Home Jobs & Career fired for having alcohol in my car, my boss argues with my answer to “how are you?” and more — Ask a Manager

fired for having alcohol in my car, my boss argues with my answer to “how are you?” and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. My boss argues with my answer to “how are you?”

When my team is in the office, my boss does a round saying hello to everyone on our team. A couple of times now, she’s come over and started the conversation with me with, “How are you?” And I’ll usually respond, “Good.” The problem is, I am apparently not peppy enough because she has replied that I “don’t sound very good” more than once, which is absurd to me! I’m usually having a perfectly pleasant work morning.

The last time this happened, I told her in a joking manner that maybe I’m just not very enthusiastic in the mornings because she’s said this a couple times to me, and I promised that I was actually doing well. She seemed surprised that I pushed back and told me it was okay to not be good and that she was here to listen. More firmly, I told her that I was fine. She agreed that I was “just fine” and walked away satisfied that I had downgraded my feelings from good to fine, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth because it felt like I had to acquiesce to her assessment of my own feelings before she would leave me alone to do my work.

I am a private person at work. I am not hiding anything major from her that’s impacting my mood, and even if I was I don’t think it’s her business. She’s my boss, not my mom or my spouse or my therapist. I think I just have a different personality and affect from what she expects. I just want to be able to drink my coffee and answer morning emails without a critical examination of my emotions.

Oh my goodness. Unless you are putting out very different signals than you’ve reported here when you say you’re “good” — like unless you’re obviously holding back tears or, I don’t know, are partly on fire — replying with “It’s okay not to be and I’m here to listen” is pretty obnoxious.

I would be tempted to start responding “unbelievably well” or “genuinely magnificent” or “luxuriating in the company’s abundance,” but those probably won’t serve you well.

You could simply reply, “Fine, how are you?” and if she pushes with “Just fine?” you could cheerfully say, “Yep, just fine.” You might have to go through that exchange daily, but it might be the easiest response.

If that doesn’t solve it and it’s still happening a few weeks from now … well, sometimes you can get people like this to stop the annoying behavior by taking it very seriously. In this case, that could mean going to her and saying, “Have I done something to make you concerned about my overall satisfaction here?  You’ve seemed concerned lately that my response to ‘how are you?’ hasn’t been cheery enough. It’s making me feel really scrutinized, so I wanted to ask if you have any concerns with me or my work that we should talk about.” That might be making a bigger deal of it than you want to … but she is making a big deal of a routine exchange and it’s not unreasonable to push back a bit.

an overly cheerful executive keeps ordering me to feel great

2. Can I be fired for having alcohol in my car at work?

Can I be fired for having — not drinking — an alcoholic beverage in my car at work, on company property? And it wasn’t easily seen from the outside, you had to get very close because of the tint on my windows. So someone was looking very close to even see it.

It was only in my car. I had not consumed any, it was for an after-work event I was going to.

Firing someone because they have a bottle of wine or a six-pack in their car for an event after work (or hell, a shoulder of Smirnoff or whatever you had) is ridiculous. People use their cars to transport items outside of work; this shouldn’t be a big deal. You can indeed be fired for it, though. I’m guessing your company has a policy about no alcohol on company grounds and you were in violation of that.

If you haven’t already apologized and explained it was an after-work event and was an oversight on your part, you should do that ASAP. But they might not budge (especially if they’ve fired other people for it in the past, which could make it harder to be flexible now even if they wanted to).

3. How do I fire a client who isn’t terrible but isn’t good either?

I run my own business doing dog grooming. I have a healthy client base, and am not suffering for business. I have a client who isn’t necessarily bad, but a) never come pick up their dog on time, b) take hours after their appointment to pay me and c) never, ever tip me. They also have two dogs, one of which I’ve already had to refuse because it’s a mammoth-sized dog and I’m an average-sized human. They didn’t take it well and pushed back repeatedly.

At this point, I’m starting to feel like they’re more trouble than their business is worth but I don’t really have a reason to “fire” them. How do I let them down easy and avoid drama?

One of the easiest ways — especially if you don’t have a website with your rates listed publicly — is to raise what you’re charging them significantly, figuring that they’ll either decline to book further appointments or will at least be paying you a whole lot more if they do. (Of course, this only works if the increased rate is high enough that you’d be okay with doing more work for them under those terms. It should also be a rate that accounts for their lack of tipping.)

Otherwise, though, you could tell them you’re cutting back on hours and clients and are now booked out months ahead of time / don’t have any availability for the foreseeable future (“I’ve gotten so booked that I’m not taking new appointments at all right now”). Or tell them you can’t book more appointments for them because they’ve been late for pick-up so many times. Or, if you’re feeling generous and are willing to give them one more shot, you could give them a warning and let them know that if there are any more late pick-ups, you won’t be able to give them appointments in the future, and also that they’ll need to pay in advance from now on.

4. The ethics of lying about a Glassdoor review

I wrote a Glassdoor review about my current employer, and it mostly focused on the problems I have with their health insurance plan (I stuck with factual statements about it and I feel it is a fair assessment of the plan). I also have communicated a lot with HR about our health care plan (mostly to get issues escalated where I was being ghosted by the the plan administrators; to be fair, the escalation always worked).

My employer can probably figure out I’m one of the people most likely to have written the Glassdoor review. If they ask me if I wrote it, can I ethically lie and say I did not write it? I don’t think I’ll get fired over it, but I imagine I’ll be asked to take it down and all things considered I would rather not.

I think you can say you didn’t write it, given the power disparity and because that’s not a question they should be asking you in the first place. It’s similar to how you can ethically answer “no” if your employer asks if you’re job-searching and you are; they shouldn’t be asking, and the power disparity affects what’s ethically required of you.

5. How to reply to positive feedback

Is there a best response when receiving positive feedback from a manager other than “thank you”? I will sometimes use it as an opportunity for the manager to point out where they think I can keep improving, but maybe they think I am missing the point.

Just stick with “thank you” or “thank you, I appreciate that.” That’s polite, it’s all that’s necessary, and it doesn’t negate the praise the way you risk doing if you turn it into a request for criticism.

That said, if you genuinely had concerns or questions about the work you’re being praised for, it’s fine to say something like, “I appreciate that! I actually wasn’t sure about how I handled the X piece of that — was there a different way I could have come at that?” But only say that if you’re genuinely wondering, not just as a way to seem humble when you’re praised.

I don’t know how to accept compliments graciously

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