Q: My friend has a high-stress public-sector job. He says his office is backstabby, but his boss is great. Likes him, likes his work, knows about the backstabby culture and does not play into it. So, my friend wants to keep his boss on his side. But, and this is a big but, my friend lives close to the airport and the boss lives far away from it. So once or twice a month, when the boss needs to make an early flight for a business trip, he asks to stay at my friend's apartment the night before to spare himself the expense of a hotel.
In the meantime, my friend just lost his mother after a long illness, and the woman he was to marry ended their relationship. All he wants to do after work is watch Netflix and eat carryout. He does not want to clean his apartment and entertain his boss while he is trying to recover from his mom's death and his relationship imploding. He does not want to go to HR, because that might ruin his relationship with his boss. By the way, no sexual harassment here -- they are both straight guys with no undercurrents.
How can he maintain good relations with his boss in a negative work environment, and yet not serve as a hotel once or twice a month?
A: While opening his home was a beau geste on your friend's part, closing the door to his boss guest is easier said than done.
But this ongoing arrangement, although platonic, is somewhat more personal than a host-and-guest/boss-and-underling setup. Maybe it's time for your friend to invite the boss into his real world.
His grief gives him a good opening: "Hey, just to let you know, I'm still working through some devastating personal losses. Of course, you're welcome to crash on my sofa, but I'm afraid I can't be much of a host." Then he should leave the apartment exactly as is -- dishes in sink, socks on floor -- hand the boss a clean towel and some takeout menus on arrival, and retire to his room to sit in bed with his laptop and a box of pad thai. A little disarray and discomfort might just remind the boss that he is intruding on a colleague's personal space, not checking in to a bed-and-breakfast. Either he'll understand and respect the conditions -- especially if he sees his host as his friend -- or he'll make other arrangements.
Once your friend starts emerging from his grief, he may decide he doesn't mind hosting -- or he can continue making his apartment a less appealing overnight option: maintain more "relaxed" housekeeping standards, arrange to have it fumigated, have the AC "break down" ... you get the idea. And unless things turn nasty, I'd keep HR out of the loop for now.
PRO TIP: Local, state and federal government employees and contractors on official travel can find lodging at or below government per diem rates through the FedRooms network (fedrooms.com).
• Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.