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. When a candidate's salary expectations are too high.
Our online application system asks candidates to provide salary requirements, and of course we have in mind a target salary for our new hire. How can I best respond to candidates who have salary requirements well outside our range? If the candidate's target salary is literally double our budget, I don't want to waste anyone's time. My first inclination (almost always) is to just be upfront, to say via email, "Thanks for your interest! I wanted to let you know your target salary is well outside our range for this position. If that's not firm, I'd love to discuss the role further with you, but if it is, I don't want to waste your time." Thoughts?
That kind of candor is great, but it would also be useful to give a candidate an idea of what your range actually is when you're doing it. After all, he or she might be flexible enough to go $10K lower but not $30K lower. So if you're opening a dialog, you want to give them some information they can work with.
And taking that one step further, why not list a salary range in your ad so that candidates won't bother applying if the salary isn't acceptable to them? If you want candidates to share their salary expectations up front, it's reasonable for you to do the same.
2. My boss didn't pay me for canceled work
I work as a swimming teacher and one morning my boss texted me to say some of the children had canceled and so she didn't need me to work. I later found that I wouldn't be paid for that time. I would understand this, but the lessons are paid in blocks so if a child misses a lesson, my boss is still paid for that time. When questioning her, I was told that I wasn't paid as my boss had lost the money, but I know that isn't true. Is this legal and should I be paid?
Unless you're an exempt employee (and it doesn't sound like you are) or have a contract that specifies a different arrangement, your boss does not have to pay you for time you don't actually work. So the issue here isn't your boss not paying you, but rather the fact that it sounds like she lied to you.
You could try to negotiate a different arrangement with her going forward, though -- you could point out that lessons are paid in advance and you block off that lesson time as being unavailable for you to take on other paying work, and you could ask for an arrangement where you're paid for canceled lessons (or for lessons not canceled at least X days beforehand, or something like that). Your boss wouldn't be obligated to agree, but you could try to negotiate this just like anything else. (And put it in writing if you succeed.)
3. Another department is pushing me to do work that I don't do
I am being "loaned" to another department for some design work for a month. During the month, I will report to another person, but I'll still have duties and meetings in my own department and that person is in no way my boss. The person I will be working with has indicated that they will want me to do things outside my skill set -- tasks like data entry. I've been trying to politely shut them down, saying things like "that's not really my area of expertise," but it's obviously not working as I'm still getting emails indicating they expect me to do tasks outside my skill set. Both my bosses are in agreement I should not do things like this. This person has also been hinting they want more of my time outside the month, but that's easier to handle, because my time is already booked for several months for other projects.
How do I politely shut this person down about some tasks without sounding like an uncooperative whiner? I've tried hard to eradicate "that's not my job" from my vocabulary, but I also feel I need to stand up for myself or he will continue to walk all over me and others in my department.
Since your boss agrees that you shouldn't be doing that work, cite her: "Jane has been clear that while I'm helping you, I shouldn't be spending time on things like XYZ. I'm here to work on ABC."
If the person continues to push, say, "I think there's been a miscommunication about what I'm here to help with. Let me go back to Jane and figure out how to proceed." Then go back to your boss and bring her into it. There's no shame in doing that since you've tried to handle it on your own and are still running into problems; she'd probably want to know about it at that point.
4. I was an hour late to an interview
I went to an interview earlier this week, and because of a road accident was one hour late. It was in a different city about a two-hour drive away and the interview was scheduled at 9.30 a.m. I gave myself three hours to get there, so I did plan ahead, but because of the accident, I also hit rush hour in the city, which made me doubly late. I called HR (the only contact number I had) to let them know. On arrival, I apologized and explained the situation to them, and they gave me the interview. But I have a feeling that HR did not pass on my message to the interviewers. I am really worried that this has cost me big time. Any tips on what I should do?
Did you explain the situation to your interviewers yourself, on the spot when you met them? That would have made sense, and if you didn't do that, they likely took note of it -- even if HR had already explained it to them. When you mess up someone's schedule, you've got to explain and apologize yourself rather than leaving it to someone else to do. In any case, you can certainly email them a thank-you for the interview and apologize in that note.
5. Should I disclose a medical condition to my new staff?
I was promoted and I now supervise a staff of five professionals. I have endometriosis, which, on occasion, makes me quite ill where I may need to come into work late or leave early. My supervisor and HR are well aware and amazing in their support. Do I disclose this to my supervisees and if yes, how?
People don't need specifics; they just need to know the work-related impact. So, for instance: "I have a medical condition that is under control but which will sometimes require me to come in late or leave early without much notice. I'll keep you informed of my schedule when that happens."
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.