my staff found me bound and gagged after a robbery, bringing pies to work, and more

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

1. My staff found me bound and gagged after a robbery

I’m a 32-year-old woman who was recently made manager of a small financial firm. Being fairly young, I’ve had to overcome skepticism and sexism from my staff, but after three months I’ve established a reputation for being efficient, fair, and a bit stern. It’s worked, I’m respected, and we all get along very well.

Several mornings a week, I arrive very early for some alone time. Last Thursday, I arrived at 7 a.m., (we open at 10), and was “greeted” by a couple of thugs who demanded money, bank cards, etc. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt, but they had a roll of duct tape and left me in a closet thoroughly taped and gagged. I struggled for nearly 3 hours but couldn’t get free. When staff members began to arrive, they heard me moaning and found me still helplessly all taped up. I was more embarrassed than relieved. The efficient boss felt like a chump.

Of course, everyone has been sympathetic and supportive, but I’ve felt like every ounce of my dignity, pride, bearing has evaporated. Having my staff see me bound and gagged was extremely humiliating. Now I go through the motions of being the same competent manager, but I’ve lost my sense of authority and don’t know if I can continue. How do I regain that sense of leadership I worked so hard to attain?

Put yourself in their shoes — if you found your manager the way they found you, would it affect their authority and leadership? You’d feel sympathy and concern, presumably, but it’s pretty unlikely that you’d think of them as less of a manager after that. The same is likely true with your staff. They didn’t witness you flubbing a presentation or losing your cool or being dressed down by your own manager (all things that could potentially affect their perception of your competence and authority); they saw you caught up in a crime, something that could have happened to anyone but happened to happen to you.

It’s understandable that you’re shaken — who wouldn’t be? — but that doesn’t need to shake your sense of competence. Try acting “as if” for a while — as if it never happened, as if you didn’t feel embarrassed — and give yourself some time to see that they’re responding to you just as they were before.

2. Was the tone of my employee’s email inappropriate?

I am a manager of a small office. One of the first line supervisors who reports to me sent me an email stating “I should have been cc’d on this email. Why did you cc Sam?” Am I strange for feeling that the tone of his email is inappropriate? I could not imagine telling my boss whom she should cc on an email.

It reads as pretty aggressive to me, but it’s possible that it was meant purely inquisitively — like “I was surprised/confused that Sam was cc’d and wondering if there’s some additional context I don’t know about.” And of course, that’s one of the problems with email — things that aren’t intended as aggressive/rude/harsh can end up sounding that way without additional context.

One option is to respond, “Come by when you have a minute and we can discuss it” — which then gets you a face-to-face conversation where you can better judge tone and intent. Or you can answer directly now (“Sorry about that, I thought Sam was taking the lead on the project”) and bring it up in person later (“I might have misinterpreted, but your email yesterday sounded frustrated”). Either way, though, it’s worth probing into whether there’s something going on — which could be anything from a poorly worded but genuine attempt to resolve her confusion to being at the end of her rope because you never loop her in to things she needs to be involved in, despite her repeated requests, to outright insubordination. You’ll only find out if you talk.

3. My married coworkers are having an affair with each other

My coworkers (both married) are in a relationship. Most of us could care less, but quite often it’s thrust into our faces. It’s as if they don’t care if anyone knows. For the type of job we do, periodically we have to stay at hotels overnight and employees are assigned individual rooms. They go directly to the same room, not caring who knows. We are very uncomfortable with this situation because most people know their respective spouses, and the female has a history of being intimate with her male coworkers. I am absolutely for MYOB but it’s very difficult since we have a front and center view of this soap opera. What do you suggest?

I would suggest you ignore since it doesn’t involve you. What other options are there?

You should also leave the woman’s sexual history out of it, as it’s not at all relevant. Would you feel differently about the situation if she had no known dating history? If so, why?

And I’d also suggest not referring to a woman as “the female,” which is typically only used as a noun when you’re talking about animals, so unless this situation is actually part of a wildlife documentary and your coworkers are lions or giraffes, it’s not appropriate here.

4. Bringing in pies for Pi day

About three months ago, I started my first professional job. I’ve already gained a good reputation in my team as a smart, solid worker, and also I’m known as a bit of a science/math nerd. I’ve kept my nerdiness to a minimum, so as not to annoy people, but I occasionally enjoy sharing my love of things science-related.

This coming Friday (3/14) is Pi day, after the first three digits of the number pi (3.14). I also happen to be seated in cubicle #314. I was considering bringing out one or two pies on Friday afternoon and sharing them with my team in recognition of the day.​ Is this an appropriate thing to do, or is there a chance it could back-fire and it would be better to just keep this to myself?

My office culture is a fairly normal one on the slightly more casual side of the spectrum. Bringing in food is unusual but not unheard of, but I’m wondering if my specific reason would be seen as weird.

Pie is awesome, being passionate about things is awesome, and sharing both those things with others is awesome. Go for it.

5. Will a background checker contact my current employer?

I interviewed for a position recently. They emailed saying they want to do a background check. When I filled out the background check online, it didn’t indicate that they would be contacting my current employer.

I was told they were going to do background checks on all of the finalists. Do background checks usually contact your current employer? I don’t want my current employer to know I’m looking until I have an offer. This is a third party background checker, and when I filled out the information, I didn’t see anywhere where it said they will be calling my current employer. I’m very worried that they’re going to call my current employer and it will put my current job in jeopardy.

This is not something you have to speculate on and worry about — you can just ask them! Contact them and say, “It occurred to me that I wasn’t clear from the form you filled out whether you’ll be contacting my current employer. They don’t know that I’m looking and I need to keep my search discreet until I accept an offer. Will that conflict with the background check you’re doing?”

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