fast answer Friday: 7 short questions, 7 short answers

It’s fast answer Friday! Today, you’re having coffee with your interviewer, your normally reliable employee is suddenly making a lot of mistakes, you’re engaging in some kind of weird speed networking, and more. Here we go…

1. My manager didn’t tell me about an opening she knew I’d be interested in

I work as support staff at a college part time on a term-by-term contract basis. Last year, I met with my manager to discuss full-time opportunities in our department. She said there would be none, ever. In fact, she said she hoped my job would be obsolete within a few years. Now, 8 months later, I see an expired posting for my job with full time hours and pay. I feel stupid for not religiously checking the college’s job listing page, but I was assuming the full-time job would never exist. Was she at all obligated to let me know of the opportunity?

Obligated, no. But it would have been nice of her to do so, and a good thing to do if she cares about developing people. Three possibilities here: (1) She isn’t a great manager who thinks about her staff’s professional development. (2) She’s a fine manager who slipped up here because her focus was on other things. (3) She isn’t hugely impressed with your performance, so isn’t inclined to encourage you to apply for full-time work. I don’t know which one it is, but now that it’s clear that her prediction about never having full-time openings wasn’t correct, you can certainly talk with her again about your future there.

2. Interviewer wants to have a final “coffee chat” with me

I got a call from a recruiter today and she said that the manager for a job I’ve interviewed for was interested in setting up a final chat to review the interviews, and she called it a coffee chat. I know they called my references. Should i be worried….. How often are job offers made in person?

Sometimes job offers are made in person, but if that happens, you can ask for a few days to think things over, have details sent to you in writing, etc. But it’s also likely that she just wants one more conversation before making a decision.

3. Reliable employee suddenly making mistakes

I have an employee who has been working in payroll and purchasing for 2 years with little to no incidents. However, lately there has been a constant stream of mistakes; one in particular required deleting the whole payroll and rekeying it by hand. It is like this employee went home one day and came back the next day and forgot all the knowledge they had obtained. I have this person work from their manuals in order to avoid further incidence. Any suggestions on what on earth is going on?

Ask her! Say this: “I’ve noticed some changes in your work lately. You’ve normally been so detail-oriented and accurate, but lately the quality of your work has changed. Is there anything going on that might be causing this?” Ask this in a kind way, not an accusatory one; you want it to be safe for her to be candid with you. And if she’s as baffled as you are, tell her that you’re concerned for her and suggest that she talk to a doctor to rule out a medical cause.

4. When a reference retires

I have a question about references. One of my references retired in 2007. We worked closely together when she worked here and we were in parallel positions hierarchically for a few years before she retired. She’s still involved in the profession in a very part time capacity at other places. We have not worked together since 2007. Is that too long ago? We worked together for about 8 years before her retirement although I was not at her level when I started.

Nope, that’s fine. Keep in mind, though, that most employers are going to want to talk to past managers rather than peers.

5. Staying in touch with a new employer when the job is three months away

I’m a college student graduating in May and have already accepted an offer to work for a firm starting in July, about two months after graduation. Since responding to the offer and receiving a follow-up official letter, I’ve had no further contact with any of the members of the (rather small) firm. My mother feels that I ought to email them so that they don’t forget about me; I feel that would be overly chatty and that, since they do this every year, would be a waste of time for all involved. My plan had been to talk to them about a week or so before my start date, just to confirm location, start time, etc. What’s your opinion and do you have any advice if contacting them is the way to go?

It’s not a bad idea to send the occasional email to your new manager between now and your start date — not weekly or anything like that, but a couple between now and July. Send an article that might be of interest (but the bar is high here — make sure it really will be of interest or don’t do it), ask if there’s anything you can be reading to prepare before you start date, etc. (Note that since it’s a small firm, I’m assuming they haven’t hired an army of new grads, where a stream of emails from each would indeed risk being annoying.)

6. Will my new LinkedIn profile tip my manager off to my job search?

I’m considering creating a LinkedIn profile to assist with my job search. I have been at my current job for about 2 years, and this specific field for almost 5 years, but I’m considering leaving it for various reasons. I don’t currently have a LinkedIn account, but I’m afraid if I make one now, my manager will get suspicious (even if I don’t “friend” him or reach out to him – I’m afraid he’ll find it). My manager is very active on LinkedIn and other social networking sites, although he has never requested to be my Facebook friend and respects that boundary. I’m just worried that if he comes across my LinkedIn profile, which is likely in our field, he will be suspicious as to why I suddenly have one. I have not spoken to anyone at work about looking elsewhere, including my manager. Am I worried about nothing or is this a legitimate concern? How can I say I just want to increase my network without sounding like I have ulterior motives?

LinkedIn profiles are a pretty normal thing to have and don’t indicate that you’re job-searching (unless you write that there, so don’t). If he asks you about it, just say that you finally gave into the pressure and set one up. If you want to make sure you throw him off, add that you don’t see what all the hype is about. But unless you advertise on the site that you’re looking to move on, he’s unlikely to give it much thought.

7. Speed networking

Speed networking: Are you familiar with the process? Kind of like speed dating, job seekers and other get together, you talk to about five minutes, exchange business cards and resumes, and move to the next person. Is this effective?

Ugh, it’s hard to think it would be that effective. I mean, you collect a lot of business cards, but what else are you really learning about people in five minutes? I’m skeptical that you’d make meaningful connections in that amount of time, but maybe I only think that because all things networking-related make me want to run in the other direction. Perhaps some extrovert will weigh in with a different viewpoint?

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. TaxManager

    #5 – You could send a quick email to your future manager and ask if there’s anything you can do to prepare to start working. An accounting firm, for instance, wouldn’t mind a new hire taking some tutorials to get rock star Excel skills if they don’t already have them.

    Don’t assume that you’ve slipped their minds just because you haven’t heard from them. They’re probably busy, and trying to figure out how to get you trained once you start.

    1. OP #5

      Thanks to both Alison and TaxManager for the advice. I like these ideas for contact – a sort of compromise between the two ideas that were already bouncing around my head.

      1. Charles

        Is this a law firm? or something similar?

        Not that this helps much, as your situation might be different; but, I used to train new hires for a large firm that hired staff in “batches.” (i.e. Summer of ‘XX is how they were called, and they hired several, usually four, batches throughout the year)

        Aside from comfirmation of receiving the official hiring letter, if someone didn’t keep in touch – it wasn’t held against them in any way.

        But, if someone did try to keep in touch and came across as pushy, we all sort of knew who they were before training started and not in a good way! I would stick to the suggestion “Is there anything I can do to prepare” as the best solution without being pushy.

        Of course, if you know who exactly your supervisor will be that might change things completely; follow up with her and play it by ear. (sorry, this last sentence really doesn’t help)

        1. OP #5

          Charles,

          It’s a small finance firm that normally hires 1-2 people/year (one period, no batches). They’re anticipating more business and they had several people leave, so I believe they hired close to four this year.

          While I want to leave a good impression, I certainly don’t want to leave a bad one. I’m thinking I’ll probably send a “What would you recommend to prepare/stay in practice?” e-mail close to May, when I’m (realistically) more likely to do whatever they may suggest.

          Thanks.

  2. JPT

    I’m curious on #1. What does the writer mean by the job was “expired?” Had it been filled? If it’s in that same department and they know no one new has started in that position, to me it sounds like they had planned to hire for that position but maybe ended up not filling it. Also, it could be that the supervisor had nothing to do with that position and didn’t really know about it. I’m just trying to justify the fact that it sounds like she blatantly lied about the possibility of a full-time opening! Seems like she could have said she didn’t know if there would be.

    1. Anonymous

      The job posting was expired. Some job posting have expiration dates, and I think the OP meant she had seen the posting after the date for accepting applications.

  3. Joey

    #3. No, no no. Do not tell her to talk to a doctor unless she mentions something that sounds like a medical issue. For all you know she has some private non-medical issues that she doesnt want to talk about. It’s really a bad idea to suggest that it may be a medical problem just because you don’t know what’s going on. Everything else is spot on just leave out the doctor part.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The thing is, that type of symptom can be indicative of some pretty serious medical stuff. I’m not saying it is, or that there aren’t plenty of other possible reasons, but I’d feel really negligent not encouraging the person to get checked out if they professed to have no idea why their work had suddenly changed so dramatically. The employee doesn’t need to report back to the manager about what the doctor said, but in this situation, I think it’s the right thing to do to make the suggestion, simply on a human level.

      1. JPT

        The opposite is also a problem. If you don’t assume it COULD be a medical issue and her performance is suffering, and you evaluate her based on something that turns out to be medical, that could be a problem. If someone has a medical issue that affects their work, they might need time off to make sure they’re at their best. I don’t know if I’d suggest going to a doctor unless they said they were having a medical issue, but maybe start with “are you feeling OK, you don’t seem like yourself,” hinting at it.

        1. Joey

          Jpt, actually the opposite is not a problem bc a medical problem isn’t an excuse for poor performance, especially when the employer doesn’t know about it.

          Allison, the ADA and ADAA are so broad that even the perception of a mental illness or other disability invokes protections. Most people don’t understand that the definition of a disability is a pretty low bar. All I’m saying is that when you start perceiving those things, even generically, you can pretty easily and unnecessarily put someone in a protected class.

          1. JPT

            Not a problem as in it gives them an excuse. But a problem as in, they could claim it’s because of an illness and cause a ginormous hassle for your organization. I firmly believe that if a medical/personal/whatever problem gets to a point that someone can’t perform their duties, they shouldn’t be at work. But that might mean they’re on FMLA or taking some time off in general.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              The ADA doesn’t require you to employ someone who isn’t performing the essential functions of the job. I think there’s too much ADA fright out there.

              1. ChristineH

                I’m not a hiring manager, but I’m pretty familiar with the ADA because of professional and personal interests. When they broadened the definition of disability a couple years ago, I’ll admit that I had some concerns that it might open up the legal floodgates. So I see what you’re saying Alison.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think saying, “You don’t seem like yourself lately and if you don’t know why, it might be helpful to talk to your doctor” will invoke ADA protections, but it’s certainly possible that I’m wrong. I think I’d say it anyway though, just because I think it’s the right thing to do. (But I’m also not someone who shies away from managing someone the way I want to manage them just because they’re in a protected class, because it’s possible to navigate that perfectly well if you’re conscientious about it, so I’ll declare that bias.)

            1. Kimberlee

              I agree completely, especially since Alison noted to only mention it if the employee themself seems baffled about what’s going on. It’s perfectly reasonable if the employee is apologetic and indicates that they don’t know what’s going on… if they say something that gives you the hint that they just don’t want to talk about it, obviously you don’t suggest a doctor at that point.

            2. ChristineH

              I don’t think you’re wrong, Alison. As long as the employee seems genuinely baffled and the manager addresses it in a way that shows a genuine desire to help the employee get back up to par, the ADA shouldn’t even be an issue.

              But even so, I agree that disabilities and medical conditions should not be an excuse for chronically poor performance.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Definitely not an excuse. I’d bring it up in this context as a genuine “I’m worried about you — it might be good to get checked out just in case.”

      2. Jamie

        I agree with this, and I typically shy away from any medical reference. If nothing else it indicates that the OP sees the errors as serious enough that if there is a non-medical reason the employee doesn’t want to share (fair point) that they need to take action as before it jepordizes their job.

        A steady stream of errors to the point of the employee needing to go back to manuals, and from a previously good performer indicates a something serious is going on.

        1. Lindsay H.

          Yeah, I’m on the same page with Joey and Jamie on this one.

          I was having a discussion with a former supervisor about some of the issues I was having at work. I was upset a specific team member was being scheduled 40 hours a week while there were other team members (not me but I was on the HR team and was trying to be an advocate) who were having a tough time paying for diapers due to not enough hours. This team member had a history of finagling hours even though she had made it clear she didn’t need to work because of her husband’s salary. I told my boss I was so frustrated I was going home in tears most days. She then suggested I go in to the doctor due to may apparent anxiety and depression issues. My crying seemed to be an extreme reaction to the situation.

          It may sound like, yes, I was overreacting. However, there was more below the surface of my interactions with this team member than what my explanation shows, which lead to my high level of frustration over the situation.

          Moral of the story: My boss’s reaction made me feel like I was so emotionally unstable that my feelings and concerns were invalid.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think that’s different than someone who has normally done good work and is suddenly making so many mistakes that she needs to work from manuals. Something’s up with her — might be medical, probably isn’t, but either way, it’s worth a conversation about whether something’s wrong before the manager starts addressing it as a performance issue.

            1. Lindsay H.

              Yes. I do not disagree a conversation needs to be had. But, I would start with a generic opening question that stays away from making any sort-of medical diagnosis. The main focus is getting the person back onto his/her feet regardless of what is causing the issue, medical or otherwise.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Absolutely. And that’s what I recommended in the post :)

                (And I don’t mean that in a snotty way, just that that fact might have been lost in all the ADA discussion.)

          2. Joey

            “She then suggested I go in to the doctor due to may apparent anxiety and depression issues.”

            This is pretty typical of how managers tell employees to see a doctor.

            1. Lindsay H.

              Alison: I’m sorry for being so combative. I should’ve been clearer in my follow up comment.

              I would actually stay away from making any sort-of medical diagnosis period. Maybe this notion is due to the fact that I was a nursing major and it’s hammered into your brain that you shouldn’t make any sort-of diagnosis even if it’s obvious what is the matter because it’s illegal to diagnose when you’re not a doctor. I would phrase it as, “What can we do to get you back on track?” rather than suggest any sort of medical treatment.

              With my previous example, it turns out that I wasn’t suffering from anxiety or depression. I just had a crappy boss. :)

              Joey: It actually wasn’t a suggestion as much as it was a statement of, “Crying so much over this isn’t normal. Have you seen a doctor in the past about anxiety or depression?” Maybe I was subconsciously softening how she phrased to keep me from becoming angry at the memory.

              SERENITY NOW!!!

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                No, you didn’t come across as combative! (Maybe you were feeling combative, but I couldn’t tell!)

                I agree you shouldn’t be suggesting a diagnosis (kind of what your own manager did), but I don’t see a problem with suggesting that someone who’s having out-of-character memory and attention lapses talk to a doctor, without any speculation about specifics.

      3. ThatHRGirl

        I’m with Alison on this one. I actually went through this a few years ago with an employee who had a sudden change in work quality, specifically memory and written communication (emails were all wonky and non-sensical, the employee would forget how to do very simple parts of their job that they’d done a hundred times before). Turns out the employee had had a stroke!

    2. Charles

      Agreeing with Joey on this; there is really no reason to mention “medical issues” or suggest any other reasons.

      Just a simple, “I’ve noticed your perfomance is slipping, is there anything I can do to help?”

      Once a manger starts suggesting what the causes might be it does enter a fuzzy area; especially if the suggestions are way off base. It could be kind of insulting if you suggest that an employee go see a doctor when, in fact, it could be the manager who is putting too much pressure or workload on an employee and that is the reason for the increase in errors! (yea, that’s right, *I* need to see the doctor because *you* tripled my workload?!)

      1. Lindsay H.

        Bingo! What was so frustrating was there was no culpibility on my manager’s part. “You must be off your rocker so you need to go get fixed!”

  4. AX

    #3 in that sort of position a sudden change in work habits can be a red-flag for fraud/theft. Not saying it’s the case, but something to think over.

    1. Kimberlee

      Ooooh, interesting. I’d never thought of that! I wonder if, assuming you had SOME other reason to suspect that might be the case, if that affects the conversation?

  5. Nichole

    A great employee doesn’t go noticeably bad without a reason. While an undiagnosed medical problem could be the issue, I’d recommend having some tissues handy when you ask. My first thought was “I bet she’s getting divorced.” That’s just one of many things that it could be, but I’d bet money that there’s some kind of major personal issue she’s swallowing every day at work. Taking away the stress of hiding it (if she’s willing to talk) would probably improve performance almost immediately.

    1. Erin

      I totally agree with you. My work started suffering a little bit last year. I wasn’t making huge mistakes, but I was forgetting small things and missing some deadlines. No one ever called me on it, but I think some other managers noticed. Finally, I told my boss and some other key members of the management team that I was going through a divorce. Interestingly, once I was candid, my work started improving.

      I strongly suggest the OP sit down and talk to the person and give them a chance to explain if something is going on.

      1. Anonymous

        OP#4 – Thank you so much for answering my question!

        I am a bit lacking in former managers as the one I had retired about 10 years ago (moved to Mexico since and has not responded to any emails I’ve sent of late). Since then I’ve had one manager, the director, and I am not ready to tell him about my search (my job responsibilities and the size of my dept. have steadily increased so I think it’s OK I’ve been here this long). But I still feel a bit thin on references. I’d love to hear other suggestions.

    2. Alice

      I suspected this as well. Or the opposite, she’s totally smitten with a new repationship. Or she’s burned out/fatigued and just exhausted.

    3. Kelly O

      I’d also suggest not telling the person that she’s “doing a lousy job of hiding” whatever issue you think may be bothering her.

      That was tossed at me fairly recently, and the whole conversation just left me hurt and confused and angry and not even sure where to start next. (It killed my productivity for the day, to boot.)

      By the way, when you have these conversations, think about changes that may have happened in the office recently, too. The context of the conversation I had with a brand-new boss did not even mention the fact we went from three assistants to two, a buyer had moved on and we were all overloaded, or that we had two new stores opening. The assumption was I was the one with the problem, because the other assistant complained about me. (Too long to go into in a comment.)

      I guess the point is, be considerate and cognizant of the issues going on in the office as well as the ones outside the office.

  6. MimiGarg

    OP #6: LinkedIn has a setting to turn off any changes you are making in your profile from being broadcast to your network. (They even say “Uncheck this if you don’t want anyone to know you’re looking for a job”). Use this mode!

    1. Kimberlee

      Another great thing about LinkedIn is that there are checkboxes for “What you’re looking for” which includes so many items that it wouldn’t be shocking at all to just click “Employment Opportunities.” At least 50% of the people I know on LinkedIn have that checked, even if they’re perfectly happy at their current job. They also have “consulting offers” checked, even though most have never done consulting. It’s easily defensible as a “I thought everyone just kept all that stuff checked all the time.”

      1. #6 Submitter

        I didn’t realize these things, I’m pretty clueless about using LinkedIn. Thanks!

  7. moe

    #1: As a subset to your possibility #1, “not a great manager,” my first thought was that OP’s manager might feel OP’s role is a hard one to fill, and had another motive in not telling her about something preferable opening up. Can’t really explain why manager was saying she wanted the role to go obsolete in that case, though…

    1. Anonymous

      Your last sentence…

      I’d be afraid right now in working there because the boss, after talking to her, did not give a heads up (yes, AAM, I know she’s not obligated to) about a full time position and she has mentioned that she hopes the OP’s position will be obsolete in a few years. Is the boss saying that she hopes the OP gets lost after a few years? Truthfully, I’d start looking elsewhere unless another meeting with the boss gives you different vibes.

    2. Charles

      This was my first thought too. I’ve seen too many managers think short-term like this hoping to keep a great person in a tough job.

      Notice, I said short-term as it never works long-term. The OP is a case in point, she now doesn’t trust her manager, nor would I.

      OP, hopefully, you’ve learned a lesson in that no one else will look out for you, except you!

      I’m not sure that it would help as the posting is already expired; but, could you ask HR if they are still accepting applications? Some places are rigid about rules like this others are not.

  8. Suz

    #7 Speed networking – I’ve been to a few of these events. I’m an introvert and have trouble meeting people at traditional networking events. I’ve been to too many where everyone only talks to the people they already know. This format forces people to mingle more. You won’t make any deep connections but you’ll meet a lot of people. Then when you run into them at a more traditional event, you’ll have already met once and have something in common to talk about.

    Plus, you have a build in escape so 1) you don’t run out of things to talk about and 2) you’re not trapped with someone who won’t shut up.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hmmm, I have to admit that you’ve framed it in terms that make it a lot more appealing. If one had to do a networking event, which I hope to avoid forever and ever.

    2. Kimberlee

      I feel the same way. I’ve been attending networking events lately, and it IS really hard to break into a new group, even if you’re all meeting under the assumption that that’s what you are there to do!

    3. EM

      I went to a speed networking event, and it wasn’t that great. I’m sure part of it was that it was at a meeting I no longer attend because it just isn’t all that useful to me/my company.

      I know this is much slower than “speed networking”, but the best way to build a network is go pick one organization, go to meetings consistently enough to become a familiar face/name, and then start to become active in committees.

      1. Anonymous

        What kind of organizations with meetings do you mean? I graduated from graduate school almost a year ago and still do not have a full-time job. I heard networking really helps, but I do not know where to go.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          You can often find networking groups for your industry — try searching for the name of your field, plus your city, and see what comes up!

    4. Charles

      Thanks, Suz, I’ve been looking for one of these in my area and industry. But they have all been “traditional” networking meetings. I’ve been to some of those and you’re right they do tend to be folks who only talk to folks they know.

      I’ve tried to talking to others; but, it seems that so many folks don’t want to talk to you unless you can offer them something then and there. Pfft! I don’t need that.

  9. Anonymous

    Regarding #3 (formerly good employee now making mistakes):

    In reading through the responses I have a semi-related question. When you bring in an employee due to these issues or the employee initiates a conversation where do you draw the line on too much information?

    I had an employee that I managed who is an average employee, some issues in the past but for the most part ok. Suddenly they started having major issues. When I asked about the change in behavior it became clear he was going through a messy divorce/separation. Once I knew that I made it clear that I understood his situation and also let him know that we could try to adjust his schedule and so forth to help out during this trying time but that his essential job functions still had to be maintained. Afterwards he would schedule meetings to discuss his performance and would start going into very personal details of the situation that I don’t feel I needed to know, in fact some of them made me start questioning if I should keep him on staff. When I told him that I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be hearing all of these intimate details he got offended and made some comments about his “counselor” saying that I should be “made aware” of what was going on and I was wrong not to want to know.

    To me I had to know the basics of his situation and how they impacted his job, I didn’t feel I needed to know about the fights, the cheating, the attempted suicide, the arrest, etc. I’m curious if others agree of if you feel I should have been interested in the sordid details.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ack. You are of course right that you didn’t need to know the sordid details.

      I’d say “Let’s protect your privacy and not get into the details, but I do want to know what might help from me while you’re dealing with this.”

      1. Lucy

        What I think is interesting is that Anonymous referred to these details as “sordid”, when to the employee, they were not sordid at all, just facts.

        Horrible, painful, bewildering facts. Just as the quotes around “counselor” are mildly problematic. This guy was trying to get help and was obviously in severe distress. Sometimes, when you are in the thick of a personal hell, it’s really hard to behave “normally” because your “normal” has turned into crazyland.

        And for the record, I don’t think Anonymous should have been interested in the details, sordid or not. Alison’s response sounds perfect.

        1. Lucy

          … but maybe Anonymous could be checking his or her compassion levels. Attempted suicide is not a character flaw.

          1. Eva

            Lucy, I noticed the same wordings that you did, but I didn’t interpret them as lack of compassion on Anonymous’ part because I think it’s clear from what she wrote about schedule adjustments that she wanted to do what she could for the employee. Therefore I read the word ‘sordid’ and the quotes around ‘counsellor’ as expressive of that same protective distance as surgeons and morticians have to have in order not to go crazy doing what they have to do.

            What good is going to come of Anonymous knowing the details of the employee’s personal breakdown? She’s his manager and she may have to fire him if his performance suffers too much. If she learns too much about why the work is suffering and empathizes too much with him, it will only make it that much harder for her to be objective and hold him accountable.

            And from the employee’s perspective, the only reason he would need *his manager* to know all the details is if he wanted to play on her emotions and elicit special treatment. If he simply needs to pour his heart out to someone, what he needs is a friend, and his manager is a poor choice of friend, as any decent counsellor would have told him. The bit about the counsellor advising him to talk to his manager suggests to me that he was not just out of control, but actually playing the pity card.

            So I say good for Anonymous that she did what she could for the employee (schedule adjustments) and yet kept him at an emotional arm’s length.

    2. Kimberlee

      I suspect that his counselor told him that he should let you know in a general way what was happening, so that if there was a chance of saving his job it could happen, and that he took that as carte blanche to dump on you. I can’t imagine anyone qualified to give that kind of advice actually giving it…at least not for the specifics!

  10. Anonymous

    #6

    I don’t think just creating a LinkedIn profile will rouse suspicion. What will is if you start making frequent (e.g., daily, multiple times per week) updates to your profile – I’ve seen people constantly updating their experience or skills section for weeks or months, and they usually turn out to be job hunting. Another tip-off is if you start “following” tons of companies (e.g., your manager probably will get a bit suspicious if your status announces you’re attending another company’s open house night.)

    Yet another thing that makes me think “s/he must be looking for a job” is when people put overly self-promoting headlines in their profiles (e.g., “Senior product manager with customer advocacy expertise”).

    But most importantly, all of these things, except for the last one, can be hidden through your LinkedIn privacy settings. ;)

    1. Anonymous

      And don’t spam tons of people to get recommendations. It’s suspicious too (and has an eye-rolling effect).

      1. #6 Submitter

        Thank you! Good to know. I’ve never used LinkedIn before so I’m unaware of the nuances.

  11. Anonymous

    #3. (Does this discussion belong on askanothermanager.org?) I believe it’s disingenuous for managers to ask “What’s wrong?” when the question is really “Why has your performance dropped?” “What’s wrong?” is asking the employee to save his/her job, but a stressed employee is likely to interpret it as personal concern. The employee may feel free, i.e. without consequences, to speak about whatever. Because the list of unacceptable “wrong” things is much, much longer than the acceptable “wrong” things the employee’s response is more likely to harm than help their chances of continued employment. (Anything you say can and will be used against you, employees.) A more honest approach would be to write up the employee. State what is wrong and how it needs to improve. No questions asked. During that meeting the employee will have the opportunity to respond. The employee may still help or harm their employment status (and maybe even overshare or emotionally manipulate the manager,) but the manager has begun the conversation honestly, “We need your performance to improve.”

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      If you approach it that way, the employee may never tell you what’s going on, because there’s no opening for it (and many people won’t speak up if you don’t create the opening for it). There’s no need to start off that way — you can get to that if the situation ends up requiring it, but it’s kinder to simply start by asking what’s going on.

      1. ThatHRGirl

        I agree. This might put the employee immediately on the defensive and she might go into CYA mode. If the mistakes are caused by an ADA condition (or the employee is in a protected class, i.e. pregnancy), you may have just done more harm than good.

        Now, I don’t see anything wrong with pulling the employee aside, asking if there is something going on, and letting them know that the performance does need to change in order to meet expectations or else there could be some performance management down the line.

    2. fposte

      Speaking for myself, I *would* actually be personally concerned as well as professionally, and I don’t want my first response to somebody’s suffering to be a mark on their record. I think most of us are capable of navigating such a conversation without saying “Tell me everything,” and I think that the likelihood of the “wrong” things being unacceptable is pretty small in my workplace. I’m not going to write up the people whose problems are “I’m getting divorced” or “My kid’s in the hospital” for fear of an employee implicating him/herself with “My stealing from work is getting out of hand.”

    3. Laura L

      Hell, no, don’t do that. Talk to them first. Don’t put anything into their record. It will probably make them less willing to talk to you or even to try to fix the problem.

    4. Anonymous

      No, the acceptable thing to do is pull that employee to one side and check first. If it isn’t something and they continue not to perform then you can consider official actions.

      Your method gets you the reputation that a lot of large retail firms have around here – they treat people as cattle: stop producing and get fired. Subsequently everyone’s back is automatically up and it affects everyone’s mood working for them.

      A quick conversation can usually tell you if there is something personal wrong leading them to not cope or if they just aren’t doing their job for other reasons. It can also be the jolt needed to remind that employee that they are slipping and need to be aware of it.

    5. Long Time Admin

      Wow, Anonymous – your post makes you sound like one cold-hearted person. This is a situation that *might* be resolved early on without such damaging consequences if the manager just shows some humanity by talking to the employee first. Your suggestion makes me very glad I don’t work for you.

  12. Vicki

    AAM – You say “most employers are going to want to talk to past managers rather than peers.” — what about clients (customers).

    In my most recent (5+ years) job, I did dedicated internal support. My manager didn’t assign me my tasks; my customers did. They were the people I worked for..

    Wouldn’t they make better references? (I do have my most recent manager in my list as well).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It could be good to offer clients in a situation like that — I’d just be prepared to offer managers as well (as you do), since your manager is the one whose ultimately assessing your work.

  13. NicoleW

    RE: #6 – LinkedIn Profile
    I think it may depend on your boss. I set one up last year but haven’t touched it since. I completed a new type of project for me early this year, and my boss warned me not to update my profile, as it would be obvious I was looking for work. He is big on sarcasm, but I couldn’t tell if he was mostly joking or serious.

  14. Corporate Cliff

    #3 — I didn’t see it mentioned, but another possibility is drug use. Obviously not something that is easy to spot or prove, or even to bring up if you do either of the first two, but I’ve seen it in the workplace more than once. A good friend of mine actually went through this with a Vicodin prescription that developed into a problem. He said that it helped him focus and be in the zone, when in reality it caused many errors that even the most green trainee could have spotted.

    The reasons could really be numerous, but since I didn’t see this one mentioned I thought I’d share.

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