thermostat wars with a classist twist, boss won’t return clients’ calls, and more

, thermostat wars with a classist twist, boss won’t return clients’ calls, and more
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, thermostat wars with a classist twist, boss won’t return clients’ calls, and more

This post, thermostat wars with a classist twist, boss won’t return clients’ calls, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Thermostat wars with a classist twist

My office is in the basement of a building owned by my company. The main offices are on the floor above me, and the floors above that are rented out as vacation/short-term rentals. Although I have a private office, there’s a bathroom, kitchenette, and shared workspace in the basement, as well as the laundry/storage for the vacation rentals. The shared workspace is open to all employees, but is generally used by salespeople/those who work outside of the office. Nobody is assigned to it; it’s just for people who stop by and need it.

Officially, the thermostat is controlled by the cleaning lady and me, but recently we’ve been having issues with those using the shared workspace. I generally let the cleaning lady control the temperature. She likes it much cooler than most people, but unlike us, she’s doing physical labor such as folding heavy bedding, carrying laundry baskets/supplies up and down multiple flights of stairs, etc. I sit at a desk; when I get chilly, I put on a light sweater. Recently, people using the shared workspace have been raising the temperature and complaining about “the cold.” When I explained the situation, a few pushed back, claiming that they “outrank” the cleaning lady. But we don’t really have that kind of structure. The people using the shared workspace are technically contract labor, while the cleaning lady is technically a paid employee, but I suspect they’re actually referring to the fact that they have “white collar” jobs. I fear race might play an issue, too, but nothing has ever been said outright. For what it’s worth, I’m a full-time, exempt employee who probably “outranks” the contract people if it came to it. If I claim that I’m the one who wants it cooler, people back right off, but that seems hypocritical and weird coming from someone wearing a light sweater.

We don’t have HR and nobody really cares about the basement but the occupants. Is this an acceptable hill to die on? Can I push back for the cleaning lady’s sake? She doesn’t speak great English, but she’s made it pretty clear that she likes it cooler, and again, she does a lot of physical labor. Also, for what it’s worth, she keeps it at the low end of the “room temperature” range (like 68 degrees F), but others prefer it closer to 73. How can I handle this?

Yes, push back. The “outranking” thing just seems to mean “she’s doing manual labor and we’re not” and “we feel better or more important than the cleaner.” But even if that weren’t the case, temperature isn’t something that should be decided by rank anyway. Rank matters when it comes to things like decisions about work projects, not who is going to be uncomfortably hot. And it makes far more sense to defer to the people who are in the space every day (you and the cleaner) rather than people who are in and out. (I’d also argue you should give extra consideration to people who can’t take off any more clothes to get cooler versus those who could at least try adding another layer to be warmer, but that’s not a universal viewpoint.)

That said, is there a compromise in there? OSHA recommends temperatures of 68-76° F and this is at the very low end of that. Could you try 69 or 70 and see how that works? It’s still closer to your cleaner’s preferred end of the spectrum without raising the temperature the full five degrees your colleagues want.

2. Clients are angry that my boss won’t return calls

The owner of the company I work for often doesn’t return phone calls or texts from our clients. Then I end up talking to them and they are angry. They’ll tell me, “I’ve left three messages” or the voicemail is full or “They at least owe me the courtesy of a return call”. The owner knows full well this is happening. It’s rare that a day goes by that this doesn’t happen at least once. I can’t handle these callers’ needs for them. They want or need to talk to the owner.

I’m sick of making up excuses. What do I say to these people? Right now it’s a variation on, “I’m sorry. Yes, they got the message. No, I don’t know when they will be in. I apologize.” Pretty soon I’m going to change it to, “You might as well forget it. They aren’t going to return your call in this lifetime.” Help!

This is really your boss’s decision to make. Talk to your boss, explain that people get increasingly angry, and ask what they’d like you to say in that situation. You can also include info about people’s irritation when you pass along messages (“she noted it’s her third call and sounds angry”).

But beyond that, it’s really your boss’s call. It’s a terrible way to run a business, but if they want you to just keep politely saying that you’ll relay the message … that’s the job and you have to decide if it’s a job you’re willing to do or not.

3. Employee is criticizing our sponsors on social media

I oversee a public-facing department at a nonprofit service organization. One of our long-time program managers is an oversharer. This includes on social media, where she has in the recent past criticized two of our sponsors in loooonnnggg Facebook posts, which included phrases like “Corporation X needs to get their s**t together.” These were criticisms based on her personal experiences, not related to work (think complaining about the customer service at Corp X when she was shopping there). Yesterday, she followed up with more complaining during a program meeting that included clients and volunteers.

I am not connected to her on any social media but her posts were shared with me by a coworker. I know she is connected to many of our volunteers and clients, as well as colleagues, on social media. She has also talks about promoting the program she manages on her personal accounts, so it’s clear to anyone following her that she is an employee. Our organization does not have any policies about social media use. Can I tell her to stop with the negative posts about sponsors and then hold her accountable, given her public-facing role? Should I instead ask HR about creating a policy about social media use that would ensure everyone in the company is getting the same message/equal treatment?

It’s a good idea to have a policy that makes clear to people what is and isn’t okay, but you don’t need a policy in place to talk to her — and you should indeed talk to her: “You’re in a public-facing role so you cannot criticize our sponsors on social media or in meetings that include clients, volunteers, or anyone else external. You could jeopardize our sponsorships or our reputation. This is a basic condition of your role.”

Also, it’s worth taking a closer look at her judgment in general. If she’s saying negative things about your sponsors from an account where it’s clear she’s an employee of your organization, this is probably not the only incident of bad judgment.

4. I was laid off and now they’re rehiring, but my old boss hasn’t contacted me

In summer of 2020, I was part of a Covid layoff at a small company (around 80 employees). When I was let go, I was given a severance package, in addition to the company paying for me to work with a job placement service for a couple months. The company made clear this was not a performance-based layoff and that I did great work (I had all good reviews while I worked there, etc.) but they had lost clients due to Covid and had to let a group of people go. My boss was terribly apologetic and offered multiple times to be a reference for me in my job hunt.

A year later, I’m still on the hunt and I look on my old company’s website and see that my old job has been re-posted a few weeks ago. I’m hurt and disappointed, and I’m also wondering if I need to stop using my boss from this company as a reference? I’m confused that he would tell me multiple times that he would be a reference for me and then not be interested in hiring me back. It seems to send mixed signals. I last texted with my old boss re: him being a reference a few weeks ago, so he knows that I’m still looking, What are your thoughts?

There are possible explanations for this that aren’t “your old boss thinks you suck!” The needs of the job could have changed in the last year in a way that means you’re no longer as strong a fit for it as you once were. Or they might only be able to hire back a few of the people who were let go and have already slated these positions for them. Or your old boss might not be actively focused on hiring yet, even though the ad is up (for instance, maybe HR posted it and he’s not going to even think about it until it’s time for him to look at applications). Or, yes, it’s possible that he’s not enthused about hiring you back for some reason.

You could contact him and feel him out! Email him and say something like, “I saw the X job was posted and I’d love to come back to that role. Since we hadn’t connected about it, though, I wondered if you were thinking of going in another direction for it or if it would make sense for me to apply.”

Either way, I wouldn’t conclude you need to stop using him as a reference unless you’ve seen signs he’s not giving you a strong recommendation (which he could do even if he doesn’t think you’re the best hire he could make for this particular job now). If you’re unsure, though, it’s always okay to ask a reference, “I just want to make sure, do you still feel like you can be a strong reference for me or would it be better for me to offer others?”

5. Did I miss out on this job because the other candidate had a strong recommendation?

I recently interviewed with an amazing company and did amazing in my interviews. I could tell how much everyone really enjoyed me as well as my expertise. Everything moved very quickly and then suddenly I didn’t hear back for two weeks. When I did hear back, the recruiter went on and on about how great I did, how much everyone loved me, and how the reason it took so long to get back to me was because they looked to see if the budget allowed for both me and the other final candidate to be hired. Unfortunately there wasn’t the need/budget for both of us, so ultimately they went with the other hire. The recruiter said that the other person came highly recommended and with a personal referral.

My question is how much are referrals weighed? Clearly I did a great job and impressed everyone I interviewed with (I was told to check in periodically because they want me to work for them at some point), but not enough that I got the job. Or maybe I did better than the other person but because they had a referral from someone important (I don’t know if that’s the case, that’s just my assumption) the company had to go with that person? I’m obviously disappointed, but I know these things happen. I was just curious about your take.

How much weight a referral gets depends on the referral, and also on the candidate pool. If the recommendation is glowing and from someone the hiring manager trusts who knows the job, knows what kind of person would thrive in it, and has good judgment, that would count for a lot — definitely more than a referral from a VIP who doesn’t know the job that well (at least in healthy organizations). In a case where you had two really good candidates, that kind of strong recommendation from a trusted source could definitely push that person over the top. But in a case where I had two really good candidates, a referral from someone who I didn’t know well or didn’t know the job well would be something I’d consider as part of the whole picture but wouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t think too much about the role the referral played here. There could be a ton of other factors that ultimately made the employer choose the other person; the recruiter might have mentioned the referral just because it was an easy, quick thing to cite, not because it was super weighty. Sometimes there are just two great people and only one job to fill, and deciding between them is much more art than science.

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