my coworker spread a rumor that I have racist tattoos, what to expect in a third interview, and more

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

1. My coworker spread a false rumor that I have racist tattoos

I was recently tipped off to a rumor going around the workplace about me, created by a person in a supervisory position above me, saying that I have tattoos of swastikas on my chest (which I do NOT). I have no idea how far this spread before it got to me, but I was made aware of it in front of a room of my peers when I was conducting a training module that involved distribution of temporary tattoos (which sparked a coworker to tell me of the rumor). I do have tattoos on my upper chest, but they have no similarities to swastikas. I have no affiliations with any racially motivated organizations and don’t socialize with any coworkers outside of work.

I alerted my immediate supervisor of this rumor and asked for assistance. How should I proceed? Should I retain an attorney? Will my reputation recover? What does the law say about people in positions of power spreading false rumors about their subservient employees?

The law provides remedies for defamation of character by anyone (there’s nothing special for people in positions of power), but more to the point, why not go talk to the source of the rumor directly and ask them why on earth they think that about you? Express shock and disgust at the prospect, tell them that you’re horrified that they’ve told people this about you, and say you’d like them to correct the record with people this has spread to. Say that you’re concerned that this has falsely damaged your reputation, and ask what they plan to do to fix it. If you’re not satisfied with their response, I’d talk with HR and tell them you’re concerned about the impact of this on your reputation and standing.

It’s certainly possible that you could explore legal remedies with a lawyer, but you’d have to prove damages and there might be a more direct (and less expensive and less time-consuming) way of fixing this by just talking with the people involved.

2. My manager took away an opportunity I was excited about

I’m an HR manager, and I recently attended an Interviewing Skills for Line Managers training session with a few other managers. They appreciated the information, got a lot of value out of the session and indicated it was time very well spent. I then dedicated a lot of time and energy to taking what we’d learned in that presentation and combining it with our current training deck to create a more comprehensive Interview Skills/Recruitment Training session for all managers. During this project, my manager asked if I would be interested in rolling this out to our other offices and presenting the workshop globally (we have three other global locations). Of course, I said yes.

Fast forward a few weeks, and my boss has told my colleagues that this training can be presented by HR locally (with some fine-tuning per local legislation) and she wants me to present the session to my team, who will present it as their own.

Part of me wants to speak with my manager and ask why all of my hard work is being passed over to someone else and I am not getting this opportunity anymore, but part of me thinks that would be viewed as petty. I don’t want it to look like I have a problem with withholding information or that I’m not a team player. I feel like I am always sharing my knowledge, articles, ideas and time with my small team but am being overlooked and under appreciated in this instance. Do you have any suggestions? Is there a point asking my manager why?

It sounds like your manager thinks this will be a more efficient way of spreading the information, rather than you having to travel to each of the other offices. If that’s correct, that’s a pretty reasonable position and isn’t about overlooking/under-appreciating your work, but just about making a decision that makes the most sense for your company.

If you genuinely believe that it’s better for your company for you to do all the trainings yourself (for instance, if that would save others significant amounts of time), you could present that argument to your manager. Hell, even if you were just really excited to do it yourself and saw this as a growth opportunity, you could mention that and see if she’s willing to let you proceed as planned. But I wouldn’t look at this as a slight to you or as something unfair, because it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

3. Applying for a job when I’m also on the hiring committee for it

I’m on the board of an organization that’s hiring an executive director. as the board chair and the person currently functioning as the interim ED, I’m on the hiring committee and am one of two people who will be conducting phone interviews over the next couple of days.

I would like to apply for the job and plan to clearly state that while I’m excited to apply, as a board member, I want them to be as unbiased as possible and hire the best candidate for the job. I’m coming into the process late, but we have a rolling deadline and I think my application would be competitive. Is it legally questionable to apply at this point? Is it legally questionable to partake in the phone interviews if I know I’m going to apply? (Note: we asked if any other board members could join us already and they all declined.) Regardless, do I need to submit my application in advance of the phone interviews?

In case it’s useful information, I am applying at this late date because I’ve gone back and forth a lot about whether or not to apply and because I wasn’t planning on applying if we had some applicants who I thought were really fantastic. Although some of the candidates are strong, I think I could be of better service to the organization.

None of this is legally questionable — the law doesn’t prevent board members or people involved in the hiring process from being candidates themselves. What matters is simply that the organization have a fair process that produces the best hire, and that others involved (board members, staff, members, and to a lesser extent, other candidates) don’t perceive the process to be have been unfair or biased.

That means that you should tell your fellow board members ASAP that you plan to throw your hat in the ring and ask if they’d like you to recuse yourself from the hiring process. Ideally you’d remove yourself from the process altogether; it might be too late to do that for the phone interviews scheduled for the next few days, but you should give them the opportunity to make different arrangements.

4. What to expect in a third interview

I had a first interview with the hiring manager and two potential coworkers that was more of a technical interview. I was then called back for a second interview with the full search committee, where I met with about 12 people across different departments that I’d interact regularly with. I’m definitely not used to being interviewed by 12 people in a room, but everyone was very nice (no stress interview tactics) and I felt like I did a really good job. If nothing else, it confirmed that I really wanted to work with these people.

At the end of the second interview, the hiring manager told me they had a few more candidates to interview, and then they would contact the references of their first choice. I didn’t hear anything for about two weeks, and my references confirmed no one had called them, so I just assumed they had gone with another candidate, and did my best to put the job out of mind.

Flash forward to last Friday, when they suddenly asked to set up a third interview between me and the department director (the hiring manager’s boss). I’ve actually never had a third interview before, so I have no idea what to expect. I’m trying to get prepared, but I’m not sure if this is going to be a technical interview (seems weird for a director to do), or more of a personality fit kind of interview. I know this is the annoyingly broad kind of question you probably hate, but can you give me any idea of what I should expect?

In general, I’d expect less of a technical focus, but beyond that it could be anything — it could be a basic “get to know you”/personality/culture fit kind of thing, or it could delving into your background, or it could be exploring how you’d handle particular situations or challenges. It just depends on what this particular interviewer is interested in assessing. Also, don’t assume it won’t cover some of the same ground you covered with others earlier — it very well might, because some interviewers like to do their own assessments rather than relying on reports from others.

5. Putting graduate-level GPA on a resume but not the undergrad GPA

I recently finished my master’s degree with a 3.67 GPA. I didn’t perform as well during my bachelor’s degree (below 3.0) however because I was working full time throughout it. My first question is whether a 3.67 is a good enough graduate school GPA to include on a resume? And second is if I do include my master’s GPA, is it necessary for me to also include my bachelor’s GPA? I’m not sure how it would look if I only listed my most recent GPA.

For undergrad, I don’t suggest including any GPA lower than 3.7 on a resume. But at the graduate level, a 3.7 GPA is good but probably not resume-worthy — since in many programs you need a 3.5 just to stay in. So I’d leave both of them off. (And in fact, I probably would have suggested leaving them both off even if you had a 4.0 for your masters, simply because most employers care even less about graduate GPAs than they do about undergraduate ones — with some exceptions, like law firms.)

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