It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Playing “never have I ever” at work
Like many offices, my team has been hosting regular happy hours and social events in the afternoon on Zoom. Our boss supports this and usually we have a great time! Normally I’m not one to object to having a cocktail or two with my coworkers, but this week my colleague has decided to host this happy hour as a game of “never have I ever.”
I look forward to these opportunities to connect with my coworkers, and I want to support the colleague organizing this event. Since the two hallmarks of this game are excessive drinking and absurd questions, I can’t help but feel “never have I ever” is an inappropriate game for a Zoom call.
Since it’s happening during working hours and our boss is always on these calls, I don’t want to simply skip it. Is there a more graceful way to bow out of something like this?
Any chance your coworker is planning a more work-appropriate version of the game? Some people play the game with points rather than drinks, and with questions that wouldn’t be unsafe for work. On the other hand, some coworkers have really weird ideas of what’s appropriate for work so it’s understandable that you’d want to be sure, especially if you’ve only participated in the rowdier, racier version of the game in the past.
You could ask your coworker something like, “My experience with this game has only been the drinking version, and the topics can be pretty intimate ones! So I wondered if there’s a more PG one I should be picturing?” If her answer doesn’t set you at ease, you can always pull the “I can’t stay long but I wanted to pop in for five minutes to say hi to everyone” move and then drop off after that.
2. Can we offer child care stipends to employees whose kids’ schools aren’t reopening?
I work in an essential business and the majority of our positions require working on location. Some of our sites have been hit really hard financially due to COVID-19, but we’ve been able to keep everyone employed, provide a safe work environment, and allow people to work from home when possible. We just learned that schools in our area won’t reopen in-person in the fall. There are essential worker childcare options open that help with e-learning, but the added expense must be breaking some people’s budgets! This is not a high-paying industry to begin with and I can’t imagine adding a $500 monthly expense right now and that’s if you only have one child!
This doesn’t affect me personally, but I thought how helpful it would be if we could offer childcare stipends through this time. Is this legal? Do they also have to offer a stipend to employees without childcare needs? We have hundreds of employees, so there’s no way to offer this to anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it without a serious financial burden.
If you’re able to do it, your employees with kids would undoubtedly be hugely appreciative — and what a way to build loyalty right now. As for the legality, there’s no federal law that prohibits you from treating people differently based on parental status. Some state or local jurisdictions do have such laws, but they’re generally written to prevent discrimination against parents specifically. Check with a local lawyer to be sure, but I suspect you’d be in the clear legally.
That said, would you consider broadening it from just child care to any kind of dependent care that’s being impacted by closed facilities? That way if you have an employee with an adult family member who’s dependent on them for care and whose normal daytime facility is closed, you’ll be supporting them as well. That’s unlikely to add to your numbers considerably, but broadening your language could help ward off potential resentment about parents getting special help others aren’t eligible for.
3. How to ask about a vacation when I’m close to burn-out
I love my job, my department, and my company, and our leadership has been taking COVID very seriously. Everyone has been working remotely since March, and we expect we won’t be back in the office before the end of the year. I have a senior role on a small team, and our workload has really increased since spring. Our team has been a person short for almost a year, and hiring has been difficult, so we’re all spread thin.
I also have a chronic illness which has been flaring badly for months due to stress from the pandemic. I’ve struggled with worsening brain fog, pain, and fatigue, and it’s exhausting. I’m trying to find a better care routine, but in the meantime I’m starting to notice mistakes I’m making. It hasn’t been anything serious, but our tasks are very detail-reliant and I create more work for other teams when I miss something. I’ve struggled at work due to a flare once before, and I don’t want it to happen again. I think I’m just starting to get burned out. I’d had a vacation planned in the spring to visit my folks out-of-state that obviously got canceled. I’d been saving vacation time in hopes I could reschedule it soon, but their state’s COVID situation has gotten worse, so I might as well take a stay-cation.
Our leadership has been regularly telling staff to take care of ourselves and please use our vacation time, and I know it’s genuine. I just don’t know how to start this conversation with my boss. I do a lot of specialized tasks, and while we have coverage documentation, some of it’s outdated and needs updating. Since I’m barely keeping up with my daily work, trying to get things in shape to take a vacation seems almost impossible.
I don’t have a specific plan in mind for time to take off (beyond “a few days soon, please”) and would want to do what’s best for the team, but I worry it’d be less than helpful to bring it up without dates in mind. My position was created — and I was promoted into it — because I’d been good at making sure things didn’t get dropped. I’m struggling with admitting that I’m starting to drop things and need to take a break, essentially dropping everything, because I’m just so worn out from being in my body in a pandemic. I know everybody needs vacations! I just don’t know how to ask for myself.
It’s so, so common to need a vacation but feel like you can’t take one because you’re so busy and because of worries about how your work will be covered while you’re away. None of that is reason not to do it — and you’re in an excellent position because your management seems to know that.
The fact that you’re flexible on dates makes this even easier. You can say to your boss, “I need to take a few days off but I’m flexible on the dates. Is there any time in August that would be especially good or especially bad for me to take X days off?” Or if your boss isn’t likely to know the answer to that better than you are, you can just say, “I’m thinking about (dates) — does that sound all right to you?”
Once your dates are settled, you can also say, “Normally I’d want to have X and Y in good shape before leaving. Can we talk about how to carve out time for that before I go, so that the team has what they’ll need while I’m gone? My thought is to push back Z to make room for it.” If your manager suggests that perhaps now isn’t the ideal time to go if that’s the situation, feel free to be more explicit that your whole goal in taking the time off is because you’ve been stretched thin and need to ward off burn-out.
4. My boss told people about my pregnancy
I work at a private school which is going to open in person in the fall after being remote since March due to Covid. In a recent meeting with my boss, we began planning for the upcoming school year, and he asked if I would need accommodations due to Covid-19. I shared with him that I was 15 weeks pregnant and would need to quarantine (work from home or take a leave if that wasn’t possible) two weeks before my due date per my doctor’s instructions. The conversation was great, and he shared a lot of excitement and happiness for me. The next day he sent me an email to let me know that he shared my news with some of my colleagues and they were also very happy for me.
I realize that his actions aren’t great from a privacy standpoint, but I’m actually more disappointed from a relational standpoint. I haven’t seen my colleagues in months, and I was excited to share my news when I saw them in September. On the other hand, I never specifically asked for the information not to be shared, and I think he shared the news out of genuine happiness for me. Am I right to be a little annoyed? Would you recommend bringing this up with him? My thoughts are to just let it be, as I truly don’t believe he meant to do something wrong. Finally, reflecting on the situation, I can’t help but to wonder if I should have been clearer about my expectations with sharing the information. Was my boss off on this one, or would most people need to be explicitly told not to share?
He shouldn’t have shared your news without checking with you first. Pregnancy is generally understood to be something you might share with your boss (because you need to discuss logistics) before you’re ready to share it with the rest of your team … so the fact that you were sharing it with him wasn’t itself an indication that he could spread the news.
That said, ideally you also would have told him that you hadn’t told others yet and asked him to let you do that yourself in September — not because you should need to, but because people can be careless with info and so it’s useful to be explicit when you don’t want something repeated. That can be especially true when something is good news, since people get excited for you and share it without thinking.
I think you can bring it up with him if you want to (“I should have been clearer that I wasn’t planning to share it until we’re back in September” is a fairly non-adversarial way to do it, although you can also be more direct if you want to), but I don’t think your instinct to let it go is a bad one, especially if you’re confident it was a miscommunication, he didn’t mean harm, and it’s not a pattern. Either way, file away that you apparently need to be clearer with him when you want something kept in confidence in the future.
5. Turning down an interview without burning bridges
Over a month ago, I applied for a job at Organization A. I really like Organization A and would love to work there one day! However, I have have since been offered a job at Organization B and have accepted. (My new position is pretty great — something I’m interested in, have experience in, and is relevant to my grad school plans). Well, today I got an email from Organization A saying they want to interview me. Like I said, I would love to work there one day, but I’m not going to go back on my word to Organization B and so it feels like a waste of everyone’s time to interview with them right now. Can I turn down this interview without burning a bridge?
People turn down interviews all the time! As long as you’re polite about it, it’s not something that burns bridges; employers understand people’s circumstances change. You’ve accepted another job! That’s not a slight against them.
If on some level you’re thinking they’ll be irked that you applied and then accepted something else — that’s just how this works! Most people continue applying for jobs up until the moment they accept one, and employers don’t expect anything different. If you’d been in the final stages of interviewing with Organization A, they probably would have appreciated a heads-up that you were considering another offer, but they hadn’t even responded to your initial application! There are no issues here.
All you need to do is reply with something like, “I’ve actually just accepted a new position so I need to withdraw from consideration, but I wish you all the best in filling the role.”