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Career Q & A

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Q. I’ve had the same boss for seven years. It has been a decent relationship, but lately he’s acting weird. He snaps more easily, finds fault with my work and nags me relentlessly. What should I do?


A. Answer the big question, “Is the problem me or my boss?” Analyze the source of his complaints. Does he nag because you’re starting to miss deadlines or forgetting to follow up? Is he snapping because he’s under pressure to accomplish more with fewer employees? If you’re sure that his behavior is unjustified, let him know. Tactfully say, “For most of the last seven years, you rarely snapped at me or criticized my work. In the last few months, you’ve changed. Has something happened?” Then listen. If things don’t improve, you may want to express your concern confidentially to an HR manager.


Q. When I came in on Monday, I learned that a manager who works down the hall was fired. She was always a real pro, so I’m stunned. I had only an inkling of some problems she was having with management. The whole thing is so distracting to me. I want some answers! Where can I find them?


A. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not your business. Sure, it’s jarring to learn a colleague was canned. And if you’re friends with the person, you’ll surely hear her side. But employers do not owe a detailed explanation when someone is fired. In fact, in most cases a responsible organization should not reveal too much about an employee termination. Focus on your own performance and advance your cause by not engaging in gossip or speculation. Beware of letting the incident serve as an excuse that keeps you from doing your work.


Q. I’m pursuing an exciting job at a software firm. It’s two hours from my house. If I got the job, I’d probably move closer, but right now they keep calling me back for more interviews. I’ve had to drive there four times just to meet different people. They keep saying there are more people for me to meet. Should I insist on only one more visit?


A. It depends how badly you want the job. It’s risky to give an ultimatum when you’re a job candidate, although if you politely explain that you’d prefer to minimize the number of long drives during the interview process, perhaps you can talk them into making a decision after your next visit. The way a company treats you during this phase can prove revealing. If you feel that your time is devalued, that’s a clue as to how you might like working there. Also: Think seriously now about whether you’d relocate. If you didn’t, you’d have a four-hour commute.


Q. A team of auditors has started to evaluate my unit. Their findings will largely determine my future here. I’ve noticed that an employee whom I suspect of stealing and unethical accounting practices is cozying up to the head auditor—I heard they even had a date the other night. What should I do?


A. Don’t make things worse by pointing fingers. Instead, wait for the auditors to complete their work and file their report. If and when you find reasons to object to their conclusions, that’s the time to raise your concerns. Meanwhile, protect yourself by gathering solid evidence of inappropriate behavior. Example: Document any intimacy that you observe by recording the date, time, place and other witnesses.


Q. At a conference last week I ran into an old friend who works for a competitor. She told me she heard my boss may jump ship to her company in a few months. The only reason I stay here is because I like my boss so much. Should I tell my boss what I know and see how he reacts?

A. No. There’s a better way to gauge his plans. Tell your boss that you really enjoy working for him, but if he ever left you would be less inclined to stay. Then let him respond. Whatever he says, don’t reveal what you heard. Passing along that kind of rumor puts your boss in an uncomfortable position, may harm your friend and won’t help you decide what to do.


Q. I’m pursuing a job. On the application, I listed my salary history. The organization has made me an offer but the pay is too low. When I balked, the HR person said, “Well, this represents a 10 percent increase from your last job.” But I have an M.B.A. now, I said. Then the HR person said, “You never mentioned these salary requirements to us before.” They never asked! What do I do?


A. Stand your ground. You’re entitled to expect a significant pay increase now that you have a business degree. Someone from the company should have asked about salary during the interview process. But they didn’t, so unless you speak up now you’ll never give them the chance to make a more appealing offer.

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