It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My coworker caused a car accident and I don’t feel safe riding with her
My job involves visiting clients and vendors at their offices, going to other offices for meetings, and visiting job sites. All of these visits are done via company car, anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours away from my workplace once or twice a week. My coworker was coming back from a job site when she caused a collision by driving into the back of an 18-wheel truck. She says she forgot that company cars don’t have a sensor which slows or stops the car automatically if there is an object or traffic like her personal vehicle does. She had the cruise control engaged because it was on the highway and traffic was stopping or slowing down in front of her and she didn’t slow down or brake and crashed into the back of a truck.
My coworker walked away without a scratch, but she had one of our students along and she ended up with a broken radius bone. The car had to be written off and my coworker was found at fault by both insurance companies and the police. She was arrested and charged by the police. But she has not been disciplined or spoken to about it here at work and the company is still allowing her to drive places in a company car. The student never came back because she was so mad at my coworker and some people have expressed concern about getting into a car with her after what happened. Management says it is fine and won’t authorize anyone else to drive in her place. There are only a couple of other people in my division who the company has authorized to drive their cars, and if those other people are out or not here my coworker is the only choice. How do I express my concerns about my safety to management? My coworker continues to minimize what happened and says it was not her fault because she forgot the car doesn’t stop automatically. She also calls her arrest a witchhunt and says the student exaggerated her broken arm to make my coworker look bad to the police. I don’t want to risk my safety by getting into a car with her.
How do you exaggerate a broken arm, I wonder? There are X-rays.
Anyway, I’d say this: “Given the accident and Jane’s cavalier response to what happened, I’m not comfortable riding in a car where she’s driving. I don’t think it’s safe. I’d be happy to ride with someone else, or be the driver myself, depending on what you prefer, but I’d need to see much safer driving from Jane over a sustained period before I’d judge it safe to ride with her.” If you get pushback, say this: “It’s really not possible for me to ride with Jane, for safety reasons. Given that, how should we proceed?”
Ideally you want other coworkers saying this too, possibly as a group. It’s going to be a lot harder to blow all of you off than if it’s just one of you.
2. Is it okay to take notes at a job interview?
Is it okay to take notes in an interview? I’ve got a not-so-great memory and I manage it with notes and other tools so my work isn’t affected. It’s mostly when talking in person that I have issues. I usually pull out my notebook and write notes of any work conversation because I have trouble remembering specifics after or sometimes that I had it.
Is it okay to do this in an interview? I haven’t interviewed in years and (haha) I can’t remember if I did that before. I’ll have a folder with extra resumes and references with me so I could keep a sheet for notes there. I’m also talking specifically about job details, hours, etc.
Yes, you can take notes in an interview! The key is not to let it it interfere with the flow of the conversation or with the rapport you’re building with your interviewer. You don’t want to be so focused on your notes that you’re not connecting interpersonally; be sure you’re looking at your interviewer significantly more than you’re looking down at your paper.
3. Being referred to as “support”
I work for a company where the obvious focus would be site operations and management, but we have in-house departments for IT, Marketing, Software Support and Training, etc. These departments work with all levels of operations staff and all of the site teams (many, many people), but don’t directly oversee staffs of their own.
Departmental employees are less respected than operations employees despite expertise or title. Department heads are D-suite employees with years of experience dealing with high level work, but are often referred to as “support.” While this term might not seem like a big deal internally, it’s also used with clients and during executive management discussions.
I’m not knocking traditional support staff. Ours love their work and we have a great team of them, but the work is entirely different in both scale and complexity.
I know that the greater issue is getting people to recognize how difficult and valuable the departmental work is to the organization, but is it off-base to ask not to be referred to as support? Like departments are just helping operations do the real work?
This is actually isn’t that uncommon; it’s not just a weirdness of your company. Technically, speaking, departments like IT and marketing are supporting the main operations of the company, and sometimes (not always) it’s useful to be able to distinguish that. It doesn’t mean “support” in the sense of “I am your assistant,” but in the broader sense that those departments exist so that the operational staff can do the meat of whatever the company does.
If it’s literally just the wording that bothers you, I’d let it go; you’re reading more into it than you should. But if it’s bothering you because it reflects a broader issue in your company — where some work isn’t respected as much as others — that’s a legitimate issue. In that case, though, the issue still wouldn’t be the term “support”; it would be the bigger problems you’re seeing.
4. No going-away party because I’m non-exempt
My boss won’t throw me a going away get together during work hours because I am non-exempt. I asked why and she said it is because its not “work work.” Now the get-together is planned for after work, but people are already saying they can’t come because it’s … after work. In the past year, we have had going-away lunches (that last much longer than normal lunch breaks) for employees leaving, and even had parties for graduating students that last in excess of two hours long. This is leaving a sour taste in my mouth as I depart for my next gig. Am I being too sensitive here?
No, that’s pretty crappy.
5. I have to pick up a coworker, off the clock
At my job, we have an employee with no wheels. When this employee works a shift, we are asked to pick her up (depending on who is either working that day shift or with her on the night shift.) Recently, they told us that we had to clock out. Shouldn’t we get paid to pick up another coworker?
Yes, if they’re instructing you to do it. If you were going it on your own as a favor to your coworker, then no. But if your employer is assigning you to do it, they need to pay you for that time (assuming you’re non-exempt, which it sounds like you are). You can test this by seeing what happens if you politely decline to pick her up next time. If they say you have to do it, then you can say, “I thought she was asking it as a favor. If it’s a work assignment, I can of course do it, but we’d need to pay people for that time.”
my coworker caused a car accident and I don’t want to ride with her, taking notes at a job interview, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.