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. Should I ask resigning employees to leave immediately?
If an employee puts in their notice, should you always let them work through the end date they have given? I think it's fairly common for an employee to be walked out if they are going to a direct competitor. However, what if the concern is that they will be a distraction during their remaining time?
It's entirely up to you, but it makes sense to base it on what you think the impact will be on the rest of the office during those two weeks. In general, in most industries it's common to let people work out their notice periods (with some exceptions, such as the one you noted) unless you have reason to think it's going to be a problem to have them still in the office -- such as if the person is likely to be toxic or wasting other people's time. In those cases, it's fine to have the person leave right away -- but you should pay them for the full notice period anyway, both because a) it's fair, and b) other employees will be watching how you handle this, and will assume you'll treat them accordingly when they resign. If you tell people to leave immediately and don't pay them for their notice period, you're setting yourself up to have other people not give notice at all when they leave.
Also, unless you have reason to worry about sabotage or other bad behavior, please don't "walk people out." These are professional adults whom you trusted to work for you yesterday, so give them the dignity of not being escorted off your premises like a criminal.
2. Dealing with a distracted manager
How do you deal with a distracted manager who always seems to have 10,000 things going on at once?
For example, it took me four or five attempts before I was successfully able to organize a meeting with him. Then, during that meeting, when I asked him directly what projects I need to work on, what bits of those projects I need to work on, and when I need to have them done by, he couldn't give me any straight answers, and his whole manner was very flighty and distracted and, frankly, indicated quite a short attention span. How can I get him to focus?
You probably can't. He's flighty and distracted. You can, however, propose your own plans for what you should be working on and when you'll have them done by, and ask him to approve or modify those plans. But ultimately, you're going to have to accept that you're working for a flighty, distracted boss who doesn't focus and won't give you the kind of guidance you want.
3. How to respond to a dismissive and contemptuous interviewer
Today I went in for a second-round interview at a fashion company with a VP. I met with HR last week, and the interview went very smoothly. I was very interested in the position, and it seemed as though my experience was a good fit for what they were looking for. However, when I greeted the VP this morning, she responded by icily sizing me up with a smug look on her face and not even saying "good morning." When we sat down in her office, the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm not sure why HR sent you to me."
Naturally, I was quite taken aback by her dismissal. Things didn't get better as she proceeded to ask me questions about my experience and subsequently interrupt me to explain why I wasn't qualified. It felt more like an attack than an interview, ending with her nearly avoiding shaking my hand as I walked out the door.
While I'm disappointed that I (clearly) didn't get the position, I am relieved that I dodged the bullet of that woman being my boss. My question to you, though: Is it worth mentioning this woman's behavior to the HR director, with whom I have a good rapport? I felt like I not only wasted my time, but also that I didn't stand a chance to exhibit what I could bring to the position since I was put on the defensive from the start. Would this be helpful for the HR person to know, so that they don't waste other people's time, or should I just say "good riddance" and forget the whole thing?
It would be helpful for the HR person to know, yes, but it risks being unhelpful to you, because too many employers aren't open to this type of feedback about their interviewers -- and will often give their interviewer (who they know better than you, after all) the benefit of the doubt and assume you're the one who's being high maintenance. So if you think you might ever apply for a job again there (under a different manager, obviously), I'd just drop it and move on -- especially since it's not your responsibility to point out or fix whatever problems they have over there, and definitely not if it comes with a potential cost to you.
4. Can I change my desired salary range after learning more about the job?
I recently applied to a job and, because they asked about salary, I sent them the range I was looking for. They called me and talked to me a bit more about the position, and when I learned the details and title, I really feel like I low-balled myself (it's a director level position). If I were to get an offer, is there any way I could negotiate a higher salary than I stated? I don't want to look like I wasn't being honest, but I really think the responsibilities deserve more money than I originally stated.
You can certainly say something like, "After learning more about the job's responsibilities, I think a salary of $X is fair and in keeping with the market." You're at somewhat of a disadvantage because employers tend to think of salary numbers as what you're willing to live on, rather than what you'd need to perform a specific job at a specific level, and they already have your "what I'm willing to live on" number. But you can absolutely try, and might be able to get more.
5. Can I ask for a raise when my company isn't giving them this year?
I have an annual performance review coming up this week after a year at my company. About nine months ago, there was a large round of layoffs, and my role was expanded to cover two campuses, effectively doubling my area of responsibility. All the other employees with my job description manage one campus. Each of my quarterly reviews has been glowing, and I've implemented several new programs that have been incredibly successful.
That being said, it's widely known that any sort of substantial raise will be off the table for this year, no matter how good an employee's performance has been, due to the company's position. We've received emails asking us what sort of thing incentives us, with options ranging from company merchandise to professional development opportunities.
Knowing all this, should I ask for a raise? If there's no chance for a raise at all, is it reasonable to ask for the company to fund a trip to an industry conference or something similar? I love my work, but I do feel like over the last year my position has changed enough to justify something in terms of compensation.
If you can make the case that you've made significant contributions and performed at a significantly higher level than what's generally expected in your role (and it sounds like you can), then yes, ask for a raise. You may or may not get it, but exceptions are sometimes made to across-the-board raise policies for exceptional employees, and it's absolutely reasonable to argue that your work deserves it.
And yes, if you can't get it, then certainly ask for the conference trip.
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