my manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did, divorce at work, and more

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

1. Handling a divorce at work

I am in a new job (and it’s a great job, and I got it with the blog’s help!). Sadly, while my professional life is going well, my personal life has taken a turn.

I don’t know how to handle my upcoming separation and divorce from my spouse at my new job. I have only been at the position 7 months, so not enough time to become very close to anyone. But, my new coworkers are friendly and often inquire about my family. I am really confused as to how to respond now. On the one hand, it’s not really anyone’s business. But I don’t want to be stand-offish, weird or lie. Also, I will probably be changing my name back to my maiden name. Am I going to look crazy?

I’m just wondering if you have any advice, or if anyone has gone through this (or any other difficult personal situation soon after starting a new job). I want to make sure I handle this professionally because I want to stay at this job for a while!

You will not look crazy. This stuff happens, and your coworkers almost certainly know plenty of people who have gone through it or have dealt with it themselves. I think the keys here are to treat it in a way that’s (a) low-key and (b) matter-of-fact. So, for instance, if someone asks about your husband, you’d just say, “Actually, Bob and I are splitting up.” And your response to whatever concerned response follows should be something like, “It’s a tough time, but we’re both doing well” or “Thank you, we’re getting through it okay” or whatever else feels natural but assures people that you are in fact carrying on. If you do decide to change back to your maiden name, be matter-of-fact about that too — “I’ve gone back to my maiden name, so I’m now Persephone Mulberry.” That’s really it!

If you’d be more comfortable with it, it’s also fine to mention it to your boss proactively — something like, “I wanted to let you know that Bob and I are splitting up. I’m doing okay, but felt odd not mentioning it since it’s a major thing that will probably come up in informal conversation at some point.” (A normal boss will at this point express sympathy and ask you if you need any time off, etc., but will take her cues from you — if you say you’ve got it under control, people will believe you, unless you present evidence to the contrary.) Good luck, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

2. My manager shared my pregnancy with people before I did

At work a few months ago, I printed a document regarding my newly discovered pregnancy to an office printer and as happens at work, I got distracted and forgot about the document. Before I had a chance to retrieve the document from the printer, my manager brought it by my office and dropped it off on my desk while I was sitting there. They didn’t show any sign that they had read it, but months later, when I went to reveal the news to a friend and coworker, they informed me that my manager had already told them about it! As you can imagine, I’m quite upset. What would you suggest as productive language to tell my boss that in spite of my accidently leaving private information on a public printer, I don’t appreciate their gossiping/sharing my news with my coworkers?

“I was surprised to hear that you had told people I was pregnant before I’d told anyone at work, including you. What happened?” (Wait for response.) “I’m really uncomfortable with my personal medical information being shared with people without my permission, let alone when I hadn’t even shared it with anyone here myself.”

3. My new coworker seems overwhelmed by the pace of our work

I started a new job about 5 months ago, and although there has been a steep learning curve, I feel like I am beginning to get on top of my work and understand the office culture and fit in here. Our department was really small when I started (just me and my boss), and we have had very aggressive goals and targets to meet, but so far I have done pretty well meeting those expectations, especially given that I’ve had less than 6 months to learn this position, and I had to hit the ground running. I’m used to working in places with a fast, stressful pace and lots of crazy deadlines to meet, so this is not a new way of working to me.

However, my boss just hired a person from another department to join our team. My new coworker is giving the job her all, but she is not used to working in a salaried position that often requires long hours and can be very stress-inducing. She seems pretty overwhelmed, and I know that her new workload and responsibilities are pretty intense, especially considering that she has only been in the role for a couple of weeks. I can see her starting to crack under the pressure, and I think she often feels very discouraged because she isn’t fully on top of the work yet, but my boss has very high expectations. I went through the same thing when I first started in my position, and although I do believe in being challenged, I also believe in setting people up for success, and it seems like the new coworker is being pushed a little bit TOO much, considering she is brand new to this position. My boss is very driven and motivated, and often comes into work after getting only 3 hours of sleep (I’ve heard many stories that began with “so I couldn’t sleep last night and I was writing down all of these ideas for the campaign…” or “over the weekend I was working on…”), which leads me to believe she thinks that a lot of people function this way. She’s a kind person, but I feel like there is a blind spot as far as having realistic expectations of what other people are capable of right out of the gate.

I believe my coworker is capable of doing this work and has a good work ethic, but she isn’t being set up for success right now because the demands are so high right off the bat. Is there anything I can do to make this situation a little bit better, or should I just hold my tongue? She has already confessed feeling extremely overwhelmed and having major anxiety over this job.

Talk to her! Tell her about your own experience when you first started, and if you have advice for her based on your own experience, offer it. Also, if you have a good rapport with your boss, you might try pointing out that you’re worried that the expectations for your new coworker aren’t in line with what most people could juggle well when they’re new to the work, and suggest places where those expectations might be modified.

That said, keep in mind that you did well with the role in a similar context, and so it’s not an impossible bar. It might be a case of your boss needing to hire people with a proven track record of doing well in this type of environment (and those people do exist; you’re apparently one of them) — but for now, I’d see what support you can offer your coworker and whether you can influence what your boss expects from someone brand new to your team.

4. Preparing for an interview when you don’t have a job description

How do you prepare for an interview when you don’t have a job description? A recruiter recently contacted me on LinkedIn and asked if I was interested in a position she’s trying to fill. After I sent her my resume, she passed it on to the client and now both she and the client would like to interview me. I know the position title (executive assistant) but not the extent of the responsibilities involved. How do I prepare when I don’t know precisely what skills or expertise will be needed?

You can ask them to send you the job description in advance, but if they don’t have one or don’t send it, then you can prepare simply by turning what you know to be generally true about executive assistant roles into a generic job description in your head, and focusing your preparation accordingly. You can also treat the interview itself partly as a fact-finding mission about the job, since you of course can’t sign on for a job without having a good understanding of what you’d be doing if you took it.

5. Can I list my personal work doing equities trading on my resume?

I am an electronics and instrument field tech who has been out of professional work since 2008. I conducted a job search during this period but was rather complacent due to an interest in equities trading. While this endeavor was very much an arduous full-time job (including a formal course of instruction), I think that a prospective employer may look at it as a frivolous indulgence.

The resume entry would appear as follows:
Equities Investor/Trader – Self employed – 2008 – 2013
Achievements:
· Completion of 14-week curriculum in live online Swing Trading College course – Lectures by Larry Connors, CEO Trading Markets (intensive study of quantitative approach to equities trading)
· Studied “The Technical Analysis Course” by Thomas Meyers
· Successfully applied chart analysis and quantitative analysis to equities trading
Responsibilities & Skills:
Equity investing, utilize news, chart analysis tools and quantitative algorithms to invest capital:
· Analyze securities: understand and utilize multiple algorithm sorts of stock databases
· Implement various indicators criterion such as such as McClellan Oscillator, 2-day RSI, Chaikin Money Flow, moving average crossovers, key support and resistance levels, statistical Fibonacci Retrace analysis and Don Worden’s indicators- Time Segmented Volume (TSV) and Moneystream (MS)
· Apply principles to successful investment strategies

As I say, I’ve been anything but idle. But I want to get back to the real world and have certainly lost a measure of credibility. Do I run with this or just leave a big gap?

It’s way too much detail that most employers won’t care about (unless you’re applying to work in finance, but it doesn’t sound like you are). You could include 1-2 lines noting that you were a self-employed equities trader during that time (if and only if this was truly your job — i.e., you supported yourself this way during that period), but the rest of it doesn’t really add anything that will be helpful to an employer reading your resume.

Also, for the record, you want anything you list as an achievement on your resume to be about an outcome … so taking a course doesn’t count; getting a impressive investment return rate does count. That said, the “achievements” and “responsibilities & skills” labels are unnecessary anyway; you can just list your bullet points without dividing them like that or labeling them at all. But you do want stronger bullet points in general. (Not for this work, since you should cut it way down anyway, but as a general principle for other things on your resume.)

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