It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My employees complained about the reward I gave them
I work as a manager of a division that recently underwent a huge system change. As a result, all of our employees had to work two hours of overtime per day for three weeks. They were all paid triple their hourly rate for their overtime hours and were given two weeks extra PTO for their efforts. In addition, all meals were catered during that time, and every imaginable beverage was served to them (think baristas, fresh smoothies, etc).
I decided that in addition I would give them all gift certificates (paid for by our company) as a thank-you for their hard work. These were all in different amounts, based on their respective levels of responsibility, but they ranged from $100-200. In order to give them these gift certificates, I had to spent a lot of time getting permission for the funds and ordering them for the employees, all on top of my already demanding work load. I was hurt when it got back to me that employees were grumbling that the gift cards weren’t enough.
My visceral reaction was to just say that they are being ungrateful for something extra that I did for them and that I will not be giving out gift cards next time they are required to work overtime for a special project. But do you think they were treated unfairly? How should I handle these sorts of things going forward?
It sounds like you really went out of your way to ameliorate the inconvenience of the overtime — two weeks of extra PTO is huge, to say nothing of tripling their rate and bringing in all that food and drink. That was more than most people would expect, and then to do gift cards on top of it was extra thoughtful. So yeah, they’re being unreasonable and unrealistic in their expectations. I almost wonder if they saw all the other stuff as par for the course (which it’s not) and the gift cards as their only thank-you; that’s the only thing I can think of to explain the reaction.
But I’d skip the gift cards next time — no point in doing them if that’s the response.
2. Should I try to get my old job back after being fired for pushing a coworker?
Back in 2013, I was fired from my first job after an episode of physical violence with a coworker who had been bullying me for a while. (We threw shoes at one another and pushed each other. He’d been calling me names and bullying long before the incident though.)
Afterwards, I moved on and worked other jobs. But now, after having my son, it seems like no matter how many jobs I apply to, I always get rejected. A couple days ago, I ran into another coworker from my first job and she suggested that I try to re-apply and come back. She knows what happened to me and agrees that I should be given another chance. I tried to re-apply and actually got an interview and I was doing great, until they discovered I used to work there and the circumstances under which I left, or was terminated as they say, thanks to a jealous coworker who is still there. They pretty much trashed my interview and stopped looking at my application afterwards. It’s really been bothering me and I really wanted to go back and work there. Should I try again by calling corporate and explaining what happened or should I just leave it be? And the jealous coworker, what should I do about her?
Nope, this one isn’t going to work out. Being fired for pushing a coworker is a really big deal. It sounds like you might have been pushed to the brink by his behavior — but when you resort to physicality with someone, no matter what the provocation was, that’s going to be a permanent deal-breaker for most employers. They’re not going to want to take the risk that it will happen again. Write this one off, and focus on other employers.
As for the jealous former coworker, there’s nothing to do there. Move on mentally from this company and start fresh somewhere else.
3. I’m worried that moving into my own office will hurt my coworker’s feelings
I started at a job I love two years ago. I came into a department with one other person who was there two years before I started and our boss. My boss got a promotion and now wants to promote me instead of my coworker. I love my coworker to death, and don’t want to hurt her feelings. At the same time, though, I can’t hold myself back just for the sake of my coworker’s feelings.
We sit in a cubicle separated by a wall. Two offices opened up and ideally we should both get into them. My boss asked us if we want to move over. My coworker said she doesn’t, and I want to. Should I go ahead and do it? My coworker doesn’t know about my promotion yet. I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to be above her (although my title will be). I just don’t want to create a hostile environment.
Good lord, take the office! It’s very, very normal to take an office when it’s offered to you, totally aside from the promotion. It’s not even like you’re being offered something your coworker isn’t; she’s been offered one too, even though she’s not taking it. (But even if she hadn’t been offered one, there’s no reason for that to stand in the way of you accepting yours.)
There’s absolutely nothing hostile about that. If she’s sad that you won’t be sitting with each other anymore say, “Yes, I will miss it too — but I’m really excited to have an office.” If she thinks about your feelings half as much as you seem to be thinking about hers, she’ll understand and be pleased for you, even if she’s a little wistful about losing the camaraderie of your cubes.
4. My office keeps emailing me at my personal email address rather than my work address
I recently started a new job at a university. I had used my personal gmail account while interviewing and had lots of correspondence through that account during the process. When I was hired I was given an @teapots.edu email. (Coincidentally we use a Gmail system for that account.)
Since I started, my boss always emails me work requests to my personal email. At first I just responded and then added my work email to the cc line. It continued happing a lot into week two. I kindly mentioned to my supervisor that I would prefer she use my university email for work correspondence. She explained it was an accident and that when she types my name into our work Gmail, it populates my personal email first. She said she would try to be more careful. Well, it keeps getting worse now. Many coworkers (who I never interviewed with) now are being cc’d (and replying) on emails to my personal email.
I started forwarding emails to my work email and responding to work requests with “I will respond from my work email; please try to sue that for future requests.” Everyone is very apologetic and realizes they are just typing my name in and it is the first item because of how frequently it is used.
Now my personal email is being sent around by accident to students and they are emailing me directly, thinking that is my email. I don’t know how to quell this madness – I just need people to take a second before typing my name into Gmail and look to see that it populates two options and choose my work one. Any suggestions? I don’t want to ignore people but it seems being polite and pointing the error out, isn’t enough.
I have to admit to doing this to a people a few times — for the exact same reason (that I’d been corresponding with them at their personal email address from the hiring process). But I always took action to fix it when they pointed it out! Maybe your coworkers don’t realize that they can fix this in their email, and it would help to send them specific instructions about how to fix it.
I’d say this: “Your emails keep going to my personal email address instead of my work address. To stop it from happening, can you delete it from your Gmail contacts altogether so it doesn’t keep auto-populating that one in messages? To do that, go to contacts.google.com, view all contacts, and delete my personal email. That should fix the problem!”
Since everyone sounds apologetic, they’re likely to be grateful to know how to stop this.
5. Can nonprofit employees volunteer for their own organization?
I’m on the board of a small nonprofit. I was just informed that one of our full-time salaried employees is actually volunteering his time on one of his scheduled work days. Apparently this was an arrangement he made with the former board president, for reasons unknown to me (the former president took many employee issues into her own hands). I believe this employee is non-exempt, but the extra day does not put him over 40 hours a week. And the former president instructed him to do “different” work from his paid work on the extra day, but the truth is, it’s not very different at all (for example, if your regular job was cooking hamburgers, and your volunteer position was cooking french fries at the same restaurant). I haven’t spoken to the board or the employee yet – this information was passed on by a volunteer who is a friend of the employee. So, what do I do about this situation? Is it completely above-board, too hinky for words, or somewhere in between? What if I’m mistaken about the hours involved, and the employee actually *is* spending more than 40 hours a week on site? How does that impact the situation?
While nonprofits are generally allowed to use volunteers (unlike for-profit businesses, which must pay at least minimum wage), the law is different when it comes to the employees of nonprofits, because otherwise employees could feel coerced to do unpaid work. Employees of your organization are allowed to volunteer for you in some limited situations, but the law is clear that the volunteer work can’t be the same type of work the person does in their regular job for you. So for example, your I.T. person could volunteer to run a community outreach booth over the weekend, but she couldn’t volunteer her time to upgrade your server.
However, the case you described, what exactly does it mean that he’s volunteering on one of his scheduled work days? If he’s salaried and being paid for a full week of work, the law doesn’t care if he’s doing task X instead of task Y during that week (and so you don’t need to and shouldn’t call it “volunteering”). However, if you mean that he’s taken a cut in his pay for that day (like he now earns 80% of what he used to earn and the remaining 20% is considered “volunteer work”), you’d be on shaky ground.
Also, if he goes over 40 hours for the week, he’d need to be paid overtime, and the organization can’t avoid that by calling it “volunteering.”
It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on here, but as a board member you have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to check into it, and act if the organization isn’t complying with the law.