Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues–everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.
1. Candidates who say they’re open to relocation … but really aren’t
I’m hiring for my small company. We have found a candidate for one of our teams who would be perfect. The role is based in New York and our candidate lives in LA. Before initiating the interview process, I asked my candidate if she would be open to relocating. We prefer to start employees in our office full-time, but once we become confident in the quality of their work allow them to work from home some of the time. The majority of our team comes into the office and we’re not interested in hiring full-time remote from the beginning of employment. At the beginning of our process, my candidate said she was looking and willing to relocate.
Fast forward to give her an offer, and she has asked that this position be remote from the get-go. I’m disappointed in this turn of events and feel that I was misled. The fact that she is going back on her word does make me question her integrity. What is the best way to proceed here?
I wouldn’t look at this as an integrity issue. It’s possible that she genuinely was open to relocating at the start of the process but has since realized that it’s not something she wants to do. Or she may still be open to relocating but would prefer to be remote and is just asking if that’s a possibility.
If you don’t want to hire someone who’s remote from the start, just explain that that’s not possible but I wouldn’t hold it against her that she asked.
2. My employee alienated a coworker with her opinions about his personal tragedy
I’m wondering when a manager should get involved in a personal dispute between two employees that has nothing to do with work.
“Rob” is the relative of someone who was murdered. He changed after it. He lives alone, doesn’t celebrate holidays, and wants to go through the motions and be left alone. He has been vocal in his personal (not work) life about there being no justice for victims. “Jane” is a newer employee. I don’t know how she found out about Rob’s family because he doesn’t talk about it at work, but she thinks he needs to forgive the perpetrator and fight for prisoner rights to fix the prison system, and she told him this a few times. Rob now avoids Jane as much as possible. Other employees are enabling Rob by dealing with Jane on his behalf.
My conundrum is that all the work is getting done, Rob has not been hostile to Jane and he just avoids her, and no one has complained or brought forward concerns about any of it. As a manager, should I be dealing with Rob’s situation or should I leave this alone because it is a personal conflict?
Wow, Jane was way over the line here.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that personal conflicts are off-limits to you as a manager. If they impact your employees’ work, work environment, or overall satisfaction at work, you can get involved.
If you haven’t already, you should tell Jane clearly and sternly that her comments to Rob were unacceptable and that in the future she needs to stay out of other people’s highly sensitive personal situations. You should also let Rob know that you’ve done that, and that you’re sorry he was subjected to her comments.
I don’t know how big a deal it is that other people have to deal with Jane on his behalf, and that’s very relevant here. If it’s not very frequent and if it’s not disrupting other people’s work, let this go for a while so that Rob can get some space from her. Even if it is frequent, if you can change the workflow to keep them apart without compromising what you need each of them to be producing (and without overloading anyone else), that might be the smartest path. If that’s not possible, then at some point you’ll need to talk to Rob and find out what he’ll need to be able to work with Jane again. But if you can give him the grace of some space from her now, that would be a kindness.
3. A client is trying to rope me into a multi-level-marketing scheme
I recently took a new job as a sales rep, inherited several accounts, and have been going around introducing myself. At one account, I met with the woman who is the buyer and owns the business. We had a great meeting but at the end she mentioned a side hustle. Of course I asked about it and then I got a 15-minute hard pitch on a multi-level marketing scheme. Not just on buying products from her but also pushing me to join her downline and sit in on an “informative” call this weekend. I begged off as much as possible without actually saying no. This is a client who I could potentially sell quite a bit of product to. I’m feeling resentful that she’s put me in this position in the first place but I don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. How do I navigate this?
“Thanks, but it’s not for me!” Repeat as necessary. Truly, that’s it. Multi-level-marketing schemes rely on people caving under the pressure or agreeing to listen to a spiel just to be polite. Stick to a firm “nope” and she’ll likely drop it over time. Being direct like that is actually better than the hinting it sounds like you were doing. These schemes train people to ignore or overcome hints; a direct no will actually save you both time and trouble.
And as long as you’re cheerful and polite about it, it shouldn’t jeopardize the relationship — but if it does, then that means the price of keeping this relationship is becoming involved in a multi-level marketing scheme, and that’s almost certainly an unreasonable price.
4. Can I take back an introduction?
I have a colleague who I’ve worked with for about a year. She told me she was job searching and what geographical areas she was looking at. I happen to know someone at an institution she was targeting so I offered to recommend her there. I did, and my contact wrote back a very friendly email saying nice things and that he was happy to answer any questions she had.
It’s now a few weeks later and I’m concerned I made a mistake. He wrote in his email that I clearly think highly of her, but I don’t think highly of her anymore. This employee has really, really checked out and I’ve seen a significant decrease in her productivity and dedication to her job since I sent the email, and lack of follow-through on two things we collaborate on.
I want to take back my introduction! I am concerned that any connection with someone whose work quality goes downhill so quickly is bad for my name. Can I or should I write back to my friend and say something?
Yeah, you do put your own reputation on the line when youhttps://www.inc.com/alison-green/a-terrible-employee-asked-me-for-a-reference.htmlrecommend someone.
You could send a discreet email to your contact saying something like, “Between you and me, due to some developments here in the last few weeks, I no longer feel comfortable recommending Paula for a job. If you’re seriously considering her at any point, I can give you more information, but for now just wanted to clarify that she’s not someone I can vouch for.”
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