Q. I need to have a difficult discussion with my boss, who is the owner of a small family business. For 12 years, “Craig” and I have had a wonderful working relationship. He has given me many opportunities, for which I am extremely grateful.
Despite loving my job, I have always hoped to eventually spend more time with my children. My husband now makes enough to support our family, so we have agreed that I should become a full-time mom. But I’m afraid Craig may misinterpret my decision.
Recently, our business has been going through tough times. Because of declining sales, employees have lost benefits, and paychecks are frequently late. When I announce my resignation, Craig could feel betrayed and assume that I’ve just given up on the company.
To make matters worse, I also need to ask for three months of back pay that he owes me. How should I approach this conversation?
A. Combining a warm, grateful farewell with a request for money is like putting hot peppers on ice cream. The two simply don’t go together well. Therefore, a wiser approach would be to separate these radically different topics. First, meet with Craig to explain your family circumstances and express your feelings about leaving.
For example: “Craig, I need to let you know that Jack and I believe our kids should have a full-time parent at home right now. Unfortunately, that means I will have to resign. This was not an easy decision, because I feel a great deal of loyalty to you and the company. However, it’s the best choice for our family.”
Give Craig a few days to absorb this news, then politely mention the past-due paychecks. If you haven’t been reimbursed by the time you depart, be sure to get a signed acknowledgment of the debt. Even when relationships are good, financial agreements need to be documented.
Q. My manager always answers her phone, even when we’re discussing an important issue. This makes me feel as though I’m not as important as the person who is calling. I think she should let these calls go to voice mail and return them later. Should I suggest that?
A. Your distractible boss probably doesn’t intend to be rude or insulting. Some people simply have an almost irresistible impulse to respond immediately to any stimulus in their perceptual field. This knee-jerk reaction may be triggered by ringing phones, incoming emails, or someone standing in the doorway.
Unlike some annoying habits, this one can be controlled with a little effort. For example, your manager probably ignores such distractions when talking with her own boss. The question for you, however, is whether critiquing her behavior would be to your benefit.
If your boss is receptive to feedback, she may appreciate hearing your point of view. But if she tends to react defensively, raising this issue could be risky. In that case, just keep reminding yourself that these interruptions reflect her lack of self-control, not your lack of significance.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”