Sunday, July 28, 2019

When to let boss know that he made tiny error

"I'm new here," a reader we're calling Steve writes. After months of being unemployed, Steve has just started a new job. So far he likes his fellow employees and is excited to get started with work.

After a day of orientation and meetings with human resources, Steve had begun to work on a team with other employees. Armed with schedules of upcoming meetings and deadlines, Steve was still a bit overwhelmed by the newness of the job, but he was ready to go.

One of Steve's tasks was to be part of a team involved in launching a new product. Others on the team were spread throughout the company. The team's manager consulted by email with all the team members to let them know he wanted to schedule some group meetings for times when each of them would be available.

The manager tossed out a few dates and times to see if any of them worked for everyone. After a date was settled upon, Steve wrote it into his calendar. He was raring to go.

But as Steve was going over his orientation and human resource materials that evening, he noticed that the date and time the boss had gotten agreement on conflicted with another company-wide meeting. Steve figures others on the team might not have been keeping close track of non-team meetings.

"I don't really want to be the guy to tell the boss he'd made a mistake," Steve writes. "He'll probably figure it out anyway at some point and then he'll ask us all to reschedule." But Steve worries that if he doesn't say something and the boss doesn't catch the error in short order that it might set the team back.

"Is the right thing to tell him even if as a new guy I don't really want my first interactions with the boss to be me correcting him?" asks Steve.

It might be understandable that Steve is concerned about making a good impression - a concern that perhaps is elevated by his having been unemployed for several months before landing this job. He could decide to simply say nothing and figure someone else will notice the error. But for the sake of his team, himself and his boss, the right thing is to let him know about the error in scheduling.

If he's truly concerned about being the one to let the boss know, he could let a colleague on the team know and ask her or him to let the boss know. But a better course of action seems to be for Steve to alert the boss. He can do so by letting him know that he noticed the conflicting date when he was reading the orientation materials. Couching the message this way gives Steve the opportunity to let the boss know he's been diligent about reading the materials he's received and also sends the signal that he cares about the team functioning smoothly.

Starting off work holding back information hardly seems the best foot to start out on.

If the boss is good at his job, he'll appreciate Steve's action and work to remedy the schedule. A good boss can typically tell when an employee is trying to be constructive rather than randomly critical. Steve should be constructive rather than stew over what to do. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Was it wrong of prospective employer to contact candidate's boss?

When a reader we're calling Jamie was applying for a new job, his prospective employer we're calling Eve asked him for a list of references, including current co-workers. Jamie complied by providing three or four names.

But Jamie let Eve know that he would prefer that she not contact his current boss because, among other reasons, Jamie had not told her he was being considered for a new job and he would like not to raise an alarm. "OK," was Eve's response. Jamie knew that Eve had worked with his current boss in the past.

Jamie was offered the job and accepted it. A couple of weeks into the new job, Eve and Jamie were walking to a meeting with a human resources representative. As they chatted about the role Jamie would be taking on and his potential relationship to other employees, Eve mentioned Jamie's old boss and it was clear she had chatted with him about Jamie.

Jamie was taken aback, he says. He had a good impression of Eve through the hiring process and the first two weeks of work suggested that he was both welcomed by his new employer and that he would enjoy working there.

But this passing reference, which Jamie says he didn't question at the time it was made, made him wonder whether he should feel betrayed that Eve didn't honor his request, or if he should worry about whether his old boss had colored her opinion of Jamie in any way.

Jamie also feels torn about whether he should say anything to Eve about the matter.

While I can understand Jamie's concern, nothing his former boss or any other reference said kept Eve from offering him the job. Because Eve knew the former boss, it seems natural that she might solicit his opinion about Jamie and his work.

The wrinkle is that Jamie was left with the impression from Eve's "OK" that she had agreed not to contact the former boss but had done so anyway. From Jamie's report of the incident, this agreement doesn't seem so clear. Jamie expressed a preference and Eve acknowledged that preference.

Had Jamie specifically said, "Please do not contact my former boss" and Eve said "OK" and did so anyway, he might have a more legitimate beef.

The right thing, in other words, is to be as clear as possible when making a request of a prospective employer. Giving them an option does not mean they will choose the option you would have preferred.

While it might have shown good faith for Eve to let Jamie know she planned to chat up his former boss, she didn't have to do so. That Jamie ended up with a new job he so far likes seems a good outcome. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to