Quick Question Quibble

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I’m a manager of a fairly small department and really make an effort to be approachable for my staff. In fact, I have established an “open door policy” and make a point of encouraging my colleagues to pop in with questions or stop by as needed. What I’ve noticed, however, is that staff members will stand in my doorway and say, “Can I ask you a quick question?” Then, next thing I know, we’re sitting together in a full-blown meeting (for which I’m totally unprepared and is taking me away from what I was doing). I appreciate my team and want to be there for them… but these impromptu meetings are really starting to frustrate me. Any suggestions?

Dear, “Impromptu,”

I can understand your frustration and can sense a feeling of resentment. Maintaining an “open door policy” with your employees is very commendable, but if it’s a practice you have established (and are encouraging), then you need to stick with it and be prepared for these types of situations. On the other hand, you can take the bull by the horns and reestablish some ground rules with your team to prevent this from happening further.

Now, am I suggesting you hang a “No Soliciting” sign on your office door?

But can you gracefully manage these “quick questions gone wild” while still maintaining a supportive and welcoming management style?

Here are some suggestions to consider:

1. The next time an employee comes to you with what appears to be a “quick question,” politely ask what it’s regarding.If, in fact, it’s something simple like, “Which project should I tackle first ‘X’ or ‘Y’?” you can likely give a quick response. If they say something like, “I wanted to share some ideas I had about ABC,” you can let them know you would love to discuss, but that this seems like more than a “quick question” and you’d want to dedicate your full attention to the subject.

    • Ask them to shoot you an email with their initial thoughts (so you can digest the information and clearly understand where you’re input is needed).
    • Let them know you will schedule a meeting with them to discuss in detail. Doing so will allow you time to prepare and shows your employee that you care enough about them and the matter at hand that you want to block ample time.

2. Address the problem with your entire team (as a group). Rather than singling out someone and potentially making them feel bad, openly share the situation – and the problem it’s creating –

with your entire group. Simply state something like, “You all know that I welcome your input and encourage you to bounce ideas off me, but I’m noticing that certain ‘quick questions’ aren’t actually ‘quick’! I want to give you my undivided attention, but I’m noticing I am unable to do that when I’m heads down on something and get interrupted. Moving forward, please send me a quick email that simply says, ‘Can we talk?’ or ‘Will you please call me when you have a few minutes?’ Giving some sort of head’s up will help tremendously, and I promise that I will set aside the time you need (and deserve!)”

I know, I know, that example is pretty scripted, but hopefully you get the idea.

3. Establish a regular meeting schedule. I’ve said this in previous posts, but it’s worth repeating. Managers MUST make a point of establishing a regular meeting with staff. Not just group or department pow-wows… I’m talking one-on-one. As long as the individuals on your team know they have time scheduled with you, they will get into the habit of tabling a lot of their “quick questions” and loose ends until their set meeting time arrives. For relatively small groups, you should try to have one-on-one meetings once a week.

The bottom line is, people won’t stop popping in if you keep inviting them to do so and actually meet with them for a long period of time. Your employees don’t realize this is bugging you! Be open and honest with your team and simply redefine your expectations (and needs) as the manager. In the end, you’ll feel less aggravated and your team will have a clearer understanding.

Hope this helps!

Online Application – No Calls

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I applied with my local temp agency (completed the online application), but I have not received any calls. Am I doing something wrong?

Dear, “Applicant,”

I am so glad you brought up this question because I think it applies to several of my readers. Just because you filled out an application online, does not mean you’ve been “hired” by the agency. The fact is, you’re not even done with the hiring process!

  1. Call your local branch after submitting your application online.
  2. Confirm they received your information (they may ask for your social security number so they can look you up in their system).
  3. Schedule an appointment to come into the branch. During your in-person meeting, you will conduct an interview, complete a few more assessments, and finalize paperwork as part of the hiring process. Keep in mind, this may take at least a couple of hours… just warning you to plan accordingly and to leave the kids at home!

As you prepare for your meeting at the branch office, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • You will need to bring two forms of ID (showing your eligibility to work in the United States).
  • Bring a copy of your résumé if you have one.
  • Bring 2-3 employment references.
  • Dress professionally – you want to leave a good first impression with the recruiters.

Let the staff know your availability and the type of work you are seeking. Depending on your skills and the types of positions available… you may walk out of there with a job immediately! If not, don’t be discouraged. New openings pop up all the time. Recruiters will call you, but it’s up to YOU to remain in contact with them as well. Especially in a down economy, these recruiters can get hundreds of résumés a week, so you need to make sure your name stays top of mind by staying in touch with them.

Good Luck!

Loving LinkedIn

Whether you’re currently working, looking for a job, or managing staff, LinkedIn is a professional social networking site that I highly recommend to everyone.

Readers have asked me before if there is a fee to join LinkedIn, and I am happy to report that there is not. Sure, you may want to enhance your personal profile with some of the added bells and whistles that come with a cost – but that’s purely up to you. I’ve found, from my own experience, that LinkedIn is an amazing way to connect with key contacts at businesses, reunite with colleagues or alumni, and keep a pulse on what’s happening in your local business environment.

I’d like to share a few quick reminders on how you can make the most out of LinkedIn, then will direct you to an article recently released on The Select Family of Staffing Companies’ blog, TradePost, that includes additional key points.

  • Connect with people you don’t know – Now as you probably know, this is the complete opposite advice you would receive about sites like Facebook (where you’re sharing personal photos, etc.) In the case of LinkedIn, the more people you connect with… from all types of places and industries, the more you are expanding your professional connections. You never know who people know – so as job seekers, for example, you may find someone in your network who knows the hiring manager at a company you are interested in! You can then ask them to introduce you.
  • Make slight tweaks to your profile – Every time you update your profile (this even includes connecting with new people), it automatically gets shared with the people in your network… keeping you top of mind without overtly tugging on anyone’s sleeve to get noticed.
  • Join groups and discussions – Voice your opinion about things. Express your knowledge or area of expertise. Doing so may position you as an expert or valued resource in your field.
  • Keep an eye out for the “People you may know” section – When you first create a profile, a great way to immediately establish a “network” is to import any and all contacts you may have set up in your personal or professional email account (such as Yahoo, for example). Please make sure that they aren’t already on LinkedIn, however; you don’t want to annoy them by sending them an invitation to a site they already visit often! Once these people have been added, you will soon see a list of additional folks “you may know.” It’s like an automatic people finder based on friends of friends. Once you connect with someone, you are now suddenly a 2nd or 3rd connection to everyone THEY know! Truly spreads like wildfire!
  • Keyword Searches – By simply using the search function that appears at the top right of the page, you can look for specific people, companies, and more. You can extend your search using the “advanced search” menu that appears to the left of your screen. Before you know it, you will have reached hundreds of businesses and thousands of contacts.

For more great tips and details, check out the LinkedIn User Manual brought to you by TradePost. Click here: http://tradepost.selectfamily.com/index.cfm/2012/2/1/A-LinkedIn-User-Manual

Happy Valentine’s Day!

OK to Ask for a Raise?

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

Now that we’re supposedly out of the recession, do you think it’s appropriate to ask for a raise?


Dear, “Raise Requestor,”

True, economists are saying we have likely dodged a recession… but only by the skin of our chin. By no means are we (as a country) in the clear just yet. Many businesses continue to have hiring freezes, and others are not in a position to offer raises and/or promotions at this time.

Now, I already know what many of my readers are probably thinking. They’re mortified by your question since a “raise” is the last thing on their wish list. A simple income would be nice, right guys?

But let’s get back to the question at hand…

I suppose it all depends on the circumstances. If your company is currently struggling, or things are looking rocky in your industry overall – then now may not be the best time to ask. Likewise, if you’ve only been employed for a few months or you’re a poor performer with your hand out – then my answer remains the same, “No. Not a good time to ask.”

On the flip side, if you’ve done your research, you know your organization is somewhat financially stable… and you are a top performer deserving a pay increase, then I say, go for it!

  1. Make sure you know your market value and your company’s position before popping the question.
  2. Next, prepare to sell yourself. Write down your accomplishments, additional responsibilities, basically anything and everything that would warrant a pay increase. You need to be prepared to back up your request and show proof of why you are deserving.
  3. Finally, be prepared for disappointment. Despite your research, planning, and hard work, the answer may still be “no.” If that’s the case, work out a plan with your supervisor where you may revisit the subject 6 months down the line. Continue to track your progress and productivity and hold tight. If anything, you’ve planted the seed and things may change for the better – sooner than later!

Readers, how many of you recently asked for a raise? Did you get it? If so, what was YOUR approach?



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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