I’m in trouble for what I wore when when my boss made me pick him up for the airport in the middle of the night


A reader writes:

I am working at my first job since I graduated university and I have learned a lot from reading your blog. I had a job while I was in high school and in university but it was part-time and in retail and things were different there.

I was wondering what advice you would give for my situation. I have been working at my job for almost 18 months, and this is the first time I have had an issue. On Thursday, shortly after midnight, my boss phoned me. He was at the airport with two other supervisors and their transportation had fallen through. He wanted me to come get them and drive them all home. I didn’t even know his schedule and it’s not my job to pick people up at the airport. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time he is my boss and I didn’t want to leave a bad impression because he implied I didn’t have a choice. I got up, picked the three of them up at the airport, and drove them each home. I had previously booked the day off for an appointment, so when I got home I slept for a few more hours because I didn’t have to work that day.

When I got to work on Friday morning, I was called into my boss’s office. He said I was being written up for my lack of following the dress code, and he lectured me on dressing professionally. I wear a skirt suit to work every day and have never had an issue, but he told me he was talking about when I picked them up at the airport. Since it was the middle of the night and it was an unexpected request, I had worn a knee-length t-shirt, leggings, running shoes, and a bench fleece jacket. I had brushed my hair and my teeth and my clothes were clean. He wouldn’t let me explain myself, and in addition to being formally written up he suspended me for a day without pay (so tomorrow I am serving my suspension).

I didn’t see this coming. It was after midnight when he called me and told me to come pick them up and he knew he was calling me out of bed. Doing this is not part of my job description in any way and no one who knows about this has ever heard about such a request being made before, even for assistants (I am not an assistant but a junior underwriter). I had to drive for over an hour to get them, do another hour and three separate stops to drop them off, and then drive another hour home. I was not reimbursed for mileage or gas, and it was my personal car and not a company one. Only the other two managers thanked me and my boss never did. They all have company credit cards, but none of them used one to get transportation home. Also, when he called me he didn’t mention anything about me needing to dress up in my work clothes to do it. My clothes were clean and not ripped or anything like that.

I am shocked about my suspension and formal write-up. My boss lectured me for half an hour on being professional and he called me an embarrassment. If we didn’t have two big project meetings, I am certain he would have made my suspension for Friday. I am being honest with you when I say that I have never had any issue or been disciplined at work before and my one year review was positive. Did I really do something wrong by not wearing a full suit when I went to pick them up? I am wondering if it is something common I should have known about.

No, you did not. Your craptastic boss is the one who’s in the wrong here.

First of all, calling you after midnight for anything short of a dire emergency is Not Okay (and even then, it would generally only be okay if your job includes dealing with emergencies). And then asking you to do something that would keep you out for hours — until around 4 a.m. or later, it sounds like? Not Okay.

And then on top of it, suspending you for wearing the clothes one would expect you to be wearing if called out of the nowhere for a middle-of-the-night airport run? Even a stern talking-to would be inappropriate for that. Suspending you takes it to a whole new level of WTF.

This is, frankly, beyond the pale. Your boss is a jerk on multiple levels here.

Is this the first time you’ve seen him being ridiculously unreasonable? It’s hard to imagine that he’s seemed like a reasonable person up until now, so I’m curious about what the rest of your experience with him has been.

In any case, if your company has decent HR people, you might consider approaching them about this, framing it as “I’m really unclear how doing this rather large favor has led to an unpaid suspension.”

And in the future, know that you have zero obligation to answer your phone if your boss calls you late at night (again, unless you’re in a job where that’s explicitly part of the package). If you’re asked about it later, you were sleeping and didn’t hear the phone. And if you are unlucky enough to answer the phone and you’re faced with an unreasonable request like “drive around for hours in the middle of the night,” your car is unfortunately in the shop and you’re unable to help out.

I’m in trouble for what I wore when when my boss made me pick him up for the airport in the middle of the night was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.


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November 28, 2016 at 02:00AM