my manager’s girlfriend just joined our team, my boss doesn’t understand what I do, and more by Alison Green on November 10, 2014 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. My manager’s girlfriend just joined our team Three weeks ago, my direct manager’s girlfriend joined my team from another team in the company. It felt like a really bad idea at the time and my worries have started to come true. We’re working in a creative field and he has to sign off on design ideas and our work. It’s very obvious when we discuss ideas in meetings that they’ve already discussed things in advance which makes it feel like my and my colleagues’ ideas will never get the same chance. She’s a good team member and I like her as a person, but it’s really affecting how I feel about my job. Bringing in ideas feels more like a waste of time, as they’ve already discussed things over the weekend and I’ll never get the same “space” to present mine as she gets. Both of them are youngish (late 20 – early 30) and it’s his first position as a manager (and he has been at it for a couple of months). Do you have any suggestions on how to (and with who) bring this up? Our (one person) HR is pretty crazy so I’d prefer not go through them. What worries me is that my manager will become defensive and claim their relationship doesn’t affect his work. It’s insane that your company is allowing your manager to supervise his girlfriend. Insane, and I wonder if they even know about it. Allowing it opens the company up to all kinds of bad things — like the appearance of unearned special treatment (as you’re seeing firsthand), him not giving her objective feedback feedback or assessing her performance impartially, and even charges of harassment down the road (“I wanted to break up with him, but he implied it would affect my job…”). But it’s a really awkward thing to talk to a manager about directly — and it’s unlikely he’s going to take action to change the situation himself anyway. So if you want it addressed, you probably need to either talk to HR (despite your HR person being crazy — this kind of thing is HR 101 so unless they’re crazy and horribly incompetent, they should still intervene) or someone with authority over your boss. 2. When a former employee wants to come back but you don’t want to hire them Our office employed a person in the same role for about a decade. Last year, they moved to a less demanding and technical job in the company. This was at a busy time for us and left us in a crunch, but we managed. Now, the person we got to replace them (who was excellent, and really expanded upon the work previously done by this position) has been promoted, leaving the position vacant again, and the position’s original occupant wants to return, having found the new job unsatisfying for a variety of reasons. The thing is, we have some very promising candidates, and are not sure we want the person back. Although this person has a wealth of institutional knowledge, their work was sometimes sloppy and they didn’t keep up with the technological changes in this field. I doubt that they were given any feedback indicating a need to improve while they were still working in our office, so they likely believe they are a sure thing for this current hiring process. Do you have any advice for handling this situation delicately? I’d be direct: “We’ve taken the role in a different direction since you were last in it — Jane did X, Y, and Z in the role and we’d like to keep going in that direction. I’m glad to talk with you about the opening, of course, but I want to be transparent with you that we’re also talking with other candidates, and it’s going to be a competitive process.” 3. My boss doesn’t understand what I do My new supervisor does not understand what I do. I work on a very specialized project that is not really integrated at all with the rest of the organization, because it comes from a separate funding line. I do some technical work like light web programming and some research. We’ve discussed my work many, many times but I think fundamentally he just does not understand it. A coworker of mine who is closer with him told me that he had mentioned he has no idea whether I’m a good or bad employee, because he doesn’t understand my work. She told this to me in a joking way, but I’m pretty concerned about it. I can’t get feedback about my work from the federal employees who are actually involved with my project because they aren’t allowed to have that kind of relationship with a contractor. But my actual boss has no idea whether I’m doing a good job or not. I’m at a loss as to what to do, aside from continuing to give him metrics that he doesn’t understand, or forwarding him a bundle of “thank you” emails from my customers. And now I’m even starting to question whether I’m good at my job. Is it on me to make sure my boss understands my role? And do you have any ideas on how I might approach that? Is there any way to talk about your work in terms of the outcomes you’re responsible for achieving? The details of your work themselves may be too different from your boss’s responsibilities for him to easily understand, but he probably doesn’t need to understand those details anyway; what he needs to understand is what outcomes you’re responsible for and whether or not you’re achieving them. In other words, if your job is done extremely well, what does that look like to others in your organization? What outcomes affect your team or your company or other parties, and how? I’d lay out for your boss what you’re working to achieve in those areas, and then periodically proactively report in on the progress you’ve made toward those goals. 4. Employee gave four days notice and wanted to use vacation for part of it I’m a manager of a small business with nine employees. One of my staff recently asked for a day off, which I approved. Two days later, the staff member gave notice and told me they were leaving within four business days because the other company was “desperate.” I accepted the resignation but asked that the employee forgo their vacation day (which they mentioned that they were using to hang out around the house) so we could train one of the other staff to do their job while we were trying to find a replacement. Like many small companies, we don’t have a ton of overlap among employee responsibilities. The employee was very angry, telling me that they would not have another vacation day for several months. I’m a pretty seasoned manager and realize this employee could have quit on the spot without notice. But was it wrong of me to rescind their approved leave? I come from the school of thought that you should at least give your employer two weeks notice – especially if you are asking me to be a reference. Nope, that was totally reasonable. The point of the two-week notice convention is to have time to transition your work. Your employee was already violating that by only giving four days notice, and it was entirely reasonable of you to say that you’d like them at work for all of those four days. In fact, many companies don’t let people use vacation time during their last two weeks at all (for exactly this reason — they want them there to help with the transition). Your employee’s expectations are way out of whack with how this stuff works. 5. How to greet a hiring manager in an email I was wondering on how to address or start emails to a recruiter and/or hiring manager. I have been communicating with a recruiter on scheduling interviews, following up, etc., and she will begin her emails with my name and then a comma (like “Anna,”). It seems like a common practice, but I wonder if this is too formal or maybe even rude without any greeting if an applicant does it. I’ve been writing or replying back with “Hello so-and-so,”, but I also wonder if this is not the proper way either. What is the etiquette on communicating with recruiters and hiring managers? Would it be weird if I suddenly switched? You’re over-thinking it. First, if a hiring manager is addressing you a certain way, you don’t need to worry that it’s too informal to address them back the same way. They’re telling you that they’re fine with that level of informality. Beyond that, it really doesn’t matter. Hi Jane, Hello Jane, Dear Jane — any of those are fine. You may also like:talking to job candidates about our kickball league, handling complaints about an employee, and moreemployee resigned but now wants to staycan a manager and employee vacation together?