It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Is it normal to get a daily memo with feedback on everyone’s performance?
I write as a reporter for a student newspaper that prints five days a week. We have an advisor whom I’ll call “Joe” who emails individual feedback about our work in mass emails to the whole staff for every paper we print. Joe, a former newspaper reporter, isn’t our boss—or anyone’s boss, really. He’s a paid advisor to our paper who has an office in our newsroom— and he doesn’t directly supervise our work, but he gives us all feedback on our stories, among other duties. As reporters, we each get feedback ranging from “good” to “could be better” for every story we write, often with explanations of why he gave the story that specific rating.
I don’t mind receiving feedback—in fact, I actively seek feedback from my direct supervisor on a regular basis. However, I take issue with the public nature of Joe’s feedback. I think it fosters unhealthy comparisons among the department and has led to lowered morale. Moreover, Joe doesn’t know the specific circumstances and the challenges that surround each person’s print articles (i.e. he says we should have talked to this source when we ran out of print space to include the source or the source was unavailable despited repeated emails and phone calls). My supervisor tells me not to over-invest myself emotionally in the critiques, but when I read them, I know that everyone can see what other people thought of my work.
I want to talk to my supervisor—I have a good relationship with her—and the advisor and see if I can get this practice changed. Would it be reasonable to raise concerns about this practice? Is this normal in the workplace to email mass critiques of individual performance?
Well, I can’t speak to normal newsroom practices (readers who are journalists, want to weigh in here?), but I can give you an answer for workplaces generally. That answer is: No, it’s not normal at all. It’s bizarre.
I do think your manager is right that you shouldn’t get too invested in Joe’s critiques, for all the reasons that you mentioned.
But it also might be worth pointing out to your manager — and possibly Joe himself, depending on what he’s like and what kind of relationship you have with him — that this is a strange and unhelpful practice. In particular, you might point out that feedback is most effective when it’s a two-way conversation, where it can be actual coaching (and accommodate exactly the sort of context you note Joe doesn’t have). It’s not especially constructive or good for morale to have it to be essentially a one-way loudspeaker announcement. That element is actually more important than the fact that it’s happening in front of everyone; after all, if Joe were instead providing feedback at group coaching meetings that allowed for discussion, it could (depending on the specific feedback) be a good group coaching opportunity (although it also shouldn’t take the place of one-on-one feedback).
2. Manager asked my coworker and me to decide which of us gets to do something we both want
I work in an office with several staff members, four other coworkers specific to my area under one manager. My manager micromanages everything, even when she’s on holidays. She never takes her days off, and she’s constantly pointing out our errors, no matter how small.
The other day she told two of us who have been there the longest (the other two are new hires) to choose who she is going to train to help her do billing when she’s not in the office. We both said we’d like to learn it. She says we have to choose who gets it. My problem is, I’ve been there the longest, but in the past she’s played favorites to my coworker. She even made a comment to us about how she doesn’t want to “step on anyone’s toes” and that we have to decide. I’m frustrated because I get along really well with this other coworker, and I do want to learn new skills but I know she won’t say for me to do it. We were at a stalemate yesterday about it. Is it even right for a manager to ask us to choose between us?
Nope, your manager is abdicating her responsibilities here and putting the two of you in a situation that isn’t exactly conducive to coworker harmony. If she had reason to think that neither of you were particularly invested in the decision or that you’d both clearly agree on who should do it, then fine. But that’s not the case, and the “stepping on toes” thing is ridiculous. It’s her job to decide how to allocate work.
I’d go back to her and say, “You know, we’d both like to do it, so we’re asking you to decide based on who you think would make the most sense.”
3. Mandatory flu shots
I work in health care and accepted a job offer, not knowing until the first day of orientation that they had a mandatory flu vaccine policy. This policy is not on the company website or in any paperwork, nor was it ever mentioned during interviews. I do not want to get the flu shot. Period. That is my personal choice. If I had known this, I never would’ve applied and wasted their time as well as mine. I’m aware of some hospitals that have the option to get the shot or file an exemption and wear a mask during flu season. However, this is the first time I’ve been told it is absolutely mandatory, no exceptions.
I’m not a quitter, but I’m not willing to give up my patient rights to have a job. How do I handle this? Will it look bad if I quit before I really even get started?
Yeah, some health care employers do require flu shots and other vaccinations (in order to protect patients from catching viruses from infected workers). There’s a growing backlash against this (including legislation being introduced in some states), but so far, it’s up to your employer unless you can show you need an exemption for medical or religious reasons.
Will it look bad to quit before you’ve even started? Well, your future employers are unlikely to know about it, so we’re really just talking about how it’ll look to this one employer. They’ll probably already understand that they risk losing people over this kind of policy, and as long as you’re polite about it, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Explain that the mandate is prohibitive for you, that you regret not realizing it was their policy before you accepted the job, and ask how they’d like you to proceed.
That said, I think you’re likely to continue encountering this as long as you work in health care, so definitely ask about this in the future (which is probably obvious now), and I’d be prepared with a brief, calm explanation of your reasons for not wanting the shot, even if you feel you shouldn’t have to share that.
4. Shouldn’t people come prepared for informational interviews?
I just finished an informational interview with a young man in his 20s who is the son of a professional colleague of my husband. His attire was extremely casual – worn-out jeans, long-sleeve t-shirt, baseball cap turned around. He probably could have used a bath and a comb run through his hair.
He did not bring a resume. He did not have any questions about my work. He did not have any questions about the academic institution that I work for. His responses to my questions about his education and career aspirations were not particularly specific to the work that we do here. I gleaned that he liked history. He might be thinking about a graduate degree (he was not specific). His present position is tangential to the work we do here.
By the time he did ask for advice about how to approach a job opening in another department, I was just weary pulling information out of him. The position required a master’s degree and project management experience. He does not have the former and did not express any experience with the latter.
I thought that a person should come prepared for an informational interview like a job interview. Am I an old fogy?
Nope, it sounds like he blew the opportunity, and also that he was probably pushed into it by the parent who works with your husband.
For what it’s worth, I think you should have put the onus on him to structure the time with you, meaning not expending all that energy to try to try to draw information out of him. You can signal to people that they need to come prepared to do this by saying something in advance like, “If you’ll send me the questions you’re most interested in ahead of time, I’ll do some thinking on them before we meet.”
I also think you could have said, “I should tell you that you’ll want to dress much more formally for business meetings. The way you’re dressed now is likely to make people think you don’t take your career seriously.”
But I also really like this recent take on informational interviews in Slate (and not only because they reference me at the end).
5. Will this volunteer experience look suspicious on my resume?
I’m an online transcription volunteer for the Smithsonian, working to transcribe archive items in order to facilitate research. It’s a case where volunteering is done whenever and for however long you feel you’re able to work. There’s not a manager or supervisor except in the sense that any work you do will be checked over and either approved or sent back for amending.
While I am currently happy in my full-time job, I realise that this volunteer work showcases skills that would be useful in future job applications. Should I put this volunteer work on my CV? If so, how? I’m concerned that as there’s not really anyone that can be a reference for this work, it would appear to be a false claim to potential employers. Complicating matters is the fact that I live outside of the U.S., so I’m concerned that it might seem suspicious if I claim to be doing volunteer work for a U.S.-based organisation.
Put it on your resume. It’s not likely to seem suspicious! Anyone who has questions about how you’re doing this outside the U.S. will simply ask you, not mutter to themselves that you’re obviously a liar and trash your resume. If someone wants to verify that you do this (which is unlikely, unless it forms a key part of your qualifications for a job), I’m sure there’s a way to do it; you’d get in touch with whoever your contact is there and ask them how to make that happen.