It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Giving feedback to a rude intern
I am a relatively new manager who is having an odd issue with my current intern. He has been with us for about 2 months, and in that time I have noticed that his basic professional manners are incredibly lacking–much more than I might reasonably expect for someone his age (just out of college) who has never worked in an office before. He is very abrupt in his questions and requests, especially over email; he never says (or implies) “please,’ rarely says “thank you,” and does not apologize if he inconveniences me or anyone else on our team–in this case, he’ll offer an excuse and thank us for understanding. He does this most pointedly with our most junior full-time staff member; for example, instead of politely asking her to print a non-urgent document from her machine when his connection to the printer suddenly went down, he recently sent her an email from across the room saying only “Print this.”
His hard skills are perfectly fine; he does a decent job on the tasks that we give him, but his tone ranges from a bit to incredibly snotty (a second example: when I asked him what he thought of a senior board member’s recent presentation, he told me only that he thought it could have been shorter). I definitely appreciate that managing interns is part manager, part professional etiquette instructor, and I have enjoyed this part of working with the other two interns that I’ve supervised. However, I never thought that “please,” “thank you,” and not barking orders to colleagues (especially those senior to you), would have to be part of this. How can I bring this up to him?
(Additional background that is somewhat relevant: I hired this intern because my boss’s boss asked me to and I really couldn’t say no. He is the son of a professional connection.)
You’re certainly not wrong to be taken aback by this guy’s manners and basic way of being in an office, and you’d be doing him — and his future employers — a huge favor if you addressed it with him.
I’d sit him down and start the conversation this way: “One of the biggest benefits of internships is that you learn a lot about how offices operate and how to get things done in them. I want to talk with you about some things I’ve noticed about your approach with me and other coworkers. I’m sure you don’t intend this, but you’re often coming across as very abrupt in your questions and requests. Saying please and thank you and acknowledging when you’re asking someone to you a favor or to do something that might be inconvenient will make people a lot more receptive to you. For example, when you asked Athena to print a document for you, you sent her a message that simply said, ‘print this.’ Most people don’t like that level of abruptness even from their boss, and you definitely can’t do that when you’re dealing with a peer, let alone someone senior to you.”
You can also point out that these are things that will really hold him back in future jobs, but they’re also really easily fixable.
2. My CEO is telling people she fired me, but I quit
I’m in California. This is a small, disorganized nonprofit with less than 10 staff. I submitted a paper letter of resignation, as well as an email to my boss stating that my last day was March 13. I also talked about my resignation with her and my CEO.
However, I’m now hearing from coworkers that my CEO is telling people she fired me. She never indicated this in our conversation. What should I do? I was never handed any paperwork and I was never told I would get unemployment if I was fired.
To be clear, I wanted to quit and I’m not looking for unemployment. My worry is that future potential employers would call her and she’d tell them she fired me, even though I quit. Yes, I have a paper and email trail, but how do I actually prove that to them if this becomes an issue?
Email her and say this: “Miranda, I’ve been hearing reports that you’ve informed people that I was fired from the organization. As you know, this is false; I resigned voluntarily, as is well documented in emails and my letter of resignation. Falsely telling people that I was fired is defamatory and could have real impact on my ability to find work. I’m hoping we can resolve this ourselves without having to resort to legal action. Can you shed any light on what’s going on?”
CC the board chair, if you have that person’s contact info, since the board is the CEO’s boss.
If that doesn’t work, then you need to involve a lawyer to make it clear that this is defamatory. Or you could skip straight to the lawyer step, but talking to her on your own first gives you a better shot of solving it in a less adversarial way and thus preserving the possibility of other references in the organization.
3. Asking for a temp manager’s help with a job search without signaling I wouldn’t want to go permanent
I was hired on a 5-month contract with a nonprofit in a development position, specifically to work on their big yearly event. A total of 9 of us are in this position, and they were very clear that it had a precise end date throughout the interview process.
I realized after I started that a few people from members of current full-time staff were formerly in a similar position, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to have an offer extended. I have really enjoyed working here so far, and there is a clear void that I could fill if they were to keep me on. There are, however, 9 people hired for this event (though none in my exact position).
The contract ends 4 weeks after the event, and I would ideally like to start looking for a new position about 2 months before my end date. As I said, I would be happy to stay, but between the event and some senior-level staffing changes that have taken place, I don’t think that hiring lower-level staff is on anyone’s radar right now. How do I approach looking for a new job with my current supervisor? We have a very good working relationship, and she seems to be happy with my performance. If I’m not going to stay, I’d like to ask her to look over my resume, serve as a reference, etc. I’m concerned, though, about writing myself off as a candidate to stay if I indicate that I’m moving on before anyone starts looking to hire at my level. I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m think I’m entitled to a full-time position after the contract. How would you suggest I handle this situation?
Making it clear that you’re starting to prepare to find your next position and expressing interest in staying on there aren’t mutually exclusive. You can and should do both — and your manager isn’t going to take your job search as a sign that you’re not interested in staying there if it turns out to be possible; she’s going to take it as a sign that you’re being realistic and practical and not relying on something that might not happen.
I’d say this to her: “Jane, I’m starting to gear up for looking for work for after my role ends in May, and I hoped I could ask you to serve as a reference and maybe even look over my resume if you’re willing. I also want to be clear that I’d love to stay on here if that ever turned out to be an option — I love the work we do and I’ve really enjoyed my time here — but I want to make sure I have all my bases covered with a job search since May isn’t too far away.”
4. What does entry-level really mean?
At what point is someone no longer considered entry-level? I see the term used all the time, but it seems to be somewhat open-ended. Does it have to do with the length of time someone has been in the workforce or is it tied more to responsibilities?
Entry-level is supposed to mean that the person has little to no work experience. It’s literally a role that is their entry into the professional world. Of course, like any term, it gets used and misused in all sorts of other ways, and in recent years many companies have started requiring one or more years of experience even for entry-level roles.
5. Providing two weeks notice in a company that asks for four weeks
I am at a workplace that requires four weeks notice when resigning. However, I have not actually signed the contract that states this and no one has followed it up since working here. As the contract is not actually signed, can I just provide the normal two-week notice period?
Yes, although what really matters here is what the norm is in your field. Two weeks notice is considered professional and sufficient in many fields — but in plenty of other fields, especially for more senior roles, you might find that three or four weeks is considered the norm. You really need to know your own industry and your own office to judge what’s reasonable.
Of course, legally, you don’t have to provide any notice if you don’t want to. This is just about what’s going to be considered reasonable and professional by other reasonable people (which may or may not include your current employer).