boss keeps asking for rides home, I’m not allowed to have any personal items on my desk, and more — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

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

1. My boss keeps asking for rides home

I work in my company’s marketing department. There are only five of us, including our boss (an executive president at the company). He knows that out of all of us, I live the closest to him. His truck is in the shop and he has asked me two days in a row “what are you doing after work/could you take me home?” He also asked a couple weeks ago when his truck was in the shop again. I have said no each time. Am I wrong in saying no?

Some things to note: 1) I am a 29-year-old woman and he is a 50-something man. I am not worried that he’s creepy or would try something, but it just feels uncomfortable to me. 2) I have a one-year-old I have to pick up after work. I do not have time to take my boss home before getting my son and going home. It would add 20-30 minutes to my evening, which eats away into time home with my son and husband. I am not at his disposal after working hours. 3) I am not his assistant, so I don’t feel like I owe him this favor.

I don’t want to seem like I am not being a team player by doing this. But like I said, it eats away at my evening and quite frankly, I just don’t WANT to. His wife could easily come get him. He makes enough money that he can afford a rental car. He has been bumming rides these last couple days and every other time his vehicle has been in the shop. He makes it everyone else’s problem. One time he asked me to drive him to the shop “just to see” if his truck was ready (it wasn’t, btw). I just see it as a “not my problem” situation. Am I wrong for that?

Nope, you’re not wrong for declining to give your boss rides, and it’s good that you don’t feel pressured into saying yes.

He’s asking for a personal favor, not assigning you a work task — which means that you are free to say no. If you weren’t free to say no, then he would be inappropriately using his position to get personal favors — and that would be wrong.

You’d also be on solid ground in saying no even if you didn’t have a kid to pick up. But since you do, “I can’t be late to pick up my kid” is a very easy way to decline without awkwardness. So is, “Sorry, I’ve got to get straight home” and “Sorry, I’ve got plans” (even if those plans are to simply drive home alone).

Also, it’s one thing for someone to ask this once as a favor in unusual circumstances. It’s not at all cool for him to be asking repeatedly. He’s a grown man who needs to figure out his own transportation. (He also needs to figure out that he can just call the shop to find out if his truck is ready; he doesn’t need to drive there in someone else’s car “just to see.”)

Related:
my employee pressures coworkers for rides everywhere

2. My boss won’t let me have any personal items on my desk — but other people can

Is it normal for some people in a work environment to not be allowed any personal items at all? I have been told by my boss that anything that is not issued by the company needs to go home. Period. Others (including people right next to me) have water bottles, family photos, etc., but those are fine and they have never been told anything. I have even been told I must take home my pens and only use the ones provided by the company (I’m a lefty and have hyper mobile hands/wrists, so this is not an option for me in any way). Is it time for a new job or to get legal counsel?

Well, there’s the legal answer and then there’s the more practical answer. Legally, yes, your boss can tell you that you can’t have any personal items on your desk even if the rule is only for you — as long as it’s not based on your sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, or other protected characteristic. (And if it were, your boss wouldn’t need to say that explicitly. If you were, let’s say, the only person of race X and the rule only applied to you and if there had been other forms of harassment/discrimination/hostility toward you, a lawyer could argue that it was part of a pattern of race-based discrimination.) In general, employers steer managers away from having rules that only apply to one person because they don’t want to open themselves up to that form of legal liability, unless the manager can cite a clear need for the rule (like if your desk was always a trash heap and repeated conversations hadn’t worked, your manager might be able to defend the rule on that grounds).

The more practical answer, though, is: What’s going on with your boss? Does your boss treat you differently in other ways too? Appear to dislike you? Not value your work? What’s behind this different rule for you versus everyone else? This is such a weird one-person policy — particularly the pens, unless the pens you brought in from home had, like, naked ladies on them — that I’ve got to think it reflects bigger issues.

As for what to do: HR if it’s a big company and especially if transferring is a possibility (because even if HR strikes down this rule, it’s not in your interests to work for someone who dislikes you). Lawyer if you think it is a pattern of hostility based on a protected characteristic. New job either way, probably.

3. As an interviewer, (how much) should I dress up?

I’m running my first ever interviews next week, and I’m unsure about what I should wear!

Our office is a mixture of casual to business casual, and I’m one of the most informally dressed in the office (for example I wore shorts, hoodie, and a baseball cap to work today). This is all good with everyone as far as I know, and I’m not a massive fan of dressing formally— the only time I’ve really ever worn a suit has been at weddings.

But I don’t feel like I should dress that casually when I’m running an interview— it’s true to the office “dress code” but I feel like if any of the interviewees turn up dressed more formally, which they probably will, their interviewer being dressed super casually would make them feel uncomfortable and overdressed!

How much should I dress up? Would jeans and a button-up shirt be okay? Or trousers and a t-shirt? Or should I go for jeans and a t-shirt as it’s more accurate to what I wear daily? I’m a guy living in London and working in a creative industry, in case it’s relevant.

Ideally you’d share your dress code with the candidates beforehand, saying something like, “Our dress code is casual — people wear everything from shorts and hoodies to khakis and button-downs, so there’s no need to wear a suit.”

But if for some reason that’s not possible, dress how you normally dress, just not the most casual extreme of it (so not shorts and a hoodie). You want candidates to see what the culture is actually like (but you also don’t want them to feel massively overdressed, which is why you’re avoiding the shorts/hoodie end of your personal spectrum).

4. My manager came to my house unannounced

My manager showed up at my house unannounced to deliver treats for our virtual Christmas party. We work remotely and she asked for my address the prior year to send a contest prize I won from a virtual event. While I appreciate the gesture, I never expected her to use my address this way. I don’t consider colleagues my friends and prefer to keep work and personal life separate. Sharing this with loved ones raised concerns. They felt it was inappropriate for her to hold onto my address, especially for a personal visit.

Your manager shouldn’t have shown up at your house unannounced and uninvited — and that goes triple if she rang the bell and hoped to see you in person.

For what it’s worth, this varies heavily by region. People who live in countries with strong data privacy laws tend to be much more shocked by the “she used your address in a way you hadn’t intended” aspect of this sort of thing than most Americans are. And Americans who live in small towns where everyone knows where everyone lives see it as much less of a problem than those who don’t. There also are American companies where she wouldn’t have even needed to have asked you for your address the previous year because she could have gotten it straight from your employee file, and using it to drop off work gifts would have been considered lovely and thoughtful. There are others where that would be considered an invasion of privacy. So there’s a huge regional and cultural component to this.

All that said, unless it’s part of a pattern of oversteps by your boss, I would let it go.

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