It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Employee wants her husband to hang out in our office for hours every day
I have a coworker who lives a good distance away from the office (a 1.5 hour commute), and as a result, she carpools with her husband to and from work each day. Her husband was recently laid off, but is still driving her to and from work each day. My coworker is now requesting that he be allowed to “hang out” in the office for a couple hours in the morning in order to allow time for traffic to die down, so his return trip home is not as difficult. This would apparently include afternoons, as well, in that he would arrive early and stay in the office until they are ready to depart for home.
We are a relatively small office of 6-7 employees, so his presence would not go unnoticed. While I don’t believe he would cause too much distraction, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for non-staff individuals to occupy a spot in the office during business hours on a fairly consistent basis (until he finds a new job? that could well be months). I’m worried it would also set a precedent for others in the office, should they too wish to have a spouse, relative, or friend come into the office for extended periods. I’m not unsympathetic to the commuting aspect they both endure, but I don’t feel the company is responsible for providing them a place to hang out; surely he can spend his time at a local coffee house, bookstore, or restaurant versus in the office of company he’s not employed at? Am I being too harsh in this opinion?
Nope, I think you’re being totally reasonable. Having an employee’s spouse hang out in the office every day for three or four hours (!) would be pretty weird and likely to be a distraction. It’s entirely reasonable for your company to say, “Sorry, we’re not set up to accommodate that, but hopefully he can find a bookstore or coffee shop nearby.”
2. Can I use my work laptop to job search during non-work hours?
I don’t currently have a personal laptop. Mine died after college, and since then I’ve always had company-issued laptops, and iPads and whatnot have covered anything I need for personal use. I’m getting ready to job hunt, and I’m wondering if it would be a major risk to try job searching (including saving and submitting cover letters and resumes) on my work laptop, as long as I’m doing it at home and outside of work hours. If it makes any difference, I work for a nonprofit and I doubt they will check up on it, but I feel like that’s not the point. I really have no reason to buy a personal laptop.
Don’t do it. First, it’s possible that they will somehow come across your job search materials saved there. If they do, they won’t know that you only used it for job searching during non-work hours, and it’s going to look terrible. It’s the kind of thing that would instantly impact people’s assessment of your professionalism and judgment. Why risk that?
Second, using your employer’s resources to facilitate a search for work somewhere else is just a tacky thing to do. You’re basically using their property to subsidize your job search. You may not have had a reason to buy a laptop before, but it sounds like now you do (or you could use libraries, etc.).
3. My boss keeps telling people “we share one brain”
My boss constantly says to both me and our entire organization that “we (she and I) share one brain.” While I understand that she thinks she is complimenting me, I find it somewhat demeaning. I have my own brain, and I use it frequently to create successful strategies to acquire new business and retain those who currently support us. In fact, a vast majority of the time, my strategies, plans and tactics are utilized for our department with great success, but again she tells everyone that while I created the strategy, she was thinking the exact same thing since we “share one brain.”
I feel like she will be very hurt if I ask her not to mention the “one brain” thing again, but I’d also like to forge my own identity and demonstrate my skills. How should I approach this issue?
Honestly, I’d try to just let it go if you can. It’s unlikely that any of your coworkers actually think you share one brain, and it’s probably clear to anyone who works with you closely that you’re generating plenty of ideas and strategies from your single-occupancy brain. It’s unlikely her “one brain” comments are landing in a way that would be at all harmful to you, whereas asking her to cut this out comes with the risk of landing poorly with her.
That said, if you’re committed to addressing it, I’d say, “I’d be honored to share a brain with you, Jane, but that expression actually drives me batty.” Or, if you want more substance in your objection, you could say: “I really appreciate that we’re so frequently on the same page, but I worry that saying we share a brain ends up inadvertently minimizing the work I do, especially to people who don’t work closely with me. It’s probably silly, but it’s on my mind so I wanted to mention it.” You could leave off that last sentence if it annoys you on principle, but that kind of thing can make awkward messages easier for people to receive.
4. My references don’t actually know much about my work
I have been reading your blog for months, and I credit it for getting me to the final round of my dream job. My dream job wanted three references who were/are direct supervisors. The thing is that I am an attorney who has worked at the same firm for nearly 10 years. I only have two actual supervisors, and really very little oversight. My bosses are busy, and one tends to only get involved in my work if there is an issue, which luckily is very rare in my case.
Anyway, I provided these two people as requested and for a third reference provided a very senior coworker who actually is familiar with my work, probably more so than my supervisors. I explained that the senior coworker was not technically my supervisor but is familiar with my work.
My bosses were both contacted, and my coworker was not. The HR person called me yesterday because she had an additional question for one of my bosses that she forgot to ask and he wasn’t returning her call. I gave my boss her phone number. My boss came to see me afterwards and said the HR person wanted to know about my analytical abilities and writing capabilities. He told her he didn’t really know and referred her to my other boss.
Both of these skills are critical for the job I am seeking. I am pretty shaken up, and I do not know what to do. My boss is probably being honest, as he has never read anything I have written, but I think he should have some idea if I have good analytical skills. If the job had asked simply for references, I would have provided coworkers who are actually familiar with my work and not even listed my bosses. And it was a huge deal for me to tell my bosses I am considering leaving and even ask for the reference in the first place. Should I contact the HR person and offer to provide more references? Is there any way I can correct this situation and avoid losing my prospective job? I have been actively seeking a job for two years, and this job is the closest I have come.
Yes, contact the HR person, explain again that your two current managers don’t interact much with your work, and offer to connect her to people who can.
It’s really normal for employers to only want to speak with managers as references, because generally managers are better positioned to really evaluate your work. In this case, though, that’s apparently not true — so just explain again and offer some ways that she can get the information she needs.
5. Rescheduling an interview because of a death in the family
I’m in the second round of interviews for a company that I really want to work for and for a job that would be an awesome opportunity to step into my career of choice. The company took the available times that I sent them and then gave me an interview time and date, which I confirmed. However, my great-grandmother passed away yesterday and I was notified this afternoon that the service will be held on the same day as the interview (the service is in my hometown, and I live two hours away in another state). I want to be with my family, but I’m afraid it’ll affect my chances of getting the job. What’s the best way to approach this?
This stuff happens. Email them right away and say that you’ve had a death in the family and the funeral is scheduled in X city for the same day as your interview, and ask if it’s possible to reschedule.
The majority of employers will be totally fine with rescheduling. Occasionally, you might encounter an employer who resists — possibly because they have legitimate scheduling constraints (for example, interviewers only all in town on that day), which they should explain, or because they’re overly rigid or just not that into you — but you if that happens, you can cross that bridge when you get to it. Most of the time, though, it’ll be fine.