wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions, although today it features two questions I don’t have answers for. So maybe it’s five answers to seven questions. Here we go…

1. Former employer still emailing from my email address

My ex-employer is still using my name in his emails and blogs. He opened a Google business account and is still using my first/last name with his company name in his emails to over 1200 potential customers so far. I worked for over 5 months for him, and I didn’t want him to use my name at all because I thought I would be known as a spammer. Can he still use my full name in his email/blog if I no longer work for him?

Hmmm. I don’t know the answer to whether or not this is legal. Your employer owns your former company email address and can use it as they see fit, but impersonating you is a different matter and could potentially be legally problematic. Either way, a sternly worded letter from a lawyer would probably take care of the problem.

2. Is this promising?

I interviewed for a position and the manager responded back that he is trying to sort out how he can possibly use me in the office, and to please be patient and he will hopefully figure out a way to bring me on board. Does that sound promising? I’m still interviewing because I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. He is waiting for another physician to start on 11/1/12, and he says maybe he can use me at that time. What are your thoughts?

It sounds positive but far from definite, so proceed as if you don’t have a job offer, because you don’t have a job offer.

3. Introducing performance evaluations and one-on-ones in a new role

I am starting in a management role at an organization that has no regular performance reviews. Can I introduce regular formal performance reviews myself or do I need to liaise with HR about this? If I am going to introduce them, how long should I wait? I will need to develop a performance review format at least, so that could take a bit of time in and of itself.

I am also expecting push-back at the idea of regular one-on-one and/or team meetings, as this will be new to this team as well. Any suggestions for dealing with that?

You certainly should be able to introduce performance evaluations, but there’s no harm in checking with HR to be sure that there’s not some reason that they don’t do them that you should know about. I wouldn’t think you’d be ready to do a formal evaluation of anyone until you’ve worked with them at least six months, but you can and should be giving plenty of feedback between now and then. (And if there are big picture concerns to be discussed, you shouldn’t wait for a formal evaluation to do it.)

And if your new staff gives you pushback about having regular meetings with you, explain that you consider them a key way for you to touch base about their work, balance priorities, serve as a resource, and give feedback. If they continue to push back, that’s a sign of a bigger problem you’ll need to address. But as for team meetings, are you sure they’re needed? One-on-ones are crucial, but people too often default to other meetings when they’re not truly useful. You might start with one-on-ones and wait to see if anything else is needed.

4. Smelly coworker

About seven months ago, a new employee was hired for our small nonprofit (there are only 6 full time employees). The new employee has issues with both body odor and farting — loudly and smellingly — in public. A lot. His office is in a common room where you can hear everything. This often happens in group conversations, one on one conversations, and in meetings (with internal and external people attending.) So far I’ve kind of managed to ignore it, but the more it happens in meetings the more horrified I become. Add to that he has horrible body odor. He does work outside most of the time and works up a sweat…but so do the other guys I work with and they don’t seem to have this same problem. Oh, and he also leaves the toilet seat up in the shared male/female bathroom. (This was never an issue before in our predominately male office, but perhaps because the office is predominately male, the toilet seat should reflect the male/female ratio?)

I’m not a direct confrontational kind of person, and after 7 months of this has passed, I feel like I’ve passed the point of no return (meaning, I can’t say, “Dude, that’s gross, knock it off” … not that I would ever be able to say something like that anyway!) Add to that, he has told me that he has Asperger’s and so doesn’t necessarily understand social cues/conventions. Also, he is my boss’s best friend. Advice?

You can discreetly bring the issue to your boss’s attention and hope he takes care of it, or you can talk to him yourself. There aren’t really other options. However, this could very easily be a medical issue, and if that’s the case, there might be nothing he can do about it.

5. My sister-in-law said we worked together when we never did

My sister-in-law submitted a resume to a manufacturing company and did not provide me with notice that I would be a work reference, even though we never worked with each other at all. When this company called for a reference, I was caught off-guard and indicated that I did work with her, but this company contacted me while I was with a coworker and on my way out the door. I contacted my sister-in-law and indicated to her that she probably blew her chance because of what she did in telling them she worked with me.

I felt so guilty that I attempted to call the company the next day to say that we never worked with each other, but no one answered the phone and then I left for a 3-week holiday. Upon my return, I wanted to contact them to say it’s untrue that I worked with her. I also don’t want the company to go back to her and indicate that I’m the one who said we didn’t work together. I just want them to say that they did a thorough background check on her and noticed that she never worked where she stated. She basically lied in her resume and she never graduated from high school. I find there are a lot of people out there looking for jobs and getting nowhere, but someone like her lied and she’s received an offer to start in a few weeks. What do I do? Do I contact the company or do I just keep quiet this time around and hope that they figure this out on their own?

I have no idea what to tell you here. You shouldn’t have lied for her in the first place, but should you go back and correct the record three weeks later, after they’ve already offered her a job? Ethically, yes, if you lie, you should come clean. Practically, though, this is a big mess. Regardless, you can’t control what they tell her if you do contact them; once you give them the information, it’s up to them what to do with it.

6. Correcting an employee’s pronunciation

A couple of years ago, I managed a team of two other people, and I had an issue I didn’t know how to handle. It is still on my mind every now and then, and I’d really appreciate your opinion and advice for future situations. One of my team members – let’s call him Robert – was very enthusiastic, sincere, and friendly. Our team worked well together, and each person would do whatever was needed to get our work done. We all interacted with individuals and groups almost every day. Robert was always a bit colloquial in his speech and mispronounced a few words, but then we started working with a product that contains libraries, and we had to use the word “library” a lot. He said it “li-berry.” The first time I heard him, I was a bit jarred, but I didn’t say anything. After that, it seemed that it had gone on too long for me to say anything.

We are evaluated by the people we interact with, and there were a few (maybe four) evaluations that mentioned his mispronunciation of “library.” At first, I thought people should really be paying attention to the content and not to a person’s pronunciation. But then I wondered if it was my job as Robert’s manager to say something to him – (1) because others had mentioned it and/or (2) because it might hold him back professionally and make him seem not as smart as he is. What do you think I should have done?

Yes, as his manager, I think you should have talked to him about how to pronounce the word correctly, because it was one you were using regularly in your work and it was affecting how other people perceived him. It’s important for employees to know about feedback from people they work with (assuming it’s valid), as well hear their managers’ own observations, since that’s generally how people improve.

7. Manager made me cc someone’s boss on a complaint about them

I’m in an entry-level position and pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole at my company. All other lower level positions are responsible for assisting me at a particular time on a rotating basis. One person in particular has been late for or missing their times a lot. Of course, as the rotation happens about once every 2 weeks, everyone is late here and there because it’s not a normal part of their schedule (sometimes I feel like I spend 50% of my time waiting on people).

Anyway, this person missed one of their times and was nowhere to be found in the office. My boss ended up having to help me and asked me to write an email to the missing person about it and cc their boss.  I went ahead and did it because I really had no other choice. As the lowest person at the company though, I’m worried cc’ing their boss will affect my relationship with them and make me appear to be someone who tattles to people’s bosses if there’s an issue. Should I have handled this differently – pushed back at my boss? What if my boss asks me to escalate this or do something similar again? Am I just being too nice – should I be fine with telling on this person to their boss? I’d feel differently if I had any kind of authority over this person but if anything, I’m below them.

Well, you could have said to your boss, “I’d rather address this with her directly and only bring her manager into it if that doesn’t solve the problem.” And if your boss had insisted, you could have said, “If you think [the manager] needs to be in the loop, would you be willing to talk with [the manager] yourself? I’m concerned that if I cc her, it will strain my relationship with Jane since I haven’t talked to Jane about it first.” Those are both reasonable requests, but if your boss still stuck to her original request, in that case you’d need to follow it. You could, however, follow up with Jane later to explain that your boss had asked you to handle it that way.

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