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 "sick" employee is spotted around town
Should an employee who has called in sick to work and is seen out shopping lose that day's pay? I am the employer.
No. First of all, it's perfectly possible to go shopping when you're sick. You might not feel well enough to function at work but still be able to drag yourself out to buy the gift you have to mail to your niece by tomorrow in order for it to arrive for her birthday. Or you might feel sick in the morning but feel better enough by the afternoon that you're able to run errands. Or you might have used the sick day for a lengthy medical appointment, which wouldn't prevent you from going shopping afterwards.
Of course, it's also possible that the employee wasn't sick at all, and was legitimately caught faking it. But you can't know for sure, and you shouldn't be in the business of policing this kind of thing (even if you could, which you can't).
Either you trust your employee or not, and she does good work or not. If you don't trust her, or her work isn't good, then those are the problems you're facing and need to address -- not whether or not she was really sick that day.
2. How to tell a candidate you can't meet her salary expectations
I have a great candidate whose stated salary expectations are about $10,000 higher than what we can pay. Is it appropriate to go back to her to say, "Our salary range is $X. Given that knowledge, would you like to continue with the interview process?" And if so, any best practices on how to say that?
You can say it exactly like that! The only thing I might add to your first sentence is "and we're not able to increase that range." Otherwise, you risk the candidate thinking that she can negotiate for more at the end of the interview process. (Of course, she might anyway, but it's worth being clear so that you minimize that risk.)
Most candidates will appreciate you being direct and giving them enough information that they can make an informed decision.
3. What to do when an employee starts using the wrong title
My employee, X, has altered the title in her email signature from Administrative Specialist to Administrative Coordinator, without informing me.
The HR file lists X as Administrative Specialist, not Coordinator. X sends emails both internally and externally, on behalf of the company. Should I address this in any way, and what would be the best way to approach it?
Yes, you have to address it! What if X started using CEO as her title? Titles aren't up for grabs; they're negotiated and/or awarded.
Go to X and say this, "I noticed that your emails recently have said administrative coordinator, rather than specialist. How come?" If the answer is anything other than that it's an odd mistake, then you say, "While your job is specialist, that's the title you need to use in your emails and other places." You say this in a nice, even, sympathetic tone, but you do need to say it.
4. Should you dumb down your résumé?
I recently had a disagreement with a family member about how I should approach a job. I've worked in Helpdesk-related IT work for five years and have a Bachelor's degree. I was applying for a computer tutor position in a computing lab.
The family member said I needed to "dumb down" my résumé because otherwise I seemed too overqualified for the job. I really don't understand that, because to me, it seems like the hiring company would be thrilled to have someone working there who has such a broad range of skills relating to that subject.
I realize you always should tailor résumés to better fit a particular job, but I really don't think taking away a variety of skills that I have that aren't directly related to the job is going to make me stand out more.
Yep, your family member is wrong on this one. There's nothing wrong with eliminating information from your résumé that you don't think will help strengthen your candidacy (whether it's an unrelated master's degree or a job outside your field), but having a bachelor's and five years of experience isn't the type of thing that is going to make people think you're shockingly overqualified for and unhireable for a tutoring job.
5. How to volunteer for a layoff
What's the most effective way to volunteer for a layoff (I've heard the severance is pretty good and I'd like to start my own business anyway....)
My company is buying itself and the deal closes on 9/30 and I'm supposed to lead the new website launch. I'd like to negotiate a layoff position and then contract out my time to finish up the project. Any advice?
Is your company doing mass layoffs, or are you just hoping you can negotiate one for yourself? If the latter, that's pretty hard to do -- they don't have any incentive to agree like they would in a mass layoff situation where they're looking for people to cut.
If it is a mass layoff situation, though, then first realize that only some positions are under consideration for cutting. If yours is one they want to keep, you won't be eligible (and may potentially harm yourself by indicating you'd like to leave). So first see what you can find out about that. Second, don't just volunteer; find out the specifics of the severance package from someone with authority to tell you (don't rely on rumors, because they can be wrong, or they might be offering different packages for different roles or levels of seniority, and you want to make sure you have your information right). Once you've settled both of those things, then talk to either your manager or HR, express your potential willingness to volunteer, and ask how to proceed.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.