Friday, September 21, 2018
Business

Wait a minute. What do you mean "we," boss?

Q: It drives me batty any time a supervisor says, "We should . . . " or "Have we done such and such?" when I am the one doing the work. I find it strange and annoying — implying that the supervisor is somehow participating in the work itself. Do you think the person using this word believes that it's all teamwork?

A: I think the person using the word is hoping you believe it's all teamwork.

You're annoyed because it feels disingenuous; your supervisor is (or should be) calling the shots. But how respected would you feel under second-person grilling and orders that reinforce hierarchy, such as: "Have you done such and such?" or "I want you to XYZ."

My guess is that your supervisor is trying to be collegial and collaborative, instead of authoritarian. Or the supervisor hasn't mastered the art of the decisive directive. Either way, your best approach is to take the "we" statements at face value, and gently press for clarity.

Boss: "We should XYZ."

You: "That's a good idea. Shall I take care of that?" Or, if you genuinely don't know what the boss wants — or you know but are a born smart aleck: "That's a good idea. Who do you want to take care of that?"

Attending events ends up being work

Q: I work at a small nonprofit. My boss will occasionally invite my husband and me to donor appreciation events, saying, "Please come if you think you would enjoy it." Given the choice, I would not attend, as they often require a long drive, and I don't really enjoy them. Additionally, I always end up being pressed into service to help check people in, take photos, etc. To me, it is clear that I am working at these events, but when I try to take other hours off to keep under the 40-hour maximum, it is met with raised eyebrows, though nothing is said aloud.

A: Here's how I define these terms:

"Guest": voluntary attendee.

"Enjoy": derive ungrudging pleasure.

"Choice": the option to accept or decline without penalty (which I'm not convinced you're being given).

"Work": perform tasks in exchange for financial or other compensation.

Your boss seems to see these terms as overlapping rings in a Venn diagram centered on you: a guest who enjoys the work of hosting enough to choose to do so outside of business hours.

In truth, this is more of a flowchart that starts with the question, "Do I have a choice?" followed by "Will I be a nonworking guest?" If you suspect the answer to both is no, clarify the remaining terms with your boss in advance: "Thank you for the invitation, but I think I'll pass — unless you need someone to work registration and photos? If so, of course I'll come help, if I can take time off during the week."

Pro tip: Labor Department Fact Sheet No. 22 lays out criteria for what is and isn't considered compensable work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazinewashpost.com.

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