DEAR J.T. & DALE: My boss just announced that she has cancer and is going to have to take time off. In her absence, she has put my co-worker in charge. This woman is on a total power trip. I overheard her saying that she is going to make some changes and take the company to the next level. How could someone be so obnoxious and take advantage of a situation like this? I want to tell someone, but my boss doesn’t need the hassle. Should I tell upper management? – Beth
J.T.: I wouldn’t say anything. In my experience, people like that talk a good game but, once in the position to actually do something, aren’t as effective as they thought they’d be. In short, karma will catch up with her. That said, if things do get out of control and she starts the blame game (like saying it’s everyone else’s fault for not executing her vision), that’s when it would be a good time to confidentially share her inappropriate comments with someone higher up.
Dale : But know the dangers. When I hear “Should I ask upper management?” I think of the young man I knew who went to his boss’s boss with his serious concerns about the department. The exec coldly said to him, “If I were you, I wouldn’t have come to me,” then stood and walked out of his own office. The next morning, the young guy got fired. Here’s the point: If you create a situation, your higher-ups may have to choose between you and the interim manager, and management tends to side with managers. So let’s make sure it doesn’t come to that. This is a time to be a good corporate politician. Tell the interim manager that you want to help her. Be an ally. And as an ally, you can better influence what transpires. Help the team succeed, and then you can look for that karma J.T. was talking about. Meanwhile, speaking of being a good teammate, everyone is going to say to the woman with cancer, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” No. That’s empty. Instead, figure out some ways you actually could help. For instance, you might offer to send updates on people in the department. Or, when she’s ready to phase into resuming her work, offer to drive her to the office. She’s got plenty to worry about without figuring out how people might be of help.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I have been out of work for six months. I’ve been growing a beard, and I really like it. I finally got a job interview. While researching the employer, I noticed that it is very conservative, and it appears nobody has facial hair. I don’t want to shave the beard, but I don’t want to blow my chances at the job. What should I do? – Paul
J.T.: It’s totally OK to contact the person from the company who set up the interview and say: “I noticed that nobody has facial hair at the company. I have a beard. Would this hurt my chances of getting the job?” That way, they can tell you if there is a facial hair policy. If there isn’t, then you’ve given them the heads-up so nobody will be caught off guard. That said, I would consider at least trimming the beard and trying to make it as professional as possible. Show that you are willing to make the effort by making sure that it doesn’t look unruly.
Dale: A facial hair policy? That can’t be a thing, can it? Indeed, I think that if a company won’t hire you because of a beard, then it’s the culture of a company that doesn’t yet realize it’s dying. So be grateful to not be hired. You might be thinking, “Easy for you to say, pal – I’m desperate for a job.” No. Not in this economy. You don’t want to set yourself up to fail and be back in the job market. The beard doesn’t matter, but the culture does. Make sure you find one where you’ll thrive.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.