should I warn someone he might be fired, coworkers are lying about their job titles on LinkedIn, and more

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It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I warn someone he might be fired?

I have this new employee who has performance issues — bad communication, questions showing that he actually does not understand what he is working on (although it is his core tasks), loads of errors, very slow pace, among other things. I am working on improvements, both on his and my side. The thing is that if no improvement happens, this employee will be let go.

I am wondering if I should tell him that. My opinion is that I prefer to be absolutely clear, to not surprise him by letting him go if it comes to that. Another manager I work closely with is of the opinion that telling him that he could be let go is actually counterproductive, as it would be a big demotivator and the employee would start looking for another job straight away.

You absolutely should let him know. That’s not a conversation that anyone enjoys, but it’s a huge disservice to him to not let him know that. You might be thinking that he should figure it out on his own, but an awful lot of people don’t and then are blindsided when they’re fired. If you do end up having to fire him, you don’t want that to be a surprise to him — you want it to be the next part of a discussion that’s already been ongoing.

It’s hard to tell someone that you might need to let them go, but it’s far, far better management (and simply fairer) to be clear about the potential consequences of the situation. It doesn’t sound like you’re using a formal performance improvement plan with the person, but if you were, it should spell out a specific timeline and the specific changes that must be made for the person to keep their job at the end of that timeline. In a situation where you’re not using a formal plan, you can say it this way: “I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to make the improvements we’ve discussed. I want to be transparent with you, though, that these issues are serious enough that they could jeopardize your job, and if we’re not able to make strong progress on this path over the next month, we’d need to discuss a transition out of the role. But I’m committed to working with you to help get your work to where we need it, and I hope that we can make it work.” (These are hard words to say, to the point that I’d recommend practicing them ahead of time, or you may find that you soften them in the moment, to the point that the message is lost.)

And yes, he very well may start looking for another job, and that’s part of the point. You want him to have advance notice that that’s something that would be smart for him to do, so that he’s not starting from scratch the day you let him go. (And if you’re worried he’ll leave before you would have fired him — or that he’ll leave even if he’s improving enough for you to keep him — that’s just part of how this works. Typically it’s not going to be an enormous loss to you because the person wasn’t working at a high level, but even aside from that, it’s just basic decency to let the person make good decisions for himself.)

More here.

2. My coworkers are lying about their job titles on LinkedIn

Last month, my coworkers and I learned that the company we work at was acquired and will be closing in mid-December. All of us are looking for new jobs in the same industry. Everyone is stressed about getting work, and lots of us in my department are applying to the same companies and jobs. Most of us are in our 20s and this is our first job out of college.

I was a Teapot Maker for three years, and after a lengthy internal interview process have been one of my company’s two Teapot Leads for the last year. I’m hoping this experience will help make my next job an upward career step. However, this last week I noticed that at least three Teapot Makers who have been here a shorter time than me are listing their current job title as “Teapot Lead” on their online resumes or LinkedIn profiles. They are all from my old team and I still get together with them outside of work sometimes, which makes it feel extra awkward.

This sucks, because if we interview for the same job and I describe my projects and leadership responsibilities, the manager may assume the other “Teapot Leads” from the same company probably have similar daily responsibilities (which they don’t). Also, if a potential employer checks (which not all do), our HR generalist will not verify that job title for them anyway. All I can really do is focus my effort into my resumes and interviews and try not to let this frustrate me, but do you have any other tips about how to handle a situation like this?

Ick. Normally I’d say to stay out of what other people do on LinkedIn, but in this case (a) they’re friends and (b) they’re directly competing with you for jobs. Given that context, I don’t think it would be out of line for you to say, “Hey, I noticed you’re listing your title on LinkedIn as Teapot Lead. Did you get a promotion?” Assuming they did not in fact get a secret promotion and instead are just lying, presumably at this point they’ll confess that they’re inflating their title. You could then say, “Normally I’d stay out of this, but I feel a little awkward about knowing you’re doing that while we’re applying for the same jobs. And unselfishly, you could lose an offer if they verify your title in a reference check.” That’s really the limit of what you can say though, if you choose to say anything at all.

Beyond that, though, I’d just focus on making sure that the same skills and qualities that got you promoted are apparent in interviews. You have a legitimate leg up on these coworkers not just in title but in experience and probably skills. So focus on bringing those things out, and don’t worry too much about what your coworkers are doing. (I’d avoid recommending them for jobs in the future though, given their shady ethics.)

3. Spouses have to pay to attend company holiday party

I recently received an email from my husband about his company’s upcoming holiday party. Towards the end of the email, it repeatedly mentions that guests (including spouses) will have to pay $15 to attend. Is this normal? I know some companies (like mine) will limit their guest list to employees, but it seems odd to charge spouses to attend.

It’s not unheard of for companies to make people buy tickets to attend their holiday parties, although it’s pretty inhospitable. It’s also not totally unheard of to just charge for spouses, although it’s definitely less common, as it’s rude to divide your guests into tiers. (And really, who is dying to go to their spouse’s office holiday party? No one.)

4. Company won’t do employment verification

The company I work for was recently acquired by another company. Nearly all of our staff has stayed the same, as have our duties, location, records, etc. Our HR guy recently let us know that he isn’t allowed to perform reference checks/employment verifications for the old company, or start dates if we started with the old company and stayed on during the merge. I’m assuming this is legal, unfortunately, but it’s definitely unusual and not cool, right? What would you recommend that we do when applying to new jobs? The previous owners are retired; they would probably be willing to verify for a couple people who they worked more closely with, but there are over 75 employees (not even counting former employees) affected by this.

Yep, definitely not cool. They’re potentially jeopardizing people’s ability to secure employment in the future.

I’d do a few things on your end: First, gather documentation now before you need it; payroll stubs and tax forms can be used to prove that you worked there during the period you say you worked there. Second, consider asking for a letter from the previous owners verifying your previous employment info, so that it’s on hand if you ever need it. And third, you’ll need to explain the situation to future reference-checkers, but being able to offer up this alternative proof is likely to be enough.

5. Christmas and New Year’s day are Sundays this year … and it’s impacting our days off

This year, Christmas falls out on a Sunday. The federal holiday is observed the following Monday. Heres the problem: Today my boss decided that he doesn’t want to give us off that Monday. The same situation falls for New Year’s day. Some people in the office already put in for vacation the week between Christmas and New Year’s (December 26 – January 2) as far back as January.

My boss is away that whole time so won’t be in the office, something he has done for 30 years. This change is really unfair so late in the game. Now, whoever is taking off that whole week won’t get paid for that day because they already used up previous vacation time. He is a 20-person doctor’s office and some people say since he’s a small biz he can do what he wants.

Business size isn’t really in play here, other than the fact that small businesses often run less formally and have fewer checks and balances on spur-of-the-moment whims of a manager. But legally, there’s no difference.

Do you have anything in writing that promises you those days off? If so, some courts have held that promises made in employee handbooks (for example) can be binding, depending on the wording … but even then, it’s generally his prerogative to change that stuff, as long as he doesn’t do it retroactively. But aside from the legalities (which probably won’t help you here), having something in writing can be helpful to point to when pushing back on this. You could say to him (ideally as a group), “Look, our office’s official list of days off includes federal holidays, and people have relied on that in their planning. If you want to change that for next year, of course you can, but it’s unfair to do it when people have planned around the information they’d be given.”

If you don’t have anything in writing, you can still push back by pointing out that people have planned around what the general practice has always been. In that case, you could say something like, “People have made plans based on what the office practice has been for years now. If you want to change it going forward, of course you can, but it’s unfair to change it so late in the game when people have made plans that relied on how we’ve always done it.”

should I warn someone he might be fired, coworkers are lying about their job titles on LinkedIn, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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November 30, 2016 at 03:07PM

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