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jlelandg's avatar

(Details Question) What's wrong with this in a business/office sense?

Asked by jlelandg (3531 points ) December 8th, 2011

I work for a university foundation program in China. My office employs about 20 teachers, and I am in charge of the “exam preparation team”.
Our function is to prepare students to take official tests that will allow them to go abroad. Every 10 weeks we conduct a practice test for these students to track English proficiency progress. Grading these practice tests is a struggle and a labor of love.
I have to call employees outside my ‘team’ to grade at times and they have to put in duty hours—that they are contracted to do, and even though it’s fair to call them, I hate taking people’s free time.

Here’s what I’m wondering: my boss has discouraged me from treating graders to an order in McDonald’s breakfast before and as they grade. I do it because it’s a thanks to them for helping me, but the boss doesn’t agree. What am I missing?
P.S. I still buy coffee…

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16 Answers

janbb's avatar

It sounds like a wonderful idea to me. Have you asked the boss why he objects?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Your boss has his head up his ass. You go the extra mile to take care of the people working for you and you’ll be amazed at how far they’ll go for you. You just do the minimum and you’ll get the minimum from them.

Seaofclouds's avatar

When you buy breakfast, are you buying it with company money or your personal money? If it’s company money, I can understand why your boss doesn’t want it happening very often, but if it’s your personal money, that’s different. I agree that it’s great that you are taking care of the workers the way you are, but perhaps there is another reason your boss is against it (perhaps equality for the people you call in to help and the regular staff). I’d ask your boss about it some more and go from there.

jlelandg's avatar

I’m afraid there are underlying problems here that go farther than this question. I would be using personal money to buy the food.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@jlelandg I’m guessing your boss is an old school styled boss. He expects the employees to do what he wants with no perks because that’s what employees are paid to do. Take a little extra care of them though, you’ll get paid back big time.

jlelandg's avatar

I am glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is okay. I don’t have loads of managerial experience, but I am not far removed from being a teacher who had to do things they didn’t want to. A little quid pro quo-however small-was carrot enough to warrant action.

marinelife's avatar

I think that you are very thoughtful. Perhaps you could take them out to a McDonald’s afterward and treat them or hand out gift certificates to McDonald’s so your boss does not get upset.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@jlelandg When you call in the extra people that aren’t part of your team and treat them to breakfast, is the rest of your team also included in this? Could it be possible that someone from your team complained? Are you the only one that ever calls in the extra people? If other members of your team are also calling in other people at times, could there have possibly been an issue with the extra people being upset that other members of your team were not providing them with breakfast like you do? These would all be possible issues I could see with continuity of the work place if things weren’t always the same.

zenvelo's avatar

Your boss may find it disruptive because it sets an expectation that your peers may not want or unable to meet. Another team leader may not be able to afford coffee etc.

Your boss probably finds the work as part of the contract obligation for the teachers that aren’t part of your team.

Is your boss Chinese or Western? There very well may be a cultural difference involved.

jlelandg's avatar

Boss is Australian, and I would pay for any grader, my team or otherwise. The idea about other departments not being able to pay out the same as me would be the one place it might be touchy. I feel like as the examination guy I am the one having to give out the most pain of any other group in the school. My rationale is that: if I have to give out so much pain why can’t I give out something to balance that out?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@jlelandg The problem is that it may come across as inequality and favoritism, especially to people that aren’t fully aware of what’s going on (that it’s your personal money and not company money). It may also cause problems with getting people to come in when needed when other people are calling them. Here’s an example:

Where I work, our charge nurses can call in other nurses when we are short staffed. If charge nurse A buys lunch (or provides some other incentive) for us if we come in to help out, but charge nurse B does not, that could lead to charge nurse B having a harder time getting extra help and thus leaving the staff nurses on the floor left with heavier assignments and lead to staff getting burned out more often. Once there is an incentive provided by one person and not others, it can lead to trouble for the people not offering the incentive to get help.

I’m not saying that is what’s happening at your work, just that it’s a possibility.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Unless it could be seen as you’re attempting to curry favor with the with the graders such that they are inclined to grade in a certain way, I fail to see anything explicitly wrong with it.

As to why someone might take issue, as @zenvelo said if your peers are not able to provide the same they may feel you act of generosity is placing them in an underserved, bad, light. Also your boss may be getting complaints from their team lead or other groups or otherwise be under pressure you’re unaware of.

If you feel comfortable doing it, ask your boss directly about why he believes you shouldn’t treat them.

Personally, I think it’s great that you’re inclined to look out for the people you’re tasking during their off hours, even if they’re obligated to do so. Showing appreciation may not always be returned in kind but then that’s not really the point of it.

rojo's avatar

We treat our subs and their employees to cokes and food from the Roach Coach when we feel like they are doing something a little more than necessary or had jumped through hoops to be on the jobsite when we asked. Sometimes, if it were a late pour say, and the guys were there after 6pm we would also buy supper for whomever was left on the job to finish. I felt like we got some extra effort from them on the job and that they would also think of us first if there was some kind of scheduling conflct. Fairly cheap good will gesture.
We did run into a problem with one group who got to expecting it to happen EVERY time they were on the job and grumbled when it didn’t happen. Talked to their boss about it and explained the situation, have not had a problem since.

wundayatta's avatar

I does seem like a policy that should be applied to everyone, not just your people. It should be paid for by the company. If it can’t be, then you put the other managers at a disadvantage and they may not be able to afford to take their people out to Micky Dees. The company itself may not be able to pay for breakfast for any number of reasons.

I suppose you could take folks out afterwards, not on company time. You will still create problems for the other managers, potentially. Or you could volunteer to pay for their folks when they need them to do extra time.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Are the graders in a union bargaining unit of some sort?

CWOTUS's avatar

As others have already described, the main “problem” here is that you’re setting yourself up as a reward-giver in the office, which may degrade the ability of others to secure the others’ occasionally necessary services. On the other hand, your rewards are pretty modest. A McDonald’s breakfast? Seems a pretty small reward (and you’re paying for it yourself, after all), certainly not enough for someone to risk a professional reputation, especially since you’re not asking for them to grade a certain way or show any other favoritism. You just want them to work.

I would talk this over with your boss and see what would be acceptable to him. Doughnuts (or some other form of pastry or cake) and coffee? If he is adamantly against any additional ‘reward’ at all, then I would make it totally personal and invite the same people to a party of my own. I think that what you’re doing is simply promoting collegiality and good will; there is nothing wrong with it. But if the boss objects to you doing it “professionally”, then make it personal and you can tell him to go to hell. Figuratively, of course.

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