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. Is it better to hire for skills or attitude?
I am a fairly new manager, and one of my staff recently accepted a promotion, so her position is vacant and I need to fill it. My manager has told me to focus on skills when creating the job description -- that it does not have to be the same exact position title or position as before.
I have two junior staff members on my team, and both of them have come to me about the position. One has the right can-do attitude, completes any task given to her, and is looking to move ahead in the organization, but she lacks technical skills. The other has more technical experience, and she told me point-blank that she would be resentful if the other junior staff member got promoted, because she feels that she would have to train her to be able to do the job she is promoted to. I made no promises to either of them.
Is it better to have someone in a team lead role who has a strong work ethic and is all around positive and can learn the skills or is it better to hire someone based on skills only? What is most important -- the skill set or the attitude and growth potential?
It depends on the job. There are some jobs where it might make sense to hire for attitude and teach the work itself, when it won't require a major investment of time to do so. There are other jobs where experience and a pre-existing skill set are essential. I don't know which you're dealing with, but I do know that what you never want to do is hire only for skills. That's a recipe for disaster. You might need to require the skills to be there, but you should always require the right attitude to be there too, because that's something that you can't teach, nor should you spend your time trying. So if your second staff member has a poor attitude, I'd discount her based on that alone.
That doesn't mean that you should hire the other one, though ... which leads me to this: Is there a reason you're determined to pick between these two people, rather than opening the job up and comparing these two with outside candidates? You might find a candidate who has the skills, attitude, and growth potential that you want -- and you should hire the best person for the job, not confine yourself to a choice of two.
2. My boss gave my assistant a raise without discussing it with me
The head of our organization gave my assistant a raise without discussing it with me. I am very conflicted about this because, on one hand, she totally and completely deserves this raise, but, on the other hand, she is my assistant and I feel that I should have been consulted (or at least notified). Our organization is fairly small (fewer than 50 employees) and only 20 of us work in the admin building. We all work very closely and I am sure my boss has noticed how hard my assistant has been working and what a good job she has been doing. As far as I know, no one else received a raise.
I only found out about it when I was cc'd on a memo that got included in my assistant's paycheck. Luckily I got the memo before she got the paycheck so I was able to tell her in person. Am I being unreasonable for being upset about this? Is this normal?
No, that's problematic. You need to be in the loop on things like this -- first, because you should have input into the decision and the timing (what if her performance had been slipping recently and your boss didn't know about it, or what if you'd already promised her a raise in X months if she met specific benchmarks?), and second, because if it looks to her like you didn't know about it, it undermines your authority as the source of consequences (including good ones) for performance.
Talk to your boss and explain why you'd like to be part of the decision-making process on things like this in the future.
3. Is insomnia a valid reason to call in sick?
Do you consider insomnia a valid reason to take a sick day? I don't mean "I'm a little tired" or "I stayed out too late last night," but legitimate "I've been lying awake for the past six hours and now I have to get up in two and I'm still not able to fall asleep" insomnia.
I have been dealing with this since I was a kid and usually have it under control enough to function the next day, but sometimes there is nothing I can do. (I do have a prescription for Ambien, but it really knocks me out for eight-plus hours and sometimes I don't know I need it until too late.)
Yes, it's a perfectly legitimate reason to take a sick day. You're going to have just as much trouble functioning and be just as miserable as you would be if you went into work with a "real" illness. That said, there are some offices (and some managers) where I wouldn't be that specific about it and would instead simply take a sick day without getting into the reason.
4. My employer is sticking me with part of the bill for out-of-town travel
My employer wishes me to work out of town occasionally. I have to stay in a hotel and obviously feed myself regularly. The company gives me a per diem rate of $110 to cover all my expenses. Unfortunately, this NEVER even comes close to covering my hotel costs -- and I am not even being particular about a hotel. The city is a major one and there is nowhere that I can stay that will give me anything left over for food costs.
I have explained to my employer that I am always out of pocket and I cannot afford to do this anymore. They have stated that this is all they will pay for my expenses. What are my options?
Sit down with your manager and say this: "It's costing me an average of $X of my own money each time I take a trip. I can't continue to cover these costs, which are being incurred by our work, not me personally. I've looked for every place I can cut costs on these trips, but they each require around $Y, not the $X I'm allotted. Since I can't continue to pay for them myself, what should we do?"
If your company still won't budge, then you'd be left to a) refuse to take more trips, which may or may not jeopardize your job, b) accept that you're going to be paying $X in order to stay in your job, or c) seek a new one, at a company that pays its own expenses.
5. Should you say something at a business lunch if someone has food on his face or in his teeth?
If you're at a business lunch with someone you don't know well/at all and that person gets food on his face or in his teeth, should you say something? What's more embarrassing: Realizing this on your own and knowing the other person had surely noticed it, or having someone point it out to you?
Say something -- just make it casual and not like a big deal. Say, "Oh, you've got something on your chin there," and keep on talking.
It's far more mortifying to sit through a whole meal and discover afterward that there was food on your face.
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