Holiday dinner guest demands menu input

Q:

My wife and I are involved in a power struggle with my brother. Every Christmas we invite him and his family to our house for dinner. We spend a lot of time planning a menu which meets various dietary requirements.

Every year, a day before the event, my brother calls to offer his opinion on what should be on the menu.

One year he told me he wasn’t able to enjoy the meal because we weren’t serving one of the items he requested. In previous years, when I am unwilling to accommodate his “simple” requests he gets upset. Can I not invite his family in the future?

 

A:

Yes you should probably keep inviting your brother.  There is always the one family member you don’t want to invite, but you probably have to keep inviting them because they are family.  In this case it’s your clueless brother.  On the scale of offensive behaviour from family members, poor manners, being demanding and a lack of gratitude are relatively benign. 

For these family members, let whatever they say go in through one ear and out the other.  Nod and smile.  Should you care or feel offended by his comments, opinions, tantrums for not getting his way etc.?  Should you go out of your way to accommodate? No.  Just ignore.  Don’t take any action.  When he makes a menu request – just listen.  Then do nothing about it.

The host gets to choose the menu.  Pass this message along.  If there are dishes that are important to your brother, he should bring them to the meal as a guest.  Let him know he is welcome to host, and should he decide to do so, he would be welcome of creating any menu he desires.

Free-loading adult son not ready for adulthood

Q:

When my child was six, his father died in an accident. I have always tried my best since then to give my child anything he needs. Today, my adult child has received and spent a mid sized inheritance, lives in my basement, doesn’t help with expenses or the household and is happy with working weekends while playing video games the rest of the week.  What should I do?

A:

A bit of painful truth for you - The fact that your grown adult child lives in your basement and is not motivated to work is partly your doing.  You are enabling him by allowing him to live for free and be under employed.  You failed at influencing how the inheritance was used.

Here’s what to do. 

Time to start the adulthood training.  Your goal is to make him a self sufficient adult who eventually supports himself and moves out of your house. I would suggest phasing this in.

Budgeting.  A course would help.  But also explain to him how things in the household are paid for.  Where does your income come from, how much are the mortgage, electricity, internet, heating expenses.  Give him an idea of how much these things actually cost.  Ask him to be a financial contributor – he is an adult and should be helping out his mom.

Start charging rent. Start low and move it up to market rates.  Show him the how much rent costs in the neighbourhood.  The rising rent and household expenses will likely push him to the conclusion that working 2 days a week doesn’t cut it.  (If it did then everyone would be working only 2 days a week)  Why should you work 5 days a week while your adult son works 2?

Housework. Ask for help around the house.  Law need mowing?  Painting required?  Household tasks should be shared. Allowing him to have responsibly and be a contributing member of the household increases confidence and self esteem.

Day-to-day life skills training.  I have no idea if you cook and do his laundry, but if you do, its time to make him to do these things himself.  This one is easy.  Show him how to do his own laundry and then simply stop doing his.

Education.  Encourage him to further his education. Trades, college, certifications are all great ideas to at least get started.  A possible arrangement could be – if he’s studying/in school he lives rent-free.  If he’s out of school, he should be working full time and should contribute to rent

Fake resume preventing career advancement

Q:

I've been working as an IT contractor for a company for six months. They are offering me a full time position. The resume they hired me on was almost totally false, instead of 2 years experience I had none.  My degree, education and skills were accurate. I would love to work for this company full time, however they're a financial institution and will check my employment history and background during the full time contract process.  What are some good options?

A:

You lied on your resume and you got some good work experience out of it. And you haven’t gotten caught!  You’ve faked it until you made it.

Getting caught with a fake qualifications on your resume has some consequences.  If caught by your current employer and you are fired for it, its more difficult to find a job at another company (your new employer will want to know why you left your previous job and potentially follow up with past supervisors).  If you advance up the corporate ladder, having a false resume could exclude you from advancing or get your fired from your position.  Imagine if word got out that a financial institution had hired people with fake resumes.  If would be horrible for business.

Ethics aside and practically speaking, I would continue working on a contract until you have more work experience.  In the mean time apply for jobs at other companies with an accurate version of your resume. The key here is that you are continuing to learn and gain valuable experience and collecting a pay cheque.  You are also using this time to explore other options. You will likely have to pass up on working full time for your current employer and wait until something else comes up though. 

Another potential way around this is to change your resume to reflect your real experience. Only include your 6 months of work experience with your current company.  Submit this new resume to the people doing the employment history and background check.   If asked about the differences in resume experiences, ask to be considered based on the experience in your new resume.  Tell them you choose not to include previous experiences in your resumes.  This is a more risky endeavour.  If questioned hard your lies might be exposed, and you might have to come clean.

Roommate is allergic to washing her own dishes

Q:

My best friend and I live with two random girls that moved in at the beginning of the school year.  One girl never ever cleans up after herself. She leaves dishes next to the sink for over a week.  She throws dirty pots and pans in the sink expecting my friend and I to just clean up after her. It's hard to talk to her in person since she's never here. We've tried asking her to clean her dishes in our group chat. What else can I do? How do I get through to someone who clearly doesn't care?

A:

Time to agree set of apartment rules/expectations/norms.  Call an in person meeting and give everyone an opportunity to discuss how the household should be run.  This could include how common expenses will be shared (ie toilet paper), how the cleaning will be done, how long dishes should stay on the counter for.  Give everyone an opportunity to speak and by no means should this be an attack on the 1 particular girl. 

If the behaviour continues, besides gentle dish cleaning reminders, another approach is restrict her access to dishes and pots.  If you own the dish/pots,  keep them in your room or your own kitchen cabinet.  Let her acquire and care for her own pots and dishes. She will quickly learn that the dishes her don’t wash themselves.

Another approach is – just wash her dishes.  Life isn’t fair.  You are living with an inconsiderate person because you want to save money on housing costs.  Co-living will mean that your roommates will have quirks – noisy, messy, take too long to shower, have guests over that you dislike, etc.  Accept that you have an inconsiderate messy roommate. Instead of stressing about the dishes sitting there for over a week, if it bothers you, just wash them – it takes 2 minutes.  Better than having bugs, odours and the suspense of guessing when she is going to wash the dishes.

Parents want to borrow money but fiance disapproves

Q:

I’ve just received a loan ($80K) and my parents are asking for $20k. My fiance is strictly against it since they haven't repaid a previous loan of $1000.  On one hand i agree with my fiance but on the other hand i want to help them.

A:

Since you borrowed $80K and you are asking about the merits of lending $20K, it sounds like $20K is likely a lot of money for you (i.e. you are not a millionaire).  It is also assumed that you didn’t borrow a bunch of money from your parents earlier (they are not asking you to repay a loan) for school, house downpayment, etc.

If you do lend to family you should think of it as gifting.   If you cannot afford to give them the money, don't do it.  You are welcome to draft complex IOUs, but at the end of the day, how are going to get your parents to pay you back if they don’t want to/are unable to? And if you do manage to get paid back, how will this impact your relationship with your parents?

The next thing to consider is - what do they need $20K for?  Is it for a large purchase or to retire debt?  Is it for extravagant day to day living expenses?  If your parents are in need, there are small amounts of money you can give them to survive day to day life.  There are also ways you can help them to get their finances in order.  This could be budgeting classes, help finding part time work, help getting access to social programs.

You will need to agree on large financial decisions such as this with your fiancé.  Can you agree on a smaller amount for day to day expenses?  How long will you want to continue with the financial support and when will it stop? Without jobs, its quiet possible you might need to support your parents indefinitely.  Remember they did support raising you to the detriment of their finances.  In some cultures it is expected for children to support their parents in old age.

My employees' performance is dependent on the weather

Q:

My employees have figured out that their job performance doesn't really matter except at one critical time of the year.  How do I motivate them to perform well year round?

The success of the company is dependent on one seasonal part of the year. Employees who prove themselves as valuable during this seasonal time can get away with poor performance the rest of the year without losing their job. Do I just accept this, or is there a way to inspire year-round performance?

A:

From the information provided I can deduct you are in one of the situations below

1.    You are part of the sales function and you are trying to motivate sales people

2.    Your organization does annual performance reviews but only takes into account the most recent performance

3.   You are an NBA coach and your players only try their hardest in the playoffs

Here's how to approach the 3 scenarios

1.      Sales people are easy to figure out.  They work for money.  Change the way sales targets and commissions are set.  Sales targets should be higher in the busy months and lower in the slow months.   Restructure sales compensation to promote performance in the slow months – i.e. commissions are higher in slow months, lower in busy months. 

2.      When doing performance reviews studies have shown there is bias to the most recent performance.  If you do an annual review, it is hard to remember how well an employee performed 9-12 months ago.  It is much easier to remember and be biased to the most recent months.  In order to solve this, you need to change how often reviews are held.  Quarterly reviews/scores which roll up into annual reviews/scores will motive employees to perform in all quarters.

3.       If you are an NBA coach, everyone knows, only the playoffs count.  Just make sure your team gets there.

Freeloading co-worker expects a ride to work

Q:

My co-worker refuses to buy a car, instead, he asks me for a ride everyday.  How can I get out of this without coming off like a jerk?

We live a 5 min drive away from each other. I have to drive the opposite direction from work to pick him up. The previous person who gave him a ride, no longer works with us, so now I am the next person he is asking. A taxi would cost him $13 each way. The bus would cost him $3 per trip.

A:

First of all, car ownership is expensive, so not everyone can afford this.  On the other hand, your co-worker sounds like a freeloader.   He might be blissfully unaware that he is freeloading, so calling him that might surprise him.  In his mind, you are already paying for gas and he is a small detour on your route.  He might think that he  isn’t any causing any kind of inconvenience for you – why wouldn’t you give him a ride.

In any case you are going to have to explain your feelings on driving to this person.  Start with hinting and if that doesn’t work, you are going to have to be more assertive and state your position.

1.

You don’t want to drive him at all.  You don’t want to spend the extra time to pick him up.   You like the peace and solitude in the car.  You don’t want to be responsible for getting this person to and from work on time every day.

Use a hint – “I don’t think I am the right person for you to depend on to get to work.  I sometimes need to go to the gym/run errands/attend appointments/meet friends, etc before and after work”.  If that doesn’t work and he doesn’t get I, you’ll have to be more assertive – “I cannot commit to giving you a daily ride, please don’t plan your travels based on me”.

2.

You don’t like his freeloading. If you want him to pitch in with costs (since you went into the economics of getting to work, I assume that this might be the issue vs. #1)

In this particular case, ask him to meet you at your house before work and drop him off at your house after work.  This saves you some time.  Also ask if he is willing to and split or chip in for the gas/parking costs.  It he is against this idea – work to understand why. (Maybe he’s cheap. Maybe he needs to pay for an expensive surgery for his family member)

Business competitor keeps copying ideas

Q:

How should I treat a business competitor who keeps copying my unique ideas?

A:

Imitation is a form of flattery.  If your business is successful, other entrepreneurs are going to want to grab a piece of the pie.  Accept this as a rule of business.  If the idea is easy to copy and makes a lot of money then enjoy the short amount of head start time you get on your competitors and think of the next idea.   You will always need to be developing new ideas.

Ways to protect your ideas:

1.  Execution. A lot of people have a range of ideas from average to great.  Executing on the idea is the key.  Good execution of an average idea will likely be better than bad execution of a great idea.  You need to execute on your idea better than your competitors.   Invest in ideas where you know you will be better in execution.

Starbucks the coffee shop is a good example of execution of an average idea. It is a public company, their finances and strategy are posted on the internet.  Hundreds of thousands of employees work for Starbucks and know how the operations work, their marketing playbook, and where they get supplies from.  Thousands of entrepreneurs have opened coffee shops, but none have executed well enough to make a Starbucks rival. 

2. Be hard to copy.  Build and invest in ideas that are harder to copy because they require unique skills, investment or technology.  A good example would be Apple.  The iPhone requires top engineering talent, a large investment in manufacturing and key patent technologies.  That is why copying the iPhone is a non trivial task.  What ideas can you develop which have some of these attributes?

Is it unethical to increase the price of  service when the demand is higher?

Q:

I run a small services business.  Is it unethical to increase the price of  goods/product/service when the demand is higher?

 A:

Demand is higher and the assumption here is that supply is constrained – i.e. You cannot get more product or people to provide your services.

Sounds like you are thinking about demand based pricing.  This is not generally an unethical thing to do and can be seen in various common forms.  Bars have “happy hours” where alcohol is cheaper at times when there are less people going to the bar.  Airlines change their ticket prices for the same destination based on the seasons and time of the flight.  

One thing you should consider is how will your customers perceive you for demand based pricing.  Will your customers think you are price gouging them?  It is easier to offer discounts at low demand times, instead of creating premium prices at high demand times.

On the ethics question – general guideline

If the service/product is not essential to a community’s well-being or sustenance, then is it probably ok to raise prices in response to increased demand and limited supply. 

If the service/product is essential to a community (i.e. water, gas, food) and an event (i.e. hurricane, natural disaster) causes an increase in demand, then it is not ethical to increase the price to make more profit – (This assumes the cost of the product/service remains the same.  In these cases the cost of product might go up and then raising prices would be acceptable)

Should stay at home mom have night baby care duty while dad sleeps?

Q:

Is it fair if the stay-home mom is the one who has to stay up taking care of the baby at night because the father is the breadwinner and has to sleep to be able to work the following day?

A: 

There is very little that’s “fair” about being a parent.

Raising your child is the responsibility of both parents, but the reality of life will often mean that while the responsibility is equally born, the actual amount of work will likely not be.

In your case, it sounds like Dad does need sleep to keep his job and continue to provide income for the family.

Mom as the stay at home parent is also doing a very important full time job – raising the child.  However, Mom *might* be able to get sleep during the day (when the baby sleeps) which Dad cannot do at his job.

Is it “fair” that the stay at home parent has to catch their sleep in the form of catnaps whenever the baby sleeps? No.  However it is not an unreasonable way to divvy up household responsibilities.

Note, if Dad were the stay at home parent then he should wake up at night and catch up on sleep during daytime catnaps.

Perhaps staggering sleeping hours of the parents could help alleviate this problem.  Mom could like 8pm – 3 am, Dad 12am – 7 am or something like that.

Good news on this specific sleep question though – your child will likely sleep through the night at around 6 months of age.