It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My employee strategically left out coworkers from his holiday party and generally behaves like a jerk
I am the owner, founder, and managing partner of a small law firm. We employ 15 people. Of those 15, we have four leaders. Three of those leaders are “senior associates” or “junior partner”-level lawyers and one is a non-lawyer accounting/billing manager.
Recently, one of the four leaders, a lawyer, held a Christmas party at his house, and invited everyone in the firm except the three other leaders and me. This lawyer is known to be very cliquish, and he and his team are prone to complaining and whining that they aren’t treated as well as others, when in fact they are given the best cases and lavished with the best perks and benefits. They also are known to be less than kind or respectful to the women in our firm, but not to the degree that anyone has complained to me about it with a desire that I do something. The decision to exclude the other three leaders, all of whom are women, has hurt their feelings and caused acrimony amongst the other teams because the invited kept their leaders in the dark about the party or even lied about it. The decision to exclude me is problematic as it signifies to me an open hostility or a potential threat to my business. Also, I fear that this is somewhat of a snub/sign of disrespect that I cannot ignore since everyone knows about it.
I admit that I am personally hurt since I have taken great pains to include this lawyer in my personal, family life, and to give this person significant professional attention in an effort to promote and help him, but this is less concerning than the drama this has caused in my business and professional life. I was planning on giving all four leaders significant raises, official promotion to the title of partner (for the lawyers), and large bonuses. So, I feel that I can (A) do nothing, nothing at all; (B) do nothing but remain vigilant that this person may be planning to leave and perhaps hurt the company, while pulling back on including him in personal and professional events, matters, and opportunities; (C) inquire of this person whether he intended to send a message of hostility and indicate that I have taken it as such and require an explanation and resolution plan; or (D) go ahead and fire this person since we all know that this level of unhappiness and acting out means we either have an office cancer on our hands (which I have never seen cured in over 20 years of practice) or an active threat where a lawyer is scheming/plotting to poach business and go to a competitor.
Well, first, as the owner and managing partner of the firm, you need to address the fact that you have a manager on your team who is disrespectful to women — and you need to address that even though no one has made a formal complaint to you about it. You’re obligated to do that, and it could cause you real problems if you don’t — in morale, productivity, and even potentially legal action at some point if he’s discriminatory or creating a hostile workplace.
Second, stop including employees in your personal or family life. They don’t belong there, and it will muddy the boundaries and make it harder for you to act on stuff like this when you need to.
Third, you have a manager on your staff who’s known to be cliquish, whose “complains and whines” and encourages a similar attitude in his team, who treats women worse than men, and who appears to be acting in a hostile, adversarial way to you (his boss!) and others. None of that is acceptable, not remotely. This isn’t about who was or wasn’t invited to a Christmas party. It’s about needing to address serious performance and behavioral issues with him ASAP and either see immediate improvement or move him out. (Or, if things are at the point where you don’t think fixing it is possible, then you need to have that conversation instead.)
Drop the focus on the party, and start focusing on managing this guy.
2. My boss plays guessing games with me about my bonus
Every year, in October, my boss tells me to “start thinking about what kind of bonus you think you deserve this year.” For the next three months, he reminds me, constantly, of the year-end bonus coming up. Like he’s dangling a carrot in front of an donkey, or like I’m supposed to treat him like a God for the next three months in “anticipation” of a bonus! It causes additional stress that I really don’t need at the end of the year when I’m already gearing up for year end taxes, W-2’s, 1099’s, etc.
If I give him a figure that he thinks is too high, he scoffs and makes me feel like I think to highly of myself. I don’t want to lowball myself either. Is there a “rule of thumb”, i.e. one month’s salary, 5% of gross wages, etc., something like that to give me an idea to throw out at him this year? Tired of playing this song and dance for three months of every year.
Bonuses vary widely by firm and by industry — from zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you do and where you work. There might be a rule of thumb for your industry, and you could do some research to find that out. But you probably have a pretty good sense of the parameters based on what you’ve received in past years, and that should give you a general range of what’s reasonable to expect. You could also couch it in those terms, while simultaneously acknowledging that you’re in the dark — e.g., “I had a stronger year that last year, so I’m hoping for something at least as high as last year’s, but I also don’t know what parameters you use.”
But also: Your boss is behaving like an ass. He shouldn’t be playing guessing games with you.
3. How can I keep my director from giving out wrong information?
Our director often has to speak to groups, whether it’s making announcements at a department meeting or saying thanks at a department event. As his assistant, I will often write up for him short bullets of things that need to be announced, people who need to be thanked, etc. I will sometimes remind him in person before an event or meeting as well. Yet he is constantly forgetting to say things, announcing wrong information, saying the wrong people’s names, etc.
Often it can slide in a “you know what he meant” kind of way, but in some instances where he’s just told our whole department the completely wrong information, I find myself having to go up and murmur the correct information to him so he can announce it, which doesn’t make either of us look good. Do you have any other suggestions for prepping him so he doesn’t embarrass himself?
Well, this might just be the way he is. Some people are highly skilled in some areas and then absolute crap at stuff like this (think of absent-minded professor types, for instance). That said, one other thing you could try is handing him note cards with bullet points just before he’s about to speak. You could also ask him directly if there’s a better way for you to support him in this area — you might hear something you wouldn’t think of on your own.
But you sound like you’re being conscientious about your part of this, and the rest might be out of your hands.
4. Dealing with two recruiters at the same company and not hearing back from either
My mentor put in an employee referral for me with a global corporation. I had a phone screen with their in-house recruiter for a job I applied for and she said the hiring manager would make a decision about in-person interviews the next week. I emailed at the end of the week and asked if a decision had been made and if there was an update. A week later, I haven’t heard back.
Meanwhile, another recruiter for the same company contacted me, saying my resume was referred to her for a position (which I didn’t apply for) and we also had a phone screen. She mentioned that the position may not be offered at the office nearest to me but said that she’d find out at the end of the week. She said I could contact her if I was interested in another position within the company and I mentioned one I’d seen online, so she wrote that down and let me know she’d also find out about that when she contacted me at the end of the week. A day later, I emailed her and mentioned that I noticed the position in the office was being listed for other departments and asked if those were also on hold. It’s been a week since I emailed both recruiters and I haven’t heard back.
If they both told me they’d get to me or that a decision would be made by a certain time, should I take the silence as an indication I’m out of the running? And if both emails to the recruiters ended with questions that haven’t been unanswered, should I email them again or should I be patient and wait for them to respond? I’m worried it’s bad etiquette and I’m pestering them. I’m not sure if the recruiters know each other – it’s a huge corporation and they are in different states.
Yeah, recruiters are notorious for making promises about follow-up that they don’t follow through on — and for not responding to candidates’ emails until/unless they’re ready to move that person forward in a hiring process. It’s rude, but it’s very, very normal. I think you could email each of them one more time, a couple of weeks after your last outreach — but after that I’d move on.
5. Should I mention an earlier interview I had with an employer?
I applied and interviewed at an organization about a month ago. The interview went great and I felt confident, but it was competitive and I did not receive the position.
Recently a new position at the same organization was posted that I’d like to apply for. This position is through a different department from the one I interviewed with. I’m wondering how I can best use my previous interview as I apply for this one. Is it beneficial to mention my interview in my CV? Can I email the woman I interviewed with before to ask who to address this CV to, or is that not kosher?
I’d apply according to their application instructions, but after you apply, send an email to the person you interviewed with previously and let her know that you’ve applied. There’s no real benefit to doing anything beyond that. If she thinks you were a strong candidate, she’ll mention it to the person hiring for this new position.
managing a jerk, my director gives out wrong info, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.