It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. CEO’s son drives like a madman while I’m in the car
I work for a company as a business director. The CEO’s son meets me out of town for a few store visits. He pulls up in a rented Camaro, and we do our visits of the stores in the city. During our travel that day, he proceeded to race between stores at extremely high rates of speed, regularly using the paddle shifter on the steering wheel. I’m 65 and he is 30. He must have assumed that I didn’t mind the totally incomprehensible speeding actions. The problem is that he’s spoiled and the heir to take over the company soon. When I got back home, I told my immediate boss and he just blew it off. One of the companies big sponsor’s is NASCAR, and he made a joke out of it.
How would you have handled it with out kissing your job goodbye?
Ideally, in the moment while you were still in the car with him, just by saying, “Hey, could you slow down? We’re way over the speed limit.” And then, if he protested that it didn’t matter, by saying, “I’d appreciate if you’d slow down on my account anyway.”
Is your concern now that you’ll have to drive with him again in the future and he’ll do this? If so, I’d plan to address it in the moment then — or better, see if you can arrange to be the one who drives. Or is your concern that he’s out there driving around like this in general? If it’s that, I don’t think there’s much you can do about it, unfortunately — but you can at least make sure that he doesn’t do it while you’re in the car. (I wish that weren’t the answer — but I can’t think of a practical way to intervene more broadly.)
2. My director keeps following up in person about emails she just sent me
I support the executive for my team and do a lot of scheduling. I currently have 646 items in my inbox since January 1, and 90% is scheduling. I have completed all but about 10.
I have a director who will send me an email and then soon after show up at my desk about the same thing. How would you approach this situation? I’m constantly interrupted by this person and really don’t know how to approach it.
“Jane, I’ve noticed you’ll sometimes come over in person to follow up on an email after sending it. I’m really vigilant about responding to all emails quickly, but it throws off my system if you follow up in person right after sending one. Can I ask you to give me some time to see it and process it? Of course if you haven’t heard back in a reasonable amount of time, definitely follow up — but my goal is for you never to have to do that.”
3. My sources want to see — and change — my articles before I publish them
In addition to my full-time office job, I’m also a freelance journalist. Right now, I’m writing for a local magazine. Occasionally, the people that I’m writing articles about will want to see the story before it’s published. In the past, I didn’t have a problem with this, but it caused a major problem for me a few months ago. I emailed a draft of my story to someone I interviewed, and she basically rewrote the entire article to be an advertisement for her business. When I politely told her that I wouldn’t be sending her version to the editor, she then tried to back out of the story.
Now, something similar is happening with a different article. The subject wanted to see my first draft, I reluctantly sent it to her, and now she wants to change the whole thing. (I should note that I don’t have a problem with changing something if it’s inaccurate, but in this case, all of the facts were correct and she just wants the story to be more focused on her).
What should I do in these situations? I don’t feel good about saying no when someone asks to see the story I wrote about them, but I can’t continue to re-write my articles just to appease them.
In journalism — as opposed to something like corporate PR — you shouldn’t be showing article drafts to your subjects at all. Checking quotes or facts is fine if you’re not positive you’ve quoted someone correctly or that you’ve gotten a fact right, but otherwise even letting people approve quotes before you use them isn’t good journalistic practice, and you definitely shouldn’t be running the whole article by them.
If someone you’re writing about or quoting wants to see your draft, say something like, “We don’t run article drafts by people, but it’ll be published on the 23rd and I’ll send you a link when it’s live.” (Or you can check with your editor about how she wants you to handle this, but a reputable publication isn’t going to agree to let sources sign off on entire articles.)
4. Will my husband’s age raise eyebrows in our benefits department?
My husband is a lot older than me, he’s 61. I have him on my health insurance plan where I currently work, and am just wondering about the likelihood that his age raises eyebrows in our HR department/benefits office. I work in academia where there are a lot of older employees. I am just wondering if HR ever takes an age of a dependent spouse into account when making decisions about promotions, layoffs, and the like.
It’s super unlikely that anyone even notices, and even more unlikely that anyone cares (especially since 61 isn’t especially old, but this would be my answer even if he were 91), and close to no chance that it would ever impact employment decisions. Don’t give it another thought.
5. Cover letters when an application system only provides a comments box
I just applied for a job that happily involved only a single page – add resume, type your name, email and phone, and … a comments box. I entered a brief note about being happy to answer any questions they have, to fill in the details behind the brief overview in the resume.
Is this a way for the company to signal that a cover letter isn’t really necessary, or should I shoehorn a cover letter into their comments box? I’m leaning towards the former. I interpret it as a way for the company to keep their application system very lightweight for applicants to positions that have straightforward technical skill requirements, possession of which could easily be made evident in a resume. I do wonder if shoehorning in a cover letter would actually make me look old-fashioned, like I took a mimeographs and Bob Dylan approach to a modern job application system that was specifically built to allow me to avoid the time commitment of writing a position-specific cover letter.
I’d put a cover letter there, but keep it informal and on the shorter side. And all my usual advice about not summarizing your resume in your cover letter probably goes double here — it should really be something that adds to what you’re already uploading, explaining your interest in the job and why you’d excel at it. In fact, given the format, I’d possibly even skip any intro stuff and go straight into why you think you’d be great at the job.
I tend to want to stay away from “happy to answer any questions you have” language, since that’s always assumed to be true and really just ends up being filler that doesn’t add much substance.