I’m a newly hired business manager working for a prestigious local company. I got hired one week ago into my first job after being a homemaker for three years. When the owners hired me, they said they wanted me to take care of all those “pesky” details they’d rather not think about.
Yesterday the receptionist who had just resigned asked if I wanted to give her a check to buy beer and wine or if I was planning to buy it myself. Apparently we keep a stock in the break room refrigerator and replenish the “supply” when the “stock gets low.” She said we have enough beer for this Friday but since it was her last week and we’d need some before the following Friday, she could get it for me.
She said one of the owners likes to “party” and often calls out for pizza for everyone Friday afternoon while the beer “flows”. According to her, everyone likes it and it’s “just a few” that get a bit “sloshed.” Are we in serious trouble? If so, how do I handle this so I don’t lose my job? It’s not easy to land a job after being a stay-at-home mom and I only got this job because the owner is a friend of my husband. I talked to my husband and he said I should pretend not to know about Friday and just sit in my office and he’d talk to his friend when they went fishing in a week or so.
If one of the “sloshed” employees crashes his car on the way home, your company may find itself on the losing end of a liability lawsuit. Equally as troublesome, your company’s beer-stocked refrigerator makes it easy for those sliding down the slope into alcoholism to drink at work, potentially increasing both work problems and personal tragedy.
You face several challenges here. First, while you got your job because of your husband’s personal relationship with the owner and because we often turn to our spouses for advice on tricky workplace problems, you may occasionally ask your husband for his opinion. Once you have his advice, however, remember you work the job and he sits outside the situation as friend and spouse. Thus, while he can counsel you, you make the final decision.
Second, if your employer hired you to take care of pesky details, you can’t just “pretend” not to know about problems he might expect a business manager to handle, such as an unintentional liability risk. At the same time, because you’re newly hired, you can’t afford to sound the alarm bell or make abrupt changes based on second-hand information. Thus, unless you can meet with the owner prior to Friday, plan on attending the Friday pizza party so you can learn first-hand what happens.
While you munch pizza and watch, keep an open mind and be ready to handle any risky situations. Either the receptionist exaggerated or you may need to front employees taxi money to eliminate harm to them or risk to the company.
Third, you need to meet with your owner and learn both what he wants you to handle and what he wants you to leave alone. Start the conversation by letting him know you heard about Friday and want to know if he realizes there might be some risks attached to an otherwise much-appreciated employee get-together. If he tells you he wants to maintain the refrigerator “stash” and plans to keep the pizza and beer Fridays, back off. After you do your best to supply “business manager advice,” he deserves the right to make owner judgment calls. Further, the morale bonus from these Fridays may outweigh the potential risks, particularly if the employees self-regulate and those who need to use taxis.
If, however, he decides to cancel the easy access to alcohol based on your advice, be prepared to replace the wine and beer with an alternate perk your co-workers might value as much or more, like the guilt-free option to exit early on sunny Fridays. Otherwise, you risk becoming one of those pesky details needing handling.