Work

Do I Take on Too Much?

Honestly, my assessment of myself is that I am kind of lazy and that I could be more productive in most aspects of my life. My house could be cleaner and more organized. I could be more proactive at work. I could be more proactive with my schoolwork. I could fit working out back into my routine. I could cook more meals at home. I could pluck my own eyebrows. (No I couldn't! I did it this morning because I had to cancel my wax last weekend and plucking hurts way more than waxing.) I could read more books instead of watching TV. I could keep on going with this list.

I feel like I could always do more but, even before getting pregnant with Kenna, I made a conscious effort not to overschedule myself, especially on weekends. I need alone time and I need relaxation time. If I don't have it, I get overstressed and then I start to get depressed. Because of all that, I never had an image of myself as a person who takes on too much but, recently, I have started to wonder if I am wrong about that.

Last year, I began an MBA program. I started out easy with one class that I'd already taken as an undergrad. Then I took off the next term because it was during the first trimester of my pregnancy and I knew I would be too tired. This term, I took only one class again because it would be ending when I would be only weeks away from giving birth and I didn't want to work myself too hard. Still, I feel like I could have handled two classes at a time.

On Facebook a few weeks ago, an old high school friend commented on one of my status updates about how amazed she was that I was taking a class while pregnant. Last week, a coworker who works from her home was in the office for a training. We talked about my MBA program because her employee wants to get his MBA. She, too, was amazed that I started an MBA program with a toddler and another baby on the way. Then, when she found out I also have a 100-mile commute, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. My response was typical. I said that you get used to it (the commute) and that the MBA program was only temporary; eventually I'll be done, plus it is only one night a week for class and I do most of my schoolwork at lunch time (or instead of watching American Idol).

I registered for two classes for the Fall, which actually start a week or so before my maternity leave ends. Today, I registered for one class for the Summer - it crams a full course into 2.5 weekends. My husband is ok with the Summer course even though it means he will be on his own with a newborn and a toddler every weekend in July because the weekend after the class ends, I am attending the BlogHer conference in Chicago.

I think maybe it is too much but the only reason I think that is because I have done nothing but gain weight for the past seven years - the same amount of time I have been married and the same amount of time that I have had a long commute. Clearly, my health is the one area that is getting the shaft. Also, I don't do anything with friends. And I tend to pay my bills late.

I work, go to school, blog, tweet, watch TV, spend time with family, and... well, that's about it.

I have made it my goal to fit working out back into my routine after I have this baby next month, but I am not sure yet how I am going to do it because I haven't identified any other areas where I expect to slow down. I could stop watching so much TV, I guess.

Obviously this is something I have been struggling with for awhile, so if you have some answers for me, I would appreciate them.


Friending Coworkers on Facebook -- UPDATED

Anonymous asks:

At the risk of appearing as if I am an incompetent manager…what do you do when you think a direct report is lying to you – and your only suspicion is based on a Facebook status?

A direct report of mine friended me on Facebook (that’s cause for a whole separate post). When I accepted his request, I blocked him from viewing most everything about me. He, however, did not do the same, which means I know when he’s at the bar at midnight on Monday night.

When he then “asks” – to work from home on Tuesday due to some non-bar-related reason…I feel he’s lying to me. But I don’t know how to go about addressing this. This ee and I have had our differences in the past and I finally feel as if we have come to an understanding. The ee’s work is slightly above par for his level, and while personally difficult at times, I have little cause for complain when it comes to his performance.

Part of me thinks that it’s just working from home and this isn’t a big deal. But another part of me thinks that a) he’s possibly abusing the system, b) he’s possibly lying to me, and c) I’m being taken for a ride.

Should I address this, and if so, how can I do it in a non-accusing manner?

In general, I am against friending any coworkers on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. I use LinkedIn for professional contacts and the other networking applications for personal. There are couple exceptions for coworkers whom I also consider friends. I mean literally two exceptions.

In this case, I don't think you should address this particular incident with your employee. He gets his work done at an above-average standard. If he gets his work done from home and it is acceptable to work from home on occasion, then his reason for wanting to do so shouldn't really matter. It doesn't appear that he has excessive requests to work from home, so I don't think there is a problem. I didn't always tell my boss the whole truth or even a partial truth when I ask for time off or to work from home, even if I had a legitimate reason. My boss did not need to know every detail of my life.

The problem really arises from your employee's stupidity in friending his boss and not blocking his boss from viewing certain things on his profile. If I were you, I would unfriend him. He is a good employee and knowing more than you should about his life is going to taint your professional relationship with him. It looks like it is already causing you to resent him, or at least to revert to a past negative relationship, which had been resolved.

If I had been in your shoes, and because I maintain a very casual relationship with my own employee and all of my coworkers, when he asked to work from home, I would have jokingly said, "This doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you were out drinking past midnight last night, does it? Ha, ha. It's fine if you work from home today."

Anonymous responded:

The way the employee "asked" to WFH was by email to me at 8am on the day in question. Employee lives about one hr from the office. Employee knows I do not get in to the office until around 9am. The email also included an explanation of why there was a need to WFH that just seemed superfluous and unnecessary (and also totally unvalidate-able).

When I saw the email, I was immediately pissed because at that time it seemed ridiculous for me to say, "No, you can't WFH, get your ass in here." I felt I was kind of set up in that regard and given no option to say no. So I did what I usually do, which is avoid and did respond at all.

When I was initially asked to friend the ee on FB, I hesitated, but didn’t see how I could say no. I would like to unfriend this ee and tell them ahead of time why I’m doing so, but I can’t seem to find the right non-petty reason. Is it sufficient to say, “knowing more about your personal life than necessary may taint our professional relationship?” Also, I do not do LinkedIn so I can’t suggest that as an alternative. In fact, the ee sent me a request asking me to friend them there but since I’m not already on that, it was easy to say “No, I don’t do that at all.” 

Last, this ee has no qualms at all about going to my boss or even one level above that to vent, complain, talk, solicit, etc etc so I am feeling even more need to tread carefully than usual. I don’t want this to turn into a blowout – which it might, given my diva ee – or get escalated above me.

Do you have any additional suggestions for Anonymous? It sounds like a tricky situation to be in.


More Interview Questions

Yesterday I posted about the worst interview question: "What is your greatest weakness?" Today, I am wondering what are some unique interview questions you have been asked or that you have asked of candidates? Please post in the comments.

Here are some that I have asked:

"What do you like to do for lunch?" (We were a close-knit team and I was concerned about fit.)

"Tell me about your favorite project and what it made it your favorite?"

"Tell me about your least favorite project and why you didn't like it?"

Here are some that I have been asked, which aren't unique, but I don't like them:

"How would you handle this scenario..." (A totally legitimate question for assessing skills, but I was barely qualified for the job, so I tanked it. Fortunately, they were hiring 11 people and used an objective scoring method for the interview questions, so I was actually offered a position. I turned it down because it was pretty clear I couldn't handle the job.)

"Why should we hire you?" (I just hate this one. They probably aren't looking for, "Because of everything on my resume and I want a new job." I feel like this is a crappy question because, not knowing the make up of the team or department, or their reasons for wanting to hire, how can I say why they should hire me? I know this is about calling out skills that are a good match for their circumstances but, generally, it seems like the people who ask this haven't done a good job of explaining their circumstances prior to asking.)


The Worst Interview Question

I was reading an article today about the worst interview question: "What is your greatest weakness?"

Below is the answer I used the last time I was asked this question in an interview:

I think that my greatest weakness is that I can be a little hard on the people on my team by expecting too much out of them. I expect a lot out of myself, maybe more than is reasonable, and when a project has a high priority or is on a tight deadline, I expect a lot out of everyone on the team. I have to make a conscious effort to build in time for people to recharge so that they don't get burned out.

I may not have worded it exactly like that, but that is basically what I said. I don't know if it helped me or hurt me. It is an honest answer about my second greatest weakness. I think my greatest weakness could be laziness, but that is not something I bring up in an interview.

How would you answer this question, or how have you answered this in the past?


Employee Social Groups in the Workplace

Anonymous asks:

A lot of new employee groups have been formed at my place of employ. There's the Asian Women's group; there's the Young Professional's group (for those under 30); there's a Black Professional's group, and - surprisingly, given the corporate culture - a GLBT group (or at least it's GL, not sure about the BT).

Every group says anyone is welcome to join. I'm pretty sure they have to say that. And I'm pretty sure that, within reason, any group that asks to form has to be allowed. The ones named above are all pretty new - within the last year, I think, possibly a little longer.

I don't have problems with those groups. What does bug me is the creation of the newest group I'm aware of - for White Male Professionals.

Isn't it tacky to have a group to promote the unity and advancement of the one group that's typically in the front of everything? I'm torn between thinking, "Wow, that just reeks of bitterness and a general tit-for-tat attitude," and thinking, "Well, they're entitled...and do face certain issues as a group...and why do I think the group is wrong when I don't think the others are?"

What's your take on the topic?

My take is that it is pretty damn awesome that someone started a White Male Professionals group in response to those other groups to show how ridiculous they are. I don't think the workplace is the right place for any of those groups, with the possible exception of the Young Professionals group because the assumption there is that the young'uns have less experience than older professionals and therefore need specific support for the advancement of their careers. I think the other groups are inherently discriminatory even if they are not exclusionary. Do Asian women need specific support for the advancement of their careers simply because they are Asian and women? No. Same goes for blacks, gays, lesbians and white males. To "promote the unity and advancement" of a group of people based on the descriptions used in the names of the groups is discriminatory and assumes that each member of the group is worthy of advancement based on the one characteristic.

If the groups that were forming were more along the lines of MBA Study Group or Java Skills Group or Stop Smoking Support Group or even Toastmasters (are they still around), I would think they were completely appropriate and relevant for the workplace.