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“we weren’t told our active shooter drill was just a drill, coworker uses our guest office as her personal phone booth, and more” plus 1 more Ask a Manager


“we weren’t told our active shooter drill was just a drill, coworker uses our guest office as her personal phone booth, and more” plus 1 more Ask a Manager

we weren’t told our active shooter drill was just a drill, coworker uses our guest office as her personal phone booth, and more

Posted: 02 Jan 2017 09:03 PM PST

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

1. We weren't told our active shooter drill was just a drill

I need an opinion on if I’m overreacting, as some have suggested I am. Our HR director had an active shooter drill today, without telling us it was a drill. We have never had a drill before and were not told one was imminent. There was an intercom announcement with someone yelling our workplace violence code and no other information. I immediately closed my office door and picked up my phone. I thought it was real. That’s when the maintenance tech opened my door and said it was a drill. Afterward, another coworker came into my office and noticed I was upset, near tears. She went and told the HR director, who told me she was sorry but she wanted to it be a surprise.

I’ve read a few items online from law enforcement about training drills and they all say to inform employees that there will be a drill before it happens. Do you think I’m overreacting about this?

What?! No, not at all. That's horrible, and incredibly negligent of your company. At a minimum, they caused people an enormous amount of stress and fear unnecessarily, and at worst they could have caused a much worse reaction (anything from a PTSD response, to actions intended to help that injured someone else, to calls to 911, to a frickin' heart attack). You should insist that they agree never to handle drills that way again.

2. Coworker is using our guest office as her personal phone booth

I work in an office with a cubicle set-up for most employees (including me.) We also have two conference rooms and a "guest" office. The guest office is used for visiting directors and execs, and it is generally understood that if no one is visiting, employees can use it for client calls or webinars or things like that. I'm the only employee of my level/job-title in our office; my position has me working on some things that are confidential like salary negotiations, hiring for confidential positions, layoffs, and performance evals. In general, my cubicle is fine as I don't need to actually discuss these things out loud, but in some cases I use the guest office for privacy when having to have calls about any of the confidential matters. The local managing director and my boss (who works remotely) are both aware of my need for privacy in some instances and are aware and encourage me to use the office if needed. I prefer the office to the conference room, because the office actually has a phone, whereas the conference room has only a speaker phone, which isn't as private. If I know that I will be spending the majority of the day working on confidential matters or an exec is visiting and I know I'll need an hour or two of privacy, I usually can schedule it so that I work from home. However, it's not always predictable.

The issue is that a new hire has taken to using the guest office as her own personal phone booth — for non-confidential client calls, or personal calls, or just to get out of her cube and not even use the phone. In the three weeks since she's started, I've had room conflicts with her over seven times. That is six times more than the next closest employee! I've brought it up to her and she says she understands, but then a few days later I'll need to use the room and she'll be in there talking on her cell phone. She's very lovely but I just don't know how to handle this issue.

Be more direct: "Hey Jane, sorry I wasn't clear before. I'm finding it hard to get the guest office when I need it for things that I need private space for. Can I ask you to only use it when you have a work call that requires privacy?"

If it continues after that, get even more direct: "We're running into a conflict where I'm not able to use the guest office when I need it for private work because you're using it for personal calls and other more optional stuff. I've mentioned this a couple of times but it's continuing to happen. How can we resolve this?"

And then if it continues after that, you ask her boss to intervene and tell her to cut it out. At that point, it would be reasonable to request that since she's interfering with what you need to do your job.

3. Asking why a job is open again so soon

Last March, I applied for a position to be that executive assistant to the CEO and COO of a large nonprofit. I sent my resume/cover letter in through the proper channels and a friend, who knows the CEO, wrote an email on my behalf. Several months later, I received a form email saying “thank you but you’re not suitable, blah blah.” Two weeks ago, I saw the exact same job posted again. I applied again (my friend did not resubmit a recommendation). Yesterday I received a call from the CEO asking me to come in for an interview, which of course I am going to do.

Can I ask what happened to the person who was hired back when the job first posted? I’m curious to know if it was a personality conflict or the person got a new job or was just unsuitable.

You can ask why the job is open again, but I'd keep your wording focused on the job, not the person who filled it, so that it's clear you're seeking information to help you better understand the history and context of the role. I'd say it this way: "I know you were hiring for this position last spring as well. Can I ask why it's open again so soon?"

You may not get the full story (for example, if the person was fired, they might not choose to share that with outsiders out of respect for her privacy), but it's a reasonable question to ask.

4. My coworker doesn't have to use PTO when he takes time off

My coworker has recently taken a number of days off to visit his family in Denver and Chicago. He mentioned to me how our manager never makes him take PTO; he simply asks for the time he needs off and she tells him he can take it.

I was recently home sick for two days. My manager emailed HR (and copied me) asking to decrease my PTO balance for the time I had spent out of the office. Do you think it is fair that I should have to take PTO while my coworker doesn't?

On the face of it, no. But it's possible that there's an explanation that would make sense — for instance, that your coworker regularly works long hours on evenings and weekends and your manager rewards him for that by informally letting him take the time later without charging it to PTO. Or it could be that he's an excellent employee and she uses this as a way to help retain him if she doesn't have a lot of flexibility with salary.

Or it's possible that it's simple unfairness.

You could follow up with your coworker about what he told you and ask if there's more context to it: "Hey, I was thinking about how you mentioned you don't have to use PTO when you take time off. Do you know how that came about? Is it a sort of comp time to make up for extra hours you work or…?"

5. Asking vendors to donate to a party

Should I ask my vendors to donate to a retirement party at a restaurant for my boss?

Noooo. Some of them will feel pressured to donate because your company is their client, and that's icky. Your company should pay the costs of the retirement party it wants to have; that's not something you should seek donations from outsiders for.

we weren't told our active shooter drill was just a drill, coworker uses our guest office as her personal phone booth, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

open thread – January 2, 2017

Posted: 02 Jan 2017 08:00 AM PST

Since it’s a holiday and I’m still on vacation, here’s a bonus open thread. The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything that you want to talk about — work-related, non-work related, whatever it might be. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

We’ll be back to our regular posting schedule tomorrow.

open thread – January 2, 2017 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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