Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Should I refuse to hire co-workers' kids?
I'm hiring students to work on my team as paid interns. I've decided to not hire any children of any co-workers in the office. My reasons are to avoid any conflict of interests -- I don't want to risk interns asking their parents to interfere if they don't like an assignment or a piece of feedback. The last thing I want is the child of a co-worker coming in with an "entitlement" attitude because they feel they can run to a parent the moment the job gets tough. However, this isn't sitting well with some co-workers who'd like their kids to get hired.
Is my approach off base? Should I allow them to go through the interview and hiring process the same as anyone else -- where the best candidate for the job wins out?
There are loads of reasons not to hire children of co-workers. In addition to the concerns you mentioned, there's also the risk that your relationship with the parent may be affected if the intern doesn't like you, or feels that you're treating her in a way that's unfair, or if you need to give critical feedback or even fire the intern or decline to give a positive reference in the future. Is that really not going to impact your relationship with their parent, your co-worker?
It's possible the parent will be fantastic at maintaining a firewall between their relationship with you and whatever is going on between you and their kid, but that's something that can be tough to know in advance, and it's reasonable to simply not want to take on that risk. (These are all the same reasons that you might decline to hire a co-worker's spouse, too.)
I'd say this to co-workers who push you to reconsider: "I'm sure Jane is great. I'd just feel too awkward managing the child of a co-worker, though; I want to be able to be unbiased and to give candid feedback without worrying about my relationship with the parent."
If the person insists that won't be a problem and continues to push, you can add, "To be honest, this is an example of what makes me uncomfortable about it. I think it would be tough to have an intern's parent here in the office advocating for them. I'm just not comfortable with it, but I hope she finds something else great."
2. How to tell my employee to stop cc'ing my boss
I'm a manager and I have an employee who consistently copies other people on emails I've directed specifically to her. What is confusing about this is that sometimes the emails are related to situations that may not have been well handled by her. I'm trying to be supportive and encouraging and make these things teachable moments instead of "you're in trouble" moments, but when she then turns around and copies my boss in her response it makes me look bad for not immediately reporting the issue to him.
I don't know how to explain this to her without making it sound like I want her to hide things from my boss. Do I just cc my boss every time I think her judgment may have been off to get ahead of the problem? That would probably get her in trouble more, which I don't want either. I don't have a problem with her telling my boss about an issue that has come up in her area, but when I've responded saying something like, "You used your best judgment in the moment; let's figure out how to fix it together," it's a little jarring to then discover that she's included my boss in her response.
The good news here is that you're her boss, so you can just direct her to stop doing this. I'd start, though, by asking what her thought process is when she does it. For example: "Jane, I've noticed you'll often cc Fergus on a response to me when I've initially sent the email only to you. How come?" She'll presumably respond with "I thought he should be in the loop on X" or something similar, and then you can explain why that's not the case: "Actually, Fergus doesn't need to be involved in that. If I decide that he does, I'll of course loop him in, but part of my job is fielding this sort of thing so that he doesn't need to spend time on it." And then give the clear direction to stop: "Going forward, please leave Fergus off emails about this kind of thing. I'll loop him in if I think he'd want to be informed or be able to give input."
I think you're feeling weird about saying "don't tell Fergus things," but that's not the message. Instead, the message is, "Fergus has other things he needs to focus on. He and I are aligned about when to bring him into the conversation, and I'll do that when it's needed."
Also, I wouldn't assume that you'll look bad to your own boss for not immediately reporting issues to him, unless they're truly big enough that he'd want immediate notification. Your employees will make mistakes. You only need to loop your boss in when those mistakes are big ones that will impact things he needs to know about, or when it's enough of a pattern that you've developed serious performance concerns about an employee and need your boss's buy-in on your plan for handling it.
3. Requiring my team to be on time when the rest of the organization isn't
Our new CEO does not seem to care one iota if people stroll in late to work in the morning. Even our front desk receptionist staff are often dashing into the building five to 10 minutes after we open. It is commonplace behavior and has become a disturbing part of our office culture. As a manager, I expect and require my staff to be ready to work and at their desk at their scheduled start time. How do I respond to push back from them about "but not even the CEO cares if we are a little late!" I feel like I have boarded the crazy train.
Frame it this way: "In this department, being on time matters because ____."
As long as you can fill in that blank with something that truly makes sense there, it's perfectly reasonable to require this, even if other parts of your organization don't. But make sure that you can -- if you're just requiring people be on time on principle and without an actual work reason for it, then you may need to consider that your new CEO is deliberately trying to change the culture in that regard and you shouldn't go against it. So first figure out whether there's a real impact to people coming in five or 10 minutes late. In many jobs, there isn't.
4. Giving notice right before my boss goes on vacation
I work for a small (10-person) company. I am a member of the management team (one of two directors), and my boss is the principal. The only other person more senior than me is the COO.
I have been in talks with a new company for a while, and an offer might be coming soon. Here's the twist: I expect the offer to come either late this week or early next. My boss leaves for vacation next Thursday, and will be gone through the following week. His wife will be away with him as it's a family vacation.
How should I handle resigning right before he leaves? I don't want to ruin the man's vacation and I don't want to burn any bridges with this job. Realistically, though, I'm not sure I could wait until the Monday when he returns.
You're probably not going to ruin his vacation, but even if you do, you don't have a choice; if this is the timeframe that ends up making sense for your notice, that's when you need to give it. This kind of thing happens, and he'll survive.
You're being more courteous by giving it earlier than waiting until he's back and giving him less time to plan the transition. Yes, it means he may end up doing work on his vacation, but it should be his choice whether to do that -- with full information about the situation -- rather than your trying to manage his reaction for him.
5. People keep making travel reservations before getting time off approved
How do I word "don't get reservations unless you are approved for PTO/vacation" to my whole team without sounding insensitive? People keep telling me that they have a reservation that they already paid for.
"Please don't make reservations that you can't change until you've gotten the PTO dates approved, since I don't want either of us in a situation where you can't take the dates you reserved or where I feel horrible for telling you that."
That said, is this is a situation where you really do need to reject people's requests? Certainly, in some jobs that's necessary, but in many positions -- particularly more senior or autonomous positions -- it can be reasonable for people to manage their own schedules to a large degree. If you're dealing with that sort of role, let people do that -- don't get too hung up on advance approval if there isn't actually a real need for it.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.