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“did my manager tell my employee I can’t do my job, keeping my negative Glassdoor review anonymous, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

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“did my manager tell my employee I can’t do my job, keeping my negative Glassdoor review anonymous, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


did my manager tell my employee I can’t do my job, keeping my negative Glassdoor review anonymous, and more

Posted: 04 Jan 2017 09:03 PM PST

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

1. Did my manager tell my employee that I can't do my job?

I supervise a team of six. About two months ago, I took a vacation and I asked a member of my team, Susan, to act in my place. Susan is a very strong personality and has voiced some strong opinions on how the team should be run (but did not apply for the job I got when it was posted).

When I was on vacation, some deadlines came due on a high-profile project so the team met with our senior manager. It just so happened that our manager was also away that day. Susan expressed her dislike of the project during this meeting — to the point where the senior manager removed her from the meeting for insubordination and had a private meeting with her. Something in this private meeting convinced the senior manger that the team needed to refocus the project to Susan’s point of view. When I returned, I had an email from the senior manager telling me to meet with the team to refocus the project under the senior manger's direction. I was not approached by Susan to tell me what had happened and had to email her to ask what had happened while I was away — to which she replied “everything is covered in Senior Manager's email.” I did speak approach her at that time and all seemed well. My manager (who I have a great working relationship with) and I were flummoxed but deadlines loomed so we pivoted and moved on.

This week, my manager hired a new person who is at my level whose job description is better aligned to this project. (The timing of the hiring had nothing to do with the project’s pivot; it was advertised and budget approved six months ago.) This new person, Kate, took over the project and met with everyone on my team to talk about their work. Kate met with Susan and after some initial tension (my manager and I could hear loud voices through the wall), Susan told Kate that the senior manager told her in the private meeting that she didn't trust me to do my job and was going reduce my capacity because I was incapable of doing my job.

Kate and I share an office and she came back very upset and told me what was said. She begged me not to tell anyone because it would break the trust with Susan. I shared this with my manger as I was very upset. My manager has not heard this message from the senior manager — in fact, I am to be given another similar project in January. My manager spoke about it to Kate, and Kate was insistent that talking to Susan would result in a poor working relationship for them.

I am at a loss. I believe my senior manger did say these things — but even if she didn't, Susan believes them to be true and therefore our working relationship (which she had expressed was working well in our last performance meeting two weeks previous) has been damaged. I am trying to build a partnership with Kate but I expressed to her that it was very unprofessional for her to listen to a team member trash talk her supervisor. I want to respect Kate but I am also very personally hurt and professionally embarrassed.

Kate doesn't get the final say here. It's reasonable for you to say to her, "I appreciate your concerns about your relationship with Susan, but this isn't information I can sit on. It's serious and could affect my livelihood and I need to be able to ask Senior Manager about it. I'll ask her to be as discreet as possible with Susan, but I hope you understand that this is something I need to act on."

And then do — or have your manager do it on your behalf. It's possible that Susan is stirring up trouble here and your senior manager said nothing of the kind. It's also possible that there is something to it, in which case you need to bring it out in the open. Either way, it's not something that you can just let go.

2. I'm worried my old company will know I wrote a negative Glassdoor review

This year, I joined (and then left) a small, high-turnover workplace locally. Since Glassdoor has saved me numerous times from applying to a potential nightmare scenario job, I felt obligated to share my experiences regarding this company — if only to educate others of potential issues based on my experiences.

Until my review, there were zero reviews of the company. I was fair in sharing both the good and bad of the company, but the review (and my experience) was overall pretty negative, and I stated I couldn’t recommend anyone else work there based on my experience. I should add I have also left a positive Glassdoor review for a different, former employer, so my goal here is legitimately to help other job seekers.

That said, while I’m not relying on this company for recommendations, I’m a little concerned the office gossips will figure out I left the (only and negative) review. What should I say if someone from there asks me if I left the review? Am I under any obligation to say it was me?

Nope, you're definitely not obligated to say it was you. The point of Glassdoor is to provide anonymous reviews. You're not obligated to give up that anonymity just because someone asks you if it was you.

If it's a small company, it can sometimes be easy to figure out who wrote something, especially if you gave details specific to your job. But you mentioned that this company has had high turnover, so you probably won't be the obvious suspect.

3. Explaining a year of bad grades in college

I am close to completing my bachelor’s degree and am preparing to begin my job search. The field I’m entering is education, and in my area it is typical to have the school district ask for a copy of your college transcript along with your cover letter and resume. This is problematic for me because I had a year in college where my life basically fell apart and I completely failed. After this time, I took a five year break where I worked in retail, where I received many promotions, was responsible for training new hires, and walked away with some great work experiences and references. Since returning to college three years ago, I have been on the Dean’s list every semester, and my GPA has recovered.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that when an interviewer looks at my transcripts, they will see a year of failed classes. The circumstances aren’t anything that is appropriate to share (although since I’m anonymous here, I was going through a court case involving childhood abuse and was cut off by a good chunk of my family as a result. The beginning stages of the case took place when I was still in high school, and the teachers who realized something was going on and helped me are a big part of my inspiration for going into this field.)

I’m assuming the best strategy here is to simply say that I had a family crisis, right? I suppose my fear is that I’ll come across like someone who will go off the rails and stop doing her job the moment I have any sort of crisis. This certainly isn’t the case – I received counseling for quite some time and have built an awesome family with my husband and daughter, and pull off things like acing a final or having an awesome day at work after being up all night at the children’s ER grappling with a condition our daughter has. Other than having great references and working on building contacts through subbing in the districts I would like to teach in, is there anything more I can do/say to show that I have truly overcome that year of horrendous grades? Or am I overthinking this?

That's exactly what you should say, and employers will not think that you're someone who will go off the rails whenever something difficult happens. This is not an uncommon thing at all — people have family crises, health crises, etc., and their grades suffer for it. In your case, it's going to be really clear that you took several years off to deal with it, and then returned and got excellent grades. If you explain it the way you did here ("I was dealing with a family crisis that impacted my grades that year but after taking several years off, I returned and my grades were excellent ever since), you should be fine.

4. Elevator etiquette

I work in a smaller high rise in which my company leases two floors, the lobby level and the ground floor just below. I work on the ground floor. Whenever I use the elevator to access my floor, I have to swipe my badge and then press the floor button. It’s a security feature restricting access to those who actually work on the floor. (All of the doors on my floor also require a badge swipe to access.)

My company shares the elevators with several other businesses. The problem is that if another floor button is pressed before or after I badge in the elevator, the elevator will not go down to my floor. It will go to the other floors only. I’ve often been forced to take a ride to other floors and wait while everyone gets off, and have to badge swipe again to get down to my floor.

If someone gets on ahead of me, I let them go and wait for the next elevator. It’s awkward. But sometimes I’m already on board when people step in behind me wanting to go up to their floors. What is a polite way to ask them to delay pressing floor buttons so that I can get to my floor that won’t require a lengthy explanation of my company’s elevator security feature? Stepping out to wait for the next elevator seems impolite to me.

This seems like a terrible set-up. It's not even secure — because people will just do what you're contemplating doing, which defeats the purpose of the security feature. It seems like it might be better to give your company one dedicated elevator. Is it worth pointing out to whoever set it this way?

Meanwhile, though, I think you can just be straightforward: "I'm so sorry, could I ask you to wait to press the button until we reach my floor? There's a security feature that stops the elevator from going there if other buttons are pressed." (Of course, that assumes that your company is okay with you doing that, knowing that it means non-employees will be reaching their floors without authorization.)

5. "Kindly" requests

Is my visceral reaction to a request by a business associate who “kindly” asks for follow-up, etc. misplaced? It is worse than nails on a chalkboard to me.

I find it a little stilted and overly formal. It's also sort of like the terrible "gentle reminder," which can come across as “I think you might be offended by a normal workplace interaction and so I am approaching you very gingerly." Neither of them are necessary; it's fine to just say, "hey, can you send me X when you have a chance?"

That said, yeah, you sound like you have an unusually intense reaction to it.

did my manager tell my employee I can't do my job, keeping my negative Glassdoor review anonymous, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I want to have an indigenous spiritual ceremony for my team

Posted: 04 Jan 2017 10:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

I am a research manager in a university setting. The projects my team engages in are varied, but focus on one specific health problem. I specifically manage one of the large projects on the team that works with indigenous communities across the country. I supervise a team that is 90% women (this will be relevant in a second), with most women much older but also a few young women. There are only two men on my team, including myself (again, relevant in a second).

As we work with indigenous communities, we strive to incorporate indigenous ceremonies and cultural activities when possible. Even though there is some cultural understanding of indigenous practices and ceremonies, my team is largely not exposed to such things. I have worked with indigenous communities for most of my career and have participated in numerous such ceremonies in different parts of the country.

My project is entering a new phase in 2017, and I am planning to have an opening ceremony with my team to start off the year with grounding in indigenous practices and creating cultural awareness and understanding. I have contacted an indigenous elder who is from the territories that we are working on, and he has agreed to do a ceremony for my team. However, I have run into an interesting problem.

As part of the ceremony, there will be smudging and a pipe ceremony. All ceremonies have specific protocols, and most of them are manageable and my team and I can make accommodations for that. But there is one protocol that is giving me anxiety on how to deal with it.

The protocol for the pipe ceremony is that women who are on their "moon time” (menstrual cycle) are asked to sit outside the ceremony circle for only that part of the ceremony. The reasoning for this cultural protocol is this: “During her moon time, a woman is going through her own natural purification process. While her body is going through this natural purification, she is also recharging her own body's powers and energies, so it is a cleansing and restorative time for her. Because a woman's power is being renewed during this process, she must stay away from all sacred ceremonies … A woman's power during her moon time is so strong that it can draw the power away from the sacred Sweat Lodge, Sundance, and Pipe ceremonies. Her power during this time can interfere with the power in the Sacred Pipe, Eagle Feathers, and the food offered for the feasts following ceremony. Men do not have their own natural purification and renewal process, therefore they must come to the Sweat Lodge ceremony for purification.”

As a young male manager, with most of my team being women, I am really uncomfortable addressing this with them. I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation in the workplace, especially coming from a male manager.

I am going to reach out to the elder and explain the situation and tell him that this is a conversation that I cannot have with my team. I will ask him if this is going to be a problem and see if we can come up with a solution that does not put the women on my team in an uncomfortable situation. Maybe this could be a deal breaker and I will have to cancel the ceremony, which I am willing to do as I am responsible for creating safe spaces for my team.

Aside from this issue, I also recognize that there might be people who might not be comfortable participating in this ceremony due to other factors: personal religious beliefs, never having participated in something like this, and any other personal reservations. To manage this, I am going to make attendance at this ceremony completely voluntary. I am curious to know how you would navigate this situation. What is your advice?

I’ve been following your site for many years and I know the commenting section is quite robust. I would request the commenters to provide their perspectives on navigating this rather than turning the conversation to sexism. This is a practice followed in certain Indigenous communities from time immemorial, and you may not like their explanation for this protocol, but it is a completely accepted practice and non-controversial in indigenous communities. This has the potential for great cultural misunderstanding, and I’d like to avoid that conversation. I am trying to understand how to address this as a male manager with a predominantly female team, and how to honor the ceremony in the workplace. (Note from Alison: I’m asking people to respect this request as well.)

Yeah, there is zero place for asking who on your staff has their period or treating people differently if they do. It doesn't matter that it's part of a cultural ceremony; it's just so, so far over the line that you cannot do it in a work setting. I think you're in agreement on that, based on what you said about trying to make a different arrangement with the elder.

But leaving menstrual cycles aside and tackling the broader question of spiritual ceremonies in general: You’re working in a specific context that makes this question quite different than it would be for most offices (where the answer would be a blanket “don’t do it at all”). And because of that, it’s possible that I’m missing some key element about how this plays out with the specific work you do. That said…

I get that you work with indigenous communities and that you want your staff to be culturally competent. And in that context, it may make sense to give them opportunities to participate in cultural activities that will help build that competence … but you're talking about spiritual traditions here, and it's just not appropriate to make that an official work activity, even if you make it voluntary.

So I'd drop the idea of the ceremony altogether — this or any other — unless it’s clearly a 100% optional extracurricular activity and not something that you or your department is officially organizing.

At most, I think you could say something like this: "We've been offered the opportunity to attend A, B, and C over the next three months. If you'd like to attend any of these, you can sign up here. These are completely optional and it's up to you whether you attend any of them." But you should avoid framing like "I've arranged for us to attend a sacred pipe ceremony. Attendance is voluntary, but we'll be gathering for it on January 19." The first is opt-in; the second is opt-out. If you’re going to do it, go for opt-in, and see yourself as facilitating exposure to this stuff for people who want it, not organizing team spiritual activities yourself. (That also means that it should not be an opening ceremony with your team to kick off the new year because that’s an official work activity, no matter how voluntary it is.)

And really, even with these limitations in place, I’d still avoid doing spiritual ceremonies unless you can truly make a compelling argument that it will help your staff do their work better in concrete ways. Maybe it will — I don’t know enough about your work to say that it won’t — but I’d take a very hard look at that question.

I want to have an indigenous spiritual ceremony for my team was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

is it okay to fire an employee by phone or email?

Posted: 04 Jan 2017 09:30 AM PST

A reader writes:

I have wanted to fire a full-time employee for the past two weeks, but she hasn’t been in, despite telling me on numerous occasions that she definitely will be in the next day.

I manage a small business and need to fire her so I can start looking for her replacement as soon as possible. Is it therefore acceptable to fire her via email or phone? I like the idea of email so I have a record of what was said.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I'm revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

is it okay to fire an employee by phone or email? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

my boss asked me to log into a coworker’s email to delete a cruel message

Posted: 04 Jan 2017 07:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

As background, I work for a company with fewer than 10 employees. We all have similar passwords to access both email and the programs we use on a daily basis — think something like the company name followed by our initials. Since it’s such a small group, we each essentially have everyone else’s password. It’s not unheard of for someone to log in to a coworker’s account if they’re out sick or need assistance while traveling, but it’s rare and has always been at the request of the account-holder. (And, FYI, this system was set up by our outsourced IT company, and as much as I hate shared passwords, that’s not the issue I’m writing about.)

A few days ago, the owner/manager of the company, "Fergus,” sent an email out discussing shortcomings of my most junior (in duties, not in age) coworker, "Jane.” He mentioned several specific issues and asked those of us who worked with her to let him know what concerns we had so he’d be fully informed when he sat down to talk with Jane. He ended the email in an uncharacteristically harsh manner, saying something along the lines of, “Jane is a disappointment so far and appears to be a waste of the time and resources we dedicated to training her.” Though he’d intended to send the email only to the two of us who work directly with her, he sent it to the whole office — including Jane.

I serve as the office manager, and as soon as Fergus realized that Jane was on the email he told me to log into her account and delete the message before she saw it. She had the day off, so it’s unlikely she’d have seen it before coming in the next morning. While I have issues with the general idea of accessing someone else’s email to delete messages, in this case it was both a direct request from the owner and, to my mind, the kindest option for Jane, who would have been mortified and hurt see what he’d said. I deleted the email from Jane’s account, and Fergus sent a message to everyone else who had been on the original email telling them that the outsourced IT company had recalled the message, and to please not mention it to Jane as he planned sit down and discuss her performance with her privately.

So, there are a few things here that I’m unsure about. One is the ethics of deleting messages from someone else’s account — not to sabotage or exclude them, but to spare their feelings. Do the good intentions do anything to mitigate the extreme ickiness of accessing a coworker’s email without their knowledge or consent? I’m also a bit torn about Fergus telling everyone else that the IT company had magicked the email away. It’s not totally believable — they usually take hours/days to respond to requests, not minutes — and part of me feels like he should be up-front. But I also understand that the others might panic if they thought Fergus was accessing their emails on the sly. And since I’m the one who actually did it, I worry that if there is any blowback, I’ll be caught up in it. Am I just caught up in small company drama, or are the legitimate concerns here?

You're caught up in small company drama and there are legitimate concerns here.

Frankly, the biggest concern to me is that Fergus is sending emails saying that an employee is a waste of time. Even if his email had gone only to the people he intended to send it to, that's a crappy thing to put in an email. There's no need to be gratuitously nasty about an employee — ever, but especially in writing and especially to her coworkers. It would have been perfectly sufficient for him just to say, "I'd like your input about Jane's work so far, so that I can incorporate it into feedback I'll be giving her later this week." He even could have added, "Please be candid — I know that there have been some problems and I want to make sure that I have a full view of where we are."

So I'm curious to know how Fergus's people-management skills are in general. Was this a one-time flub, or is he typically this unkind? If it was a fluke, then fine — but I wonder if it's part of a pattern.

As for having you remove the email from Jane's account … yeah, that’s not great. But I agree with you that it’s justifiable since the alternative was letting Jane see an inappropriate and frankly cruel message about her. It's hard to imagine someone continuing to be comfortable at work after seeing that message went to all of their coworkers. So, icky and uncomfortable, but I have to reluctantly say that it's better than the alternative.

The part about Fergus telling everyone that the outsourced IT company had recalled the message is just weird, because presumably people are going to see that the message remains in their in-boxes and will know that it's not true. It also could potentially create problems in the future, if someone else sends an email accidentally and figures that they can just have the IT company recall it.

Plus, handling things that way denied Fergus the ability to address the mess he created head-on, which he really should do. Right now, everyone in your company except Jane has received an awful message about Jane, and Fergus is just … ignoring that? It would be better for him to address what happened (not via email) and say something like, "I've made a mistake. I intended to send this to two people who work closely with Jane, and I'm mortified that it happened. No one deserves to have that kind of message about them sent to all their coworkers. When someone is having difficulties, it should be a private matter, and so I'm asking you all to do your best to put this out of your mind so that Jane isn’t at the disadvantage of her coworkers being privy to this kind of discussion. I've learned a lesson about not using email this way in the future, and I want to apologize to all of you that it happened."

And y'all need to get an IT company that believes in real passwords. (Which should be basically any other IT company on the planet.)

my boss asked me to log into a coworker’s email to delete a cruel message was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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