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. New job has extreme flexibility
I just started a new job last week, and it is nontraditional in the sense that there isn't really a set office: The company is so small that we each just have a membership at a coworking space, our cells are our main phone lines, and people are often out and about for meetings. I basically stay in the "office" unless I'm accompanying someone to a meeting. Everything can be done online, so often people just leave early and work from home or sometimes just don't come in at all.
This is great, but since I'm used to working in traditional offices, I'm not sure when I can start saying I'd like to work from home on certain days since I'm so new. When do you think it would be appropriate? A lot of days, I find myself done with my work pretty early and would love to beat the traffic, but I wait around until the last person leaves or until a little after 5 p.m. It seems that they would be fine if I starting leaving early as long as I'm finished with my work, but I'm nervous and I'd like your opinion first. I'd really like to make a good impression, but I'm not sure if they would even think twice because everything is so laid-back.
Personally, I'd work regular hours for at least the first month, and possibly two. Right now, you're an unknown quantity, and you want to establish yourself as someone with a good work ethic who isn't abusing their flexibility. Once you do that, you should be able to take advantage of these benefits--but build a firm reputation for being a hard worker first, so that no one is wondering what the new person is working on and why they haven't seen her.
2. Employee won't drive in mildly bad weather conditions
I have an employee whose job largely consists of using our company vehicle to drive around the outlying areas to run programs or meet potential partners. She does a great job, but it has become apparent that she is overly nervous about driving in what she considers "poor" weather. I don't mean a blizzard or icy conditions. She's not comfortable driving if there's a speck of snow or frost on the ground or in the air. I can see this becoming a problem next winter because she can't just shut down our services because she's scared to drive, nor do other staff have time to drive her around (which has happened on a couple of occasions). On the other hand, I don't want to force her to drive if she feels unsafe, and clearly our definitions of poor conditions/weather are different. How can I approach this with her?
Of course you don't want to force her to drive if she feels unsafe, but the job consists largely of driving around. I'd address that head-on with her: "Jane, I've noticed that you don't seem comfortable driving when it seems like it might snow. I certainly don't want to put you in a situation next where you feel uncomfortable, but the majority of the job involves driving. What are your thoughts on how to handle this next winter?" You should be explicit with her that the person in her role will need to drive unless ___ (it's a blizzard / dangerously icy / whatever the case is), and ask if that's something she feels she'll be able to do.
I hate driving in bad weather too, but the reality is that she's in a job that requires it, so she's going to need to figure out whether it's the right position for her or not.
3. Giving employees differently sized gifts for the same milestone
We have two employees who have both been in our company for 20 years: one is an Operations Manager and one is an Admin Assistant. We would like to recognize both of them for their service at an upcoming dinner but would really like to give the Operations guy a more elaborate multi-day ski trip (including a flight and accomodations in another province) and something less expensive for the Admin person (a weekend getaway at nice hotel within driving distance). This is because the Operations Manager holds much more responsibility, works many long hours, is in charge of crews of up to 30 people, and is more vital to the company. The Admin Assistant, while performing a necessary role, does not manage people, scales back to part-time hours during our slow season, and is not in a "high-responsibility" position.
Is it reasonable to give different sized gifts for the same milestone and if so, what is a tactful way to present them without offending the Admin Assistant?
I wouldn't. You'll essentially be saying, "Joe's service was more valuable than Jane's"--which it very well may have been, but it's not especially kind to announce it like that, and not especially wise when you're trying to show appreciation for Jane. The risk of Jane feeling slighted is just too high.
If you absolutely must give different sized gifts, definitely don't do it at the dinner; do it privately. But even then, I'd worry that Jane will find out and feel that you've just told her that she's B-list to Joe's A-list ... which isn't what you want to convey when you're trying to do something nice for someone.
4. What to say when you resign after two months
Two months ago, I was recruited by the company that I now work for. It seemed like exactly the type of company I wanted to work for, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Upon arriving and working here for a little while, I started to realize that things weren't as the higher-ups led me to believe when I interviewed...in fact, they were much much worse. They promised me a lot in regards to what I would be doing and the culture I'd be working in and way under-delivered. Then a few weeks ago, I got word of some unethical practices that the company has and I decided it was time to bail.
I've been interviewing heavily for the past 2 weeks and received a really fantastic offer from a great company. It's way above my salary requirements and working in the exact environment that I want to be working in (everything I thought I'd be in where I am now), so I've decided to accept the offer. Now that its time to write my resignation letter, I don't want to burn any bridges, but I do want to let them know why I'm leaving so that they can hopefully improve things for those that are still here if they choose to. How do you write such a letter? Or is it just implied that if you leave after two months you're going to burn the bridge no matter what?
Well, first, don't do any of that in a resignation letter. Resign face-to-face in a meeting with your boss, and simply let her know that the job wasn't what you had thought it would be when you were interviewing for it. If you hadn't raised your concerns earlier and given her a chance to address them, be prepared for her to be upset that you didn't do that. I would limit your explanation to that, though--I wouldn't get into larger issues about the company to try to fix them; that's not really your place as someone leaving after a couple of months, and it's unlikely to have an impact. Certainly if you're asked if there are additional reasons you're leaving, you could consider more candor, but leaving because the job isn't what you were told it would be is sufficient reason on its own.
You only need to supply a resignation letter if they request one, and if so, it should just contain a line explaining that you're submitting your resignation, effective ___ (date). Don't put complaints in the letter; that's not generally done.
5. Withdrawing from a hiring process after an interview
I had a second interview for a job today and have decided--because of the benefits, some of the focus of the work, and some other reasons--that this isn't the right fit. I would like to send a thank-you note to the people who interviewed me, however, to thank them for them for their time and consideration. Should I mention in the note that I have come to the conclusion that this wouldn't be a great fit?
I don't want to sound presumptuous or offend anyone, but I also can't say that I am still interested in the position and here's why I'm perfect for it, etc. like I normally would in a thank-you note.
If you're absolutely sure you wouldn't accept the job if it was offered to you, yes, you should tell them now. You can either go with vague ("I really appreciate your time, but I've decided to focus on other opportunities that I think will be a better fit") or be more candid and explain more ("After thinking it through, I've concluded that the benefits package is less than I need, and I'm really looking for work more focused on X"). I generally think that candor is the better way to go; after all, you might be doing their current and future employees a favor by pushing the benefits issue, and there's no harm in letting them know the other reasons the fit wasn't right, because it might help them connect you with something else in the future. (For instance, if I interviewed a great candidate who told me she wanted to do more X than the Y-focused job I was hiring for, and a few weeks later a friend told me she was hiring for X, I'd probably refer the person.)
As for your concern about doing it in a thank-you note, keep in mind that this is not a thank-you note; it's a follow-up note. You're following up with them post-interview to let them know that you appreciate the time they spent with you but are withdrawing because of ___. You're not confined to a structure that doesn't fit your situation.
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