convincing a friend to get a job, asking to have my salary info hidden, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Asking to have my salary information removed from our database system

I recently started working for a nonprofit that utilizes an extensive, online tracking and storage system (Salesforce). While I was exploring our database as part of my training, I discovered that all of my email exchanges with the organization from when I was a candidate are not only saved but published. This includes the email exchanges about my salary and benefits with an email attachment including my final offer letter. This information is currently accessible to everyone in the organization. In addition to not being comfortable having this information readily accessible (not every employee’s contract information is published, only the most recent hires), the fact that some of the new hires, including me, have a higher starting salary then some of the more veteran employees has been a source of unnecessary drama.

Would it be completely inappropriate for me to ask to have this information removed? Who would be most appropriate person to ask — the Salesforce admin, my manager, HR?

No, it’s perfectly appropriate, and I’d approach it from the assumption that it’s a mistake, since not everyone’s is in there and that whoever should be in charge of this doesn’t even realize that it’s there. I’d ask either your manager or HR, but not the Salesforce admin, who probably needs to be directed by someone with more authority to remove it.

2. My coworkers hear my joints cracking all the time due to a medical condition

I can’t believe I’m asking this, but here it is. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder that has a lot of serious and less serious effects. The least serious effect is that my joints make loud cracking noises while I work in a small, quiet office. I know that I have disturbed people, and there is very little that I can do to stop it. Any ideas for dealing with an uncontrollable but gross and disruptive thing like this?

Have you told people what’s going on? You’re under no obligation to, but if you’re comfortable doing so, that’s probably the best way to handle it. If people think you’re a chronic joint cracker, they might be annoyed, but if they know that it’s the effect of a condition you’re struggling with, most people will be sympathetic.

3. How can I convince my friend to get a job?

A friend of mine has not worked for 2+ years after finishing grad school. Her parents support her by letting her to live by herself in their extra property in the same city. She’s willing to work, but idealizes how hiring should be done. Her parents, who run a successful business, told her that she should accept only the jobs that she wants to do. She has told her friends that “the employers should see through her potential,” “people get jobs because of their ‘charm’ but not by merit,” and “employers should approach the candidates instead,” etc. She has tried to get a job, but told me that “one government job opening attracted thousands of applicants.” She has had odd jobs occasionally.

How can I tell this friend to get a job to at least to pay her bills? She’s constantly broke. Some businesses nearby have “help wanted” signs, but she’s unwilling to settle for a less ideal job. My friends and I have forwarded job postings to her, but those conversations have gone nowhere. I’m not connected anywhere insofar to get her a job.

You can’t, and it’s not your job to. It was her parents’ job, which they apparently failed spectacularly at, and now it’s her job. It’s not yours.

When she says ridiculous things about how job-searching works, you can certainly correct her, and if you’re close to her you can have one serious heart-to-heart about your worries … but beyond that, she’s going to have to learn this one on her own.

4. How to solve a conflict between two strong-willed employees

What do you do when you have two very strong-headed and opinionated employees working closely together, one a team leader and the other a newer employee, who have a personality conflict? The team leader has been with the company for five years and feels as if the newer employee talks to her in a condescending manner. The new employee has knowledge in the industry and has done the job for many years but is learning a new way and tends to ask lots of questions and wants specific details as to why our company does it such and such a way. This employee now feels that she asks too many questions so she stopped asking and then feels like she is looked at as a show off. I don’t think either of them is right; it’s just a power struggle.

Is the issue that the newer employee is doing too much of “we did it a better way at my old job?” If so, that’s genuinely annoying after a point, and it would be worth your talking to her and telling her that you encourage to ask as many questions as she needs to learn the job, but that at the same time she should be sensitive to making your existing staff feel that she’s criticizing the way they do things or questioning their own knowledge. Tell her also that you’d welcome her ideas about how your team could do things differently, but that she should bring them to you, not the team leader. (If it becomes necessary, you can also ask her to spend the next few months learning your set-up before you two talk about possible changes.)

Meanwhile, tell the team leader that you expect her to find a way to get along pleasantly and professionally with the new employee, period. If she has concerns, she can bring them to you — but she needs to make sure that her manner doesn’t discourage the new employee from asking the questions she needs in order to learn her job.

5. Should I take time off work when my boss is very sick?

I’ve been making a plan with my doctor to have a medically necessary but non-emergency surgery. For a number of reasons, but primarily financial, it is better for me to do the surgery this calendar year. My plan has been to schedule it for mid-late November/early December when we are not as busy but before everyone takes time off for Christmas. I’m expecting to be out about 2 weeks, the second week of which it’s reasonable to assume I could log on from home a little and keep up with emails, but not be at full capacity. We have a good telecommuting policy in place, though it’s not often used.

My boss was recently diagnosed with cancer. I found out today that the cancer has spread (it’s in her blood and bones now), there is very little the doctors can do for her, and she has a life expectancy of around 2-3 years. She’s understandably very upset, as are all the folks in our office. She is missing a lot of work, and I have taken on a lot of responsiblity. This is fine (as previously my primary complaint has been lack of work/responsibility). However, this leads me to wonder if I should put off the surgery, or go ahead. If I do go ahead, when and how do I tell the remaining manager that I’ll need to take 2 weeks off when he’s already down a significant support person? We are 3 people of a 6 person team, but there is some separation of duties, meaning that the remaining 3 people are not really prepared to step up in the way that I am. Am I overthinking this? Part of me thinks I should just cancel the surgery, put my head down, and wait this out. Given the new information, waiting it out may not be an option, as the longer I wait the sicker she is likely to get.

Go forward with your plans for the surgery. As you point out, it’s not likely that it’s going to be any easier to take time off later; in fact, this may be the easiest time for you to take off for a while, if your boss is going to be increasingly out. But even if that weren’t the case, I think it would make sense for move forward. You can never predict if it will really be a better time later (someone else could get sick or leave or who knows what else). Yes, it might a tricky two weeks for your office, but they’ll get through it — this stuff happens, people accommodate it, and it’s rarely as bad as the person who needs to be out fears it will. Work will go on, and two weeks is very little time in the scheme of things. So go ahead and tell your managers. When you do, just be straightforward, note the timing isn’t ideal, and offer to do whatever you can beforehand to make it as easy as possible on the offer.

I’m sorry about your boss.

6. Should I send a post-interview thank-you note even though I didn’t get the job?

I recently had a successful group interview with a company recruiter, followed by a not-as-successful face-to-face interview with two store managers at the location to which I applied. I didn’t send thank-you notes to any of my interviewers for a few reasons — the foremost of which being that a decision was very, very likely going to be reached before any thank-you notes would be received through the mail. Probably not the best strategy, but it made some sense to me.

Anyway, I got a phone call from the recruiter who explained to me that another candidate had been selected for the position, but that since my interview went so well, she would like to keep me on file for similar openings. Obviously, a thank you note for the recruiter is in order for keeping me in future consideration. Should I send something to the two managers as well, or is it weird at this point since the position has already been filled?

Send them a note! Tell them that even though you didn’t get the position, you appreciated meeting with them, that talking with them made you even more interested in working with them and for their company, and would love to stay in touch, and wish them the best of luck in their work and with the new hire. It will make you look gracious, and you never know what seeds it might plant for the future. (Also, it’s totally fine to send this and any other thank-you notes in the future by email; you don’t need to use postal mail.)

7. Can I ask an interviewer about a preferred skill that I don’t have?

On Friday, I applied for a position at my alma mater, from which I graduated last spring. I have three years of experience doing the kind of work involved from an on-campus job I had while I was in school, but I don’t have a few of the “preferred but not required” skills, which include speaking a second language (no language in particular was specified). Since I’m pretty familiar with the work, I’m surprised that I can’t think of how being bilingual would be particularly useful in this position.

I have no reason to expect to get selected to be interviewed, but if I do, would it be odd if I asked about this? I’m really curious about how it fits into performing the duties of the role, but I wonder if bringing it up if they don’t bring it up first will only serve to emphasize that I lack a skill that would like in a candidate for this position.

Sure, you can bring that up. It’s fine to say something like, “I noticed in the job posting that you mentioned it would be a bonus if candidates spoke a second language. I don’t, unfortunately, but I was curious about how that might end up being used in the role.”

You don’t really need to worry that you’re going to draw their attention to the fact that you don’t have this skill. If it’s an important one, they’ve already noted it (and are interviewing you anyway) or would have asked about it.

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