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 performance evaluation didn't reflect my great work
My annual review was conducted last week. I've worked at the company for just under a year, and because it was a career switch, I took a position beneath my experience level. My expectation was that I'd move quickly through the ranks after proving my competence and constantly striving to create value.
Over the course of the year, I moved up from an analyst role to a position managing several people on an IT project. I've received nothing but praise from managers and peers, and so I fully expected to receive high marks, a sizable raise, and possibly a promotion commensurate to my current role. Instead, I received an average rating for my level, no discussion of promotion, and a whopping 3 percent raise. I was incredulous. I can't remember feeling so devalued and humiliated. I tried to argue my case during the review, but it seems the decision had been made. I've been lumped into the mediocre (or below) pile, and there's nothing I can do until next year's review to change it. What would you do if you were in my position?
Talk to your manager. Many companies make it very hard for people to receive high ratings on evaluations and routinely give average ratings to star performers. That might be the case at your company, or it might be something else, but either way, start by talking to your manager and say that you felt your evaluation didn't reflect your performance or the feedback you've received all year. Ask what you'd need to do differently to receive a higher rating in the future. Once you hear her response, you'll have a better idea of how to proceed.
All that said, though, it's possible that your expectations are slightly too high. I say that because you were hoping for a second promotion within a year (which is a lot), and you might be overestimating how well you're performing in a role that's relatively new to you. You might be doing a perfectly good job in the new role, but still not in the "excellent" category, which wouldn't be at all uncommon after such a short period of time, even for a smart and talented person. And that's more reason to talk to your manager with an open mind and hear what she says.
2. My co-workers want money from me for a lottery
I just started a new job a few weeks ago. I recently learned that my co-workers gather an office lottery pool about two or three times per week. Since everyone contributes to it, my co-workers added money in my absence and asked me to pay them back. Is it wrong to feel a little insulted by this, especially since they didn't even ask me if I wanted to contribute in the first place? I am helping take care of a sick relative, which I don't plan on telling my co-workers, so I prefer to keep all of my discretionary income for myself or my family. How can I politely say that I'm not interested? (I am already aware that it will look bad that "the new girl" is the only staffer not contributing.)
I think "insulted" is an overreaction (they didn't insult you, after all), but "annoyed" wouldn't be. In any case, I'd just say, "I'm not one for lotteries, so no thank you" and leave it at that. (Alternately, you could say, "I'm neurotic about budgeting, so I can't," or anything else that conveys, "No, this isn't going to happen.")
3. My company is acting like I'm already gone now that I've given notice
I received a job offer in a different state but similar industry, accepted it, and gave my notice. I am the third person (there are only seven of us) to leave my department in less than one month. I'm noticing that even though I have two full weeks left, many of my projects have been taken away and I'm being left off emails that I need to know about.
Even though I'm leaving, I have a great amount of loyalty to and respect for my co-workers and would like to help them by finishing my projects instead of adding to their stress. What can I do? I feel very sad that the company is pushing me out like this, especially when I care so much. I could have just given them one day's notice if they were going to do this.
It's not unusual for a company to begin moving someone's projects to other people once they give notice. In fact, it makes sense to do that while you're still there so that you're available for questions during the transition (rather than waiting until you're already gone). People also sometimes jump the gun and start moving on to whatever will be their new normal before it's officially time to do so, which could explain why you're being left off of emails that you still need to know about. Or, alternately, there might be no good explanation for this stuff and your company is just bad at handling resignations; that's not uncommon either.
Either way, though, don't take it personally. It's not personal. Just work out your notice period and leave things in as good shape as possible for your replacement. It's up to your company how much they want to utilize you during your remaining time.
4. My manager won't let me fire a problem employee
I am new to a small business with national exposure. I inherited a problem employee from two previous managers, who are still in their roles. This employee has been on probation twice in one year for issues relating to attendance, job performance, and insubordination. I even found out she shredded documents to cover her tracks on some issues (for which I thought she should have been terminated).
We agreed to start fresh, but now she is exhibiting the same behavior. We have addressed this in discussions with HR, but she continues. My manager insists we should keep her, so he does not have to train another person. This has become frustrating to me, as he does not have to manage her. I have seriously thought about moving on due to this issue. I feel the company is moving her from one manager to another and not dealing with the fact that she is the common denominator and carries the same issues from one manager to another.
She should have already been fired long ago, and this "fresh start" makes no sense. You don't start fresh with someone who shreds documents to cover her tracks, to say nothing of all the other issues. If your manager won't let you fire her, he's sending you a powerful signal about how he operates--as well as how he expects you to operate. The decision you have to make is whether you want to work someplace like that.
5. How should I explain my frequent doctor's appointments?
Recently, I have been seeing a couple of doctors on a regular basis (two doctors, seeing each two to three times a month), which will continue for at least a few more months. I occasionally have to take a half-day off from work to go to an appointment. I always schedule my appointments around what's happening at work, so that I don't miss anything. When I can, I squeeze one in on my lunch break or before work. My boss has been totally accommodating and hasn't asked any questions thus far, but I feel like she's starting to wonder why I, someone who appears to be (and is) healthy, am going to the doctor so much. Frankly, the appointments are for an issue that's not life threatening or serious, but they are for something personal that I don't want to discuss with my boss.
If she does ask what's up, do I just tell her that I'm fine, but I'd rather not discuss the reason for my frequent appointments? In our office, we're not required to submit any sort of documentation to prove that we really had an appointment, but if I was asked to do so, the types of doctors I am seeing would reveal more information than I'd like to share at work.
If she asks what's up, it's fine to say, "It's a medical issue that I'm hoping to have finished in the next few months." You don't need to provide further details than that. If she asks for more, simply say, "I'll be fine, but it's something I need to take care of." (What's most likely is that she'd simply be expressing concern, not prying for details, although of course the pryers are out there too.)
Aside from that, though, it might make sense to let her know roughly how long you expect the appointments to continue, simply so that she has that information and isn't wondering if it'll be happening forever. The next time you tell her you'll be out of the office for an appointment, why not add a note saying something like, "By the way, I expect these appointments to come to an end in June"?
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.