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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things I learned on vacation

I just got home from a fabulous vacation in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. I'd never heard of it before we moved to Europe, but it's a very popular vacation spot. We went and it was wonderful. Plus, I learned a few things about business.

Fancy isn't always better: We ate some really fancy desserts. They looked incredible. But, honestly, the brownies at a church potluck taste better.

Before you go spend all that money on the high priced consultant, see if you've got any brownie bakers in your company. You may be surprised that their view of the situation and proposed solution is actually more palatable then the one dreamed up by the B school grads with the fancy power point presentations. After all, your people are in the trenches every day.

Under promising and over delivering really works: We flew on Edelweiss Air. I have such low expectations of airlines that I about fell over when the flight attendant brought out little backpacks with coloring books and beach balls in them for my children. Wow! I said. I will fly this airline again.

The return flight was an evening flight and they brought me a pillow and blanket for my toddler without me even having to ask. "I thought this might help with the flight," she said cheerily. Again, wow.

Now, I didn't know anything about this particular airline when we booked the flight, but I expected the same lousy service I'm used to on the standard US carriers. By doing just a few things better then them I felt like I'd found the best kept secret in air travel.

HR has a lousy reputation in a lot of companies. If we do just a little bit better on the basics, people may actually start listening to the important things we have to share.

And speaking of airlines... We actually flew the same day as the infamous Panty bomber. I, of course, didn't hear about this until the next morning when I turned on my computer for the first time in a week. I rightly predicted that a whole bunch of new regulations will be thrown at passengers, none of which will actually make us safer.

The new TSA directives include "Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso." Super. So, if I'm a terrorist, now, I'll just put my plastic explosives in my socks.

See? Silliness. But, what do businesses do? Instead of coming up with solutions that will actually, you know, solve problems with problem employees, we come up with rules that will bother everyone else. For instance, we make exempt employees clock in, or we track when they log on to their computers, or we make them sign in and out for lunch, rather than saying, "Gee, we have a problem with Bill in accounting. He's not getting his work done. Let's work with Bill to come up with a solution."

Because, you see, requiring Bill and all his coworkers to clock in, doesn't actually make Bill a good employee and it bugs the snot out of those of us who are putting in 60 hours a week anyway, and get yelled at for not coming in until 8:13 when we were working (at home, on our laptops) until midnight the night before. Bill can be on time and still be a lousy employee.

Instead of imposing big rules that annoy your employees, teach your managers how to manage problems. Some problems can be solved. Some problems need to be shown the door and put on the "do not rehire" list.

Don't be a Russian Girl. We took a day trip to Cairo to see the pyramids. It was fantastic and fascinating. Our guide was a 25ish Egyptian man. He was nice and knowledgeable and funny and a little too open about his life. He told his he really wanted to get married to a "British girl," and did we happen to know any available ones? He assured us he would only marry for love, but she needed to be British.

Later he informed us that Russian tours were his favorite (he spoke Arabic, English, German and Russian) because the Russian girls were soooo easy.

Some of you may find out that your boss actually considers you a "Russian girl" while you keep thinking you're British. Stay with me and I'll explain.

I get e-mails from people all the time complaining about how they are hard workers, competent, get regular praise, but can't ever get promoted. That's because you are missing some quality that your boss (or your company) has decided is essential to a promotion. Any "Russian girl" dating our tour guide may think she's doing everything right to have a relationship that progresses to marriage, but our guide is just using her.

Unlike our love seeking tour guide's "dates" you can do something about changing yourself from Russian to British. Find out what those qualities are that you are missing. Work to obtain them. Realize that your particular boss may never recognize that you would be good in a higher role and leave the department or company. If you have cannot gain the necessary qualifications to "become British" then find a company that values your Russian-ness. (And no, I don't mean be "easy." This is just an analogy and keep your minds out of the gutter. Hard working! Responsible! Be good!)

No need to be so sensitive: We were in Egypt on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Egypt is mostly Muslim. They put on a fantastic Christmas party for the guests. I have no idea of the religious affiliation of the rest of the guests, but I'm guessing the mothers in headscarves telling little "Mohammed"or "El Sayed" to go sit on Santa's knee (Santa rode in on a camel!) weren't practicing Christians. But it was a good party and so they came.

Most of the guests were from Europe (both Western and Eastern Europe), where most people celebrate Christmas. So, the hotel staff said, "Hey it's good for business if we cater to the bulk of our clientele. We realize that those of us putting up the Christmas trees and some of our guests won't actually be celebrating, but most of the guests will be." And so they did.

If your company has a Christmas party and you're Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/Atheist/Whatever, don't sulk in the corner because it's not your holiday. Likewise, if you're Christian and your company has a generic "holiday" party, don't go sulking in the corner complaining about how it should be a Christmas party. Come on, lighten up. It's a party. No one is asking you to be baptized or declare your faith null and void.

I'm sure more than a few non-Christian kids climbed on Santa's knee and got a present. Super for them. And super for their parents. Before you pitch a fit about something, ask yourself, "is this important, or is it just a party?" If it's the latter, let it go.

And speaking of letting things go: Sharm El Sheik is on the Sinai Peninsula. This bit of land has been the site of many wars over hundreds of years. Now, while the snorkeling is fabulous and a hike to where Moses received the 10 commandments (among other things, but this is not a Sunday school lesson), is enlightening, the rest of the place is pretty desolate.

We kept asking ourselves, "Why do so many people care about this piece of land?" This, of course, was a rhetorical question. We know why they care. (Both my husband and I have degrees in politics and I studied Hebrew in college, for goodness sakes. We know why from an intellectual stand point.) My point is, that if you don't have an emotional/religious/historical attachment at stake it's not great land.

How many times do employees hold grudges, or attempt to cling to a project that is doomed to failure because they've already invested time into it? Sometimes you need to take a step back and just let go. Give that project to the person who has been angling for it for months and work on something else. Evaluate if this really is the hill you want to die on, before you go to battle. Some things just aren't as great in the cold light of day as we build them up to be in our minds.

These are a few of the things I learned on my vacation. I also learned I can get Betty Crocker brownie mix in Egypt, but not in Switzerland. That's worth a post of its own some day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Benefits Swap

I have a single employee, currently enrolled in our group health plan, who is getting married to someone who does not work with us in April. He wants to drop our health insurance group plan in favor of joining his bride's group plan with her employer when he gets married. But he has asked our business owner if we would be willing to pay his new wife's monthly premium. He's arguing that it would be cheaper for the company to do this instead of carrying him and his wife on our health care, and our boss likes the idea.

Is this legit? I'm worried that it might be discriminatory (wouldn't we have to offer to pay for all our employee's spouses health care premiums?) Are we going down a road we don't want to travel? Or is this a clever way to reduce health care costs. I'm not an HR expert, just the poor guy assigned to these duties in the office, and I really could use some guidance. We're located in Pennsylvania.

This is an excellent question, for which I don't know the answer. So, I'm publishing it anyway! I used to work for a company that did just that, but that was 11 years ago, I was an admin, and I certainly wasn't in on any of the discussions. It was in New York State, if that helps any. I worked with some fine people, so I presume they did their legal checking, but it was also a very small company, so who knows?

Anybody know the answer to this, or how to proceed? I would never want a policy where you paid the whole amount of the spouse's insurance increase.

I would just raise everyone's salary by $200 (or whatever) and increase the amount they paid towards their own benefits by $200, so if they didn't take the insurance, they would have the extra $200. But, of course, once you did that, people would forget about that and you'd run into the same situation later.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Firing with a delay

I am the manager of an administrative team of seven people plus myself. Next year I am going to have to lay off one of my people for poor performance and inability to work as independently as the job requires. She's been informed of her poor performance but doesn't seem to understand that we are serious.

She has been in this position for about six years. Because of rules in our state institution, we are required to give her at least three months notice. We are allowed the option of moving her to a different position once she has received notice, but we don't have any other position open at this time. Sending her home and paying her for three months isn't an option. She can certainly leave earlier if she gets another job, but I can't count on that happening.

My question is, what is the best way to work with the rest of the team, who will definitely be shocked and surprised and unhappy that she is being let go? Her performance issues aren't evident to them. I can't cite budget issues because we will actually be hiring two people to replace her (each will handle half of her job and take other duties as well). I'm reluctant to tell them that her performance is poor, because that seems, well, pretty nasty, like kicking someone when they are down.

I really don't want the rest of the team feeling like their jobs are in jeopardy, and I can't imagine what it's going to be like to keep going for three months with her still working there knowing she is leaving. Any advice on how to handle this?

First of all, I don't like using the term layoff for someone who is being terminated for performance reasons. It makes people leery of hiring people who were terminated for no fault of their own. But, that's neither here nor there.

I hate terminations with advanced notice. I'm of the "today is your last day" philosophy for precisely the reasons you outlined. It's hard for someone in that position to come in. The co-workers don't know what to make of it and it makes for a tough time for everyone. I much prefer payment in lieu of notice.

But, as you said, that's not an option here. First of all, if you don't think she's aware of how serious you are, do you don't have her on a formal performance improvement plan? If not, put her on one now. She needs to be totally aware. (Now, truth me told there are times in which you will tell an employee, "If you are late to work/miss an assignment/swear at Bob one more time you will be terminated." And then when the employee does just that they are in utter disbelief. But that doesn't seem like the case here.)

You seem to think that her co-workers will have no idea that her performance is low. I seriously doubt it. They suspect it. And if she has friends at the office, she's talked with them about the performance meetings you've held with her.

I think you are absolutely correct in informing her co-workers. Rumors are always worse then the truth. Notify her of her impending termination, with a clear statement of her last day of work. (And please be clear that this her LAST DAY OF WORK. "March 15, 2010 will be your last day of work. You will be terminated as of end of day on March 15." You'd be surprised at how many people don't process the fact that they are actually being terminated if you are not absolutely clear.) Then have a meeting with the rest of the staff. "Stephanie is going to be leaving us. Her last day of work will be March 15, 2010. We wish her well. The nature of the job duties are changing and we will be recruiting new people for the department."

Yes, you'll be asked a bunch of questions, none of them relevant. Stephanie will tell them all that you're a big meanie who is firing her for no good reason. But, don't stoop to the level of trying to justify your decision.

Now, one more thought before you terminate. If her co-workers truly don't suspect, it means that she's doing at least an adequate job in many areas. I don't know what her problems are, but if it's a case of non-willful non-performance, have you thought about dividing the job responsibilities now, giving Stephanie responsibilities for the things that she does well and hiring someone else for the remaining responsibilities?

It takes a lot of work to bring people up to the same level as someone with 6 years of experience in the organization. I have no idea what her issues are, but this may be something to think about.

You also mention that she will be looking for another job (duh!) but I kind of got the feeling you meant internally. If this is the case, please, please, please be honest with the potential manager about her inadequacies. Please do not play the "shuffle the bad employee" game. It is a bad game with no winners.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why we should put filters on our work computers

I work for a small family-run company. Upper management is all related, middle management and lower is not. The owner is a porn addict. One of my employees, "Lisa", complained about his porn within her view on occasion and said she was offended. I tried several methods to resolve this issue without direct confrontation as I found out that another employee in the past was conveniently terminated shortly after voicing her complaint.

That said, the end result was that I had to move Lisa to another area. It was not a punishment by any means (the work environment is much nicer in my opinion) but she now complains that she was not happy about why she had to be moved. Since the move, she disclosed to me that she has a mental illness. She also has made several statements about how she doesn't have any money and she seems to be a chronic complainer. The quality of her work has declined since her move and I get the feeling that she feels that she can do whatever she wants because she knows the "boss' dirty little secret". I do believe that if she were terminated that she would pursue a lawsuit for sexual harassment or whatever else she could come up with. She does enough to get by although she is definitely slacking more than normal.

The family is not aware of his porn problem although it turns out almost all of the non-familial employees do. Since I have resolved the situation to the point where she is no longer exposed to the harassment conditions, do I have anything to worry about or can I move forward with the issue with her non-performance? Should I just let her performance go if it makes the basic standards? If I let the necessary management/family members aware of his porn problem then it is almost guaranteed that I will lose my job.

Do you have any advice for me?


PS This is the second small company I have worked for where I have faced this problem of an owner viewing porn in front of employees. Unbelievable!

Okey-dokey. And why don't we have filters on our servers? I know they aren't fool proof, but they sure do make it easier. (Yes, I know the answer to this, the owner is the porn viewer.)

You have reason to believe that someone was fired for complaining about the owner's viewing habits. You also have reason to believe that you will be terminated if you complain. Interestingly enough, Lisa has the opposite view--I know the owner is viewing porn so my job is safe. Because it is, from you, because you don't want to lose your job.

Puts you in an interesting situation, doesn't it?

Porn viewing in the office can definitely lead to sexual harassment cases and the owner is putting his business at risk by doing so. The fact that the last person who complained about it was fired and didn't sue probably makes him feel invincible. You know, the whole "It's my company and I'll do what I want!" mentality.

You say the family members don't know about the porn problem. I bet that is not true. They just don't want to deal with it. Not only is this man their father/brother/husband, he's their boss. Talk about a classic example of why family owned businesses have a tendency to fall apart.

Your first step is you need to make your boss aware of the situation, even if your boss is the owner's wife. There are real potential consequences to his behavior. You, personally, need to be able to document that you have done everything in your power to end the porn problem in the office. Go to and learn about the potential consequences to the business. Here's a little quote to present:

The court held that the proliferation of pornography and demeaning comments, if sufficiently continuous and pervasive "may be found to create an atmosphere in which women are viewed as men's sexual playthings rather than as their equal coworkers.

I realize you think you'll be terminated for bringing this up. You, yourself, would be able to file a sexual harassment charge in that case. So could everyone else that is aware of this. You, as a manager, whose only action was to move the complaining employee, are demonstrating that the company isn't committed to a workplace free of sexual harassment. Seriously. This could become a bigger problem for you if you don't tell.

If I were you, I'd go contact your local EEOC office first, and ask for advice. Have them document that you are afraid you'll be terminated for bringing up the problem. Then, go to your boss. Explain the situation, including the person who was terminated before. Say that you expect that this will be taken care of or you'll proceed to file a lawsuit.

You don't say, but I'm guessing you're male, so they probably think you can't complain about porn. Not true. It's obviously affecting your ability to perform your job.

After all this is done, go to Lisa and have a discussion about her work. If she has true mental health problems and your business is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, work with her to develop an appropriate plan. If it's not, work with her to develop an appropriate plan anyway. Explain that you expect high performance from her.

If she brings up the whole issue with the owner, tell her that you have escalated the issue and that she is free to approach the EEOC as well. Point out that you have removed her from the situation as well, so there should be no ongoing problem. This, of course, doesn't prevent the prevailing overall atmosphere of women as objects.

Now, normally, I would tell you to just go straight to the offender before you go to the EEOC, but he's already demonstrated that he's not interested in changing and is interested in retaliation. (Note to my readers--he gave me some additional info that he asked me not to share, as it increases the risk of identification. Just trust me on this one that the boss will retaliate.)

No matter what, you want to start looking for a new job. This company is messed up and it's doubtful this will solve the problem. If you are fired for this, you can definitely sue and will probably win but that can take years and years and what a pain. Your boss needs to be made painfully aware that this habit is costing the company good employees and has potential to cost it a lot of money as well.

Now, with the number of times I've used the word "porn" I fear for the comments. Oy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You're not Jack Bauer

Find out why over at US News.

Of course, after I wrote this I found out that Jack Bauer might be replaced!

And PS, fellow 24 watchers, I'm totally lame and just started watching this show, so I'm only on season 2, so no spoilers past 9:00 p.m. on day 2. :>)

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Wife

I am a 33 year old that has been working at the same company for 5 years. Things were going along quite smoothly until about 10 months ago. This is an involved story, and I apologize for writing an email longer than you want. I just can't explain quite how nuts the situation is without going into it all.

I work for a private marketing firm of about 35 people, with 4 partners. We do not have an HR department, but rather one of the partners is designated HR partner and we are to go to him with any HR related issues. With the exception of 1 person, who I will call Dee, we somehow all manage to get along great. The real problem? Dee is married to the HR partner, who also happens to be my direct boss.

For the first 4 years that I worked for this company, I managed to stay on the "Good Side" of Dee. Dee is not in any management or higher up position - she is a peer to everyone else at the company. While I was on her good side, I was amazed at the mean, vindictive and hateful things she would say about her coworkers. I did not join in. Furthermore, the quality of Dee's work is astonishingly low, and it is generally assumed that the only reason she is still working for the firm is because she is married to one of the partners. I don't know of a single coworker who respects her or her work.

I managed to get on her bad side about a year ago when at a work social event I mentioned that I was putting my house up for sale. Evidently, she is a realtor in her spare time. The second she found out that I was putting the house on the market, she began to offer her services to me. Knowing that I don't find her work to be satisfactory, I knew that the last thing I wanted was for her to be my realtor. However, I wasn't ready with a quick response such as "Oh, my friend is a realtor and we are using her!" (This is beside the point that under no circumstances should I have to have a ready made realtor excuse, but it sure would have made my life alot easier!)

Anyway, over the next couple months she harassed me endlessly about being my realtor. I was "Realtor harassed". I finally told her that I had a realtor in mind that I had used in the past and that I was going to have her be my realtor. This is when the evil Dee came out! She told me that she was going to be too busy anyway, and that people were going to have to walk through urine to get to my house (I'm not sure where she came up with that one) and several other petty comments. I smiled and said "Well as long as it gets sold!"

The next day all hell broke loose. She strongly badmouthed me to several of my coworkers including badmouthing my job performance - insinuating to them that her husband, my boss, had said negative things about my job performance while they were at home at night. Being that the coworkers are my friends and not so much hers, they reported everything that was said to me. At this point I was still considered a "rising star" in the firm, and I am literally my boss's "go to girl" for everything, so I was suspicious. I routinely make him look really, REALLY good, and clients have let him know that. Furthermore, I considered him to be my mentor and we had talked at length about how important it is to communicate criticisms so that one might have a chance to improve - he had promised to always let me know if he had an issue with me. But since the accusation was brought up, I felt like I had no choice but to address it. So I spoke to him privately, let him know what happened, and told him that I had no interest in involving him in petty issues, but that if my job performance was in question, then I needed to know that.

He responded that No, he had no issue with my work and was very appreciative to have an employee like me. He said that he would take care of the issue and apologized to me that it was even an issue. He seemed to recognize that it was an absurd situation for me to be in. He also thanked me for coming to him. No other employee has gone to him when they have had a problem with Dee, they always go to other partners because they are too scared to say bad things about his wife to his face.

However, since this conversation 10 months ago, things have been different at the company. My boss seems like he tries really hard to separate his professional and personal life, but he's not really good at it. Dee continues to harass me in her own way - sometimes affecting my work and other times just being obnoxious. She routinely tries to make me look bad - I don't think she's succeeded yet, but quite frankly, the behavior is getting old. I have no interest in being involved in pettiness, but it's getting harder and harder as the days go on. I can deal with people I don't like - because I care about the end goal and I care about getting my job done. What I'm having a hard time dealing with is someone attacking me and tearing me down. I have tried very hard to control my reactions to her behavior, but after a year, I feel myself losing the battle and am feeling quite negative.

6 people have left the company in the 3.5 years that I have worked for them because they couldn't put up with Dee's behavior anymore. The company looses good employees because they refuse to deal with the bad ones. I have come very close to leaving the company, but I enjoy my relationships with my clients, and with the economy being what it is, there is NOBODY hiring in my field right now. I also enjoy my job aside from Dee! I've tried very hard to simply ignore it, but now Dee is involving our projects in the mess as well. I sincerely believe that she is affecting my chances for success at this company. Do I talk to my bosses again? What will come of that? Valuable people have left because of her, and they've done nothing. If I am valuable enough for them to fire her over me, then I'm going to be the employee that got my boss's wife fired, and that's not good.

If I do go to the bosses, how far do I go in explaining her behavior? Do I tell my boss that she's accused the president of the company of staring at her boobs? Do I tell my boss that she makes coworkers uncomfortable by saying terrible things about his mother to us? Because everything she has done is small and petty, I don't know how to explain it to them without sounding petty myself.

Part of the problem is that I can't really prove much. I can't prove that she's dragging my name through the mud to our clients, but I am 100% sure of it. I can't prove that she's done much of anything.

Alright, I think you get the gist of it and so will end this now. Hopefully you can see my conundrum. I'm really feeling like I'm in a no-win situation.

There is nothing worse then a co-worker with a side job that involves selling. Pamper Chef, Melaluca, Real Estate. It's all bad. (Although, as a side note, I had a delightful Real Estate Agent co-worker at my last job and she never pressured anyone.) Make this person the boss's wife and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Here are some realities: Dee is not going to quit. Dee is not going to be fired.

As long as you are at this business you will need to deal with her.

To his credit, your boss, recognizes there is a problem and is not intentionally holding it against you. Obviously, he's got a difficult situation going on. Even though you are the only one who has gone to him with Dee problems, his response to you indicates that he knows full well what she is like. It's uncomfortable for him.

In the past you "stayed out of it" hoping that Dee would keep attacking others and leave you alone. This worked for a while. Now you are the target and others are laying low, hoping Dee will just leave them alone.

The time to hope Dee leaves everyone alone has come to an end. This plan will work best if you have some trusted co-workers that you can bring in on it. If not, you can go it alone. Here's what you do:

Every time Dee makes a negative comment about another worker, speak up. "Dee, you know that Ryan did a great job on the Jones account. Why would you say otherwise?" "Dee, that is an inappropriate comment." "Dee, why would you say that? Stephanie is hard worker with good results." "Dee, I didn't choose you as my realtor because I wanted someone who had experience in my neighborhood." Don't cower from her. Don't be mean, just let her know that you are not going to listen to or tolerate her mean behavior.

None of your other coworkers like her either, but they have been too scared to speak up. If you start this others will follow. Dee will go crying to her husband. But, given his earlier response it's doubtful that he'll do anything towards the rest of you. He's undoubtedly tired of the problem as well.

Don't run to any of the partners about her behavior. They see it. The other partners are just as stuck as you are. Just work on retraining her. (Also, I wouldn't worry about the quality of her work. I'd just focus on the meanness.)

If no one will listen to/put up with her mean behavior she'll have to change somehow. She may just sulk, but at least that's quiet. She may realize she can't expect immunity any more because she's a partner's wife.

This plan requires extreme caution. You cannot say, "Dee you are such a jerk!" Or "Dee, stop being rude!" You can only say things that are actual fact. If her complaint about how dumb Ryan is is met with, "Ryan did a good job on the Jones account," how is she going to complain to her husband about you? "But she said that Ryan did a good job!!! Waah!" See, it holds no water. Now, if you said, "Dee, stop being a jerk to Ryan," then she can say, "That big meanie called me a jerk!" So, don't do that.

And, just to be on the safe side, it's always a good idea to freshen up your resume! But, my bet is that as long as you say these things firmly and stick to the facts, you will have nothing to fear. But, also, keep notes. Just in case

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A new job

I am just 21 years old. Currently I am pursuing a graduate degree in HR through correspondence college.But at the same time,I am working as an HR Executive with one of the reputed BPO.As I am very much passionate about my career,so I started to work as an HR after completing my graduation only.At present,I have one year experience in HR including recruitment and HR operation.Being a girl,my friends and my parents really feel proud about me that I am on a right track of my career.

I joined my current company in the month of October,2009.The company with whom I am working now,it is already settled in IT.But,they are very new into BPO business.So I joined this BPO by thinking that at the initial stage of career,I will get opportunity to learn as well as grow.But after joining,I came to know that HR policies are not in place.For every single thing,I need to struggle.My HR manager is not with me.He is handling everything from a different City.Even,employees have lot many issues about the policies and facilities like salary(which is a big concern),HR policies etc.But,management says that it will take time to streamline everything.

Now,I started to feel very insecure that I took a very important decision to join this company and the company situation is forcing me to rethink on my decision.Normally,I always believe on myself and my decisions.That's why,while taking this decision,I never discussed with anybody.

I can not leave also because before accepting this offer I rejected other offers by thinking that this company is offering me good designation as well as package.Now I am in a big mess.But,still I feel that this company is a reputed company in IT market so they will try to settle in BPO as well.So let them give a chance and continue my work.In short,I am confused and double minded about my decision.

Can you please advice me that what should I suppose to do in this condition as I am very much concerned about my career?

Take a deep breath.

You've answered your own question, by they way. You'll notice that I put a few lines in bold. This is to draw your attention to them. You said you wanted to learn and grow, which is why you took this job. The company doesn't have policies in place, your manager is at a different location and things are not peachy keen. This is what we call an ideal situation for learning and growing.

There's a reason it's called work, and that's because it is hard. You've landed a hard job and it isn't the dreamy world of a "career" that you wanted. When I was young and stupid I wanted a "job" that would require a suit and heels, because that must be an important job. I had an idea of what "business" was and somehow the suit was an important part of it. I found out rather quickly that this was neither an indication of power nor importance, but of business culture.

You had some idea of what it meant to be in a learning and growing position. I bet it involved a mentor, who would listen to you and guide you and it would be like college except with a paycheck. Instead, you found out that it is thinking on the fly, figuring things out, dealing with crisis after crisis and doing this, mostly on your own. Welcome to the real world.

Your company has troubles. They hired you to help figure those out. You do need a mentor, but you'll have to do the work to get the mentoring. Having an offsite boss can be a difficult thing. Figure out how he prefers to communicate with his offsite people--is it e-mail, phone or occasional face-to-face meetings. See if you can establish regular contact with him.

Find out what his goals and priorities are and figure out how he can meet them. At one point I was telecommuting and my boss was one of those super-de-duper busy VPs so I couldn't really call her to chat. What I did was send her a weekly status report on everything I had done that week and what I planned to do the next week. This gave her the opportunity to stop me from investing huge amounts of time in a project that she was planning to kill, but hadn't gotten around to telling me about yet.

You may have to explain and remind your boss that you need a little bit of guidance. If he's not amenable to providing guidance, well, then you create policies and then present them to him.

You wanted learning and growing and by golly you got it! I understand that you are now second guessing yourself, but it's a little late for that. Plunge forward. Give it at least a year before you begin looking for a new job. You may find that this is the best experience of your life. But, you have to go forward with full steam. If you keep saying to yourself, "I should have asked for advice from my parents/friends/professors before I did this. This was probably the wrong decision" it will show in how you attack your work.

Your management said it will take time. They are right. Policies, procedures and company culture don't appear out of thin air. It takes time. Find out from your boss what your role is in this whole process.

And one more petty little thought: Back in the dark ages, when I was in school, we were taught to put double spaces between sentences. I understand single spaces are acceptable now. Fine. Pick one and stick with it.