employee’s emotional outbursts might be hormone-related, coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important,” and more

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

1. I think my employee’s emotional outbursts might be hormone-related

I manage a business with eight employees, which includes one supervisor, Diane, who oversees the daily operations of most of the remaining staff. One of those staff members, Kristine, is a very good employee; however, she periodically has very strong emotional reactions to work situations (and life situations, but we know to focus on the work ones).

Here’s the thing though, in reviewing my notes recently (following Kristine’s most recent outburst) I’ve realized that these emotionally charged reactions occur at a regular interval of every four weeks. Based on the notes and other information informally shared by Kristine, it seems very likely that these exaggerated behaviors are hormone/PMS-related.

While I have no intention of suggesting to Kristine that things may feel worse due to hormones/PMS, would it be completely inappropriate for me to help her supervisor make this connection too? Am I making too big a leap in my assumptions about this?

Should we address these behaviors that only happen every so often (and so predictably)? Even if I don’t say anything to Diane about it, is it inappropriate or “too soft” (I don’t want to be a pushover) of me to use a little more caution in addressing errors, requests, etc. during these times of likely increased sensitivity?

I think you can legitimately point out to Kristine or her manager that this happens at regular four-week intervals, but I wouldn’t speculate to either of them about why that might be. At most, you could say something like, “Given that this is happening at regular intervals, it might be worth talking to a doctor about whether there’s something medical going on.” But anything beyond that is too personal (and also gets into icky historical territory about women and emotions).

2. Coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important”

I have a minor workplace annoyance I’d like your advice on. One of my coworkers is in the habit of consistently sending emails marked as “highly important” with the dreaded red exclamation mark next to it. Her role is different than everyone else on our team because she is involved in process improvement and system upgrades, as opposed to just making chocolate teapots like the rest of us. So, in one way her emails are important, but never urgent. I looked back at the past three months (I keep all of my emails in a folder based on who sent them) and roughly 75% of the emails she’s sent were red exclamation marked.

Is this one of those things I need to just get over or should I talk to her or our boss about it? I’ll admit that I don’t read her emails all that often because my thinking is that if nearly everything she says is highly important, none of it is. Am I off-base here?

No, that’s annoying. It’s not really a big enough deal that you should definitely speak with her or her boss about it though — it’s more something to just roll your eyes at.

That said, if you have a friendly relationship with your coworker and you think she’d take it well, there’s no reason you couldn’t say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you mark the majority of your emails as highly important, which really dilutes the impact of marking them that way at all. I didn’t know if you realized how often you do it, but it’s enough that I suspect it’s not having the impact that you intend.”

(Also, job applicants: Stop marking your application-related correspondence this way. It is obnoxious.)

3. Flying out for an interview when I’m a finalist with another company

I am a finalist for Company A, and the position is perfect. I visited the home office at their expense last week ,and I still have one more phone interview to complete later this week. According to Company A, I am a very strong candidate.

I have also been invited to fly to Company B for a set of on-site interviews. I am a strong candidate for Company B but they are not my first choice. Here is the issue: Company A has not made an offer but it is likely that I will have one in the next two weeks. Company B is pushing for me to give them dates so that they can fly me up in the next two weeks. I do not want to waste Company B’s money because if I get an offer from Company A, I will take it. Should I let Company A know that I am being pursued or should I just continue to interview with both?

Continue to interview with both. Until you have an actual offer from Company A, you should continue to proceed as if they weren’t even in the picture — because there’s no guarantee that an offer will materialize. No matter how much they like you a stronger candidate could emerge, a hiring freeze could be implemented, they could reorg the department, or all sorts of other things. So you don’t want to rule out other job possibilities meanwhile. And Company B isn’t wasting their money by flying you out; you’re still on the market.

You also shouldn’t mention Company B to Company A at this point, because you’re still just in the interview process with B. Company A surely assumes that you’re talking with other companies. If you get an offer from B, at that point you’d alert A in order to see if they could expedite their own timeline … but they’re not likely to do that just because you have upcoming interviews.

4. Offering to cover for frequently absent coworkers

My job is in one small unit of a much larger organization, most of which involves working with the public. I mostly work on the tech side, although I’m not without experience on the public side. Two of my colleagues are regularly out without any notice, at least once a week, and their duties fall to the rest of our division. However, there is no set contingency plan should one or both of them be out. Hiring a new person is a process so there’s no short-term relief on the horizon, and maybe no long-term relief.

I’m trained in these public jobs (mostly), but I get the feeling that my non-confrontational boss only puts me in them at the last minute and by necessity. I do have goals and projects that I’m working on, although I’m mostly unsupervised while my boss frequently subs in for my absent coworkers. I think this constant chaos is wearing on everyone.

I’d like to have at least a little more predictability in my schedule, and I’d like to have some responsibilities automatically fall to me when people are absent. I’d also like to be proactive and help stave off the worst of the chaos that results from multiple people being out.

How do I go about asking for these things in a way that is respectful to my boss? He and I have a decent relationship and I’m working on being someone he can rely upon. I know he’s struggling and also not getting much help from above him, and that the situation isn’t likely to get significantly better any time soon. I need to put in at least another couple of years at this institution before moving elsewhere. How can I help my boss make the best of a hard situation?

You could say this: “We often end up scrambling for coverage when Jane or Fergus are out at the last minute. I don’t mind covering for them. What would you think of making me the official sub for them when they’re out? I wouldn’t mind that being our default, and that way we’d have a plan in place and ready to go.”

That said, be sure that you want to offer this, and think carefully about whether it will impact your ability to get your own work done or put you in a position where you’re just meeting basic expectations in your job when you otherwise would be exceeding them. Pitching in is a good thing, but you should look out for yourself too.

5. Do I have to have my last name on my resume?

I’d really rather not have my last name on my resume because I’m estranged from my family. Would it be okay to put my name down as my first name and last initial?

Nope. You’ve got to use your last name. Using just your first name and last initial would be so out of sync with how resumes work that it would come across very oddly. It’s likely to look like you’re trying to hide something (by avoiding being googled) or just very out of touch with professional conventions, neither of which are good.

employee’s emotional outbursts might be hormone-related, coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important,” and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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December 1, 2016 at 03:05PM

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