It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Our marketing department uses everyone’s photo but mine
I’ve been with my current employer for over 14 months. Our staff directory has photographs of every employee (about 35 in our branch) and it’s a useful tool for other branches to see who we are. We also use the photos in our marketing materials, proposals, and RFPs.
Mine is the only listing without a photograph, and it’s been that way through several updates over the past year because the marketing rep has scheduled informal photo sessions when I’ve been on vacation (twice) or in training or meetings. She has emailed me that she’d schedule time to take my picture but has never done so, despite me indicating when my schedule is open. She just released the newest version of the directory with several new employees (one of whom just started last week) and again, everyone has a photograph but me.
I’m a little unhappy about it for several reasons: I would like my customers and vendor reps to grow familiar with who I am so I’m not just a voice on the phone or a name on an email. Having my photo included would help me feel more part of our team – I currently work in the back corner of our office and I’m often overlooked when my managers walk around greeting the team.
We have a new employee who will soon need her photo taken, so I emailed the marketing rep to let her know I’d like to be included in the next photo session. She has not responded. I’d assume she’s super busy but she’s often just standing around chatting. It only takes a few seconds to take a photograph to at least have on hand the next time she edits the directory. What’s the most professional way to approach this?
Go by her office and say this: “Hi Jane. Is now a good time to take my photo?”
If she says no, say, “We’ve had so much trouble scheduling this that I want to nail down a time. Can you look at your calendar right now and we’ll schedule something for in the next week?”
If that doesn’t work, could you just provide your own photo? But it’s hard for me to think that’s she’s going to be able to continue resisting when you’re standing right there, handling it reasonably.
(The interesting question, of course, is what’s at the root of this. It could genuinely be laziness or disorganization on her part, or it could be some weird issue she has with you. In any case, unless she has some sort of demonic grudge against you, this should work. And if she does have a demonic grudge, please write back and we’ll address that.)
2. Have I been demoted?
I think I got demoted yesterday. I’m not sure exactly if that’s it, because nobody told me directly. Instead, there was a group meeting with me and the two temps I hired a few months ago. Our office manager extended their contracts in one breath and said “You all report to me; it’s a flat hierarchy from now on.” They’ve been assigned new tasks and a lot of the work that was solely on my shoulders is now parcelled out. That would be great, in theory, if the manager had asked me first. I would’ve told her that they are probably not going to be great at the tasks she’s assigned, and that delegation would’ve worked better in a different way.
Also, you know, it hurts, finding out someone has ripped the rug out from under you without so much as a by-your-leave. Am I being elbowed out gracelessly? Insultingly? Is she just incompetent? Am I part of an office war? What’s the proactive thing to do – should I suggest new projects for myself to take on, complain to my other “bosses”? (Long story, but I might have advocates, unless they’re the ones who told her to treat me like garbage.) Enjoy my new free time?
Go talk to your boss and ask. I’d say this: “Can you tell me what made you decide to switch Jane and Fergus over to reporting to you and assign them X, Y, and Z rather than have me continue to do that work?” Pause there and listen. It might be that she has an explanation that has nothing to do with you (like that she’s gearing up to have you focus on some other big project), who knows. But if you feel like you’re still left unsure, say this: “I have to admit, it makes me worry that you had concerns about how I was managing them or how well I was doing with XYZ. If that’s the case, I’d be grateful to know so that I can improve.”
3. Emailing the office about a medical issue
I’m wondering if you have input on this. I’m pregnant, about 5 months, and my belly is noticeable at this point. Coworkers will ask how things are going for me, my husband, the baby, in a friendly way.
Unfortunately, we have recently discovered the baby has a congenital heart defect that will require open heart surgery shortly after birth, followed by weeks in the NICU. She might end up being largely okay after recovery, or she might die. My small team knows because I had to keep leaving work for unexpected doctor’s appointments recently.
I’m the sort of person who likes to be open about things and prefers to answer even casual “how are you”s honestly when possible. It makes me feel bad when people are asking how things are and I basically say “fine” just to avoid getting into it.
My actual question: I’m considering sending an office-wide email explaining the situation. I don’t mind people knowing, and quite frankly it would make it easier on me for people to know the context before asking how the baby is. Does this seem reasonable? Is this really just TMI? Is there some in-person response that might work better on an individual basis? My office doesn’t use the office-wide list for very much – mostly announcements from the CEO, or about office-wide official events. I’ve never even seen a “hey, there are brownies in the kitchen” go out, much less something more personal.
Normally how people will use office-wide email depends on the culture (as well as the size of the office), but this is the kind of thing where even if it’s not normally done, no reasonable person would have an issue with this. I don’t think it’s TMI, and you could even explain that you’re saying it because people are kindly asking you how the baby is, and it’s easier to tell everyone what’s going on up-front.
Alternately, as commenters have suggested, you could ask your manager or a trusted colleague to share the news with people in face-to-face conversations on your behalf.
Good luck, and I think lots of us will be keeping you and your baby in our thoughts.
4. Applying at a company whose culture was just eviscerated in a high-profile article
I’ve had a phone interview and completed several writing exercises for a position in the corporate office of a very famous company in my area (I’ve tried to take out as many identifying details as possible, but I’m sure your readers won’t have any trouble guessing which one). Recently, an expose of the brutal corporate culture was published in a major newspaper, and the company’s treatment of its workers has made headlines across the country. The article highlighted the long hours, the pressure to always be reachable by phone and email, the constant competition, and more.
I have friends who work there who’ve said that the culture can be difficult at times, but they seem to enjoy their jobs. If I did get this job, even if I only stayed in it for a year, it would make me a very attractive candidate for other positions. I would also be working for a department that wasn’t specifically mentioned in the article, and it’s possible that the culture there is different. But if the article is accurate, it’s definitely not a job I would take. I have a sick relative who I might need to visit on short notice (the article profiles several employees who were written up or fired for spending too much time with their families), I have a health problem that gets worse with stress (quite a few former employees were managed out for having health problems), and I have a rewarding hobby that I’d rather not drop (and I certainly couldn’t keep it up with the 80-hour weeks described in the article).
If I move forward in the interview process, how can I bring up these concerns? The article went into some detail about this company’s problems with hiring and retaining enough employees, and I’m afraid that even if I try to talk about the corporate culture, I might not get an honest answer because the department is so desperate for more help and the company strongly encourages hiring managers to stick to the party line. How can I get a realistic sense of what working there is like? Should I bring up the article? If I don’t, it’s going to be the elephant in the room. But this article might also pressure the company into making some changes in the way it treats its employees, and I don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity if the corporate culture does change.
Assuming we’re talking about Amazon, you already know what the culture is like; that article filled you in pretty well, and it sounds like your friends who worked there have confirmed it’s not terribly off-base. (Is that last part right? I wasn’t 100% sure from your letter, but I’m going to assume it is.*) I’m not really sure what you’d gain by raising it in an interview; your friends, after all, have far more incentive to be candid with you than an interviewer who doesn’t know you and is trying to fill a job.
It’s possible the article will result in some changes there, but that’s going to take a long time to know for sure (culture change is hard and takes a long time), and there’s nothing an interviewer could tell you right now that would be a certainty on that front.
Your safest bet is to assume the article is true and decide whether you’re up for what it described. (Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the article about Amazon for anyone who doesn’t want to read the whole thing.)
* If I’m wrong about what your friends who work there told you, that changes the answer. I’d put a lot of weight on what you hear from them. If you’re not certain exactly where they come down on it, go back and talk with them some more.
5. References when my past managers are no longer with the company we worked at together
The managers with the companies I was employed with have either resigned or quit. Is it okay if I put down the recruiter’s info or the current managers working at the job site I was last employed at?
Usually reference-checkers will want to talk with someone who actually managed you, so the new manager at the site won’t be useful if they didn’t work with you. You can provide the company’s contact info for general employment verification, but for actual references, you’ll want to supply people who managed you. Ideally, that means tracking down those former managers and providing their current contact info (LinkedIn can be a good source for this).