lingerie party at work, having a parent call in sick for you, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Lingerie party at work

In two weeks, my coworkers will be throwing a bridal shower for another coworker. Someone had the bright idea to make it a lingerie party. We are expected to give her underwear instead of any other gifts because she “doesn’t need house goods.” Oh and also, no men are allowed at this party for “privacy reasons.” This party will be in the lunchroom during lunch time (so if anyone wants to eat in there, too bad). Is this an HR nightmare like I think it is, or am I overreacting? We work in a very conservative office in a very conservative field, so it’s hard to tell.

It’s wildly inappropriate. Try just being direct about it: “I know this is meant well, but a lingerie party at work is really inappropriate. I don’t feel comfortable giving a coworker underwear, and I’d imagine some others won’t be either. Can we switch the plan here to something that isn’t an HR nightmare?”

2. Having a parent call in sick for you

Recently, I caught a virus and totally lost my voice, to the point where my mom had to come to the doctor’s office with me to help explain some of my other symptoms (I still live at home, so she knew what my other symptoms were). Thankfully, this occurred over the weekend and I was able to return to work on Monday.

However, I have to ask: How bad would it have been if my mom called me in sick? My voice was gone to the point that you couldn’t hear me talking in person, and it would have been impossible to hear me over the phone. Due to the nature of my job, neither I nor my boss have work emails, and I don’t feel comfortable sending a text to let her know I wouldn’t be able to make it (I’d be afraid that she wouldn’t see it).

This is one of the very few situations where it would be okay to have your parent call in sick for you. You literally couldn’t make the call yourself, so someone else would have needed to relay the information on your behalf. She wouldn’t have been doing that as “your mom” but as “a person aware of the situation and able to communicate when you were not.” (You’d want to have ensured that she made it clear she was calling because you literally had no voice, not just because she was your mom and taking care of you.)

3. Getting news of a death right before an interview

About a year ago I was scheduled to interview for a job I was really interested in. About 30 minutes before the Skype interview, I found out about a friend’s death. I was in shock, and gave very succinct answers to the questions. What was slated for a 30-minute interview, lasted about 15. I wasn’t called in for a second interview, and the only feedback I got was that I didn’t give enough information about myself.

Is there a way I could have handled that differently, like sending an apology/thank-you email after the interview? Also, a similar position is open within this department. Can I apply again? Is there anyway to address this, or account for it when applying? I know I might be dismissed out of hand due to my performance a year ago, but I don’t think I said anything bad, just not enough to make me stand out.

If you could do it all over again, it actually would have been okay to try to reschedule the interview. You’d say something like, “I’m so sorry for the last-minute notice, but I just got terrible news a few minutes ago — a close friend died. Would it be possible to reschedule for later in the week?” (There’s some risk to this because some employers are bad at rescheduling, but decent employers would understand and try to make it work.) Or, having gone ahead with the interview, it also would have been okay to send a note afterwards explaining the situation and that you weren’t at your best.

Since it’s been a year and you want to apply again, you could email the hiring manager, note that you’ve submitted a new application, and say, “When we spoke last year, I wasn’t at my best. I’d just received news of a friend’s death a few minutes before our call, and I was devastated. I’m sure it affected the interview, and I’d love a chance to talk again if you’re willing to.”

I’m sorry about your friend!

4. Can I ask my friend’s employer to take the money she owes me out of her check?

My friend owes me $50 and I kept asking her to pay me back. It’s been two months and I’m super mad about it. I paid for her gas and food when she said she would take care of the food and she begged for money for gas when I didn’t have a job and she did. and so I gave her $50. She blocked me on her cell so now I know she’s greedy and friendship isn’t as important than money.

I’m thinking of going to her manager and asking if he could take out my $50 with her knowing that he’s going to do it and hand the $50 to me, or go tell my friend to get the money, deposit it, and hand it to me. I’m so fed up, I’m trying to work my way around her.

It would be illegal for her manager to deduct the money from her paycheck without her permission. The employer owes her that money and can’t decide on her behalf what creditors to pay. (The exception to that is if there was a court-ordered garnishment, but that’s not likely to happen for $50.) Unfortunately, this is between you and your friend, and it sounds like she’s not an ethical person.

5. Will dressing more nicely make people think I’m interviewing?

Should one let an impression that you’re job hunting develop with your colleagues or your boss? I work in a casual office, where jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, or sandals are the norm. Those a step above me on the hierarchy wear business casual — polos or button-downs and jeans or khaki pants, with loafers or other casual shoes. At the onset of my employment, this casual dress code was one of the factors that attracted me to stay on as a temp-to-hire. But now, I feel sloppy wearing t-shirts all the time and want to up my dress to more business casual — blouses or polos with dark jeans or khakis. I wore a button-down poplin shirt one day with jeans and thought I looked rather put-together, but a colleague immediately asked me in the morning if I was “going somewhere after work,” which I figured was code for “Do you have a job interview?” Should I worry about giving a “job hunting” impression with my new wardrobe?

The key to upping your wardrobe at work without looking like you’re dressing for a job interview is to do it fairly consistently. If you’re always in jeans and one day you show up in a suit, it’s going to look like you’re wearing that suit for a reason. But if you start regularly dressing more nicely, it’ll read as your new normal, and people won’t react to it the same way.

So I’d say just wear your nicer outfits a few times a week. At first people may ask about it, and you can say “eh, just feeling like a change” or “yeah, trying to wear more of my wardrobe” or anything else that’s nonchalant. But they’ll get used to it pretty quickly.

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