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 manager wants me to lie to my new coworker
Last week, I gave my two weeks' notice to my company. At the same time as I gave my resignation, they were preparing to bring a new hire into our department. I realize that my resignation might be badly timed for them, but I've held firm even when presented with a counter-offer.
The new guy started today, and my boss has told me to speak to him as if I wasn't leaving. My last day is Friday, and apparently they haven't told him I won't be there next week! What makes this worse is that the company was planning for the two of us to work fairly closely. I feel bad for this guy, because this company has a fairly consistent pattern of dishonesty. Apparently he was told he'd be working closely with me and they chose to let him keep believing it even when they knew I was out the door. Now I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut while they "get their story right."
I'm not willing to lie to a coworker, and I'm sure not going to lie for this company, but I'm not sure it's my place to tell him I won't be around next week. Any thoughts?
Whoa. Not only is your manager wrong to ask you to lie by omission, but they're not doing themselves any favors with the new guy either -- come Monday, he's going to figure out what happened and he's going to be pretty damn unnerved to discover that your manager hid this from him. (Unless your manager's "story" is going to involve you leaving without notice, either voluntarily or involuntarily -- which is another thing I'd be worried about.)
How about saying to your manager, "I don't feel comfortable misleading Bob about the fact that I won't be here after this week. I need to let him know now. I realize you don't want to freak him out so I'm glad to coordinate with you on messaging if you'd like, but I do want to tell him today."
2. Can I ask for a raise at my 90-day review?
A few months ago, I received a job offer, and I requested a salary 6% higher than what they were offering. They accepted, and I've been working there ever since.
My 90-day review is coming up. I have, in my opinion, done a really stellar job in 90 days. In fact, even though I was hired for a non-supervisory position, I am fully in charge of training new hires. I have also been verbally promised a promotion within the year.
At my review, I would like to ask for a raise. I'm afraid of coming across as greedy since they gave me the starting salary I asked for. But, I believe my performance merits a raise. Also, this is my first time having an official performance review so I'm not really sure what to expect. Can you help me navigate this professionally?
You can't generally ask for a raise after 90 days, no matter how stellar a job you're doing. They assumed you'd do a stellar job when they hired you -- and they assumed you'd do it at the salary you agreed to. You generally need to wait about a year before asking for a raise -- asking for it now would look wildly premature and would not reflect well on you! So don't do that.
The idea behind the 90-day review is to to check in on how things are going and give you some formal feedback about what's going well and where -- if anywhere -- they'd like to see you do better. I'd just plan to go in ready to listen to their feedback, and ask for any additional feedback or guidance you think would be helpful. But this isn't a salary review; it's a check-in on how your work is going.
3. Convincing a company to let me work long-distance
I applied to a job based at the other side of the country (I live in Canada). The job posting specified that for the right candidate, they'd be willing to have someone work long distance, which is why I applied. During my second interview, they asked if I'd be willing to relocate to their city. I explained that I'd rather stay put but wouldn't want this to affect their final decision. They explained that they do prefer having someone in their offices.
I've moved around all over the world for the past 10 years and finally am ready to have a base, in my current city. How do I make them understand this? Can I use their original job ad as a negotiation tool?
Well, you can't necessarily make them understand it. But you can explain where you're coming from and see if they're willing to hire you in your current location, and you can explain what you'd do to make a long-distance employment work smoothly with a minimum of inconvenience for them. From there, it's up to them to decide if it's worth it to them or not. And keep in mind that while they might be willing to have a telecommuter in very specific circumstances, that can mean that the bar is much higher for a telecommuting candidate (i.e., they'd let a perfect unicorn of a candidate telecommute, but otherwise they might want to hire locally).
Also, it's not necessarily in your best interests to push them into allowing it if they're not comfortable with it on their own, because that increases the chances that they'll decide down the road that the arrangement isn't right for them.
4. Should I explain that I took six months off due to stress?
I have been a team leader/trainee manager for a little over three years, and on the whole I became fairly good at it and enjoyed many aspects of the job. However, a combination of the working environment and company policy was not healthy, and over those three years the stress mounted up to having a major impact on my health -- I was depressed, suffering panic attacks, and physically run down. Six months ago, I decided to step down from the management team, relinquish responsibilities, and work part-time whilst looking after my mental health.
Now I feel like I'm gaining perspective on my career again and want to go back to a management position elsewhere, but my confidence has taken a blow. I also don't know the best way in which to explain this six-month break to potential new employers, as no doubt future interviewers would ask. Should I be open, and tell them how my mental health was affected by a workplace with a negative culture? If so, how do I convince future employers that I will be able to handle similar pressures in the future? I believe I could do so and be an effective leader, but my confidence is not what it once was.
No, do not do that. It will raise too many questions. No matter how warranted your reaction to your previous office, prospective employers will wonder if your reaction was more about you than the workplace, and whether you won't be able to handle stress or occasional dysfunction somewhere new. Instead, say that you were dealing with some health issues that have since been resolved (which is true). There's no need for any more detail than that.
5. Is my company cheating me out of overtime pay?
I think my company is cheating me out of overtime pay. I get paid bi-weekly and am paid hourly. In some pay periods, I will sometimes work 45 hours the first week and 35 hours the second week. Technically I should get 5 hours of overtime for the first week, but what my employer is doing is adding the 5 hours to the second week so it's 40 hours each week. So basically as long as I don't go over 80 hours in a pay period, I don't receive overtime. I feel like this is illegal and have no idea how to approach my boss about this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Yes, this is illegal. Overtime must be calculated based on the hours you work within a single seven-day period (and in California, within the hours you work within a single day). Your employer doesn't have the option to calculate it based on their pay period instead.
It's always easier to address this stuff if you initially raise it in a non-adversarial manner -- something like, "I noticed my overtime pay has been calculated incorrectly. It's been based on my hours in a two-week period, but we're required to calculate it based on a seven-day period. It looks like I'm owed about X hours of overtime for the past several months. How should I get this corrected?"
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