My employee keeps talking about trash

Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about labor and management issues – all from how to deal with a micromanaging boss how to talk to someone on your team on body odor.

Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.

1. My employee keeps talking about trash

I manage an employee who engages in constant defeatist self-talk, even though her work is stellar. It is clear that she is a very anxious person and this distorts her view of reality. But it’s frustrating and upsetting as a manager. Every interaction, however routine, is about their feelings: instead of “Should I deal with ticket X or ticket Y first?” it’s “I’m really sorry to bother you, I know it’s a stupid question, sorry, but should I deal with Ticket X or Ticket Y?” Ignoring it didn’t work (“Ticket X, thanks!”); reassuring didn’t work (“You’re not bothering me and that’s not a stupid question”) and even raising it in its excellent performance review didn’t work. She just ends up apologizing for the fact that she’s apologizing.

Seeing her name in my inbox and imagining the cascade of self-loathing that will precede a perfectly reasonable request gives me a knot in my stomach and makes me dread working with her. Is there anything I can do to improve this?

How direct were you about it? You brought it up in his performance review, but was it framed as “it’s a work issue and you need to change it”? Or was it “please don’t feel like you have to apologize so often”? My hunch is that it was closer to the latter, because that’s what people tend to do, and so it’s time for the former. Present it not as a concern for her feelings, but as a work-related issue that makes it difficult to work with her. It may sound harsh – but it’s the truth, she deserves to know it, and the softer approaches haven’t worked. You’ll be doing her a favor if you’re honest about it, because it must have an impact on how she’s perceived in your office.

So, “You’re hard to work with when you’re constantly apologizing for routine work matters, and I’d like you to focus on stopping that.” And then give her some examples to help her imagine what she should be doing instead: “For example, when you ask me a question about prioritization, just say, ‘Should I do X or Y first ?’ Don’t tell me that’s a stupid question.” And assume you’ll also need to do ongoing coaching, because this is an ingrained behavior that won’t change overnight. So the next time she criticizes herself, say, “That’s what we were talking about.” You mean that another way? (And yes, she might reflexively apologize in response; give her some slack while she works on it.)

If you’re very direct and frame it as a work-related issue that she needs to change and it still isn’t changing, you can conclude that you’ve done everything you can. But until you try that, I wouldn’t assume it’s a lost cause.

2. The candidate wants an update, but I’m not sure of my answer yet

For a position I’m recruiting for, I did an initial round of interviews with nine potential candidates. From there, I narrowed it down to five, who I asked to do a short sample project. Yesterday I invited the two best candidates for a final interview. I hope one of these two people ends up being the right person for our team, but just in case, I haven’t sent any rejection emails to the other three yet. I may come back to watch them again if these two best ones don’t work out.

Today my third ranked person sent an email asking for an update. I don’t know if I should let her know now that she didn’t make it to the final stage of the interview. Shall I just say that we are still reviewing projects and will get back to him in about a week? Just not responding at all yet so I can wait and see how things go with those first two? I want to be respectful of her time and the energy she puts into this process, but I also don’t want to let her know that she’s my third choice if I end up going back to her.

Don’t leave it hanging unanswered! Say something like “Thank you for checking in. Due to the schedules here, things are taking a little longer than I would have liked, but I hope to be in touch with you again by X. J appreciate your patience!” This will give her an idea of ​​when she can expect to hear something, but not share any inside details that you don’t really want to share.

And it’s completely normal not to explain that she is your third choice. Some candidates would like to hear that kind of stuff to better understand where things stand, but you don’t have to go into that level of detail. You will come back to him very soon with what matters, that is to say a yes or a no.

3. The receptionist keeps buying me coffee and won’t let me pay

We have a small office with five employees. Only two of us are there at any given time, a technician and a receptionist. Technicians are paid significantly more than our support staff, and support staff are supervised by the service technician. When it’s slow, our receptionist sometimes offers to run across the street and get a coffee for the two of us. I can’t go there because there are customers waiting for repairs. She always pays for both coffees, even when I offer to give her money for both.

I know the older person usually pays for small treats like coffee and such, especially if there is a salary difference, so is that something I should be worried about? I never initiate these excursions and usually offer to pay for both coffees. Last time, she said, “No, I insist, it’s my treat.” My thought is not to worry about it, just keep offering to pay and graciously accept and say thank you when she offers to go for coffee. Is this reasonable, fair and kind or should I do something else?

It’s true that as the more experienced person you shouldn’t let her pay all the time – but it’s also true that when the younger person really pushes to pay, it would be ungraceful to refuse every time . But I think you should pay at least half the time for her not regularly buying you coffee.

Try saying, “It’s so nice of you to have them, because I can’t leave, but I can’t accept if you don’t let me in.” So I insist that this time be my gift, and maybe we can change in the future.” If she pushes back, try leaving some money on her desk with “I absolutely insist! “

4. My contact added me to a Facebook group for moms in my field – and it’s awful

I work in a field where women are still very much in the minority. Early on, I met a woman who was slightly ahead of me in her career and became a friend and mentor. One thing we had in common was that we were always looking for ways to balance our careers and our family lives.

This year, I went on leave to have a baby. Around this time, my friend added me to a Facebook group she belongs to for moms in my field. I imagine she saw it as a support network, but it was anything but. Group members aggressively insult people who take time off, slow down their careers, or even respond slowly to emails while on maternity leave. I wonder if I should tell my friend about it. I don’t want her to feel bad or seem too sensitive. But I don’t think she should add new moms to this group without warning.

How often do you talk to him? If you are close enough and talk frequently, definitely say something! You might say, “To be honest, the Facebook group wasn’t for me. I found that a lot of members really insulted women who were absent or even logged out during maternity leave. I found some of what I read there to be quite disturbing!”

If she’s a very casual acquaintance and you don’t talk much, it might not be worth talking about, especially if she likes the band herself. That said, since you see her as a mentor, you can ask her about her perspective, using language similar to the above, but also asking, “Have you come across a lot of this stuff in the field more broadly, or do you think it’s something about this particular group?”

Would you like to submit your own question? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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