Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at email@example.com.
My boss isn't taking COVID-19 seriously now that the vaccine is being widely distributed where I live, and he is trying to skirt the HR-mandated rules to insist that I come to work IRL four times a week instead of three (even though I can definitely work remotely all the time). He says that it’s so unlikely that anyone in our building has it because he has “heard” that many of our colleagues have gotten the vaccine, and that it’s time to “move on” from this. We do temp checks at the office parking lot and there is a pipeline for communicating potential exposure. But my boss just wants to forget the pandemic is even happening and it makes me angry and nervous.
I am afraid to report my boss to HR because I am the only person who reports to him. I am also not in a financial position to quit my job.
Do I just ignore it and suck it up? FWIW, I am not vaccinated yet and I don’t think he is either.
Not “moving on” yet
Hi Not Moving On Yet,
Wow. That sucks! Your boss sounds like a real pain in the you-know-what. We are still 100% in a pandemic, regardless of the vaccine schedule and regardless of how many vaccines have been distributed in your community and office. The CDC has recommended that indoor gatherings (I am going to assume working in a nonessential office situation qualifies as an indoor gathering) continue to be limited, and people continue to socially distance and mask. As far as I’ve read, we’re nowhere near where we need to be to let our guard down.
As much as I want this to all be “over” as well, it’s just not in the cards. And you know that, too. The real problem seems to be your boss’s attitude. You did not mention what the HR rules were: Do they have to do with exposure? A positive test? The number of people working in the office at any given time?
I agree that HR can often end up a lose-lose; it exists to protect high-level employees and the company. Going to HR, especially if you are your boss’s only report, may not end well. That’s just the truth, and I’m sorry to say it, but I hope in some way it’s validating your initial gut feeling that it wouldn't be a good idea. I wouldn’t go either; I get it. In the meantime, it might make you feel better to document any and all interactions you have with your boss just in case you do eventually have to escalate the situation. It is always good to have documentation. Hopefully you'll never have to use it.
You may want to consider starting the process of looking for a new job, even if it’s not in the cards to quit the one you have right now immediately. In the meantime, double mask and follow the CDC guidelines for safe distancing while you’re at your office. Don’t come to work if you aren’t feeling well. You mention that your office is taking safety precautions, like temperature checks and enforcing a potential exposure pipeline. Follow those precautions. Listen to those people in charge.
Your boss seems to be one irresponsible person with a bad opinion, and I don’t blame you for feeling like he doesn’t have your well-being on his radar. I believe if the line is crossed to a point where you feel like you are truly in danger, you will have enough documentation of his behavior toward the office’s COVID rules to confidently make your case.
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