Office Coach: Please Do Not Wear Fragrances to Work
Q: My manager often complains about the perfume I wear to work. I tried changing to another brand, but she still didn’t like it. She says perfume gives her a headache, so she’s moving me to a desk which is farther from her office. This seems unfair, but I’m not sure what to do about it. What’s your opinion?
A: You will probably be sorry you asked. My firm belief is that no one should ever wear fragrances to work unless they sell perfume for a living. And I mean absolutely never. These scents serve no practical purpose and are extremely bothersome to many people, some of whom are allergic to the ingredients. Because everyone’s sense of smell is different, a fragrance one person finds pleasing may be quite obnoxious to others. If this particular perfume gives your manager headaches, the odds are good that some co-workers find it irritating as well.
So for the sake of both common courtesy and office harmony, please save the perfume for social occasions. At work, people just need to smell clean.
Q: For several years, I have been the maintenance supervisor for a ski lift company. Our new general manager says my employees are not performing properly and that I’m not doing enough to motivate them. In his view, “motivation” means threatening disciplinary action.
The only problem with my crew is that management has never provided any training on ski lift maintenance, so they don’t have the required skills. Now my boss is implying that if my employees’ performance doesn’t improve, my own job might be at risk. What can I do about this?
A: Your manager needs to learn the difference between a skill problem and an attitude problem. Here’s the standard question for differentiating the two: could the employee do this task correctly if their life depended on it? If the answer is no, then there is clearly a skill deficit, and neither carrots nor sticks will have any effect.
Of course, the real problem may be that your boss doesn’t know what ski lift maintenance requires as managers often lack knowledge about the jobs they oversee. In that case, give him a list of the necessary abilities, highlight areas where your crew needs improvement and provide information about available training programs.
A quick internet search for “ski lift maintenance training” will indicate which schools offer this instruction and why it’s so important for both your customers and your company.
Q: My manager recently informed me that I must occasionally work weekends to create a report for a Monday morning meeting. After I complete the initial draft, he and I will collaborate on the final version. But instead of coming into the office, he plans for us to do this from home. As an exempt employee, I have no objection to weekend work. However, I can’t do this project remotely because I have no internet connection at home. I don’t even own a computer. I know this makes me a dinosaur, but I can’t afford these luxuries because I have to help a family member financially.
Although my boss has agreed to get me a laptop, he says the company can’t pay for my internet service. But if preparing this report is a condition of my job, shouldn’t my employer provide the necessary tools?
A: Yes, up to a point. And that point was probably reached when your boss offered to give you a laptop. Since the internet has essentially become a basic utility, managers should now be able to assume that all professional employees will be connected. Lacking internet access in 2017 is like being without a telephone in 1990.
Although your expenditures may be restricted by your family member’s needs, you can’t provide financial aid without a paycheck. An internet connection will increase both your current job security and your future employability, so it’s time to explore your options.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and author.