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. Where's the promotion I was promised months ago?
A reader writes:
When I was hired, my new boss and I discussed promoting me in one year. Shortly after my year anniversary came around, I set up a meeting to discuss the promotion and we started rewriting my job description, etc. My boss's boss OK'ed the promotion, and she got verbal approval from HR.
Fast-forward seven months, and nothing has happened. I got an exemplary performance review in the spring, but my boss still hasn't submitted the revised description to HR. I sent her an email in May asking for an update and if there's anything that she needs from me. Nope, it's "at the top of" her list. I just sent her another email reminder (two months later) and got the same response. Is there anything else I can do? Normally, I'd start looking for another job, but I'm pregnant and I need the maternity leave. (I don't have any reason to believe that my pregnancy is impacting the promotion.)
Stop emailing about it and talk face-to-face. This is nearly always step one when you're getting the runaround on something. Say something like this: "It's been seven months since you approved my promotion. What needs to happen for it to be official?" Say this in a serious, concerned tone. If your boss again tells you that it's at the top of her list, say, "I appreciate that, but it's been seven months, and I hope you understand why I'm getting concerned. Can you let me know when you think it will move forward, realistically?"
2. Rejecting a candidate for the second time
A reader writes:
Do you have any advice on how to best reject a candidate for a second time? In this case, a candidate was a finalist for one position but was not selected. When a different opening was posted a few months later (which on paper she is also qualified for), she reached out again and we interviewed her again. She's not the right fit, and I feel like saying no a second time really closes the door in a way the first rejection does not. Knowing she will likely read it that way, how should I follow up with her?
Just explain to her your reasoning -- and if you'd welcome applications from her again in the future, add that, too (but don't say it if it's not true). For instance: "This was a tough decision, but ultimately we concluded we're looking for someone with more experience in X. I really appreciate your going through our process twice now, and if we haven't scared you off, we'd welcome your applications in the future." Or, if it's not a skills/experience issue but more about personality/culture fit, you could be vaguer: "I really appreciated the time you put into our process. This is a tricky role to hire for and we end up turning away some great people in the process. I won't be moving you forward to our final interviews, but on a personal note, I enjoyed the chance to get to know you better and wish you all the best." Just make it a little more personal than a form letter, since it's her second time around.
3. Applying for a job when I'm also on the hiring committee for it
A reader writes:
I'm on the board of an organization that's hiring an executive director. As the board chair and the person currently functioning as the interim director, I'm on the hiring committee and am one of two people who will be conducting phone interviews over the next couple of days.
I would like to apply for the job, and plan to clearly state that while I'm excited to apply, as a board member, I want the organization to be as unbiased as possible and hire the best candidate for the job. I'm coming into the process late, but we have a rolling deadline and I think my application would be competitive. Is it legally questionable to apply at this point? Is it legally questionable to partake in the phone interviews if I know I'm going to apply? Regardless, do I need to submit my application in advance of the phone interviews?
In case it's useful information, I am applying at this late date because I've gone back and forth a lot about whether to apply and because I wasn't planning on applying if we had some applicants who I thought were really fantastic. Although some of the candidates are strong, I think I could be of better service to the organization.
None of this is legally questionable -- the law doesn't prevent board members or people involved in the hiring process from being candidates themselves. What matters is simply that the organization have a fair process that produces the best hire, and that others involved (board members, staff, members, and to a lesser extent, other candidates) don't perceive the process to be unfair or biased.
That means you should tell your fellow board members ASAP that you plan to throw your hat in the ring and ask if they'd like you to recuse yourself from the hiring process. Ideally you'd remove yourself from the process altogether; it might be too late to do that for the phone interviews scheduled for the next few days, but you should give the organization the opportunity to make different arrangements.
4. What to expect in a third interview
A reader writes:
I had a first interview with the hiring manager and two potential co-workers that was more of a technical interview. I was then called back for a second interview with the full search committee, where I met with about 12 people across different departments that I'd interact regularly with. I'm definitely not used to being interviewed by 12 people in a room, but I felt like I did a really good job. If nothing else, it confirmed that I really wanted to work with these people.
At the end of the second interview, the hiring manager told me they had a few more candidates to interview, and then they would contact the references of their first choice. I didn't hear anything for about two weeks, and my references confirmed no one had called them, so I just assumed the company had gone with another candidate, and did my best to put the job out of mind.
Fast-forward to last Friday, when the company suddenly asked to set up a third interview between me and the department director (the hiring manager's boss). I've actually never had a third interview before, so I have no idea what to expect. I'm trying to get prepared, but I'm not sure if this is going to be a technical interview (seems weird for a director to do), or more of a personality fit kind of interview. Can you give me any idea of what I should expect?
In general, I'd expect less of a technical focus, but beyond that it could be anything -- it could be a basic "get to know you"/personality/culture fit kind of thing, or it could be delving into your background, or it could be exploring how you'd handle particular situations or challenges. It just depends on what this particular interviewer is interested in assessing. Also, don't assume it won't cover some of the same ground you covered with others earlier -- it very well might, because some interviewers like to do their own assessments rather than relying on reports from others.
5. What kind of help should I ask my outgoing manager for in her last two weeks?
A reader writes:
I started my current job in January and have really enjoyed working with my supervisor. We have a great balance of independence and support, and she has been great about my professional development. She announced she's leaving for a new opportunity earlier this week, and is finishing out her two weeks' notice. She asked me what she could do to set me up for success -- and I don't really know what to ask for! Since she's offering, I feel like I should have things to ask for, but nothing immediately comes to mind. Are there things I should be thinking about that would help prepare me for this transition period while we hire her replacement?
I'd ask her for (a) her most candid feedback on what you do well and what you should focus on improving in, (b) any advice on projects, priorities, and potential obstacles she sees coming your way in the next few months or year, and (c) any insight she could share with you about thriving at your company or with the incoming manager, since her role may give her a different vantage point than you have. You should also ask if you could use her as a reference in the future; although it certainly sounds like she'll be glad to do that, it doesn't hurt to nail it down.
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