should I invite my team to my home for dinner, will my company expect me to work with my ex, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Should I invite my team to my home for dinner?

I’d love to know your thoughts about inviting your team over for dinner at your house. My organization went remote during the pandemic and I am one of the few that still live in our U.S. HQ location. All of my colleagues are coming to town for a departmental retreat and I’ve been reflecting on inviting my small team over for dinner at my house. The guests would be my boss and my two teammates and we’ve been working together as a team remotely for a year now, although I’ve been at the organization for about seven years. Culturally, our organization is very warm and welcoming; when I worked in satellite offices in different countries, I regularly invited visitors over for dinner and colleagues have done the same for me. That being said, I haven’t seen this practice done by colleagues in HQ, even if colleagues are visiting from other countries.

I do see a lot of benefit from this since we’ve only in person once and we haven’t had the water cooler/lunches/happy hours/office events to get to know each other well. But at the same time, I’m not sure of the norms since my boss would be included, it’s a vulnerable thing to open your house to new people who don’t know you in the private sphere, and I don’t want to make things awkward if any of them don’t want to come. What do you think?

There are some teams that do this, but they’re outliers. Most teams don’t, particularly if they’re not already fairly close. There’s a real intimacy in having people to your home for dinner, more so than dining together at a restaurant. It might be that everyone on your team would find this lovely … but it also might be that some of them would feel pressure to attend when they’d rather not or would privately wish you’d suggested a restaurant.

Intimacy issues aside, there are also things that can be easier for people to handle in a restaurant than in a coworker’s home (specific food needs or preferences, bathroom issues someone might prefer privacy for, etc.). Obviously people find ways to deal with that when they’re socializing but in a work context, restaurants can be easier for people with concerns in those areas.

Because of all that, I’d lean toward not doing it unless you have seen clear signs from each person who would be invited that this is something they would enjoy (over and above a restaurant).

2. Would a reasonable company expect me to work closely with my ex?

I am in a department with 100+ teams, and when we are hired we can be assigned to any team. The department has hired my ex. I am very uncomfortable with this as the relationship was abusive and he is trying to join my team for a position that would directly manage my role. Is it reasonable to ask HR that he not be my manager (or even on my team)?

I’m specifically wondering if an ex-boyfriend would constitute a significant conflict of interest for most companies (in other words, if him being my ex-boyfriend would disqualify him from managing me, I’d rather not mention the abuse unless necessary). I do not want this person to manage me as I do not want him in any position of power over my career progression or performance reviews. I would even be willing to move teams myself if need be.

I love my job and am worried this will come off as me trying to start drama.

You should definitely speak up! No responsibly run company would want your ex managing you (even without the abuse) — the potential for conflicts of interest and real or perceived bias is just too high. Make sure it’s clear this was a long-term relationship (since their level of concern over that is likely to be higher than if you just casually dated for a few weeks). For example: “I’ve learned that Joe Lowlife is applying for the X job, and I would be very concerned about working under him. We were in a serious, long-term relationship in the past and I would be deeply uncomfortable with him managing me.”

If you’re willing to mention the abuse, it’s highly likely that you can ensure you’re not even on the same team as him, and possibly that he’s not hired at all. You don’t need to get into details — “I ended the relationship due to abuse and would be very uncomfortable working with him now” should cover it.

None of this is going to come across as you trying to start drama! They presumably already know you to be a reliable person and don’t have reason to think you make up stories for the sake of drama, and they’re likely to assume this is an uncomfortable, painful thing for you to bring up. A good company will be concerned about you feeling safe, not wondering whether this is just dramatics.

3. People are asking my advice about a job I’m applying for too

I have applied for an opening at my organization — a major promotion that I am really excited to go for.

I am also fielding requests from community members and people within my own professional network who want to “pick my brain” about the job and they want to apply for it as well. What do I do? I feel its ethically icky to act like I am not applying for it myself.

Are you comfortable sharing that you’ve applied for it too? If so, you could say, “I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for it and would feel a little awkward about the conflict of interest. I’m sorry I can’t help this time!”

If you’d rather not divulge that, you could just be especially busy right now and unable to squeeze anything else on your calendar … but if you say that and then get the job yourself, they’re likely to figure out why you declined to talk (which you may or may not care about).

4. Being charged sick days when you’re on unpaid leave

I am planning to take FMLA soon and was chatting with another employee who just came back from leave. They mentioned that their paystub currently says they have “-57” sick days. We earn about 10 a year which means it would take about six years for this employee to earn another paid sick day. Our FMLA time is unpaid — we use our sick time until it runs out and then do not receive a check for the rest of the time. Is this legal? To me it seems like retaliation for taking the unpaid time off. I’m also just super confused that they can consider you owing time that they never paid you for.

No, they shouldn’t be charging you sick days for time you were never paid for. If you’re taking the time unpaid, it should have no impact on your sick leave. My bet is that what your coworker saw is a clerical error and they should ask for it be fixed. If it turns out it’s not, that is an outrageous move by your employer and you and your coworkers should all push back loudly … but I bet it’s an error.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *