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. My biggest client is a jerk
I own a small advertising firm with one big client. The new exec we work with at that company is a bully, micromanaging our work and using abusive language when dealing with us. We had a wonderful relationship with previous managers - this is the first time this has happened.
know they are short staffed and she is the only one they have to work with us, so more than likely, complaining to higher-ups will result in us being dropped for another company in this highly competitive industry. I can't let that happen - too many people's jobs depend on it. But my attempts to find common ground and communicate with her have only led to more belittling language. I'm at the end of my rope - and scared. Any suggestions?
You can try meeting with the new exec, saying that you've had the sense that she's been frustrated with your staff and asking how you can work more effectively with her. And if you were willing to risk her taking it poorly, you could try talking to her about how she can work with you more effectively. And you could ask her to come directly to you with concerns in the future rather than using abusive language with your staff.
However, since she's your primary client and you're not willing to risk losing the relationship, this might be a case of needing to suck it up and deal with it, if you know you'd prefer to deal with a jerk than to lose the client entirely. But if you do that, you should be working actively on ways to diversify your client list, so that you're not held hostage to any single company. (Which would be a good idea even if this woman were lovely -- because being dependent on a sole client is a precarious position to be in.)
2. How to avoid panicking people when we summon them to HR
Our HR office often needs to call employees in (we are a large educational institution and have several unions, so employees also bring representatives to these meetings). We typically do this with a pretty curt summons. We do not, as a matter of course, offer the employee information on why they are being called in. The rationale behind that is, in part, so employees don't have time to prepare a story or compare stories with other employees about disciplinary investigations. This leads to frequent consternation because employees want to why they're being called in and worry that something is wrong.
It's not my policy, and I can see both sides of this. What is the "best practice" is for calling employees into HR? Is more or less information at the time of the meeting request better from a management standpoint? How would you recommend handling this?
If you're just telling people, "Please come to HR at 2 p.m." today and refusing to tell them why, then yeah, that's going to cause some anxiety. People are going to wonder if they're being fired, for one thing.
In circumstances where you don't want to discuss the reasons for the meeting beforehand, such as during an investigation related to another employee, you can still add something like, "This doesn't relate to your job performance at all, and there's nothing to worry about. I'm hoping for your insights on a topic that I'll explain when we meet." (If the meeting does relate to their job performance, I don't think you should try to hide that -- but I'd assume/hope that their managers are the ones calling those meetings with them, not HR.
3. Is my masters degree hurting my job search?
I graduated with a masters degree in Communications Management and have spent about a year doing various part-time jobs and internships to gain more work experience and am looking for a full-time job. I also applied to a temp agency after I felt like I need some help in the "getting a job" department. I got a call from the agency about a position and they called back saying the company felt I was overqualified. I laughed as I've never heard that before and didn't agree that I had enough experience to be considered overqualified. The temp agency person retorted that I do have a masters degree.
Is my masters degree hurting my job search? Should I leave it off in some instances? I have been trying to apply to more entry-level PR and marketing positions since most of my work has been part time or internships for a few nonprofits. I don't know if I am undervaluing my skills going for positions that only require a bachelors or even a just a high school degree.
Maybe. One problem with getting a masters when you're seeking work in a field that doesn't require it is that some employers will think you don't really want the job you're applying for, and that you'd rather have a job on the path the degree put you on. That alone can end up being a reason not to hire you -- for the exact same job you might have been a stronger contender for before you got your graduate degree. And some employers will worry that you'll cost more than they want to pay.
On the other hand, that's not what's necessarily happening here, and it's dangerous to let one company's opinion dictate how you present yourself. But yeah, it's useful to be aware that advanced degrees aren't always exclusively helpful.
4. Offer was withdrawn and then reinstated
After applying to a job posting online and going through two rounds of interviews with both the director and VP of the department, I was made an offer, which I subsequently accepted. The entire process of applying, interviewing, and being made an offer took around seven weeks.
After formally accepting and signing the offer, I received an email from HR not long after saying the offer was withdrawn because the job was now closed due to unforeseen internal circumstances. I contacted the hiring manager about what had happened, who told me that he didn't have all the details as he was away from the company on business and he apologized over what had happened. He promised he would due his best to sort the issues out and also assured me that it had nothing to do with me since they wanted me for the job.
The day he returned to work, I received an email from him saying that the job was in fact reinstated and was sent a formal email from HR saying to disregard what had previously happened and the job was back on and mine. What do you make of all this? I know that things like this could happen in the workplace but should I be worried? Should I take this as a red flag?
Find out what happened first. Before you accept, call up the hiring manager and say something like, "I'm interested in moving forward with the offer, but I'm concerned about what happened earlier. Can you shed any light on why it was withdrawn previously?" Depending on his answer, you might also ask, "Is there any chance that the job might be frozen again?" But hear what he has to say before you make up your mind.
5. Is being introduced to the team a good sign at a job interview?
I have a question about a job interview I just did. Is being introduced to the team a good sign? I have read that it could be a good sign or that it does not matter. The hiring manager could do that every potential employee, right?
Yep. Some hiring managers do it with every candidate, some do it only with candidates they think are strong, some do it when they have time to kill during the period set aside for the interview, and some don't do it it at all. You can't really read anything into it.
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