Cubicle Etiquette . . . your boss the perp.

Two weeks ago a fretful reader left a note for Miss Mentor in the Cubicle Etiquette area asking about a behavioral situation. Here’s how it goes:

Reader: I think my boss just asked me out. I’m new to the workforce and married. What just happened?

Miss Mentor: Tres uncool. From the conversation you shared, yes, your boss did just ask you out. Did he mean to? Well, that’s anyone’s guess and not the real question to answer.

Here’s how this breaks down. If you are approached by your boss to spend time ALONE as a pair after work hours for a social activity, well my friend, you have been asked on a date.

Is it appropriate? H-E-double-hockey-sticks NO!

What to do??? This is a potential bomb of a situation. First off, you may feel that it is very awkward for you to say no, particularly as the new employee, BUT you MUST SAY NO. Even if you know that there will be no physical component to the evening, etc. You must say no. This is less about the dating dynamic and more about YOUR POSITION within the company.

While you may want to seem like a good sport, oftentimes the boss in this situation is making a power play – consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously – doesn’t matter which one. By agreeing, the boss knows you are easy and that you feel vulnerable. It is more akin to hazing than proper work behavior. Sadly this ends up making you look weak. That does not instill confidence in the boss. Unbelievably enough, the boss is less likely to be honest and forth coming with you.

Remember being in school? If you say yes, it’s basically like failing your first two exams for the semester. It takes an amazing amount of work to dig yourself out of that hole.

Miss Mentor’s advice, say no. Have plans or be ready to make plans with non-work friends for at least the first 3 months when you start a new job. PLEASE! You need at least 3 months to understand how the company really works and to begin to understand the motives of your peers and bosses. I even suggest that you avoid after work happy hours for a few months – not because you would drink too much (please tell me you won’t, but because your peers and boss may . . . and that’s when TMI goes into overdrive. Do you really want to know that the repulsive guy in accounting has a picture of you on his bulletin board? No. Not yet anyway.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Not Your Boss September 20, 2007 at 1:40 am

Miss Mentor,

I gotta question this advice. I don’t know the particulars of this situation, but a male manager asking a male subordinate to join them for a drink off the premises isn’t unusual.

The difference is that the male subordinate is unlikely to think about what’s behind it – they just go. They talk with the boss. They gain the boss’s trust. They get better assignments. They get promoted.

Although I do suspect that most men are pigs, even pigs aren’t always stupid… if you’re that worried about it you can bring a recording device and hit RECORD if they do get stupid. Most likely your cellular phone has this capability.

If you remove gender from it, then it looks like an opportunity to get to know your boss. That’s not a bad thing. Most strong business relationships are based on some kind of personal trust.

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Miss Mentor September 25, 2007 at 1:21 pm

You are so right about building trust and that does often happen outside the confines of cube walls. Here’s the conversation Anita shared:

http://missmentor.com/2007/06/21/cubicle-etiquette/

In this particular situation, the boss is asking the employee to go to a movie and prefers that she not bring her husband.

You bring up an excellent point about the difficulties finessing collegial male/female relationships in the office. You also open an entirely sore topic for many women, the exclusion from the informal power structure.

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