we got quizzed on our new boss’s horses, family, and vineyard

my company is doing drive-bys to check that I’m in isolation, my awful old coworker is joining my new company, and more


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

1. My company is doing drive-bys to check that I’m in isolation

I live in a country where they’ve requested that all persons returning from an international trip self-isolate for two weeks. I returned home from a trip abroad a few days ago and went into self-isolation.

My home is close to one of the sites that my company consults for. Normally we go to this site once every two months or so. I’ve seen either one of my bosses or a coworker pass by several times in the past few days. The first time it happened (that I know of) I saw a company car parked in front so I stepped onto my porch to remind them they couldn’t come visit, but before I could say anything they left. Since then, it’s become obvious that they are slowing or stopping in front of the house as they pass to peer into my windows and verify that I’m there. If I open the front door, they drive off. I know an obvious solution is to keep my curtains closed, but I’m already cooped up and the thought of cutting off a lot of natural light isn’t appealing.

I’ve let another boss know that this is happening, but both of us are at a loss for how to address it. I don’t even know if there’s something to address besides that it feels invasive and creepy. But are they actually doing anything wrong and if so how do I handle it?

What on earth! That is indeed creepy and invasive. Are they suspicious you’ll break your quarantine and carry germs back to them? Do they not believe you need to be quarantined and think you’re doing this to get a two-week vacation? If they don’t see you in your front window, are they going to check around back?

You could quite reasonably call either of them and say, “I’ve seen you stopping outside my house several times but you’ve driven away by the time I walk out. Do you need something from me?” If they say no, then say, “I’m confused about why you’ve kept coming here. What’s going on?” And frankly, there’s no reason not to say, “You appear to be checking that I’m home. What am I missing?”

2. My coworkers gave me a shockingly careless condolence card

My mom died suddenly a few weeks ago. Everything’s been a blur. So it was a nice surprise when I returned to work and saw a sympathy card from my coworkers. As I opened it up, I remembered having signed such a card for another coworker a few months ago whose parent died. (We presented her with a card full of loving and encouraging notes, as well as cash and gift cards.)

When I opened my card, it was signed briefly by only three people. There was a $10 bill and a gift card that turned out to have *nothing on it at all*.

It’s not about the money or the cash value. I wasn’t even expecting a card. I am truly hurt that it was put together so carelessly by a team of coworkers with whom I thought I had good relationships. I would rather have received nothing at all rather than a few quick sign-offs and a *used* gift-card.

I tried to laugh it off, but it’s been a couple of weeks and it’s still eating me up. I feel so awkward around my coworkers, but am trying to push through it. What did I do? I feel like they must really hate me, but wanted to just do some small thing just for appearance’s sake. I obviously can’t say anything, right? I’m mentally rehashing all of our past interactions to try to understand why I’d be treated this way, so differently than our other coworker. I don’t know how to fix this feeling or this situation. Do I just swallow it?

I’m sorry, that must feel awful!

I would bet significant amounts of money that this isn’t a reflection of their feelings toward you at all. I get a ton of stories of this kind of thing happening, and it’s usually about disorganization more than anything else. It’s a week where bunch of people were out of the office, or the person who usually organizes this stuff was out, or the collection process got short-circuited by a crisis and no one quite realized they hadn’t finished, or so forth. The empty gift card is a good example of that; whoever put it in the envelope almost certainly assumed someone else had put money on it.

It still feels awful! You want to feel that people are being especially thoughtful at a time like this. But know that this almost definitely has nothing to do with you or with these relationships. It’s just … people not being on top of things even when they should.

And I’m sorry about your mom.

3. My awful old coworker is joining my new company

I was thrilled to accept a new job last week, as I have been trying to get out of a toxic workplace for a few months. At the time, my new team mentioned they were considering a second new hire who would be my peer. Yesterday, I got a text message from “Jane,” a former coworker, saying she was the second new hire. Jane was not fired (because my former company does not believe in firing employees…), but was placed on a PIP and strongly encouraged to find a new job, which she did about a year ago. She spent most of her time at work watching Netflix, surfing the Internet, and making repeated and costly mistakes. I’ve lost many hours on nights and weekends to fixing her errors.

Naturally, I’m now a bit apprehensive about the new position, since the team is small and I assume we’ll be working together frequently. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt that she has changed, but I’m afraid that if she hasn’t, it could affect perceptions of my own performance if we are working together on a project. I don’t want to come across as petty or cutthroat immediately to my new bosses if I need to address issues with her performance, nor do I want to continue fixing her mistakes on my off hours. How do I approach my new position, knowing what I know about her past work?

This will probably turn out to be far too Pollyanna-ish, but you might as well go into it with an open mind. Who knows, maybe there was something about Jane’s previous working environment that didn’t mesh well with her and she’ll be better at a new company. Probably not, but since there’s nothing you can do about the situation yet, let’s give her a chance for a fresh start and see what happens.

But don’t return to fixing her mistakes on your off hours. If you start seeing problems with her work, first attempt to address it directly with her and if that doesn’t work, talk to your manager. Frame it as, “I’m running into (specific problems) with Jane’s work (and explain how they’re impacting your work or any joint projects). What’s the best way for me to handle this?” That will flag the problems for your boss, and hopefully this new employer will manage better than your last one did. At a decent company, as long as you’re communicating with your boss about what’s going on, it shouldn’t affect how you’re perceived.

4. Is my company violating OSHA rules by making us work during coronavirus?

I’m a retail worker and have been freaking out about coronavirus. A few days ago I asked my manager (during one of our big coupon sales, no less) if there were any updates on what we’d do about coronavirus and its impact on our store. He said he couldn’t go into much detail but he had a discussion with the CEO and we’d be protected and if need be would close the store with administrative pay.

As the situation has changed almost every day and things have gotten worse, there had been no update as to what would happen with us. I made a phone call today hoping to talk with one of my supervisors but reached one of the higher ups in the company. He said there were no plans on closing the stores, and if I was freaked out or worried about coming into work I could take unpaid days off.

I’m in a city that has still left things up to businesses to decide how to handle closures, but there is a “no gathering of 250 people or more” ordinance and most of the government buildings, schools, and libraries have closed and will be closed for the next couple of weeks. We are very much a non-essential service as we buy used merchandise from the public, but may fill a gap since certain government buildings have closed.

I’m just so scared and worried for myself and my parents as we would all be considered “at-risk” we all have high blood pressure and my parents smoke and I have respiratory issues. I have no idea what to do, but need the money and health insurance. Is my company violating OSHA laws by making us work during coronavirus?

OSHA has issued guidance for employers (it’s here and a summary is here), but basically says to have a plan, implement basic infection prevention measures, isolate sick people, provide protective equipment if needed, and comply with reporting requirements. Their guidance doesn’t order closures or remote work.

I would try banding together with coworkers and pushing for a more serious response from your company. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

5. How do we re-contact rejected applicants with offers or interview invites?

I work in medical recruitment at a hospital. A few months ago, we went through a round of hiring and had a number of candidates who we rejected due to staffing limitations (they would otherwise have been excellent in their roles, but didn’t happen to make our top five/top ten) as our program is usually small and is quite competitive. The current Covid-19 situation has resulted in both additional funding for staff and a large number of vacancies, and I’ve been asked to contact some of these rejected applicants to ask if they’d consider coming in for an interview (if we didn’t interview them the first time around), or to ask if they’d be open to a job offer.

I’ve cleared this with our HR dept, but I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to communicate with the candidates. You’ve compared job searching to dating before, and I suppose I want to avoid them feeling like we only want to work with them because we’re desperate for anyone — rather that we would have loved to have had them come work with us the first time around because they genuinely impressed us, and the current situation means that we can now ask them. What would be the most tactful way to get this across? Should I call ahead of sending the interview invite? Is there anything I should avoid saying?

This is a way that job searching is not like dating. Candidates aren’t under the illusion that employers are only considering one person at a time or that they’re selecting life partners or “the one.”

So it’s fine to be straightforward! For example: “You applied several months ago for our X opening. At the time, we had more excellent candidates than we had open slots. Since then, we’ve had additional funding and more slots open up, and if you’re still available, we’d like to set a time for you to interview.”

For people you’ve already interviewed and where you’re reaching out with a job offer: “You interviewed several months ago for our X opening. We were really impressed with you but had limited open slots at the time. We’ve since had an additional slot open up and immediately thought of you. If you’re still interested, we’d like to put together an offer to bring you on board.”

my company is doing drive-bys to check that I’m in isolation, my awful old coworker is joining my new company, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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