fast answer Friday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — six short answers to six short questions! Here we go…

1. Pointing out errors in a coworker’s work

Do you think it’s worth it to point out minor error in a colleague’s work? Such as a missing “e” on a public form, “pm” where it should be “am” for training classes, or a “4″ instead of a “5″ in the quantity column on a spreadsheet. Often this has nothing to do with my job, but I feel that it should be brought to the appropriate person’s attention to ensure the company — and the individual responsible — are presenting themselves in the best way. I try to do it in a friendly way, and I personally really appreciate it when others point out small errors in my work (before my manager does!). But I wonder if I should continue, since it’s not really my place to be doing so and said coworkers may resent me for it. Your thoughts?

Yes, I would point those things out. You don’t want to do it a snotty way, obviously, but a low-key email like “Hey, I noticed there’s a typo in the second paragraph of this document” should be appreciated. If you find yourself dealing with someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate it, then they suck (because who doesn’t want to know about errors in their work so that they can fix them?). However, if you find yourself regularly pointing out a ton of errors — to the point that it’s clearly not the occasional mistake, but more of a pattern — then there’s a different issue, and you might consider a different solution, such as asking your manager for advice about how to approach it, suggesting everything your team produces go through a proofreader before being released, etc.

2. Former employer is harassing me about spending time with past coworkers

You would think that I was terminated. I wasn’t. I actually resigned from this position. My supervisor, the VP, and I mutally agreed that this wasn’t the place for me and I was given two months severance pay. I actually thought we were on good terms.

Many people from this organization continue to contact me, just to see how things are going. One employee retired this month and sent me a personal invitation to attend the retirement party. When I arrived, I was approached by the VP’s friend, who is a director of a department, asking me why was I there and saying I wasn’t invited. When the person who was retiring walked in on the conversation, she advised the assistant that she indeed invited me, who then proceeded to yell that I should not have been allowed to the party. I gave the lady who was retiring a hug and a gift and left quietly. Prior to the retirement party invitation, I was invited to a birthday lunch with the nurses I used to manage. They had taken off half a day to enjoy lunch and shopping. At the retirement party, these nurses asked me if I was going to be able to make it to the lunch. I stated yes. During the lunch, the same director called the nurses to ask if they were at lunch with me, and they stated no. On speaker, she stated that under no circumstances were the nurses to talk to me. She then called my phone to ask me where I was. I advised that I do not have to explain where I was since I am no longer employed there. She hung up.

I feel that I am being monitored even though I am no longer with this employer. This place is a child care agency, not a top secret security place where trade secrets are being kept. We only talk about the place when craziness like this occurs. I don’t want any trouble, so I am deciding to stay away, but I feel that it is not fair that I have to cut valuable friendships due to this person’s paranoia. Can I do anything about this?

Um, this is insane. However, this is your former coworkers’ issue to deal with not yours. You can show up wherever you want (aside from the workplace itself, if you’re told not to), and talk to whoever you want. You can stop answering your former employer’s phone calls and refuse to answer their questions about where you are. You don’t answer to them.

Your former coworkers, however, are still employed there and have a different situation to deal with than you do: an insane manager tracking them down to find out who they’re spending their time with. How they handle that is up to them, but they’re clearly working with someone who’s come unhinged.

3. Should I accept this holiday gift?

I was promoted from an intern to a full-time employee at my company and I’ve been at my job for a little over seven months. My job title is Sales and Marketing Assistant, and a majority of my day-to-day tasks are to act as administrative support for the seven Sales Representatives (all varied in age and gender).

As one of the reps left early for the holidays, he handed me a card. I assumed it was a holiday card and accepted it, thanked him, and wished him well. It wasn’t until after he left the office that I opened it and inside was $50 and a note thanking me for all of my assistance the past year. This rep is an older man (over 60) and is definitely what I would label as “Old School.” I know that this is purely a holiday-oriented gesture of goodwill, but my first instinct is not to accept this gift because a) I’m just doing my job and b) I’m pretty sure this goes against everything I have read on your site. I’m positive that I am the only one that he gifted money. If I had known what was in the card before he left, I would have given him back the money and told him I couldn’t accept it. However, this rep has taken his vacation time in bulk and will be gone for three weeks. I do not know what to do- part of me wants to avoid the awkward situation of returning money after three weeks (I know he’s going to insist I keep it) and pretend it never happened, but the other part of me knows I cannot in good conscience keep this money. What do I need to do?

No, it’s totally fine to keep this. It’s completely fine and normal for managers to give holiday gifts to people who work for them (although they shouldn’t feel obligated); it’s gifts that go in the other direction that I discourage. This is basically a holiday bonus for good work that you’ve done for him. It’s fine to accept it.

4. Was I wrong to only give notes and gifts to some people in my office?

Two people in my office (which is about 40 people total in a large organization) have helped me out a lot this year. They’ve been very generous with their time and expertise, above what I feel was required for their jobs. I gave each of them small ($25) gift cards and wrote brief notes. I also wrote brief notes without gifts to a few other people whom I especially respect — people who are professional and dedicated, not people I’m especially friendly with. I only wrote to people to whom I had something to say and didn’t try to force anything that didn’t seem genuine.

As soon as I delivered these notes, however, I started to worry. Was it a bad idea to only write to 1/8 of my coworkers? Would other people (especially those whom I work with every day) take offense, feel left out? Am I just overthinking this?

I wouldn’t worry about it at all. You gave notes and gifts to people where it made sense given the context of the relationship. If you’re really worried, you could bring in some sort of holiday treat for the whole office to enjoy and leave it in the kitchen or break room with a note for people to help themselves, but I really wouldn’t worry about this at all.

5. I offended my coworkers

I’m a man and recently did something (apparently) to turn two of my female coworkers against me, to the point that they won’t make eye contact with me and seem to do everything they can to avoid me. I tried confronting the one who I’ve known longer and she denied it completely and asked me to stop IMing her at work, implying that I was being a drama queen.

Here’s what I suspect happened: I’m a very outgoing person and was helpful in training the new girl and foolishly thought she was my new work BFF but I wonder if she thought I was being flirtatious — I’ve been happily married for 8 years. Subsequently, I wonder if she told my other friend, who is married, and she has a son the same age as mine, but now thinks of me as a scoundrel. They won’t make eye contact with me and treat me like an office leper. I don’t mind the new girl hating all that much, but the other lady and I used to go running and talk about our kids, and I thought we were decent friends. Oh well, lesson learned, I know the boundaries of workplace friendships, especially with the opposite gender, and won’t rush too those friendships too soon.

I thought about apologizing to the one who has been here less, saying “I’m sorry if I did something to make you think I’m a creep and sorry for bugging you and thinking we were better work friends than we were. I’m sorry for calling you an abbreviated version of your workplace email and sorry for teasing you for the fact that you like to judge people.” (Or something along those lines). I’d like to apologize because I hate feeling despised and not knowing precisely why, but I’m afraid that if I try to deal with this head on, they’ll go to HR. Should I apologize or just wait and see if there hearts soften over the holiday break?

Oh dear. This does seem like too much drama, all around. I’m not sure there’s much you can do if they’re determined to dislike you, although if you remain civilized and professional, things might thaw out in time. You could try a very short explanation, but the sample speech you have here is a little much — I’d stick with something like, “Hey, I think I might have inadvertently offended you, and I didn’t mean to. I respect your work and didn’t mean to cross any boundaries.”

6. New job wants me to give notice before background and reference checks are completed

I accepted an offer recently and was sent the new hire workbook. They want me to resign from my current position, then bring the new hire paperwork with me to training. I haven’t filled out an employment application, they haven’t completed a background check, checked any references, completed a drug test, etc. I was asked to bring the paperwork for all of that on my first day. This has me concerned for many different reasons: lack of commitment on their part, lack of organization, fear for their expectations of a background, etc.

Should I deny the offer? I have never received an offer prior to the hiring company’s due diligence is completed and the employment is then confirmed, then I gave notice to my current employer.

It’s not unheard of for employers to do things in this order, but it’s really a bad idea. They’re counting on everything going fine, so they figure they might as well have you start meanwhile — but the reality is that if they find something in your background check or reference check that’s a problem, you could be without a job (after already having resigned your old one). It just makes no sense — they should finish all this before your offer is finalized.

Personally, I’d say to them, “I don’t expect any problems to turn up with any of this, but I’m not comfortable resigning my current job while the offer still has these caveats attached to it. Can we set my start date for after this paperwork is completed?”

This entry was posted in HR, Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.