(Source: www.inc.com)

Editor’s note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues — everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

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

1. My new hire is badmouthing our business on Twitter

Question: I am the manager of a small business and recently made a verbal offer of employment to someone for an entry-level cashier position. In the past day, this hire has made several deprecating comments on Twitter about the business. My knee-jerk reaction is to rescind the job offer, but I have doubts about how ethical that would be and the ramifications of it all. Do you have any insight?

Green responds: Rescind the offer. You don’t want someone working for you who’s already badmouthing your business (publicly, no less!) and who has the double whammy of having the terrible judgment of doing it on the internet where you can easily find it. Hire a candidate who’s glad to work for you, not this one.

2. Is it normal to ask for a two-to-three-year commitment to a job?

Question: I recently interviewed for a marketing position. The manager noted that she would want the next person in the role to stay at least two years and hopefully three. I ultimately bowed out of the process after finding out the role had a lot more administrative duties than I was looking for. However, I’ve never been on an interview in which the person has mentioned how long I was expected to stay in the role. While I am obviously not hoping to run out on my next job, and two or three years is not forever, I can never predict when I will feel ready to move on and I wouldn’t feel right promising that to an employer.

Is it normal for interviewers to give you an amount of time they expect you to stay on? And is it bad if you leave a position before your boss expects you to? Would it burn bridges?

Green responds: “We’re looking for someone to invest in the role and stay for a couple of years” isn’t weird to say or to expect. In fact, hiring someone without expecting that the person would plan to stay that long would be pretty unusual for many roles, and it pretty normal for a marketing coordinator job.

That said, when you make that kind of commitment, it’s not written in stone. Managers understand that it might turn out to be the wrong fit, or you might move, or an opportunity you can’t turn down might fall in your lap. The point is that they don’t want you taking the job if you’re thinking that you’ll only stay for a year before moving on, or when you’re planning to go to grad school in the fall, or so forth.

3. My company wants to track employees’ volunteer time outside the office

Question: Is it common for a company to track employees’ volunteer time outside the office? My company (not a nonprofit) just had a big rollout of new software to track employees’ volunteer time. We are encouraged to enter our volunteer hours, not only for company-sponsored activities but also for volunteering outside the office. An example would be if we volunteered to coach our child’s sports team.

I know my company wants to show that it cares about the community. And it does have many company-sponsored volunteer activities in all the communities where it is located. So I’m assuming somewhere that it will be reporting the hours that its employees spend in volunteering, perhaps in PR materials. But it seems a bit disingenuous to report personal volunteer time spent outside the office. I’m going to volunteer, regardless of my employer.

While this is by no means mandatory, it just seems odd. Is this a common practice?

Green responds: It’s not uncommon. And just as you assumed, companies that do this will then report in PR materials that their employees contributed X hours of community service last year, or something along those lines — so, yes, it’s to benefit their image. I think it’s a little disingenuous too, although I suppose another way to look at it is that they’re not claiming that the volunteering was spurred by them — just that they hire community-minded people, which could very well be true. But if they also take active measures to support employees’ volunteering — such as allowing you to use work time to pursue volunteer work or giving you time off for volunteer activities — it would feel a lot more genuine.

4. When should I tell my staff I’m leaving my job?

Question: I work in higher education doing direct advising work with students, and I supervise a few paid programs. I enjoy the students I supervise, and we have a very good working relationship.

I recently found out that I’ll be leaving my job over the summer, and I’m not sure when the best time to tell the students is. My supervisor effectively has five months’ notice that I’ll be leaving and is very supportive, but as a supervisor I want to talk to my students about my leaving without it being a jarring transition for them in the fall.

There isn’t a plan yet to recruit for my position (although I’m sure there will be someone for the fall). There have been a few rocky moments with our program this year, and I want to be as supportive as possible in helping the students think about next year (and know that things will be OK! For many of them, this is their first job, and management turnover is confusing and scary). Do you have any advice on how and when to tell them that I’m leaving?

Green responds: Tell them now. There’s no reason not to, and if you delay, you risk their hearing it from someone else and wondering what’s going on (as well as wondering what else they might be out of the loop on). You can say that you’re committed to ensuring a smooth transition, that there will be plenty of time to find someone great for the role, and that you’ll keep them posted as things play out. If anyone seems particularly anxious, you can talk to him or her about how this is a normal part of work life, employers are set up to deal with it, and no one is irreplaceable (or shouldn’t be).

5. The CEO asked me to work on a project I can’t tell my manager about

Question: The CEO of my company has asked me to complete a project that he wants to keep “just between us.” It’s nothing untoward but could be culturally sensitive within the company and mean changes to peoples’ jobs, etc. I am many levels below C-level but the only person here who can do this particular kind of project. Normally — no big deal. I have done these kinds of projects before. I get them done and report back to the CEO, usually in one afternoon. But this project is much more extensive and will require a real time commitment, and I’m under a fair amount of pressure to complete some other time-sensitive projects right now. (I’m not sure the CEO realized this when he asked me to complete the project. In truth, I didn’t realize what a time commitment this secret project would be, or I would have mentioned something to the CEO when he asked me to do it.)

So the problem is this: I have no poker face. What the heck am I supposed to tell my manager I am doing while I’m working on this project? Or if other projects I have been assigned aren’t done as quickly because my time is being split with this second, “secret” project? My manager is not really the type to micromanage (thankfully!), so it is possible it won’t come up or he won’t notice, but if he asks me directly what I’m working on I am a little afraid I’ll blush or look sheepish or something awful that will reflect poorly on me. I’m not as worried that I will spill the beans about the project, but more like I’ll look like I am shirking my assigned work. I am a terrible liar. Is there an easy way to deflect attention from this project while managing the expectations of both my manager and the CEO?

Green responds: Go back to the CEO and explain the situation. Say something like this: “This will take me about X days/hours to complete, and I’m realizing that it’s going to cause some awkwardness with Jane, who wants me doing other work during that time. Could you mention something to her so that she realizes I’m working on a project for you — and ideally heads off any questions about it that I shouldn’t answer?”

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

More Info: www.inc.com

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