It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. I’m in trouble for occasionally arriving a few minutes late
I recently quit the worst job I ever had, in favor of one I like quite a bit better. Mostly.
But my new job has a very perilous commute, involving two sets of train tracks, a drawbridge, and a four-mile stretch of single lane traffic with no turn-offs. This means that if anything goes a little bit wrong, I can end up very late to work. On a good day, it takes 15 minutes to get there. On a bad day, it takes over an hour.
I’ve been here for three months, and there are no complaints about the quality of my work. On the contrary, I’ve received a lot of praise! However, today my manager sternly pulled me aside and I received my “fourth and final” talking to about my “frequent lateness.” Apparently it’s becoming a “morale issue” and other coworkers — I’m 100% confident I know which, by the way — are starting to complain to her about my “excessive tardiness.”
What does that look like? Well, I’m supposed to be there at 8:00. Once a week, maximum, I will maybe clock in at 8:01. Every other day, I’m there at 7:55 at the latest, usually closer to 7:45-7:50. I leave my house at 7:00. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve showed up later than 8:04, and when that has happened I always make sure to call my boss as soon as I know that, say, a car is on fire on that one-lane road, or the drawbridge is up. Even then, the latest I’ve ever clocked in was 8:07, which I think is pretty good with that commute.
I don’t really know what to do about this. The problem is threefold. One, I have at least one coworker who is so unbelievably obnoxious that she is monitoring my time clock or desk and complaining to my boss without talking to me first, Two, my boss is encouraging and enabling this kind of behavior and penalizing me for it. Three, the idea that this company encourages such micromanaging that they do not even allow for a single minute of wiggle room.
I’ve managed people before, and if one of my employees complained to me that one of her colleagues, who was otherwise good at their job and frequently worked late, was routinely clocking in one minute late, I would tell her to mind her own business. But since I’m not the manager, what am I supposed to do about this? I don’t know how to talk to my manager about it and this is honestly making me so upset that I want to start job hunting again.
Are you in the kind of kind of job where being a few minutes late is genuinely an issue (like you’re supposed to cover phones that start ringing exactly at 8:00, or where you need to unlock a door at that time or similar)? If you are, you might need to start leaving 10-15 minutes earlier (since it sounds like that would make the issue go away).
But otherwise, getting a “final warning” about your “frequent” lateness when your “lateness” has mostly been one minute, plus a few instances where where you were four to seven minutes late, is ridiculous.
Is your sense that your boss is aware of what your “lateness” actually looks like, or is she just hearing other people say you’re late and assuming it’s something more severe? Ideally you’d go back to her and say, “I took what you said really seriously and looked at my login times for the last several months to find the lateness you were talking about. Most days I’m early. Once a week, maximum, I am one minute late. There were four times when I was late by four to seven minutes. Given the unpredictability of the route I need to use to commute, I’d be grateful to have a 10-minute grace period if you agree it’s not affecting my work.”
But unless your manager wildly misunderstood what was being reported to her or the work truly needs precise to-the-minute punctuality, this kind of focus on a minute here and there (less time than many people spend getting settled at their desks in the morning) bodes badly for the culture there.
2. Would it be strange to weigh my food at a business lunch?
I hope you will help me and my husband settle an argument. I am in Overeaters Anonymous and have a lunch coming up with my boss’s boss. I need to bring a scale to weigh my food as part of the program. My husband thinks that will be off-putting for my skip level boss. I just plan to say I have a food plan from a nutritionist and it requires me to weigh my food. It’s true and I don’t think anyone would care. What do you think?
I’d love to say no one will think anything of it since how you manage your food and your health is no one else’s business. But in reality, enough people would have a negative take on it that I’d avoid doing it at a business lunch.
To a lot of people, it would make an odd impression and your boss’s boss could think it shows strange judgment to do at a business meal. She might also worry about you doing it if you ever dine with clients.
Is there a compromise that could meet your goals without bringing the scale along, like looking at the menu beforehand so you can select something likely to fit your program or even calling the restaurant ahead of time to figure out the best way to stick to your nutritional goals while you’re there?
Again, ideally people shouldn’t care, but it’s definitely not a “no one would care” situation.
3. My company won’t let me take a year-long leave-of-absence
I have been with my employer for 10 years and, in general, like my job and have been a top performer for my entire tenure. I am at the maximum vacation day allotment and logistically at the top of my career path as a department manager. I work in financial services. My mom recently passed at 65 and I am now thinking about some of my life choices.
My husband and I purchased a travel trailer. I really want to travel the U.S. My thought was to take an unpaid leave of absence for a year. I intend to come back and then continue to work for another 10 to 15 years. My employer will not allow any unpaid time off. Is this uncommon? I don’t want to have to quit and then get rehired and have to start all over again. My employer doesn’t offer a pension, so that is not a consideration, and I would pay my medical expenses out of pocket.
Your employer’s approach is definitely typical. It’s not realistic for them to hold your job open for a year, so they’ll have to replace you — and they may or may not have an opening that fits you when you return. If someone is an absolute superstar, sometimes they’ll be able to negotiate something like this … but more typically, you’ll be told that you’re welcome to contact them when you return and see what they have open, but that they can’t guarantee anything. (Plus, there are a lot of things that could change during your time away — restructuring, a new manager, different business needs, budget cuts — so it’s understandable that they don’t want to lock themselves into an arrangement that might not make sense for them in a year.)
4. How do I prevent future employers from finding out about my personal tragedy when they google me?
In my field, it’s pretty normal and expected to have a personal website that people can look at to see your work, get in contact with you, etc. In order to find other people’s websites, I usually just type the person’s name into google. I have a really unique name, which means that googling my name also pulls up stuff I don’t want associated with my professional life.
Specifically, I coordinated a couple of GoFundMe campaigns for a close relative’s medical bills related to a terminal illness and later for their funeral. Due to the amount raised and the uniqueness of my name, those GoFundMe campaigns are within the first couple of results that show up when you google my name. I do not come from wealth, and while campaigning for my relative’s bills I wrote very personal pleas for assistance. I am incredibly thankful for having been blessed with a terrific personal network that shared those fundraisers all over social media and for all the donations we received during what was an incredibly difficult time for my family.
However, as a very junior person in my field, I worry that having those GoFundMe’s associated with my name will harm my career. I worry I will always be associated with a personal tragedy that will distract from the quality of my work and prevent myself from being taken seriously by future employers and peers. How do I minimize the harm that this can cause to my career? Should I give future employers a heads-up? Would I be expected to talk about it? How should I go about discussing it, if I need to bring it up?
You don’t need to worry about this at all. It’s not something you need to disclose, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be asked about it; in fact employers aren’t likely to think about at all. When employers google candidates, it’s really common to come across this sort of thing, and it doesn’t seem strange or forever connect the person with a personal tragedy or anything like that. It’s clearly something private, and it’s about a very normal part of life.
It’s similar to finding someone’s wedding registry or marathon times — obviously far more sad, but in the same category of personal life stuff that’s normal to have out there and which no one will think has any bearing on your candidacy or work. Don’t worry about it at all. (And I’m sorry about your relative.)
5. How to tell my boss his second-in-commands are making it impossible for me to do my job
I’ve only been employed at my current company for about three months, but so far the director has been really impressed with me and already has offered me a promotion, which is great!
Everything was going well until the director (who is the owner) went on a month-long paternity leave and left his two bumbling second-in-commands in charge. One of them is just plain useless and is happy to collect his pay and not do a whole lot else, whereas the other is incredibly two-faced, power-hungry (he’s fired two people in the week that the director has been on leave), and just generally doesn’t see value in my area of the business (except it’s a legal requirement, so it’s not really relevant whether he sees value or not).
Yesterday, I received an email from the director asking for an updated timeline on my team’s progress. He also said that he’s unhappy with the meetings that he scheduled between myself and the second-in-commands to create a new documentation suite constantly being cancelled. The reason they get cancelled is because his goons never show up! I’m actually currently typing this out in the boardroom where I’ve been sitting waiting for them to show up to a critical meeting that was due to start half an hour ago. I’m aware of how bad this looks on me, and I know I need to clue him in, but how do I do that without looking like a tattletale?
You definitely need to let him know so he doesn’t think you’re to blame. Just be matter-of-fact about it: “I agree — we’ve had several meetings scheduled but they haven’t shown up. I’ve been following up to reschedule, but if you can let them know you’d like them to prioritize it, it might help.”