It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Someone anonymously left a self-help book on my desk
I got into work this morning to find a self-help book sitting on my desk (the “organize your life” kind). I asked my manager if she left a book on desk for me and she told me she didn’t leave it. I didn’t elaborate at all about what kind of book and she didn’t ask. The coworker who sits in the cube next to me didn’t notice anyone dropping it off, and I had a vacation day yesterday, which was visible on my Outlook calendar, so anyone could have known I’d be gone and dropped it off.
How should I handle this? I know my manager is happy with my performance and organization level (and I’ve actually done a lot of the organizing for our shared team materials and started our brand book). For now, I just set the book aside and am planning to ignore it (or leave it in the break room is someone else wants it?), but I’m also worried I missed something, because someone obviously must be concerned about my work or work ethic.
I wouldn’t assume that’s what it means! There are so many other possibilities here, like that the person who left it didn’t even intend to leave it there but put it down while doing something else and forgot to pick it back up … or that people know you’ve done a lot of organizing for your team and thought you’d enjoy the book … or someone came into possession of it thought “Jane does a lot of this kind of work so maybe she would find this useful” … or who knows what else.
Leaving you a book on organizing as a way to say “hey, you suck at being organized” would be so incredibly rude that I’d put that possibility pretty low down on the list of explanations — and especially since you aren’t someone with glaring problems being organized.
(For anyone wondering why this answer has a different tenor than my answer to the letter earlier this year from someone who anonymously received breath mints, in that case the letter-writer thought it was likely that she did indeed have bad breath.)
2. Requiring an employee to be in the office more
I manage a small IT team and I’m curious how you would approach a conversation with a direct report in this situation. Over a year ago, I needed support in my position as an IT project manager to have more thorough QA and analysis work. We found the right fit with a former customer care rep and as part of it, she negotiated working remotely.
She proved to be very effective and she ended up stepping into my role while I was on maternity leave. When I returned from leave, we were able to convert her role into a full-time salaried employee and my direct report. I mentioned at that point that as part of this role that she would need to be present in the office more, but this has proved a little difficult, because we are bursting at the seams and she doesn’t have anywhere to sit on a regular basis. She lives close to the office and does a good job at coming in for meetings or if I request her to/suggest that it would aid a project.
My own manager does not really approve of remote work. He’s old school in the sense that he thinks people are more productive and communicate better in the office and that increases in productivity working from home are exaggerated. I disagree, as I worked from home for six years in a previous job, but have decided that it’s not a “battle” I want to pick with him, as I currently am in a situation where I much prefer coming into the office and leaving my work there.
At the end of the summer, our office is expanding so we WILL have enough room for her to have a desk. My boss asked me if I’ll be having this employee come in regularly since we now have space for her. After thinking it through, I believe that I DO want her to be in the office on a regular basis. That said, I don’t need it to be full time. I should also mention that despite my manager wanting people in the office, he is very liberal about setting your own schedule and letting people step out for appointments. As long as work is getting done and you are in the office for a reasonable amount of time each day, he doesn’t ask questions. My dilemma is how to approach the conversation of being in the office more with my direct report, when I’m not really sure what it is I want. I’m considering saying that I’d like her to be in the office 30 out of 40 hours, because I think that would be enough face time for what I want to accomplish. I’m worried that my manager will perceive this as giving her a benefit that other employees (his team) doesn’t have. What are your thoughts?
First, figure out exactly what you do want her to do so that she’s not having to try to guess at what you’re asking for her for. It’s fine to come up with a range (like “I’d really like her to be in the office 3/4 of the time, but if it’s a sticking point for her, I could live with half-time”); you just need to be really clear in your own head so that you can convey it to her.
Second, once you’ve figured that out, talk to your boss before you talk to your employee. Explain to him that you understand his views on remote work, but that this employee negotiated remote work as part of her original offer and she’d done a great job, been highly productive, etc. (assuming that’s true). Say that you do agree that as part of her new role, you want her to be in the office more than before, but that you’ve given it a lot of thought and she can do what you need from her if she’s in the office X% of the time. Say you plan to arrange that with her, and want to make sure he’s comfortable with that before you do.
If it turns out that he’s not okay with that, you want to know that before you talk to your employee so that you’re not telling her one thing and then having to go back with a different message later.
3. A former coworker messaged me to say he applied for the job I just started
Over a year ago, I worked as an intern in an office with several professional staff members and other interns. A member of the professional staff frequently expressed unhappiness with his job to the interns.
I began a new professional position a couple of months ago, and recently received a LinkedIn request and message from the former coworker asking if my current coworkers or supervisor had told me that they also interviewed him for the role. They did not tell me, and the message took me by surprise. The message was friendly and also congratulated me on my new role, but am I wrong for thinking that it is inappropriate of him to have contacted me about this? I know that this individual was probably extremely disappointed because he has been “stuck” in his current role for a long while, but I would never even consider contacting anyone that was chosen for a position over me and cannot figure out what his motive may be.
I want to reply to acknowledge his message, but I am unsure of how to appropriately address the question of whether or not I knew that they had interviewed for my position. Do you have any suggestions on what an appropriate response may be, or if I should acknowledge the message at all?
That’s pretty much guaranteed to make you feel awkward. It’s possible that he meant it conversationally — like “this is an interesting piece of trivia!” — but it certainly doesn’t come across that way. And there’s an added layer of awkwardness around you being a former intern who beat him out for a job he wanted.
In any case, you’re not obligated to respond to that part of the message directly at all. You could simply say something vague like, “Great to hear from you and hope things are going well there. Thanks for the congratulations on the new job — I’m really excited about it.” Or, if you don’t care about preserving the relationship, you could even not respond at all. But I think a vague, perfunctorily friendly response that doesn’t answer his question is a good middle ground.
4. I accidentally emailed porn to myself at work
I have a big problem. I was using my mobile as scanner, then sent the scanned files from my personal email to my work email. By mistake, I attached a sexual video that was in my mobile with these attachments to my work email. When I saw it, I directly deleted the attachment and the email from everywhere.
I know that my boss has access to see our work mail. I am afraid I will be fired if my manager saw this video. How do I delete this video from everywhere? How do I know if my boss knows about this video? What should be my answer if he ask me why I sent it to my work computer and email?
It will probably be fine. The fact that your employer can access your email doesn’t mean that they’re looking at every message, and there’s a pretty good chance that this will pass unnoticed.
But if your boss does raise it with you, all you can do is explain that it was a mistake when you were pulling scanned files off of your phone, that you were mortified when you realized what happened, and that you immediately deleted it from everywhere you could find it. Stress that you’d never intentionally send files like that using work servers, and that you’re horrified by the mistake.
5. Someone put a very generous wedding gift on my desk and I don’t know who it’s from
In February, I became engaged. I am getting married in September and let only a few people know in the office. Of course, this spread like wildfire and I got many congratulations. Five months later, today, I come into work and see an envelope on my desk with my name typed on it. Inside the envelope was a typed note that said “For help with your wedding.” I looked in the envelope and saw $400 in cash. What is the best way to inquire about who did this? I don’t want it to get out again that someone gave me money, but this can’t go unacknowledged!
It’s more likely that it was a group gift than $400 from a single person. I’d just send an email out to your team or the people you work most closely with saying something like, “I’m not sure who’s responsible for the generous wedding gift I found on my desk today, so I wanted to send out a group thank-you. Thank you so much for thinking of me; it means a lot to me.”
If it turns out that it really was just one person, this is still a perfectly appropriate email to send — and it will be very understandable that you assumed it was from a group, since that’s how these things are usually done.
someone left a self-help book on my desk, requiring an employee to be in the office more, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.