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. I'm mentoring a know-it-all
I have been in my position for about two years now and have a "mentee." There's nothing official about this relationship; it's just an informal setup our team does to help onboard new people who get hired. We are the same level and position. I am just a person who is more experienced and acts as his guide to the company and the job.
I actually think his attitude overall is great and he is meeting the job's expectations just fine. No complaints from me in terms of his work ethic, quality, or general demeanor. However, (and I have had multiple peers confirm this) he has a habit of being TOO helpful and it comes off like he's a know-it-all. I know it sounds childish, but it's actually very off-putting when other peers come to me or other senior analysts on the team with questions and he will interject with an answer, and not always correctly. I appreciate that he wants to help, but I also somewhat wish he knew his place (as dictatorial as that sounds).
Now he's asking for a mid-year review and I hope to provide some kindly worded feedback.
How about this: "It's great that you're always so helpful when people approach our team with questions, but make sure that you're not always so quick to answer that no one else has an opportunity to respond. Sometimes you can jump in so quickly that others don't have a chance to respond, and you especially want to watch out for that when other people in the room might have more expertise in the topic than you do."
And about those times when his answers have been incorrect -- does he realize that afterwards? Hopefully someone is correcting the information in the moment, so he's realizing that he's not always getting it right, but can you pick up on any patterns in when he's incorrect? If you can point out that he should proceed more cautiously when something involves another department or suggest he get more experience in X before advising on it, that could be helpful too.
2. I seem too shy in interviews
I am a recent graduate who has been getting experience at an internship in the field that I want to work in. I am a naturally quiet person, but not shy. On the job, I do speak up when needed and can get my points across, but I feel like my interviewers may be writing me off for poor communication because of that aspect of my personality (which is bad because all of the jobs in my field require high communication skills).
One interviewer has pointed out that my "reserved" personality might not be the best fit for the position, and I think this may be a reason I am not getting any job offers. Is there a way for me to point out that my quietness isn't a hindrance upon my job performance in the interview or in a follow-up email without it seeming out of place?
I'd look for a spot in the interview to raise it organically, such as when you're asked about challenges you've overcome or how you work with others, and then I'd say something like this: "People often think I'm quiet and reserved when they first meet me, but I'm simply thoughtful. For instance, (insert story here about a time you used your communication skills to get something done -- ideally a story about you that might surprise them if they've written you off as shy)."
However, you should also keep in mind that if your field requires strong communication skills and you're being written off as not a strong communicator, it probably isn't enough just to do the above. You also need to show that you have sufficiently strong communication skills, by the way you communicate throughout the interview -- so I'd really put some energy into practicing coming across as more engaged and at least a little less shy during interviews.
3. My offer letter promised me a six-month raise, but it never happened
I'm an electrical engineer with a four-year degree and eight years experience making $40k. Horrible, I know. I took the current position because I was going to be laid off from my last job, where I was making $65k. I received an offer letter in writing that I would be making $75k after six months, so I accepted the offer. The six-month mark came and went a month ago, still no raise. I am trying to decide if I should ask about it or just look for a new job. Since a written agreement was not followed, what else can I expect?
Well, wait. You haven't even brought this up with your employer yet? Yes, they should have been on top of it, but mistakes happen. And no one is going to advocate for you the way you should advocate for yourself. You need to speak up. Go to your manager and say, "We agreed that my salary would increase to $75,000 after six months. What do I need to do to put that in motion?"
I don't know how much past the six-month mark you are now and ideally you would have said this right when it happened, but it's not too late to go do it now. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes, so go do that now.
4. My manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did
At work a few months ago, I printed a document regarding my newly discovered pregnancy to an office printer and as happens at work, I got distracted and forgot about the document. Before I had a chance to retrieve the document from the printer, my manager brought it by my office and dropped it off on my desk while I was sitting there. She didn't show any sign that she had read it, but months later, when I went to reveal the news to a friend and coworker, she informed me that my manager had already told her about it! As you can imagine, I'm quite upset. What would you suggest as productive language to tell my boss that in spite of my accidently leaving private information on a public printer, I don't appreciate her gossiping/sharing my news with my coworkers?
"I was surprised to hear that you had told people I was pregnant before I'd told anyone at work, including you. What happened?" (Wait for response.) "I'm really uncomfortable with my personal medical information being shared with people without my permission, let alone when I hadn't even shared it with anyone here myself."
5. Employer wants to know what my other offers are
My question is whether my wife, who is graduating with a masters in nursing, should disclose details on the offers she has received to the company she really wants to work for? She interviewed and received offers at two companies. She now has an upcoming meeting with a third company, where the hiring manager indicated that they will give her an offer. The hiring manager knows that she's received offers from the other two companies, and asked her if she could share what the two other companies were offering, so that "they would know whether they are in the same ballpark." My wife likes this third company the best, so she doesn't want to alienate them by refusing to disclose the other two offers.
"I feel uncomfortable sharing other company's specific offers, but I'm looking for a range of around $X." After all, this isn't an auction where the highest bidder gets her (or if it is, she at least shouldn't imply that).
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