It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Offensiveness in the fantasy football league
I need to gauge if I’m overreacting. It’s fantasy football season, and as an HR professional I’m studiously ignoring the emails about joining “work” leagues (due to gambling being illegal). One of our new managers has joined this league (made up of employees, former employees, and spouses of employees) and named his team “Hanging with Hernandez” and his photo is a noose. This is all in reference to Aaron Hernandez. Cue the league’s commissioner reaching out to my grandboss for help as the commissioner is “personally amused and professionally horrified.” One of this manager’s direct reports is in the league too.
We informed him of the social media policy and asked him to change all of it. He complied while stating, “It is ridiculous that anyone could find that offensive and even more ridiculous that someone would report this to HR instead of bringing it to me.”
Am I out of my mind thinking this is completely out of line? I admit that he posts political things on his LinkedIn that oppose my beliefs and that might be coloring my view of him.
I don’t know how to end this email. I’m upset that we allowed this man into our company where I’m afraid he could do real harm to our employees or even our clients.
You’re not overreacting. Joking about suicide is always going to be tasteless and most people should be able to see — especially after it is pointed out to them! — why it’s particularly inappropriate to make light of at work, where there might be (and almost certainly are) employees who have lost loved ones to suicide and/or are struggling with mental health issues themselves or in their families.
But while the team name is offensive, the manager’s reaction when you asked him to change it is worse. A tasteless joke is one thing; proudly declaring that other people’s discomfort is “ridiculous” is a much bigger problem since now you have to worry he’s likely to be saying other offensive things and shutting down team members who aren’t comfortable with that. The fact that he’s in a position of power over others makes it worse. (Also, you said he’s a new manager — is he new to your company? If so, the fact that a new employee would dig in his heels on this is … surprising, and doesn’t bode well for what other attitudes he’s carrying with him.)
Luckily, you’re in HR! Someone on your team should have a serious conversation with him about the company’s values, the values he’s expected to operate with on the job, and what sorts of things are and aren’t acceptable in his role, and find out if he feels that’s going to be a fit for him or not. (Someone should flag all this for his boss too.)
2. My old manager won’t talk to any of us even though she still works here
My manager recently moved to a new role in HR at the same company. Before that, she essentially worked as a customer service manager. She was extremely well-liked and very popular with her direct reports. Honestly, she was one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with.
Since she transitioned to her new role, she refuses to talk to any of us. For example:
• My (male) coworker (who worked under her for a year and a half) asked if she wanted to meet on campus for a coffee and connect to catch up. She declined and then accused him of being romantically interested in her. They’re both married to other people with young children.
• Unfriended half of our old team on Facebook, but maintained online connections with the other half.
• Never talks to anyone from her old department.
I normally try to maintain professional relationships with past managers. However, is it a lost cause in this case?
Well, this is fascinating! It would be less surprising if you had already known her to have weird judgment, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.
Although it’s worth asking — has she been level-headed previously, or was she one of those people who was great to work with directly but you could see she was not as great to people outside your team? In other words, is any of this in character or at least unsurprising for her, or is it all a shock?
If it’s in character/not terribly surprising, then yes, it might be a lost cause. Frankly, it might be a lost cause regardless if she’s refusing to talk to anyone from her old team. But if you’re invested enough in the relationship to do a little digging, it could be worth getting in touch, seeing how she’s doing, and trying to get a feel for what’s going on. It’s possible there’s more to the situation than you know, and if you’ve thought well of her judgment previously, it’s worth giving her some benefit of the doubt until you’ve heard from her directly.
I do wonder if some of this is about her moving to HR, specifically, since the boundaries for HR are different than for other roles. But if that’s the case, she’s navigating it with unnecessary chilliness — being in HR doesn’t require you to refuse any contact whatsoever with colleagues — and it doesn’t explain her response to the coffee attempt.
3. Is it rude not to ask about my boss’s personal situation?
I started a new job five months ago, after being at my previous company for five years. So far, I really like it. The work is interesting, work-life balance is good, and I get paid more!
A couple of weeks ago, my boss told me that he had several doctor’s appointments coming up and he was going to send me and his boss meeting invites so we know when he is out of office. I thanked him for letting me know. I did not think it would be appropriate to ask any additional questions. In the weeks since, I have gotten several of these meeting invites, and it has become somewhat clear that my boss is experiencing some type of major medical/personal issue. Other than the meeting invites, he has not mentioned anything to me directly about what is going on and it does not seem to be impacting his work. Because of that, I am choosing not to bring up these appointments to him (or anyone else); I just accept the meeting invites. In my opinion, it’s none of my business and it’s not impacting his managing me, so there’s nothing to discuss! However, is there a chance that my lack of acknowledgment could be considered impolite? If he is having a medical/personal crisis, I do wish him the best. But he seems to not want to make a big deal of whatever is going on and I am trying to follow his lead.
Yes, please do follow his lead (and your instincts) and don’t ask about it! If there’s something he wants to share, he’ll share it. It’s not rude to respect his privacy; in fact, it’s polite!
I do get why you’re wondering; you don’t want to seem uncaring if he knows that you’re seeing that something is going on. But in a business relationship — and a situation where it sounds like you’re just being made aware of the appointments because you have a work need to know about his availability — it’s safest to default to respecting his privacy.
4. My ex-boss keeps contacting me for help … because I said I might help
About a month ago, I stated (a great!) new job. I am very happy — it’s a big step up and a wonderful team.
I left, however, the most toxic work environment of my life. My boss was a bully and spent 18 months berating me and I knew I had to leave when I would start dreading Mondays on Fridays. My notice period was unreal, I was expected to wrap up months and months of projects in 2 weeks and was pressured to commit to consulting afterwards. To avoid confrontation, I stated that I would have to see what my new workload was like (this was likely my mistake).
Flash forward to today, and I am getting constant meeting requests. I do not want to help but I am consumed with guilt, as a typical people pleaser. I don’t know why I still get so worked up, and I am, how can I cut ties cleanly and kindly?
If you want, you can just block the messages and meeting requests and never think about it again. But you say you want to cut ties cleanly and kindly, and the last time you talked you left your availability an open question, the best thing to do is to send your former boss a message that says, “Unfortunately my schedule has turned out to be packed and I am fully booked for the foreseeable future. So I won’t be able to do any consulting work, but I wish you all the best with everything.” After that, if the messages continue, block without any guilt. You don’t work there anymore, and you’ll have cleared up any haziness about what your availability might be now.
5. Should I be honest with my manager if it means giving up career development?
I just started working at my first professional job about a month ago, and when my manager saw that I’m genuinely interested in and care about the work, she told me she wants to train me to be a supervisor and then eventually a manager. However, I don’t plan on staying with this job forever. In fact, I plan to only work here for two years before moving to a different state and switching to a more specific part of my field, which I’m pretty sure I mentioned during my interview. But still, I think having the role of “supervisor” on my resume when I move would look great, considering my age and how new I am to the field. My only issue is that I really don’t want to throw a wrench in the company by having them spend time/energy training me for a position I won’t be in very long, especially when they could’ve spent it training someone else.
Should I be up-front with my manager and tell her that, while I appreciate her offering to train me to be a supervisor, I don’t want to waste her time? Or should I take the promotion and run with it so my resume looks better?
Take the training and the promotion. Two years is a long time and things could change between now and then — life is weird that way, and you shouldn’t close off options now for something that’s still a couple of years away.
But also, even if nothing changes and you move out of state as planned in two years, that’s a reasonable amount of time to put in and definitely enough for your company’s investment to pay off.