It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. Can I be fired for refusing to sanitize my hands?
I work for a global nonprofit. Due to the flu epidemic happening nationwide, my job has now mandated that we sanitize everything in our offices, including its workers.The top officer conducted a conference call with all upper management, explaining that we desperately need to prevent any occurrence of sickness in all our locations. There was an emergency staff meeting at my office, at which I was not present because I was with a client. Later, I was told that all staff must start by wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant. We were all provided with portable hand sanitizer that we are expected to clip to our person and keep with us at all times. Each client should sanitize their hands as they enter the building. Anyone with even the slightest symptoms of sickness should be sent home immediately. Today, I was told that as we arrive we must sanitize our hands and sign in to say we have done so. Anyone not adhering to this rule is subject to immediate termination.
Can they really fire me for not sanitizing my hands? I personally believe that by over-sanitizing we also kill the good bacteria in our bodies and therefore hurt our immune system. On Friday, I explained this to the meeting facilitator and mentioned that I would be sure to wash my hands with soap, take my vitamins and do everything I could to keep my immune system healthy.
In the big scheme of things, our organization oversees many group homes for foster youth and these types of precautions may be standard to keep those children healthy. I understand and recognize that, but I do not work with or ever have access to those children and am willing to participate in the guidelines but just not at the extreme they are mandating.
They’re being ridiculous, but yes, they can fire you for refusing to comply. You can certainly make your case to them, and could even try bringing in a doctor’s note supporting your stance, but ultimately it’s their call how strictly they want to enforce this policy (as doctor’s notes don’t bind them to taking any action).
2. Can I get this probationary period eliminated?
In a recent phone interview for a job, the HR person mentioned the new hire would be required to be on a 3-months probation period before he/she could become a permanent employee. I am a permanent full-time with my current employer, and my employer offers equivalent or even better benefits than the company I was applying with. The probation seems too risky for me, even though I know I will do my job well if given the chance. I heard that in probation, if the manager doesn’t like you he/she can fire you because of that. I am leaving my current employer just because it does not have the same opportunities in this particular region.
Do you think I can negotiate with the hiring manager or HR to reduce the probation period or eliminate it? If I can, then how? Is it normal to ask for it? I just don’t feel very secure, as I will have to leave my full-time for something even not guaranteed.
Probation periods are really a bit of a sham — because you can be fired for any reason at any time even when you’re not on probation. Generally companies use probation periods to avoid going through the typical series of warnings that they’d do before firing a longer-term employee, but they’re not legally required to do those either. No law requires that you be warned before being fired at point in your employment, so the difference in risk between a probationary period and a non-probationary period for at-will employees isn’t very significant.
In any case, these probations periods are very common, and it’s unlikely that a company that uses them as a matter of course for all new employees will agree to eliminate it.
3. Should I let my manager know I’m dealing with miscarriages?
I am about to have my third miscarriage in less than 18 months. Each one necessitates doctor appointments, ER visits, and time off work. I went to a specialist in a town three hours away to get some answers, which generated follow-up appointments that require me to miss a day of work each time. I feel I have been missing quite a bit of work to deal with this. My manager is quite understanding and has never asked what sort of medical appointment I am going to. I have been told by my OB that the third one will inevitably happen. Should I tell my manager what is going on, i.e. that I have been having miscarriages? Or just leave it as the generic doctor appointment and ER visit?
I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Whether to share what’s going on with your boss is entirely up to you. If you’re comfortable sharing it and might even feel more comfortable if she knows what’s going on so that you don’t need to worry about her wondering what’s going on, then have a quick talk with her in confidence. But if you prefer, it’s also fine to say, “I”m dealing with a medical situation that’s requiring a lot of follow-up” without giving any more details than that.
4. What does this mean?
I recently had an interview that I think went amazingly well (everyone was energetic, we went over the allotted time unknowingly) and I have a great feeling about this. At the end of the interview, I met with the HR upper management who told me, “There’s only one other candidate but there’s a possibility that we’re just going to open a second [job title] position.” How should I interpret this?
You and one other person are both strong candidates, and they’re considering opening a second slot. Take it at face value; it means exactly what it says.
5. Managers think I’m younger than I am
I changed careers in my mid-twenties. I have about 6 years of work experience, but it was sporadic and in different industries. So at 30, I’m the oldest person in my current role by about 3 years. Some people in my role are as much as 8 years younger than me. I look and feel very young for my age as well, and I think because I am in school part-time (MBA) and I look young, managers mistake me for being the same age as many of my colleagues. I am agitated, however, by the constant reference to my maturity and how I do so well for being in a junior role. Examples: “I’m impressed by the maturity you show for your age,” “That’s a very mature thing for you to say,” and my favorite, “Oh wow, you live on your own? Not with your parents? Isn’t it scary being on your own for the first time?” Mainly these comments come from my managers, who are 2 years older than me. There is also constant reference to their families and marriages and how “one day” in the distant future I will have that. My instinct is to point out my age, but I bite my lip because I feel like however I bring it up I will seem catty.
My concern is that this is impacting my potential for promotions because the managers see me as a relatively immature, junior person all around. I know that sounds strange as they’re telling me the opposite but my impression is they only say it because they believe I’m so young.
That’s incredibly weird even if you were 23. Who talks about age and maturity so much? However, it’s also slightly weird that you haven’t corrected them when they’re talking to you as if you’re a pre-teen.
In any case, the next time it comes up, just respond, “I’m 30.” Problem solved.
6. I have a bad feeling about a new job, but I don’t know why
I’ve been through a number of interviews with a well-established and well-known company in my region. I’ve been told to expect an offer within the next week. My problem is I can’t shake this feeling that taking this job would be a mistake. I can’t pick out any one reason why though. I feel qualified for it, it will be more money than I currently make, and the people seem friendly enough. Have you or your readers ever had this problem? All I can figure out is that its just fear of the unknown that comes with a new job.
Sit down and really try to figure out what’s giving you a bad feeling. Don’t try to rationalize anything away — just figure out what’s not sitting quite right with you, whether you think it’s warranted or not. Bad feeling from the manager that you can’t explain? Unsettling feeling about the office environment? Worry that the work isn’t quite what you want to be doing? See if you can’t pinpoint where the uneasiness is coming from, even if you don’t understand why. If you can nail down the source, take that seriously — your unconscious might be picking up on something worth paying attention to. And if you can’t come up with anything, spend some time contemplating just how scared of the unknown you might be — does that seem like what’s happening here? Or does that not quite resonate?
I’m a big believer in listening to your gut (unless your gut has a bad track record), but see if you can figure out what your gut is responding to.
7. Making suggestions for an organization’s work in a cover letter
Would it come across as way too presumptuous to make suggestions for a way an organization could improve in a cover letter? In my case, I have experience in social media, and am applying for a position that would be partly responsible for managing the organization’s social networks. Is it okay if I simply said, “In fact, I already have a few suggestions on how [organization] could grow their presence on Twitter”? Or is that too critical right off the bat and something I should save for the interview (if I were to get one..)?
That’s not really critical at all — it’s just saying that you can help them do something that it makes sense someone in that role would be helping them do. Critical would be if you wrote, “Your Twitter presence is piddling and needs serious revamping” or “I can tell you haven’t paid much attention to your Twitter account.” Don’t do that, but what you’re suggesting is fine.