Q: My wife's boss has accused me of a conflict of interest. I am a self-employed notary public, and my wife is a bank loan officer. For years, I have been notarizing signatures on her loan documents. To be clear, I do not notarize her signature, only those of the borrowers.
During a recent argument between my wife and her manager, he said this arrangement constitutes a conflict, so she must stop using my services. I offered to work through a notary company in order to avoid receiving payments from the bank, but he also rejected this plan.
According to state regulations, I am legally allowed to notarize documents for my wife's employer. Since the bank has no written policy forbidding it, this feels like a personal vendetta. What do you think I should do?
A: Although this sudden change is understandably upsetting, you must try to view the situation with logic instead of emotion. Since this issue involves your wife's employment, you don't want strong feelings to cloud your judgment.
Keep in mind that an activity may be legal, but risky or unwise nevertheless. Even if state law permits using your services, the bank could still be reasonably concerned about what happens if these documents are ever challenged. While they may have no specific policy regarding notaries, there is undoubtedly a general prohibition against conflicts of interest. Directing income to a family member would typically violate such a policy.
Regardless of the bank's interests, however, you need to consider what will be best for your wife. Since she has been arguing with her boss, problems may have been brewing before the notary issue ever arose. Challenging this decision could further strain their relationship and possibly jeopardize her job security.
The bank apparently regards this matter as settled, so you would be wise to do the same. If you continue to fight this ruling, you could wind up winning the battle, but losing the war.
Q: After making a very unfortunate mistake, I was fired from a job I had held for 10 years. Because potential employers always ask about my termination, I have had to relive this devastating experience during every interview.
I would like to put the whole thing behind me, but I know interviewers will continue to ask. How can I answer their questions without incriminating myself?
A: Without knowing the nature of your mistake, I can't offer specific suggestions. But if you are reliving this devastating experience during every interview, you may be volunteering way too much information. Applicants often incorrectly assume that truthfulness requires full disclosure.
Although you never want to lie during a job search, please remember that there can be many different honest answers to the same question. So before your next interview, take time to prepare a concise, factual explanation for your departure that raises as few red flags as possible.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.