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

1. Do executives prefer advice from consultants rather than their own staff?

I just finished attending a presentation from consultants to me, my boss, and a few other members of our executive team. The consultants just finished their research project and this was their final presentation with their recommendations. I was surprised to see that probably 80% of the consultants’ recommendations were things that I and other junior/mid-level staff have already been advocating for — sometimes for years and sometimes in similar, formal presentations to these same executives — and we’ve always met a brick wall. But now, suddenly, the executives loved the consultants’ presentation and praised them for their great suggestions and insight. Am I wrong to be annoyed? Do all executives sometimes need to hear an idea from a source outside the company before they take it seriously, or are my company’s executives particularly obtuse?

Nope, it’s really, really common — so common that in a lot of workplaces it’s a running joke that if you want a change enacted, you need to get a consultant to recommend it.

I don’t know what the psychology of it is — probably that when they’re paying exorbitant consulting fees, they assume the advice must be top-notch (it’s the old “you value what you pay for” — they’re paying employees too, of course, but they’re usually paying consultants far more)… and when they’re hiring consultants to solve problems, they’re committed to taking action in a way they aren’t when employees initiate a conversation about change … and consultants tend to be viewed as “experts” in a way that regular employees aren’t (even though employees are far more steeped in the day-to-day of whatever they’re giving advice on).

And yes, it’s annoying.

2. I’m not included in meetings about my team’s work

I’m in my first management role and was promoted to supervisor of a newly created team eight months ago. I enjoy the work and have received good feedback from my boss.

However, I work in an environment where it’s common for managers from other departments to initiate ad hoc tasks for my department. Often, I’m not included in those emails/meetings although the issue is directly related to my team’s work. I don’t know if I’m taking it too personally or if this is normal, but I feel that I’m missing out on important information, and I’m wondering why this keeps happening and why I’m often the last one to know about an issue.

Sometimes I find out that there was a meeting by coincidence, or they realize afterwards I should have been there and tell me, or one of my team members mentions the issue in one of our 1:1 meetings. Other times the meeting invite is forwarded to me 10 minutes before the meeting starts although it was planned for a week.

I’ve spoken to my manager about this and she told me to stand up for myself and that I should insist on being included. Among most managers, it’s improved after I’ve reminded them a few times, but it’s been quite exhausting for me to go through that process with several different managers.

However, it still happens that other managers (including my own) directly contact or set up meetings with my team members without including me. My team members also sometimes don’t include me in the related status updates. I really don’t want to be a controlling micromanager who must be included in every small thing, but I still feel left out and kind of useless when I’m not included in this type of discussions. What’s your advice?

First things first: do you need to be included in these meetings and emails? There are lots of contexts where a manager wouldn’t need to be, so make sure you’re not insisting on it just because you’re the boss.

But if there are work-related reasons you need to be in the loop, the biggest lever you have for that is with your own staff members since they’re the ones who are accountable to you. Tell them that if they’re approached about things like X or Y by other teams, they need to loop you in (and explain why so it’s clear you’re not just asserting power for power’s sake). Request that they get in the habit of alerting you early (not 10 minutes before a meeting that’s been scheduled for days) — and then hold them to that, like you would any other requirement of their jobs.

Also, with managers who frequently leave you out, it might help to set up short, regular check-in’s with them (every week or every two weeks or whatever makes sense) so you have a set time to hear about anything involving your team and can put yourself into the loop if you spot areas where you need to.

3. New employee of my old, bad manager won’t stop asking for my help

I recently was promoted out of my old position and into a new role. I’m loving the new job for so many reasons, one of them being that I’m no longer working for my old manager who was an underachiever and heavily relied on me to do a large amount of their work. Now that I’ve gotten away from my old boss, a new person was hired to replace me. The new hire has reached out to me week after week asking for help with at least one request or question. While they are very nice and I sympathize with the below-average management I know they are receiving, I’m starting to get annoyed with how often they are turning to me as a resource. I left detailed documentation of reports and processes they can refer to and I would expect my old boss to be able to handle any questions beyond that.

I haven’t mentioned anything to my new boss, as I make sure that the help I’m lending doesn’t interfere with my current job responsibilities. However the new hire is on Pacific time and I’m on Eastern time, so most of the time I set aside to help flows into my evenings. How do I handle this? Should I reach out to my old boss to say that I’m being used too often as a resource? Should I mention it to my new boss so he’s aware of the time I’m spending (about an hour per week)?

I’ve told the new hire that they should ask my old boss for better direction and only come back to me if they’re stumped. However, I know my old boss is terrible with instruction. And I feel bad going to my old boss because it could come off as 1) telling on the new hire 2) telling my old boss they’re not doing a good job teaching the new hire. And if I go to my new boss, it seems like I can’t handle a simple problem on my own.

You don’t need to do either of those things!

I know this is complicated by the fact that you’re still working in the same company but you can probably just … stop helping. Tell the new person that your new job is keeping you very busy and you have a lot of commitments outside of work, so you won’t be able to keep answering questions but you left detailed documentation behind that they can check. Then if they keep contacting you after that, repeat that you’re sorry but can’t keep helping and they should check with their boss.

I know you feel guilty because your crappy old boss probably isn’t helping, but this isn’t your job anymore! And really, that crappy situation is going to continue, and you can’t keep doing your old boss’s job indefinitely. You need to cut the cord, and it’s reasonable to cut it now. Your replacement will figure things out like you did, or they’ll realize it’s a bad situation and leave, or they’ll otherwise figure out how to handle things. Spending four years making things go smoothly for your old boss might have you conditioned to feel like you need to keep doing it, but you don’t.

It would be different if your new boss had asked you to keep helping your old team, but it doesn’t sound like it’s the case. And if she ever asks you about it, you can explain that you helped out in the evenings for weeks, but have directed the new person to the extensive documentation that you left for her.

4. Should remote workers be paid less because they have fewer work-related expenses?

My boss was talking about the logistics of remote work, and one of the things mentioned was that he thinks your salary takes things like business clothes and commuting into account — and therefore, if you were to work remotely, you would probably end up taking pay cuts because their employers would say that if you don’t have those expenses, you don’t need as much pay. I don’t think this makes sense! I do think that your employer should pay you a living wage, and if you have costs like business clothes and travel, that it makes sense to take that into account. But I don’t think the reverse applies, as your expenses are not your employer’s business. What do you think?

For what it’s worth, I am not specifically compensated at my job for my commuting costs or time, or for office wear. I actually assumed that I was being paid what my work is worth, not taking expenses into consideration at all, so this was odd to hear from my boss’s perspective.

Yeah, his argument is odd. And bad! That’s not how it works; salaries are based on the market rate for the work and its value to the company. What if you lived a block away and walked to work — would he think an employer should use that as a reason to pay you less?

People sometimes do argue, for example, that low-paying jobs shouldn’t expect them to wear formal clothes, but that’s more about “I’m not being paid a wage that makes that expense reasonable,” not an indication that costs like business clothes are literally factored into your salary.

If it comes up again, you should point out that working remotely can shift significant costs from the employer to the employee (such as work space, internet, furniture, supplies, and utilities) and ask if he supports increasing remote workers’ pay for taking on those costs.

5. People who cancel at the last minute

I play guitar in a classic rock cover band, and I love playing with the people in the band, but it has been difficult to get together to rehearse to work on playing gigs again. I’ve reached out to my vocalist, and it sometimes takes four or five days before I hear back, although sometimes it’s quicker. I’ve decided to start a second band to see if it would be easier to get something else going while I’m waiting on the others to get back to me.

Fast forward to the last week or so, several people have messaged me and agreed to come down for a try-out, but then texted me saying they aren’t going to come down, or have even emailed me 20 minutes after we were supposed to start the audition, saying they can’t come and they want to reschedule. I know musicians are a ridiculous bunch, but I’m tired of the flakes. I plan on telling the guy who didn’t message me until 20 minutes into the audition no. What would you suggest I tell him?

You don’t need to explain why or try to teach them a lesson or anything. The easiest thing is to just say, “Thanks, but I’m going to move forward with other people.”

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