It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?
I’m a mid-level manager at a medium-sized startup. We recently hired a very young intern who just graduated from college. She took a three-day trip to New York, and had asked for the time off in advance. This morning she emailed me telling me, not asking me, that she would be extending her trip by one day: “I’ll be extending my stay in New York an extra day and will be returning to work on Wednesday. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
My boss was livid when he found out and wants to fire her. Our office has a flex-time-off policy, but other workers have to cover for your assignments while you’re out, and we ask for advance notice. It’s unprofessional and unbelievable, sure, but is it grounds for termination?
Your boss is overreacting and being unreasonable. In many offices, people manage their own time and this would be perfectly fine. It sounds like that’s not the case in your office, but then you just need to explain that to her when she gets back. She’s an intern; explaining this kind of thing is part of the deal.
Unless her unexpected one-day absence is causing some kind of massive problem that she should have been able to foresee (like it’s the day of an event she has key responsibilities at), your boss is off-base.
2. My coworker makes rude remarks about my work and my quietness
I started in my current workplace doing quite a technical job which involved very little interaction with colleagues (I am the only person working on that area and it doesn’t cross a lot with others). I am quite quiet and not very assertive.
After about a year, I got a new manager and a promotion to a job that involves, with my old duties, substantially more working with colleagues across our organization. I think my new manager and I have a good relationship and she has invested time and effort into my development, particularly around taking on a leadership role internally.
I get reasonably good feedback (I am not there yet but have improved), but a member of my team who does not report to me comments a lot about my quietness, etc. For example, if I am about to go into a meeting, she will comment about whether I am going to talk enough. Or when I chaired a meeting recently, she seven to eight times pulled up that I wasn’t moving things on as quickly as she would have liked and afterwards commented to the whole team that some people “just aren’t cut out for it.”
I don’t really know how to handle this; it’s going against the grain for me to speak out anyway, and I think this makes it a more challenging environment. In our hierarchy, she is more junior to me but older. I would be really grateful for any advice about deflecting this or if I am being over sensitive. I don’t think she knows the background but I am struggling to improve.
Your coworker is a jerk — seriously. Even if she has legitimate concerns about the things she’s raising, she’s raising them in a rude and obnoxious way. Her comments aren’t okay, and someone needs to shut them down, either you or her own manager. Ideally it would be you, because it will strengthen your standing if you take it on yourself. Ideally, you’d do two things: First, in the moment when she makes a rude comment, call it out — for example, “Jane, your comments aren’t constructive. If you have a concern, please come talk to me after this meeting.” Second, talk to her in private and say this: “You’ve made a number of comments questioning my work. If you have a legitimate concern, please raise it directly with me or with your manager. Can you do that?”
If it continues after that, let her manager know what’s going on. She’s way over the line, and her manager should want to rein her in. (And if the reality is that you can’t bring yourself to talk to the coworker directly — which I realize might be the case, although I hope it’s not — then go straight to the manager. But do get it shut down.)
3. Am I obligated to give a birthday gift to a coworker who gave me one?
If one of my coworkers purchased me a birthday gift, am I required to purchase her one for her birthday? I know this sounds cruel, but this coworker has been attempting to become closer with me than I want. She has caused problems in the office for herself and others, and while I don’t mind the occasional call in which she tends to rant about her job, I don’t really want to be that close with her. In other words, while I know her from working with her, I do not want to be friends outside of work, at least not while we work together in the same office.
She purchased a gift for me for my birthday (a small bottle of alcohol) and she knew that giving me the gift made me uncomfortable, but she did it anyway. (She knows how I feel about workplace relationships and keeping things relatively professional. She actually said she knew it would make me uncomfortable but did it anyway.) I thanked her for the gift by saying it was thoughtful and didn’t really know what else to do. To my knowledge, she has not purchased any other coworkers gifts.
Now her birthday is coming up. Am I required to return the favor? My concern is this will set precedence for not just birthdays, but other holidays as well (Christmas?) and I do not have the extra cash to spend on someone I don’t know that well and I don’t want to know that well. Frankly, the whole thing has made me somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t want to have to purchase coworkers gifts, but I feel like if I don’t get her something, she will think of me as rude or downright mean. I feel like I’ve been pushed into a tradition that I don’t want anything to do with.
Nope, you’re not obligated to buy her a gift. This is actually made somewhat easier by the fact that she said she knew it would make you uncomfortable; it sounds like you’ve already explained to her that you don’t want that type of relationship. Plus, the easiest way to convey “I don’t want a gift-giving relationship with you” is … to not give a gift.
It would be nice to wish her a happy birthday that day (and that should keep the lack of a gift from feeling mean). But also, keep in mind that you can’t control how she feels. You’re not obligated to give her a gift, you’ve made your stance on boundaries clear, and you’re not doing anything wrong; if she’s upset, that’s not caused by you, but by expectations on her side that you’ve already asked her not to have.
4. Pregnancy when employer has a self-funded health care plan
I have recently found out that I am pregnant (currently about five weeks) with my first child. My first appointment isn’t until around the eight-week mark, and I wouldn’t normally even consider telling my employer until around five to six months.
However, we have a self-funded health care plan. What makes it worse is that I work in HR and my boss is the one who receives all the medical paperwork that includes the cost, employee name, and what was done. Does the fact that she will see I’m attending prenatal appointments, having ultrasounds, etc. just through the fact that we’re self-funded change when I should tell her myself? I really don’t want to tell her so early, but I don’t see many options when she’s going to find out herself regardless.
I don’t think it needs to force you into announcing your pregnancy before you’re ready. Yes, it’s true that if your boss sees that paperwork, she’s likely to figure it out, but if she has any discretion at all, she’ll know she needs to engage in a polite fiction of not knowing. And because your employer has a self-funded plan, they’re covered under HIPAA, which means that your boss can’t legally share the information she’s exposed to from administering the plan or use it for any employment-related action. So, proceed the way you would if it weren’t a self-funded plan, and announce when you’re ready to announce.
5. Can I push back on this inconvenient meeting time?
I am a remote employee who doesn’t get much face time with my boss. He often cancels meetings.
I’m developing a big proposal for my department which I thought was due early next week. We had quickly mentioned last time we talked that we could perhaps review in person. I reminded him and he suggested 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning. That means I have to kill a day to get there for a very early meeting when, if it were a few hours later, I could fly in and out in one day.
Can I push back on this? I don’t see why it can’t be later and fly in and out same day.
He’s probably just not thinking about the logistics the way you are. It’s really normal for this to happen — managers don’t always think as deeply about logistics for this type of thing because they assume that if there’s an issue, someone will say so, whereas employees often assume that if the manager is suggesting it, that must be the way they want it and there’s no room to push back.
Just say, “Any way we could do it later in the day so that I can fly in and out the same day?”
should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission, coworker makes rude remarks about my quietness, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.