My Team Took Offense to My Social Media Post

Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues–everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.

1. My employees took offense to my social media post.

I am Facebook friends with a few of my current employees. The other day, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find anyone to cover a shift, and had a conversation like this:

Employee: I really need more hours.
Me: I’ll do my best! I need someone on Saturday. Want to come in two hours early?
Employee: Nah, I don’t want to.

It struck me as kind of funny, as well as frustrating, and I posted it on Facebook, with no identifying details and some details obscured to make it as non-specific as possible. Two days later, two employees whom I’m not friends with on social media are taking offense to it and gossiping about it behind my back. How do I resolve this? I feel bad that I offended someone and shouldn’t post work-related frustrations on social media in the future, but also feel they are being overly sensitive and inappropriately spreading negativity in the workplace.

I don’t think they’re overreacting! While you might not have intended to, you did mock an employee publicly. You can’t really blame them for spreading negativity when all they’re doing is talking about something you did (which is the original source of the negativity, if you think about it). You’ve got to have some discretion as a manager and making fun of an employee destroys the trust employees need to have in you.

The best way to resolve it now is to apologize to the employee, and to others who saw or heard about it. Say that you meant to joke about it good-humoredly without any ill will, but you regret doing it and are sorry for causing discomfort, and you’re not going to talk about work on social media in the future. And then stick to that. If you otherwise have good relations with the people you manage, this should blow over. If it doesn’t blow over, it’s likely that your employees’ reactions are about deeper frustrations than this one post.

2. My employee frames everything as a question.

One of my new hires has a habit of raising her voice and drawing out the end of a sentence as if it’s a question and I worry that she’s confusing clients and coming across as lacking confidence. For example, telling a client “You can’t do X because it’s against regulationnns?” feels unprofessional to me because it sounds like she’s deferring to them or is unsure, but it’s our job to advise on these things.

I’m not sure if my own annoyance is clouding my judgement. Clients haven’t commented on it (though why would they?), and I’m aware that it’s a fairly widespread way of speaking. Personally I associate the tic with naivete, but maybe that’s just my problem, and I don’t want to be sexist or make her feel judged for something she can’t change. However, since it seems more frequent in discussions she’s less certain about, I’m considering suggesting she should just give herself a second to think the answer through or tell the client she’ll get back to them, rather than saying something ambiguous. 

Is this worth addressing? Do I name the problem or just coach her on speaking confidently?

Yes, address it! It’s making her sound unsure, and that’s bad for her professionally and bad for your clients, who want to feel like she knows what she’s talking about (or that if she doesn’t, she’ll find out, not just leave them with a question hanging in the air). And it’s very much something she can change if she’s aware she’s doing it.

Definitely do name the issue — don’t dance around it. It will be much easier for her to solve if you tell her clearly what she should be doing differently. So be straightforward! For example: “I’ve noticed that when you make a statement, you often drag out the end of the last word and raise your pitch a bit, in a way that makes it sound like you’re asking a question rather than making a clear, definite statement. Putting a verbal question mark at the end of sentences can make you come across as unsure, especially when you’re talking to clients. Can you work on making sure you’re speaking confidently rather than questioningly? Of course, when you’re actually not sure, it’s fine to say that and say that you’ll find the answer and come back to the person.”

3. Using professional development funds to get a new job.

I currently manage eight people who are in entry-level positions. Each is allotted a certain amount of professional development funds that they can use to attend conferences and webinars, to get certifications, etc.

In my field, there is a yearly national hiring conference, as well as smaller regional hiring conferences. Employers and candidates from all over the U.S. meet up for a few days and conduct on-site interviews. One of my reports will be attending one of these conferences as someone looking for a new job. She wants to use some of her professional development money to help cover the cost.

I feel weird allocating hundreds of dollars to help someone leave. I would rather she use the money to attend webinars and conferences based off the feedback she has been given this year. Is an employer allocating money for a hiring conference standard practice?

No, it’s not. People don’t normally ask their employers to spend money helping them leave. Also, this is money is intended for her professional development, and this conference isn’t that. It would be reasonable to say to her, “This money is intended for professional development to improve your skills and knowledge of our field. I can’t approve it for interviewing elsewhere, but here are some things you could attend that I could approve it for.”

4. When I introduce my clients to my contacts, I get cut out of the loop.

I have a client for whom I make important introductions from my own personal and business network to help his business.

What is annoying me is this: I make the introduction of my long-term friend or business contact, and they develop a close relationship that cuts me completely out of the picture. I am not included in any further socializing or business interactions after I have made the introduction.

I have repeatedly asked my client to at least include me in the email loop, but he refuses. I have also asked my own contacts to keep me in the loop, but they seem to one by one develop independent relationships with the client. This means I am left out in the cold by both parties, don’t know what is evolving from the introductions, and feel used. What do you suggest, other than to go away and do an even better job for a more considerate client elsewhere?

Well, the thing about making introductions is that people may hit it off and develop their own relationships totally separate from the ones they have with you. You can’t insist, or even expect, that people will keep you forever looped into the conversations they have after you’ve introduced them. You don’t have dibs on the relationships in that way.

So I think the problem here is with the way you’re setting this up and expecting it to work. It’s not clear to me exactly what you’ve been hired to do, but if part of the job is making introductions, you probably need to accept that those relationships will function independently of you once they’re established. It might be that you want to charge more because of that, or even that you want to do less of it overall — but I’d work from the assumption that it’s going to happen if you connect people.
 

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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.