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 employees say their co-worker slacks off when I'm not around.
I supervise three people. All of them are great, and wonderful workers. However, I am starting to hear more and more gossip. The two women who work the front are telling me that whenever I am out, either on vacation or working in another department, the woman who works in the back doesn't do anything. They say she works on her side business, makes personal calls, and goes off to run errands on the clock. However, I have no way to vouch for this other then the word of the two women at the front, who do not like her.
I'm having a hard time trying to figure out if they are telling me the truth or if they're trying to get this woman in trouble because they don't like her.
Find ways to observe it for yourself. Since the allegation is that she's doing this when you're not around, make a point of coming in when you're supposed to be somewhere else. There's no reason you can't say you'll be out of the office for the afternoon or working in a different department and then pop in unexpectedly. Do it a few times, and you'll probably get a better sense of whether there's anything to this. And if you have any peers who are in a position to see this if it's happening when you're not around, discreetly talk to them too. You might even be able to enlist them in these spot checks when you're not around. (Make sure these are other managers who will handle this discreetly themselves.)
And if it turns out you have staff members who are lying to you to get someone else in trouble, you have a big problem to deal with.
2. My old manager won't hire someone to replace me.
I have been very lucky to get a great job in a different department at my current company. Right now, I am in the transition period where I am still working in my old department and am training people to learn my job when I leave. The problem is my old supervisor doesn't think that he should hire someone new to do my job. I am training two existing employees, who both have full-time jobs in other departments, to do my job. I strongly feel that my old job requires a full person to do it and shouldn't be split up and pushed off onto two people who already have full-time responsibilities.
I haven't voiced my opinion with the old supervisor because I feel it's not my place, since I am leaving. Also, my old supervisor has not asked me at all about my job duties or anything to do with the transition, so I haven't felt like volunteering my opinion. Should I bother talking with my old supervisor about this or should I just bide my time until I am out?
That's really your call, since your manager hasn't even bothered to check in with you. If you would feel better saying something, then do -- ask to meet with your manager to discuss the transition, update him on where your projects stand and what you've trained your co-workers in, and mention your concerns about the feasibility of getting everything covered by people who already have full-time jobs. And then after that let it go -- you'll have fulfilled your obligations by speaking up, and then it's up to your manager to decide how to handle it. (It's possible your manager has other plans that you don't know about, such as pulling back on some of the work or eliminating large chunks of the role, or of hiring someone down the road. It's also possible that he doesn't, of course -- but again, your obligation ends once you've pointed out the concern.)
3. How much time should we let employees make up when they're late?
We are a family-owned business and have around 70 employees. We are wondering if you have any advice about allowing non-exempt/hourly employees to make up their time lost in the same week. This is referring to employees who leave early or come in late for appointments or personal obligations and even arriving late to work due to traffic, car trouble, etc.
Currently, it is up to managers if they want to allow their employees to make up time they lost (versus simply not earning wages for that time). However, we realize this is not fair if some allow time to be made up, while other managers do not. Should we only allow time to be made up for appointments or prescheduled absences? Should we allow employees to make up time if they are late due to traffic? Should we set a limit, like 15 minutes late or less can be made up?
It's really up to you, and it's not inherently bad to have some managers allow it while others don't; after all, different teams are working within different contexts, and managers should be the best judges of how that plays out on their teams. However, as a general principle, I'd say you should allow people to make up time -- up to whatever point that will become disruptive. For instance, it might be perfectly feasible for someone to make up an hour by staying late on Thursday, but not possible for them to make up four hours that way, because their work requires other people to be around, and the office will be empty at that point (or whatever). Or maybe you want to put limits on it because you've found that otherwise people won't take their start times seriously, and it's important to you that they do. Or maybe none of this is true and you can give people a lot of freedom in this area -- and maybe even some more than others, depending on what their particular job is.
Basically, don't have rules for rules' sake, but rather because it's directly tied to a business need.
4. Letting employees include personal cell numbers in company communications.
If we allow employees (who choose to do so) to include their personal cell phone numbers in official company communication, does that pose any threat to the business? This is in addition to any official company numbers.
Well, you'll have the problem that their personal cell numbers are out there with people after they're no longer working with you -- and you probably won't have much/any control over how they handle those calls at that point. I'm not a fan of that, but more and more people are doing what you describe.
5. Job searching and multiple preplanned trips.
I want to start looking for a new job soon -- in both the public and private sector. I'm a bit spoiled in terms of leave coming from my current employer, and have about three-four trips currently scheduled for the next year, including a two-week honeymoon in seven months. Should I hold off applying for jobs until after the honeymoon, after which I don't currently have any trips planned? And if I were to apply now, when is the best time to discuss these plans? I think you usually say after you have an offer; is that correct?
No reason to hold off on applying -- worst-case scenario if you start applying now is that a job will turn out not to work well with your plans and you'll decide at that point how to handle it. As for when to bring up your plan, wait until you have an offer (but discuss it before you accept that offer). At that point, they've already decided they want to hire you and it will often be easier to negotiate the time off that you want.
It's also worth noting that the more senior you are, the easier it is to negotiate this stuff. I might balk at four trips for a junior level person, depending on their length, but wouldn't for a senior person, assuming the other three are shorter than the honeymoon.
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