terse answer Thursday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions!  We’ve got whether you should still get per diem when you’re sick, getting reported for drinking at lunch, and more. Here we go…

1. How do I refer to my boss when talking to his son?

There have recently been some changes at my work, and as a result, my boss has temporarily brought in his son (who is on a break from school) to help out. I already know that there will be times when I am discussing something with the son, and will need to reference my boss in the conversation. The thing is, I’m not sure how exactly I should refer to him. What’s your opinion on using “your dad” vs. the boss’ actual name when talking to his son?

I’d use your boss’s name, just like you would if you were talking to any other employee, on the theory that you should treat the son as much like a real employee as possible. But I’m sure either would be fine.

2. Am I eligible for per diem when I’m sick?

I work out of town and receive a daily per diem. I contest that I am eligible for per diem payments when I am out of town, but cannot work because I am sick. Are my meals not paid for when I am sick and out of town? My boss is telling me he is not paying me, but I disagree. Can you clear this up for me?

No law requires that your employer offer you a per diem, so this is 100% up to the employer’s own policies. That said, it would make sense for them to pay you the per diem on those days, because the only reason you’re out of town is for work; you’re incurring extra expenses because of the travel that you’re doing on their behalf. Your boss is nickeling-and-diming you in a way that isn’t going to serve anyone’s interests.

3. I was reported for drinking at lunch

Unbeknownst to me, I was witnessed having a beer at lunch with a coworker. An employee from another department witnessed the drinks on our table and reported us to HR. The consequences resulted with a meeting with HR to let us know that according to the employee handbook, we cannot be “under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on business” and that we can be “terminated” if seen doing so again. Having read the handbook, it is concerning to me that someone who shares the same misery would find it necessary to report such an insignificant event. The meeting with HR was humiliating. They made me feel like I had committed a mortal sin. I have witnessed several coworkers have a drink over lunch and never even thought once that they were endangering themselves or the company. Do I have a legal case for bullying? It seems they have been “out to get me” lately and the creation of this file seems like evidence for firing in the near future.

You don’t have a case for legal case for bullying because (a) there’s no law against bullying and (b) even if there were, enforcing workplace policies doesn’t count as bullying. You might think that this is a silly policy, and you might think that your coworker who reported you is a twit, but those are separate issues.

4. Can I follow up with a hiring manager I met at a job fair?

I attended a job fair a couple weeks ago and had a nice conversation with a manager in a field that I am sincerely interested in. She gave me her card and I immediately sent an email thanking her for her time and reiterating my interest in the position. She wrote back saying that she was contacting HR so that she could get my file (I had already applied to the company) and that HR would contact me for an interview. It has been almost two weeks and I haven’t heard from HR. When is it ok for me to follow up? I don’t want to seem desperate or pushy, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity either. Any advice is much appreciated!

Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to wait before following up. Send her a short email reiterating your interest, mention politely that you haven’t heard from HR yet, and ask if she has a sense of their timeline.

5. Is it typical to take off work for the whole time a family member is hospitalized?

One of my tasks is writing the schedule for a group of shift workers. From time to time, someone’s relative will fall ill and require a stay in the hospital. Many workers have the expectation that if a family member is ill, they are expected to be at the hospital the entire time the family member is hospitalized. I know that the employees can do this because of FMLA, and I don’t want to stop it and couldn’t anyway. But I would like to know if this is an expectation in U.S. culture that I somehow missed. I have been through this with both parents, and I spent a lot of time at their side, but I also came in to work a lot. When I try to discuss this with other people, I get the blank stare, or the reply of “of course you stay by a sick relative’s side the whole time! What’s wrong with you?”

It depends on the family, the age of the relative, and the seriousness of what’s going on. If it’s a kid, or a seriously ill close adult relative, many people will stay the whole time.

6. How can I tell my boss to do her own work?

My boss frequently delegates work to me that I see as her duties, not mine. I am an administrative assistant to a realtor, and this weekend she had me write up a buyer’s contract, email it to him, and then email it to a seller’s agent all from home. These are obviously not in my vein of expertise, so how do I tell her to “do her own job”? Honestly, I’m not really comfortable working from home on the weekends, either, but that’s another battle.

That actually sounds like stuff that was perfectly appropriate to delegate to you. In fact, as an assistant, your job is usually what your boss delegates to you. I wouldn’t advise telling her to do her own work; instead, I’d advise changing your mindset about what your own work is.

On the issue of weekends, that’s probably unavoidable if you’re working in real estate, isn’t it?

7. Did I turn off this hiring manager by mentioning that I’m not legally able to drink?

I am a female in my junior year of college. Two days ago, I interviewed with a hiring manager at a local company for a paid internship position. He was an alum of my school, we had some contacts in common, he was smiling and joking and I thought it went pretty well. He told me that the office atmosphere was very casual (I could see that for myself, too) and the employees were all about having a fun working environment. He said that every week the company has a happy hour. And I blurted out, “Oh, I’m underage!” Not in a how-dare-you-ask-me-to-drink-alcohol way, but more in a oh-no-that’s-too-bad way. He looked slightly embarrassed and said, “Oh, I guess we’ll have you drink soda, then.”

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve been fluctuating between kicking myself for making that idiotic comment, and thinking that there really wasn’t anything too dumb about what I said, so I could really use an outsider’s perspective. What do you think? Did I turn off the manager because of that comment?

It’s very unlikely that you turned him off by that, unless he has some sort of really odd relationship to alcohol in the workplace. Put this out of your mind.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Kris

    #5
    Like Allison said it greatly depends on the closeness of the family and the relation. If I had a kid hospitalized you bet I’d be there the whole time even if I were to lose the job in the proccess. Also sometimes there is more to what is needed than just sitting in the hospital room helping take care of them such as taking care of business the person is too ill to take care of or helping take care of the sick person’s children.

    #7
    I think the idea of alcohol at work is odder than you mentioning you were underage. I’ve never worked anywhere that drinking or being under the influence of drink while at work was not against the rules. See #3.

      1. Josh S

        I worked in an office that regularly (once every month or two) would have a happy hour in the office. Everyone would leave their desk and hobnob for a while over beers. Some people would finish theirs back at their desks if they needed to complete a task before leaving for the weekend.

        In the office. During regular hours. Any/all were welcome to partake (or not).

        Drinking to excess was (strongly) discouraged, and I don’t remember anyone abusing the event. And people were likewise encouraged to take public transportation (in downtown Chicago, so this was common) or wait a while before leaving in a car.

        Then again, it was a British-owned company with a decent office in Chicago. So maybe the Brits’ lack of fear of alcohol helped contribute to the jolly atmosphere.

    1. Anon

      Years ago, an employee at a videogame company told me they have “beer” Fridays in the office. I have no idea how true that was or if it’s still true though. ;)

      1. kristinyc

        It’s really not that abnormal at tech startups in NYC. I’ve worked at several places that have beer in the fridge on Fridays. Usually no one busts out the beer until around 4 or 5 PM (and we usually leave at 6ish). But then, very few New Yorkers have to worry about driving home….

        1. jmkenrick

          This is relatively common at tech companies in the Bay Area as well. Several departments at my company have a mini-happy hour on Friday. (No one gets drunk or rowdy though. It’s all pretty grown-up.)

          1. Elizabeth

            Yup, I know several large Bay Area companies that have a weekly happy hour-slash-whole company meeting. It’s optional, but it’s a time when, for example, the CEO might talk/answer questions about some new initiative.

        2. K.

          Or NYC PR firms and media companies. Drinks are common at both – at the PR firm where I used to work, we basically had in-house happy hour every Friday. You could drink or not, no pressure, but it was a standing thing. When I was media it wasn’t as regular, but there was booze at parties.

          1. Lauren

            It is practically mandatory at marketing agencies, and you are looked down upon if you don’t drink at the event or try to skip the event all together. The booze cruises sell out immediately, and people get so sloshed they are vomiting and falling over in front of CEOs, VPs, etc. Think Mad Men but 50 years later, the industry is full of drunks and people under 30 yrs old with no control. You are expected to work hard 60+hours then partake in all the bar hopping into the night almost every day. That is why most newer agencies are all young employees, because when you grow up (marriage / kids) everyone leaves agency life.

            1. moss

              …and that would explain all commercials to me. No wonder they seem to be targeted to Neandertals. They’re created by cavemen!

    2. A Bug!

      I work in a law office and every Friday when the office closes down the lawyers and legal assistants have a couple of glasses of wine, with soda available for anyone who prefers it. I understand that this is common at least in my area.

      I wouldn’t really use a law office as any sort of example of normal drinking behaviour, though.

      1. Anon

        My law firm does this every other Friday or so too. No pressure to drink – and not everyone does – but there’s always wine and beer.

    3. Anonymous

      I’ve had inside-the-office happy hour events at the last three places I’ve worked – a/e/c industry and graphic design firm. So I guess it’s common in professional services too.

    4. Long Time Admin

      I would rather leave early than stick around and drink with my co-workers.

      I can’t always choose who I work with, but I can choose who I drink with.

      1. Anon

        Conversely, I find that putting some effort into being friends with the people I’ll be spending 8 hours a day with, makes those hours more pleasant.

        Though some workplaces and people are just toxic, of course. Speaking personally, though, if I can’t have a pleasant drink with co-workers a couple of times a month, that’s a big sign it’s time for me to look for a new job.

    5. Anonymous

      I work in not-for-profit, and my boss keeps a couple of bottles of wine in the fridge (don’t worry, she purchases it out of her pocket) so that if we’re having a particularly stressful week (usually because of an upcoming fundraiser) we can sit and have a glass. This is always outside of work hours though (after we shut down the phones at 5pm) and is optional (the real kind of optional, no one is frowned upon if they choose to go home rather then stick around and have a drink)

      1. JT

        The office manager at a place I worked at used to bust out drinks many times when we were in the office past 8pm, doing work that would be checked the next day.

        I don’t drink so she’d say “More for me!”

  2. Anonymous

    #1 – Like AAM said, just treat him like you would anyone else. I work in a small law firm where two of the five attorneys are father and son, and nobody would know unless you told them.

    1. Josh S

      I would definitely call the boss by his first name rather than “Your Dad.” The simple reason is that, depending on the son/daughter, saying “your dad” all the time might feel like a slight to their abilities–as though you’re constantly just reminding them that they have the job because of the relationship, rather than due to any skill involved.

      If you call the boss “Jim” (or whatever), it gives the kid the respect of being treated as an adult (rather than just a relation), and gives the boss the respect of being spoken of professionally (rather than familial-ly).

      1. same anonymous

        ^ yes. This is what I was getting at, but I was typing on my smartphone and didn’t have the stamina ;)

      2. Anonymous

        My boss is the president of the company’s son. I refer to his dad by his first name

      3. VintageLydia

        Agreed. My husband worked with his dad for 10 years (starting at 13 doing things appropriate for 13 year olds. It’s a small production company so basic PA stuff like lugging equipment around.) As he got older, he learned more and by the time he was 17 or 18 he was a good audio guy, especially for his age. He ALWAYS referred to his dad by his name and nepotism was always a constant worry. He hated when people found out they were a father/son team because they automatically treated him differently and like he didn’t know what he was doing (even as he was fixing the work of other audio techs on a shoot or taking the iniative to look up instructions for new and complicated equipment on his phone instead of complaining that “I’ve never seen this before so I’m just not doing anything until you show me what every knob and button does!” like was common.)

    2. Anonymous

      Concur. It would be awkward if the son referred to your relationships rather than people when speaking to you, wouldn’t it? “Your coworker stopped by.” “Your boss left this package for you.” “Your married workplace lover” went to lunch.

  3. Steve G

    #2 – The person who reports you sounds like a nit-wit. When I was a low-level worker and couldn’t afford the combo of salary/cost of living, I decided to move. I mentioned thinking about moving to someone. It got to HR. I still don’t get why the person felt the obligation to go to HR knowing they were threatening my job. Especially since I wasn’t planning on moving because I wanted to – I needed to to find higher paying work.

    #5 – I have same question. I too think people take the term “family emergency” or “personal issues” to freely, and ruin it for the people who don’t take time off lightly.

    #6 – Maybe I don’t get real estate, or you have some other gripe about the job, but writing a contract sounds like it falls into an Admin position. Did he ask you to write it from scratch? That would be stretching it. Either way, if you don’t like the job and look for another you can add “contracts responsibility” to your resume. I think that would come across as pretty impressive given you are talking about contracts for building sales, not for small-time orders.

  4. Steve

    #6 – I agree with the work delegation, however am concerned it may have masked a legitimate issue with the working at home on the weekends. Is this compensated time, or is your boss asking you to do tasks off the clock? Working with a Realtor it is reasonable to assume there will be weekend work, but it should be compensated and on some type of a schedule. Not a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on call arrangement unless this is what the position is.

  5. Anon

    #3 – “The consequences resulted with a meeting with HR to let us know that according to the employee handbook, we cannot be “under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on business” and that we can be “terminated” if seen doing so again.”

    If you really wanted to push it, you could probably argue what constitutes “under the influence” has not been properly defined. But, this is an internal rule, so they could easily interpret that to mean any alcohol at all and not be too unreasonable by most US standards. You might have a better argument if you are not from the US and your home country’s culture includes consuming alcohol at lunch. However, I think you just have to take your lumps on this one and move on.

    It does make me wonder if your company has sales staff that take clients to lunches and dinners and whether alcohol is consumed there.

    1. AD

      It may be that drinking after work is fine, but returning to the property after drinking is not. It’s likely an insurance thing, nothing more. HR has to take it seriously, even if it’s only one drink, because their insurance company says they have to.

      1. JohnQPublic

        #3- I read this and thought to myself, doesn’t the body metabolize (and therefore eliminate) a drink an hour? One beer with lunch shouldn’t be anything to the typical office worker. Perhaps if this happens again you could suggest that if they think you’re under the influence you could go pee in a cup. Unless you’ve had three or four you’ll test negative and can smile and say “hey we all make mistakes sometimes but I’m glad we had this chance to clear your worries. I’ll get tested anytime, but you might want to ask yourself if it’s a good use of the company’s time and resources.”

        1. fposte

          Alcohol levels show in the body whether you’re legally intoxicated or not, though, so this is probably not a great idea.

          1. Long Time Admin

            That’s right, and one drink will show on a breathalyzer test if you’re pulled over. You could be charged with a DUI even though you’re not falling down drunk.

            1. Anonymous

              Wasn’t JohnQPublic’s point that the average adult metabolizes about one drink per hour and that if you had one drink with lunch over about an hour’s time, there would nearly zero alcohol in your blood or urine?

              Thus, any test would clearly show that you are not under the influence of alcohol no matter who saw what when and reported it to whom.

        2. Anonymous

          I worked for an alcoholic boss for five years. He was awesome when he was on the wagon, unpredictable when not. It’s best to avoid drinking during the official work day.

          Also, with the metabolism thing – men metabolize alcohol faster and differently than most women (it’s an enzyme found in the stomach). So any blood alcohol results would be gender-specific, and the employer certainly cannot have a policy which would (explicitly or not) allow men to have one drink at lunch but not women.

      2. Jamie

        It is an insurance issue with many companies. If you have a zero tolerance policy which qualifies the company for a break on their premiums. This also comes with mandatory testing for all injuries.

        If I were injured at work through no fault of my own – let’s say I was attacked with a stapler by a disgruntled end-user – the first order of business at the clinic would be to give me a breathalyzer and drug test. If I didn’t test clean I’m fired – non-negotiable.

  6. Liz in a Library

    For 3…I’m a little concerned about your attitude about this. I’m not a teetotaler by any means, and I understand that some offices have at atmosphere where drinks at lunch are fine, which I’m fine with. You are responsible to hold to the policies of your employer, however. You broke policy and were caught; that’s not your coworker’s fault! Take responsibility for it rather than trying to blame a third party.

    Many workplaces with a no drugs/alcohol policy have a very good reason for banning those substances at work.

    1. Anonymous

      I wholeheartedly agree with you that employees should uphold company policies from time in to time out. I have coworkers who constantly text, even in front of clients, when there are signs in employee-only areas that say cell phones are supposed to be off and put away unless you are expecting an emergency phone call (which then has to be cleared by the boss). I totally understand where you are coming from.

      But…the whole blaming of the third party. No one likes a snitch. What does this person, this third party, accomplish when they report this particular OP? Whose business is it of theirs to go to HR and report it? If it was a boss, I would think they might have confront rather than report it. But take my example at my job for a moment. Do I really become the company snitch and report my coworkers every time they have their cell phones out texting for non-emergency reasons?

      Yes, you can argue that texting and drinking are two different examples, but if it’s not hurting anyone, then it really isn’t.

      1. Jaime

        The Op’s question doesn’t actually clarify that what their job is not harmed by a beer at lunch. If they’re in manufacturing, or warehouse work or plant work (oil refinery, chemical plant, etc) or a bus driver or a surgeon then even one beer could be a huge deal. If they’re a code monkey? Probably not so much. But, again, we also don’t know if the Op is a lightweight when it comes to alcohol either and that coworker probably doesn’t either. One beer may be enough to compromise them, the Op doesn’t specify.

        1. ChristineH

          Jaime – Very good point. I was about to comment on Anonymous’s comment about snitching by agreeing that snitching to HR is petty unless there is a clear risk in having a beer at lunch, as you’re saying.

        2. Anonymous

          Now that I actually think about it my job where my coworkers use the cell phone can be harmful if they are not paying attention and waiting for the next text message or FB message to ring their smart phones. I see your point there.

      2. Liz in a Library

        I see the snitching as a different issue. Yes, when people go to HR unnecessarily about petty things (I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case, and also not saying it isn’t), that is uncollegial. It’s a problem in it’s own right, and I’m not trying to minimize that. But the coworker who informed didn’t write in.

        Whether informing HR in this case was appropriate or not is irrelevant. Either way, it doesn’t actually change the fact that the OP broke policy and is responsible for having broken policy. The moment the OP chose to break policy, she created a situation in which there could be serious consequences, including the humiliation of being written up and having to talk with HR.

        It feels like blame shifting to me, rather than just accepting “OK, I made a mistake, I won’t do that again.” The language the OP uses in describing the workplace suggests that she’s unhappy there for other reasons. I think that may be coloring her judgment of her own propriety in this event.

        1. jmkenrick

          The issue for me here is that the OP seems to suggest that this rule is generally ignored and she had no reason to think that it would be enforced.

          There are often rules on the books that people don’t take seriously, and I think it’s HR’s job to create an enviornment where people are clear on what expectations are.

          1. fposte

            While it’s possible that the other people seen drinking were also warned by HR and the OP doesn’t know that, that gets back to your point–clear expectations are necessary.

            1. jmkenrick

              Exactly. Most offices don’t permit drunken working, but there are some that look casually upon having a single drink with lunch. HR & the management should definitely be in line on these issues, so that employees understand where the line is drawn.

              Better to have people aware of the rules than to have to run around chastising employees who didn’t realize they were in the wrong.

        2. Construction HR

          According to the OP, the policy is that employees are not permitted to be : “under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on business”.

          1) No where did the OP indicate he was impaired.
          2) One beer WITH lunch is unlikely to make anyone impaired or under the influence.
          3) He was not tested for impairment, even though they might have used the ole “reasonable suspicion” clause to require testing.

          Given the same circumstances, I might have called the OP in, just as a FYI, and advised them what had happened and gently reminded them of the policy.

          1. Under Stand

            To be fair, how does the OP know that it was not a member of HR who was eating lunch in the restaurant and saw OP having a beer. If you saw one of your construction workers having a beer at lunch, would you let him go back to work on your job site that afternoon?

            1. Construction HR

              Doesn’t matter, it is not against their policy to have a beer at lunch.

              We do heavy industrial construction (power plants, chemical plants, refineries, etc.), most areas do not have a drinking establishment within 15 minutes of the job site. That being said, if I witnessed an event, I would call them in as the came thru the gate, have a coworker with me, have a short conversation about what I saw, make a determination as to if I needed to breathalyze them or not & go from there.

              It’s about impairment, not having a beer at lunch.

              1. Under Stand

                Just WOW!!!!!

                Hope I do not live ANYWHERE near a power plant that is being built by construction workers who do not have a policy against them being schnockered and working.

                1. Anonymouse

                  Back when I was a young whippersnapper I dated an Australian electrician who worked construction jobs. He said (in his business) that you never quit a job, you just showed up drunk and worked until they fired you. Granted, we were also in Europe at the time. The lesson here being NEVER go near a crane on The Continent.

      3. Student

        Maybe the OP is drinking enough to impair his work, and the guy who reported him is the guy who has to pick up his slack. I pressured my boss to make my co-workers stop drinking on the job because they dumped all the work on me; I couldn’t take meal breaks because I was too worried that the drunk schmucks would do something stupid and ruin our project or injure someone.

        I should mention that I work in nuclear physics. Does your opinion of snitching on drinking-at-work change when the guys doing it are in control of lethal amounts of radiation? How many beers do you think is okay for a radiation worker on the job? (Technically, I didn’t snitch, because they’d given the boss beers at work. The boss just needed a gentle reminder that drinking at our job is not just against the rules, it’s illegal – but I sure would’ve “snitched” if I’d needed to).

        There are lots of people who could drink at work without hurting productivity or the bottom line. Not everyone has a job like that. Not everyone is that good at drinking responsibly. There’s no call to blame the “snitch” without knowing the full story – that “snitch” could very well be saving lives or protecting his job.

  7. Andy Lester

    Re: #6 “These are obviously not in my vein of expertise”

    Are you saying you’re not qualified to do the tasks she’s giving you? If so, that’s the problem. If you’re asked to do something that you don’t know how to do, or are likely to do wrong, then it’s your responsibility to say that. That way, your boss can train you on how to do it right.

    However, your duties are pretty much whatever your boss assigns as your duties.

    1. A Bug!

      I agree. It’s very common for licensed professionals to delegate the first draft of things to their assistants. Experienced, capable assistants can basically do all the same things the professional can do, so long as they’re being overseen by the professional who takes responsibility if something goes awry. It’s a cost-effective way of doing business when it frees up the professional’s time to do the stuff that can’t be delegated.

      It sounds like OP#6 did a reasonable job on the contract, since there’s no mention of the boss making a ton of changes before passing it along. AAM’s advice was completely appropriate.

      If the drafting of documents is getting in the way of other stuff that needs to be done, that’s a separate matter, as is the working on weekends.

      1. JT

        OP #6 could even view this as a great resume/skill-building opportunity.

        The work-on-weekends thing is another matter. If it’s rare, it’ s not a big deal. Sometimes there are emergencies. If it’s common but outside your job description, it warrants a conversation with the boss.

  8. Shayabee

    I am temping at my dad’s firm, and I hate it when people refer to my dad as “your dad” or “your father.” Most people do, but I greatly appreciate the people who refer to him by his name when talking. I am in my mid-20’s and I think I can handle hearing my father’s name. :P My thing I have been working on is s

    1. Shayabee

      Ugh, posting from iPhone is annoying. But the thing I have been working on is attempting to speak up for myself. I feel kind of awkward correcting people.

      1. Elizabeth

        If I were you, I’d just keep it really light-hearted – “Oh, you can call him Fred around me. We have a professional relationship at the office.”

      2. Anonymouse

        It’s worse when they omit the “your.” I’ve spent weeks under the impression that people had gone cuckoo and thought they were talking to their dead mother (“I talked to Mom the other day”) when in fact they meant *my* Mother.

        1. Laura L

          Ha! I hate when people call my mom “Mom.” It always feels like they’re claiming her as their own mother (even though I know that’s not what they mean to do).

          Plus, it does get confusing when you think they’re talking about their own mother.

  9. KayDay

    #3….I’ve been mildly European-ized at my job, so maybe that’s it, but I agree with the OP that having a beer or a glass of wine at lunch is no biggie. (BIG screaming exception is if you work in the medical field, with children, or operate machinery and there is a safety issue). That said, a legal case? hell, no, you broke a policy, your co-worker is a twit for reporting you, but seriously, being a twit does not equal bullying.

    #5…how often are people going to the hospital? (and how big a company is it?) Hospitals usually kick people out as soon as they can, so I’m a little surprised this question came up. How long people stay depends on a whole lot of factors. My parents stay with me the whole time I had my tonsils out when I was 4, but it only took one day. My dad dropped my mom off to have a mild “surgical procedure” that only involved local anesthesia but was time consuming. My parents only stayed with my grandparents when there was a fear they wouldn’t make it, otherwise they went home and only visited because old people stay at the hospital for a long time recovering.

    #6: don’t you want to grow and develop in your professional capacity? Even if these aren’t “your job” these are learning opportunities if they are stretch assignments. Be happy you are getting more substantive assignments. When I was an assistant, my boss would send me emails with documents attached and have me print them. It was my job, but serious, it took longer for my boss to send the email than it would have for him to just hit the damn print button! (However, as an assistant, you should definitely be getting paid for your weekend work, and getting time and a half if you are working over 40 hours/week.)

    1. danr

      #5… some hospitals have done away with set visiting hours. Visitors can come and go at any time, and close family can stay as long as they want, subject to leaving during various procedures. Of course Intensive care is a bit more restrictive, but the hours are still open. In newer cancer units, rooms are private and set up more as a suite.

    2. Andrew

      Absolutely agree with this response to Q. 6 .

      It seems to me like the boss is giving you an opportunity to learn more about real estate. Perhaps she sees in you the potential for professional development that could take you beyond the role of an admin. You should not only accept this work–you should, if you are at all interested in your field, be asking for more and different responsibilities on a regular basis.

      People who always stick to what they know, and feel safe with, are apt to wake up 40 years later and wonder why they have never had the life they dreamt about. Don’t be like that!

    3. Anonymouse

      Holy double take, Batman, I first read this as “Am I eligible for per diem when I’m dick?”

  10. KayEll

    As someone who works with her father, I loathe when people speaking to me refer to him as “your dad” or “your father.” I always refer to him by his first name, even when speaking directly with him, and expect others to do the same. The few people who refer to him as my dad tend to do so when they’re trying to be demeaning, so perhaps that’s why it bothers me so much? It just never feels professional for people to talk to me about a project “dad” is working on.

  11. Z

    #2 Eligible for per diem when sick

    Would the part of the response regarding legality be different if this were a government employee, meaning they’re definitely supposed to get the Meals & Incidental Expenses rate while traveling for work (and not sick)?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yep — if it’s government, which has very clear policies on per diem, then those policies would govern this. (And I’m assuming that the answer would be “yes, you get the per diem even when you’re sick,” although I don’t actually know for sure. But I’d be surprised if it weren’t.)

      1. JLH

        “An allowance that is computed on a basis similar to that used in computing an employee’s wages or other compensation (such as the number of hours worked, miles traveled, or pieces produced) does not meet the business connection requirement of section 1.62-2(d), is not a per diem allowance, and is not paid at a flat rate or stated schedule” http://www.irs.gov/irb/2011-42_IRB/ar12.html#d0e2165

        My interpretation of this would be if your organization gets their tax break on actual per diem, you might be entitled for per diem over your sick day (though I don’t know how that would play out practically.) If you’re getting reimbursed for actual expenses, it may be quite a bit more murky. Depending on your organization, you could probably go higher on this–either to see if your boss’s boss will overrule, or to accounts payable or possibly human resources to ask if they have a policy regarding that. If you think it’s worth it to do so, that is.

      2. Construction HR

        Our hourly construction personnel do not receive sick time and if they are sick they do not receive per diem.

        Hourly staff personnel are paid weekly per diem (I know, I know, but it’s all called “per diem” whether it’s paid hourly, daily or weekly) and would receive per diem if they were sick.

  12. Jaime

    I am a little confused by #2 – are you saying that when you’re traveling for work, you’re out of town long enough to get sick in the middle and your boss refuses to keep paying your per diem? Or are you saying your everyday schedule is to work out of town, for which you get paid a per diem, and your boss refuses to pay your per diem when you’re home sick?

    1. Jaime

      Or that you were supposed to be out for 4 weeks, got sick and came back for a few days, then went back out but your boss didn’t pay the per diem for the time you were home sick.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m assuming that that the OP is referring to sick days while out of town for work. If the OP is at home sick, though, then the boss would be right not to pay a per diem.

      1. Stells

        Also how I read it. Like they were out of town for a week or two, but didn’t work one or two days in the office during that time (but stayed at the hotel where they were staying until they recovered). They still had to purchase meals because they weren’t at home, but they weren’t working for that day so the boss is refusing to pay for them.

        I agree with AAM here – there’s no requirement (as long as the hotel and any incidentals, parking, etc are paid for) to pay for the meals since you weren’t working, but it seems like a harsh route to take. Either the company is in dire straits or the boss is a major micromanager.

  13. JohnQPublic

    #6- I think if you were writing a fresh contract a lawyer should do it. But real estate by and large is filling in blanks. Apartment reps do it all the time.
    As far as doing work on the weekends, you should address that with your boss. You’re not exempt, so if you’re already working 40 the overtime is a factor. Ask yourself if you want the OT or comp time, and then tell your boss that you’d prefer to do X. Who knows, maybe this is a great way to get those Dentist or Doctors appts in. Or save that OT for a vacation. This is an opportunity for you!

    1. Stells

      This is very common in our company since we are operational 7 days a week. Some people love working Saturdays and/or Sundays so they can have one or two days off during M-F to take care of those things that operate under normal business hours (doctors, dentists, post office) or attend school functions for their kids without taking PTO.

  14. ChristineH

    # 3 – Ditto to KayDay’s post above. That’s pretty much my opinion as well.

    #6 – I’d say chalk this up as a great learning opportunity. If you really are unsure about how to write up these contracts, then be upfront but professional about it. Perhaps ask to see redacted samples. Even better, maybe look for any sort of outside workshops or books on real estate contracts. (I honestly have no idea if any such resources exist, but if I’m asked to do something I’m not well-versed in, I make every effort to find anything at all that will give me some idea of how to do it). But I agree with AAM…most definitely do NOT say “do your own job”, or anything remotely similar.

    1. Long Time Admin

      I think she *should* say “do your own job” and then I could take her job when she gets fired! From the little she said, it sounds more interesting than my current job.

  15. Anonymous

    #2 – I have been in a situation where I was given a per diem during the work week, but not on weekends. The company wouldn’t pay for me to travel home on weekends either. Luckily I was provided with just enough per diem during the week that I could cover the weekends if I was careful. So yeah, it all has to do with the company’s own policies. I think they should give you the per diem if you’re sick for a few days and they won’t allow you to travel back home. Someone has to pay for your hotel, meals, rental car, etc and it shouldn’t be coming out of your pocket. It’s not like you’re on vacation. When pushed on these kinds of issues, I’ve often said that I’m not in a position to be out of pocket for this, so I will have to return home.

  16. ARM2008

    You all trust hospitals too much! Having a relative or friend at your side monitoring drugs, advocating for you, getting you water, helping you to the bathroom when the nurse doesn’t answer the call button for 20 minutes…. Nursing staff are typically overworked and it’s a problem. I’ve experienced it first hand, and having a relative there who wasn’t stoned out on morphine made a huge difference in the quality of care I received. Not that I cared at the time…

    1. nodumbunny

      Yes, I completely agree. If your family member is at all out of it, likely to be in pain, or can’t get out of bed to go to the bathroom alone (and if they are none of these things, they’re unlikely to be in the hospital unless they’ve just had a baby) it isn’t safe to leave them in the hospital alone for very long. The nurses do the very best they can, but they are stretched to the limit.

  17. Cassie

    #3: People complain/snitch about the stupidest things. We have one person who recently complained because she felt that upper staff (such as herself) should get first dibs on leftover food from meetings and that low-level staff should wait until the upper staff had a chance to take what they want. And rather than telling her not to worry about such petty things and focus on her work, the manager got riled up about it too. Ridiculous.

    I wonder if the OP’s HR handles all such reportings equally or if they choose to ignore it sometimes and not others. Either way, policy is policy, so the OP will just have to live with those consequences. It stinks that rules aren’t applied uniformly, though (but how is the OP sure that other coworkers have not be “reprimanded” for drinking during lunch?)

    #6: Being an assistant, it is sometimes frustrating that my boss delegates so much stuff to me. I remember when I first started working for him and he would ask me to ask so-and-so to come see him, and I thought “why can’t you call him yourself?”. Of course, if he could do it all himself, he wouldn’t need an assistant!

    And again, I can see where it would be frustrating if stuff was given to my boss to do and he regularly pushes them off to me, but it’s part of being an assistant.

    If the stuff is outside of the realm of the OP’s abilities, she should speak up – but address it from the POV of needing more training or something. Not just that they aren’t her duties to do.

    1. Esra

      We have one person who recently complained because she felt that upper staff (such as herself) should get first dibs on leftover food from meetings and that low-level staff should wait until the upper staff had a chance to take what they want.

      That is insanely petty. It would be incredibly hard not to laugh at the all staff meeting when they brought that new policy up.

      1. Charles

        It IS petty! Calling dibs on the food because she is higher up?!

        Every place that I have worked leftover food was seen as a perk for those who never got to sit in on those meetings, meet with clients, client training sessions, etc. I always sent the leftover food from such training sessions to the employees’ break room for the rest of the staff with simple recognition that this is for you guys as you never get to enjoy it otherwise.

        This higher-up and her manager should just hope that no one spits on the food or touches it with unwashed hands just to be petty back at them. (and no that would NOT be me; I say as a roll a plain bagel across the dirty floor to make it an “everything bagel”)

      2. Stells

        You’d be suprised at how common petty stuff like that is! We are constantly having other admins complain that they don’t get first dibs on leftovers when our department is the one coordinating the meetings. We are happy to share which is what makes it really ridiculous, actually. LOL

      3. Liz

        I worked at a place that followed exactly that process. Caterers set up the food in a room with low-level staff. We all waited for the bosses to finish whatever they were doing and serve themselves. Then the project supervisors took their food. THEN the people go had been sitting there watching were allowed to take a plate of whatever was left :) The office had one of the strangest cultures I’ve ever seen. It really seemed like they were trying to use things like that to keep order.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          If you ever find yourself using food to establish/enforce hierarchy, there is generally something wrong. This should be a principle of business.

          1. Liz

            Somewhere someone is probably writing a how-to-succeed as a boss guide titled something like, “Wolf Pack: Lead Like An Animal,” with tips based on studies of wolves in the wild. The leader eats first and does not share… Hierarchies are enforced by snarling behaviors…

            I bet that would sell, too.

            1. Anonymous

              Oh but IS one already on the market, from a few years ago :)

              Fashion PR/reality show star Kelly Cutrone, who runs her own agency in NYC wrote about it in in the hilariously titled – If You Have To Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You.

              There was a whole hierarchy of people who got to eat in a set order to drive home the point of her being the mother bear or wolf person and driving the linear order of things point home through the weekly (Friday?/weekend) company sponsored office takeout feast.

  18. pokerface

    # 7 – If from his body language or tone made his reaction seem worse than what you wrote – I bet he was interested in dating you. Your reminding him that you are under 21 dampened his enthusiasm because it reminded him: you are young, and he is older than you. Which – vaguely related – reminds me of my favorite recruiter story from college. Post interviews and follow-ups, but before hearing the offer, run into the guy again on campus unexpectedly. He says my name and reaches out his hand. I return the greeting, when he turns the handshake into the shake/hug. He wasn’t a creep but that was unprofessional. If companies only knew how their shitty recruiters make them look.

    1. OP to #7

      I honestly don’t think this was the case at all. He was in his 30s and had pictures of his kids on his desk. I think he was just being nice!

      1. Liz

        Fwiw, I got the same datey vibe from his comments about a casual, fun culture. Also, why was he taking a potential intern out for lunch alone? Usually recruiters in places where I have worked would invite a few coworkers for perspective on the candidate and to share the company’s comped lunch.

        Pictures of kids do not mean he wasn’t about to tell you a sob story about a wife who doesn’t understand him too :)

        1. Liz

          Oops! The lunch was from another question – it sounds as if this was just an interview. Regardless it still sounds like a weirdly flirty vibe to me. Who is disappointed by a low-level new staffer who doesn’t drink and follows the rules? If you are under 21 the company could be in trouble if you were to drink, and he should have known better than to use that as a selling point in the interview.

      2. gee

        Ya, I also wondered if it was because he was hitting on you or flirting and you reminder of your age put him off…

  19. Anonymous

    #5 – Leaving an elderly, hard-of-hearing parent with multiple problems and multiple medications in the hospital alone is really rolling the dice. During my father’s last few months, he was in and out of the hospital several times, and someone had to be with him all the time to take notes as the oncologist, pulmonologist and cardiologist whirled in and out asking questions and barking orders (none of which my father could hear) and to make sure that he got the right meds (and not the ones that sent him out of his head). Naturally none of the doctors talked to one another or even read each other’s notes in the chart. Fortunately, there were three of us to take shifts, and the two of us who are still working were able to work from the hospital.

  20. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady

    I’m not sure that FMLA applies when the relative is actually in the hospital. The idea is that it’s to care for a family member and you could certainly argue that the fact that the person is IN THE HOSPITAL means that someone else is caring for him/her.

    That said, I wouldn’t fight it. It’s traumatic to have a loved one sick enough to be in the hospital.

  21. EngineerGirl

    #2 – This comes close to those “is it legal” questions. But what a jerk. Being sick is no fun. Being sick in a hotel room is horrid. You have no access to your comfy slippers, warm blankets, medicine, etc. You can’t warm up some soup. And then the maid comes in and cleans…

    #3 – Grow up! Yes, the other employee probably should have talked to you about it instead of going to HR. But you shouldn’t go back to the job if you’ve been drinking. It does affect judgement. And you DID break the rules. Accept responsiblity for that instead of blaming others. Hey, they gave you a warning, so they are giving you another chance.

    #5 – It really depends on the seriousness of the illness, the age of the patient, their ability to fend for themselves, etc. If you are concerned then watch for patterns. I know that one person that worked for me always had a “family emergency” every time (and I mean every time) I gave him a tough assignment. His brother, who also worked in the same department never left.

    1. Another Brit

      Ha! I love that the employee didn’t realised that his brothers non-response to the ‘family emergency’ would raise suspicions.

    2. ruby

      “#3 – Grow up! ”

      Seconded. “Do I have a legal case for bullying because the company pointed out to me that I violated policy?” Ai yi yi. Taking ownership of your behavior doesn’t mean your HR folks aren’t jerks or your co-worker isn’t petty — it means that you recognize that your behavior triggered this incident and that you can’t control how HR or your co-workers act, only how you act. I’d take the energy you are using on fuming over their behavior and put it towards finding a new job that isn’t such a “misery” for you.

      1. Lindsay H.

        Thirded. Witnessing others participating in bad behavior (meaning: “bad” according to the company’s policy) doesn’t justify YOUR behavior. And, not tattling on them doesn’t mean you get to take the moral high ground vs the person who reported you.

      2. Under Stand

        Agree about the grow up, disagree about the characterization of the HR and coworker. OP broke rules. Part of HR’s job is enforcing rules. That is not being a jerk, that is being management. And the coworker was not petty. OP broke the rules. I have a real problem with the whole “no snitches” thing. OP broke rules. OP breaking rules could expose the company to additional risk. I do not find that OK. Further, if OP really cannot make it 9 hours without alcohol, OP needs to get help. Too bad HR did not make that a condition of his or her continued employment.

        I wonder, of those who think coworker was a snitch, what percent are drinkers and what percent have had a drink during working hours?

  22. Carolyn

    Regarding #6… I am a real estate agent and I practice in a state in which we use fill-in-the-blank contracts that are written by attorneys. We are constantly reminded to NOT practice law by trying to write our own contracts and amendments. If the OP is being asked to “draft” a sales contract from scratch, that’s a big problem unless he/she is a licensed attorney.
    Further, my state’s real estate commission clearly states what actions a non-licensed real estate assistant can take. The OP didn’t mention if he’s/she’s licensed or not, but most assistants aren’t. I would encourage the OP to seek out the state license law to make sure his/her actions as an assistant are within the realm of the law. The real estate commission can haul non-licensees into hearings and levy fines for the unlicensed practice of real estate.
    Lastly, if you don’t want to work weekends, OP, get out of the real estate business–or work in property management (even then, weekends are unavoidable, with tenant emergencies and such). The nature of our work–responsive, action-oriented agents, that is–is that we work when our clients are available.

  23. Sophie

    #1 – When I was in college I did some clerical work for my dad on an as-needed basis. Everyone in the office just referred to him by his first name around me, or when asking me to do things, like “Please take this file to David.” “Your dad” slipped out every once in a while and it was no big deal. So like most people have said here, just refer to your boss by his name, and don’t worry if you call him “your dad” every now and then. The only time it was awkward for me was when I was introduced to people (it was a rather large non-profit and my dad knew a lot of people) and they would say, “Oh, you’re David’s little girl!” even though I was 19 or 20 at the time. Ugh.

    #5 Depends on the family and company culture. In the places where I have worked, if your immediate family member is ill (like a spouse or child), you would take off to take care of them, but most of the time, people would make some arrangements so they could still work and not have to use up all their FMLA. Most of the people I knew who did this wanted to work as well – they would have gone crazy sitting in a hospital doing nothing at all and it helped ease their mind to engage in something else.

  24. Rachel B

    #7- I work for a tech start-up where happy hours are pretty standard. I know that I’ve done double takes when college juniors and seniors have pointed out that they’re underage because I assume that most college students are 21+ by their third year of college. I wouldn’t hold anything against a candidate for being up-front about their age.

    1. Laura L

      I think when you’ve been of age for more than a year or two, you forget that a lot of people still aren’t. Unless you have a lot of friends who are younger than you. But I often forget that interns or undergraduates I work with are often under 21.

  25. Jojo

    $6: There should be a template for the contract, and all you do is fill out the info that should be given by your boss. So I think it makes sense for her to delegate you to do that. My (thankgod former) boss, made me do her RESUME!!

  26. v

    Regarding #6 – I’ve been encountering a slightly similar issue, but it’s among the administrative staff at my law office rather than coming from the attorneys. We are a very small firm with five attorneys and three office staff. We have an Office Manager who, although she does a few managerial things like track sick time and process payroll, is really not much more than a glorified administrative assistant (but that’s besides the point). Lately, she has been obnoxiously professing the fact that she has no work to do (which is partly because she has permanently delegated so many of her responsibilities that she simply doesn’t have enough). Recently, the managing attorney went on vacation and left her with one project to be completed by the time he came back (to convert all of our boiler plate letters from the antique word processor we were using into Word 2010). The entire two weeks he was away, she went around the office cracking jokes about how she had no work to do even though everyone around her was visibly busy icluding myself. She had approached me for some help with Word (and I laughed inside) and then followed up by telling me to “feel free” to convert a few of the letters if I had time. The next day, she asked if I had had a chance to do it, which I hadn’t. Long story short, not only did she delegate this project to me but she approached it as if it was something that I was behind on and needed to “find time” to do (her words). I did it, but felt that it was extremely unfair for her to constantly talk about how she had nothing to do, then delegate her ONLY project to me (complete with negative criticism) and then proceed to indulge in 3 hours of Bejeweled Blitz right next to me. This woman is unprofessional in countless ways, as you can imagine.

    It’s quite frustrating when there is a hierarchy of administrative support roles and someone is not acting professionally, logically or fairly in delegating their work to others. This seems to be quite different from the situation in question 6, though. Has anyone else had an experience like this or had to deal with someone like this?

    1. v

      I guess my point in bringing this up, other than my frustration, is to point out that if one is in the position to be delegating work to others, they should be expected to do it in a way that is in the company’s best interest and not the interest of keeping their workload as close to zero as possible.

  27. Lindsay H.

    #7 – If you lose out on an opportunity because it’s not cool having a minor hanging around Happy Hour, do you really want to work there?

  28. anon-2

    Alcohol – a good rule of thumb is, never order a double scotch on an interview lunch.

    Although one of my goofiest interviews – I went out to lunch with the hiring manager. He had too much to drink, I had to drive his car (and him) back to the facility. And I didn’t get the job, although I’m somehow not heartbroken over it.

  29. OP#5

    I asked question #5 of you all rather than the employees, because I don’t want to add to their stress during a hard time. You all have been very helpful. I have learned different people have different levels of family involvement and expectation, and if kids are involved, even grown kids, things get really complicated.

    1. Kathryn T.

      One thing to be aware of is that in many busy hospitals, a lot of the non-medical patient care is expected to be done by the family. That includes getting water, helping the patient to the bathroom, adjusting blankets, &c. If a family member isn’t there to do those things, they simply don’t get done, and that’s by design. Hospitals are cutting nursing staff left right and center.

      There are also issues of other family responsibilities. When my baby had to go to the hospital, I went with him — apart from anything else, I was his only source of food at the time. Fortunately, we only needed to be there overnight. But if we’d had to stay, that would have left my husband to take care of our older child, since I’m a stay-at-home parent. So he might have had to take some days off, even though he wasn’t the one staying in the hospital. Like you say, it’s complicated.

  30. khilde

    Re: Parent’s name at work

    My daughter’s daycare is run by a mother/daughter team. I was so relieved to hear the daughter (assistant director) refer to her mother by her mother’s first name. I was awkward about knowing what to say (even though instinct told me to use all first names). So, by you using your father’s first name in a conversation, it might clear up any hesitation/confusion on your coworker’s parts who are wondering what exactly to say.

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