coworker is bitter that I wouldn’t play a game, employee has bad BO, and more — Ask a Manager

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

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

1. My coworker is bitter that I wouldn’t play a game with her

I (19M) am a college student with a single source of income. Before my shift today, my coworker (18F) sent me a Game Pigeon text out of nowhere. I sort of went along with it, we went back and forth with Cup Pong a few times, and then I started my shift at work. I assumed it was okay to leave the game unfinished until I got off of my shift, but my coworker kept trying to distract me and get me to finish the game. I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to patiently wait to finish a Game Pigeon game until later, but apparently she didn’t share that conviction. She got increasingly irritable the entire shift, even at one point going as far as trying to call me and then leaving a succinct voicemail with just two biting words: “fuck you.” This was the final straw for me and when I decided I was going to draw the line in the sand. I made it clear to her that I wasn’t going to finish the game until I got off work. I politely informed her that I would get off at 11 and that we could continue the game then.

She proceeded to harass me throughout the entire shift and made it clear that I was no longer a friend to her, just a coworker. It was so bad at the end of the night that she wouldn’t even speak to me. I tried to say bye in a cheery voice and she just gave me a blank stare, her lips pursed as she glared at me. I tried a few more times to lighten the mood, but it was clear that she wasn’t gonna bite. She then left and now I just feel bad. Am I the a**hole?

No. Your coworker is a petulant child.

2. Older employees give me basic life reminders

I am a relatively younger manager (early 30s) and keep running into a minor issue when I manage people older than me — they keep giving me advice and reminders like I am not a capable person. For example, when planning a big cross-country move, one gave me unsolicited advice on the best way to pack and lift a box (!). Today, a person I manage reminded me that I need to file my taxes or get an extension if I am not ready (they were done weeks ago).

Answering the question in good faith rubs me the wrong way because I wouldn’t even like this type of “advice” from my mom, but I also don’t want to be abrasive about such innocuous comments. I don’t have any issues with them following my instructions or adhering to my decisions, so it feels silly to be fixated on this, but I also don’t want my colleagues to think I need basic concepts like “file your taxes on time” explained to me.

I would love a script or advice on what to say next time so I don’t accidentally blurt that I have been a grown adult for several years now and don’t need another parent.

Are you a woman and was the box-lifting advice from a man? Because you might not ever cure them of that. But you can try with a dry, “I’ve moved before, thank you” or “I’m good with that stuff, but thanks.”

With the tax-filing advice and similar topics, it might be interesting to think about how you’d respond if the comment came from someone your own age or younger. If someone younger than me reminded me about taxes, it would probably feel more camaraderie-ish than parental — more like “ugh, taxes are due for all of us / have you filed yet / I’m still working on mine” and less like a parental reminder. But even if it’s clear they don’t mean it that way, you could try responding as if they did — “I did mine last month, have you done yours yet?” And responding as a peer might reinforce to them that you are not in fact a child in need of guidance.

If it’s not possible to respond like that because the advice or their manner is so infantilizing, sometimes the most effective thing is to allow your face to pointedly convey “what an odd thing to say” and/or to dryly respond, “I’ve got it covered.”

3. My employee smells bad

I have a team member who has some pretty bad BO (body odor). I’ve had a conversation about it with her, and, without prompting from me, two other team members have politely mentioned it to her. Both times she said she’s had Covid and couldn’t smell much, but also swears she used deodorant and cologne. I even had gotten a new stick of deodorant and put in a drawer I keep hair spray and a few other such things in and told her it was in there if she needed it, just in case it was a financial issue. She said she had sensitive skin and couldn’t use that kind.

Now, I would think that once someone has told you that you stink, you would be mortified and make it a point to handle it, and if not after the first, the second time!? Every say she has really bad BO and one other team member in particular is very upset at working with her like that. I hate to write up or fire someone for BO, but what else to do? Is it an offense worthy of such?

It’s reasonable for you as an employer to set baseline expectations that people will show up at work clean and not smelling of body odor so extreme that multiple coworkers have complained. So it’s time for another conversation. This time say something like: “We’ve spoken about this before but it’s continued to be a problem. You might need to wash your clothes more frequently or shower more often, or it might be something medical that you should speak to a doctor about. I know you mentioned you were unaware of it previously, but this time I do need you to see what you can do about it.”

(Obviously if she informs you that there’s a medical reason for the problem, that changes the situation. But unless that happens, it’s reasonable to expect her to come to work with appropriate hygiene.)

how to talk to an employee about body odor

4. Manager recorded training role-plays without employees’ knowledge

My husband works for a large company at a location managed by Bryan. Bryan isn’t his supervisor or in his reporting line, but he does have the ability to assign him some tasks and can make some decisions that affect my husband as an employee based out of that location. However, all of the other employees at this location are directly supervised by Bryan. He has made some odd management decisions in the past, but nothing especially egregious until last week.

All employees at this location went through a training session with corporate HR and Bryan. They were paired with another employee to act out scenarios in front of Bryan with the HR person joining remotely over Teams on Bryan’s laptop. After everyone had completed the training, Bryan sent out a link to a recording with everyone’s session. No one taking the training had any idea that they were recorded. Some folks have tentatively raised this issue with Byran, but he doesn’t seem to get that this was inappropriate.

People are understandably upset. We live in a one-party consent state, meaning that nothing illegal has occurred from what we can tell. Even so, my husband is surprised that Bryan wouldn’t realize the implications of recording employees without their knowledge. The presence of an HR person over Teams makes this particularly baffling, since they would have received a notification on their screen that it was being recorded. My husband plans to let his own supervisor know what occurred since she works closely with Bryan’s supervisor. Are we correct in thinking that Bryan did something wrong here? And is there a better way to elevate the concerns of employees in this location, given the fact that HR may have known that people were recorded without their consent?

Yes. You don’t record people role-playing without their knowledge. It would be reasonable to ask HR for a clearer policy on recording, one that at a minimum ensures anyone participating in a meeting or training session is aware when something is being recorded. (Ensuring you have everyone’s consent can be more complicated in a work situation since sometimes people’s discomfort with recording is trumped by business needs— but at a minimum people should be informed and have the opportunity to raise concerns if they have them.)

Your husband could also ask that the recording be deleted since it was made without people’s knowledge or consent, but I’d be more concerned about ensuring Bryan is told it was inappropriate and that it won’t happen again.

5. Wearing a swimsuit around coworkers

I just came back from a week of travel out of state for work. Typically when I travel to this location, there are many people from my company who stay at the same hotel so the odds of running into one of your other traveling coworkers around breakfast, in the gym, in the elevator, or at the bar at night is pretty high.

However, this week while I was at said hotel, I was walking by the pool and I thought how nice it would be to go for a swim that evening after all work events and obligations were complete. I did not have my suit with me anyway, but then started to wonder if it would even be appropriate to go for a swim? As mentioned above, the chances of running into someone you work with (including your own manager) in the elevator is pretty high. Assuming that you wouldn’t be walking around the hotel in JUST your swimming suit (wearing a coverup or something), is it appropriate to go swimming (or use the hot tub) while on a work trip?

Yes. Just like it’s not inappropriate for coworkers to see you wearing gym clothes in the gym, it’s not inappropriate to be spotted wearing swimwear in the pool. You’re wearing the right clothing for the occasion.

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