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should I tutor my boss’s son, avoiding insincerity in a resignation letter, and more Ask a Manager


should I tutor my boss’s son, avoiding insincerity in a resignation letter, and more Ask a Manager

should I tutor my boss’s son, avoiding insincerity in a resignation letter, and more

Posted: 08 Jan 2017 09:03 PM PST

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

1. Should I tutor my boss's son?

It’s become known at my full-time place of employment that I have a second part-time job helping high school students prepare for the ACT exams though a tutoring service company. Recently, my boss at my full-time job asked me if I’d be willing to independently tutor his 17-year-old son in a high school make-up class that the boy has already failed. He has stated that he is willing to pay for my services if I agree.

I’m concerned about this for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not sure what this would do to the working relationship with my boss and how this could shift the power dynamic. Secondly, students that apply themselves at all shouldn’t be failing at this level, even if they don’t have much as much talent as their peers, which makes me think it’s more of a motivational issue than one of ability. If his son fails again after working with him, I’m not sure what my boss will think.

If I say no, I’m also a bit concerned about how my boss will respond. He’s not the type to lash out over something like this, but I don’t want his opinion of me to be affected by a response either way. I’m willing to help, but I’m not sure what to do.

I wouldn't do it. There's too much potential for problems, like if you have to deliver bad news about his kid and he's one of those parents who doesn't take it well, or he's dissatisfied with the results you get, or if you have a disagreement about your rates. Your boss is the person who controls your primary paycheck and your quality of life at work, and it just doesn't make sense to risk messing with it. (To be clear, it's not that this will be a disaster; it could work out beautifully, for all I know. But the risk doesn't make sense to take, particularly when the son presumably has other options for help.)

I'd tell your boss that you're full up on tutoring clients right now but that you'd be glad to refer him to another tutor.

2. How do I avoid saying something in my resignation letter that I don't mean?

How do I say “I wish you continued success” in a resignation letter when I don’t feel right saying that? I asked if “I wish you the best in future endeavors” would work as well and was told no, on the grounds of “You don’t care about their future endeavors” I honestly don’t care about their continued success either.

My job turned out to be a nightmare, so I started looking and was offered a new position. I’m drafting my letter of resignation and was told to end it on the note “I wish you continued success.” The job was so bad that I can’t even bring myself to write those words. What’s another way to say this? I know this sounds petty; I didn’t enjoy this job but I don’t wanna burn bridges either.

Who is telling you that you need to say any of these things at all? You don't. A resignation letter really doesn't need to be this fraught. It would be perfectly fine to just say this: "This letter is to confirm that, as we discussed earlier today, I will be resigning my position and January 15 will be my last day. I look forward to using my remaining time to help make the transition as smooth as possible."

It's true that it's normally gracious to also say something like "I wish the organization every success," but it's not a requirement. (That said, sincerity is not a requirement in these letters either, so really it would make sense to just put a nicety in there and be done with it. No one cares whether you really mean it or not.)

3. My boss uses a word to mean the complete opposite of what it actually means

My boss keeps using a phrase in his emails (to clients and customers) which means the opposite of what he believes it means. Essentially he's in a customer service role and is in charge of resolving lots of escalated complaints. However, he frequently uses the phrase “I have personally overlooked the [matter/refund/issue].” My guess is that he actually means "oversee," but I feel I can’t bring this up without looking petty. On the other hand, our customers are the type to notice this (and possibly escalate further, because of it). As far as I’m aware, English is his mother tongue; it’s not something being lost in translation. Should I mention this to him, or just overlook it?

Ha, I once had a boss who used "broach" to mean "shut down a topic," which made for some very confusing (and entertaining) conversations.

Anyway, yes, mention it! You could say it this way: "I've noticed that there's a recurring typo or auto-correct in emails that you send customers who escalate complaints — the email ends up saying that you personally overlooked the matter, when I think you mean to write that you personally oversaw it. Overlooked, of course, would mean that you didn't do anything about it.”

(Any chance that he really does mean "overlooked," though? Like that he's taking personal responsibility for the mistake, saying that it was his fault, and then saying that he's corrected it?)

4. What to say to persistent vendors demanding payment

I deal with many sub-contractors and vendors (suppliers) seeking payment. I have no control over accounts payable, nor do I have access to financial reports, but they expect for me to give them an answer right away. My boss is usually out of the office at the job sites or dealing with the project architects or what not. How should I handle persistent people demanding payment when I do not know when the expected pay-out check will be ready for them?

If your office is routinely paying late, that is crappy of them and the people persistently demanding payment are in the right. So you want to be as helpful and responsive as possible. For example: “I'm so sorry, I'll get you an answer as soon as I can" — and then follow up with whoever has that info and then go back to the vendor with that answer. Or, if appropriate in your office, connect them directly with the person who can help them.

Also, you should alert your boss that you are dealing with regular complaints about this and ask how she wants you to handle it.

5. Getting buy-in for an unpopular change

I am coming into a position that experienced a large amount of turnover. First, a long-time employee retired and they had several different managers who did not work out and then I was hired. The employees have told me that they feel overworked and under-appreciated, and I have heard the dreaded “I don’t get paid enough for this” more than once. My employees seem to like me, as I listen to their concerns, but my employer has told me that a change they have fought against in the past is coming whether they like it or not (the addition of a duty that they are afraid will take up a significant amount of their time) and I need to smooth that transition and ensure staff buy-in.

Do you have advice for dealing with unpopular workplace changes? Advice on change in general is welcome too, as I am sure I will face more in the future.

Well, you can't necessarily ensure staff buy-in, but you can try for it. The keys are to let people know that their input was heard and appreciated but that ultimately the decision was X, to be transparent about why the decision was made, and to be open about how their concerns about X will be handled.

For example: "I know a lot of you felt strongly that taking on X would be too time-consuming. I made sure that Jane and Fergus understood those concerns, and in particular shared your points about Y and Z. While they understood those concerns, they ultimately concluded that we're the only place X can land right now, since Marketing and Sales are both swamped with the spring launch. So we're going to take on X and try to make it work. However, we'll keep a close eye on how it goes, and if Y or Z do become a problem, come talk to me and we'll figure out how to handle it."

(Of course, then you really need to do that last part.)

should I tutor my boss’s son, avoiding insincerity in a resignation letter, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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