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Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. How do I reject an internal candidate?
I am the manager of a group of technical people and am near the end of the hiring process for a new position. After the first round of interviews, I had one internal candidate and one external candidate who rose to the top. The external candidate scored a good bit higher than the internal candidate, which generally isn't the case. (Internal candidates generally do better because of their knowledge of the job and the organization, and they tend to be more relaxed in their interviews.) I decided to have a second round of interviews with a new panel and more focused questions. The external candidate was the best candidate at this round also, and if negotiations are successful, this will be my hire.
What are the best things to cover in the meeting I'm going to have with an obviously disappointed internal candidate?
The fact that you're planning on doing it in a meeting is good -- with internal candidates, you don't want rejections to come via an impersonal form email.
The best thing that you can do is give the person feedback. Tell her where she was strong, but why she ultimately didn't beat out the other person. Help her see what would make her a stronger candidate in the future. If the answer is really just "You were really good but the other person was just a stronger match for the role," it's OK to say that too, and be specific about the ways the other person was better matched so that it doesn't sound like you're just blowing smoke.
If you're her manager, you should also tell her how much you value her, be specific about why and what she's doing well, and offer to talk about other ways you can work with her to support her professional growth.
2. Employee's long bathroom breaks are tying up our bathroom.
We own and operate a retail hardware store that has been in business for 35 years. We employ 8 to 10 staffers and operate in a little under 6,000 square feet.
One employee has been with us for over five years. He is vital to our small operation. However, he routinely takes extended bathroom breaks. We have one bathroom downstairs that we all use, including customers. It is the only place for us to wash our hands on the ground level of our building. We also have two full bathrooms and a full kitchen upstairs. These are kept clean and operable at all times.
We have advised all of our staff that for extended bathroom breaks we would prefer that they use the upstairs bathroom. We as owners also sometimes use the upstairs facilities.
In the last year, this employee has routinely been in the locked bathroom on the ground level of our store for more than 20 minutes. Once for 30 minutes. We have asked that all staff alert management or other staff if they are having "bathroom issues" and use one of the upstairs bathrooms. This employee refuses to comply and today used the downstairs bathroom for 24 minutes!
I think you need to get away from the focus on tracking the exact number of minutes that he's using the bathroom; the exact number of minutes isn't really the issue and it's just agitating you and will look odd to anyone who realizes you're tracking his bathroom use to that degree.
Just tell him that you need that bathroom to be available to customers and ask if there's a reason he's not using the upstairs bathrooms. It's possible that there's something health-related in play (for example, maybe he has a situation that makes it hard to get upstairs in time) and if that's the case you'd need to figure out how to accommodate that. But otherwise, simply tell him he needs to use the upstairs bathrooms from now on.
3. My employees won't talk to each other and are having meltdowns.
Long story short, I am the big boss -- and I'm super new, just shy of two months in this position and still learning the ropes and personalities. I have an assistant manager under me and a number of staff members.
One of my staff members, Jane, interacted very poorly with a customer. The customer is a friend of my assistant manager's, Carrie, and complained to her. Carrie told me about the customer's complaint, so I sat down with her and Jane. We explained to Jane that she needed to act better and why, but Carrie overreacted, got heated, and tried really hard to make Jane feel awful. I did not see this coming and tried to gently shut it down, but Carrie was on a roll. It was bad.
Jane felt so bad (cried for days, couldn't sleep) that she came back to work and complained to me about Carrie. Then Carrie was sobbing with regret and anger, and Jane won't even talk to her. I feel caught in the middle. I can't relate to people who can't control their emotions at work -- I'm very calm and I keep things in perspective. I think both sides are behaving unprofessionally. I have no idea what I should do next.
Talk with Carrie and find out what on earth happened. Is that her normal way of talking to employees when something goes wrong? Does she not see anything wrong with what she did, or does she recognize that she handled it badly? If the latter, what does she think happened? If the former, this is the time to have a serious conversation with her about how you expect her to operate. She may also need to apologize to Jane.
Once that's done, talk to Jane, explaining that you've told Carrie she shouldn't have handled things that way, and that you don't expect a conversation like that again. But let her know that she does need to talk to Carrie in the course of doing her job; not speaking to her isn't an option and you expect both of them to behave professionally to each other going forward.
Meanwhile, I'd have a sharp eye out for other tendencies toward drama on this team, especially from Carrie. "Sobbing with regret and anger" is pretty off-key in a workplace, and if it turns out that it's part of a pattern, you'll need to ready to manage it pretty aggressively, particularly since it's coming from someone who needs to manage others.
4. Is it strange if a company doesn't involve HR in the hiring process?
Is it strange if a company that seems to have a functional HR department doesn't involve them in the interviewing and hiring process?
I seem to be a top candidate for a midlevel position. My first phone interview was with the person who would become my direct supervisor. About a month later, the senior director who interviewed me by phone asked me to come in for an in-person interview, where I met with him and five other senior staff members from his department. The senior director reached out to me a few days after the interview to ask for two references, which I supplied. After talking to both, he asked for a third reference a week later. A couple of days after that, I got an email from someone I had interviewed with on site (a senior VP, a couple of levels above the senior director) asking me how much money I made at my current job, and what I thought this new role should pay.
This is the first time I've been asked about salary so late in the game -- usually there's some discussion of compensation in the first phone interview to make sure we're on the same page. Then I began to wonder, is it weird that all of this has taken place without the involvement of an HR professional? From what I can tell from their website, they have an entire HR team.
Nope, it's not that weird, and I'd argue that it can be better, as long as you have managers who are trained to hire well since they're always going to have a more nuanced understanding of what they're looking for than HR is. I prefer to do my own hiring without HR involvement, and a lot of other managers feel the same. Or it could be that because this is a new position, they want to drive the process themselves to figure out how it can best work in the future -- or that HR is giving advice behind the scenes and you just don't see it.
5. My boss wants me to wait to tell people I'm resigning.
I have decided to leave the company where I've been working for eight years and told my manager yesterday. He would like to wait at least a week to tell the rest of the organization. How much time is reasonable for him to wait? I am leaving in six weeks and would like to let my team of reports knows as soon as I can so we can prepare together for the transition.
Waiting one week out of a six-week notice period isn't unreasonable; your boss may want time to figure out a transition plan so that when you do tell your staff, you're able to simultaneously tell them how things will be managed during the transition period, to minimize anxiety and unanswered questions. But any longer than a week is getting into unreasonable territory. If it goes on beyond that, I'd let him know that you're not comfortable not sharing your news with people.