I don’t want to stay in an Airbnb with coworkers, illegal requests for salary history, and more — Ask a Manager


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

1. I don’t want to stay in an Airbnb with coworkers

I just started to work at a small company (under 15 people) that hosts conferences a few times a year in different parts of the country. Everyone in the company is required to be on location for each of these conferences, which I was aware of when I was hired. However, recently it came to my attention that instead of putting us up in hotels while we are on location, they rent Airbnbs that we stay at all together.

The idea of sharing sleeping/bathroom space with the rest of my coworkers and not having my own space to retreat to when the day is done for the entire week that we are away makes me feel uncomfortable. That said, I know that this is a tactic they are using to be financially conscious and not have too high of expenses.

How should I go about having the conversation with the owner of my company about my feelings about our travel accommodations? What is reasonable for me to ask for?

Personally, I think it’s reasonable for you to say you’re not comfortable staying in an Airbnb at all and ask if you can book a hotel room. If it were me, I’d say, “I’m not comfortable staying in an Airbnb — I’ve read too much about the safety issues that can crop up. I’ve found a room I can book for $X/night — can I go ahead and do that?

But you’re new and it’s possible it’ll come across as out-of-touch with the culture. It also may put a divide between you and your coworkers, if you’re the only one who opts out of these arrangements. So you’ve got to factor that in and proceed accordingly. If you’re in a senior role, it may not matter. If you’re pretty junior, it’ll likely be more of A Thing — and if that’s the case, I fear you may be stuck with this unless you’re willing to risk this type of blowback.

2. Online application illegally asking for salary history

I’m currently completing an online application for an organization in Washington state, where in July it became illegal to ask applicants what their previous salary was. I’m considering putting 0’s into the required box, because I cannot complete the application without putting numbers into the form. Moving forward, how should applicants inform the employer that their application doesn’t follow the new law, especially without jeopardizing their candidacy for the job?

Yep, put all zeros in that field if it’s required. Ideally you’d be able to contact them and say, “I saw there’s a problem with your application form. It’s still asking for previous salary, despite the state law that now prohibits it, and the form requires the field be filled in before the application can be submitted.” But (1) many employers don’t respond to questions about their application process, (2) the right person may not even see it (your message may go to someone low-level who ignores it), and (3) there’s risk to being the applicant who right out of the gate is advising them on their legal obligations. One option is to get around #3 is to send that message from an email not associated with your application, but then you’ve still got #1 and #2 to deal with.

You could also take a screenshot and send it to your state Department of Labor, which is charged with enforcing the law.

3. My coworker is a pain to schedule meetings with

Part of my job is administrative, and it often falls on my shoulders to schedule meeting for my department’s leadership team (of which I am a member). I’ve been assigned this task for about seven months, and am quite capable of effectively using my company’s scheduling methods.

The problem is, there is one other leadership member who, no matter what, tells me she can’t attend the meetings I schedule despite the fact that her calendar shows her as “free” or otherwise unscheduled for those times. This is a reoccurring issue, and it regularly forces me to ask her when SHE wants to meet, and then change meetings that I’ve already set. We’re peers in terms of company hierarchy and generally get along well socially, but I feel like it makes me look incompetent every time I schedule a meeting and have to change it. I don’t tell the rest of the team why I change dates/times; I simply note that there was a scheduling conflict. I also check with her from time to time about whether her calendar is up to date, and she always says it is. What can I do?

First, name the problem for her and ask her what you can do to solve it: “Jane, I’m having trouble scheduling you in for meetings. You usually say your calendar is up-to-date, but then when I schedule meetings for times your calendar shows as free, you nearly always end up having a conflict and I need to go back and find new times for everyone. I want to be able to schedule meetings correctly the first time. How can I solve this?”

If this doesn’t produce a resolution, then I’d stop relying on her calendar at all and just email her when you need to schedule things. It’s more work, but it’s less work than always having to schedule everything twice.

4. Interviewer was eating lunch during our Skype interview

I am applying for entry-level jobs. I recently had a Skype interview with me and four interviewers on different cameras. One of the interviewers was using the time to eat their lunch while interviewing me. The three other interviewers didn’t say anything, but it threw me off. Is this normal to expect during Skype interviews during potential lunch hours?

It’s not unheard of. Some people work through lunch, and you happened to be the work they had scheduled for that time. Sometimes, too, people get pulled in to interviews at the last minute, and it’s either eat while they talk to you or not get a chance to eat at all that day.

I think people are also sometimes more willing to eat during a Skype call since the food seems less intrusive — you’re not smelling it and seeing it across from you on the table the way you would if you were meeting in person.

It’s not so common that you’d expect it, but try not to get thrown by interviewers who are multi-tasking.

5. Should I push back on sharing an office?

I need your help to determine if I’m being oversensitive about this situation. I’ve recently taken an administrative position at my current job. My position was newly created at all the sites across the organization. For background, each site has known about the addition of this position for over a year.

I was recently told that I would be sharing an office space (for about the next six months) until they could figure out the best place to put me. I find this incredibly odd as I will be not only the only manager but the only person in the whole building who has to share an office. I have issues with this for a number or reasons: (1) Perception. I find it hard to believe people will take me seriously as I don’t have my own office. Everyone who will be reporting to me will have their own office. A subordinate who I will supervise will be sitting directly across from me in the shared space. (2) How do I tackle handling meetings or employee evaluations? What if someone needs to speak to me about something sensitive? Do I ask the staff member in the same space to leave?

I’m generally pretty low maintenance and am unbothered by much. However, I feel like that’s why I was placed in this office, because my supervisor knew I wouldn’t make a fuss. I don’t believe that if they had hired an external employee for this position that they would have placed them in a shared office. Am I thinking too much about this?

You’re right to be concerned about how you’ll have private conversations with employees, which is something you need to do as a manager. It’s reasonable to push back on it. You could say, “I’ve given this some thought and I don’t think it will work. I need to be able to have private and sensitive conversations with employees. Are there any other options?” If whoever is in charge of this says they can’t think of anything, then I’d say, “In that case, I’m going to have Jane take the shared space and I’ll take her current space.” (Jane in this case is someone who reports to you, because you should have the authority to do that. Choose that person carefully though; whoever you pick probably won’t be thrilled, and it’ll help to be able to explain why you chose them.)



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