Q. I am a full-time, nonexempt employee of a manufacturing company. Recently I attended a week-long business meeting. During the meeting, I was given a schedule of events that showed an afternoon social event. I assumed this would be optional and did not attend. I later discovered my presence there was expected, if not mandated.
Was I justified in not attending? I am no stranger to an occasional six-pack, but the hard stuff would be flowing in copious quantities at such an event, with corresponding behavior. What are my obligations with regard to company-sponsored social events? Attendance at these kinds of events was definitely not discussed when I was hired.
A. Your company probably organized this event and others like this because it wants employees at this business meeting to get to know each other in a more informal setting.
Management probably figures that when employees know each other better, they also will communicate and collaborate better. This makes perfect business sense to me.
If alcohol is served at such events, you are certainly not required to drink. If the behavior of other employees there becomes objectionable, you are right to leave and object to your managers, the same way as if the bad behavior took place in the office. But because you didn't attend, you don't actually know if any of this happened at this particular meeting.
Such get-togethers, whether nice, classy or rowdy, definitely have a business purpose and you should act in a way that recognizes that fact.
Q. I have been working for a state agency for about 15 years. I enjoy my job and get along well with my co-workers -- or have until now.
Recently, I was asked to screen applicants for a position that became vacant in our office. I selected an interview panel to choose from the eight applicants who all met the job criteria.
While we were going through this process, we enlisted the services of a temporary agency. The woman they sent was competent and satisfactory. I encouraged her to apply for the position, and she was eventually selected for the permanent position.
This is when my trouble started. My boss's boss received an anonymous letter that claims that I supplied this person with inside information to help her get the job.
I did give her advice regarding how to dress for the interview and how to handle herself, but I have given similar counseling to other inside applicants for positions before. Some got the job they applied for; some didn't.
I found out about this letter from our personnel manager, who also told me not to be concerned. However, in the past, in two different cases, anonymous letters have resulted in disciplinary procedure against employees in our agency, so I am worried.
So far, I haven't even been questioned about these charges. I feel tried and convicted because of an anonymous letter, yet I am not sure, even in retrospect, that I have done something wrong.
What do you think about this situation?
A. First, I despise anonymous letters and the cowardly people who write them. I hope your boss's boss shares this feeling.
Second, I don't see what you might have done wrong in this situation. Coaching an applicant in the formalities of the interview process hardly will get him or her the job unless he or she is qualified to do the work. You had an interview panel to ascertain that, plus you had ample opportunity to assess the applicant in question while she worked there as a temporary.
Take your personnel manager at his or her word, and relax. Don't give the petty letter writer the satisfaction of your being distraught over the action. A reader comments:
"You seem biased against government employees. As a former supervisor in the federal government, I feel very strongly that our nation needs all the good federal employees it can find -- whether they work 40 hours or more.
"The decades of dumping on our civil servants by one president after another have done a great deal of harm to their morale, yet many continue to work for the government because they feel they are doing important work for all of the people. Are they fuzzy-headed and naive, or are they simply patriotic?
"If you think the federal system is a mess, I agree with you. However, you ought to bash the perpetrators of this condition -- Congress.
"These folks enact legislation to please everyone -- and the result is convoluted and ponderous regulations. Besides, it's no better elsewhere.
"I work in the private sector and see things daily that would have brought down federal investigators in flocks."
I am not biased for or against federal employees. I hold that a job should never be permitted to become a prison.
If a job becomes so oppressive that an employee becomes embittered, bashing contemptuous presidents or wishy-washy congressmen will not help.
The only thing that will is voting with your feet and moving on. Sounds like that's what you did yourself.
Andrew Grove is president of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.