant time on the rewrites and that that's not covered by the earlier payment.
You should also spend time talking with the client to find out exactly what it sees as the problems and what it wants changed, since it doesn't sound like the client has been clear about that. You want to get clarity on that, not only for these pieces but for any future ones, too.
4. How can I get over my bitterness at being laid off?
After a lot of uncertainty, my position at a nonprofit is being downsized and I'm being let go. I'm taking it pretty hard, because it's opening up a lot of painful uncertainties in my life and I feel like my dream job is being pulled out from under me. In short, I'm very bitter. Plus, my organization is very conscious of projecting a positive image, so there's pressure to hide my being let go under "We're taking a hiatus for that project." I have a month left, and it's hard to muster any energy for my final projects, because it feels like "letting them get away with it." I know I should be professional and end on a strong note. How can I overcome my bitterness without pretending that I'm OK with what's happening?
Well, this probably doesn't help, but it's not personal. When positions are eliminated, it's because it no longer makes financial or strategic sense for the organization to fund that work. In the case of a nonprofit, it's particularly important that the organization be rigorous about how it's using money, and it may not be able to justify the expense for legitimate reasons. That might not help, but it sounds like this is feeling very personal to you, when it isn't.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you'll be hurting yourself if you let your work or attitude slip during this final month. You'll be relying on the people there for references in the future, and going out on a low note is really damaging to references. Particularly since you're facing a job search right now, your reputation is really important. Don't let hurt feelings sway you into compromising it.
5. Does an employer really mean it if it "strongly" urges me to apply again?
I had two rounds of interviews for a job and just got a rejection, which says the company will add an additional position (exact same title) in six months and "strongly" urges me to apply again, even though the company went with another candidate this time. What does that even mean? This was a long process of multiple interviews, tests, etc. Am I really expected to do all that again in six months? It isn't like my qualifications will change. The company knows who I am and what I can do. Or are the people I interviewed with just being polite? I see them occasionally through my current job, so maybe they are just being nice.
I doubt they're just being nice; no sane employer "strongly" urges someone to reapply for a job if the person wasn't a strong candidate -- after all, that would just put the company in the awkward position of having to reject you a second time. So I'd take the interviewers at their word that they do want you to reapply in the future.
That doesn't mean that you're guaranteed the job at that point, of course, and it may mean that you have to go through the entire interview process again -- that just depends on the manager.
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