Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. How to deal with meetings that never end on time
Something that has always been a little frustrating about my office but has started getting worse: 90 percent of our meetings go over the scheduled time, sometimes significantly (30 minutes or more). If I actually have another meeting or there aren't higher-level people there, I'll excuse myself at the stated end time, but often those are the people who are causing the meeting to run long. There's no one person at fault, but there are several who contribute in a variety of ways: key players show up to meetings 5-10 minutes late, meeting leaders don't have a clear agenda, someone derails the meeting to talk about a completely different topic "as long as we're all in the room," people plan agendas that are too long to get through with the people there (we have some lengthy opinion-havers), or the meeting has a vague agenda like "group brainstorming."
What can someone who isn't at the top level or leading the meetings do about this increasingly time-sucking work culture?
If you're very junior, probably nothing. That's the meeting culture of your office.
But if you're not junior and you have a bit of standing, you could certainly speak up. You could try talking to the facilitators who are the most common offenders and say something like, "I've noticed these meetings regularly go over the allotted time -- do you think we can try something different so we start and end on time? I'm finding it's bleeding into things I have scheduled for right after."
But senior people showing up 5-10 minutes late is often just the way things go -- their schedules are often packed and they may be correctly judging that finishing whatever they're doing as the meeting starts is legitimately a higher priority than being on time, as frustrating as that can be for the people left waiting.
2. My co-worker keeps telling me he's praying for me
My co-worker is of a different religion than I am. He constantly is telling me that my lunch is sinful and that by not belonging to a church, I am not going to heaven. He has actually told others that I am not a "real" Christian. I don't want to get into what I believe or the things I do to worship or pray. He is constantly telling me that he is praying for me. I don't know what to do.
Your workplace has a legal obligation to prevent this guy from harassing you about religion, if you report it. So do two things -- first, if you haven't already, tell him clearly to stop. As in, "Bob, I don't want to discuss religion with you. Please don't continue to raise it with me." Then, if it continues after that, tell your manager (or HR) immediately, and use the words "Bob is harassing me because of my religious beliefs and has continued after I've told him to stop. Can you please ensure that I'm not subjected to further religious harassment?"
3. Boss, then friend, now boss again
I've been working at my company for three years now. After two years, I took another position in the company away from my department. It had nothing to do with my boss (whom I loved!) but the limited nature of the job. My new position turned out to be a terrible fit, and within a year, I found another new position in the same company. In my interview, I was warned that the position that would directly supervise me was vacant, and they would be hiring as soon as possible. On my first day, they shared the news that they had hired my boss from my first position into the vacant position!
I had a very good professional relationship with my former boss when I worked for her, but when I left, we friended each other on Facebook and have traded informal texts pretty regularly since I left. Both of us slackened our professional filters since neither of us thought we'd ever work together again. Now that we are, I'd like to sit down and discuss whether to unfriend each other, and how to transition back to the professional relationship we had before, but I worry that it'll sound obnoxious coming from me, and it's perhaps something that should be coming from her? Should I give her the chance to bring it up first, or just let it go and see if our relationship settles back on its own without a potentially awkward conversation?
I'd wait and see what happens. If you had a professional relationship when you worked together before, it's pretty likely that she understands professional boundaries and that you'll both do some natural pulling back and it'll work itself out. You could say, "Hey, now that we're working together, I'm disconnecting on Facebook just so we're back to more of a boss/employee relationship" -- but I don't know that you even need to do that right away. I'd be inclined to just wait and see how it plays out. (On the other hand, if it doesn't handle itself on its own, then it's more awkward when you do need to bring it up a few weeks in, so there's the argument for saying it now.)
4. Does updating your LinkedIn profile make it look like you're job searching?
Recently, a co-worker was in the process of transitioning out of the company due to various reasons. He had expressed to the owner that he wanted to take some time to figure things out before finding a new job, but the owner noticed he was adding connections on LinkedIn and interpreted that as meaning this employee must be actively looking for work.
Is there a general impression when you update your LinkedIn that it means you're actively or even passively looking for a new job? The owner added me as a connection and I've recently gotten a promotion and wanted to change my job title and responsibilities, but don't want him to think it means I'm looking for something new. Should I just hold off on updating since I'm really not looking to leave any time soon? I'm wondering if his interpretation was specific to the co-worker's situation or if he'll jump to conclusions with my updates as well.
It's true that if there's a sudden flurry of activity on your LinkedIn profile when previously there's been very little, some managers do wonder if you're job searching. Much of the time, it's a silly assumption because people use LinkedIn for all sorts of things beyond job searching -- networking with contacts for their current position, looking up old colleagues, etc.
But updating your profile after a promotion is a very normal thing to do, so I wouldn't worry about doing that. There's also a way to turn off notifications that go out when you've updated your profile, so the only way someone would notice if it they were actively monitoring your profile.
If you're worried, though, you could say to the owner, "By the way, in case you notice that I've been updating my LinkedIn, it's because of the promotion. I didn't want you to misinterpret!" It might be smart to add, "Although I play around with it from time to time just for fun too -- so please don't ever read anything into changes there."
5. Interviewer got angry that I called so many times while she was out sick
I had an interview last Thursday, which went well. I was told I would hear from the manager on Monday. I called her Monday around 5:30 p.m. to follow up and thank her, and was told she had another interview that was scheduled for Tuesday, and I would hear from her Tuesday. Tuesday evening came around and no call. I called the office at 6:30 p.m. and was told she had left for the day. I called twice Wednesday, was told she wasn't in yet, left another message. Thursday I called again around noon and was told she was coming in but the receptionist wasn't sure when. I waited until 5:40 p.m. and called back to show I am very interested, and was then finally told she was out sick the past couple of days.
The manager called me from home and left a voicemail saying, "My receptionist told you four times today that I was out sick. I don't know how many times you need to be told that. At this point, I'm not able to offer you a position with us." My problem is, I was never told she was out sick until my last phone call. How can I approach this to let her know she was misinformed and I had not been told she was out sick? I wouldn't have continued calling to follow up if I had known.
Well, the thing is, even if she hadn't been sick, this was way too much contact. You called her on Monday when you didn't hear anything that day -- fine, a little aggressive since they were barely past the timeline they'd given you that point, but OK. But then you kept calling. It's OK to call once and leave a message. And then if you don't hear back after a few days -- not one day, but several -- you can try one final time. But that's really the maximum amount you can do it without looking overly pushy.
There are all kinds of reasons why someone might take longer than planned to get back to you -- they might be out sick, or dealing with a family emergency, or dealing with a work emergency, or just dealing with higher priorities. Continuing to call over and over doesn't show you're very interested; it says, "I think the thing I want from you is more important than anything else you're dealing with right now."
You can certainly send the manager an email (don't call again) saying, "I'm so sorry -- I hadn't known you were out sick or I wouldn't have kept trying to contact you. I really apologize, and hope you're feeling better now." But that's just about leaving this in a better place; it's not likely to change her decision. I'm sorry.
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