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“we got rid of our IT person and it’s been a disaster, I don’t want to take care of my boss’s fish, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

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“we got rid of our IT person and it’s been a disaster, I don’t want to take care of my boss’s fish, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


we got rid of our IT person and it’s been a disaster, I don’t want to take care of my boss’s fish, and more

Posted: 02 Nov 2016 09:03 PM PDT

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

1. We got rid of our IT person and it's been a disaster

About six months ago, my company of 75+ advertising people got rid of our in-house IT person. He was admittedly overworked and stressed, but was at least available in the office every day to help with everything from broken printers to missing passwords. He was vital. Someone, somewhere, very high up in our company’s owner company (higher than our CEO, it seems) decided we didn’t need him. Or anyone.

We now call France for IT help or email them (very tough when our computers won’t turn on or log in or email isn’t working). We have pleaded to have this fixed, that we’ll take budget cuts elsewhere, but to no avail. I love my job in every other way but lose hours every day with my computer, which has been glitchy since I started 18 months ago. Once every few months, someone will come in person to “fix" things, but they are never fixed. Other coworkers have complained too, but my computer seems to be particularly bad. (I am usually pretty good at solving my own computer problems, but I’m not a magician.)

I have whined about this out loud. I have sent sweet emails to my team apologizing for not replying to emails because I’m not getting any, or not being able to do work because my files won’t open. I have lost emails and files.

I know they know this isn’t my fault, but after a certain point I also see how it’s reflecting poorly on me, especially since my coworkers need to cover for me/pick up my slack. My manager just wants this to be fixed, but doesn’t have the pull to make it happen. And again, I think eventually he’s just going to see me as the problem, out of frustration rather than logic. Especially since it keeps getting “fixed” and breaking again.

I’m at my wit’s end. I’m so angry that this (I’m sure) cost-saving measure is costing us so much, especially as we move into digital campaigns. But I am at a loss over what to do. The boss’s boss’s boss is in another country and has zero actual contact with anyone at this company. Threatening to quit won’t do much as this is New York and someone can always take my place (and will probably get a functioning computer). Actually quitting isn’t something I want, although if I get a better offer I will make a point of mentioning this in my exit interview.

Well, someone above your manager should be calculating how much this whole situation (not just yours, but everyone's) is costing the company and making the case for changing it, and it's troubling that that apparently hasn't happened. For that matter, it's also troubling that someone above your CEO is meddling in day-to-day management decisions like whether or not to cut a single IT position; that's not typically something that's handled at that level, so the whole thing is pretty odd.

As for what you can do, since your own manager has tried and failed and the person with authority to act on this won't talk to anyone, there aren't a lot of options here. But maybe there are some less-than-ideal options that would still be better than what you have now: Is there someone more junior whose computer runs better who you could swap with? Would your manager okay you buying a new computer and expensing it? Could you calculate how much money the company is spending in lost work hours due to this situation and show that it's more than buying you a new computer would cost? Could you do whatever they'd do if your computer completely died tomorrow? (Could you, uh, hasten its death?) Would you want to bring in your own device to use? (There are huge drawbacks to that, but some people do it and you might calculate that you prefer it to the current situation.) Or, is there someone above your boss who seems to have common sense who you might mention this to?

2. I'm depressingly isolated at work

I am very isolated at work, where I am one in a group of a handful of a people who always work with their doors closed and email if they have questions for each other. And yes, I have knocked on their doors just to say “hi” (I know you think that is appalling), and they never look up from their screens — phone or computer. I do talk to people in the kitchen, started an outreach program for our department, invite people to whom I give orientations to go for lunchtime walks (sometimes they say “yes”). But I can go days without speaking to anyone — and my commute is two hours a day. Why am I driving to be alone? This is very dispiriting and depressing. I’d just like to say “hi” and “have a nice weekend” to another breathing being. I’ve been here four years, and have used up my ideas.

I'm sorry — that sounds really unpleasant if you're someone who wants social interaction!

You've been there four years and you've made all the right efforts to reach out to people. It sounds like this culture just isn't a good match with you; you want something with more interaction, and it doesn't sound like this place will provide it. Why not think about looking for somewhere that's more in line with the things you want from a workplace and from colleagues? There's no shame in that; no office culture will be right for everyone.

3. I don't want to take care of my boss's fish

One of our head directors decided to get a betta fish a few weeks ago, but due to the nature of the fish (hiding or staying still for long periods of time) it has started to freak her and out she is constantly worrying if the fish is dead, so she has given me the fish, without asking me if I am willing to take care of it.

Previously I would take care of her fish on weekends, which are not part of my regular schedule but I have been covering reception tasks since a new hire is not working out the best with our team. As I will be returning to my regular schedule this week, how do I tactfully say that I do not want the responsibility of a fish at my workplace? As I have previously taken care of her fish, and it is well known that I volunteer with a nonprofit that trains support dogs, everyone assumes that it makes the most sense for me to take care of the fish, but I really hate it! I don’t think fish are good pets for quite a few reasons, and since I only work four days a week I feel I am not the best person for this as I refuse to take it home with me. As I have a front-facing role, it seems to unnerve some of my clients as well and it makes my meetings longer because everyone asks about it. Is there any way for me to tactfully give the fish back, or better yet, find a new home for it entirely?

Yes! Say this: "Now that I'm going back to my regular schedule, I need to return the fish to your care since I'll only be here four days a week. If you don't think you want to keep him, maybe you could ask around the office to see if anyone else would like to adopt him. Sadly, I don't think I'm a fish person so it can't be me. Here you go!"

If she tries to talk you into keeping him, say this: "Oh, I can't — I'm really not a fish person. Hopefully you can find someone who'll be excited to have him!"

4. Do you always have to use a salutation in email?

In the past you've discussed the proper form of address in an email, but not when it stops being required at all. When I'm emailing a client back and forth about a project, I typically always say “Hi Client," at the beginning of every single email. I've been thinking about it lately and it seems rather tedious. I never do this with coworkers, but I try to be more formal with clients than coworkers. Any general rule of them that you could think of for this?

I also realized that when you start with that “Hi Client,” it makes the email preview a bit less useful, if the other person uses that preview. I know I sure do.

Clients often respond with either just my name, or just start the body of the email with no introduction. On the one hand, as a salesperson, I'm perfectly happy if the client is more casual than I am. On the other hand, is that just professional norms and I didn't get that memo?

You're overthinking it. It doesn't matter — you can do it however you want. However, if you want a guideline (and you sound like you do), mirroring what the person is doing is usually a good way to go. So if they're just plunging in with no salutation, you'd do the same.

5. Can I lose my vacation time if I don't use it before the end of the year?

I have built up 106 hours of vacation time. My boss informed me that I will lose 66 if those hours if not used by the end of the year. But there is not enough staff to let me take those hours off. Is it legal for them to just take those hours away from me? I’m in Texas.

Yes. It's not fair, but it's legal. Most states, including Texas, allow employers to have "use it or lose it" policies (California is an exception).

However, you can certainly try to advocate for yourself here. Say this: "Because this time off is part of my compensation package, it's important to me to be able to use them; otherwise I'll essentially be losing part of my pay. Can you help me figure out how to make this work this year? Or if it's truly not possible, can we arrange for them to still be available to me next year, so that I'm not out a major chunk of compensation?"

Also — it sounds like going forward you should plan to take time off more regularly so that you're not accruing such a large bank of it, which you can then lose. If that's not possible because of workload, that's something you should point out too — as in, "The reason I've ended up with this number of hours is because I've prioritized my work. I'd like to be able to continue doing that, but if it means losing vacation time, that's a real disincentive to do that."

 

we got rid of our IT person and it's been a disaster, I don't want to take care of my boss's fish, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I feel guilty that I got a job through family connections

Posted: 02 Nov 2016 10:59 AM PDT

A reader writes:

So I am a year and a half out of college. I work as a Teapot Package Designer (obviously not my real field). I’ve been in my job since May of this year and I’m definitely happy to be here. I like the work, my team is great, and I’ve learned so much.

I got my position through a family friend, who heads Teapot Packaging at my workplace. I had worked as a Teapot Packaging Researcher before, and I had some general teapot packaging skills. But it wasn’t the caliber of work experience that most people in my position have. I am very green, very young, and quite under-qualified for my position. I got my job because of my family friend and it's very obvious. She really fast-tracked me into the organization.

I have definitely made mistakes but overall I think I’m doing well. I have received praise and good feedback. I was asked to lead a series of presentations and they were well-received. I’m proud of my work.

But I can’t stop feeling like I’m only in my position because of my family friend. I feel guilty and like I took the job from someone more qualified who deserved it more. Is this okay? Is this weird? Is this bad? People talk about the evils of nepotism in hiring and I feel guilty. I’m not sure what to do with these feelings. I’m not the only one who got hired through connections, but they all had more work experience than I did. I feel like a kid who got a big boost, not an adult who networked my way to where I am. I don’t deserve this.

Also, sometimes this family friend mentions our outside-of-work connection, like asking me how my sister is doing or something. I feel very weird and self-conscious about that. I’m not sure how to navigate it. Sometimes she also sits me down and asks me about my long-term goals and I don’t know how to answer that question; I feel like our personal relationship makes it weirder.

Oh gosh. It's so, so normal.

I applaud you for questioning it because so often people don't, but really, I don't think you need to continue feeling guilty.

People get jobs for all sorts of reasons that aren't strictly about their qualifications — sometimes it's connections like happened here, sometimes it's that they clicked really well with the interviewer, sometimes it's that they talk a really good game, and all sorts of other reasons too. None of that is ideal, but it's very, very common.

And you're doing well in your position, so it's likely that the person who referred you and the person who hired you both did see some potential in you, and that's now paying off — for you and for them.

But here's what you can do that I think will help you feel better and also will be genuinely the right way to respond to this: Resolve to pay it forward to people who don't have the kind of network you benefitted from. Lots of people don't have a network that can open doors for them and pull them up, which leads to real inequity in the workforce and in life in general. At some point you're going to be in a position professionally where you can open the door a little wider for people — spend a little extra time talking to them, give a resume a second look, lend some advice to someone who needs it, be helpful in whatever ways you can.

If you do that, you'll pay off any debt incurred here and potentially far more.

I feel guilty that I got a job through family connections was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

how to tell an employee “no nose rings”

Posted: 02 Nov 2016 09:30 AM PDT

A reader writes:

I have had a wonderful front desk receptionist/medical biller for six years. She always goes out of her way and is extremely dedicated. Well, yesterday she came in with a nose ring. I don’t know how to handle it without hurting her feelings. She’s had a tough life. Please let me know how to get rid of the nose ring.

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:

  • How do I poach an employee from another company?
  • My contact misrepresented me to get an in with my boss
  • Should I speak up about my lazy colleague?
  • Employer wants to interview me on the same day that I have a major work event

how to tell an employee “no nose rings” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

my boss gets angry when I won’t share my food with her

Posted: 02 Nov 2016 07:59 AM PDT

A reader writes:

My supervisor is obsessed with food!

It started when I first went on a diet. I would have my lunch box packed with all of my essentials for the day. I thought it was just her being friendly when she asked to taste certain foods when I sat down at my desk to eat. But then I noticed her asking for food pretty regularly — even food that’s not “shareable” like fish tacos, salad, or chicken wraps. This got to be expensive. I tried coming up with a system. I would offer her healthy snacks only or one meal (breakfast or lunch). Once I did that, she totally flipped on me — doing really childish things such as buying the rest of the office lunch but not me, telling coworkwers that I’m "greedy," and offering everyone one in the room food but skipping me deliberately and obviously. That doesn’t bother me because they tend to eat unhealthy anyway. But I can still tell she’s bothered by my refusal to share something like my salmon.

There have been other changes too. She's hot and cold with me now. Some days she’s happy-go-lucky with me. The next day she may go sit in another part of the building all day. But I’ve noticed that no matter her mood, she’ll still ask for my food and sometimes for seconds. The office just kind of knows that she’s into diets and weight. Name a diet and she’ll do it, no matter how restrictive — three-day grapefruit challenges, military diet, cabbage cleanse, etc. Sometimes she makes jokes about being broke and not having money for food. I feel like the rest of her treatment seems to be that she’s just a moody person in all of her interactions with people. But I’m not sure.

What do I do, if anything? I’m not a rude person, just not up to feeding another person every day during the week.

I’m thinking about just eating in my car. But that seems like a spectacle as well.

Something is wrong with your manager.

This would be really inappropriate from any coworker, but your manager doing it is downright bizarre. And it’s really pretty awful, given that power dynamics are of course going to make you feel more pressure to give up your food to her, whereas with a coworker you'd probably feel easier giving a firm no and sticking to it.

I think you need to do two things:

1. Stop giving her food. Stop trying these compromises like healthy snacks only or just one meal a day (!). Stop entirely, both because you shouldn't have to be feeding her at all and because I think it's going to be easier if you have one consistent message.

2. Talk to her. At some point that isn't a meal time, sit down with her and say this: "I want to give you a heads-up that I need to stop sharing food with you. I need to cut back on how much I'm spending on food, and when I share it with you, I often end up without enough for myself. I'm concerned that in the past when I haven't wanted to share, you've said I was being greedy and seemed to feel it was a personal slight. I want to be really clear that it's not — this is just about me being able to feed myself and not blow my budget."

3. If she keeps asking you for food after that, hold firm. Say things like “Sorry, I only brought enough for me” or “I’m planning to eat all of this myself, but if you’re interested, I got it at the cafe across the street.”

All this said … something's out of whack with your boss. What you're describing isn't normal, mature, or reasonable behavior. It's even less so coming from a manager, who's not supposed to nurse petty grudges over your salmon. So I'd assume that you haven't seen the last of her loony behavior … but at least by cutting off her access to your food, you can hopefully be better-nourished when it happens.

my boss gets angry when I won’t share my food with her was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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