office is too drinking-focused, can I complain about a bad interview a year ago, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. How can we be less drinking-focused when we socialize?

I’ve read a few of your old posts about drinking culture and none of them seemed to get at this thing exactly. Socializing with coworkers is a big part of corporate culture at my workplace, but it’s always been happy hour or drinks-focused. We’re growing and our team is getting more diverse in terms of religion, sobriety, and ability to attend after work social hours due to children, but leadership hasn’t really changed their approach to team building beyond “drinks at the pub.”

I’d like to push back on this attitude but also offer resources to solve this problem or ideas on how to make team-building more attainable. We’re also in a nationally distributed remote/hybrid situation with most people being able to get to a few centralized locations during the week for work, but able to work from home. When folks fly in for meetings or workshops and there is an opportunity to connect, the go-to meet-and-greet suggestion is happy hour and I’m just looking for more options to propose but am wary of leaning into the sorts of team gathering that is heavily sports-focused. Any ideas?

Yep, happy hours can exclude a lot of people — people who don’t drink for health or religious reasons, recovering alcoholics, people who need to get home to care for kids, and people who just don’t like it. You want activities that (a) aren’t so alcohol-focused and (b) take place during work hours. What about a late afternoon in-office mixer with snacks and beverages (including non-alcoholic ones)? Ice cream social? Lunchtime taco truck? Coffee and tea tasting? You still may have people who can’t or don’t want to eat ice cream, tacos, or coffee, but mixing it up and using a bunch of different options over the course of the year will be a lot more inclusive than just drinks every time.

You can also look at non-food options too, but those depend on what the majority of your employees would enjoy. Silly talent show? Video game challenge? Pictionary tournament? There’s no one idea that everyone is guaranteed to like (and with any single activity, you will almost certainly have some people who don’t like it) but, again, if you’re mixing it up and not using the same activity every time — and not making any of this mandatory, officially or unofficially — you’ll be more inclusive over time than you are right now with everything centered around drinking.

2. Can I complain about a bad interview a year ago?

About one year ago, I had an interview with a very disrespectful hiring manager. He started with lies, continued with belittlement and ended with insult. Of course I didnt want the job and half assed the interview (I did not think I could leave an interview).

Now I want to complain about him to the higher-ups. I don’t want anything, I just want to stand up for myself, because I felt that I let him walk all over me. Disrespect does not have expiration dates. What do you think?

It’s going to come off strangely if you contact them a year later. Job applicants are already at a disadvantage in complaining about interviewers even right after the fact (you’re an unknown quantity with no capital with them, rejected candidates sometimes complain simply because they were rejected so you’re associated with a weird group, etc.). When it’s a year later, you’re going to have even less influence.

Instead, use this as resolve to cut short any interview in the future where you’re treated that way. You can walk out of an interview where you’re being mistreated — for that matter, you can politely cut short an interview where you’re not being mistreated but just know the job isn’t for you — and if you use this situation as impetus to do that next time, it won’t be a wasted experience.

3. Can my job applications somehow convey “I’m better in person”?

I’m doing the digital application slog that precedes the interview portion. In a subversion of the usual interview woes, I am actually very good at interviews! Is there any way to convey in the “tell us more” section of the online applications that I pop more in person and that even a brief chat would help them see the benefit I can bring? Obviously it won’t get me in anywhere I’m not qualified, but for positions where I’m mostly qualified, I can often count on my charisma and interviewing skills to carry me to a “yes.” I want capitalize on that if I can, but I can’t think of a way to relay this information without coming off as a braggart. (It’s hard enough not sounding like it now!)

Not really. A ton of job applicants try to convey some version of “if we could just meet, I think you’d want to hire me” (and often, although not always, the people saying this are not especially strong candidates) so even if it’s more-than-typically true in your case, there’s no way to say it that is more credible than the rest. That’s especially the case because your reason for wanting to meet in person is about charisma and interviewing skills — things employers don’t like to think of themselves as being swayed by, even when they are.

Focus on writing a resume that shows a track record of achievement and an engaging cover letter that explains why you’d excel at this particular job.

4. Why do gift cards feel better than cash for a teacher gift?

A question came up at work today that I wanted your perspective on. One of my coworkers recently transitioned his son from family childcare to a daycare center. He was asking today if it would be appropriate to give a cash tip for teacher appreciation week (and in the future for Christmas) and if so how much? The general consensus was that he should give a gift card, rather than cash, but none of us could quite put a finger on why giving cash to a daycare or preschool teacher felt wrong. We generally agreed that if he had a nanny, a cash bonus would be the best option. He compared it to leaving a cash bonus at Christmas for the mailman or the garbage collector and was struggling to explain why this felt different.

For reference, we are teachers ourselves, and felt that while we appreciate gift cards, getting a cash tip from a parent would feel weird. While he accepted our answer, none of us were really able to explain why it felt wrong to give daycare workers or teachers cash as a thank you. Is there some actual reason we’re missing?

Hmmm! I think it’s a combination of (a) the difference between a gift and a tip, and (b) tradition. We don’t typically tip teachers, but we do give them gifts — so while a gift card is ultimately money, it doesn’t say “tip” the way pure cash does.

I think your use of the word “bonus” might also be tripping you up — a bonus is something added on to your salary by the person who pays for your work. So your employer can give you a bonus, but when you give cash to the mail carrier that’s a tip, not a bonus.

5. Do our hourly employees need to be paid for this?

I work at a clinic that is corporate-owned. We recently hired a new full-time doctor. This doctor is not getting enough clients to keep them busy. As a result, we were trying to come up with ways to get clients in the door. One of those ideas was to have a table, representing the clinic, at the local dog expo. The dog expo was held on a Saturday and Sunday, during non-office hours. The table was manned, in shifts, by the new doctor, the office manager, and two technicians. The new doctor and the office manager are salaried, whereas the technicians are paid by the hour. One of the technicians asked to be paid for her time at the expo. Corporate said it would not be fair to pay the techs and not the doctor or the office manager. The compromise was to buy a nice dinner for the office manager, new doctor, and the two techs.

Is it legal not to pay hourly staff for working on their weekend to try to drum up business for the new doctor? I get not paying salaried staff, but what about the hourly staff?

Nope, it’s not legal. Unlike exempt staff (which definitely includes your doctor and may or may not include the office manager, depending on their job duties), hourly/non-exempt staff are required to be paid for all hours they work, including overtime (time and a half) for any hours over 40 that week. And they have to be paid in money, not dinner.

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