It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. How to deal with a hostile interviewer
I recently had a terrible experience with a phone interview in which the interviewer began with a tone of voice that was irritated and sarcatic, which escalated over the course of 30 minutes into openly aggressive and loud, bordering on bullying and browbeating. I tried my best to keep calm and politely answer everything but by the end, my voice was shaking (and so was I). It was shocking and extremely upsetting to endure but I was a loss as to what to do. I was afraid that if I said anything, even politely, he might use it as an excuse to blackball me from the company and possibly parts of the industry I work in. There was no one else on the line so there would be no “proof” either way and he’s at a more influential position than me.
Is there a way to gracefully disengage from a situation like this? Or salvage it somehow? I assume that by the time it gets this bad, one or both parties have decided it’s not the right fit anyway so losing the job isn’t a problem. I just don’t want to be trapped being someone’s verbal punching bag for as long as they see fit to keep me there. But is possibly being blackballed the price I have to pay?
Yes, it’s possible that he could keep you from ever getting hired in that company. It’s less likely that he’d be inclined or able to blackball you from your industry, particularly if you just politely disengaged. That means not saying, “You’re being very rude, so I’m ending this call” (even though that might be entirely justified), but instead saying something like, “You know, as we’re talking, I’m getting the sense that the fit here wouldn’t be right. I appreciate your time, and best of luck filling the position.”
Of course, if you want to, you could take it further than that. I’d probably say, “I have to be honest, your tone is really throwing me here. I don’t think we’d work together well, so I don’t think it makes sense to continue talking.” But that’s more confrontational, so if you want to minimize any risk, I’d go with the first option.
2. I’m southern, and my boss asked me not to say “y’all” to customers
I started my current job in NYC about 6 months ago. It is my first time leaving my hometown, a small southern town. There have been so many adjustments that I’ve made, but I’ve always held great pride in being a southern belle, and have tried my best to maintain that. I’ve always found the way southerners speak to be comforting, but I’m guessing my boss does not feel that way.
We are a small, multi-cultural office. Many of my coworkers, including my boss, are from different countries, and have different speaking styles. I am the only one from the south, though. My boss sat our staff down for a meeting tonight and handed out instructions for customer service, which included this note: “How y’all doing today?” is not a good way to start a conversation. I feel singled out in front of my peers and offended. I don’t know if it’s worth it to bring it up, or how to tell her.
Eh, I’d let it go. Your boss isn’t completely crazy in finding that a less formal conversational opener — it is less formal, and it’s her call if she wants you to take a different tone with customers. That said, I do think she’s wildly off-base in thinking customers won’t like it. Many of us love southern-isms like that and find them warm and charming. (And, I suppose, some people don’t … which might be why she wants to take a more conservative approach, although it’s really awfully micromanagey.) In any case, she’s overreacting, but it’s her call.
As for raising it to the whole group and not you individually, yeah, that’s not ideal either. But I think there’s more to lose than gain here by going back to her about it.
3. Should a departing employee screen candidates for her replacement?
Our HR director is leaving the company, and the CFO has asked her to screen candidates for her replacement. I have some serious concerns about this because 1) she has completely checked out mentally, and is no longer invested in the well-being of our company and 2) she has never really added much value to the organization. She’s notorious for being a bad judge of character, and writes people off quickly (not great traits for an HR director).
Am I wrong for thinking this is a bad idea? The CFO is new also and isn’t aware of her reputation but even so, why would you want an employee who no longer cares about the organization to be part of this process?
It could be a bad idea because this particular person is checked out (depending on how that’s manifesting), but it’s not inherently a bad idea to have the departing person involved in the hiring for her replacement. In many jobs, it’s pretty common. You’d want to have others involved at some point (if for no other reason than that candidates will want to talk to the person they’ll be working for), but there’s nothing wrong with structuring it like this at the early stages, as long as she’s not making the final decision.
4. Handling PTO on days when the office closes for weather
Two employees were already approved and scheduled to be out on PTO on March 3. Due to weather conditions, at 8:30 am we decided to close the office for the entire day. The 2 employees are requesting the PTO to be credited back. Additionally, several decided to come in and work and are now asking if they will get credit for time worked. Help please!
Whether to credit back the PTO to the two employees who were out that day is up to your company’s own policy. Some companies would credit it back (on the theory that the office ended up closing that day anyway) and some wouldn’t (on the theory that they were able to make alternate plans for that day, and it’s ultimately irrelevant that the office ended up closing). Personally, I favor not making people use the PTO in this situation, since it doesn’t really cost the company anything to be nice here and it’s good for morale. But the main thing is to pick a policy and be consistent about it.
But as for the people who came in and worked that day, absolutely they should get paid for that time. If they’re non-exempt, you don’t have a choice anyway; the law requires it. If they’re exempt, they’re being paid anyway, so I’m assuming the question would be whether they could get something like comp time. It’s a nice gesture, if you don’t want to lower morale (and, on future snow days, productivity).
5. The CEO asked me to work on a project I can’t tell my manager about
The CEO of my company has asked me to complete a project that he wants to keep “just between us.” It’s nothing untoward–but could be culturally sensitive within the company and mean changes to peoples’ jobs, etc. I am many levels below C-level, but the only person here who can do this particular kind of project. Normally — no big deal. I have done these kinds of projects before. I get them done and report back to the CEO, usually in one afternoon. But this project is much more extensive and will require a real time commitment, and I’m under a fair amount of pressure to complete some other time-sensitive projects right now. (I’m not sure the CEO realized this when he asked me to complete the project. In truth, I didn’t realize what a time commitment this secret project would be, or I would have mentioned something to the CEO when he asked me to do it.)
So the problem is this: I have no poker face. What the heck am I supposed to tell my manager I am doing while I’m working on this project? Or if other projects I have been assigned aren’t done as quickly because my time is being split with this second, “secret” project? My manager is not really the type to micromanage (thankfully!), so it is possible it won’t come up or he won’t notice, but if he asks me directly what I’m working on I am a little afraid I’ll blush or look sheepish or something awful that will reflect poorly on me. I’m not as worried that I will spill the beans about the project, but more like I’ll look like I am shirking my assigned work. I am a terrible liar. Is there an easy way to deflect attention from this project while managing the expectations of both my manager and the CEO?
Go back to the CEO and explain the situation. Say something like this: “This will take me about X days/hours to complete, and I’m realizing that it’s going to cause some awkwardness with Jane, who wants me doing other work during that time. Could you mention something to her so that she realizes I’m working on a project for you — and ideally heads off any questions about it that I shouldn’t answer?”