It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Employee’s boyfriend doesn’t want her to be contacted by our manager
I am the owner of a small business specializing in bridal hair and makeup services. My husband is a partial owner, and is a W2 employee. He is an assistant manager and covers shifts while our main manager is off. Part of his job as a manager is to contact our team members with important information. Recently, he contacted a team member to let her know of a staffing change that would affect her event the following day. He left a voicemail stating that he would send over additional information via email, and would follow up the next morning with the room number where she could find her client. This is part of a weekly routine, and all members of our team receive this information from him when he is the manager on duty.
Yesterday I received a text message from the boyfriend of that team member, sent from her cell phone, asking me to not have my husband (the assistant manager) contact the employee and that it is inappropriate. I then received a text message from the employee asking for the assistant manager’s personal cell phone number so she could ease her boyfriend’s mind and text him directly to tell him not to contact her. I have not responded. Finally, I received a text from our main manager, stating that the same employee requested the assistant manager’s cell phone number from her as well. She also did not respond.
What do I do? We are a mom and pop — we don’t have a huge staff, and my husband’s involvement in our business not only has never been an issue, but is imperative to the way that our business runs! This is not the first time we have had an issue with this employee’s boyfriend. I also received a very intense, borderline aggressive email from him last year when he felt she was working too much and not spending enough time with him. I know the relationship at home is abusive, and I know my boundaries in regards to communicating with her about that. I have never had to deal with a significant other becoming involved in our workplace before and I am concerned for my other employees and how he could escalate.
Ooof. Don’t engage with the boyfriend at all. Instead, ask to talk with the employee herself in person next time you’re both working at the same time. When you meet, say something like this: “Part of Fergus’s job as assistant manager is to communicate with staff members about scheduling changes and other business-related items. Is there some specific reason why you don’t want to hear from him?” You’re asking this so that she has a chance to tell you if there’s something you don’t realize about the situation. It sounds like her boyfriend just doesn’t want her being contacted by male coworkers, but who knows, maybe there’s something going on specific to your husband that you need to hear about. If she had a troubling encounter with him, you’d want to know that that’s what’s going on here.
But if it’s just that her boyfriend doesn’t want dudes texting her, then say this: “I can’t assign work tasks based on gender, and part of the assistant manager job is contact employees with work-related information. That’s not something we can change. If you’d rather that we contact you in some other way than texting you, we can probably do that. Just let me know if so. But I can’t take Fergus out of the loop entirely.”
You might also post information about domestic violence hotlines and shelters in places where people can see it privately, like it office bathrooms. And read this, and this excellent comment from the same person.
2. Can I refuse to go on a work trip because of my anxiety about traveling?
I’m due to go on a work-related trip to London soon. I’m already an anxious traveller (and in general – I take medication, but work doesn’t know about this), but the recent terrorist attacks – now three in three months – have left me terribly worried about going. I know that the chances of being caught up in anything are very low, but I really wish I could get out of the trip. To make things worse, I recently witnessed a suicide that happened in public. It wasn’t anyone I knew, and I just happened to be in the same place, but it was still very shocking and traumatic, so my anxiety is even worse than usual at the moment.
The trip was for me to meet members of our team that work in the London office and for some additional training in my role, although it would technically be possible for me to have that training in my home office. I’m reluctant to ask about not taking the trip in case it reflects badly on me, and I’d rather not bring up the anxiety issue as I’m worried they’ll think I’m being dishonest because I haven’t mentioned it before.
Am I being ridiculous and should I just get on with it as best as I can and hope the trip goes okay, or is this a legitimate concern/request? With anxiety, it’s so hard to know when I’m being unreasonable, so I tend to err on the side of thinking that I’m probably being overly dramatic, but I still can’t shake the worry. I’d really appreciate your thoughts.
I could tell you to go on the trip, but that’s not really going to help you … nor would it be all that reasonable of me to think I could make that calculation for you. I mean, yes, it will probably be fine! But with any kind of travel — with any kind of anything — there’s always a small amount of risk that it won’t be. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with.
But I do think that you could say something to your boss, especially since it sounds like this trip isn’t essential. You could say, “I’m feeling really anxious about going to London right now and haven’t been able to talk myself out of that feeling. Would it be okay for me to do the training from here instead?”
If you decide that you’d like to mention that this is against a backdrop of you already struggling with travel anxiety, they’re not likely to think you’re lying just because you’ve never mentioned it before. You could explain that you’ve been able to manage it in the past, but this time is more of a challenge. (That said, if your job involves regular travel, it may be better not to mention the overall anxiety.)
3. Should I like/share articles from a company I am interviewing with?
I am wondering what the proper etiquette for sharing social media posts by a company you are hoping to work for. I recently finished my graduate degree, and a boutique consulting firm that I worked with on a project for one of my courses asked me to contact them after graduation, as they are looking to expand in the near future. We’ve met a few times in the past month and things seem to be going well, and their new program directly relates to my degree. But I also understand as well as things are going, there’s no guarantee I will get a job offer.
Every few days they post an article written by one of their consultants. Some of them I really like and if it were any other company, I would like and share the article. I am hesitant to do this though, as I don’t want to come off as pushy or that I am expecting them to offer me a job. They are a small firm and don’t have a lot of followers, so it would be noticed if I started sharing these articles. Am I right to hold off or would it be acceptable to like/share one or two articles I find particularly great?
That’s fine! If you’re liking/sharing their stuff every day, that would feel like overkill in a small firm where they’d notice it, but liking or sharing a few articles isn’t going to seem like you’re sucking up. It’s just going to seem like you came across some stuff that you genuinely liked and wanted to share.
4. How can I follow up on a networking opportunity that I missed when life intervened?
I was recently connected with someone senior to me in an area of my profession that I may be interested in entering in the next few years (I’m currently in a job with a set time period — like a fellowship). I was connected to this person through my father-in-law and one of his friends, who is a professional colleague of this person. I have experience related to this area of our profession and the right kind of educational background but not the kind of experience that people who work in this area tend to have. When we spoke about six months ago over email, we had talked about setting up a (real, non-BS) informational interview at some point on one of the February federal holidays.
At the end of January/beginning of February, I got pregnant and had some complications (one-day ER visit) and then was hugely ill from morning sickness (read: all-damn-day sickness) for several months and am just starting to emerge from the fog. Sometime in late spring, I remembered that I had let this ball drop. Now, though, I’m insanely swamped at my current job and honestly don’t have the time to take off for an information interview even if this person were still willing to do one before I have the baby. I’d really like not to just write this one off — I’m not great at networking and I appreciate the time people have already put into connecting us. What is the most gracious way to reach out and say hey, life happened to me big-time, can we just reschedule this for the same time next year instead?
This stuff happens. It’s fine to email and say something like this: “I want to apologize for not reaching out earlier. We’d spoken back in December and had talked about setting up an informational interview for February. I was so grateful that you offered that, and am a bit mortified that I didn’t then follow up with you closer to that time. I’ve had some complications from pregnancy that intervened with most of my plans for the last few months, but I’d still love to take advantage of your generous offer if you’re still open to it. Could I reach back out to you early next year (when my life should be more predictable and plans more reliable) and see if you’re open to rescheduling at that point? I really appreciate your initial willingness to talk with me, either way.”
5. How do you interview for a job you aren’t passionate about?
Many cover letter, resume, and interview columns concentrate on how an applicant is great for the job, how their experience has prepared them for it, and how excited they are to work with a company in that field.
How do you suggest adapting this advice when the primary motivation for job searching is, “I would like to make more money,” or something equally not-job-centered? Is there a way to honestly communicate to hiring committees that you think you’ll be good at a job without implying that you live and breathe retail, insurance, or entry-level clerk positions?
You don’t need to imply that you live and breathe whatever the industry is. You just need to explain why you’d be really great at doing it. Those are two different things. You can excel at a particular job without having passion for the specific field (although it helps to have passion for doing a good job, but again, that’s a different thing).
In fact, a cover letter that focused primarily on your excitement about the job or field wouldn’t be a very effective cover letter. The majority of your cover letter and interview focus should be about why your skills, experience, and track record indicate you’d be awesome at doing the work of the job.
Some types of nonprofit work can be an exception to this, where you’re expected to have a personal commitment to whatever their mission is. But even then, good nonprofits are hiring for skills and performance (commitment to their mission may be necessary but wouldn’t be your primary qualification).
employee’s boyfriend says our manager can’t contact her, anxiety about work travel, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.