Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. My employee resigned but now isn't leaving.
I recently took over as manager for a small team. One of the employees on the team, Jane, announced that she was leaving and had a new job lined up. Jane's replacement was hired but before she could start, there were some problems with Jane's new job. This is no fault of Jane's, but as a result, she has remained on. While it has been helpful to have her here to train her replacement, we're entering a situation where I am not sure how to proceed.
I have been told by my upper management that they will not be terminating Jane's employment. I'm now in a place where I need Jane's replacement to start fully taking on Jane's duties to truly learn her new job. At the same time, I am struggling to find work to fill Jane's days. Because the length of her stay is so uncertain, I am trying to give her a stream of short-term projects. Complicating this whole situation, I have realized that Jane had the potential to be a truly excellent employee, but her previous manager really failed her, causing her to look to leave. What do I do next? Should I advise her to look for a new job? Should I keep her in this short-term project limbo and just trust that a new job will come through?
Well, the most important thing is to make sure that your new employee, the one who replaced Jane, still gets the job that she signed up for--meaning that out of fairness to her, you need to move forward with having her fully take on Jane's work. You can talk to Jane and explain that you owe it to the new person to keep your word to her about what her job would be.
Talk to your upper management and find out exactly what, "They will not be terminating Jane's employment" means: Can she stay indefinitely? If so, are they approving a new position on your team? Is there work to fill that position? If not, what are they proposing? Are they OK with paying her indefinitely when there isn't much work for her to do? You've got to hash this all out with them and really figure out what this means.
After you do that, it's time to talk to Jane and decide what to do next. If your company is willing to give her a different job, explain to her what that job would be and see if she wants it. If she doesn't, be upfront with her about how long you can give her short-term projects.
But really, this all hinges on decisions coming from above you, so that's where you really need to seek clarity.
2. Employer wants job candidate to "show loyalty" by not interviewing for other jobs.
My partner recently interviewed at a potential employer. The feedback was good, and he has heard from his recruiter that they are going to make an offer. However, the recruiter said the employer asked that my partner "show loyalty" and stop interviewing for other roles while they put the offer package together. I asked if perhaps this was coming from the recruiter who could be protecting his cut, but apparently the employer mentioned it in the interview as well. Is this weird? It seems weird.
It's weird. And it's also inappropriate and crappy. There's no "loyalty" to be shown here. Your partner doesn't work for this company yet and doesn't even have an offer from them. I'm sure they'd think it was wildly inappropriate if he asked them to show loyalty by stopping conversations with other candidates. Aso, he has no way of knowing if the offer, should it materialize, will be acceptable to him. Why should he pass up opportunities with other employers for an offer he might not even end up taking?
If they want to ensure they don't lose him to other employers, the way to do that is to move quickly and make him an enticing offer. It's also smart to tell him that's in process so that he can factor that into his thinking. But how he factors it in is his call, not theirs.
3. I don't want a baby shower at work.
I have worked at my current job for many years, and I am thrilled to be expecting my first child! My office usually hosts baby showers for expectant mothers and fathers. The grandeur of these events will vary based on your perceived importance within the group and how much you are liked. It's usually a surprise.
Is there a polite way for me to decline the offer of a baby shower at the office? I have been mistreated by multiple managers over the years, and do not wish to be on the receiving end of what feels like an extremely insincere gesture or any related gifts. I also do not agree with playing favorites in the office.
Talk to the person most likely to organize it--or to at least to know who is organizing it--and say, "I know we often do showers for expectant parents. I'd prefer not to have one, and I was hoping you could help me make sure no one inadvertently organizes one. It would be a kind gesture, but I wanted to speak up now since it's really not something I want."
Be prepared for questions about why, though. One possible response is to just fall back on, "Oh, it's just not really my thing." You could also add, "We're waiting until the baby is here to see what we need." Although that risks people thinking you'd be OK with a shower with an atypical theme (like kids' books, or parenting tips, or so forth).
4. Could a guy I've talked to on Twitter recommend me for a job?
I have been applying to a lot of jobs, including one recently with a research group. I have a possible connection to it: I'm on Twitter, and so is one of the group's star researchers. I follow him, he doesn't follow me. He tweets very frequently about the topic area this group focuses on, I reply when I have something to say, and sometimes we have a mini Twitter conversation. It's always positive.
Since I don't have other connections to this group, I'm thinking of emailing him along the lines of, "Hi, sorry to bother you, we tweet back and forth sometimes. I wanted to let you know I applied for a job with one of the groups you work with, and would be thrilled if you mentioned to [the person listed on the website as in charge of applications] that I seem thoughtful/knowledgeable online and might be worth interviewing. I understand that's a lot to ask. Thanks for all your work, I've learned a lot!"
Is that crazy out of line? Is that a case of going around HR and causing more work for everyone, or more like using my network?
Eh, I wouldn't. It's not about going around HR or causing more work, but just about the fact that this guy doesn't have any real basis for recommending you. If you had had long, substantive discussions, then possibly--but Twitter conversations probably don't rise to the level that would start getting you into recommendation territory. So it's likely to put him in an awkward position and not really get you anywhere.
5. When religion limits an employee's availability
How can a manager support and provide opportunities for employees whose religious practices limit their ability to participate in workplace and professional opportunities? My employee, "Kate," is a very devout Seventh-Day Adventist. This means that she does not work on Saturdays, under any circumstances (including work travel). That is fine! We can easily adjust her schedule to accommodate this. However, it means she ends up missing out on things that only occur on Saturdays.
Our organization is public-oriented and sometimes provides special family-oriented programs on Saturdays. We also participate in local festivals and parades--typically on Saturdays. These are fun events, and she is visibly disappointed to be excluded (sometimes disengaging from the planning process). Additionally, in my industry, it is not uncommon for conferences to spill over onto Saturdays. Most recently, she was unable to participate in an industry leadership program because it ran Thursday through Saturday, and attendance for the entire duration was mandatory.
She's a good employee and I want to provide opportunities for her. I don't want her to be excluded on the basis of her religious practice, but I'm not sure what I can do in these situations. Thoughts?
If there are ways to do some of these events on days that aren't Saturday, that would be a kind and thoughtful gesture. But it sounds like Saturdays are the logical days for some of this (programs for the public, etc.) and that a lot of it is outside of your control (like local festivals and the leadership program that you weren't in charge of). If nothing else, though, you could say to Kate, "I want to let you know that I'm looking out for things we can do on days other than Saturdays so that you can be involved," so that she knows it's something you're aware of and thinking about. And then of course follow through in really doing that.
But I think this is something where a reasonable person would appreciate any efforts you made to accommodate her, but also wouldn't hold it against you if it didn't easily work out.
It would be different if you had your choice of any day of the week and still continued to schedule everything on Saturdays, knowing that she wouldn't be able to attend. But it sounds like the timing is often out of your control.
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