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. My employee is snarky and rude to me
I recently started a new job and learned through my manager that a person on the team had interviewed for the role I was offered. This is a new position that was formed as part of a restructure, and from what I understand, the person who applied felt he was a shoo-in for the position since he has been working here for several years.
Anytime someone from the team asks me a question, this person is quick to respond, "Why would she know? She's new to the business." I try to ignore it, but it has been making me feel insecure and has me wondering what I can do to protect my credibility. I tried involving him in my business processes to diffuse hard feelings, but he continues to comment on my limited knowledge of the business. I realize he has more knowledge of the business, but for whatever reason (I suspect poor people skills), he was not offered the job. It's difficult enough to adjust to a new job. How do I deal with this?
By nipping this in the bud. By allowing him to get away with open snark toward you, you're weakening your own authority, both with this employee and with anyone watching. The next time it happens, interject and answer the question you've been asked. Meanwhile, deal with him privately, by talking him through the standards of behavior you expect from anyone on your team and how you need him to approach things differently--and hold him to that. You're going to need to be more assertive than it sounds like you have been so far, which has given him an opening to undermine you--and it will get worse if you don't stop it.
2. How long of a gap on your résumé is too long?
I just accepted a new position. I'm excited about the new job, but burnt out from the old one. Fortunately, my new boss is flexible with the start date, and I am hoping to take some time to recover and travel before I start my new position. Will an employment gap of one month (e.g., leave old job in August, start new one in October) be a red flag on a résumé in the future? On LinkedIn? How long of a gap is acceptable before it becomes a red flag?
One month won't even be noticed. In general, gaps don't stand out until they're five or six months or longer, and they don't become potential red flags until they're longer than that. The concern on a hiring manager's side isn't, "Oh no, this person took a couple of months to travel / relax / care for family!" They don't care about that. The concern is, "Does this person have a work gap because they were fired and unable to get re-employed in their field / went to prison / had some sort of spectacular flame-out / ended up being such a weak employee that they couldn't get hired / lost motivation to work entirely and are only now returning out of desperation / otherwise did something concerning?"
A couple of months? Totally fine and unlikely to raise any questions.
3. All-day interviews when you're breastfeeding
I have recently been asked to go for a second interview for my dream job. It's wonderful news, but the interview is a whole day affair with people at two sites.
I'm a new mom with a three-month-old and I exclusively breastfeed. In order to keep my milk supply up, I will need to pump at least every three hours and find a private place to do so (not to mention hauling the pumping equipment all day and between the two sites, something which will leave me looking less than professional!).
The admin assistant who is scheduling the interview contacted me today and asked me to respond to her about which dates I can do for the interview. Help! How do I handle this?
Be straightforward! Explain the situation to the person who's scheduling the interview and ask if they can schedule a break for you every three hours for pumping. This should be completely fine. But if they don't react well to that, it's far better to find that out now than to discover after you're working for them that it's not a friendly environment for working parents, and new moms in particular.
4. My company docks our PTO in tiny increments, even when we work long hours
I've been with my current company for over five years now and just recently they have changed the way we use our PTO. Up until a few weeks ago, we were able to use our time off in increments of either four hours or eight hours. A majority of my company puts in more than 40 hours a week while not being paid overtime. Although it's not required, our workloads for the most part require us to if we're going to keep up with it and meet daily deadlines. However, they are now requiring us to take our time off in two-hour increments, even if we're only requesting an hour, whether it be coming in late, an extended lunch break while at an appointment, or to leave an hour early. If I only need to leave an hour early, for say a doctor's appointment, they are refusing to give us the option of coming in early or working through our lunch break as an option to make up the time.
Can my employer deduct two hours from my PTO hours if I only left 60-90 minutes early one day but if by the end of the work week I have put in actually 46 hours, for example? I feel if I stop putting in over 40 hours a week that I've been working since employed with them that I'll put my job on the line.
Yes, they can--although it's a bad way for them to do things. It sounds like you're exempt, which means that you're expected to work as long as it takes to get the job done (without receiving overtime pay). But good companies make sure that this goes both ways--that they don't nickel-and-dime you when you leave early or come in late but are working full-time hours (or more).
You and your co-workers might consider pushing back on this as a group--pointing out that there's little incentive for you to work long hours if the company isn't going to show you the same generosity of spirit. (I suppose that's not literally true--the incentive is your continued employment, but those of you who have options might choose to exercise them somewhere that treats you more fairly.)
5. Am I misrepresenting my commitment to a job?
I'm currently interviewing for jobs, and while I'm a hard worker and I strive for excellence in my work, I also prize my time out of the office. I don't just want work-life balance, I need it. In my current job, that can mean that I will elect to leave work on time rather than staying late, or not check email at night unless it's an emergency.
I'm currently interviewing for a new job I want very much. I plan to tell them that I will be an excellent, committed worker in their company, always striving for excellence. My concern is: Is this false advertising? I want to sell myself, but I don't want them to get the impression that I will be working late into the night, or that I'll drop what I'm doing on a weekend to answer emails.
When I'm in the office, I have a strong and committed work ethic, but I can't be that way 24/7. Will I be selling myself incorrectly on an interview if I don't indicate that?
"Excellent and committed" doesn't mean "committed 24-7 with no outside commitments"--at least not in reasonably functional workplaces. It does, however, often mean "willing to tolerate small amounts of inconvenience when the work requires it," like staying late on occasion, working through lunch when you have a packed schedule, or checking email outside of work when something important is going on. It becomes unreasonable if it means working late into the night on a regular basis (although in some fields, like law, that is considered reasonable), but in most professional positions, you're expected to work late on occasion if the work demands it. So you don't want to draw a hard line--or rather, if you do want to draw a hard line, you'll need to make sure you're focusing on fields where that will be OK.
In any case, it's in your best interest to find out what their expectations are of you. You don't want to talk your way into a job and then find out that you're required to work hours you're not interested in. So you should ask your own questions too--about what hours people typically work, how often people work on weekends, and so forth.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.