Marie G. McIntyre’s Office Coach: Supervisor-employee boundaries must be honored

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Question: Two weeks ago, my husband “Barry” unexpectedly came home from work with a large flat-screen television. He explained that one of his employees gave it to him as repayment for a loan. I was shocked, because I had no idea that Barry was lending people money.

I called Barry’s office and asked the employee if he had any plans to pay the money back. He became defensive and said this matter was between him and my husband. When I related this to Barry, he angrily replied that it was none of my business.

After I expressed the opinion that loaning money to employees is inappropriate, my husband said that he considers this guy a friend. What do you think about this?

Answer: Two wrongs may not make a right, but sometimes they cancel each other out. If you and your hubby can acknowledge that you are both guilty of bad decision-making, perhaps you will be able to break this stalemate.

You are absolutely correct that managers should never, under any circumstances, lend money to employees.

Your husband’s fundamental misconception lies in viewing his mooching staff member as a friend. While managers should always strive to have friendly relationships with employees, supervisory responsibilities create a power differential that makes true friendship impossible.

At the same time, however, your call to Barry’s office also represents a boundary violation. Your concerns about this transaction should have been expressed only to Barry.

To restore household harmony, begin by apologizing for your inappropriate phone call, then suggest a mutual agreement whereby you and Barry will consult each other about future financial decisions.


Question: Everyone knows that our company is slowly going under. But while most people are worried about losing their jobs, I would actually like to be laid off. At my age, I could easily end this misery by taking early retirement. Yet despite the fact that many far more gifted colleagues have been dismissed, I never seem to wind up on the layoff list. Is there any way to discreetly volunteer?

Answer: If your skills and experience are critical to the operation of the business, management may be reluctant to let you go. To find out where you stand, have a confidential discussion with your human resources manager.

Marie G. McIntyre can be reached at


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