It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Our personality types are hung on a wall and being shared outside our division
Every year over the last five years, the head of my division has conducted an off-site retreat for my team of 15. The primary focus of the retreat is to take personality tests and figure out how our different work styles mesh. Even five years later, I actually enjoy this exercise as it gives me much to think about in how I approach members of my team with different personality types.
This year at our offsite, a chart was drawn up and everyone’s personality types and corresponding initials were dotted on a spectrum. The problem vis-a-vis other years is that now this chart is hung in our office for everyone to see, even colleagues who are not in our division. A colleague also asked to have copies made so everyone could have one in their offices. I feel uncomfortable with both of these situations and have voiced my concerns as such, saying that I feel like I’m being pigeon-holed into a certain type and this isn’t anyone else in our organization’s business. Am I being overly sensitive (which according to the test, could be a personality trait of mine)?
I’d be pretty put off by it too, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It’s not the biggest workplace invasion of privacy ever, but it’s still taking fairly personal information about you and making it more public than you signed up for.
I’d say this: “I find the personality information useful and interesting, but I’d rather our types not be circulated around the broader office or hung on the wall. It feels too much like being reduced to a type, especially with people who weren’t part of the initial exercise. I’d like to remove it from the wall, if that’s okay.”
2. I anonymously paid some customers’ bills — and my company told me not to do it again
I’ve worked at a company for four years. We provide recurring services to customers. In that time, I’ve come to know certain customers fairly well. I recently decided to anonymously pay two customers’ account balances, as I know they had fallen on hard times. I didn’t want them receiving any extra collection calls on top of their already tough times. I’ve done this before, on an anonymous basis, with other companies to help friends in need and have never been denied paying by those companies. I’ve also had some of my various bills paid anonymously.
Nobody at my company asked me to pay the bill, but when managers caught wind of what I’d done, they asked that I don’t do it again. I wasn’t trying to keep it secret from my employer, I just didn’t think to ask their permission.
I will not pay a balance again, but my employer seemed oddly upset, to the point where I feel I did something wrong. Could my paying off collection accounts hurt my employer?
I’m interested to hear other opinions on this, but I can see where they’re coming from. While you see this as something you did as a private individual, your employer sees you as a representative of the company (which is fair, especially since you knew the account information because of the work you do). So it’s not really as simple as “I paid a stranger’s bill.” To your company, it’s more like “a company rep — therefore, sort of the company — paid the bill.”
That can cause problems because it’s possible that other customers will ask for the same assistance (not realizing that it didn’t come from the company but from an individual person) or that the same customers may ask for help again in the future. They could also be worried about unfairness — that “the company” helped out Customer X but not Customer Y who’s in a bad situation too (maybe even a worse one). That could even lead to bad PR at some point — for example, imagine if the story got reported as “Teapots Inc. zeroed out the bill of a well-off customer who fell on hard times, but refused to help a low-income widow.”
Basically, your company has to think about this from a broader perspective that can make things more complicated. But what you did was really nice, and I doubt your company is going to hold it against you as long as you comply with their request in the future.
3. I know my interviewer from high school
Your cover letter and resume tips have landed me a phone interview next week with a great company! The only problem is, the person I will be speaking with is someone I went to high school with and vaguely know, but am not sure if they are also aware that we went to high school together. For reference, we graduated in 2009, had one class together, and I don’t think ever spoke with one another. I’m exceptionally good with names and faces, which is why I recognized their unique name. Since I was very quiet in high school, I doubt I stood out to them.
If this was an in-person interview, I would probably mention it, but since this will be on the phone, do I bring it up? Do you think this connection will harm or help me?
You’ll get different advice from different people on this because there’s no one right answer, but personally, I wouldn’t bring it up. Unlike some interviewers, I’m actually less likely to want to hire someone I know — even someone I know only a little bit — because I think it brings a bunch of potential complications (like the awkwardness if they get hired and then don’t work out). So if I were interviewing someone I went to high school with, I’d be extra rigorous about ensuring that they met a really, really high bar before I moved them forward in the process. I am almost certainly in the minority on this though.
4. How should I handle this post-pregnancy policy that will ask about past drug use?
When I was in college (specifically, this was around 2010-2011), I smoked marijuana a couple of times (literally, two). When I overslept for an 11 a.m. work shift, I figured I’d probably had enough of that. Although I don’t think it should be illegal, I have not used it since.
Fast forward to now. I’m a chemistry degree holder in a rural area where the job opportunities for chemists are few and far between. I am currently employed as an admin with my state government. Let’s just say it’s not California and it’s not terribly marijuana-friendly. I saw a job posting for our State Highway Patrol for a criminalist position, for which I appear qualified according to the job posting. It’s a significant pay increase with similar hours and benefits to my current position. I think I have a real chance at the job.
However, after I submitted my application, I read another posting with more details about the position. Turns out, they do a polygraph test as a matter of routine, and they list the areas covered, which includes “past and current illegal drug usage.” I’m not considering lying on the polygraph, as that’s a matter of integrity, not to mention I’m not a great liar and would certainly be caught due to my stress level.
Here’s the rub: I’m five months pregnant, and the posting explicitly states that pregnant candidates will not be tested until after the birth of the baby (that’s around July for me). So in theory, I could be hired in the position without this ever coming up; but then they would come back and do the test later, and of course I could be fired. I feel like I should bring this up proactively, probably at the offer stage, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Or should I just pull out of the hiring process altogether? I don’t necessarily want this information to get back to my state agency either.
My understanding of how this works — at least for security clearances — is that you can get in trouble if you lie about it and they find out about it later, but that you’re very, very unlikely to be denied the job for just telling the truth and admitting that you smoked pot twice years ago. (Otherwise far fewer people would be able to get a security clearance.)
I’d say this at the offer stage: “Since my polygraph won’t be until after July because of my pregnancy and I don’t want this to cause problems down the road, I want to be up-front with you about the fact that I used marijuana twice in college, and it’s something I imagine will come up on the polygraph. Obviously, I shouldn’t accept the job if that will end up being an issue. What’s the best way to proceed?”
5. Update: Minimizing the impact of my medical condition on coworkers
I wrote in recently asking about talking to my employer about a chronic medical condition. I thought my boss was concerned with me calling off sick so much, but he actually said it’s fine for me to call in and the main thing causing problems was the days I come in unable do an acceptable job. From now on, I’ll be quicker to call in sick when I actually need to. I also talked to a doctor about symptom management, and started a medication that’s really improved my quality of life and work. Thanks to you and the commenters for the good advice!