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Career Q&A: Are co-workers abusing 'work from home' privilege?

Q: Twice this week, co-workers on my team have been allowed to "work from home" (without using PTO) on days when they are also supervising their children. One was home with a sick 2-year-old. The other reprimanded her son while on a conference call. This isn't the first time, and I have mentioned to my manager how it seems unfair and unprofessional, but he seems to have no problem with it, as he is the one who approves them working from home. I feel like he thinks I'm making a fuss because I don't have children.

I have occasionally used the work-from-home privilege when I've had repairmen coming to my house or a lunchtime appointment close to home. But I feel that if you are supervising young children the entire day, you are not really "working from home" and are taking advantage of the system to avoid finding day care and using PTO (paid time off). Am I being unreasonable? Should I mention this to HR?

A: I notice this email was time-stamped in the middle of a weekday. But I'll grant you the benefit of the doubt and assume you wrote it during your unpaid lunch hour.

Should your co-workers use paid leave when actively caring for the germ-spewing, ill-behaved progeny they presumably chose to have? Sure. Should they learn to mute their phones? Duh.

But let me offer some possibilities that may not have occurred to you: Maybe your co-workers are working while the kids are napping or sprawled in front of the TV. Maybe they're making up time late into the night, hours after you've logged off for the day. Maybe they're able to complete in a few hours the tasks the rest of us spread over a "full day" in the office between online shopping, sports chats and Facebook. Maybe they're honestly scrambling to patch together a working solution from whatever scraps of support they can gather.

Then again, maybe your co-workers regularly — as in, weekly or daily — abuse your gullible boss' generosity to avoid paying for regular day care. Another possibility — the only one that entitles you to complain to the boss — is that you're consistently required to make up their shortfall at the expense of your own sanity. One worker's right to work-life balance does not trump another's.

Absent those last two scenarios, however, it sounds to me as though your boss simply trusts his workers to meet their responsibilities. Speaking as someone who once was a child-free worker, I think you should be grateful to have a boss who is trying to create a more humane workplace — not just for folks raising children, but for any worker with a parent, partner or pal who someday may need looking after.

Don't get too worked up about 'RN' title

Q: When I applied for my current job, the ad asked for a specific nursing degree — registered nurse, or RN — that I don't have. I sent my resume anyway and mentioned that, although not an RN, I had the skills and experience to do the job. After a couple of interviews, I was hired. My supervisors have told me repeatedly how well I am doing, and I even received a promotion.

Recently, I have heard them refer to me as an "RN manager." (I manage a team, but they are not RNs.) And now my supervisors will hire only RNs for my position.

I never misrepresented my lack of a license on my resume or in the interview. The job I am doing does not require a nursing license. But I am fearful that if I don't say something and then one day am asked for my nursing license, I could lose my job.

A: Symptoms: Despite positive feedback and rewards, subject lives in fear of being "found out" for failing to meet an irrelevant standard.

Diagnosis: Excessive conscience, with a dash of impostor syndrome.

Rx: Chill pill, stat.

You told no lies to land this job. It wasn't your responsibility to try to talk your supervisors out of hiring you. And now — unless patient welfare is at stake, or you're being asked to do something illegal — it's not your responsibility to make them second-guess their decision.

Employers often use degrees as shorthand for "candidate has appropriate skills for this position." This doesn't mean your hiring was a fluke; you're an exception because you're exceptional.

For protection against any future changes in management, you can ask for a formal written description of your job that focuses on duties, not degrees, and suggest expanding the hiring ad to request "RN or equivalent experience."

Career Q&A: Are co-workers abusing 'work from home' privilege? 01/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 6:06pm]
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