my coworker has an inappropriate LinkedIn photo, responding to a candidate’s rejection of our offer, and more

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

1. How can I tactfully tell my coworker to get to the point?

I have a peer who will often call me or drop by my office to ask me a question about something. Rather than getting right to the point, the coworker will ramble on, interjecting unnecessary commentary, which turns what should be a quick question into a long, annoying, never ending sentence. For example, her question might be, “Do I still need to update the tracker?” What she will say is: “Heeeeeeey, I have a question, I know you covered this, but then John mentioned it might change, and OMG, these managers are driving me nuts, so I’m in the tracker and I’m looking at my stuff, and wow there is a lot in here,and I know your super busy cause we have sooooo much going on and I’m trying to keep up with my updates, but I wasn’t sure if I needed to do that. Soooooooooooo I thought I’ll give you a call, cause your like the expert….”

She will say it without pausing. Her emails tend to be in this format as well. It’s starting to drive me nuts. Is there any way to tactfully tell her to get to the point?

If it’s really just a few extra sentences, you’ve got to just bite the bullet and deal with the few extra sentences.

But if it’s significantly more, you can try interrupting her when she first starts to ramble and saying something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I just have a minute right now. If it will take longer, it might be better to email or set up a time to talk.” Or, since it sounds like much of her rambling is sort of apologetic about the interruption, you might try saying something like, “Hey, please don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain why you need my help. It’s okay to just jump straight to your question — in fact, it’s actually easier for me if you do!”

But with someone whose style is like this, these tactics might not work. And in that case, you’re pretty much stuck just dealing with this as an annoying habit that’s part of the package with this coworker.

Note: If you were her manager, you could handle this differently, by giving her direct feedback and clearly explaining what you’d like her to do differently. But since she’s a peer, the above is really all you can do.

2. Should I tell my coworker her LinkedIn photo is inappropriate?

A coworker of mine has recently changed her profile photo (for email and other public work-related networking sites) to one that I think might be a bit inappropriate for workplace, but I could be wrong (i.e., too conservative). The reason I even care at all is because she, though not in direct contact with clients, is in HR and specifically responsible for recruiting. I would not want any of our perspective candidates to think of us as unprofessional.

Attached is the photo, which I tried to resize it so that it is too small to recognize the person in the photo, but still enough to see the general pose. Do you think this is indeed inappropriate for work? Should I suggest to her that she should choose a different photo?

In terms of hierarchy, she doesn’t report directly to me, as I manage an engineering team, not HR. We are in two parallel trees, so to speak. Personally, we do hang out casually as a group during lunch. But again, we don’t know each other too well to the point I could just tell her directly.

Whoa. For readers: In the photo, the coworker is in a little black dress with thin straps similar to a tank top, and it’s a full body shot (she’s sitting, and her body is visible down to her calves) and she’s in a kind of seductive pose. It’s an inappropriate photo to be using professionally.

But … you don’t really have the standing to tell her. You’re not her manager or otherwise in a position of authority over her, and you’re not personally close to her. You’re a bystander, basically. I hear you on not being thrilled about how this will come across to job candidates, but this one just isn’t yours to handle. Not everything that should be acted on by someone can be acted on by everyone.

3. Manager has asked us to stop calling each other “Miss ____”

I work in an office of associates ranging in ages 22 to 60. Some of the younger associates address others as Miss Donna, etc. We have had some open conversations as to why they address associates this way; some have said it’s out of respect, others “I was raised this way,” and some even because that’s how the person was introduced to them. No one really thought anything about it; this was normal for our office. Eight months ago a new manager was hired. He’s in his mid 30′s. After a few months, he told one of the girls she could not longer address others as “Miss ___” because it was unprofessional. He asked another girl why she addressed Donna as Miss Donna but didn’t address Mark as Mr or Master. This has confused some of the younger workers as they felt they were being respectful. My question is, is it unprofessional to address others as “Miss ___” in an office setting?

This is 100% a cultural thing. It’s somewhat common in the south and pretty uncommon anywhere else. Your manager might be being a little culturally tone-deaf by asking for it to stop, but it’s ultimately his call to make … and he’s right that using a different form of address for women than men isn’t a great thing in an office.

4. Responding to a candidate who turned down our offer

I am a hiring manager. One of the candidates emailed me the turn down my offer. I would like to answer in a professional way. What would be a professional response to someone who turned down your offer by email?

“Thanks so much for letting me know. We’re disappointed, of course, and if there’s anything we could have done to change your mind, I’d love to know — but either way, we think you’re great and wish you the best of luck in whatever you do next!”

If it’s a candidate who you invested significant amounts of time in and who you really thought highly of, you might want to call instead — but either way, the tone should be disappointed but not guilt-throwing and should be genuinely wishing them well.

5. How can I combat bad morale as a non-manager?

My department has crushingly low morale, partly due to a bad manager, and partly due to us feeding off each other’s negativity. There’s not a great deal I can do about the management, but do you have any suggestions on what I, as a very small cog in the machine, can do to break the cycle of negativity?

Yes! You’re right that you can’t solve the big issues of bad management, but you do have (some) control over the feeding-off-each-other’s-negativity piece of this. In a situation like this, resolving to stop complaining can actually be huge. There’s something about regular complaining that magnifies whatever you’re complaining about and makes most people even more unhappy (and can eventually cause you to display other problematic behavior on the job too). This doesn’t mean that you have to turn a blind eye to serious management problems; you can and should continue to calmly process what you’re seeing so that you can make good decisions for yourself — but if you resolve to stop complaining or otherwise feeding the negativity, there’s a good chance it’ll improve your quality of life there (and other people’s too).

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