A reader writes:
I have a coworker who started a few months ago. He and I are responsible for similar types of projects, but we rarely collaborate because the projects don’t readily lend themselves to teamwork. Occasionally, we may consult each other if we hit a technical snag with the software.
For some reason, my boss has started pushing me to work more closely with him on my projects. However, I find his finished products to be subpar, and I wouldn’t want my name associated with his work. Other coworkers seek me out specifically to assist them, even when I’m slammed and he isn’t.
Do you have any thoughts on how I can 1) get my boss to stop pushing the point and 2) let her know that I prefer to stick to my way of doing things without disrespecting my coworker?
Also, why might a manager start insisting on collaboration out of the blue?
I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.
my boss wants me to collaborate with my awful coworker was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Friday has been having trouble keeping up on the blogging lately…
- Living with Lots of Pets. I think #2 is my favorite.
- Retired Couple Proving Awesome Cosplay has no Age Limit
- The Art of Creative Book Dedications
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.
* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)
-- Of Possible Interest --
Review: In ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,’ the Natty Spies Are Back
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Director Matthew Vaughn
Writers Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn Stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Edward Holcroft
Running Time 2h 21m
Genres Action, Adventure, Comedy
The first Kingsman film was mildly entertaining. It appears that the second has added cannibalism, and killed 'entertaining.'
Review: ‘Victoria and Abdul,’ a Royal Friendship in a Nest of Vipers
VICTORIA AND ABDUL
Directed by Stephen Frears Biography, Drama, History PG-13 1h 52m
By GLENN KENNY
Director Stephen Frears
Writer Lee Hall
Stars Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar
Running Time 1h 52m
Genres Biography, Drama, History
If you luv BBC costume dramas and have always wanted to see Judi Dench eat like a pig, this is probably your last best hope. (She's 82.)
Review: ‘Loving Vincent’ Paints van Gogh in His Own Images
By A.O. SCOTT
Directors Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Writers Jacek Dehnel, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Stars Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Robin Hodges, Chris O'Dowd
Running Time 1h 34m
Genres Animation, Biography, Crime, Drama
I wasn't disappointed!
One for a transport show:
And one for a donkey palio (yes, really :o) Such a beautifully captured image of one of my favourite creatures:
And general posterage:
That's all I have time for as we're now in the process of getting the new attic room as we want it, but there'll be more later, I promise! I took two hundred odd shots!
"In more than 30 years of cymbal cleaning I have used everything from ketchup to gasoline."
(I was trying to find out whether Noxon, a metal cleaner I remember using as early as Montessori preschool, would remove green discoloration from Artistic Wire, which is copper with a colored or clear coating. Turns out the process of cutting the wire into little bits and bending/looping/etc. the bits to make figure-of-eight chain exposes a lot of copper to the air and provides the opportunity for verdigris to form.)
Please help us with the following issues:
2017 Oscars RPF / Academy Awards RPF - These were each submitted with the same character nominations: Andrew Garfield and Dev Patel. Nominators, do you have a strong preference as to what fandom label is used?
Chronicles of the Raven - James Barclay - Ry Darrick only seems to appear in the sequel trilogy; is that incorrect, or does this fandom label cover both trilogies? We’d also appreciate a little more information on the Unknown Warrior.
Dallas Stars (Hockey RPF) - Justin Courtnall does not appear to belong in this category; please comment, or we will either move him to another category (if an appropriate one exists) or reject him. It is not clear to us that Katie Hoaldridge is a celebrity in her own right; could the nominator please give their reasoning?
動物戦隊ジュウオウジャー | Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger - the character Insarn does not seem to belong here. Did you mean Naria?
Element of Fire - Martha Wells - this is nominated with the characters Giliead (Ile-Rien), Ilias (Ile-Rien), and Tremaine Valiarde. The characters don’t seem to match the fandom. Nominator, would you prefer to change the fandom or the characters?
Forgotten Realms - for Khelben Arunsun, is Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun or Khelben Arunsun the Younger meant, please?
Giant Robo - This is nominated with the characters Alberto (Giant Robo), Ginrei (Giant Robo), Hanzui (Giant Robo), Ivan (Giant Robo), Kenji Murasame (Giant Robo), Shokatsuryou Koumei, Sunny the Magician, Taisou (Giant Robo), Tetsugyu (Giant Robo), and Youshi (Giant Robo). As far as we can tell, this is a mix of 1960 and 1990s anime. Nominators, could you please confirm which media you want and if they should be separated out or sent through together?
合法ドラッグ | Gouhou Drug | Legal Drug - the character Watanuki Kimihiro doesn’t seem to belong here. Nominator, could you please clarify?
No Game No Life - Kamiya Yuu - we're a little confused by the character 『 』| Kuuhaku | Blank. Could the nominator please give their reasoning for nominating this character separately?
Numbers (Anthropomorphic) - There are multiple sets of nominations for this fandom. Going by fandom spelling, respectively, the characters nominated are:
- -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 7, Golden Ratio, Pi
- -128, -i, 0.5, 12, 16, 256, i, sqrt(2)
- 666, e, j, k
The last set in particular is confusing us. Do j and k together (without i?) refer to components of a unit vector? Or, if j and k refer to unrelated concepts, is j being used as notation for the square root of negative one, or something else, and what is k? Is this meant to denote 1000? Nominators, please elaborate on your thinking.
Smosh - the characters nominated are Keith Leak Jr., Noah Grossman, Olivia Sui, and Shayne Topp. Could the nominator please clarify if this is a nomination for RPF, or for fictionalized characters that share the names of the real people?
Trial and Error (TV 2017) - We can't find the character Anne Cox. Could the nominator please confirm and give us pointers to when she appeared?
You Could Make a Life Series - Taylor Fitzpatrick - we can’t find the characters Mason Draper and Nate Wozniak. Could the nominator(s) give us pointers, please?
All Media Types fandoms
We need clarification from the person (or people) who nominated the following fandoms. Please specify a single version of the canon and provide a link to your nominations page so we can confirm the nomination. If these aren't answered, the fandoms will be rejected:
- Kino no Tabi | Kino's Journey - All Media Types, characters: Kino (Kino no Tabi)
- Kurosagi - All Media Types, characters: Kashina Masaru, Katsuragi Toshio, Kurosaki (Kurosagi), Yoshikawa Tsurara
- The Martian - All Media Types, characters: Beth Johanssen, Chris Beck, Mark Watney (The Martian - All Media Types)
- Paint Your Wagon, characters: Ben Rumson, Elizabeth (Paint Your Wagon), Schermerhorn (Paint Your Wagon), Sylvester Newel. Did you want the movie or the musical, please?
- Rookies - Morita Masanori & Related Fandoms , characters: Aniya Keiichi, Kawatou Kouichi, Mikoshiba Tooru, Shinjou Kei
- A Room With a View - All Media Types, characters: Charlotte Bartlett, Eleanor Lavish
- 屍者の帝国 | Shisha no Teikoku | Empire of Corpses - All Media Types, characters: Alexei Karamazov, Friday, John Watson (Shisha no Teikoku), Nikolai Krasotkin
- XCOM (Video Games) & Related Fandoms, characters: Firebrand, Lily Shen (XCOM), The Commander (XCOM)
We will accept labels like “the Council” or “the hunters” for characters in cases where the ensemble does not have different distinct characters in it. For the following fandom, please either confirm that there are no distinct characters in the group, or pick a single character out of the group you’ve nominated:
- Compendium of World Knowledge - John Hodgman - Hobos, possibly also Cryptozoologists (?)
If you are commenting about your own nomination to say what you would like done with characters or fandoms, please link your nominations page! It is the page you get by clicking ‘My Nominations’ from the tag set.
If you notice any problems with your nominations - mis-spellings, etc - feel free to comment on this post.
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. There’s a rumor my boss might lose his job
I am in a predicament where a coworker has told me he overheard a rumor that my boss is being ousted by the president. Allegedly, they are bringing in an even more senior head of our group (new role) to be his boss, with the ultimate goal of eliminating my boss’s role. This coworker is an office gossip, and I have seen many of the rumors he has spread to be credible.
Here is where things get sticky. I was brought into my own job by my boss, having worked together at a prior company. We have a really good relationship. On the other hand, this gossipy coworker has admitted to undermining the boss to other leaders in the business because he does not like his leadership style. I believe that this is a ploy for my coworker to try to oust not only my boss, but also eventually me, based on conversations we’ve had where he has tried to take over things under my purview. He throws all of his coworkers under the bus in order to get ahead while feigning loyalty or friendship.
He told me not to tell anyone this piece of information and said that I am the only one he told (which I am not sure I believe given how gossipy he is). I feel I need to tell my boss this information and come clean with how my coworker has been sabotaging him. How do I know if this is a wise thing to do? The only reason I came into this role is because of my boss, and without him, I would not be very happy working here and frankly would be concerned about my own job security.
It sounds like you have reason to be far more loyal to your boss than to this coworker, and the coworker sounds like an ass anyway. If your boss is a reasonable person with good judgment, I’d tell him. Obviously you should include the caveat that you have no idea if it’s true or not, but you can say that you didn’t feel right hearing something like that and not sharing it with him.
2. Advocating for my staff to management above me
I’m a regional leader in an organization. Members pay to join and it was started by a company, so obviously it’s not exactly the same as a workplace, but in a lot of ways it’s like being a regional manager in a larger company.
My region has some concerns that are specific to our group. I know that regional managers who’ve been around longer than me have been raising them with head office for a while now, but head office isn’t receptive and it’s not only affecting morale, but it’s also led some people to leave. I’m not sure how relevant it is, but from what I can tell, head office is actually in the wrong on this (and for once, the issue is actually pretty black and white), but for some reason they refuse to even entertain discussion, let alone reconsider their position.
I’m finding myself stuck. On the one hand, as a regional leader, I want to advocate for my “staff.” I also feel some responsibility for making sure that head office understands just how negatively its position is viewed among the people in my region. On the other hand, given that I’m a regional leader, I don’t want to come out and blame head office or tell them they’re wrong. But I also want to make sure that members in my region feel heard and know that we regional leaders are continuing to work to address their concerns.
As (essentially) a middle manager, how do you advocate for your members without seeming like a troublemaker to head office? When head office doesn’t want to entertain a discussion on something, is there a way I can raise it that might get them to engage? And how do I tell my members that I hear their concerns and I’m working on it, without seeming like I’m contradicting or criticizing head office?
In general, the way to raise issues as a manager to management above you is to frame it around the interests of the organization. So it’s not just that you and your staff think their position is wrong — you want to put it in terms of how it’s impacting morale, harming the leadership’s credibility, and causing good people to leave. Keep it less about your personal opinion and more about the impact you’re seeing as a manager. That way, your input is about you doing your job — because part of managing well is making sure that you loop in people above you when you see problems brewing on the ground.
However, with a head office that isn’t receptive and refuses to even allow discussion, you’re unlikely to get through to them. Frankly, at this point, it might make sense to make that the issue — their stonewalling and lack of transparency should be a pretty big deal themselves, even aside from the specifics of this issue.
3. Can I ask my boss if I’m about to be laid off?
I currently work as an IT contractor. I am essential to the operation here, but budgets are being cut and my boss is being very secretive and short with me. He is spending most of his time behind closed doors and our relationship has gone from being very friendly and open to short and minimal. Is it appropriate for me to to straight up ask him if I am about to be fired?
You could*, but if the answer is yes, it’s very likely that he won’t tell you that until the company decides it’s time to tell you that. It’s possible that there’s still some value in asking, because he might give you an answer that’s compelling enough to be convincing (like “your project is the major money maker for the company right now, and I wanted to talk to you about we can make sure we keep you”) or that he’ll give you enough of a hint that you’ll have your answer (“it’s a tough time for the company right now, and I’d understand if people felt they needed to look around”).
But really, if budgets are being cut and your boss is being secretive and short, I’d start looking. That doesn’t mean you’re definitely being let go, and it doesn’t mean that you need to take any job that’s offered to you, but in this kind of climate it’s always smart to start looking so that you’re not starting from scratch if you do lose your job.
* If you do talk to him about it, don’t use the word “fired” — that means you’re being let go because of your performance or behavior. Use the words “laid off,” which means your position is being eliminated.
4. People keep thinking my last name is my first name
I’m recently married, and I took my husband’s last name. I knew a new name would be an adjustment, but I didn’t anticipate a bigger problem: my first name could also be a last name and my last name could also be a first name. Clients and opposing counsel frequently call me by my last name, thinking it’s my first (I assume part of the problem is that an email will show up last name, first name). I know how to handle this in person or over the phone (“it’s Lindsey, actually”) but I don’t know how to politely but firmly correct people over email.
I know some people would advise me to let it go, but I don’t think that is the solution, especially with opposing counsel: I am a young, pretty woman in a male-dominated industry, and I don’t want to be seen as a pushover. What’s a polite but clear and confident way to correct people? Should my response differ in any way if it they repeatedly use the wrong name? What if the email only necessitates a short reply (“Got it, thanks!”) – should I still correct them then?
I think it’s worth correcting them even if you’re just sending a short reply. Think of it as a kindness to them: You’re preventing them from continuing to call you by the wrong name, which will be embarrassing to them at whatever point they figure it out.
In an email, you can just add it as a short, matter-of-fact note at the end of your message like this:
Got it, thanks! (By the way, it’s actually Lindsey — Taylor is my last name.)
If you want to warm it up a little more, you could add “The way the email is programmed to display doesn’t make that obvious!”
telling my boss about a rumor he might lose his job, advocating for my staff, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Sitting in front of a screen, fighting codeine-generated nausea and an increasingly bleak mood, listening to Steely Dan warble about crossing one's old man back in Oregon, pleading with an unseen authority figure, "don't take me alive" ...
... is not necessarily a shining example of emotional hygiene.
Perhaps it's time to go to bed.
Yes, I know it's only 7:50 p.m.
A reader writes:
I am currently in the middle of the hiring process for a job I very much want. There are an extremely limited number of positions available in this area and I am fortunate enough to have moved past the first round of interviews with the top company in this niche. I received an email two weeks ago letting me know I would be informed of next steps within two weeks. I was unsure what that meant — whether there would be a second interview, I would be contacted for references, or I would be called with an offer (I know I should have asked but was unsure how to respond to what was clearly an automated message; hindsight is 20:20).
Last night at a professional event, one of my former managers (who had offered to be a reference in the past and is on my reference list that I have not yet provided to the company) informed me she had been called for a reference by the company and that she said I was “the best.” I wanted to ask for more details, but everyone had been drinking and we were surrounded by others, including colleagues who wanted to interview for this position but were not given consideration. Would it be unprofessional to email that manager today and ask her who called (hiring manager, HR, etc.) and what was asked and what she said?
If it makes a difference, we are on very good terms, and I am encouraged by the fact that she already revealed she spoke highly of my performance. I would also like to ask her if she knows if another manager I worked under in the same company was also contacted, as I fear this other manager would not be able to give me as glowing of a reference (although I suspect you will recommend I contact this manager directly). Is any of this okay? Or should I just let it go and be grateful to have gotten some intel on what’s going on behind the scenes in this hiring process?
I totally understand the impulse to ask what she said about you, but you should resist it. References are supposed to be confidential, and you’re potentially putting her in an awkward position by asking her for details about the conversation. Even if she spoke glowingly you of you, a good reference-checker will try to get her to talk about weaker spots, and you shouldn’t put her in a position where it feels like you’re asking her to share that with you. (And if she chooses not to share everything, she may feel uncomfortable that she’s not being fully transparent with you, and that’s not fair to do to her.) And really, even if she said nothing but fantastic things, it’s still awkward to be asked to share the conversation.
Not everyone feels this way, of course. Some people would be fine with it, especially if you have a closer relationship. But enough would feel awkward, or even a little unethical, that you shouldn’t do it. Really, if she’s willing to share, let her volunteer it.
I also wouldn’t ask her about whether she knows if the other manager was contacted. You’re not really going to get anything actionable from her answer; it sounds like it’s more about you being curious about what’s happening behind the scenes. And while curiosity is understandable, it doesn’t really warrant asking her questions about the process.
She gave you a good reference! Let that be all you ask of her for now.
Remember the letter last month from the person whose company accountant was nitpicking his travel expenses in the most ridiculous way? If you didn’t read the comments, you missed this insane detail from the letter writer: “Actual comment at the last checkin with Bob, regarding a ~$12 tab at Chipotle: ‘Ordering extra guacamole is wasteful of member dues.'”
Here’s the update.
Thanks for writing a reply to my question! Funny thing is, the week you posted it things were already on their way to a mostly happy resolution. I’ll explain:
That week I was asked to staff our CEO at a conference at the last minute. Our CEO is a very prominent woman in her field who travels constantly and is usually staffed when she has major speaking engagements. My colleague who handles this particular topic area had a family emergency so I was asked to go. The CEO’s very formidable executive assistant sent me the flight/hotel info since I was expected to be on the same flight as the CEO.
“This will be interesting,” I thought. So I sent my proposed travel expenses to Bob as he has demanded, and of course he came back and said the flight was way too expensive, take this other one, and he also nixed the conference hotel and advised a Days Inn a 30 minute walk away! I replied that I had important business purposes for this itinerary and he gave me his now-usual spiel about “responsibly using member dues.”
I finally saw an out that didn’t involve my boss going to the CFO and forwarded his response to the EA, explaining that “accounting is refusing to authorize the itinerary you’ve given me.” She was horrified by what she read and wanted the full story. I had lots of emails from Bob with his ridiculous travel decrees, so at her request I forwarded them along. She said she would take care of it and that I should book the original itinerary on orders from the CEO.
It was a great trip; the CEO did a great job speaking and it was nice to get face time with her. A week or so goes by. Then we get an all-staff email announcing that the travel audit function was moving under the authority of the general counsel. I had a call that day from a new audit team member apologizing for the hassle under Bob and that he was never authorized to (a) veto/approve individual expenses in advance or (b) subject auditees to ongoing monitoring — according to the new audit person, he had been freelancing in an effort to go “above and beyond.” The new audit person also said I am no longer under audit and said that my past expense reports were all responsible and that I have been an excellent steward of our funds. I found out a few days later from the EA that the audit team lead had been fired. The CFO is still in place, but has had the audit function removed from his oversight due to his lack of supervision and is on notice. Bob was not fired but was demoted and moved to a pretty menial role in accounting where he has no significant contact with non-accounting employees…or with travel expenses.
Unfortunately, I found out today that my own boss was reprimanded for failing to escalate the situation when I requested it. Good in the sense that she shouldn’t have allowed her issues with the CFO to get in the way of advocating for her employee, but bad because she knows I was the one who took the issue to the executive office. Hopefully I won’t be held back down the road because of this.
I really appreciated the encouraging comments. To answer a few of the questions, no I don’t think it was a conspiracy by the CFO to get to my boss by pushing me out. Maybe, but I really do buy that Bob was just way out of his lane and completely unsupervised. There were apparently five other employees getting the same Bob audit special, all relatively lower in the organization and in other departments. And I’m not concerned about my org’s financial condition, as some suggested I should be; there’s no question that we are financially strong. Just one rogue accountant.
The guacamole story was very funny to my coworkers; it’s become a running joke and people now order extra guac for me when we go out to group lunches, which is fun 😊
update: my company’s accountant is nitpicking my pretty frugal travel expenses was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Workplace thefts are usually a lot pettier than Monday’s letter about the person who stole an intern’s jacket.
Like this from a commenter recently: “I have a Bath and Body eucalyptus (mini) hand sanitizer next to my computer. Turns out someone has used it up, then refilled it with water so it wouldn’t look like it was used. It costs a buck.”
Or this: “I had someone steal my pyrex dish once. They dumped my lunch out into a little baggy, put that back in the fridge, and stole my dang dish. WHO DOES THAT!?”
Or this: “Someone in the office even stole a coworker’s mug! He had left it on the counter while he went to the bathroom before he got his coffee and it was gone when he came back. TWO YEARS LATER he found it soaking in the sink after the thief had used it and promptly ‘stole’ it back. He was very excited.”
Of course there also was the letter about the coworker who stole someone’s spicy food and got sick (and the epic update), the manager who stole someone’s family heirloom, the boss who stole an employee’s iPad, and the boss who kept stealing lunches.
So let’s talk office thefts — petty and not-so-petty. What have you found stolen at work? Even better, if you’ve been the perpetrator, now is the time to confess anonymously here and seek salvation. Share in the comments.
stolen lunches, missing mugs, and other petty office thefts: share your stories was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
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Overall: I kinda wish they could have cut the drama and upped the snark in a couple of places; and this was an interim piece the same way Age of Ultron and Civil War were, even if it was a better-organized one. It's fun and doesn't feel stretched the way the other series do, but it also lacks some of the pathos because we can't concentrate on any one part.