Friends don’t let friends lose tips
Q: I work in a small tavern. We have about a dozen employees, and the owners are a couple with whom most of us are close friends. For years, I have enjoyed telling our customers how great it is to work in an owner-operated establishment. Lately, though, that is not true. For the past couple months, one of our owners has been telling customers, and anyone who will listen, that he and his partner make less than the employees. This happens directly in front of the staff. Since we are such a small operation, we all go to the same envelope for our paychecks. We see everyone’s, including those of the owners. They each make about $4,000 more than the average employee per month.
This is a bizarre lie to tell, and in another industry, I might think, “Hmm, my boss is telling a bizarre lie. What a weirdo!” and let it go. But this is a bar, and I rely on tips. Oftentimes, the person he lies to decides not to leave a tip, believing, erroneously, that the people working are making way too much money. How do I tactfully navigate this situation, hopefully without losing a friend? — Anonymous
A: Your employer is not your friend if he is engaging in this kind of behavior. I have no idea why he is sharing such bizarre lies with his customers, but some business owners suffer from victim complexes. They don’t make as much as they would like, so they start to believe that greedy employees are standing between them and their financial goals. This is never, ever the case. Running a business can be lucrative, but it also takes money. And to run a business ethically, owners should pay employees a generous living wage with benefits.
So, I don’t know that there is a tactful way to broach this subject with your employer. I will take you at your word that you have a congenial workplace. Ask your employer if you can have a conversation and tell him that disclosing how much the staff makes is starting to affect your tips. If being tactful is your goal, you don’t need to mention that he is lying, flagrantly. Hopefully, he will take the hint and course correct. If he doesn’t, it may be time to stop being tactful and start being real.
It’s just dinner
Q: I work on the software team at a rapidly expanding company. The main office is overseas, but the U.S. office has 14 employees and includes my six-person team. My team gets along very well, and we’re nearing the end of an incredibly important and difficult project. I’ve been thinking of inviting the team over to my house for a dinner party … is that strange? I don’t want this to seem in any way political — I just think they’re great people, and it could be fun for everyone to celebrate. Plus, I love to cook and host people, and we bought a house this year that’s great for entertaining. Am I weird?
I know this is less common for my generation. I find work norms and politics annoying and exhausting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m in the minority on this subject. — Anonymous
A: You are not weird. Sometimes, people socialize with their co-workers. It used to happen in people’s homes more often than it does now, but it isn’t that rare. There is no need to overthink this or worry about office politics, etc.
If you want to throw a fun dinner party, go into it with an attitude that will beget fun. Be clear that attending your dinner party is entirely voluntary. Don’t leave anyone out. Share what you told me, that you want to celebrate a job well done and enjoy one another’s company. Don’t do anything inappropriate during the dinner. Serve delicious food. Serve good wine, but don’t overserve. Make a good playlist so you can have nice music in the background. Try to talk about something other than work. And finally, don’t overplan. Spontaneity is good! I hope you and your colleagues have a lovely evening.
Q: I joined a new company 18 months ago to lead a small team. Six months in, my director was fired, and I agreed to take on their role in addition to my own while they hired a replacement. Since then, they have hired and fired two additional directors, and a third was hired but never started. I have now been doing the interim role for a year and have once again been asked to continue in this capacity while they determine next steps. I applied for the director role but was told I don’t have the required experience. This has made it extremely challenging to do my job; in an interim role I don’t have formal authority to make key decisions or establish a long-term strategy, and I do not have a manager who can support me to do so. I am paid well and would like to stay at the company but am extremely frustrated by the stonewalling. Do you have any advice on how I can help bring this to some kind of resolution? — Anonymous, New York City
A: Serving in interim roles can be an incredibly thankless task. I understand your frustration. It’s strange to be asked to serve as interim director and then be told you don’t have enough experience to be promoted to a director position. I would meet with your manager and explain the challenges you’re dealing with. Ask if, while you’re in this interim role, which you’ve been doing for a significant amount of time, you can make the necessary decisions and strategic plans that will, ultimately, benefit the organization. I would also ask if you can, together, chart a path to promotion. If this doesn’t produce results, you have to decide if the benefits of your job outweigh the frustrations and proceed accordingly.
The harassment won’t stop itself
Q: A young female employee of mine feels uncomfortable around an older male employee because of inappropriate comments he has made on numerous occasions. She and other young women in our office discuss comments they also receive from him. This has been going on since before I was her manager, and he has done a great job hiding it from management. We work at a large company with clear human resources policies and multiple reporting options, including anonymous ones. After a conversation, I could not convince her to report these events to HR. She is a young noncitizen person of color and does not trust that nothing negative would happen to her and does not have the emotional bandwidth to address the harassment. She just avoids him as much as possible. I am a white woman more than ten years older. I think resolving this through the organization will be stressful but better in the long run. I also know that continuing to bring up reporting to HR will make her feel that I don’t understand or respect her perspective. I’ve spoken to HR without providing her name, but I can’t do more than that because I don’t have specifics. My question is, how can I both support her and try to right this situation? I’m now working with the man’s manager (also a white woman around my age) on the issue, so I’m hopeful things will improve. — Anonymous
A: This is a challenging and, perhaps, delicate situation, but also it isn’t. Things will not improve without intervention. Serial sexual harassers don’t simply see the error of their ways and stop. You know he is harassing multiple young women in the office. He is making them uncomfortable. Go to HR, file an anonymous report with all that you do know and continue to make yourself available to the women on your staff to provide whatever support they need. If your company has such robust reporting mechanisms, you can both honor your employee’s wishes and hold this older male employee accountable.
I appreciate that you are approaching this so thoughtfully. So many people do nothing in the face of predation. But this is not a circumstance where hope is useful. This is a situation that demands action. May justice prevail.