Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. An employee caused a drunken scene at a co-worker's wedding
I am a team leader in a very small company. My team only has two other members. A few weeks ago, one of them, Jamie, got married. A few other colleagues and I were invited to the evening reception. The other member of the team got drunk and was abusive to many guests and even knocked small children over on the dance floor. When everyone was trying to leave, he started to get naked and violently abusive in the venue's car park. Jamie asked him to leave and he hit Jamie twice, knocking him to the floor. Guests were trying to eject him, but he was throwing punches and fighting them. He also spat blood all over the bride. His girlfriend punched the bride too. Jamie did not want to spend his wedding night with police giving statements so did not press charges.
Jamie and I have stated to our employer that we do not want to work with this person. Our employer has said that the incident was outside of work so they are powerless. Jamie has been given a week to "forgive and forget" before the other member is sent back to the team.
Your employer isn't powerless; they absolutely can take action over this if they want to, just like they could take action over, say, a sexual harassment incident that happened outside of work. Who knows, they might be choosing not to get involved because they don't know for sure what happened and they'd have to do an investigation (although it sounds like there were multiple employees there who could be witnesses). But asking Jamie to "forgive and forget" the guy who punched him at his wedding, spat blood all over the bride, and generally caused a massive scene at his wedding is ... a tall order.
If you're truly stuck with the situation and can't change your company's mind, I'd sit down with this guy and tell him that he'll need to figure out how to repair relations with Jamie, and that when he returns after his week away, you'll expect to hear his thoughts on how he can do that. Put it on him to figure it out. And if he doesn't figure out on his own that any proposal will have to involve massive apologies and groveling, and possibly a plan for his alcohol use, point him in that direction. But I'd also be prepared for Jamie to start job searching over this.
2. Asking to take off the Friday of my first week on the job
I have just been hired and accepted my offer letter for a new job. I have my start date set for about a week away. I'm wondering if it would be all right to ask the hiring manager if I could take the Friday of my first week off for a family vacation we are doing that weekend. The company is very laid back and casual, but I want to make sure that I would not be offending anyone. I also do not want the company to think I do not take the job seriously.
Don't do it! It would be fine if you had negotiated that day off as part of the offer negotiations, but now that you've accepted, asking for a day off on your first week won't reflect well on you. Your new employer doesn't know you well yet, and taking a day off that quickly is going to make them wonder if this is the start of a pattern of unreliable attendance. It doesn't matter if they're laid back and casual; you do not want to raise worries about your work ethic and commitment to the new job when they have so little data about you.
3. I read my work out loud, and it's annoying a co-worker
I recently started a job in a place with 50 cubicles. I have the bad habit of reading my work out loud/whispering to myself. My co-worker asked me to stop because she can't concentrate, but there are other people talking around us. It seems like my whispering is bothering her more than other people around us talking. I don't get it. How do I stop?
Yeah, there's something about whispering and one-sided conversations that's more distracting than other background noise, for some reason. (It's the same reason why someone on a cell phone is often more distracting than two people talking to each other.) It's reasonable of her to alert you that it's bothering her and ask if you can control it.
As for how, I think all you can really do is be especially vigilant about it and try to be really conscious of what you're doing for a couple of weeks, which hopefully will be enough time to break the habit. Meanwhile, let her know that you're trying but it's sometimes unconscious -- but that you're going to make an effort to rein it in.
4. My boss keeps asking how much I paid for things
My boss is very friendly with all of us who work under her. Boundaries don't really get crossed -- none of us socialize with her -- but we have "water cooler" chit-chats about personal things, like our homes, travels, shopping, movies, lunch.
She has started this habit of asking me what I paid for, well, just about everything. How much was that salad? How much did your condo cost? How much were those new shoes? What does your dentist charge you for a filling? It really drives me bananas. She stands and waits until I answer something, and she can tell I'm uncomfortable with the question, but that doesn't stop her. She is just terribly nosy, and very thrifty, too. She frequently tells me I was crazy to spend as much as I spent for the shoes, salad, etc. Any advice?
That's obnoxious. If you want to decline to answer altogether, you could go with, "Oh, I don't like talking about money," followed by a quick subject change. If she returns to the topic and presses you, you could say, "I'm really not comfortable talking about money. Sorry!" Say it cheerfully, and then immediately move the conversation along to something else.
5. How to tell a freelancer not to stop by in person
I work at a busy, crowded, no-privacy-ever community newspaper. We sit at desks in one room and there is no time or space for outside visitors. When visitors do drop by, the whole office overhears everything they say and it's awkward and uncomfortable, as well as distracting. So visitors aren't encouraged to drop by, and we do just fine interacting by emails and phone with our stringers and freelancers. But one of them keeps bugging me about dropping by when he's in the neighborhood and doesn't take the hint that we don't want him to. Sometimes I'll say I'm off to a meeting, swamped with deadlines, or on vacation (all true), and yet he still doesn't get it. He continues to suggest another time. I wish I could say, "Sorry, but our office is just not conducive to visits, even quickies." Any advice?
It's time to stop hinting and tell him that you're not available to meet. It's perfectly reasonable to say, "It's tough for me to set up face-to-face meetings; my schedule is usually packed and our space doesn't accommodate visitors well. Was there something in particular you wanted to discuss, and would phone or email work instead?"
But also, it might be worth trying to get a better sense of where he's coming from. Does he feel a strong need for more of a personal connection with people he works with? Want to pitch you on more work? Raise some issue he feels more comfortable raising face-to-face? Believe he'll get more work from you if you know each other better? You're not obligated to accommodate any of these with a freelancer, especially if your current system is working just fine with everyone else, but if he's great at what he does, it could be worth putting in the time for a 15-minute coffee, depending on your sense of what he's looking for.
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