Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Is my employee abusing her medical leave?
One of my staff, who has been with us for three years, takes sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) on a regular basis. Her FMLA allowance based on her doctor's notes is that she can miss up to three days a month; she always takes all of them. I personally feel that she abuses it, because there have been stretches where she did not take any leave at all and the days seem to always be predictable (Mondays and Fridays). As one example, she was promoted to assistant manager and didn't take any leave during the 90-day trial period.
I don't hold the leave against her professionally and do my best to evaluate her without considering that. She has disclosed to me what her chronic condition is in the past, and she admits she refuses to seek treatment for it.
I recently overheard other team members complaining about how she doesn't get penalized for all her absences. I can't tell them her situation, but I know how absenteeism hurts team morale and causes more work for everyone else. If she is not violating the terms of her legally required leave, is there anything else I can do to address this with her or to encourage the rest of the team?
It's possible that she's abusing her sick leave, but I don't see anything here that indicates that. It's possible that she purposely schedules doctor appointments for Fridays because she needs the weekend to recover from treatment (that would explain the Mondays, too, if it stretches into those). It's also possible that she pushed herself through the 90-day period after her promotion because she really wanted to impress, but that she can't routinely do that. And the fact that there are other stretches where she doesn't take leave doesn't really mean anything; she could have some months that are better than others.
Or, sure, it's possible that she's abusing it. But I wouldn't conclude that from what you've written here. If her work is otherwise good and she's trustworthy, go with that. If her work isn't good and she's not trustworthy, you can address those things without getting into the sick leave use at all.
As for your other team members, say this: "I'm not going to discuss anyone's individual situation out of respect for their privacy, just like I wouldn't do that to you, but in general you should know that when people have circumstances come up in their lives, such as medical issues, we work to accommodate them the best we can. Keep in mind that you don't know what arrangements people have made with their manager or why. Meanwhile, if anyone's schedule is causing problems for your work, you should come and talk to me so we can find solutions -- not complain to one another."
2. Co-worker keeps commenting on my pregnant body
I am five months pregnant. At this point in my pregnancy, I've gained 10 pounds, which according to my doctor is on track for where I should be.
A senior colleague keeps commenting about my body in front of other co-workers, saying things like, "You've got a turtle body since you got pregnant" and "What a strange body you have now. You're so wide." It makes me very uncomfortable, but I'm not sure how to react.
That's incredibly rude, and you have every right to tell her to stop. It's odd enough that we live in a society where people feel free to comment on pregnant women's bodies, but your co-worker's comments are particularly rude.
The next time she makes one of these comments, say this: "Jane, please don't comment on my body. Thank you." If she continues after that, say, "I've asked you not to comment on my body. You're being incredibly rude." You can also try, "Why would you say that?" and "I really don't want to hear your thoughts on my body. Please stop."
3. Should I call a former colleague's prospective new boss to say how great she is?
Our VP just moved out of town and she just had a really good interview. I am not in her reference list, but she's truly amazing and I would love to call her potential new boss and tell him how wonderful she is. Should I?
Only with her permission! While you might be thinking there's no way this could backfire, you shouldn't interfere in someone else's job search without their permission. It's possible that she has the sense that the prospective employer wouldn't find this helpful, or that she's already arranged for someone else to contact them and feels a second reference would be too much, or that she simply wouldn't want it for her own reasons. Reach out and make the offer, but wait for a clear yes from her.
Also, I wouldn't do this at all if you didn't work extremely closely with her, ideally in a position of authority over her. Otherwise, it's going to be too vague to be as compelling as an unsolicited call should be.
4. Interviews on casual Fridays
What should you wear when going to job interviews on casual Fridays? As the one being interviewed, I always make it a point to arrive at my interview nicely and well dressed -- as is expected. But on a few occasions, the interview has been on a casual Friday for the hiring manager/HR, so there I am in my best and there they are in their jeans. This made me feel awkward -- my point of view was, I took the time to look my best for you, could you not also try to present yourselves nicely to me?
I expressed this once to a friend and she said, "Why should they give up their casual day just for an interview?" I countered that they could bring a change of clothes and at least look nice for the interviews. What's your opinion on this?
It's pretty common for interview candidates to be dressed more nicely than their interviewers. It's just ... how interviews go. Rightly or wrongly, candidates are expected to wear suits to interviews in most industries (not all, but most). If it's a convention in your field, you're expected to adhere to it even if your interviewers are dressed more casually.
You're right that it's not particularly fair, but neither are a bunch of other things about interviewing (for example, as a candidate you can't take a call in the middle of an interview, but your interviewer can). The process is rife with double standards! I'm not endorsing that, but it's the reality of how it usually works.
5. Should I have to ask to be promoted, or should my performance be enough?
I work in finance in a 25-person organization. Over the past four years, I have gotten high marks on my performance reviews, my boss and others have commented on how much of a leader I have become, and I've asked for (and taken) additional courses to do my job better. Yet I have been in the same position for the past 10 years! Other people in my department have been promoted in that time period. Shouldn't my performance and initiative be enough to get promoted or do I have to ask?
You have to ask. Sometimes, at least. It's true that sometimes you can get promoted without explicitly asking, but it's not a given. You should tell your manager you're interested in taking on additional responsibilities and ask what it would take to get promoted into a position like role X or Y. It's possible that in a 25-person organization, there might not be a clear promotion path out of your position, but if that's the case, that will be useful to hear too (so you can decide if you want to stay there knowing that or if you'd rather look at other positions elsewhere).
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.