How to Deal Live with Lily Garcia

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Lily Garcia
Friday, July 16, 2010; 11:00 AM

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Welcome to How to Deal Live: I look forward to answering your career- and workplace-related questions, and I welcome your comments and anecdotes.

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Happy Ending: Hi Lily, I wrote to you a couple of months ago about having to work with people who were replacing our department with a Web site. Well, that position has ended, and I'm so glad I won't have to work with those people any longer. Through a contact I made while I was in my previous position, I am now working on another long-term project at the same company, this time with a great group of people. They have a great work ethic, care about the project, and are generally nice, decent, and fun people to be around. I just wanted you to know that I moved on to something much better, and I'm hoping to be able to learn some new skills and position myself even better for the next job. Thanks for your help and advice!

Lily Garcia: I am very happy to hear that everything turned out for the best.

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Salary Negotiation: Lily, thank you for the chats. I've learned a lot! I am anticipating a job offer any day now, and I am unsure how to broach the topic of salary. I think the HR person will offer me a figure and then how do I come back and ask for more?

Lily Garcia: Good luck!

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To tell the boss?: Hi Lily,I have a workplace review coming up and I'm wondering whether to say anything about tensions with my co-worker. We work closely together and there have been a few times when she has tried to pass her mistakes off on me or another member of the team through deceit. I don't trust her as a result, although I think we can still work well together, but I think my boss may have picked up on the tensions. If he asks me during the review, should I tell him the truth or simply say that I think we can work well together? Should I bring this up if he doesn't ask?

Lily Garcia: I see no reason to wait until the time of your performance review.

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can company make me use personal credit cards for company travel: Can my company make me use my own personal credit card to buy plane tickets as well as other travel expenses for company travel?My company asked me to give them one of my credit cards to pay for a plane ticket to send me on company business.All the companuies I have worked with in the past have purched tickets themselves and I was on the hook for loging and other daily travel expenses.I understand companies not wanting to deal with cash advances for expenses not yet incurred, but I see no reason the company should expect the employee to cover a fixed, known expense.No one I have known has cashed in a company purchased plane ticket and skipped the country.

Lily Garcia: If this causes a hardship for you, then you should speak with your manager about what alternative arrangements you can make when you travel.

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I am I in denial?: I have been unemployed for 7 months. At last, I am a candidate for a strong, challenging job. After the reference checks were completed, two of my three references independently are telling me NOT to take the job. They found the employer rude, petty and condescending. Is the prospect of getting a job outweighing the red flags?

Lily Garcia: Then make up your own mind about whether their concerns outweigh the value of this offer.

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in treatment: Hi Lily,I have an interview coming up next week for a dream job. My background matches the job, but there are a few gaps in my record. During one of the gaps i checked into a hospital for inpatient treatment. Another gap is because of related and complex issues. The other was a failed company. I don't want to bring up my health at all and am afraid that these red flags might come back to haunt me when they do reference checks. Is there anything i should say to pre-empt their questions, or just wait for them to ask? I know that the ADA protects me from some questions, but nothing's perfect. I'm really happy that I got this far with the interview process though. Any suggestions or advice?

Lily Garcia: If the gaps are significant enough, you can say that you were ill and leave it at that.

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returning co-workers and office hierarchy: My company went through a brutal round of layoffs two years ago. Thankfully, I was spared. One of the people let go was directly above me in the hierarchy (although there was no formal written chain of command, it was understood and worked out well enough.) After the layoffs, I absorbed the job of that person and have performed it well since. My boss has regularly praised how well I stepped up to the role.We are starting the process of rehiring and there has been talk of bringing back laid off employees, including the person who was directly above me. My boss has said that my role in the company is much more than it used to be and anyone brought back would be on the same level as me, and that it won't be the same hierarchy as before. I worry, however, that the person brought back won't understand/accept that and I'll be informally booted back down a level by their actions. It's not about money (no one has gotten raises in years), but rather the autonomy and responsibilities I was given that allowed me to really shine and enjoy my job, even in these trying times. I've voiced these concerns to my boss, who assures me he'll take steps to make sure the people brought back know the "new deal," but do you have any tips for ensuring that happens and tactfully dealing with my returning co-worker if they assume the old power structure remains?

Lily Garcia: You need to ask your boss to clarify this for you.

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Feeling guilty: I have recently accepted a new position. One where I finally feel as though I am being compensated fairly and at market rate for my skills/background without having to negotiate too much, desperately prove my worth or "beg." I can't seem to shake feelings of guilt about what I see as an offer almost too good to be true when there are so many people around me/on the news who are suffering.

Lily Garcia:

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Middle age in a younger environment...: I've recently interviewed for a position where, if I get an offer, my team lead and their supervisor are at least 10-12 years younger than me. For some reason I am uneasy about the age gap. I've been slow to progress in my career so realize that I will probably be playing catch up for several more years. Any advice to dealing with such a gap where supervisors are significantly younger than the staff they are managing? Thank you.

Lily Garcia: Soon enough, your experience will catch up with your age.

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Plane Ticket: They have you purchase the ticket because if there are problems/delays/you need to change the ticket its much easier if you handle all of that on your own instead of having to go back and forth between corporate.

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Raise question: Dear Lily,I asked for a raise this morning based on my increased work load over the past 2 months. I have been given essentially 2 jobs, but I am still being paid for only 1. I was told that I will get the same raise as everyone else in January (what amounts to essentially a COLA). Do I drop it now? Try again in a month? Continue to document the increased hours/requests for info/work that stems from my new responsibilities and try again?To all employers out there - it is impossible to remain devoted to an organization and its mission when employee work is discounted and increased responsibilities are not rewarded.

Lily Garcia: It might be more appropriate to compensate you with a bonus, for example, or additional time off.

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How soon can I quit?: Last fall I started temping at an organization, and the job just became permanent this month. I accepted the offer to make it permanent because my choices were this job or unemployment. It's not a good fit for me, and I'm anxious to find a new job that is a good fit. How soon is too soon to quit, considering I just officially "started" two weeks ago? I live in a small town, and I'd prefer not to burn any bridges.

Lily Garcia: If you are miserable, just stay as long as you can.

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Meltdown: I think my boss is headed for a meltdown. There are building frustrations with poor team dynamics among her colleagues and one continually undermines her. The biggest issue is that she refuses to stand up to this coworker and instead ends up snapping at small things or even at her own supervisor. This is a pattern. She often allows others to wear her down instead of holding her line. She thinks she's keeping the peace, but I think (and she knows this) that she's teaching people that they can disregard her. As her support person, what to do?

Lily Garcia: Since you are her employee and not her boss, all that you can do is tell her what you have noticed and suggest a more productive way of managing office politics.

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salary or hourly: What is the benefit of transitioning from hourly wages (with a LOT of overtime to date) to a salary? And when you are the go-to guy for any last minute help on projects do you think being on a salary will hurt someone more time-wise and financially?

Lily Garcia: The true test of whether you are entitled to overtime (assuming you make at least $455 per week) is the duties of your job.

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Rangwala: Here's a column Lily wrote in the past about dealing with a generation gap at work.

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After accepting an offer...: Lily, my girlfriend recently accepted a job that doesn't start for a few weeks. It's basically just a holdover job until she can find something more in her field (which in this economy, is understandable). In the meantime, however, she's been contacted for another job that, while only part-time, is much more focused in the field she wants to pursue. The thing I worry about is, if she's offered this part-time job and accepts, is it bad form to call back the first company where she accepted the first job and withdraw her acceptance? (And in case you were wondering, she can't work at both places at once, because of geographical distance.)

Lily Garcia: It sounds like your girlfriend has sound professional reasons for preferring the part-time job and that is where she should work.

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Re: no one has gotten raises in years: This should also be addressed as it is technically a pay cut. Sounds like you're taking a lot on with not much to compensate for it.

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Uninterested employees: Thanks for taking my question. I'm a senior associate at a small (less than 15 ppl) plaintiff side law firm in DC. One of our associates is entering his second year of practice at our firm and third year of practice after graduating from law school. Normally by the third year an associate at our firm would carry a lot of responsibility for running his or her own cases. I still supervise his work by reviewing it before it goes out, sitting in on major oral advocacy, helping with disputes with clients... But this associate still needs the type of time that I'd spend with first year associates/law clerks. He forwards me all of his incoming emails w/a simple FYI attached and expects that I'll tell him how to respond, docket his deadline for him, and then follow up to make sure it gets done. Rather than looking ahead on his docket, he rarely can answer questions about what's going on more than a day or two away. So, there are positives, he can write and communicate (which are hard to find skills in new associates), isn't afraid to use the phone (again there are associates out there that are not comfortable with client contact), and maintains professional behavior (comes in on time, works the minimum required hours...). At the start of this firm we had a lot of turn over and have worked over the last two years to limit turn over and invest in associates. At his year end review we stressed that we need to see more involvement in his cases, more interest in running the cases...basically that he needs to act interested in what he's doing. Otherwise he's just a really well paid law clerk. We didn't award him a salary bump, which he didn't acknowledge as bothering him but then nothing much seems to bother him. Since his year end about 6 weeks ago, I've seen zero improvement. He simply wants to push the paper, due the minimum required and go home. Am I expecting too much to think that by now in his career he'd be more invested in his work? That he'd care to actually grow as an attorney and get involved in more than just what he's expressly assigned? At this point if something better comes along in the form of a fired up first year law clerk, he's out the door and I think it will come as a surprise because he just doesn't seem to care enough to pay attention to the fact that his lack of interest is turning into our lack of interest. Any ideas on if/whether we can get him interested? Or in the end do we just cut our losses and say good luck?

Lily Garcia: I will publish an answer in a future How to Deal column.

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New director never introduced herself: Would you be nervous about an organization if the new director never introduced herself to everyone in an email? I'm feeling uneasy about this telecommute job - and this is just one (but big?) reason why...

Lily Garcia: Nevertheless, I think that you are reading too much into her professional faux pas.

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Until Next Time: You may also reach me by email at hradvice@washingtonpost.com.Best wishes,Lily


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