It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…
1. Requiring people to be on time when the rest of the organization isn’t
My new (10 months on the job) executive director does not seem to care one iota if people stroll in late to work in the morning. Even our front desk receptionst staff are often dashing into the building 5 -10 minutes after we open. It is commonplace behavior and has become a disturbing part of our office culture. As a manager, I expect and require my staff to be ready to work, and at their desk at their scheduled start time. How do I respond to push back from them about “but not even the E.D. cares if we are a little late!” I feel like I have boarded the crazy train.
“In this department, being on time matters because ____.”
As long as you can fill in that blank with something that truly makes sense there, it’s perfectly reasonable to require this, even if other parts of your organization don’t.
That said, if there’s any chance that one of your people might go around you to the ED and try to get her to say it’s okay for your team to be late too, talk to her first and make sure you’ll be able to head that off.
2. Should people get advance warning about layoffs?
I manage a team that has been in dire need of restructuring, but we have not been able to implement the new plan until now. I know that in an ideal scenario, a firing shouldn’t catch an employee off-guard. But what about layoffs or restructuring? I mean, we’ve talked about the needs on the team and what we are lacking, but I think this is going to totally blindside one of my employees. Unfortunately he does not have a skillset to fit the new structure. We’ve had talks about fit, and I’ve expressed the needs of the department, but either he didn’t want to hear what I was saying or I wasn’t being clear enough.
Have I dropped the ball by not better preparing my team for the layoffs? Reasonably, I also couldn’t be very open about a potential restructure and sometimes companies can’t be for good reason. So it is understandable that layoffs take employees by surprise? I feel terrible. I may not be able to “fix” this situation, but I want to make sure I am ready if the situation ever arises again in my future.
It really depends. It’s pretty common not to give employees an advance heads-up about layoffs, substituting severance pay for notice. Is that the right way to do it? It’s easy to argue no, but it’s more nuanced than that — having laid-off employees still at work can make it harder for remaining employees to move forward, and sometimes those who are being laid off are too angry or upset about the layoffs to effectively do their jobs, and in some cases can be pretty toxic to an environment that’s already quite shaken up.
And if you just give general notice that layoffs are coming (rather than getting specific about which people/which roles), you can end up with a really tense and anxious environment because everyone is worried about who will be cut. Sometimes that means that you’ll end up losing your best people, since they’ll assume they need to be job searching and — being your best people — may find jobs quickly. (You can often head that off, though, by talking to your strongest people one-on-one and assuring them that their jobs are secure, if indeed that’s the case.)
In your particular situation, it sounds like you have had opportunities to prepare this particular person for the fact that the needs of his team have changed, and if he hasn’t gotten that message, then yeah, it’s possible that you should have been clearer, both with him and with others. It’s hard to say without knowing more. But in general, I’d say to err on the side of transparency unless there are very specific reasons not to (reasons that you’ve reality-tested with someone whose judgment you trust). But when you haven’t, it’s additional reason to do what you can to cushion the blow with however much severance as you can manage.
3. Emailing a former mentor
I have a question about contacting old mentors. A couple of years ago when I was interning at a place I got a really great reference from this older colleague that was supervising my work there. I also got a near perfect placement evaluation and we kept in touch for a few months, but ever since I moved on with my career. I’m doing reasonably well, but I haven’t contacted him because my former boss is more familiar with my work and a reference in our field, so I don’t need him as a reference. I was wondering if it’s ok to email to let this person to let them know how much it helped having that great mentorship and reference on my first year as a new graduate. I don’t want to seem like I’m just wasting someone’s time. What do you think about this?
Good lord, you will not be wasting his time! He will almost certainly be delighted to get an email like that, and will probably cherish it. I say this as someone who gets a lot of thank-you notes (which is a very nice side effect of running a blog like this); I appreciate each and every one of them, I save them, and it never stops feeling fantastic to read them. And some of them have arrived on days when they were very needed.
Pretty much no one receives this kind of message enough. Send it!
4. Does the order of names in an email matter?
This might seem like a minor question but it’s something I’ve wondered about in passing from time to time. When sending an email, does it matter the order in which you have people’s names in the “to” section? Like should it be based off order of title importance or relevancy to the topic at hand, or does that not matter at all? For example, if I’m emailing the president of my company along with my boss and then an entry-level person (all who are directly affected by my email, so wouldn’t necessarily go in the cc section), would it be strange to list my president last?
In general, it doesn’t really matter. That said, there are some companies where this kind of thing does matter and people do pay attention. In case you’re at one, I’d just pay attention to how other people at your company do it — particular your boss and other people senior to you — and if you notice that they seem to list names in order of hierarchy, it’s smart to do the same. (But know for the record that this is a weird thing for a company culture to care about.)