Can I Ask To Stop Working With My Colleague Because He Got A Dog From A Breeder Instead Of An Animal Rescue, And Other Advice Column Questions

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

1. Can I ask to change teams because of my coworker’s values?

I have an issue that’s minor compared to some I’ve read, but it’s big to me. One of my teammates recently got a new dog. Normally this is great; however, he decided to buy the dog from a breeder, as he wanted one with a specific “look.” I frequently volunteer for a local animal rescue (which he knows). He’s allowed to spend his money how he wants, but this feels like a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity, and I don’t know if I can work with him after this. Would I be out of line to talk with my manager about this and potentially ask to be moved to another team?

Yes, that would be out of line. I agree 100% with the need to adopt from shelters and rescue groups rather than buying from breeders or pet shops, given that millions of dogs and cats are euthanized every year in this country for lack of homes. But it’s not something you can bring into work in this way. You’re expected to find a way to work with people who will have different views from you on many issues, including some that may be core pieces of your identity — whether it’s working with someone who hunts or opposes reproductive freedom, or all sorts of other things. It’s also highly likely that you work with other people who do things that you would strongly oppose if you knew about them, but you’re simply unaware of those beliefs/acts — and any team you moved to would have the same issue too. You can’t quiz all the members of a prospective new team about where they stand on buying from breeders … and even if you did, they could hire someone new a week later whose stance you disagreed with.

You can have any values tests for friends that you want, but at work, you have to assume you’ll be working with people who have some views that bother you (and that you’ll have views and take actions that bother them as well).

2. I’m working for my parents’ business and my role is unclear

I used to work in the corporate world in advertising and had an amazing yet strict boss who made me work hard and I loved it! My parents own their own company and are in the process of retiring and asked me to step in and come to work for them, so here I am. My mom, who is the boss-boss, is only in the office a couple days a week and when she is it’s a couple hours a day. Because of this, I have the title “office manager” but that doesn’t really mean a thing.

I have a receptionist, working typical 8-5, who comes in 15 minutes early, “doesn’t take a lunch break” but actually does and does not hide it (30-minute break, she eats and watches Netflix, which I see every day) and leaves early at 12:45 pm every Friday because she comes in early and “works through lunch.” I have said something to the boss but she never has my back as she thinks I am too hard on her. I’ve confronted the receptionist several times but she just rolls her eyes or talks back (I hate confrontation and she can tell) and also she is so scary to confront about even the smallest problems with her work because she will start screaming and bawling that she is trying her hardest and everyone is out to get her. She’s also scolded me more than once, saying she is 41 and I’m 35 and have no business telling her what to do, so with that I have given up.

My main question is, she will take an afternoon off (sick or vacation) and count those hours as physically working and still leave at 12:45 pm on Friday. Is this legal? It’s almost like she’s getting paid twice. I’m so confused. I’ve just never worked anywhere that is so lackadaisical, it drives me insane!

You are focusing on the wrong things!

First, though, if you’re saying that the receptionist takes time off but doesn’t charge it to her PTO balance, that’s not illegal (the law leaves stuff like that up to employers) but it’s presumably against your office policy and someone can require her to use real-time off for it. If she justifies leaving early on Friday by saying she’s already worked 40 hours that week when you know that she hasn’t, it’s the same thing — the law doesn’t care, but your organization presumably does and can tell her to stop.

More importantly, though: I can’t tell if you’re actually in charge of the receptionist or not. If you’re not her manager, you can drop this entirely; you’ve alerted the person in charge (your mom) and she doesn’t care, so it’s officially not your problem. If you are her manager, though, then you need to find out from your mom exactly what authority you have so that you can begin managing her accordingly — which would mean making it very clear she cannot scream at you or anyone else, roll her eyes at people, misrepresent her lunch break or time off, or otherwise violate office rules, and then backing that up with real consequences if it continues, including firing her if necessary. But again, you need your mom on board with that, which leads to the next problem…

Working for a parent in a family business is tough under the best of circumstances; it’s basically impossible in the ones you’ve described, where your parent won’t back you up on anything and is fine with an employee yelling at another employee. This situation is bad for you, professionally and otherwise, and I strongly urge you to get out unless (a) you’re given clearly defined authority that your parents will back you up on or (b) there’s a clear and definite timeline for you getting that authority, and you have your own internal deadline for moving on if that doesn’t happen.

3. Can I eat lunch at my desk?

I am hoping you can help me figure out the norms around eating lunch at my desk. I just started a new job and decided to work from the office. Most people are working from home. One or two days a week there is someone else sitting in a cubicle in my area and the rest of the week it’s just me in a cubicle and one or two people in one of the surrounding offices. The cubicles are low, so people can definitely see me if they walk by.

There is a kitchen nearby with seating, but I haven’t seen anyone sit in it. Eating my lunch there would be uncomfortable for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’m disabled and have chronic pain. The chairs in the kitchen area are uncomfortable for me and I don’t particularly want to move my lumbar support, footrest, etc. to the kitchen and back every day. Second, it’s not a separate room entirely—it’s part of a hallway that people walk through to get to their desks and I’m concerned about sitting in an area like that unmasked for an extended period of time due to Covid.

Is it okay for me to eat at my desk? Is it only okay when no one else is working at a nearby cubicle? Would it be weird if I brought an apron to cover my clothes while I eat? I’ve only ever had a private office before this job, so I have no idea about the norms other than not bringing smelly food.

Pre-Covid — or now, if it’s one of the days where there’s no one near you — I’d say go ahead and eat at your desk. It’s generally fine and you’ll usually know if it’s not. Now, though, I’d be concerned about whether people nearby will be worried about you being near them unmasked while you eat. If they’re staying masked themselves (and thus showing a continued interest in being cautious), it’s worth asking your boss or HR whether there’s a more isolated space (even an empty office you could borrow) to eat in so everyone stays safe.

4. How do I tell a bunch of interviewers I’ve decided to stay at my current job?

Due to some changes at work, I started applying for jobs. In the last week, I’ve done eight first-round interviews, been invited back for second-and-final rounds at four places, and already have one *very* nice offer in hand.

The thing is, I’ve realized doing all these interviews that I’m actually pretty happy with the day-to-day of my job. My direct manager is great, and incredibly supportive of finding me projects that match my interests and providing opportunities for growth. I was on the interview panel for half the people my group, so it’s no surprise that I work really well with my teammates. I’ve decided none of the shenanigans the C-suite has pulled outweigh those factors … for now.

That “…for now” has me worried though. My industry is small and gossipy. How do I withdraw from all my interviews (and decline the one offer on the table) gracefully, and leave the door open for potentially reapplying in the future, in case the executives at my company make the place unbearable or I eventually outgrow my current role?

People do this all the time and it’s not a big deal. You can simply say, “I really appreciate the time you’ve spent talking with me so far. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided now isn’t the right time for me to leave my job so I need to withdraw from consideration, but I’d love to talk with you in the future if my situation changes.” And you can say a similar version of that to the place that made you an offer too, just tweaking the language slightly.

5. Can you mention a rescinded offer in your resume?

I have a friend who has been out of work for a while. He’s getting to the point where he is getting questions as to why it is taking him so long to find a job. He has a lead on a position at a major corporation. However, he is concerned because other companies in this field have recently had layoffs and rescinded offers. If he gets an offer but it is rescinded due to the economy, how does he address it in his work history? He’d like to be able to reference it so that other companies know that he was able to get a plum job. Can one put this rescinded offer on a resume? It seems odd to me. If there is an opportunity for a cover letter, it’s more obvious where and what to say, but many online applications don’t have a place for cover letters.

A rescinded offer shouldn’t go on his resume or cover letter. If asked in conversation about what he’s been doing, he can mention that he had an offer lined up that was rescinded due to a hiring freeze (or whatever the circumstances were), but putting it in a resume or cover letter would be putting weight on it that employers won’t think it warrants. Employers aren’t likely to be especially moved that he got the offer — they’re more interested in what people actually do once they’re in the job.

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