It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Employee’s husband emailed our boss to complain about his wife’s working conditions
This situation happened over a year ago, but I wonder what your take is on the situation.
Our corporate office manages several apartment complexes owned by The Boss in other cities, many in other states. One manager transferred from one complex to another when the manager position came open. Shortly thereafter, her husband emailed The Boss, complaining about how his wife is treated by the company. I found it odd that the husband complained and then also wrote that he had not told his wife about emailing The Boss. I believe The Boss emailed the husband back, although I have no clue what was written. Knowing The Boss, it was probably a defense or dismissal written in a tone of absolute authority without appeal. Nothing further was mentioned to me about it.
Should it (oddly) happen again, what would you do? What would you have done in the previous case?
Employers shouldn’t be discussing employment issues with employees’ spouses. So if the boss sent the husband a defense, that was inappropriate; he doesn’t owe the husband an explanation, defense, or dialogue, and it’s entirely possible that the wife wouldn’t appreciate her boss discussing her work matters with her husband, a non-employee.
If your boss told the husband in “a tone of absolute authority without appeal” that he doesn’t discuss employment issues with people’s spouses, that would be appropriate.
After doing that, then he should have shared the email with the wife — the actual employee — and asked whether there was anything they needed to discuss. It’s entirely possible that the employee doesn’t share her husband’s viewpoint, or that she does but has no interest in raising it at work, so the boss should give her the option of whether or not to discuss it.
2. Do I need to bring gifts for coworkers back from my vacation?
My first several jobs out of college were in a foreign country, where I developed my sense of workplace norms. (Things like, yes, you really do have to go if your boss “casually” mentions he’s going for after work karaoke and drinks.)
I’m back in my hometown in the U.S. now, and am taking my first real vacation at my new job. At any of my previous places, I’d be expected to bring back gifts: a relatively expensive bottle of sherry or other local specialty liquor for the boss, a scarf or something for the secretary, some kind of edible local specialty for the rest of the group. This isn’t done in the U.S., is it? I feel super weird about coming back from a two-week cruise empty handed, but would it be even weirder to show up to the next scrum meeting with a jar of Italian olives and a wedge of French cheese to share? I know I should have paid attention to what my colleagues did when they took their vacations, but I can’t even remember now.
It would be really nice to bring back food for people to share, but it’s definitely not expected. And bringing back individual gifts is not only not expected, but more likely to come across as a little weird in most offices, unless it’s something like a situation where your coworker obsessively collects mouse figurines and so you bring her a figurine of a mouse eating Camembert after your trip to France — in other words, unusual situations where you truly do look at an item and think “I can’t not get this for Lucinda.”
3. Staffing agency wants me to pay for my pre-employment testing
When I was looking for a job, I answered several job postings, which resulted in two employment agencies submitting my info for the same job. I had started and done all my pre-employment testing with one agency (a TB test, drug test, a skills comprehension test, and a fit test). Then I was told by the employer that since the other agency had entered my info first, I had to work under them. Now the agency that I did my testing with wants me to pay for it ($850). I never signed anything stating I would be financially responsible if I didn’t work with them. Am I responsible for these charges?
Hell no. If you didn’t sign anything, this is their own cost of doing business. Say this: “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but we didn’t have an agreement about me covering these costs if I ended up not working through you, so I won’t be paying for them.”
4. Should I include a cover letter even when a job posting doesn’t ask for one?
When a job posting does not ask for a cover letter, should you include one anyway?
I just applied to a job that only asked for a resume and three writing samples. I did not include a cover letter, though since the application was by email I did include a couple lines of introduction. I was under the impression that the work would speak for itself and that the employer wasn’t interested in reading separate cover letter documents. But now I am worried. Was this some sort of “guess what we’re thinking” test?
No, and if it was, you don’t want to work there. It’s fine to simply follow instructions. People who care about cover letters will ask for one.
That said, including one anyway — if it’s a great letter — can still help you with many employers. And it’s a standard enough part of applying for a job that including it as an extra shouldn’t hurt you — it’s not like including long, unsolicited writing samples or other things that are likely to spark a “why on earth are you sending me this?” reaction on the employer side. And in some cases, a good letter will help even when it’s unsolicited.
5. I offered to sell one of my scheduled days to a coworker
A coworker of mine came up to me and asked if he could work one of my days. I said, “Okay, but it will cost you $__ for you to work it,” instead of just trading a day of work. Was it wrong of me to ask for money?
Ethically, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it since your coworker is free to decline the trade, although it feels a little like … well, like something you’re not supposed to make money off of, like charging a coworker to talk to your boss ahead of you or to get a better seat at a meeting. Regardless, I have to think that your employer wouldn’t be pleased to find out that people are selling their days on the schedule to other coworkers.
fielding complaints from an employee’s husband, bringing gifts back from vacation for coworkers, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.