Inc.com columnist Alison Greene answers questions about workplace and management issues How to Deal with a Micromanaging Boss how to talk to someone on your team about body odor,
Here are answers to four questions from readers.
1. A fired employee shows up at our office party
I had to fire someone two weeks ago for serious time and attendance issues. (It’s shift work, so punctuality is really necessary, and this person was regularly 30+ minutes late, even after many warnings and opportunities for improvement.) With generosity, I agreed that we were unemployed. Wouldn’t counter, and I even trained the employee how to discuss their firing in future interviews. I gave them my personal contact information and told them I was willing to give a neutral reference, as my goal is certainly not to stop them from getting the job.
Cut to our recent office party, and our HR manager pulled me aside to let me know that this former employee is here! Just had a drink, sat down with my former coworkers, and decided to join in on the fun. Eventually we realized it might be even harder if we told them to leave, so we didn’t say anything but kept an eye on them. At one point (which I found out only after the fact), he pulled the COO aside and asked him to reconsider the decision to fire, which in the least was not the decision of the COO. Also, the fired employee was not a big scene, but went on to “say goodbye” to others on the staff, who certainly came with a mention that they were fired.
I think we handled it quite well, but I’d like to know what you might have done in the same situation. It had the potential to be frightening, and I’m glad it wasn’t worse. I’m not really comfortable with giving a neutral reference anymore, as it seems so far out of professional norms. is he short? Should I reach out to them and ask what they were thinking, or just let it go?
You were right to guess that it would cause more drama if you asked the person to leave, and they have a right to keep an eye on them to make sure they didn’t do anything disruptive. If they had started making any kind of scene, then you would have to intervene at that point of time, but it looks like it was weird but not too bad.
Also, is it possible that this employee misunderstood the terms of his dismissal? You end up feeling like he was out of line to show up at the party because you terminated him for serious appearance issues, and he should know that’s a big deal. But when you agreed to let her file for unemployment benefits and said you’d make a reference, it likely softened the situation to the point that she didn’t realize she had entered into a bridge with the company. was burnt. Not that you were wrong to offer those things, but it might explain why he didn’t find it awkward to show up at the party.
In any case, I can understand why you now feel uncomfortable giving a reference – you’ve just seen him do something that displays very poor judgment. That said, this isn’t a situation where you were prepared to give a positive reference and now it doesn’t seem like you can – you were already planning on giving a neutral reference, and I don’t think it should. needs to be changed.
2. My coworker keeps whispering to me
I work with an old whisper. I work in a medium sized office which is partially open plan with the division of different departments. My colleague, with whom I share a section, communicates to me almost exclusively by whispering. Originally she was whispering while discussing work-related matters that she didn’t want anyone else to hear, but now she whispers whatever I say.
It wouldn’t be a problem to step into a meeting room for private, work-related conversations, so the whispering is really unnecessary, and I often have a hard time hearing him. I’ve even caught myself in a whisper replying to him swiftly.
How do I access this and ask him to speak at a normal volume? And ironically, I’m worried about others in the office hearing this conversation!
Uh, whispers! I hate it. And it actually gets more attention from the people around you than if you were talking in general. People are used to the conversation in an office and can usually tune it out, but the whispers stand out in their ears.
Since you have trouble hearing her when she whispers, you can run with her. The next time he starts whispering, say, “Sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you when you whisper. Do you want to go to the meeting room?” Then stick to it; From now on, you can’t clearly hear her when she whispers.
The other option is just to be clear: “I find whispering awkward — it might actually be more distracting to people than if we were talking in general, and I’m worried that people will think we’re hiding something. Do we just speak in a normal tone or duck in the living room?” (Next time you’re in the meeting room together you can say this so you have some privacy when saying it.) But this approach requires him to agree with you, whereas the first approach is making him do whatever. forces him to change. And thus there is an advantage.
3. Can I use the quiz to train people?
I manage a small part time workforce. We are constantly updating the services we provide to the public and adding new resources that my employees need to be able to talk to with at least a beginner level proficiency. I am confident in my knowledge of what we have to offer, but I also believe that I am on the clock far more often than my employees. I am trying to come up with a way to encourage them to stay up to date on our policies and services.
Is it condescending to use a quiz? I do not aim to use these as a formal assessment; Instead, I want them to be more confident in their knowledge of the policies/services, or at least get into the habit of looking up the policy in the handbook. I’ve never managed an employee before, and I don’t want to treat my employees like they’re kids, but I find myself answering too many simple questions for them.
I don’t think quizzes are inherently condescending, although they certainly can be done condescendingly, so you need to be careful about implementation. But if you make fun of them—and possibly do it out loud to them as a group—it might be okay. Also if you do them as a group, it can be interactive and you can talk about the answers as a group and people can learn from each other. But frame it as “this is an experiment and I’d like to see how it goes” and get feedback from people later (and be open to hearing that it didn’t work for them).
4. Talking to Candidates at Career Fairs
I recently attended a career fair at a university representing my company. It was mostly a fun experience, but I learned that there were two very different groups of people at the career fair.
The first group was great. They knew what our company was about and introduced themselves and told us about their experiences and education. The other group was… not so good. They would come to our booth and say something like “So… what can you do for me?” We’ll tell them about our company and our various departments and roles and then it will turn out that they are in a completely unrelated field! After some time, we’ll start by asking them what they were taking and try to formulate what we told them based on that. How would you treat another group of people?
It is helpful to have a short field (such as two to four sentences) that you can give about your company and the types of jobs you are recruiting for. It sounds like you were doing a very long version of this, but it’s okay to shorten it. After your brief explanation, you can say, “What field are you in and what type of work are you looking for?” And then it’s their turn. That way neither of you is investing too much time if you are each looking for something completely different.
And if someone “what can you do for me?” approach, don’t feel like you have to jump in to find out what the answer might be. They’re not putting their best foot forward out there, and you’re not obligated to get it done.
Want to submit a question of yours? send it [email protected],