Dear J.T. & Dale: We have team meetings every week, and there is one employee who talks for way too long. We all give updates, and hers are always three times as long as everybody else's. Is there a way to give her this feedback? I don't understand why my boss isn't saying something when I can tell that he's annoyed. — Chloe
DALE: It's happened again — yet something else to add to my list of Shut Your Piehole moments. There's no reason to get involved here — it's your manager's job to run the meeting.
J.T.: I guess my first question is: Aside from taking up more of your time, how is she hurting the business? If there's a valid business reason for having her shorten her reports, then you could go to your boss and build a business case. Otherwise, it's really up to your boss to decide whether or not her presentations are hurting the business. Apparently, your boss doesn't seem to feel this way or he would have addressed it. My advice is to let this go. You can always do your grocery shopping list while she's talking.
DALE: That image makes me smile. Moreover, the question also raises a wider point: the critical importance of meetings in shaping your image as a team player. What, Chloe, do you do in these meetings that affect your reputation? Do you come to the meeting prepared? Do you bring the right kind of energy? Do you agree too often or never? Ask some colleagues you admire how you come across. Get specific. Doing so, you mark yourself as someone who wants to maximize her contribution. Then, if you want to go further, ask your boss if it would help him if you put together a report on holding great meetings. Make this a positive. Make everyone glad you're on the team.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I was wrongly terminated from a job. I reported my employer to the health inspector, and they fired me a day later. How do I explain this on job interviews? — Jorge
J.T.: Hiring managers, HR folks and recruiters understand that there are always three sides to a story: yours, theirs and the truth. What this means is that we all interpret a series of events differently.
The most important thing you can do is try to step back and look for at least one thing you could have done differently that might have affected the outcome. For example, maybe when you noticed that your employer was doing something wrong, could you have approached them sooner? Or, perhaps you could have decided that you should just leave instead. You don't need to say you did anything wrong, but you do need to be able to identify some way that it could have been handled differently. This shows your emotional intelligence and professionalism. And, it tells a future employer that you would seek other options before doing something as dramatic as reporting them. I would also be sure to explain all the various things you did try to do prior to taking that step, so they understand you really did make the effort. Remember, you are in a partnership with your employer. They're hoping that you always try to work through things with them first.
DALE: There are employers who admire employees with standards, including admiration for those who've been fired for taking a stand. But J.T. is right: You have to be able to describe how you tried to fix things internally before involving the authorities. If you did exhaust internal remedies and you were ignored, then I wouldn't be apologetic — no slimy manager is going to hire you anyway, and you wouldn't want to work for one. I think I'd go so far as to say in an interview, after very briefly explaining what happened, "I'm hoping to find an employer who wants to do the right things and wants employees with high standards." The kind of great boss you want is going to love that.
Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators' Lab and author of a novel about H.R., "The Weary Optimist." Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.