My New Boss Hates Me!

Anita,

After a company merger, I got a new manager directly over me who is the polar opposite of her predecessor, who I just loved working for. It’s been a few months, and I have a funny feeling that my new boss hates me. I don’t know what to do about it. Help!

Dear, From Elated to Hated,

Now, now; let’s not jump to conclusions. You may not have adjusted to your new boss’s completely different personality yet. Have you noticed any of these red flags?

  • You’re being micromanaged when others are not.
  • Your boss avoids you and doesn’t return your phone calls and emails.
  • She doesn’t make eye contact, has crossed arm “closed” body language, and rarely smiles in your presence.
  • She doesn’t ask for your input and dismisses your contributions in meetings.
  • She leaves you out of key meetings completely or hands plum assignments to others.
  • She doesn’t give you feedback – positive or negative.
  • Or, she criticizes you – constantly or in front of coworkers.

If you are experiencing several of these behaviors, you may be right: Your boss may dislike you. But it’s still early in the transition period. You may be able to win her over.

  1. Clarify expectations. Set up a one-on-one to provide your new boss an overview of your current role and ask if she envisions any changes. Bring your job description to see if she foresees any duties that will be added or taken away. Ask your new manager how you can be successful under her leadership.
  2. Help your new boss succeed. This isn’t a one-way street. If your new supervisor was hired from the outside, you can help explain procedures and help her get acclimated. Without calling her out or embarrassing her in front of colleagues (“That’s not the way we do that!”), share your institutional knowledge and you may win an ally.
  3. Identify her personality style. If you’ve taken the DiSC profile or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in your workplace, you’ll probably be able categorize your new supervisor’s traits. Don’t judge her by your former boss’s best attributes; discover your new manager’s strengths. Read up on workplace profiles to learn how you can increase your effectiveness in your 9-to-5 relationship.
  4. Actively participate in meetings. Even if your ideas seem to be met with the enthusiasm of a wet blanket, continue to chime in with optimism. If you’re taking a “wait and see” approach, your lack of engagement in meetings may cast you as a non-contributor and possibly put you on the top of the chopping block list. Give your new boss a chance to get to know you and value your contributions.
  5. Be open to new ideas. If you want your boss to respect your opinions, avoid being negative about new perspectives or procedures your newly-appointed supervisor brings to the table.

Even though you and your new manager did not have the luxury of choosing each other in an interview and hiring process, you can learn to coexist and employ your differing approaches to your company’s advantage.

Readers: Have you ever had a rough start with a new manager? How did you improve the work relationship?

 

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Cover Letter or Cover Email


Anita,

Can you settle a question for me? If applying for a job via email, is the email itself the cover letter or do I have to think up something else to say in a separate cover letter that I attach?

Email_Resume_300Dear, Covering Your Bases,

If you are applying for an open position you found through Craigslist, a company website or some other avenue that requests that you apply to an email address, your email IS your cover letter. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and create a separate cover letter attachment (just remember to attach your résumé!).

If you are applying through a job board such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com or Indeed.com, you may have the option to apply with your résumé only without a cover letter. DO NOT SKIP THE COVER LETTER! (Can you hear me shouting?) You may not feel you are good with words, but if you don’t include a cover letter, you’ll appear apathetic to the hiring professional.

Man Applying for a Job on the InternetNo matter whether you email or attach the cover letter, spend a bit of time tailoring it for the specific job. A generic “In response to your ad for yada yada yada” is more likely to produce a yawn than an interview. Customize each cover letter/email using the following advice:

  • Inject some personality and enthusiasm.
  • Address a person by name, if possible, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or the outdated “To Whom It May Concern.” It’s often a snap (or a couple of clicks) to find the name of the person hiring by searching LinkedIn or the company’s website.
  • Mention the specific employment opportunity for which you are applying. Companies may be hiring for several open positions.
  • Keep it short. Don’t include your life story, and don’t rehash irrelevant experience.
  • Outline how you match the qualifications using keywords from the job listing. Bullet points make it easy for busy hiring managers to skim.
  • Highlight the ways you can help the company. Review the Pain Points Letter.
  • Close with a proactive request for an interview.

The cover letter is to the résumé what the back cover synopsis is to the book – an enticement to delve in and read more.

Readers: What’s your best opening line for your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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20 Interviewer Questions NOT to Ask to Stay out of Hot Water

Anita,

As a small business owner, I rarely need to interview and hire. Recently, I had a woman come in for an interview and after she introduced herself, I asked about the origin of her unusual name. One of my team members later told me to be careful; that question could have been illegal. Really, Anita?! I was just making polite conversation. I’m no HR expert, so what should I watch out for in the hiring process to keep me out of legal hot water?

Dear, Inquiring Mind,

What’s considered appropriate cocktail party small talk could be a legal faux pas in the world of Human Resources. You’ve heard, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”? Well, there is in job interview situations!

Some questions may seem perfectly innocuous, but inquire with caution. By federal law, it is illegal for companies with more than 15-20 employees to base employment decisions on the following protected characteristics:Questions_iStock_000061208998

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Genetic information

Read up on the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act – and research any individual state laws.

Sometimes, a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) may allow you to ask certain questions. Say you are a women’s clothing manufacturer. You may ask model applicants if they are female, as it is a job necessity to properly parade your product.

Below are 20 Questions that are illegal or inappropriate. With a little tweaking, you can get the information you desire on applications and in interviews without any legal repercussions.

 DON’T ASKREPHRASE
1Where are you from? Are you a U.S. citizen?Are you eligible to work in the United States?
2Is English your first language?In what languages are you proficient?
3You have such pretty skin. What race are you?We have an affirmative action program; would you like to voluntarily reveal your race?
4How old are you?
(Unless you are interviewing a teenager to ascertain if they can work in a limited, non-hazardous job)
Are you the minimum age required to perform this job? (For those who obviously are over 18, “Tell me about your experience.”)
5When did you graduate?Do you have a degree?
6Are you married?
(After hiring, you may collect contact/beneficiary information about spouse or domestic partner)
7What is your maiden name?Would you have any work experience or references under another name?
8Are you pregnant?
(Note: This is a question that can turn into an embarrassing situation in your personal life, as well!)
9How many kids do you have?Are you able to travel for this job?
(After hiring, you may ask for depending information for tax/insurance purposes.)
10What are your childcare arrangements?Are you able to work overtime on short notice?
11If you plan to have a family, would you return after maternity leave? / How long do you plan to work before retiring?What are your long-term career goals?
10How far would your commute to our office be?Will you be able to start work each day promptly at 8:00 a.m.?
12What type of discharge did you receive from the military?What education or experience did you gain during your stint in the military that relates to the job duties required?
13Which religious days do you observe?Will you be able to work weekends for this position?
14Do you belong to any clubs or organizations?Do you belong to any professional or trade groups relevent to our industry?
15What exactly is your disability?Can you perform the essential job tasks with reasonable accommodation?
16Have you ever been arrested?Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
17Do you have any outstanding debt?Since you will be in charge of collections for our company, can you tell me how well you balance your personal finances?
18Do you drink?
(Surprised? Alcoholism is protected under the ADA)
19Have you ever been addicted to drugs?What illegal drugs have you used in the last six months?
(Past, but not current, drug addiction is protected under ADA Note: you cannot ask about prescription drugs.)
20How much do you weigh?Are you able to lift boxes weighing up to 50 pounds?

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If it’s not job-related, don’t ask!

Readers: Have you ever been asked an inappropriate or downright illegal question during a job interview? How did you respond?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Pardon Me, but Your Salary is Showing

Oh, Anita,

I was out with my coworkers for drinks, and found out one of my male peers makes more than I do for basically the same position. Since I’m not supposed to know his salary, how can I approach my supervisor about the inequity?

Secret_Salaries_000013891088Dear, Shhhhharin’ Salaries,

A recent Glassdoor Pay Gap Survey notes that 7 out of 10 people in the U.S. think men and women are paid equally for equal work at their company. Were you one of the optimists? I’m sorry your bubble was burst. While the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, over 50 years later, pay discrimination still exists. The AAUW reports that women make 79 cents for every $1 men earn, a 21% gap.

One solution suggested by the Glassdoor survey was pay transparency. The Obama administration recently proposed collecting gender pay data from larger employers starting in 2017, allowing the EEOC to crack down on companies paying women less than their male counterparts. Until then, and in smaller businesses not affected by this rule, few companies willingly disclose salary information.

Social media company Buffer is one completely open company. For salaries, Buffer uses a salary calculation formula based on job role, location, and experience level.

Piggy_Bank_000000162742There are detractors to salary transparency. Critics say it’s a privacy issue and that highly rewarded employees don’t need to justify the salaries they’ve earned. This policy could certainly backfire on companies with a chasm between the upper management’s salary and bonus structure and the rank and file’s wages.

Payscale found the main predictor of both “satisfaction” and “intent to leave” is whether employees feel they are paid fairly. Most often, people who discover coworkers’ salaries in a hush-hush culture leave the company without discussing the situation with their manager.

So, how do you bring up the subject? Even though you were not snooping in classified files, your knowledge of your coworker’s salary is awkward. Before you make a big fuss with your boss, take and deep breath and observe the following steps:

  • Analyze. Does your co-worker have a higher level of education? More years of experience in the role, even at a former job? Do some research on salary.com or payscale.com to see what others make in the same position outside your company.
  • Ask for a raise. Avoid mentioning your co-worker’s salary and use market pay rates and your value to the company as ammunition instead.
  • Consider your options if refused. If this newfound knowledge will eat away at you and your own performance and ultimately the team’s, looking for a fresh start may be wise. After all, as I noted in my blog Quitters Never Win… Or Do They?, sometimes the best way to get a raise is to command a higher base salary from a new employer.
  • If verifiable, file a complaint. If you have proof of gender pay inequality, start with your company’s HR department. If that course of action doesn’t produce satisfactory results, file a claim with your local EEOC office. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 resets the statute of limitations on discrimination complaints each time new paychecks are issued. It’s never easy to be a whistle-blower, so be sure you have the emotional fortitude before you open the Pandora’s box of gender pay discrimination.

Readers: What are your thoughts on pay transparency? Would you like to know what your coworkers make – and have them know your salary?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Yikes! A Panel Interview

Anita,

I recently had an interview with the mid-level manager to whom I would report if hired. I was called back to set up a panel interview with his boss and two other managers including HR. I’m freaking out! Why do companies do this? I’m so nervous, how will I ever get through this inquisition without throwing up?

Dear, In a Tizzy Lizzy,

Business People at a MeetingCompanies may conduct panel interviews for various reasons. Consolidating multiple interviews is an efficient use of the numerous managers’ time. For that matter, the applicant’s time is respected as well; no need to take additional PTO for interviews #3 and #4 (and answer the same questions over and over). Hiring by consensus can overcome individual biases, and since applicants have more people to impress, panel interviews may raise the bar for talent selection. If department peers are involved in a team interview, a preview of the group work dynamic can be glimpsed.

Here are some tips to prepare for – and conquer – the panel interview.

  • Find out who will be on the interview committee. Then do some investigating. Check out their positions and profiles on the company website and LinkedIn. Google search for any news articles in which they may have been mentioned.
  • Rack your brains for questions each individual is likely to ask. You’ve already prepared for the standard interview fare, but put yourself in each interviewer’s shoes and imagine what they would like to know about you. While the HR Manager may be interested in that tiny gap in your employment many moons ago, the Sales Manager may be more interested in your stats and the accompanying conquering hero anecdotes.
  • At the introduction and handshake stage, ask for each person’s business card or jot down their names in the order they are seated. Those lightweight butterflies in the stomach can really kayo short-term memory recall.
  • Talk to them all. When answering one individual’s question, be sure to look at others on the panel as well. Like a comedy “callback,” make reference to earlier questions asked by other interviewers.
  • Win over the person most aloof. It may be easier to cozy up to the folks you can tell you’ve already impressed, but try to address the quiet note-taker’s concerns, particularly if he or she is high-ranking. Fret not, though, Lizzy. There’s unlikely to be a “good cop, bad cop” scenario in your panel interview as in this entertaining sketch from BBC’s That Mitchell and Webb Look:

  • Use those business cards you collected to address a thank you note to each individual on the panel.

Instead of dreading the panel interview, use it as an opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the corporate culture and view the team’s interpersonal dynamics. An interview is as much about you appraising the company as it is the company assessing you.

Readers: How have you aced a panel interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Hi!

I’ve been applying for positions non-stop for 2 months and have had 3 face to face interviews. When I’ve been given a phone interview, I pass with flying colors and onto the next stage. When having the face to face interviews I leave each one feeling confident that I would have an offer. I’ve now received letters stating they found a better fit for the position. I’ve worked in Call Centers for the past 8 years in a customer service role, so experience was not an issue. Could it be my age? I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. Is it in bad taste to ask why I was passed over? I’m of the opinion if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I can’t fix it.

Dear, Whys and Wherefores,

Readers often write to ask “Why wasn’t I hired? I though the interview went well.” I’m not related to Big Brother, so I don’t have access to the surveillance footage of your meeting. But I can make offer some theories.

Mentally review your past interviews to see if you made any of these missteps.

  • Divergent appearance. A wardrobe mismatch can be more than just wearing brown socks with black trousers. You may actually be overdressed in a Wall Street suit and tie for an interview with a hip startup, where everyone is dressed more casually. But if you’re a tattooed, pierced individual, you may want to take out your septum ring to avoid distracting a buttoned-up interviewer in a more corporate environment. This Super Bowl “Talking Stain” commercial from a few years ago reminds us all to avoid messy lunch foods right before an interview.

  • Body language. Eye contact without staring, a firm but not bone-crushing handshake, smiling and nodding (but not too enthusiastically!) are all non-verbal communication skills you should brush up on.
  • Poor performance. You stutter, you interject “um” or “like” too often, you can’t even think of the answer to a simple question! Calm your nerves, take a breath before answering your interviewer’s questions, and don’t speak too rapidly (chances are, the hiring manager is taking notes). Public speaking may not be your forte but with proper preparation and practice, you can improve.
  • Lack of follow-up. Without being “dimpatient,” be sure to maintain communication after the interview, starting with a “thank you” note. HINT: If you are kicking yourself after forgetting to mention a pertinent point in your interview, mention it in your thank you message.
    (For more tips on acing interviews, download my free e-book, Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews.)

You could request honest feedback from your interviewer via email – but never put them on the spot in person or by phone. “While I’m disappointed I was not chosen for the position, it would really help me in my next interview to know if you saw any areas in which I can improve.” Be forewarned, warns EvilHRLady, some recruiters and hiring managers may be hesitant to offer constructive criticism. If you do receive remarks, respond graciously even if you think their observations are way off base.

Readers: Have you ever asked for – and received – a critique from an interviewer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Your Next Best Career

Hey Anita,

I’m a computer programmer and I am thinking about changing careers. Years of sitting in front of a PC for 10-12 hours a day is taking its toll, and my New Year’s resolution of getting healthy and in better physical shape has fallen by the wayside. Any advice?

Geek_1915240_smallDear, Geek Physique,

You are not alone; 21% of employees plan to leave their jobs this year, according to CareerBuilder. (I have no statistics on how many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolution!) But are you sure you want to leave your current position? Tech salaries rose 7.7% in 2015, averaging $96,370. Think carefully before making a dramatic job transition. Oftentimes, a career change means a sharp decrease in salary, at least temporarily until you can move up the ladder in your newly chosen industry.

If you’re serious about a major change, CareerBuilder just released a list of the 25 Best Jobs in America for 2016. While many are management positions, there are several on the list to which you could transfer your existing IT skills which makes for an easier career change. But a new Solutions Architect or Mobile Developer position may not address your health and fitness goals. Check out my blog post, Work Toward 10,000 Steps, to see if you could make some tweaks in your current daily job life to stay where you are. If not, check out Glassdoor’s list of 10 Jobs That Can Keep You Fit for inspiration, ranging from dance instructor to firefighter.

Here are some points to ponder when considering a career change:

  • Know thyself. With a little help from an online career quiz or two, really think about what your dream job would be, based on your preferences and personality traits. Do you honestly think you could transition to the dance instructor suggested by Glassdoor?
  • Research job possibilities. Based on the assessments’ recommendations and your own free association list, check out interesting job titles (indeed.com) to see what tasks the positions entail and the average salaries (salary.com). Don’t forget to look within your current company for opportunities to make a lateral move.
  • No transferable skills? You’ll need training. Determine new competencies you’ll need, then find learning resources. It could be as little as an online Excel course, or a full-blown master’s degree program.
  • Can your network help? Who do you know who can help you get a foot in the door in your newly chosen field? A mentor in your target profession could be helpful, as well.

Readers: Have you ever considered changing careers? What’s holding you back?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Lack of Training

Dear Anita,

I’m in HR and just have to vent. I get so many résumés for open positions from people who don’t qualify even remotely. Can you please tell job seekers without the required experience not to waste my time?

Infographic-1-Lack-of-Experience-LGDear, Not Impressed,

A recent American Staffing Association (ASA) survey found that unemployed adults looking for work say that lack of experience is the main obstacle that prevents them from finding a job. (Really, we needed a survey to figure that out?) But the workforce survey goes further: 82% of unemployed job seekers think training would increase their chances of receiving job offers. And nearly nine out of 10 aspirants would be willing to try a new field if training were offered.

So, employers, do you have a training program for those hard-to-fill positions? Or perhaps you have high turnover in a particular role. This may be an indication that the instruction provided for that job title is not up to snuff. It’s not enough for the HR department to fill chairs with warm bodies; you want those bodies to flourish in the role, both for their own personal growth and for the company’s betterment.

If your business has perpetually open positions with no qualified applicants, consider cultivating “home-grown” employees. Convince your local community college to provide classes that your company would find helpful for future applicants.

Now, let me scold job seekers a bit. If you come across as a lackluster candidate to hiring managers, it’s in your power to improve your image. Don’t wait for future employers to train you. Proactively seek out professional development opportunities, whether it’s online or at your local chamber of commerce, free or paid out of your own pocket. You’ll be able to beef up your résumé’s “Advanced Training” or “Continuing Education” section, and show that you have a drive to succeed.

Readers: Let’s dream a little. If you could change careers with full training provided, what field would you enter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Great Questions to Ask During Interviews

Dear Anita,

I’m 72 and the first job I interviewed for was 2 years ago and I was hired on the spot! For those searching for a job, I recommend showing how excited you are at the interview, and that you first learn a few things about the prospective employer. It shows that you aren’t just randomly going from door-to-door!

Be energetic and positive. Ask questions like… “How long have you [the interviewer] worked here?” or “What is the best thing you like about your company?” That way you will learn something and it gives you a chance to compose yourself.

Interview_Question_000019402901Dear Spot On,

Congrats on acing your interview! Thanks for sharing your winning strategy. Many people forget to prepare for that final interviewer’s inquiry, “Do you have any questions for me?” Here is a list of great questions to impress your potential employer.

  • Do you have any reservations about my qualifications? (If yes, this give you a second chance to toot your own horn and change their mind.)
  • Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with? (Gain insight into the coworkers you would deal with on a daily basis.)
  • Who has formerly held the position? (Did they retire? Were they fired? If so, why?)
  • What is a typical [day, week, month, or year] like for a person in this job?
  • What is the biggest problem currently facing your staff? (Try to show how you could help solve this problem.)
  • What constitutes success in this position? (Will you have a fighting chance to flourish?)
  • What are the prospects for growth in this job? (Show you’re in it for the long term.)

And finally, don’t forget to ask the all-important:

  • What is the next step in the hiring process?

For even more queries, check out job-hunt.com’s 45 Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview.

Readers: What is your favorite question to ask during a job interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Attitude: It’s Contagious!

Dear Anita,

I have a negative employee that I wish would get the flu and stay home from work! Her cynical attitude and pessimism is really bringing the team down. She does get her work done, but not without complaining. Any ideas on how to manage this “Gloomy Gussie?”

Donkey with umbrellaDear Eyeore Encourager,

An employee with a negative attitude can quickly become an emotional drain on the more positive team members. Misery loves company, so you are wise to nip negative behavior in the bud.

Chances are, your Gloomy Gussie’s attitude is a habit. She may not even realize she is coming across as a wet blanket. Here are some ways to encourage more positivity at work:

    • Smile at her (even if you don’t feel like it). Smiling is contagious. Try to beat the statistics: 30% of people smile five to 20 times a day at the office, and 28% smile over 20 times per day at work.
    • Encourage your entire team to find solutions instead of making complaints. In meetings, when Eyeore pooh-poohs an idea, turn the tables and ask how it could work.
    • Give clear feedback – and potential consequences – in one-on-one meetings. Be sure to let Sad Sally know that while her work output is satisfactory, a positive attitude is just as important.
    • Listen. It’s hard not to tune out Negative Nellie when she starts whining. But if you can get to the root of the dissatisfaction, you may just find the cure.
    • Praise progress. Be sure to catch her whenever she makes an effort, no matter how small, to be positive to encourage more of the desired behavior.
    • Keep your own attitude in check. When interacting with Pessimistic Patty, don’t roll your eyes (even inwardly but especially to other subordinates).
    • If things don’t improve, you may have to let this bad apple go. Just be sure to document specific examples of negativity affecting performance as “attitude problem” is too subjective, suggests this Houston Chronicle article, “How to Fire People with Bad Attitudes.”

“A healthy attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” Tom Stoppard, playwright

Readers: Are you the carrier of an Eyeore or Tigger attitude at work?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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