Office parking stress is real. How can employers help their staff?

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week, car park politics, leaving a job due to low pay and the difference between mentors, sponsors and coaches.

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We have a limited number of car park spaces at work and the race to find a park every morning makes me want to move jobs. Before COVID there was a pretty clear arrangement with some of us, me included, having an allocated spot and there were a few floating spaces for people who booked them. During COVID most people worked from home and so the few people who were in the office were guaranteed a parking space. It worked well and it seemed fair given we were the only ones coming in. Now that people are coming back into the office, my boss has an allocated car park but it’s a mad scramble for everyone else. There are people who used to get public transport saying they don’t want to risk their health. How do you recommend we deal with this?

A clear sign that life is returning to normal is when people are fighting over car parks. For as long as I can remember, the allocation of car parks at work has been the bane of the lives of facilities managers and human resources staff around the country. No one is ever happy and there are never enough spots to go around. It sounds like your workplace has not really kept up with what clearly needs a new policy and your boss seems to be looking after themselves, oblivious to everyone else.

The idea of everyone driving to work and having to go through a Hunger Games scenario in the car park every morning is hardly a positive start to the day. I would speak to your boss, if you can, or someone you trust with a view to finding an agreed solution. Ideally your boss should consult with your team and come up with a fair plan. If there aren’t enough car parks for everyone, one option might be a roster so you are guaranteed a park on some days. At least that will give you some certainty.

I got my first job in my chosen field less than a year ago. I was initially happy with my below-average wage but now I’m not so sure. When I was hired there was lots of discussion of monthly bonuses but with the second wave of COVID that conversation quickly disappeared. I’m now doing a lot more than I was hired to do but my pay remains low. I don’t feel confident that I’d get a significant enough pay rise to justify staying and at this point I’d really rather move on but feel I need to stay until I have done a year in the job for the sake of my resume. I don’t want to seem flighty or unreliable but I don’t see things changing. Can I look for a new job when I’ve been here less than a year or will it come back to bite me?

Before deciding to make the move, I would talk to your current employer and explain your increased workload and ask whether there is any scope for a pay rise. It sounds like you enjoy the job otherwise so explore every opportunity you can before you make the leap. In terms of leaving a job in less than a year, you are correct that lots of short-term stints on your resume could be a problem in future so you are going to need to be really careful about choosing your next role to make sure it’s the right one. Also think about why you are leaving this job so you can explain the short stint in future job interviews. Are there any other reasons you are not happy in your job besides pay? Are you being given the development opportunities you’d hoped for? Does your current job lack a career path? These will be reasons that might be more understandable for a future employer than you saying you left just because of your pay.

I am a new manager and lead a small team of graphic designers. A few people have told me recently that I could benefit from a mentor. I thought I understood what that was but then I heard people talking about sponsors and also coaches so now I don’t know what will be best for me. What is the difference and what do you recommend?

There is a big difference between mentors, sponsors and coaches so I am glad you asked. Let’s start with mentors. They are someone you may already know or who is allocated to you through a mentoring program at work or perhaps an external group you might belong to. Mentors are prepared to volunteer their time and guidance to you as an experienced adviser which they do in private, directly with you. The work in maintaining a mentoring relationship generally lies with you, the mentee.

By contrast, a sponsor is someone who is prepared to go out on a limb publicly about you to say, for example, “Yes, I know and trust this person. I am willing to recommend them.” Sponsors are willing to put their reputation on the line for you because they trust you and want to see you succeed or know you will assist the other person. Coaches are different again. A coach will be engaged in a formal arrangement, generally paid for by your employer, and they will drive the relationship with you to the extent that they organise the meetings, they may have a clear plan for how to help you in your role and there will be a lot more structure and accountability. All three roles can be great and finding a mentor is a terrific place to start.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to [email protected] Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a non-executive director, author and regular columnist. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Business School and former Deputy Chair of the ABC.

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