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 employees complain about favoritism
We're in tourism/hospitality and gearing up for our busy season. Before we get there, I'd like to have a meeting with all the direct reports to go over policy issues, answer questions, and blow off a little steam.
We have three people on staff who were all hired at the same time and trained together but have shown remarkably different ability levels and talents. This has resulted in one member of this group receiving advanced responsibilities early on, as she is more than capable of handling them.
I have heard some grumblings through the grapevine that other staff members are feeling a little put out by her newfound authority (although, from what I hear, everyone really enjoys working with her). I don't know how much of this is related to her age (she is significantly younger than the rest of the staff) and how much of it has to do with the fact that she simply caught on faster than the rest of the staff.
Would it be advisable to discuss with everyone at the meeting that they've all progressed differently and so received different responsibilities, but stress that we are all a team working towards the same goals? I'm tempted to leave well enough alone, but am preparing to go on maternity leave and don't want to leave a great big mess that may explode once I'm gone, and I don't want to create a problem where there's just regular griping.
Eh, I wouldn't do it at a group meeting; it risks coming across as condescending and making everyone feel awkward, including your staff member who's taking on the additional responsibility. You'd probably be better off simply taking on the grumblings directly with people one-on-one when you hear them. (And keep an eye on those people; those sorts of grumblings are rarely heard from high performers, and often it's quite the opposite.)
Going forward, though, you can sometimes ward this off before it starts by explaining why you're giving someone increased responsibilities at the time that you first announce it -- for example, "Because Jane has done a fantastic job at XYZ and learned it faster than we've ever thought possible, I'm asking her to manage all XYZ training from now on."
2. Should I intervene when one assistant is rude to another?
I have a question about tolerating rudeness. I am manage a team of about 14 people, three of whom are assistants. My issue is that one of my assistants is being very mean to another (she is very nice to the third assistant, as well as to everyone else), and I am not sure how (or if) I should handle it. The mean assistant will giggle and roll her eyes in a meeting after her counterpart says something (sometimes silly questions but she is clearly junior and still learning), will ask her personal questions in a disdainful tone, and is just generally not inclusive or nice to her. The non-mean assistant is generally a good worker and good at her job, very eager, and well liked by members of other teams. She has not said anything to me about her mean counterpart and it seems to kind of roll off her back. As supervisor though, I hate to condone such outright mean-ness when it is done in front of me.
What are your thoughts? Should I make sure it's mentioned in her review? I feel like it shouldn't be tolerated but am conflicted because it is affecting no one's work.
Yes, you should absolutely say something to her, and don't wait for her review. You should be giving her feedback all along, and this is absolutely an appropriate topic for you to talk to her about. Tell her that she needs to be pleasant and professional to everyone she works with, that it's not acceptable to roll her eyes at coworkers or otherwise be rude to them, and that you expect her to immediately begin treating the other assistant pleasantly. And if you notice any more of it continuing after that, have a more serious conversation with her, as you would for any performance issue that wasn't getting resolved.
It's not just about whether something is affecting the work; it's that she needs to act in accordance with the culture and values that you want reflected on your team, and that includes not making it an unpleasant environment for someone else.
3. My coworker makes lots of mistakes and my boss isn't dealing with it
I work for a very small office, but recently our workload has increased enough to warrant an additional hire. This person's time is supposed to spent half time helping another department and half time helping my department. This person has never received any training for our department and I'm noticing daily (at least) mistakes. I spoke to my boss about his errors and explained that I thought our department could benefit from some additional rules and oversight so as not to single him out, but rather get all of us on the same page. She agreed, but nothing has changed. She has yet to have a sit-down conversation with him and explain some of our processes and rules, and still no training! I'm concerned that his mistakes and the incorrect information he's giving to customers will reflect poorly on me and potentially cause future issues.
I fully believe this situation could be corrected with proper training and oversight from our boss, but I'm hesitating since it may cause issues by saying to her "it's your fault." I'm also concerned that I don't have the authority to correct him myself. I've confided in a coworker who's noticed mistakes and a lack of follow-through from the new hire as well, but her response was "don't rock the boat." I'm just not sure what the right plan of action is to stop this from getting any worse.
It sounds like the issue is that you weren't direct enough with your boss. If you just told her that your whole team could benefit from more oversight, you didn't actually tell her about the problem!
Go back to her and be clearer this time. Tell her that you're noticing daily errors from your new coworker, and give some examples. Say that you haven't corrected him because you don't have the authority but you wanted to alert her so that she knows what's going on and can decide whether he needs more training, more oversight, or something else.
This isn't accusing your boss of not doing her job. It's simply giving her relevant information that affects your team.
4. Telling non-local employers I can only fly out once for interviews
I am in the process of relocating, and I have had several phone interviews and a couple of face-to-face interviews. I come to town once I have at least four interviews set up. My last trip, the guy who was to interview me couldn't make it, but I did get to interview with the HR rep. Now they are asking me to come back in a month once I get settled (I was looking to move in a month).
My problem is that I can't move without a job and I can't afford to continue to fly back and forth. I feel like these companies are acting like I just drove from 15 minutes away. How do I convey to potential employers that I need to interview all at once and that coming back and forth is too costly? I am not working now due to a recent layoff so I'm available but it's not cheap.
You can certainly say, "Would it be possible to meet with everyone I'd need to meet with on this trip since I'm flying in from out of town?" But it might simply not be possible. Employers have different stages of interviews, and they might not decide until after round one who they'd like to meet with in round two.
Plus, keep in mind that many employers don't interview non-local candidates at all precisely because they don't want to deal with this kind of inconvenience (hence the "call us once you've moved here"), so you're not really in an optimal position if you want a long-distance job offer. It's much, much easier to get a job when you're already living in the location, unfortunately.
5. What to do when a written offer is higher than the verbal offer
A friend of mine verbally agreed to a job offer. When she received her offer letter, she quickly accepted it and told them so in writing. Later, she did the math and realized the offered salary is $15,000 more than what was agreed to. She lowballed herself when she verbally agreed to the original offer, and now she's wondering if perhaps the company decided to give her an industry-standard salary without telling her.
Half the advice she's hearing from others is "Yeah, they probably wanted to be nice and give you an industry-standard wage, trust that they know what they are doing, and don't say anything." The other half is saying, "Tell them. This could turn out badly if they realize their error later and you say nothing. But don't say it was an error! Just bring it up when you start by thanking them profusely for the faith they have in you and the good will they have shown with the salary bump. This puts you in a position of power and makes it uncomfortable for them to correct you."
Ironically, this woman was hired as an accountant. What do you think she should do?
I'd say something -- partly because I'd want the peace of mind of not having to wonder if it was going to be a mistake that would be discovered at some point down the road, and partly because it's just the right thing to do if you have a real question about whether it was intentional or not. However, I agree that it doesn't make sense to present it as an error, although I don't think "profuse thanks" is necessary either. I'd just say something like, "I appreciate the salary bump in the offer letter, and I'm looking forward to starting work."
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