should promotions be based on seniority, my boyfriend’s accountant is flirting with him, and more

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

1. Should promotions be based on seniority?

I am currently in a department where a woman who was hired five months ago is already outperforming the rest of the team and has shown such efficiency that she’s getting special projects to do. It has been overheard that a supervisor position will be created by the directors and, because she needs to promote internally, the manager informed the directors she would like to put this woman in the position because she is the best qualified and has the most potential. I heard a few coworkers complaining that, while everyone on the team likes this woman and values her knowledge, attitude, and professionalism, several other women should be offered the position first because they have seniority, are older, would be respected more (she is 27), and they have expressed interest in a supervisory position, whereas this woman has never mentioned the desire to advance.

While I like them personally, I feel that many would make less than stellar supervisors because of their temperamental manner in answering team members’ questions, their tendencies to shirk responsibility, and their inability to follow through and meet deadlines. (The newer woman and another coworker were supposed to be training our two new employees, and the woman ended up training both employees by herself due to the team member coincidentally going ghost.) I believe the manager respects her because of her keen knowledge and understanding of concepts in our field, which is much better than anyone else on our team; her ability to collect monies the rest of us would miss; and her willingness to stop anything she’s working on to answer anyone’s question with no irritation towards anyone. Do you feel seniority should play a part when promoting internally? Is it fair to pass her for this promotion because she is new to the company?

People shouldn’t be entitled to promotions just because been there longer. Promotions should be made based on who would do the best job in the position. If two candidates are equally strong, then sure, it can make sense to look at seniority. But when the newer person is clearly stronger, it doesn’t make sense to promote a weak candidate instead just because the weaker candidate has been there longer.

That said, any internal candidate who’s interested in the role should be allowed to apply for it. If the rest of your team feels that someone was simply anointed as the new supervisor without giving anyone else being genuinely considered, it’s going to be a recipe for resentment. So your managers would do well to make the process reasonably open and transparent.

2. My manager keeps putting off the schedule change I was promised

I work for a community mental health agency with approximately 400 employees. My position is as a clinician on a child psychiatric crisis unit, and I love what I do. What I don’t love is my schedule. I’m the night and weekend person, as such a facility needs 24 hour coverage. When I was hired 9 months ago, I was told that I could transition to weekdays “quickly,” as there is fairly high turnover. But when I remind my boss of my desire for a traditional schedule, she says she’s working on it and drops the subject.

Just FYI, I get good performance reviews and I’m also cross trained for another department with 3 openings. It wouldn’t be a huge deal, but I’m a single mom of a toddler and my daughter is developing more cognitively everyday. She has 2 great babysitters, but I want her in a structured day care with a curriculum to maximize her growing mind and skills. I can’t afford both her babysitters and daycare, and there is no daycare where I am that operates nights and weekends.

There are numerous open positions at my agency. When I asked HR about applying for an open position, they gave me a form that I need my supervisor to sign in order to be permitted to apply for any of the current open positions. That seems like a bad idea in so many ways. First, I’m pretty confident my supervisor would be unhappy and limit my opportunities for training as well as deny requested time off. Second, all the open positions are on different campuses, so I have no idea if they are actively looking to fill the position, nor do I know the supervisors so I can’t informally feel out the situation. So to risk my manager’s ire and possibly being forced out of my position, without even the promise of an interview, seems unwise. Will I need to apply outside my agency to get a schedule that works? What are your thoughts?

I wouldn’t apply for a transfer from a job you love until you’re sure you can’t get the schedule you want. That means not just “reminding” your boss that you want a different schedule, but tackling it more assertively. I’d say something like this: “When I was hired, we thought I’d be able to move to a more traditional schedule quickly. My daughter is reaching the age where I need to put her in daycare, so it’s becoming more pressing. Is it possible to figure out a more definite timeline for making the change so that I can plan for it?” (And no, you shouldn’t have to cite your child care situation, but it’s useful when you’re pushing your manager for something to explain why you’re pushing for it.)

If she puts you off again, at that point I’d say, “I really love my job here, but knowing that I do need a different schedule, would you object to me looking at other openings in the agency if we’re not able to switch my hours in the next couple of months?”

3. What’s the best tone for a written response to a negative performance review?

My boyfriend has found himself in a difficult situation, and I am not sure how to help him. He recently had his performance review and it went very poorly. His manager had almost entirely negative criticisms of failure to meet goals (some legitimate, some not) and no positive comments. At this point, we are sure he is going to put on a performance improvement plan. He is currently finishing his paperwork for the review and has written a three-page response documenting all his disagreements and issues with the review. I read it and it is inappropriate and emotional and unprofessional. Although I am sympathetic to how much this sucks, I don’t want him to burn his bridges. He is stubborn and won’t be able to let this go without responding, but I want to help him respond in the most professional and mature way possible. Can you give me any advice on how he should respond in these comments?

Yeah, emotional is not the way to go here. Point out to your boyfriend that the response he wrote might feel satisfying, but it’s not as likely to get him the outcome he wants, and the outcome is the most important thing here. His response is going to be far more credible if it’s calm, sticks to the facts, and acknowledges any legitimate points his manager made.

Suggest that he think of the report an outside observer trying to solve the problems would write about the situation, and use that tone himself. Otherwise, any legitimate points he’s making are likely to be lost.

4. What’s the best way to confirm an upcoming informational interview?

I have an informational interview coming up next week, which was booked a month ago. We had communicated and set up the meeting time via email, and the last I’ve heard from her was a month ago when we agreed to and finalized the meeting place and time.

Because it was booked quite awhile ago and I’m semi-paranoid she’d have forgot about the meeting by now, I was wondering if it would be appropriate to share my personal calendar by including her in the time slot (where you insert all attendees’ emails, and they get something in their mailbox where you can accept or decline the meeting)? I hope this sends the message of “hey! remember me and our upcoming meeting?” (even though I might have seem more organized by inviting her shortly after it was arranged). I’ve had shared calendars for other informational interviews, but they were booked within the week, and they were initiated by the other party.

You’re over-complicating it; there’s no need for any calendar business. Just send her an email that says, “Just want to confirm our meeting this Thursday at 2 p.m. at Teas Unlimited. I’m looking forward to it!” Then, assume it’s on unless she replies back and tells you otherwise.

5. Is my boyfriend’s accountant crossing professional boundaries with him?

I am in a relationship with a very wealthy oil man. About the time I got involved with him, he hired a woman to take over his accounting in his office that he visits infrequently (maybe 10 times per year). Soon after her hire, she became flirtatious with him, professing her adoration of him and her new job. I understood how she would be grateful; she has a wonderful opportunity in a town where there is not much. She sent him a valentine saying she “loves” her boss, then about 6 months later asked him to help her buy a house, then sent flowers and a flirty note on “Bosses Day.” She also sends him notes on the weekends about the weather, etc.

I’m not generally jealous, but it just seems inappropriate. She is doing a good job at work though and getting better at it. I don’t know, but it is annoying and I would be more accepting of it if she were a female friend vs. an employee. I think my own boss is fantastic and we have both expressed mutual support, and respect. But we do not exchange cards of any type.

Is it appropriate to give your boss a valentine telling him you love him? Should you ask your boss to help you buy a house? (By the way, the woman is married with a semi-adult child; shouldn’t she be turning to her husband or at least including him in such a request?) What is this Bosses Day? I live in California and never heard of it.

No, it is not appropriate to give your boss a valentine or tell him that you love him. Nor is it a good idea to ask your boss to help you buy a house. Bosses Day is a recently made-up fake holiday that exists to sell cards.

But you don’t have any reason to be jealous, unless your boyfriend is returning his accountant’s flirtatious and inappropriate behavior. He’s the one whose behavior is relevant to you, not hers. Assuming this is a one-sided flirtation and he’s committed to you, jealousy shouldn’t come into play. (If it’s not one-sided and/or he’s not committed to you, then you’ve got bigger issues that are about him, not his accountant.)

However, from a good-management and sensible-person standpoint, your boyfriend should certainly (a) consider whether he has inadvertently signaled that this behavior would be welcome, and (b) figure out how to create better professional boundaries with her. But that’s really a management issue for him to resolve as part of his workplace dealings; absent some sign that he’s relating inappropriately to her, it should be a non-issue for you (or at least as much of a non-issue as any other management problem on his side would be).

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