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In the Vault

Candid Answers to your most Candid questions

A Safe Place to Ask Candid Questions


Every professional - entry level, mid-career, and experienced - faces situations where they wish they had someone they trusted who would listen to their challenge and thoughtfully suggest solutions or offer a new way to consider the situation.   In the Vault is a safe, anonymous space for you to submit questions and receive candid practical advice from Sophia Confidential for even the most sensitive of issues.  


WHO IS SOPHIA CONFIDENTIAL?

Sophia is an experienced professional who has worked in a variety of fields. Ask her anything. Sophia is not HR, your boss, your lawyer or your therapist. But, she IS the person who will tell it to you straight, even if it’s difficult to hear.

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SOPHIA SAYS....

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  • 20 Jan 2019 10:35 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)

    Dear Sophia,

    I supervise a small staff. Recently one of my employees asked for a day off that I could not approve, since it was one of our busiest days of the year (a pre-departure orientation for over 100 students).

    This employee did not like the decision to not approve her requested day. She served her notice to HR, telling them I had gone back on my word over this day off after originally saying yes. I had never said yes, and the pre-departure orientation had been on her calendar since the beginning of the semester. She also told HR that I was difficult to work with and this was another factor to her leaving.

    Is there a different way I should have handled this situation? How should I move forward in my communications with the HR department without it turning into a "she said, she said" situation and still protecting myself?

    Sincerely,

    Frustrated in the Four Corners

    Dear Frustrated in the Four Corners,

    This is definitely a frustrating situation; hopefully you can view it as a learning experience.  Regarding the HR department, demonstrate that you are open to feedback and welcome any additional comments that might have been reported, or not. Additionally, many HR departments have learning and development programs that you may benefit from.  Consider inquiring about bringing the program to your office, such as work-style assessments and how that provides insights into your work style and your team.

    Consider a new system that provides clear, explicit guidelines about vacation ‘black-out’ dates. Meet with your staff and discuss office priorities together so that everyone is on the same page.  Something that might seem obvious to you (not taking time off on the busiest day of the year), as an experienced professional, may not be as clear to a young individual at the start of their career. Perhaps it is worth including such messaging during the on-boarding of new staff for the future.

    Confidentially yours,

     

  • 20 Jan 2019 10:34 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)


    Dear Sophia,

    Recently I have been part of an interview process to fill an advisor position in our Education Abroad Office. As the Assistant Director, I have had to lead the entire process of reviewing resumes, selecting candidates, and organizing the interviews (which includes inviting individuals from other offices to assist in the second round). It is a significant amount of extra work which my supervisor, the Director, asked me to do.

    After the final round of interviews, my supervisor and I sat down to review our top choices. One my top candidates was a male, who did not appear on my supervisor’s list, and when I asked his reasoning he said the male candidate was “overqualified for the position.” However, in comparing my top (male) candidate with his top (female) candidate, the two had exactly the same qualifications in terms of number of years in the field, degrees, international background, and other relevant areas. I believe that my supervisor’s decision to eliminate the male candidate due to overqualification was a sexist one, and I let that be known.

    How could I have better handled this situation? Following this interaction I am noticing other behaviors that include burdening me with additional work and undermining me when it is time to make a decision or take credit for something good. How can I work with my supervisor moving forward?

    Sincerely,

    Irritated in Illinois

    Dear Irritated in Illinois,

    This is indeed a difficult situation. Given that our field is dominated by women, one way you might have been able to advocate for the male candidate further is to express your desire to diversify your staff and encourage more males to study abroad through role model advising. You might also have asked for clarification of more specifics on where your supervisor saw differences between your top two candidates. It is also wise to navigate the conversation with calm and to resist being defensive.

    Possibly more concerning is the shift in your supervisor’s behavior after this interaction. Have you reached out to your Human Resource Department for advice or support? I know it can be difficult to trust the anonymity of these difficult conversations with internal colleagues, but HR is trained in this type of coaching for managing up or managing down. There are also online resources that provide guidance on these issues, if you are not comfortable talking with your HR department. The League also launched a Coaching Hub, so consider signing up to be matched with an experienced Career Coach in our field to guide you.

    Alternatively, if you feel comfortable approaching your supervisor, you might want to address the behavior directly. Approach the conversation with confidence and direct communication. This might make you feel empowered and allow your supervisor to face an uncomfortable situation directly.

    Confidentially yours,

     

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