Here’s a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. My new hire is missing too much work
I have a daunting question on how to deal with an employee who, although very good at her job, misses a day or two of work every couple of weeks.
Jane has been with us a little bit more than four months. She’s very talented and gets along well with the rest of the team. When she fails to show up, she cites family or medical reasons and just sends a text message an hour or two before her shift starts stating that she won’t be showing up. I’ve been very patient and understanding, but it’s putting too much stress on the team as we need to reschedule our activities in adjust for her absence. I’ve talked to her, but it seems it goes in one ear and out the other.
Replacing Jane is not really an option as we have not found someone else who can do her job as well, and the learning curve can be long. Also this position needs a lot of trust, as she handles sensitive data. Any ideas on how to deal with this? My patience is running thin.
Have you told Jane clearly and directly that you need her to stop doing this, and spelled out what your expectations are for attendance? If you haven’t, do that immediately. Do not sugarcoat that message; be clear and direct.
But if you’ve done that and it hasn’t changed anything … well, if you’re really not willing to replace her, then it looks like you’re stuck with an employee who is chronically absent and doesn’t tell you until the last minute.
But I’d push you to reconsider the idea that replacing her isn’t an option. Surely if she suddenly quit, you’d find a way to move forward without her, right? She’s not irreplaceable, and letting yourself believe that she is (after only four months!) is keeping you hostage to an employee with a pretty serious downside. (The exception to this is if she’s dealing with a temporary situation with an end in sight, she’s credibly told you that she’s working to change it, and you have time to wait until that happens.)
2. My company is planning an overnight trip with secret activities
My company (a young tech start-up) is planning an overnight company trip. They’ve been keeping the details secret, which has caused a lot of anxiety, especially since teasers implied that we would be going camping. They finally released a few details the week before it is set to happen, stating that we needed to bring athletic clothes and swimsuits, there would be a day of “team building activities,” followed by a big party, followed by “more fun extreme sports activities” the next day.
I have a health condition where hours of team sports will be miserable and potentially make me feel really unwell. I’d like to talk to my boss, explain this, and see 1) exactly what the team building activities involve and 2) if the sports activities will be optional. I’m stressed about not going and being perceived as not being a team player, but also don’t want to have to sit awkwardly on the side and deal with questions about why I’m not participating. Do you have any advice for how to approach this?
Yes, talk to your boss. Say this: “I have a health condition that precludes participating in a lot of sports, and potentially could impact my ability to participate in some types of team-building activities, depending on what they are. Obviously I’ll need to opt out of anything that I can’t safely do, but I’d like to find out ahead of time what’s being planned so that I can figure out if there’s a modified way for me to participate, which will be harder to do on the spot, or plan for it in advance if I’ll need to sit out.”
Your company doesn’t have a great grasp on how to team-build! It’s unlikely “extreme sports” will be a very inclusive work activity.
3. Can I recommend two people for the same job?
I have two former colleagues who are applying for the same job. Both of them are great people and excellent workers. They have both asked me to be a reference for them. Can I recommend them both for the job? Would it be weird? I think that they would both be good for the position, although they have different skill sets.
You can recommend both of them! A recommendation isn’t saying, “This the absolute best person you could find for the job and there is no one better.” It just says, “This person could be a strong hire and here’s why” and then talks with some nuance about the person’s abilities. The idea is to share your impressions, and your impressions of each could be very positive, with the details being different. The hiring manager will then take that information and factor it into her thinking about each of them.
If you want, you could tell each of the requesters something like, “In the interests of transparency, I want to tell you that you’re not the only person who’s asked me to recommend them for this job. That won’t stop me from giving you a strong recommendation, but I wanted to be up-front with you about that.”
4. What’s the deal with “stay interviews”?
I’ve recently discovered there’s something called a “stay interview,” which supposedly improves retention by… well, I don’t really know. It seems more like another fad that bad employers are likely to use incorrectly and good employers don’t need. I’d assume that most of the information they claim to provide would be known to a person’s direct manager or come up in regular one-on-ones. What are your thoughts on this?
Like many things, it depends on how well it’s done and in what kind of work environment.
Stay interviews are a way to gather info from employees about what they’re liking, what they’re not liking, and what they might like to change. The idea is to figure out what you might need to do to retain your best employees … so that you’re not hearing this stuff for the first time in an exit interview after the person has resigned, but rather are hearing it while you can still act on the things you learn.
When they’re done well and in a reasonably healthy environment, there can be a lot of value to them. It’s pretty common for this stuff not to come up during normal day-to-day work, so having a structured time for these sorts of bigger-picture questions can be the only way some of it comes out.
Of course, a company that does stay interviews and then doesn’t act on the feedback in any significant way will pretty quickly instill cynicism about the process in people — so it’s not something you’d want to do in a perfunctory way.
5. I chastised a company for not hiring me — can I apply there again?
I had an interview scheduled with a recruiter a while back for a position that wasn’t ideal but could have been a foot in the door toward bigger and better things. The company had rejected me not once, but twice in the past. I figured I’d give it another go since I had more training, education and relevant experience this time around.
The day before the scheduled interview, my car broke down and wouldn’t be fixed in time for the interview, so I emailed and canceled. I was a bit frustrated over the previous rejections and the fact that my car broke down at a very inconvenient time. So I just told them I was canceling, as opposed to rescheduling, and said I was going to be pursing “opportunities elsewhere.” I then chastised the company for having had chances to hire me in the past but not taking them.
Will I need to apologize or at least let the recruiter know that I have changed my mind if I decide to pursue opportunities with this company again? Or do you feel they’ll just forget it about it and get the idea that I’m interested if they receive new applications from me?
If you chastised them for not taking the chance to hire you in the past … this bridge is burnt. They’re not likely to consider future applications from you after that. It’s fine to back out of an interview and say that you’re focusing on other opportunities. But criticizing them for not hiring you previously will be a deal-breaker for any decent employer — largely because it’s a bizarre thing to do. If they had candidates who they judged fit the position better, of course they hired those people instead of you! That’s not an insult to you, or a missed chance from them — it’s just how hiring works.
So, write this company off as a lost opportunity, and focus your search on other companies.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to [email protected].