It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Employee came in with blue, green, and purple hair
I wanted to ask how I tell a sweet younger employee, who dyed her hair from a rather unassuming brown to black with blue/purple/green highlights over the weekend, that it is unprofessional for the workplace. It is jet black with highlights that change with how the light hits it — think peacock feathers. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it just doesn’t fit here. Our policy is specific about nails, attire, tattoos, and piercings but not hair. I never dreamed I would have to include that “crazy cartoon hair” is a no-no. She is a medical assistant and is in patient care all day.
I’m going to take your word for it that your stance is necessary for your particular business rather than debating that here — but I’d also encourage you to think through that question first, because the world is changing in this regard and this is now okay in many places that it didn’t used to be.
But if it is indeed a business necessity for you, just be straightforward: “Jane, your new hair color looks great on you, but unfortunately we need you to have a more conservative appearance while you’re working here. I realize that the dress code didn’t spell this out so it’s not your fault for not knowing it, but I do need you to revert back to a more natural color.”
2. Boss is circumventing HR to do hiring work on his own
A number of recent interviewees for various positions in our marketing team have turned down their offers. Our chief marketing officer (CMO), who can be a micromanager in the extreme, has taken this as an indication that HR is somehow screwing up the hiring process. His solution is to step in and do more of the offer-giving, negotiating, and question-asking on his own.
We’ve told him this is a bad idea, but he’s unwilling to see that it could be a problem… and then this weekend happened. The team interviewed a tremendously talented young writer and we all pushed the CMO to make an offer ASAP. “No,” he said on Fridayafternoon, “I’ll need a couple days to think about it.” We were all disappointed that he wasn’t as eager as we were, but we went into our weekends hopeful that he’d give HR the green light to send her an offer letter on Monday morning. Instead, we arrived at work this morning to find that he had called the candidate over the weekend to “unofficially” offer her the job without first consulting with HR to secure official offer paperwork.
As a mid-career professional, this would have set off a number of alarms and I wouldn’t have accepted the position. As a recent graduate, the candidate didn’t seem to connect the dots/be concerned that the CMO of a large company called her on a weekend to extend an unofficial employment offer.
All of the mid-level managers are taken aback by his actions. Even my director is shocked. Is his behavior as weird as we think it is? How do you approach senior management who is openly distrustful of HR’s ability to onboard new candidates about his behavior with new recruits?
This … seems really normal to me. Managers should do this stuff themselves, and if your company has been leaving it to HR, that’s actually not a great thing. When managers turn this kind of work over to HR, they often miss out on opportunities to sell the position and to get a good sense of any reservations the candidate has, which they’re often going to be far more effective at addressing than HR will be. HR also isn’t going to have the same investment as the manager in hiring this particular person, getting the tone right, getting the person excited about the job, and setting up the relationship well from the start. Hiring is one of the most important things that managers do, and the offer stage is a critical part of hiring; it makes no sense to turn it over to someone without the same stake in it that the manager has.
So I don’t think it should set off any alarm bells for the candidate — maybe the weekend call, but not the rest of it.
Your CMO may have other issues, but this doesn’t sound like one of them.
3. My director requires more reporting from my department than from another
I work in a department of seven people that is overseen by a managing director who is also over another department of four people. Those in the smaller department all make about 5-10% more than those in my department, but we do completely different functions.
What I’ve noticed is that my department has to turn in weekly reports of our accomplishments. I won’t go into detail and give away what we do, but suffice it to say that our work is easily quantifiable and I generate a report and graphs for a weekly director’s meeting that my boss attends.
I’m considering making a formal complaint to my director that I feel like he’s only keeping track of our side while letting the smaller department do whatever. I’ve seen copies of the reports that are submitted to the company managers and there’s no mention of the smaller department. Their work is also easily quantifiable and they are setup to use the same work order tracking system we use, but they don’t. What would be the best way to approach this?
Don’t. It doesn’t impact your job, and it’s not really any of your business. There are all kinds of legitimate reasons that your director might ask for different reporting from your department than he does from the other department — but even if there’s no good reason for it, it’s just not your business and you don’t have standing to complain about it, formally or otherwise.
4. My boss wants me to work with an estranged relative
One of my relatives is a big supporter of the organization I currently work at (apparently it really is a small world, after all) and, without knowing that I was related to this person, my supervisor suggested that I might work with my relative and that they could be a resource for a project I’m working on. This person is very well-connected, and may be able to open doors that will be very helpful to this project.
However, I have been estranged from a relative for just over a year now. This person is not abusive, and I don’t fear for my safety—we were actually close until they did something pretty terrible and I decided that I could no longer have this person in my life.
I eventually told my supervisor that this person was a relative because I thought it would seem odd if it became known eventually and I hadn’t said anything, but I didn’t mention the estrangement. I just started working at this place a few months ago, and I don’t know if it will reflect badly on me if I tell my supervisor about the estrangement and that I would rather not work with this person. My supervisor is also a big believer in the separation of work life and personal life, and I’m not sure how they would react if I mentioned this personal story, even in very general terms. I don’t know if I should talk to my supervisor, not say anything and hope my supervisor forgets about it (the idea of working with my relative has been raised as a possibility, but in the meantime another project has come up that needs to be our top priority for now), or if there’s a better solution.
Would it seem like you dropped the ball if you didn’t follow up on it? If so, you should proactively bring it up so that you don’t look like you just let it drop or that you hoped that if you didn’t bring it up again, you could get out of it — those two things would be a bigger problem than just explaining what’s going on. But if neither of those things are true, then sure, you could just wait and see if it comes up again.
If you do need to address it (either now or down the road), I’d just be straightforward and brief: “Jane and I are actually estranged due to some family issues, so it would be awkward to work together.”
5. Can my resume list pieces I ghostwrote?
One of my current job duties is authoring op-eds and blog posts for senior leadership at my organization. Is it appropriate to list specific ghostwritten pieces in a publications section on my résumé? I like that this conveys the range of topics, diversity of voices, and frequency of publication, and also highlights work of which I am particularly proud. But I worry that it’s gauche to “out” the publicly credited authors and to assert a role that is not backed by bylines. Is it better to leave it as a general bullet point with some sample topics and publications?
Nope, it’s totally normal to list ghostwritten publications on your resume. It’s also very normal for staff to be the ones who actually author the pieces that have the byline of a top organizational leader, so you won’t be exposing any dirty secrets or anything like that. (That said, since this isn’t a CV, you don’t want a long list of publications on your resume — just selected highlights.)