intern was working two full-time jobs, employee makes patients feel unwelcome, and more — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Our intern was working two full-time jobs

I work at a nonprofit and manage our internship program. I handle the administrative side of things, while our program teams handle the day-to-day/substantive work assignments and management.

I received a message from one of those teams this morning sharing that, through social media, they found out one of our paid interns has had another full-time internship this semester on top of her classes. She did not share this with us previously, to my knowledge. The director is very disappointed and wants to remove her from the internship.

The internship is hybrid (in office 2-3 days a week). She’s committed to working a set schedule for us and has been working those hours. I have less insight on the quality of her work day-to-day: she’s always responsive to and thorough with me on the admin side, and her team hasn’t given me any hints of performance issues. My understanding up to this point is that she’s been doing a good job in helping the program keep things on track for the semester (they’re very events-based and do a ton of planning and logistics).

While I’m concerned about the lack of disclosure, I’m wondering if there have been other performance issues I’ve been kept out of the loop on that are fueling the suddenness of this. I’m surprised she’s managed to balance two full-time internships and a full class load without anyone noticing prior to this, which is partly on me. Our program has three weeks left, and I’m unsure if this warrants a full removal given that we don’t have an explicitly stated policy against it. I’m new to both running this program and managing generally, so trying to get a sense of if I’m reading this right.

If she worked the hours she committed to working and there haven’t been concerns about her work quality or responsiveness, and if she hasn’t violated any policy about second jobs … why on earth does your director want to fire her? If there have been concerns about her work quality or responsiveness, by all means address those — and if they’ve been severe, this new info feels like it explains them, and it’s just the last straw, then sure, end things. But otherwise, there’s nothing here to be upset about, let alone to fire an intern over. If your organization doesn’t want people working other jobs, it needs to say that when it hires them— and it definitely needs to say that to interns, since it’s not uncommon for interns to have a ton of things going on. But based on what’s in your letter, it doesn’t sound like she’s done anything wrong, other than apparently violate an unwritten secret rule that lives in your director’s head.

2. Employee makes patients feel unwelcome

I have an employee who comes to get her clients from the waiting room and it’s hit or miss on how she greets them – with great enthusiasm or, more often and more likely, as Eeyore. She’s going back to school to get a terminal degree and, having done it myself, I know that’s draining, and she’s got some medical issues so I know there are days she doesn’t feel great. However, clients are asking to switch off of her schedule because they feel she is disengaged and uninterested in their care. It’s definitely affected our business – and it’s worse when she’s enthusiastic with one client and then dragging the next. Because of the nature of our business, there is some overlap between clients and they see how she acts with someone else and then comes so begrudgingly to them, like her feet are made of lead and her dog just died. (This is not always the case, sometimes she’s just an Eeyore all day.) This understandably makes the client uncomfortable and feel like they are unliked and/or a burden. Overall, we try and have a fun, positive environment in our office.

We’ve discussed this before, but is there anything we can do? I don’t want to tell anyone to “smile,” but how can we handle this when it’s affecting our business?

If clients are asking not to see her, that’s a serious problem. I agree you shouldn’t order anyone to smile, but it is reasonable to say that clients need to be greeted warmly and made to feel welcome and appreciated. How she achieves that is up to her; some people do that by being smiley and bubbly, but plenty of non-bubbly, more reserved people also manage to make clients feel welcome. She can adapt her approach based on her own style, but the outcome — that clients feel welcomed — shouldn’t be negotiable. (I’m also wondering what she’s like with her clients after she takes them back from the waiting room. I’m guessing you don’t see that part, and who knows what’s happening there.)

It sounds like it’s time for a heart-to-heart where you say that you know she’s juggling a lot but clients are experiencing her as gloomy and unwelcoming, and that can’t continue. Does she need time off? Fewer hours? Be open to hearing her out on what might help. But if she continues to make clients feel unwelcome, you’d need to treat it as a pretty serious fit issue.

3. My manager is upset that I’m paid more and get a benefit she doesn’t get

I work for a large international company and am one of the 20% remote associates. I am based in a high-income area, which most employees are not. I recently got a pay raise and a new manager. The raise pushes me over the high earner threshold to where I now get unlimited PTO. This pay discrepancy makes sense, as the cost of living is approximately double in my area.

My manager only was aware of this benefit because I brought it up to her, and it is clear she does not have it — she was totally blank-faced. She looked extremely upset on the call, and has repeatedly expressed how unfair this is. I agree with her and am actually being negatively impacted by this (it means I lose my banked PTO I wanted to use in addition to maternity leave), but don’t know how handle this with her.

Your manager shouldn’t be complaining about this to you! If she has a problem with it, she should escalate it to someone with the power to do something about it, not put someone she manages in the awkward position of hearing how unhappy she is about a perk they receive.

As for what to do, if she brings it up again, you could say, “I’d support you in pushing for it for everyone” (or if true, “If you decide to advocate for a policy change, you’d have my support”). And if she keeps bringing it up, it’s reasonable to say, “You’re putting me in a tough position since I didn’t choose this. Is there something you want me to do differently?”

4. I’m taking an extended break from work and my dusty LinkedIn profile is haunting me

I unexpectedly fell extremely ill in March 2023. I was a new grad (just got my MSW!) working a few part-time roles and searching for a full-time position when I totally dropped off the map to deal with my new fangled health mystery and profound disability (think daily cardio routine to a wheelchair overnight level of intensity). It’s a year later and I’m doing much better! I have a diagnosis and I’m improving every day, but it’s going to be a while before I’m back to full strength, probably another year or more.

My LinkedIn has just been sitting untouched this whole time and it’s haunting me. I’m still listed as “currently employed” at places I haven’t worked since the onset of my illness and that feels … So. Icky. Not being able to contextualize why I left my jobs so abruptly makes me feel absolutely batty. Even if I could get my head around that, I genuinely don’t know what cessation date to put down. Should it be the day I went on sick leave, or six months later when I finally resigned? Truly, there are more important things I could be thinking about I’m sure, but this is bugging me SO MUCH. Please help.

You are overthinking it! LinkedIn is a cesspool anyway and we should all deeply resent its existence. You don’t need it update it at all until you’re ready to start job-searching, but whenever you want to, your end dates can be the dates your employment formally ended (so not when you went on sick leave, but when you parted ways with the company; that’s what their records will reflect and yours can too).

5. Speaking Spanish in front of someone who doesn’t know the language

Is it legal for a boss to speak Spanish to someone who can speak English in front of someone who knows no Spanish, especially if there is a issue in hand?

Yes. No law requires people to use any particular language in their workplace.

In fact, legally, employers can only prohibit employees from speaking in another language if it’s justified by a business necessity, like when they’re waiting on English-speaking customers or doing team projects where an English-only rule will promote efficiency, or to allow a manager who only speaks English to monitor the performance of employees whose job involves communicating with others.

That doesn’t mean it’s polite or smart to speak in a language someone else doesn’t know, particularly in a small group where only one doesn’t know the language. But it’s certainly legal. (And there are times when it might make perfect sense, like when it’s the fastest/most efficient way to communicate something.)

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