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“coworkers think I left a bad Glassdoor review, negative feedback in an open office, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

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“coworkers think I left a bad Glassdoor review, negative feedback in an open office, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


coworkers think I left a bad Glassdoor review, negative feedback in an open office, and more

Posted: 01 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PDT

It's five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworkers think I left a bad Glassdoor review, but I didn’t

I work at gossipy, small, family-owned, white collar business. We have about 40 employees, many of whom have been here for decades. I have been with the company for about a year and a half in an entry-level position (this is my first job out of college). I recently put in my two weeks’ notice as I got a job elsewhere with a higher title and salary. A few days after I put in my notice, a negative Glassdoor review appeared online for my current company. It complains about every aspect of the company, from the dress code to the technology to the culture to the people.

This is the only Glassdoor review for this company, and so everyone in the office noticed immediately and are trying to figure out who could have posted it. I am the only employee who has quit in the last six months, and the job title and length of time employed that the Glassdoor review listed matches my qualifications exactly. So of course, people assume I wrote it.

While I agree with pretty much everything the review mentioned, I’m not an idiot! I’m not going to trash the place I still need to work at for the next week and a half. Furthermore, I really do want to leave on good terms. Since I’ll be in the same field in my new job, I don’t want this Glassdoor review to sour my relationship with my current coworkers.

No one has accused me directly of leaving the review, but whenever it’s brought up and I’m around people shush each other or talk quieter, and another employee told me flat out his supervisors think I wrote it. How can I clear my name (convincingly) without sounding like I’m guilty/paranoid since no one’s asking me about it directly?

Talk to your gossipiest coworkers and say this: "I've heard people talking about that Glassdoor review, and I think some people might think it's me. It's not. I'd never leave a review like that. I want to leave here on good terms. If you hear people talking about it, can you make sure they know it's not me?"

Also, talk to your manager and address it head-on: "This is awkward to bring up, but I've heard a bunch of gossip this week that someone left a negative review of the company on Glassdoor. Since I'm leaving, I'm worried that you might wonder if it was me — so I wanted to tell you directly that it's not! I've really valued my time here and I hope to stay on great terms with you and with the company. I'd never leave a review like that."

2. Giving negative feedback in an open office

I work in an large open plan office. The open plan model is not entirely bad given the semi-collaborative nature of what we do, but I’m struggling with its implications for giving and receiving feedback. Our manager regularly walks around the office giving people feedback on their work. As we can’t use headphones, I’ve often overheard critical feedback of others work that wasn’t my business to know. Recently I had to let my manager know that I might have made a mistake that I wasn’t sure how to fix. As the manager’s desk is part of the open plan set-up, a bunch of people heard this conversation. Some of them asked me about it later, which was awkward.

Do you have any advice on how to deal more discreetly with the manager or other staff when there’s negative or sensitive information to be communicated? Email is not an option because management believes it’s most efficient to have most of the several dozen-person department share one email account.

Well, that bit at the end says something pretty significant about your management's thinking around privacy and discretion (it says that they are loons).

Ideally, the way this should work is that people have regular one-on-one meeting with their manager, and those meetings take place in a conference room or another private area. (It's pretty essential that managers have private work space because the nature of the job means having lots of conversations that shouldn't be overheard, but if that's not happening, then they at least should be making regular use of conference rooms.) Giving out feedback by walking around can work when something is minor; it's not a good way to do it for bigger-picture items, more complicated development conversations, or feedback that's critical.

While it doesn't sound like that how your managers operate, it's possible that you could move them more in that direction by asking for a standing weekly or biweekly meeting to check in on projects and get input and feedback, and then suggesting you do those meetings in a private space.

3. Replacing an employee who's overpaid

I would like to replace an employee who is overpaid for her position. I inherited this employee from a former manager who hired her two years ago. Our business revenue has declined dramatically in the past 12 months, and I know I could hire someone to do the same job for about $10,000 less per year and $12,000 less insurance per year. Saving $20,000 more or less would really help towards our budget.

Should I ask her if she would be willing to take this much less in order to keep her job or just go ahead and let her go for financial reasons? If she chooses to keep her job, she will no doubt look for another job and be very unhappy about this change and could possibly sabotage her computer because she is in charge of billing and accounts receivable. (I don't have any particular reason to suspect she would do that; I'm just worrying that a disgruntled employee with this type of job might mess things up. Just my paranoia.) However, I feel guilty about letting her go just because she is overpaid and we need the money. Can you help me decide what to do that is best for her and best for us?

If you're sure that you can hire someone good enough for what you need for much less money (which is something you should research carefully before taking any action), and you're committed to lowering the salary of the position, the best thing to do is be up-front with her about the situation. You could offer her two options to choose from: (1) staying in the job with the lower salary, and acknowledging that you know this would be a blow and you understand completely if that makes no sense for her, or (2) transitioning out of the job with X months' severance pay at her current salary. This gives her some control over the situation rather than you deciding for her and is more likely to leaving her feeling like she was treated reasonably well, despite the circumstances. (And offering severance makes it easier for her to choose the second option if she really doesn't want the first.)

If you know her to be responsible and trustworthy, I wouldn't worry about sabotage; that's not a common response to this type of situation, especially when people feel they've been treated with respect and dignity. If you did have some specific worry about her in particular, then I wouldn't recommend the first option, but it doesn't sound like that's the case.

For what it's worth, though, there might be a bigger picture question here for you: Saving $20,000 is about $1,666 a month. If that's going to make a major difference in your budget, you probably need to be looking at bigger cuts in other areas too.

4. My coworker falls asleep at his desk

I work at a software development group and one of my colleagues occasionally falls asleep at his desk. He’ll be asleep anywhere from five minutes to 20 minutes. We work at cubicles in an open-ish concept office, so it’s not like he can hide behind an office door. It doesn’t happen every day, but it’s happened at least five times over the past two months and I’m concerned that someone (our manager) will come by and see him. Other people work in our section and must also see that he’s sleeping.

Is the best approach to pretend like it’s not happening? I’ve always ignored it. I have no authority over him and it’s not my place to call him out. However, is there a better response when I see he’s sleeping at work? (Aside from “accidentally” creating a loud noise to wake him.) It’s getting increasingly weird to work near someone who is sleeping.

For some background, he’s slightly senior to me, but I don’t report to him. I just don’t want to see him get in trouble for something entirely avoidable. We have a meditation/quiet room at work, so if he really did need to sleep there’s a place he could go.

If he's falling asleep that often, he probably has some idea that it's happening. I don't think you need to alert him or wake him each time it happens. If you were senior to him, you'd have an obligation to say something to his boss. If he were a peer, I'd suggest you first talk to him ("I noticed you've been falling asleep at your desk — is everything okay?"). But given that he's senior to you, yeah, I'd go on ignoring it. (The other option would be to say something to your boss — "hey, I've noticed Fergus falling asleep at his desk a lot and I'm worried about whether he's okay" — but it sounds like you specifically want to avoid that.)

5. If I think I'm being fired, should I just stop going in?

I have not been working very long. When I started, training was very foggy. I had the training pay rate, which was minimum wage. Well, I had no idea for the longest time if I was off training, so I asked after two months. I was told I had to do training in another location, so I did. I completed my training and went back to my old location. About three months later, the manager said to me very indirectly that she was putting me on probation and she had to take me off training because she could not keep on training forever. That was all she said, with no feedback on what I could improve on. Well, that was two months ago and now I see that she took me off the schedule as of November 4th, but I am still working opening and closings until then. She has said nothing; she just took me off the schedule, no feedback, no being direct, and everything all over the place.

I do not feel like going in to work tomorrow. Should I write her an email saying that if I am terminated, it makes no sense to still go in? Or should I just go in and complete my work? I have felt disrespected here and that this has been handled very unprofessionally. Is this the way most companies work? I am still new to the workforce, as I have been off raising kids for a while. This is my first job back in and I wonder if this is the way things are and have changed since I have last been in the workforce.

It's not how professional jobs typically work, but it's definitely true that some retail and food service jobs will just take people off the schedule rather than having a direct conversation. That might be what's happening here — or there could be some other reason for it, like a simple mistake.

Emailing your boss to say that it doesn't make sense to work the rest of the week if she's firing you is a pretty aggressive move, especially if it turns out that that's not what she's doing. Why don't you just ask her directly? When you see her next at work, say this: "I noticed that I'm not on the schedule after the 4th. Do you still plan on scheduling me?" (And if you won't see her in the next day, call or email to say that instead.)

coworkers think I left a bad Glassdoor review, negative feedback in an open office, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

how big of a deal is a lie on a resume from two years ago?

Posted: 01 Nov 2016 10:59 AM PDT

A reader writes:

I am a director of a local nonprofit. We’re not nationwide, but we have a very visible presence in our area.

Two years ago, my associate director, we’ll call her Pam, decided to stay home with her new baby, so we had a position to fill. Pam had been in that role for nearly eight years and was like my right hand; I knew we’d get someone in there, but I had doubts anyone could truly fill her shoes. We interviewed several qualified candidates, and ended up hiring the current replacement after her amazing interviews (there were two, one with just me and one with me and Pam) and strong references.

The replacement, who we'll call Gina, has proven to be exceptional in her role. Eager, great sense of humor, very intelligent, poised, I could go on. She, like myself, is a single mother and I cleared a path through our company for her to return to school and get an MBA, which is something that she’s always wanted, but told me she never thought she could afford. Needless to say, within the past two years our company has really blossomed, and part of that is directly related to Gina’s hard work.

So this brings me to my current situation. A week ago, I was at a work conference. I ended up speaking to one of the event coordinators. We spoke for some time, and Gina’s name came up. He stated that he worked with her briefly at her previous job, and disclosed to me that she was fired. I was shocked. I distinctly remember from her interview that when I asked why she wanted to leave her current position, she stated that she wanted to return to the nonprofit field where she worked prior to that job. The man delivered this information to me in an "Oh, I’m glad she got something she likes, but I assume you knew she was fired” kind of way, so it wasn’t as though he was trying to toss her under the bus.

When I returned to work, I checked her personnel file, and her resume clearly listed her previous job as August 2010-present. We don’t have employees fill out “applications” so that wasn’t an issue, but I’m just stuck. I haven’t told anyone, and no one would know. Do I speak with her? Do I terminate her position? I thought for sure I’d never be able to replace Pam, and I did, so I guess I could do it again. But neither of these things feels right to me. She made a mistake, but there is nothing, nothing in her two-year performance that suggests anything other than a highly qualified and committed individual who has gone above and beyond in her role. I’m torn over this, and to be honest, I wish I never knew this information. I think you give such solid advice, and I’m truly in need of that now. What would you do in this case?

Well, wait, you don't actually know that she lied on her resume. It's very possible that when she submitted the resume, she was indeed still employed at her job — and that she didn't get fired until some point after that. If that's the case, there was nothing for her to disclose, as long as she didn't deliberately mislead you by talking about her job in the present tense after she was no longer there. Really, unless this guy told you exactly when she was fired and it was before she submitted that resume — and you have reason to trust that he's being precisely accurate two years later in an offhand comment — there's just no smoking gun here.

Which means you should let it go.

But for the sake of argument, let's say that you did find out that she had already been fired at the time that she submitted that resume to you, and that she had deliberately misrepresented her dates of employment on her resume, adding a month or two of extra work. Should that trump the two years of exceptional work she's done for you? I'd argue no.

She wouldn't be the first decent person to panic about unemployment and make a poor decision about her resume. She probably wouldn't even be the first person you hired who fudged something on her resume. Believe me, I'm not arguing in favor of doing this — I'm on record here as calling it an integrity issue many times in the past. But if the firing was fairly recent when she applied (and so it was a matter of a couple of months, not like a year), I'm not willing to advocate firing an otherwise excellent employee over it. Certainly if I'd trusted her implicitly before, I wouldn't now, but I wouldn't fire someone stellar over it.

On the other hand, if we're not just talking a month or two — if the firing was, say, a year before she submitted that resume — that's a much bigger deal.

In either case, I'd say the next step would be to talk to her about it and see what she says. (Again, this is in our hypothetical where you actually know she lied on her resume, not for the real situation that you've described.) You might hear something that changes your assessment entirely (like that she continued to work for them as a contractor and just didn't know to separate it out on her resume), or something that puts things in more context (she was desperate and has regretted it ever since and it's made her vow to be scrupulously accurate going forward), or something that increases your concern (she's shady about answering you or doesn't see what the big deal is). But you'd want to talk to her before reaching any conclusions.

how big of a deal is a lie on a resume from two years ago? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I’ve been covering for a friend’s work mistakes

Posted: 01 Nov 2016 09:30 AM PDT

A reader writes:

I have a friend, “Meg,” and we both work at the same company but in different departments.

Meg is one of my closest friends, and we hang out all the time. She’s a lot of fun to be around, and she’s also been there for me through some difficult times. She’s an awesome friend but kind of a difficult coworker. As our work has evolved, we’ve had the occasion to collaborate more, and I’m starting to realize that she’s mistake-prone and often causes issues with my clients by being rude or inflexible with them. Things like ignoring them for long periods with no follow-up, forgetting to submit work on time, sending things last-minute with copy that’s factually inaccurate because she didn’t double-check and now there’s no time to fix it, telling clients their ideas are silly or pointless, disparaging the contributions of people we serve, being unwilling to compromise to the point of being unkind, etc.

No one’s perfect, and I certainly have made my share of mistakes/foot in mouth moments, but it’s starting to proliferate beyond what I’d consider typical. I’ve lost several key clients who have dealt with Meg, and they’ve been pretty explicit that their bad experiences with her were a major reason they left.

I’d prefer to let this shake out with her supervisors and not get involved, but I am more directly responsible for these accounts, whereas she’s only serving in a consulting role for them. While losing them doesn’t really affect her, it has a big impact on me and my review. Also, the only way they would really find out that she’s losing us business is if I tell them, because I can be a gatekeeper of sorts for client feedback.

When my supervisors ask me what happened, I’m always hesitant to really point the finger at her, but I also need to answer for the issue. In most cases, I’ve offered some vague platitudes in the vein of “I think we all could have done better,” or “I’m not sure we were the right fit,” but it’s becoming obvious that I’m basically covering for her at my own expense. I know the right thing for a friend to do is probably to go to her and discuss this feedback instead of burying it, but a couple things:

1. I am not her supervisor, and I’m sure in her shoes I’d be sorta miffed if one of my peers came to me to discuss my work. It’s not my place, and I don’t think she’d understand that I’d be doing it as a sort-of “hey — heads up, I need to start being more honest about these things when they happen.” That is, I’m telling you as a courtesy because if I don’t tell you I need to start telling some higher-ups.

2. She is an anxious person already, and she has a lot of trouble with criticism. She’s often tearful and so genuinely hurt when she does receive negative feedback from her supervisors, and I think in most cases it doesn’t really penetrate her Cloud of Defensiveness.

3. I don’t know how much she can actually improve — her manner tends toward brevity, she gets overwhelmed easily, and I don’t think her job is a fit for her. I know everyone can build skill sets, and I’m not writing her off, but I don’t think this is so much a lack of care as it is she’s in over her head and probably isn’t going to fix this overnight.

How do I do right by her friendship while still honoring my responsibility to my clients, my job, and myself? I don’t think continuing to enable her is the answer, but I don’t want to backstab her, either, or let her be blindsided. I know on some level I’ve created this dynamic, and it doesn’t seem like I’m owning my choices if I go from 100% covering for her to 100% not. I would so appreciate some perspective.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

I’ve been covering for a friend’s work mistakes was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

my cousin got in trouble after mentioning her period to her manager

Posted: 01 Nov 2016 07:59 AM PDT

A reader writes:

I’m writing today on behalf of my younger cousin Lauren, a high school sophomore who works as a cashier at a grocery store. To begin: is it inherently inappropriate to mention your period to your manager/ supervisor? Of course, I don’t mean yelling, “It’s a crime scene in my pants!” without prompting.

While she was working, Lauren began to sense Aunt Flo was making an unexpected visit. She had taken her break about a half hour earlier, but did not know she’d have to set up accommodations for Flo. My cousin continued working until there was a break in customer traffic and then asked her (male) supervisor if she could take a quick trip to the loo. Her supervisor looked annoyed and admonished her for not using her break to use the bathroom. My cousin said, “I actually did, but I am unexpectedly surfing the crimson wave.” According to Lauren, her manager looked embarrassed and allowed her to take her needed bathroom break.

During her next shift, she received a written citation for inappropriate language and insubordination. I asked Lauren if she had made the crimson wave remark loudly, in earshot of customers, or in a disrespectful manner. She said she had made a conscious effort to lower her voice, keep an even tone, and ask when no customers were around. I don’t think her use of slang was the issue; I suppose she could have said, “I am unexpectedly menstruating,” but that doesn’t necessarily seem more appropriate… just clinical? Also, she’s a sixteen-year-old girl having to tell her adult, male boss about her period — I don’t think one can dwell on her use of an inoffensive euphemism.

My first instinct is to head down to the store with my model of the the female reproductive system in tow and give Lauren’s supervisor a much-needed discussion about women and their mysteries, but clearly that is wrong. My cousin wants to handle this on her own like a mature adult, but isn’t quite sure how — especially because she’s not actually an adult and it appears her supervisor isn’t quite there yet either, in spite of his age. So three main questions:

1) Do you feel it is worth it to push back on this if her work environment is otherwise fine and she doubts it will be an issue again? This is a high school job and she’s an otherwise a stellar employee, so I doubt one citation will harm her future in any way. She would be doing it more for the principle of the matter.

2) Would it be appropriate for Lauren to address this first with a female supervisor (at the same level as the supervisor who reprimanded her; think night shift / day shift) rather than the male HR-type person? Lauren understandably doesn’t want to mention her period to more men who may react adversely, but also doesn’t want to involve people unnecessarily and make this a bigger deal than this has to be.

3) Lauren worries her concerns may be dismissed because adults don’t always take teens seriously. How would you phrase her complaint in a way that isn’t adversarial, but still conveys that she means business?

Okay, so for what it's worth, “I'm unexpectedly surfing the crimson wave" wasn’t a great way for Lauren to put things when talking to a manager (of either sex), and I can understand him being a little taken aback just because it's rather … crude wording.

That said, the manager should have just rolled with it. Writing her up is silly.

But it would be useful for you to arm Lauren with more professional language to have around for the future, like "I have my period and need to use the bathroom" or the getting-out-of-gym-class vague standby "It's a feminine issue."

Anyway, should she push back on this? Eh. If things are otherwise fine and she doesn't expect it to be an issue again, I'd let it go. She wasn't written up for saying she had her period, after all; at least if I’m understanding correctly, it was about the specific language she chose to use. (If it were the former, I'd absolutely tell her to fight it as strongly as possible.) Formally disciplining someone for that particular language is eye-rolly, but I don't know that it's a battle worth fighting.

That said, if she does want to push back, she could say something like this: "I want to ask that this write-up be removed from my file. I used a euphemism to explain to a male manager that I needed to use the bathroom because I had my period, and I don't think it's warranted to penalize me for that. Frankly, it's awkward having to explain that to a man, and while I may not have chosen the absolute best wording, my intent was simply to explain the situation and get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. I have a track record of being an excellent employee, and I certainly didn't intend to be inappropriate or insubordinate. The write-up makes me feel I'm being penalized for having my period at the wrong time, and I'm hoping it can be removed from my file."

Ideally she'd say this to the HR person, even though he's a man, because he's the appropriate person to talk to. But if she can't bring herself to do that, talking to a female manager would be the next best option (especially if there's one who she thinks is particularly sensible).

Also, yay to Lauren for wanting to advocate for herself in general, and for seeking advice from you about it.

my cousin got in trouble after mentioning her period to her manager was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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