Career Coach: Online chat covers telecommuting problem, staying employed to find a new job

February 12, 2012

Here are some excerpts from my recent chat with readers at www.capbiz.biz.

Bait-and-switch

Q: I started a job six months ago that is a long distance from my home. The commute is over an hour. When I interviewed with the company, I made it clear that I could only make the position work if I could telecommute at least three days per week. They said this was not an issue, and even showed me, in the employee policy manual, that such schedules were permitted.

When I accepted the position, I reiterated, via e-mail, that I planned to telecommute three days per week. They said I would need to complete a six-month probationary period before that would be permitted. I said that was fine. Now that my six months have been completed they have denied my request for telecommute. The issue is not my performance — my six-month review put me in the “high performer” category. They said they reviewed my request and have decided I don’t “need” to telecommute. (They also implied that perhaps if I had children they would feel differently.) I have no intention of staying with this company if they will not let me telecommute as agreed.

So, should I quietly start looking for a new position, or do you think it is worth revisiting this issue with HR and explicitly saying that I will plan to leave the company if this is not resolved?

A: I am sure you are upset about this since you took the job under one set of circumstances and now they have changed those with you. I would definitely revisit this issue with HR.

Before that, you should look at your options if they don’t agree with you. Think about (and have a plan) for what you will do if they don’t allow you to telecommute. For example, maybe you will stay there, but also look for other employment. Remember that it is always easier to find a new job while you have a current job.

Bait-and-switch, continued: Kids and telecommuting

Q: Bait-and-switch said, “They also implied that perhaps if I had children they would feel differently.” Why oh why is telecommuting so frequently considered the God-given right of parents and denied to nonparents? I have decades of experience and have seen this repeatedly at different employers.

A: I understand — and there is plenty of research showing that telecommuting can be very advantageous for employers in keeping top talent, regardless of whether they have children or not. It shouldn’t be related to parental status at all. In fact, legally those types of comments are very problematic.

Sometimes sharing some of the research on the benefits of telecommuting can help move employers who are a little slower to make these changes.

Why it helps to stay employed to get employed

Q:Could you explain what you mean by this and your reasoning?

A: If you currently have a job (yet want a new job), it is often better to stay in that job while you are looking for another job. Employers find you more attractive if someone else already has you. Plus, your negotiating leverage is much higher if you are currently employed as long as you don’t tell them you are miserable at your current job. Hope this helps.

Government contacts

Q: I would love to contract with a government agency helping to develop online training and education (I’ve got more than 10 years in the field). Is there any place I can go to find such positions listed?

A: Check out the www.astd.org and www.shrm.org Web sites as well as Labor Department Web sites to look for those jobs. ASTD has lots of great information about the field of training and development.

Good luck!

Help. I’m self-employed and overworked

Q: I’ve been a self-employed consultant for more than 10 years. Over the past couple of years, I have gotten so busy that my work/life balance is way off kilter. There’s always a new client I want to please, or an old one I don’t want to damage. And I always think, “Just wait until X month. Then I can breathe.” But when X month gets here, so do more projects. Do you have any advice or resources on how to better manage my workload and deadlines?

A: There are several things you can do. One, make sure you have good project management or time management skills. If not, get some training in this area. Two, if you read the book “The Power of Full Engagement,” you will see that it is not just about “time,” but more about “energy.” This means you need to be getting enough sleep, eating right, preserving your mental energy, etc. Three, I would also continue what you are doing in terms of delegation and empowering others to help you out. Think about the parts of your job that only YOU can do and try to find others to do the rest.

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