It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule
One of my direct reports, Jane, told me that she recently made the decision to go back to school and get a business degree. I was really excited for her. Then she told me that based on the classes that she signed up for and the campus that she decided on (45 minutes away), she needed me to change her schedule to an hour and half earlier. My heart sank. Being a call center, we have pretty set schedules to maintain coverage and the shifts are based on seniority. Not only do we not have a slot on an earlier schedule, but she doesn’t have the seniority to be moved to an earlier slot if one were to open.
I mentioned this to Jane, and she got upset, stating that we’ve made accommodations for others, so why not for her. This isn’t entirely true. It’s true that other departments have made accommodations for school schedules, but these are for non-phone based employees outside of the call center. Also, the one employee who works closely with our department (but is not a call center employee) who they’ve made serious accommodations for is an outstanding performer. Jane is mediocre at best.
I feel a little bit conflicted. There is the side of me that understands the importance of a degree and how frustrating it is to try to overcome the obstacles in the way of a degree. This part of me wants to give her a high five for her initiative and do whatever I can to help. Then there is the manager side of me that thinks that there’s no way that I can make these accommodations while being fair to the rest of the department. I’d have to create a spot on the earlier shift and move her schedule ahead of three people with more seniority (and who are all better performers). This part of me wants to ask why anyone would sign up for classes without checking to see if their work schedule could be moved, or why someone would decide to take classes 45 minutes away when there is literally a college across the street from our building (don’t worry – I won’t actually ask her this, as I realize it’s none of my business).
You can support Jane in going back to school, while also holding firm that you can’t disadvantage other, better coworkers to accommodate her. Just be straightforward about the situation. For example: “I think it’s great that you’re going back to school, but I’m not able to change your schedule. I don’t have a spot on the earlier shift, and if one opened up, we have three people with more seniority who would be in line for it first. I can’t change the promises we’ve made to them. You’re right that other teams have made accommodations for school schedules, but those are employees outside the call center. Our schedules are more rigid here, and we can’t do that. I understand that that means that you may not be able to stay on here.”
And then hold firm. You absolutely shouldn’t be breaking your own rules and disadvantage others in order to keep on someone you describe as “mediocre at best.”
2. My boss is intense BFFs with my coworker
I work for a very large Fortune 500 company. There is an HR policy in place regarding conflicts of interest for family members and opposite-sex relationships. However, there is not a policy regarding same-sex friendships.
In my department, my manager and coworker have a very intense personal relationship (non-sexual). They work out together during the week and on weekends, they attend all sorts of sporting events, they dine together, they take expensive vacations together (spas/vacations out of the country – one of which was financed by my manager), they text, they are in each other’s offices all day, they take selfies and post them on Facebook, and they share clothing. It is a very close friendship.
As a result, the coworker has a LOT of power in our group. She has unlimited access to our boss, and she is able to direct her own narrative. Our boss maintains that she can be objective. I disagree. There have been a number of instances where this coworker’s behavior was excused instead of addressed. She can act, essentially, with impunity. My bosses’ boss knows about this friendship, and either hasn’t or won’t address it. It could be that I have been existing in this dysfunctional environment for too long, but I’m starting to think that maybe I am wrong. Is this a conflict or am I off base?
No, it’s a huge conflict! You don’t have to be having sex with someone to have inappropriate biased in their favor or to be perceived as having inappropriate bias in their favor.
Occasionally working out together or dining together? Not a big deal on its own. But hanging out on weekends, vacationing together (!), sharing clothing (!), and all the rest? A huge deal. A huge, massive, ridiculous, complete abdication of your manager’s job. She’s far, far over the line of what’s appropriate. No one looking at that would believe that she can be unbiased or objective about your coworker, which means that she’s not able to do her job.
As for what to do … if her boss knows and won’t address it (huge failure on her part too), there might not be much you can do. You could talk to your boss or her boss and explain how the dynamic is impacting your department, but I’m skeptical that the friendship would actually get dialed back to an appropriate level (i.e., about 5% of where it is currently) without a serious mandate from someone above her who truly sees why this is completely not okay.
3. When a good employee resigns
I’m a new manager, and one of my strongest employees has decided to resign. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, so I’ve tried to be respectful and supportive while she makes her exit. Having never gone through this process before, it made me wonder if there’s something I can be doing to help give closure? Besides having her walk me through her job list and files, is it weird to have a one-on-one exit interview with her? I know that’s something HR will be doing, but is it normal practice for managers to give one as well? I meet with all my employees regularly, so I have a good sense of how she feels about this position and job, but I wonder if she would like the opportunity to give feedback, which could help determine how I train/direct the new employee filling her old position?
It would be weird to ask her to do a second formal exit interview with you, but not weird at all to talk informally with her and ask if there’s anything you could have done differently to keep her, what feedback she might want to share that would help you manage better or the department run better; and what advice she has on acclimating her replacement.
4. Is it inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women at work?
I was recently in a meeting with someone who claimed that it’s inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women in the workplace because “it could be seen as sexual harassment.” For the full effect, please imagine the speaker leaning forward and saying it an extremely serious tone, wide-eyed, followed by “I bet you didn’t know that, did you?” I tried to gently disagree, but she was very, VERY sure that This Is A Thing.
My first instinct is that this is total hogwash, perhaps even a boogeyman made up by people who don’t like the fact that it’s no longer okay to sexually harass your coworkers? However, I’m in academia, so I’m fairly disconnected from the corporate environment, and really, anything is possible. This is definitely Not A Thing, right?
P.S. She teaches this to students. It was all I could do to not yell THIS IS NOT A THING in the middle of the meeting!
What?! No, this is not a thing. In fact, it’s horribly sexist and old-fashioned and doesn’t belong in the workplace. No one in the workplace should be treating colleagues differently based on their sex, and it’s gross that she’s teaching students that they’re supposed to. Please intervene, for the principle of it and for the good of her students.
5. Interviewing with a prominent scar
I broke my wrist pretty badly a few months ago, and wound up needing surgery to get some plates put in. Everything internally is healing up fine, but the scar that was left behind is pretty prominent. Hopefully this will get better with time, but at the moment, the location and size of my scar make it look like I tried to kill myself. It’s red and angry looking enough that unless I try very hard to hide it, it’s pretty visible (even in long sleeves). In my day-to-day life, when I meet new people, I show off my “badass scar from playing sports” and that seems to ease people’s discomfort.
The problem is, I am also searching for a new job. I know first impressions count, and this scar could count against me for being a “mental health risk.” How do I bring this up with people? It feels a bit overly defensive to say “my scar looks like I tried to kill myself but really I was just playing sports,” and flashing my scar to show off how badass I am is obviously also out of the question.
I think you’re over-thinking it! Assuming it’s going to be visible when you’re shaking hands, just say, “Excuse the scar — I’m healing from a soccer injury” (or whatever). People aren’t likely to think anything of it.
boss and coworker are intense BFFs, mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.