It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. How should I handle customer complaints about my coworkers?
I work in an office with 10 coworkers and 2 bosses. There have been problems in the past with issues like backbiting and tattling. I really hate this type of behavior and have promised myself I would not participate in this type of behavior. I have never gone to the boss to “tell” on a coworker; I have always worked any issues out with coworkers, because I myself would hate to be “told on” and get in trouble for something I didn’t even realize I did. The bosses have told us to work things out amongst ourselves anyway. Thankfully, I haven’t really had many problems over the 20 years I’ve been at this office.
Today, though, I saw a client from our office in the community. She had scathing complaints about her treatment at the front desk of our office. (Two people work at the front, the rest of us in the back.) She really was treated poorly, and I feel compelled to do something about her complaint, but I don’t want to tattle to the bosses. However if I go just to the front desk women, I feel like nothing will change except they will treat me badly. I can take it if they hate me, but I don’t want our practice to lose any more clients because of this treatment. I know it’s happened before because other former clients have told me. I really care about our clients and want them to stay. Bottom line, I don’t want to tell the bosses, but they would probably care to know that their practice is losing clients. What are the chances of the 2 front desk women changing the way they treat clients if I’m the only one to say something to them? One has been there for 15 years, and the other, 8 years.
Slim to none, I’d guess. If you want to do something about it, you’ve got to talk with someone with authority over them. And that’s not tattling (a concept that doesn’t really apply here anyway); it’s telling your boss pretty important information that was shared with you that affects the business. When they told you to work things out among yourselves, that presumably referred to interpersonal issues, not to major business priorities or customer concerns.
You noted yourself that your bosses would probably want to know that the practice is losing clients and why. And of course — what business owner wouldn’t? Go say something like this: “Several clients have complained to me recently about their treatment by the front desk staff. I don’t think I have the standing to handle this on my own, so I wanted to simply relay their feedback to you.”
2. Discrimination in hiring
My question is about the possible existence of discrimination (likely some of it subconscious) in hiring. I’m an African American male in my late 30′s with Bachelors of Science in MIS coupled with prestigious certifications (PMP, ITIL, Cisco, Microsoft, Apple etc.) and 19 years of IT experience, 15 of which have been at a managerial level. I’ve also been accepted to a decent school’s college of engineering graduate program, although I haven’t begun yet because it’s expensive to get a masters and I’m unsure of the return on that investment. That being said, I’ve been with the same mid-sized company for quite some time and recently begun to dip my toe into the idea of working somewhere else (maybe somewhere with a tuition reimbursement program). I have a outstanding employment history and educational background but I’ve been getting rejection letters stating basically that I’m not qualified to be an IT manager or IT project manager when that’s what I do.
I tend to be on the positive “can do” side of thinking, I’m smart, competent, and have a demeanor that makes my customers and employees feel at ease around me. Lately my confidence has been starting to waver though because of these rejection letters before an interview. I’m not one to typically racialize things but it’s hard not to think something is up when you have a “usually” African American name and on most online applications they ask you what your racial box is. I don’t want to sound like I think I’m owed a job, but I only apply to things that are genuinely in my wheelhouse and I think I would at least make it to the interview pool of candidates. When you read about these blind experiments that African Americans are 50% less likely to be called for an interview and you know you’re employable with a strong and clean background, and it happens over and over again, you really start to wonder. So, my question for you is: is there a conscious or subconscious devaluing that can take place when a African American male applies for a managerial positions – a tax so to speak? I realize this can be a complex or awkward question to ask.
Ugh, yes. You’ve got two tricky factors in play here: First, that racial bias does still existing in hiring, and second, that the job market sucks.
On the first one, research is very clear that racial bias still occurs in hiring. It’s more likely these days to be unconscious than conscious — which actually can make it harder to combat, since people who are convinced they’re unbiased can be resistant to reexamining their own preferences.
But you’ve also got to factor in the second point: Loads of great, well-qualified candidates get tons of those rejection letters, regardless of race or other possible areas of discrimination. It’s a reality of the job market — great people get rejected all the time. And I think you might be taking the wording of the letters too literally — they don’t really mean that you’re not qualified; they mean that they’re talking to other candidates who they’ve decided are more qualified. (And sometimes “more qualified” really means “we had 30 great candidates and only time to talk to five of them.”)
So what do you do with all that? What I’d focus on in your shoes would be first making sure that your application materials are as kick-ass as they can be (since most people’s are lackluster, statistically speaking there’s a good chance that yours could be stronger too) and then networking the hell out of your network. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and good luck.
3. My colleagues don’t want me rinsing my breast pump in the kitchen
I recently returned from maternity leave to my job at a law firm, and am breastfeeding, so I need to pump twice a day. So far, they have done a fabulous job of accommodating this. I’ve been provided an empty office with a couch right next to my shared office, and have been told it’s mine to use whenever I need, for as long as I need. Until a few days ago, my routine after pumping was to pack up everything is my discreet, purse-like pumping bag; walk two doors down to our kitchen nook to rinse my plastic pump attachments in the sink; wrap said attachments in a towel; and bring them back to my desk.
Well, several days ago, one of my bosses pulled me into her office and said she had received complaints about me rinsing out my attachments in the kitchen sink, and asked me to instead use the sink in the shower room at the opposite end of my floor. She assured me that I shouldn’t feel bad, but “some people are just really freaked out by breastfeeding.”
Now, part of me feels badly that I made anyone uncomfortable, but the other part of me is rolling my eyes and thinking they need to get over it. Admittedly, I’m very desensitized to all things nursing-related. In addition to this being the second baby I’ve breastfed, I have many girlfriends and family members who breastfeed as well, so I’m around it all the time. Therefore, if I saw a coworker rinsing out pump parts in the sink, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash (here is what the attachments look like, in case you’re unfamiliar). However, I can appreciate that nursing has only recently re-emerged as mainstream, and some of the older attorneys and secretaries I work with may not be used to it.
What do you and your readers think? I don’t plan on pushing back on this, since the only real hardship it’s causing is an extra long walk to the other sink. I’d just be interested in your thoughts, and am very open to perspectives that differ from mine.
Lame, lame, lame. Lame of the people who complained, and even more lame of your boss to pass their complaints along to you rather than telling them that the company supports nursing moms and to get over it.
4. Can I ask for relocation assistance if I’ve already relocated?
I recently (one month ago) relocated to a large city in an effort to secure a job. I have an interview scheduled this week, and the job posting for this position indicates that relocation assistance is offered to the right candidate.
Can I/should I still ask for relo assistance even though I have already relocated? I am living temporarily with my brother until I can get a job and find a home. Wondering if I can ask for assistance to move closer to the job site since this is still a long commute from my brother’s house.
Generally no, relocation assistance isn’t retroactive. It’s provided to make it possible for you to move to accept a job. Since you’ve already made your move, it wouldn’t normally come into play.
Asking to use it to shorten an otherwise long commute could be reasonable, depending on how long of a commute we’re talking about. But it sounds like you’re planning to move out of your brother’s house regardless, once you have a job, so I’m not sure there’s an argument for relocation help here that is going to make sense to an employer.
5. Are these bad signs?
Generally, if the hiring manager does not ask for your references or does not give you a business card or does not return your thank-you email, are these all bad signs?
Nope, these are normal things that don’t mean anything either way. Some employers don’t check references at all, or reach out later in the process for them. Some people don’t even have business cards anymore, or don’t use them much. And thank-you’s aren’t typically meant to be replied to. So there’s nothing here to read into — and you will be much happier if you put this job out of your mind and move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they contact you.
how to handle customer complaints about coworkers, discrimination in hiring, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.