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. A new job offered me a lower salary than I expected
I was recently interviewed for a job I was very excited about. I completed an online application for the job, and I know the starting wage was what I was looking for. When I looked at the job posting a few days later, the starting pay was gone. I didn't think anything of it at that time, until I got the job offer. They have offered me a pay rate that is $8,000 lower than I expected.
There is absolutely no way I can leave my current job for this amount. I am very qualified for the position, and the prospective employer is fully aware that I am currently employed by a great company, with full-time benefits and a union contract. My attraction to the newer position I am considering is I that have a very long commute to work, and the new job would be a virtual position.
How do I gracefully turn down the position I am being offered? They are very nice people, but I cannot leave a solid job for less money.
Well, salary offers aren't always firm, and some employers assume you'll negotiate. So you shouldn't just turn this down; you should talk to them about the salary. Say directly to them: "I'm very interested in the position, but I can't leave my current position for the salary you're offering. Could you do $X instead?"
Also, if you haven't already, make sure that you factor into your thinking on salary that if you're working from home in the new job, you'll save money on gas and probably business clothes.
2. I'm interviewing for the job of someone who doesn't know they're about to be fired
I have been on a interview that was kept confidential because the current employee in the position has not been fired yet. I've been told (by my recruiter) that this is the first time this company has done confidential interviews. He also noted that efforts were made to help improve this employee's performance, but to no avail. During my interview with the department manager, he did acknowledge that this was not the preferred scenario, but that he would do whatever he could to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Regardless, I'm leery about accepting the position. Yet, when I compare it with other job opportunities, there are some pros that make it worth considering. This would be my first management level position (more money, more responsibility, etc.), and it's close to home. My other job prospects are lateral moves and would require me to relocate. Any thoughts or suggestions you can share would be greatly appreciated.
I can see why you feel wary, but if they've been candid with the employee about the performance problems and explicitly told her that her job is in jeopardy if she doesn't make specific improvements, then I wouldn't be too worried. On the other hand, if they haven't actually told her that she's on the path to being fired--while they themselves are miles ahead down that path because they're interviewing for her replacement--that's shady and doesn't say anything good about how they operate. But if they've been clear with her, it's not crazy that they're starting to talk with other candidates. I'd try to get more information about which of these it is, and how they handle things like this in general.
3. Should I discourage my team from including personal details about why they'll be away from work?
I'm the manager of half of a 15-person technical development team within a Fortune 100 company. I've had this role three years and love it.
The team is made up of experienced salaried people, and our time management policy is very liberal--if your work is on track and you are reachable and responsive, you can set your own hours and work remotely. I've noticed many people on the team communicate their scheduling plans with a lot of personal detail, e.g. "My little Johnny has to go to the orthodontist so I'm leaving at 3 today" or "My lunch did not agree with me, my stomach is really upset so I'm heading home." I am generally a more private person than most and never detail out my life this way; I just say I have a personal appointment and note when and how I will be reachable.
Should I advise my reports that they can but don't need to offer justification/explanation in this way? We are a pretty close-knit team and have good rapport, which is great. However, in a different or future work environment, I think this might be disadvantageous to them in the hands of a controlling boss or nasty co-worker. Am I being overly cynical, or correct in trying to raise their awareness of less warm work environments?
I would tell them that they can cool it on the details, but not out of worry that they'll be in less accepting environments in the future--I'd do it because all those details imply that justifications for managing their own time are required, and might make future team members assume that they're obligated to provide a similar level of detail.
I'd say something like, "I trust you all to manage your own work and hours, and I don't want anyone to ever feel they have to disclose personal information to justify why they're out. So, as interesting as some of these emails are, please don't feel obligated to include details."
4. I'm being evaluated by a manager who just started last week
My new boss has been with our organization for one week. She has banking experience, which is hardly applicable, and a long history of management experience. Aside from the lack of experience, she has an awful work ethic and is an overall textbook bad manager. I have just recently learned that she will be doing our office's employee evaluations this month. I can't see how she's qualified to be in that position, let alone to provide performance feedback for the past year. I take my career seriously and I value good constructive feedback. Am I being overly negative or is there a positive aspect that I'm not seeing?
Yeah, it's pretty silly to have someone evaluate you who's only worked with you a few weeks. However, managers sometimes get pushed into this position when they're new, it's evaluation time, and there's no one else to do it.
If I were in your shoes, I'd approach this as if she were competent, just new, and try to make the process easy for both of you: Give her a self-evaluation ahead of time, laying out what your goals were for the year and how well you've met each of them, as well as information about any additional achievements you've had this year. The more information she has about your performance, the better, so take it upon yourself to supply her with that information.
5. Is it normal to ask for a two-to-three-year commitment to a job?
I recently interviewed for a marketing coordinator position. The manager noted that she would want the next person in the role to stay at least 2 years and hopefully 3. I ultimately bowed out of the process after finding out the role had a lot more administrative duties than I was looking for. However, I've never been on an interview where the person has mentioned how long I was expected to stay in the role. While I am obviously not hoping to run out of my next job, and 2 or 3 years is not forever, I can never predict when I will feel ready to move on and I wouldn't feel right promising that to an employer.
Is it normal for interviewers to give you an amount of time they expect you to stay on? And is it bad if you leave a position before your boss expects you to? Would it burn bridges?
"We're looking for someone to invest in the role and stay for a couple of years" isn't weird to say or to expect. In fact, hiring someone without expecting they'd plan to stay that long would be pretty unusual for many roles, and it's pretty normal for a marketing coordinator job.
That said, when you make that kind of commitment, it's not written in stone. Managers understand that it might turn out to be the wrong fit, or you might move, or an opportunity you can't turn down might fall in your lap. The point is that they don't want you taking the job if you're thinking that you'll only stay for a year before moving on, or when you're planning to go to grad school in the fall, or so forth.
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