one of my employees hit another, using a work printer for personal use, and more by Alison Green on October 9, 2014 It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go… 1. I’m on vacation and getting reports that one employee hit another While I am on vacation, I received a call from one employee claiming that another employee had an argument with her that led to a physical assault. (Police were called.) The alleged assailant denies that she hit the other employee, but a witness says it was an assault. Do I fire the aggressor now, wait until I am back from vacation (I am out of the country), or try to work it out? It is a very small office (4 employees) and the victim says she can’t work with the aggressor anymore. This is obviously a culmination of smaller interactions that I am unaware of. One employee assaulting another is a big enough deal that ideally you’d do at least some preliminary investigation from where you are so that you can deal with it right away rather than waiting until you’re back. But if that’s not realistic, I’d put the alleged assailant on leave until you return and can investigate what actually happened. 2. My coworker emailed something crazy to our new boss and made it look like I was part of it My organization of nine people is getting a new director. I am on a smaller team within the organization, consisting of only me and one other person. Since they have announced who the new director is, my coworker from my team took it upon himself to email the incoming new director and tell him to not listen to the associate director. I was copied on this email and also included in my coworker’s suggestion to meet with him, so I’m afraid it looks like we are both in on this message. I do not feel that the email was professional, especially not the part complaining/warning the new director about the associate director. I do have concerns there, but this is not the way I would have addressed it. What should I do? I’m hesitant to email the new director in a way because I feel it will add to the drama. I can sit back and hope he knows to not take this other person’s word as mine. However, I tend to be overly non-confrontational, so I am wondering if that is just the introvert in me talking and a more direct approach is needed. What on earth is your coworker thinking?! Even if he’s right about the associate director, there’s no faster way to make himself look like the problem than sending an inappropriate message like this to someone who isn’t even his boss yet. I do think it’s worth you clearing it up. Do it as calmly and concisely as possible, but I’d clearly state that you have nothing to do with it. For instance, in your shoes I might say, “Jane, please don’t take my inclusion on this message as indicating agreement. I’m not sure why I was included on it. Separately, I’m looking forward to working with you!” Although ugh, even that feels like too much drama, so now I’m second-guessing myself. Maybe it’s better to wait until your new boss starts and clear it up then. Or even better, force your coworker to clear it up for you, since it’s his mess. I’d also have a word with that coworker and tell him not to drag you into things without your explicit consent. 3. Is it normal to address people differently based on age? Is it normal that, via email, I address people differently at work according to age? For instance, to a VP who’s 30 years older than I am, I’ll say, “Hi, Jessica.” But for someone in my age group, I’ll start with “Hey John.” I also tend to be more casual in emails to people in my age group. Is this normal, or something I should watch out for? I don’t think “hey” versus “hi” is a big deal. If it’s coming out in bigger ways though (like first names versus last names or the overall feel of the way you talk to people), that’s worth paying attention to. 4. With at-will employment, can my employer ask me to commit for a year? I work part-time as an instructor in an after-school program, and my boss told me that in order to for me to brought back as an instructor, I would need to guarantee her I would not leave any time throughout the year. I could have lied, but I also understood why she said that because of the challenges she faces with having to monitor so many students. I told her I could not guarantee it and took on the role of substitute instructor. I want to know, though, if what she was asking me was actually legal, because I felt pressured into giving her an answer I wasn’t comfortable with. I am in California, and I know this is an at-will state, so my understanding is that she can’t guarantee me a job for the whole year any more than I can guarantee her I will be there. Am I right? Nope. At-will employment just means that, absent a contract to the contrary, you can be let go from your job at any time for any reason (other than specifically illegal reasons, such as because of your race or religion) without notice and you can quit at any time without notice. But it doesn’t mean that your boss can’t promise you employment for a specific period of time, or extract such a promise from you. Either of you is free to make such promises to the other if you choose to do so. 5. Using a work printer for personal use How much can we use our workplace printer for personal use? Depends on the norms in your workplace. In most offices, printing a few pages for personal use isn’t a big deal, but printing something lengthy or intensely personal would be. 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