wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Rewarding an introverted employee

What techniques do you recommend for acknowledging, recognizing, thanking, rewarding and celebrating good work (major and minor accomplishments) of an introverted employee? Even though she might not like to be in the spotlight and so I don’t want to put her there, I would like to recognize her among co-workers and compliment and reward her individually/privately. This seems like a topic you’d be especially suited to address! You might have covered it already, but I didn’t find it while searching your blog.

Raises and bonuses — the currency of all personality types! But if it’s not quite to that point, and it’s more about lower-impact positive feedback, why not ask her? It’s fine to say, “Jane, you did such a great job on X and I’d love to recognize you for it in front of the group — any objections?” Also, keep in mind that not every introvert dislikes public praise … some of us (me) love it! (This is probably a good time for my periodic reminder that introversion isn’t about being shy; it’s about whether you recharge your energy through solitude or social interaction.)

2. Asking to be hired for my manager’s position when he leaves

My boss, president of the company, just announced he’s leaving in 8 months. Obviously his position will be available very soon and will require some tutelage during this 8-month transition. Should I ask to be considered for his position or wait to be approached, since I’m the most likely candidate within the company? I don’t want to seem pushy immediately upon hearing the news. He has started sharing and relinquishing some of his duties to me. In a casual conversation, one of our board members just acknowledge my length of employment with the company. These seem like small signs that my name has been mentioned in consideration for the position. What do you think would be proper protocol in this situation?

Bring it up. Don’t wait to be asked. All too often, when people wait to be asked — even when they think they’re the obvious choice — that never happens. Ask your boss what the likely process will be for hiring a replacement, and say that you’d love to be considered.

3. Should I give my notice now or after my background check is finalized?

I have accepted an offer at a new employer pending completion of a background check. I was informed today that my initial pre-employment screening is complete and the final step is to contact my current employer. Would it be more appropriate to give my two-week notice before my current employer is contacted or after the background check is finalized (2-3 days after current employer is contacted)?

Well, if your employer gets contacted for a reference check out of the blue, without hearing from you about what’s going on, that’s going to be pretty jarring. They’re telling you that they’re about to contact your employer because they assume you’ll want to give them a heads-up. So now’s the time to talk to your manager — you don’t need to give your formal notice date yet (since you may want to wait until you have a formalized start date at the new job, which could potentially be a ways away), but it’s time to give your boss at least an informal heads-up.

4. Gifts for retiring managers/mothers

You’ve discussed before many reasons why it is not a good idea to give your boss a gift. What about when that boss is retiring? A group of coworkers would like to give their boss a gift to celebrate her retirement. They like her and the workplace is congenial — a staff of 6 in a local office of a state agency. The boss happens to be my mother, and one of the workers contacted me for ideas about a gift the office could give to her. In general for retirement, I’d typically try to think of something the recipient would enjoy, be able to use and also that is reflective of his/her field, interests and accomplishments. A thing. The group’s idea so far is an e-reader, but I don’t think my mom would use it too much. She usually likes an experience or food or wine (something consumable) or a live plant. In thinking through posing this question to you, I have come up with the idea of a gift certificate with a local travel agency or a dining gift certificate. None of those are things that she’ll keep to remember her working days and workmates though.

I don’t mean for your response to be specific to my mother, but it is the example that raises these general questions: What are your thoughts about employees giving a boss a gift in this situation (retirement of the boss) and do you and/or other readers have suggestions on appropriate types of gifts (object vs. something consumable)?

Different office cultures handle this differently. In general, gifts should flow downward, not upward, but many offices do give retirement gifts and if they want to give her something, that’s certainly their prerogative. I don’t think it matters if it’s an object versus something consumable; it makes sense to go with what the person’s preferences dictate (although personally I’m a huge fan of the consumable). However, make sure your suggestions aren’t expensive — a restaurant gift certificate is probably affordable, whereas a gift certificate with a local travel agency probably is not (assuming they’re giving her enough for an actual trip). Since you’re her daughter, be careful not to look as if you’re suggesting anything particularly expensive — unless they tell you they want to spend $X, and $X is significant.

5. Explaining I’m taking on a second job

My hours have been cut at my current job from 40+ to under 15 a week. I’ve had meetings with management to try and figure out what is going on, and they explain it’s due to a slow streak we’ve been having lately. As a matter of fact, they just fired a veterinarian and laid off a technician, financial reasons is what they told us. I’ve been at this company for over two years and really love the job, but ever since the owner made his PA the manager, things have not run smoothly. I’ve decided to take a part-time job at a nonprofit organization two days a week. I’m not sure how to approach the subject with the management at my current job (I’m afraid they will outright fire me for looking elsewhere and I really need 40 hours).

It’s completely reasonable to explain that if they can’t give you 40 hours, you’ll need to take on a second job. They may require that you prioritize your hours with them though.

6. Pre-employment drug testing

After a lengthy interview process, I’ve received a job offer. The offer is contingent on a drug screening. A 30-day urinalysis would pose no issue. I’ve read, however, that there are other sorts of tests, such as a hair follicle test, that would go back 90 days. In all honesty, I could not pass that. Would I be a fool to ask what kind of drug screening will be administrated? I feel like bringing attention to it might be too big of a red flag. It’s a small bank, and no prior mention of a drug screen was given.

Well, first, chances are pretty good that you’re only going to be given a urine test. Hair tests are less common, although not unheard of.

If you have an extremely professional vibe, you could get away with saying, “What type of testing will this be?” in a tone of professional curiosity. Or a tone of concern about your privacy, frankly. Just not a tone of “uh oh.”

But if they say it’s a hair test, what are you going to do at that point? It probably makes sense to just move forward with it and hope for the best (assuming you want a job that drug tests, which maybe you don’t — plenty of us object to that sort of thing on privacy and civil liberties grounds). Also, you should work to change the laws that allow employers to dig into what you did in (probably) the privacy of your home a few months ago.

7. Comp time in place of overtime pay

I’m a non-exempt employee and I rarely work less than 40 hours a week (I usually work more). I have an agreement with my employer that I receive compensatory time off instead of overtime pay. I have quite a bit of comp time built up, in addition to a lot of vacation days. I am only able to take days off during certain periods of the year due to the cyclical nature of my job, and without doing the math, I’d say I probably have more days off over the next 12 months than I’m allowed to take. I’m curious about the rules surrounding comp time. In general: Does it expire after a certain amount of time? Do I have the right to use it after a certain amount of time? Do I have to continue accruing comp time instead of getting paid out for overtime? Your insight is appreciated, thank you for taking the time to address my questions.

Rules for comp time are set by your employer, not the law. However, rules for overtime pay are set by the law … and it’s not legal for your employer to pay you with comp time rather than overtime, unless that comp time is used in the same week that it was earned. You may not care; you might be perfectly happy with the arrangement you have and you might not wish to challenge it. But be aware of what your rights are under the law, and at a minimum, you should tell your employer that you don’t want to accrue comp time that you won’t be able to use within the year. (Additionally, make sure that it’s accruing at the same rate overtime would — meaning 1.5 hours of comp time or pay for every hour over 40 worked in a week.)

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