short answer Saturday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday. Here we go…

1. Boss has female coworker make his lunch every day

I wanted to know if it is illegal when the boss is making a woman in the office make his lunch everyday? He gives her money and she prepares it at home and then has to bring it to him. I think it is sexiest and ridiculous.

Is he requiring her to do this as part of her job? Or did she agree to do it of her own volition? If she agreed to do it because she enjoys cooking and likes the extra money, it’s really between the two of them, just like if it were two equal-level coworkers doing this. But if she’d rather not be doing it, then it’s both weird and an abuse of power. There’s probably no legal issue, though, unless it’s part of a larger pattern of treating people differently based on what sex they are.

2. Arguing with company over exit plan

I need to quit my job because my family is moving. I spoke with my manager about possibly working remotely during the transition to make it easier on the company and myself. My husband will be starting Monday in the new location and I will have to manage getting my two small children to daycare, picking up, etc. for two weeks by myself. The problem is that my commute is between 1-1.5 hours each way. I’m an engineer so 8 hour days are generally regarded as the bare minimum. I don’t like the idea of my kids being in daycare so many hours a day. So the working remotely would have helped by saving a lot of travel hours and keeping the same work hours.

The company agreed to allow me to work remotely only if I give them a resignation letter terminating my employment as of December 22nd (the last day of work for the year). They are basically asking me to forfeit my holiday pay and the benefits that renew at the beginning of the year. They have indicated that they would be interested in continuing working with me on a contract basis until they can find a replacement in the new year but have not given may any details of what that arrangement might look like. What are my options? Can they force me out even if I refuse the deal to deny me that extra week of pay?

Yes. They can set your last day for whenever they’d like. They’re not required to let you work remotely or let you determine your last day. However, since they want you to work on contract after that, one relevant factor is who wants that more — you or them. If it’s more important to them (for continuity purposes), you may be able to negotiate a better deal for yourself in exchange for continuing on contract after that. But as in any negotiation, success will hinge on who’s more willing to walk away.

3. Coworker told me she’s fudging her application for a job in my department

A position opened in my department at work. I recommended to a coworker and friend in another department that she should apply. I previously consulted with this person on small projects, and she appeared knowledgeable and responsible. In fact, we became friends through these work contacts. My friend appreciated my recommendation and arranged a meeting to ask me more details about the work done by my department. My friend stopped by my desk today to thank me for my help, because the application was long and detailed. She told me that some of the information she included on the application was not entirely accurate and that some of her work experience did not match the job requirements and needed to be reworded for a better fit. I know this is wrong so I want to know what I do or how I talk to my manager about it.

Tell her that she’s put you in an awkward position by involving you in her inaccurate application, and that you have both ethical and practical qualms about continuing to help her — ethical because misrepresenting herself is wrong, and practical because you could be implicated by association (and because you presumably want someone in that job who’s qualified). Whether or not you talk to your manager is up to you, but personally I’d give the manager a heads-up about the situation.

4. How can I ask my boss to give me a new office?

I’ve been working in IT at a university library for close to 6 months now, and due to my boss retiring and the other systems analyst moving up into his job, I am the next most “senior” person in the office. Due to a space issue when I started, I was set up in a small windowless room with my back to the door. I’m not very concerned about people seeing what’s on my screen, but I do have a problem with people sneaking up behind me and startling me, and generally distracting me from work. Since the other analyst moved up (nobody was brought in from outside), I was hoping I could set up shop in the now-vacant office across the hall. How would I ask my manager for this without seeming “ambitious,” in the sense that I’ve only been here six months and I’m already making demands? Good reasons for moving me that I’ve come up with so far include the ability to shut my door and really concentrate on work without people walking up and starting a conversation, natural lighting (easier on the eyes), and not being startled when someone taps me on the shoulder while I’m concentrating on work.

Just ask your boss. Really. There’s nothing inappropriate about saying, “Now that Jack’s office is vacant, I’d love to move into it if that’s an option.” Done.

5. How to handle a coworker’s comments on people’s personal lives

I have a colleague with a rather “old-fashioned” view on things, at least sometimes. For example, if someone from the department gets married, she will make comments like “and when are you going to have children?” or “it won´t be long until she gets pregnant.” Maybe I would like to get married one day, but I am anticipating my colleague starting to “monitoring” me because she would now expect me to start “breeding.” This really stresses me out and I can´t believe I´m letting this person have this effect on me. What is the best way to handle a colleague like this?

Ignore her. Or shut her down by saying, “That’s a personal question” or “That’s none of our business” or so forth. Don’t let her continue this kind of thing unchecked, when you can speak up.

6. Putting a QR code on my cover letter

I have a website where employers can go to see my reel. I tried to show a little creativity in my cover letter recently and added a QR code at the bottom that would take them directly to my site with their smart phone. Is that over doing it a little? I already tell them the link to my site in the last paragraph.

It won’t hurt, but be aware that the vast majority of people have no idea what QR codes are or what to do with them.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Elaine*

    For #4, if he is unable to move his office, I’d suggest investing in a small blindspot mirror to attach to the corner of his monitor. I did this when I was in an office where my back was to the door & I had a boss who thought it was fun to startle me (in a fun way, not a mean way). With the blindspot mirror, I could see when someone stopped at my door while concentrating on my work so that I would not let out a yelp of startlement when they tapped me or even started talking to me. Blindspot mirrors are small and lightweight, so they are easy to attach to the corner of a monitor or a nearby wall.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      There is no “fun” way to be startled, especially at work.

      Just a comment from the peanut gallery.

  2. JT*

    On the QR code: to look good, it has to be done in a way that appears to be part of stationery, and that’ll be tricky unless other contact info is near it.

    I’ve been doing some thinking/work about QR codes in the course of re-designing stationery for my organization, and we decided against it – it seems superfluous and distracted too much from the letter. We are adding them to the backs of our business cards (with full contact info encoded) and also put them on the back covers of some print materials. But on letters it may look bad.

    1. Jen M.*

      Now THAT is a cool idea! (QR code on the backs of business cards!)

      I may consider doing that when I re-do my own business cards!

  3. Karthik*

    QR code: maybe, but…(and this is a question for you), don’t most HR people look at resumes while sitting at a computer (or ON a computer)? The QR code requires pulling out a phone, opening up the QR app…seems like making the link clickable is the best solution.

    1. Jen M.*

      I get the sense that this person is in the creative field, possibly in show business, because they refer to a “reel.” In those fields, a reel is a necessary part of the application process. (It’s called a “sizzle reel” by some.)

  4. Mari*

    I can’t help but wonder if the female coworker mentioned in the first question is the woman whose boss was eating her lunches (and she decided to make him his own for some extra cash!).

  5. Katie*

    I think the addition of a QR code to a resume or cover letter can be a positive, depending on the type of job you apply for. I work for a mobile app developer, and we’ve had candidates that have included QR codes embedded on their resumes, which gives a good initial impression of a tech-minded person.

    1. Katie*

      Agreed. I think it really depends on the field. If you’re in tech or social media, it’s probably a good idea. If you’re a librarian, maybe not.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        I dunno…the way librarians like to jump on every web 2.0 and 3.0 bandwagon, it might be a real winner. ;)

      2. anonymous*

        I have a QR code on my business card, and I want to be a librarian. :) Librarians can be very tech- and social-media savvy.

        Now, if I were applying for a position with the Amish…

      3. Lils*

        Actually, librarians would be *all over this*…except we librarians also know that QR codes are only useful for products seen/handled away from a computer: business cards, flyers, print portfolios, or presentation materials at a conference. If the OP needs to hand out paper copies of the resume/cover letter, a QR code would be well appreciated by a small, tech-savvy minority. If it’s an electronically submitted letter, I wouldn’t bother.

  6. Matt*

    Good point Karthik. I’ll probably just use the QR code with my hard copy applications. Thanks all.

  7. Piper*

    #5- I used to have a coworker like this at a previous job. He used to ask any woman who got pregnant if she was planning to stay at home with the baby. Most said no, and he would then inform them that he thought that was wrong and a woman belonged at home raising the kids. This was the same guy who also told a Chinese coworker that “all you people look alike.” And our boss knew about all this. I don’t know how this joker still has a job.

    #6 I work in digital marketing and I use a QR code in my resume because in my field, it makes sense. If I worked in, say, nursing, I would leave it off.

    But I the real point of a QR code is to take them somewhere they couldn’t necessarily get to otherwise (or it would take several clicks into your website to find), and to give them valuable information after they get there. The fact that you also point them to the same place in a paragraph on your resume makes the QR code redundant and sort of pointless.

    1. Piper*

      Sorry, didn’t mean for that last sentence to sound so abrupt! Was typing fast and not really paying attention! Anyway, my point was to make sure your QR code is worth the effort for the person reading your resume.

      1. Matt*

        Don’t worry. Your point was informative. I pretty much don’t get offended by anything, so being abrupt is perfect for me.

    2. That HR Girl*

      Oh lord… I had an associate at my previous company who gaffed like this all the time.
      We had a visitor from a corporate partner who had a traditionally hispanic last name, and an ethnic pronunciation of her first name. He actually asked her (in front of me) “What an interesting name, where are you from” and when she responded “California” he said “No, I mean like where are you FROM? And how old were you when you came here? When did you start speaking English”? She responded (annoyed, of course) that she was actually born in the US, but has an accent from growing up with spanish-speaking family members.

      I had to explain to him (later, in private) that not everyone with ethnic-sounding names and accents are from outside the United States. Oy.

      Also, go figure that this associate later left the company (thank god) and relocated to Texas. LOL

  8. Kim Stiens*

    As far as QR codes, especially since, as OP says, they’re planning on only using it in hard copy cover letters, is to just have a personal business card that has one on it, and paperclip it to the cover letter. I love business cards, and I feel like applicants who include them are somehow more professional than others (but it’s moot considering that most employers do electronic resumes now).

  9. JT*

    QR codes are going to “make sense” in many forms of print communications in a few years. The growth in their use is huge.

  10. Abby*

    I am not a payroll expert, but I am wondering about that company that is requiring the employee to leave and give up end of year pay or holiday pay or bonuses in order to work from home. They don’t have to allow her to work from home of course, but there are laws about getting rid of an employee with timing to keep from paying an end of year bonus, etc. This comes awfully close.

    1. That HR Girl*

      I think this is one of those things we like to think there are laws about, when there really are not. It’d be a great question for AAM’s legal guru.
      And even then – this is a voluntary separation on the part of the employee. It’s not like they are actually taking the action of terminating her to avoid paying a bonus.
      Should the employer be forced to keep an employee on for extra time, who has resigned? I’m sorry but I don’t feel bad for this OP. I think AAM’s advice was spot-on – use the whole contracting thing as a point of negotiation. If they piss you off over this, you don’t have to continue working for them. It all depends on who wants it more.

      1. fposte*

        Bonuses are apparently a complicated legal field (there are issues just of categorization, discretionary vs. nondiscretionary), but yes, an employer can actually get into legal trouble for circumventing payout of a bonus in some situations.

        No idea of this is one of them (not only is this an employee-initiated separation, a bonus wasn’t actually mentioned here–just “holiday pay,” which could be payment for the period the office is closed), but it’s certainly a problem employers would do well to be aware of.

        1. Anonymous*

          I know it’s not a legal issue, but I wonder what the thinking is for an employee waiting until after their end of year bonus to resign.

          Strictly speaking, I don’t think it’s unethical, because the bonus is given for work done – not in anticipation of the coming year.

          But knowing that the employer might not be as generous if the resignation came December 1st rather than January 1st makes me wonder if it’s a little skeevy or I’m just over thinking it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s something you could argue either way. The bonus is indeed a reward for work well done, but it’s also a motivator for the coming year. I think it’s okay to get your bonus before resigning though.

  11. Interviewer*

    re #2 – Forfeiting holiday pay and benefits may seem like a big deal, but you are trading them for the ability to work from home and save the money/time on your commute expenses.

    Keep in mind that contractors generally have a much higher hourly rate than employees, because they are expected to cover their own taxes, benefits, etc. out of that rate. The company is still saving money by paying you more per hour than when you were employed, because they don’t have to pay for your benefits.

    The key is to find that sweet spot. Do the math, figure out what COBRA will cost, and how to cover both sides of your FICA, and what other benefits you’ll have to pay for out of pocket during the transition. Try to come up with an hourly rate that keeps you whole, but be prepared to negotiate on this rate if you really want the work.

    Also, ask them to put your agreement in writing so you both can sign off on it before starting the work. Even things like when are your paydays – when payroll stops handling your check and Accounts Payable picks it up, it might not be a good thing for you.

    1. Anonymous*

      I had a similar thing happen when I quit my last job. They put my last day at Aug 30, which meant no Labor Day pay. I just asked them to cover COBRA for September in exchange for the holiday, and since they wanted me to consult with the folks taking over my projects, they went for it.

      As a thought, the consulting ended up going on for a year, so giving up the holiday pay definitely paid off. I’d still be working for them, probably, but after a year I ended the arrangement. Too many late nights…

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