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“my boss hasn’t returned from maternity leave, watching what I say around a coworker with financial worries, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

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“my boss hasn’t returned from maternity leave, watching what I say around a coworker with financial worries, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


my boss hasn’t returned from maternity leave, watching what I say around a coworker with financial worries, and more

Posted: 07 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PST

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

1. My boss hasn't returned from maternity leave

I started my job at a small nonprofit about seven months ago. When I was brought on, I knew that my new manager would be leaving for maternity leave about four months in to my new position. The training was minimal, as I joined at a very busy time for the organization. But I figured when she got back from leave we would pick up where we left off.

Her maternity leave has been over for almost three weeks now and she still isn't back to work full-time. She had some issues with her child care and in the meantime she has been working remotely and only seems to answer emails a few times a day. I have been trying to be patient and understanding, but I am getting frustrated that I have been basically left to do all of the office grunt work on my own and am expected to cover the phones every day. In addition, she has been very short with people and seems extremely stressed.

I left my previous position to work with colleagues in a more collaborative space, but I seem to be right back at working alone 9-5 with no one to run things by or learn from. As a newer employee I feel like I can't really say anything to the board, but I am really starting to resent my boss and taking this job. Is it normal for people to take extra weeks on top of 12 weeks of maternity leave? I'm trying to be sensitive that the transition for her is probably difficult, but I feel like this is just dragging on and there is no end in sight.

Three weeks later than planned actually isn't that long. I know it must feel like a long time when you were looking forward to having her come back and give you more guidance and assistance, but in the scheme of things, it's a pretty short amount of time.

If another few weeks go by and nothing has changed, at that point it would be reasonable to ask if she has a revised timeline for when she thinks she'll be back full-time — but give her some room to work that out first.

2. How much should I watch what I say around a coworker with financial worries?

I’m a "senior” in my team and earn a considerable amount more (30% more perhaps) than a mid-level colleague I work closely with. Our life situations are quite different: I am a few years older and single (and benefited from investments in the past), whereas the colleague has a young family and is the sole breadwinner, recently moved to a bigger house on account of family, and as such is stretched from paycheck to paycheck with little in the way of contingency funds. The colleague has spoken over the last few weeks and months about their financial worries and I have tried to be sympathetic and offer practical solutions where I see them.

As a result, I’m conscious of what I can discuss or mention in the office. We have a very informal and chatty environment, so any discussion is usually okay, except I feel uncomfortable mentioning the tablet I bought (we’re in the tech industry so are very geeky about gadgets, etc. – it isn’t just showing off) and even think twice about coming in with a new haircut / color, which as a result I have avoided doing for a while, as they seem too much like conspicuous consumption or a kick in the teeth.

I work with people of a similar job level to myself, who also geek out over tablets, etc. so potentially would have discussions with people other than this colleague. The latest thing in our work group is drones, for example.

How should I handle this? Should I just go about my usual business without worry (I don’t do extravagant things like buying yachts or whatever – they are normal purchases within the bounds of someone with a normal job!) or do I owe any kind of commentary/consideration to the colleague? Should I acknowledge the awkwardness to the colleague and how?

You're way overthinking this! As long as you aren't bragging about purchases to your colleague (and it definitely doesn't sound like you are), you shouldn't censor yourself. You definitely don't need to avoid getting a haircut! A haircut is not conspicuous consumption. In fact, your colleague would probably be mortified to find out that you're altering your behavior like this on their account.

Be kind, but be normal.

3. My new job is questioning my work ethic

I started my new job at a major university in September. Before that, I was with my previous job for nine years. Of course, this has been a big adjustment for me and I have been doing my best to adjust and learn my new position.

With this new position, there is a six-month probation period, and I am afraid that I will not make it to that point. In my first week, I had a major emergency with my living situation where I had to move out immediately and had to miss two days. There were some doctor's appointments I had to keep for my son and myself where I had to leave early or come in a little later and an issue where both of my daycare back-up options were not available. It seems like the cards are stacked against me already for this job and of course my work ethic is being called into question. Since I have been at this job for only a few months, is it okay for me to start applying somewhere else and try to get another fresh start?

I would like to note that this is only my second job after college. The job I was with for nine years was my first one after college. I can't go back to that job because the company is no longer around (a major for-profit school that closed).

Well, if you leave after only a few months, you're going to cement their opinion of you as unreliable. Why not explain to your manager that you're mortified that you had to miss so much work in your first few months, that you understand that it's a big deal, that it's out of character for you, and that you've taken steps to ensure that it won't continue (assuming that's true)? If you're reliably present from now on, it shouldn't take more than a few months to overwrite the earlier impression (as long as you keep it up after that).

Of course, if you think you're likely to be let go over this, then yes, you should definitely be job searching. But I wouldn't quit just to get a fresh start unless you truly think it's not salvageable.

4. Should I offer to work for free to prove myself?

I had an interview with the department manager about two months ago for a position, but then didn’t hear from them since. I accepted another offer and worked for two months, but I can’t get rid of this position from my mind. The position still open. Would it be okay to offer to work for no pay and then if the manager is satisfied, they can keep me’? I can also learn a lot from this job and benefit myself in the future.

Pay might be one of the reasons I didn’t hear back from the manager — I had to filled out an application form about my past salary and I think it’s higher than their salary range because my sister is working in the company and she overheard something about it.

Nope, don't offer to work for no pay. First and foremost, it's illegal for them to do that; it violates minimum wage laws, so they couldn't say yes to it even if they wanted to. Second, if they're a decent company, they want to hire the best person for the job; they're not going to pick someone just because that person undercuts all the other candidates on salary. (More on reasons not to do this here.)

However, you could certainly reach back out to the person you interviewed with and say that you're still very interested, and say that if salary was a sticking point, you'd be open to negotiating a different figure. After that, though, you should move on mentally — they've interviewed you and if they don't respond to this second attempt at outreach, it's likely that they just don't think you're the right candidate.

5. Alerting assistants to invitations to their bosses

I work as an events coordinator for a university. We have up to 30 events a year where I send bulk invites out to our board, executive committee, and special VIPs. Many of these invitees’ assistants have contacted us requesting we send an email of every invite to them as well or the invites are not received and processed.

This is my issue. We send all the invites by bcc. The way our bulk email system works, we have to send a separate email to the assistants of the invitees. My bosses want that email to have some wording that clarifies this is for their information only and they are not personally invited to the event. Of course, not all assistants receiving the email are titled “assistants.” Some of them have different titles.

I don’t just want to write FYI in the subject line. I would like to write one line at the top of the email (directly before the invite), such as: “You have received this email because someone you work with has been invited to this event. To RSVP on their behalf, please go to ___ and enter the event code ___." Any suggestions or is there a regular notification that goes on top of emails to distinguish this is meant for the boss?

The idea of the proposed language is good in theory, but I don't think you can just say "someone you work with has been invited" — I think you need to specify who. Otherwise, if the recipient supports multiple people, they're not going to know which of those people the invitation is for. In fact, that wording is vague enough that it's not even clear that it's for someone they support, just someone they work with, which is pretty broad.

Because of that, I don't think you can do a mass emailing without merging in some personalization. Ideally you'd personalize the emails with the name of the person who's invited. That means you can't do them by bcc, but it would be really easy to do it in an email marketing program like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.

my boss hasn't returned from maternity leave, watching what I say around a coworker with financial worries, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

the new overtime law means I’ll be earning the same as much more junior people

Posted: 07 Nov 2016 10:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

Last year I used a job offer to negotiate for a promotion from teapot coordinator to teapot manager, and a pay raise. My new salary happens to be just above the cutoff for the new overtime laws – $24 over it, to be exact. I recently found out that two very new employees at the coordinator level (who hardly ever work overtime, and have had serious performance issues) will NOT become hourly employees starting December 1, and are both getting substantial pay raises that puts them on the same level as me, salary-wise, though they are below me rank-wise. This frankly is making me very angry and demoralized. My performance review will be in December or January; however, our review schedule is such that I will not be made aware of any merit-based salary increases until end of February.

Is there anything I can do to address this with my supervisor or our VP during my review, or with HR? Or should I just wait and hope that they evaluate my salary and make it more equitable? For the record, I manage two critical functions of our department and have a great deal more responsibility as a manager than I did as a coordinator, and I feel it is important that my pay reflects that.

This is tricky, because normally you'd of course want your pay to reflect that you're contributing at a higher level than people who are in positions below yours and/or who aren’t performing well. But companies that are having to raise a bunch of people's salaries to the new exempt level are in the midst of taking on new salary expenses that in some cases will be pretty significant, which means that it may not be the most practical time to ask for a bump yourself — particularly when that bump wouldn't be about you now performing at a higher level than when your salary was last set, but just about wanting to get paid more than someone else. (To be clear, wanting to be paid more than someone who contributes less than you is totally legit; it’s just not the most compelling argument to a company that’s suddenly shouldering significant new payroll expenses.)

I do think you can broach it, but your approach needs to be shaped by that context. I'd say this: "I know we've had to raise the salaries for coordinator positions. Can you tell me anything about plans to adjust managers’ salaries so that they're not at the same level as the coordinators?" If you hear that there are no such plans, then say, "Is that something we can look at, since the jobs have such different levels of responsibility?"

But the reality is that the money just might not be there right now. Plus, if the request would take you above market rate for the work you do, they're not likely to do it — so that may mean waiting until there's been time for the impact of the new overtime law to shake out in the market.

Meanwhile, try to talk yourself down from being angry and demoralized. Your company gave your poorly-performing coworkers raises because they were required to do so by the new law; it's not a reflection on you.

the new overtime law means I’ll be earning the same as much more junior people was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

the things job seekers are tired of hearing from family and friends

Posted: 07 Nov 2016 09:30 AM PST

usnewsIf you have an out-of-work friend or family member, you probably want to be helpful and supportive. But sometimes people's initial instincts for what to say to help can be … well, the opposite of helpful.

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about 10 things that most job seekers are really tired of hearing from family and friends. Take a look and see if you're guilty of any of these.

the things job seekers are tired of hearing from family and friends was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I feel limited by my entry-level job and want to do more

Posted: 07 Nov 2016 07:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

My question comes from the perspective of a newly college graduate, beginning his career as an HR assistant with no experience. Essentially, I am working what I believe to be my dream “entry-level” HR job, that will catapult me into the next step of attaining a higher-compensated position with more responsibility. I have been with my company for about six months now, and though I wear many hats and am learning quite a large amount of business sense, I feel as if I am not learning quite as much as I want in regards to HR. My supervisor, the director of HR, does a great job, but I often find she takes on a lot of the work that I would love to have a bigger hand in. Often I feel that I will never learn this trade if I am not informed on the bigger going-on’s in the company. To combat this, I find myself asking many questions to stay informed, which might come across as distracting and maybe even annoying.

Given my situation, I feel as if it would be a good idea to continue to do the work at hand with no complaints — except that I am a bit of a dreamer and desire to do bigger and better things for the company. This is limited by my lack of experience, and lack of knowledge of the many facets of HR. If my job were a metaphor (bear with me here), I’d say that the company is a large prime rib, and I am stuck trimming the fat (party coordinating, ordering supplies, opening mail, organizing, etc.) What is the best approach to attaining more responsibility and trust in order to contribute to the “meat” of HR, and achieve my own sense of professional growth?

You're not going to like this answer, but the best approach is to do your current job really, really well and not get frustrated that a junior-level job is giving you junior-level work.

You're six months into an entry-level job. You're not going to be given the sort of projects that the HR director has; she's in a much more senior role, and her work requires more experience and more expertise. This is normal — it’s how this stuff works.

The way that you get more responsibility over time is by doing your current job really well. If you demonstrate via the not-super-challenging work you're being given now that you pay attention to detail, follow through on instructions, have good judgment, and care about quality, over time you’re likely to be trusted with more interesting work. I’m stressing the "over time" piece of that because it's not something that happens right away. It happens gradually and it's a longer-term thing.

Certainly at some point, it's reasonable to express an interest to your boss in taking on more responsibility or being more exposed to higher-level, more strategic stuff. But six months into your first job out of college isn't the time to do that; it would come across as premature and unrealistic. The earliest I'd say you could raise that would be at the one-year mark — and even then it's pretty early, so you'd want to go into that conversation with the recognition that one year into your first job is still very, very junior, and the reality is that they probably need you focused on the stuff they hired you to do, even though it's not particularly exciting work. But if you have that conversation after a year of happily doing really well at what you were hired to do, it's likely to get you better results than if it comes after a year of obvious straining against the confines of the job you're in.

Meanwhile, take a look at the people who are doing the type of work you'd like to do. What are their backgrounds? What did they do before? How long did they do it? What was the path they took to get to their current positions, and how long was that path? That's going to give you the most realistic sense of what kind of path you should aim for and what a realistic timeline might look like.

I feel limited by my entry-level job and want to do more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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