convincing a company to let me work long-distance, should I explain that I took six months off due to stress, and more

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

1. Convincing a company to let me work long-distance

I applied to a job based at the other side of the country (I live in Canada). The job posting specified that for the right candidate, they’d be willing to have someone work long distance, which is why I applied. During my second interview, they asked if I’d be willing to relocate to their city. I explained that I’d rather stay put but wouldn’t want this to affect their final decision. They explained that they do prefer having someone in their offices.

I’ve moved around all over the world for the past 10 years and finally am ready to have a base, in my current city. How do I make them understand this? Can I use their original job ad as a negotiation tool?

Well, you can’t really “make” them understand it. You can explain where you’re coming from and see if they’re willing to hire you in your current location, and you can explain what you’d do to make a long-distance employment work smoothly with a minimum of inconvenience for them. From there, it’s up to them to decide if it’s worth it to them or not. And keep in mind that while they might be willing to have a telecommuter in very specific circumstances, that can mean that the bar is much higher for a telecommuting candidate (i.e., they’d let a perfect unicorn of a candidate telecommute, but otherwise they might want to hire locally).

Also, it’s not necessarily in your best interests to push them into allowing it if they’re not comfortable with it on their own, because that increases the chances that they’ll decide down the road that the arrangement isn’t right for them.

2. Should I explain that I took six months off due to stress?

I have been a team leader/trainee manager for a little over three years, and on the whole I became fairly good at it and enjoyed many aspects of the job. However, a combination of the working environment and company policy was not healthy, and over those three years the stress mounted up to having a major impact on my health — I was depressed, suffering panic attacks, and physically run down. Six months ago, I decided to step down from the management team, relinquish responsibilities, and work part-time whilst looking after my mental health.

Now I feel like I’m gaining perspective on my career again and want to go back to a management position elsewhere, but my confidence has taken a blow. I also don’t know the best way in which to explain this six-month break to potential new employers, as no doubt future interviewers would ask. Should I be open, and tell them how my mental health was affected by a workplace with a negative culture? If so, how do I convince future employers that I will be able to handle similar pressures in the future? I believe I could do so and be an effective leader, but my confidence is not what it once was.

Nooooo, do not do that. It will raise too many questions. No matter how warranted your reaction to your previous office, prospective employers will wonder if your reaction was more about you than the workplace, and whether you won’t be able to handle stress or occasional dysfunction somewhere new. Instead, say that you were dealing with some health issues that have since been resolved (which is true). There’s no need for any more detail than that.

3. I’m pregnant and might need to avoid a coworker’s radiation treatment

I am 6 weeks pregnant and would prefer to keep it a secret. However, a coworker of mine is about to begin undergoing cancer treatment. She will be off work for a period of time, but I have heard this will involve an “implant” for radiology treatment. I do not know what type of implant (according to the internet, there’s a difference) and if she will have this in while she’s at work before the procedure, or not. If so, I believe there would be some restriction on my proximity to her while I am pregnant and her implant is active. How do I handle this? Should I approach the employee directly to try and ask the details of her treatment, so I can discuss with my doctor? Should I explain my concerns to my supervisor and ask her to do it on my behalf? All of this would involve telling someone I’m expecting sooner than I would like to, but in this situation it’s probably inevitable. Of course, I feel bad for my coworker, and awkward having to do this as we are not close, but I think my concern is valid. Any suggestions?

I’d start by asking your doctor about this, because it’s possible that you’ll hear that there’s not going to be any medical impact on you (although I do see from a quick Internet search that some cancer patients with specific types of radiation implants are advised to keep away from pregnant women). But if your doctor does think it’s something to be concerned about, then I think you’ll have no alternative other than disclosing your pregnancy earlier than you wanted to someone — either to your coworker herself, if you don’t sit near her and can simply work this out discreetly with her, or to your manager and/or HR if you need to move where you’re seated.

4. I’m a nanny and my employer is illegally paying me through their company payroll

In May, I started working as a nanny for a family that owns a business. They put me on their company payroll. I thought nothing of it, and they told me that is what they have always done with their nannies. Recently I have found out that it is illegal to pay a household employee with your company payroll. I am not sure what to do. I am afraid that if I go to them with this information they will fire me. Am I at risk with getting in trouble with the IRS? Please help, I am unsure where to go from here.

It’s your employer who would face penalties from the IRS, not you. However, if you’re getting health insurance through their company, that could potentially put you at risk — if you filed a major insurance claim, the insurance company could end up refusing payment on the grounds that you’re not truly an employee of the company and therefore not legitimately covered by its health plan.

Your employer probably doesn’t realize that they can’t legally pay you through their company payroll; they probably simply assumed that was an easier way to do it. You could bring it to their attention by saying something like, “I recently read that the IRS doesn’t allow nannies to be paid through a business payroll, since they’ve ruled that household employees aren’t direct contributors to the success of the business and so the business can’t take tax deductions for their wages. I was surprised to read it, and figured you probably didn’t realize either.”

5. Supervisor wants morale surveys turned in directly to her

Everyone in my department has just had a performance review within the last week. One of my coworkers who relationship with our supervisor has become quite tense over the past few weeks quit because our supervisor had nothing but disparaging remarks to make about her.

When I went to work the other day, I found our supervisor had placed a questionnaire in every department employee’s box. Attached was a note typed on the director’s letterhead asking for feedback regarding morale. At the bottom of the page was a handwritten note from our supervisor asking that completed questionnaires be placed in her box. Shouldn’t these go to someone in human resources or to her supervisor? Although we do not have to sign our names, it seems that placing them in her box removes any anonymity, especially since there are are only a few of us and several do not work full time (meaning she can most likely determine who returned a questionnaire to her based on the day and time it was turned in).

Yep, that’s silly. I’d mention it to the director or HR and ask if they can intervene and make it clear to the supervisor that it’s not okay to do it this way — that it will inhibit candor and do the exact opposite of helping morale.

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