Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. Two of my employees don't get along with each other
I'm a manager in a small, privately owned company. We do not have an HR department. I have two employees who just cannot get along. They are constantly coming to me to complain about each other over the most minor things. (Example: Sarah thinks Kate speaks too loudly on the phone.) If it helps to know, Kate is fairly high performing. She tends toward the dramatic, but is a solid employee. Sarah is pretty new and still in training to a degree, but is not performing as well as I would like. My gut tells me that Sarah is the problem, but now is not an opportune time to replace anyone (two of my six-person staff have been asked to cover different positions while new staff are trained).
They have now started trying to recruit other team members into this battle. I have tried speaking to everyone individually to address and correct all these concerns, but it has not seemed to help. Bottom line: These two just do not like each other. I am not super concerned about their not liking each other; this is a place of business, not kindergarten. But it has definitely affected morale. Any advice, short of firing them?
Shut it down. Meet with them individually and say this: "Having pleasant, cooperative relationships with co-workers is as much a part of your job expectations as any work I assign you. That means that you need to stop bringing me minor complaints about Sarah/Kate and complaining about Sarah/Kate to your co-workers. Can you do that?" You should then hold them to that just like you would any other performance expectation, meaning that if the problems continue, you have a much more serious conversation.
I'd also consider whether you need to manage Sarah more closely for a while, since you think she's the core of the problem and her work isn't great. Being more hands-on with her for a while should help with both issues. (And related to that, make sure you're not penalizing Kate for problems being mainly caused by Sarah.)
2. New hire can't work the schedule she agreed to
I'll start by saying I'm a new manager -- six months. I just hired for a position that I desperately needed. I consider my interview style to be blunt and straightforward; I don't tiptoe around the hours or responsibilities of the job. During the entire interview process, I reiterated the hours needed and what would be required in the job, and the candidate was eager in her affirmation that she would be able to meet those requirements. I reiterated the schedule required before having her sign any papers, and again she confirmed that it was no problem.
I scheduled her for orientation, and during orientation the HR director told me the new employee was now saying that she has a second job (that was not once mentioned during any of the interviews or the day of signing the offer) that conflicts with the schedule she agreed to. I told her, in front of HR, that if she is now feeling she can not work that schedule, she needs to tell me now because that is the schedule that the position requires. She confirmed that she could make it work and that she's excited about the job.
The next thing I knew, after she completed orientation, she came to me and told me she can't work those particular shifts, and that she doesn't want to get stuck with "bad shifts" because she's the new person, and she knows how "they do" the new person. I am floored and at a complete loss on how to deal with the situation and, to be honest, her attitude. Am I an idiot for being completely fooled during the interview process?
No, you're not an idiot. You were careful to spell out the schedule requirements and she assured you multiple times that she could meet those requirements. However, she's now telling you that she can't meet those requirements, and she's displaying a bizarre attitude, so I'd end it here. Say this: "It doesn't sound like you're able to work the shifts that we need, and I'm concerned that we've gone back and forth about this so many times. At this point, it doesn't make sense for us to keep moving forward with your employment."
3. My references are being asked to provide more references
I recently moved into the final round of interviews, and my references have been called. However, the person checking my references has been asking them if they can give them contact information for another person who can speak to my work ethic.
I don't want to disqualify myself as a candidate by speaking up about this. With that said, if my job search is confidential, what is the ethic or legal code about this practice?
It's not an unheard-of practice. Asking "Who else should I talk to in order to get a full picture of Jane?" is a question that shows up in lots of advice to reference checkers. I don't think it's super commonly used, but it's definitely a thing that can happen.
There's no legal issue with it; you're not required to give legal permission for a prospective employer to ask around about you, and employers are allowed to call people who know you who aren't on the list you give them without getting your OK first. I don't think there's an ethical issue with it either; of course, employers have an interest in getting as much information as they can about the person they're contemplating hiring.
That said, should employers do it? I think it's a bit much for most positions unless the job is very senior (it makes total sense to do it before hiring a CEO, for example, but not for your new accountant). I've never done it personally (but I do ask candidates to put me in touch with specific people I want to talk to, generally managers who may not have been on the list they gave me -- because I think due diligence means more than "call three people handpicked by the candidate"). But I wouldn't be outraged if I learned an employer was doing it.
4. I was laid off and now my manager wants my help
I was recently laid off on a Thursday morning with no notice and was basically perp walked to HR. I wasn't even allowed to return to my desk to gather my personal belongings either. I was given a small severance and one week's pay for each year I'd been there (five years).
Today I was contacted by my former manager/supervisor requesting that I help him out with data gathering/location for a monthly report. Should I help? I'm still devastated by the no notice RIF, and honestly hope the entire organization fails. I don't want to be a bad person, but I don't feel that I owe them any reply at all. Would it be best to just not reply?
Your company really mishandled this. The no notice and the perp walk are pretty common with layoffs; you can argue it shouldn't be done that way, but it's really pretty standard. But contacting you for work help afterward? No. Any reasonable manager should know that's rubbing salt in the wound, and they gave up any right to try that once they laid you off. It was your manager's job to think through what he'd need from you before the layoff, and if he didn't or couldn't, he doesn't get to make that your problem.
However, sometimes severance agreements come with an informal understanding that you'll be willing to answer the occasional (very occasional) question for a couple of weeks. If that was the case here, you should honor that. Otherwise, you have no obligation to respond. That said, it's worth thinking about what kind of reference you want from him, too. That doesn't mean you should do actual work for him; you definitely shouldn't. But I'd answer a question or two about where a file is in the interest of the relationship.
5. Multiple name changes due to marriage
I have been married twice. I changed my last name both times, and I'm not sure of the best way to show this on my résumé. I've seen the suggestion to put my maiden name in parentheses, like Sally (Jones) Smith, but this doesn't account for jobs that will only know me by my first husband's last name.
It seems like my options are either to list all the names I've used at the top under an "Other Names Used" heading, or to list the name I used at each specific job: Data Smasher, 2002-2008 (as Sally Jones). What's going to cause the least confusion?
I definitely wouldn't do an "Other Names Used" section or even the "as Sally Jones" option next to each job. It's too likely to conjure up associations with aliases, rather than marriage-related name changes.
I don't think you need to worry about this on your résumé at all. It's only going to be relevant when employers check references, so when you provide your references, I'd include it there -- similar to how you might include a line explaining how a particular reference knows you. In this case, in addition to "Fergus was my manager at Acme Inc.," you'd also add, "My married name at the time was Sally Jones."
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.