It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. How can I get an employee to try to solve problems on her own?
I have an employee who’s been with me for 6 years in an entry-level researcher position. Late last year, my senior researcher went out on leave, so my two entry researchers have had to pick up some of that workload. Also, early this year we switched to a new computer system that is completely different from what we’re used to.
Lately, one employee has started to come into my office using the phrase, “I haven’t done this before” or “this is new to me” and then looks at me as if she’s expecting me to detail her next steps. Yes, some things are new, but with her being here 6 years and having helped out the senior researcher before, I have the expectation that she knows enough about the business we are in to figure it out or at least come up with some potential options and then check with me on which one to proceed with. A couple of times I’ve said, “Yes you have, this is just like project x” or “We covered this in training” and then she just stares at me until I start talking again, when I usually say, “Well, what do you think should be done?” She has a poker face so I can never really tell what she’s thinking.
How do I, or should I, politely tell her that I’d like her to stop saying these phrases? I don’t think they’re doing her any favors. If I said that to my boss as often as she says it to me, my boss would be wondering why she hired me. My boss thinks that I need to get rid of her because she’s “not getting it’” and therefore is not supportive enough to me.
It sounds like the other entry-level researcher is handling this just fine, so that’s a useful reality check that your expectations are probably reasonable here — but even if you were expecting too much of her, it would still be reasonable to want her to try to solve problems on her own before coming to you. However, you need to tell her that you expect that; it sounds like so far you haven’t been clear with her on that front and have been expecting her to pick it up without directly saying it.
So tell her clearly what you expect! Say something like this: “I hear you that some of this is new, but most of it is similar to projects you’ve done before that or that we’ve talked about during training. I’m here as a resource for you, but when you get stuck, I’d like you to think through some potential options and then bring those to me if you’re still unsure. If you’re truly stuck and unable to do that, you can still come to me, but I’d like your default to be that you first try to figure it out (including checking the computer system training materials) and come to me with some options that you’ve thought through.”
2. When does my two weeks notice start ticking — when it’s sent or when it’s received?
I sent my manager (who is also the owner of the company) my two weeks’ notice a week ago. Today, she asserted that because she didn’t receive the notice until today, my two-week notice period starts today, not a week ago. She was out of the office last week, but she is the only person to whom I can submit notice and she advised my coworker that she would be available by email, which is how I submitted my notice when I found that she was not in the office.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s unfortunate and inconvenient, yes, but an employee’s life (not to mention job offers) doesn’t go on hold when the manager is out of the office. She, on the other hand, has expressed disappointment and anger. I can understand her frustration, but don’t feel that I have any obligation to stay for longer than my notice period. Who is right?
If you’d emailed your notice during a period when she had warned you she wouldn’t be checking email, you’d be in the wrong. But she had said she’d be checking email, so you reasonably assumed she’d see your note. That said, I do think you erred her in letting a week go by with no response and not checking in with her during that time, when you didn’t hear anything back from her.
But as for what to do now: Two weeks notice is simply professional convention; it’s not required by law, so you can leave whenever you want. You don’t want to burn a bridge, of course, which is why you shouldn’t quit without notice in general, but in this situation you could say something like: “I’m sorry you didn’t see my note until Monday. I sent it a week ago and assumed you saw it because you had told us you would be checking email. I’m not able to move my final day back because I’ve committed to starting my new job on X, but I’ll do whatever I can this week to help with the transition.”
That said, in general I recommend giving notice in person or at least by phone — not in email. Even when a manager is out of town, most would prefer a phone call to let them know what’s happening, rather than finding it in an email. And if you do send it by email and don’t receive a response for a couple of days, that’s a sign that you need to pick up the phone and make sure it was received.
3. Being considered for a promotion while interviewing for other jobs
I’ve been looking for other jobs and completed a final interview less than a week ago, and I feel very positive about my chances of being offered the job. I’m very excited!
But at my current workplace, they are interviewing for promotions and my boss is very adamant that I apply for the position because he feels like I am very good at what I do now and this position is the next logical step to a successful career within our company (he also didn’t want to see me become complacent in my current role). If I hadn’t already interviewed for another position that I feel I’m a better fit for, I would have jumped at this opportunity in a heartbeat. But I’m worried that I will be considered for this promotion and have to leave for the job I really want. What do I do? Should I discuss my career prospects at another company with my current boss? (The hiring manager for the other company indicated that I should have an answer by the end of this week, or next week at the latest. That means that they are making a decision on that position while my interview for a possible promotion would take place, according to the timeline my current boss gave me.)
You’re right that it’s not ideal to accept a promotion and then leave right away for another job — but the two timelines here sound like that won’t happen. You sound likely to get an answer on the other job before your current employer makes any promotion decision, so if you get the other job, you’ll have time to withdraw from consideration for the promotion. However, if the other company’s hiring process starts to drag out (which can happen), at that point you could contact them and let them know that you have a timeline constraint (explaining that you don’t want to accept a promotion and then leave soon after) and ask if they’re able to expedite their timeline.
But do throw your hat in the ring for the promotion, since there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the other job and it sounds like you’ll want this one if the other one doesn’t work out.
4. Is it rude to decline an interview with a company’s COO?
I have just had my first interview today with a company that contacted me regarding a job opening they would like to fill up quite quickly for a position that I am looking for. I had a few doubts before interviewing and suspected the job and company would not be the right fit for me. I still interviewed with them to get more information. Turns out, it’s not exactly what I am looking for and would feel like a step backwards for me in terms of the reputation this company has in the country/market I work in. Additionally, my current job involves quite a lot of travel, but the one I interviewed for involved a lot more than I am comfortable with.
They have contacted me an hour after the interview to say that it went great and requested that I do a second interview with their COO tomorrow. They seem to be quite eager to fill up the position as quickly as possible. I already know that I absolutely won’t take this position if they offered it to me, and I feel like I am wasting their time by interviewing with their COO while they could be speaking to other people who are a better fit. I am speaking to other companies I think would be a much better fit for me. On the other side, I am wondering if it’s acceptable to decline a meeting with their COO (I am not very senior with 3 years of work experience).
I don’t know how to politely decline without burning any bridges with them and their recruitment company. The market and industry I am in are quite small and I wouldn’t want to risk losing any future opportunities. How do you suggest I handle the situation?
It’s not rude to withdraw from an interview process when you’ve decided you’re no longer interested, and your seniority versus the interviewer’s isn’t a factor at all. In fact, accepting an interview you don’t want is arguably rude because it wastes the interviewer’s time and potentially takes an interview slot from someone who does want it, and I promise you that COO doesn’t want to spend her time interviewing someone who doesn’t want the job.
It’s totally fine to just explain that you’ve concluded the position isn’t for you. You could say something like this: “Thanks so much for reaching back out. After talking with Jane yesterday, I’ve realized that the position isn’t quite what I’m looking for, so I’ve decided to withdraw my application. But I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me and wish you all the best in filling the role.”
5. Applying when an employer keeps reposting the same job
How many times can you apply to the same job if an employer continuously re-posts the same opening? I first applied in March. However, I never heard back and the posting was taken down. The job was re-posted in May. I applied again and never heard back, and the job posting was once again taken down. It is now July and they re-posted the same exact position. Is it too pushy to apply a third time? The post says specifically not to contact the employer, so I haven’t been able to follow up at all. It really would be a perfect fit for me and my interests, so I don’t want to give up. However, I’m wondering if my continuous applying will prevent me from having a chance at future opportunities within the company.
I think it’s fine to reapply a third time, since these seem to be three separate hiring processes, not one long one. However, make sure you’re not sending the same cover letter that you’ve sent previously; that will look too perfunctory (and it didn’t work last time, so it’s time to change it up anyway). Write a letter that opens by noting that you’ve applied before (so that they don’t think you just don’t recall that) and explaining why you’re so particularly interested in the job.