coworker tells me how to do my job, no one wants to take notes, and more

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

1. If I send someone home for being too high to work, should I stay late to finish their work?

I’m a closing manager at a restaurant. Several Sundays ago, I found myself staying an hour late to finish stocking and cleaning. When my GM asked me why, I told him that we were busy, short-handed, and one person was so high that he kept forgetting what he was doing while he was doing it. Rather than keep everyone late, I let everyone go at the usual time and finished things by myself.

My GM’s eyes lit up. “Next time, you send them home! We will write them up!” He excitedly starts opening computer documents, looking for the write-up form. He looked through six or seven filled-out write-up forms, giving me an eyeful of what past employees got in trouble for, but couldn’t find a blank one to show me. Then it got busy and he forgot about it.

Flash forward to last Sunday. Right after his break, it became obvious that the same guy was high again. Based on the conversation with my GM, I sent him home. We were already short two people, but I was pretty sure the GM would be mad if I didn’t send him home. We were slammed, and I stayed late to finish stocking and cleaning.

Today, I happened to look at the Crew App and saw that my GM had posted, “____, you must leave when everyone else leaves! You are not allowed to stay and milk the clock!”

I’m furious. I worked my butt off Sunday night. If he checked the camera footage, he could clearly see me running around in a frenzy, cleaning and stocking. Instead, he accused me of wage theft in front of the eight other managers on the app. My question is, what should I have done?
A) Not send the high guy home.
B) Make my four workers stay an extra hour to help me finish.
C) Shrugged and left without stocking or cleaning, or
D) Something else.

I should mention that morning shift pitches a fit about any little thing that closing shift forgets to do, and publicly shames us in front of every employee on the Crew App.

Your manager sounds like an asshole, so he probably wanted you to choose B. In reality, what you should do is talk to the guy who keeps getting high on his breaks and tell him you’re going to fire him if it happens again, and then follow through on that. (This may be out of sync with the labor realities in your area, but that would be the ideal solution, at least.)

In theory you should also talk to your GM and ask why he would accuse you of “milking the clock” when you were following his advice and were working frantically on your own to finish stocking and cleaning, and ask what he wants you to do if that happens again. But again, he’s an asshole so I don’t know that it’s worth the effort.

Ultimately, though, if the labor market in your area means you can’t fire the repeatedly high guy without ending up short-staffed, then you yourself will probably have no trouble leaving this job and working somewhere else for someone who’s not an asshole. Weigh all that accordingly.

2. My coworker acts like I don’t know how to do my job

I have a question about a coworker who was hired after me. She’s been here for about a year, and I’ve been here for a year and a half. We’re both central receptionists at a corporate office. When I sit with her at the main desk, she’ll always try and butt in on what I’m doing. For example, she’ll say, “Well, I do this this way by adding all these meetings in like this.” And I want to be like, “Well, I’ve been here longer, I know how to do things.” I just don’t need her advice all the time and it’s really irritating me. Also, if someone comes up to me at the desk, she’ll immediately start butting into our conversation, and it makes me trip over my words. She’ll even tell me what I shouldn’t and should say to people, which really annoys me.

I’m about to go to a manager because I don’t know what else to do. I just don’t know how much longer I can deal with her because she makes me feel like I can’t do my job when I sit with her and I don’t feel that way about anyone else on my team.

Speak up when it happens! The next time she tries to tell you how to do something, pause, turn to her, and say this: “Have I done something to make you concerned I’m not doing my job well?” She’ll presumably say no and then you can say, “I’m not sure if you realize how often you tell me how to do something I know how to do. Please assume I’m set unless I ask for help.” If that’s too much of a mouthful — or if she keeps doing it anyway — then just start saying dryly, “Yes, I know.” Also useful: “I’ve got it.” “I know how to do it, thanks.” “I don’t need any help with this.”

Then next time your coworker butts into a conversation, say this to her afterwards: “Please let me handle conversations I’m already in, rather than interrupting.” Hell, you could even say in the middle of the interrupted conversation, “I’ll take care of this, thank you.” (Just make sure you say it cheerfully so the person you’re talking to doesn’t feel like caught in the middle of something uncomfortable.)

If you do all that and it continues happening, then sure, talk to your boss. But your boss is likely to ask you if you’ve tried talking to your coworker about it yourself first and you want to be able to say yes.

3. People want thorough meeting notes, but no one wants to take them

I manage an entirely remote team in different time zones, and people need to be able to catch up on discussions from meetings that they weren’t in all the time for various reasons (conflicting meetings, PTO, conferences, etc.). Often meetings involve someone sharing their screen so we’re all looking at something and that person can’t take notes, but no one picks up the slack.

Usually one or two people do all of the note-taking (I’m often one of them) and if one of us doesn’t do it or isn’t in the meeting, it doesn’t get done. We all make it clear that we rely on the notes (example: “I can’t make meeting X but I’ll review the notes afterward”). I’ve also received negative feedback from folks on my team that certain things weren’t reflected in the notes from meetings they missed, or do not reflect details of conversations they recall being part of but are having a hard time remembering (example: “I know we decided to do X in the meeting due to Y, but the notes don’t state detail Z”) when I speak to them one-on-one, so it feels like meeting notes are essential to folks.

However, it feels like if I or one of the other one or two folks don’t take the notes, they don’t reliably get created, and I’m often the one leading the meeting/sharing my screen so I literally can’t. Do you have any suggestions for getting people who appear to value reading notes but not helping create them to start pitching in on this more?

Four things:

1. At the start of each meeting, assign someone to take notes. Rotate each time so it’s not always the same person.

2. Since not everyone is great at taking notes, especially when they’re not experienced with it, when something of significance is decided in the meeting, say to the note-taker, “Can you make sure that’s captured in the notes?” Make a particular point of this if you don’t notice them writing/typing.

3. Consider whether you have someone whose role would make it appropriate for them to be trained to take good notes and be the one taking them every time (even if they’re not normally in these meetings, as long as it would make sense for their job.) This is work admins used to do when offices had more admins.

4. It’s possible that when someone complains to you about the notes, you should suggest they take the notes next time. But in reality, note-taking doesn’t make sense for every role or every skill set and you don’t want it to be a punitive thing (“you asked for this tool to do your work better? fine, you do it!”). On the other hand, if the people who do take notes don’t have roles that it makes any more sense for (and/or if they both happen to be women, who commonly get stuck with this stuff), consider this.

You could also look into AI note-taking programs, although there may be reasons that’s not right for your context.

4. Accidentally low-cut uniforms

My department just ordered some uniforms (scrubs in this case). A coworker mentioned to me that she doesn’t like them because they’re awkwardly low cut. They’re far from NSFW, and we don’t have public-facing roles, but that made me realize she’s right that they’re a little too low cut (both in her size and mine, at least).

It’s worth asking for better designed scrubs to be ordered, but I don’t know if she has mentioned it to anyone else yet. The issue is that I’m a cis male and at the same level of the hierarchy as her, so I don’t know if I have standing to pass along something like this. What’s a good way to get this good idea to the people who can do something about it without causing anyone undue embarrassment or other negative outcomes?

“Female colleagues have told me they’re uncomfortable with the low cut of the new scrubs — and I’ve found the same with how they fit me. Can we order ones that everyone can wear them comfortably?”

You have standing to say this! Even if the new uniforms didn’t cause fit problems for you personally, you’d still have standing to say that you’ve heard they’re causing issues for others.

5. How big a deal is secretly recording a workplace discussion?

Are there employment risks associated with using a secretly recorded workplace conversation? I have such a recording that would unambiguously uncover a significant lie (a senior employee denies that a problematic conversation took place, and the recording would verify that it did in fact occur). If it matters, the recording captured the audio of a Zoom meeting where everyone was remote. I am tempted to make the recording available to help out a colleague who I feel is being wronged by the lie.

I am in a one-party consent state but am mostly interested in whether an employer would consider the act of making the recording to be an issue, regardless of what it contained or corroborated.

Is this “oh, look, Zoom happened to record this so we have a useful record of it”? Or is it, “I purposely and secretly recorded this meeting and normally wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know”? The first is fine and unlikely to be an issue. The second is very likely to be an issue. Intentionally recording people in the workplace without their knowledge is a big deal and usually considered a significant security issue (possibly a firing offense and definitely a trust-destroyer), regardless of the laws on recording in your state.

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