Workplace Navigator: Should an Employee Have to Host a Boss Overnight?
Q: My friend has a high-stress public-sector job. He says his office is backstabby, but his boss is great. Likes him, likes his work, knows about the backstabby culture and does not play into it. So, my friend wants to keep his boss on his side. But, and this is a big but, my friend lives close to the airport and the boss lives far away from it. So once or twice a month, when the boss needs to make an early flight for a business trip, he asks to stay at my friend’s apartment the night before to spare himself the expense of a hotel.
In the meantime, my friend just lost his mother after a long illness, and the woman he was to marry ended their relationship. All he wants to do after work is watch Netflix and eat carryout. He does not want to clean his apartment and entertain his boss while he is trying to recover from his mom’s death and his relationship is imploding. He does not want to go to HR, because that might ruin his relationship with his boss. By the way, no sexual harassment here — they are both straight guys with no undercurrents.
How can he maintain good relations with his boss in a negative work environment, and yet not serve as a hotel once or twice a month?
A: While opening his home was a beau geste on your friend’s part, closing the door to his boss guest is easier said than done.
But this ongoing arrangement, although platonic, is somewhat more personal than a host-and-guest/boss-and-underling setup. Maybe it’s time for your friend to invite the boss into his real world.
His grief gives him a good opening: “Hey, just to let you know, I’m still working through some devastating personal losses. Of course, you’re welcome to crash on my sofa, but I’m afraid I can’t be much of a host.” Then he should leave the apartment exactly as is — dishes in sink, socks on floor — hand the boss a clean towel and some takeout menus on arrival, and retire to his room to sit in bed with his laptop and a box of pad thai. A little disarray and discomfort might just remind the boss that he is intruding on a colleague’s personal space, not checking in to a bed-and-breakfast. Either he’ll understand and respect the conditions — especially if he sees his host as his friend — or he’ll make other arrangements.
Once your friend starts emerging from his grief, he may decide he doesn’t mind hosting — or he can continue making his apartment a less appealing overnight option: maintain more “relaxed” housekeeping standards, arrange to have it fumigated, have the AC “break down” … you get the idea. And unless things turn nasty, I’d keep HR out of the loop for now.
Q: I have been working as a contractor for a pet-sitting business. I have not been paid in full for a couple of jobs. Each time I followed up, I heard one excuse after another about why I did not receive payment. After calling several times and going by the office I was finally paid most of what I was owed, but the company still owes me about $100. I am not sure what I can do as a part-time contract worker to receive payment. The company also has not been paying other contractors. Should I let it go or pursue it?
A: If you were a direct employee, you could file a complaint to recover unpaid wages with the federal Labor Department or your state’s labor agency. However, for independent contractors like you, pursuing debts is generally a do-it-yourself prospect — unless you work in New York City, where the Freelance Isn’t Free Act took effect in May. The act establishes protections for freelance workers, including a process for filing complaints for nonpayment or retaliation with the city’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards.
Outside New York City, you can consult a lawyer or file in small claims court, but you might well question whether chasing down 100 bucks is worth the money and time investment — not to mention the risk of harming your relationship with your current or future clients. No one could blame you if you decided to quietly swallow your loss and move on.
But in addition to pragmatism and profit, let’s talk about principle. The company you work for presumably doesn’t let its clients ignore invoices. If you intend to keep working for the same client, repeatedly accepting less than your agreed-on rate weakens your market value and negotiating power. Finally, while $100 may not seem worth the effort for you alone, what happens when you multiply it by the number of other contractors getting stiffed? Organizing a collective effort with your fellow critter caretakers could make the process more cost-effective — and make your complaints harder for your client to ignore.
Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.