terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How can I best manage sick leave for my growing business?

I run a small Florida-based business (around 35 employees). Our company is growing and as the company grows, so do the HR problems. My current issue — We offer employees 80 hours of vacation leave (planned time off) and 40 hours of sick leave (unplanned time off). I have a few employees who have already used up their 40 hours of sick leave, and my concern is that now they will want to use vacation time if they’re sick. Some people may think it’s not a big deal, but there is a big difference in scheduling time off and calling in 30 minutes before your shift. From a management perspective, if I know someone will be out, I can allocate resources as necessary ahead of time. But if an employee calls in sick, then it creates a little more havoc with shifting around lunch schedules or finding someone to open/close the office. I’m not complaining about the 40 hours of sick leave that’s been allocated to an employee, but my question is, do I have to let them take time off from vacation leave if they exceed those 40 hours?

I would like to change our company’s policy and insert the following language in our HR manual to deter employees from calling in when they just don’t feel like coming to work and really use sick leave for its intended purpose (when they are sick): “Employees who call in sick after they have used up their allocated 40 hours of sick leave (unplanned time off) in a calendar year must provide HR with a doctor’s note. If this documentation is provided, the employee may use vacation time (if they have it available). Unplanned time off used in excess of the allocated 40 hours per calendar year AND if the employee does not provide a doctor’s note will not be paid (vacation time cannot be used).”

Sure, you can do that. In fact, since no law requires that you offer paid time off at all, you can put any restrictions on it you want. Most employers do not allow vacation time to be used as sick leave, or only do so with restrictions on it — for exactly the reason you say, the fact that unplanned leave is more of an inconvenience than planned vacation time.

However, be aware that you cannot dock exempt employees’ pay in a week in which they do any work. So if they’re exempt, unless they’re out for the full week, you can’t make them take that time off unpaid. You can charge it against their future leave accrual, or you can discipline them for excessive absences (up to and including firing), but you can’t legally dock their pay.

By the way, if you have multiple employees out of only 35 who have already used up 40 hours of sick leave after just five months of the year and still need more, you might take a look at whether people are abusing your leave policy. Certainly people get sick, and sometimes it requires more than five days in five months, but if it’s happening with frequency on such a small staff, I’d wonder if something else was going on.

2. Letting my boss know I’m interested in a new managerial role that might be created

I work for a relatively new department in a much larger organization. The boss is currently having some ideas about reorganizing the department – not changing our individual job duties, but just reorganizing the way we are lumped together on the org chart. I actually made the suggestion for one of the changes that is going to be made. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would make it possible for there to be a new manager position. One of my colleagues mentioned that the boss had said something along those lines to him, but this is all very vague at this point.

My question then, is this: Is there any way I can or should bring this up with my boss and tell him that if there is a manager position created, I would like to be considered? I would love to just wait until it’s more official, but considering the track record of this department, by the time it’s mentioned in any sort of “official” way, my boss will already have decided who he wants to promote. The reason I’m afraid of not being considered, although I think I am uniquely qualified for this imaginary position, is that unfortunately, another of the managers here has told my boss that I am not comfortable with the idea of supervising, which is not true at all. What do you think I should do and if I do approach him, any tips on how to do it?

Yes, you should tell him, and you should tell him now. If someone else told him — wrongly — that you’re not comfortable with the idea of managing, then it’s all the more important that you talk to him now so that you can proactively correct that misperception. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to passively allow to be out there — talk to him and give him correct information.

3. My friend is dating my boss’s boss

A friend of mine recently started dating my boss’s boss, and I am hoping for advice on how to handle this. I am content knowing as little information about this as possible to maintain my professional relationships, but our mutual group of friends often have social get-togethers where significant others are welcome. I could see this becoming awkward on several levels, particularly given the age difference between us and him.

Don’t drink too much around him, and ask your friend not to share any information about you with him. And if either of them ever attempts to involve you in any relationship drama, no matter how slight, refuse refuse refuse to get involved.

I’d also probably attend fewer get-togethers where the friend is likely to bring the boss (and if she’s any kind of friend, she should understand why), but aside from that, there’s not much else you need to do (or could do).

4. My promised bonus didn’t show up in my check

My boss, who is the owner of the company, was really excited about some work I’ve been doing and told me that he would be extending a $1,000 bonus to me on our next pay period. I received my check today with no bonus. Do I say something? If so, is there a good way to say it? I know it’s not ungrateful to let them know that something didn’t go through, but I have an uneasy feeling about it anyway.

“I wanted to check with you about the bonus, since it wasn’t in my check this week. I wasn’t sure if I needed to follow up with payroll or if we needed to do something else.”

5. I don’t like the way my new boss is addressing me and another team member with the same name

I have currently the senior member of my team. Recently, a new supervisor took over for my prior manager. This is her first experience as a supervisor, and she is also new to the the type of work that she has to do, so I have been spending time training her.

There are two of us who work for her who have the same name. She will address emails to us by using our names in the plural, as in, “Hey Cathys – [some request].” I find this very annoying — like we are interchangeable and not individuals. I not sure if I am off base and this is an acceptable method of correspondance or if I should say something to her about how it offends me. Thoughts?

Let it go. I’m quite sure that she doesn’t intend to signal that she finds you interchangeable. She probably just intends it to be a light-hearted alternative to writing “Cathy and Cathy.” You shouldn’t read anything more into it than that, and it isn’t worth complaining about.

6. Taking a personal day when I’m new to the job

I started a new job five weeks ago, and my boss recently emailed me to let me me know I have a personal day that expires at the end of June. Our HR director had told me separately to think of personal days the same as vacation, but I think it may look bad to take a day just for the hell of it before I’ve even been here three months. Is there a way I can ask my boss if this is part of the company culture without seeming overly focused on days off, or should I just let it go?

Your boss reminded you about it, so it doesn’t sound like she’d care if you used it, but since you’re feeling uncertain, just ask. Say something like, “I generally try not to take any time off during my first few months on the job, but do people normally take these when they’re as new as I am? If so, I’d be glad to use it!”

7. Should I withdraw from this hiring process?

I’m going through a tough interview process. It’s for an internal position in a different department that is known to have difficult staff members. I have successfully completed three rounds of interviews and I was expecting to receive a job offer, but then I was informed that a fourth round of interviews will happen. The position would include increased responsibilities and pay, but I am starting to feel anxious about the pressures of working in the department, especially given the abrupt changes in procedures as I go through the interview process. Also, my department would like me to travel soon for a project, but I feel that it would be unethical of me to say I will go when I may put in my two weeks shortly for a new position.

I’m considering removing myself from the consideration for the new department given my anxiety. Would you recommend waiting out the process if it will be resolved in the next week? I’m not sure what to do.

Well, if you know for sure that you don’t want the job, then you can certainly withdraw now. But if you’re not 100% sure, why not wait to see if you get an offer? If you do, you should have an opportunity to ask any additional questions you have about their culture and any concerns you have. Nothing says you have to take the job if you’re not able to put all your concerns to rest, but you might find that you’re able to.

As for your approaching travel at work, this stuff happens. You can’t refuse travel because you MIGHT get an offer; you have to continue along as if you don’t until you actually do. That means that sometimes people book travel that they end up not doing because they change jobs; that’s just part of how all this works and not something you should base your decision on.

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