my manager cites God’s will in response to complaints, a senior coworker’s work sucks, and more

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

1. When a senior coworker produces bad work

I’m an associate attorney working at a law firm (private practice). The nature of the firm’s practice requires a good amount of collaboration among attorneys, and as such it’s very common for multiple attorneys to perform tasks on one case even though only one person is designated as handling the file. There is one other attorney in the office (I’ll call him X) who is an associate senior to me, but not a partner. I have collaborated with X on various cases, and in seeing his work I realize it’s just…bad (things are missing, he didn’t get into the required level of detail, etc.). I have been asked to “fix” things for other attorneys on multiple occasions where X had performed shoddy work on a task in an earlier stage of the case. Others in the office have told me in confidence that X is not well liked at the firm, that at least some people know how bad his work is, and that he was nearly fired once before.

Is there anything that I can do to make the higher-ups aware of X’s consistently poor work without damaging my own good reputation within the company? (This is confirmed – I get consistently positive feedback on my work product and received a bonus and a raise as a result of my last performance evaluation.) I feel it is a detriment to our clients to have me or other attorneys bill extra hours to fix the work that X didn’t adequately produce in the first place. I don’t collaborate with X on every single case, but seemingly every time I do end up working with him, his work product is sub-par. Any suggestions on how to address this, or should I just let it go as outside of my control?

Well, it sounds like they know — if he was nearly fired, someone with authority over him is aware of the problems. And it sounds like you know that other people are seeing the same things you’re seeing. So I’d assume you don’t need to bring this to anyone’s attention — they know.

If that weren’t the case, it could be appropriate to deliver a discreet heads-up to your manager or the firm’s managing partner if you had a good rapport with her — but it sounds like that isn’t going to be new information to them.

2. My coworker’s three kids are running wild in our office and my managers won’t do anything about it

I work at a large company (more than 500 employees in my office, thousands around the world) that values working moms and dads and offers generous benefits for families (like health benefits, flexible schedules, and time off). My department shares our floor with a department led by a very nice guy who I will call Clive. Clive is friendly, smart, and as highly valued and popular as an employee can be within the company. He’s also a working dad, and on days when his kids are off from school, he brings them to the office—all four of them, and all under the age of 12—and works a full day. He does not supervise them while they’re here, and they run wild (they are kids, after all), turning our floor into their playroom.

Needless to say, everything about this situation drives everybody in my department nuts: the disappearance of silence (a quiet work environment is necessary for my department); Clive’s lack of supervision of his children; and his seeming cluelessness about how bringing them to the office for a full workday could be disrespectful of his colleagues’ work.

I’ve discussed this with my own supervisor (and her supervisor as well), but I get the impression that nobody knows what to do. My supervisors are failingly polite, and I think they feel it’s an issue for HR to handle. But is it? And if it is, am I in a position to go to HR about it, or should it be my supervisors?

Your managers are falling down on the job here; this is absolutely something they should be handling. They should be telling Clive directly that either (a) he can’t bring his kids into work (possibly making an exception for very rare emergencies; some places allow that and some don’t), or (b) he needs to closely supervise his kids when they’re there and ensure that they don’t disrupt others, or the privilege will be revoked. (Whether they should do A or B will depend on the type of work your office does and what the culture is.) It’s ridiculous that they’re acting as if they’re powerless here.

However, since they are, yes, it would absolutely be appropriate for you to talk to HR about it.

3. My manager cites God’s will in response to any issues

I have a supervisor who won’t stop talking about God at work. Any time anyone has an issue, she says they shouldn’t do anything about it, as it is God’s will. It makes me very uncomfortable and I do not want to be involved in a religious discussion on the job. Should I go to HR?

Good god, yes. The fact that she’s your manager makes this particularly inappropriate (and that she’s using it to avoid doing her job!), and HR should intervene.

4. Interviewing with a doctor who operated on my son

I have a second interview at a surgery center, this time with a physician who operated on my son 10 years ago. Is it appropriate to say something to the doctor after the interview that we loved her and that she did a great job on my son and that he has had no problems since the surgery? I know it won’t add value to the actual interview but think that adding a personal connection may add to the process. What is your opinion?

I’m sure there are some people who feel differently about this, but I would absolutely mention it. You want to be sure not to let the interview go too off-track into the personal, so stick with just a quick mention of the connection that you feel to her practice because of your experience. Many interviewers would be glad to hear something like that.

5. Can my resume mention a job where I was paid under the table?

I’m handing in my 2 weeks notice tomorrow for my job as a waitress for the past 7 months, where I’ve been working under the table. Stupid, I know, and I do regret it. I live in an area that has a lot of immigrants and international students so it’s very common to work under the table here. I’m currently a second year in college and have asked my friends who have previously worked under the table if they included that experience on their resumes, and they all said that they did with no problem.

I’m planning on applying for an internship, and aside from this job, my last job was over a year ago and only lasted 3 months (tutoring for a quarter), so I’m nervous about the time gap if I were to leave it off. The only other job I worked before that was retail, but it was a long time ago. My boss really likes me and told me he’d be more than happy to be a reference if I choose to list him as one. What would you recommend doing in this situation – citing this job as under work experience or just ignoring it altogether?

It’s fine to include it on your resume. It still counts as work, despite the fact that you were paid under the table. Your payment arrangements aren’t really relevant when it comes to your work history or references. The place where this could potentially become an issue is with a future background check, if there’s no record of tax forms for those earnings — but an internship and other types of jobs you’re likely to apply to while in college are very unlikely to conduct the sort of background check that would turn that up. They’re likely to stick to reference calls, where it won’t matter.

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