cutting off a hired mentor dealing with pushy new grads and more

cutting off a hired mentor dealing with pushy new grads and more

Sun, 01 Aug 2021

This post, [cutting off a hired mentor, dealing with pushy new grads, and more](https://www.askamanager.org/2021/08/cutting-off-a-mentor-dealing-with-pushy-new-grads-and-more.html) , was originally published by Alison Green on [Ask a Manager](https://www.askamanager.org/). It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. How do I tell a business mentor I don’t want to continue meeting? I am trying to start a small business. Several months ago, I hired a business mentor who came recommended from a friend in the same field. Early on, their support was immensely helpful, though I found their tendency to be upwards of 15 minutes late for appointments annoying. Following this, it got worse. They often don’t respond to emails that ought to be answered (e.g., scheduling things, payments, requests for receipts), and they are routinely 15 minutes late for meetings, which I am paying for, and it got to the point where they have even just not shown up for meetings a few times. This person also ghosted me for 6+ weeks with no explanation and by the time I hunted them down, we should have been done with the mentorship program. I had emailed several times and even messaged them on social media before getting an explanation but no apology. I’m honestly so fed up with the lack of professionalism that I no longer want to continue with sessions. I don’t know how to tell her that I no longer want her services due to her poor communication, chronic lateness or absences, etc. without fully burning that bridge. Yes, I no longer want to work with her, but we may cross paths again due to some overlap in our professional circles and I would rather not have it be *a problem* if I encounter her again in the future. What should I say? (Money-wise, we’re even; I’ve paid for what she’s done so far but not more than that.) It shouldn’t burn a bridge to say something like, “We’ve had so much trouble scheduling these sessions that I think it’ll be easier to wrap up here and not keep trying to schedule more. Thanks for the help you’ve given me, and all the best with everything you’re working on!” If she tries to convince you to finish the remaining sessions, you could say, “I appreciate the offer, but scheduling has gotten so tough. Stopping here makes sense for me.” That’s the shouldn’t-burn-a-bridge version. But personally, I’d want to be more explicit and say something like, “When you’ve scheduled sessions and then not shown up or shown up very late, it’s really messed up my schedule. To hold time for our meetings, I push other things back or don’t schedule them at all, and I’ve had to put a lot of time into tracking you down. I appreciate the help you’ve given me, but I need to be able to count on a reliable schedule.” And frankly, that version shouldn’t burn a bridge either! It’s factually true and it’s not like you’re calling her names, but since you’re concerned about keeping things low-key, it’s fine to end it without getting into the details about why. 2. Dealing with pushy grads seeking mentorship or a job I’m an art director, and I work at a small studio where I was hired after graduation. I have grown up with the company and now lead a team that I built under me. I’m considered a success story by my art college. As you can probably imagine, getting a job after art school is a numbers game and luck as much as skill. I frequently get contacted by students, who are eager to have their portfolios looked at and get validation, mentorship, and … probably primarily … a salaried job. However, while I am polite and I participate in school-run portfolio review events, I prefer to keep myself distanced personally. Now and then, I get students who continue to reach out to me by my personal email or Instagram and seek to forge a connection with me, show their portfolio again, or ask how they can become more appealing to my workplace. The truth is, if they have submitted their portfolio and haven’t been hired already, they probably aren’t going to unless their work changes or improves. Being pushy will only hurt their chances more. In some cases, artists have been on my radar for years and I hired them once the opportunity seemed to match their skillset. If those artists had bugged me, they wouldn’t have been considered. It puts me on edge when these grads try to contact me by my personal email and social media. I’m not their friend and while I’d love to see them succeed, I’m sick of being treated like their special connection to a job. We aren’t the only studio in existence. What sort of reality check is appropriate to give them? I worry I’ve been too kind in the past (I’ve given canned answers and brushed them off, but not given personal reviews or advice). It feels about time to be more direct, and perhaps warn them off doing this to others. I’m sympathetic to them — they’ve probably been told they need to do things like this to network their way into a job in a highly competitive industry. I agree that it’s generally unhelpful and frequently annoying to be on the receiving end, but it’s good to remember they’ve been told to do this. The kindest thing is to be more direct — not rude, but honest. For example: “We get a tremendously high volume of interest from prospective applicants. We really try to funnel people to our formal hiring process and can’t offer much help outside of it, due to the sheer number of requests we’re fielding. I’m sorry I can’t help!” Any chance, though, that you’d be willing to [write up a quick FAQ](https://www.askamanager.org/2020/07/how-to-handle-requests-to-pick-your-brain-from-new-grads.html) that you could send along with that response or point them to online? I bet you get a lot of the same questions over and over, and by directing people to something like that you’d be (a) doing everyone a service with just a one-time, short investment of your time and (b) reinforcing that there are a lot of people making these same requests. 3. New colleague is obsessed with changing my team’s name I’m going to use teapots as a stand-in for anonymity. I work in teapot support at a small company that sells teapots of all kinds, from small personal tea sets to large industrial-size tea machines. My department has been Teapot Support since the beginning, our public email is [email protected], and we are known as Teapot Support to our customers and our colleagues. Recently, our company began to expand its industrial-size tea machine business, and these industrial machines require a level of expertise that Teapot Support can’t provide. The industrial tea-focused team is building their own Industrial Tea Machine Support team. That’s great! We can’t do what they do, and we’re happy our customers have industrial tea machine support to meet their needs. We answer the initial and simpler questions, then hand off the trickier issues to this team. However, the manager of this team started at our company recently and is hell-bent on changing my team’s name, because our department names being similar is “confusing.” He has brought this up during or after every meeting I’ve had with him. He tells his employees that my team’s name is “Teapot Service” (it isn’t), repeatedly calls us entry-level, and questions our capacity to answer more complicated teapot questions, even ones unrelated to the industrial tea machines. (I also found out he tried to change another team’s name that sounded somewhat similar to his! And that team doesn’t even work with customers.) This feels like a weird, petty power grab. It’s also annoying – I don’t want to waste time debating titles and names. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we need to work together. And honestly, if one team is going to change their name, it’s his, not ours! We are larger, more established, and most importantly, we are customers’ first point of contact for all issues. Changing our name would be way more confusing both internally and externally than changing his team’s name. I am tempted to correct him when he tells other people that we’re actually “Teapot Service,” to tell him his pet project doesn’t matter, and to focus on real problems. But he is part of an important, growing side of the business, so I know it’d be bad to burn this bridge. Also, the sort of person who would spend his first few months at a company trying to undermine another department is probably not someone I want to cross. But … I’m not wrong, right? This is a ridiculous thing to be obsessed with? How should I handle it? You sure don’t sound wrong to me. It’s one thing for someone new to come in and say, “Huh, with the emergence of our new team, it seems like it would be clearer if y’all were Teapot Service instead of Teapot Support” but then back off once they hear why that doesn’t make sense. But that’s not what he’s doing. It’s strange that he’s pushing it this hard, particularly to the point that he is deliberately using the wrong name when he talks about your team. And what’s up with him also trying to change another team’s name? He is strangely fixated. (To be fair, maybe there are details I’m not privy to that make him right about the name — but if that were the case, his actions would be so far from the right way to handle it that I’m skeptical it is.) If you’re the manager of your team, you should be able to take this up with him and, if necessary, someone above you. Don’t tell him his pet project doesn’t matter, but correct him when he uses the wrong name for your team, and at some point you could say, “You’ve brought this up repeatedly and I want to be clear that our name isn’t changing, for all the reasons we’ve talked about. It seems like we’re discussing this every time the two of us meet, so I want to be clear it’s not on the table and it doesn’t make sense for us to re-litigate it every time we talk. Is there some piece of this you feel still needs discussion before we put it to rest permanently?” If you’re not the manager of your team, ideally your boss would be the one would do that — but even so, you can do most of this aside from the “it’s not on the table” bit (and even that might be fine, depending on your role and the politics there). 4. Should I tell my coworker the quote in her email signature is wrong? Here’s a relatively low stakes question for you. I work at a very large international company. A coworker who is senior to me but in a different segment of the company joined our team for a sales presentation to a potential client. In working with her, I noticed she has a quote in her email signature. I’m not a huge fan of putting anything beyond basic contact information in your email signature, but it fits her personality and is relates to her role. However, she is attributing the quote to the wrong person. Her misattributed quote is not quite “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” — Albert Einstein. But it’s close. I think most people won’t know it’s incorrect, but some will. Should I tell her? And how do I do it without coming off as “well, actually…”? Nah, leave it alone. It’s not so dire that it must be fixed and you don’t know her well. I share your impulse to want to fix things when they are wrong (I used to have to restrain myself from marking up errors on restaurant menus) but it’s actually very liberating to realize you don’t need to fix everything. 5. Docking holiday pay if someone misses the day before or after a holiday I work in healthcare and am a new-ish manager. Our company policy is that employees do not get paid for holidays if they call out the work day immediately before or after a holiday. The reason behind it is solid: we approve PTO as much as possible, but we also have minimum staffing requirements and need everyone scheduled to be there. This policy has been in place at past employers as well. Unfortunately, one of my direct reports had a family emergency the day after a paid holiday and found out today that they wouldn’t be paid for the holiday. My employee has not asked for me to intervene. I’ve always considered the policy harsh but fair. I was very nearly in the same situation, though, and my husband was horrified to hear that I could have had a reduced paycheck. Now I’m second-guessing it all! My question is this — is there a difference in how these policies apply to hourly vs salaried or exempt employees? If there is, how would you approach this with HR? Is this a thing in other industries? It’s a thing in some industries, particularly ones where coverage is important and they want to disincentivize people from calling out to extend a long weekend, but it’s a crappy policy if it doesn’t allow for legitimate emergencies. You could try pointing out to HR that it’s unfair and demoralizing to deny someone holiday pay in a situation like this, but if these policies are standard in your field you might not get very far. (On [exempt vs. non-exempt](https://www.askamanager.org/exempt-and-non-exempt): This policy can’t apply to exempt employees since you can’t dock an exempt employee’s weekly pay except in very limited circumstances.) You may also like: - [how do I keep people from using way too much of my boss's time in meetings?](https://www.askamanager.org/2018/09/how-do-i-keep-people-from-using-way-too-much-of-my-bosss-time-in-meetings.html) - [my mentor gives me terrible advice and berates me when I don't follow it](https://www.askamanager.org/2020/08/my-mentor-gives-me-terrible-advice-and-berates-me-when-i-dont-follow-it.html) - [how to help an employee in crisis, I vouched for my friend and he's terrible, and more](https://www.askamanager.org/2018/10/how-to-help-an-employee-in-crisis-i-vouched-for-my-friend-and-hes-terrible-and-more.html)

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