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. How to solve a conflict between two strong-willed employees
What do you do when you have two very strong-headed and opinionated employees working closely together, one a team leader and the other a newer employee, who have a personality conflict?
The team leader has been with the company for five years and feels as if the newer employee talks to her in a condescending manner. The new employee has knowledge in the industry and has done the job for many years but is learning a new way and tends to ask lots of questions and wants specific details as to why our company does it such and such a way. This employee now feels that she asks too many questions so she stopped asking and then feels like she is looked at as a show off. I don't think either of them is right; it's just a power struggle.
Is the issue that the newer employee is doing too much of "we did it a better way at my old job?" If so, that's genuinely annoying after a point, and it would be worth telling her that you encourage to ask as many questions as she needs to learn the job, but that at the same time she should be sensitive to making your existing staff feel that she's criticizing the way they do things or questioning their own knowledge. Tell her also that you'd welcome her ideas about how your team could do things differently, but that she should bring them to you, not the team leader. (If it becomes necessary, you can also ask her to spend the next few months learning your setup before you two talk about possible changes.)
Meanwhile, tell the team leader that you expect her to find a way to get along pleasantly and professionally with the new employee, period. If she has concerns, she can bring them to you--but she needs to make sure that her manner doesn't discourage the new employee from asking the questions she needs in order to learn her job.
2. Should I not have shared with my staff that I have cancer?
In a moment of panic, I've over-shared at work and I'm not sure of the most professional action to take now; I'd appreciate your advice for moving forward.
Yesterday, I found out I have ovarian cancer. I see an oncologist next week to schedule surgery and have a rough several months ahead. In addition to telling HR and my manager, I also told the six people I supervise directly. My thinking at the time was that this was happening very quickly, I'm going to be out for several weeks after surgery, and I needed to get a plan in place immediately. Yeah, OK, I panicked.
In hindsight, I think I should've waited until I have a date scheduled and just told them I was having a medical procedure done and would be out a few weeks. But I didn't, and I can't take it back. So what should I do now and for the next few weeks? I want to handle this professionally, at least from now on. I like my team, we're a close group, but this is my issue, not theirs, to deal with; I just didn't want them to hear rumors. What should I do now?
Don't panic; I don't think this is a disaster at all. I'd just be very explicit with them about how you'd like to proceed. For instance, if you don't want a lot of concerned checks on your well-being, tell them that--explain that they can help you most by helping you stay focused on work when you're at work, and that, at least for now, that's what you're finding most helpful.
They will be worried about you, of course, so if people express concern, let them know that you'll tell them if you have anything important to share, but for now you'd love their help in staying focused on work. That said, be aware that you might not be able to pull that off 100 percent--people will be concerned and want to check in, and you may have days where you aren't working at full speed--and that's completely fine.
I'm sorry you're dealing with this, and I hope it all goes as smoothly as we can hope for.
3. The employer offered the job to someone else while we were still negotiating salary
I was offered a position after two interviews and was told by the hiring manager I was the best fit for the job. I was told the salary and I informed the manager I would need a day to decide on her offer. The following day, I called back to confirm I would accept the position but also wanted to negotiate the pay. The manager agreed to look into my salary request over the next couple of days and have an answer for me by the following Monday.
By Monday, the manager had not responded, so I sent an email reminding her of our discussion. The following day, the manager called and said, "Unfortunately we cannot provide you with your desired salary." I thanked her for considering it and said I would accept the position regardless. She then said she had since offered the position to someone else because she thought I had declined her initial offer and thought I said I would not want the job if I couldn't get my desired salary. I am so enraged because I clearly communicated that I had accepted. Is this normal?
No. The manager mishandled this.
That said, it's also not normal to accept a position but say you still want to negotiate the salary. That's largely because, at that point, you've forfeited your negotiating power; they already know that you'll accept it at the first number they offered--and if that's not true, then you haven't really accepted it; you're still negotiating. So that was weird--but not as bad as what the manager did.
4. Updating an interviewer on achievements that happen after your interview
For the last year, I have been volunteering as a grant writer for a nonprofit arts organization because I wanted to begin a career in the nonprofit world and I figured that this would be a good way to develop fundraising skills and obtain quantifiable achievements for my résumé. The plan seems to be working: Last week I landed an interview for a development associate position based largely on the strength of my volunteer work. The interview went well--they seemed impressed that I took the initiative to teach myself a new skill and get results with it--but I haven't heard from them since the interview (which I recognize is normal and no reason to draw conclusions either way).
Today I just found out that two proposals I had written through my volunteer work have been approved. This greatly improves my fundraising total--doubles it, in fact, and establishes a proposal writing success rate of 100 percent. I am, of course, thrilled but I really wish I had this information when I was interviewing. Would it be appropriate to drop my interviewer an email and mention this new achievement, or is this something I just need to sit on for the next position that I apply for?
Yes, I think you can do that! To be clear, I wouldn't do this every time you have an achievement--job candidates shouldn't, for example, email a prospective employer to announce that they just won a new account or fixed a major network server issue. But in this case, you're entering a new field and you're still untested--so it's useful and reasonable to say, "Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I'm starting to get results in from this work--both of my first two proposals have been funded, and I'd love to talk more about what I might do for XYZ organization along those lines."
5. When should I bring up a request to telecommute?
At my current job, I work from home twice a week. I'm currently interviewing for a new job and don't know when and how to bring that up. The jobs I interviewed for seem to be big on flexible schedules just as long as you get your work done. I thought about a few options: asking after getting an offer, asking after one month working there, or asking to work 10 hours a day and come in four times a week (if getting to work from home two days doesn't work). What's the best way to bring this up?
Normally it makes sense to wait until you have an offer, and then try to negotiate the arrangement you want as part of the offer. That said, even companies that are open to flexible (or somewhat flexible) schedules aren't always open to telecommuting nearly 40 percent of the time, so unless you have extremely in-demand skills, be prepared for the possibility that they're just not going to agree.
Given that, if this is an absolute requirement for you and you won't consider the job otherwise, I might bring it up a bit earlier to save time and aggravation on both ends if it's a deal-breaker for them.
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