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THE INC. LIFE

My Boss Lies About Deadlines

…And four other tricky workplace dilemmas.

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BY Alison Green - 29 Oct 2018

My Boss Lies About Deadlines

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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 boss lies about deadlines

I've noticed that my boss uses lying about deadlines to members of our team and external service providers as his tool to get things done ... and I hate it. It's effective because folks are working to meet a false deadline that, even when missed, will meet the real deadline. Unfortunately, it creates this energy of chaos/being overwhelmed plus, in my opinion, incompetence (folks miss the fake deadline with no repercussions) and lack of integrity. Do I just need to relax about the whole thing?

Green responds:

Why not ask him about it? He might be doing it not to be duplicitous but because he wants a buffer in case something goes wrong, or so that others have time to sign off on the work once completed. You note that sometimes these deadlines are missed, which sounds like a reason to build in buffers.

I'd just ask him about it: "I've noticed we'll often set deadlines for projects like X and Y earlier than their external deadlines. Is that to give a buffer in case something goes wrong?"

2. An employee asked me to put it in writing that we're not replacing him

I'm a deputy manager. An employee on probation came to me saying that he has been told we have plans to dismiss him next year and that we have already hired a replacement. Due to poor performance, he will be dismissed if no improvement is shown, but nobody has been employed to replace him.

He asked for something in writing for piece of mind, so I wrote the following: "I certify that as of this date nobody has been employed for replacement and that no plans are made for Bob's dismissal." But now I'm thinking I shouldn't have written anything at all. Will I get in trouble with my superiors for this? And will this affect his dismissal at the end of probation?

Green responds:

Whoa. You should not have done that. First of all, your company probably has strong opinions on whether they want to put things like that in writing, particularly for someone who they sound likely to replace fairly soon, and depending on the exact situation, you may have really complicated the situation for them. Second, you also shouldn't have indulged this guy's request for his own sake; you did him a disservice by not saying something more honest like, "If we don't see the improvement we've talked about by (timeframe), then yes, it's possible that we'd need to let you go. However, we're not at that point yet and we're still looking for you to show that you can make the changes we've discussed."

At this point, you need to tell your own manager (and HR, if they exist) ASAP about what happened. If you don't tell them and they're blindsided later, it's going to be an even bigger problem.

3. I asked a friend of a friend to send me his resume, and it's terrible

I work for a fun start-up that's expanding rapidly. Our HR director has encouraged us to refer friends to him, and the company is offering a generous referral bonus. I have a friend of a friend who expressed interest in changing jobs, so I suggested that he send me his resume to pass along. He emailed it to me ... and it's bad. The formatting is terrible, it's got way too much information (it's really long despite his limited job experience), and it just doesn't make him look like a strong candidate. I actually feel that sending this resume along in its current state would reflect badly on me.

I did some formatting and made it look a lot better, but it feels dishonest to both my acquaintance and our hiring manager to send the new version along. I was thinking of maybe sending the edited version back to my acquaintance, but he didn't ask for feedback and a resume is pretty personal. (We're friendly but not super close.) I feel like I've put myself in an awkward situation since I promised the person that I would pass their resume along, but that was before I saw it. For what it's worth, I think this person would be a good fit for our company culture and I don't have any hesitations recommending them on that account.

Green responds:

Yeah, I wouldn't pass along the version you edited; that's presenting him as someone different than who he is.

Instead, I'd email him back and say, "In its current format, I think this won't reflect as strongly on you as it will if you ____." (And then fill in with some basic suggestions on formatting, length, and content.)

But if he doesn't send you back a stronger version, I'd be wary about referring him at all. If he ends up not being great, it's going to reflect on your judgment -- and you want to preserve your ability to vouch for stronger candidates in the future.

4. After an interview, a company asked if I'd be interested in a different position

I interviewed with a company recently and they got back to me via email a few days later, asking me if I would be interested in a different position without referencing the position we discussed in my first interview. I am not sure if I would consider this new position and I was really excited about the first position.

Does this mean I am no longer being considered about opportunity #1? Should I mention it when responding to the email or would this make me appear uninterested in position #2?

Green responds:

It might mean you're no longer being considered for job #1, but it might just mean that they're considering you for both. It's reasonable to say something like, "I'd certainly be interested in learning more about (#2), but I'm especially interested in (#1). Could you let me know if you're still considering me for that role as well?"

5. References when you've been in the same job for 20 years

I'll graduate soon with a MBA. My education will not help much at my current place of employment. Thus, after working there for more than 20 years, I've decided it's time to look for a new job. I do not want my current employer to know I am job hunting. However, the only references I can provide are the people who I currently work with (supervisors, former supervisors, and coworkers). How should I handle this at an interview? Is it inappropriate to not provide references and explain why I didn't?

Green responds:

You'll still need to provide references, but it's reasonable for them not to be your current manager. Can you get in touch with former managers who are no longer with your company and who you'd trust to be discreet?That's what I'd be looking for if I were the reference-checker in this situation. Alternately, you can also offer up former coworkers who are in a position to speak to your work, but most reference-checkers will want to speak with people who managed you, so I'd try to get as close to that as you can.

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

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