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“did I get too drunk at a work party, how to get out of a work obligation, and more” plus 4 more Ask a Manager


“did I get too drunk at a work party, how to get out of a work obligation, and more” plus 4 more Ask a Manager

did I get too drunk at a work party, how to get out of a work obligation, and more

Posted: 03 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PDT

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

1. Did I get too drunk at a work party?

I recently attended a work party. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of dancing. I don’t usually do much of either, but I ended up drinking three and a half glasses of wine (my usual limit is two) and being louder and more outgoing than usual. I also ended up dancing (something normally outside my comfort zone) and at one point grabbed the hand of someone I was sitting with and held it for a moment. (Not in a romantic way — I was talking to someone else, and he was trying to get my attention, so I sort of grabbed it to say “I acknowledge you and will get to you in a second.” In retrospect, this must have looked bizarre.)

My question is, how can I tell if I went too far? I’ve been back at work since the party, and no one has mentioned my behavior. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to my boss at the party, and she hasn’t said anything. Still, I keep obsessing over moments, and wondering if I was out of line. Should I bring this up with someone? Or just act professional from here on out and hope my overall behavior outweighs any line-crossing that might have occurred?

This doesn't sound too terrible. Dancing might have been weird for you, but it's unlikely that other people think it was weird. The hand thing and being more outgoing than usual don't sound like big deals. Being loud could fall anywhere on the spectrum from "no one even noticed" to "yeah, it was clear you were a little tipsy but it was no big deal" to "whoa, you were out of control."

I'm betting that you were on the "no big deal" end of the spectrum, but since you're not sure, is there someone you trust at work who you can ask about it? You could say, "I drank a little more at the party than I normally do and I feel like I might have been a little loud. I'm a little embarrassed, and I'd be so grateful if you could tell me how noticeable you think it was."

If you hear that you made a huge spectacle, then yes, you can apologize to people. But otherwise, I think you're totally fine letting it go and focus on making your normal professional self be what's foremost in people's minds.

2. How to get out of a work obligation

A coworker and I were told by my boss that we would be co-leaders of a monthly presentation in which we must recruit a staff member to present something inspiring to the rest of the group. This monthly presentation is not at all tied to our actual work; it is in addition to it. It requires about 1-3 hours of additional work for the presenter, so we often succeed in recruiting staff members to participate but then they often back out at the last minute. When this happens, my boss says that we must come up with something to present instead.

I have switched roles and would very much like to get out of this responsibility (especially as it is just additional unnecessary work, and no one wants to do it), but I don’t really have a reason beyond “I don’t want to.” How can I diplomatically get out of this?

Ideally, you'd present it in terms of "if I do this, I won't be able to do X" (or "it's delaying X" or "it's compromising X in Y ways").

But if that's not really the case, then say this: "I've been working on this for the last 10 months, and I'd like to ask to have it taken off my plate. It's ended up being a lot of work because people often back out at the last minute, and I'd much rather focus my time on X and Y. Would you be open to taking me off this project?” If true, you could also add, "My sense is that people aren't getting as much out of the presentations as the work we end up putting into them.”

3. Questions about family when you're estranged from your parents

I was recently asked to apply for a new job, and I’m thinking ahead to if/when I get it and start. Specifically, I’m worried about the getting-to-know-you rituals of starting in a new workplace.

Over the last year, I’ve become estranged from my parents who live in the same state. The circumstances are really personal and mildly embarrassing, but I’m also conscious of the fact that being estranged from one’s family can be a bit of a red flag. (It’s not a situation of abuse or stigma–in fact, my husband doesn’t speak to his father, who is a physically abusive alcoholic, which is very easy to explain; my issue with my family is less black-and-white and more about my setting some long overdue boundaries.)

What do you suggest telling people who ask about my family? I don’t want to lie (and probably couldn’t do so convincingly anyway), but I’m having trouble coming up with some innocuous language to explain why, for example, I don’t see them at holidays, without it being a huge fraught conversation.

How about, "Oh, we're not close," followed by an immediate subject change (preferably to something about them, since people are often easy to distract when you ask them about themselves).

Other vague options: "We don't see each other much" and/or "We usually spend holidays with my husband's family."

It's unlikely that anyone will really push but if someone does, it's fine to firmly repeat, "We're just not close."

4. How does salaried non-exempt work?

My employer will be moving me from exempt to non-exempt on December 1 in light of the new overtime changes. They have not decided if I will be salary non-exempt or hourly non-exempt yet. Currently, our work week is 37.5 hours (40 if you count breaks). Do they have to pay me for any hours worked over 37.5 each week? They claim that only applies if I am considered hourly non-exempt.

They're correct. If you're salaried non-exempt (meaning that you get the same salary from week to week, even if you work fewer than 40 hours — but also get overtime for anything over 40), then your salary covers you for up to 40 hours of work, even if you normally only work 37.5 hours. In other words, in cases where you do work 40 hours, your existing salary is covering that time.

Overtime kicks in once you go over 40, but there's no legal requirement for it to kick in before that.

5. Getting people to save their work on shared drives

I have a pretty good team of three people, but there is one issue that makes me nuts. For some reason, no one will save their work on the shared network drives. Usually but not always the final project report will get saved to the network drive, but related spreadsheets and code files should also be saved there. Team members continue to save ongoing project work on their hard drives. I think this is a terrible habit. Hard drives are much more likely to crash than the network drive, and the network drive is always backed up. If someone has an emergency, I should be able to pick up and carry out their work. I’ve had a team member be unexpectedly out for eight weeks for emergency bypass surgery, and some of their work was not accessible at that time. It’s not like I want to check up on their work; sometimes having their files accessible helps me months or years later if they’ve left that position and I need to refer back to their project.

If I ask why people don’t save their work on the shared drive, I don’t get a good answer (habit, etc.) but one thing I’ve heard is they think someone will mess with their work (not likely unless we have the aforementioned situation of being out of the office unexpectedly or even planned but an unexpected question comes up). Ultimately that work is owned by the company and should not be hidden away. The specific drive for our department is only accessible to the 15 members of the department and a handful of other former team members still at our company.

It doesn’t help that our department leadership is not interested in setting structure or formal policies. But I don’t think they would have a problem if I required that of my team (although I can’t require it of other team members in the department, of who some save work on the shared drive and some don’t.). So my question is, how strict should I be about this? Thus far, I’ve asked that they do it but not made it required. It doesn’t impact their work or productivity (unless their computer crashes).

If you believe it's important to the smooth running of your department (which is something that I can't really judge, but you can), then you should indeed require it. Explain why — using a couple of concrete examples of times when not having stuff easily accessible has caused issues — and state what the expectation is going forward. Be matter of fact about it, but make it clear that this is no longer a request, but a requirement.

Because people aren't in the habit of doing this, you're going to have to give more than one reminder. I'd spot-check every couple of weeks, and follow up with people individually if you see things aren't on the drive. If you have to remind someone more than a few times, at that point you'd move to "I've asked you to do this several times and it's still not happening. It's important because of X. What's going on?"

did I get too drunk at a work party, how to get out of a work obligation, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

where are you now? (a call for updates)

Posted: 03 Nov 2016 12:30 PM PDT

At the end of each year, I publish a slew of "where are they now" updates from people whose questions I answered here in the past. So…

If you've had your question answered here in the past, please email me an update and let us know how your situation turned out. Did you take the advice? Did you not take the advice? What happened? Leave no juicy detail out! I'll post updates as they come in. (Don't post them here though; email them to me.)

And if there's anyone you especially want to hear an update from, mention it here and I'll reach out to those people directly.

where are you now? (a call for updates) was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

why did this company lead me on about salary?

Posted: 03 Nov 2016 10:45 AM PDT

A reader writes:

I recently had a bizarre interview experience and was hoping you may be able to provide some clarity to the situation.

I applied for a job that’s the same title as the one I currently hold, but at another company that’s similar in many ways to one I’m currently working at. I had a phone interview with the person who would be my boss at the new company that went very well. We later set up a meeting to have an in-person interview. After this interview, my would-be boss emailed me about salary expectations and said, "It’s helpful for us to know, so we can avoid leading on any candidates and then realizing we’re lowballing them in the offer stage.” I told him what my current salary was and explained I’d be interested in a 15% increase at a new role.

He said great, and the process moved forward. I completed a test which he said the team was greatly impressed with. He then asked me to come back to the office and meet with six other team members for interviews. I took the day off from work and went. All of the interviews went extremely well, and I felt great about my chances. The team even implemented a bunch of my ideas after speaking with me and looking over my test. This whole process took about 50 days.

I was offered the job. But remember when he asked about salary in order to avoid leading candidates on and lowball them in the offer stage? That’s exactly what happened. They offered me nearly $10K below my current salary. I, of course, told them I could not take a pay cut. He responded by saying that he spoke with the executive team and they can’t get close to what I’m making now, but hopes we can work together in the future when our “budgets better align.”

(Oh, it may also be worth mentioning that during my interview with the CEO, he said the company was healthier than its ever been and has millions and millions of dollars in the bank for the first time. He also said “these new people are so expensive.”)

What gives? Why would they have me invest so much time and effort into this process and offer me the role only to tell me that they can’t afford me? Why would he ask about salary to refrain from leading me on or lowballing and then do exactly that? I’m genuinely so confused and extremely frustrated.


Sometimes when this happens, it's because the employer seriously believes that the job is enticing enough that somehow candidates will end up overlooking that the salary is significantly lower than what was discussed earlier. Sometimes it's because they assume that candidates are inflating their salary expectations — that you're leaving room to negotiate or that you'll take less but figure you might as well try for more. That tends not to be the case when the salary they're offering would be a cut from what you're earning currently, but some employers really are delusional enough to not to realize that. Sometimes they mistakenly think you want the job badly enough that you'll accept what they're offering. (And of course, sometimes people do.)

Other times, especially with positions that are new, they hadn't fully thought through the salary and run the numbers until very late in the process. In that case, they've been working with fuzzy ideas of salary range, and so when you shared what you were looking for, they didn't yet have a strong enough sense of what they were willing to pay and so they just vaguely agreed … and then later, when they actually looked at their numbers, they realized they couldn't or didn't want to make that work. That's pretty disrespectful of your time, of course, but it happens.

The thing that's most offensive about what they did is that they didn't even acknowledge or explain it. I suspect you would have felt differently about them if they'd said, "I really apologize about this — I know we discussed salary earlier on, and you'd said you were looking for $X. Because of (reasons), the most we can offer is $Y. I really hope we can make that work but I of course understand if we're just too far apart." That's at least respectful — it acknowledges that the earlier conversation happened and it explains what changed. But acting like that never happened or like it's not important enough to mention is just rude. And it's a bad sign about them.

Speaking of bad signs, this part of your letter is alarming: “The team even implemented a bunch of my ideas after speaking with me and looking over my test." That's your work. They're using your work without paying you for it. That's not okay. It's extremely sketchy.

These people are not impressive.

why did this company lead me on about salary? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

how to manage a Jekyll-and-Hyde employee

Posted: 03 Nov 2016 09:30 AM PDT

Sometimes it's easy to assess and give feedback on an employee's performance: a person is clearly doing well, or is clearly struggling. But what if you're managing someone who's great at their work some of the time but strikingly weak at other times? Or someone who's easy to work with some days but irritable and recalcitrant on others?

At QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to manage an employee who seems like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (hey, it's Halloween week). You can read it here.

how to manage a Jekyll-and-Hyde employee was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

my horse died because of my manager’s carelessness

Posted: 03 Nov 2016 07:59 AM PDT

A reader writes:

My friend and I shared a paddock in which we kept our horses. She did the morning feeds and I did the afternoon feeds. One morning, when my friend was feeding up, she discovered that my 29-year-old mare was colicing (basically a stomach upset; horses can't throw up so if there is a blockage or something making them sick, it causes a lot of problems) and because it looked serious she called the vet. The vet refused to do more than administer painkillers and a few other drugs to make her comfortable without an owner present, so my friend tried to call me. (Colic surgery, which the vet felt she needed, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and is pretty hard on the horse, which is why the vet refused to risk running up a bill like that on an older horse without the okay from the owner.)

My workplace doesn't allow phones in the sheds, and when my friend couldn't get through to me, she called my workplace. My friend explained how dire the situation was and my manager told her he would let me know immediately. Except that he didn't. I didn't find out until morning smoko and I found the missed calls on my phone. Unfortunately, in the three hours between my friend calling and my hearing of it, my horse's heart rate had shot over 120 beats per minute. That 120 mark is used as an indicator that recovery is very unlikely, and I made the choice to have her put down.

I asked my manager why he hadn't let me know what was going on and he said he was going to let me know at lunch time (approximately five hours after the call came) and I could leave then. I said the horse had died and he said I could leave.

The kicker in all of this? That morning, my manager had me hosing walkways because he "didn't have anything else for me to do." So I'm pretty angry that he didn't let me know when the call came through (and let me deal with it) but what I am angriest about is that he said he would let me know what was going on straight away and then didn't. My friend had to deal with a dying horse, my vet was in a horrible position, and my poor mare suffered unnecessarily. Knowing that I wasn't contactable would have changed the situation with the vet, who stated that she would have put her down much earlier than she did.

I have no idea why he didn’t let me know. I pretty much booked it out of there when he said I could leave, as I was struggling to keep it together. Best guess is that he didn’t think it was important, forgot, couldn’t be bothered coming to find me (even though I was in the section of the site his office is based in), or thought that it would be fine to wait although my friend was pretty insistent on the phone. Maybe he just didn’t care. I just wish he hadn’t said he would let me know.

I'm angry, devastated, and struggling to overcome my feeling of resentment towards the manager, as well as my own guilt. While I understand that to him she was just a horse, she was my life. I'd got her for my 15th birthday (she was also 15) and she was my anchor.

Our industry (which is animal-based) runs 365 days of the year, and I've worked every hour of overtime, every holiday, every weekend, and every other gap he has needed me to work. I've worked shifts solo which normally require two or three people because he couldn't get anyone else. I've never taken a day of sick leave in the three years I've been with my company. I've never been late. I needed half an hour to talk with the vet and make a plan. I would have happily worked through my breaks if it meant I'd been able to sort it out quickly.

I still carry out everything that is asked of me but my (previously high) quality of work has dropped, I don't want to do additional overtime and now my manager and his manager want to talk. I have no idea what to say. Somehow I think "I hold you responsible for some of my horse's suffering and now she's died, all the money I earn doing overtime to help you out is pretty much no incentive because I spent it all on her" is not the line to go with. "I hate you" is also probably not the way to go. Help?

Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry. How awful.

At best, your manager was careless in a way that had terrible consequences. At worst, he's a callous jerk. From knowing him, you probably know which of those is more correct.

Would it help to explain to him what you've explained here? You could say, "When you told my friend that you'd give me the message immediately, she and the vet acted on what you said. They didn't take emergency measures with the horse because they assumed I'd be getting in contact right away. The situation was dire and because I didn't know about the call until hours after you told them you'd tell me, it meant that my horse had hours of unnecessary suffering.”

If your manager has any decency at all, he will be horrified and will apologize profusely. That won't change what happened, of course, but it's possible that the ensuing conversation will give you some understanding of what he was thinking and, as a result, some measure of peace that you don't currently have (in your relationship with him and about the situation in general).

It's also possible that it won't make you feel better at all. If that's the case, then at some point you'll have to decide if there's a way to be reasonably happy continuing to work with him, or whether your peace of mind would be better served somewhere else. I wouldn't decide that right away though — I'd sit with this for a bit and let yourself figure it out without any time pressure.

And if your manager and his manager want to talk about the change in your commitment to your job since this happened, it's reasonable to say, "I'm pretty devastated by what happened. I hope that my long track record of high performance here will give me some room to work through this."

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

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