Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do we need a policy for this? Really!

Got an interesting question from a reader:

I’ve noticed on a number of occasions that people stand in office corridors for long periods of time to discuss things. Quite often these corridor-talks are a spill over from a meeting/conference that they would have concluded a few minutes back. At times these discussions turn out to be loud enough to disturb other employees in that work area. There are enough conference rooms at the workplace that people could use for their discussions. I was wondering if I should write to the HR asking them to come up with a policy that prohibits people from standing in the corridor and having discussions. Employees sitting around these areas are put through a lot of discomfort. I’m one of them. Would it be possible to have such a policy? What are your thoughts?

First, I haven’t come across such a policy in my career. At least not yet. Maybe in kindergarten. Really. When we were told: Don’t sit here. Don’t stand there. Don’t talk here. Don’t walk there. You get my point?

So my answer to your question is – No. It doesn’t make sense to have a policy that states that no one can talk in office corridors. Sounds ridiculous. No? It will trigger an unnecessary debate. One that will question the very fact that everyone working there are adults and so this can be dealt with better than having a policy. All that’s required to resolve this situation is some tips on social etiquette. An email from HR should suffice to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, here’s something you can try. Next time if you notice someone talking in the corridor close to your work area, go and request them to continue their discussion in a conference room. Tell them that their chat in the corridor is disturbing your work. The reason I ask you mention that ‘you’ are affected is because I’m not sure if others feel the same way. If they have brought up a similar issue and expressed their displeasure, only then mention that people working in that area are affected. You really don’t want to make decisions for them, without their consent. With regard to asking people to stop chatting in the corridor, you might have to do this as many times as possible. It’s not a one time fix. But at least you’ll know when the discussion is loud enough to distract you from your work.

Most often people get so absorbed in their discussions, that they might not be aware of their voice decibel levels. Your request could solve this issue in a jiffy! Really. The best case scenario is that people will apologize and get into a conference room / take their discussion elsewhere. I’m not sure of the worst case scenario. Do you think you work with people who would just ignore your request and keep talking? I really doubt that.

Another point to consider is whether this is affecting just you or have the other employees expressed similar concern. If it’s just you, then maybe, you are unable to tune out minor distractions. That’s something you can work on that too. There are enough solutions to this, starting with an old fashioned ear plug. No. It doesn’t sound / look crazy. If you are the kind of person that requires a silent environment at work, then the first step would be to help yourself achieve that environment. It’s a lot easier than controlling other people’s actions.

Hope that helps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recruiter mails offer to the wrong candidate!

From a recruiter:

Dear HR Store,

We had interviewed a lot of candidates for a role in the sales team and the hiring manager had selected a candidate. We had also worked out the compensation plan/structure that we would offer the candidate. It was decided that the hiring manager would discuss the offer with the candidate and then I had to mail the offer to the candidate. While mailing the offer letter, I made a terrible mistake by mailing it to a different candidate (with almost the same name as the first candidate) whom we had interviewed for the role but was rejected. I had previously sent him an interview rejection mail too. I’m totally terrified. How do I manage this situation?


I’ll digress and rant about this a little. Here’s exactly why recruiters end up among the most hated folks on everyone’s list. All that was required from you was to mail an offer to a candidate. Just how tough is that? You are right about feeling terrible for sending out an offer to the wrong candidate! Go ahead; scream it out of your system. Now, if you’re feeling a little calmer, let’s think of the next steps.

Before I give you any suggestions, I’m not sure of the legalities in this situation and you might want to consult an attorney. If it was left to me to decide the next steps, here’s what I would do.

To avoid any confusion in my reply, I’ll call the selected one as ‘Candidate A’ and the other ‘Candidate B’. First, talk to the hiring manager and explain the goof-up. He’ll need to know about this, in case ‘Candidate B’ decides to call/mail him to discuss about your mail. So, when you tell the hiring manager, either he’ll blow his lid off (very likely) or maybe, just maybe, there’s a remote chance that he’ll understand and empathize. Either way he might ask you to send out an apology mail to ‘Candidate B’. But hold on. Before sending out another random mail to ‘Candidate B’, call him and explain the situation. Yep, you’ll have to apologize profusely and hope he’ll understand. Next, you send him an email outlining your discussion and tell him that the mail wasn’t meant for him. That’s it. Don’t get into details about who was meant to be the original recipient of the mail. That’s divulging more confidential data. Apologize for the inconvenience and end it there. Might look high handed but getting into details could get into more trouble.

Also, you might be thinking of getting the hiring manager to talk to ‘Candidate B’. Don’t do that. He wasn’t involved in this mail mess. It’s for you to clean it up.

Understandably, this is a terrible situation to be in. More so for ‘Candidate B’, who could right now be out of a job and he might have thought that your mail was sent after reconsidering his candidature! It’s not the case, but that’s how it will look. Next time, pay more attention to details. You could be sending out a hundred mails a day, but this one has higher consequences than most other mails. Give it sufficient time and attention.

Hope you are able to resolve the issue without getting into deeper trouble. Good luck!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HR asked to snoop around!

Got a question from a reader. It’s a lengthy one and so I’m posting a gist of it here.

Manager at a midsized Company is worried that he might lose talented team members to competitors, citing various reasons including better opportunities, performance reviews, higher salary, promotions, etc., He approaches the HR rep and asks her to snoop around and give him some information on who is going to/is contemplating whether to quit and by when. He claims this will help him plan his projects better and start looking for potential replacements.

The HR rep hasn’t been asked to do such a thing before in her role (or career) and is wondering what should be her approach to this request?

First, the manager’s just being a jerk. If your role has enough authority to take decisions, then its time to have a candid discussion with this manager regarding his future in a managerial role. Or maybe even in the Company. Harsh? Absolutely. Such a request is a red flag for his managerial abilities. That’s off course if you have the authority. Understandably it’s not going to be easy. But having the discussion isn’t just an option, its mandatory.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the authority, you must still go ahead have a candid discussion with the manager. Assuming your role may require you to interact with this manager on a daily/weekly basis, saying ‘NO’ now will set expectations for the future too. Here’s something that you could tell him, “I would not be able to do that. It’s against the ethics & integrity of my role.” No, you don’t need to be apologetic. That’s generally the thing that people say when they are asked such requests. When you start by saying, “I’m sorry…”, it gets understood as, “I may help you, but I don’t know what to do. Give me sometime.” So don’t give room for assumptions. Be assertive.

Next, it’s time you set things straight with this manager. His fear of losing talented folks from his team may stem from many facts, including bad managing skills, not being proactive, having issues with feedback (taking & giving), not in sync with business decisions, or plain fear to communicate any type of news that might impact the team, among so many other things. For one, he should be taking control of things that can be controlled from his end. Exploring opportunities within the team/Company, honest performance reviews, transparency in dealing with issues, etc., Instead of trying to control factors that are not within his reach. Get this manager to attend a training program to help him manage better, if you have the budget. Else, it’s time you nominate someone internally within the Company to train him, like Karen Wise suggests in this guest post.

You cannot control /avoid external recruiters from reaching your employees. Period. Trying to do that will result in you wasting your time & efforts. Asking the HR to snoop around isn’t going to resolve an issue that has deeper roots in his managerial traits.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hiring: Candidate Tip - Part 2

So if you haven’t read this post yet, then I’ll just recap a bit. I get a lot of questions around recruitment related activities from candidates. In an attempt to avoid redundancy in replies, I’ve started posting answers on Twitter using #candidatetip. Here’s the next set of candidate tips. If you are a candidate, hope this helps. If not, you can help send this post to someone you know, searching for answers. I’ll continue to take questions and should you have one, you can send it to

  1. Get to know the 'Role & Responsibility' of the new job/position. Title/designation means zilch if you end up not liking the work.

  2. Don't 'password protect' your resume when you send it for a job opening. It looks silly. What purpose would it serve? Check twice before you send out your resume.

  3. If you are asked for a good time to schedule an interview, think & then answer. One reschedule is OK. 2nd reschedule sends out wrong signals. You gave the time, means you have to plan accordingly.

  4. Deactivate your account on job portals if you don't want to be notified of new job openings. Why have it there when you're not keen on a job change? Unnecessarily creates negative impressions.

  5. 'Got stuck in traffic' isn't an excuse anymore! Cities are crowded / getting crowded. Plan better & leave early for an interview.

  6. Leaving a contact number on your resume helps reach you faster than through an email. Unless you are connected 24x7 & even then a recruiter would want to call before scheduling.

  7. If you don't answer your phone even the second time around; your turn to talk just got pushed to the end of the list.

  8. Please read your resume thoroughly before an interview. It looks bad if you don't know what's on Page 2 of your own resume!

  9. Don’t put an interviewer on-hold during phone interviews! If u have to take another call, keep the interviewer informed beforehand.

  10. Ask for a 100% hike in compensation. ONLY if you have enough rationale. Not because someone from somewhere told you to ask!

  11. Are you a manager/lead? Then you need to learn to describe your ‘management style’s in an interview. Easy to locate fluff! Avoid it.

  12. If you aren't ok with relocating to another city, why would you want to interview for a position based there? You’re wasting time.

  13. Watch your words! Using 'slangs' is not appreciated in interviews. Even if you said it bymistake. Avoid it.

  14. Number of years of work experience doesn't guarantee (rather shouldn't guarantee) a move to the next role! Don't assume.

  15. Don't type your entire resume in CAPS!! Looks ridiculous & not to mention, very rude.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Team member skips meetings regularly

    Dear HR Store,

    I’ve been recently promoted to lead an eight member team. As part of the team’s weekly activities we have a team meeting scheduled every Wednesday. It’s critical for all team members to attend the meeting. It helps us stay updated on the team’s goals/objectives. It’s also an interactive session where team members discuss a lot of things related to work. Stuff like challenges they faced during that week and their solutions are discussed. It’s a ground for learning too. My issue is with a particular team member who has been skipping these meetings regularly giving far too many excuses. At times it’s ok, since he is held up with other activities that are critical and needed immediate attention. But the occurrences are far too many to ignore. The other team members have begun to notice the pattern.

    The team member doing this excels at his work. So I’m worried any hasty reactions from me could end up creating more problems. How do I go about resolving this issue?


    Well, looks like this team member has been given too much leeway. Your case is a classic example for setting a ‘precedent’. It not only poses an immediate danger but also has long term repercussions.

    Agreed that the team member excels at his work, but that’s no grounds for not complying with the rest of the team. Are you telling the others that they are good enough to be excused from the meeting? See. Setting precedents are bad. Period. You’ve just experienced the tough part of being a manager. Your ‘No’ should have enough logic and ‘Yes’ should make enough sense.

    How do you go about dealing with this? First step would be to have a candid talk with him during your one—to—one meeting. Before you start with telling, “You should attend all team meetings starting this week”, give him a chance to explain his prior absence. There could a reason for missing them than just giving an excuse for attending to another activity during the same time. To start with, give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is really overloaded with work. Maybe he doesn’t see enough value in attending the meeting. Or worse, he just feels he’s the best in the team and doesn’t need to attend meetings when he knows it all! If that’s the reason, you have more trouble than you think. Your response will depend on his reasons for not attending. Being supportive is fine, as long as it’s for the right reasons. If you’ve set up the meeting as a weekly recurrence, the team has been given enough notice. So getting caught up with other work at that time is a sign of bad time management. More than twice is never a coincidence. Set it right.

    On the contrary, trying to enforce a rule like, “Everyone must participate in team meetings”, will backfire for sure. Team members will be present but they’ll never participate. So try and avoid taking that approach. If the agenda of the meeting is to figure out if the team is aligned to business goals/objectives and for sharing their challenges of the week, then your one-to-one meeting and email should suffice. Meeting every week to discuss the same things takes away the importance of the discussion. Sorry, I digress.

    Back to your question. As a manager, you’ll have to play a dual-role in getting team members to adhere to team activities. One part of the role (the good part) is when you encourage team members to attend these meetings citing a chance to learn from others. The second part (the bad part) of the role is when you make it clear that all team members will be treated equally and any violations will have the same consequences. Being a manager is a lot tougher than you thought!

    So first have a discussion with the team member. If it continues, write him a mail. I really doubt if it should get beyond this! If it does, you have to take a tough call. You don’t need a star performer with the wrong attitude who could end up hurting a well balanced team. That’s something you don’t want to deal with. Act fast. And have that discussion. It should sort things out. Make it clear that you are the authority on this issue and that shouldn't be taken for granted.

    Next time. Be wary of setting precedents. You are the manager. And you should decide what works best for the team. Don’t let the entire team manage you! If it happens, there’s only one way it will go. Downhill.

    Good luck!

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Monday's that rock!

    Yes, you heard me alright. If luck has anything to do, you’ll find a recruiter’s Monday made when:

    - ALL (I mean, each & everyone) of the New Hires shows up at the door. Agreed it’s a bad job market, but that hasn’t changed for great talent to reject job offers.

    - The hiring manager sends you an ‘awesome job done’ mail copying the entire senior management! (You wonder, why the delay in sending the mail?)

    - Your project just got identified as the best submission. And you get funds for running it too. Cool!

    - All tasks on your list for Monday are marked – DONE.

    - Over 85% of candidates/employees participate in your survey.

    - Zero ‘offer declines’ from potential hires. Awesome! Must be dreaming.

    Bring on the week now! So what’s on your list today? I would love to hear your Super Monday stories.