my boss holds it against me that I cried 6 years ago, asking to sit in on interviews, and more

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

1. My coworker won’t let me get involved with work that my boss told me to do

My boss decided that I should be a part of the social media team. Like I always do, I learned as much as I could on how my organization uses social media and checked out all the guidelines. I realized some of the stuff we’re doing and posting doesn’t exactly go with my organization’s guidelines. I set up an informal meeting with my coworker who leads up the social media team to discuss this. I even brought a print-out so she could review it. She shut me down and shut me out. Since then, she’s been pretty chilly toward me. She continues to do whatever she likes. In front of our colleagues, she appears receptive to my ideas but when its the two of us, she could care less.

Going to my boss isn’t an option, as she has a very hands-off approach. She doesn’t do conflict management. (My coworker probably doesn’t know what my role is supposed to be, since my boss isn’t one for giving directions of any kind.) How do I handle being shut out by a coworker for a team project?

Well, yeah, if your coworker doesn’t know that your boss has asked you to work on this, it’s not surprising that she didn’t react well to you sitting her down and telling her what she should do differently in work that — as far as she knows — you’re not involved in. Ideally, you would have started off differently — by telling her that your boss has asked you to work on social media with her and asking how you can best become involved.

At this point, I think you need to go back to her, apologize for not giving her the full context earlier, and explaining what your boss has asked you to do. If you continue to encounter resistance, then you’d need to go back to your boss, explain the situation and ask for advice on how to proceed. (And I hear you about your boss, but she needs to know that there’s an obstacle in the way of the work she’s assigned you.)

2. Can I ask to sit in on my employer’s interviews?

I’m 24 years old and have been working for one and a half years in my current career. After graduation, I went to my first job interview and they hired me. I had no chance to do any interviews after my first. I know I’m a little bit lucky, but the problem is that I have a phobia about interviews, and I really don’t have any idea how I passed my first one!

My office is in front of my department head’s office, and I noticed that they are doing interviews monthly. I really want to ask him if it is possible to attend the interviews with them as interviewer, without mentioning the reason behind that. I want to attend many interviews to try to get over my phobia. Can I do something like that? I know he will ask me for a reason but I don’t want to tell him the truth!

Nope, you can’t really ask to sit in on interviews when it’s not your job without explaining why.

But even with an explanation, I wouldn’t ask. If interviewing isn’t your job, your employer is unlikely to want you to spend work time in interviews (particularly in order to increase your skills at interviewing with other employers!). Plus, sitting in on interviews is a semi-big deal; it changes the dynamic with the candidate to have another person present (and candidates will likely direct some of their questions to you, etc.). A better bet would be to practice interviewing with a friend or relative (ideally one with some experience conducting interviews, but that’s not essential).

3. Why won’t the company I’m temping for hire me on as an employee?

I was hired through a staffing agency at a big corporate about nine months ago. My main duties were data entry (writing copy and inserting new products into a database). Soon, I found out that there were many really old, repetitive, and time-consuming processes that took multiple people hours to complete. Because of my background in programming, I was able to automate these tasks to take minutes or even seconds.

But seeing as it is nine, almost ten months in and their workload doesn’t seem to be slowing any time soon, it is kind of disheartening that I haven’t been hired on full-time yet. As a temp, I don’t get benefits or an employee discount, and I don’t get to go to company events and conventions. I know I have added great value to the company, yet they are keeping me on as a temp. I haven’t been compensated, nor have I asked for any, for any of the extra programming-related work I have done. I thought maybe if I did something special and out of my way they that would think I was worth being hired full-time. I am to the point where I have decided to not offer to do any programming or go out of my way anymore because it doesn’t feel like it is appreciated. I have even been told by a coworker that it costs more for them to pay the staffing company than it would to pay me benefits and a higher wage. What’s up with that?

It’s possible that they haven’t hired you full-time because they’re not convinced there’s a long-term need to hire someone full-time for the work you’re doing — particularly when they can fill the need just fine with a temp (and not pay benefits or deal with the hassles that employees bring that temps don’t). It’s also possible that only the second part of the sentence is true: that they’re planning on permatemps, as many companies do. Either way, they don’t feel there’s sufficient incentive for them to take on the costs of making you permanent. That might be a legitimate business decision or it might not be, but it’s hard to judge unless you have the full set of business facts that only they have.

Regardless, though, why not (a) talk explicitly to someone there in a position of authority about your interest in being hired on, if you haven’t already and (b) start actively searching for something else since you’re not getting what you want from them?

4. My boss suggested I take a three-day weekend, but I didn’t know it would come out of my leave balance

In the accounting industry, many firms offer assistance to accountants who are CPA candidates. It is common to pay for study materials and testing and licensing fees, allow studying during the work day when billable work is not available, and give paid time off for exam days. The firm where I work does not offer any assistance. Sadly, I did not have the gumption to negotiate this with my employer. I did ask if it were okay that I study at the office during my down time and was told I had to to study on my own time. I have used PTO for exam days, studied on my own time and paid thousands of dollars for exam materials and testing fees.

Last week, my boss suggested that I “make it a three day weekend. Unless you have some work scheduled.” So I took Monday off, thanked him and mentioned that I appreciated the extra day off to study. Apparently I misunderstood his intentions and recorded it as holiday time, he has since deducted the time from my PTO bank.

While I understand that he isn’t required to give me time off for test days or a day that he suggested I take off, I would like to address the issue. As a result of taking the day he suggested, I have only 6 hours left of vacation/sick time. We earn PTO with OT hours worked which I don’t expect to happen until February sometime. I want to let him know that I misunderstood his intention when I took a day off last week, but also that if I were to get sick in the next few months it’s possible that I may have to take unpaid time off. I also want to mention that by the end of this year I would have taken 5 days of PTO to sit for exams while many firms offer to cover exam days. My boss is fair, sometimes generous, but mostly thoughtless when it comes to HR issues. What might be a tactful way address both the confusion regarding his suggested day off and paid time off for exam days?

Hmmm, yeah, generally if your boss suggests you take a three-day weekend, it means “things are slow right now, so why don’t you take advantage of it by using some PTO?” — not “I’m giving you a free day off that won’t come from your PTO.” I suppose you could explain to him that you misunderstood his suggestion and as a result are worried about your dwindling PTO balance … but you risk looking a little naive and ultimately doing yourself more harm than good. So I’d let this one go, and just address your PTO balance if you do get sick and it poses an issue.

I do think you could have a different conversation with him about how your firm’s benefits differ from industry norms and ask for more flexibility there … but I would make that its own conversation, unconnected to the day you took last week.

5. Manager won’t promote me because I cried six years ago

In 2007, I had been covering up to three full-time positions in our department alone for about a year and a half. One morning, a VP yelled at me and I started to cry. I cried for about ten minutes, had a meeting with my boss, and we agreed I could take a day off. I went to the doctor and explained I was exhausted and got a doctor’s note for five days of rest. My boss and department head expressed a good deal of concern and finally found some help for me in the three roles I was covering.

Fast forward six years. I requested a meeting with the department head to ask what I would need to do to qualify for a promotion. He said that I wasn’t promotable based on that event — that I was unable to handle pressure. I left that meeting, thought for a week and then emailed him a note pointing out that I had $2.6B dollars in assets under my supervision, second only to his liability, and that in just the past year I had completed a graduate degree while working full time and supervising 53 people, while nursing my mom through cancer, and all the while being the top performer in my team and without missing a single day of work. And that it seemed only fair to rethink the idea that I couldn’t handle pressure. He responded by calling me into a meeting, telling me he didn’t like me, that we weren’t friends, that I was cold and distant, and that I should get professional counseling.

Should I go to HR? I don’t think they can change his mind and he was recently given a seven-year commitment and bonus package. So he’s not going anywhere. But it eats at me.

I don’t see much point in going to HR. It’s unlikely they can change the reality that you’re working for a manager who doesn’t like you and won’t promote you. Plus, there’s a semi-high risk that once he hears you went to HR (which he likely will), you’ll just increase the tensions in the relationship. If you want to move up (and maybe even if you don’t), you’d be better off looking for a promotion outside the company, so that you’re no longer at the mercy of this relationship.

6. Interviewing on crutches

I have reason to believe I will be called for an interview this week. If they would like to schedule it this week, there is a good chance I will be still be using crutches. If I’m not on crutches, I will still be wearing an aircast. No matter what, I can’t find shoes that I would normally feel acceptable to wear to an interview that fit with the cast. Should I say something when we set up the appointment? Apologize that I might have to wear sneakers (I do have dark brown ones that would match an outfit, sort of)? Even trying to push it off a week, I will probably still need to be wearing the aircast.

Don’t push an interview back over this. It’s fine to wear the dark brown sneakers, and just explain when you get there (at which point it’s going to be obvious why you’re wearing them). If it makes you feel better, you can certainly mention it in advance, but I’d keep it short and light — no detailed explanation is necessary, and you don’t want to make it sound like a bigger deal than it is.

7. How rigid should a store closing time be?

I would like to get your opinion on how rigid a closing time for a store should be, as I cannot figure out what the right thing to do is in the following situation. I am a retailer working in a specialty boutique, where we are open for six days a week (closed Sundays). Often we get customers coming in during the last five or ten minutes that we are open for the day, and, even with informing them that “we will be closing in five/ten minutes” (after they have been properly greeted and asked if they needed assistance, of course), often they will want to stay late.

I see both sides of the situation. They are people who want to come to our store and buy from us, and we want to respect that and give them the best customer service that we can. The flip side is that stores have set hours, and I want to let our employees go home, as I respect the fact that they have lives outside of work and may have somewhere else to be. It happens more than a handful of times a year that our owner will allow certain customers to stay more than 45 minutes past closing. While these customers have been loyal to our boutique for years, I have to wonder if this is fair to other customers. My question is, where do you draw the line between “I’m sorry, we closed at 6″ and “Sure, come on in”?

This is really more of a question for a retail expert — which I am not — but my personal opinion is that no reasonable customer should get offended by hearing, “I’m sorry, we’re about to close and I have to let our staff go home.” And from a management standpoint, I think you have more to gain by treating your employees’ time with respect than by allowing the occasional unreasonable customer to dictate your hours.

But if you are going to let customers stay late, you should let employees know up-front when you’re hiring them that this is sometimes a possibility, so they know from the start that they might end up staying later than the times they’re scheduled for.

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