It’s four answers to four questions (well, three plus an update). Here we go…
1. Manager posted list of names of people who are always on time to work
Recently my supervisor posted a list with five names out of the 22 people who work in our dept as “being on time 100% of the time.” I feel like this a little bit passive aggressive shaming of employees who were tardy. Granted, we have a few who are late 100% of the time, but some are late by one minute once! Your thoughts would be appreciated.
It’s a really weird thing for your manager to make such a big deal out of — surely there are more important measures of success than whether you’re at work at 9:00 or 9:01? I don’t think it’s shaming so much (if anything, this highlights that more than three-quarters of your coworkers are all in the same boat), just a dumb thing to make a focus point.
And really, if there’s any issue with people’s punctuality, your manager should address it with those people one on one. Just posting a list like this is a really passive, ineffective way of conveying that message and of doing her job.
2. Should I give a reference for a former coworker who wasn’t very good?
I worked closely with someone who was recently fired. “Steve” and I worked together for about two years. During the first year, I enjoyed our collaboration and I felt that he made strong contributions to the projects we worked on. However, during the second year, he put forth less and less effort, and simply stopped pulling his weight in a variety of ways. To make matters worse, he started dropping by my office multiple times a day to discuss minor work-related matters. These conversations were never productive or necessary, and I had to ask him to stop. The drop-ins slowed but never stopped, so I was feeling quite irritated with him by the time he was asked to leave.
Recently, he reached out to me to ask if I would serve as a reference for his job search. He’s been around the block long enough to know that I probably can’t give him a great reference, so I think he’s asking because he needs someone from our organization and I’m the best he can do. I can say specific, positive things about his contributions in our first year working together. But, I can’t say that I would recommend him for a position without reservation. My feelings about whether to provide a reference are complicated by the fact that Steve’s direct supervisor in our organization is extremely difficult to work with, and probably did block Steve’s success in certain ways. So, I do think that Steve might succeed in a similar position in a different environment, but I can’t say so with confidence. Finally, I know that Steve’s wife doesn’t work and that he has two children, so I lean toward helping if I can.
Is it kinder to provide a reference in which I say, “Steve did X, Y, and Z during our time together, but I can’t comment on his overall performance,” or to simply refuse to give a reference because I can’t wholeheartedly recommend him for a position?
Ooof. My usual answer with this kind of thing is that you should decline to give the reference or tell him that it won’t be glowing, because people giving inflated references is how other people end up with the kind of bad coworkers we read about here. But given that he was good to work with his first year, I do wonder if what you note about his difficult manager played some role in what he was like in year two. He’s still responsible for his own behavior that year, but it does make me more sympathetic.
You still can’t give a falsely positive reference, though. So I think your best bet is to tell him that you’re willing to talk factually about the projects you worked on together but that you wouldn’t be comfortable going beyond that to comment on his performance, and so therefore someone else might be a stronger pick. If you’re comfortable with it, you could even tell him that you felt like he struggled in his final year, and that you know it might be related to (manager), but that it’s put you in a position where you can’t give the kind of reference he’d probably like.
3. How can I explain to interviewers that I left my new job because of a bait and switch?
Three months ago, I was offered a job managing a small retail store in the very small (1,600 people) town I currently live in. After discussing the position in detail with the owners and agreeing on certain job details that I required be a part of the position if I were to take it, I decided to turn down the job as the pay was too low for me to accept (they don’t offer benefits). However, they came back to ask me my minimum required salary and offered me that number with the formerly agreed upon details. I decided to accept, despite wanting to leave this town for quite some time, and committed to a maximum of two years and a minimum of a year to help the resolve a number of issues with the store — issues which were the reason they had hired me.
However, even before starting (and of course after giving notice at my other job), they began changing the terms. They informed me they had let their employees know I was not actually the manager, but they wanted me to fill the role in other aspects. When I did start, I was suddenly not even responsible for those aspects either. Despite a conversation with the owner who offered me the job, they continue to strip down my duties and responsibilities and title. They are still compensating me as agreed upon, but the job is not what I agreed to and I am not utilizing the skills I originally expected to. I should also note that none of these changes were due to a lack of work performance. Not only have I reorganized their direct to garment and embroidery department to work more efficiently, I have brought in three new accounts in my short time here, using my contacts from past jobs. I have also been told my performance is above expectations.
I know my mistake in this was not getting the original offer in writing (something that is just not done in this small town setting), a mistake I will not make again. However, I feel I have given them a reasonable amount of time to address the concerns I brought to them originally and am not satisfied with their response. I have decided to cut my losses and begin looking for a job out of town, resuming my original plan to relocate. However, I’m not sure how to handle the “why are you leaving your current position” question that is bound to come up in interviews. Any suggestions?
“They hired me to manage the store, but it turned out that they really needed someone to do X instead. It ended up being a very different role than I’d signed on for.”
For what it’s worth, even getting the details of the job in writing might not have avoided this. It would have avoided any possible miscommunications, yes, but if they really meant what they said when they hired you and just changed their minds later, having it in writing wouldn’t have really changed anything. You should still get job offers in writing, but don’t beat yourself up over not having done it here.
4. Update: can you ask to come back to a question later in the interview, and how long can you pause before it seems weird?
I just wanted to let you know that you are the reason I got a job offer today. As a new grad, my fellow classmates are pretty jealous! I used all your tips and tricks to create a strong resume and cover letter I’m very proud of. I got a request for a phone interview 22 minutes after I applied online for a job. When I had my in-person interview today, I asked the manager several questions to assess the company and her management style. When I asked her your magic question “How would you differentiate a good X and a really great X” she responded “Someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions. You’re the first person I’ve interviewed that has asked me questions. Most people are too nervous.”
I was told they would make a decision two days later after interviewing two other candidates. 45 minutes after I left, the COO called and offered me the position, saying the manager was very impressed with me. I accepted, negotiated pay and was offered more.
I truly believe that asking the magic question and other questions I got from your blog is the reason I have a job now. I enjoy your blog so much and am so thankful for all you’ve shared on it.