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“4 updates from letter-writers” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


“4 updates from letter-writers” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

4 updates from letter-writers

Posted: 04 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PDT

Here are updates from four people who had their letters answered here earlier this year.

1. My work studio is being used as a nursing mothers' room

It took awhile to get things rolling, but this story does have a happy ending!

I spoke with the two women who were pumping shortly after the letter was published – and thank you everyone who helped reassure me that my concerns were reasonable and worth addressing. I had been very nervous about stepping on toes or offending anyone.

Unfortunately, one of the women was very unhappy with me and pretty much refused to work on this in any way. With a lot of apologetic/empathetic words on my part (again, thank you everyone!) and the second mom’s support, she agreed to also “book” her usual pumping time (even if she might have to adjust the time some days). Also unfortunately, that just led to me only having 4 hours a day available in the studio (since they each booked 2 hours a day), when in reality the women weren’t always there during their times… so a few months ago, this update would have been a bit sad. I suppose I could have gone to a manager without her permission, but I was in a slow season for videos and chose not to rock the boat.

But the unhappy woman stopped pumping/needing the room, and I re-approached the other woman. She was very open to everything, and agreed to let me work on setting up something different.

Then I approached one of the higher ups with an office near the studio, and he was 100% on board with letting her use his office! He even chatted with the manager with the office next to his, who also agreed.

And now the pumping mom can book the studio, office #1, or office #2 to pump. Basically, she just goes into the Outlook calendars, sees what’s available, and creates a private event for herself. If it’s one of the offices, she “invites” the office-occupant, who then gets the notification (and understands that it’s actually an “invite” to leave their office for that time period).

So it’s only been a few weeks, but it’s helped me a lot, since I can just book my studio for recording sessions without worrying about her times (and again, for the most part I’m booking a week or three in advance). The office managers also tend to set their schedule up in advance, and the mom usually sets her schedule for the week at the beginning of the week.

I also checked in with the pumping mom and she says: it’s a little more cumbersome to move her bag with the pumping equipment around with her (versus leaving it in my studio) but not really a big deal. And she has had one awkward situation where the rooms were all booked and she had to talk to one of the managers about it. She felt weird, but said he was totally normal about it and just moved his meeting to a conference room so she could have the office.

So I’d say it’s still not ideal – if we suddenly had three or four women pumping, it probably wouldn’t work! But at least this mom and I have more options, and with two high level managers involved, I think things would move faster if we DID start having issues again, since they can witness it firsthand (and they are caring people that I think would go out of their way to help).

2. My coworker got upset that I revealed that we're temps (#2 at the link)

Unfortunately, she turned out to be a complete pain in the backside. Although she didn’t want it to be known by others that she was an agency worker of a “lower status” as she so arrogantly put it, she never lost an opportunity to remind me that I was temp and kept bossing me about accordingly, which she never did to our permanent colleague. This despite the fact that both myself and the permanent employee have worked there since February and were supposed to be training her.

Because this person was new, I did try to make allowances for her in her first couple of weeks. Whenever she told me I was doing something wrong without actually knowing all the facts, I explained to her why I was performing the task the way I was and when it was appropriate to do so. After all, I knew she would have to learn these different procedures anyway so I had no issue explaining them to her. I chose to take her bull-in-a-china-shop approach as well-meaning and eager to learn her role, which I still think she was. However, she would habitually go into a sulk when she was corrected about her misconceptions.

I was off work last Thursday and Friday and returned to work on Monday feeling refreshed, having had a break from her. I even thought she might back off me a bit now she’d been there a couple of weeks and was starting to pick up how stuff worked. How wrong I was! She kept coming up behind me to “remind” me that my reception microphone was still on (each time this happened, I was still in the middle of dealing with a service user). She also yelled at me because she thought I was going to fax our agency a timesheet with someone’s confidential information written on it (I had messed the timesheet up so was using it as scrap paper; I had no intention of sending it to anyone). And how unprofessional of her to shout in front of clients!

So that afternoon, which was my first opportunity to get her alone, I told her I was concerned about the pattern I was seeing where she just seemed to assume I was going to do the wrong thing; and that not even the bosses at our place operate like that. She got really pissed off that I was challenging her and told me in a very hostile manner not to give her “attitude”. I told her firmly that she was the one with the “attitude” if anybody was; and refused to argue with her. I contacted our agency to cover myself in case she chose to complain about me, and they were really good, saying that they have had issues with this worker before and would speak to management on site. This morning, our supervisor pulled me aside to confirm they’re getting rid of her this week! Part of me does feel slightly bad that my feedback led to this, but on the other hand if she had been more pleasant and less bossy, I wouldn’t have had anything to report. Her work was good but she seriously needs to get some people skills.

I’m a free woman! Yay!

3. How to reclaim tips from an employer (#5 at the link)

Unfortunately the tips situation is not yet resolved. Things have gotten slightly better (I created a quick event sign-in form in Excel where the owners can note any tips from the client and a space to keep track of when the tips were distributed – my husband gave it to them, and they have been using it), but past tips and the distribution of delivery tips are still pending. I helped my husband write a diplomatic, but firm follow up to one of the owners last week (using lots of language from your advice in your archives!) and on Monday, she pulled him aside to actually give him an update and let him know they were in the process of (finally) getting the ball rolling on it. We’ll see how it actually goes.

So, the bizarre thing (and thing I think your readers will get a kick out of/be slightly horrified about) is that apparently their dishwasher is living in the storage room of the company! The dishwasher (let’s call him Milton) is also suspected of theft. The reason most of the employees suspect Milton is because, after the thefts began, the locks were changed to rule out former or current employees who had keys. After the locks were changed, employees who had been with the company for a year or more did not get a new key, but the husband-owner gave Milton one. To no one’s surprise, the thefts kept happening. Among other things, he stole a case (about 40 lbs) of flank steak, a case of bacon, a case of chicken, several boxes of beer and wine and a nail gun. The owners then put a lock on the refrigerator and did NOT give Milton a key, and the thefts stopped. They did not fire him. The husband-owner is super buddy-buddy with him, and is protecting him.

And now he is living in the storage room. When everyone leaves for the night, he creates little barriers at the front door so he knows if someone comes in (the “barriers” are always something that won’t impede the door, but will fall over and create noise if the door is opened). He has toiletries hidden in the employee bathroom. He has created a “wall” of things that belong in the storage room, so if you walked in, you would have no idea there was a bedroom behind it. To give you a visual, I’m attaching 2 pictures, one from when you walk into the room, and one over the “wall” (you’re welcome to post them to illustrate how ridiculous the situation is, I don’t think there’s any identifying information in them.)

At any rate, my husband is there for now (he says “because my paycheck still clears every week”), but given everything that’s going on, I can’t really see him there for the long haul.

And then a late-breaking update to the update that came in right before I published this: 

Sorry, one more quick update to add. My husband has still not technically received any of the tips owed to him, but he made a “deal” with the wife-owner. We went on a week-long vacation (his work does not have paid vacation) and she “secretly” paid him for that week — as in, when he checked in on that Friday to make sure it was still going through, she told him yes, but ALSO said, “Shhhh…don’t tell [husband-owner]”) — which was worth maybe 15-20% of the total tips owed to him. The deal was in lieu of continuing to fight for his event tips. The husband-owner is in charge of the delivery tips (I’m not sure why they’ve set it up this way), and none of those have been paid (at this point the portion owed my husband is the equivalent of at LEAST 1 month of his full-time wages).

My husband interviewed and was offered a job with a much better company, but unfortunately, it turned out that they couldn’t offer him full-time at that point, so he had to decline. He’s kept in touch with the owner of that company though, and hopes to move there when full-time becomes available.

4. Negotiating a raise to stay exempt (#3 at the link)

My husband wrote in August asking about whether I should ask for a raise from $39,000 to the new exempt minimum, and since then things have gotten interesting.

Due to being overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated, I started searching for a new job the last week of August, and I guess my CEO found out about it, because I was let go after Labor Day weekend without cause or warning. That day, I called the recruiter I was working with, and had phone interviews with two companies by the end of the week. I then had in-person interviews with both of those companies over following week, along with a few more phone interviews. I had my third interview yesterday at the second company that called me, and signed the employment agreement today! I got a $26,000 raise, better benefits, better schedule, and a better workspace, and everyone I’ve met so far have been really friendly, positive people.

To top it all off, my old job was in an industry that made me feel like my soul needed bleaching, and the new job is doing work that I feel genuinely good about.

4 updates from letter-writers was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

help! my coworker speaks in baby talk

Posted: 04 Nov 2016 10:30 AM PDT

A reader writes:

My coworker is annoying everyone by using baby talk all the time, but the context makes it difficult to bring up — she only does it when talking to our office-mates, and only when discussing friendly, non-work things. She would never use the voice with our boss, or a client, so I don’t feel like I can tell her that she is undermining her credibility as a professional. It’s still unbelievably grating, however, and I know most of the office hates it.

Most of the baby talk is between her and one other coworker; it’s become their little shtick as they’ve gotten to be friends outside work. But the rest of us have to listen to it all day. Our office is an open-plan room with all six employees in the same desk area, all on the same level in the company. Our boss is in another room, and has probably never heard the voice.

How do I handle this? We are a very small office — no HR person, no one to discuss it with besides our boss, and it seems excessive to bring it up to him when it’s not affecting her work, just the personal atmosphere of the office. I would love to ask her to stop without putting her on the defensive.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I'm revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I'm answering there today include:

  • Coworkers aren’t happy that I’ve been promoted
  • Should you let your boss be your landlord?
  • How to reward high performers when you can’t give raises
  • How to volunteer for a layoff

help! my coworker speaks in baby talk was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

update: my horse died because of my manager’s carelessness

Posted: 04 Nov 2016 09:00 AM PDT

The letter-writer whose horse died after her manager neglected to pass along an emergency phone message to her sent in an update late last night. Here it is:

Thank you to everyone who has offered condolences, and my condolences to those who have shared stories of their own loses. My mare died on the 7th of September and I took several days off after her death. The necropsy report revealed that she had a tumour which wrapped around part of the intestine and strangled it. I had her cremated and her ashes have been scattered on several of our old trails.

About a week after I wrote to Alison, I was called into the meeting, along with my manager, his manager I also dragged in the union rep as I wanted someone in my corner. At the first, Grand Boss asked me what was going on and why I'd suddenly dropped all the shifts I'd been covering. I explained what had happened and Manager beside me looked really worried. Grand boss listened my side of the story, paused the meeting and then went and got Great Grand Boss. I told Great Grand Boss the whole story again, though this time I struggled to keep it together, and then Great Grand Boss asked Manager what his side of the story was.

Manager said he'd stood up to get me, his phone had rung again, he had had to make a follow up call after that and then he'd forgotten about it about it until I came in for smoko. Great Grand Boss asked my manager what would have happened had an employee failed to contact a supervisor immediately about an animal in his care with the broken leg and needed to be euthanized. Manager awkwardly responded that the employee would have been fired. Union rep at this point switches sides and comments that my mare wasn't in the care of the company/manager. Great Grand Boss concedes the point but also reminds union rep that they fired two employees last year for animal welfare related issues that occurred outside of work. He then dragged manager and the rep off to his office to talk.

Grand boss was very apologetic and gave me a few weeks of paid leave plus the contact details of the company psychiatrist. I've had a few sessions with them and they have really helped. She also asked about what my plans were and if I wanted to stay with the company after I got back from leave, though she understood if I didn't. She said that she would provide me with a good reference if I needed it. I said I needed to think about it, but also pointed out that I wasn't keen to be doing so much overtime.

What was even nicer, though, was when I went to sort out the vet bill I discovered that the company had already paid it. So, I'm still working for them and not under that manager. He is still with the company, just in a very different role with little to no phone answering responsibilities.

update: my horse died because of my manager's carelessness was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

open thread – November 4-5, 2016

Posted: 04 Nov 2016 08:00 AM PDT

It's the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

open thread – November 4-5, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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