27 September 2023

Managing tricky workplace dilemmas

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Alison Green* answers questions on how to respond to a rejected job applicant keeps asking for another chance and three other tricky workplace dilemmas.

Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.

  1. A job applicant keeps asking for another chance

How would you respond to a candidate who continues to ask for an opportunity after you’ve rejected them?

This candidate was screened out and we sent them a message about finding a strong group of candidates and moving in a different direction, and we did tell them that we’d keep their resume on file.

This candidate is now badgering me on social media, asking me to give them a chance and asking how they can persuade me to give them a chance.

Is there a kind way to say “We have moved on, so should you”?

Green responds:

Say this: “The match isn’t right for this job, but best of luck in your search.”

That’s a reasonably polite way of saying, “We have already considered your application and decided no.”

After that, if person continues to message you on social media, feel free to ignore them, or even block them if the contact is annoying.

Ultimately, it’s not your job to convince them that you really mean no; it’s fine to just respond once and leave it there.

  1. HR director cried while laying someone off

I understand HR has to be empathetic.

Our admin for nine months had to be laid off.

The HR director cried during the separation.

The employee handled it with class and professionalism.

She was not misty eyed or on the verge of tears.

What are your thoughts?

Green responds:

Your HR director messed up.

It can indeed be really hard to lay someone off or fire them, but it’s far, far worse for the person who’s losing their job, and it’s really not nice to make the person who’s losing their job feel like you don’t get that or — worse — that they have to console you.

  1. Should I let a new employee work holidays in exchange for other time off?

I have a new employee, Jane, who started about a week and a half ago.

Today, she asked me whether she can work on holidays and get other time off in lieu of it.

At our next meeting, I want to ask why it’s important to her and find out the motivation behind it while explaining that as we are client-facing, it can be a challenge to schedule all that extra vacation time.

Internally, I’m weighing the issue of having other people ask for the same thing (and suddenly everyone has 10 extra vacation days I have to balance) and the needs of clients.

Do I give her some of the holidays as an option? Let her know that we will discuss it after her probation?

Tell her no, although I can’t really see why no would be the right answer as long as she understands these days don’t roll over and are like other vacation days where I can say no to a request for time off?

Green responds:

The things I would take into account are:

(1) Do you have any worries about her working alone with no one else there (either in terms of productivity or being able to get what she needs to move work along)?

That answer might be different while she’s new versus a year from now.

(2) If a bunch of other people made the same request, would it cause problems?

(3) Is it easier if you just let her do it once or twice rather than regularly (so you’re not tracking so much time off)?

But also, it’s OK to say no if you don’t feel yes would be in the best interests of the team.

  1. Should I tell my employee to stop addressing people by their first names?

My personal philosophy when dealing with colleagues on other teams has always been to treat them with the most respect I can, perhaps even going overboard.

Recently, my employee sent an email out to a different department correcting the other team’s mistake and addressed it to the person by using only their first name.

Am I just super sensitive, or should I address this since she’s representing my team when she emails other departments?

Green responds:

It’s really, really normal to address co-workers by their first names, even ones you haven’t met yet!

There are some organizations where that’s not the case, but they’re the exception rather than the norm.

The question here is, what’s the culture around names in your office?

If most people use first names, you shouldn’t direct your employee to do otherwise, or it risks making her come across as young, naive, and/or out of step with your office culture.

If the culture is that people don’t use first names, then yes, cueing her into that would be both a kindness to her and something you have standing to do as her manager.

But going overboard on respect isn’t always a good thing.

Depending on exactly what you mean by that, it can actually create barriers between you and others.

(Calling someone Ms. Jones when everyone else calls her Jane is a good example of that.)

*Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog and is the author of Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at inc.com.

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