sharing a house with the boss, paid intern can’t do the job, and more

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

1. Sharing a house with the boss on a work trip

I work for a small company of four people, including our boss. We are all remote. There is an upcoming conference in my city where the three of them are flying in. We have several similar trips a year, and our boss has always booked individual hotel rooms.

For this trip, she announced she was booking the three of them a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house. The other two employees are male. Personally I thought it was weird, and I would not be comfortable staying in a shared house on a work trip, but didn’t say anything since I’m not staying there.

Then the house fell through and she has now booked one with three bedrooms but only two bathrooms. Am I wrong to think this is inappropriate? Having to coordinate shower schedules, etc. with your boss and coworker?

I expressed my concern to one of the other employees, and he asked her in our team group chat if we could look into hotel alternatives. I backed him up and said that although I’m not staying there, I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with it. She said, “No, unless you want to pay for a hotel yourself.”

This kind of behavior is pretty unlike her and felt very hostile. I also feel like if it were a male boss with two women, this would never fly.

We normally all have very open and good relationships, and this is leaving a horrible taste for me. I want to ask her privately for the rationale of this decision and also to emphasize again that this is not something I’d be okay with when the conference isn’t in my city next year.

To me, it’s less that the arrangement is inherently outrageous and more that if someone who’s expected to stay there isn’t comfortable with the set-up, they should be given alternatives — at the company’s expense, not “you can pay for a hotel room yourself.” House-shares are sometimes a thing that happen on work trips, and some people are perfectly comfortable with that. But people who aren’t need to be able to opt out without personal expense to themselves, and without having to fight a major battle over it.

As for what to do, if your sense is that your coworkers are uncomfortable with the plan, you could encourage them to push back — and you could add your voice as someone who doesn’t have a stake on this particular trip but does have a stake in how the team is handling travel in general, since it will affect you next time. And, since it sounds like you normally have a good relationship with your boss where you can speak your mind, you can talk to her privately as well. Point out that one person has already expressed discomfort and been shut down — but since she knows someone is uncomfortable, that shouldn’t just be ignored. Maybe spell out exactly why someone might not be comfortable with this set-up. You can also ask for assurance that this won’t be expected in the future.

2. My friend keeps texting me work questions after work hours

My close friend recently began working with me. She has since started texting me non-stop questions outside of work hours which she should be able to source answers to herself (e.g., do we get paid this week?). How do I maintain boundaries without jeopardizing our friendship? Previous attempts (like saying “questions about X topic need to go to Boss as I don’t work in X department”) have not worked.

This is a close friend, so talk to her! “I really need to disconnect from work after work hours, and when you text me work questions, it makes it impossible to do that. I know that wasn’t your intent! But please don’t send me work stuff outside of work hours, so that I can unwind and not turn into a wreck.”

It’s up to you whether you want to add something like, “Obviously if something is truly an emergency and you can’t figure it out on your own, you can check with me.” Whether or not to do that depends on what you know of your friend and how likely she is to use that judiciously or excessively.

3. Paid intern can’t do the job

I’m working with a paid intern on a project. Our interns are university-qualified and go through a very competitive recruitment process. I’m not their overall supervisor but need to train them and do some supervision.

Although I’ve gone over things several times and shown them where back-up instructions are kept, this intern isn’t completing the work they have agreed to complete. Then I must come in and put out the spot fires. It’s easier to just do the work, not even bringing them over to do it together as I’ve already tried that. They’ve been there several months.

I feel some of this is a recording of instructions/task and time management issue. However, they have made comments indicating it could be stemming from not wanting to do the not-so-interesting work we all have to do; they just don’t appear that interested (although I’ve advised them they will be given more interesting work). We have little to no administrative staff who can take on this work. Other staff have independently come to the same conclusion as me. I’ve trained other interns in this work and within a few weeks they were pulling their weight and making a real difference.

I’m having trouble keeping up with my work while picking up the intern’s work too, as we need two staff members on this project since we all have other work. I’ve had to request extensions for a couple of deadlines. I’m concerned this reflects badly on me, so I’d like to raise this with our supervisor. Do you have any suggestions on how I can approach this conversation with our supervisor?

You definitely need to talk to your boss! That’s essential for two reasons: First, your boss needs to know about the problems with the intern’s work; she can’t manage them effectively if she’s not aware of the issues you’re encountering, and the extent of them. In fact, as a staff member overseeing some of their work, your boss is almost certainly assuming you’ll keep her in the loop on any problems and that if she’s not hearing about any, everything is fine. Second, this is affecting your own work! If you needed to request deadline extensions because of some other external problem (like, say, a vendor delay or a massive power outage), wouldn’t you give your boss that context, rather than keeping it from her? This intern is causing significant workflow issues; that’s something your boss needs to know about.

Approach it this way: “I’ve run into some pretty serious problems with Jane’s work. She’s not finishing work she’s agreed to do, doesn’t appear that interested in learning, and is working at a much lower level than past interns we’ve had on similar projects. I’m having trouble keeping up with my own responsibilities while also taking on her work, and it’s starting to affect deadlines. How do you want me to navigate this?”

I do want to note that “it’s easier to just do the work myself” isn’t necessarily an indictment of the intern; generally speaking, interns are there to learn and managing them effectively will often take more time than just doing the work yourself. However, if this intern is paid a fair amount for what you expect of them (not just a stipend) and other interns have performed significantly better, it’s a problem. Either way, it’s time to loop in your boss.

4. Negotiating my last day at work after a long notice period

I’ve been working at an organization for the last three and a half years and will be leaving this summer to start grad school. Since starting here, I’ve had several bosses and our department has grown significantly. I’ve navigated lots of turnover and upheaval, and the organization is in a better position than ever. Last summer I was given the responsibility to hire my own replacement, who I have been training for the last year with the knowledge that I would be leaving. I recently announced my plans to attend grad school, which gives my manager and coworkers over four months to plan my exit.

I have tried to stay flexible with my leave date considering my unused PTO, but I was recently told that I have not been budgeted into the next fiscal year, which starts two months before I start school. On top of this, the staff always is given a week off in the summer where the office is closed, but this week off would be after the new fiscal year starts, and my manager has casually mentioned a desire that I leave before this week-long paid vacation.

I was hoping to leave after the week of paid vacation because it falls right at the end of a very busy time of work for me and I feel that I’ve earned it even though I’m about to leave. I’m not sure how to negotiate my last day because I want to balance maintaining a good relationship with my former employer while still taking the time I feel I deserve. I would love some advice on how to communicate my wishes while staying in good standing with my soon-to-be former employer.

Yeah, if they haven’t budgeted for your role past the end of the fiscal year, they haven’t budgeted for you to get that paid week off that falls in the new fiscal year. And that’s because you were honest with them about your plans to leave and gave them generous notice — which was for their benefit, not yours, and now you’re being penalized for it. If you’d given them a standard two weeks notice, you would have gotten that paid week off first — and they would have been a worse, less prepared place.

Point that out! Say this: “I gave you a lot of extra notice because I thought it would help with the transition. If I hadn’t done that and had given you a standard two weeks notice, I would have received the paid week off along with everyone else. It feels like I’m being penalized for giving generous notice, so I’m asking that you reconsider, especially since other people are less likely to give this kind of early heads-up themselves if they see me being pushed out early because of it.”

They might not budge, but it’s a reasonable thing to say. And if they don’t budge, they’re forfeiting any right to expect you to go above and beyond doing your remaining time there.

5. Severance when a new company wins our contract

I am a defense contractor who has been supporting a government client for 10 years. My coworkers and I were recently notified that our company (Company X) lost the recompete to continue doing this work, so we will be out of work in six weeks. Many of us anticipate being offered positions with the new company (Company Y) that won the contract to continue doing the same work. Company X’s severance policy says if we were to move over and take essentially the same position with Company Y, they will not pay severance. Is this legal? How do they even enforce that?

Yes, it’s legal. No law requires them to offer you severance at all (unless the layoff is large enough to fall under the WARN Act, in which case they can offer 60 days notice in lieu of severance). It’s also not that illogical, in the specific context of government contracting; severance is for when you lose your job and in this case you’ll be doing the same job, just via a different contracting company.

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