Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.
1. My employee punched her supervisor during a disagreement
A incident of violence happened at my office. I manage several departments and one of the supervisors was assaulted by an employee. The employee was upset that she had been denied a day off she had put in for. Other people had already booked that day off previously and the limit had been reached because the department needs enough people for coverage. The employee was not happy and broke the supervisor’s cheek.
The supervisor is back to work part-time while she recovers (her choice, she was offered fully paid time off but wanted to come back). The employee was fired and she got arrested and charged with assault. All other employees were briefed on what happened. Beyond giving everyone information on our EAP and allowing anyone who was upset after the briefing to go home for the day with pay, what else can I do to make sure my staff is looked after? If anyone is affected by this I want them to be taken care of. I have never had to work through the aftermath of a violent incident at work before.
I’d take a look at whether there were signs of problems with this employee before the incident, which someone should have caught and acted on. Was she known to have an anger problem or deal with problems poorly? Were there other issues with her that hadn’t been addressed forthrightly? It’s hard to think that she was an upright, reasonable employee right up until this incident, so it would be worth seeing if you need better systems to address and deal with potential problems on your staff before they result in physical violence.
I’d also ask the manager who was hit whether she felt she had all the support she needed to deal with this employee before this happened, or with others. And you could talk to all your managers about whether there are additional things your organization could do to make them feel supported when they need to be the face of the company in delivering bad news. (I remember once being pretty scared to go out to my car alone at the end of the day after firing someone who had taken it badly. Letting your managers know what kind of help they can get from you in situations like that — or asking them to brainstorm with you with kind of help the organization go provide — could go a long way.)
2. Working with an over-complimenter
Our new hire has a really nice demeanor, so when she first gave me a couple of compliments, like about clothes and makeup, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But now that a few months have passed, the complimenting has gotten out of control. It’s every single day! For example, I do my makeup the same most days; one day I think I went a little heavy-handed on the bronzer, and she complimented me on it. The next day, I didn’t go so heavy. So she said “Oh, no cheeks today?” Then another day I have more bronzer on “You did your cheeks! I’m so glad!” Then another day it’s “You should really do your cheeks more often!” And so on.
If I re-wear a piece of jewelry or a shirt that she has complimented me on, she will say “Oh, you’re wearing my necklace today! I love it, it’s so nice!” Then the next day. “Awww, where’s my necklace?”
Currently, she is focused on my eyebrows. I do my eyebrows the same every day since college, yet she insists they look *just* a little different every day. “Your eyebrows were darker yesterday.” “Your eyebrows are so dark today! So nice, I like it.”
I almost want to believe that she simply does not know how to communicate with others, other than complimenting. Is there any way to approach this?
How about this: “I know you mean it kindly, but I don’t feel comfortable having my makeup and jewelry commented on so frequently at work. Thanks for understanding!”
(Also, if you’re her manager and she might be doing this to others, there’s a bigger conversation to have here too.)
3. Offering to let candidates talk to the previous people in the job
I’m in the process of hiring a new assistant. I’ve had three assistants in about two years; the first two both worked from home, and that set-up turned out to not work for the duties and timing I needed. All separations were amenable and we chat occasionally. My current assistant is leaving because she’s pregnant and moving out of state to be closer to family, so also amenable. Still, it looks a little funny, in my opinion, that there’ve been so many in the position. So is it weird to offer to have prospective candidates talk with my former assistants for assurances that I’m not some ogre?
It might not even come up. Some people do ask what the turnover has been like in the role, but a lot of people don’t. And some people will just ask why the current person in the job is leaving, without asking about anyone before that. So it might not come up at all, in which case I don’t think you need to bring it up proactively, and doing so could look defensive.
But if it does come up, just explain what you’ve explained here — that the first two were remote and you’ve since realized that doesn’t work and the most recent person is moving out of state. And then you can say that you realize that might raise some red flags about the job and so you’d be glad to put them in touch with people who have been in the job previously if they’d find it helpful to hear firsthand from people who have done the work. They may or may not take you up on it, but it’s fine to offer — just don’t get so explain-y about the whole thing that you make them think you’re protesting too much.
4. Am I supposed to respond to job candidates’ thank-you notes?
I’ve been a manager for several years and been involved in numerous searches. I value and appreciate thank-you notes/emails from job candidates, although it’s never a deal-breaker if a candidate doesn’t send one. I never respond, mainly because that’s what my boss did.
In the meantime, my fiance is searching for a job and he sometimes gets responses to thank-you emails he has sent (maybe about 25% of the time). They’re just brief, polite responses (“Thank you, it was nice to meet you too”).
If a candidate sent a handwritten thank-you card, it would be very strange to hand-write them a note back (right?). But since many/most of these now come by email, is it weird that I don’t respond? Or is it normal for hiring managers to not respond, and my fiance just had a few particularly nice people?
It’s totally normal not to respond. It’s certainly a kind and gracious thing if someone does respond, but it’s 100% not necessary and most employers don’t respond to them.
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