wet Speedos in the office, my manager has gone AWOL, and more

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

1. My coworker keeps hanging a wet Speedo on his office door

I work in a department of eight women and one one man, in a company with many more women than men. My male coworker is very good at a his job and has been there many, many years. Since I’ve been there (not as long as him, but still a substantial amount of time) I’ve witnessed a certain habit of his. I guess he swims before work, and when he gets to the office he hangs his Speedo on the front doorknob of his office to dry. I mean, that’s gross, right? It especially bugs me for a few other specific reasons: 1) He hangs it by the crotch. So if I ever go into his office when he’s not there I stand there for a second thinking about how to open the door to avoid touching any leftover Speedo crotch residue. (Using an elbow is usually pretty effective.) 2) He sits right by the kitchen, so anyone on their way to make coffee or get their lunch can see it, and it seems unsanitary to have underwear you swim in next to where people eat. 3) His office is carpeted, so the water just drips right onto the floor, day after day, which doesn’t seem like it can be that good for the carpet?

I’ve brought the issue up to my boss, and she’s laughed it off as it’s the way he is, and the sentiment seems to be the same throughout the rest of my department. There was even one day when a coworker went into his office and accidentally knocked it over and she joked about how she wasn’t going to pick it up. (Ew.) Am I being too squeamish/uptight/germaphobe-y for finding this whole thing unsanitary and creepy? Is there anything else I can do?

I think creepy is overstating it, but I’m with you that it’s gross.

Why not just be direct? As in, “Hey, Bob, it’s gross to see your Speedo hanging on your doorknob. I can’t even open your door without touching the crotch. Can you please hang it somewhere else?”

Beyond that though, if your boss doesn’t care, there’s nothing else that you can do. But I’d start with a clear, direct request to the perpetrator.

2. My boss is missing in action

My coworker and I work in a small regional office with a direct boss and the two of us. Our boss has stopped showing up to work. Most days she rolls in an hour to two hours late, and then leaves within a few hours for lunch. Some days she returns several hours later for an additional hour or so, other days she never comes back. One day she just never showed up.

At first we assumed she had personal problems and we cut her some slack, but it has been six months now. We finally mentioned this to the head of the company because we were getting concerned, people outside the company are noticing, and we couldn’t cover for her anymore. The company head was not happy, but seems a bit incredulous. They asked if she could be at meetings, or otherwise engaged in management activities, but there is nothing on the calendar, and we can verify by talking to people at other companies that she is not present at events. We can not find record of any work she is doing beyond checking her company email. She delegates everything else to us.

The head of the company has asked that she start writing a weekly report and this week she turned in a report claiming credit for things other staff did, and reported on meetings she was not at as if she were (“So and so said to say hi”). She is either making it up or a colleague at another office passed on the message out of courtesy to the company owner. An admin accidently sent us the report, so we don’t really feel we can reference it to the owner.

We don’t want to seem like we are piling on, but this is getting ridiculous and morale is at a severe low. Her solution to the boss asking her to take a more active role is to try to recruit more interns. She literally asked some of our customers if they wanted to pitch in on projects. What should we do?

All you can really do is keep your manager’s boss in the loop. You started doing that by alerting her that what’s going on, but you haven’t finished — there’s still important information that she doesn’t know. I’d go back to her and fill in the rest of the highly relevant details here — that she’s writing reports indicating that she was at meetings that she wasn’t actually at, that she’s reporting she did things that others actually did, and that she’s asking customers to help on projects (!).

You report all of this matter-of-factly, not emotionally. From there, it’s up to her boss to decide what to do. But you don’t need to hide anything on your manager’s behalf — and in fact shouldn’t.

3. Company paid for interview travel — and now wants to be paid back

As a finalist for an out-of-state position, a colleague traveled for the interview, and the hiring company paid for airfare and hotel. Once offered the position, my colleague declined based on concerns regarding the hiring company, including comments made during interview process. Now the hiring company is contacting my colleague demanding reimbursement for flights and hotel. My colleague has since accepted a position with a different out-of-state employer.

I have not heard of a company seeking reimbursement from a candidate. Are there legal ramifications if not reimbursed? If my colleague reimburses the hiring company, has the opportunity to write these expenses off as tax deductions been compromised since the check is written to hiring company, and my colleague has no receipts for airfare and hotel?

In my opinion, a cleaner way to handle would be only to reimburse expenses upon acceptance, rather than paying up front. This just seems shady.

What the hell? No, this isn’t okay. They presumably agreed to cover these costs and didn’t warn your colleague that the bill would revert to her if she didn’t accept the position. They can’t change the terms of that agreement retroactively just because they don’t like the outcome. And they certainly have no legal grounds to demand repayment, assuming there was no agreement to the contrary — which is a reasonable assumption since that would be so bizarre. (While not every employer offers to cover interview travel costs, those that do don’t make it contingent on accepting the position if offered. They cover them, period, or they don’t cover them at all.)

Your colleague should say something like this to the employer: “I’m afraid there’s been a misunderstanding here. XYZ Company agreed to cover the costs of the interview travel. We didn’t discuss any reimbursement in the event that I didn’t accept the position. I appreciate you covering the costs, and wish you the best of luck with your new hire.”

If they still continue to push after that, she should say, “Our arrangement was that XYZ Company would pay these costs, and I’d like to stick to that agreement.” And then she should stop responding, because this is shady as all get out, and they’ve got no standing here.

4. Using knowledge of a friend’s salary when discussing pay

I have a phone interview coming up. I know about the job because I have a friend and former coworker who works the same exact job. We have somewhat similar job histories when pertaining to the type of work the job entails. I want to be prepared for the salary question, but I have never had to answer it before. The problem is I know exactly what they offered her and how she negotiated and what she received because I was close to her when she got it. Is it safe to assume the range would still be the same?

Yes, very safe to assume that. You should absolutely use that to inform your thinking (without mentioning her specifically, of course).

5. Recruiter said asking about contract extensions would be disqualifying

My mom is currently trying to find a new job after being employed for about 15 years with the same company. She had an interview today at a drug company for a contract position. When she met with the recruiter, she was told not to ask about the possibility of the contract extending past December when it runs out. She was told that if she did, she’d be immediately removed from consideration.

This seemed kind of strange to me, but I’ve never done contract work. Is this common practice? My parents are trying to relocate, so it was something she really would like to be able to consider if she does get offered the position.

It seems a bit harsh, but it sounds like they’re trying to ensure they’re not going to end up with someone who’s half-expecting the contract to be extended and who then will be upset/disappointed if it’s not. It’s also possible that the recruiter way overstated the message.

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