It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My sister might apply for a job in my two-person department
I’ve got a dilemma and I feel like I can’t be objective. My mid-sized company is hiring another person with my job title due to company growth. My sister is considering applying. She has the same (really rare) degree I have, from the same school, but had always been more interested in another focus within our degree. At first when the topic came up, she wasn’t interested but now she is after weighing things out. To be clear, neither of us would be managing each other and we would be working on separate projects. My problem is that we would be the only two people in my department. My sister just graduated and needs more job experience, and a little more confidence her work (she is very talented), which she may find here. We wouldn’t be the only ones who have relatives here at work. One salesperson had a sister here for the summer, and we have a mother and son pairing who are in different departments.
We worked together last summer at my company on the same project, but with different but similar roles. The project was a mess due to poor planning, a short deadline, and the inexperience of the salesperson who was handling it. My sister feels miffed that a chunk of her work wasn’t used, but in all honesty, this salesperson wasn’t willing to try clearly communicate with us and the client and that affected the outcome. I did explain to my sister that was the case, and I often do work that isn’t used and it’s just part of this industry. To be fair, my sister and I worked well together. My manager has also asked about how her schooling has gone and when she graduates, so I do not think he’s opposed to the idea as he has hinted that he would consider hiring her after graduation.
I do have some influence in the hiring decision, and it was always going to be someone from my alma mater in the first place. Now I feel very conflicted because A) if she doesn’t get the job I will feel guilty and B) if she does, I don’t want the perceptions of her work output (good or bad) to be tied to mine. I don’t feel like I can tell her not to apply either. I don’t know what to do. Please help!
I don’t think you should work in a two-person department that will just be you and your sister. That’s not like having a relative in another department. It’s much more fraught with the potential for all sorts of complications. For example: what would happen if your sister’s work wasn’t great and if you felt pressured (either by her or yourself) to cover for her, if you got tainted by association, if there were problems that you could resolve with a coworker that will be harder when it’s your sister, if there’s competition for projects or other rewards/recognition, if your sister had a problem with someone else (would you feel obligated to take on her beef as your beef, or would she by annoyed if you didn’t), not being able to escape each other, and so much more.
It’s just an awful lot of complications and potential for problems. Since this isn’t the only possible job out there for her, it’s hard to see a compelling argument in favor of doing it.
2. My coworker turns down new work but isn’t doing much work now
I’ve been in my position longer than my new coworker who has the same title, and therefore I typically delegate the tasks between the two of us (but I am not her manager). Because I am more senior, our manager recently assigned some other tasks to me and suggested that I delegate more of the job-typical tasks to my coworker.
My coworker has started pushing back and asking if I can take on some of the newer projects instead of giving them to her. However, her door is right next to mine, and I can’t help but notice that every day she’s only in the building between 6-7.5 hours, which includes one-hour lunches with other coworkers, so 5-6.5 hours working. It’s not my job to police other people’s work schedules, so I’ve said nothing to our manager. I’m okay with my coworker saying she’s too busy to take on extra tasks, because in that case I’d just stay later and take them on myself, but she’s not even working 40 hours per week. Is it possible for me to fix this without bringing to my manager and sounding whiny? If so, how should I approach it?
Well, you can try being firmer with your coworker: “Jane, I need to divvy this up, so I’m going to take X and you should take Y.” And then if she tells you that she doesn’t have time, you could say, “Hmmm, I won’t have time to do this either, so if you don’t either, I should go talk to (manager).”
And yes, you will probably end up needing to talk to your manager — but that’s not going to sound whiny. Part of your job is to flag it for your manager when things are impacting your work, and you especially have standing to do that here because your manager has asked you to delegate to your coworker. I’d say this to your manager: “You’ve suggested that I delegate more to Jane, but when I’ve tried to, she’s told me that she doesn’t have time to take them on. Has she by chance worked out an abbreviated schedule with you? I’ve noticed she often doesn’t work full days, but I wasn’t sure if that was something official she’d worked out with you, and I don’t want to put her in an awkward position by pushing if she has.” On the off chance that your coworker has worked out a shortened schedule, that’ll be helpful to know — but if she hasn’t, you’ll be flagging what’s happening for your manager, who will probably ask you for more information about what’s going on or start paying more attention to it herself.
“It’s soooo unfair that Jane takes long lunches” is whiny. “I’m not able to delegate work to Jane because she says she doesn’t have time to do it, but she’s also not working full hours” isn’t whiny; it’s factual information that your manager needs to have in order to oversee the workflow in her department.
3. How can ask about family leave policies while interviewing?
I’m in the process of moving back to my home state after a couple years living elsewhere, and I’ll be looking for jobs soon. This is nerve-wracking enough, as I hate job hunting, but throwing a wrench in the works is the fact that my husband and I are hoping to get pregnant this year. If I was staying at my old job, this wouldn’t be too much of a big deal, but we’ll likely be trying to get pregnant within six or seven months of me starting at a new job. I know the best option is to just wait to get pregnant, but we both think now is the right time.
How do I bring up what kinds of family leave policies are in place without raising flags with a potential employer? I know they’re technically not allowed not to hire me because they think I’m already or about to get pregnant, but if the offer gets pulled, there would be no way to know if that was the case. Do I wait to get an offer and ask explicitly then? Do I raise this at a second or third interview? Having some kind of maternity/family leave policy would make a potential job much more attractive, and if they don’t offer any kind of paid leave, that might be a deal breaker, so I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by going all the way through the process and having to pull out at the end.
Wait until the offer stage. I know it’s annoying to have to go through the whole process without knowing if there might be this deal-breaker waiting for you at the end, but that’s true with other aspects of offers too (like salary). But waiting until you have the offer, you’ll eliminate the risk of them not hiring you because of your pregnancy plans (even if only unconsciously on their part). They’re very, very unlikely to pull the offer over this — first, because pulled offers are rare in general, and second, because pulling an offer after someone asks about family leave is a really, really shady maneuver legally and most employers are going to realize that.
4. Why should managers conduct reference calls rather than HR?
What is a good argument for future managers to conduct reference checks, rather than HR?
Well, if reference checks are just being used as employment verification or rubber-stamping a hiring decision that’s basically already been made, then sure, let HR do them. But if you’re a manager who’s using them the way I’d argue they should be used — to gather information that will truly aid in your decision-making — then you want to do them yourself, because you want to be able to really probe into the areas that matter to you, hear tone of voice, and ask follow-up questions.
In fact, it’s kind of similar to the reasons that you wouldn’t delegate interviews to HR — in both cases, those conversations are a crucial part of your ability to make the right hiring decision.
5. Update: New accountant says I’m not eligible for a bonus
I am the original poster of #3 at the link above and just wanted to let everyone know how it played out. I did in fact receive a “retention” payment that started me at the three years full-time salary mark. I brought it up to the president who said, “These rules are in place to make everything even across the board on paper, but every rule has an exception, with you being the case for this one.”
To the person who said it would be better to approach my manager than the president directly, this made me laugh a little because (due to my relationship with the president) he explained absolutely everything to me and said the accountant was unaware of my situation and it will be handled correctly, blah blah. After explaining the bonus I will get, etc., he said, “Now go ask your manager so she can ask me and reiterate all of this to you so she doesn’t feel you went above her head.” Thanks for the comments and all went well and it was worth raising the question!