It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. I haven’t told my employer I don’t have a car
I’ve been working in a new job as an assistant for a few months. Due to a few different circumstances, I don’t have a car, but recently, I found a coworker who I can carpool with. However, my employer has asked me a few times to run errands for him. In order to run these errands, I’ve been using Uber and just swallowing the cost.
Today I was asked to do an errand, but was unable to do it due to my carpool situation. As a result, this drew another employee away from the office. Later, he expressed that I needed to bring my car in for occasional errands.
Is it appropriate for me to mention my transportation situation? They just assumed that I have a car, and never asked me; I also don’t have to do it very often. But I don’t want that to put my job at risk in any way.
You have to explain that you don’t have a car! You absolutely shouldn’t be using Uber and paying for it yourself and letting them believe you have a car (which will just lead to more of these requests). It’s going to be weirder now than it should be because when your colleague asked you to bring your car in, you didn’t take the opportunity to say right then, “Actually, I don’t have a car.” But you still need to say it! Go talk to your manager and say, “I wanted to mention to you that I don’t don’t have a car. I used Uber the few other times you asked me to run errands, not realizing it would be a regular thing, but since it sounds like it will be, I wanted to mention it. I’d be glad to take a cab when we need errands run if I can expense it, but I’m not sure you’d want me to do that.”
It really shouldn’t put your job at risk since you say the need is only occasional. (I mean, it shouldn’t put it at risk regardless because if a car was a job requirement, they should have told you that up-front, but you especially shouldn’t need to worry about it in this case.)
2. I’ve learned that my mentee isn’t a very good person
I recently left a manager job where my duties included hiring recent college graduates and training them in my field (there’s a shortage of talent in my field in the city I live in). One guy really took to the job, and I think he could have a bright future in our industry. He eventually got a much better job somewhere else, and I wished him well and offered to continue being a mentor to him.
When he worked for me, I got the sense in one-on-one chats that he was kind of arrogant and tended to be negative and critical in his judgments of other people. The quality of his work was good, though, and he was a good collaborator who everyone liked working with, so other than mentioning it as an area to work on, I didn’t have to take any other action as his manager.
Now that neither of us works for the company anymore, I’ve hung out with him several times with other former coworkers. I think he feels he can let the “mask” slip now that we don’t work together anymore, and frankly, I’m starting to think he’s a horrible person. He seems to openly despise anyone he feels isn’t as smart as he is, and is vehemently anti-religion, so will spend time spewing invective about many of our former coworkers (most of whom are perfectly nice, normal people). This is a really ugly side of him and not something I want to be around.
If this happened with someone I just knew socially, I would just stop hanging out with him. I know that he sees me as a mentor and looks up to me, though. If someone called me for a reference, I think it would be appropriate for me to keep my comments to what I knew about what he’s like to work with, not how he is as a person. Knowing what I know now, though, I wouldn’t hire him to work for me again – and I’d be hesitant to do much to introduce him to my pretty substantial network of industry contacts. Do I owe it to him to talk to him about this?
I don’t think you owe it to him, and if you’d prefer to just distance yourself, I think that’s fine. But I also think that you’d be doing him a service if you did choose to say something. (Ideally, it could have been in the moment when he made those comments, but there’s no reason you can’t do it now.)
Frankly, I also think it would be reasonable to factor this into future references. The knowledge you gained of him after you stopped working together is perfectly fair game for references; you’re not obligated to endorse someone who you now think is an awful person. But even leaving that aside, while you worked together you observed that he was “arrogant and tended to be negative and critical in his judgments of other people.” That’s relevant information that most reference-checkers would want to hear (along with the fact that the quality of his work was good — and then let them decide how much to weigh each factor). So if you think he’s likely to provide your name as a reference, I’d definitely err on the side of talking with him and sharing your concerns.
3. Fired employee keeps getting lots of personal email at his old work account
After a member of our team was fired, I was given the task of managing his projects. Since a big chunk of that is communicating with customers, I took over his old email mailbox and monitor it for correspondence that I might need to answer.
Here’s the thing. He apparently used this email for personal reasons too– I keep getting emails from his lawyer, family members, doctors, accountant, plaintiffs in legal cases, and exes suing for child support. This despite having an auto-reply saying “this email account is no longer active”– I still get repeated pings from the same people, with increasing urgency.
This a) is super awkward and makes me feel like a creepy voyeur even if the only thing I read is the teaser line from Outlook, and b) kinda makes me want to reply to some of these to let them know that he doesn’t have access to it and other people do, and maybe send them his forwarding address or forward it to him. I mean, there are HIPAA violations, violations of lawyer confidentiality, etc. Plus I don’t bear the guy any ill will and feel like it might be a problem that he’s missing these. My boss does bear the guy ill will, so if I ask he’ll say don’t bother, but he won’t care either way. What would you do?
I’d write back and say “Joe no longer works here, so please stop sending emails to this address.” Alternately, if it’s not a huge pain, I might send the email from your own address so they know it’s not just Joe pretending not to work there in order to avoid his exes.
I don’t think I’d get into providing his new address (unless you have his permission) or forwarding him the messages.
Also, is there any legitimately work-related email coming into that account still? If not, you might just have the whole account turned off, so that people who email it get a bounce message saying that their email was undeliverable (and so you don’t have to sort through these messages anymore).
4. My boss asked me what my goals are, and I have no idea
My boss asked me today to write down some professional goals for furthering my career, and I am totally stuck. I currently work as a program coordinator for a nonprofit (and I love it), but the position is temporary and will only be for the next year. Since I am new to the workforce, my boss really wants to mentor me and help me along … which is awesome, but I don’t know what I should want to improve on. I’ve been working here for a year and have never really had a performance review, so besides what can be achieved through self-reflection, I don’t know what/if benchmarks I’m not reaching. Any direction on this would be greatly appreciated!
Actually, this is a great thing to discuss with your boss in response to his request. You could say something like this: “Since I’m at the start of my career, I feel like I don’t yet have a good handle on what goals for myself at this stage might look like. I’d love your guidance on what I should be thinking about since I’m not sure where to even start, but I like the idea of doing some work to figure it out.” (That last part is there so that it’s clear you’re not just punting, but genuinely asking for advice.)
Also, keep in mind that this kind of thing isn’t necessarily about what benchmarks you’re not currently reaching. That could be part of it, but don’t limit yourself to thinking of deficiencies; think about strengths you’d like to build too, and what kind of professional path you’d like to set yourself up to follow.
5. Taking dessert home when someone treats you to lunch
When a friend treats me to lunch at a restaurant, is it proper to order a dessert to take home, when I’m full and cannot eat it there?
I don’t think this is a work question, but I’ll answer it anyway: No, that would be rude. Your friend invited you to share a meal with her; it wasn’t an offer to buy you food for later. (Of course, if your friend says, “Please get something and take it with you for later,” you can take her up on that — but you’d need to wait for her to offer it.)