being ordered to work during a dangerous tornado, 360 reviews, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. Being ordered to come into work during a dangerous tornado

Today we had severe storms spawning tornadoes all around us. My wife called her work at Kmart to ask her manager if she was to still come in. Her manager said yes and that if she was late she would be assessed a point. (Mind you while on the phone, tornado sirens were going off and the police were driving around telling people to take cover, using their loudspeakers.) We decided to wait till the sirens stopped and then I drove her the 20 miles to work in my truck. She was 5 minutes late.

Is this normal behavior for a manager of any business? If faced with this same situation, what would you do or recommend? It seems it would be a lawsuit in waiting if an employee were to leave during this weather to try to make it to work due to the threat of a point being assessed and got injured or killed due to the storm..

Reasonable employers do not expect people to put themselves in harm’s way to get to work during a serious weather event, particularly when they work at places that aren’t providing life-saving services. Your wife’s employer sucks for handling the storms this way. Sucks in such a large way that it would be nice if they heard from customers who are disgusted that the company jeopardized employees’ lives like this, and the lives of the emergency responders who could potentially be called to help them.

As for what to do, if you judge a weather situation to be seriously dangerous and/or if authorities are telling people to stay inside and off the roads, you should stay inside and off the roads. Those warnings are issued for a reason. People get killed in serious storms (and indeed, got killed in yesterday’s storms in the midwest), and in many or all cases, it’s going to be because they were on the streets. Your safety is more important than any point you might be assessed.

2. How can we implement 360 reviews?

My office of 11 people has not historically had a regular review process. As part of a company retreat earlier this fall, the employees (myself included) asked that we implement some kind of regular review. The powers that be have decided it will be a 360 review.

My manager asked me to look into the best ways to implement this, and what kinds of things we should look for/be aware of. Can you tell me what sorts of procedures we should have in place (or what we should make sure to discuss with everyone before-hand) to make this a useful tool? I think they are looking at using Surveymonkey to take in the information, and have located a prebuilt 360 review questionnaire. Do you have any thoughts on that kind of option, or any specific questions that you think this kind of review should include?

Wait, they’re currently not doing performance reviews at all? That’s where I’d start before taking on 360s. 360s do have value, but they’re not easy to run well — for one thing, you need someone synthesizing and reporting on the feedback who’s really skilled at it; you can’t just randomly assign that to someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. More generally, doing really good 360s takes a huge amount of energy and it’s not clear that the return beyond a traditional evaluation is worth it, unless it’s informing an extremely important decision (for instance, promoting someone to a key senior role). If the organization hasn’t even been doing traditional performance evaluations, I’d start there instead. (And as part of those evaluations, managers should of course seek feedback from people the evaluee works with.)

3. Why didn’t I get an interview for this job?

I applied for a role that I have performed successfully in the past and was denied an interview. I was the only applicant to have a post graduate masters in that field. What could have been the problem?

More qualified applicants, since there are usually more important qualifications than degrees? Lots of strong applicants and a limited number of interview slots? Bad cover letter? Who knows, but there’s no shortage of possibilities.

This is important: Being qualified — even highly qualified — for a position does not guarantee you an interview. Employers have a limited number of interview slots and (often) many qualified candidates. You should never assume that your qualifications mean an automatic interview, because you have no way of knowing what the rest of the candidate pool looks like.

4. Can my boss make me keep my purse in my car?

Can my boss make me keep my purse in my car?

Yes. Your employer can restrict what’s allowed on their premises, including employees’ personal belongings.

5. Manager wants us to answer our phones 24/7

My manager had a staff meeting to tell everyone no matter what time of day and no matter the reason, if he calls we must answer our phone. First of all, most of us do not have a position critical enough to require a call in the middle of the night. Secondly, this all stemmed from one of the employees getting repeated phone calls for advice about a TV he (our boss) was buying, and this employee was having major family issues that he was trying to address, so by the 8th call he stopped answering his phone. Unless it is a work emergency, there should be no reason for calls like this and there should be no reason we should be required to answer.

The company is an IT staffing / IT project consulting firm. Nowhere in the handbook nor employment agreement does it say it is a rule that we must answer our phones. Can he do this?

Yes, he can. He shouldn’t, but he can. You all, on the other hand, can push back as a group and insist on a dialogue about more reasonable expectations, and can look for a more reasonable employer if this one doesn’t budge.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Regarding the tornado question, I highly suggest you send an annymous tip to Gwaker or The Consumerist. They bits live bringing attention to terrible situations like these and they’re great at keeping their sources secret. If your story gets picked up it would generate a lot of pressure towards changing these terrible policies.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      This thing just enrages me. Many, many tornado deaths occur in automobiles. Even Tim Samaras wasn’t immune. This one is worth getting fired over.

      I have a hard time believing that K-mart corporate would condone this. I’d talk to the manager once to make sure that what was really meant. And if it was, I’d escalate. The manager sucks more than the tornado.

        1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

          #4. I’d like to know who, during a tornado, decides if a K-Mart store will be open for business. I’d also like to know if the conditions in the town in which the K-Mart is located were somehow significantly better than the town in which OP lives. If conditions weren’t better, then I seriously question why the store was open in the first place. In a retail store, the mere act of being open for business during a tornado implies that, yes, employees are expected to endanger their lives to get to work. So I’m curious if the manager who insisted OP’s wife come into work also made the call to keep the store open, or if she was carrying out corporate orders. Either way, I’m glad you an your wife made it through the storm in one piece. Stay dry.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            An eon ago, when I worked for a large scale retailer like that, if the tornado sirens where going off, the store evacuated all the customers & employees to a pre-determined tornado safe area until the all clear was given. Nobody was allowed to leave, but those who needed shelter could come in.

          2. AprilA*

            The problem is, tornadoes come on suddenly and are usually of short duration. Unlike a snow storm or hurricane, there is little advance warning, certainly not enough to close a store or send out an alert to employees not to come in. (Sometimes there isn’t even enough warning to seek shelter).
            Having lived over half my life in “tornado alley” I cannot count the number of times the sirens that have gone off when I was in the car on the way to or from school or work or at the store, etc. You stop, seek shelter as best you can until the radio or TV announces an all clear.

            Most stores do remain “open”, not in the sense that they sell things but they have shoppers, employees and anyone seeking shelter congregate at a designated place for safety.
            The OP’s wife was right not to go in until the sirens stopped; and if she gets points assessed, I would counsel her to take it up with her boss. It would likely be against company policy to request that an employee put themselves in harms way. (Although, I’ve had more than a few managers, coaches, etc, who didn’t take sirens seriously. Living in tornado alley, you do tend to get a lot of precautionary sirens and it can lead to sense of false security for those that haven’t lived in the area long enough to experience the real deal)

              1. AprilA*

                I have always had an unhealthy fascination with tornadoes. They are beautiful in their sheer power and destruction. I always get a weird sort terrifying thrill watching the sky turn black to green, eerie calm to sudden wind. But having lived through more than one, I also have a very healthy respect for them. When I moved to the South for school, I recall one night when the sirens suddenly went off (I didn’t even know the town had sirens), we were rehearsing for a play and everyone wanted to get in their cars and go home. It took a lot to convince them not to. We went to the basement, and while the tornado didn’t hit our campus, it did do a lot of damage in and around the town. The area had a lot of pine tree farms and huge swaths of trees were toppled.

            1. fposte*

              Agreed. I live in the affected area but our town didn’t get hit and had no sirens go off. I doubt that anything in town closed, because you don’t close just for a tornado warning.

              The manager in this case is pretty inarguably a jackass, since once the sirens have gone the employee needs to stay put. Where it would get tricky is if the sirens hadn’t gone off and it was just a tornado warning, because those are too common to allow for lateness every time but the relevant storm trajectories are probably too specific to expect a manager to follow. I don’t have an answer for that that doesn’t boil down to “shift work really sucks sometimes.”

              (P.S. I love the “dangerous tornado” in the question title–as opposed to those cuddly, lovable tornadoes!)

              1. Brett*

                I think you are thinking of a tornado watch.
                A watch means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes.
                A tornado warning means there is a tornado, either spotted by a trained spotter or detected on radar.

            2. Shane Watson*

              I’ve lived all my life in tornado alley. I survived the 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas. It nearly destroyed the town.

              Based on my experiences, I would never risk going out under a Tornado Warning for any employer. I think that #1’s employer was more concerned about coverage than their employee’s safety. That’s not only abhorrent, but also a good way to lose employees and customers.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            The store was probably already open when the warning sounded. In that case, see ExceptionToTheRule’s comment below. That is standard practice (or should be) for many major retailers.

      1. AdminAnon*

        I worked at K-mart one summer during college and my manager did the exact same thing. Luckily, my store was attached to a mall and, once we got there, mall security sent everyone home and closed down the mall. My manager was furious at the “lost business,” but I seriously doubt anyone would’ve been out shopping in a tornado anyway.

        1. Ruffingit*

          That was totally going to be my question about this. Who would be out shopping in a storm? It just doesn’t make sense to keep a retail business open in those conditions. It’s dangerous for everyone.

          1. Anonymous*

            It is kind of amazing what people will do for their shopping fix. I worked in retail hell during Snowmaggedon on the east coast, and our district manager told us we could leave an hour after the last customer left. People were still coming in as the snow got deeper, insistng they needed to pick up their crafting supplies for while they were snowed in — which meant every time some dingbat decided to go buy yarn, our one-hour counter got reset.

            Our store manager finally went “the hell with that, if the DM has a problem he can take it up with me” and closed the store despite not meeting the requirement. Most of our employees had to drive through the mountains to get home, half an hour or more on a good day.

            Funnily enough, they changed the policy after that. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when the SM and DM went at it over this.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, I guess there are some crazy people out there who just have to craft during the snowstorm. LOL! I sometimes give people too much credit. :)

              1. KellyK*

                If they don’t have three or four projects in progress, and a huge stash of yarn to start new projects, they’re not real crafters. ;)

              2. Manda*

                That made me lol too hard. When I was kid, we went to Wal-Mart to get goldfish in a snowstorm. I think it had finished snowing, but there were some pretty big drifts out there. My dad had put chains on his tires and I guess we had nothing better to do than stock the aquarium. *facepalm* I couldn’t make that up.

          2. AprilA*

            The stores are open because tornadoes are unpredictable, and if you live in Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma, your store would be closed half of the spring because of tornado favorable conditions. For every 1000 times the sirens go off, there may only be 1 time anywhere near you actually gets hit (disclaimer: those are not scientific statistics).
            It’s not like a snow storm where it’s slow moving and easy to track and easy to prepare for. Plus, even if there is a storm in the area, stores may be the nearest shelter for a lot of people. So they need their doors open to allow people to come in when the sirens go off, and then if they don’t get hit, but the area nearby does, they need all hands on deck to sell necessary supplies people will need. But they absolutely should give employees leeway if they’re late due to sirens going off.

            1. Heather*

              I’m another one who is totally fascinated by tornadoes, except luckily I live in an area where the worst we’ve gotten is an EF-1. (Um, I think I’ll go knock on wood now. Apologizing in advance if I just jinxed the region.)

              If they had just been under a watch, that would have been totally different and she should have gone in and just made sure a weather radio was on nearby. But when there’s an actual tornado on the ground and the cops are driving around telling people to take shelter, that’s a way more serious situation and the manager is an ass.

            2. Ruffingit*

              I’m speaking more to the weather events where people are told to stay indoors and/or are being evacuated out of buildings by police. Storm warnings, yeah I can see staying open and I get why a store wouldn’t worry about those. But in the case of the OP, seems odd to me that the store would bother being open.

              1. fposte*

                There are two kinds of warnings relevant here. A tornado warning is a “there’s a tornado somewhere in the general vicinity or the Doppler looks like there could be one.” It’s not shut-down worthy because it happens so freaking often, and it won’t keep most people from going to the mall, especially if they’ve seen on the weather map that the mall isn’t on the front’s trajectory.

                A tornado *siren* is “they’re heeeeere.” They give you max 15 minutes warning (and meteorologists are proud that they’ve gotten you that much, as it used to be a lot less), and they’re relevant to a comparatively small area–the tornado warning Sunday was something like four counties while the sirens only cover a town, or even part of a town. While there are always daredevils, generally people don’t drive out to the mall once the sirens are blowing. However, because sirens are so localized, they could easily be blowing in one town and not in the next, and it’s more unlikely than likely that they’d be blowing both at the OP’s home and his wife’s work at the same time, given that the two are twenty miles away. And you don’t close a store just because there are tornadoes elsewhere in the state, because again, you’d have to close all the time.

          3. NBB*

            Severe thunderstorms like this can pop up very suddenly, with little to no warning. You can’t stay home every single day in the midwest regions because you ~might~ get a tornado that day. So who would be out shopping? Everyone who normally shops or goes to work or school all the time….

            1. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, I get what you guys are saying. I’m thinking more where it’s clearly obvious you shouldn’t be out. I’m from a state where hurricanes are pretty popular (so to speak) and flooding happens as a result. When I think of weather warnings, I’m thinking of the type where winds are blowing fiercely, the city is flooded, hurricane is imminent, etc. In other words, the serious storms where it’s just obvious you don’t go out.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I was going to go with The Consumerist and Huff Po. Huff Po will jump at anything.

      Throw in Mother Jones, too. They have been doing a lot of in this area.

      I don’t agree with every story of outrage, but people who compromise worker safety need to be accountable.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Wait a couple of days for the dust to settle and contact your local media outlets too. They’ll be looking for 3rd & 4th day stories by the end of the week and a good solid WTF? sound bite from the local police chief along with a “no comment” or “that’s our company policy” from the manager will sound very damning to Kmart corporate ears.

  2. MR*

    For No. 1, this should clue you in that K-Mart has been long suffering and struggling and this is just another example of that. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that they are still in business (all of their locations around me closed about a year ago), and it just might not be a bad idea for your wife to look at other employment options.

    No. 2: It sounds like one of the ‘powers that be’ stumbled across the ‘360 review’ and thought it would be great to do. They then dumped this idea on your manager who then passed this awesome idea on to you to handle/research/implement.

    So, kudos to you for having management that flies by the seat of their pants and latches onto whatever cool sounding buzzword that they encounter. I’d suspect this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last.

    I’d recommend a visit to Google and just put together whatever you can find that would placate your bosses. Good luck!

    No. 3: If you have this much inside information as to who applied for the job, you should also have the inside information as to why you were not asked to interview for the job.

    Nos. 4 & 5: This is a classic example of ‘yes, this is legal’ and ‘these are conditions of the job and if you don’t like them, you are better off looking for work elsewhere.’

    1. PEBCAK*

      Oh, oh, let’s think outside the box: we’ll do a 360 degree review, and then store it in The Cloud.

        1. AB*


          Perhaps some people will interpret it as “write 360 comments in total”, which would also be fun.

      1. The Clerk*

        This will result in value add and promote work/life balance, creating a win-win situation. It is what it is.

  3. Anonymous*

    #4: That idiot employer should provide lockers if they don’t want personal stuff in the office. I would never leave my purse with my wallet (money, credit cards, feminine items) and phone in my car. Not happening.

    1. Observer*

      It’s generally a stupid idea, but I can think of legitimate reasons for not allowing purses, and in some cases, lockers won’t do the trick. But, I would have thought the the OP would have mentioned any extraordinary circumstances that would provide a clue that this makes sense.

      1. FiveNine*

        One of my former bosses used to wheel in — I kid you not — a carry-on luggage bag every day. I just *knew* she was taking something(s) from the office every night but didn’t care enough to (1) watch to see what it was or (2) then have to be in a position of deciding whether to report it. (I was grateful for the work, but that was it.)

    2. Editor*

      I agree, but I also wish clothing for women routinely included pockets. I like wearing skirts, but so many times business clothes for women lack any place to put the car keys, the staff id that also opens doors, some tissues (allergies), a pen, or other minor impedimentia.

      The piece of clothing I get really nostalgic for is a womens’ jacket from Land’s End that had two outside pockets and an inside chest pocket, but fabric that was thin and flexible enough to drape nicely. I could go into a meeting empty-handed and still have a small notepad, a pen, business cards, the key to my desk, a couple of hard candies for my cough, and the omnipresent tissues. I’ve never found a cardigan that can handle that load.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I am always SO envious of men’s jackets with inside pockets! Who is to say us ladies don’t want inside pockets too?

        1. LisaLyn*

          But … but … but that could lead to (gasp) extra bulk and you know we ladies must always look our thinnest!

        2. Kit M.*

          There’s a bit in Diane Vreeland’s autobiography about when she was editor of Vogue: she has an idea that the next big thing is to get rid of purses, and wants pockets on all the clothing in the next issue. She is informed by staff that their purse-selling advertisers would not stand for it.

          So the answer to your question is, the purse industry.

                1. fposte*

                  There was a bag blog a few years ago that raved about an evening bag being so inexpensive that it didn’t matter too much if it got sticky stuff on it from the bar. The “so inexpensive” bag price was something like $400.

            1. Kou*

              You jest, but yes indeed– a lot of high end brands of all sorts of things (perfumes, skin care, liquor) are run by giant multinational companies with a lot of sway.

            2. Chinook*

              Considering the number of women with numerous $300+ bags, I wouldn’t be surprised if “big purse” is a thing. And they are powerful – after all, they convinced these women to advertise for them by insisting on big logos on the fabric.

        3. Rindle*

          This! This +1000. I hate having to go to a meeting holding my phone, pen, etc. I can’t shake hands properly, and heaven forbid there’s no room at the table – then I have to pile all my junk on the floor under my seat. My kingdom for an inside jacket pocket!

          I’ve been wondering if it would be possible to have my jackets retrofitted with those inside pockets. Anybody with sewing skills know whether that would work?

          1. NylaW*


            When I find work clothes that fit well AND have pockets, I tend to buy all available patterns/colors.

          2. Melissa*

            I agree – I’d love to have an inside jacket – but maybe a wristlet would solve the problem in the mean time?

            1. Rindle*

              The wristlet is a good idea – way better than carrying a handbag. I currently work in a very male dominant culture, and I try not to do things that are identified as traditionally “female.” It’s not exactly “Mad Men” around here, but carrying a purse (or, to a lesser extent, a wristlet) to a meeting would definitely stand out in a not-good way. It’s quite frustrating.

              FWIW, I’ve also found that most men seem to have no idea that women’s jackets don’t have inside pockets! I guess they think I’m carrying my phone, etc. in my hand because my pocket is already full of nylons and Aqua Net. ;-)

              1. MaryMary*

                When blackberries first became ubiquitous, my boss convinced procurement to order her a wristlet to carry her BB around in, rather than the standard belt holster. Her argument was that she wore a lot of dresses, which did not have belt.

        4. The Clerk*

          I had one coat with a tiny inside pocket that was just perfect for my phone. I was in school at the time and couldn’t handle both a backpack and purse, so it was nice not to have to dig in my backpack for it all the time.

      2. RJ*

        Ladies, I’d advise checking with a tailor if you really want pockets. It is unfortunate that clothing designers don’t include them, but you can customize clothes.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree. I have a jacket here that a friend added a pocket on the inside. I would attempt this one myself with my modest sewing skills. I would think a tailor would do a nicer job that I would. Definitely worth looking into.

    3. Elysian*

      This might not be in a traditional office building. I’ve had jobs where I wasn’t allowed to bring in anything that wouldn’t clear security. Certainly not a cell phone, which also has a camera. I also had a (different) job where I was only allowed to bring in such items in a clear purse/bag. Everyone had to buy outrageously ugly clear plastic purses and lunch bags.

      Besides, a locker isn’t any more secure than your trunk. This is an annoying policy, but its not unheard of.

      1. Anonymous*

        How is a locker not more secure? Only hr would have the locker code but any criminal can smash your windows and steal your purse. Especially if you don’t have a trunk.

        1. tesyaa*

          A locker can be broken into also. If your car doesn’t have a trunk, maybe it has a locking glove box. In a safe neighborhood, leaving your purse hidden in the car is not the end of the world, but in a bad neighborhood I wouldn’t do it. If I had to, I’d carry the minimum, no credit cards or personal docs other than license; minimal cash; etc.

          1. Manda*

            Sure, staff might be dishonest, but you do have to be in the building to break in. Hopefully, any lockers aren’t going to be in a place where any schmuck off the street can just waltz in unnoticed with some bolt cutters. A parking lot, OTOH, is more likely to be open to the public. And I don’t care how good of a neighbourhood it is; I would never leave my purse in a car. (FWIW, my city has been labelled “Auto Theft Capital of Canada,” so yeah…)

        2. Anonymous*

          I can testify from a misspent youth that lockers are very easy to break into, and its very easy to make it not look like you’re breaking into them. Car windows are a lot harder to break that people actually think they are, and breaking a car window tends to attract attention in most neighborhoods.

          Locks in general only keep out honest people.

      2. Jamie*

        Not to be indelicate, but these places that forbid purses or require see through bags…does each woman have a drawer in the bathroom for feminine hygiene items?

        Women need purses for more than just lipstick.

        1. Elysian*

          Nope. You just carry your hygiene products with you in your see-through purse or in your pocket. When everyone has to do it, you just kind of get over the idea that you have much privacy in that manner. It’s not awesome, especially if you’re in a male-dominated workplace (which mine was) and it can be uncomfortable. But I promise that it doesn’t bring on the apocalypse to have to carry your tampons publicly.

          1. A cita*

            What about Preparation H?

            I’m just saying–there are a lot of potentially embarrassing or medically revealing things you wouldn’t want people to see.

          1. Stephanie*

            Ugggggh, but that’s just such an extreme personal preference. There’s no way they could anticipate every woman’s preferences. Plus, free feminine hygiene products tend to be those crappy short pads sans wings or (*shudder*) tampons with cardboard applicator.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If it’s a smaller work place you can bring in an entire box of pads/tampons and keep them in the bathroom. People will ask permission to take one if there is an emergency. (No one wants to come to work and find their stash gone, so women will ask each other.)
          The bosses tend to get use to the grocery bags that head straight for the bathroom and over time there are less questions about that.
          I worked for one place when the policy was started. At first it was very awkward. But after awhile, it boiled down to “What can ya do about it? nothing. It’s part of life.”

      3. Sweet and Petite*

        The lockers at the place I used to work at had no locks. I didn’t know my ex-coworkers very well, so I kept my purse hidden and locked up in my vehicle(If nobody knows it’s there, they’re not going to break in and take it.). The only things I brought in were my nail care kit, a notepad, a pen, and my keys. I brought in a jacket occasionally, too. None of my ex-coworkers messed with my stuff, fortunately.

    4. A cita*

      Yes, I was thinking: how does one carry tampons in this situation? Or do they call out every month? Because carrying those on oneself is not optional for female employees under a certain age.

      1. tesyaa*

        I can’t believe the number of tampon comments on this thread. If the employer insists on purses being left behind, and there are no drawers in one’s workstation in which to store such necessities, I’d have a conversation with the manager or HR (yes, really) about providing a variety of such items in the company bathrooms. Many bathrooms already stock tampons, but I understand the desire to have one’s preferred brand available.

        1. A cita*

          Tampons are an important consideration (worse still, pads–bulky and much harder to hide).

          But there are other things that are even more embarrassing, but may be medically needed–like an ointment or cream.

          I wonder if these same places forbid briefcases.

          1. Elysian*

            Yes – when I encountered such rules, it was in warehouses where they didn’t want you to steal the merchandise, for example. They forbid anything that you could fit merchandise in. You could probably get away with putting your preparation H in a small paper bag or something, or cover the box or tube in duct tape or something. It’s about theft prevention.

            1. A cita*

              Then I wonder if a small wristlet or women’s wallet (with pockets) would be ok? That could solve all the problems. There are wallets that are just big enough to hold you cell, money, credit cards, and with a small pocket for personal items.

              1. Elysian*

                I think it depends on the size of the merchandise. Like someone mentioned below, if its pharmaceuticals you might not even be ok with pockets. If it’s cell phones or something bigger (for me it was DVDs) then a small wallet or something might be ok.

        2. Judy*

          I don’t think I’ve ever been in a company bathroom with free sanitary supplies. Every place I’ve worked (3 F500 companies and counting) had vending machines, but certainly not a stock of items for use.

          1. Chinook*

            I worked for a company that supplied convenience stores and movie theaters and they did supply free sanitary supplies (probably because they were the wholesaler). It was the low end type but it was name brand and differ styles. It was a nice perk.

          2. Twentymilehike*

            We have them! And not crappy ones, either. It’s almost THE BEST THING EVER at my office. Coupled with our weekly free fruit delivery and the vending machine that only cost a quarter, I am a happy camper!

            Sorry, I just had to brag a little :)

        1. Zahra*

          Hey, in a pinch, it totally works! It’s true that I do have the cleavage to do it (34″ for the band, above E for the cup). There has to be an advantage to paying a mint for bras!

    5. Victoria Nonprofit*

      I’d guess that the purse rule is about preventing stealing (both from the employer and from purses) rather than not wanting personal stuff in the office.

    6. Vicki*

      I always left my purse in my car (until I stopped carrying one). I didn’t want to risk the possibility of theft from the cubicle and I didn’t want to be away from my desk if the fire alarm went off and not be able to grab the purse.

      For similar reasons, I never parked in the garage under the building.

    1. Vicki*

      Re #5: Your manager is a nutjob.

      “this all stemmed from one of the employees getting repeated phone calls for advice about a TV he (our boss) was buying, and this employee was having major family issues that he was trying to address, so by the 8th call he stopped answering his phone.”

      I am amazed that your co-worker answered the second call, let alone the 7th, family issues or no family issues. This isn’t job-related and it’s inappropriate and waaaay over the boundary.

      You definitely need to talk to him _as a group_.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Definitely ask questions: how much service do we offer? Do we get paid to answer the phone? What about a buddy system where one person backs up another person so that this does not happen to any one ever again?

  4. Editor*

    Tornadoes — If enough employers continue to be silly about extreme weather, emergency services personnel will start to lobby for laws to keep people off the roads and at home if necessary. All it will take is some gut-wrenching story that involves fatalities.

    Companies that aren’t considerate of the safety of their employees or their rescuers may behave so badly that new laws will have to be imposed. Then the employers will complain about increasing regulation.

    1. anon-2*

      Blizzards are easier to predict than where a tornado is going to touch down.

      Earlier this year, our governor (Mass.) ired some draconian employers by ordering a shutdown prior to the blizzard hitting.

      While some yelled “nanny state!” the order was largely praised – ordering an employee to defy the order is asking him/her to commit a crime; we also didn’t want our emergency services going to pull some clown out of a snowbank who went out in the middle of the storm for cigarettes or a lottery ticket.

      1. Anne 3*

        Exactly. For me that also includes my phone, I want my family to be able to reach me when I’m out, in case of an emergency. I put it away at work, but I don’t leave it at home.

        OP – can you possibly take the minimum things required (credit card, phone, car key, house key) and keep those in your pocket? I know it’s a pain as, as someone mentioned, most women’s clothing doesn’t have comfortable size pockets, but that’s what I’d try to do.

        1. Rayner*

          No but they have pockets in their jackets, trousers, and coats that women’s clothing often lacks. Also, men tend to carry LESS, by default.

              1. A cita*

                How do you carry them in without a purse or pocket? Just walk through the front door with your big ol’ box of super plus? And how do you discreetly navigate through the cubicles, past the water cooler, down the hall, past your chatty coworker, while nodding hello as you pass to your boss on your way to the bathroom with your tampons?

                1. tesyaa*

                  Not to give away too many secrets, but I’d tuck it in a sleeve or waistband when no one is looking. But fine, I’m sure the company will change the policy once people start complaining and using the word “tampon” in public.

                  I would hate this policy of not carrying a purse, but Alison says it’s legal. I would think the company would have to make necessary accommodations for feminine hygiene products.

                2. mel*

                  Depending on the boss, the more things you carry around that make everyone uncomfortable, the faster they retract the No Purse rule.

                3. A Bug!*

                  Tampon bandolier.

                  (I feel like there’s already an Etsy store selling those. I know better than to look.)

                4. fposte*

                  Somebody here once made the wonderful typo of “tampoons.” I feel that that’s what should go into a bandolier.

                5. The Clerk*

                  Honestly, if my employer was going to put me in that position, I’d do just that–buy the biggest box each of the two absorbencies I use, a value pack of liners, two bottles of Midol, and a tub of Charmin wipes and march the whole kit right through, glaring all the way. All the females in the office are going to sympathize and I don’t give a flying fig if the men feel awkward. I hope they do.

              2. Ellie H.*

                This might not be possible if you work in a factory, in a lab etc. I can imagine many workplaces that don’t have space for employees to leave belongings in a secure location.

                1. tesyaa*

                  So if there is no place for secure items, where does one place one’s purse once one has brought it into the building? Carry it at all times, including meetings etc? That is just not done in many places. It also makes females stand out, like “I can’t go anywhere without my special bag of stuff”.

                  I’d say the solution is to shop for clothing with pockets. Many clothing doesn’t come with pockets, but a lot of items do – vests and so forth. I don’t think a company that doesn’t allow purses should be too picky about dress codes.

                2. tesyaa*

                  Cargo pants would also work. I agree that a business that required sleek, tailored clothing and didn’t allow purses would be acting inappropriately.

                3. Mike C.*

                  I worked in a lab for years, and this was never an issue. Then again, we actually had women in positions of authority so this was never an issue.

                4. Ellie H.*

                  @Mike – yeah, I’ve never worked in a lab and my guess is that the vast majority that wouldn’t really apply to. I can imagine there being some places you could work that would have, like, a hermetically sealed workspace. However I would also realistically think that there would be space elsewhere in the facility you could put your stuff and your coat, etc. Just trying to come up with examples that might qualify.

            1. Jean*

              How about men who, after prostate cancer surgery, need to carry absorbent pads to deal with urinary incontinence?
              Or people of either gender who take medications for depression or anything else they don’t want to broadcast throughout the workplace?
              As others have said, privacy is a gender-free issue.

          1. Ellie H.*

            I’m always jealous of my boyfriend for not having the compulsion to drag a bunch of stuff around with him and/or for having pants pockets he can comfortably fit his wallet and phone in, but I also notice that when we’re out together he inevitably asks me to put stuff in my bag. Once we were on vacation when I had the guidebook, water, map etc. in my purse and he commented that there isn’t a real method for men to carry things that’s less obtrusive than a backpack but still socially acceptable. I pointed out that there is a socially acceptable method – ask your girlfriend to put it in her purse!

            1. A cita*

              I do the opposite. When I’m out with an SO, I don’t want to carry a purse, so there’s a string of requests:
              “Can you please put my lipgloss in your pocket?”
              “And my phone?”
              “Oh, my credit card too?”
              “And a tampon….”

              I’m happily hands free then. Works out great! (for me.)

              1. LPBB*

                I do that all the time! Thankfully my boyfriend wears cargo pants/shorts almost all the time, so there are plenty of pockets to choose from.

            1. VintageLydia*

              Yes! On most occasions I don’t need to carry anything for my husband, but the second we walk into a festival or something where you’re passed a ton of leaflets or make small purchases, suddenly it’s all on me to stuff it into my purse. It doesn’t happen enough for me to give him his own bag, though he usually returns the favor by holding my phone and cards for me when I don’t want to carry a purse and I have teeny pockets.

            2. KC*

              My husband carries a smallish messenger-style bag a lot of the time. To work, to the bar, or on a trip–he wants to be able to carry a book (or his kindle) with him.

          2. Sweet and Petite*

            Wow. Amazing how fast people get off topic. How we got from tornadoes to this is beyond me. Anyway. How about using the bra as a pocket? I know it’s uncomfortable, but it’s better than nothing. As far as the keys go, get a hook so you can clip them to one of the belt loops. That, or just buy men’s clothes and not care what anybody thinks. If the outfit has what you need, its your size, and you have the money, buy it.

        2. V*

          Men’s work clothes are designed with large pockets in the expectation that they will carry essential items like wallets and keys. As noted above, women’s work clothes are generally designed with no or shallow pockets in the expectation that a purse will be used to carry essential items.

        3. Amtelope*

          1) Men’s clothing has pockets.
          2) Many women wear makeup, and most men don’t. Even minimal makeup takes up space.
          3) Most women need to store personal hygiene items at certain times of the month. If my employer didn’t let me take my purse into the building, I’d hope those items were provided or could be stored at work.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ha, I’ve just remembered why (beyond the shallow/no pockets thing) I haul my purse everywhere and feel forlorn without it. When I started having periods, my mom drilled it into my head that if I only carried a purse one week a month, everyone would know why, so I had to carry it all the time. I was 12 and unpopular at the time, so overly vulnerable to embarrassment. And now I’m 35 and can’t go anywhere without my damn purse.

            1. the gold digger*

              And heaven forbid anyone be forced to confront the reality that women are human and have plumbing! We are not statues.

              PS I knew I had found a keeper when I found a guy – now my husband – who would buy minipads for me and not complain about it.

              1. TL*

                My dad one time bought a huge variety box of feminine products for me – and I mean HUGE. My mom called him on his way home, and I guess he didn’t know what to get and thought “oh, this has everything!”
                To top it off, it was the only thing in his cart when he checked out. My dad really loves me. :)

                1. Jean*

                  This is sweet, and pleasant to read, especially when I really need to finish my latest job application letter. (I hope it turns out to be as awesome as the one Alison featured last week!) Okay, now back to work. :-)

          2. Tina*

            It drives me crazy that many women’s pants don’t include pockets. I avoid them whenever possible. Not to mention pants with no belt loops. Ugh!

          3. tesyaa*

            Again, one might be able to leave one’s feminine hygiene products in a desk drawer – suitably covered in an opaque plastic bag. Same with makeup.

            1. Calla*

              Again, that’s assuming there’s a desk to store it in. That may be the case for the OP, but in my experience the “leave your purse behind” is most common with retail jobs and there may not be a space for that. (When I was in a retail job that required leaving my purse behind, there was space to keep a small bag but they required it was clear.)

              1. tesyaa*

                If you’re working in retail and keep your purse in that small space, are you there to guard it at all times? If you leave your station, it could easily be stolen – just as easily if not more so than from a locked car. I don’t see retail workers carrying their purses when they go to help a customer find a size or color.

  5. Jake*


    Welcome to the job search world.

    One thing I can say, having just gone through a job search, is to take Alison’s advice on cover letters. I applied to two positions after overhauling my cover letter. I ended up getting an interview with one of the companies and an offer for 2 different positions.

    This was after applying for about 10 positions and getting one fruitless “first” interview. It could be a coincidence, but I do credit Ask a Manager for these offers.

  6. Matt*

    #5: is the boss willing to pay for a waterproof cell phone, since otherwise even taking a shower would pose the risk of getting fired for not answering the phone?

      1. Manda*

        Or in bed. And I don’t mean while sleeping.

        Is talking on a phone while driving by any chance illegal there? Maybe the boss will think twice when his staff want him to pay their tickets, or worse, insurance deductibles, repairs, or new cars when they get in a crash because they had to answer his call.

  7. LisaLyn*

    #5, that is indeed odd, especially since it doesn’t sound as though the boss in concerned with business matters as much as personal ones. If that’s the case (not business issues that are being called about), I would push back, even seeing if you can go over your boss’ head about it if he won’t stop. However, I am VERY MUCH of the opinion that when you are employed, it is to do actual business-related work and not to be emotionally involved with those you work with. Just because someone pays you, it doesn’t mean they own you, IMHO. I am just wondering what the consequences the boss thinks he will impose if someone doesn’t answer and how he would explain the problem to higher ups? It seems the non-answering employee could just ask what specific business issue there was that needed to be addressed and the boss would have no answer.

    Also, it could be that no one in your company will really want to deal with this and at that point, you’ll be left with either having to accept it or move on.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, that bothered me too–the boss seems to be calling about his own personal stuff and not work-related concerns. Whether it’s legal or not, it’s inappropriate.

    1. Jen in RO*

      It’s hard to point to a certain post, but you can start by browsing the “cover letters” category of the blog, lots of good advice in there!

  8. Zahra*

    #5, Don’t forget the usual non-exempt caveat: if you’re non-exempt, your boos must pay you for time spent on the phone.

    1. Elise*

      I actually wondered if the time not on the phone also required payment since they are technically on-call 24/7.

      1. Elysian*

        On-call time is usually only required to be paid time if it is very restrictive – if employees must be within x miles of the office, must respond within y minutes, cannot do a, b, and c while they’re on call, etc.

        So, if the employee is not exempt from overtime, likely only the time spent actually working (actually on the phone or responding to the boss’s personal electronics inquiries) would be required to be paid.

        1. KellyK*

          I would think “must always answer the phone” is a pretty restrictive on-call requirement, if you’re actually going to get in trouble for taking a shower or silencing your phone during a movie. If it’s more that you have to return a call within 20 minutes, then, yes, you can legally be on-call 24/7 for free. Nice, huh?

          1. Elysian*

            Since the dawn of cell phones it has been harder for employees to claim they should be paid to be on-call, because you don’t have to sit at home and wait for the landline to ring.

            Restrictive: You can’t be outside a 5 mile radius from the workplace. You can’t drink when you’re on call. You must be in uniform when you’re on call, in case you get called and must report immediately. If you get a call, you must drop everything you are doing and respond by coming to the office within 20 minutes. We’ll likely call you 4-5 times over the night, so make any plans.

            Not very restrictive: Answer your cell phone when I call you.

            Even if it’s annoying that your boss is calling a lot, you’re still free to go about your personal business as long as you have your phone on you. You should still be paid for the time you actually work, of course (if you’re non-exempt).

            1. Colette*

              But as Kelly pointed out, that means you can’t go to a movie, or any other public event where answering a ringing phone would be a disruption. You may not be able to do yoga or meditation. You can’t take a shower without being ready to hop out to answer the phone at any time. If you’re stuck in traffic, you may need to answer your phone illegally. You can’t go anywhere where your phone doesn’t work, such as a friend’s with poor cell reception, an elevator, or a subway.

              I’ve carried a pager, and we had a 15 minute response time, and it was disruptive even if it didn’t go off.

              This would be a deal breaker for me, especially since the boss clearly doesn’t exercise good judgement about when to call.

              1. Elysian*

                Not saying that it isn’t annoying or unreasonable or that you’re going to have peaceful, meditative time off. Just saying that you’re not going to get paid for “working” 24/7 if the only requirement is that you answer the phone when it rings. It’s just not how the law is set up.

              2. Stephanie*

                Ick, plus you just don’t get time “away” from work if you’re always on call. Some people don’t mind their jobs taking over everything…I am not one of them. You need psychological breaks from work, which is impossible if you’re expected to always be on call (even if it is as simple as hitting answer).

                1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

                  Exactly. Needing a psychological break from work why I do not “periodically” check emails during vacation like 90% of my coworkers do. During my off time, I need my job to be 100% off my radar, which isn’t possible in on-call situations.

            2. Ed*

              I’ve had gigs as an hourly IT contractor where I was placed on a restrictive on-call for no extra pay. I would get reimbursed if I had to do anything after hours but not for adjusting my personal life to be within 10 minutes of a computer. I brought it up once (so you’re not paying me yet I’m not allowed to go camping this weekend?) and was discreetly told they would be happy to replace me with someone who didn’t have an issue with it. There’s always an Indian contractor on a Visa willing to work for less and put up with just about anything.

    2. Brett*

      +1 IT Consulting/Staffing is almost always hourly pay (because they don’t want to pay employees who are not on a project). This policy could have some interesting pay implications.

  9. Anonymous*

    Working for Kmart/Sears as an HR that would never happen in my store nor would we expect employees to risk their lives…it sounds like its more of a manager interpretation rather than the actual attendance policy. There are steps in place that the employee can file a complaint against the manager for reasons like that anonymously if they want the company to look into it. My husband would be upset as well if weather was like that and I was expected to go in but I probably wouldn’t have.

    1. Brandy*

      I wonder if it’s a matter of phrasing the question to the manager. That is, they have an employee call up and say “weather is bad” (hurricane/blizzard/tornado/whatever) and “do I still need to come in?” Answer would be yes. Perhaps the manager isn’t watching the news carefully from inside the mall; perhaps s/he is just not thinking clearly or is maybe even a moron.

      I think if that same employee phrased it as “my roads are impassable; I will be late but will be in as soon as I can do so safely. I will call if it will be any later than X,” the manager is much, much more likely not to hold it against the employee.

      I do know tornados wouldn’t fall into this category, but other natural disaster type events are often predicted in advance–so for those in blizzard/hurricane areas, make sure you have a plan in place for work- if there’s a blizzard foretasted for your area, plan to leave early enough that you can beat the storm. Or speak to your manager in advance letting them know under what conditions you can/cannot make it into work.

      1. Anonymous*

        Unreasonable employers are just going to be unreasonable. I once had a job on Staten Island, while living in a different borough. The Staten Island Ferry was closed due to severe fog in the harbor–I got to the ferry terminal early enough that I could have taken any of three regularly scheduled ferries and gotten to work on time, but five in a row didn’t run. I kept calling my employer every ~20 minutes to keep them updated, and had they looked on the web site they would have seen a service alert about the delays. Every time I called they just said, “okay, we’ll see you when you get here.”

        I got to work 90 minutes late and was immediately drawn into the boss’s office for a 10-minute lecture about not taking my work seriously and being delinquent in my duties. It’s a story that has been really useful to me, actually, when interviewers have asked about management environments I do/don’t work well in, about times previous jobs just didn’t work, and things like that. I tell it with good humor, pointing out that I know I’m good, but I’m definitely not walk-on-water good and when the island you work on is fogged in, sometimes you just have to go to plan B.

        (The employer in question did fire me after four months, but the transportation issue wasn’t their main complaint. Worked out great; two weeks later I had a better, less toxic job that paid more and my career trajectory got more solid.)

        1. Anonymous*

          Do you mind telling how you explained the firing in interviews (without sounding like you’re bashing your previous employer)?

          1. Anonymous*

            The position immediately afterward was a temp-to-hire job, so I didn’t sit a traditional interview for it. In the years since, I’ve explained that it just didn’t work out — the job they described to me wasn’t the same as the job they needed me doing (true), they knew I didn’t have a car when they hired me but were upset that I couldn’t drive places (true), the over-two-hour-commute each direction was just unsustainable (true), and the split was better for both parties (true).

            1. Anonymous*

              Great point re: split being best for both parties! I’ve read on here that it’s important to emphasize that you’ve learned from the firing.

              1. Anonymous*

                Thanks! I don’t miss it one bit. Truth be told there were a thousand red flags going in but I was too young and completely broke to heed them and my gut. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yes, this is what I was thinking — the manager may be working on the floor or in a back office where she doesn’t have access to a radio or TV or even a window to have a clear idea of the weather situation, plus, if the store is 20 miles away from the employee’s home, the weather situation might be different there. If the employee calls and asks whether they’re expected to come in, the manager has to make a yes-or-no call based on that fairly limited access to information, and any time a retail worker calls to ask “Hey, do you need me on this shift?” the answer is almost certainly going to be “Yes” — they’ve built the schedule around having, say, 3 people on registers, one stocking, and one covering breaks, and having one less person will throw everything off. It’s still terrible for that answer to be “Yes, and you’d better not be late” rather than “Yes, but I’ll understand if you can’t make it [on time/at all], just keep me updated,” but I think it’s understandable for it not to be “No, don’t worry about it, we’ll manage fine without you.”

        What I would do is call and tell them the situation, rather than asking — “Hi, Boss, it’s Elsajeni. The authorities in my town are ordering everybody to take shelter until the storm’s passed, so I won’t be able to get in at my normal time. I think I should just be about 15 minutes late; if it looks like it’s going to be more than that, I’ll call you back.”

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: I would ask the store manager if Kmart’s policy truly requires employees to risk their lives to be on time, or if the OP’s manager was mistaken.

    #2: 360 reviews for such a small group sounds like a very bad idea. It could be easy for people to know who said what. And using something like SurveyMonkey….omg. Years ago I worked at a company that rolled these out for managers. Everyone was promised their feedback would be confidential and that all comments would be collected and complied by an external company. Well the company was running out of time to get the reviews done so I’m the interests of meeting the deadline they ended up just photocopying people’s feedback, some of which had been hand-written. From there it was pretty easy for the reviewee to figure out whose comments were whose.

  11. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #5 – Your manager is an ass. If he’s serious about this, I’d suggest you all work up an “on call” rotation and request “on call” pay. If he’s going to demand 24/7 access to your time, he should pay for it. Also, follow Zahra’s advice – if you’re non-exempt, then make sure any time you spend on the phone with him is properly recorded on your time sheet for payroll to pay at the appropriate (likely overtime) rate.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, good advice. This is one of those instances where bad boss flew off the handle where “everyone” should be available to his beck and call “all the time.”

      Sound great for him… until he sees the REAL implications of his petty time control grab and how the company will pay for it.

  12. Jessa*

    Regarding number 1, I would talk to HR and possibly to corporate. I am not sure that’s actual Kmart policy or whether it’s an overzealous store or district. I’ve worked for large corporations before that use a points attendance system, I went way over the head of the floor manager and it was sent down from on high that NO, when the police, sheriff and state patrol say “Do not be on our roads now,” they are not to penalise workers for it. Depending on the severity and the area covered, you might have had to use leave time (and they waived the “schedule leave in advance rule”) to get paid, but you did NOT get a disciplinary action nor did it count as a point against your attendance stat limit. If it was a seriously large outage, they might also decide as a corporate thing to just pay out the day with no leave hit. Which would absolutely happen if the building was closed due to the storm. They wouldn’t pay indefinitely but in one storm they authorised 2 days. And they were usually really nasty about attendance issues.

    But I’d certainly check higher up than the local manager before attributing it to the company.

    1. Anonymous*

      So at what point along the chain of command is an inappropriate management policy the company’s problem? Store manager? District manager? Regional?

      The manager made that call acting as a voice of authority in the company. The company needs to take responsibility and take appropriate action.

  13. RegularPostingAboutWorkDetails*

    #1 I happen to be in emergency management, including design and policy for a large metropolitan area and one of the largest outdoor warning systems in the United States.
    If your store is anywhere near eastern Missouri/southern Illinois, I would be happy to put you in touch with the right county emergency manager to possibly draft a pointed letter to your manager. We did not have any tornado warnings yesterday, so it was not our county, but our only tornado fatality in the last 10 years was someone who died in their vehicle in a big box store parking lot.

    1. RegularPostingAboutWorkDetails*

      (And yes, I realized that if you look closely at my gravatar for my email, you can tell who I work for :)

    2. Mike C.*

      Great to see one of your guys here in the thread! Is this issue of managers requiring workers to come in for non-emergency work come up often? I hear about it a lot, and I’d love it if at those press conferences someone explicitly yell at managers who put the lives of their employees at risk.

      1. RegularPostingAboutWorkDetails*

        My line of thinking on this is…
        if they are forcing employees to come into work while the sirens are going off, they are also making employees already at the store work through the sirens instead of seeking shelter.

        And if the employees are working, then they are not telling their customers that the sirens are going off (almost impossible to hear sirens in a big box store). That means they are not taking the customers into shelter either (or letting customers walk out to their cars without knowing that the sirens just went off).

        So, forcing an employee to come in is only the tip of the iceberg and the number of people that manager is probably putting in jeopardy.

      2. Chinook*

        The mayor in Calgary called people who insisted on “business as usual” during flooding idiots (actually, he said “my staff told me not to call them idiots.”). There is a reason he is loved.

        1. Another Emily*

          I’m not from Calgary and I haven’t spent a lot of time there, but I think Naheed Nenshi is fantastic. Just another reason to visit your fine city.

  14. evilintraining*

    #5: I once worked for a guy who once insisted I spend part of my workday making him new channel guides for each room in his house that had a TV…because the cable company had changed the channel line-up. Ass-hattery is universal. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t usually do much to eliminate it. *sigh*

  15. Stephanie*

    Re #1, I had an employer who wanted us to come in during Superstorm Sandy. I wasn’t any kind of first responder and worked a regular 9-to-5 office job. We stayed open, so we were told to work from home, but try and make it in if we could. Keep in mind, the utility company in DC was notorious for outages and long delays in power restoration.

    Granted, I was in DC where the damage wasn’t as bad as it was in NYC/NJ. But still! I just wanted to throttle the CEO like “For real? You can’t tell the customers to bug off for one day while we deal with a potential hurricane?”

    OP#1, I hope your wife files a complaint with corporate, governing board, or media outlet. It’s just ridiculous when employers get super money focused and ignore common sense things like safety.

    1. Allison*

      I live in the Boston area, and on the eve of Sandy I was terrified. The general attitude in my office was “we’re all gonna be here!” despite the fact that everyone in the area was told to stay home. Now, obviously we weren’t hit as hard as NYC and NJ, but before the storm it was widely anticipated we would be, and the thought of risking my life just to commute into the city was highly upsetting.

      Story has a happy ending though, I told my manager that morning (or maybe the night before) that I was staying home for safety reasons, and it wasn’t held against me because *he* was a much more reasonable human being than most people in that office.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, our buildings were hit by a tornado in the May 8, 2009 derecho (you can google ; it has a Wikipedia page). The second building had extensive damage. In the office, power was out, but the phone was not, so I had to keep answering it. Mostly it was customers asking “Why is my fax not going through?” or “Can I speak to Employee [who had gone home or is helping with cleanup]?” Well, we just got hit by a tornado and the power’s out, I explained. Most people were extremely nice and said they hoped we were all okay, etc. (We were.)

      One person said, “Oh. Well, when is the power coming back on so you can get my fax?” *facepalm*

  16. Peoria IL*

    OP 1 I’m from Peoria, Illinois and if it was a Kmart in this area, I’d like to know. I can see the impact of the weather as I drove through it to work this morning. I will voice my complaints. Washington and parts of Pekin were leveled and a lot of people still don’t have power. Six people were killed.

  17. WIncredible*

    Question #5: legitimately curious — if boss/company does not provide phone, is the answer the same?

  18. some1*

    #3: Maybe your grad degree actually hurt your chances, if you were performing the role without it before.

    Most people get degrees so they can move up, so the employer may be afraid you won’t stay long in the position, or they can’t meet the salary expectations of your degree.

    1. Laufey*

      It happens mainly in at retailers who are concerned about employees shoplifting items in purses and occasionally at companies dealing with pharmaceuticals, where it is very easy to walk out with five pills worth $100 each on the black market without anyone noticing. My sister worked for a such a company and she had to sew her pockets shut.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve worked places where they were worried about stealing, thats what cameras are for. Or they search bags on the way out.

        1. Laufey*

          Yes, those would be other ways of addressing the same problem, though cameras require line of sight and someone to watch them the entire time.

  19. Calla*

    1. A few years ago my girlfriend worked briefly as a pizza delivery driver for a major chain. One day, there was extreme storming with tornado warnings (and we lived in Texas at the time, so tornado warnings usually means multiple tornadoes and lots of storming means very flooded roads). Not only was she required to come in to work, but she still had to deliver in the midst of all that.

    I just feel like people can live without their pizza or shopping for that day (if it even lasts that long).

    1. TL*

      Seriously? One time I ordered pizza and it started storming in between the order and the delivery (I, too, live in Texas – weather happens unexpectedly) and I apologized when the delivery person showed up, even though it wasn’t clear-the-roads dangerous and the store was less than a mile away.
      If they had called and said, nope, can’t deliver, I would’ve been okay with that decision.

      1. Calla*

        Yeah, I was pretty livid/scared! I will order during rain, but once it gets to serious storming I skip it and would be completely understanding if delivery was totally unavailable. It’s not weather-proof robots delivering (though that would be cool).

  20. Becky*

    OP #2 here. Thank you for the advice, Alison, and thank you to the commenters that chimed in as well. I agree that this is probably not the best idea for our company right now. I sent my manager the link to your answer, and she agrees and will be talking to the owner/boss. We’ll see what happens. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate the help!

  21. Jodi*

    I have a question similar to #2…we currently have a review process in my office, but many of the employees think that we could benefit from 360 reviews. These reviews would have come in handy with the exact situation that AAM suggested, “promoting someone to a key senior role.”

    A manager in the department was recently promoted to a new senior role, yet she is not regarded highly by any of the people that she manages because of her inability to prioritize, her excessive micromanaging, and her inflated sense of self. I’m not even in her chain of command, but she still tries to manage me, and I’ve come to see these faults that others have been complaining about. The “powers that be” that promoted her did not asked for any input on her management or interpersonal relations in the office, and this is leading to an air of hostility amongst lower-ranking employees, who are fed up with the politics of promotions. (“How did SHE get promoted before Jane?!”)

    Does anyone have any idea for how lower-ranking employees can suggest implementing 360 reviews? The lacking manager has already been promoted, but is there anyway we can still make her inefficiencies clear to those who promoted her?

  22. Anon*

    Re #3: Can the OP explain further why they know (or think they know) the details of others in the applicant pool? If you are close enough to the company or hiring manager to know who else applied, then it is likely they are close enough to you to gauge whether they want to consider you seriously for the position without doing an interview. Is it possible that what you view as having performed the role successfully in the past was not viewed as successful by others?

    Re#2: I think you are right to ask first for implementation of a standard performance review system. Because this involves open feedback from a manager to their staff, there is not need to have the time-consuming process of anonymizing information from a 360 survey. A more informal way to implement a 360 might be to have the manager ask close coworkers of their staff for constructive feedback on the staff they manage before they do the review meeting. If managers are good managers, who take feedback well and whose employees know this, they can also ask their staff for feedback about their work as a manager– if the relationship is right, employees can give constructive feedback to a manager.

  23. Wilton Businessman*

    #1. Nobody can force you to come into work. There may be consequences for not showing up to work or not notifying your supervisor that you’re not coming into work, but they can’t force you to come into work. If their profit is more important than your personal safety, you’re not getting paid enough.

    #2. I am not a fan of annual reviews at all. IMHO, a manager should make sure the employee understands his/her manager’s expectations. The manager should clearly explain why expectations are not being met throughout the year when the problem occurs and not at the end of the year where nobody remembers the specifics of what happened anyway. In addition, the manager should also offer praise, thanks, and encouragement where the employee has been successful. Evaluation is an ongoing process throughout the year and should not be a surprise to anyone at the end of the year. Still, I understand not everybody thinks the same way I do, and reviews are a necessary formality for some corporate processes.

    #3. First of all, you don’t get interviews because you have a master’s/PhD, or any other degree. You get interviews because you:
    a) have a kick-ass cover letter
    b) have a kick-ass resume
    c) apply to jobs where you would be a good fit

    I suspect your problem may be one of the above or a combination of the above. Have you had your resume reviewed by someone who actually hires people instead of your college placement office? Does your cover letter add to your candidacy or does it summarize your resume? Are you applying for jobs that don’t need a Master’s Degree and are therefore seen as “over qualified”?

    #4. Yes it’s legal. Yes it’s stupid.

    #5. Answering phones 24/7 for business emergencies is commonplace in today’s world. However, a couple points:

    a) If your business is such that it requires 24/7 coverage, then one or two people should be designated as the “on call” person for that week/month. The rest of the people should not have to worry about being called unless the place is burning down. If you are not qualified to be “on call” (ie. there is no reason for the accountant to be “on call” in an IT Consultancy), then you don’t go “on call”.

    b) Any questions about a TV are not business emergencies. Said boss is a dbag. If you get somebody who calls the on call number with non production related activities, it is the on call person’s responsibility to convey that the on duty person is available for business critical issues and that issue is not business critical and will be handled on the next business day.

    c) If one is non-exempt hourly, they have to be paid for any time that they are being called.

    d) The company should pay for the on call phone that gets rotated between people.

    1. Becky*

      OP #2 here. I agree with you about feedback being ongoing (good or bad), and our company has a good track record of that (which is part of why I think they haven’t had a formal review process). In talking with my manager, though, there are some other discussions that don’t always come up naturally, that it would be nice to know are going to happen at least once a year (career trajectory, pay discussions, etc).

  24. Matt*

    #1: I’m a frequent reader, and I think this is the first time I’ve seen Alison mention the company invovled in a complaint.

    1. VintageLydia*

      I think it’s because it was mentioned in the letter, which she rarely edits outside of proofreading–if that. I don’t think she bans people from mentioning companies, but letter writers who want to remain anonymous usually avoid it or they think it’s in bad taste or something.

  25. Nyxalinth*

    #1 Having been in similar situation that got me fired (an incoming hurricane had caused all public transportation to be shut down on the first day of a new job), will say that I hope that tornado blew some Legos into his house, right under his bare feet.

  26. Jennifer R.*

    Alison, I do not even understand half of the questions you have to answer here. Does anyone on earth actually think there is some legal reason an employer would be bound to allow you to bring a purse or other private property on the premises? I could see if you needed something particular like a breast pump, medication, etc. but that would be handled through HR.

    Sometimes I am so surprised by some of the questions. Like some people think that it is the law that employers are good employers, or that their jobs come with tons of rights, paid vacation, etc. It’s your right to quit, and their right to fire you. No one forced you to take the job. Outside of that, there are truly very few regulations.

        1. Anonymous*

          I can’t speak for the Anon above, but I think it’s the notion that those things are inherently just and fair. Now I don’t want to get into that kind of philosophical debate right now, but surely you can understand there are other perspectives.

            1. De*

              The thing is, she phrased it like there is no way there could be laws for this and people are silly for assuming there could be. And that’s just not true, other countries have laws regarding vacation time, having to work when your safety is at risk, etc. The USA not having those law does not mean that they aren’t possible in a legal system.

              1. Nyxalinth*

                This. Or, you know, that it’s silly to believe that that crappy behavior by employers shouldn’t result in a ‘shut and put up or there’s the door’ from the rest of us. If we went with that attitude, there’d be no minimum wage, no 40 hour work week, and we’d still have child labor, and so on. I think it’s dangerously easy to lose sight of the fact that we only have these things only because it’s the law, and that these laws were made because others took a third option to putting up or leaving. Other countries do treat their employees better, and there’s also nothing wrong with noting this.

            2. Audrey*

              She actually said, Does anyone on earth actually think …

              I’m on earth – I live and work in Australia. And the law here is very different to what is discussed here in this blog.

  27. Ed*

    #2 – I was once put in charge of managing the 360 degree review process very similar to your email. First, it was a TON of work. Second, if you would do it (or anyone else reading this), have a few people fill it out, export the results and figure out how you want to manipulate the data before going live. You can’t go back and change a question once they are completed. For example, a classic mistake is if you want to compile the results of a certain question into a graph/chart, it can’t be an open-ended question. And sometimes a question isn’t as simple as yes/no so you need an additional comment box on that question.

    We also decided the results (of who said what) would be confidential so I striped off the names and even anonymized the responses a bit where it was fairly obvious who wrote it. Only I had the unfiltered results and told everyone as we were giving instructions that I alone would have access. Well, when the reviews were finished our VP was not pleased with some comments (he was wildly unpopular), came into my office and told me to send him the unfiltered results. I refused and luckily he dropped it. Either way, that was yet another reminder that there is no such thing as confidential.

  28. Tony in HR*

    #5- Depending on your state, you might be able to charge your employer on-call pay too. You might want to check your state laws. Make sure you understand those laws before you make that threat though.

    1. Tony in HR*

      For clarification-

      You can definitely charge for the talk time, no matter the state.

      You may also be able to charge for the time required to have the phone on you. That’s the part where you may want to look up your state law.

  29. Mary Jo*

    RE: #5 In my state, if an employee is hourly and you call him at home, you have to pay for his time.

  30. Not So NewReader*

    Tornados. OP, my thoughts go out to you and yours and those around you.
    That manager really sucks.
    Having said that, I see this a lot. Where I live it’s ice storms. The county is closed. But, hey, report for work at non-essential job anyway or else.
    Yes, you do get advanced warning. Here is how that plays out. Get up at 2 when the ordinary time is 5 am. Get the snow cleared off the car/driveway/etc. Head out about 5 am, good, two hours ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, it takes two hours to drive the 30 minute drive to work. Unfortunately, that sand and salt truck goes off the hill in front of you because of the ice. So you pull over and wait for the next truck. This means you arrive at work 30 minutes late.
    Get to work and be told “you should have started earlier.” Then get The Treatment for the day or two.

    So not worth it.
    OP, you wife can mention the danger to employees, definitely. But as others have said be sure to mention the welfare of the customers. She can also include emergency workers that would become involved if something awful happened to the store or to an employee in transit.
    Another good talking point is life insurance. If you wife gets life insurance through the company, their requirement for her to report to work in a bad storm drives up the insurance company’s risk and in turn drives up their premium- if the insurance company knew about it. (Yes, this point does register with some folks…. )

    I would try to find as many good talking points as possible. Then definitely move forward with the complaint.

    If I were your wife, I would have been so shaken, I would have been useless at work anyway. I just don’t get these companies.

  31. Cassie*

    #4: leaving my stuff in my car would be difficult for me because I don’t drive to work. I take the bus (our univ encourages alternative transportation methods and about 50% of our dept’s staff carpool/vanpool/bus to work). Luckily we all have drawers that lock. I think for employees working in the campus eateries – they all have lockers to store their stuff during their work hours.

    We once visited a manufacturing plant and because they were in electronics components and no room for error, we had to wear these hazmat-like suits upon entering. Our bags had to be left at the front desk. There were sanitary supplies in the women’s restroom and figured that it was because employees are limited in what they can bring into the facility. I did see some employees with clear backpacks. I get the purpose of it all, but what’s to prevent someone from hiding something under their clothes if they really wanted to bring something in?

  32. Manda*

    #1: That’s pretty douchey. Who the fk is on their way to Kmart when tornado sirens are going off anyway?! Srsly, when people are hiding in their basements worrying if their houses might get ripped to shreds, it’s gonna be a slow night for business.

    #4: Also douchey not to warn people of this policy until they show up at work. What if you took the bus and then found out when you walked in? I would never be okay with leaving my purse in a vehicle. I’d also have a hard time picking out the bare minimum of things I need and then finding a way to carry those things with me. I like to be prepared for almost anything. I also have a lot of medical supplies to keep with me and they need to be in some sort of a bag.

  33. PuppyPetter*

    #1 – “Should I come in?” I think that’s where the poster messed up. The call should have been “I ‘m calling to let you know the tornado sirens are going off and the police are having us take shelter so I will be late”.
    Don’t ask a question that you don’t want an answer on.
    In the winter in New England we deal with “If you think it is safe for you, come on in to work” as our policy. Driving 10 miles (or less) to the office is very different than driving 30+ miles around here.

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