It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should I accept a huge favor from my new staff members?
I’m a mid-level manager with a large, field-based team. I think I have a real camaraderie with the team, and upward feedback surveys show that as well. At most, I see each team member a few times a month, but we talk often.
My team knows that I am single, new to the area, and recently bought a home. Some of them offered to help me move, which of course I declined. I even got texts the day of the move, asking if there was anything they could help with, or offering to move anything I didn’t trust the movers to do!
Today I was talking to “Bob” and “Todd” on the phone and they asked how I was settling in. I said “great” and made a comment about how many odds and ends there are to buy, and that I should rent a van or something. They asked why I needed a that and I replied that I wanted to buy a rug, but can’t fit in in my car. Bob and Todd then offered to help — Bob has a large truck, and Todd offered to help carry. They even proposed a day after work to go. Am I crazy for considering it? Is this out of bounds? I wouldn’t ever want them to feel like I’m taking advantage of their kindness, so I would give them money or a gift card to a restaurant I know they like. What do you think?
If you were peers, I’d tell you to accept their offer at face value (but not to pay them, because it can seem insulting to hand cash to someone who wanted to do you a favor, although buying them a meal or another gift is fine). But as their boss, the power dynamics make it trickier. Their offer might be entirely genuine and they might make the same offer to any colleague, but it’s a muddier area because you have power over them. (And imagine if you needed to give one of them very negative feedback a few days after they do you this favor — it’s messy.)
The reality is that a lot of managers would take them up on this offer anyway, and honestly, if you do, it will probably end up being just fine. But there’s definitely risk to it. If you want the safest course of action, it would be to decline the help, but tell them how much you appreciate the thought and that the offer was really kind of them to make. (Be sure that you leave them feeling warm and fuzzy about the whole interaction, not like you snubbed their genuine offer of help.)
2. Taking time off when I’m a one-person department
I’m the only person in the IT department serving support for 600+ employees at a company, which is crazy alone. I requested time off over a month in advance and sent a message to all department heads to ensure anything I needed to complete would be done a week prior to my absence. Now, one of the owners of the company is requesting me to send them a back-up plan.
No one can take over my position and they cannot afford to hire someone new. I work salaried so my hours are insane and I’m constantly exhausted. I need this vacation or I’m sure to quit. Do you have any advice on what I can send them as a “back-up” plan? I do not want to have to answer my phone or emails.
Given the constraints of the current situation (including that they wouldn’t be able hire someone new that fast anyway), it sounds like they need an IT firm that can provide backup support when you’re not available. It’s not just for this vacation; what would they do if you were out sick or hit by a bus or quit and left the position vacant? There are loads of reasons why there needs to be a back-up plan in place beyond just this vacation.
Ideally, you would have pitched this long before your vacation was looming, but you can do it now and point out that it will be necessary plenty of other times in the future as well. If they balk at the price or the logistics and pressure you to be available on your vacation instead, say this: “That really won’t be possible. I’m exhausted and in need of a real vacation where I can disconnect from work.” If needed, you can change that last sentence to “the place I’m going doesn’t have reliable phone or internet.”
Also, one IT person for 600 people is insane. It might be worth you considering switching jobs (unless you love it there, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case) because this sounds pretty bad.
3. How can I push back on being forced to ask for donations?
My office is doing a fundraising challenge. Previously the fundraising team has sent out general emails about incentives for staff members who get people we know to donate, which I have ignored. I just learned that during tomorrow’s all-staff meeting, we are going to have to populate a list of names of people we know, tweet/Facebook/email them right there (to ensure we do it?), and continue to follow up for the next few weeks until they give.
I don’t want to do this. Besides my personal distaste for asking people for money, this request is particularly tone-deaf given our nonprofit is trying to fight a growing perception of being transactional (rather than community-centered), and several of the people expected to fundraise are losing their jobs (to budget cuts) next month.
I’ve read the posts about employers expecting employees to donate, but I’m not sure what to do when they’re expecting me to be the solicitor. (Note: I’m currently in my notice period, so I’m not worried about job security if I politely refuse, but I don’t know what to say.) What would you do?
Gross. Try saying, “My friends and family have made it clear they’ll unfriend people who solicit them for donations, so this isn’t possible for me.”
If you’re asked if that’s really true of all of them, say, “Yes, all of them. They really hate this stuff.”
The fact that you’re in your notice period will make holding firm on this especially easy, but hopefully you’ll inspire some of your colleagues to do the same.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with involving staff members in fundraising work. It’s the insistence that people mine their personal contacts without giving them a choice that’s tacky and inappropriate. It’s fine to say “hey, we’d love it if you’d think about people in your network who might be interested in this.” It’s not okay to say “you must harass your personal contacts whether you want to or not.”
4. My boss sends non-stop thank-you emails
My new boss sends me emails that just say “thank you!” Or “thank you so much!” as replies to almost every email I send to her or that she is copied on from me. I try to appreciate the gratitude, but we are crazy busy and they just feel like a waste of time for her and for me. I often receive them late at night, and while I myself often work at night or on weekends and don’t mind receiving requests in off hours, it feels like an unnecessary interruption to my downtime to send an email with essentially no content. My uncharitable instincts tell me an email that just says “thank you!” sent at 10 p.m. is just to let me know she’s working so late, but I don’t actually think that’s the case.
My passive aggressive instinct is to send her a reply that just says “You’re so welcome!” every time but that doesn’t solve anything. I’m usually all in favor of direct communication but I’m really afraid of coming across as super whiny for complaining about something so small. We are new to working together, and I would like to put my best foot forward. Also, does she think I’m ungrateful for all of her work because I don’t acknowledge every communication with a two word email?
Let it go.
It takes her two seconds to send, and it takes you two seconds to read and delete. And it shouldn’t be interrupting your downtime unless you’re checking your work email already, in which case that’s not really downtime.
She’s a big thanker. There are worse offenses. Your best bet is to shrug it off.
5. Interviewing when you’re not sure you want to leave your current job
I currently work at a startup and I really love it there! However, I have some worries about our future sustainability for various reasons. I don’t think we’re going to go under immediately or anything, but I know that when you work for early stage startups, there’s always that risk!
I’m not actively job hunting but I have been keeping my eyes open a little wider lately for these reasons. A job at a larger company where I have friends recently opened up. They encouraged me to apply and I decided to give it a shot.
I’m genuinely not sure if I want to take another job or not. Like I said, I love my current job. But it seems foolish not to look into other opportunities if they come along. If we go under in a few months, I’d definitely be bummed out for passing up this chance to interview. But is it unethical to interview for a new job if I’m not sure I’m ready to leave my old one? If I were to hypothetically get an offer and then decide I didn’t want to leave my current job, how should I handle that?
So not unethical! Just like it’s not unethical for them to interview you without being sure they’d hire you.
If you were sure you wouldn’t take the job if offered and were just using them for interview practice or really weird entertainment, then yeah, that would be shady. But it’s totally normal to interview even if you’re not absolutely sure you’re ready to leave your current job. In fact, interviewing can be part of how you figure that out — sometimes you might find that you prefer your current job to any of your other options, and other times you might realize that you can do much better.
If you end up getting an offer and decide you don’t want to accept it, you’d just say, “Thank you so much. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided not to move on right now, but I really appreciate the time you spent talking with me.” (However, if you realize after you interview — but before you get an offer — that it’s a definite no for you, it’s courteous to let them know at whatever point you’re sure you want to withdraw, rather than waiting for them to put together an offer.)
accepting a big favor from employees, taking time off when you’re a one-person department, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.