Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. What to do about a chronically late employee.
Time is of the essence with our business and so we emphasize punctuality. We have a low-performing employee who is underperforming and is habitually late, as well as a few other late employees who are otherwise stellar performers. These top performers also work after hours, and the low-performing one does not. How do we handle the first person's lateness without being perceived as showing favoritism or unfair treatment when we don't make a big deal of it with the others?
It's totally reasonable to treat high performers differently than low performers; in fact, you should differentiate by performance. People performing at a high level have earned different levels of trust, autonomy, assignments, and recognition.
If your low-performing employee asks why other people are allowed to come in late when he's not, you can say, "We want everyone here on time, but certainly people can earn more leeway when they're regularly working long hours and performing at a high level."
Low performance combined with habitual lateness that hasn't changed with feedback is a really bad combination. If you don't quickly see significant and sustained improvement on both fronts, it's time to replace him with someone who will work at the level you need.
2. New employee won't stop talking about her old job.
I have a new employee who is in orientation. Every time I or one of the other staff members tells her about something, she says, "That's not how we did it at my last job," or "We did it XYZ way at this other place." And she expresses an opinion about everything she is told, no matter the topic. My staff are starting to get frustrated, but so far have been kind and saying things like, "Well, this is the way we do it here." She is also printing out orientation pages and telling me what needs to be updated when she was already told what the updates were.
Is there a kind way to tell her to listen and learn and stop telling us about how she did things other places?
Sit down with her one-on-one and say this: "Jane, you've mentioned multiple times that you did things differently at previous jobs. Right now, we want to focus on teaching you how we do things here, and it's becoming a distraction to keep discussing how you've done things differently before. Can I ask you to stay focused on what we're teaching you about how we operate here?"
Also, if you're not this person's manager, give a heads-up to the person who is, because this has "pain in the butt" written all over it. (And that will be helpful for her manager to know about, since it's more likely to make her direct about nipping this in the bud when she sees it herself.)
3. Should I check with a candidate before I give a reference for them?
My industry is kind of small, and while everyone doesn't know everyone, it is pretty darn close. The people who work in our industry move from site to site with stints in the HQ. I used to work at Company A. Recently, a friend from Company A emailed me to ask if I would give a reference for my old boss at Company B.
They are asking because he went straight from the site where we worked together to another site and didn't include references from either of those sites. I don't know why he didn't include a reference from our site, but I would be willing to give a good reference. I know he left the next site abruptly, but I didn't work in that department, so I don't know why.
I know a good hiring team does its own due diligence on reviewing a candidate, including using any resource they can access to get feedback. But as the person being asked, do I get permission from the applicant first? Is it a different standard if I am being asked to be a reference for someone who reported to me versus someone I reported to?
It's up to you, but in general, there's no expectation that you'll get the candidate's explicit permission before giving a reference. That's doubly true when you know the person who's asking you for the reference, as you did here.You still might choose to reach out for permission, but you're not violating any convention if you don't.
Your friend who contacted you was drawing on your friendship and saying, "Hey, can you give me the low-down on what the deal really is with this guy?" That's a pretty normal thing to ask when you know someone personally. (Imagine, for instance, that you're hiring a nanny and notice that you're friends with one of her previous employers. Would you really not reach out to your friend and ask her about her experiences with the person and expect her to be honest with you? This is basically the same thing.)
4. Reapplying to a company whose offer I turned down five years ago.
Five years ago, I had a few rounds of interviews at a company (Company A), and I ended up receiving a job offer. I also received another job offer at the same time (Company B), and I ended up taking the job with Company B. I had a great interview experience at A and felt bad turning it town, but B was more in line with what I thought I wanted to do.
Now, five years later, I'm regretting the decision and want to go into the industry A is in. I saw that A is hiring again. Do I apply again to the job? If I do reapply, should I email the person I worked with during the interview process and who offered me the job?
Yes, apply again, and mention in your cover letter that they made you an offer for position X in 2015 that you weren't able to accept at the time, but that you enjoyed your conversations with them then and would love to talk with them about position Y. Then, after you do that, email the person you talked with five years ago (if she's still there), include a copy of your application materials, and let her know that you applied through their formal system but that you wanted to reach out to let her know. Add something genuine about how much you enjoyed your talks a few years ago, and why you've remained interested in them this whole time.
5. How can I talk about achievements in management or leadership roles on my résumé?
I'm a manager searching for a job at a new company, and am struggling to articulate my achievements as a manager on my résumé. What's the appropriate way to describe things other people on your team accomplished with your coaching, leadership, and collaboration, but that you didn't personally execute or exclusively own?
It feels wrong to claim credit for achievements where so many others did the bulk of the work to make them happen, but my entire job now is setting up structures in which others can be successful, providing input at key stages that shapes the project but without micromanaging it, hiring, and developing good talent, etc., and that leaves me feeling like there is nothing that I can rightly claim as my achievement. Yet I'm sure people in leadership roles still write résumés with their accomplishments!
Your whole job as a manager is to get things done through other people, so when your team gets great results, you get to take some credit for that.
Of course, there are always managers whose teams get great results despite the manager rather than because of the manager, but when all is working the way it's supposed to, the idea is that you're helping them get those results via things like setting the right goals and strategy, giving feedback, staying engaged along the way as a resource, helping course-correct, and so forth.
That means it's generally legitimate to say things like "Led six-person team that achieved X." It wouldn't be reasonable to just say "Achieved X" if you didn't play a big role in the actual work of X, but rather that you "led," "coordinated," or "managed" a team that did.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.