It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Asking employees to say I’m out when my abusive mother calls
Is it ever okay to ask an employee to “cover” for you? I am the director of a small, nonprofit county agency. I have two staff and three volunteers. The problem is my 74-year-old mentally ill mother. Long story short, she is very abusive, calls me and my husband vile names, and uses vile language in front of our teenage daughter. Sometimes it becomes so overwhelming that I have to disconnect (until she can get herself together) to protect my daughter.
During these times, my mother will call and call and call. I have told her several times not to call me at work, had my sister intervene, etc. to no avail. Sometimes I ask my employees to tell her that I am busy, which, of course, I am. Sometimes the only way to stop the barrage of calls is to have them tell her I am out of the office all day at a meeting. She is never vile to my staff or volunteers, but I feel guilty asking them to cover for me (and in some instances, lie for me). But then on the flip side, it is very disruptive to my office when she behaves like this and nothing else works. It seems like such a simple thing, but it is unethical?
I don’t think it’s unethical at all. If one of your employees were dealing with an abusive relative who behaved like this, you’d probably be sympathetic and willing to say she wasn’t there, right? I’m sure your employees are willing to do the same.
The key, especially since you’re the boss and so there’s a power dynamic, is to make sure they don’t think you take this help for granted. Express genuine appreciation for their help, and explain the basics of the situation if you haven’t already, including that having her think you’re unavailable for the day is unfortunately the best way to minimize the disruption.
Also, make sure they know that you’re doing your best to get the calls to stop. You don’t want them inadvertently misunderstanding the situation and thinking that you’re just dodging calls from your poor, lonely mother, or that you haven’t taken reasonable steps to control the situation.
Speaking of which, is there a way to block her number? That might sound callous, but if she has another way to reach you (like your cell phone), that might be the way to go with your work phone.
2. HR stole my parking space
My company recently moved to a new office that has a car parking lot. By luck of the draw, I was fortunate enough to get a parking space right outside the complex.
Unfortunately, another employee of the same company has decided to park in my spot every day since.
Because of this need to find somewhere else on a daily basis, I’ve experienced threats of tickets, annoyed coworkers whose spaces I’ve inadvertently taken, and had to move my car multiple times during the workday.
Recently, a member of our HR team asked me to move. After I did so (twice in 10 minutes), I discovered that it was actually their car in my space. They explained that it was double booked to them and that they would continue parking there. I mentioned this to the person who assigned the spaces and was informed this was not true at all. It appears that the person didn’t like their allocated space and has chosen to just occupy mine. This also happened to a colleague who parks next to me, again with another HR team member.
To keep the peace, we have now been assigned their old spaces a way down the road. While this isn’t a big deal (at least I have a space now), I can’t help feeling some negativity towards our HR team for this apparently dishonest behavior. What are your thoughts?
My thoughts are that at least some members of your HR team are jerks who abuse their positions, and that their higher-ups either don’t know or don’t care.
I don’t know whether it’s a battle you want to fight or not, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to complain to someone over their heads about how this was handled. If you do, your framing should be that HR has misused their authority to reassign parking spaces to benefit themselves. (That assumes that the HR department is in charge of assigning spaces; if it’s done by someone else who simply gave into HR’s requests in order to “keep the peace,” then that person is spineless but it’s not quite as offensive.)
3. My great employee lied about finishing high school
I am a middle manager and we recently hired an employee, for a non-professional position, who told me after she was hired that she lied on her job application. She said she had her high school diploma, when she doesn’t, and if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.
She is a hard worker, a great team member, and really needs the job, so I am not sure if I should ever bring this up.
Ugh. Requiring a high school diploma (or a college degree) is supposed to be a proxy for “this person is likely to have certain baseline skills necessary to do the job.” This person has demonstrated pretty clearly that it’s a misplaced requirement. Plus, not finishing high school can correlate with poverty, class, abuse, and other issues that aren’t great to screen people out over.
On the other hand, obviously it’s not okay to lie on your application. But I’m having a hard time working up outrage about it. She didn’t go out of her way to lie on, say, a resume — a document that someone presumably puts a lot of thought and care into. She answered “yes” to an online application question when she should have answered “no.” It’s hardly the lie of the century.
As for what to do now … I’m sure some people will disagree, but you have a hard worker and a great team member with no high school diploma. If she’s otherwise trustworthy, I might just take it as a sign that you should drop that requirement, and then move on.
4. Asking to extend employer-paid interview travel
I am invited by a company to fly abroad for a series of interviews in their headquarters. I am wondering whether I can ask the company, while preparing my flights, to have my return flight a week later, as I would take advantage of being abroad for a few days off. Of course, I would pay everything which is beyond the two days of being there for the interview by myself, e.g. hotel, rental car etc. Do you think it is appropriate? And if so, what would be your advice in terms of the way to ask?
Yes, people do that all the time! Just say something like this: “Since I’ll already be out there, I’d like to extend the trip by a few days to get to know the area a bit. I’ll of course pay for the additional days myself, but could we schedule the return flight for (date)?”
5. How to respond to a LinkedIn invitation from a higher-up at a place I’d love to work
I recently received a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone I don’t know but would love to — a very tip-top high up person at a company I am very interested in working for. I have no idea why he connected with me; the note was just the generic LinkedIn message. I accepted, of course. But I’m wondering if I should send him a note, ask him how he found me or why he reached out to me, do something! What do you suggest?
Sure. The dude initiated a connection with you, so it’s not at all pushy to write back to him. I’d say something like this: “Thanks so much for the connection request. I’ve followed your company’s work for a long time and really admire what you do. I’d love to talk if you have have an opening I might be a match for. I do ____ (fill in with a description of what you do and ideally what makes you great at it).”
A more aggressive networker than me might say to actually ask for a meeting or say something more proactive than “I’d love to talk if…” So adapt for your own style, but that’s how I’d handle it.