It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should I be worried about taking this job?
My question is probably a no-brainer, but I’m a recent grad still trying to figure out all the nuances of the professional world, so: I just (this morning) informally accepted my first professional job. It happened very fast – I applied last Thursday, got an invitation to interview on Friday, interviewed on Tuesday and the hiring manager called me this morning (Wednesday) to offer me the job. From what I saw of the office and staff, I definitely want this job, but something about the process is making me uneasy – the speed of it, and also the fact that they didn’t ask for my references (I have internship supervisors and professors who would happily provide one), and also the fact that the hiring manager said she would send me the benefits package today but hasn’t yet (although it’s only been a few hours).
Does this sound normal? I think maybe I’ve interviewed and been turned down for so many jobs over the past few months that I’m reluctant to let myself believe that this could be real… a simple “yes, sounds legit” or “run away!” from you would do wonders to put my mind at ease.
Some otherwise soundly-operating employers don’t check references — weird but true. The speed would worry me a little more, although even that’s not necessarily a problem. I’d put it in context about what else you know about them: Did they explain why they were moving so quickly, or even acknowledge it? What other signals did you get about their culture and how they do things? Did they give you plenty of opportunity to ask your own questions? That’s the stuff I’d look at. If you feel good on those fronts, I wouldn’t let the speed turn you off.
2. I feel undermined by a colleague
I am the new manager for a process improvement team. I was holding a staff meeting with my staff when all of a sudden, my colleague — another manager — barged into my meeting and asked one of my staff members if they were meeting. (This staff member used to be his analyst but has moved on to my team now.) Because this was done in front of my other staff, I felt embarrassed and powerless, as if he feels that his needs are more important than mine.
How should I address this with this manager? This is not the first time I felt undermined by him.
This makes him look rude, far more than it makes you look weak. If you appear rattled by it, that could make you look weak, but otherwise this is just someone being rude.
In the moment when it happened, you could have said, “We’re actually right in the middle of something, but Lavinia can check in with you when we’re done here.” But frankly, even that isn’t really necessary — he came to check if someone was supposed to be meeting with him, she presumably wasn’t, and that’s that. Of course, if your staff member got up to leave your meeting with him, you’d want to address that (“Lavinia, I actually need you here. Can you connect with Lucius later?”), but that doesn’t sound like the case.
My hunch is that you’re letting this guy have too much power over you. You’re rattled (I assume) because he made you feel that he did have the power to pull someone out of your meeting or that your team would think that — but he doesn’t, and your team will follow your cues. Act with the confidence of your own position and speak up when you need to … but allowing yourself to feel undermined by stuff like this will actually weaken you far more than this guy’s behavior could on its own.
3. I have concerns about my new coworker
I have some concerns about a new coworker in my office and am wondering if I should say anything. I am fairly new myself, having been here for a little less than a year. I am not responsible for training this person, but everyone in the office is asked to help out with spending some time training new people or observing them when they first start out working on their own.
In total, I’ve only spent a few hours training or observing this person, and she’s not exactly doing anything wrong, per se. But she’s not exactly doing things really well either. There have been several small red flags (things like not asking any questions in training, not being very thorough, seeming to miss connections between related issues, etc.). Obviously, someone will correct her if she makes a mistake, but I’m worried that no one is pointing out the overall pattern, and that her training period is scheduled to end soon. Should I ask to meet with her and point out some of the big-picture issues I noticed? If that’s too heavy-handed (considering that I’m just a colleague and peer), I could offer to share some of my “tips for success.”
Should I mention something to our supervisor, and suggest that her training period be extended? One concern is that our supervisor mostly deals with management issues and doesn’t do the same day-to-day work, so I’m not sure that she’d even pick up on the things I’m talking about if no one pointed them out. Or, since I’m not responsible for training this person, should I just mind my own business?
I’d do two things: First, ask her how things are going and if there’s anything you can help train her in or cover again with her. You could say something like, “I know it can be a lot to learn at once, and I’d be glad to cover anything that you’re still feeling shaky on.” You could also offer to share some of the things you learned that were particularly helpful to you in the beginning, including work habits.
But I’d also share your observations with your manager. It sounds like she welcomes input from people during this training process, and most decent managers would welcome someone saying something like, “I’ve noticed that Jane might need some additional coaching in things like X, Y, and Z.”
That said, the types of issues you’re describing are ones that can be very hard to coach out of people. All you can really do is make your manager aware of the issues and make your coworker aware that she can use you as a resource if she’s motivated to.
4. How to manage other managers
I’m moving into a new director position in a corporate environment, where I’ll have two managers reporting to me, as well as several individuals. Each manager will have individuals as direct reports. Much of your advice about good management obviously applies, but I’m curious about any specific advice you’d give about how to manage a manager. The managers will be responsible for much of the team’s day-to-day activities, while I will be expected to stay up to speed on the day-to-day but also be responsible for strategy and planning for the next 6-12+ months.
My hope is to enable the managers to lead their respective teams by setting clear goals and expectations. I’m wondering how best to stay involved enough while not interfering, and I definitely don’t want to create a dynamic where the individuals under the managers feel like they have too many bosses. One additional consideration is that the managers are new to the department and our function is pretty specialized.
I have the perfect article for you … somewhere else. It’s this piece from The Management Center (for whom I do lots of work and with whom I helped create this piece).
5. Are some companies exempt from anti-discrimination laws?
This is sort of a “curiosity” question that’s been on my mind for quite a while — ever since being fired from a job due to my religious affiliation a few years back — is it legal for small companies (less than 50 people) to discriminate based on race, religion, disability, etc? Or do those laws only apply to companies over a certain size?
Most anti-discrimination laws cover employers with 15 or more employees. The ADEA — which prohibits discriminating against people 40 or over — covers employers with 20 or more employees. And some states have their own laws that kick in at lower numbers.
The thinking, I believe, was that lawmakers didn’t want to subject very small employers to the financial and staff burden of defending against discrimination claims (a burden which can be significant, even if you ultimately prevail).