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. Our CEO's daughter gets special treatment
I just started working for a new company, and it's a small, family-owned investment firm. Everyone here is really nice, but I noticed one thing that I thought was kind of strange.
The CEO-owner's daughter is an employee here, and she gets special treatment. For example, we all get 30 minutes for lunch, but she's been taking breaks over 1.5 hours long -- sometimes with her father, and sometimes not, and she pretty much comes and goes as she pleases. I realize that as the CEO-owner, one can do practically whatever they want, but does that also apply to the daughter? Isn't it a tad unprofessional to give her special treatment, when she's supposed to be an employee like everyone else?
Like I said, everyone is really nice, and I'm really quite happy at this new job. I just thought this was a bit unfair and wanted your perspective on this. I don't think there's anything I can or want to do about it, but I'm at least curious if anyone agrees with me.
It's not great, but it's (sometimes) par for the course when family members work at a family-owned business. Your best bet is to simply see her in a different category; she's apparently subject to a different set of rules than non-family employees. Seen from one angle, it's not fair ... but seen from a different angle, you could argue that it's the business owner's prerogative if he wants to make his business a source of undemanding jobs for family members. (I'd argue it's a disservice to those family members, if they're ever likely to need or want to seek other employment, but that's a different issue.)
2. A temporary change in my job is becoming permanent
Six months ago, I started what I believed to be a project management job at a big company. Two months in, a junior team member resigned and my boss gave that person's laboratory tasks to me. My new assignment is most similar to what I did in graduate school six-plus years ago, and not a good match for my current skill set, professional experience, or career goals.
I brought on a new hire to replace the person who left, but my boss has not reshifted the responsibilities. In fact, she specifically told me that that my role includes both the project management and lab work. I'm worried my early attempts to explain my lack of current lab skills have led my boss to think I feel "too good" for this type of work, and she's now trying to teach me a lesson.
Should I just accept and do whatever needs to be done, or is there a professional way to negotiate back to the job I wanted? I'm not in a position to look for a different job so soon, and I also suspect my boss can't afford to lose another person.
It's reasonable to point out that you're spending a lot of time doing work that you didn't sign up for and that it's not in line with what you want to be doing. I'd say something like this: "I've been happy to help by handling X and Y while Jane's position has been open, but now that we've hired Bob to replace her, I'm hoping that we can move those responsibilities back to that role. I was happy to help out when we were in a pinch, but long-term it's important to me to be able to focus on the work I came here to do."
If your boss is indeed trying to "teach you a lesson," that's a pretty big deal. That says that you're on dramatically different pages about expectations for your role, and that she's not willing to discuss it directly and openly.
3. What does it mean if an employer says they'll keep me in their "talent pipeline"?
I recently did a set of interviews with a huge company, and then submitted a resume to another big company. Both recruiters gave me the usual "thanks, but ...," but in both cases I was told they'd "talent pipeline" me, as the current roles were not what they deemed to be a strong match with my background.
Is this talent pipeline a real thing? Or just a runaround way to reject me? If it's real, what are my chances of them actually contacting me in the future? I really want to hold out for these companies, as career-wise I'd be in company heaven, but jeeze louise, a gal can't hold out forever!
No, you absolutely should not hold out for these companies. That doesn't mean that they're not sincere; they very well might be. It just means that there are zeros promises here.
"We'll keep your resume on file for other openings" or "we'll track you in our talent pipeline" or any other version of this statement can be a real thing, or it can be boilerplate that they include to soften a rejection.
In some cases, it really does mean, "We think you're great and would love to find a way to work with you, and we're going to actively keep you in mind." But even then, there's zero guarantee that it will ever actually happen. There might not be any openings that you're the right fit for, and even if there are, someone else might still be better. So you absolutely should not under any circumstances "hold out" for these companies. You should continue to actively job search, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do get back in touch.
4. I almost fainted during a meeting
After I started my first professional job this summer, my mother died suddenly and I was diagnosed with the same potentially fatal heart condition that killed her. It hadn't affected my work except for having to attend the funeral and several doctor's appointments. However, today I came very close to passing out in a meeting in front of several VIPs (boss's boss, project lead, etc.) and I'm terrified I'm going to get reprimanded or fired for not paying attention. My boss and some of my co-workers (who all but forcibly sent me home after the meeting) know about my medical condition, but the VIPs don't. Can I get fired over this since I'm in an at-will state? Should I reach out and try to explain my weird behavior in case they think I was zoning out and not paying attention?
Ask your manager about the best way to handle this. Explain that you don't want people to think you're zoning out or being inattentive, but you also don't want to make a big deal out of it if she doesn't think it's necessary. Your manager should have a decent handle on what makes sense here. Also, if you have an HR department, you might give them a heads-up as well and see if they have advice; they'll be able to tell you about benefits that might be available to you like FMLA (once you've been there a year) and possible ADA protection.
If the people who need to be in the know about this know what's going on (your manager and HR), you should be fine.
5. Does salary reflect the type of candidate an employer is looking for?
I've seen a job for which I seem to tick all the boxes, but the salary is high -- a lot higher than what I am currently making. I am now doubting whether I am right for the job. Does the salary reflect the type of candidate that should apply?
Sometimes. But sometimes it turns out that you're currently underpaid, or that the new place is particularly generous, or that you just don't have a good sense of what the market rate is for that type of work. So if you really think you're a strong match with what they're advertising for, go ahead and apply. The worst that can happen is that you don't get the job; the best that can happen is that you end up getting a huge pay increase.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.