Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Talking to an intern who dresses too casually
I have taken on a very capable, intelligent intern for the semester in an academic setting. I did tell her before she started that she would need to dress business casual. Several times I have noted that she has arrived at work in skintight leggings and tops that do not cover the bottom and hips. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing is not appropriate in our organization, but apparently it's acceptable at my intern's other employer in another field. Our region and profession can be somewhat conservative on attire. I am not much older than the intern and I agree with the dress code.
Should I say something to her about the leggings or leave it alone since her internship is almost up? She is not in trouble or anything--I know I am more at fault for inaction from the beginning, but I do like her and want to see her be successful.
Normally I would say that yes, you should speak up--primarily because she needs to comply with your company's dress code but also because interns are in learning mode, and when you're managing an intern, giving feedback on this kind of thing goes with the territory. But telling her at the very end of her internship is a little like telling someone that they have food in their teeth at the end of their big presentation, rather than at the start of it; she's likely to feel embarrassed that she's been dressing this way the whole time and no one told her.
But I still think you should say something, because leggings that aren't accompanied by a butt-covering top aren't appropriate for most offices, and you'll be doing her a favor by letting her know before she moves on to her next job. I would say it this way: "I noticed you wore leggings to work the other day. With our dress code, you can wear leggings if you're wearing them with a skirt or dress or a very long top, but you can't really use them interchangeably with pants. That's pretty typical of a lot of office dress codes. It's not a big deal that you didn't know, but I wanted to give you a heads-up so you know for the future!" (By framing it as something you noticed once, not something you've been noticing over and over, I think you'll help this feel less awkward.)
2. Managers taking off days right before or after a holiday
I have two employees who report to me. Both are supervisors, and they manage the rest of the employees. What is the appropriate way to talk to one of the supervisors about taking off every Monday or Friday before or after a holiday? I just don't think is a good look as a supervisor in the eyes of the employees.
Is it getting in the way of work being done or causing problems for other people? Does the manager have the vacation time to take? Are other people able to take those days as well? If none of those things are an issue, I'd leave it alone. You want to give people the maximum possible flexibility to manage their schedules and their time off, and you're likely to frustrate them if you tell them not to take certain days solely because of optics if there's no actual work reason backing it up.
On the other hand, if it does cause work problems or if it's preventing other people from ever being able to get those days off, then you'd just explain that straightforwardly. As in: "I've noticed you usually take off a Monday or a Friday right before or after a holiday. It's preventing anyone else from being able to extend their vacation in the same way, and I want to make sure we're giving everyone equal access to those days." Or "I've noticed you usually take off a Monday or a Friday right before or after a holiday, and it's causing X problem. Can we find a system to put in place to address that, or can you adjust your schedule so that's covered more of the time?"
3. Interviewing a returning employee for the same job he left
A co-worker left our company on good terms for a higher-level position at a different organization. After only a few weeks at the new company, he put in his notice and left because of bad management. We are now beginning our interview process to fill his previous position and he has applied to return. What types of interview questions would you recommend we ask? What's the best way to handle the conflict of interest since the interview team all know him and are friends with him?
You don't need to do a traditional interview where you probe into his skills and experience, because you already know all about his work and what it's like to work with him.
What you really need to know is why he left and why he's interested in coming back now, because you want to be confident that if you bring him back, he's not going to be looking to leave in another six months. So you want to get a good understanding of what drew him away in the first place and why he's enthusiastic about coming back now, and you want to talk with him enough to be sure that you're not just an easy landing while he's trying to get away from a bad situation. So just talk to him like a colleague (which he still basically is), and be candid about what you want to know and why.
It sounds like he left for a promotion. How long do you realistically think he'll be happy coming back to his old, lower-level position? How long does he see himself staying in the role? Were there other things that drove him to look, and have those things since been resolved or are they likely to push him to leave again? Is his work strong enough that you'd be willing to bring him back even if you thought he might leave again in a year? (For some jobs and situations, that can make sense. For others, it might not.)
Frankly, if he was a high performer and you're convinced he'll stay a reasonable amount of time (and not just return while he continues to look for something else), you should consider just hiring him back rather than going through a full interview process with other people. (But don't do that if he was just OK; in that case, you should assess him against other candidates.)
4. Holiday gifts when I'm close friends with my employees
I agree wholeheartedly that gifts at work should flow downward (from manager to employee), not upward (from employee to manager). I happen to be the boss of a small company (nine employees) and feel very uncomfortable about receiving gifts.
Here is the catch: I am very close friends with several of my employees and friendly outside of work with most of the others. I chose to mix business and pleasure by hiring friends of mine and fostering a friendly atmosphere. We have bimonthly dinners at my house, we are always invited to the same parties, I regularly go to the spa with one of them, and travel on vacations with another. We are so close as friends that two of my employees' families are thoroughly convinced we are in relationships as well.
I always put myself in a position where the gifts flow downward (I treat them when we are out to dinner or drinks, always bring in Starbucks, etc). Despite this, it is quite common for my employees to give me gifts. This is no surprise as we are so closely connected. I don't know how to respond. On the one hand, as they are friends, it's perfectly natural for them to buy me gifts from time to time. On the other hand, I am not as close with all of them and I don't want to create an atmosphere where everyone feels the need to buy me a gift.
Yeah, you've removed the normal manager-employee boundaries, so it's hard to put them back up when it comes to gifts.
It will also generally be hard to put them back up when it comes to performance problems, firing, perception of favoritism from the employees you're not close to, and so forth. I know that's not the point of your question, but I'd be way more concerned about that than the gift situation. If it works for you, then so be it--but I'd ask yourself some rigorous questions around that stuff (and would probably ask them of your employees, too, especially the ones who aren't in the inner circle).
Anyway, back to your question. If you're going to blur the lines this much, it's going to be hard to unblur them for one day a year. You could go for a mutual no-gift-giving arrangement, though, and just be transparent that you don't want anyone to feel obligated to gift up and this is the best way to prevent it.
5. Will I be taken seriously without a LinkedIn account?
Since the past election, I've been disheartened (to say the least!) by social media, and have been disabling and closing my accounts. I'm considering closing my LinkedIn account as well, as there seems to be an infiltration of politics on that site (it used to be strictly a career site).
However, my friends say that companies will not take me seriously if I don't have a LinkedIn account. I don't have a ton of connections, although I do have several very nice recommendations that I would lose if I closed the account. I don't like to be forced into participation on social media sites, and kind of resent having a LinkedIn account, but I don't want to lose my chances at jobs, either. What's your feeling about this?
It's definitely true that recruiters will often look on LinkedIn (either to find candidates or to learn more about the ones they have), and it can be good to have some sort of presence there. Because it matters more in some fields than in others, it's hard to say if you'd really be putting yourself at a disadvantage by shutting it down. But for most people, not having an account would just mean you wouldn't be spotted by someone looking for candidates for a job--not that your lack of presence there would be a red flag for an employer whom you connected with by other means.
But if you're just annoyed by seeing political stuff there, I think this could be less of an issue than you think because an easier solution is just to stop visiting the site! LinkedIn isn't a site that requires you to pop in all the time; it works perfectly well for entirely passive use--meaning that you set up a profile and get alerts if someone happens to message you there, but otherwise don't visit at all. Obviously, if you feel strongly about getting rid of your account entirely, this isn't a solution for you, but if it really is just that you're getting annoyed by the content you see there, you could just pretend the site doesn't exist, keep your profile up, and be done with it for as long as you want. Visit to update your profile if you change jobs, but otherwise it is dead to you.
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