This isn’t the job I was hired for. What is my exit strategy?

NINE TO FIVE: Globe and Mail, July 8, 2017

THE QUESTION

I was hired for a senior-level strategy-based role that seemed like a great fit on paper. Now that I am here, the gap between the role as outlined and the day-to-day reality is night and day. I have been forthright with management that I have very little to do and that the role I was hired for has not really materialized. They are not concerned and keep reassuring me that things will get busier, but I don’t believe this will happen.

I have just passed my probation period and am considering approaching my VP to figure out an exit plan. I’m concerned that I’ve wasted these last months in a role that will now stand out on my resumé due to the short tenure and am wondering if I can ask for a letter or recommendation that basically says that they misrepresented the job description (a director-level role on paper that is co-ordinator/assistant level in reality). Is there any way I can ask for an severance package based on this misrepresentation? Can I leave it off my resumé altogether, and if not, how do I explain this short a tenure to potential employers so it doesn’t look like I was fired?

THE ANSWER

This is an oddball situation and from your description, it does seem more disorganized than malicious. Nonetheless, it’s a bridge not to be burned. Do approach your VP to work out an exit plan giving both of you time to find replacements. Though I see your point about misrepresentation, I’m not sure it would hold up to severance, a lawyer can advise you.

Avoid throwing around blame, use all the finesse you’ve got. Be clear with them that the company has a lot to its credit (you applied for the job) but it’s not a fit for you (a.k.a. you passed probation but the company didn’t). With regard to your job history/resumé, ask for a letter from the company (perhaps offer a draft) explaining that the role for which you were hired has not materialized due to uncontrollable circumstances. That way, everybody saves face and you won’t have anything to hide.

Eleanor James
Consultant, coach and speaker, The James Thinkstitute

My job is moving to Europe but I won’t. Do I get severance?

Published , Nine to Five, Globe & Mail

THE QUESTION

I work for a multinational company headquartered in Europe. My position is being transferred to head office, but I am not interested in relocating to Europe. If I don’t accept the relocation or find another position locally within the company, my head count will be removed by a stipulated date. Is my employer legally obligated to pay me severance?

THE ANSWER by Eleanor James, Consultant, The James Thinkstitute, Toronto

It’s common for multinationals to transfer employees and it’s not always made clear from the start.

During the interview phase, potential employees are well-served by asking about the corporate culture and the possibility of transfer. Find out how it works and think carefully about it before taking the job.

Saying no can be a career-limiting move and, if a job is dependent on a transfer, it can be hard on your family and complicated by assets such as a house. Multinationals that want to have company-wide best practices will sometimes send employees for six months to teach those practices in other countries. It’s effective for the company and less disruptive for employees.

But in this case you know that your job is going overseas and you don’t want to follow it. If you want to stay with the company and you know they see you as a valuable asset to be retained, recruit the help of your boss and Human Resources and spend the time finding a new fit within the company – a job of the same calibre as your current job.

If you’re not so keen to stay, it’s time to start looking for something new. If offered “working notice,” use the situation to help you in your search outside the company.

I’m stuck between fighting bosses. What can I do?

Special to The Globe and Mail

Are managers entitled to overtime pay for on-call duties?

Special to The Globe and Mail

THE QUESTION

As a salaried municipal employee with a manager title, I had to participate in on-call coverage for emergency management. This required me to be at my workplace within one hour of notification, for the duration of my on-call period, day and night.

The on-call period was typically two out of every four weeks. During these periods, I was extremely restricted in my personal activities, including not being able to leave be out of town. I received no compensation for the time I was required to be on call. I understood that disciplinary action could follow for failure to consistently respond within expectations. In contrast, on-call technical staff were paid for on-call time, with the result that my staff routinely made more income than I did.

The on-call requirement was not in my job description nor in my employment contract.

Did Ontario labour law allow my past employer to schedule managers for on-call work without compensation?

… Answer

Eleanor James
Communications consultant, James Thinkstitute, Toronto

Two weeks is a long time for such a short leash, especially without compensation. The Employment Standards Act is clear on what is paid work for managers in your situation. Some employers make fundamental contractual changes as a means of constructive dismissal, a way of bullying an employee to quit instead of letting them go. Is it possible that’s what was happening here?

The working relationship sounds poor, too, and what a waste it is when that happens. It’s not uncommon with the mix of unionized and non-unionized workers, and it requires great management to balance both sides. Unfortunately, that’s not always on hand. Often it’s better and easier when people just put their cards on the table rather than trying to weasel out a change and betting the employee won’t fight it.

Employers would benefit from taking into account the consequences of their actions on fairness, morale, lawsuits and the organization’s reputation. A little finesse goes a long way.


See more of the article here: Are managers entitled to overtime pay for on-call duties?

How can I talk to HR when the director is the owner’s wife?

Special to The Globe and Mail

THE QUESTION

I have a problem with the owner of the company I work for that should really be resolved by Human Resources. But how do you handle that situation when the director of HR is the owner’s wife?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Eleanor JamesCommunications consultant, the James Institute, Toronto

The conflict of interest in the company’s managerial structure has you between a rock and a hard place. You want to resolve the problem rather than take a more rash or destructive path, and that’s good. Do some homework and contact the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) for assistance, which will be directed by the specific nature and scope of the problem. They might also direct you to an independent HR professional who could be a third party.

When you have the information, arrange to meet with your HR director, which is the proper channel and a no-fault move for you. Prepare yourself well for the meeting; think carefully about what you want to say and how you’re going to say it, including the problem, how it’s affecting your work and any suggestions you have. Choose your words carefully, use non-accusatory language and take out any emotional tone. Write it down and rehearse it out loud, a few times. All this preparation will calm you and greatly reduce your chances of inflaming the issue. You never know, the HR director might see your point or even agree with you. If not, there are lots of resources available based on what you want to do.


See more of the article here: How can I talk to HR when the director is the owner’s wife?

The Business of Happiness – Where’s the Fun?

Special to The Toronto Star

“In an era when more is more, there’s an extravaganza of ways to make yourself happy. Except it’s not working, this “cult of optimism.”

Happiness is big business these days.

In an era when more is more, there’s an extravaganza of ways to make yourself happy — affirmations, vision boards, the power of positive thinking, to name a few.

And who doesn’t want to be happy?

Except it’s not working, this “cult of optimism.” Even the well-intentioned self-help movement seems to glisten with snake oil.

Happiness, it seems, isn’t something you can run to ground and then shout “gotcha.”

And there’s not much cultural support for happiness, that very thing we’re after.

The two-headed beast called Marketing and Advertising is never quiet. The goalposts of aspiration keep moving. Beauty standards require blond hair with extensions, too-long acrylic nails and massive plastic knockers, though how those fit into a size zero is anybody’s guess. It’s not called “keeping up with the Joneses” anymore, but that’s what it is — conformity by a longer name.

Having the latest mobile device or computery thing is a pricey demand and the only way to be cool: be with us or get out of the way. And who can be happy dealing with giant corporations when you’ve crashed, or want to make a change? Really, it’s my fault? Only a stiff drink or a hot bath makes that better. We’re even surrounded by disdain in the media — all those television shows with people behaving so horribly it makes your jaw drop.

The truth is, not much looks like fun, and shopping and pretending just aren’t buff enough for the heavy lifting happiness takes.

But a new approach to happiness is on the horizon. Take Oliver Burkeman. Even the title of his book — The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking — is a breath of fresh air.

After researching the work of psychologists, philosophers and some self-help gurus, he concludes that “it is our constant effort to eliminate the negative — insecurity, uncertainty, failure or sadness — that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy.”

Instead of finding this depressing, “it pointed to an alternative approach, a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entailed taking a radically different stance toward those things that most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. It involved learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stop trying to think positively … be willing to experience more negative emotions — or, at the very least, to learn to stop running quite so hard from them.”

Not so black and white then.

This Is How: Help for the Self by Augusten Burroughs echoes Burkeman, though it’s more of a motorcycle ride. “Sometimes you just feel like s—. Telling yourself you feel terrific and wearing a brave smile and refusing to give into ‘negative thinking’ is not only inaccurate — dishonest — but it can make you feel worse.”

And in Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich includes her own experience with cancer. “Positive thinking seems to be mandatory in the breast cancer world, to the point where unhappiness requires a kind of apology … ”

What a relief! This rediscovered wisdom is that life has to do with balance. Pretending that bad doesn’t exist is wasted effort. We’ve all been there and will be again, wiggling through life from happy, to neutral, to sad. Rinse, repeat. Life’s like that and the trick is in how you manage it, how expert you get with the wiggle.

There’s nothing stopping you from being positive, or you can be a curmudgeon if the situation warrants. Instead of trying to jolly it away, when you or someone else says, “I’m in a bad mood,” you could lighten up. You can do things that make you feel good. You can do things that make others feel good. Have some fun.

There, that’s better.


See the article here: The Business of Happiness