It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Brusque coworker won’t say please and thank you
I’ve been at my position for about three years now. While my title is similar to department assistant, my actual responsibilities are less administrative and more systems related. I’ve been transitioning to higher level responsibilities, and my boss and I will be having a talk soon about a title change.
My coworker has been at her job for about 1.5 years. While she is technically “above” me, we report to different managers and she doesn’t supervise me. We do need to interact somewhat daily on various things (feedback on issues that might pop up, new orders to put in, etc.). My issue is that she never says “please” or “thank you.” She can be abrasive and abrupt, constantly interrupting not just me but other coworkers with stream of consciousness-type thoughts about work issues. While she does do it with other people, it doesn’t seem as though she’s as abrasive and short as when she does it with me. Possibly because they’re on the same level? It feels like I’m a check box and she’s just checking off something on her to do list.
Most of my coworkers in my department (95%) are really, really good about saying “please” and “thank you” when giving me information about processing information into our system. While they are technically giving me assignments, it doesn’t feel that way and feels like we’re teammates.
I don’t want to chase her down and ask, “Why don’t you say please and thank you?” because it’s more of a feeling of being lesser than just saying two phrases. I’m also not wanting her to make small talk just for the sake of small talk! In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a big deal, but I feel the need to say something to her. Do you have some scripts on what to say after something like this happens again?
I’d actually just try to let it go. You don’t really have standing to ask her to be less brusque (that’s more something her manager could ask her to do), and — rightly or wrongly — I think you’re going to come across as overly high maintenance if you ask for please and thank you. Yes, she should be saying them, but she’s not. I think you’ll get faster and better results by trying not to let it bother you than by getting into this with her.
If her behavior were more severe — if she was being hostile or abusive — that would be worth tackling. But this is just someone who tends to be short when she talks with you. I’d just write it off as her way, internally roll your eyes if you want, and not expend your own capital on it.
2. Is it reasonable to tell someone’s boss that they were speeding?
I am writing about something that happened a few years ago, but I always have wondered how i should have handled it. I was working for state government, and driving my personal car during work hours from one state facility to another, on a day that I was a part of a group being given tours of the facilities. When I arrived, one of the others on the tour (not from my office, from another branch of government) told me that he saw me going really fast on the expressway, and asked if I was driving a state car. I told him I was not. Then he told me that he was going to call the director of my agency and tell him that he saw me speeding. I just gave him a look. But how should I have responded? And he never called my director. But would that have been appropriate? Years later, I still feel like the whole exchange was ridiculous, but maybe he was in the right?
He was out of line. If you were driving recklessly (like going at a really high rate of speed, not just 10 miles over the speed limit), I do think he has standing — as a fellow member of the public who uses the roads — to say something like, “Hey, you passed me on the way here and I was concerned about how unsafely you seemed to be driving. Is everything okay?” But the way he handled it was obnoxious.
Also: Threatening to call the director of your agency? As in, a person who probably manages a huge organization that probably has hundreds, thousands, or (depending on the branch of government) tens of thousands of employees or more? He needs to formulate his threats better if he wants them to be convincing.
3. New accountant says I’m not eligible for a bonus
I have been employed at my current workplace for almost 4.5 years now. For the first four years, I was a part-time student. started in the back as a warehouse general laborer and received several promotions. Fast forward to now, I have graduated university and got put salary for the past six months as the senior purchaser and inventory analyst.
I have always felt my commitment and work ethic here has been much appreciated, as shown by promotions and responsibility increases. Every year since I began here, I received a very generous bonus, which was given around Christmas. This year, the program switched to a set value based on full-time salary years worked. I was always one of the only part-time employees in the company, but they kept me on due to my work ethic and commitment (as voiced to me by the president). The old head accountant had always known my situation and had my bonus handled accordingly. This year we got a new accountant and a new bonus program.
I was asking the new head accountant about health benefit payments and deductions, and the new retention program got mentioned. He voiced that since I have only been employed full-time for six months, I will receive nothing. This upsets me because I have been with the company 4.5 years and shown my commitment, and will receive nothing, whereas the new guy who has been here for one year plus a month will be receiving an “employee retention” payment of $1,200 (the new system sets rates that can be viewed by all employees). I have a very good relation with both the owner and the president of the company and would like to bring it up to them, but am unsure how.
Say this: “Fergus mentioned to me that I won’t receive a bonus this year since I’ve only been full-time for six months. I wanted to check with you if that’s correct, since I’ve received them for the last four years and was hoping to be eligible again this year.”
4. Negotiating a higher wage when traveling as a nanny
I’m relatively new to a position working with a lovely family. I’m primarily the nanny to their two small children but also handle some administrative tasks. This family travels a great deal for business, sometimes relocating to another city or even country for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at a time. As it’s been explained to me, these trips are fairly sporadic and come up without much notice. I’m not contracted, and as we discussed in the interview process, I’m not required to accompany the family if travel comes up; it’s something we’ll discuss if the time comes. For background, they didn’t travel at all last year, but made a few multi-week trips the year prior and hired locals to fill my current role, but they really like me so far (I’m fantastic at this job, I must say) and have expressed interest in me traveling with them.
Here’s my question: I’m paid hourly. I make a fairly decent wage, although other families in this wealthy neighborhood of our major city pay as much or more than I currently make, and I regret having low-balled myself when they first asked for my hourly rate. That’s on me, and it’s not really the issue.
I don’t look forward to traveling with the family, although I really like them and the job, but for financial reasons, I think I would have to take this work if they offered it. Assuming they would pay for travel and lodging (in the past they have rented houses, and I would be given a private room), can I ask for a higher hourly wage during travel? Despite having travel costs covered, this would be a major inconvenience and not enjoyable for me, as I really value my privacy and don’t relish the idea of uprooting my life for any period longer than a week or two. (I’m also not allowed to sublet my apartment while gone, by the way.) How much of a wage increase would be appropriate to ask for, if any? And how do I phrase this? I want to be ready with a response if this issue comes up, as I’m typically a people pleaser and I’m afraid I’ll agree to any arrangement they offer if put on the spot.
I think it’s totally reasonable to ask for a higher travel wage, given the disruption to your life during the time you’d be away. I don’t know what would be reasonable to ask for since I don’t know your field, but I bet you could get good data from other nannies or from nanny agencies. (Frankly, you could even ask them what they’ve paid in the past — “Did you pay a different travel wage with nannies in the past?”) You also probably should ask for more compensation for going away for a few months than for a week, since one is far more disruptive than the other.
Once you know what would make it worth it to you, I’d say it this way: “To make it financially feasible for me to be away that long, I think I’d need a travel wage of $X for the trip. Would that work on your end?”
5. Employer wants receptionist to suddenly start watering plants
For the past 10 years, our firm has had building maintenance or janitorial service people care for the watering of eight large planters, which are in the reception area of our company. Due to internal management issues, this service is no longer being carried out, and the responsibility is being placed on the receptionist to both care for and water all these large plants. This requires lugging water from a distance at least 5-7 trips, when answering the telephone, receiving visitors, and other administrational duties are a priority.
Is the receptionist legally obligated to perform this large task when it was never stipulated upon employment that this was part of the job?
Well, there’s no law in play here. Her employer has the legal right to assign her new responsibilities, even if it’s outside of her job description. She in turn has the right to push back and advocate for a different plan, or to decide that she no longer wants the job under these new conditions. No law prohibits either part of this exchange. In other words, the employer can require what it’s requiring, the receptionist can say “hmmm, can we work out a different plan because of ___?” and from there it’s up to them to see what, if anything, they can work out.
It sounds like you’re thinking there that might be some law that says your employer can’t assign you work outside of the job you were hired for, but there isn’t such a law. It’s pretty common for jobs and responsibilities to evolve — but a good employer will be receptive to at least talking over concerns about that (and certainly “this is keeping me from answering calls” is a legitimate thing to raise).