my team won’t accommodate my allergy, coworker brings in homemade food and hides it from management, and more

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

1. My team keeps holding lunches at a restaurant that doesn’t accommodate my allergy

I have a peanut allergy that isn’t life-threatening, but is severe enough to put me completely out of commission for the rest of the day if I accidentally consume peanuts. I work on a team where organized group lunches are a regular occurrence (every few weeks). A certain restaurant gets chosen for this repeatedly because it is close to the office, can easily accommodate a large group, and has something for the vegan, vegetarian, gluten intolerant, and lactose intolerant members of the team. It was also the source of the first peanut reaction I’ve had since childhood (from a dish that was supposed to be peanut-free). As a result of that reaction, I’m no longer comfortable eating at that restaurant.

I’ve asked the person who usually plans the lunches to choose other restaurants. Thet said they understood why I wasn’t comfortable there but that the restaurant worked well because of the reasons mentioned above. We brainstormed some other restaurants and we went to one of those for the next lunch. The time after, however, we went back to the first restaurant and it continues to get chosen most of the time. When I talked to the person again, they said it’s more difficult to go other places because we have to make a reservation to accommodate a large group (the first restaurant doesn’t require this) so we have to plan further in advance.

I’m not asking the team to never go back to that restaurant, but I’m feeling excluded when 80% of the team lunches are at a restaurant where I’m not comfortable eating. Am I being unreasonable for wanting to go to other restaurants more often? This is not the only restaurant in town that accommodates everyone else’s dietary needs. When the team does go to a restaurant I’m not comfortable with, how do I avoid the appearance that I’m being antisocial or don’t want to hang out with the team?

Due to coronavirus, we’re not currently having team lunches, but since I’ve got a long way to go until retirement, this is a situation I’m likely to face again so any insight would be appreciated.

You’re not being unreasonable. There are other restaurants that would work for everyone, but they require advance reservations? Then the solution is to make advance reservations. I’d go back to that person and ask if they can start doing that so that you’re not excluded from team lunches (use that wording). If that doesn’t work and they’re in an admin/support type role, talk to someone above them — it’s very possible that the person organizing the lunches is picking what’s easiest for them, but that someone above them will put a higher priority on ensuring the full team can attend.

2. Coworker is still providing homemade food for the office — and hiding it from our management

My coworkers and I are having a debate regarding the behavior of an employee in an adjacent department. This person is very opinionated and can be pompous, but overall they are competent at their job and not unbearable. This person also has a habit of bringing in homemade food to share with the office. I thought this would stop during the pandemic but it has not. They brought in a dish during the first week of reduced operations and they became very defensive when someone pointed out that this wasn’t the best idea. This person insisted that they were clean and they didn’t have the virus since they had been tested a week ago and the results were negative. Their supervisor was asked to weigh in and the dish was later removed from the kitchen.

Since then, the employee has brought in baked goods at least twice, only now they go around offering it privately to each employee and they put it away when a manager is present. The debate my colleagues and I have is this: should we escalate this and have upper management weigh in or do we stay out of it and let everyone make their own decision to partake or not?

For what it’s worth, both the CDC and the FDA say there’s currently no evidence of the virus being transmitted through food — although it’s quite understandable that people would be wary anyway, particularly with food prepared by a home cook rather than by food professionals following cleanliness and food safety regulations.

What I’m more bothered by is your coworker being sneaky about this — only offering the food when a manager isn’t present, and hiding it when they are. If their manager asked them to stop and they’re doing it anyway, and deliberately hiding it, that’s a real problem, totally aside from the question of how much risk this poses. If it weren’t for that, I’d say to stay out of it and let your coworkers make their own decisions … but the sneakiness is weird, and that pushes me over to thinking you should say something. Frame it as, “My impression is that they’re deliberately hiding this from managers, and I was uneasy knowing that and not flagging it.”

3. People think I don’t work when I say I’m a freelance artist

I’m an artist and permalancer for a large, household name company — let’s call it Chocolate Teapots Ltd. — doing 40-60 hours of work a week for them on some really cool brands. I recently hit the two years experience mark and decided it was time to get a bigger variety of clients instead of putting all my eggs in one basket. Pre-COVID, I went to networking and social events to meet new people and float my name around.

The problem is that everyone I’ve talked to, from entrepreneurs to Tinder dates and even other artists, hears “freelance artist” and immediately thinks “unemployed.” I can see the very visible shift in their demeanor and tone after I say I’m a freelancer. One person I met at an event actually laughed out loud and said, “Sorry, It’s just hard to take that seriously.” I end up going on this defensive, bumbling tirade of, “Well, I’m basically full-time at Chocolate Teapots. No, I’m not actually employed there. Seriously though, I make plenty of money, ha-ha. I worked on the Dragon and Fire Teapot lines. Yeah, I think they’re cool too.”

I yo-yo between feeling like I’m not advocating for myself to feeling like I’m bragging just to prove I’m a legitimate artist. It doesn’t help that I’m 24 and look like I’m 16, either. At first, I tried just saying “I work for Chocolate Teapots,” but that didn’t feel entirely honest and the whole freelance thing would inevitably come up later in the conversation anyway. Do you have any ideas for how to better handle my introduction once COVID dies down and I can put myself out there again?

You work 40+ hours a week for Chocolate Teapots; the specifics of whether you’re paid as an employee or a freelancer isn’t anyone’s business. It’s fine to just say, “I’m an artist for Chocolate Teapots.” If they say, “Wow, as your full-time job?” it’s perfectly honest for you to say yes — you’ve been giving them full-time hours for two years. You don’t need to explain to anyone exactly how your employment is structured. The salient fact is that this is what you do with the majority of your (numerous) working hours.

But since it sounds like you also want people to know you’re available for freelance work, you could say, “I’m an artist, mostly for Chocolate Teapots but also for brands like X and Y.” Or, “I’m mostly full-time doing art for Chocolate Teapots, but I sometimes take on other projects as well.” Or just, “I do art for brands like X and Y.”

You can leave “freelancer” out of it entirely. Just talk about what you do and who you do it for.

4. How to announce my layoff on social media

I’m trying to figure out language to announce on Facebook/Linked In that I’ve been laid off and am looking for new opportunities. Everything I’ve come up with so far seem too negative and I feel like I’m greatly overthinking it, especially when this is (unfortunately) common nowadays. Do you have any scripts I can borrow?

Be matter-of-fact! And offer your own help too if you can. For example: “I’m one of the many people who have been laid off during the pandemic, and I’m looking for roles doing X. I’d love to talk with anyone hiring for X or who has suggestions for X right now. I’d be glad to connect people with my own network too right now, if there’s anything I can do to help others.”

5. When should I mention the weeks off I’ll need for grad school?

I have a question about the interview process. During my job search, I got into grad school. It’s a two-year program that’s online, except for a three week intensive on-campus each summer. Should I mention this in the interview process? The first intensive is over a year away at this point and I’m worried about being pushed out of the running if I need three weeks either completely off or working remotely (if that’s possible).

Wait until you get a job offer and see if you can negotiate it at that point. At that stage, they’ll have already decided they want to hire you and will be more likely to negotiate some kind of agreement around it — and if they won’t, you can decide if the rest of the offer is appealing enough to trump your program.

If your education would benefit them, try to negotiate the time off as a separate thing from your normal PTO allotment. You don’t want the answer to be “yes, but that will use up your vacation time for the year.”

But do negotiate it before you accept the job, so that you aren’t springing it on them after you start (and possibly being told they can’t accommodate it).

my team won’t accommodate my allergy, coworker brings in homemade food and hides it from management, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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