should resigning employees be asked to leave immediately, my raise was short, and more

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Should resigning employees be asked to leave immediately?

If an employee puts in their notice, should you always let them work through the end date they have given? I think it’s fairly common for an employee to be walked out if they are going to a direct competitor. However, what if the concern is that they will be a distraction during their remaining time?

It’s entirely up to you, but it makes sense to base it on what you think the impact will be on the rest of the office during those two weeks. In general, in most industries it’s common to let people work out their notice periods (with some exceptions, such as the one you noted) unless you have reason to think it’s going to be a problem to have them still in the office — such as if the person is likely to be toxic or wasting other people’s time. In those cases, it’s fine to let them go early — but you should pay them for the full notice period anyway, both because (a) it’s fair and (b) other employees will be watching how you handle this, and will assume you’ll treat them accordingly when they resign. If you tell people to leave immediately and don’t pay them for their notice period, you’re setting yourself up to have other people not give notice at all when they leave.

Also, unless you have reason to worry about sabotage or other bad behavior, please don’t “walk people out.” These are professional adults who you trusted to work for you yesterday, so give them the dignity of not being escorted off your premises like a criminal.

2. My raise was short — should I say something?

Recently, after a department discussion involving several ongoing projects, my manager (a C-level officer in our organization) came to my office and stated she was increasing my pay from $22.50/hour to $25/hour, effective July 5. I think this was due to my level of participation during the meeting and compared to the performance other individuals in department over the past year or so.

My pay shows an increase only to $23.50… which is great but not the number she stated. I’m a little apprehensive about bringing it up since it was a spontaneous pay increase outside our annual review period, and because it was given rather that requested. Would you recommend bringing it up or should I just take what was given? I know it might be an uphill battle since it was not in writing.

Well, first, are you sure? If the increase wasn’t effective until July 5, it probably isn’t even showing up in your most recent check — or at least would only apply to part of that pay period.

But once you’ve sorted that out, if it’s still short, yes, you should absolutely say something. She told you that you were getting X, so when you got Y instead, you should assume that there’s been a mistake and you should fix it. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is as a manager to have something like this happen and have the person not even speak up so that the problem can be corrected. (And really, think about what you’re saying about her — that you’re faster to assume she screwed you on the pay increase than that it’s a simple, easily correctable mistake.)

It doesn’t matter that it was outside the normal raise period or that you didn’t ask for it. She told you X, you got Y, so there’s a mistake somewhere and you should raise it to get it fixed.

3. Can I approach a customer for job advice?

I am a recent graduate still working in the restaurant industry and concurrently looking for field-related employment–media/communications. Every once in a while, I notice the CEO for a local news-media company come into the restaurant. He’s a rather prominent local figure, and always has an entourage of fellows joining him for lunch. I find him a very interesting man, and regularly keep up with his and his company’s work. Would it be inappropriate for me to discreetly solicit him, tell him my aspirations and situation, and ask for advice? What about even asking where I should seek an entry-level position?

I’d like to tell you yes, because sometimes this kind of thing does pay off, but be aware that (a) he may be annoyed to have his lunch interrupted and may brush you off and (b) your current employer might not be thrilled about you approaching customers like this. If you’re willing to risk both those things, I say go for it.

4. Explain resume gaps caused by a medical issue that isn’t fully in the past

How do I explain gaps in my resume caused by a medical issue without going into detail or inviting further questions on the subject?

I graduated in 2011 and am still looking for my first entry-level job. I took some time off after college to deal with chronic pain that turned out to be fibromyalgia–something that can be managed, but not cured. After a year of unemployment, I took a job in retail while still working with my doctor on finding a treatment. It turned out to be more physically demanding than my previous retail positions, and after six months I made the difficult decision to quit without having anything else lined up. Luckily I found an unpaid internship a month later that is more suited to what ultimately I want to be doing, but I’m still at a loss for how to explain my brief stint at my last job, not to mention the year-long gap before that.

I’ve been using the vague “medical reasons” to explain both, but then interviewers always seem to want some assurance that it’s all in the past. The most I can honestly say is that I don’t let it affect my performance, but I worry that by disclosing that I have an ongoing medical issue at all, I’m giving off the impression that I’m less capable than a completely healthy candidate. On the other hand, I don’t want to look like I quit my last job on a whim and was just slacking off for a year before that. How can I explain my job history without opening the can of worms that is my medical history?

Say that it was due to “medical issues that have since been resolved.” They’ve been resolved in the sense that they’re no longer affecting your performance, right? That’s what employers want to know, and that’s all they’re entitled to know. “Since been resolved” doesn’t have to mean “I no longer have the illness”; it can mean “it’s not an issue in my work life anymore.”

5. Applying for a job when you don’t have the preferred certification

I was looking at a job posting recently when it said: “X certification preferred.”

If you do not have this certification, should you/how do you approach this preference? In the cover letter, saying what?

Also, most certifications are not cheap. Many cost over $1,000. I want to say that I would be willing to take the certification, but at the same time, I am hesitant to say that I would pay for it myself, etc. What do you recommend?

I wouldn’t even address it — it’s a preferred qualification, not a requirement, and the reality is that you don’t have it. Saying that you’re willing to get it in the future isn’t likely to impact their assessment of your candidacy, and you definitely don’t want to get into “I’d take it if you help cover the cost” caveats in a cover letter. Instead, talk about achievements you do have, particularly if they illustrate the sorts of skills taught by the certification.

6. I didn’t get a bonus when I was out on maternity leave

I’ve worked for a very small startup company for the past three years. The first two, we received end-of-year bonuses even though we weren’t generating significant sales. In 2012, we had a much better year and hit some big milestones. We are only a few people so we all work very hard and I know my contributions to the growth of the company are not disputable.

I had a baby in early December, and I was on (unpaid) maternity leave for a few months. I noticed that I didn’t receive a bonus, and it wasn’t mentioned by our CEO (I report directly to her). I thought that maybe it would be addressed when I returned in the spring, but it never was. I’m worried that the rest of the company did receive bonuses, and our CEO thinks that because I was on leave that I wouldn’t receive one. I think that since I worked 11/12ths of the year, I should receive 11/12ths of the bonus I would have received.

Would it be appropriate to ask if bonuses were given out last year? If they were, is my thinking correct about my being entitled to one? I also haven’t had a performance review in 18+ months, so if I am considering asking for a review and, given there aren’t any unforeseen negatives, asking for an increased salary — would that be a good time to ask about the bonus, or should I just let it go in favor of asking for the increased salary?

You can certainly ask. Keep in mind that bonuses are generally a retention strategy, not a reward for past work (even if they’re framed that way), so if a company doesn’t think a bonus will help retain you (which can be the case during maternity leave, rightly or wrongly), they may pass you over. That said, giving a bonus to everyone but the person out on maternity leave is fraught with potential legal issues, so I think you could certainly raise it (without the legal threat — let them figure that concern out on their own).

7. Manager said he’d hire me but hasn’t followed up

I’m more confused then anything. I got my first interview ever. I am a college student, and for those of us with odd schedules it is hard to find jobs. So I went to my interview, and it was awesome. The manager emailed me the same day for a second interview. The second interview came around, and we sat and talked and he said that I for sure had the job and to come back a certain day to fill something out on his desktop. I went there on that day and filled out what I needed to, and he said he’d be in touch in 7-10 days. It never happened. I called recently, a little over two weeks ago, since I’ve been waiting for some type of reply from him, and he said I needed to be patient with him because he was training someone. Now it’s been over a month and I feel toyed with. I mean, if I didn’t get the job, why didn’t he call or email? Smoke signals something? I don’t feel as though I am being impatient. I feel I deserve some type of explanation as to what’s going on.

Yes, you deserve an explanation. But if you count on getting one, you might be setting yourself up for frustration.

He probably did intend to hire you — maybe he still does. But he’s clearly either disorganized or sidetracked by higher priority items, or both. He might have plans to hire you at some vague point in the future, not thinking about the fact that you’re looking for a job now. Or he might no longer plan to hire you at all and is being cowardly about telling you that. Either way, your best bet is to move on and find a job somewhere else. You can still check in with this guy in a few weeks if you want to, but I’d assume that this one has fallen through or is likely to fall through and move on. (And welcome to the job market — this kind of thing isn’t uncommon, unfortunately.)

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