It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My company wants me to return part of a gift from a client
I work for a large, well-known organization in the United States. I recently finished up a job with a client who I’ve worked closely with for the last two years. He sent me a very kind hand-written note thanking me for all of my hard work on the project and enclosed four one-day tickets to a major theme park (owned by his parent company) as a token of his thanks. I was surprised and delighted by both the note and the generous gift.
My company has a compliance plan that requires us to disclose gifts received in excess of $250, which the total face value of the tickets does. In order to comply with this policy, I emailed the appropriate people, letting them know that I had been given the tickets. My company’s compliance officer emailed me back telling me that while the gift does not sound unreasonable under the circumstances, she recommends I return two of the tickets to my client in order to stay under the $250 limit.
I understand my company’s compliance plan exists to eliminate the appearance of conflict of interest. But frankly, I’m upset. For two years I worked very hard on this job, regularly going above and beyond, and my client recognized that with a nice gift. (My company, on the other hand, didn’t recognize my work at all.) I could’ve easily not reported receiving the tickets and most likely never have been found out. Instead, I did the right thing, and even though there is no conflict of interest (I am not in a position to affect my company’s business partnership with my client at all) and there is leeway in the compliance plan for the officer to approve the gift (I re-read the plan to make sure), they’re telling me to return the tickets anyway. I am a top performer in my company, regularly receiving excellent performance reviews, but this entire situation is making me feel unappreciated and demoralized. What is your take on the situation?
I totally get why you’re frustrated, but this is part of the deal with compliance rules. It’s reasonable for your company to be more worried about avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest than they are with whether you get to keep all four tickets. We can debate whether or not they’re being too rigid here, but they’re coming from a reasonable place.
That said, you said that the compliance officer “recommended” returning two of the tickets, which sounds like maybe there’s leeway for going back to her and saying, “I hear your concerns. In this case, I think keeping all the tickets could be justified because of (reasons) and I worry about offending the client. It looks like the compliance plan doesn’t strictly prohibit this. Are you okay with me doing that?”
But if she’s not, I really, really wouldn’t take it personally; that’s just how this stuff works. A compliance officer’s decision has pretty much zero to do with what kind of appreciation and recognition your company thinks you deserve. It sounds like you might have other reasons to feel unappreciated by your company, but don’t let this be one; that would be giving it more weight than is warranted.
2. Interviewer told me I need a better answer to what I’ve been doing while I’m unemployed
I had an interview this week. It went very well overall, but at one point the hiring manager asked me how I’ve spent the nine months since earning my masters last spring.
The truth is that I’ve been job hunting without much luck. I’m in a field that’s known as being hot right now, but I am not a conventional candidate for the positions I’ve been applying for. I didn’t want to say directly that no other employers have expressed interest in me, so I said this: “I’ve been job hunting a lot, but I haven’t found the right fit yet. I’ve also been building my technical skills by reading papers on teapot heat transfer and practicing with teapot design tools.” Both are true.
This manager said, “That’s it? You’re going to need to come up with an answer to that.” It seemed like he wanted me to tell him why nobody had hired me yet. Or maybe he thought I might have had a position that I left off my resume after it ended poorly? Are there other good ways to frame extended job searches so that hiring managers don’t assume there’s something wrong with me?
Your interviewer sounds like a bit of a jerk, so I wouldn’t get too thrown off by what he said.
That said, I’d rather you remove the “job hunting a lot” from your answer, since it can make hiring managers worry that there’s a reason no one has hired you (to be clear, this is silly, but it can be human nature). Instead, how about this: “I’ve been taking my time looking around because I want to make sure I find the right fit. Meanwhile, I’ve also been studying teapot heat transfer, which I’m fascinated by because of X, and playing around with teapot design tools like Y and Z.”
3. Dealing with a habitually late low-performer when others come in late too
I am new to HR management and am the first HR manager my company. Time is of the essence with our business and so we emphasize punctuality, despite people’s exempt pay status. We have a habitually late low-performing employee who is under performance review and a few other habitually late (although not as much) employees who are otherwise stellar performers. These top performers also work after hours, and the low-performing one does not. How does one go about handling this without being perceived as showing favoritism/unfair treatment in the workplace?
It’s totally reasonable to treat high performers differently than low performers; in fact, you should differentiate by performance. People performing at a high level have earned different levels of trust, autonomy, assignments, and recognition.
If your low-performing employee asks why other people are allowed to come in late when he’s not, you can say, “We want everyone here on time, but certainly people can earn more leeway when they’re regularly working long hours and performing at a high level.”
4. Company I’m interested in hired someone who plagiarized code
I was recently laid off and am now looking. I was looking at this one company when I realized that they have a guy working there who I’d worked with before at another company. This guy was fired for stripping the GPL (GNU General Public License) header from some code and submitting it as his own. In fact, I was the one who noticed it wasn’t his style and found the code he’d supposedly written with a quick Google search. Otherwise the job looked like it might be a good fit, but if they have a guy there who has in the past blatantly plagiarized code, is that a big enough red flag to not bother applying?
I wouldn’t assume that. It might mean they don’t check references very thoroughly, or it could mean that he convinced them he’d genuinely learned from the experience and changed his ways. If you’re otherwise interested in the job, I’d apply. If you get an interview, you can pay particular attention to how thoughtful and rigorous they are about who’s on their staff, and other signals that you get about how they operate.
If you had a manager who wanted you to do something against your initial inclination, which of IBM’s elements would work best on you? Why?
Come on now. If you’re going to send me your schoolwork to do for you, at least disguise it better than that.